Prologue > Trans Am Ride from York Town, Virginia to Seaside, Oregon 2012

As we saunter our last 180 miles up to Seattle and flights home it has given me time to reflect on our fabulous journey across one of the worlds largest continents. True, many people attempt and complete the trip every year and many go on to travel further distances still, but to me, a middle aged guy who only really commuted to work interspersed with the odd day ride, the completion of this particular journey has been very special. We have travelled through 11 states, the beautifully manicured Virginia, canine capers in Kentucky, hilly Illinois, the infamous Ozarks in Missouri, wild and windy Kansas, stunning but fire ridden Colorado, windy Wyoming, our favourite, beautiful Montana, bleak Idaho, tree lined Washington and finally bike loving Oregon. We were truly privileged to experience a spectacular ride across the USA following for the most part, small quiet backwater roads that really brought us close to the American people and its unique culture. Despite its problems with its gun laws we never once felt intimidated or threatened in any way and only came across true hospitality and genuine friendship wherever we went. The weather played its part with day after day of hot and sunny weather with only 3 days of rain affected riding during the entire trip. Whilst sounding idyllic, the thought of completing 70 + miles in 100° F temperatures and then sleeping in a sweat ridden tent soon wore a little thin! However, the more we travelled West the cooler it eventually came until Oregon when we had to even ride in arm and leg warmers. The roads were generally good with wide roads for the most part and despite reports to the contrary the standard of driving from all parts of the transport spectrum was courteous, even from heavily laden trucks eager to get to their destination. Hopefully the 600 or so daily readers of my posts have enjoyed reading my thoughts and I must apologise for any inconsistencies in the standard of grammar, punctuation or spelling but after the critters nicked my reading glasses and then trying to type on a 9” net book in a variety of dimly lit locations I am surprised anything I wrote made any sense! Well there you have it, and true to form this trip wouldn’t of been made possible without the support of my riding companions, Miles and especially Alan, a quiet unassuming chap who rode with me for most of the trip. A big thank you to all the kind souls that have afforded me words of encouragement and support either from the pages of Facebook or my blog. Finally my family and especially my wife Caroline who has supported me wholeheartedly during the trip and without her it would of not been possible. Now for the begging part! As you are hopefully aware the purpose of the trip was to raise funds for UK and US service charities and many thanks and immense gratitude to those that have already donated and if you were one of those who were waiting for me to finish, now’s your chance to donate which you can do securely, via my web page.

Here are some statistics:

1

Puncture

2

Wheels on my superb Thorn Club Tourer

3

Days of rain

7

Rest days

9

Stays in Motels

11

States travelled through

68

Riding days

 

And finally,

4064

miles travelled…………..

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Day 75 Clatskanie>Seaside 57 Miles

The day started like the majority of other days on this trip with the now regular routine of packing away tents and camping ancillaries in a now predetermined order and the quest for early morning sustenance. This morning was a bit of a treat as the local sports bar in downtown Clatskanie had both the Tour De France and the Open on the TV so we were glued to the set whilst eating our official substantial breakfast. Alan was determined to see the end of the Open so I opted for a gentle start towards our end point of the trip, Seaside. The day was cool with drizzle in the air as I headed for Westport along gently undulating roads. The bike as ever felt as smooth as the first day of the trip and is a testament to the fine bike builders down in the West Country of the UK in producing excellent touring frames that can endure constant pounding on a variety of road surfaces. The wind started to get up as I started the first of little climbs and I nearly had to dig my waterproofs out of the panniers as a series of short but heavy showers made me feel like I was cycling in the UK! The road was good but uninspiring and my mind started to think back to different days of the trip and attempting to put places to names but unfortunately it just becomes a jumble because of the huge amount of information to decipher. However, what is so clear in my mind is the fantastic amount of friendship and hospitality afforded to us by a huge number of people, mostly total strangers who see cyclists and want to offer shelter and help. Additionally, the many fellow cyclists we have seen who are riding for many different causes and their distances and quests often dwarf our own. Anyway, my own ride carries on and a quick pit stop in Knappa Junction is followed by more showers and hills until I cruise in to Astoria, a major seaside town on the edge of the Columbia River. A slightly confusing route takes me around the town until I cross the estuary towards Miles Crossing and the last leg of my journey. The road narrows and becomes very quiet for the next 20 miles until after a sharp climb I descend in to Seaside, and after passing the traditional shops that grace seaside towns the world over, pitch up to the statue of my pals Lewis & Clark looking out to the Pacific. With a lump in my throat I asked an American family to take my photo and then I foolishly decided to walk my bike down to the sea which was only 500 yards away to dip my front wheel in the Pacific as I had put the back wheel in the Atlantic back in May. But a heavy touring bike coupled with very soft sand made the whole exercise extremely difficult but I eventually managed it for the obligatory photo and got bike and feet wet in the bargain. Well what now? After a couple of beers tonight, we will make a start to ride up to Seattle, about 180 miles away to fly home. I will post one last time once I have got my thoughts together and then thats it! Thanks to all those that have followed me over the months, I have appreciated your support.

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Day 73 Portland >Rest Day & Day 74 Portland (Vancouver) > Clatskanie 62 Miles

Good stop in the Bike Hostel with comfortable beds and close to town for food etc. Decided to stop only one night as we met another cyclist, Bolko Graf von Hasligen, (‘BO‘) formally from Germany but now living in the US for the past forty years. As we were coming in to Portland over the bridge we got chatting and he immediately offered us a place to stay at his place back in Vancouver. So the next day he picked us up from the hostel in his car and gave us a whistle stop tour of the Portland area, followed by a couple of beers down by the waterfront and then back to his great house. After a comfortable nights sleep in another real bed and a superb breakfast prepared by our host we re-navigated our way back over the river on a bike path next to Highway 5 and then using the St Johns Bridge to get back on SR 30 and the Lewis & Clark trail once again. The weather was good with no real wind to speak of and the road, whilst a little busy, had a wide shoulder to cycle on. which took us past Burlington and then Scappoose where we had a quick drink stop as we were still full from our breakfast. Losing sight of the Columbia River, our companion for so long we came to Warren and then St Helens were we met Lewis, another Cyclist who had just travelled thousands of miles but was busy thinking about his next venture to Thailand in a couple of weeks! The road started to get undulating but with a days rest and some good food in us we quickly moved on until a larger hill which looked over to Longview on the Washington side, made us work a little harder in the midday heat. We were rewarded with a good descent in to Clatskanie and the town park our resting place tonight. Just a mere 50 odd miles to cover tomorrow before we hit the end of our journey across the USA, so hopefully a leisurely start tomorrow (sprinklers permitting!) and then on to Astoria followed by a route to Seaside, our end point.

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Day 72 Bingen>Portland 77 Miles

Good stay in the RV park in Bingen apart from being stung for a shower at 25 cents for 2 minutes, so an ops shower was the order of the day. (water on, water off shampoo on, water on etc). However, got our monies worth at the all you can eat pizza buffet in town where we literally grazed on the superb range on offer for most of the night as we were definitely in calorie deficit after the days hard ride. Expecting the same for our ride in to Portland, our biggest city so far on the route and early indications were right as the SW wind was picking up and threatening to make it another tough day, but as we progressed along the gorge more and more trees were obscuring the wind and literally after an hour we were nicely sheltered. Had to navigate more of the little tunnels but as the traffic was relatively light it didn’t prove to be a problem. All in all we were glad we opted for this route as opposed to the I84 as it looked busy from our vantage point across the gorge. Had a couple of climbs to contend with but with 4000 miles in our legs proved to be no problem and gave us a great lookout down the river.. Passed Beacon Rock, a large vertical stack obviously very popular with climbers and made good progress past lots of little towns settled near the water. Had one of those annoying rubbing noises on the bike that I couldn’t trace and was worried that a spoke had gone, as yesterday I nearly came off when I hit a large rock on the shoulder when I was looking else where. But everything looks ok and will need further investigation later on. Approaching Portland we needed to check the ACA maps carefully as there was a slightly complicated route through Washougal due to road works and then when we had to navigate our way on to the I205 which traverses the gorge back to Oregon. The bike path over the bridge, whilst efficient sits in the middle of 8 lanes of traffic, quite intimidating! Further complicated navigation in Portland took us finally to the Bike friendly Bike Hostel our shelter for the night. Hit the magic 4000 miles on the bike computer today with roughly another 100+miles to go. Planning a rest stop tomorrow and then a final push over the next few days. Watch this space…………

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Day 71 West Roosevelt>Bingen 70 Miles

I think it was Alan who put the mockers on it when he said “at last looks like a quiet night in our idyllic little campground close to the waters edge“. Unfortunately not to be as the Americans quest for green healthy grass comes to haunt us once again with the onset of the mutant sprinkler systems. It started at 01.30 when I heard Alan’s tent getting a good soaking and with a chuckle thought I was safe. Not to be, my turn was at 02.30 and hacked off with the intermittent noise I vacated with mat and sleeping bag to a safe haven near the rest rooms. All was well until 04.30 when I got a direct salvo from a well hidden head less than 2 feet away which soaked me and my down sleeping bag. Fed up with the whole situation I made a cup of tea and watched the sun come up over the river. Popped in to the diner to get a couple of items for today’s ride and the lady that told us about the campground, apologised for not informing us about the sprinklers and the Skunks! I replied that unless they had rain coats they wouldn’t be a problem. Met a nice chap called Brian who kindly supplied us with some fresh water as the tap water was awful and gave us some good gen regarding winds, routes etc. Consequently, that was to be our problem today as a fresh, sometimes gusting NW wind was on our nose from the off as we followed the river to our destination of Bingin nearly 70 miles away. For the first 25 miles or so we took it in turns to take the front which helped our progress significantly and luckily the mountains kept the worse of the wind away for a time after that. We climbed quite a lot and at many points in the day looked down over the river to the I84 which looked flat. and uninteresting. At one point we bizarrely passed Stonehenge, a full sized replica of the complete ring of stones before the hippies got to it! More climbs gave us a tremendous view of the John Day Dam and the entire Columbia river going on for miles in either direction and our first glimpse of Mt Hood What was starting to take its toll was the incessant wind which was starting to seriously hamper progress with many a mile in the granny ring even on downhill stretches which can be really demoralising! We also started to come across the many tunnels that line this route with cyclists required to press a button which sets of warning lights in the tunnel to inform other drivers. After a well earned drink and cake in a garage in Murdoch which was also supplemented by a box of freshly picked cherries given to us by the owner, boy they tasted good and gave us fresh impetus to carry on. Eventually, after nearly 70 miles and 7 hours in the saddle we reached Bingen and an RV park on the other side of town. Apparently, more of the same tomorrow with high winds expected against us to Portland ,our next stop.

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Day 70 Umatilla>West Roosevelt 50 Miles

Good timing again last night as we went in to town to the local truck stop (good food and lots of it1) and returned just as another mega thunderstorm hit the area with great ferocity. So scrambled in the tent at 19.00, ipod on, and drifted off to sleep after the thunderstorm had passed, I presume before about 21.00. So early start today to try and get some miles in before any wind hampered our progress. Bit of a quandary as to which route to take as our preferred road, the SR 14 had suffered a major landslide a couple of days before blocking both the road and railroad with tons of mud and rubble due to the exceptionally high rainfall they have had in the pass week or so. Luckily for us however, a quick search on the internet indicated that they had cleared the road and it was open again that morning. We are attempting to avoid Interstate 84 on the Oregon side as its too busy with heavy traffic and generally hillier than the SR14. So set off with light winds and soon crossed, after a little deliberation, the Plymouth bridge back in to Washington passing to our right, the McNary Dam in the distance. A bike path and then a local quiet road then led us to the SR 14 which was light in traffic due I presume to the past closure of the road and we continued unabated on a fairly wide shoulder close to the Columbia River. Services are few and far between on this side of the river so frequent stops were the order of the day for water and cereal bars which appear to be our staple diet on the road! Came to the site of the landslide and all that was left were mounds of earth at the side of the highway, a newly laid road surface and some dusty trails of dust to contend with. Hats off to the US transport department for sorting it out so quick, maybe our road system could learn something from them? It was clearly evident that a stretch of road about 10 miles long had suffered some very heavy flooding with hundreds of tons of mud being displaced down the mountain sides. On we continued with a healthy pace as again the wind had dropped and even at one point, coming around on our backs as we entered West Roosevelt, a little haven with a well stocked diner, store and an excellent little campground tucked down on the river with all mod cons! Hopefully a quiet night here but further thunderstorms are forecast tonight, so high ground and no trees are the order of the day.

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Day 69 Walla Walla>Umatilla 57 Miles

Excellent stay at our Warm Showers hosts Dan and Alison in their lovely home in the suburbs of Walla Walla. Big garden to pitch our tents on and plenty of places to chill out and while away the afternoon. It was clear that Dan, a connoisseur of local beers was keen to share his love of the amber nectar and invited us around to his local for a beer or two. However, the beer, from a micro brewery in Waitsburg was coming in at around 8% so we had to be careful with the amount we drunk but nevertheless we had a good evening chatting about our travel stories and generally putting the world to right. With some good directions from Dan we edged out of town not before we stopped at Tommy’s, a favoured truck stop of his and had a monster breakfast that would see us good for most of the day. Benign weather conditions today with non-existent winds, overcast skies and a slight downhill aided our route towards Touchet where we stopped to replenish cereal bars. The riding was feeling good today with rested legs after our short ride yesterday and the lure of the finish uppermost in our minds. Carried on Highway 12 before turning off on Highway 730 which hugs the Columbia River and will be our companion on and off for the remainder of our journey. Met 3 cyclists from California who were going to New York and were mighty impressed with the miles we had covered so far. I gave them our blog address so they can see where we stayed on our route across. . Further on we crossed in to Oregon, our last state of the trip but we will pass back and forth between Washington and Oregon over the next few days. This particular road was not pleasant with many trucks thundering past with little shoulder to hide from and we were glad when Umatilla came in to view. The river however was quite majestic with high cliffs either side, calm water and several Pelicans using ground effect to skim close to the water looking for fish. We came away from the river as we came in to Umatilla and located the marina and RV park our destination for the night which overlooks a span bridge that we will cross tomorrow on our way back to Washington State.

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Day 68 Dayton>Walla Walla 30 Miles

Not Luke keeping us awake but two young dogs spooked by our tents who barked almost constantly throughout the entire night. I had thought of pacifying them with a well earned rock but thought that a little too extreme as we were camping on their space. Luckily not an early start today as we have only a 30 mile journey to Walla Walla .our next point of call on our rapidly diminishing schedule. Set off against a strong head wind which was on our nose for most of the day but we still had a slight downhill which kept our average respectable. Came across a small airfield just before Waitsburg with a small Airline called ‘Wing Air’ but looking at the aircraft parked on the pan should have been called a Wing and a Prayer as it looked a bit passed it. Further on we came across a sorry looking Triumph TR6 rotting away at the side of the road just waiting for someone to restore it. Quick stop in Waitsburg and then out on Highway 12 before turning off on an alternative road which kept us away from heavy traffic but meant a cheeky little climb against a stiffening breeze. The scenery was turning in to rolling farmland with acre after acre of wheat and corn ripening in the hot breeze. The road was undulating and coupled with further steep hills made us work hard for our money today and we were glad to see the outskirts of Walla Walla come in to view around lunchtime. Our normal visit to McDonalds for a milkshake and WI-FI and then off to find our warm showers host for the night.

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Day 67 Clarkston>Dayton 61 Miles

Very picturesque stay in the Chief Timothy RV park just of Highway 12 and over the bridge to an island on the snake river. No sprinklers but a lovely couple turned up late with an 8 month old baby called Luke who was very vocal say the least. As expected we got a early wake up call around 05.30 courtesy of Luke but as we planned to start early it didn’t really matter. Forecast was for cooler temperatures today but nobody told the weather gods as we started our first climb of the day in hot and humid conditions. The climb as indicated on our elevation profile was only 2000ft but it seemed to go on for an age with every blind corner revealing further inclines. I think we have been used to too many downhill’s recently and its made us soft! What was cause for concern was the black clouds and forks of lightning evident in the distance and obviously coming our way if the wind direction was anything to go by. Luckily we enjoyed a fast decent in to Pomeroy and located a diner just as the heavens opened. It felt good seeing the thunderstorm pass as we tucked in to our large stack of pancakes complete with the obligatory maple syrup! We sat there for a good hour using the internet and drinking refill after refill of good coffee until the first signs of blue skies reappeared on the horizon. Suitably full and as high as kites we set off again in fresher conditions to enjoy a mild downhill until we turned south at Delaney and the start of yet another climb manifested itself. I think Alan had 3 weatabix this morning because he was off and left me trailing as again the climbing seemed to take an age with my legs not feeling particularly fresh at any point today. Luckily the climbing finished and we glided down to Dayton our planned destination and located space in a trailer park conveniently on the grass next to the restrooms complete with a short walk in to town for food later. Laundry completed as some items of our clothing nearly tried to escape recently we are currently chillin’ with a cup of tea. Less than 400 miles to go and reading the weather forecast in the paper today was the first time we have seen the Pacific Ocean on the map graphic, so not quite smelling the sea but getting frustratingly close!

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Day 66 Kamiah> Clarkston (Chief Timothy Campground) 74 Miles

Spent most of the day camped out in the local bakery come café, munching cake and drinking lots of tea as the temperature was nudging the high 90’s and there was little shade in the town park. Managed to get some respite from the heat later on and then met an ex-pat who is married to the town clerk who we saw earlier on in the day. Awoke at around 05.00 to the pitter patter of water falling on the tent, rain? no unfortunately not, just the blessed sprinkler system erupting forth1 We had put rocks over the sprinkler heads the previous night but the water pressure was too strong and sent intermittent sprays of water over the tents and all our kit. However, we were quick to react but unbeknown to us there were more heads lurking catching us unawares every time we moved.. Its was like something out of a Benny Hill sketch! On the positive side we had a free shower but the bikes a little heavier with wet tents. The early start slightly delayed, we left the delightful town of Kamiah and headed West on 12 and the river option which is flatter but a potentially more difficult road to ride on. True to reports from various sources the road had little or no shoulder with concrete barriers separating you from the rocks and the river below. This coupled with the many thundering logging trucks made the first 20 miles slightly unpleasant but to be honest no show stopper. The road got easier as we approached Orofino and after finding many of the cafes shut, as it was still very early, we located a little place about 8 miles out of town for a well earned breakfast. We carried on following the wider Clearwater River on our left this time with the scenery a little less dramatic than in previous days. The riding was again easy with little wind to speak of and the terrain generally flat with the odd downhill keeping the average speed healthy. The road got busier as we entered the last 10 miles in to Lewiston and we had to navigate some busy 4 lane highways over the bridge and in to the city. First port of call was to find a bike shop to get a replacement front tyre. The first I tried was basically a toy shop with little stock of tyres but luckily the second had a full range of road tyres available, not my preferred Schwalbe Marathon plus but an equally good Specialized alternative. At this point I had lost Alan but re-booted, I crossed the bridge in to Washington state and Clarkston, and located his bike outside McDonald’s our normal meeting post! Little choice of camping available in either Lewiston or Clarkston we opted to go on to the Chief Timothy RV park on an island a further 8 miles down the route. Arrived, got tents up in quick time to dry them out, making particular note of any sprinkler heads!

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