It was a scorching, humid day as I left Portland, which, if the rumours are to be believed about the Pacific Northwest, is akin to spotting a unicorn. I knew better, of course. Since crossing the Lewis and Clark bridge, which is Washington's way of giving cyclists the bird on their way over the border, I'd survived three days of 40℃ in Oregon's breezeless lies ("this never happens, I swear!"), and only one day of downpour. Secret's out, guys.
I'd decided to bike to the coast in one day, marking my first official century—you know, the type that one does on purpose, instead of simply to find their way back from whatever random place they've wrong-turned their way to. Not only that, but I was considering doing back-to-back centuries for the next six days to get into San Francisco again. If that seems totally nuts to you, then I'm going to go ahead and say that you may not entirely be incorrect about that, but...well, I was lonely.
Don't get me wrong; I'd hung out with amazing friends that I waited far too long to see again, and I connected with total strangers who have restored my faith in humanity. But I hadn't met one other cyclist yet. Not a one! And I was hungry for a chance to delight in the shared experience of bike touring, to talk about the beauty we'd seen, the amazing generosity of strangers, and whatever else touring cyclists talked about together. And if I couldn't have that, then maybe I would just crush my way through my trip so that I could appreciate my own ridiculousness and savour the ache of my muscles.
No sooner than had I hatched this scheme, however, did I wander into a bike shop in Newport, OR, and meet my first, second, and third fellow touring cyclists heading south down the coast. To my immense surprise and delight, two of them—Mark and Mike, from Calgary— were cycling from Victoria, BC, to San Francisco, and were making camp at the same campground as me that night. They reminded me at once of my friends, full of laughter and an unquantifiable sense of genuine goodness within them. They bickered lightheartedly and with ease, and you could tell immediately that their friendship was the deep-welled kind, the stuff that inspires only the best quotes that are found on greeting cards everywhere. They felt like the Touring Cyclists' Welcoming Committee, and I immediately knew that if they liked me even half as much as I already liked them, my hundred-milers-to-SF plan was toast.
When I told them that I was traveling alone and hadn't met any other cyclists alone the way, they were surprised, and told me that they'd been riding with a small group of other cyclists that they'd met along the way, and that I'd likely meet them all that evening. Sure enough, when I stopped to get groceries a few miles from camp that afternoon, I met three other riders, one of whom greeted me with, "You must be Michelle!" They'd heard about me from Mike and Mark.
Sabrina, Alistair, Noah, all strikingly good-looking and good-natured, had met on the road toward the Washington/Oregon border, and had known each other for a few days already. We spent the better part of an hour chatting, and although we'd just met, it felt like I'd known them for ages.
We grabbed some extra beer from the store, headed into camp where we met up with still more riders, and rapidly became a ragtag riding family, playing in the dunes at sunset and chatting around tea lights and stove fires late into the night.