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Train of Thought: Tourists, a chip seal rant and bucket lists 

You know how, when you go for a bike ride, your mind goes on a ride of its own as well? Two weeks ago, I

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You know how, when you go for a bike ride, your mind goes on a ride of its own as well? Two weeks ago, I joined some friends for a 40-mile ride from Sisters up and over McKenzie Pass and back. I thought I'd share my train of thought:

Cool. I'm finally riding McKenzie Pass for the first time this year. I can't believe I waited until the highway re-opened to motorists, but oh well. Whoa, check out all those Harleys!

Four million bucks and three years. Let's see what they accomplished. I hear the new pavement is Land O'Lakes buttery!

The legs feel a little tired today. Probably because I put in almost 200 miles this week. I'll never be able to keep up with David Blair.

Oh, yea, gotta remember to put on a new chain.

Hey, there's a tourist on a black Trek, all loaded down with stuffed rear panniers, rickety fenders and a beat up foam sleeping pad strapped on the rack. I think I'll pull up beside him and ask him his story.

I learned that 21-year-old old Ben Davies is from Devon, England and just finished his degree at the University of Southampton. He was on Day 74 of riding his bike across the United States from Virginia to Oregon.

"The trip has been fantastic," said Ben. "The only bad thing that happened was that I stopped in to visit the Adventure Cycling Association office in Missoula and, while I was there, my tent was stolen. But a guy in the office just gave me his tent."

"I've been staying with some people I found through and that's been really nice."

Hmmm, must be like couch surfing for cyclists. Wow, Ben is keeping a pretty impressive pace, given that load, up the climb.

"I really liked Wyoming," Ben said. "Oregon changes every day and the people are a lot nicer than they were in Colorado. After I get to Florence, I'm riding down to San Francisco and just chilling for a bit until I fly home. Hey, how much farther to the top?"

"We're almost there," I replied. At the Dee Wright Observatory, I enjoyed pointing out our Cascade peaks to him. "Each window frames a peak," I told him.

As we straddled our bikes again, I overheard some Italian, coming from two olive-skinned cyclists nearby.

Those are some friendly-looking guys. Quick, remember some Italian!

"Bon Giorno!" I said with a big smile. "Donde andando?"

Damn. I think that was Italian and Spanish mixed together.

"We go from Sisters to here. Then we go to Santiam Pass e ritorno," the tall one said, holding onto his English way better than I did my Italian.

I nodded and bade them farewell with some cycling lingo I remembered from past trips to the Dolomites. "Testa Basso!"

Ben and I rode about 6 miles down the west side of the pass to my turnaround point.

Wow, this is a sweeeet piece of ass-phalt. I sure wish all our roads were like this. At least Skyliner. I wish Oregon would outlaw chip seal. Those idiots just chip sealed Tyler road. They ruined a perfectly good road. There must be some master plot against cyclists in Central Oregon to chip seal every road that used to be good for riding. I HATE chip seal. Chip seal sucks!

"So, Ben, what are your plans when you get home?" I asked.

"I've got a marketing job with a helicopter company," he replied, "but now what I really want to do is earn enough money so I can ride my bike around the world!"

My friends and I headed back up to the observatory and down the other side, while Ben continued on towards Eugene.

I really like Ben. He reminds me of me, when I graduated from college. That was a fantastic summer, riding my bike across Europe. After that, I really wanted to see the rest of the world from a bike.

You know, I miss those footloose and fancy free days. That's it. I better put together a Bucket List. I'm going back to Italy. It's been way too long since I've ridden with my friend Liza. And I'm going to actually read that South America Lonely Planet book I have and spend a winter there. Chile, I think. And I am definitely planning a surf trip to Bali. Or maybe Troncones. Both!

Hey, check out that parade of Corvettes. Everybody is out today. Oooooo, I love this descent. It's so fast and swoopy. And they patched all those dangerous potholes that were hard to see in the shadows.


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