Shazam, I have made it to the Bay. While this last week has been somewhat of a blur, it is nuts to think of all the accumulations that have happened while I was busy scooting from coast to coast. After visiting my auntie and uncle in central Washington for your standard eco-tourist super-luxe vacation weekend (splitting wood, trail running, local salmon, wood-fired sauna, apple-pie from the garden...), my brother and I skipped over to Seattle for a day/night. Like everywhere else, I was a little gobsmacked by how much I had missed as a youngster traveling through these same locales. Seattle is a seriously excellent town (which I know EVERYone else already knows), and huge! Pike St. was fun, of course, but Fremont and Wallingford were killing it! Walking at night along some canal (I feel like there are at least 341 canals in that city), I had that all-important realization of wealth having nothing to do with money: the air was crisp, the view twinkled, my hosts were generous, the strangers smiled. Even the bus system seemed smoother than it needed to be, always a sign of a city that knows what's up.
But the clock was ticking. An easy day of driving brought us to Eugene, somewhere I had only ever stopped for pizza with my family. My good friend from Boston (and nearly ALL her roommates) are grad students in the Athletic Dept. at University of Oregon, which definitely gave a good look into that most-important side of Eugene.
While my brother and I decided early on to take somewhat of a duff-day, there was plenty of opportunity to take in the singular weirdness of the college-town phenomenon as executed in the Oregon wild. On the one hand, the University has created a hyper-progressive crack in the otherwise rural/conservative backdrop of the region. Out of that crack has grown some great research (I assume), a liberal populace interested in enlightened ways of creating community, and a solidly hip downtown bar/food scene; into that crack, however, has fallen a huge group of drifters whom only need to label themselves as hippies to be embraced by the town infrastructure. Without sounding too liberal myself, I think homelessness is a systemic problem masquerading as an individual one (most of the time), and in Eugene's case, it seems like the system at fault is the contrast Eugene creates with its surrounding communities. Like osmosis, people stuck in tough circumstances are drawn to areas of seeming abundance, and Eugene definitely offers that high-level of public life.
Add on top of that the flashiest program in college athletics today (U of O football), and you have a super city-on-the-hill syndrome. Of course, the football thing has its own problems, with Nike trying to make research done at the university proprietary to the company, considering that Nike has donated approximately 1.5x the State of Oregon's operating budget to the university (kidding, sort of). That said, the beer was incredible, the donuts were wacky, and stadium looked really nice, so there's that.
But reconnecting with my Boston buddy was super fun, and made the the bi-coastal nature of this expedition all the more obvious. She loves her work, loves her house and housemates and is super-committed to daily excellence. Like so many of the people I had an opportunity to check-in on during this trip, I was equally stoked to reconnect and inspired about crafting my own routines. And landing here on Friday afternoon before a blow-out camping trip with the family this last weekend drove the point home hard for me. This new universe I have moved to functions in a balanced and productive way without me being any part of it; I feel equally compelled to both be assimilated by the systems already in place and shake the boat. Both of these goals take some seriously concerted effort, over an extended time, and with great focus. Let's see how it goes.
But before I close this chapter of my life, I thought it'd be nice to check-in on some numbers. While in my car for more than 75 hours, I visited or drove through 13 major metropolitan areas, bought 13 tanks of gas, hugged 38 close friends or relatives, did 6,300 kettlebell swings, 725 pushups, and more overhead presses and get-ups than I care to count. I fell back in love with reading fiction and writing letters, finally got into the Beastie Boys, understood what everyone is talking about when they talk about Montana and mountain-biking, and decided to try being an early riser, even if it goes against my nature.
And speaking of nature, I stopped thinking of the natural world as outside of myself. Somewhere between the spectacular cloud-concerts of western North Dakota and the deafening rush of mountain streams in Northern California, a friend's letter about connecting to ourselves by connecting with nature finally hit home. When the layers are peeled back, there are trees and water and sky, and people who smile and sweat for the important things in their life--that's all.
Thanks to all of you who helped me on my trek, and I will see you soon!