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  • katherinearntzen

My Own Worst Enemy

It is sunny and warm as we leave our hotel in The Dalles, Oregon. The receptionist wishes us a good day as we walk our bikes out to the parking lot. Failing to note that I had left my bicycle in high gear the previous afternoon, I fling my right leg over, clip my left shoe into the pedal, and press down. My foot slides off the pedal and crashes to the pavement as my butt crashes onto the seat. For some reason, I roll the bike a few feet and proceed to try again, with my right foot this time. In what feels like slow motion, my foot slips out of my shoe, still attached to the pedal, and the bicycle topples over on me. George comes to my rescue and lifts the heavy bike off of me. As I drag myself up from the pavement, a homeless-looking man walks by, pushing a shopping cart and grunts as I greet him with fake cheer. I scraped myself up that day, but was okay, and we proceeded to ride 54 miles to Roosevelt, Washington.

The day before, we set out from Cascade Locks, Oregon and head east on Historic Route 30, the original road through the Columbia River Gorge. We see a sign indicating that the road is closed to through traffic. Does “through traffic” mean bicycle traffic too? Not sure what to do, I scan the QR code on my map to look online for map updates. I find nothing and make the decision to continue down the route. Miles later, we encounter construction barricades atop an overpass crossing l-84. We ride past the barricades to see a section of road missing, with a narrow foot bridge for the workers to pass. No one in sight, George proceeds to wheel his bike onto the footbridge, but it is narrow and his panniers and get stuck in the railings. I look around nervously and see a construction lady in the distance flailing her arms and shouting at us. As George is dislodging his bike, I ride back down the overpass, apologizing as I pass the worker, while she continues to yell about how the closure was clearly posted.

Later that day, our route map actually had us riding on I-84 for six miles into Hood River, Oregon. Ironically, this six mile stretch contained a construction zone. This time, as we enter the construction, we are able to ride on the right side of the barrels, relatively safe from the speedy traffic. Then I see that our protection of barrels is running out. Straight ahead on the shoulder is a concrete barrier, to the left is speeding traffic, to the right is a one-foot drop-off onto rough gravel and a man operating backhoe. I point in his direction and ask if that is the safest way through. He nods affirmatively. We walk our bikes through a few hundred yards of gravel, reach the pavement again, and continue on our way. The rest of our interstate ride was uneventful, except, of course, that it was uphill.

Riding a bicycle in a world where car-is-king is rarely straight forward. Ignoring the detour sign added extra miles to our ride and upset the construction lady. In contrast, we breezed through the interstate construction zone just a few miles later. Every morning before we embark, I have moments of fearing what could go wrong. Will I fall off my bike again? Will my navigating tactics get us lost? Will we get rained on in the Idaho wilderness? Dwelling on these fears can make me my own worst enemy. l would rather learn from my mistakes and keep pedaling down the highway, realizing that facing these blunders head-on makes me a better rider.

Of course, I never think to take photos during these intense moments. The 1st photo is a reenactment of my wipe-out. The 2nd photo is Mt. Adams, a few miles east of The Dalles, OR. The 3rd photo shows a viaduct of Historic Route 30, which has been partially converted to a bike path, in front of the I-84 viaducts. The 4th photo also shows I-84 and the Columbia River from the historic route.


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