Sensory Overload

Florence Oregon
Dipped my back wheel in the Pacific Ocean at Heceta Beach, near Florence, Oregon — Monday, May 16, 2016.

The Journey Begins

One week on the road and we’ve crossed the entire state of Oregon — 720 km from the windy Pacific coast at Florence; through the deep woods right alongside the McKenzie River; through the vibrant university town of Eugene; up and over four mountain passes — including the Santiam Pass, where the snow is still falling. I am overdosing on the beauty of the state!


But, as my colleague, Greg D. told me, “Nobody wants to hear about how great things are, or how beautiful. They want to know what calamities you have encountered — the worse the disaster, the more interesting the read.”

OK, from the beautiful to the bad of this trip. Despite my very good maps, I have gotten lost about three times, adding many miles to my ride in the saddle. Each and every time, someone has kindly set me on the right path. The lady at the garden centre, who told me I was “way off course. Turn around and go back about eight miles the way you came.”  Or the military vet who said, “Not this way, Ma’am. Turn right ’round and go that way.” Or Jim, the US Corps of Engineers guy, who at the top of a long climb to beautiful Cougar Dam told me, “Nope, you’ve come up the wrong way. But at least you’ll have a fast ride back down!”

Cougar Dam Oregon
A wrong turn and a four-mile climb resulted in a gorgeous view of the Cougar Dam and reservoir. (Note the Golder jersey)

But if there was one word that could sum up my week in Oregon, I would say, “cold.” It has been cloudy, or overcast, or raining or snowing most days. At the top of Ochoko Pass, Myrna said we needed to call it a day — riding through the snow pellets at high altitude, I was getting hypothermic. We hunkered down in our little van, under all the blankets we had, then enjoyed a bowl of hot pea soup! I bundled up with a beanie, tights, two  jackets and hot hands under my gloves and in my shoes forhe next morning’s ride down the back side of the pass. Brrrrrrr. It was still cold!

The People I’ve Met

I stopped in to the post office in the small town of Mitchell to buy stamps. Mary, the Postmaster, has held the job for 24 years, and her mother had the job before her. She asked about the fires in Fort McMurray and then told me about the devastating flood of ’56 in Mitchell. She showed me a newspaper photo of a young boy standing on the roof of a brand new Oldsmobile, completely buried in mud. That car is now under the new highway going through town.

In Sisters, we stayed at a great little campground and there met up with Carianne, retired from the University of Oregon and her rescue dog, Sweetie. Carianne was met by  friends from Portland who were going up into the John Day fossil beds to check out the sabre tooth tigers, mastodons and woolly mammoths, not to mention the thousands of years old native sandals recently discovered. She was very knowledgeable about the area and I enjoyed speaking with her.

In Dayville, where we stopped for lunch one day, I ran into Twyla and Dave, cyclists from  Reno, Nevada who  are also doing the TransAm, but staying in motels all the way. We ran into them again the next day, as we all toiled up and over the Dixie Pass, through the rain and snow, bound for Baker City and their motel for the night. Myrna and I agreed we’d pull in to an RV Park near Sumpter , just 6k down the road. And here’s where the story gets really bad. I zoomed down the pass, water splashing up at me from the road and pouring down on me from above. When I got to the turnoff, Myrna was nowhere in sight. Should I go the three miles up to Sumpter and hope she is there? Or maybe that wasn’t the right turnoff. I tried texting. No answer. I decided to carry on down the road, thinking she would realize I’d missed the turn and come to find me.

Well, suffice to say, I rode another 36 miles (57k) down the road, all the way to Baker City. My hands were so cold, I couldn’t shift. I was so cold, the only way to keep warm was to keep pedalling. There was nowhere to stop in and get warm, and Myrna was not coming to find me. So I rolled into Baker City and headed to a saloon on Main Street. I had to ask a customer to help me take my helmet off for me. My fingers weren’t working. The waitress brought me a cup of tea and a bowl of soup. I was shaking so badly, it took me 10 minutes to tap out a text to Myrna to come and save me — which she did. The lemon ginger tea and the tomato basil soup were the best I have ever tasted. I had seconds of both. The lady who helped me with my helmet strap came over and offered to take me to her home for a hot bath and a warm bed. I am so grateful for the kindness of strangers. Maybe being on a bike means you have a kind of vulnerability that invite such kindness. And then Myrna arrived.

Technology Has Not Been My Friend!

We get so used to being connected electronically at all times. Instant updates, texts, phone calls, tweets, emails.  Well, for much of this trip, we have no cell coverage or WiFi coverage. I actually find it quite liberating. Being out in nature is by far superior to instant access to the latest news. Today, as I do the laundry at the Sumpter Pines RV Park, I am listening to CNN News for the first time in a week. I don’t think I’ve missed much. Donald  Trump is still up to his usual shenanigans, and the world is still turning on its axis. That said, Myrna’s US-purchased cell phone cannot be relied upon.  And I’m not sure the Spot Tracker is sending messages as it should (most likely this is my  lack of expertise). We tried watching “Game of Thrones” but the DVD player froze after 10 minutes into the show.

To my family, my work colleagues and my running pals, don’t worry. I’m doing just fine. This is truly an adventure of a lifetime. I  realize that riding my bike is a full-time job right now. Preparing to ride, keeping fueled, wearing the right gear,  and making sure all mechanicals are in order, not to mention spending 7 hours  in the saddle, make for a long day. The first few days I was pretty tired, but I think my body is getting used to the drill. I will follow my good friend Don’s advice, and make sure I take a rest day once a week. (Don, thank you also for the tip on the gatorskin tires. At least I haven’t had to worry about flats — knock on wood!)

Camping Food Always Tastes Great

Our little van, Priscilla, has been a great home away from home, and my support crew of Myrna and Basil are the best travelling companions I could ask for. I live for a hot, strong coffee each morning and a cold beer at the end of a long day. We make porridge with blueberries in the van each morning and chili or soup in the evening. The best meal of the week (and I learned this from other cyclists who have done this route) was a cheesy chicken burrito and a local micro brewed beer.  Ahhhhh! What could be better than that??

I am trying to keep up with daily postcards for Dad, TJ and Katie. They should start arriving soon! And I will try to keep up my blog posts weekly — and  the laundry clean!

Next week .. into Idaho and the Snake River Gorge, then on to Missoula!












16 thoughts on “Sensory Overload

  1. Sorry to hear the weather’s been so bad, Barb. Here you’d be finding the same if you were riding the GT. Hope it dries out and warms up as you head into Montana. Sisters is a cute little town, huh. That’s where Maggie got married two years ago, and I found it a great spot to visit. Good MTB riding nearby too. Missing you and sending big hugs to you and Myrna. Ursula


  2. Barb, I have loved reading your blog and am looking up your route in more detail so I can see some of the places you have been. How did you land on the name Priscilla for your van? Because of Priscilla Queen of the Desert? Hope so, because that is one of my all time faves. I am looking forward to your next instalment.

    Julie M

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My goodness Barb – what a journey already! I love the people you are meeting and the stories you are sharing. All the best for your continued adventure!


  4. Enjoyed your write up Barb. Wow, lots of adventure so far and lots more to come! Hopefully the coldest day of your trip is behind you, and Idaho and Montana scenery will enjoyed with warmer weather and sunny days. Keep up the good work, ride safe and enjoy!! Big Hug for you and Myrna!
    Don M


  5. Lucky you Barb. The Snake River Gorges are….. gorgeous. However you may find the little roads a bit snaky too 🙂 Good news is…. they have amazing local beers in that area (try the Terminal Gravity if you get a chance). Good luck.


    1. Isn’t it ever? It is absolutely stunning. I am surprised I can keep my bike on the road — my head keeps turning to look at all the gorgeous scenery! I have been trying out a different micro brew each day, but Terminal Gravity is not one I’ve tried yet. Will definitely seek it out!!


    1. Thanks, Sean. The connections on this trip have been very poor. I have made it to Missoula (end of week 2) and will spend some time on my rest day tomorrow to do up another update. Spoiler alert — it includes nude photos! I even used the GoPro this week so I will see if I can download those photos. I hope you’re doing well. How’s Junior?


  6. Sounds like an exciting adventure – be careful! Do you need some help with the SPOT Tracker? Let me know and I can recruit those who can help. :o)


    1. Thanks, Heather. I am using the Spot Tracker every day, so in case of emergency I know what to do. I also set up a number of email addresses that the tracks would automatically go to, but those don’t seem to be delivering. Maybe each of those people needs to download the SpotTracker app themselves, and enter my number?


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