Coast to Coast Ride

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alameda - We gave up! After a week of riding in the rain and looking at a forecast of more rain ahead, we called it quits in Depoe Bay, Oregon, 500-some miles from our start. We weren't having good views because of the clouds and mist. Nobody wanted to stop for a photo in the rain. There was nobody on the street to observe or talk to. We didn't want to camp in the rain and we were too cold and wet to sit around when we did camp. Perhaps it was a sign when Michele took advantage of the hot air hand-dryer in a supermarket restroom. She fitted her sleeve cuffs over the air outlet and blew hot air through the sleeves to dry out. Time to go

Getting home from Depoe Bay wasn't all that easy. We needed a vehicle to carry three people and three bicycles for a one-way rental to another state. Michele and I took a taxi twelve miles to Newport. We rented a small car there and drove two hours to the Eugene airport. We rented an SUV at Eugene and drove both cars two hours back to Newport. We dropped off rental car #1 and picked up Roy and the bicycles. Then we drove eleven hours home to Alameda, arriving about 4 AM.

To resume the story of the Astoria bridge, the final section of the bridge is a 400-foot climb at about a ten percent grade. The wind was blowing

around 35 mph from the west. Wobbling to begin with, I was being blown into the traffic lane; my lighter-weight colleagues even more so. We were all reduced to pushing the bikes as the traffic roared past inches away. A stinging rain resumed as we reached the top. I thought it was curtains for sure, but we survived. The angels look after little children and fools.

Some highlights from the trip:
The Pacific County courthouse in South Bend, Washington. Here's the dome viewed from the inside.

The Marine Museum at Astoria, Oregon. The mouth of the Columbia is called the "Graveyard of the Pacific" because of the terrible weather, the currents from the river and tides, and the frequently-changing sandbars. There are over 2000 known sinkings in the area. The most dramatic exhibits relate to the Coast Guard attempts to rescue crews in distress. Three separate Coast Guard vessels sank in a storm trying to rescue the crew of the fishing boat Mermaid. The captain of a Soviet-era freighter refused to be evacuated from his grounded ship until the ship began to break up. His concerns for what would happen when he got home may
have been well-founded; he was never heard from again.

At Quilcene, Washington, feelings run high about protection for endangered species interfering with logging.

Watching Roy change in and out of his foul weather gear.

The sky at Manzanita, Oregon

Michele says maybe try riding coast to coast again, Southern route, in a couple years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Astoria Oregon - Every day of the rest of our lives will be on borrowed time! Yesterday's ride finished with as terrifying an experience as I can remember.

The weather has been declining since we left Port Townsend. We rode along the "Hood Canal", a natural channel that runs south to Hoodsport. Light rain fell intermittently. Hoodsport surprised me by having only one motel, a delapidated structure that felt like I would go through the floor if I stomped on the floor. The operator was very kind and let us use the laundry facilities as a freebie. 63 miles.

Hoodsport to Westport was a killer. 81 miles. Sunshine, light rain, and heavy rain interspersed throughout the day. Some headwind and a coarse road surface which required a lot of effort for pedaling. We stopped in the tiny farm town of McCleary for lunch. The waitress immediately offered us towels to dry off. The oldsters guzzling coffee had a lot of hilarity over our condition. We took a backroad through Elma and Montesano. We turned onto Highway 12, more or less an expressway with a lot of fast traffic. A domestic chicken foraging along the edge of the road fled at our approach. Michele made us stop until the chicken could make its way around us for fear that the chicken would dart into the roadway. Roy had a flat in a cold rain at Aberdeen. The last 19 miles seemed endless. Arrived at 7:30 after eleven hours on the road. My brother met us at a motel in Westport and drove us to his RV for an excellent clam chowder his wife had ready for us. We were too exhausted to be much company.

The weather forecast was for a big storm to come in around noon. We debated staying in Westport. We decided to make a run to Raymond about 30 miles away in expectation of arriving before the storm. Lots of frogs singing in the wetlands along the way. We got to Raymond wet but without much trouble because there was not yet any wind. The one dingy motel in Raymond had a couple of rooms, but the clerk couldn't find any keys. She coninued her cell phone conversation the whole time we tried to get a room. We gave up and pushed on to South Bend, five miles farther. Beautiful motel in a little fishing village. The wind came up about 4 pm. Huge gusts of wind. The news reported blasts over 60 mph at Westport and Greyland.

The next morning began with hail and heavy rain. I would have just stayed voer in our cozy motel room but Roy coaxed me into riding for Astoria. Lovely riding along 101, 4 and 401, much of it right along the water. Occasional rain. By the time we approached the Astoria-Megler Bridge across the Columbia River, however, we were riding directly into the wind. I struggled to maintain 5 mph on the flat. The causeway and bridge combinded are 4.2 miles long. The bridge rises 400 feet over the main channel. We turned onto the causeway, now crosswise to the wind. The bridge has one lane of heavy traffic in each direction with a two-foot bike lane. [Sorry to leave you cliff-hanging, but the library is closing down the computers.]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Orcas Island is horseshoe-shaped. We were camped at the far end from the ferry terminal. We got up at five so as to be able to grind over the hills in time to catch the ferry at nine. We arrived in plenty of time only to find that the ferry was about an hour late. We took advantage of the time to have a big breakfast at the cafe. We had the unusual experience of seeing angels on Orcas.

The ride from Anacortes to Ft. Worden State Park at Port Townsend was another experience of climbing out of one cove just to coast into the next cove. The best part of the ride was Deception Pass, the narrow channel separating Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island. Very dramatic setting. The bridge is so narrow that we were afraid to ride across - we walked.

Port Townsend is lovely. Old buildings beautifully restored. Camped at Fort Worden. We arrived too late for the office. Cold wind blowing. We were freezing. There are hot showers but you need to buy tokens to work them. Roy, the boy genius, tracked down the camp host and bought some tokens to save our lives.

We took the train up to Seattle. The ride was much more comfortable (and cheaper when traveling with a bicycle) than flying, but 23 hours was a long time to be cooped up even in the roomy train. How romantic to hear the conductor call out "All aboard!"

We arrived around 9 PM. We left our boxed bicycles and gear in the luggage room and straggled our tired bodies to the American Hotel, a youth hostel. The room was very clean, utterly spartan. Nothing but a metal-framed bunkbed. Good value for money.

In the morning, we took the train to Mount Vernon. The guy sitting across from us turned out to be a former Alamedan. We assembled the bikes and baggage on the platform. How can we have so much stuff?! Ominously, one of my tires was already flat. That fixed, we set off for the Anacortes ferry. That area seems to be the bulb-growing capitol of the world. We passed fields of iris blooming purple.

The ferry carried us across sparkling waters to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The first thing we learned about bicycling in the San Juan Islands is that there is no flat land in the San Juan Islands. Every inch was either a granny-gear grinding ascent or a terrifying descent. The weirdness award goes to McMillin family. The family owned the lime works at Roche Harbor, then the biggest lime works west of the Mississippi. When San Francisco was rebuilt after the quake, McMillin lime made the concrete. The family built a mausoleum in the form of a Grecian temple surrounding a dinner table. There's a chair for each family member at the table. The ashes of each family member are contained in his/her chair seat.

In 1859, there were American settlers on San Juan Island along with representatives of the English Hudson's Bay Company. An American shot a pig belonging to the Company because the pig was rooting in the American's potato patch. This led to the "Pig War" in which ownership of the San Juan Islands was at stake between the US and Britain. A British military outpost occupied one end of the island while an American outpost occupied the other end. The standoff last for thirteen years before being settled by diplomacy.

On Orcas Island, we found a farmers' market in progress. We had barbequed oysters and yakked with cyclists from the Vancouver BC cycling club. Camped at Moran State Park.

Greetings from South Bend, Washington. We are holed up in a motel in expectation of what the weather reports forecast to be a "winter storm" with gusts of up to 60 mph and snow levels falling to 3000 feet.

More to follow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tomorrow the adventure begins anew. Michele, Roy, and I will board a train for Seattle, arriving on Wednesday evening, Amtrak willing. The next day we will take another train to Mount Vernon, Washington. From there we will pedal to Anacortes for a ferry to the San Juan Islands, the actual start of our ride. We'll take three weeks or so to pedal back to Alameda along the Pacific coast. One or two friends may join us for a day or two along the way.

We had intended to get in some practice riding with weight for fitness. Naturally, that never happened. We'll have to develop our fitness on the road.

I've been worried about the weather. I hope not to be riding in a cold rain. I'm anxious to start riding instead of worrying.

I'll try to post updates and pictures from the road as the opportunity for internet access arises.