September 9, 2015 – Sun, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 56
Miles to Date: 6,601
States to Date: 23
I rode out of Portland through grey skies. Stopped at Winco for yogurt and bagels. Got extra for the homeless folks hanging around. Homeless are all over Portland. Jittery guys who can hardly hold on to their cigarette. Massive woman wrapped in shawls spread out on the sidewalk like muffin tops. I acknowledge them, I try to respect them, but they jar my sensibilities. Perhaps that‘s better than being numb to them. Locals tell me that homeless come here because the climate is mild, the services good, and neighbors are kind. It probably is better to be homeless in Portland than in other places. But being homeless can’t be better than having a safe, supportive home.
I rolled through Crystal Springs and watched well-scrubbed children in khakis eat breakfast in chandeliered dining rooms before school. I pedaled through Clackamas and passed bands of Mexican American kids with T-shits pulled over tortilla bellies walking to school. In Gladstone three middle schoolboys buzzed by me on their skateboards. A fourth, with long blonde hair undeniably cool, sauntered along at his own pace. I saw my first gold leaves. The calendar pages register two more weeks of summer. But it is fall.
Outside of Oregon City, terminus of the Oregon Trail and the state’s first town, I stopped to study Willamette Falls, a complex array of waterfall, power plant and aging industry. After a few more miles of narrow road, the valley spread out into wide fields. Woodburn had so many taquerias and bakeries I just had to stop and eat a few sweet buns.
I passed the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole. I definitely felt warmer on the far side of the sign.
I reached Salem in early afternoon and enjoyed touring the Capitol – a 1930’s Deco extravaganza. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could have filmed a movie there.
I stopped downtown to get my third set of bike lights. I’ve only used lights a few times on my trip, but they keep getting stolen. Instead of buying difficult to remove ones – which get removed anyway – I bought ones that are simple to attach. I plan to keep them in my bags and only attach when needed. Let’s see if that strategy works.
At a street corner I saw a young couple in an ugly fight – loud profanity, pushing, spitting. I witnessed similar fights in St. Helens, on Portland streets, even within the Portland Library. There are so many young people who only know want and disappointment, who can only act from rage. They likely exist everywhere, but Oregon’s permissive attitude toward street people allows them to be more public. Regardless, such needless human suffering brings me down. We have enough for everyone to get his or her share. Why are we so cruel to each other?
My warmshowers hosts, Sharon and Dave, elevated my spirits with good food, good beer and great conversation. They are foster parents for the local shelter and had four of the cutest little kittens scampering over everything.