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!”
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!