Day 76: Portland (rest day)


There was only one guest room so I tried to sleep on the hammock in Ben and Gail’s backyard. Around 2 in the morning, though, I woke up cold and sore. I crept inside with my sleeping bag and made a home for myself on the futon.

Ben came downstairs at about 6 am. He has trouble sleeping in due in part to his old age as well as a respiratory condition. When he came into the kitchen we chatted and made a vegetable stir fry. I used the vegetables to make an omelette for myself.

I wanted to get the most out of Portland the one day I was there, so I knew I had to wake Lila up. I didn’t want her to be mad at me so I figured I would make her an omelette and use that as an excuse to wake her up. She was unhappy to be awake but happy about the food.

By 8 am we had finished breakfast, said goodbye to Ben and Gail, and began our journey into town. Cue Feel It All Around by Washed Out (the Portlandia theme).

Portland is a lot bigger than I expected. We’ve been told that 100 people move there every single day. It’s also an amazing city to bicycle in. There are bike lanes everywhere and, if anything, many roads are hostile to cars.

We started our day by visiting Powell’s City of Books in the Pearl District. Powell’s is an incredible, 4-story book store. Each room has a different color (red, purple, orange, etc.) and a different genre of literature.

One could easily spend an entire day in this book store. I, on the other hand, could only hang out there for an hour or two. In my time scanning the shelves I found a compilation of medical drawings from the 19th century called the Sick Rose. If anyone is curious about what to get me for Christmas, consider that.

Here we see the stages of sickness, ending in death:

While I wandered around Powell’s Lila went to a Goodwill outlet a few miles away. When she returned we went to an entire block filled with food trucks.

I got a lamb shawarma and she got some sort of Indian food. We ate lunch in the park and listened to live music.

After lunch we headed to a place called Next Adventure where we shopped for used camping and cycling gear. Lila found a replacement for her stolen camp stove and I found some cool cycling shoes that look like sneakers but have room for clips on the sole.

We then walked a few blocks to our appointment at Lady Luck Tattoo parlor. There Lila and I received our first tattoos.

The tattoo, a small thundercloud with a lightning bolt, on my thigh is a commemoration of this trip across America. The tattoo is a reference to our group’s name, the Thunder Thighs, but, of course, holds more significance.

Before going under the gun, Lila and I discussed what the tattoo meant for each of us. I got this tattoo to make sure I never forget the trip and the focus, drive, and determination it took to complete it.

When cycling long distances, or living an ordinary life, most of the challenges faced are mental. Most of us have the physical ability to achieve our goals but we get hung up on the mental obstacles of fear, doubt, and low self esteem. If you don’t believe you can do something then you won’t do it.

Conversely, if you have the confidence and knowledge that you can do great things and meet your goals, you will be encouraged to pursue them. This tattoo will remind me, not only of a summer spent with a great friend seeing the country, but also of the fact that I can do virtually anything I set my mind to. When it catches my eye, either cycling or just sitting on the toilet, I will be reminded that I crossed an entire continent with nothing but a bicycle. I’ll remember when we rode 120 miles to outrun a massive thunderstorm in Kansas, I’ll remember climbing a pass over 2 miles high, I’ll remember that I bicycled through record heat during a forest fire. I’ll remember that I can live in uncertainty, between lightning strikes, and that I can bet on myself to be okay. No matter where life takes me, I’ll always have a Thunder Thigh.

After getting tattoos we headed to the Portland Art Museum. They had everything from oil paintings to northwestern Native American art to 3D videos.

We also got to view the collection of John Yeon. Yeon was born in 1910 after his father came to Portland in 1880. The Yeons built timber roads, bought lots of land and became one of the wealthiest families in the region. By the time John was born, the Yeons had moved past timber roads and had gotten into property development.

In 1916 John’s father oversaw the construction of Old highway 30, also known as the Columbia River Gorge highway, the road we came in on. The Columbia River Gorge highway was the first paved highway in Oregon. Yeon wanted to preserve the beauty of the area so he made the road meander around especially scenic points of the gorge. (Thanks, Yeons!)

As a teenager John interned at an architecture office. Without finishing high school he went to Stanford but left after 4 months because his father died. He used to joke that the only school he ever graduated from was Sunday School.

In the end his internship and 4 months were his only formal architecture training. When John was 21, he was appointed by governor Julius Meyer for the commission about how to develop the Oregon coast. John stopped a dancehall and the reckless commercial development of the Oregon coast. He bought up the coast with a huge loan to protect it. By the end of his life he owned 60 acres of coast which he later donated to people and companies that would preserve its majesty. He is basically the reason the northwest coast isn’t like Myrtle Beach.


After the museum we met up with my friend from Asheville, Sara Pickles. Sara moved out to Portland almost a year ago to work at a florist. We caught up over sandwiches and she mercifully drove us to our host’s house.

Tomorrow we will make it to Clastkanie where we hope to meet my good friend Sara Melosh.

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