Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 74 to day 77, the finish line!

Day 74 Eugene to Rickreall started really early so that I could catch up with Sonia on Skype, and was checked out and in the saddle by 8.30. Heading out of the city on relatively quiet roads, passing wheat fields, through the towns of Coburg and Harrisburg, getting a large omlette (4 eggs or more?) in a cafe at the latter. Constant headwinds from the north and a few scary trucks transporting hay on the roads for the rest of the day. Blew through Corvalis before getting dinner (burger) in Monmouth 5 miles south of my campsite at the county fairground in Rickreall. $10 for a pitch (I was the only camper) and arriving at 5.30 gave me time to relax. Winds were exhausting and I still covered 70 miles - good thing I had a rest day yesterday. 

Day 75 Rickreall to Cape Lookout started with a disappointing breakfast of burritos at the local gas station, although I did have a good chat with Mark from Intel, a local guy waiting for a friend to arrive, who asked me a lot of questions about the trip. An intimidating start along highway 20 which initially looks like a motorway and was full of traffic heading to the Oregon coast. Even worse though was that now I was heading west the winds had shifted appropriately straight into my face. Pushing on I stopped in Grand Ronde for a sandwich for lunch and then kept heading west. I finally got my first view of the Pacific at a Willamette viewpoint. I took some time to take in the view (and the sense of achievement) before taking some pics and pushing to the town of Pacific City for dinner. The coast line here had a great looking busy beach overlooking Cape Kiwiana but I decided to skip the camp sites here and head to the hiker/biker sites at Camp Lookout, a further 16 miles. He Oregon coast is pretty hilly and there was a steep pinch to get over but the camp site was worth it. Possibly the best site of the whole trip, nestled in deep forest 20 meters from the beach (and only $5). Got in at 7.30 so was ready to sleep with the sound of waves crashing in the background. 66 miles today. 

Day 76 Cape Lookout to Nehalem Bay
A mixture of the punishing headwinds and a cold misty morning meant that I didn't wake up until 9.30. A full 12 hours of sleep. Taking my time I only got on the road at 11. I wanted to take a shorter day today to hit the hiker/biker spot in Nehalem Bay state park, a mere 40ish miles north. More hills to climb which means you get sweaty on the way up and then the cold winds on the downhill make you freeze! I travelled 6 miles to Netarts where I stopped in the Schooner restaurant for an hour and a half eating, drinking endless coffee and planning accommodation in Portland for after the ride. I eventually roused myself to climb the next hill along a road that was closed to traffic along the scenic 3 capes route. This was fun, road was cracked in places and full of leaf litter due to no traffic for past 8 months. A peaceful hour circling the bay before getting back onto a busy highway through Tillamook and all the way to Nehalem Bay. Passed through some cute coastal towns teaming with weekend tourists but didn't stop. Lots of views of the Oregon coastline, lots of large stone columns sticking out of the water all along the route. Into the park around 6.30 where there were a number of other cyclists riding the coast. Was surprised to meet Jersey Tim again - wasn't expecting to see him again after Sisters. Was good to catch up before turning in for the night. 

Day 77 Nehalem Bay to Astoria!
So now I am less than 50 miles to the finish line. It's a strange feeling to know this in advance as I left camp. It was a cold morning so after leaving at 8.30 I grabbed a coffee in Manzanita to prepare me for the last bout of hills and headwinds. Back onto highway 101 which was busy still even for a Monday morning, lots of large logging trucks to avoid early on with narrow shoulders. I had another coffee break and a delicious cinnamon roll in Cannon Beach and then continued on the highway until taking a short break on the promenade at Seaside. I took a route around the most busy pedestrian heavy section to get onto the Lewis and Clark Road, a winding country road finally off the highway. I got slightly off course but was shortly on the final bridge with Astoria on the other side. I got to the city sign at 3.30 and stopped to take some pics for proof then pushed the last couple of miles around the town to get to the official end point on the maps, the Columbia Maritime Museum! Once there I stopped for a while to take in the achievement. There wasn't an easy spot to take the bike into the pacific but it didn't matter, symbolically I had completed the ride. I had my picture taken next to the museum by a passing Canadian tourist, posing at the finishing line of the Trans Am!

So that was it. An end to an amazing trip! I checked myself into the Norblad hotel for a couple of nights rest. I got given a free beer for my efforts at the Fort George brew pub where I also bumped into Jeff and Barb, two riders I had met back on the Virginia/Kentucky state line. It was great to catch up with them and talk about finishing the ride. Its a strange feeling, no pressure to have to wake early, to ride 60-80miles, not need to eat 5000 calories a day. Now its time for me to book a bus to Portland ($23) and then take a week to relax and reajust to normal life again. And also to start planning my next holiday :D

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 71 to 73 - onto the final map section

Day 71 Mitchell to Sisters. I woke up at 7 so that I could get into the grocery store shortly after it opened, buy supplies to get me over Ocohoco Pass and then on the road before the heat hits. $20 later and having eaten cold tinned beef stew in flour tortillas (gross) I was fueled up. The pass was long, sweaty and hot but good to do in the first 20 miles of the day. Summited at 10am followed by a long and relatively flat stretch to Prineville. I stopped at Starbucks on the edge of town where Tim and Norah were also resting, ended up staying here 2 hours as the temperature climbed above 100F. Finally decided to get going, onto a busy highway to Redmond and then decided to keep going to the town of Sisters to set up for tomorrows high pass. Along the way a few snow capped mountains (the Sisters) could be seen from the road. Headwinds bothered me on the way but I finally entered the city park campground at 8.30. 

Day 72 Sisters to Eugene. I wanted a nice breakfast so headed for a cafe at 7. On the road at 8.15. Sisters looks to be a cool tourist town but I didn't have much time to investigate too much. McKenzie Pass was today's big challenge with the reward being a rest day in Eugene, a big college town. The temperature stayed cool and the grade was challenging but not exhausting. Interesting views of deep green forest, ancient lava flows and panoramics of jagged mountains as I cleared the top and ascended the lookout station on foot. The downhill was full of hairpins and was fast - lasting over 11 miles, a lot of fun. The rest of the day rode along the main highway to Eugene, the last section with Norah, the first time we had actually ridden alongside each other for a good few weeks. We camped at Armitage Park on the outskirts and met a young family, Shane and Jen, who gave us a lift to the gas station to get beers. Norah planned to go to Florence tomorrow so we celebrated going our separate ways after 2.5 months on the bikes. 

Day 73 Eugene rest day. It's a 6 mile ride into Eugene from the park. I got into the centre in the early morning and went to the visitors centre for some accommodation advice. I plumped for a motel on Broadway (which apparently is also always 9th St in the west). I had to wait a while for the room to be ready so I headed into Starbucks to sort out admin. After getting my room I spent the day eating (Cozmic and Marche), doing laundry (chore) and going to the movies (Pacific Rim). Whilst I was in the cinema though some scallywag took my fuel belt bag from my bike. Eugene is super biker friendly and now bike related theft is one of their bigger issues. No serious lasting problems but it does mean I will have to keep my camera and phone somewhere else whilst on the bike. Even so, my rest day was enjoyable and definitely needed, I hadn't had one since Pueblo! This also means that I finished map section two, only 1 to go now.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 67 to 70, entering the final state and serious elevation gain!

Day 67 Council, into Oregon and Halfway. Mr Mower woke me up at 6.30 which was perfect so that I could make it to the roadworks early before traffic had a chance to build up. On the road at 7.30, up a quick climb and down the other side before hitting the 10 miles of roadworks outside Cambridge. I had to ride in a pilot car for the first mile through past the asphalt layers then rode the remaining 9 on mud and gravel which was pretty bumpy! A quick coffee and pastry and then the next couple of hours climbing through the heat into the Hells Canyon area where the temperature was above 100F. At least the roads were quiet and there was a huge downhill to Brownlee dam and the state border. Now into Oregon! I took a long break at Oxbow as I was at risk of dehydration and then pushed to the RV park in the town of Halfway, pausing only to repair a rear puncture (number 2 of trip). I must have looked beat as a couple at the park brought me cold drinks and snacks!

Day 68 Halfway to Baker City
Baker City marked the end of map 3 so I got up early to make a start (and try to avoid the mid afternoon heat) but started with breaking the key to the restroom in a freak accident. Luckily the RV owners let me off. Lots more climbing today in searing heat - a hall mark of Eastern Oregon, followed by a blisteringly fast downhill into Richland where I ate a large omelette at the Shorthorn cafe. An 18 mile stretch of uphill with no shade to Baker city was tough. I wanted to see the Oregon Trail Visitor Centre but saw it was on top of another hill so decided to get into Baker and skip it. Into town at 2pm and set up in the RV park on the edge of town. Laundry and swimming pool before going into town to see what was happening for the annual Miners Jubilee. Buffalo burger at the fair, Deshuttes beer and a trip to the grocery store before heading back to camp. 

Day 69 Baker City to Prairie City.
The new map (number two) has an intimidating elevation profile. The first 60 miles outside of Baker have three immediate passes with pretty significant grade. I was also to find that the heat still hits 100F! A habitual cycle tourist in camp called David made me coffee in the morning and then I was off on the road at 7.45. Over Sumpter pass at 10ish, Tipton pass around 1.30 and then a long break at the shop at Austin Junction to cool down and rehydrate. Climbed Dixie pass at 3.30 and then down into the cute town of Prairie City to the RV park there. Te site is very picturesque, very quiet and also next to the old train station that is now a cool museum - a relaxing spot. Jumped into the stream to cool down and then to the historic Oxbow Bar on the main street for a massive meal. Carb overload and thoroughly tired so I retired to sleep at 7pm.  

Day 70 Prarie City to Mitchell
I caught up my sleep debt with 12 hours of kip, waking up at 7. After a few days of super early starts I took it easy starting with coffee at the Java Jungle (where if I choose to I could also get a tan to even out my nice bike lines). My caffeine rush got me going at 9.15 and it was a nice mild downward slope to Mt Vernon where I got a quick snack at the gas station before continuing to Dayville. Total 40 miles so far but it was only 2.30 after eating a piece of cream pie. I decided to push the second 40 miles to Mitchell but this was through the heat of the day. The road winds through Picture Gorge and uphill for 30 miles over Mitchell hill. A very tough challenge and wasn't helped by flat tire number 3, seven miles out of Dayville, a piece of wire had worked its way through the rear. Water levels were a concern as there was nowhere to refill (John Day Fossil Bed Visitor Centre is closed on Mondays) so I had to conserve what I had till I got to Mitchell. Finally over Keynes Pass and into town around 7.30pm. Free camping in the park with water taps so I could drink a couple of liters. Unfortunately all the shops in town (2 of them) closed at 7 so I had a fabulous dinner of peanut butter straight from the jar. 5 tablespoons and I had my daily allowance of fat. Sleep at 9. A quick toilet break in the middle of the night and a view of a bright full moon and a big deer less that 10 meters from the tents!