The state of Oregon is a serene landscape of snow crested mountains, golden coastline, dense evergreen forests, waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and rivers. Aside the spoils of mother nature, the state is also home to countless concrete bowls, every small logging town and lake side community seems to have a vast maze of giant concrete transitions, cradles and hips.
For one week I had the pleasure of joining the Vans Europe team – Sebastian Keep, Greg Illingworth, Kevin Kalkoff, Ben Hennon, Matt Priest, filmer Mayol, TM Andy Zeiss and Vans US guest rider Gary Young, as they drove across Oregon from to bowl to bowl, camping every night beside rivers, the ocean or down dead end roads. We left the cities, hotels, hot showers behind and we enjoyed a simpler life in the great outdoors, cooking on open fires and washing in lakes and rivers.
It was week of sleeping under the stars, waking up to sunrise over the pacific, a week of enjoying the company of old friends, a time of good health, swimming every day, cliff diving, a week of resting and riding. It was unhindered escapism from the fast paced city life I call home, a break from direct debits, traffic jams, parking tickets, crowded streets and an escape from the constant background noise of a fast paced city.
Such great experiences can change a person, be it a new appreciation of being outdoors and breathing the fresh air or a newfound motivation to lead a clean and healthy lifestyle. My time in Oregon did indeed change me, however, little could prepare me for how the Vans trip would alter me – the change was abrupt and it was anything but clean and far from healthy...
The day after the trip I felt healthier than ever before. I was wrong. I awoke and wondered to the toilet in sleepy haze for that trusty need to piss that greets me everyone morning of my life. I raise the seat and let her rip. My heart stops. My piss looks like a fast spraying wound from a gory samurai movie. I piss thick red blood into the white toilet for entire two minutes. I lose a pint of blood and know it could be serious.
One hour later I'm sat in a hospital bed covered in wires and surrounded by baby faced students doctors. “You probably shouldn’t drink that,” I recall Gary Young had told me two days before as I drank water from the crystal clear lake. I now regretted not taking his advice. I phone my girlfriend back home in the UK and ask her to find my travel insurance details. She calls me back 15 minutes later, “Bad news – I’ve only found a renewal notice, which you haven’t done – you’re not covered.” Before I have time to think it over a senior looking doctor arrives at my bed, “Mr Marshall, the test results are back and I fear you may have a complication with your prostate, we need to do some CAT scans to find the source of the bleeding immediately.”
CAT scans sound expensive but my financial worries are overpowered by my long term health concerns, ‘complication with prostate’ is medical talk for 'you could be in trouble'. I try to forget how many thousands of dollars a CAT may cost and get wheeled into a big tube-like escape pod.
After the scan I lie in bed for hours wired up and contemplating my fate of bankruptcy and serious illness, as the patient next door who’d just attempted suicide with an overdose tells the doctor his life story of being schizophrenic and a manic depressant. Before providing further treatment an admin lady grills him over his insurance. Fearing a huge medical bill I stash my credit cards into my shoe and consider a flight home if the news is bad.
“Mr Marshall?” A doctor asks. I nod. “Good news, you’re fine. The CAT scan found no problem with your prostate. I suspect you have kidney infection from drinking some river water. Here’s some antibiotics, you should stop peeing blood in two days. Return if not. You’re free to leave.”
He unplugs me, I see a fire exist to outside and head for freedom avoiding the administration desk that wanted my insurance details. I returned back home thinking I’d got off with out a bill. Again I was wrong.
Six weeks after one of the best weeks of my life in Oregon a letter arrived forwarded from an old address. I skipped 6 pages of small print to the end figure of $8,045. It was a bill from the hospital.
Despite this blow to my finances, my experience in Oregon couldn’t have been better. The trip with the Vans guys had been one of the best of my life and I owed it all to Oregon. As a state she’d been good to us with her amazing bowls and scenery, from this day onwards I will always in be debt to state of Oregon, $8,045 to be precise.
The Vans in Oregon video is now online and can be viewed here