Rolling on a Dream Part IV
Finally, the start of The Dream Roll: Falling in love with Portland, reminiscing on my first city ride through San Francisco, and finding friends in the spirit of freedom.
I was blessed by a couple of kindred spirits who put me up for the next two nights in their house near Portland. I arrived Wednesday afternoon and took a steaming shower. A shower after a long trip has got to be one of the best things in existence, second only to the motorcycle. Carla and Marcos are a Brazilian couple I was lucky enough to meet at the Horizons Unlimited almost exactly a year ago. As often happens in our wonderful “big little” community of two wheelers with wanderlust, they opened their home to a weary fellow traveler. Don't get me wrong, I live for riding into the unknown and camping in whatever wild place my Gypsy will take me, but I also hope that I never pass up the opportunity to share a drink with friends and the warmth of a safe and rock-free bed.
Next morning's little yoga routine consisted of fewer cracks and pops from the joint department – thank god for modern comforts. I left shortly after that to explore downtown Portland for the day. Riding over some bridge into the city, I recalled the first and last time I had ridden Gypsy Shadow into a big city.
It had been about a week or so after I had gotten my M1 license, and my brother had lent me this same little beast for practice. I was out on a family ride when one of our friends, Adam, suggested lunch at some El Salvadorian joint in downtown San Francisco – keep in mind we were about 70 miles east of the city and this was maybe my fourth time actually on a bike. The rest of the gang didn't want to face the horrific hills of the city, but now I really wanted some El Salvadorian food … so, much like an English fox hunter dude, I hopped on to the back of my steed and followed the bloodhound into the thick of it. Adam split through interstate 80 traffic at about 80mph faster than I was comfortable splitting at, but I followed like my stomach depended on it. I grasped tightly with my fingertips, each bump trying to buck me and each rain drop feeling like a baby snake bite through the flimsy “tectile” jacket that covered me, but I was loving every second of it. We fought off the crazy drivers of San Francisco, all of them hating their miserable lives as they sit in hours of traffic blocked from the rain in their heated steel cages. The only people brave enough to pass us were the motorcycle gangs who had belonged to these streets long before I was born. I smiled at the world from behind my foggy visor. The food was fantastic.
Portland was no San Francisco; in fact, it was a walk in the park. I'm not kidding, I found a spot right next to a park in the middle of the city and walked straight to Powell's Books after a cold brew at Stumptown. It didn't have that gnawing edge of injustice that bathes the streets of San Francisco beneath every cardboard hut and head full of fleas and pain. I love San Francisco, but it just seems to have too much money for its own good these days. Everyone was friendly in Portland, homeless and hipsters alike. Money hadn't gotten to everyone’s head yet. It wasn't until I saw two ladies shooting up under some shade that I could have recognized that I was walking through a city. I found that a lot of locals have their own opinions on the frequent drug use by the youth in their city, but I'm sure more is being done than we really know just as I'm sure more can be done than we are all willing to do.
I met up with a friend and fellow adventure writer, Bill Dwyer, that I had met at Overland Expo this May. He shared some wisdom and stories and treated me to some Mediterranean food. So far, in all my short adventures, I've found that the most important thing to remember while on the road are your friends; they will help you out more than all the currency in the world.
That evening Carla and Marcos took me on a ride through the countryside beyond the outskirts of Portland. After that, it was hard to pretend that I hadn't fallen in love with the city. Sure, I understand all the rave about the downtown area, it's every weirdo's dream, but the country side that surrounds those busy streets? It was a motorcyclists dream. A perfect place to settle down – if you could ever actually get me to do such a thing. The lush vegetation complimented its curvy roads that wrapped around the small hills and old farm houses. And to think it was all just minutes from town, so close that we didn't even miss a beat of the sunset as it threw its colors across the sky.
I lay curled up in the guest bed that night too excited to sleep. What was I riding into tomorrow? Tomorrow was finally Friday August 27th, the first day of The Dream Roll, and I really had no idea what to expect! The world of women riders is still very new to me, as it is to most people. As you can tell from my past travels, I don't tend to ride with other people let alone with other women very often. It's always been difficult for me to make friends with women, so needless to say I was pretty fucking scared the more I thought about all the tough motorcycle women that I was going to attempt to befriend tomorrow. I felt as if I was gearing up to fight a grizzly bear who's judging eyes were sharper than its teeth. For the first time since middle school, I worried that my worth as a “cool chick” was going to be based upon my appearance and obvious budget – or lack there of – for fashionable motorcycle shit. And to be perfectly honest, some of the women I met that weekend, that was exactly how they sized me up. But to the majority of the amazing women that I had the honor of meeting that weekend, my love for motorcycles was the only thing that I needed to be wearing to sit with them; and wear it I did, we all did. It was in every girls eyes as she pattered on with all her new friends.
The majority of the girls met up at the White Owl Social Club in Portland Friday afternoon to ride out to Mt. Adams together. We shared bikes and stories like Barbies at a sleepover. There were sporty Barbies, rocker Barbies, and even rugged likes-to-play-in-the-dirt Barbies. The most important thing to note was that all of these “Barbies” made our ride the most bad ass thing to ever happen to Portland. Every woman was there because that was where her wandering heart had brought her, and no matter where we were going, we know we were heading there next to friends.