Day 57 – Portland, OR to Cannon Beach, OR

We made it! As of 5:30 this evening, we have officially biked from the Atlantic to the Pacific!


Okay, today’s ride was the worst. We decided not to take Al’s route to Astoria so that we could see Haystack Rock and make it from Portland to the coast in one day. Well. That was a huge mistake. I’m sure the ride Al had set for us would have been lovely and not so stressful, so we’ll just try to imagine that’s what we did. 

But we had made it so far that we could push on up hills along the very edge of the narrow highway with a constant flow of cars. And the sight of the Pacific through the trees as we came over that last hill was truly a wonderful one! 

We ran across the beach in all our biking clothes and jumped in immediately upon arrival, then pedaled into town for a celebratory meal of pizza – we each got an entire one, and I think we impressed the waiter with our appetite. It was a half-dozen-Clif-bar kind of day, so we totally devoured our pizza. I have a little left over for tomorrow, but Aidan’s is long gone. 

We’ve been thinking back on some of the many memories from this trip, and we came up with a collection of fun numbers from our ride. 
Stats:

  • Total miles: 3,609
  • Total elevation gain: 128,902 ft
  • Pedal rotations: 1,836,000
  • Total cost of camping: $23
  • Water consumed: 98 gallons each
  • Clif bars consumed: 100-250 each

10 Favorites:

  1. Staying with random connections along the way
  2. Biking to Devils Tower at night and early morning riding
  3. Seeing interesting landscapes and wildlife 
  4. Food
  5. Camping in random places and Aidan setting up the tent in 46 seconds
  6. Learning bike repair skills on the road and stopping at bike shops across the country
  7. Consistently meeting kind and generous people
  8. Swimming and Nap Breaks™
  9. Al’s route
  10. Getting competitive with other touring bikers

Top 5 segments of the trip:

  1. Fort Thompson to Pierre (South Dakota)
  2. Welland to Lake Erie, Ontario
  3. Pomeroy to Dayton, WA
  4. Cody to Yellowstone, WY
  5. Stevenson to Portland, OR

Advice for our pre-touring selves

  1. The hardest hills aren’t the Rockies (or anything you’ve heard of). 
  2. Keep up with daily bike maintenance 
  3. Paper maps are the way to go
  4. Buy a Trek 520 and it will be virtually indestructible. 
  5. Buy a Brooks B-17 and comfort will only increase. 

We’re camping on the beach now, with Haystack Rock in sight and an amazing view of the ocean. 


Tomorrow morning, we’ll head off in different directions – Aidan back to Portland on a bus, and me south on the 101 on my bike. Aidan will be flying home this weekend, spending less than 2 weeks in VT, then will head to Kroka for the next 4 months on their Ecuador semester program! I’ll be biking toward Santa Barbara where I’ll get to spend some time at my aunt and uncle’s house. We’re ending the blog now, and would like to thank all of you readers and commenters for all your encouragement and enthusiasm for our trip from afar. 

It’s been one heck of a ride. 

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Day 56 – Stevenson, WA to Portland, OR

We got our daily incredible wake-up view this morning!


To avoid a continuation of yesterday’s less than enjoyable narrow road riding, we crossed over to the Oregon side of the river as soon as possible. A number of people had recommended that last night, and they were so right. We instantly were greeted by a bike path, which took us up and down, through the woods and around all sorts of fun turns. 

One turn we biked around brought us to a staircase – right in the middle of the bike path! There was a little trench for the wheels of the bike, so we put them in there and hauled them up the steep stairs. It certainly made the route interesting!


Following the bike path, there was an old highway that was absolutely gorgeous and had very little traffic. It made for an amazing day of riding. 




We met so many enthusiastic people along the way today – they had read our “coast to coast” shirts and knew how close we were to the Pacific! And we could feel the pull. Portland grew ever closer, and after climbing one particularly long (but actually enjoyable – mostly) hill, we could see the city in the distance. 

It’s hard to believe we’re actually in Portland, Oregon. It’s the city we’ve been referencing all along the way – “we’re biking from Portland, ME to Portland, OR…this is day *fill in the blank here*…”


Aidan smelled food grilling as we rounded a corner coming into Portland, pulled over, and claims that it was one of the best meals of his life. 


So we spent the afternoon at a bike shop, and got some Portland swag there – what a joy to have new clean clothes! Aidan bought a bike jersey and I bought bike shorts, both of which are emblazoned with various designs of River City Bicycles. 

We also made a stop at the enormous post office in the city, and I picked up a care package from my mom and the things we’d sent ahead from Walla Walla. I’m all set to keep biking! Thanks for the awesome food, Mom! And to Julian for knowing that I definitely did need some maple cotton candy.

Since we had more food than we could carry, we organized the extra things into a box and gave it to a group of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk nearby. 

We had to stop by Powell books, and although we saw Voodoo Doughnuts, we decided the line wasn’t worth standing in. 


We’re spending the night with Jonas’ friend Misha and her family. We had a great ride from downtown to here, (stopping a few times in that hour for snacks and a quick swim in the Willamette River) and it was a wonderful feeling to arrive at such a welcoming house. Pizza for dinner and really great conversations with everyone… Thank you all so much for a wonderful night – both fun and relaxing!

We also found that Wendy and Aidan’s grandpa had sent packages to Misha’s house! Such a fun surprise to find that fantastic chocolate! 

Day 55 – Bates, WA to Stevenson, WA

Our campsite was a pretty sight to wake up to!


This morning, the landscape changed from desert to a green and wooded scene of the Cascades! 


We were able to bike through the middle of the day because the temperatures stayed cool near the water – and the wind was fairly constant. 

When we stopped for lunch, we were delighted to discover a bike shop in town, so we went there even before sitting down to eat. The guy working there was great, and he set us up with new tubes and a beautiful fresh tire for me. So while Aidan cooked up lunch outside a cafe across the street, I put my bike up on the stand and swapped my new tire for the spare (which folds up nicely for traveling). We’re back in business. 

It was a great atmosphere at the coffee shop, and although we could have stayed for hours, we got back on the road soon after eating. 


And to improve our moods even further, we pulled off at a sign for peaches, and were delighted to find fantastically ripe Washington peaches. 


It wasn’t that hot, but we still needed a dip in the Columbia, so we pulled off at a windsurfing/kitesurfing beach. 


We met lots of cool and friendly people, jumped in the refreshing water, and felt much happier as we pedaled away. 


It was not our favorite ride, due to the small shoulder and many trucks along the way. But we cranked the red LEDs, rocked the day glow shirts, and kept to the edge. There were also a number of tunnels along this route, which were certainly a bit nerve wracking to ride through, but it was exciting to push the buttons that were there just for us bikers! 



We made it 80 miles closer to Portland today, then stopped in Stevenson for an early dinner. We got to talk to Tom, a local originally from Poland, who had fun stories and lots of enthusiasm for adventure. So after our conversation, we followed his directions to a different park where we found a perfect spot to set up camp for the night. A flat wooded area just on the shore of the river, not a thorn to be seen. 

Day 54 – Umatilla, OR to Bates, WA

Today was a day to be thankful for repair kits. This morning, Aidan had the sad realization that the reason behind his sleeping pad feeling less comfortable than usual was because the floor of the tent had been breached by some goathead thorns (aka puncturevine thorns!). Ms. Sonn warned us about those. Mine has been slowly deflating every night too, so now we both have one piece of gear that isn’t entirely coming through for us. 

It was raining this morning (finally!) when we got up, so we quickly ate breakfast and were on the road. We immediately crossed a bridge back to the Washington side of the Columbia, getting on route 14 which will take us almost the rest of the way to Portland! But it wasn’t the best day for Aidan’s inflatable gear, because a sneaky staple on the road gave him a flat tire. He fixed that in no time though, and we were back to pedaling. 


The gorge made for a great ride today. We passed a sign early on warning drivers that it would be 83 miles until the next services, but as we’re so self sufficient (all sorts of food, plenty of water, repair kits) we were not bothered in the least.

We stopped for lunch at a convenience store/cafe, where they had a little notebook to record bikers who were passing through! We added our little message in there, ate lots of our Indian food and supplemented with fries and fish and chips from the cafe, then were pointed in the direction of the park for our afternoon break. 


We had some great conversations with some of the wind surfers there, napped, and went swimming. We both brought our sleeping pads into the river, and managed to find and mark the leaks! Now if only we’d put those patch kits in the panniers…

As we pedaled out of the parking lot, we simultaneously got flat front tires. So we pulled over and got to work. 


As my bike was turned over, I noticed that my back tire was wearing out, so I took both wheels off and pulled out the spare tire I luckily have been carrying with me for the past 3,000+ miles. 

Aidan decided to save his other spare tube and patched this one. He’d pulled one of those cursed goathead thorns out of his tire, and I’d found a little staple. Once our tires had been successfully replaced or patched, we got back on the road feeling quite accomplished and vowing to be more careful about where we bring our bikes. 

Evening riding is hard to beat – it was impressively windy this evening, but we took turns drafting, and were still able to appreciate the landscape. 


We found a wonderful camp spot for the night – down a steep gravel road by the main road, with a pond and a sandy thorn-less area for our bikes and tent. We were even able to walk around barefoot without the all-too-familiar feeling of getting a thorn stuck in a foot! Now that’s luxury. 

Aidan patched his pad using the tire patch kit, and it passed the test overnight! I’ll be working on mine soon, but only after I mark the new hole from a hitchhiker goathead thorn that appeared inside the tent in the bottom of my pad. At least we’ll get good at patching things…thank you, puncturevine. 

The night sky more than made up for the sad sight of deflated items. The stars were magnificent, and Aidan once again captured the stunning image. 

Day 53 – Walla Walla, WA to Umatilla, OR

This morning was the long-awaited morning of care packages! We got to the post office as they opened, and we were soon spread out on the lawn with the contents of 5 packages (!) all over. We had meals and snacks galore from Grandma Nancy, homemade cookies and chocolate from Andrea Kerin, and sugary goodies and the most amazing note ever from Maggie!


Although that was already an unbelievable amount of wonderful food, we were confused to realize that two people’s packages were nowhere to be seen! Aidan’s Aunt Les and our park ranger friend/hero Blandine had both told us they were sending something. So when I went back inside to send a small portion of the meals ahead to Portland (I’m planning to bike down the coast, so everything will be eaten before long!) I asked them to double check for packages addressed to either me or Aidan. And the lady came back out with a package with Aidan’s name on it from his aunt! We were so happy, (though rather unimpressed with the post office lady) and ran outside to open it up. We found cookie things christened Aussie Bites, power bars, and lots of beef jerky. 
We convinced the post office people to check multiple times for Blandine’s package (we took turns taking on the reluctant people behind the counter) and were sad to discover that it had been sent back a couple days earlier. I guess we should have pedaled faster. But Blandine – even though we didn’t open it, it still means so much to us both that you sent us a care package!

THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you organized package senders with amazing taste in snacks! Our panniers are full, we are taking more snack breaks than ever, and the weight – we barely notice that since it all tastes so good!

There was a slight price we paid for our off-roading adventures of yesterday. Probably due to his taking the black diamond trail to my blue square, we noticed yesterday that Aidan’s wheel was pretty far out of true. So we found a bike shop in Walla Walla, and it turned out to be a broken spoke! That had to happen at some point, and what better timing than when we were actually near a bike shop? South Dakota would have been a bit more challenging…


We got back on the bikes late today – it was almost noon. But being so excited about our food, the headwind didn’t bother us too much, and we made some good progress before taking a break for lunch. 

After pedaling a bit more this afternoon, we came around a corner and saw the Columbia River! So of course we pulled over and jumped right in. It was beautiful in the gorge. There was a serious headwind (actual white caps moving in our direction) and the roadside was littered with veggies that had fallen out of passing trucks! But the walls on either side of us were incredible, and everything felt so different from this morning. 




We crossed into our last state of the trip this evening! Although we’ll be going back and forth a bit between Washington and Oregon, it was an exciting moment. 


The landscape changed yet again as the road moved temporarily away from the river. Stunning in its own way. 


It’s always a good sign when a rainbow shows up just as you find a camping spot!

Day 52 – Dayton, WA to Walla Walla, WA

We started off the day with our typical enormous bowls of cereal and granola (our current favorite filler cereal is cinnamon Chex) and then headed off into the wind. It was quite the headwind, especially at the beginning, but we were comforted in knowing that today would only be 35 miles. So we took turns drafting, and made some good progress. At our water refill stop, we enjoyed the reaction of the old lady walking to her car when she asked about our trip. With more colorful versions of “from Vermont?? What in the world are you doing here?” And “Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t have made it one mile.” she shook her head, wished us luck, and drove off. 

Just as the biking was getting a bit tedious, Aidan pulled over grinning, and we proceeded to drag our bikes through a ditch and casually ride through a wheat field. 


It was really amazing to ride the last 10 miles into Walla Walla today. We had both been here before to visit Whitman College, and so it was one of the few places on this trip that we recognized! I’m pretty sure the last place I’d been previously was Kroka, which was on day 3 of this whole journey.

 

And we have a happy update from Aidan – he gained a pound! 

Today’s break was on the quad at Whitman College, which was a perfect spot. We relaxed until we got hungry for dinner, found a park, then biked back into the main part of town to watch the Olympics. Unfortunately, canoe slalom (yeah, apparently that’s a thing!) wasn’t on, but we enjoyed seeing some gymnastics, boxing (actually I didn’t enjoy that one much) and swimming. I can only imagine how much they have to eat to keep up their training! 

Day 51 – Lewiston, ID to Dayton, WA

Jill made us an amazing breakfast this morning. French toast and sausage, and some delicious potatoes from last night. And we got lots of good puppy time. 


And as if they hadn’t spoiled us enough, they sent us off with salads and lots of snacks! We left feeling so great about everything, and then got the speediest downhill of the trip! The incredibly steep climb of yesterday was completely worth it when we cruised back down at 45 mph into downtown Lewiston. 

We got back onto route 12, which took us on a bridge across the Snake River and into Washington! It was so exciting to hit a coastal state! 


The river looked so inviting, and we’d heard about a climb ahead, so we detoured down a little road to jump in the cool water. 

The hill came pretty soon after the bridge, and it lasted a couple hours. There were numerous false summits, but we were not deterred by them or the increasing heat – we rode to the top (there were a few snack breaks) and rode down the other side to the town of Pomeroy where we found a nice shady park. 

This evening we found the steepest hill of the trip! We followed our maps along the shortcut to avoid a big U on route 12 – it was one of the most challenging rides but easily one of the best. 


There was 1.5 miles of an uphill that rivaled the steepest bit of the road on Mt. Philo, and we relished the push. 


Near the top, we realized that if we were to turn around to bike back down, we could probably get the top speed of the trip. But neither of us was confident we could make it up again, so we reassured ourselves that we’d get the awesome down on the other side. Well. There was certainly a steep downhill. The only drawback was that it turned into a gravel road! Loose gravel, switchbacks, steep… We said a little prayer to the brake gods, and went for it. It was actually an arm workout to cling to the brakes for so long! Aidan stopped for a photo at the top, so I was at least one switchback ahead of him to start with. 


But as I steered my way down, going what I was sure was the fastest possible speed to ride without skidding out, Aidan sailed by me. So apparently I was wrong, because he managed all the turns with no trouble! 


We got to the bottom of that gravel hill, and promptly started to climb up again – still on a gravel road! This time, it was slightly less steep (only slightly) but we had very little traction. So we slid back a few inches with every pedal forward, and we could look back to see our tracks – which were anything but straight. 


I have never been happier to see pavement. Of course, only a couple minutes after that wonderful sight, it switched back to gravel, but that was only for a couple miles along the top of the hills. It was absolutely gorgeous up there, and having worked so hard to get there only added to the view. 


We were only a few miles out from the town of Dayton when we passed a house with some of the nicest gardens we’d ever seen. It was getting dark, so we turned off into the driveway and knocked on the door. Maggie the dog was quite offended at our intrusion, but warmed up to us after Aidan threw her a ball. The family was away, but their friend who was house sitting was happy to let us set us camp on their lawn in the midst of the awesome gardens. With many a throw of the now slobbery tennis ball, we set up and ate dinner, enjoying the fact that there was not one mosquito to be seen. 

The skies were amazing, and it was clear most of the night. 


It did start raining in the early morning, so Aidan (who noticed well before I did) hopped out of the tent to pull the fly into place.