Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fireworks, Mileage, and Tillamook!

Holy cannoli! I can’t believe my adventure is well underfoot! Such a beautiful whirlwind over the past few days has brought me here to Tillamook, Oregon. But, allow me to back up a bit and review the past few days.


July 4: Steve and I spent a wonderfully relaxed day in Boulder running errands and both preparing for our respective trips (Send Steve some good vibes as he flies out to Peru tonight!). I had a brief bout of nervousness and anxiety about my trip wondering what I was doing, but Steve gave me a great pep talk and I was reminded of how delightful it would be to get away and try something new.

Always hard to say goodbye to this guy! 

A fortuitous twist of fate brought me to a used hard bike case, which worked out excellent for flying. The flight was uneventful and my luggage wasn’t lost or damaged- what more could I ask for? Anika picked me up that evening and we were on our way as of 7:30pm. Good food and brews helped Anika, Dylan (Anika’s boyfriend), and I pack and prepare our bikes and luggage and we got to see some fireworks above the city. The Fourth of July is easily my favorite holiday—one with zero expectations other than laid back fun and food with family and friends.

Slight separation anxiety each time I need to part ways with this little lady

July 5: The next morning, we got going around 8am and Dylan generously dropped us off just outside of town. We followed the Seattle to Portland route (or STP, if you’re in the know). The STP ride takes place mid-July and we thankfully missed it by a week. The organized ride consists of about 10,000 people. Great to see so many getting after it—but nothing I necessarily want to be a part of!
The route is not fully straightforward to begin with, and we focused on navigating and getting used to the balance of our bikes with added weight. My setup is what other bike tourists call austere: I really have a streamlined set of gear with me, and just enough to get by comfortably and safely. 

Welp, here goes nothing....

Anika and I set out with a vague plan of getting to Yelm, WA and seeing how we felt. The ride was scenic and the weather, mellow. We had no issues with the bikes or the route (except for one minor miscalculation)… until we got to the 507. While not physically challenging, this 20-mile stretch provided no change in scenery: a ditch to the right, some trees to the left. No houses, no turns, no change. Mentally, we were going a bit insane. We were unable to chat to pass the time, as the shoulder was just wide enough for one. Eventually, however, we made it to Yelm, our tentative stopping point. In Yelm and uninspired by the Wal-Mart and the prospect of a beastly next 2 days, we decided to push on 30 miles  to Centralia (the halfway point between Seattle and Portland) and stayed at the Motel 6 and ate something at the local country friend restaurant in town. Our day ended up at about 92 miles in total.

AT sporting the yellow jersey. Fitting, as the TDF started July 5, too!

No more 507, yo.

Fried zucchini for all! Almost like eating a vegetable.

That night, we felt pretty good, but neither of us had spent a great deal of time in Portland and decided we’d like to explore the city moderately fresh. We took an Amtrak that morning from Centralia to Kelso/Longview and saved about 40 miles of our journey. The train was fun! We arrived at the station about 30 minutes prior to arrival and waited patiently. All hell broke loose as soon as the train came, for some reason, but we made it on with lots of laughs.
We departed the train and rode for about 4 miles before coming to the Lewis and Clark Bridge- a bridge with a steady climb and subsequent descent with a narrow shoulder. The STP route maps had warned us to take extreme caution and we started to get a little jittery about the bridge prior to crossing. It ultimately was fine, although there was a great deal of logging debris and other random shrapnel on the shoulder. Halfway across the bridge, we were in OREGON! My first time in this state I’ve heard so much about!

After waiting patiently in the quiet Amtrak station, the attendants all of a sudden told us we needed to RUN! and started tossing our luggage all over the place. Did we miss something....? #justmadeit

On cue, the last 100 yards of the Lewis and Clark Bridge traverse were christened with the rumbling closeness and cyclone of wind of a semi truck.

What-what. Getting closer! Hottest 48 miles ever.

From here, we took the 30 to Portland. Our ride in total for the day was 60 miles of rolling hills through some serious HEAT! Our Nordic roots rendered us rather dehydrated the entire ride, and we took advantage of the many small town gas stations to refuel with little snacks and some electrolyte drank refills. We made it to Portland and stayed in a charming and inexpensive motel- the Viking- which was conveniently right by a rail station. We were able to do a bit of exploring of downtown, although we were pretty much ravenous and had our sites set on food, more so than any other city sites.

Earned. Cheers!

July 6: The next day, we took a rest day, much to the joy of our tushes, and took a look at what Portland had to offer. The day was filled with yummy food, coffee, and a fun yet rather long walking tour of the city. Our tour guide gave us tons of random tidbits about the city (its Stumptown origins, the rationale behind the layout of the city and its magnetic vs. true north orientation, the smallest city park in the world, info on buildings and statues such as Portlandia, and more). We ate at the smallest brewery in Portland, and I sent Anika off on her bus. It was sad to see my adventure companion leave, but it also marks the next leg of the journey.
Coffee, food, walking, and weirdness. Portland!

5 steps into a 2hr 45min walking tour, Anika steps in gum. Classic.

Portland waterfront. Look familiar, Duluth friends? :)

In a twist of wonderful fate, I got into contact with an old and wonderful friend, Ben, who offered me a place to stay in Portland, as well as a ride (100+ miles of winding roads, low visibility, and a humongous climb) to the coast! Who could pass that up!? I was planning on taking an Amtrak to the coast to avoid the solo climb to stay safe, but this was a much more pleasant and fun way to travel! Ben and I met in middle school and have connected several times since then, generally in our hometown of Duluth, but now, Oregon! Ben is a PA in Tillamook and I was able to see his clinic and his new life. What a great friend!

Duluth kids in Tillamook! 

What an amazing host! A place to stay, a ride, AND coffee in a Duluth Pack mug! The best.

Ben’s incredibly generous offer for the ride has brought me to Tillamook where I’ll shortly get on the road on the 101 bound for my next destination south to Devil’s Lake State Park (41mi) or potentially Beverly State Beach (63mi), depending on the legs, weather and other factors. Stay tuned, and thanks so much for following my journey!

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