So here are some life lessons (both profound and mundane) I discovered on the tour.
Some things are bigger than you.
Coming from Long Beach, which is flat as a pancake, I was really not at all prepared for some of the hills and coastal mountains we crossed. The first few days were humbling to say the least.
Probably the steepest it gets on my daily route are freeway overpasses and bridges over the water. In retrospect those things are mole hills.
I remember the last riding day I had where I had ridden about 80 miles, the last thirty of which included two long climbs that seemed to go on forever. The road would just not end. I was pretty close to tree line but the road found another way to keep climbing. Add to that the fact that we had run out of water and had to use purifying tablets to clear up some river water. I was pretty close to cracking and it was sheer force of will that got me over them.
You're not that small either...
With all that said, we humans are capable of doing some amazing things. Perhaps one of the most near religious moments I had on the trip was nearing the summit of Neahkanie Mountain. We were riding on the 101 most of the day which had some good climbs but nothing compared to this.
It was a grinder. There was little or no shoulder during parts of the climb. I was probably moving at a blistering 5 or 6mph with RV's pulling cars and logging trucks zipping by.
Laura and I stopped at the marker and took in the view and it was spectacular. It is one thing to drive to the cheesy vistas and take your Kodak moment then drive off. When you ride your bike up one of those things you drink it all in. I remember staring back at the road we climbed and I could hardly believe that through the power of my own legs I was able to carry myself and about 80lbs of bike and gear up the mountain.
Refrigeration is optional...
During the trip our lunch staple was bread, extra sharp Tillamook cheddar and salami. Granted these things keep generally well, but we really pushed them some days. Sometimes we'd pull out the cheese and it would look a little sweaty, but when you're burning 4000 calories a day and it's miles to the next town, things that would concern you in daily life aren't as threatening.
Stale bread wasn't stale until it started moving on its own, not that we had too much of a problem eating every scrap of food we had before it went bad.
You have to accept your fate before you can do anything about it...
This I learned during the climbs. The first few days I would try to attack and muscle over the hills. However, after about half an hour of trying to get over something that seemed to have no end I gave up trying to swallow the elephant.
I learned to submit myself to the climb, to accept the fact that there was no quick and easy way to the summit. I learned to love my granny gear. After a few days I could take a quick look at a climb and tell instantly if I had to drop down to my smallest chainring. More importantly, I learned that there was no shame in doing it. Usually, I would try to stay at the biggest gear I could and stomp my way up, but on this ride I couldn't approach it like that.
I would tell myself to first submit. Accept the climb. Then I would try to find that sweet spot, the right combination of gear and cadence that would let me slowly chip away at the mountain. Usually it meant I was going a little faster than walking speed, but I could spin it all day and that way I could out wait the mountain.