Friday, October 1, 2010
The Splendor of Oregon
All my life I've heard of this faraway lush region called the Oregon Coast with its breathtaking beauty and wondered about it in the back corners of my imagination. The picture here looking down on Manzanita, OR does it justice, but now that I've stood right there and looked with my own eyes, smelled with my own nose, and enjoyed it with my favorite person in the world, Arian Brazenwood, now I know it's splendor. It's not just majestic, it's another world of dank forests that remind me of scenes from Lord of the RIngs, moss covered trees with secret voices and ancient stories. And the Pacific Ocean stretches from here to Japan and beyond and we ride our bikes alongside its powerful roar day by day, taking heed of the signs that say Tsunami Disaster escape route. According to the experts it's been a good 300 years since the big one hit, and they are on the edge of their seats waiting for another. I tried to imagine escaping a tsunami on a bike and laughed inwardly. That would be a day to surrender and drown peacefully. On some levels my soul already felt that way.
After spending three rejuvenating days in Astoria, Arian and I left the quirky little artist town behind and bid farewell to our host Eva, who shared her one-room studio with us. The floor was hard but the bathroom next door had a shower, so cleanliness was nice. We enjoyed the little town seeing where the Trans-American Trail cyclists would end or begin their long journey across America at the Maritime Museum where they have a large fishing boat tilted on its side. We woke up and got on the bikes and visited the bike store before leaving, having recently received a small rush of astrology orders and donations online. I needed a new tire because mine kept waking up flat and it was about time that Magellan had an overhaul after 2500 miles! My gears were shifting weird and everything was loose. It was simply time...
We spent $106 getting Magellan up to speed but the bike felt great and with a new tube and tire, I hoped the end of my flat tire slow leak mornings were over. No one likes to roll out of a tent into bike repairman mode! We rolled west across the windy bridge toward the ocean continuing down the 101 with a mere 30 miles to go before our next couchsurfing.com appointment. I had gotten online in Astoria and secured a night with an older gentleman named Jon Markham and he had emailed directions to his house in Arch Cape to the south. It was nice to stay with the locals and hear their stories and see what they were doing with the life they were dealt. The ride was noisy with the traffic but as we turned south the headwinds dissipated and we cruised through a tourist town called Seaside, where we made a detour to the beach and enjoyed the sites. The town was crawling with visitors taking advantage of the many shops along the main avenue. We pulled into a cafe and ordered a couple of hot steaming chais with shots of espresso and sussed out the internet for other cool locations. Arian found a Subway around the corner that he longed to trade $5 for a footlong, so we eventually made our way over there and I sent him inside to fulfill the demands of his belly. This kid could pack a lot of grub into his scrappy, skinny form! I encountered a group of high schoolers outside who were waiting for their parents to take them back to Portland and they asked me about our journey. The young males were excited to hear about the traveling magi lifestyle, but one of the females took more of a scolding tone and said, "Your son should be in school. What is he going to do without an education." I told her that she had been brainwashed by her culture to believe that having a piece of paper that proves you can follow orders is going to help you find your destiny. We got into it for a time and went back and forth. She was perfectly canned by her culture. Young and programmed and aimed at another predictable and secure life of materialism.
So we rode on through the next beach town down the coast called Cannon Beach and found a whole new set of richer tourists enjoying its beaches laden with ancient rock formations carved over millions of years. We wanted to linger at the local coffee shops but we still had seven miles to go to reach Arch Cape and our host was expecting us. We later found out that he had passed us on the road, as he had been to an estuary conference up in Seaside all day. We rode to the top of a hill and gazed out through the mist through a pair of soaring rock pillars that looked like a gateway to another dimension. After a deep breath and soaking in its beauty, we hurried along realizing that the sun was setting and mist and darkness would make it increasingly dangerous to ride down the 101.
We clicked on our back lights and rode as hard as we could up and down hills to finally reach Arch Cape and find our hosts street: Markham St. The street was named after his very own father who had built his house on the beach and had helped build the street back in the day. We rolled down the rocky gravel road and through a sacred grove of arched trees and bushes to find his beach house. He answered the door, a 70 year old Ph.d in Marine Biology with a quizzical gaze and a scientist's imagination and sense of dry humor. He had a severe limp after being in a near death car accident and walked very slowly and painfully. His lower left leg had a huge scar from the ordeal and I sympathized with him having my own scar from my head on collision back in 1998.
He welcomed us and showed us to our quarters, the master bedroom with adjoining bathroom with two single beds set up specifically for couch surfers. He said he had tried to move into the master bedroom after his mother had did, but since he had grown up in the house he just favored his old childhood bedroom. He had helped his father build the house as a child. The house was a museum of the early 20th century with nick-knacks and heirlooms cluttering every corner and wall. Somebody had a lot of Taurus in their charts and liked collecting stuff, because you name it and an older version of it was sitting in a corner. Mostly he had books as a proper scholar of the sea, but also shelf items and an amazing collection of blue Dutch hand-crafted plates with winter themes that his mom had collected, one per year at Christmas. The kitchen was fully stocked with devices and cooking utensils even if outdated. He brought up some old potatoes and onions and celery and other veggies for us wondering how we got enough protein on our diet of "volition over evolution" as he described it. He spoke in many scientific terms and openly insulted my profession as an astrologer, arguing that religion in general was a sore subject to him.
"Who made up all these strange beliefs and why should we believe them?" I wholeheartedly agreed, as a science geek myself, but then when he went at astrology, I just respectfully declined to argue with someone who had already made up their mind (brainwashed by his culture like the teen girl on the street) that my subject had no merit whatsoever because you couldn't measure it. I argued that you can measure the archetypal influences of the planets on the human being, but that you couldn't apply the statistical methods of science to it. Every person is a unique expression of the archetypes, born with a God-given nature and inflected and mollified by an environmental experience. Nature with Nurture, but nature first. I thought about doing his chart to show him what I could know about his character and life events, but i didn't seem worth the effort so I decided to simply enjoy his scientific company and his majestic view of the sea. It is difficult to argue with a person who has already decided that they occupy the superior ground, even though astrology and alchemy gave birth to science. I respected his stance and yet knew he frowned upon my passion just because it had to do with the soul. Science is always trying to eliminate consciousness from the equations of life, and consciousness refuses to be eliminated. And so science limits the field of its investigation through its blind worship of the rational and logical over the intuitive, spiritual, and meaningful.
We sat there at dinner enjoying a spicy stir fry that I cooked for us with brown rice, enjoying gazing through his huge dining room salt-covered windows at the sea below the small cliffside where the house perched. Jon enjoyed playing classical music at high volumes the whole time we were there. In the distance we could see Castle Rock, a giant rock formation about a mile out to sea with a top shaped like castle walls. To the south, you could see where the sea had spent eons eroding the mountain side and forming a separate pointed rock away from the land creating a great divide between the coast and the rock. It looked like a gigantic U-shaped entrance to another realm. Jon asked a lot of practical questions and I tried to give creative answers. Practical expected answers didn't interest me. He had great stories about the past and his couchsurfing.com experiences in New York city and other lands. He loved meeting new people and even had a guest book for people to sign. He seemed like a lonely fellow who enjoyed the company of strangers, especially since his terrible accident. He would take his long walks down the beach to try and rehabilitate his leg while taking the temperature of the ocean. He had a living conversation with the ocean which was admirable and poetic. Arian really enjoyed his company and stories. Between Arian practicing his clarinet and solving geometry problems, me writing and doing creative design, and Jon reading bulky volumes, the house was filled with culture! There was on precious moment when the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey was playing when I looked up and everyone was fully engaged in what they were reading or doing.
Jon had wi-fi but it was sludge slow. Arian announced that the new version of the highly anticipated computer strategy game Civilization V had been released and I told him to his utter surprise we could download it via the internet. That sent a tremendous wave of excitement through the both of us. We stayed with Jon for three days after he offered to let us linger for a time since the rain was so fierce. So the first day, we all just hung around the house reading books, downloading the educational game, and having meals together and hot tea. He seemed to enjoy the chai and the green tea. At night, when I would work my cooking magic in the kitchen I would open his spice cabinet to find a great wall of spices stretching back for a few feet that symbolized two generations. A lot of them were old and stale and hadn't been used in ages. But I managed to make the best of the dusty situation and made some tasty curries laced with basil giving life to those old potatoes and onions that had been lingering in fifty pound bags in the cellar. Jon enjoyed buying things in bulk, another Taurian trait. But I suspected some serious Virgo in him too!
There was a whole other existence down in the ocean side cellar, and the damp rooms were stacked with old books and mountains of paperwork. Actually, every room in the house had a stack of interesting paperwork mixed with copies of TIME magazine and books like Hawking's Brief History of Time. One book struck my interest by Fritjof Capra called Da Vince's Science. You could never get bored examining an educational pile of Jon's paper mountains of information. And if you did, you could just turn your gaze to the walls to take in the luster of possessions that he and his family had amassed over the last century. I felt like I could sense what childhood was like for people in the 30's and 40's of last century just by the collections of old stuff.
But the main point of interest and the center of Jon's existence was always the view of the roaring sea right there below. It was as if you were in an aquarium devoted to the ocean. At any hour of the day the sea had a mood, and Jon could describe it to perfection. The sea was his spirituality. At high tide you could watch the tides crash along the rocks and chase the occasional strolling local up the beach. At low tide you might see a stream of young tourists walking by. Each house by the sea had carved its own little sitting spot along the sloped hillside leading down to the beach complete with cozy wooden beach chairs, a wind wall to the north, and a rocky fire pit. I could see how one could spend a lifetime here just listening mesmerized to the roar of the sea.
But on the third day, we decided to go for a ride back to Cannon Beach to hunt down a faster internet connection at a coffee shop called Bella Espresso. Unfortunately, when we got ready to ride, Magellan's back tire was flat again! I felt betrayed by the bike shop and the mechanic who had promised me my flat tire days were over. The tire would hold air, but it was another slow leak at the valve that required you to pump it before every ride. It would be flat at dawn! I was disgusted with flat tires.
The internet was six times faster and we managed to get 80% through our download of the new hex-based game of Civilization. We were both giddy as school boys to get playing this game. Arian argued that we should be Britain and dominate the high seas! I wanted to play Egypt and build monuments or the Babylonians and be the first civilization to build Stonehenge... You could alter history and play on a random map or Earth. After the coffee shop closed and kicked us out we kept downloading a few more megabytes from the courtyard outside until the sun threatened to set on us. Tired of potatoes and onions, we went to the Mercantile and I bought some broccoli and mushrooms and rice noodles for our last super with the old man and the sea.
We barely made it home under the cloak of twilight and found that Jon had been gone all day too. He managed to find the note we left and we cooked another fantastic vegan feast. He said that he had had some "real" food with meat in it and was happy to miss this meal. He was satisfied with the chicken dish he had ate in Astoria, where he needed to go. I almost wanted to go with him and have that bike mechanic make amends and fix Magellan proper, but decided against it. I had better things to focus my emotion into. I had some chart orders to prep and another chapter in the Tao of Astrology to write and another chapter in Emergence to write, my new astrologically inspired role-playing game system. Arian and I were crafting the perfect system for generating a fantasy character and his or her backstory. You started by rolling your character's fictional Sun, Moon, and Ascending Signs and then grew through five phases into adulthood. Your character would Emerge, hence the name of the system.
Eventually we bid Jon farewell and signed his guestbook. I left him with an old haiku that I had written in my head down in Key West while meditating on the beach for three hours watching the ocean tides wash up on the beaches:
Sand Dries Rapidly
Ocean Tides Crash on Beaches
Footprints Washed Away
We both thanked him for sharing his home and amazing view with us and rode south toward Cape Lookout beyond the Tillamook famous cheese country. We rode up some grueling hills until we reached the bold lookout point in the picture above and then cruised down into Manzanita to find no internet cafes, but there was a library. Arian downloaded the fourth Harry Potter book (he had started to reread the whole series in Port Townsend and was already on book 4) as a PDF and went to his corner and I went to mine. After a brief rest we continued on south to reach a town called Rockaway Beach where we found a restaurant/bar with internet that was 12 times faster than at Jon's place and we quickly finished downloading the last 20% or so of Civilization V. We had been reading the online manual and were excited to try it out in out tent that night. However, when we found our state park campground just south of Rockaway, we found that you had to have the internet working for your first game. With no internet in detectable range, we just had some snacks and drifted to sleep eager for a new day!
The next day we made it to Tillamook, a strange city that seemed ten years behind the rest of the world surrounded by smelly dairy farms that made you want to hurl. We had searched the town for internet cafes and found only the library which had a decent connection. We holed up in the library and started our first game as the English! It was exciting and fun but by the end of the day we both had headaches and Arian had the sniffles again and his cough had returned in full force. His weak constitution was wearing on my patience. I was ready to give into modern Western medicine and treat the symptoms with a bottle of cough suppressing nose-drying syrup! We located a bike shop at the end of the day when the sun was heading toward the horizon and I bought a new heavy duty thorn proof tube for Magellan plus a back-up. The tube was three times thicker than normal tubes and the bike mechanic promised that my flat tire worries were over! This time I believed him, because the tube was just a monster of durability. I could barely squeeze the backup tube in my panniers!
We had some soy ice cream and rode West toward the ocean looking for a camp called Cape Lookout and raced the sun toward the beach. We won this time, and slowly rolled down the last straight stretch of newly paved road into a campground for the ages. It was situated right on the beach and all the Biker-Hiker sites were set in an ancient gnarled forest where the trees weaved their great branches into the scenery creating little pockets barely able to hold tents and each had a picnic table. It was twilight and we met a German couple who had their four year old with them on a tandem cycle. We also met a Canadian woman who had a blazing fire going. And later, after we set up our tent we met a guy from Seattle who had bad knees and was riding slow on purpose named Jamie. We picked out a spacious site and I boiled water for hot chai tea with soy vanilla creamer. We made the best stir fry ever with broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, thai noodles, and chile oil mixed with onions and roasted garlic. Arian's eyes rolled up into his head as he consumed the delicious meal in pleasure. I was glad we stocked up at Safeway that morning in Tillamook, even though it made the ride harder to have all the extra weight.
That night my intuition woke me up and I remembered that we had left all the food packs outside the tent on the table, and I went out to inspect things and bring most of the food back into the safety of the tent. I made the mistake of leaving our water bottles and the soy creamer and chai out there on the table. The next morning we found that the local raccoons paid us a visit and trashed everything out there. Only one of the water bottles had bite marks and leaked, fortunately. They devoured the creamer and had bitten into every tea bag except like five. And I had just bought a new pack of Chai. Oh well, it could've been much worse if I had not awakened. I made a vow to never leave anything out on the table again no matter what!
We started off the ride the next morning feeling great! The food had translated into pure energy and we tackled the first of two monstrosity hills that kept going and going for miles at startling inclines. We ended up stopping a lot to drink water and rest our legs, but in the end we clambered over the first giant hill and sped down into a valley of sand dunes. We saw people riding dune buggies over the sands and Arian said, "I feel like we suddenly entered the desert!" It was indeed bizarre to be traveling through this lush forest by the seaside to come upon an area where cream-colored sand dunes stretched out through the trees in every direction. We rode hard through the mini desert and turned off the 101 to visit Pacific City near the beach. We were unable to locate an internet cafe to our dismay and the food options looked limited to me, but Arian was eyeing the Mexican restaurant called Los Caparelos like a hungry wolf. Turns out he was tired of Thai food and was craving something different. So we went into the Mexican feast hall to eat some veggie bean burritos and complimentary corn chips and salsa, adding a side of guacamole. Arian asked the kind waitress for some hot sauce when our burritos arrived. He wanted cheese on his, but I kept it vegan. It was delicious! And turns out they had the fastest wi-fi connection in town. The owner served us personally and was very funny and entertaining with a spirit of helpfulness. They and some locals marveled at our journey.
After that, with beans fueling the next leg of our journey south, we rode back over to the 101 and met a German hitchhiker who managed to catch a ride right after we stopped and talked to her. She was a pretty short blonde named Minyon and her backpack was as big as she was. She waved out of the car window as she went by in a car. Then we looked up to see the great hill that the locals had warned us about. The road ahead forked and turned left. We could take the detour and avoid the scary hill but add five to ten miles to our journey or we could charge up the impossible-looking slope and hope for the best. Arian wanted to take the detour but I told him it was getting late and that we only had a few hours to go 21 miles. The sun surely would defeat us this day before we reached the Devil's Lake State Park in Lincoln City. But the hill was even worse than the last one, and made our legs incredibly sore. Arian's snot-cough had also returned in full force and I decided to heed the mothers and get him some proper medicine once we got to Lincoln City in the dark later. The hill was indeed spectacular in its terrible ascent going on forever. I just kept my mind focused on the moment and felt the burn in my legs as the peddles churned in rhythmic circles. I let Arian ride in front of me and he showed great resolve and endurance often leaving me behind thirty feet or so! We stopped often to rest and drink, but he had forgotten to fill his only water bottle and so I had to give him half my second one. We eventually made it to the decline and I passed him saying in jest, "Would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?" Arian laughed as I raced ahead at full speed and he yelled his usual "See ya at the bottom!"
In a matter of moments, in the highest gear, I got so far ahead of Arian that I decided to pull off and wait for him. I had to slow Magellan from his racing 30 MPH stride under the loud squeak of noisy brakes mashed against mettle rims. Eventually the time elapsed and I saw my little wise Capricorn emerge from around a corner and slowly approach like the old German cyclist Heinz Stucke. He heartily enjoyed coasting down the slopes while I relished the Tour De France mode! We always met at the bottom in peace and shared a drink of water. This time we exhausted our water supply and still had 8 miles to go with the sun already designing the dark clouds over the ocean with streams of brilliant light. Surely it would rain tonight, I thought. Maybe we should stay here for a few days and I could get some work done.
I wasn't in the mood to cook, even though I found some amazing chile oil and veggies at the supermarket. I bought Arian some medicine to dry up his nose too! I was over him being sick. We made our way through the busy streets of Lincoln City and eventually found the camp site near Devil's Lake. We rode around until we found the hiker-biker camp area and found that we were alone. No other cyclists were there to our dismay. We ate some soy ice cream and organic barbecue chips and brewed some green tea before I fed him his medicine and we retreated to the tent. Before going into our portable shelter we spotted three hungry raccoons trotting by like they belonged and I chased them into the woods with a stick like a madman with my headlight aglow. Then we settled into our cozy home and Arian read Harry Potter book Five (he blew through book 4 in a few days) and I played Civilization and advanced our English empire in between checking email and Facebook.
It was fun to be able to check in on all your friends spread across the globe and see into a tiny window into their lives while you felt so isolated and distant from everyone and everything. I saw that Alisha was going to be in Portland tomorrow visiting friends. She wanted us to come visit but we had already gone too far south. Turns out Christina (the Gemini woman I was still technically married to) was on a trip too. I wondered where and asked her via messaging and got a response. Turns out that she was flying into Portland too to visit her parents down in Eugene. Our relationship had ended in the cold winter months and now autumn had returned to the land. I said I missed her and she said she missed me. I would miss being a part of her family another painful letting go. With the end of our love came the end of our familial connection. I had spent last Christmas with them on the edge of the end.
I realized that in two days time Arian and I would be rolling through Florence, the town that was due east of Eugene where Christina's parents lived. I jokingly said in a Facebook message, "Who would've thunk that Arian and I would be rolling bikes down the Oregon Coast while you unexpectedly visited...maybe you should drive out and meet us in Florence. It would be weird and fun to see each other again, even if briefly over hot chai." She responded the next day via a Skype conversation and said she'd love to come see us and told me to say hi to Arian and that he could keep her blue raincoat that she had taken to New Zealand in her college days. So here we are in an internet cafe with an India theme sipping chai and contemplating our journey south. I was getting tired of being on the road, I had to admit. In the beginning, my goal was to travel to a place I liked and stay somewhere for three months to six months, working on projects. I had watched the creatures in nature and saw how it was instinctual to want to settle, even if for a time before migrating somewhere else. The projects were screaming for attention from deep within. Arian enjoyed our adventurous trek but had said that he longed to be in school around friends. I was happy he was away from the peer pressures of early high school for a spell. Everyone at that age of rebellion deserved an island of respite from it all.
One of my best friends in the world, a yogi named Brett Melchior, had just relocated from Hawaii to Chico CA to be near his young son Jatin. Maybe we could be roomies for a season or two? Arian could go to school and I could get my Magi Opus completed. There was still the matter of my stuff in storage in Colorado. I could keep on paying $41 per month to store it or I could go back and get rid of it all. I longed to own minimal possessions. Maybe in the spring I would return to Colorado before I went global vagabonding. I still had ten months left of my progressed moon in Scorpio, symbol of transformation and letting go. Christina's progressed moon had gone into Scorpio too five months ago when we decided to end our relationship. Now she was tasting what I was going through inwardly and it wasn't fun. I still loved her for her, for her brilliantly curious graceful nurturing self. I just couldn't deal with reality anymore. My soul was saying no to the insane way we as humanity had been living. I wanted to wander and create. We shall see what the next turn of events would bring. It would indeed be strange sitting across from Christina over a steaming mug of chai in the middle of my adventure during the middle years of my life. There would be no hiding the change in my aura, my body, the layers of soul torn back by this quest for authentic living. I felt defeated and serene, sad but tranquil, adventurous and yet disturbed by constant change. We would see what awaited the next day while we camped with the raccoons at overlooking the Devil's Lake.