Any Road Tour – The Pictures

After several nights, I finally got all my tour pictures in an album on my Flickr page. So if you want to see what the tour was like, just flip through from start to finish.

In doing this, I discovered that I had forgotten much of the first half of the tour. Already. I also found pictures of eastbound bike tourists whom I met along the way. Some of them have journals on Crazyguyonabike.com. I checked them out. They ran into far more weather problems (including cold and snow) than I did. I totally lucked out with regard to weather. Also, they visited places that I didn’t even know existed and saw things I missed mostly because they were looking east and I was looking west.

In any case, here is the link to my pictures.

Wheel dip in Pacific Ocean, Fort Stevens State Park

 

Any Road Tour: The Worst

Every bike tour has bad aspects to it. I was on the road for two months. And I am surprised how little went wrong.

    • Soul sucking headwinds. I had a couple of tough days in Illinois when I was surprised by strong headwinds (and hills). My ride from Circle to Jordan MT must have been a drag because I don’t remember much about it. I also had a tough day riding the last day into Astoria, but I didn’t realize it because adrenaline kicked in as I approached the coast. The baddest day was the 88 mile ride to Missoula. The scenery was gorgeous. The entire ride was downhill. The headwinds were punishing. Five days out of 60 is not that bad.
    • Defying death in Iowa. I got caught in a nasty storm in a hilly part of Iowa. My brakes were totally inadequate to the task. It was scary. I made a bee line for the flat Great River Road in Wisconsin.
    • Too many motels. Time and again, my camping plans were washed out by storms at night. My plans to camp out on the first three nights on the C&O canal were washed away. What the heck am I carrying all this camping gear for? I used my tent for the first time in Indiana.
    • Killer hills on day two. The washout on the canal meant that I had to ride over Catoctin and South Mountains in Maryland. I was not physically or mentally up to the climbs.
    • Days six and seven. Three steep climbs in a row. The second taking me from Pennsylvania into West Virginia and the Ohio River valley was truly the hardest climb I’ve ever done. I was weaving all over the road just trying to move forward. There was nothing meditative about the climb, it was just damned hard. Then I decided to skip a scuzzy hotel in Wheeling and climb back out of the Ohio River valley. Dang. The next day’s steep rollers made me feel utterly incapable. I made a wrong turn and traded scenery for flatter ground.
    • Hapless apps. Both weather.com and google maps were sources of frustration. Weather.com consistently got the timing or even the occurrence of nasty storms wrong. I was better relying on my eyes and ears. Google maps tried to get me to ride down a steep decline on a wooded single track trail in Shelton WA. Near Camano Island WA it told me to turn around and go down a nonexistent street. It was useless when I tried to cross the St. Croix River from Minnesota to Wisconsin.
    • Unreal food. Lord help you if you are a vegan or even a vegetarian and you try to ride your bike in rural America. Time and again, the stores had no fruit or other healthy food. I bought a sandwich in Sandpoint ID that was a soggy mess when I opened the wrapper a few hours later. I ate it but I wasn’t happy. And in Newhalem WA the only store for over 60 miles was closed because of a computer problem. Good thing I had a ripe peach and some downhill riding to get me to the next town.
    • Close passes and f-bombs.
      • I expected far more closed encounters with big metal things. The worst one was on my ride from Fort Stevens into Astoria. The bridge had only about a two-foot shoulder and the cross winds were strong and erratic. A tractor trailer passed about a foot from my left shoulder. There were plenty of other close passes but I had room to bail out if necessary.
      • I never really got used to the two-lane roads with a 70 mph speed limit in Montana. Objects in your mirror are closer than they appear indeed.
      • I think I had only one unpleasant encounter with a driver. He was annoyed that I delayed his access to the only road across Shelton WA. He dropped numerous f-bombs as I rolled past in traffic on a road torn up by construction. A mile later her caught up to me and started in with the f-bombs again.
    • Inhospitality

Many towns out west offer free or low cost camping to bike tourists. Iroquois IL and St Helens OR were two towns that didn’t offer this anymore. (I could have caught the latter if I had read the addendum sheet from Adventure Cycling.) Winnett MT had camp grounds but they all seemed to be closed. (I camped illegally next to an RV.) And the Warmshowers place in the town of Lewistown MT looked like a dump. The volunteer at the town greeting center told me that I couldn’t camp in the park with in Kettle Falls WA. I called the police and they gave me permission.

  • Medical woes. I pushed my body hard and it gave me plenty of feedback.
    • In Minnesota, my left calf started swelling up. Then I rode 136 miles in a day. I’m an eejit. Because of my recent deep vein thrombosis in that area, I had to visit an ER in Bismarck. Thankfully, it was a false alarm.
    • In the town of Square Butte MT, I ate a late lunch. I ordered a chicken Caesar salad. What I served was an elaborate dish, the biggest and best salad I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately my tummy was not up to the task. When I dismounted in Geraldine, my head was swimming. Any thoughts of riding on to a Fort Benton with a tailwind were scotched.
    • When I dismounted in Missoula after 88 miles into a headwind, I had a similar experience with light headedness. I skipped the Warmshowers house and checked into a hotel.
    • Before the tour, I did two months of physical therapy for my left shoulder and arm which ached in random ways at random times. Winds pushed on my panniers causing me to use my arms and shoulders far more than on a regular bike ride. My arms and shoulders were quite sore from simply controlling the front end of the bike. After a few weeks the pain in my arm and shoulder went away.
    • The middle finger on my right hand has been numb for over a month. My handlebar tape was so compressed it offered no cushioning. Both hands feel stressed from holding on to the bars for so many hours. In Washington state, I noticed that my wedding band felt tight. My fingers were so swollen that I couldn’t budge the ring. (It comes off now with some persuasion so I think my hands will be fine with time.)
    • I have a history of lower back problems including back surgery. I’ve been doing physical therapy exercises every day for over 20 years. And my pulmonary embolisms presented as back pain last December. So I was a bit worried that all the riding, especially the climbing and riding into strong winds, would cause big back problems. My lower right back sometimes felt like it was being stung by bees. It may have been old scar tissue stretching under the strain. Regardless, my back held up fine.
    • The expansion joints in the highways of North Dakota beat my back and bottom up for several days.
    • Speaking of back problems, I stopped doing my back exercises for the entire tour. Not only didn’t I miss them, but I was much more comfortable in my tent. I could change clothes and move about without difficulty.
    • I had some perineum soreness. This came on especially when I was making a big effort. I noticed that I’d push down on the handlebars and saddle, digging in, when mashing the pedals. When I became aware of this, I’d focus on loosening my upper body and unweight my behind, often by standing in the pedals or stopping. Also, I had no saddle sores, despite discontinuing chamois cream somewhere in Minnesota.
    • A recurring problem was muscle cramping. Sometimes I’d get cramps in my feet or lower legs when changing shoes. Sometimes my calves would go haywire. The worst calf cramp happened the night before going to the ER. Then there was the massive hamstring cramp in Astoria. My advice is that if you’re going to fall off a barstool, get piss drunk first. You won’t notice how hard your right sit bone hits the floor. (Mine hurt for four or five days.)
    • With the understandable exception of the mother of all climbs in Pennsylvania, I did not feel any maxing out of my lungs. I breathed hard for long periods of time but I always felt like I had extra lung capacity. This is strange given that I have asthma. I didn’t use my rescue inhaler once.
    • My knees normally are all messed up but they only felt sore a couple of times, after difficult climbs. By the time I made it to the big mountains out west, my leg muscles were cooking with gas.
    • The black wasp sting in Port Townsend WA hurt big time. After an hour the pain went away but my lower lip was a swollen mess. The swelling went away in two days.
  • Mental problems
    • I can’t think of a single day when I was depressed. Tired? Yes. Anxious? Yes. Depressed? Nope. After the first days, I discontinued my daily meditation practice. Never missed it. After all, I was on a rolling meditation retreat.
    • As I explained before, I made it a point to focus on the short term. When I was under extreme stress, I’d concentrate on NOW. If I looked too far ahead, especially early in the tour, I ran the risk of being overwhelmed. Ironically, once I reached Astoria, I found it strangely discomfiting. I needed mental rest as much as I needed physical rest. Talking to Julie, Shannon, and Eric, mostly about their lives, helped a lot.

Any Road Tour: The Best

At the risk of leaving things (or people out), here’s a list of things that stick out in my mind as the best parts of the tour.

  • East to west is best. The conventional wisdom says that riding west to east is best because the winds are mostly at your back. If true, I totally lucked out with tailwinds. I was the envy of every eastbound bike rider I talked with. In Washington state, several people told me about the eastbound riders who quit after a week. The climbs to the series of five mountain passes are a brutal way to begin a tour.
  • Wonderful solitude. With the exception of days with strong headwinds, I loved riding alone for hours and hours with my legs spinning away and my brain squirrels running all over the place. Time after time I would come to a place where I had planned to stay the night. When I realized I had four hours of daylight left, I’d get back on the bike and pedal, simply because it was so much fun.
  • Mindfulness in motion. Riding up the long hills and mountain passes out west should have sucked. (The steep hills in the east were another story.) Each one was hard in its own way. It would take a while but I’d get into the rhythm of the climb and just enjoy the view. When the road steepened, I’d look down at the twenty yards of the road in front of my wheel. All I have to do is pedal that far. Stay loose. Don’t tense up. Pedal smoothly. Breathe. Pedal that far. Pedal that far. Every twenty yards, simply begin again.
  • Are you kidding me? Seeing a mountain pass sign a mile or two or three before I expected it was a great surprise. This happened at least three times. I was actually disappointed when I got to Rainy Pass. So early? I was robbed.
  • Chuffed and knackered at the pass. When I got to the top of my first pass, Rogers Pass in Montana, I was hurting, then I saw the sign. I did it! More importantly, I knew I could handle the five passes yet to come in Washington state.
  • My longest day ever. The 136-mile ride from Morehead MN to Gackle ND was epic. A mini-tour of Fargo. Chats with several eastbound riders. Tailwinds on a pool table. A doe and fawn in the grass along the road. Twilight on the prairie. A sunset seemingly too far north. Darkness. Bugs. No more tailwind. Rolling hills. Rain. An owl in the road. Finally, waking up Martin at the Honey Pot, the beekeeper’s house, just after midnight.
  • Going down. Riding down mountains out west, especially from Sherman, Loup Loup, Washington, Rainy, and Wauconda passes, at 25 to 35 miles per hour for an hour or more. Surely this hill will end. Nope. On and on and on. Stay loose. Watch for bumps or cracks in the pavement. Look around. Let the bike run. Use the force, Luke.
  • Square Butte. It looked like I’d be at its base any minute but the vastness of the plains distorted the sheer mass of the thing. It took hours to get close to it. I was shocked when I saw the sign indicating an 8 percent grade into the canyon around the butte. White crosses indicating fatalities all over the place. Do you believe a Mule can fly? Yes!
  • Badlands, are you kidding me? I had no idea I was going to see a painted canyon. I could not believe my eyes. I just walked around the viewing area stupefied. WOW.
  • The GAP Trail. I’ve ridden all or most of it five times. It never gets old. If you live anywhere near DC or Pittsburgh, you have to ride this trail. The Southside Travelers Rest hostel in Pittsburgh was a terrific place to stay too.
  • Painted farmland. I was only in Iowa a couple of days, but I thought the farms planted in concert with the terrain were agrarian paintings.
  • Grog and vittles. I can understand great craft beer in a big city like Minneapolis, but Wibaux, Kettle Falls, Anacortes, and Astoria? What a treat. Oh, and don’t forget the outstanding pizza in Minneapolis and Wibaux.
  • Hosts of hosts. Whether they were people I knew from my past or from Warmshowers, I stayed with or visited so many people who treated me well.
    • Pittsburgh, PA: Earl and Anne Price. Fed and watered me. Helped me find a belt. Gave me a cook’s tour of The Burg.
    • Watseka, IL: The town park’s representative, a kid named Connor, and the town police officer all treated me like a visiting hero. Breakfast in the bar the next morning was a bit surreal, but my time in the park was splendid.
    • Twin Cities, MN: Cathy Combs, Russ Pylkki, and Krista Combs Pylkki treated me to my first day off. I was more tired than I realized.
    • Royalton, MN: Alice Winscher hosts touring bicyclists at Alice’s Attic. I stayed in the loft of her barn amid dozens of antiques.
    • Morehead, MN: Terri Trickle and Drew Sandberg along with son Scott and dog Poppy made me feel like family. How can you not love people who keep cookies and snacks in their old oven? Seriously.
    • Gackle, ND: The unseen Millers are migrant beekeepers, a profession created by their great grandfather. They put touring bicyclists up at their home. It’s a place called the Honey Pot.
    • Missoula, MT: When my friends in DC heard I was going to Missoula, they all said you have to meet Emma Wimmer. Emma gave me a tour of the Adventure Cycling Association offices where she works and made several recommendations for my day off in Missoula. The next time she’s in DC, I’ll give her a tour of the fabulous Rootchopper Institute. When those five minutes are over, we’ll go for a ride.
    • Republic, WA: Dianne Hewitt (a postmaster) and her husband Boyd (a gold miner) hosted Martin and me. They fed us to the max and talked our ears off.
    • Bike Camp near Mazama, WA: Jim Gregg is the Gyro Gearloose of Warmshowers hosts. His bike camp includes an outdoor shower and a composting toilet. And, when the clouds go away, awesome views of the stars. Oh, and his dog Stout is an excellent co-host.
    • Camano Island, WA: Tim Jones and Michele Wentworth took me in for a day off at the start of the home stretch in Washington and Oregon. I could have stayed on their deck gazing at Mt. Baker forever. And Tim set up a Facebook call with Steve Fisher, an old friend who lives in Prague.
    • Portland, OR: No bike tour is complete without an attorney. Eric Koetting and I worked together as attorney and client off and on for over 25 years. Eric kept me fed and watered for three days. He took me to Multnomah Falls, a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and the spectacular Oregon coast. He also drove The Mule and me to a bike shop so that I could ship The Mule home. After that we went to an Army surplus store where I bought a duffle bag to consolidate my gear for my flight. And he drove me to the airport to boot.
    • Portland, OR: Jeff and Shannon (my niece) Ryder let me stop in and play with their son Tommy who is learning to crawl.
  • Friendipity.  I am a total introvert. It takes me a very long time to feel comfortable with people. Three times on this tour I met wonderful people by pure luck.
    • Martin Arnold quit his job in the elevator business and started his tour in Switzerland. It seemed that any time the grind of the tour was getting me down, Martin would just appear and cheer me up. We met or hung out in Gackle ND and Circle MT, outside Colville WA, and in Republic WA and Marblemount WA. I hope I cheered him up too. Martin would fit right in with the BikeDC crowd.
    • Maria Mantas was my personal Rogers Pass welcoming committee. She took my picture then enthusiastically invited me to be her guest at the Montana Native Plants Society annual get together in the woods outside Lincoln. I didn’t learn much about plants but I did discover that hiking in the woods is hard on the body and good for the soul. She is without a doubt my favorite plant nerd.
    • After I dipped my wheel in the Pacific, I needed a day to decompress. Out of the ether came Julie Councellor Crabtree. It may have only been for a couple of hours but our conversation was nonstop and effortless. A Hoosier transplanted to Juneau Alaska, Julie is an artist who, in addition to painting, makes jewelry from materials she finds in nature. She is also a Rolfer.  Her finest creations are her two boys about whom she boasts with disarming charm and obvious momma love.
  • The Support Team. Although this was a solo tour, I didn’t ride alone. I had tons of help. Thanks to one and all.
    • Mrs. Rootchopper who held down the fort at home through torrential rains and searing heat and stifling humidity.
    • Marie and Roy shared the blog of their 2015 tour along a similar route to mine. From time to time they left me comments on this blog about places to visit or avoid.
    • There were trail angels too numerous to count. The woman who bought me breakfast in Pennsylvania. The man who guided me to a bike shop in Longview Washington. Stephen who showed me how to get out of Fort Stevens Park and back to Astoria. The motel clerk who gave me a towel to clean my chain. (It made it to Washington state.) The folks from Smith’s Bike Shop in LaCrosse WI who gave me energy gels.
    • The ER at Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck was efficient and calming. I was seen right away. And best of all, the news was good. I did not have a blood clot in my leg and my tour could continue.
    • I had tons of moral support from readers of my blog, in the comments, in emails, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next up. The worst.

Any Road Tour: Lessons Learned

Well, I’m back in good old muggy DC. Time to reflect on two months of bicycle touring. What worked? What did I find useful? What did I bring and didn’t use? What did I not bring and wish I had?

Things that worked

  • Before I left, I had my bike tuned up. By two bike shops. Special thanks to Taylor at the Spokes Etc. Belle View location for doing the final look over. As part of this process, I had a new chain, cassette, and big chainring installed.
  • Even though my old tires looked fine, I replaced them with new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (700×35). I had no flats over 4,300 miles.
  • I cleaned and lubed my chain every four days or so. (I use wax lube so this is not unusual for me.) I had only a handful of bad shifts, mostly due to me rushing to get to a much smaller gear.
  • I bought a slightly used Brooks Flyer saddle before leaving. I needed the ability to tighten the leather and the adjusting bolt on my old Flyer had run out of space. I had zero saddle sores, but still had some perineum problems, particularly in the first half of the tour. I dug out the adjusting wrench and tightened the saddle up. Then I made sure to get my butt off the saddle at least once an hour. Problem solved.
  • I had only two mechanical issues. My pedals started to fail and my hub of my rear wheel came loose. Missoula Bicycle Works replaced the pedals and tightened the hub. No big deal.
  • My 15-year old tent started to leak. I sealed it with silicone sealant. I have no idea if it will still leak because it didn’t rain when I was camping afterwards.
  • For sleeping I had a yoke-shaped travel pillow. It was exactly what I needed. I propped up a big pannier then put the pillow against it. Great for reading and sleeping in the tent.
  • I used a silk sleeping bag liner. On colder days I supplemented it with an REI sleep sack, a lightweight sleeping bag. I was cold only once. I put on my rain jacket and went back to sleep.
  • The REI full length sleeping pad was indispensable. I simply can’t sleep in a tent without one.
  • Warmshowers.com worked well, if imperfectly. I had success in Morehead MN, Republic WA, and outside Winthrop WA. I also stayed in two places listed on the Adventure Cycling Maps. They were both also on Warmshowres. Alice’s Attic in Royalton MN and the Honey Pot in Gackle ND.  Another five of these experiences were excellent. My experience in Lewistown, MT was not a good one. The host’s yard was a mess and he and his neighbors had several barking dogs. I didn’t stay. I went to an overpriced dumpy motel instead.
  • Adventure Cycling Maps also worked well. As the tour progressed I deviated from the maps’ routes. Places where the maps need work are in eastern Ohio (I missed a turn even though I was paying very close attention) and in Stillwater MN. There was a detour to get across the LaCroix River that was poorly described in the ACA material. I wasted an hour or more trying to navigate the mess. It’s super important to read the addenda to the maps. I didn’t and ended up paying for hotels a couple of times.
  • Google maps saved me numerous times when I made wrong turns or deliberately strayed from the ACA routes.
  • Sun sleeves. I wore them everyday for the last month or so of the tour. No more bugs sticking to my arms.
  • Compression sleeve. When my left calf became swollen, I started wearing a compression sleeve. The swelling went down and stayed down.

Things that didn’t work

  • I used chamois cream religiously on previous long rides and tours. I forgot to put it on one day in the middle of the tour and never used it again. Maybe it’s useful for humid conditions like we have here in DC, but I never missed it.
  • Weather.com was laughingly inaccurate. Time and again it forecasted storms when none came and missed storms that I could see with my eyes.
  • My Ortleib panniers leaked. Again. I put my stuff in plastic bags before loading them into my panniers. Also, my Ortleib handlebar bag is annoyingly hard to open and close. The map case tore in the first couple of weeks. The hook at the bottom of my front panniers came loose multiple times.
  • The lenses in my sunglasses are for distance only. I really need a pair with progressive lenses so I can read my maps.
  • My crappy rim brakes were useless on downhills in the rain. I highly recommend disc brakes for touring.
  • Years ago I downsized the chainrings on The Mule using Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator. Only I couple of times was my granny (easiest) gear not quite up to the task.
  • Google Maps occasionally went haywire. Sending me in circles or, in Shelton WA, to a single track thtough the woods and along a cliff.

What did I bring and didn’t use

  • Most of my repair kit. My spare tire. My spare tubes. (I’d still bring them for obvious reasons on my next tour.)
  • My bear bag and rope. I used the bag once in Pennsylvania. I didn’t camp in the woods and didn’t need it.
  • Chamois cream
  • Trail mix. I carried a bag from Illinois to Portland. It was buried deep in a pannier and it got so old I decided not to eat it unless absolutely necessary.

What did I not bring and wish I had

  • My fiber fix spoke. I found one in Ohiopyle PA.
  • My passport. I was really close to Canada when I was in Washington state. More importantly, if I had to deal with road closures, I could have ridden north into British Columbia.
  • My headsweat. I brought it and left it in a hotel. So I sprayed sunscreen on my head everyday. (The bottle ran out on my last day.)
  • A belt for my off road shorts. I bought one in Pittsburgh.

I may add to this if I think of things. If you have questions about gear, gear choices, feel free to ask away in the comments section.

Next up: the best and worst parts of the tour

Any Road Tour: Day 63 – Put a fork in it

The hostel served its purpose. It had a bed and shower, and was walking distance to Powell’s book store.

I spent the evening hanging around the hostel, sampling a local koltsch.

This morning after checking out I rolled to Voodoo doughnuts. I had the Mafia fritter, a concoction only a deviant mind could invent.

Then I rode about 10 miles to my niece Shannon’s house. It was a mighty hilly ride.

I spent about five hours there. It once my grandnephew took a nap he was a fun play buddy. He’s currently trying to figure out how to crawl. I pulled out my grandpop’s knee bouncing act, perhaps my earliest memory.

He also had fun playing with Mrs. Rootchopper’s crinkle quilt.

His mom is a happy, if tired, camper.

After baby time, I ride a few miles to Eric’s house. Eric and I worked together for years. He’s putting me up for a few nights so that I can get The Mule and me home Thursday night.

Mikes: 12

Tour Miles: 4,313.5

Any Road Tour: Day 62 – Falls, fail, and fifty

M&Ms come in all kinds of flavors these days. Last night I meant to buy the old fashioned milk chocolate kind, but I got the sleeping pill version. I ate some and passed out at 9:15. I woke up 7 1/2 hours later with no idea of where I was.

This tour is starting to wear my ass out. Good thing it’s nearly over.

The hotel breakfast was biscuits and gravy, oatmeal and raisins, eggs, sausage, potatoes, coffee, and OJ. I took an apple and a banana for the road.

Oink.

The ride to Portland must have featured a tailwind because I put no effort into it. I rode over the St, John’s bridge and followed my maps toward Multnomah Falls which is well east of the city up the Columbia River. As I rode I saw beaucoup runners, mostly really good ones. Oregon is the home of Nike, the late Steve Prefontaine, and Alberto Salazar and the weather is perfect for running. At least it was this morning, before a heat wave hit.

There were also bicyclists riding what was obviously a predetermined route. It was the Portland Bridge Pedal. It’s like the 50 States Ride in DC but with signs instead of a 10 page indecipherable cue sheet.

I rode to the Columbia River and around the airport. I saw two story house boats and green islands and a rather enormous snow covered mountain which I took to be Mt. Hood. (It might have been Mt. Adams but what do I know.)

When I arrived in Troutdale, I saw an electric sign that said the interstate exit to Multnomah Falls was closed. I asked the Google and it told me that the cycling route to the falls was closed.

Boo.

I booked a room in a hostel conveniently located 15 miles across Portland. So I asked the Google to direct me. And I got a tour of the city. I was riding mostly in the northwest part of town. Parts reminded me of Pasadena, others of Stockholm, and others of Arlington Va. I saw light rail, Craftsman houses with interesting paint jobs, and helpful bike wayfaring signs.

I even saw two buildings that had a Peter Max kind of paint job.

I checked in to my hostel which is walking distance to all kinds of interesting stuff that is closed because it’s Sunday evening.

Tomorrow I go see my niece and grandnephew. The boy looks like a cross between Winston Churchill and Don Zimmer. This raises the question: what do they call gerbils in England?

Miles: 61

Total miles: 4,301.5

And another thing, while riding through Portland, The Mule turned 50.

Any Road Tour: Day 61 – Read the fine print

The day started with a sore butt, the result of last night’s fall off a bar stool. I swear I wasn’t even approximately drunk. Julie will vouch for me. Right, Julie? You know, Julie What’s-Her-Name.

What was her last name anyway?

Having name amnesia is no way to win friends or provide eye witnesses. It took me two hours but I finally solved the puzzle by combining “Julie” with specific details of her life that she shared with me last night. Suffice it to say, if she wasn’t a rolfer, her last name would still be a mystery.

Having solved the puzzle. I moved on to first breakfast, rolled oats with strawberries, a mixed berry scone, and coffee.

Then I carried all my stuff down 1 1/2,flights is stairs at the hotel/hostel and road off toward the sun. For the first time since I left home I was pointed in that direction. And I had a terrific tailwind. Over the course of the next eight hours I road much of Thursday’s ride in reverse. 600-foot climb? No problem. Downhill at 40 miles per hour? As you wish.

Every hour or so I stopped for a snack. I had second breakfast too. This time eggs, bacon, hash browns, and coffee. (Anybody hungry yet.)

I had no worries because I was planning on camping in the town park in St. Helens, like my Adventure Cycling maps said.

I stopped in Rainier for ice cream. No hurry.

I admired unusual signs.

And acvolcanic mountain (St. Helens) and a broad river (the Columbia).

After about 68 miles I arrived in the town of St. Helens and went to the town park to set up my tent. I called the police to get permission.

Had I read the addendum to the Adventure Cycling maps I’d have seen that camping in the Park was no longer allowed. Now it’s 6 pm on a Saturday night, there’s a county fair and s rodeo in town. The only hotel room in town was over $160. Dang.

I tried places ten miles away but nobody would answer the phone!

So I went back the the Best Western and threw myself on the mercy of the desk clerk. Once he realized that I had ridden over 4,000 miles, he cut the price of the room out of pity.

I checked in and called it a day.

Miles: the easiest hilly 70.5 miles ever

Tour miles: 4,240.5

Tomorrow: Portland

Any Road Tour: Day 59 – Wheel dip at last

So I hovered the complementary breakfast. Frosted Flakes, banana, OJ, coffee, toast. Burp.

And so I left Kelso (he wouldn’t tell me who Superman is either) and headed for Oregon using a route suggested by the bike shop dude yesterday. The Longview Bridge flies over the port which seems to ship nothing but enormous logs.

On US 30 in Oregon I climbed for about 500 feet. To put this in normal people terms, DANG!

The road was a high speed two lane truck fest. Riding on it stressed me out but I was on a mission from God: get to the bloody Pacific Ocean!

I rode and rode, up and down, timing my sprints across narrow bridges so as not to become a dead bicycle tourist.

I stopped at a gas station for Diet Coke and a candy bar. The bathrooms were PortaPotties that should have been emptied in May. I chose discomfort over disgust and rode on.

After another ten miles I stopped in Svensen. The town was having its free Senior’s lunch. I chose the market instead. It was owned and run by a Muslim family. I guess we’re not in Montana anymore.

The owner without hesitation let me use the bathroom. I wish I had been hungrier to repay his kindness. I bought some Gatorade and a big cookie.

Friend of the blog Ryan recommended Mo’s. Seafood and Chowder restaurant earlier in the day. All I could think about in the cool headwinds was hot clam chowder.

And so the first thing I did when I got to Astoria was to get chowder at Mo’s. In a bread bowl. A perfect meal after 54 miles of hills and cool headwinds.

All the way to Astoria I was passed within a few feet by huge trucks, campers, and mobile homes. My nerves were a little frayed. I left Mo’s and headed under the Astoria Bridge to Cape Disappointment in Washington. It’s waaay high and waaay wife with not a whole lot of room for bikes.

Rather than go to the hostel, I decided that I’d ride to the ocean and dip my wheel in, the tradition ending if a transcontinental bike ride. I followed my maps. One bridge had a metal grate bridge deck. My nerves were shot so I walked it.

It took me a good 45 minutes to find the biggest body of water on the planet. My frustration was off the charts. Where is the fucking thing!!!

I finally found Fort Stevens State Park. After two more miles I came to a parking lot. The ocean was right over the dunes. So I pushed The Mule over a 15 foot sand dune. It kept sinking in. I kept lifting it out. PUSH!!!

Getting to the top took everything I had. Now I had to go down the beach side of the dude. The Mule kept sinking in which, I suppose, is preferable to having an 80 pound loaded touring bike go screaming down a hill without me.

I pushed the bike across the flat beach and asked a dad to take my picture.

I talked with him and his wife. They were there with their two naked towheaded toddlers. Pale white, tow headed, naked toddlers on a beach for some reason just crack me up.

Mom suggested that I walk my bike two miles down the beach to the site of a shipwreck. The dunes are much lower there.

Off I went. I tried riding but The Mule objected do I walked. Even a ten-foot dune is a bitch to push a touring bike over.

On the other side a mountain biker named Steve led me out of the park. I decide to take the main highway, US 101, back to Astoria.

It went fine until I got to the bridge. It was narrow with strong crosswinds that yanked the front of The Mile all over the place. I made it without incident until a tractor trailer went by me with a foot to spare.

DON’T LOOK AT IT!

I didn’t and managed not to get sicker under its rear wheels.

That pretty much sealed the deal on Cape Disappointment.

My hostel is more of a pensione. I have a private room with a shared bath and a shared shower. It’s expensive but I just crossed the damned country on a bike. I’m staying here two nights. I had to carry The Mule up a flight and a half of stairs. Tomorrow The Mule gets a rest too.

I’m really not usually this messy. Honest.

I sit in the Fort George brewery drinking beer, eating pizza, and watching the white caps on the Columbia River. (Thanks again to Ryan for the suggestion.)

I know my days on the road are coming to an end. As my son used to say when he was a toddler, I want to sleep in my own bed.

Miles: 82

Trip miles: 4,170

A final note: Happy birthday, Klarence. Thanks for screwing the lid back on my jar.

Any Road Tour: Day 58 – Getting there

Last night at the Motel 6 I watched the All Star game. The best part was when the crowd cheered for Wilson Ramos during the player introductions.

I slept in and had another diner breakfast. I am burning out on diner food. I am really looking forward to cereal with bananas when I get home.

The road now leads south and I followed my maps faithfully. There were a couple of small hills but, even with a headwind, hills are no longer annoying me. Lower gears. Stand up and pedal. Over the top. NBD.

The scenery was a mix of small farms, exurban homes with some livestock in the yard, and a few wooded stretches.

I rode about 35 miles west of Mt. St. Helens. I declined the opportunity to climb 35 miles to see some exhibits. It was once big. Not so much anymore. The end.

Maybe I’m getting numb to the scenery but man made stuff is getting more of my attention. This dude graced the water tower in Toledo.

This was in someone’s front lawn. Looked more like King Kong than Sasquatch.

Here’s the turn off to volcanic doom.

I followed the Cowlitz River as it slowly descends to the Columbia. I saw a few freight trains go by. The noise from I-5 killed the country vibe a bit.

I saw two separate northbound bicycle tourists today. Neither encounter occurred where we could chat. I also learned that last weekend was the annual STP ride, a 200+ mile trek from Seattle to Portland.

I rode into Longview in search of a bike shop to pump up my tires. A local bike rider saw me and escorted me to a Proper Cycle Works. He also offered me a camping spot in his yard because people did the same for him on his bike tour to and from San Francisco. His name is Alex and he’s a nice guy but I had motel-on-the-brain today.

The bike shop guy told me my tires were running at 60 psi. Low but not too bad. He pumped them up to 80. Then he gave me directions to the motels in Kelso across the Cowlitz from town. He also told me that the Adventure Cycling route to Oregon is not on a safe road. He advised me to cross the Columbia River on the bridge just outside Longview and ride US 30 to the coast. There’s only one big hill, he said. We’ll see.

At the end of the day, I found out that #bikedc friends Megan and Nate are on the coast driving a hippy van and doing drugs. Okay, I made the drugs up. Anyway there is an outside chance that our paths will intersect in the next day or two.

Miles: 60.5

Tour Miles: 4,088

Any Road Tour: Day 57 – Good form after 4,000 miles

A little breakfast. A little chain maintenance. Good bye Shelton.

The first 28 miles featured rolling hills, cool temperatures, a headwind, and chip seal roads. This is logging country. Large swaths of the woods have been cut down. Others are recovering from being cut. I saw one tract that was cut in 1984 and the trees are still nowhere near the size of the forest around them.

I stopped for a mid morning snack which I shared with the store’s dog. I’m not sure she was crazy about the nacho cheese Duritos I gave here.

The store owner and a customer were chatting about wild life in the area. Cougars, bears, wolves, and coyotes. Suddenly I am less than enthusiastic about camping.

I stopped in Elma for lunch. When I walked outside, I found that the wind was now at my back and the roads were level.

Looming over the town were two cooling towers from a nuclear power plant. The plant was never completed. It’s now an office park for several businesses including cannibis production.

The next 34 miles were easy. Along the way, I passed the 4,000 mile point of the tour.

As I waited at a traffic light entering Centralia, a woman lean out her car window and said that I had good form. Sadly I didn’t have a witty comeback.

I suppose it’s easy to look good with a tailwind pushing you on level ground.

I am told that I am getting close to Mt. Saint Helens.

Eek.

Miles: 62

Tour miles: 4,027.5