Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Better Is The Enemy Of Good Enough

I arrived five minutes late to the start of my seventh Columbia Gorge Explorer tour and rolled out moments later with the last departing group of the day.  The stage was set for the rest of the four day tour - my group would be the last to leave camp every time. 

Naturally, it was raining on Washougal River Road.  I think it must always be raining there.  They were out of Atomic Fireballs at the Washougal Merchantile.  They no longer sell them at the Corbett Store.  And they've been out of stock at the Troutdale General Store since last summer.  So, it was a cinnamon-less climb up the hill to meet back up with SR-014 and continue our eastbound plod into the gorge.

They taped a bracelet on my wrist at the Bonneville Spa, which has a mall-like culture.  There are many rules, many signs and many officials there to enforce them.  I tried to relax anyway, sinking into the outdoor jacuzzi in my cute new red polka dot swimsuit.  Drying off and putting wet clothes back on is a heartbreaker.  I tossed my suit at the valet and asked them to mail it home for me.  We'll see if it arrives.

Now, on to Stevenson and the Walking Man Brew Pub.  Dozens of the tour riders were enjoying beer there.  Yes, beer.  Before the riding for the day was even done.  One wonders if an activity loses its scandalous status if everyone does it.  We counted the hills to Home Valley Camp and arrived to learn of an "assigned camping area" for me and the so-called "party-ers".  Everyone else, including those who had stopped for beer, got to choose their own sites.

It's bittersweet to realize that this would be my final tour with this group.  I've made so many friends and memories, saved the tour from demise by stepping up to lead it and finally landed here in persecution territory started by one camper's upset at my building a campfire last year.  The upset escalated to official complaints which devolved to an investigation wherein eight campers were called and interviewed about my conduct.  The investigation revealed my innocence, but not before staining my reputation.  Ah, the bureaucratic Bee Ess of bicycle groups.

Instead of organic chaos and going with the flow and folks mingling and chatting, we were herded to a mandatory meeting and told what's what.  They even suggested that newer riders try their hand at pacelining for the very first time, especially if they had no experience!  What better venue to learn this dangerous skill than with strangers on loaded bikes riding a narrow wet freeway shoulder while semi trucks blaze by?
That evening, I invited three men to join me in my two man tent for a disco party.  We spun the small disco ball I brought, laughed, talked, listened to music and sang at the top of our lungs.  Once I was pigeon-holed as a loud partyer, I felt the need to live up to it.  Regardless, it was a good time with good friends.  It's a shame others couldn't enjoy hanging out into the evening instead of bedding down before dark.

Rain continued to haunt us the morning of day two.  We rose and packed and ate and departed camp.  The lack of tailwind foretold the future lack of headwind, since we'd be heading back westbound late that day.  This was the best weather day of the tour.  Rolling hills, sweeping views, waterfalls, rock faces that knock your socks off.  Brown barren land with a lot of heat and climbing and finally, Mary Hill Winery.  Again, there was a crowd of tour riders there.  We danced, drank wine and enjoyed the sunshine.  Down the hill to Stonehenge, over the bridge and west to camp.

Day three doused our breakfasts again.  We rolled out last again.  My hearty group of friends chose to take the unbelievably gorgeous Old Moody Road, the high road, the place where I first rode gravel just two years ago.  We rode alongside cows and far above the gorge, skipping the deathly loud freeway shortcut.  Arriving in The Dalles, we chose to eat at Cousin's - only because it's tradition.  It goes to show that some traditions need to change.  One even barfed in his plate.  We'll call him "the kid".

The Kid is quite a character and a personal favorite of mine.  Here's a man who knows how to ride bikes.  His bad-assness is surpassed only by his storytelling and raucous party attitude.  People like this reassure me I am not the most extreme person on earth.  Nowhere near.  We left him behind, as he was too sick to continue, and rode up Rowena Crest and the Mosier Tunnels.  Dropping down into Mosier, we were surprised to find the traditional ice cream stop closed for business.  This led me to notice a little store next door I'd never seen before, which had the elusive Atomic Fireballs in stock.  I bought a big bag full. 

We picked up a new rider at Hood River, who experienced no less than six flats during his short stint with us.  Some tires are simply not tires.  The various tire discussions made me painfully aware of my over-opinionated, or at least over-expressed opinions, on these round rubbery things.  On to camp and another assigned spot.  Bowling balls and beers and s'mores by the fireside.  Laughs and reminisces.  Plans and dreams for a future tour of our own.

The anticlimactic day four dawned with yet another deluge.  At least there was tree cover at camp for our morning get ready routines.  The slog slogged on and we trudged through, singing as we could.  Our small group splintered with yet another flat.  The final push to town filled me with feelings of sadness and disappointment that the future I'd envisioned has changed.  Somehow it felt fitting that my final tour meal featured a party of one dining at a mini-mall buffet.

The adage "better is the enemy of good enough" was repeated many times by a good friend who joined the group for her first ever loaded tour.  She was a constant spot of sunshine for me, and many others.  Her cheery attitude, especially as she struggled to learn how to assemble her tent and load, kept me afloat.  It reminds me to accept things as they are.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry that this trip was so meh. But I've got an antidote: Cycle Wild trips! Like the one in August to Panther Creek!