Location: Eugene, OR (Dave Moss’ house at U of O)
First thing this morning, I had an interview with a reporter with the Jacksonville Daily News in North Carolina, and then we went down to the public library in Corvallis. It didn’t open until ten o’clock, so we waited outside for thirty minutes or so. We had locked our bikes up at a bike rack on the street, but I was nervous about leaving them there unattended. Our packs and all are attached to the bike, so someone could pilfer those in a hurry and make off with all of our supplies and equipment. Brian and I usually take all of our real valuables inside, just in case the worst might happen and our bikes are stolen.
Anyway, today they were not stolen. We worked for about an hour in the library and sent some pictures and updated the website with some new pictures of the coast. After buying some sunscreen at a local store, we headed for Eugene down some flat backcountry roads. With the wind to our backs and the terrain flat, we coasted across the valley floor. On our way, we pulled into a roadside produce stand for fresh-picked peaches and apples. The fruit was so juicy that it ran all over my chin and chest. I struck up a conversation with the woman there. Her family had owned the farm, Horse Creek Farm, for three generations. However, she said that the next generation, her children, did not want to be farmers because of the long hours and hard work. She said that the predicament is one that her family faces as well as the entire farming community. They ask, “Who will take over when we’re gone?” The question struck a nerve in me such that the concept reverberated through my mind the remainder of the afternoon ride. Who will continue to farm America’s lands? With movies, games, and pop culture in general glamorizing various other urban walks of life, calling youth to cities and superficial stardom, what great mass of Americans will proudly and competently take up farming? I know some will follow in their parents’ steps, but I see the real probability that many will not. Families may lease out farmland to neighbors and hunters, but then the farm owners pass away and their children are left with a farm they don’t till. What becomes of the farmland? Is it parceled out to make room for progress? Will all our food one day be imported from foreign countries because domestic growers have faded away in post-modern times?
It was nice to have a thought distract me as I rolled along the country roads this afternoon, but I came to no profound conclusion, only questions. We arrived at a crossroads on the outskirts of Eugene. After some debate, we decided to go into Eugene though we didn’t know of a good place to stay for the night. We needed to go to the library though, so we went. We biked into town and found it full of cyclists. Everywhere I looked, people were riding bikes. We passed through a couple stoplights and I pulled up behind a young man at the crosswalk. He was on his bike. He was tall, with short black hair and a big nose. He asked a bit about our trip and then asked where we had planned to stay. I told him the hostel, and then he offered to let us crash at his place. I quickly accepted his offer and then jotted down his cell phone so I could call him after we visited the library.
The library took about two hours. We had to alternate our time at the computers because we had been warned by an old man outside the library not to leave our gear unattended. We heeded his advice. I went in for thirty minutes and then Brian went in for an hour or so. Afterwards, we called our new friend, Dave, who told us his offer still stood.
We biked a few blocks out of town, through neighborhoods thick with trees and bicycles. Bikes were leaning against every house, chained to iron fences, green trees, and street signs. We came to Jackson and 10th and heard Dave yell for us from the porch of a blue house on the corner. He showed us where we could store our bikes behind his house, and then he let us shower. He was staying alone in a two bedroom house for the summer, so Brian and I took a bed and a futon. Dave was generous and friendly. He took a real interest in our trip, and he said he took us in because of the good fortune that he had experienced on the road when backpacking through Europe. He is studying at the University of Oregon for a Master’s in Education. He has taught English in Turkey, Chile, and hopes to teach in Korea.
After showers, Brian and I took Dave and his neighbor, Colin, to dinner. We all got on our bikes to ride downtown to a brewery where they had a hundred taps on the wall. I think the novelty of the taps contributed to the high cost of a burger. We all ordered what we wanted at our insistence. Dave’s hospitality saved us time, money, and trouble, so buying him a ten dollar burger and beer was worth it.
We had a pleasant dinner. The four of us sat at a table on the sidewalk so we could keep an eye on our bikes, which we had locked to four different parking meters on the curb. At dinner, I got to know Dave’s neighbor, Colin, who works in a pathology lab in Eugene. After graduating from the U of O in environmental science, Colin went to work for a fire department that dealt with extinguishing forest fires. However, he injured his back and returned to Eugene to find less physically strenuous work. With his scrawny body and wire rim glasses, he appears a better fit for a lab than a forest, but he stressed that his dream was to move to Nevada and run a goat farm to make organic milk and cheeses.
His perspective on life reflects a lot of what I saw in Eugene. When I was waiting for Brian outside the library, I saw a young man stop by the trash can beside me. It didn’t capture my attention at first, but then I saw him reach into the bin and pull out the Sierra Mist bottle I had thrown away just a minute earlier. He bagged the bottle in a plastic grocery bag and lashed it to the handlebars of his bike. I don’t think he took the bottle because he needed the deposit money back, but I think he did it because he diligently practiced recycling. His action taught me something about the passion that some people have for making a difference in the world no matter how small.
After dinner and beer, we paid our check and went next door to a small bar. Colin bought Brian and me a beer and a bourbon drink. Those drinks combined with the beer at dinner was nearly too much for me to handle. After five days of strenuous activity and an uncertain level of dehydration, those drinks went straight to my head. But, we wrapped up the night after a couple hours of small talk and we returned to Dave’s, where Brian and I had a bed waiting for us. I attempted to write in my journal, but by eleven thirty I was utterly exhausted and I fell asleep on my notebook journal.