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All shook up

Posted Jul 01 2012 10:43am
This is the post I hoped I wouldn't be writing when I set out on my TransAmerica Bicycle Trail trip on June 20th. The trip ended on Day Four. I apologize to all those who read my multi-month long trip preparations posts only to end it so early.

Oregon 2012

On Day One I was nearly killed in this tunnel on Pacific Coast Hwy 101. It shook me up really bad. I pushed the button for bicycles, the sign started flashing indicating a bicyclist was in the tunnel and stated a 30 mph speed limit. A sign that was entirely ignored by a dozen cars, trucks and large RV's while I was in the tunnel. The tunnel was uphill for me, wet, and contained storm sewer grates that were impossible to avoid when cars are screaming by you from both directions at 60 mph. I can't tell the whole story yet without shaking. I'll just say I'm happy to be alive. And shame on those drivers for putting me in such danger. They're fortunate not to have killed me that day.

I tried to go on for three more days, but could not shake the fear I now had. Day 3 I headed inland on SR18. It was raining hard, visibility was low and traffic was heavy. Trucks and RV's were traveling 60-70 mph, not slowing to pass me and not moving over. It was unnerving after what happened on Day One. My heart rate is racing right now just writing this. Between the fear and handling the logistics of where to stay each night and trying to find gluten-free food I was mentally toasted each night. I wasn't able to think through every thing I needed to think through. My food plan wasn't working, I was rapidly losing weight, and the calorie deficit wasn't helping my thought processes.

The good news, I was physically prepared. The 205 miles I covered in four days with a loaded bike was completely within my capabilities.

Let me back up a little Oregon 2012

On the drive out we encountered 50 mph cross winds in South Dakota and again in Montana. The bikes were about ripped off the top of the car. At one rest stop the bikes were both leaning to the passenger side at least 20 degrees. I dug my food bag rope out of my panniers, cut it up and we tied the bikes back in an upright position. You can see the orange ropes if you biggen the picture.

Oregon 2012
My brand new tape job was damaged by Susan's bike rubbing against it on top of the car. This picture was taken at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria Oregon where we camped the night before my trip. I wrapped new tape that evening.

Oregon 2012

We weren't planning on stopping in Portland because we were running on a tight schedule. But I needed new bar tape. One place I wanted to see in Portland was Clever Cycles. We made a quick stop there, had a good look around, bought some tape, and then headed for Astoria. Driving in Portland at 4:30 in the afternoon was very slow going. I can see why people choose to ride bikes here. It's gridlock otherwise.

Before reaching Portland we had found a REI store in Kennewick, OR earlier in the day. There I was able to replace my food bag rope. I'm not much of a shopper, but I can always find things to buy at REI. So I spent another $100 on a few other last minute odds and ends for my trip.

Oregon 2012
That evening we had a fabulous dinner in Astoria, right on the Columbia River, at Baked Alaska . They were very well versed in gluten free food preparation.
Oregon 2012

I enjoyed this fresh pan seared salmon.

Oregon 2012
The next morning I set off on my trip from the Maritime Museum in Astoria. The traditional start, or end point of the TransAmerica Trail.
Oregon 2012
A little stressed with all the last minute packing and re-packing details. With the exception of the nice weather, very little goes right from this point on.
Oregon 2012
The Astoria Bridge over the Columbia.

Susan brought her bike so she could ride out with me on the first day. She rode the five miles through town with me before heading back to the car.

Oregon 2012
I rode the sidewalk on this bridge leaving Astoria as to avoid the steel grate on the lift bridge portion of the crossing. Long time readers will understand my aversion to steel grated bridges . I stopped to watch this fishing boat pulling in it's nets. As I started up again my rear pannier caught on a cement barrier....I hadn't gotten used to the width of my bike with loaded panniers yet. I ended up ripping one of the mounting brackets right out of the pannier. That left my pannier hanging by one hook.
Oregon 2012
I gingerly rode on for awhile trying to decide what to do. I stopped at this National Historical site and was able to fix the pannier while sitting in the parking lot. Thanks to a well stocked repair kit, I was able to come up with a solution.

I moved on with some sense of pride at my on-the-road repair. At mile 17 my new bike computer decided to zero itself and return to "set" mode. No harm done, just really annoying. Two miles later my handlebar bag mount was loosening up and the bag was starting to press on the front brake cable. Another quick fix, but again, an annoying distraction.
Oregon 2012
The route then took me right down to the shoreline in Seaside, OR. I was taken right down the Prom, or Promenade along the beaches. This trip is my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean. Even though it's the 47th state I've been to, it's the first time I've been next to the west coast.
Oregon 2012
Lots of kite flying and local kite shops. I didn't realize flying kites was so popular.

The route after Seaside was along Hwy 101. Not much shoulder here and it had an insane level of truck and RV traffic. Traffic that wouldn't slow down for a cyclist. I mean they wouldn't even slow down to the posted speed limit. And very few cars moved over. If there's a three foot law in Oregon, nobody knows about it. My nerves were frayed even before the tunnel incident.
Oregon 2012
This is my favorite picture taken from Hwy 101 south of Canon Beach. You can see I had beautiful weather.

Oregon 2012

The tunnel came soon after this. It sucked every bit of joy out of me.

Oregon 2012
I came to this spot soon after the tunnel. I spent 10 minutes at this pull over waiting for a gap in the traffic to ride this short section with a narrow shoulder. Even then I was passed by a truck with a car coming the other direction on this little spot.

Oregon 2012
The first night I spent camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. Can't beat the $5 hiker/biker sites for bargain travel.
Oregon 2012
I spent some time walking the sandy beaches and touching the Pacific Ocean.

Oregon 2012
Day Two started out on 101, but it later followed The Three Capes Scenic Route along Netarts Bay. It was a huge relieve to travel a low traffic road for a change.

Oregon 2012
Looking back at Netarts Bay and Cape Lookout State Park. This was in the middle of a several mile long climb.

Camping on night two was less enjoyable. I stayed at a county "campground" in Pacific City. It was an acre plot at a road intersection with a two permanent "guests" living there in old beat up motor homes. One was the camp host named Jerry. He was really nice and I spent a good portion of my evening talking to him. The other resident was a woman with some mental illness that wasn't firing on all cylinders.

The next two days were rainy and I didn't take the camera out. On day three I turned inland. Route 18 between Rose Lodge, OR and Grande Ronde, OR was more nightmare riding. Small shoulders, heavy rain and low visibility combined with heavy truck and RV traffic. It was mentally exhausting. I was shooting for the Polk County Fairgrounds at 66 miles which was listed on my map as having campsites. I decided to call ahead since it was a Friday. They had a bus convention going on and no room. The woman was very nice and apologetic. It was raining, 50 degrees and I had no idea where I was staying. Not a good situation when you are already mentally fatigued. There was an RV park listed on the maps at mile 42. So I stopped. I was clearly not welcome there. While in the shower building someone turned out the lights on me and opened all the windows while I was in the shower. Later in the evening someone threw a firecracker, like a M-80 size firecracker at my tent. Not a fun place. Turns out it was more a permanent resident type RV park rather than a vacation RV park. I think many of the full time residents were employees at the huge Casino two miles up the road. Looking ahead at my maps there was nothing but RV parks listed for the next couple of days for camping options. I ended up calling a Super8 in Corvalis 55 miles up the road and making a reservation for the next night. Susan was still vacationing in the area and had planned to meet up with me before returning home. She met up with me in Corvalis. One of the first things she said is how much thinner I looked. I was carrying about half the calories I needed with me and was hoping to find other gluten free food along the way. That wasn't happening and I was losing weight quickly. I decided to end the trip then and head home with Susan.

I really enjoyed our short stay in Corvalis. It's a nice town with many bike lanes and a cool downtown situated along the Willamette River. We found a great little Indian restaurant called the Evergreen . That's when I discovered how hungry I was. I ate and ate and ate. Food hadn't tasted that good in a very long time.

This is one of the hardest posts I've had to write. I'm very comfortable with my decision to abandon my tour. But I'm still processing all the "why's" and "what's next" and how do I explain it to all the people I told I was going to do this. And what happens when you attempt to fulfill a life long dream only to discover it wasn't the same as the dream you had? Confusion and emptiness will pass, but it will take time.

Thankfully I can return to my job 10 weeks early from my 3 month leave request. Despite the fact they temporarily replaced me, they said I could come back. Wish me luck returning to work and having to explain my early return over and over. I still can't tell the tunnel story without visibly shaking. I took the Xtracycle to pick up our farm share after returning home. I was scared silly riding on city streets that never bothered me before. I think it will take time to get my nerve back.
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