Years ago now, I was out for a few days sailing with my friend Colin. We were in my Columbia 22 and pulled into St. Helens, OR for the night. At dawn the next morning I went up to the restroom for a hot shower. Ahhh, I can still remember how nice that was after two hot days on the river. On the way back I noticed an aluminum skiff tied up along the dock and there was a guy sleeping in it with a tarp pulled over his head. I live in Portland, OR and am no stranger to homeless persons. Later, after Colin and I cast off and left port I commented that I should have bought that guy a coffee and listened to his story. It most likely would have been a sad tale, but I had this nagging thought that he could have been a very interesting person. I recall that story pretty often and the other morning I decided to not pass on another opportunity.
When I was over at Bakehouse Bagels by my work the other morning there was this older, scruffy guy sitting there drinking coffee. He was wearing many layers of flannel and a not-dirty, yet not-clean jacket. On the table was his cup of coffee and an odd looking little metal box. At first glance I wondered if it was a flask, but when I looked closer it had a slot toward one that made me think it was a tobacco and rolling papers holder. In his hand he had a small, thin book that might have been religious in nature. Outside the shop was this overloaded bicycle with an overloaded trailer dragging out back. Both were just piled with gear. On looking closer I saw a single cylinder motor in the frame space. I thought, Wow, you don’t see that every day. I turned around and asked him if that was his rig and he affirmed. I asked him how far he had traveled in it and he said he started out two years ago in Montana. Montana! That’s a LONG way from Portland, OR. When I inquired on how much it weighed, he figured about 550Lbs with him on board and that it moved along pretty good. He said he pushes it in town rather than running the engine. I was unclear as to the reason, but on the journey he had pushed it from Kellogg, Idaho to Spokane, WA, a route I later looked up as over 70 miles! He said it took two weeks.
We talked a little bit about living in the Portland area. He said he’s been staying under the shelter in Willamette Park for the last four days. He has been around various parts of town and been hassled by homeless people more so than the police. I asked if was staying around or pushing on and he said he was headed to Beaverton, of all places. “Too spendy here” he said, referencing Zupan’s grocery for food (this is a higher end neighborhood). I placed my order for a half dozen bagels and then thanked him for sharing his travels with me. I asked him his name and he said he goes by “Buddy”. I asked if he’d like my $3 change for his travels and he politely declined, informing me that he had money. I wished him well on his travels and went back to work.
So now I know a little about “Buddy”, yet the rest of my day had me pondering what other stories he had to share. How was it coming through the mountains of Idaho? How about from Spokane to Portland? What led him to this journey? What is the goal? If I come across him again, I’ll inquire, but for now I’m thankful for his kindness and willingness to talk about his life. Everyone has a story, whether we realize it or not.