Saturday, July 21, 2007

Day 54 – And Then There Was One!

This is it the morning of the final day and it was kind of like we didn’t want the day to start for fear of what was at the end. It could have been the home and the comfort that it brought but after enjoying a fabulous breakfast and fun with family we finally got on the bikes at 9:00. This is nearly the latest that we have left all trip. The day called for rain and even before we started it had begun. With the rain, the short day planned, and temperature outside, I decided not to take the monkey that usually rides on my back. The CamelBak would not be taken. I also decided not to take any liquid fuel but only a water bottle filled with water. It was nice and appreciated not carrying around the extra weight that would only get heavier as it got soaked with rain.
I have watched a lot of sports and listened to many interviews after games and there is usually one question that drives me nuts when they ask it, “How did you feel about . . .?” First of all, the player in the excitement or devastation of the can remember how they felt during the game. Secondly, it is painfully or joyfully obvious how they feel at the moment of the interview. It is just the first question in the “Interviewing For Dummies” book that reports read and seems to break the ice the best. With all of that said I decided to answer this very question since I did slow my mind down enough during the ride to think about and answer this very question and I am not sure that you would understand how I felt during the final day of the trip (maybe you don’t even care but here it is anyways!).

75 MILES TO GO – Pictures must be taken of every part of this day so the beginning is important. We didn’t end up taking too many pictures along the way though because it was raining when we left and when we ended the day and never stopped or seemed to let up anywhere in between.
70 MILES TO GO – We came through the cities of Lacey and Olympia, WA. We followed the bike paths that seemed to come and go. Like the men painting the lines and determining the widths of the roads were trying to keep us on our toes. It worked and the drivers were generally nice and moved over to get around us.

The capital building was nice even through the rain that filled the air.

The boats that filled the harbor spoke of the favorite past time for many of the inhabitants of the city.

The round-abouts are a bit tricky and takes a little bit to get used to them. Thankfully gave us fantastic and easy to follow instructions!
65 MILES TO GO – The junction Old Olympic Hwy and US8 brought a little bit of fear. What will the shoulders be like on this divided highway? Will traffic be kind if the shoulders are small? Will the rain ever stop? We knew the answer to that one unfortunately and the other two were quickly answered. As we turned on to the road we saw a 10 foot shoulder that was as smooth as glass. With my little amount of faith, I thought that it would not last long but it basically lasted all the way to the coast! WOW! I then noticed my cyclometer. I knew that we were excited about the end coming but I did not expect to be able to sustain the speeds that we were going up the hills. I decided it was a good tailwind and I was right. Whatever it take to make good time is fine with me!
50 MILES TO GO – McCleary, WA gave us an opportunity to stop but we had only gone 25 miles so we decided to go to the next city of Elma, WA only a few more miles farther. The rain continued as well as the wonderful shoulder! It was a fine trade off especially with the wind.
43 MILES TO GO – Elma, WA gave me an opportunity to call the girls and tell them that they could leave to come meet us at the coast. It is hard to pull a phone out of a soaking wet cycling jersey that is under a wet and dirty rain jacket and then take it out of its plastic bag to take or make a phone call. We got our first cup of hot chocolate of the day and told the girls that they could leave to meet us. They were almost ready and would be on the road soon. The desire to get warmed back up pushed us back on the bike. That desire outweighed the desire for rest, which was great. We did get warm soon enough and enjoyed more tailwind!

20 MILES TO GO – We entered Aberdeen, WA and said goodbye to a good friend. US12 has been a good road to us and we finally came to its end.

The parting was such sweet sorrow. We crossed over an old nonfunctioning drawbridge and found another convenience store where we got our second and final cup of hot chocolate. We contacted the girls and they were quite near so we waited for them. Dad was beginning to get chilled and shake so as soon as the girls arrived he got his jacket on and we hit the road to get the blood flowing again. This is when the sentimentality really began for me.

17 MILES TO GO – Before leaving today we counted up the days that we had faced inclement weather and came up with 6 days. To me this is phenomenal! We have been riding for so long and covered a lot of country and to have faced this few days of rain is amazing and another testament to the LORD’s goodness and grace. There was another fact that hit me. Before we left I was telling people that we needed to have a flexible schedule along the way because one of us was bound to take a fall, get hit or something else that would cause physical injury. The LORD, and Him alone, has kept us safe and upright for the entire trip! I am so thankful for this answer to prayer! So many days I stood amazed at the tailwinds, good roads, and health because I am so undeserving. Then one day the LORD reminded me of a verse from Matthew that says, “how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” The LORD not only gives when we ask but He also gives because He loves us and enjoys giving His children good things! What a good God I serve and love!
15 MILES TO GO – Life is about people!! If you miss opportunities you can never get them back and so must take Paul’s advice and “REDEEM THE TIME”! We must “Seize the day”! There have been many people along the way that have kept me encouraged and motivated to keep my legs going around in circles. Jim and Nancy Korteway have been a constant source of encouragement from our church. I cannot get back to share with them the blessing that they have been face-to-face! Don and Katrina Hines are friends from college and every time I see their little faces in the comment box, the memories of time spent together come flooding back! Pictured Rocks rock because of you guys! My family also provides loving comments! Thanks Carrie for being the most faithful and frequent comment leaver! Thanks Joe, Joy, Beth, Laurie, and Jolene! Often there would be days that I would need to talk to someone and there would be a message from my good friend Luke! You are the man and love the talks that we have had! Jim Troxel and all those from Fab Masters, I can’t wait to see you again! Thank you all for reading and responding!
10 MILES TO GO – After spending time with someone for almost 2 months straight, you learn much about people, even those that watched you grow up. Mom, you have made so many sacrifices and have done so much for us! Thank you for putting up with our loud, rowdy, and different family! Thanks for the carb friendly meal schedule, setting up the camper each night so that we could just come it and not have to do it when we arrived, and driving back on several occasions to bring us watermelon and drinks! May the LORD bless you for it. Hope when you get home you enjoy sitting and cross stitching since we kept you from it so often this summer.
8 MILES TO GO – It is a good thing that the LORD brought the wife along that he did! I fell head-over-heels for a dark haired dark eyed beautiful girl when I was in college and married her as soon as I could. The LORD knew what I needed even before I did and am glad that He has all things planned! My wife has willingly and honorably waited on my hand and foot and did it with a joyful attitude. She has kept the children in line while I was of having fun. She had to just look at pictures on my camera of the wonderful things that she was not able to stop and look at and enjoy herself. She rubbed my sore neck, back and arms. She set up the air mattress bed each night. She let the dog out 95% of the time in the rain, shine, and mosquito infested forests! She deserves so much better than what she married and I thankfully fooled her long enough to marry her before she realized who I really was! She is the best!
6 MILES TO GO – Joshua and Annamarie have grown up before our very eyes this summer. Joshua is learning to ride his bike without training wheels. Annamarie is beginning to help her mother more and more and is such a good mother to her baby! I thank the LORD for you guys too!

3 MILES TO GO – It isn’t often that people have or take the opportunity to do something this monumental and they certainly don’t often get to do it with quite possibly the best friend that the LORD has ever given me, MY FATHER! Our relationship has changes with each passing day as he has seen my flaws and doesn’t laugh at me for them for which I am grateful! He has put up with my stubbornness and graciously keeps it to himself when he is right and I am wrong. He has joyfully paid for all expenses and has never once brought it up as something to make me do things his way because of it. I will tell one thing at this point that I was very surprised about. A few days before we left Dad and I went out on a 30 mile ride. It was windy and hot. By the end of the ride he was worn out and as I rode home I commented to Abigail that I would just have to resign myself to going much slower than I would like to on the trip. All day today, Dad was in the lead and set a very nice and challenging speed. My fear of feeling frustrated with his slow pace never came to fruition and he is truly a man of steel! 60 years old and pushing me to my limit sometimes! Great job Dad and thanks for making me feel good by saying that you had to keep up with me when often it was the other way around! Thank you Dad for everything!
1 MILE TO GO – It is almost over and though I am not sure I want the trip to end, I do want this day to end so that I can get DRY!!

We arrived at West Haven State Park and found our way down to the beach and took the final picture of our ride!

The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming! 3945.1 miles of biking! Not bad!

Day 53 – In a Real House At Last!!

The day was filled with excitement because I would be sleeping in a real bed tonight. This may seem trivial to most but after 53 days of sleeping on an air mattress this is anything but a small thing to look forward to. We needed this motivation today to get all the way there. The sky was slightly cloudy and the forecast called for rain so I figured that it was only a matter of time before the sky opened up and unleashed it fury upon us.

We enjoyed the countryside that was now even greener with the recent precipitation. The forest seemed to be in its summer velvet just like the deer that live among them.

We followed the back roads that paralleled I-5 giving us the most direct route north. Still dry!

We came across this very funny barn in the middle of some guy’s field. I am not sure if it was a joke or if he really found a cure for it. It sure would be nice but is probably too good to be true! Just kidding all!

As we took the picture a dog scared me as he came running up to us. He was a nice dog and the pepper spray stayed nicely in its pouch. As we took off the dog really wanted to run and followed us for about 1/4 of a mile. I hope he made it back home safely! Still dry!!

This small house stood on the side of the road and was not only a residence for a Jackson family but it served as a court house, stop for western frontier travelers, and now a historical site. We ate a quick snack at a gas station and quickly got back on the road. Still Dry!!!
The roads that we took leading up to lunch were wonderful, quaint and great for riding but Logan Mill Rd. gave us a bit of a challenge. It had some pretty aggressive rollers and one very nice downhill that I was very thankful was not an uphill! We rounded a corner, came through a stop sign and then waamm there it was in front of us. From a distance we could see that his hill went up and then the top seemed to go much steeper than the rest but we had no idea.

As I began to climb the hill my legs felt good and was able to stay in a decent gear and maintain a good speed but then I came to the final part of the hill and I stood up to attack it and fell off backwards because it was so steep. I looked to the side of the road and there was a towrope like those on the bunny hill at a ski area and a red button to push to get to the top with a little sign that read, “Bikers push here”. When I woke up from my wishful daydream, except for the falling part, my heart was pounding out of my chest and I was not even near to the top. My speed was falling faster than an anchor of a large ship in the harbor and I was already standing on my pedlas. I finally got to the top with an opinion that this little hill had the steepest grade that we have faced on the trip. It was by no means long but it was steep and if it were much longer I may have needed to walk my bike to the top. Still dry!!!!

Centralia, WA came and along with it lunch. The news of the few miles left to go to Lacey, WA overshadowed the news that they didn’t serve lunch at that shop.

We did find a fine café where we ate and enjoyed looking at antiques for a moment. We hit the road with a bit more urgency than before because once we stepped outside we could see the storm clouds coming and hoped that we could make the 20 miles home and still stay dry.

Tenino, WA came quickly and according to the map Lacey, WA should have been right around the corner. Not so! Before we made our second turn (out of 6 to be made) the clouds, who had been holding back just for us, opened and soaked us within moments. It would have been nice had we been hot before but the day was already a little chilly and this added a little discomfort on the temperature side. The main roads did come that I remembered from when I was here last summer, and we pulled into Aunt Jolene’s house looking more like drowned rats on wheels than any human life form. It did feel nice to be there and get dry again.
The evening was filled with catching up, playing with the dogs, going on a walk (I needed the exercise), and watching a movie. It was nice to be in a home! Houses are one thing but Jolene has such a nice inviting and warm home for us to stay for the next week!
Tomorrow will be a day of excitement and bittersweet feeling. I am not quite sure how I am going to feel when it is all done. I will have to wait and see.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 52 – The Northwest Tradition Pours All Day

The pitter-patter of raindrops plunking on our house on wheels gave us warning that our two wheeled house on wheels were going to be wet all day. We hooked up the trailer in the rain just to get us used to being wet and were off. We had a wonderful soggy ride into Troutdale, OR since it was downhill for almost 10 miles and ate breakfast at Shari’s Restaurant. We were wet and upon entering the restaurant we got very cold so hot chocolate was in order and a nice warm breakfast got us ready for the road. We headed along the river and came upon this neighborhood.

I was not sure that I would like to live. No grass, no loud cars next door, and no property taxes. What more could a person want. Actually Uncle Sam undoubtedly got his cut from those people too just in some other creative way.
The city of Portland, OR was teeming with people going to work and riding their bikes (the rain doesn’t deter them around here since they get raid so often).

As we came down Ainsworth Street we came to this rose park.

It was meticulously maintained and Dad was in his hay day. Farther down the street there was this house that looked like the flower deliver truck tipped over and all the flowers went in the ground.

I didn’t see a lawn to mow through all of the flowers. We crossed to the other side of the river on the St. John Bridge and took US30 through many cities. We enjoyed the up and down of the roadway (mainly the down) and the miles seemed to go by very quickly. We came to Scapoose, OR and took one more opportunity to get some hot chocolate at the gas station. I was not too cold but hot chocolate on a rainy day just sounds so good.
The shoulders on the roads were very nice and the surface was very smooth. We entered the final city that we would be in OR, Ranier, and now would turn north for a few a day and then due west to the coast!!!! We still had this major obstacle called the Columbia River in our way. There was a bridge so we didn’t have to swim but from other cyclists experience on the bridge it is probably much safer to swim. With all of the logging done in the area, as the trucks cross the bridge in the wind, much bark flies off and accumulates in the shoulder creating no room for anyone to really even walk let along bike. The other issue was the visibility. On this rainy of a day people would be hard pressed to see us and they they would have to decide whether or not to avoid us. I didn’t want to put people in the place where they would have to make that decision. What to do!?!
Dad and I stood there discussing it and decided that we were not going to ride. The risk was not worth the reward so we were going to head across the street to the gas station and try to hitch a ride with some willing person in a pick-up truck. As I was getting on my bike to ride across a Les Schwab service truck pulled up to the light and I flagged him down and asked him if he was going across the bridge, which he was, and he told us he would love to give us a ride. The bed of his truck had only a few tires in it and it was perfect to hold our bikes in place as we went across.

Ron was a very nice guy and told us that we were smart (the first time I was have been accused of that on this trip) for getting a ride with someone because the bridge was truly a nightmare for bikes. He gave us perfect and simple directions to our campground as we unloaded our bikes from his truck and he sent us on our way.
We crossed the Allen Street Bridge and soon arrived at the campground. The girls were at McDonalds so we waited for them to arrive, we ate lunch and we went to Mt. St. Helens. We saw the video about what happened, which was very interesting but then the screen went up, the curtain was pulled away and the huge windows revealed a fluffy blanket of clouds where a mountain once stood. IT WAS GONE!!! Not really the clouds were just hiding it. Kind of anticlimactic. This is why we have no pictures of the mountain or any of the surrounding area. We couldn’t see anything! Sorry about that.
We went to bed hoping that the LORD would hold off the rain tomorrow. Being wet is not the end of the world but it makes the day a little more pleasant!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 51 – Lancaster’s Beautiful Historic Columbia River Highway Creation

“On starting the survey’s our first business was to find the beauty spots, or those points where the most beautiful things along the line mught be seen in the best advantage, and if possible to locate the road in such a way as to reach them.” Samuel C. Lancaster said this of the Columbia River Highway before or during its construction. He was resoundingly successful in his endeavor. To quote the ACA map, “The Historic Columbia River Highway extends along the south side of the river for about 75 miles, from The Dalles to Troutdale, OR. The first modern highway constructed in the Pacific Northwest, it was also the first scenic highway ever built in the United States.” It was built in 1913!
I was awakened to the wind taunting me. It whistled through the trees and seemed to say, “Come on Ben! I’m out here waiting for you. Come see how fast you can go.” This created little enthusiasm to hop on the bike and start riding. I did though. We rode to breakfast in Biggs, OR after crossing the river on a narrow bridge. The art museum, built by Sam Hill for his wife and daughter, was clearly seen across the river at the top of the hill.

It was a spectacular sight and wondered what it would be like to have a view like that. The wind that was taunting me earlier was now hitting me right in the face with gusts up to what seemed like 100 mph. I know it wasn’t even close to this but when I saw our speed go from 14 to 10 in one gust of wind I knew it was very strong.

We plowed our way to The Dalles, OR for 10.5 miles on I-84. This was not my favorite part of the trip but necessary to be able to see the nice scenery later on in the day. This is the second of the five dams on the Columbia River. We then began to climb.
Just outside the city of Rowena, OR we climbed to the top of the second most spectacular view of the day.

Winding roads with less than 5% grade made it a pleasant ride to the top of Rowena Crest.

What goes up must come down and we after going off track and climbing a very steep gravel road hill and getting back on the right path we sailed down the hill into Hood River, OR. On the way down we passed through these two tunnels.

They are appropriately called the Twin Tunnels. This morning before leaving we noticed that Dad’s front wheel was flat and we didn’t want to change it so we just swapped it out with the spare. The spare was put on the back shelf for a reason. It was Dad’s original tire and had about 4,000 miles on it and had bulges so we decided in Hood River we would look for a bike shop. We found one with a nice restaurant next door and we ate while it was replaced. For the first time in my life I had a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich. It was awesome and I don’t know why I waited so long to try one. I won’t wait so long for my second.
I dreaded leaving since we had to get back on I-84 for another 13 miles. We had not gone 1 mile when I heard the distinct sound of a tire being punctured and then loosing all of its air.

Dad had blown a tire. This was the first one since Boone, CO almost 1,000 miles ago. Praise the LORD! Because of this we were a little rusty at changing and we were a little slow. We did finally get it changed and rode furiously to our exit to get off the highway. By this time the LORD had allowed the winds to die down a bit.
We then got on a beautiful stretch of the old highway that was now off limits to automobiles.

The change of scenery was great and at one point I asked Dad if we were in a rain forest. It was beautiful with the different ferns and the moss growing on the trees. The original stone wall barriers still line the way and then this. How do they expect us to get our bikes up stairs?

Oh, that was nice of them they put little grooves next to the steps to put our tires in. That made it a little easier.
After the last stretch of Interstate for the day, we came to the most scenic stretch of the route. It took us by a series of 4 falls. The day was getting late so we only stopped at Horse Tail Falls

and Multnomah Falls.

As we left we looked at the map and decided that we had about 13 miles left. Dad told me, after looking at the profile, that there was a 500 foot climb and when we got to the top we would have 2 miles to the campground. I have never looked forward to climbing a hill more this whole trip than this one. The best view of the day was saved for the end of the day.

At the top Lancaster built a Vista House for people to sit, look and enjoy all of the beautiful scenery.

He spared no expense with marble floors, an outside second story balcony, a basement and stained glass windows surrounding the main floor. Amazing! As if he didn’t have enough things to build. I’m not sure how he built this road in one lifetime let alone this house on top of it!
This was our longest day on the bike and were glad to see our little house on wheels! We showered and enjoyed supper at the Olive Garden. It was awesome and hit the spot. The clouds were rolling in foreshadowing what northwest tradition would greet us in the morning.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 50 – Following the Windy Columbia Gorge

The alarm went off early signaling the start of the final week of the trip. Tires were checked, fuel drink was made, and sunscreen was applied. There will only be 4 more times that these things will need to be done.

We had scoped out a café last night, so we rode the 7 miles there and had a wonderful breakfast. The cichlids in the fish tank gave us something to talk about and enjoy watching.
The morning was not getting any earlier so we left. The McNary Dam was the first of the dams that we would see today.

We then crossed the river on a nice bicycle path and half way across we came to this sign. It would almost seem as if we are lost and don’t know where we are goin gor don’t know how to read the maps that we are carrying with us.

Not really the road that we are following leads us from one side of the river to the other for the next few days. I am not sure that Lewis and Clark cross and recrossed this often but we are just following the signs on the road. Maybe it is just a sick joke. Okay maybe not.

The river and road ran lazily side-by-side like an older couple out on a Sunday afternoon walk. The river was in no hurry to flow through the dam and the road well it wasn’t going anywhere. The people driving on the road were more than courteous, which is a nice surprise since a man whom we met on the road a few weeks back warned us that OR truck drivers seemed to go out of their way to hit cyclists. We have found just the opposite to be true and we have felt safe the entire time we have been in OR.

Our first break of the day was at the base of this hill with this unique house perched at the top. No town meant a less than 4.5 minute rest. Research has shown that lactic acid seems to have a great effect if you stop longer than this and is nearly nonexistent if you stop for less than this. It really seems to hold true for us. Good research guys!
I have noticed that at about 9:30 the wind really picks up and last for the rest of the day. Right on queue the wind picked up the pace and try as we might we just could not keep the nice pace that we had set earlier. I had to keep reminding myself that we have had headwinds on other days and we have made it to the end so no matter how slow it feels we are going, we would eventually reach the campground.
The second stop of the day was in Roosevelt, WA at a little diner where we got our daily allotment of ice cream and Gatorade. We did not stop long and it was a good thing. We had not been back on the road long and the girls passed us. They pulled over and we got to see them and make final plans for the evening. I love seeing those guys no matter for how little of time it may be. We again returned to the road and Dad noticed a soft ticking sound coming from his bike. We stopped and noticed that his wheel had a few spokes that had come loose. We decided to ask the girls to come back and switch out wheels, which they graciously agreed, and we would fix it tonight. We only had 30 miles to go but it ended up taking us just over 2 hours to complete.
About 5 miles from the end, we ascended the longest and steepest hill of the day. The climb was good and challenging and gave us a spectacular view of the John Day Dam.

We turned on Stonehenge Rd and came by a neat War Memorial that we all came back to visit later and continued to Mary Hill State Park. What a beautiful park with trees galore and beautiful green grass. The city of Maryhill, WA is not much of a town but is more of an area.

The area is filled with orchards, vineyards, and other beautiful green irrigated land surrounded by what would appear to be desert. The soil must be able to support any fruit or vegetation but the key is WATER!! It is nice for them to be on the river and draw from it to grow fine fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
After naps we went to see the Stonehenge War Memorial. It has a full scale replica of the Stonehenge that can be seen in England as it was originally constructed. It was nice and I decided to save myself time and money and not feel the pressure to go to see the original.

Mary Hill, for whom the city was named, was not as famous as her husband Sam Hill.

He built a mansion on top of the hill for his wife and daughter and after they shunned it and never stepped foot in it he turned into a fine art museum. He also may very well be the brunt of the saying “What in the Sam Hill is that?” He was a friend of Queen Marie of Romania during World War I and is kind of like the patron saint of this region in the Columbia River Gorge. I think the name of the bridge here crossing the river is the Sam Hill Bridge.
My day ended with a very happy stomach. We bought fresh peaches, apricots, and blackberries and had them on a glaze over ice cream. It was nice and will be good stored calories to be burned up tomorrow!