1980 Bicycle Trip–Olympic Rain Forest Peninsula

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Picture: Eddy, back when we were living on the beach in Hawaii, the one sitting at the picnic table.

When I Look Up I Don’t See Ocean Surf Nor Beautiful Sky-I See Four Inch Leeches

June 19, ‘80

Last night I took a long walk down the beach and played my horn. It felt as if the ocean was playing me as the music effortlessly poured forth. Walking back to my tent, it felt like I was seeing the ocean for the first time. I had not had that feeling in a very long time. After coffee in the morning, I took my body to the showers. I was just a bit apprehensive, though, I was afraid that after the dirt fell off there wouldn’t be anything left. After that I was off to the Laundromat and grocery store. Bananas were ten cents a pound; I bought twenty-two. I’m eating one right now. Tonight I think I might walk to the tavern. That sounds like a good plan.

June 24

Tomorrow morning I will board the ferry for British Columbia. For the past couple of days I’ve been hanging out in the Olympic rainforest. I’ve been in Washington for quite awhile. Say goodbye to the sun Dave. Goodbye sun. I haven’t seen much sun lately, just a slice at a time. There she goes, in between the clouds first, and then behind them. She’s gone!

I sure appreciated my Oregon stay. That memory is especially compelling right now since when I look up I don’t see ocean surf nor a beautiful sky, I see a leech slowly moving across the outside of my nylon tent. Did I mention that I’m in a rain forest? On my last evening camping on the beach, after the two beers I had at the tavern, I went for another long walk, and again my senses filled to overflowing with the smells, feel, and sounds of the ocean surf. The shine of the half moon full on the water was absolutely beautiful. Those two days spent walking the beach were the best part of this trip and could easily be the highlight of the entire trip.

After Oregon, I booked. I wanted to arrive at Eddy’s place, in the capital city of Olympia, by Friday. Eddy was expecting me. We had lived together on the beaches of Hawaii and I was really looking forward to seeing him again. It had been seven years since our last goodbye. The most notable event on my way to Eddy’s’ was crossing the Astoria Bridge. The wind on the big bridge made for some exciting biking. On the other side was Washington–lots of logging trucks, honking horns, people screaming at me, the apple core that just missed my head, and of course, the rain. Actually, Washington’s personality hadn’t changed much from the way I remembered it when I hitchhiked through there twelve years ago. There were no special rates for bikers at the Washington campgrounds, so I’ve been pitching my tent in the fields and woods.

After I left Eddy’s, and headed up into the Olympic peninsula, the biking got better. The weather got worse. I’m about fifty yards off the highway right now and last night I pretty much camped in a swamp. I woke up to a drenched tent with three four-inch leeches crawling over it. Hopefully, I won’t experience that tomorrow morning, but its possible because there’s a 100% chance of rain tonight—every night. In fact its rained everyday since I hit Washington, and up here on the Olympic peninsula it rains harder and longer. I wonder why Dr. Gill, my old philosophy professor never mentioned all this rain when he talked about his “magic spot” up on the Olympic peninsula. Oh, excuse me; I guess if it was magic that meant no rain.

Now to fill in the weekend; I saved that for last, but its getting dark and I’d like to have something to write about on the ferry on my way over to B. C., so I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to tell the Eddy Buss’s story.

The Absolute Worst Thing About A Painful Relationship Is That You Can Never Walk Away

Olympia, Washington

June 25, ‘80

Well here I am again, cold and wet, waiting to board a F
erry. The more things change the more they stay the same. This is a repeat of the Maine-Nova Scotia extravaganza of a couple years back. Last night it poured. My tent held. It’s a good tent! This morning the rain lifted long enough to pack up my leech-laden tent (they just love wet nylon), and after an hour or so of peddling through sporadic showers, I arrived in Port Angles. Following breakfast, and a trip to the currency exchange place to buy Canadian money (even after I bought my ferry tickets, I still had fifty dollars more than before the exchange), here I am, not wet to the bone, but still wet. It’s pouring outside.

Except for the obvious dirt and wetness, my bike seems to be holding up pretty well. I stopped at a bike shop and had it checked over. It received a clean bill of health and except for the weather we’re both ready for our long trip across Canada.

I phoned Eddy from seventy miles out of Olympia to make sure he was going to be home for the weekend. He didn’t sound very excited to hear from me, so I mentally prepared for the worst. By the time I arrived I was prepared for anything, everything except for what I found. Eddy hadn’t changed one iota. It was hard to believe, but true. He had always acted kind of stoically, so that explained his blasé attitude on the phone, however, once in his presence it was as if the seven years that separated us had never existed. He was the very same person I knew back in Hawaii. We went to Eddy’s favorite tavern and met Richard. And Richard, his buddy, hadn’t changed either. The three of us sat at the empty bar, telling the same old stories and drinking quarts of beer just like we used to back in Hawaii. For me, it was a mind-boggling experience, but a pleasant one.

It was not my idea to dwell on the past. In fact, I was really interested in Eddy’s present state of mind. Who was he now? What had he become? But, that was just wishful thinking because Eddy was a walking encyclopedia of facts and events that occurred when we were together. For almost two days I listened to him ramble on about the “good times back on the islands.” Eddy had been back to Hawaii twice since ’74, so he had lots of stories, but that made it even more amazing that he could still remember all the stuff that we did together. I was in awe of the way Eddy carried his past around with him (literally too, physically he hadn’t changed much). But there was one thing that was missing from all the reminiscing. The spark that was so much a part of Eddy’s personality back in Hawaii had disappeared. His idealism, his excitement over being alive, his desire to expand his mind–which back then meant physically carrying around a huge volume Shakespeare’s completed works–all that zest for life seemed gone from his personality. Eddy said it best himself when in response to an argument he was having with his wife, he told her, “What do you expect; I’m a realist.”

When I heard him say that I couldn’t help but smile because realism was the very thing that prompted me to move back to CMU from South Dakota. CMU was the only place that I could realistically practice my idealism. Eddy still lived for his next beer, his next joint, his next whatever–but never for the next moment. The bubbling joy that was so apparent in his eyes and speech back when I knew him in Hawaii had all but disappeared. That special spark was gone. And, as I was soon to find out, it did not leave voluntarily. Eddy’s wife, Kathleen, told me that his health was not good. According to her, they had spent over $4000. in the past year on Eddy’s health. That side of him became more apparent when on the last night, after an argument with his wife, Kathleen handed him four Valium, which he downed with a gulp of the beer that he was holding in his hand. It’s pretty hard to keep the light burning bright when you’re always wearing dark glasses.

I guess I am doubly moved by Eddy’s situation because it was all too familiar to me. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Kathleen and Eddy were not getting along. They were in one argument after another, and it never let up the whole time I was there. I wanted to leave as soon as I arrived, but I couldn’t. Both of my knees were hurting, so I had to stay. Fortunately, their arguments weren’t over me. Most of it was about money. Eddy’s unemployment benefits had just run out. Being there, for me, was like reliving old memories, memories I’ve tried hard to forget.

Eddy and Kathleen both were angry because they felt cheated. They felt they were putting more into their relationship than they were getting out of it and that made for a lot of anger. That was “ditto” for me in my past relationship with C.S. Watching Eddy and Kathleen fight was bringing back all those bad memories, except after my experience with C.S, I learned not to be so judgmental. Going into my next relationship, the one I had with Carin, I knew that keeping a relationship healthy required lots of give and take energy. In the end, that relationship didn’t work either, but not because of wasted energy, not because of arguments and bickering. I said goodbye to Carin with a smile on my face. Negative energy will doom a relationship. The absolute worst thing about a relationship saturated in negative energy is that it scars. You never walk away from it!


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