Into Aberdeen we rode. The cool breeze blew off of the bay and the sun was shining. We crossed a little bridge with a side walk conveniently located on the outside of the support beams so we were protected from traffic and I smiled with the chill that ran down my spine and gave me goose bumps, partly from the breeze, but mostly, it was a shiver of excitement as I anticipated walking on the beach before the day was over.
There was another bridge, this one much longer than the last, and the sidewalk had an eight inch curb with the no ramp to assist a biker with a load and a trailer. There was no shoulder and, as we had done many times in the last thousand miles, we rode with traffic; four lanes of undivided highway 101.
The traffic, traveling at thirty-five miles per hour, passed us with ease. The cars simply merged into the left lane, taking little notice of us. Above me, on my right, a ealthy number of joggers and cyclists crossed the bridge, going against traffic, so that they faced Zerbert’s blue eyes as she craned her neck out of the trailer and twitched her nose with each different scent she detected. When passer-byers noticed that there was a dog rather than a child in the trailer, they turned up the corners of their mouths and their eyes glittered with inadvertent, pursed-lipped smiles, and if there were two people together, I heard exclamations from slightly behind me, “Oh did you see his eyes!”
Nearly every day, however, there has a been a bystander who finds it his or her duty to protect us from our own ignorant blundering. Often times it is just someone warning us to “be safe, ” with a concerned look on their face, rather than wishing us a safe journey when we they hear what we plan to do. Once it was a dangerously obese woman who repeatedly insisted that Zerbert’s trailer was unsafe. This time, it was a gentlemen riding his bike on the high and narrow sidewalk, against traffic, pointing frantically downwards towards his wheels and shouting to Brenton, who was riding ahead of me, “Ride on the sidewalk man!”
When this type of presumptuous criticism began, even before we left for the trip and were still in the planning process, we responded politely as if we were young children listening to advice from a wise elder, even though most of the comments were from people who have never been to the areas that we would be visiting, and had never even heard of bicycle-touring before.
After hearing from every local about how impossibly steep the next hill is, how there are bears and mountain lions everywhere, how the shoulder is really thin down that road, and almost every comment followed with the belittling phase, “You know that, right?” as if to imply that we have no idea of what we are getting ourselves into, we had run out of patience. Brenton called back to the man riding the wrong way down the sidewalk, “And how are we supposed to get up there?” There was no time, in passing, to point out that if we were riding on the sidewalk, there would be no room for anyone to get around our trailers anyway. The guy stopped his bike and called out from behind us, “I’ll help lift you up if you want help!”
I pictured us stopping on the bridge and taking the time to lift trailers and bikes onto the thin and tall curb and then running everyone else off the road, and as the exhausting thought was still playing in my mind, we pulled off of the bridge and the shoulder opened wide again. Brenton and I grumbled about the nerve of people, and how they should mind their own business. I felt a little guilty, knowing that the guy probably meant well, but I also felt a little enraged by his tone, in which he made no attempt to hide the fact that he thought we were doing something stupidly dangerous. I wished that I could have stopped him and explained that cyclists ride with traffic all of the time and that it is perfectly legal and often, as in this circumstance, there is no other choice. Instead, I rode on and brooded over it, thinking of all the sarcastic and witty things that I wish I would have said.
I know that we are taking risks, every day, on this trip. I have laid awake at night, worried that the rustling outside the tent is a bear. I have cringed at the roar of trucks chasing me down on the highway. I’ve felt defeated and humiliated as I pushed my bike up a hill. Many times, I nervously micro-managed the dogs’ every steps as they trotted a little bit too closely to the side of the road; but, it would not be a true adventure if there was not some inherent risk involved, and it has been worth every second of dread. One might even argue that all the risks involved in our bike tour are nothing compared to the seemingly conservative habits of watching TV and eating junk food. Perspective is an cunning phenomenon that makes the most straight forward of facts nothing but a subjective whim. I can only speak about my own.
As I saw it, the road ahead was begging me to brave it. It promised that if I would only put aside my fears and travel on, the next bend would surely have more to offer than the last, and the next thing I knew, we were pulling into a campsite and throwing our tent up as fast as we could with the sound of waves pummeling sand just passed the trees. We hiked the short path through the wooded area behind our tent and then over two steep and green, grassy hills and walked out onto the hot sand of the wide open beach. We spent the rest of the evening throwing sticks into the waves for Mary to fetch as Zerbert bounced in part way after her, only to hop back to the safety of the beach with the white, foamy, edge of a dwindling wave chasing her.
We gathered driftwood and burned it slowly, savoring the salty air and vibrant glow of the sunset. This is what we had ridden a thousand miles to do. I shivered on Brenton’s shoulder for awhile after the sun disappeared behind the horizon, and reluctantly agreed it was time to kick sand over our embers and hit the hay.