A powerful revelation

9/21/21

This post is a bit of a departure from my other “trip posts” so far. I feel inclined to preface it somehow. Like… I don’t know if this will resonate with everyone. It may not be your cup of tea. Also, it doesn’t feel fully formed. I could wait until a later time to share it; maybe I could “polish” it more between now and then, or maybe I would have subsequent experiences that would render the story more complete, or well-rounded, or something.

But I’m choosing to share it now, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip so far, it’s that each day is full to bursting with experiences of all different kinds. I fear that if I waited, this one I’m writing about would end up getting relegated to the dustbin of “unfinished thoughts” in the back of my mind. And I feel drawn to share it with others.

So, here goes.

Yesterday at 11:40 am, on the bus from Klamath Falls to Medford, I received a text message from an unfamiliar number with a greater-Seattle area code:

“Hi, Maren. Are you interested in selling the property over there on [the street where my condo is] in Portland? This is Century21 Northwest.”

Ugh. Kinda invasive. How did they get my number? This real estate market is getting out of hand. Presumably this person was hoping I would sell to an investor.

My reply was short and unequivocal: “No”.

I trusted that would be the end of it.

An hour later, at 12:44 pm, I was enjoying my lunch in Medford before heading out on my bike, when another text arrived:

“Maren, if you were to get an offer on this property still at this point, would you still be willing to take it?”

Uh, what?

First of all, did I stutter? “No” is pretty clear, right? Second, what does that text even mean? “Still be willing to take [an offer]”?

I replied, “I am not interested in selling.”

Done and done, right?

I finished up my meal, and set a course for Williams. As you may recall from yesterday’s post, I soon found myself scaling a challenging hill. I had just enjoyed my “plum break” on the side of the road, and was girding myself for more climbing in the hot sun, when I pulled over for another rest.

Do you know what I saw?

This text:

“We have a pipeline of buyers who are prequalified and are registered in this area. What’s the best time to call, Maren?”

I was already out of breath and cursing the hill. When I saw this, my blood boiled.

Who is this guy? Who behaves like this? How is this acceptable in any possible universe? (Talk about the antithesis of enthusiastic consent.)

I had been polite. I had been firm. No matter.

Filled with rage at this violation of my clearly stated boundaries (as well as any reasonable person’s standard of human decency) I typed back “FUCK YOU” and hit send. I waited a few seconds to make sure it had sent, and then blocked the number.

Fueled by adrenaline, I hopped back on the bike to finish scaling the hill. As I pedaled, I marinated in a chemical dump of emotions and thoughts.

First, catharsis: I’m generally so mild-mannered and polite that I rarely talk back to anyone, let alone curse them out. It felt good!! (I mean, seriously, fuck that dude, right??)

Then a slight fear: What if that angered or activated him? He’s obviously not averse to predatory behavior. I’m sure it’s not the first time he’s received a response like that (it probably happens multiple times a day) but what if he thought it was funny that I got so upset, and decided to toy with me in some way, texting me from a different number, or finding some other way to harass me? Unlikely, I hoped, but I didn’t like thinking about it. If I had simply blocked the number without “outbursting” first, I wouldn’t have had to worry about that. (Although I did think the catharsis of responding the way I did was worth something, on its own merits.)

Setting aside the fear, I started to think about the situation on a larger, deeper scale. I thought about, and felt into, the energetic dynamics of the situation. Of boundary violations. Of “injuries” of any kind, to me or anyone else. Of unwanted energies coming toward us, as individual beings.

It happens. To all of us. What do we do with the unwanted energies?

The question reminded me of another recent time of philosophical pondering, on one of my “practice rides” for this trip, a month or so ago.

On that ride, I had also recently been the recipient of unwanted, toxic energy directed at me. It was bothering me, and as I pedaled my own energy through the miles of natural beauty, I arrived at what felt like some important wisdom. A framework within which to understand such dynamics.

What I thought of was that there is always energy moving about. (In the world, in the cosmos.) Some of this energy is obviously physical. Some is interpersonal. Both can be understood using similar ways of thinking.

At that time, I thought about some of the eastern philosophies I had first learned about in my high school philosophy class: that some energetic forces are destructive, while others are constructive.

I thought about how human beings—our minds, our emotions, our consciousness—can be seen as vessels for these different kinds of energies. In fact, I could imagine the two kinds of energies as almost (almost!) conscious in themselves. Like when people talk about “evil forces.” I don’t believe in the concepts of good and evil, on a basic level; I subscribe more to Marshall Rosenberg’s idea (though he would have been the first to admit that it was not his original idea) that what most people refer to as “good” or “evil” are simply examples of human beings either getting their human needs met, or not.

But I found myself open to thinking of “destructive energy” as a sort of entity of its own. And I could visualize it circling around human beings and looking for a “weak vessel” to inhabit. For example, someone who has not been able to sufficiently process or heal whatever human traumas they have experienced. (And since that describes all of us, at various times of our lives, that means we can all be the “weak vessel” at various times, allowing destructive behaviors to issue forth from ourselves, such as the text I sent before blocking the number. Different people spend different percentages of their time in such states.) Perhaps we can think of certain destructive energies as needing human hosts in order to carry out their nature.

This led me to think of the physics principle of the conservation of mass-energy. If there is a static amount of energy in the world (setting aside for the moment that matter and energy can swap places in existence at different times, since I don’t think that makes a measurable difference to the phenomenon I’m describing) then destructive energy could theoretically be transmuted into constructive energy, with conscious human help.

I thought first of a simplistic idea: “There are people in the world who operate from destructive energy, and those who operate from constructive energy. I want to be one of the latter.”

But then I thought a bit deeper, realizing how oversimplified that was. For one thing, as I mentioned above, individual people can operate from either kind of energy at different times.

For another thing, seeing my role in life as being one who is engaged in constructive energy didn’t feel quite right to me either. When I thought more about constructive energy, what came to my mind was mostly physical: people growing gardens, plants, trees, and such, or perhaps actively constructing sustainable dwellings or other structures, or even building entire intentional communities. These are the kinds of people I feel drawn toward, and wish to support with my own skills. Especially on this particular bicycle journey: that is the whole point of it!

And… then, what are my skills, and how do they fit within this framework I was beginning to envision?

My skills are those of space-holding, healing, and supporting transformation.

My life’s work is to work with people’s existing sources of energy, to witness and help them to heal from whatever injuries or traumas they have received, and help them to transmute that energy into something constructive, so that they can build something positive, for themselves and/or for the collective.

So. That was my thought process during my August ride. Now back to yesterday’s ride:

What was I to do with this unwanted energy that had just come toward me? What are any of us to do with these energies? They are certainly a renewable resource, because boundary violations and various anger triggers are unavoidable wherever human interactions can be found. Do we just unconsciously spew them back out, fighting back against the apparent “source” like I had just done, or toward others who seem like easy targets? Do we eschew those “spewing” behaviors out of politeness or propriety or fear, and instead simply soak in the toxicity, holding that energy within our own bodies until it harms us psychologically and/or physically?

Surely there must be a better way.

I suddenly thought of a new metaphor: a solar panel.

It collects “general” energy from the sun, and transforms it into photovoltaic electricity, to be used in a more targeted, intentional way.

I found myself in a warm wave of nostalgia with this mental imagery, as I reminisced on my teen years in the late 1980s, discovering the Real Goods catalog and learning that it was possible to live apart from the communal electric grid by using photovoltaics to power 12-volt DC versions of refrigerators, lights, and any number of other electric appliances. What a revelation! Creative, innovative, responsible technology. I remembered the images on those paper catalog pages—back before I had ever heard of the internet—of solar-powered cabins in remote northern California locales.

This in turn led me to warm thoughts of two upcoming visits on this tour: one with a friend in Ukiah, California, where the Real Goods company was founded and remains headquartered. It seemed so exotic to me at the time! But in a few weeks, I will be visiting there myself. The second visit is to another friend who lives in an off-grid cabin in northern California as well, near Mt. Shasta.

Wow.

I thought a bit more about my solar-panel analogy.

What if we could think of all unwanted incoming energy into our personal physical, mental, or emotional space as a resource to take in as “general energy” like sunlight, rather than experiencing it as targeted negative energy? And what if we could visualize storing up this energy into our metaphorical solar battery? Turning that unwanted kinetic energy into desirable potential energy for future, constructive use? (More flashbacks to my high school physics class.)

I liked it. This felt powerful to imagine. I smiled broadly to myself as I glided along, and marveled at what mental worlds are opened up by a bicycle on a beautiful open road.

This is why I’m doing this, isn’t it?

This is my life now.

And… just like that, I rounded a bend. Immediately to my right, my eyes beheld this image.

Wow.

Yeah.

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Williams, Oregon

9/20/21

Today I checked out of my hotel, biked along the pathway back to the train station, and caught the bus to Medford. I had a wonderful lunch of Thai yellow vegetable curry at an all-vegan restaurant, and then headed out for the 35 miles to Williams, where I’ll spend tonight and tomorrow night.

(View from the bus)

Google Maps described the terrain as “mostly flat,” but I beg to differ. I encountered another stop-3-or-4-times-on-the-way-up hill (where I found a marker denoting the elevation and felt vindicated) and then seemed to glide downhill significantly more than I had climbed. (This happened from Eugene to Deadwood as well. It’s a curious phenomenon, but I guess I’ll take it…?) This was mostly an exhilarating reward after the slog, but it did give me pause when thinking about making the return trip in a few days. I may look into some alternative routes.

One really cool thing: shortly after I left Medford, I got to pass through the small town of Jacksonville, Oregon, which I recognized as one of the then-three (apparently there are now more) towns I heard about in my childhood in which the entire town is designated a National Historic Landmark. This was significant to me, since I grew up just outside one of the other two: Waterford, Virginia. (The third was Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, which I visited with my historian mother in 1988.)

I didn’t linger long in Jacksonville, but I made a note of the architecture and a few historic plaques as I rolled through.

Jacksonville did also have the sole public park I could see along my whole route today—which has been unusual on my journey thus far, since there are usually at least three or four—so I took the opportunity to use the restroom, reapply sunscreen, and pause to enjoy the chocolate whoopie pie I had purchased at Sundance in Eugene yesterday.

While I ate, a mother supervised her two young boys nearby on the playground equipment. The older one (6 or so, I estimated by his Jack-o’-lantern teeth) was very curious about my bike and trailer, investigating up close and asking me several questions. He was also eager to show off his toy airplanes. After he had exhausted these topics and I was enjoying my confection, he approached once again with another question: “Excuse me… um, do you have any kids?”

“No,” I said with a smile and a shake of the head.

He looked dismayed, and his voice was soft: “Oh no…” 

I chuckled to myself as his mother intervened: “Stop bothering her!”

The park was a pleasant, shady spot to stop. After that, the roads were mostly sunny, and the temp hit 81, which was a bit higher than I’ve been used to thus far. I suspect that contributed to my unexpected level of fatigue by the time I crawled into Williams and met my welcoming host, another friend of a friend.

One highlight of the journey: another plum tree! It was a variety I didn’t recognize (sort of a translucent yellow/blush on the tree, then turning a pale blue after falling to the ground) but they were delicious, and I feasted on at least 8 or 9 from the bike lane before continuing on my way.

The Williams General Store, about four miles from my host’s place, looked very quaint. If I have the energy tomorrow, I may head back up there without the trailer and take a peek inside.

My internet is weak in this lovely outbuilding guest room I’m staying in, so I probably will publish this in the morning. Now, I think an early sleep is in order!

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Gearing up, and stunning train-window vistas

9/19/21

What a day!

I’m in my first hotel of this trip, for a brief overnight in Klamath Falls until I can catch the bus to Medford in the morning. (Fingers crossed my rig will be allowed on this one as well!)

Today started with a trip to Arriving by Bike, the Brompton-friendly bike shop in Eugene. I had called ahead to make sure they had the 16” Marathon Plus tires I wanted in stock, and was assured that they did, but when I asked if they could switch out the tires for me, the staffer was unwilling to promise that, since their service department was quite busy.

But when I got there, it was a breeze! They found the tires right away, and the mechanic installed them right away, while I zipped over—sans trailer, which is so much easier—to nearby Sundance Natural Foods, for a few snacks and treats for the road. When I returned to pick up the trailer, I noticed a particular tire tool that my first Warmshowers host of the trip—the one in my own Portland neighborhood—had highly recommended. I was happy for his recommendation, and happy to see the product displayed prominently in the shop.

I left the shop very pleased, and even managed to fit both of the original tires into my nearly-full-to-bursting trailer, which helps me feel even more prepared for any tire troubles: now the ones on the trailer should be much more puncture-resistant, but even if I do have a problem—with the bike or trailer tires—I’ll have two “emergency spares” on hand.

Having accomplished that mission, I headed across town to meet up with an old Portland friend who recently moved to Eugene. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, and she has been living a magical life of her own, recently spending her 50th birthday on the big island of Hawai’i while volunteering for several weeks at the farm of a friend. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch from the deli of the Red Barn Natural Grocery, and talked about travel, life, magic, etc. I was debating ducking back inside the market to grab a chocolate bar, from which to break off a few squares for the moment and save some for later… when a young woman approached us from the table behind me. She apologized for “overhearing,” but said she was enthralled by our conversational topics and found them very resonant for her life. She was holding a large unopened organic chocolate bar she had just purchased at the market, and offered us half of it, explaining that she had craved the chocolate but wouldn’t eat it all herself.

Wow.

We chatted for a few minutes, and exchanged contact info (she was just passing through Eugene herself, on her way back to northern California) and wished her the best as she left.

Then my friend and I said goodbye, and I biked back to my Warmshowers host’s place to pack up everything and head to the train station.

When I arrived at the station, I hit a hurdle that briefly threatened to make me freak out:

I asked the station attendant how best to prepare the trailer for handling in the baggage car. (Would I even have space inside the trailer, now, to stash the wheels if I removed them to check it for free as regular baggage? What would the cost be to check it as-is, as a trailer? And which option would result in more gentle/careful handling of my precious cargo?)

His reply: “Oh, this train doesn’t have a baggage car.” 

What?? The Coast Starlight? It’s a Superliner, long-distance train! How could they possibly run it without a baggage car? My mind reeled.

He continued, “You’ll have to take off the wheels and just carry it on.”

Again: What? This thing is heavy. And unwieldy. It’s hard enough to maneuver with the wheels on, but without handles, it’s impossible for me to carry alone (still rather difficult even with someone else helping) without the wheels.

As I struggled not to freak out, my mind went to worst-case scenarios: Would they refuse to let me board?

I sat down and chose to trust that things would work out.

I remembered that I had bought optional hardware to turn the trailer into a push cart, though I hadn’t used that option yet. That would probably be the best way to at least get the trailer train-side, and then I could ask the conductor for guidance and/or physical help in loading it onboard, as well as the folded bike.

So I calmly began transforming the trailer, first removing the rain cover, then swapping out the bike hitch for the push-cart handle, and finally switching over each wheel into its push-cart position. I had to marvel at how nifty the whole process was. (I so appreciate good design!)

When the train approached, I grabbed the folded bike in one hand and pushed the trailer with the other, out to the boarding area.

And by golly, we got the whole contraption on the train! Two very kind fellow passengers helped me to lift and stow both the bike and the trailer (which I never did have to disassemble: it fit just fine on the bottom shelf, and the rubber handle prevented it from rolling even with the wheels still attached.) When I disembarked, the conductor helped me to carry the trailer out.

The train ride was gorgeous, as always. For the first half of the five hours, the scenery was bathed in golden-hour light, and then twilight (including some wonderful fog in the evergreens that was too dark to capture on my camera). After it got dark, I sipped a cocktail and listened to some music. I had the seat to myself, and in fact it was the very back seat of the whole train, so I could look out the back window from time to time to watch the tracks receding as we chugged along. Even in coach, the Superliner trains have wonderfully comfortable seats and ample legroom, so it felt luxurious. I ate my Sundance tofu wrap, and the man across the aisle from me—returning to Sacramento from his own epic cross-country train trip to Chicago and Washington, DC—even offered me “extra” chocolates that he wasn’t going to eat. Sadly they were not vegan, so I declined, but I smiled to realize that two people had offered me chocolate gifts in one day.

The train got in about 10:00, and Google Maps directed me down a lovely bike path for most of the 15-minute ride from the train station to my hotel. It was 43 degrees (yikes!) but I didn’t feel too cold, in my fleece and with my leggings under my nylon capris. My clothing and hair look ridiculous on this trip—in fact the capris got stained the first day—and I’m enjoying simply sinking into that reality, caring more about the beauty I see all around me, and less about whatever others might think about my appearance.

Now, I think it’s time for another relaxing bath before bed!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Florence!

9/18/21

Wowww, this coastal town is breathtaking. My Florence host lives in the most magical forest, with narrow winding roads leading through towering trees. Most of today was rainy, so we stayed in, listening to the rain land on the roof and watching it soak the lush greenery out the windows. I felt so grateful to have “timed” the weather so perfectly! All my cycling yesterday was dry, and then all day today when we were inside—and then driving around to see some scenery—that’s when the sky opened up.

We first went to see the Heceta Head lighthouse, just north of town on Hwy 101. (You can just barely see it in the photo above.) The misty, winding road along the rocky cliffs reminded me of Marin County, California. The views were amazing. I’m so glad I got to visit the Oregon coast, at least in this one spot, on this trip! I can see why people love Florence.

My host graciously drove me into town again in the late afternoon to catch the Eugene-Florence Connector bus. I was nervous, right up until the bus arrived at the stop, that the driver might not allow me to board with all my bulky accoutrements. (Their website explicitly prohibits such, since bulky items might block the aisle, and it’s a small bus.) A wonderful Eugene friend had offered to pick me up in Florence and bring me back if I were to be denied entry to the bus, so that helped me to relax, but I was really hoping the bus would work out.

And it did. The driver was initially frowningly skeptical about “how we’re going to make this work,” but he ended up being very helpful, and engaged the lift gate for me, which was a lifesaver since the trailer really is quite heavy and unwieldy to lift.

I met a woman on the seat behind me who was tickled by my rig and journey, and we chatted off and on during the ride. The scenery along Hwy 126 was just as beautiful as 36 had been on my way out. It was nice to have some variety by taking the bus back.

I arrived back in Eugene shortly after 7, and pedaled over to my Warmshowers host’s house. He recently bought a folding bike as well: a Eugene-made Bike Friday, which he found used at a bargain price at a local bike shop. We talked about some of his extensive bike touring experiences domestically and overseas (Mongolia!) and then said goodnight.

I’m listening to the rain outside again right now, and feeling gratitude once again for shelter, and for the kindness of so many people who are sharing their homes with me.

Tomorrow I will attempt to outfit my trailer with some puncture-resistant tires. Many bike shops do not carry Brompton-sized tires, so when I saw that one here in Eugene did, I wanted to jump on the opportunity. (Someone in a Facebook Brompton touring group, who has the same bike-and-trailer setup as I do, cautioned me to replace the trailer’s standard tires with puncture-resistant ones within a month of starting my tour, to avoid persistent flats going forward. I appreciated the tip from someone who knows!)

Afterward, I’ll meet a friend for lunch, and then in the late afternoon, I’ll board the Amtrak Coast Starlight train for Klamath Falls!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Deadwood to Florence

9/17/21

The ocean!

Another wonderful day! I’m so glad I took this trip out to the coast. I biked about 28 miles today, along Hwy 36 and then 126, to get from Deadwood to Florence. (My bags were first “blessed” by a friendly neighbor horse, as you can see.)

The scenery today was almost as awe-inspiring as yesterday; this wooded valley corridor is incredible.

Arriving in Florence, my host graciously picked me up in the cute old town area to take me to her absolutely idyllic cottage just south of town. It’s situated on an acre, and feels private and magical.

The winds had started to pick up as I neared the coast—I had heard they would—but for some reason I didn’t find that too bothersome on my bike, and the temperature was pleasantly cool. Rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow, which makes me glad that I’ll be taking a bus back to Eugene, rather than cycling in the soggy weather. (Of course, I’m very thankful for the rain—Oregon desperately needs it!)

On the way back to the house, my host drove me around to the beach and a few river-view and lake-view areas. This place is absolutely full of waterways and bodies of water, in addition to its iconic dunes.

Tomorrow before I head back east, I’m looking forward to checking out the old town area a bit more, and soaking up the ambience of this lovely seaside town.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a fairy godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

The fruits of enthusiastic consent

9/17/21

I’ve been wanting to write about enthusiastic consent, and how it relates to my journey. I don’t know if this is the perfect story to illustrate it, but I’m going to take the opportunity.

I became familiar with this concept nearly 20 years ago, when I began attending touch-positive snuggle and play parties. It was a nourishing and transformative time in my life. We would always begin such parties with some sort of opening circle, and some boundary/consent exercises. One of the most powerful exercises was for each person to ask to touch another in a certain way, and the other would say no. The one who had asked would then respond, “Thank you for taking care of yourself.”

This was profound to me, terms of “flipping the script” from the awkwardness of being asked for something I didn’t want and either conceding so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, or saying no and worrying that I had hurt their feelings… and from the awkwardness and fear of shame of asking for something and being told no, and taking it personally. This person was taking care of themselves! Good! We all should! I can too! And we can all celebrate it!It felt liberating, revolutionary.

Consent has become a hot topic in recent years, especially in the wake of the #metoo movement. It is a profoundly important topic, and I hope that society will continue to talk about and value consent in all contexts.

And that’s the thing: consent is vitally important in touch/sexual contexts, but it doesn’t end there. Consent in all interactions is a cornerstone of healthy humans and healthy societies. I could write whole books about this. (And of course many others have.)

But I’ve been thinking about consent—and especially enthusiastic consent—a lot in connection with this bike tour.

As many of you may have heard me say by now, this journey, for me, is about “doing exactly what I do want to do, and not doing whatever I don’t want to do.” Of course that is a bit oversimplified: there are certain tasks involved in any life decisions that we “must” do, even if we don’t enjoy them (for a recent example in my own life, scaling hills on my bike!) But there are so many ways to “do” bike touring, and almost everyone I talk to has ideas about how it “should” be done. And they are very welcome to these ideas… and this is my journey, and I’m choosing to do it my way.

Part of that includes me stepping out on a limb and asking for things from people, more than I have ever done before. Lodging. Financial support of my journey. Putting me in touch with friends. Mechanical assistance when I need it.

It feels edgy to me. Vulnerable. I have generally preferred to be very self-sufficient, not asking for help if I could avoid it. I like to support others when I can, and now I’m finding that I’m being supported.It’s beautiful. It’s heartening.

And… it’s so crucial to me to lean into enthusiastic consent as I do ask for various kinds of support. Lodging, for example. I appreciate people opening their homes to me. Some people would rather not, for various reasons. I’m excited to stay with people who are excited to have me. I don’t at all wish to pressure anyone who would prefer to keep their space to themselves, because of introversion or COVID concerns, or literally any reason at all.

When I can trust that if I ask, “no” is an acceptable answer, then everyone benefits.

And… fruit!

Many of you know how much I love to find fruit on my neighborhood walks in Portland. Sometimes when I “harvest” fruit from neighborhood trees, I feel slight pangs about enthusiastic consent, because technically these trees belong to neighborhood residents, and I usually do not ask before taking the fruit. One thing I do practice is that I don’t actually pick the fruit from the trees; I take it from the public sidewalk. (The fallen fruit is arguably more delicious anyway, since it is very ripe and often has been warmed by the sun.) The sidewalk is in the public right-of-way.

I recently had a situation in which one of my favorite magical plum trees was cut down. I was devastated! This tree was one of just two I was aware of in the city of Portland that produced a particular kind of “magical” plum.

This past summer, as I was preparing to embark on this journey, I happened to pass the other such tree. (Actually two trees, on one lot.) The fruit was not yet ripe. But the trees did not overhang the street much; they were sequestered behind a thick fence. On the fence were several signs, admonishing passers-by not to “steal” the plants. The plants in question were growing outside the fence, along the sidewalk, but they were pretty flowers that clearly were tended by the residents, and I was saddened to think that people had been taking them.

But it brought up my ethical conundrum about the plums. If some plums fell onto the sidewalk from these trees, would it be OK for me to take them? Would the resident(s) object to this?

I wasn’t sure if I would ever have another opportunity to taste these particular, rare plums (I’ve never seen them in any store) if I couldn’t taste these ones, on this street.

I finally decided to trust the practice of enthusiastic consent, even though I knew that if I asked, I might hear a “no,” and then I might feel very disappointed, even though I would do my best to say (and mean) some version of “thank you for taking care of yourself” if the person(s) didn’t want to share their plums with me for any reason.

I typed up a letter.

I printed it out and put it in an envelope.

The next time I went to that neighborhood, I slid it through the mail slot in their front door.

I held my breath.

Later that evening, I got a phone call!

It was one of the residents of that property, and he was tickled that I had contacted them about the plums. He was very passionate about trees and plants in general, and we talked on the phone for nearly an hour about such topics, including stories of international travel and the plants and fruits and such found overseas.

He invited me over, and soon after I went and got a tour of his garden. Later, when the plums ripened, I returned and gathered a big bag, upon which I feasted and also shared copiously with my neighbors.

How does this all relate to my bike journey?

Well, yesterday, on my (absolutely breathtaking) ride from Eugene to Deadwood, I passed an Italian prune plum orchard. I love prune plums!

The ground beneath each tree was absolutely littered with fruit. There were signs denoting private property, etc (and of course the whole topics of private property, colonialism, control of food sources, etc are rich topics of their own, but this is already a very long post, so I’m skipping over them for now) but it would have been so easy for me to go and grab a few plums, most of which were going to go to waste anyway.

But for some reason I did hesitate. I thought about consent. I thought about wanting to receive abundantly from life, people, the earth… but within the context of knowing I had enthusiastic consent. There was no way to ask permission to take those plums.

I thought to myself, “I don’t really need those plums. I trust that at some point, I will encounter some that will be enthusiastically offered to me. If and when that happens, I’ll enjoy them. For now, I’ll just ride past.”

As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I glanced down at the pavement in front of me. What should my wondering eyes behold, but a perfect Italian plum lying directly in front of my bike.

It was on the other side of the road from the orchard. I could see no easy way it could have made its way over there.

And yet, there it was.

I reached down, picked it up. It was perfectly ripe.

Wow, I thought, and popped it in my mouth. It was delicious.

Enthusiastic consent. There is magic in it.

And there is magic in this kind of journey. The best was yet to come.

After a few hours of no cell service in the breathtaking valley between the hills (I got a bit nervous, though luckily I knew my hosts’ address was very easy to find even without Google Maps) I arrived at my destination. I was met by my wonderful hosts—the daughter and son-in-law of a longtime Portland friend—and got to spend some time in their field and next to their stream, before having a wonderfully rich conversation for hours.

At the end of the night, as I was about to turn in, they said, “Would you like some plums? Our tree has been producing like crazy!”

I followed them into the kitchen, and was met by an incredible sight: overflowing boxes of those exact magical plums from my Portland neighbor.

I am officially living in the magic. Thank you for joining me.

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Eugene: fatigue, good conversations, beautiful bicycling

9/15/21

Today was another “rest day,” staying within the city of Eugene. I had a wonderful breakfast and lunch—with two different friends—at Morning Glory Café, one of my favorite all-vegetarian spots in town. It happens to be right near the Amtrak station, so when I’ve arrived here by train on previous trips, I’ve usually made a point to stop in.

Later this evening, I had a nice dinner and good conversation with my hosts at Laughing Planet Café, which I’ve always enjoyed in Portland. I love how healthy I’ve been able to eat so far on this trip. Lots of veggies! I know that will be easier in some places than others, so I’m taking good advantage here in the Willamette Valley.

I do notice I’m starting to hit some personal edges, at this point in the trip. I woke up tired this morning, after two or three nights of less sleep than I would have liked, plus 50 miles of cycling yesterday in the hot sun, including a sunburn on my arms, which continue to feel sore today. I’ll need to be more liberal with the sunscreen application going forward.

Also, although I’m thoroughly enjoying all the human connections I’ve been having on the journey so far, I’m finding that my introverted nature is feeling a bit drained at the same time, alongside the exertion, sun, and lack of sleep. I managed to get in a nap this afternoon for an hour and a half, which felt wonderful. I’m hoping it won’t thwart my sleep tonight, since I’ve got another 45 miles to go tomorrow.

But the weather remained beautiful today, and I bicycled around town for a total of a couple of hours. I’m so impressed by Eugene’s riverfront bike network. Absolutely gorgeous views, for miles.

Tomorrow I’m heading out toward Florence, on the coast; I’ll stop in the small forest town (I think it’s a woodsy place, based on the map) of Deadwood, Oregon. It appears that the journey will take me past a few lakes, so I’m looking forward to the scenery.

I’m adjusting to this life on the road. It can be a bit discombobulating at times, but mostly I am continuing to love it.

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Stark beauty, and sunburn, on the way to Eugene

9/14/21

Today was my third travel day, and it was a full 50 miles. I said goodbye to my Corvallis hosts after a wonderful stay, and headed east, then south. The weather was warm and sunny, which was mostly welcome, but at times I would have preferred more shade. I took the more scenic route that Google Maps suggested: Peoria Rd and Coburg Rd, rather than 99W. It took me past some very beautiful trees standing alone in their fields. I also passed many farm-equipment vehicles along the roads. Drivers were quite courteous today, giving me ample berth as they passed.

Rest stops and parks were few and far between, but I stopped whenever I encountered them, which was three times, and soaked in the rest and scenery.

Unfortunately, my arms took the brunt of the sunshine today. I had put sunscreen on my face and the tops of my feet, as usual, but miscalculated that it was late enough in the season, and that my arms were already brown enough, that I wouldn’t need it there. The skin is now a bit sore, but I was glad to have some aloe gel to apply after my shower on arrival.

I’m staying with an old friend and his housemate in Eugene. These two have hosted me twice before, on train trips when they lived in a different but nearby house. We had a wonderful meal of mostly vegetables (followed by some chocolate-walnut Coconut Bliss, which brought back memories of my Salem time just a few days ago!) and now I am heading to bed, earlier than last night’s 2:00 (oof! Up at 7 this morning.)

Tomorrow: lots of human connections!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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A warm welcome in Corvallis (and a few stressors)

9/13/21

Today was another “rest day,” in between travel. I got to sink into Corvallis a bit, and that included spending time at the co-op (where I encountered the bike rack pictured above!) another market, and two parks, and socializing with several interesting people.

I had a nice walk along the riverfront path with a fellow who has traveled extensively around the United States and the world—having grown up in Oregon—and who will soon depart for Costa Rica, where he has plans to open a simple hostel for sustainable travelers, and perhaps in time, a more permanent intentional community. He spoke passionately about his love of travel, and his excitement to begin this new chapter of his life.

After that, I cycled over to a different park to meet up with a longtime Portland/Facebook acquaintance I had never really chatted with before. He has been living in Corvallis for the past year, with family, but is also preparing for a big leap: potentially joining a Buddhist monastery in southern California. We talked about travel, life, and what’s important in the grand scheme of things.

These are the kinds of conversations I am seeking on this journey. And I’m finding them, already.

On the way back to my hosts’, I stopped at the co-op for a few snacks for tomorrow’s ride. Then I returned for another lovely dinner, with a friend of theirs joining us, who is an avid cyclist and hiker/backpacker. We got to swap some stories, and I got to demonstrate the folding and unfolding of my Brompton, which I always enjoy.

Alongside the beautiful weather, relaxing parks, and enjoyable conversations, I admit I have had some worries begin seeping into my mind:

Am I truly prepared, physically and mechanically, for this journey? (I started making some calls today to bike shops in upcoming towns to see about getting reinforced tires for the trailer, for one example.)

I just discovered that I have a potential transit snafu coming up in a few days; I will need to make some new travel and lodging arrangements, and possibly line up backup plans as well. (However, already a Warmshowers host has agreed to let me stay, so that’s one piece falling into place. I’m loving how solutions seem to quickly follow problems so far.)

One other stressor: I am accustomed to having the time and consistent space each day to do the administrative tasks of my life, such as paying bills, as well as the time, and mental and emotional energy, to keep up with social connections to friends, whether on social media or by texts, emails, phone calls, or Zooms. I am finding it to be an adjustment to have much less of this time. The tradeoff, of course, is more engagement with “real life”: spending time outdoors and in motion, on my bike or on foot in parks and such, and having in-person conversations with my hosts and/or other locals in the places I visit. I’m loving it! But, there is a bit of stress in the adjustment.

Tonight after dinner, I was going to work on paying some bills, to alleviate some of this stress. But, when I noted that they aren’t due for at least another week, I chose instead to luxuriate in a wonderful hot bath, for more than an hour.

I think I made the right choice.

This is my life now.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Salem to Corvallis

9/12/21

A short update today: another beautiful ride! Warm, sunny weather and lovely vistas accompanied me on most of my 40ish miles from Kristi’s place to Judy and Jeff’s in Corvallis. I enjoyed plums and blackberries, and only took a couple of wrong turns (which added probably a total of about five miles to the trip, but who’s counting?) I did find myself needing to walk up a hill very early on, but the rest I managed to pedal, even though I had to stop and rest a few times.

I stopped for lunch in a picturesque roadside park in Albany, and then as I neared Corvallis I found an unexpected off-road path, which felt safer and more pleasant than some of the busy roads from earlier in the day.

One of the highlights of today’s ride was an exhilarating downhill stretch of possibly up to a mile, separated from the freeway just south of Salem.

I do have to laugh that Google Maps thought I could make this journey in three hours and twelve minutes. It was closer to six hours, including a few stops. Oh well… I care not about my pace, only about enjoying the journey.

As I pulled into Corvallis, I stopped by the co-op near Judy and Jeff’s house, and met up with a seasoned bicycle traveler (hi, Ocean!) who will soon be cycling down the west coast from Astoria to San Diego.

After a luscious repast with my hosts this evening, I am ready for a good night’s sleep!

Tomorrow: meeting up with more local connections, and exploring a few local parks, before continuing south to Eugene the following day.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a fairy godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)