sleeping on the front porch at the boys' house in portland has long gotten me used to the five-thirty sunrise. i sleep a while longer among the leaves and branches before packing up from my spot on the beach at eight forty-five after only a few hours of sleep.
after making sure the coast is clear (pun), i pop out of the bush with my pack, grab some coffee at a shop, and head for the rocks. i read ecclesiastes as people walk in pairs, play with their dogs, and ride horses? along the morning water.
an hour later greg at the mariner's market rings up my priced-to-sell bbq chicken wraps and answers my questions about going north to sea side beach. he's my age, i'd guess, and is friendly as he tells me about the bus that runs on the hour from cannon beach. seventy-five cents is a worthy fare for this service. as i wait at the information center with my cheap breakfast i watch as a shiny, blue truck of four old men pull up. one man is driving and the other talks to the driver. two more men sit back on the flat tailgate and hop off at various stops around the small town to install american flags in beams and holders. this seems to be their only job and apparently it takes all four of them for this duty. elsewhere four generations of women walk the sidewalk. shoulder-to-shoulder and in white sweaters they march their blockade and talk about trinkets and shops and about not forgetting the importance of all buying 'cannon beach' hoodies together.
the bus comes fast around the corner and thankfully i get up in time to meet its short stop. i'm the only one boarding apparently (although i'll later see two other people at this same bus stop at sea side- they must have missed this swift opportunity). a skinny older man with a greasy pony tail and thin grey mustache drives the bus and tells me his pacific northwest hitch hiking tales as he drinks from a can of orange soda. he started work this morning at five am and also tells me that he thinks that i'm brave for traveling these parts alone. i ask him what that means. 'cannon and up north in astoria are pretty mellow and safe, but you gotta watch yourself in sea side. the carnies can make it dangerous. watch out for them.' i'm not really interested in asking for the exact physical definition of a 'carnie' because after this statement he begins another anti-climactic hitch hiking story and adds that 'these parts are pretty safe' and then begins to give me a description and the ins-and-outs of sea side. soon he drops me off next to a mcdonalds on the main street.
i don't like sea side. it's a gritty carnival strip of boutiques and shops and a tall line of mid-standard hotels like the shilo inn that block the ocean view from anywhere else besides the sand. there are bumper cars and candy stores and hundreds and hundreds of people streaming down broadway towards the beach. the sun is hot and i only have jeans and a tshirt. i walk away from the crowds along the massive shoreline and stop a ways out at a log to read the book of james. i also walk along the dunes to look for a decent sleeping/hiding place for tonight. there are none here and after four hours of reading and wandering and wading in the water i'm ready to head back to cannon. i catch another seventy-five cent bus.
here's where it starts to get cool.
i'm back at the sleepy monk coffee roasters to read and evaluate the next step. i chat with the baristas who remember me from yesterday and some of the customers join our conversation about places and traveling and youth as they move in and out of the line. the shop clears out and one of the baristas comes to my table and asks if anyone at the shop has told me about the 'special' hiding spot on cannon beach. she says it's a well kept secret and shares with me this place that sounds much better than my bush camp.
i'm not sure what to do at this point. i could go back to portland or i could stay another night. i'm easy. i start to write 'portland?' on a piece of cardboard in preparation for opting to at least attempt a hitch tonight when a light haired man and his son re-enter the coffee shop.
here's where it starts to get cooler.
'hey, we'll give you a ride. we live in vancouver (the northern suburb of portland, not canada).' craig and his son spencer have been surfing today and we hop into their grey nissan xtera. we swing by the pizza shop which, as they tell me, is their weekend surf trip tradition. they buy me a slice and we chill outside and get to know each other. he's a principal at a school for the blind. i tell him a little about my travels and education. all throughout there's a good vibe. a subtle denominator.
as we ride he answers my questions about blind students and tells me facts about student life and the hardships of post-education. most of it is sad stuff- like the seventy percent unemployment rate for the blind. i can tell he really cares about his students and, for that matter, people in general. i mention working at a camp in one of my answers and he mentions youth group. when i mention imago dei church in portland the two of them jump in their front seats. they go there.
so i find myself in a car with two christian people who'd offered me, a stranger, an eighty-plus mile ride from cannon beach to portland. the whole way back is awesome conversation about churches and education and the blind and his family and my travels. flawless. when we get into portland i tell them that i can catch the buses the rest of the way to the south east neighborhood. they maintain that they'll take me all the way- to the doorstep of the house even. i jump out and thank them again and tell them that they've been a clutch part of all this. i finish shaking their hands and craig says to thank his son who'd, when they were outside the coffee shop, had told his dad that he thought they should take me with them. craig had agreed and they came back in to get me right before i'd walked out the other door with my cardboard sign.
this was, hands down, the perfect ending to this little retreat. it makes me smile again to remember and type out this fast little summary. i'm not really going to put too much down about ecclesiastes and james but if you want you can try reading them together sometime. you might not have an ocean to go with it but i find that they're a nice mix nonetheless.
thank you, again, God for all this.