Monday, October 09, 2006

Smoke, Darkness, and Unclaimed Body Parts

Not fifteen minutes into our trip, heading out of town on highway 30, we passed a strange human-powered contraption pulled over halfway off the bike lane at an arbitrary point along the road at about Linnton. What we saw was some kind of handcrafted tin fuselage tapering down to a cockpit at the nose, powered by pedals and a drive train, unmanned, as if its pilot had jettisoned hastily, unable to hold on till it could pull in at the convenience store just five yards further down. As soon as we realized what we’d seen, we turned our car around and pulled into the store’s small lot and walked back toward the thing.

From our new pedestrian vantage point we could see a pair of motionless legs protruding out the side of the housing toward the rear. Lindi hung back while I approached cautiously, seeing now that the legs came out of a squarish opening, and wondering how a set of legs could be coming out of a cavity that looked only big enough to hold a few ice cream bars.

Friendly greetings I called out while moving closer elicited no discernible response from the legs, which remained utterly still. Feeling slightly invasive, I leaned over and peered up into the void, where I thought the owner of the legs must surely dwell. I tossed in compliments on the vehicle but got no answer. I asked permission to snap a few photos – still nothing.

From the bright sun without, my eyes could see only blackness within. I would have simply assumed the owner was sleeping or unconscious or maybe even dead, but pungent smoke billowing forth told a different story – one of a life watching me from the dark and choosing not to reply. A faint ember slowly brightened, illuminating a set of fingernails, giving form to a dark hand curled around a glass bottle reflecting its glint.

At this point I did not feel particularly welcome, and though I had not received the desired permission to take pictures, I snapped a few anyway, kind of hastily.

Before leaving, I dared to lean over and peer in again, and this time I saw eyewhites, with eyeballs in them, that made contact with mine, through a glaze of utter smackeredness. As I offered another compliment and a couple of hearty thankyous, I placed a dollar bill on the lower ledge of the black hole, and I thought I detected the most barely perceptible nod.

That was the first bicycle-related experience of our car trip to oysterland, the purpose of which was to (1) get the hell out of town, and (2) scope out a bike trip for the future. The above took place on St.Helen’s Road, which though passing through a very industrial area and trafficked by immense trucks, has a nice wide bike lane. Next I’ll bring you destinations you can reach on your bike as you cycle through Astoria and up past the cranberry bogs. Oh, and I can’t wait to tell you all about Arnold Schwartzenegger beach. You think I’m talking about a muscle beach, but this is more about transportation alternatives. Just you wait. More incredulity to come.


At 8:06 PM, Blogger vj said...

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At 8:08 PM, Blogger vj said...

That's a great pic. I got a pic of him and his vehicle in North Bend (on the coast) over labor day weekend! Here are my pics: vj_pdx/tags/humanpowered/

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dollar bill for a picture..I like that..very much like a tourista in Mexico.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger kate gawf said...

I knew you would, Toni. I put that in especially for you.


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