Episode 6 – The Mangler
With Southbend in my rearview (figuratively speaking) and only a few towns ahead til the end of Washington, I set my sights on the town of Ilwaco. Unfortunately, due to a late start and my wandering soul’s good intentions to take everything in, Ilwaco was not where I would end up that night.
Passing the 4,000 intertidal mudflats, the numerous shells strewn about by accident or by design, put this part of the world’s secret on display. The Willapa oyster, smoked, friend or cooked, a gumbo, a burger or raw, was apparently the creme de la creme of oysters. That’s quoting a local resident. Despite what the episode may say, I did for lunch have a fried Willapa oyster burger, and while yes, I’d rather have breaded fish or beef between those two buns, this was pretty damn good with homemade tartar sauce.
So yes! No Ilwaco, yes to some random town called Naselle that had not much more than a shopping centre, a church, a gas station and a motel for 30 bucks a night. After sneaking my bike in the room (they had told me I could keep it outside…if I had to argue for it’s right to stay inside like people due, I would have seemed a bit off), I went to the a-joint restaurant/pub/karaoke bar for some eats and a beer to wind down. Lucky for me, it was karaoke night and in a small town like this one could only imagine the wonderfully unique inebriated locals that would come spitting their sorrows into a song. Well tonight was a good night, because it seemed to be biker night. Not just any type of biker, but as I sat at the bar conversing with the bartender a wide-stanced shadow lured me to see who had entered into our midst. There stood the large sized lot, posed like a pose take a photo, tattoos faded, masses of blotchy colors, hair blowing in the wind. Drinks were consumed like bullets from firing squads, laughs drowned out conversation, slaps on the back would have hospitalized me. Their women sat on their laps, my knees hurt from thinking about such weight situated on my frail frame. Nothing was frail about these ladies, their saliva was iron ore, their sweat was ethanol, their glance made doors where walls once were. Then the singing commenced. Duets, solos, manage a trois, a guy constantly laughing and talking to his friends instead of singing, you name it, it happened. A large man, who reminded me of Gimli from Lord of the Rings, perched tidiously on his stool beside me, the leather screatching beneath him as he swivelled to catch the performance. We talked, I don’t remember about what, partly because it was about nothing, partly because his English has turned into slurred jargon. He introduced me to “Bill, Ted, Ryan, Ethol” a slew of characters from his motley crew. It was his turn to sing, he stared at me for support, so I sang loud too, not knowing what the hell I was singing. He asked where I was staying.
“Right here, at the Inn”
“Wellllll….whhhhhy don’t you come stay with uuuussss??”
“Well, thank you, but I already paid for my room”
“I can take care of that”
Not wanting him to take care of that or me or anything, I slowly slunk out, like Alice at the tea party and passed out in my room, exhausted and beer smelling.
The next day I packed, returned my key and zooooom, I was on the Columbia River, one of the widest rivers in the US, Oregon was on the other side, but it was still a world a way. Many boats over the centuries have been engulfed by this moody body of water and I saw a few victims washed up on the shore. Lewis and Clark, the great explorers almost died in the Columbia several times. I tried to imagine crossing such distance in a canoe. I looked at my arms. Not much there, I would probably have capsized two strokes in. In boats, unlike bicycles, there are no downhills, no cruising. And before me stood my only way across this monstrosity of H2O that separated the two states. The Megler Bridge, one of the largest bridges in the states, over 4 km in length, I wasn’t really sure if bikes were allowed to be on it. Well, there wasn’t really an information booth insight, unless I wanted to round the bend, go in the wrong direction, back to Ilwaco. To hell with it, it was windy, so might as well throw caution to it and see where it flies. And fly I did, cars zoomed passed me, my camera tried to capture the moment I crossed over the boarder, you barely can make out the Oregon sign. Winds tried to hurl me off the side into the blue below. Not a single car honked, so I knew I was in the clear on that front. I wasn’t in the clear for many other fronts. Headwind tried to blow me back into Washington as well. The clouds were heavy and looked like at any moment they would unleash, slickening this already terrifying crossing. At the last moment, the bridge turned upward, into a steep incline. So this is where the boats go under….so happy it’s at the end and so suddenly. My legs screamed at the sudden hill, my hands worked quickly, changing my gears around so I could manage. There was no possible way I could stop and readjust. Finally, the incline, declined. I was in Astoria. I was in Oregon.
Washington had been my learning curve of the basics of touring. Oregon would be the intermediate and hard level as the landscape turned into a roller coaster of peaks, cliffs and gullies. As I sat in a coffee shop, staring at the poster proclaiming that Ninja Turtles had been shot in this town, I thought of how great this trip has been a rekindling my inner child, how much fun it was to play again, how one should never loose this light, this light that keeps one exploring, and wondering and being curious about all things, making the world new everyday.