The power of suggestion is mighty: as I rode across Idaho I couldn’t shake the idea that everything was colored in shades of potato. Even the overcast sky seemed like the bright white inside of a potato. When I crossed into Oregon the spell broke and the high desert suddenly seemed golden, tawny and beautiful, the same colors but with better marketing. The banks of the Columbia were rippled and veined as though heavily muscled, and golden ridges ran down to the water like giant lions’ paws. The river lay like a dark blue ingot cradled in tan velvet.
Interstate 84 across Oregon was rife with produce. When an onion truck passed me, it smelled so sweet that I almost sped up to follow it; I’m glad I didn’t because for the next 100 miles there were onions all along the road so it must have been dropping them like bombs. I stopped and cut out a sweet slice to fend off scurvy. Then I started seeing corn that must have been thrown off by another truck and I managed to collect four ears with minimal highway burn. They made a great dinner.
I’ve been staying with a friend in Portland for many days now. It’s a great city and the weather has been wonderful, but it’s well past time I got going again.
Even if someone stole my last dollar, at least I could understand that they thought they needed it. Theft is what I’ve been worried about all along, always trying to judge where it was safe to leave things unguarded on the bike and where it was better to take some or everything off. I’ve made it without a problem so far only to have my mirrors smashed in a random and infuriating act of vandalism. One mirror was shattered and the other was broken right off the stalk. The bike was parked on the street but in a nice enough neighborhood, surrounded by new Beetles and Saabs, and it never even occurred to me that my little 20 year old Japanese motorcycle would be the target of someone’s pointless destructive impulse. At first I thought a car must have backed into it and knocked it over and that’s how the mirrors had broken, but no, there were no signs of it having fallen and no reason for both mirrors to be damaged. The only explanation was that someone had just pounded on the one and then the other (the missing mirror eventually turned up a block away, crushed flat from being driven over).
It’s really no big deal, they’re easily replaced and not very expensive, and my particular angels got hard to work and a few days later a friend of a friend actually found one extra motorcycle mirror in their basement that fit. It’s even better than the original because it has a longer stalk so it can better see around my shoulder. I can rig something up for the right-hand mirror. I still get angry when I think about it, though, it’s just the principle of it, it’s obvious from a glance at my old worn-out bike that whoever’s riding it probably doesn’t have much else; why kick somebody when they’re down? Who’d do that? It makes me want to kick back, and hard. The only thing that mitigates my frustration is that there are a lot of crazy people on the streets of Portland, mutterers, mumblers, and madmen, mostly homeless, and it might have been one of them. I reach for that explanation because it’s the only one that makes at least a little sense.
I rode out to the coast today. The state is a see-saw hinged on the Cascades, high desert to the east and wet green woods to the west; the western edge must be either pinned down by the ocean or weighted down by the giant trees. I stopped to look at a spruce tree that had a trunk at least 15 feet in diameter, bafflingly colossal, more like a wall than a tree. A lot of the trees don’t stop at having green needles but go on to have green trunks and branches too because they’re covered in thick moss. Along with the ferns carpeting the ground that makes everything green, a sculpture of a forest made out of astroturf.
I’ve touched salt water in three cardinal directions — to the east, north, and west of the continent. There are 32, 735 miles on my odometer, so I’ve come 8, 473 so far. I’ve been on the road for two months.
There are only 132 dollars left, which means the hour is growing late.