July 4, 2014
It was only our second day of our cross country bike trip. Other than having bikes and panniers, Thomas and I were ill prepared. We were riding in Adidas cotton shorts, cotton t-shirts, and had high school quality cotton sweats. Our first day of riding had taught us a couple of valuable lessons: #1. Sunscreen is a really good idea. #2. Yes, your butt can hurt beyond belief after just one day of riding.
We pulled into a little town along the Oregon coast. It was 4th of July and most campgrounds were full. We were so exhausted, we didn't even inquire about the evening's celebratory options. We just wanted to go to sleep. We found a dirt and gravel parking lot tucked away behind a church. It was a Saturday night, so we figured as long as we packed up long before the first Suday morning service, we were golden. We ate some soup and settled our sunburnt, exhausted bodies into the tent.
I remember hearing the sound of a car engine and tires, and wondering if it was the police, checking on illegal campers. But it was a station wagon filled with mom, dad and a bunch of kids. Then a second vehicle. And a third. Within a half an hour our tent was surrounded by vehicles. Unknowingly, we had chosen the most popular site in the county to watch the fireworks. Our quiet, out-of-the-way, stealth camp site was now filled with the screams of little kids playing tag, sporadic firecrackers, and blaring pop music, crackling through crappy speakers.
On any other night of our lives, we would have emerged from our tent and joined the party. There were hot dogs to eat and lawn darts to be tossed. But we were so exhausted, we just lay there, waiting for the noise to stop. And it did ... at around midnight, when the last car exited the parking lot. The driver called out, "Sleep well." And we did.
To this day, I can't hear the sound of fireworks and not be transported to a little parking lot in Oregon, and the second day of a trip that would change my life.
Photo: A young Willie Weir fixes the first of sixteen flats on his cross country adventure.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.