As I approached the end of this journey, I was finding it more and more difficult to articulate the lessons learned and experienced had over the past 6 months. People would ask me, "What was your favorite place?" or "How does it feel to be in the home stretch?" and I would just find myself tripping over my words. I knew that today would be among my last rides of this cross-country journey. Instead of trying to sum it all up, I just allowed myself to be in the moment.
I rode about 60 miles with Dan from Maryhill to the town of Hood River. For the full ride he and I just kept glancing at each other with looks of utter disbelief on our faces. We were in awe of the natural wonder that we had stumbled upon. In all honesty, I don't know that I have developed the requisite fluency in English language to effectively describe the beauty I witnessed while riding along this stretch of the Columbia River. I think it may be more helpful to just post a bunch of pictures as part of my insufficient attempt to portray how gorgeous this place truly was:
About ten miles from our destination for the evening, Dan and I stumbled upon a cycling couple, Mack and Cindy. They seemed intrigued by our journey and were excited that we were so close to our destination. I was thrilled to find out that they had both lived in Maryland and actually knew the town that I grew up in. Before mounting our saddles to wrap up the day's ride, Mack offered to let us camp out on his lawn. The offer was right on. There was no way I would rather spend my last night on the road than with some locals who were sympathetic to the adventurer's lifestyle. We exchanged information, then hopped back on our bikes.
Hood River was awesome. This town of about 7,000 people happened to be one of the Kitesurfing capitals of North America. Before heading to our hosts' home, Dan and I checked out the town. We spent some time at a relaxed cafe, got a great dinner of pizza and ultimately got some ice cream before packing it in. Feeling both shameless and accomplished, I treated myself to two cones of ice cream. Yup. I was really feeling it.
That night I had the pleasure of getting to know my hosts, Mack and Cindy. Neither of them was a native or Oregon, rather they had moved to Hood River as young adults to practice Windsurfing. I was captured by the erie parallels of my life story to Mack's. He explained that before moving to Hood River he basically had it made. He was living in SoCal and making good money at a corporate job. Despite the apparent appeal of this lifestyle, it just didn't quite fit him. Around 30 years old, Mack decided to cash it all in for a new life in Hood River. He packed up his stuff, headed North and founded a nice little B&B in this quaint town. Man, it was really inspiring to see someone who made a bold decision as a young adult and was redeemed by it. This guy was part of the development of this awesome adventure sports town and he resided in a lovely home with a view of Mount Adams. This looked like good living to me.
That night Dan and I did some "urban camping" in our hosts' backyard. I'm not going to lie. I had a hard time falling asleep. I felt like a child on Christmas Eve. The sensation of anticipation in my heart and mind were overwhelming. I could not believe how close I was to accomplishing my goal. After a nostalgic talk with Dan and an encounter with some sneaky raccoons, I retired to my tent where I tossed and turned for a few hours before finally passing out.
Man, I was so close...