Av – 13.1 mph
Dis – 12.65 miles
Tm – 00:58:07 hrs
I didn’t expect to ride today. I didn’t want to ride today. I wanted to be in Seaside by early evening, setting up camp and taking a leisurely ride around town.
As luck wouldn’t have it, the only things going to Seaside or Astoria were metered cabs at almost $2 a mile. That’s another $150-$200 if you’re doing the math. I did and it wasn’t worth the cost. Instead I hopped a commuter train for $1.60 to Beaverton, just outside the guts of Portland, assembled the whole mess at a transit center, and literally rode off into the sunset in a westward direction.
An hour later, and a mere twelve miles and change, it was too dark to safely ride so I found a tidy little cove behind a roadside billboard to lay my head. I ate my chow, sorted through my crap with little luck, and began to write.
But I need to back up a bit, let’s say to this morning. I had anticipated calling a cab for a pickup but a buddy’s wife called and offered me a ride to the airport. Eleven-thirty, she had said, and I graciously accepted despite the fact I had thirty more minutes to go and was nowhere near packed.
I had only just placed my bike in its box when she pulled into the driveway – seven minutes early. I tossed her my gear list to keep her occupied and frantically packed some more.
In no time we were out the door and on our way to the airport only eight minutes behind schedule. She dropped me off curbside with two sets of panniers, a bike box, my handlebar bag, and a cleverly bungeed roll consisting of my rain fly, sleeping bag, ground mat and fender set. I was all assholes and elbows with no cart to consolidate my gear, so I took it piece by piece into the ticketing area to keep a close eye on it while I checked in.
Things were running smoothly. I was an hour ahead of departure, I was charged my predicted amount of excess baggage, and I even got the woman at the counter to laugh when I offered to pay with food stamps. It wasn’t until after I transferred my baggage to the screening counter when I realized I wasn’t making this trip alone. Murphy was there too.
“Oh!” exclaimed the uniformed woman in the screening area. She squinted at here screen. “You’ve been selected for a detailed screening. I have to go through all your things.” My mouth went dry.
“How about if I asked you really nice not to?” I smiled and put on my best ‘sexy man’ face.
“I’m afraid not,” she replied utterly unaffected by my charm. She was a tough nut to crack, alright.
She grabbed the set of panniers with all the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) first, zipped it open, and began swiping.
“They’re all MREs,” I said in answer to her inquisitive stare.
“Oh, are you military?” She raised an eyebrow. Yes! I thought. I had found the door to her softer side.
“Why yes, I am.” I leaned my right elbow on the counter. “I’m a Marine home on leave. First time in over a year in fact.” I glanced down at my fingernails and then the off in the distance. I was praying for another bite.
“Are you active duty? Do you have orders?”
“I am indeed. But I left my orders at home. No need for them on a cross country bike trip.”
“Oh.” Her shoulders dropped. “If you had your orders, you’d be exempt from the search. I still have to go through your things.” My seductive smirk vanished.
“Well how about if I show you this?” I asked with a glimmer of hope and flashed my military I.D.
“Nope. I’m afraid not.” She began humming like Grandma in the kitchen making cookies as she poked, prodded, and rifled her way through my stuff. I made vague attempts at flirty small talk, but it was useless. I hung my head, defeated, and she thankfully finished the job quicker than expected. I continued onward to security checkpoint slightly miffed but no worse for the wear.
My boarding pass had been stamped accordingly to let the people know at the security checkpoint that I warranted ‘special’ attention. As I approached the metal detector another woman intercepted me, lifted the black rope that kept weary travelers from straying too far off course, and shepherded me into a side alley for my personal, detailed screening.
A man with rubber gloves snatched the things from my grasp and scurried to the opposite side of the room while I removed my shoes and stood, feet spread, on a pair of yellow footprints.
“Wow,” I said over my shoulder. “I haven’t stood on yellow footprints since Marine Corps boot camp.” The man with the metal detecting wand made no comment. I’ll admit I was playing off the military tip but so far my luck had run short. Apparently not all North Dakotans were avid supporters of our troops.
“Just stand still sir,” my humorless prison guard uttered without emotion. I did and he continued to wand me. “You’re clear. Please move over to the opposite side of the room and do not touch your belongings.”
I shuffled across the floor, shoes in hand, and peered at my stuff sitting silently on a battered, wooden table in a roped off area. Another man, this one not much younger than myself, approached me.
“How are you doing today sir?” He was annoyingly happy, the kind of happy you’d get from a balloon making clown.
“I’d be much better if you guys would just leave me alone and let me get on my way.” I was losing my cheerful demeanor quickly.
“I can guarantee you I’ll go as fast as I can, but it’s a necessary precaution for your safety, sir.” He was still happy, a condition I could easily cure with a palm heel strike to the bridge of his nose.
“Hmmm,” I looked pensive for a moment. “For my safety?”
“So I guess all the training I’ve received in the Marine Corps over the last seven years won’t mean a damn thing if some old lady slips a fingernail clippers by you guys, huh?” He was unimpressed. “I’ve traveled all over the stinking world and I always get the worst hassle in the United States. You want to explain that one?” I was at the point were ‘fuming’ would have been an understatement. My little buddy could tell because he stepped back from the table, placed a call on the cellular phone attached to his black duty belt, and another man showed up a minute later. These guys weren’t taking any chances with a disgruntled jarhead.
Man #2 was older, perhaps in his early forties, and had a twitchy, gray mustache. They played his sudden appearance off.
“I’m here to help you get through this screening faster, sir,” he said and twitched his upper lip. “I can understand your urgency.” The man wasn’t a complete oaf. I sized him up and decided I could take him if the need arose, as long as he couldn’t get to his six gun before I got to him.
What the hell was going on in my head? I took a few deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Again. I was infinitely calmer than before. I could feel warm serenity creeping through my very core into my bones. Good. The last thing I needed was my trip to be ruined because I spilled the blood of airport security. I refocused.
“Thanks for the help,” Mr. Twitchy Mustache Guy, I thought. He donned the latex gloves and went to work on my tent and sleeping bag while the young kid opened up my handlebar bag like he was diffusing a bomb.
A gross amount of candy and Nutri-Grain bars stared him in the face, packed together with Lego-like precision.
“Wow, you sure know how to pack,” he said. “I wish I could pack this well. I’ll try to be careful and put it all back like I found it.” He chuckled.
“I seriously doubt that will happen,” I retorted. “Just leave it out when you’re done and I’ll put it all back.”
He peeled back a few layers of Skittles and M&Ms and gasped when he saw my mace. “What’s this?”
“It’s dog repellent. The last thing I need on a cross country bike trip is some rabid hound chewing my leg like a milk bone.”
“Are you aware it’s illegal to bring this on the plane?” He wrinkled his brow and frowned at me.
“No, I wasn’t. I didn’t even know I packed it in my handlebar bag. I just threw everything together in a hurry this morning.” I crossed my fingers in hopes he wouldn’t call the fuzz.
“Oh no. This is serious. We’re going to have to do paperwork on this. I need your boarding pass and I.D. please.” Dammit dammit dammit.
Young Guy called Twitchy Mustache Guy over and handed him the pepper spray. “Look what he had in here. He says he didn’t know he packed it.” He looked over his shoulder at me as I did my best appear law abiding and God fearing. Twitchy Mustache Guy gave me the greasy eyeball as Young Guy read the active ingredients.
“This stuff is 10% oleoresin capsicum!”
“Yeah, that’s the strong stuff only police and military use.” Twitchy never took his eyes off me. “Finish checking his other gear and I’ll do up the paperwork.”
The woman from the x-ray machine stepped up behind him and whispered in his ear, pointing at the front pocket of my handlebar bag. Young Guy snugged up his latex gloves, opened the zipper, and peered inside.
“Oh boy! Look what else we’ve got!” He reached in with his thumb and forefinger and pulled out my Leatherman Wave like a rod of plutonium.
“And I suppose you didn’t know you packed that too?” Twitchy piped up.
“Nope. I forgot that too.” I plunged my hands in my pockets and rocked back and forth on my heels, looking boyish and innocent. It worked.
“Well we can’t allow the pepper spray at all, but I should be able to transfer your Leatherman to your checked baggage before they load it on the plane. I still have to do the paperwork though, so standby while I get some information from you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was going to be able to keep my treasured Leatherman and stay out of jail today.
I endured a small series of questions while Twitchy made another call to more phantom voices on his cell phone.
Young Guy walked up carrying a small blue pouch in his hand. I recognized it immediately as my tent stakes.
“I found these too. They’re tent stakes. They could be used as weapons. I think we should confiscate them.” Oh Christ!
“Just give them to me and I’ll take care of them.” Twitchy held out his hand and continued to fill out the remainder of the paperwork. Young Guy looked more than a little deflated, turned around, and began packing up my things.
“I’ll try to get these under there too. Have a good flight.” He walked away with paperwork, Leatherman, and tent stakes in hand and I couldn’t help but grin at Young Guy, obviously feeling dejected.
I collected up my things and walked into the waiting area with fifteen minutes to spare until boarding time. I was minus one canister of pepper spray but handcuff free, a trade off I was more than happy to have made.
So that was then and this is now. I’m a day behind before I’ve even started. I’m a whopping twelve miles and change into a trip scheduled to take over three weeks and 1500 miles.
I feel good.
Blair Witch in Hillsboro