Thursday, July 21, 2016

Today We Conquered the Mountain!

It's been 11 years since I last rode my bike up to Johnston Ridge at Mt. St. Helens (2005 Tour d Blast). I guess it was time to do it again. Karen has never done it, and Melody has done it many times.

The three of us set off from the junction of Hwy 505 and Spirit Lake Hwy at about 9:15. We left Karen's car parked in the gravel lot (that was filled with huge piles of...gravel). The ride is pretty easy to start with; just a gentle grade. It kicks up a bit a half dozen or so miles in with a mile of a 6% climb, then eases up some, but steady climbing. 
The mountain comes into view for the first time.

There are a couple of short downhills (that seem like long uphills on the way back!), with a pretty good one coming down to "the bridge" (Hoffstadt).
Going across the Hoffstadt Bridge

We hadn't stopped at Hoffstadt Bluff viewpoint, but did pull into the Forest Science place. Melody and Karen got there before me. They were inside when I got there, getting water. I was good on water, so took the opportunity to stretch my back (it was giving me fits, feeling okay while riding, but not so okay when I tried to walk or stand up straight--it does this sometimes). I layed on my stomach on a bench that was quite toasty warm. In fact, one would probably say it was quite hot. I stretched, then got up when I started to feel like an egg frying. At least I could stand up straight after that.

We continued climbing. Melody, because she is a phenomenal climber got ahead of Karen, who was ahead of me. When I got to Elk Rock, Karen was taking a photo. I pulled over, and we took a few more.
Melody was already gone when we got to Elk Rock (the flies were a little annoying if one stopped too long).

From Elk Rock, we enjoyed the descent down to Coldwater Creek. At the junction, I looked back and couldn't see Karen. I stopped and waited to make sure she made the right turn. I was getting a little concerned when she didn't show up for awhile. Just as I was about to turn back to see if she had a flat, she came into view. When she caught up, she said one of her water bottles had flown out of its cage. She had to go retrieve it, and had a little trouble finding it.

At the junction to the old Coldwater Visitors Center (closed) is where the descent gets steeper to get down to Coldwater Creek. We lost about 1000 ft of elevation. Even though we knew we would have to come back up on the way back, and that we would have to regain the lost elevation, and then some, to get to Johnston Ridge, it was still a fun ride down.

In my opinion (and most others too, I'd wager), the last 5 miles from Coldwater Creek to Johnston Ridge are the hardest of the ride. It was hot, and the going was slow (although, I think I was faster this time than 11 years ago when I could count the spokes as they went slowly around). We took one bit of a break a little more than half way. 

We finally reached the top, and found Melody at the Visitors Center. There was a guy from London who actually rode his loaded touring bike up to the top. Kudos to him! I would not want to do that! I refilled my bottles, and used the restroom. I was a slight bit lightheaded, so grabbed a bar and water, and sat down on the wall outside. After I finished, I felt better. Karen took this photo of me at the top.
Woo Hoo! Made it! (Strangely, we forgot to take a picture of the three of us at the top. I guess we'll have to go back...)

Now for the downhill! I managed a maximum of 43.6 mph coming back down to Coldwater Creek. There was a headwind (Mother Nature's brakes). At times, I could feel a little shimmy, but just hung on, knowing it was the wind. Melody passed Karen and I as we were heading back up to Elk Rock. We had agreed to meet there for the rest of the ride down. As usual, I was the last to arrive. This time, I took a photo of Melody and Karen.

We made a brief stop at the Forest place for water. From there it was 16 miles of mostly downhill back to the car. We pulled into the gravel lot at about 3:45. We had done 74 miles with 7,129 ft of elevation gain, and we conquered the mountain!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

So Close to Quitting...

Last night I looked at the forecast for today. It said 70% chance of rain. So, it was going to be raining...and windy. How exciting! I prepared as much as I could the night before. I brought my rain gear into my tent, and scoped out the park as to where I could cook my breakfast. There is a big shelter (seats 250). That would do nicely.

Sure enough, it was raining when I got up. I took my tent down under the rainfly. I'm getting pretty good at that now! I moved Tilmann close to the tent, and loaded everything quickly. Once everything was packed up (I was in full rain gear), I rode over to the shelter and commenced with cooking breakfast.
I talked to the camp hosts while I was eating breakfast. Apparently, Ride Oregon was coming in today for a lunch stop. They were bringing in potty shacks, big tents, and all that stuff. The powers that be neglected to tell the camp hosts that this huge supported bike event was coming to the park. They were a little...surprised.

I finished up, and headed out at my usual time of 8:00. It was still raining. The wind wasn't too bad, but I was also heading up over Gap Rd, the highest point of the route. As soon as I got over the second hump, the wind was up to its old tricks.
At first I thought it was water running, but it was the wind blowing the trees. Great!

I resigned myself to slow going. It wasn't too bad until I turned onto Coburg Rd. Now I was heading directly south on a 10 mile long straight road with nothing but fields on each side. At times I was racing along at 8 mph. Mostly, however, I was doing good to go 7 mph. The wind was also driving the rain directly into my face. Mostly, I looked at the road a few feet in front of me.

As I was going down this endless road, I started to think this was no fun. Then I thought, I know...when I get to Coburg (the town), I'll call Kyle and have him come pick me up. Yes, that's what I'll do! I've already done this section of the route a few years ago when Kyle first moved to Eugene. There's no need for me to do it again.

Finally, I could see the end of this miserable road. It did get a little better as I got closer to Coburg because there were some trees and houses that seemed to help block some of the wind. Okay, and it had stopped raining. I stopped in the town at a Dairy Mart and got some chocolate milk and some of those little donuts. I sat in the store eating, and decided I would just go on to Armitage County Park, the official end of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. From there I would call Kyle. At least I would finish the route. It was, maybe 3 more miles to the park. I got there and took a couple of photos.
With Tilmann
Without Tilmann.

I had finished! Although the wind was still blowing, it wasn't as bad because of the trees. If I just kept riding, there would soon be buildings and traffic to break up the wind. And, it was not too much further...okay, I'll just ride the rest of the way. Actually, it was the easiest part of the ride! I pulled into the driveway just a hair before noon. I had ridden 31+ miles. Not very far, but with the awful headwind and rain, it seemed like more.

In hindsight (which is always 20/20), I should have taken the train to Eugene, stayed with the kids, then ridden from Eugene to Portland. It would have been a much more pleasant ride. Except for the wind, the route was a good route--well signed, and not terribly difficult. I would recommend it for a first tour (from Eugene to Champoeg, or Portland). 

Now I'll be in Eugene for a week, then riding up to Olympia in the car with Kyle , Mallory, and Grayson.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

It's Always a Rainbow For Someone

A little update from last night. I had a delicious burger and fries for $5 at the park where they were going to be playing music. Later, I watched a little of the concert (it wasn't the best--think 70s music not done well). It didn't really matter if I watched or not as I could hear it just fine from my campsite. I retired to my tent about 8:30. Okay, really it was closer to 8:00, I just didn't have anything else to do. I did read for awhile in my tent. The music was still playing until the rain came at about 10:00. That put an end to the concert. I must admit, I wasn't disappointed.

It rained for a good chunk of the night. I woke up briefly at 4:15. The rain had stopped. I got up at 6:45 and was on the road by 8:00. The camp host had unlocked the park bathrooms, which was a good thing because the sani-cans were disgusting (a negative 10 on my potty shack rating scale). 

There wasn't much wind. I was very grateful. I went back through the town to cross the river, and get back on the route. Today's main crop seemed to be blueberries. The route was flat for a bit, but then I had a few rollers. The clouds were mighty low in the foothills.
Fortunately, there was no rain.

Things were going well for the first 10 miles or so. Then, my nemesis, the headwind, returned. I pulled into Jefferson at mid-morning snack time. I was looking for a bakery (of course I was!). All I could find was a cafe (called Jefferson Station Cafe), so I had second breakfast. I also took the time to write down the turn-by-turn directions for today as I had come to an intersection that had no sign. Usually, one would assume go straight, but there was no road straight. I pulled out my iPad and looked up the route I had saved on iBooks. It's a good thing I did, because I was sure I should go left, when, in fact, I was supposed to go right. I really didn't want to go the wrong way today because I already had 66 miles to do. At the next turn the sign was there, but I still wrote down the directions.

After Jefferson, it was more headwind. If the road curved or turned, it just meant I had strong cross winds. I was either getting blown into the road, or toward the shoulder. Fun fun...

For entertainment, I snuck up on a group (flock? gaggle? no, I know...a gobble!) of turkey vultures partying over a dead skunk. The smell was horrific, but I got this photo just before they saw me.
"Hey guys, let's all sing a chorus of Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road! Wait, there's someone coming! Better fly!"
Sorry to interrupt your party!

Anyway, where was I...oh yeah, wind, wind, and more wind. The only respite was when the route strangely headed north through Albany. I was glad for the break. As I was rolling along, I looked ahead and could see the flashing lights of police and fire vehicles. It looked like all the traffic was having to turn. I still needed to go further north. At the light just before the mess, I went left and got up on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road. As I got to the fire trucks, I could see that the Burger King restaurant was a smoldering ruin. There was still a fat fire hose across the sidewalk I was on, so I had to lift Tilmann over it. I said to a spectator, "I guess that's no longer the home of the Whopper." 
Just after, I was able to cross back to the other side of the road.

The route turned west. I stopped at a park for some lunch, then continued on. Soon I was back to strong headwinds. I started seeing Ride Oregon route signs, but no riders. I came out to Hwy 34 near Corvallis. There is a nice new bike path next to the hwy. Once again, was going north for a bit. Yay!

At Peoria Rd, I remembered reading that if I didn't want to cross the busy hwy, I could go up to the light, and rejoin the route later. I'm thinking the traffic light at Peoria Rd is new. Sure, I wasn't about to try to get into the turn lane, but I could just cross at the crosswalk. Strangely, there was no route sign there either. Perhaps they have changed it to the other way, but this way worked fine. Again, I was seeing Ride Oregon signs. 

The wind was still brutal, but it was nice along the river for awhile.

Finally, I got to get out of the wind! In fact, it was now behind me when I turned onto Fayetteville Rd. It was absolute heaven! I was flying along at 15 mph! What a difference in morale! Of course, I knew I'd have to still go more south, but for the moment, I was enjoying the ride! In addition to the Ride Oregon route signs, I also saw two support vehicles. Yet, I never saw a single rider. I did see one guy going the other direction (when I was enjoying the tailwind...poor guy), but that couldn't have been a Ride Oregon rider.

I was headed to Brownsville, which is on the east side of I-5. So, for the third time today, I crossed I-5. Just a few more headwindy sections, and I was rolling into Brownsville. I saw a gal out in her yard, so I stopped and asked where Pioneer City Park was. As I rolled into the park, I saw that it was a lunch stop for Ride Oregon. I asked the camp host, but she said no riders had been here today. Maybe they come tomorrow???

So, why is this post titled "It's Always a Rainbow for Someone"? The camp host said that to me when we were talking about the rain. When I told her the rain stopped the concert early so I could go to sleep last night, she said, "It's always a rainbow for someone." I thought that was perfect for today. The guy I saw struggling in the headwind, while I was finally enjoying a tailwind...well, that was also my rainbow. 

Here are the two pages of today's route. All the roads heading south or west, or a combination were headwinds. Only the bits of north, and the easterly directions were tailwinds. On the second one, you'll see I don't have too far to go tomorrow.

Finally, an answer to the age old question of why did the chicken cross the road? 
To lay in the sun, of course!

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Good Day For an All-Skate in the Other Direction

Meaning, it would have been good to be going in the other direction, as there was a pretty decent headwind for most of today's ride. 

Upon exiting Champoeg State Park, I saw the first sign for the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.
I don't know why I didn't see it yesterday...

This morning before I got out of my tent I wrote down the turn-by-turn directions for today's route. I needn't have done that as there were signs the entire way. I guess it was nice to know how far before the next turn. The rain had stopped sometime during the night, and it was cloudy with bits of blue sky here and there this morning. I looked at the weather, and the chance of rain was pretty low. Yay! My shorts might actually get dry hanging on the back of the bike!

I was packed and on the road by 8:00. Said goodbye to Alex, he would be heading out to the Coast. Once I was truly heading south, I noticed the wind. It was pretty flat, yet I was only going 8 mph. I decided to focus on...well, the only thing there was to focus on was the various agriculture. There were hops strung up on tall posts.
There were fields of harvested Cauliflower.
At least that's what it looked like.
Of course, there were orchard after orchard of hazelnut/filbert trees.
Sometimes you feel like a nut...sometimes you don't...too bad, nuts everywhere!
There were also lots of nurseries, baby trees and plants galore. The best nursery was the field of irises.
Quite colorful!

Alongside the road there were lots of blackberries. The ones with a southern exposure were nice and ripe. I stopped and ate a few handfuls. They were delicious!

As I was riding along, a couple came up behind me on bikes. We rode together for awhile. They were from Portland, and we're just out doing an overnight to Corvallis. Turns out they had been at Champoeg last night, but came in late. Their names were Jade and Annie. Nice kids. I lost them in Keizer (I stopped for lunch). Also saw a guy going the other direction (lucky him). His name was Vince. We talked for a short bit.

Just before coming into Keizer, I noticed a large number of birds circling overhead. I know I was going slow, and maybe appeared to be dead meat,, a farmer was on a tractor in the field. I think the birds (mostly turkey vultures, and a couple of hawks) were looking for prey being rousted by the tractor. The photo I took with several of the birds did not turn out well. Here's one with just one.
Earlier I had seen a turkey vulture sitting in a tree, just waiting until he could swoop down and make a meal of the dead raccoon in the middle of the road.

I worked my way through Keizer, then into Salem. The route went through various parks, and right by the Capitol building.
Salem, the capital of Oregon.

The route was well marked through the parks.
The bottom arrow says "Scenic Bikeway".

For the briefest of time just out of Salem, I had a tailwind. It was glorious! Then, back to the headwind. It was okay, I only had about 8 more miles to go to tonight's destination--Riverview Park in Independence. It's a little bit of a strange place. It's a big field (that is also part of a disc golf course) with H/B sites around the perimeter. It's funny, the sign says first come, first serve, no reservations. With the exception of maybe being short on picnic tables, there is probably room for 100 tents!
There is also a shower of sorts. It's an outdoor shower, and it's cold water. Fortunately, it was pretty warm when I got here, so I didn't mind the cold shower. I was able to wash my shorts too. With the wind, they might just get dry tonight! 

The host, Larry, just came by to collect the $10 fee. He said there's a music festival going on in the park next door. There are also some food vendors. I might go over for dinner if this wind doesn't die down. Unlike Champoeg, there is no shelter. Wind, great for drying laundry, not so great for cooking.

Here's a map of today's route. It was 47 miles from campsite to campsite.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Urban, Suburban, and Rain

Today was the beginning of a short tour from Portland to Eugene. I took Tilmann on the train from Olympia to Portland. 
Tilmann is soooo excited for his first train ride!

I got over to the station with plenty of time to spare. That was a good thing because I realized I had forgotten my camera connector kit to download photos from my camera. I had a short conversation with myself trying to decide if I could figure out how to transfer the photos via the wifi on my camera, or if I should just ride back home and get the connector kit. Since I had about 25 minutes before my train was to arrive, I opted to ride home and get the kit--save the wifi lesson for a time when I'm not sitting at a picnic table. Since I had already taken everything off Tilmann, I ran into the station and told the volunteer I was just going to ride home quickly, leaving the big bag and the two front panniers there. Quick as a bunny I hopped home, got the kit, threw it into the handlebar bag, and rode back to the station. Took me all of 10 minutes.

Train was on time (shock of shocks!). My favorite train guy, Mark, was working today. He grabbed my big bag and hauled it onto the train for me. Another guy took Tilmann, and I was on the train lickety split! We pulled into Portland at about 11:10. Because I couldn't carry the bag and wheel Tilmann at the same time, I stopped just off the train and loaded everything up.
The train to the left is not the train I was on. The train I was on had moved forward by the time I had Tilmann loaded and ready to go. It had moved forward to refuel, stopping on top of the place I needed to cross to get to the station. But, never fear, my buddy Mark motioned for me come across the tracks. Of course, there was no way I could carry Tilmann fully loaded across two sets of tracks! Mark just came over and picked up Tilmann and carried him across the tracks for me. What a great guy!

I left the train station at 11:25. I had Google mapped my route from the station to Champoeg State Park. I even wrote out the turn by turn directions. No problems getting through downtown. 
Afterall, it is the most bike friendly city! Bike lanes everywhere!

When I came to Terwilliger Blvd, I figured I was in for some climbing. Yep, I was. Terwilliger climbs up by OHSU, Dornbecher Childrens' Hosp, and the VA Hospital. There was bike lane the whole way.

I came down the other side and missed the street Google wanted me to take. It was strange because the road I came to was later in my directions. But, I've found sometimes there is a good reason for going the way Google says (sometimes not). Since I was only a short distance beyond the road I was supposed to turn on, I went back. I wound my way through a neighborhood of rather nice homes, and came out to the same road I had been at, only further up. Maybe there wasn't a bike lane or something on the other part.

I worked my way through Tigard, and then Durham. At Durham, I saw a sign for a park. I was pretty hungry by now, so I pulled off and fixed some lunch. It started to spit rain, but it was pretty muggy, so I didn't worry too much.

Back on the road, Google said to go straight onto this one road. Well, it had a dead end sign. But, the next few directions were "Go left 150 ft. Go right .5 miles. Go left..." No street names. I discovered that's Google's way of telling you you are to go on a path. This path was through a Durham city park, and a Tualatin park. I rode through a butterfly garden, but saw no butterflies. I rode across the Tualatin River on this awesome bridge.
The bridge connecting the two parks.
The river.

I popped out the other side, and was back to following road signs. I was on a pretty busy road, but this was the bike lane, so it was okay.
Very nice, huh?

After another couple of neighborhood ramblings, I finally had to get on a hwy. There was a wide shoulder, but lots of traffic, so it was pretty noisy. It also started to rain, so I stopped to put on my rain jacket. 

I went up a good climb, and down the other side where I made the turn to head toward St Paul. Champoeg State Park is before St. Paul, or at least I turned off before then. The last road was Campoeg Rd. I was finally on a country road.
Nice scenery, even in the rain.
Made it to the park at about 3:40. Even though today's ride was almost entirely in urban and suburban areas, it wasn't bad. I was rarely without a bike lane. 

Champoeg State Park is the start of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. It should be mostly rural roads from here on out. This park is awesome! The H/B site has a power outlet and a covered shelter (two actually). Hot showers of course, as this is an Oregon State Park! There are a few of us here. Two guys and I are sharing the picnic table under the shelter.
Scott and Alex. Scott is homeless, and Alex is from Portland.

Weirdest thing today (sort of) was that I did not see a single Subway restaurant!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We're Coming Boo Boo!

This morning from Erin and Bob's place. See the bald eagle in the tree? There was also a juvenile flying around.
The Pend Oreille River in the morning with no wind.

It's amazing how early we can get on the road when all we have to do is load our stuff into John's truck (no taking down tents either), and hit the road. We did want to get going early because we were going all the way to Annette's house, which was about 76 miles. We left at 7:25.

We had about 30 miles of the Selkirk Loop to finish (to get back to Usk). Along the way it rained some, but we had brought our rain jackets. 
Le Clerc Rd to Usk. Traveling light.

As we were nearing Usk, Annette had a great idea to call John and have him meet us in Usk, then drive us to the top of Flowery Trail so we could ride down to Chewelah. She called, and John agreed! 
We finished the Selkirk Loop! This is where we got on the main loop at Usk.

We returned to Boo Boo's Bakery and Cafe in Usk. This is the first time I have gone to the same bakery twice in one tour! We talked to the same gal, and this time also had some lunch (BLTs), even though it was only 10:45.
Boo Boo, we're back!!!

John arrived about an hour after us. We loaded the bikes onto the truck and headed up to the top of Flowery Trail. We unloaded, and headed down the hill. I hit my maximum speed so far on Tilmann of 40.44 mph. I would have gone faster, but there was a nasty headwind. It took 20 minutes to go 9 miles. We met John at the other bakery we had stopped at on our first day in Chewelah.

Once again we loaded the bikes, and this time, headed home. It was a great tour! The funniest thing is that for the entire 8 days, we only stayed in one of the places I had planned when I figured out the itinerary! We also only paid for camping for 4 of the 8 nights. That averaged out to less than $4/person for camping. Pretty good, I think!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Back in the US of A!

But, first a little update from last night. After our dinner, we hopped on our bikes and went to the library for wifi. We noticed a couple of murals made from rock--like a mosaic. Then we found out there were a bunch of them. They were done by the high school students. We rode around the town until we found all of them. Here were a few of my favorites.
Miner panning for gold.
Big horn sheep. The murals were on all sorts of buildings--even the laundromat. Salmo was a nice little town.

This morning we planned to get going the same time as yesterday. Stella was waiting patiently for Annette to emerge from her tent.
Come on, Annette! I'm waiting for you!

We rolled out at 8:05, so pretty good. We had about 14 miles to the border.
Quiet road in the morning.
Cool barn.

We got to the border at Nelway, and made it through with no problems (even though we were carrying produce). They made us take our helmets and sunglasses off (apparently, Canada doesn't really care so much about that).
Canada customs.
United States of America Customs and Border Control! We were back in Washington!
Woo Hoo!

We had 20 miles to Metaline Falls. We passed Crescent Lake. Saw some turtles, and pretty blue-green water.

Crescent Lake

Also saw Hooknose Mtn.
Kind of does look like a hook nose!

When we got to Metaline Falls (can't just say "Metaline" because there is a town called Metaline just down the road), there was a guy who stopped to talk to us. He had seen us in Balfour after we got off the ferry yesterday. After chatting with him, we went up to the Visitors Center and fixed our usual lunch. At the VC, there was info about the mining that has been done in MF. They mined for zinc. I think they still do.
Nice spot here in Metaline Falls.
The town of Metaline Falls.

Annette did some shopping in a quilt shop, bought yet something more to carry on her bike--a table runner. So now she has a blanket, a broom, and a table runner. After about an hour and a half, we left town. We crossed the Pend Oreille River again (crossed it on our first day a couple of times).
It is quite beautiful!

We had a few medium climbs. The sun was shining, and there wasn't much shade. Still, it was nice to have the warmer weather. Our next stop was Sweet Creek Falls. We rode our bikes up the paved path onto a little bit of gravel, then walked the rest of the way to the falls.
Interesting little cave on the path to the falls.
Sweet Creek Falls
Annette soaking her mosquito bitten ankles in the cold cold water.

Continuing our tour along SH 31, we next came to Box Canyon Dam. At Box Canyon, the river narrows, becomes quite rough, and was generally a problem for people driving to navigate the river. The sign said people, upon reaching the canyon, had to either, turn around, portage around, or run the river. The chances were not good for those who chose to run the river. Then the railroad built a trestle over the river at the canyon, and that solved many of the problems. Now there is the dam. 
Box Canyon Dam.

From Box Canyon, we only had a few more miles to Ione. Annette and John have some friends who have a vacation house on the river just outside of the town, and right on our route. They are not here, but told Annette we could stay here anyway. John drove up and is cooking us steaks for dinner! 
Erin and Bob's place on the Pend Oreille River.

Tomorrow will be our last day. John is going to take our luggage, and we will just ride back to their house. It will be a bigger day, miles wise, but no extra weight. We will have completed the loop when we get to Usk tomorrow--about 36 miles. Then we'll head for Colbert.