• Cory Howell

Day 5: How Quickly The Lines Change

Coos Bay

10.3 miles (walking)

↑ 433 feet ↓ 433 feet



Somehow, we just couldn’t keep from being in motion.


The day before, we crossed into Coos Bay on the McCullough Memorial Bridge, a bridge so notorious in the biking community, some organized groups won’t let their people ride across--they have to organize shuttles.


Chains hanging from the support beams rattled in the wind, plywood sheets threatened to fly from their tenuous backing and take us with them, orange cones and industrial wire left strewn along the walkway created a haphazard obstacle course.


We later found out it was under construction, but at the time, it felt like the bridge might collapse at any moment.


The last three miles in the dying daylight were a tired relief and an adrenaline comedown. My legs were so sore in bed that night, my dreams tinged with a vague feeling of perpetual cramps.


And yet, after we woke up, we still went for a walk around town. We shopped for groceries, we did laundry. Each step was an aching reminder of the miles we’d done.


We took a recommendation from our Airbnb host to try a sushi joint on the other side of town; they were famous for getting their daily catch from the local docks. Apparently there were still fishers here, but rusting reminders of the industry’s decline were visible all along the waterfront.


We walked to the restaurant, and the path took us through streets thick with Trump-Pence 2020 signs, Thin Blue Line flags, Trump-bumper-stickered cars, neighbors with MAGA hats.


We passed a gentleman sitting in a lawn chair, his yard covered with Trump paraphernalia. He turned and squinted hard when he saw us walking by.


Lilly gave him a smile, I gave him a tentative wave. His reaction surprised us--his smile was so big, his wave so emphatic.



Biking through Oregon, I was shocked at how clearly we could see politicization, how quickly the dividing lines changed.


We passed through Yachats, a town with Black Lives Matter signs on front lawns, painted onto windows. We passed Diversity Drive on the way into town, Gender Drive on the way out. Progressive thought was even built into the street names.


In Florence, a brigade of twenty or so trucks drove by--they were all heavy with Trump and Thin Blue Line flags. When they passed us heading in the opposite direction ten minutes later, we realized they were running loops around town.


In Tillamook, we saw Trump and Biden support flying side by side--neighbors at silent war with one another.


We knew about the divide intellectually. Now we were seeing it.



We stopped for water on the way back from sushi. North Bend’s parking lots were littered with RVs, trucks pulling ATVs and boats. A broken down pickup flew the Confederate flag.


With all the division in the country, what is it that connects us? What’s the common thread that gives us something in common?


Lilly and I pondered as we walked over the rise overlooking downtown Coos Bay--the harbor was awash in evening pinks and blues.


In a climate where no one is conversing but everyone is yelling, how can we create exchange?


Is it enough that we exchange smiles and waves with our neighbors, that we’re in turn surprised when they smile and wave back? My legs were still sore when we got back to our Airbnb and kicked off our shoes. I resolved to lie down for now, and pack my bag in the morning.