Today we rode 85 miles from Baker City to Oregon City and climbed about 2,200 ft. This would be considered an “average” day except for one detail: We traveled on Interstate 84 for about 20 miles. In the east it is generally illegal and crazy to bike on an Interstate highway. Here it is legal, but still maybe crazy. In fact, though the Interstate highway system was funded with federal money, the rules on biking on an interstate are regulated by the states. Most western states permit it, especially when there is no other way from point A to point B because of impassible mountains, rivers etc. Many of us had not done it before, though, so we were all kind of nervous. We got some lessons in doing it: never go straight along when there is an exit, as a driver who “forgot” this was their exit might suddenly cut off toward the exit and, well, I’ll let you finish that picture in your mind. The training is to exit the highway and get down the ramp some, look over your shoulder to see that no vehicle is anywhere near the exit ramp, cut perpendicular to the exit ramp and proceed. Some chose to exit completely and re-enter on the other side.
Riding on the Interstate is “not that bad.” Traffic was fairly light (tough heavily concentrated in trucks) and the shoulder is quite wide. The real “issue” is debris. In Oregon the roads are clean compared to the east, but there shreds of tires seemingly all over the place. And the steel belts in the tread are lethal on tires. Today there were a lot of flat tubes and some shredded tires. But at one point the feeling was surreal. It was like sitting in a plane and thinking about what it would be like to be on the wing of an airplane–you always wonder what it’s like “out there” but always thought it would kill you to try it. Today I had that feeling on an Interstate highway.
I want to do part #2 of this blog on a completely different topic. Today is the annual Pride march in NYC. The first march was held in 1970, and has since it has become an annual civil rights demonstration, whose purpose has broadened to include recognition of the fight against AIDS and, in general, is at once both a celebration and a remembrance of issues that define the gay community. I have never attended a Pride parade, and don’t particularly care to. Would I really want to “be seen” with all the flamboyant marchers? Probably not. But as I screwed up my courage to do this ride and speak to so many friends and others about the issue of marriage equality, I must admit that I get the point that it is important for others around us to see and hear about the issues in order to bring about change. The world is very different now than it was in 1970, and given the rate of change perhaps in 40 more years there won’t be a need for an annual march. Maybe some of the bikers in this group look at my 24/7 wardrobe featuring Freedom to Marry logo the same way that some people look scantily clad marchers in the NYC parade thinking “do you have to flaunt it?” But since starting this ride, I have the same smile on my face as the scantily clad revelers in the Pride parade. For all us, the answer is definitely “yes!”