by Dezmond Remington
When the time came to contort myself into a freezing ball of misery in my wet sleeping bag on my trail mix pillow in the shittiest new tent Gold Beach’s finest outdoor store had to offer, I was more than ready to end the whole damn thing and go home.
I figured a camping trip on my motorcycle up the Oregon coast would be the best way possible to spend my spring break. Ocean views, cheap campgrounds, and my lust for just getting the hell away from everything for a little while was just about all I needed to convince myself that it would be fun. And it was—for about the first ten minutes I was on the road. It was raining out there, raining like I’d better quit and build an ark instead.
Riding motorcycles in the rain is a good time, to be sure, but good god is it dangerous. Not to mention uncomfortable. And soul-draining. Doing something that is dangerous and uncomfortable and soul-draining for any amount of time is hard, let alone for hours on end. By the time I got to Crescent City, I was a wreck, and thanking God I didn’t get into one as well. I drank three cups of coffee and ate a stack of wimpy pancakes at the Denny’s, all the while getting sideyed by the poor waitresses who would have to clean up the ankle deep puddle my leather jacket and jeans left on their polyester chair covers. I dumped out an inch of standing water from both of my boots in the bathroom and almost had an aneurysm trying to force myself to put them back on. They squished every time I took a step and leaked more water than a dollar store fish tank. It took everything I had to swing an anemic leg over the saddle and go north.
The scenery on the southern Oregon coast is unparalleled—except by the scenery in the middle of the coast and the scenery on the northern part of the coast—and that was the whole reason I had set out on this journey in the first place. It was a killing blow to my morale when I realized I was too cold and sopping to enjoy any of the reasons I was riding the motorcycle in the first place. Very little provided me joy on the desolate and throat-ripping run from Arcata to Humbug mountain—not the cartwheeling delight of tipping a 432 pound machine so close to the ground I could’ve kissed it while blasting around a cliff corner at mach jesus, not a king’s view of the infinite churning sea off to my left, not even the pleasure of being back in my home state for the first time in months. I was in for a very long day.
I stopped about 10 miles from Gold Beach on a little turnout with a nice view of the ocean to put some life back into my veins. That’s when I found out that my tent, the one thing I was absolutely depending on, had grown legs and left for someone that would treat it a little better somewhere between there and Crescent City, a whole hour and a half back from whence I came. I gagged and a few tears were pulled from me, but I was numb all over and that was about all I could muster up. I left the bike running and I stripped off my gloves. I put my hands as close to my exhaust as I reasonably could without charring myself, not that I would’ve minded too much if it meant they’d finally be dry. I started calculating how long it would take me to make it back down to Arcata or even all the way to my parent’s place 250 miles up and over. Common sense has never really been my strong suit, however, so I just mounted the machine again and found my way to a store where I could buy a tent. It had mesh walls, and they were paper thin to boot, but it had a rainfly and maybe it’d keep me a little dry. Forcing myself to buy that tent for a ransom of a whole $65 nearly broke me. I was too tired to try strapping it to my bike, especially seeing what had happened to the last tent I tried that with. I used all of my strength and forced it into my backpack, where it stayed until I made it another 20 miles to the nearest campground.
I skirted my way past the park rangers and found a site hidden from the road in the hiker-biker section. I was not the kind of biker they were talking about, but I was far, far past caring. I would have done just about anything then for a warm meal and a dry space, any dry space at all. If the opportunity presented itself, I would have pulled a DiCaprio and slept in a horse just because it would’ve been out of the rain.
The whole day I had been completely fixated on busting out my brand new stove and fresh new isobutane gas pod and whipping up some oatmeal, something nice, warm, filling, creamy—the adjectives don’t matter. It just had to heat me up. I dug out my lighter and tried to light the stove. The flint wheel–round and round and round she goes! Where the flame is, nobody knows! FUCK! And that was it! I wish someone had just hit me in the head with a sledgehammer and I could’ve passed out for the night instead. I ate trail mix furiously because I could not wait any longer just to get something in me. I headed over to the main campground to see if I could filch a lighter from someone else and maybe get a little fire going, something to dry my clothes out a bit and remind myself why I thought this would be fun in the first place. I found a guy in a giant van with some aliens and other assorted swirly colors on the side who very generously let some rando use his lighter. This was no small act of kindness. My hair had been in the same braid the whole day, more of a breaker box in the basement of a tweaker’s house that’s been raided for copper than a braid. I looked insane.
I attempted to light a few pieces of the paper I’d brought for tinder. It smoldered and didn’t catch. I tried a few more times. All it did was dissolve. It too had been brutalized by the weather; not wet enough to disintegrate completely, but not dry enough to light. I went through an entire notebook, screaming violently at it while I took gasoline from my tank and sprinkled it on the paper. Not even my reckless bit of environmental degradation would work. I ignored my losses and in a final stand, brought a book and my sleeping bag to the campground shower, where I spent three hours hanging my sleeping bag up and reading in a vain attempt to dry it out. By the time midnight came around, I just gave up and went to bed. My sweatshirt, which had been under my leathers, was more pond than pillow. All I had was a fat sack of trail mix. It was lumpy, but my head was indeed off of the ground and somewhat level with my body. I laid there naked in my sleeping bag. Every inch of sticky, smooth, cushy padding stuck directly to orifices which didn’t need the attention. I shivered and whined my way through the night in my pathetic sleeping bag in my tent without any real walls, trapped in my mind, which offered no escape.
The park ranger woke me up too early for my tastes and made me pay the fee for staying the night. I was too groggy to argue. All I wanted was out. I packed up my stuff as fast as I could and booked it to a laundromat.
LydiAnna’s laundromat was half an hour and an eternity north, but dear god was it worth it. I entered it seeing nothing but black and white, and emerged an hour later floating in vivid pastel. I was finally dry, and I could start having fun.
The rest of that day completely made up for the last. It was gorgeous. The sun was out, and I rode through the prettiest stretch of coast in the entire world, the 30 mile strip south of Yachats. Cliffs rise straight from the ocean, looming over clean sand. Every breath there scrubs away the rotted innards inside. It was paradise. No other word would do. Every corner was an opportunity to rejoice. Every ocean vista was prettier than the one before it. Every second there was a new reason for me to smile. I finally felt as if the whole trip was justified, every puking moment from the day before compensated.
I don’t think long haul motorcycle trips are for everyone. They can be dangerous and brain-shattering. They can hurt. But goddammit if you are tough enough to battle murderous weather and handle the stress and sheer crushing pain of a day’s ride in the homicidal saddle, then you should. It’ll be worth it.