Meet camp-host Mike.
I won’t ever forget the first words he ever said to me, “I know you two just lugged those 150 pound bikes 12 miles up that hill, but the campgrounds full.”
My friend Augie and I were 134 miles in on our first bike tour when we heard these fatal words. We’re not ones to really plan anything, so the thought on where to sleep if this campground was full had never even occurred to us. We looked at each other rather devastated. After three days on highway 101 in the heart of the tourist season, we were looking forward to a layover day in the green forests of Olympic National Park.
Mike burst out laughing, “Ah I’m just messing with you two, I knew your faces would be priceless! I actually have a special spot reserved for bikers who make it all the way up here. I tell you what, if you help me move my trailer, I’ll even let you stay for free.”
Augie smiled at me and said, “Deal.”
He led us behind a small white and blue trailer to a flat spot that was covered in branches and logs. He cleared the debris revealing a small patch of moss for us. It was perfect. The ground was soft and there were trees for a slack-line. Just to our left was the trailer that was not much taller then myself. It was the home of Camp host Mike.
I watched him wake up in the morning and use bundles of wood to work out. Then check in with every camper to make sure they were enjoying themselves. He took registrations for camp spots, and organized the site. He cooked when he was hungry, and he talked with campers when he was lonely. He loved to talk.
He told us how he spent much of his life in the chaos of Los Angeles consumed by traffic, buildings, dead end jobs, concrete, and busy people. He described walking out his door to immediately getting asked for change. He claims to have seen it all on a subway, from an overdose, to ladies stripping, to a couple having sex, to a guy masturbating.
He talked how he fell into addiction and struggled to find happiness. That he drank enough for the both of us and that we didn’t need any of that in our lives. He told us that we reminded him of his son who he hadn’t talked to in quite some time. He managed to put his demons away to save himself, but not quick enough to save his relationships with his family. This was the greatest regret of his life. One day he hopes to fix this.
He hit rock bottom, and was forced to sell his house. He bought a trailer, and began to drive north without the slightest idea on where to go. He stumbled into a camp host position in Oregon, and then eventually landed one in the Olympic Peninsula. It was here that he was able to finally slow down, think for himself, breath the fresh air, and embrace a simpler life. And he’s been there ever since.
Just as we were leaving he told us, “no one ever looks back on their death bed wishing they worked more overtime. Bike safe boys, I’ll be thinking of you.”