I was two weeks into my bike packing trip across America and travelling through the wet climate of western Oregon. A chance encounter whilst cycling down the Pacific Coast meant I had a pretty special place lined up for a few days of rest and recovery.
'A SLICE OF HEAVEN'
'Wetter than an otters pocket' and with the light fading I had finally arrived at my refuge for the next few days: 'a slice of heaven'. 'Welcome friends' a polite statue of a jolly bear greets me on my approach to the door. This, must be the place.
I park my bike up and head around the back in search of 'big red'. I had no idea what 'big red' was, but given the loose description I assumed that it would be obvious enough. Round the back in a small outhouse I find an old stove (red in colour) and low and behold inside lies the key.
Eager to get inside, dry off and return some of the feeling back into my frozen hands and feet, I make haste toward the front door failing to notice the green layer of algae that coats the already damp wood decking surrounding the perimeter of the cabin.
A few steps later and I'm surfing my way across the deck narrowly avoiding the splits, saved only by the nearby railing. I regain composure from the sudden adrenaline rush and proceed to take each additional step with the utmost care.
Unlocking the door, I begin manoeuvring my laden and somewhat uncooperative bike up two steps, across the green ice rink, and through the door to safety.
I breath a sigh of welcome relief!
I had been cycling in the unrelenting rain for the best part of the day, I was cold, wet and pretty fed up after taking a multitude of wrong turns in the maze of side roads, driveways and dead end tracks that litter the Mckenzie Bridge area. After a long hour of searching, I finally found the right route and could just about identify vague similarities with the track from my crudely drawn map.
Leaving Eugene earlier on in the day, I became the victim of a set of slippery rail road tracks; combined with some heavy rain and traffic it was a death trap. Approaching the tracks I lined up straight and true, bracing myself for the usual bump over the rails, but while I was ready my bike had other plans; It washed out from under me, and I landed hard on my right side.
I lay drenched and deflated at the roadside watching as a few cars passed without obvious concern. 'A good start to the day' Slightly embarrassed and shook up by the affair I slowly returned to my feet making sure all limbs and bike were intact before reluctantly continuing on.
I came away relatively unscathed: just a few grazes to my side and elbow, a sore wrist (that would persist for the next two weeks), and my cheap and cheerful MP3 player; completely destroyed... I had yet to listen to it.
Once inside, getting warm and dry was my first priority. A wood burner sits central to the open plan living space and I home in on the welcome site of a well stacked pile of logs and ample newspaper and kindling to get her going. Once the fire was underway, I slowly began to remove my wet shoes, socks, leggings and gloves, hanging them close to the heat.
Once in dry clothes again I feel comfortable, relaxed, and human again as the shivers subside and my hands begin to regain some of their dexterity. As I pause I notice the sheer silence of my surroundings, broken up only by the crackling and occasional popping sound of the now blazing fire. Though the cabin remains cold for the entirety of the evening.
Fire lit, dry clothes on. Next, a brew!
I begin to survey the kitchen in search of the necessary apparatus for producing a cup of Yorkshire's finest English tea. I find a host of useful things, including some hot chocolate, pasta and the ever so essential: kettle. Now Filled with water and on the heat, I take a minute to explore my new surroundings.
A shower, bath and a few bunk rooms make up the rest of the cabin. Despite the opportunity for a comfortable bed, I opt to sleep on the sofa (as close to the fire as possible). I also discover some fairy lights which bring a delightful ambiance to the main living space, and a wall mounted TV under a cover, (DVD only- no DVD's). I don't dwell on this too long as my eyes are drawn to a record player in the corner accompanied by a good selection: Fleetwood mac, Bob Dylan, amongst others. I place Bob Dylan on the turntable. “Girl from the North Country” begins: performed by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
(Kettle begins to whistle)
I turn to my bike reaching into my dry bag containing my premium stash of Yorkshire Tea - reserved for the days that only a good cup of tea can cure. My bike is dripping wet and beginning to form a puddle on the floor. I'll address that later.
Forward thinking earlier in the week meant I had accumulated a few portions of milk from cafes for just such an occasion. With only a limited supply I set the used tea bag aside ready for a second use.
Brew in hand I turn to the sofa for solice clutching my literally heart warming beverage between both hands and as close to my chest as possible. A blanket draped over the back of the sofa serves as a leg warmer for my bare and goose-pimpled legs.
Winding down from the days events, I am thrilled to have finally made it here for a few much needed days rest and respite from the incessant rain and cold that has characterised my first two weeks through Oregon. I stare out the window into the surrounding forest as Dylan provides the perfect soundtrack to the moment, the light is almost gone now, and the trees are nothing more than dark figures. The rain continues to tap away at the roof as I feel comfortably alone in this dream like cabin in the woods. I check my phone to find not a glimmer of signal. Truly alone.
Neil was my first host on the coast, although he wasn't home, he was kind enough to let me stay, and I met him the following day.
He, a fairly frequent traveller has his home completely set up to cater for the hikers and bikers that frequent the Oregon coast. Anyone that spray paints a giant smiley face on the garage to notify people that your at the right house must get a lot of visitors. Well labeled his house more resembled hostel than home, with his log books usually exceeding well over a 100 travellers through the year. There is even a comprehensive guide with things to do in the area which also outlines a few house rules which clears up any anxieties I and others may feel in his absence. All he asks in return for staying is basically choose from a list of chores and leave a note in the log book. I gave the bathroom a clean. When we met we looked at maps and discussed my journey, to which he offered me his idyllic cabin: 'A slice of heaven' to stay in as it was on route. 'Stay as long as you want'. 'Cheers Neil!'
Reading through some of the entries into the cabins logbook it was a similar affair. Neil a P.E teacher, let his students amongst others use the cabin at the end of the year.
Having time to reflect whilst in the cabin I was astounded at his trust in complete strangers, allowing them to stay in his home, even in his absence. Having something as beautiful as this cabin and sharing it with all he can is an amazing and inspiring thing indeed. So often we keep close the things that are special to us. I guess it begs the question: What is the point in having 'wealth' of any sort, if you are unable to share it? It must feel very gratifying; reading over the cabins log book, knowing the affect such a place has had on its users.
I felt humbled and very lucky to have met Neil and had the opportunity to spend a few days of rest and recovery in this idyllic cabin.