If you've browsed this site or my Instagram account, you've doubtless seen photos of my beloved Surly Long Haul Trucker, usually loaded up to the point of abuse. Well my friends, it may be time to bid farewell to that steel masterpiece, though the jury is still out. Last week my LHT took quite a nasty spill, and is still awaiting its sentence in the form of a "damage assessment" from the good folks in the service department at River City Bicycles.
A group of my friends were headed out to camp on the coast to celebrate Matty's birthday. I could've easily hitched a ride in the two or three cars headed to the coast that day, but instead decided to infuse the trip with a little bit of adventure. Also, I knew if I didn't bring my bike on this trip I'd easily spend 2 days drinking beer and eating potato chips. Sad as it sounds, sometimes I have to intentionally leave myself stranded with my bike in order to get exercise. Ever seen a rat run a maze with a snack at the finish? It's like that. Being a highly food-motivated person, I put a cooler (filled primarily with cheese and beer) in a friend's car, put my camping gear on my bike, and bought a round-trip ticket on the Tillamook County WAVE bus. A roundtrip Portland-to-Tillamook ticket is only $20, which is generally cheaper than gas if you were to drive yourself, and takes about the same amount of time. It's also free to bring your bike! What could possibly go wrong?
I planned to ride my bike to Pacific City, about 25 miles. (The Three Capes route is way cooler, but also includes insanity climbs and virtually no shoulder).
As I loaded my bike on the wobbly front-mounted bus rack, I got a little nervous. But I always get a little nervous--using a friend's car rack, a Car2Go bike rack, or hanging a loaded bike on the hooks on the MAX light rail. It ALWAYS seems sketchy, and then it's ALWAYS just fine. I've known a number of people who've taken their bikes--way nicer bikes--on the same bus with no issue. While passengers loaded and purchased fare, I wobbled my bike back and forth a few times on the rack under the gaze of the bus driver. He shrugged. Fuck it. I got on the bus.
Rolling down Highway 6 through the Tillamook State Forest, my clenched mind released and wandered through the wonderful possibilities presented by the fast and cheap round-trip WAVE bus: hobo overnights on the Bayocean Peninsula, Cape Lookout, Nehalem Bay. My mind was deep in one of my best-loved semi-secret swimming holes on the Wilson River when the bus hit a startling bump. There was a chorus of gasps and I was dragged violently from the cool waters of the river when a passenger breathed, "We lost the bike."
My bike was laying in the road, looking not unlike recent roadkill, twisted in that sort of unnatural posture that confounds what your mind expects to see. Anyone who has shared the unfortunate experience of seeing someone dislocate a joint will understand what I mean; that "looks like an arm but not the way an arm is supposed to look" feeling as your brain struggles to make sense of this horrific sight. Followed then, by the panic of what to do about it.
The dazed bus driver, with unexpected empathy, tenderly helped me collect my bike and the few bits of dusty and bruised camping gear that were scattered about the roadside. "Let's get it inside the bus for now," he said solemnly. Back on the bus, the passengers shared a few moments of silence, out of which grew whispers, pats on the back, gestures of kindness. Can you still ride it? Do you know anyone in Tillamook? Do you need a ride somewhere? I know of a good bike shop in Newport. Make sure you get all the information about the bus. There must be insurance. Is there someone you can call? Do you need to use my phone? Oregonians, from the city or small towns, eager to help, sharing an unspoken awareness of the meaningfulness of a bike and the devastation brought by the loss of freedom through the loss of that bike. It'll be okay.
Now I'd like to be clear, before anyone is up in arms over the negligence/injustice/irresponsibility of any party in the destruction of my dear Long Haul Trucker, that really, it's okay. Just so that you're all feeling better about the situation, you should know that a number of things happened/are still happening to make this all right. My friends promptly picked me up from the bus station, and I got drunk on the beach like anyone would handle a breakup or their cat getting hit by a car. The Tillamook County Transportation employees showed a level of kindness and concern for my well being that went far beyond the necessary apologies. Their insurance should pay for any damages to my bike and camping gear (we're still in the middle of this process, but I'm 95% sure this is what's going to happen). And through what I'd like to think of as an ironic sense of humor, a TCTD manager gave me a free round-trip ticket. For next time.