Posted by: pickupel | June 3, 2010

The Pacific

02/05/2010

I was up early this morning, as I wanted to get the bus down to the beach and back again before I checked out of the motel so I didn’t have to drag my stuff around. The weather was every bit as bad as yesterday, with a fierce wind blowing off the sea making me imensely glad I wasn’t cycling. It was really odd using motorized transport again, and even though the bus was crawling along it felt supersonic! I had about a miles walk from the town of ‘Seaside’ to the beach, and by the time I got there I was soaked. There was a stautue of Lewis and Clark there, with the fitting inscription ‘the end of the trail’ – the fact that I had acheived what I had set out to do seemed to sink in then and after I managed to get a crazy looking tramp to take my photo I retreated to a diner for breakfast.

I spent most of the day around Astoria, waiting for the evening bus back to Portland. I went and had a look around the Columbia Maritime Museum, which was suprisingly good at describing the history of human use of the Columbia from the Indians, to fur traders, to modern frieghters. My ticket also entitled me to go and have a look around their ‘lightship’ – a ship that was anchored perminantly during it’s service at the mouth of the Columbia functionig as a lighthouse. I spent the afternoon wandering in and out of various coffee shops, moving on whenever I got bored of being dry! I went into the bus station twice today, and both times I saw a set of cyclists doing the Pacific coast route. The first set were a german couple, and the second two retired Canadian guys. It was great to talk to them, and they were suprised to hear about the journey I’ve just completed. Both sets were taking the bus to avoid the weather (and on hearing this I felt suitably smug at not having cheated myself!) which had reached storm proportions by this afternoon.

I got the bus at 18.45 to Portland, and spent the entire two hour journey talking to Rich who was on his way to Idaho to pick up his car that had been stolen a couple of weeks ago, along with thousands of dollars worth of guitars. The guy had been caught when he tried to sell a guitar worth thousands for $70! He was in his 60s and worked three jobs a week just because he wanted to – as a landscape gardener, a graphic desiner, and an artist. I told him about my plans, and the bus driver overheard and when I went to leave the bus she volenteered to drive me to a hotel near the airport (about 20 miles away) saving me a hefty taxi fare. I got to the hotel at nearly 10.00, and was exhausted after a busy day and dropped off to sleep straight away.

Posted by: pickupel | June 2, 2010

Finished

01/05/2010

I found it hard to get to sleep last night, despite having cycled 90 miles, as I was excited at the prospect of reaching Astoria – my final destination. I had a choice of two routes to the coast – I had decided to tale the more direct route that would take me via a beach on the way to Astoria. However, I asked the receptionist at last nights hotel, and she told me that there were some pretty bad roadworks going that way, so I decided to take the longer route that reached the coast at Astoria. I was up and on the road by 06.00, the first 10 miles were slow and difficult as I had to navigate through Metropolitan Portland. Even that early in the morning it was congested, and traffic lights meant that I was stopping every 2 minutes.

Soon enough I was out of the city and onto Route 30 – the traffic gradually decreased and I was soon out into the countryside. There wasn’t much of a view for a lot of the ride, as I was cycling through the Clatsop State Forrest, and so dense pine trees lined the road te majority of the time. I had to cross the Coastal Range to get to the sea, and so had a couple of big climbs today. Although they were long and steep, the trees thinned near the top, giving me some great views out over the Columbia River. I made really good time this morning, and when I started picking up signs to Astoria, it gave me a real boost – the culmination of months of preparation, and weeks of hard work was in sight. About 30 miles out of Astoria it started to rain: lightly a first but building into a torrential downpour, until I was saturated.

I peddled faster and faster as I got closer, flying up the hills and not caring in the slightest about the rain. I reached the ‘Welcome to Astoria’ sign and stopped to get the obligatory photo, with passing cars and RVs giving me odd looks – I must have looked slightly demented, standing in the rain taking a photo of a bike and a road sign! I had a short climb up to the top of a hill to see the Pacific from the point where Lewis and Clark first saw it. It was awesome to see the sea, having left the Atlantic 54 days ago, but the rain made I hard to see much so I coasted into town, and was soon standing outside the Columbia River Maritime Museum – the official end of the Transamerica Trail. The moment was, in a word anticlimactic. Throught the trip, it had been my goal to reach that spot, but when I got there it was just a building, on a street in the middle of an American city – no fanfare, or cheering crowds. I realized then that it was the journey that counts, not the destination. This trip has given me memories to last a lifetime and standing there in the rain, the fact that it had all come to an end didn’t seem to sink in. I dragged a guy out from the museum, and got him to take my photo – it didn’t come out too well, as the rain was truly torrential by this point.

From there I went to the bike shop – about 14 miles out, I felt my rear wheel go out of true and wanted them to get it sorted so I could cycle down the coast to a beach tomorrow. However, the wheel was totay written off – one of the spokes had pulled through the rim. According to the guy at the shop I was lucky it didn’t collapse on the way into town, talk about divine providence – my bike just lasted the distance. So the shop are now going to pack up my bike for the return trip. Tomorrow I’m going to get a bus down the coast 16 miles to a beach, so I can finally get a proper look at the ocean. Astoria is on the coast, but it’s a port at the mouth of the Columbia, so there’s no real access to the sea.

Posted by: pickupel | June 1, 2010

The Columbia River Gorge

31/05/2010

I set off this morning optimistically dressed in my basic cycling shorts and jersey as it was warmer than it’s been in a while – soon enough though I was wrapped up in my wet weather gear getting saturated, I didn’t mind too much though, as the wind stayed clam. It’s typical that today, when I was passing through the Columbia River Gorge (a natural wind tunnel renown for strong winds being channeled from the ocean) that it was calm wheras the last few days it’s been a nightmare. It felt awesome to not have a headwind – by putting in less effort than I have over the last three days, I was acheiving nearly double the speed! I had been going for a couple of hours when I saw another cyclist in front of me, I quickly caught up and pulled along side – only for him to shout at me to go away! He looked really annoyed about something, and I just accelerated away leaving him in my wake. About 10 minutes later I came across another cyclist who looked a bit lost, so I gave her directions, and we rode next to each other for about half an hour talking. She was a teaher from Portland, who was taking part in a two day tour organized by her cycle club – apparently the other guy was too, and wouldn’t talk to her when she passed him. I told her about my trip, and she couldn’t beleive how far I’d come – she’d done some week long tours before, and said she was exhausted just after doing those. She kept pace until we hit a hill, and then I left her behind – after the mountains these small hills don’t even register. Still it was nice to have a bit of company for a while. Soon after I left her, I got another puncture, caused by a bit of glass – I made the repair, but it was difficult in the rain, and I was amazed that the repair stuck, as I couldn’t avoid getting grit inside the tyre.

The gorge is supposed to be awesome, but I didn’t see much of it today, with the driving rain, and low cloud obscuring the landscape. I’d planned on taking a detour up a hill taut was supposed to have awesome views over the gorge, but with the weather here didn’t seem to be much point, so I pressed on until I hit portland. Portland is supposed to be a cycle friendly city with 10% of commuters getting to work on bikes. Still it was a nightmare just to get across half of it. I had a nightare findin somewhere to stay with prices being extortionate, but I eventually wondered into a Best Western (usually expensive) and when they heard what I’ve done, they let me stay in a jacuzzi suite for the price of a regular room! I had to spend a bit of time on the interstate today, and my tyres took a bit of a battering, so I spent this afternoon taking bits of glass out of them to try and prevent any more punctures. If everything goes to plan I should reach the Pacific tomorrow – so I really am near the end of my challenge.

Posted by: pickupel | May 31, 2010

Flats

30/05/2010

Before I’d even set foot outside this morning I had a setback: last night I had taken off both tyres and tubes, and had checked that they were intact and good to go. Despite my precautions, I noticed that the front tyre was flat while I was loading my bike. I took the tube out, and inspected it but couldn’t find a problem – to be safe I replaced the tube anyway, and pumped the tyre up. Despite the repairs I was off by 06.10 expecting another day fighting the wind – I wasn’t disappointed, and although it wasn’t as bad as yesterday, it was just as persistant.

The area I cycles through this morning is designated as a desert, and it lived up to it’s name – barren and arid. Although, it wasn’t hot with the tempertature around 12°. Soon enough I dropped down onto the banks of the Columbia river, and followed it for the remainder of the day. The Columbia River Gorge is awesome, with rugged cliffs dropping straight down to the wide river. I’m passing through the cascades at he moment – the last mountain range before the ocean, although I won’t have to do any climbing. Following the Columbia River is the only way to avoid the mountians, as such the River is a major commerce route – with an interstate and the Union Pacific train line packed along it’s banks, not to mention the freight barges travelling the river itself. Despite the activity within the gorge it doesn’t appear cluttered – a testament to the scale of the river. This makes for some awesome views, with mountains up to 12,000 feet visable from the gorge.

Despite the wind, I made pretty good time today – and was honing in on ‘The Dalles’ – my destination by 13.00 having done 70 miles. I was about 10 miles out at this stage, and was looking forward to getting off the bike, but another puncture stopped my in my tracks. I repaired it and finnished off the remaining miles, however I had to top the tyre up with air twice to maintain enough pressure – I obviously had a slow-leak puncture.

I spent the afternoon going over both tyres again, and repairing inner-tubes. The front was fine – I still don’t know why it went flat, and the tube that was in the tyre last night is holding air wih no sign of a puncture. The rear tyre had been punctured by a peice of wire, causing a slow leak, with the pressure falling I got a pinch flat. I’ve taken the peice of wire out of the tyre, and have now switched the tyres around, as the rear one looks like it’s on it’s last legs, having now done nearly 2,000 miles! I just hope they hold up for the last few days of the trip.

Posted by: pickupel | May 30, 2010

Oregon

28/95/2010

I had hoped after yesterday that the weather would improve, and while I had clear skies today, the wind was worse than ever. I was up at 05.00 as per usual after another good nights sleep, and was feeling positive about the day ahead.

I cycled through the Walla Walla valley this morning, which is apparently famous for wine making and I passed at least a dozen wineries along the way, all largely commercialized and targeted at tourists. The wind made for slow, tough going today – it really drains you physically and mentally. After several hours hard grind, I joined the Columbia river which I’ll be following to the coast. It’s an awesome river, far bigger than I expected, and has carved a deep channel in the landscape which made for a great view. It’s the fourth largest river in the US and has a drainage basin the size of France! Soon after i’d started to follow the river I crossed the boarder into Oregon – my final state. Since I started the trip, when people have asked where I’m going I’ve consistantly replied ‘Oregon’ – now that I’ve arrived I’m going to have to be more specific! After enjoying the moment, I pushed on into the relentless wind, moving slowly but steadly toward the sea. Shortly after I passed two couples about five minutes apart – the first were on their first day and are cycling from the local town of Umatilla to North Dakota. The second couple started in Astoria and are cycling across the north of the country to Bar Harbour, Maine. Both sets were flying with a serious tailwind – one of the guys told me that they’d been able to coast for 70 miles with minimal effort the day before, which did nothing to improve my mood.

Throught the day the wind got stronger and stronger, and I it slower as fatigue set in. I got to within 1 mile if my destination, Boardman, when I had my first flat since Virginia – after a hasty repair I finally made it, and was soon ensconced in a motel, enjoying a well earned shower. I think the wind is set to continue for a couple of days – so I’ll just have to dig deep, and bear in mind that I don’t have far to go now.

Posted by: pickupel | May 29, 2010

Slow Progress

28/05/2010

I fell asleep last night at around 17.00, and woke up still fully dressed to my alarm at 05.00! I was exhausted last night but 12 hours sleep did it’s job and I felt fresh this morning with a great breakfast helping to prepare me for a big day.

After a nice easy first ten miles following the river out of Clarkston, I turned away from it’s banks and started climbing. A couple of days ago I met Richard, another cyclist, who told me that just going down this hill had persuaded him to change his plan and head across the north of America to try an avoid the worst of the Rockies. So I was expecting it to be bad, and while it was long and steep it was nowhere as challenging as some of the moutain passes I’ve tackled and 2,500 feet later I was at the top. As I crested the top of the hill, wide areas of farmland stretched away to my right, and I realized that this was the first time since Eastern Colorado that I’ve seen a landscape without a mountain of some discription in it.

From there I dropped down into another river valley running through the plains, as soon as I entered it I was hit by a crushing 20mph headwind which, despite my frequent protests, persisted for the rest of the day. The wind was soon accompanied by rain and while it wasn’t as heavy as yesterday it was whipped into my face by the wind making it hard to see. The wind made for slow progress, but I dug deep and managed to maintain quite a good average speed untill my next big climb. This one really took it out of me – the combination of a steep grade, and the ever present wind made it a real grind. When I finally made it to the top, 1500ft later I was treated to a nice steady decent to Dayton – usually I would be able to coast down that kind of hill, but I was peddaling hard just to keep moving forward! The landscape today was a lot like the English countryside, with small fields and hedgerows – so the rain was fitting in that respect! About 10 miles outside Walla Walla, my destination, he wind relented a bit, and suddenly I was moving again – in no time I was ensconced in a Mcdonald’s wolfing down a burger and enjoying being out of the wet.

I hope tomorrow is a bit better weatherwise, but I don’t have anything like today’s 102 miles to cover, so I should have an easier day. I’m going to get another good nights sleep as that seems to be the key to success.

Posted by: pickupel | May 28, 2010

Washington

27/05/2010

I was up about half an hour later than usual – I think it’s a mark of fatigue that I’m finding it harder to get up on time but, despite the delay, I was on the road by 07.00 after a great breakfast.

It rained all day today, and I was soaked within about five minutes – thankfully my new gloves and overshoes did their job, and kept my hands and feet warm. I followed route 12 along the banks of the snake river today, and while the views were better than yesterday I had no time to enjoy them. Not only was the rain torrential, but the road was awful – it was small and winding, with heavy traffic making matters worse. When cars passed they couldn’t give me much room, meaning i got treated to a wave of dirty water every 30 seconds plus logging trucks whizzing by about a foot away doesn’t make for pleasant cycling even in nice weather.

Just about the only good thing I can say about the ride today is that it was short and after 65 miles I made it to Lewiston, where the road widened but the traffic increased in density. It took me another hour to get across the city, where I crossed the river into Washington, the penultimate state of the journey. Crossing the river took me into Clarkston, another city that has merged into Lewiston.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to dry out, whilst waching the storm blow past outside – I just hope the weather is better tomorrow.

Posted by: pickupel | May 27, 2010

The Lochsa River

26/05/2010

I spent yesterday evening having supper with Tim, Ruth, and Jane. They are all retired teachers, and had done some cycle touring in the UK and Cuba prior to doing this trip. Tim and Ruth are riding a tandem bike, but aren’t carrying any kit (as they have the support van). They prearrange points throught the day to meet Jane who cooks for them – so they have 3 hot meals a day with no effort! Thanks to crossing over to Pacific Time yesterday I had an exta hours sleep, so when I woke up I felt fresh and refreshed.

I was on the road for 06.00 – the first couple of hours were great, I was slowly losing altitude and so could maintain a great average speed. One advantage to starting the day 60 miles from civilization is that the roads are empty for most of the morning – I didn’t see a single car in the first hour of today’s journey. I spent the entire day following the Lochsa River which made for stunning, if slightly monotonous cycling. The road was so winding, and the forest so dense that there were stretches today where I could go for hours and only see the 100ft directly in front of me. There were places however, where the trees thined and I could see the sparkling river flowing beneath the vertiginous slopes of rock and timber – the vibrant green shades of the trees were in direct contrast to the more arid terrain I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. I crossed the northern edge of one of the largest areas of wilderness remaining in the world – to the south there was nothing for over 200 miles. Highway 12 parallels the Lolo Trail which was used by the famous exlorers Lewis and Clark, who became the first white men to enter Idaho in 1805. The expedition undertaken by their corps of discovery’ travelled over 8000 miles between May 1804 and September 1806 exploring the land Jefferson bought from Napoleon in the Louisiana Purchase. The trail was also used by the Nez Percé Indians as a buffalo trail, until they were forced of their lands by the whites.

After 70 miles of nothing I came to Lowell, I hadn’t planned on stopping, but I saw two loaded bikes leaned outside the store, and so went over to say hi. Eric and Dave from Alaska, started in Astoria, and are riding to New York via southern Illinois. They looked in quite bad shape despite not having come too far, and weren’t the most talkative pair. They were both wearing casual clothes that didn’t look like it would cope too well with the weather up in the mountains and Eric had a big hole in one of his panniers courtesy of a pitbull in Portland. It’s funny talking to cyclists planning on crossing the northern US – they are all petrified of the mountains, despite only having to cross the continental divide once. After meeting them, I pushed on through several small towns until I reached Kamiah where I’m spending the night. I just managed to beat the rain which rolled in around 14.00 and has kept up a steady downpour all afternoon. I don’t have too far to go tomorrow so I should be able to rest my legs after a big day today.

Posted by: pickupel | May 26, 2010

Idaho

25/05/2010

I had intended to get up at normal time this morning, bit at 05.00 this morning I lacked the resolve – knowing that I only had 60 miles to do. I was up at 06.00 and out by 07.00, feeling rested and full after one of the best free breakfasts all trip.

For a change it was both warm and dry this morning (although I was still clad in my full cold weather gear!) and I felt fresh climbing up from Missoula to Lolo, about 8 miles down the road. From Lolo I turned off the beaten path and into the wilderness, from there the next town of any note is over 100 miles away. I had the last mountain pass of the trip to tackle, and climbed for over 30 miles to get to Lolo Pass and the boarder with Idaho – fortunately only the last 8 miles were steep, and I made it to the top without much trouble. Crossig the boarder into Idaho also marked my tranisition to pacific time – the last of the 4 time zones i have to cross! The views on the Idaho side of the pass were much better than the ones coming up the Montana side, where all I could see was the dense forest lining the road. Coming down from the pass I spotted another cyclist climbing up the hill – I crossed the road, and chatted to him. Rich who is retired and in his 60s is cycling from Astoria Oregon to Bar Harbour Maine across the northern US. He had origionally planned to follow the transam trail, but had decided on the back of some tough climbs from the coast that he couldn’t handle the Rockies – so Lolo Pass is about as big as it gets from him. He had taken the same alternative route that I’m riding, and told me that it’s an awesome ride – especially as it’s mainly downhill for me! About 10 minutes after meeting him I arrived at Lochsa Lodge, where I had planned to spend the night. At this stage I was thinking about going to Kooskia 90 miles away today, as I was making good time – I decided to go in and get some lunch before I decided whether or not to push on. I had just sat down when 5 other cyclists came in – they were all students from the university of Kansas and are cycling across the northern US to Boston. It was great having lunch with them, and hearing about their ride so far – as I’m about to tackle what they’ve just riden over the next couple of days. I traded one of my waterbottles with one of the guys – so I now have a souvenir from Kansas.

Having spent a while at the resturant, I decided to stay here overnight. It’s a great place, the cabins are comfortable and rustic, and the main lodge has a brilliant atmousphere. I showered and settled in, and then wondered back to the lodge, planning on reading by the fire. No sooner had I arrived when Jane came in – she is from Durham, and is driving a support van for two friends from Christchurch who are cycling the transam trail in reverse from Astoria to Yorktown. I spent the afternoon talking to them, and swapping stories – it’s been great today, I think I’ve done more talking than I have in the rest of the trip combined. I’ve got a big day tomorrow, but it’s mainly downhill, so it should be a nice ride trough the woods.

Posted by: pickupel | May 25, 2010

The Adventure Cycling Association

24/05/2010

It was a mark of how tired I’ve been that I managed to sleep in until 07.00 this morning. It felt particularly good not to have to get out of bed straight away, but it lost it’s appeal fairly quickly and I decided to go for a walk and have a look around Missoula. Missoula is university city, and so has a virtue uncommon in America – it’s not necessary to own a car! The shops and ammenities are close enough together to be within comforatable walking distance, and it was great to stroll pass small local shops and cafés, without seeing a single Mcdonald’s. It rained all day today, a sort of steady drizzel that never developed into anything more threatening, and after I got fed up of being wet I stopped and had breakfast at a great local diner.

I took my bike over to a local bike shop this morning and had them take a look at it to make sure that nothing was about to give up. I was pleased to be told that nothing major needed doing, and that the chain and rear casette were still going strong. They gave it a tune-up and replaced the rear brake cable and rear tyre, both of which were worn out. I then wondered over to the headquaters of the Adventure Cycling Association. The ACA grew from the organization of ‘Bikecentennial’ – a tour across the US in 1976, to commemorate the bicentennial of America’s Declaration of Independence. The route they took then is now the Transam Trail. Since 1976 the ACA has grown both in size and responsibily and has created a growing network of bike routes spanning the US. It was great to talk to the guys there, including Greg Siple, one of the founders. I talked to them about the last leg of the trip, and am going to follow their advice on an alternate finish to the route. Instead of going down into central Oregon and then up the coast, I’m going to cut north into Washington, and then follow the Columbia river valley to Astoria, where the Columbia reaches the sea. This route has the advantages of being relatively flat, more direct, and taking in some awesome scenery. They rely on cyclists for a lot of there information, so I was able to I’ve them some advice on bits that have worked well, and bots that haven’t – I raised the section through Jeffrey City in Wyoming, and apparently they are developing an alternate route as they get a lot of complaints about the current one.

I met a couple from Costa Rica while I was there – they are cycling across country from West to East and have taken the same alternative that I’m taking, so could tell me about the route ahead. It was funny to hear them talk about the climb up to Lolo Pass that I’ve got to takle tomorrow – for them it was there first big climb and they had evidently been worried about it, but for me it’s the last mountain pass on route and is nothing compared to any of the big climbs I’ve done so far (on paper at least). Before I left the ACA, I signed their guest book and had my picture taken for their magizine (to which I get a free years subscription for making it this far).

Over the last few days my gloves and overshoes have been leaking, leading to cold hands and feet making for some pretty miserable cycling. So I set out this afternoon to find some replacements – this proved to be a challenge, as none of the numerous outdoors and cycling shops carried much of a selection – I found this strange for a city this far north woth a strong reputation for outdoor persuits. Eventually I managed to track down both, so should now be more comforatble over the next week or so.

I am heading out into the wilderness for the last time tomorrow, and so have a relatively short day – after 60 miles there is a strech of 70 miles with no human presence at all, so that dictates how far I’ll be going over the next couple of days.

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