Friday, July 12, 2024

Day 3 - Dream/Nightmare/Dream

What a day. What started out perfect, then went south, then ended on a high note. Wow, let’s get started….

Took me a while to fall asleep last night, but once I did I was out!  Drool and all. I don’t even set my alarm as I know I’ll be up at daylight. This morning was no different. Up at 5:30 am. Being on the coast it was MUCH cooler and there was actually dew on the tent. It didn’t help dry out the towel I laid out that’s for sure. 

I expected a pretty straight forward ride of about 65 miles with 3600 ft of climb as I head to the Prancing Unicorn Campground near Shelton.  

The kids got me a fancy Bluetooth selfie stick for father’s day.  First time using it this morning for the customary pre-ride photo.  It’s pretty slick!  

As I headed towards South Bend I got the strangest feeling that I had made that trip before.  Nothing opened for breakfast until 8 am so I continued to Raymond where I pulled into 7th Street Coffee. I met two nice you ladies Bailey and Cassie.  They requested I try the cheese, egg and ham bagel and provide feedback because it’s the first day they are offing this brand.  It was pretty good, but a premade breakfast sandwich will never hold a candle to Cheryl’s.

After breakfast, the ride to McCleary was amazing.  Weather was literally perfect. Blue sky, high 60s.  Traffic was light and I was making great time. It was a dream. I took a break and told Cheryl I should be done by 12:30 pm.  

Well, as I exited town, I saw a bunch of detour signs for hwy 108 and 101.  As a cyclist, the one word you never want to hear/see is DETOUR.  For a driver it’s no big deal.  Maybe some extra gas and a few songs on the playlist. For a cyclist it can be a killer.  It appeared that 108 was closed but it wasn’t clear to me so I went to Bears Den for lunch (phenomenal cheeseburger by the way) and to do some research.  I asked a local couple and they confirmed 108 was closed and the detour takes you on freeway 8 to freeway 101.  As a cyclist, the second word you don’t want to hear/say is freeway.  Unfortunately there wasn’t really a choice unless I wanted gravel and/or an extra 30 miles.  Taking the freeway added another 20 miles as it is.  What to do what to do…

I decided to follow the detour (after verifying with a nice lady at the WDOT that bikes are allowed on the freeway.  So off I went. The temperature started to rise as did my mileage.  Though the cars and semis were loud and zooming past me, it wasn’t too bad as there was a huge shoulder.  Not a fun ride though.

I just kept pedaling along and finally made it to my destination, the prancing unicorn campground.  Total ride, 83.5 miles with 4500 feet of climb.  I thought the first day was bad!!

There were a few nice sights before I entered the freeway.

So as I approach the campground I actually went past it as there was no sign and there was a locked gate.  I stopped to double check my confirmation and look for a number to call and a gentleman came and unlocked the gate.  “Welcome to Prancing Unicorn.”  I felt like I might be stepping into a horror movie.  He directed me to the check in which was nothing more than a covered shelf but there was no paper form to complete.

I had checked in on-line and had site #4 reserved.  Problem was the spots were not marked!  This is a nightmare.  Well, I just picked a spot as there was no one here (shocker)  I just sat and reminded myself, it all part of the experience.

Once camp was set up and I had time to relax and hydrate, my spirits lifted and looked for a place to eat.  Shelton is a nice little town with many choices.  I started at the High Steel Brewery for a beer (big surprise there.) but I wasn’t in the mood for pub food.  So I hit Westside Pizza.  Oh man it was GREAT pizza.  I’m somewhat embarrassed to report that I ate an entire pizza myself.  I figured I earned it.  

There was only one thing missing though and that was to meet a few of the locals so I stopped into the Cabin Tavern for a beer.   Rene was the bartender.  I knew I was in the right place when a few of the locals said “We’re going out for a smoke, you coming Rene?” Rene made sure I had beer in my glass and off she went.  Love it.  I had a nice conversation with Belle who is a retire Boeing machinist.  Lived in Shelton her whole life and now raises pigs, chickens and her dog just had a litter of nine puppies.  Laberdoodle and Goldendoodle mix.  Not sure what you call that.  Labendoodle?

Things were looking up.  When I arrived back at camp, there were two other cyclists (Pete and Pete) who had just finished their first day of a 30 day ride to LA. We had a good chat and traded biking stories.  As I approach 61 I find I’ve picked up a few good biking stories a long the way.  It was fun.  

Finally time for a shower.  Did I forget to mention the outdoor showers?  Prancing Unicorn is a very interesting place indeed.  I’m back living the dream!

Tomorrow I get to Seattle via the Southworth Ferry.  Should be fun barring any detours!

Until then…

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Day 2 - Heading Up 101

My bar buddy in Cathlamet, Chris and I talked about a lot of things in addition to the local restaurant hours of operation and A/C repair status. I told him my route to Bruceport and he said it’s a horrible road for bikes with no shoulder, traffic etc. Since there isn’t any other option he had me stressed out and I woke up at 5 am to the sound of logging trucks and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Eventually I decided to just get up, pack up and head out, hoping an early start may beat the traffic. 

I thought it would be good to show the routine I go through each morning.  Though it’s still a work in progress, I try to have all electronics charged overnight but depending if I have an outlet or use the battery pack. I usually “top them off” first thing while I’m packing up.  You can see all the cords on the bench by the rear wheel.

Then I take everything out of the tent and group/inventory it. I use most everything every night so stuff gets scattered and I don’t want to lose anything. I place everything in a pannier. It should go in the same place in the pannier so it’s easy to find. Ha! That’s a joke. With my memory? I end up checking every pannier every time anyway.  From there, I pack up the tent, bag, pad and tarp.  The first time packing, everything is folded neatly and placed with great care. By the third time I’m just shoving it in anywhere and everywhere (this may also explain why I can never find anything.) I always make sure I replenish my snacks and buy Gatorade the night before and fill up my bottles.  Thinking about it,  I need to hire one of those closet organizers to improve my process!

Now I’m ready, but it’s 6:30 am and nothing is open for food.  What to do what to do….  

Well Cathlamet Chris was all in my head so I had to get going. I simply ate a protein bar, washed it down with Gatorade (breakfast of champions!) and hit the road.  

Traffic was moderate but there were more logging trucks (I don’t think they like cyclists and they purposely get close to me!)  Fortunately there was a nice shoulder 90% of the way so all was good.  There was a lot of hills and I just chugged away hoping for a roadside restaurant for something to eat.  Finally I found this little Mexican (yes, again but I had no choice) outlet in a convenience store.  Breakfast Burrito and coffee  BOOM!  

From there the ride was great.  Cathlamet Chris got me all worked up for nothing. The ride was very beautiful as usual.

I mentioned that I wanted to stop and smell the roses on this trip.  I haven’t seen any roses but did get a little artsy with some flowers on the side of the road. See, I do have a soft side!

I finally intersected HWY101 heading north.  It’s funny that I got to thinking that we have all seen the cyclists on 101 with all their stuff and either said out-loud or under our breath “look at that poor bastard.”  Well now I’m that poor bastard!  How ironic, but I love every minute.

I made it to Bruceport County Park at about 1 pm.  My bike trip computer froze up so I didn’t have a map of the route.  My watch said 56 miles with 2400 ft of climb.  To get a route to show, I quickly punched it into MapMyRide.  Surprisingly it shows over 3400 feet of climb!!!

Wondering if it’s because I was out of cell service for a while.  I decided to check yesterday’s ride because I was out of service for a while too and that showed over 4700 feet!  Damn, no wonder I’m so freaking tired.  I thought it was just because I’m old.  Well, I’m sure that’s still part of it!

Oh regardless, I made it.  Once I got to camp I started thinking about dinner.  hmmmm there is nothing around and South Bend is 6 miles away!  Hmmmm, check Uber!  Yep! $25 each way.  Funny how the distance is in the gray area.  2 miles I ride my bike, 10 miles I call an Uber.  What to do what to do….  I decided to ride into town.  That way I have the flexibility to stop at the store.  I also figure having to ride 12 extra miles is the “stupid tax” for not catching this during the planning.  Worked out great.  Had some Chinese food (Kung Pao Chicken).  I hope I don’t feel that in the wrong spot tomorrow!  WARNING - food pic

Made it home without incident.  Now time for a shower and get to bed.  75 miles to Shelton tomorrow!  Geez time and miles are flying by.  It’s going to be Thursday!!

Until then….

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Day 1 - who turned up the thermostat?

Well the day has arrived. I’ve packed up the gear, and there’s a lot of it, and heading out for 5 days on the bike. Working my way northwest to the coast then to Seattle and back to Portland. I’m not sure what to expect but that’s why I do it!  

The day started as usual with a breakfast sandwich, pumping up the tires, and kissing the love of my life (sadly Cheryl will not be welcoming me this afternoon in Cathlamet).  I wish I could figure out a way for her to join me.  I will miss her!

It’s time to roll baby!  The route is the same as the dress rehearsal to Vernonia, but then I take highway 47 to the Columbia River where I then take a ferry to Cathlamet.  

There’s one spot between Vernonia and Clatskanie that is particularly tough and I’m not looking forward to.

The temperature is supposed to be 104 in Hillsboro and 95 in Cathlamet so I needed to get an early start.  I was actually on the road at 6:45 am! Alert the media!  I made it to Banks (about 20 miles from home) and realized I forgot one critical pre-ride routine. So I stopped and took care of it (if you know you know.)

Past Vernonia I saw some beautiful scenery, churches and barns (you know me and barns!) but I’m entering uncharted territory now which is great but also a problem.

The only paved road to highway 30 from Vernonia is 47. I did some research and it typically isnt busy with passenger and service vehicles. One minor miscalculation was the log trucks. OMG!  They drive from the forest around Vernonia to the mill in Longview and they use 47!  It was very unnerving (to say the least) as they wizzed past me, clearly over the speed limit. Oh, did I mention there is no shoulder?

I made it up the steep grade pretty well.  My heart was pounding fast but I wasn’t sure if it was from peddling up a steep grade or the worry a log truck would run me off the road!  I finally made it to what I thought was the summit. No, it was just a flat stretch and then another steep section. I was listening to music and suddenly “Work” by Rhianna came on. The bike gods have a warped sense of humor. 

I made it to the Wahkiahum County Ferry (the Oscar B.) to Cathlamet. Final route details?  82 miles and 2300 feet of climb. I’m not sure what it is about me and front loading the hardest rides or the tour. But as my son Kyle would say “I’m a few doughnuts shy of a dozen.) It was a difficult ride but I super excited I’m exploring new territory. 

Thankfully by passing my tests last week, camp was set up in no time and I was off to dinner. Turns out Maria’s, a Mexican restaurant, was the only place open so I bellied up to the bar next to Chris (a 26 year local.) He told me The Spar is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, Patty Cakes closes at 3 pm everyday, the Columbia Saloon closed a few months ago and the brewery was having an all employee meeting (not kidding) so I better be in the mood for a taco!  I was, and it hit the spot (along with a couple of beers of course). 

As (bad) luck would have it, the A/C was broken. Chris also told me Jim had to “run to town” to get a part and the A/C would be on by 6. Well, I left at 7 and the A/C still wasn’t on. Jim must be stuck on the ferry. I love small towns!

Fortunately the grocery store was open, so I grabbed some snacks and headed back for a shower. I was in luck and there were no tokens needed (see last post) and I’m ready for bed. It’s a beautiful evening on the Columbia. 

Off to Bruceport tomorrow?  What’s in Bruceport you ask?  I have no idea. I’ll tell you when I get there. 

Until next time….

Saddle Up Again!

It’s been a while since I entered a blog post about a bike trip. It was Cycle Oregon 2022. Almost 2 years!!

It’s appropriate that Cycle Oregon was the last time I blogged about a bike trip. If you recall, which I’m sure you don’t as who wants to waste valuable brain cells remembering the trials and tribulations of Chris’ biking escapades. Let me refresh your memory…..  I was hesitant to do Cycle Oregon because it required participants to set up and sleep in tents. I’m an RV guy plain and simple. I gave up tents the day we bought the Bounder in 2000. For those who went to University of Washington, that's 24 years ago.

Well, I realized that setting up a tent has gotten much easier in 24 years and sleeping in a tent in the middle of summer isn’t too bad. Sooooo I decided to rethink this whole tent camping thing.

As you may also recall (again, probably not) I really enjoy being on my bike, exercising, and seeing new places and meeting new people. During the cross country ride, I had my MVP, Cheryl, drive the support vehicle. That was awesome and I am forever indebted to her for doing that with/for me.  But that was a lot to ask and I don’t want to ask that again.

Well, it’s been 3 years since the cross country ride and I am getting the itch to hit the road again. Couple that with the fact that Father Time has been whispering in my ear that I need to get moving. So I’ve decided to dip my toe in the self supported touring bike arena.

Self supported means there is no motorhome waiting for me with the A/C running and a cold beer in the fridge when I finish the ride. There is not even a support vehicle hauling my tent, sleeping bag and other stuff to the next stop like cycle Oregon. Nope, self supported means THE RIDER hauls all the stuff.  In this case, that would be me!  

It’s a thing!  They have these bags called panniers that strap on to your bike and hold all your stuff. There are also special “touring” bikes that have steel frames and extra screw holes for the brackets to carry your panniers and extra water bottles (you’re gonna need those).

So I did it. I bought the touring bike (steel frame and extra screw holes) and the panniers and all the stuff. Yes a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, solar charger. Yep, all the gear bro!

Now I’m ready. Ready for what you might ask?  Hell, I don’t know. I just wanted to hit the road on my bike and experience things up close.

I planned out a 480 mile ride leaving Hillsboro on 7/9, heading northwest along the coast and across the sound and joining the Seattle to Portland ride 7/12 and 7/13.

Turns out Haylie’s church wedding ceremony (she’s getting married!) got moved to Sunday 7/13 so I will need to have Cheryl pick me up in Centralia.  I actually feel pretty good about it as 100 miles peddling the tank is about all I can manage. I’ll look forward to riding the final 100 in the car!

Since touring is much much different than regular road biking, I figured I needed a dress rehearsal prior to the big show. So that’s what I’m doing right now!  I’m laying outside my tent in Vernonia (no surprise there for those that know me) writing the blog!

The ride to Vernonia was great as usual. I’ve made it probably 10 times. Funny, but this time I took a slightly

different route and couple that with the fact that I’m riding on a different bike on a new adventure so everything seems new. 

I took a little extra time to “stop a smell the roses” and realized what a beautiful area it is.   

As for the ride itself, I added some miles and climb to simulate what I will do on the actual ride. I put on 70 miles and about 2100 feet of climb. Good ride for sure. I think my stamina is ready!  Passed test number 1. 

Now for the next test. Setting up camp. I’m not sure if I’m going to be a long term touring rider, so I didn’t want to spend a fortune for all new gear. Remember, I’m on a fixed income now!  That’s where OfferUp and Facebook marketplace comes in. Gently used stuff for a fraction of the price. Ya I know, it’s a pain dealing with the crazy people sometimes but hey, “it’s all part of the experience!”  I got a nice REI 2 person tent, (being optimistic that Cheryl will eventually join me) that went up in a jiffy. Test number 2 complete. 

As for the pad. I am going to borrow one that Kenzie and Greg have, but we didn’t make the handoff and they are now out of town. What to do what to do….. I know, go to one of the leading stores for outdoor gear and get one. Thats exactly what I did. I went to Walgreens and bought a floaty for $10. I blew it up, rolled out my sleeping bag and BOOM!  Test number 3 complete.  

With camp all set up it’s time for a shower. I didn’t even think this was a test. I grab my stuff, walk to the shower hut and do my thing. Nope. Test number 4.

There was a sign on the door the showers require tokens and you need to get the tokens from the camp host. A little inconvenient but OK. I walked over to the camp host RV and saw a CLOSED sign. I’m in danger of failing the easiest test!  

No worries walk back to camp drop my stuff and go have a burger and a beer. That ALWAYS makes things better. 

Went to the local place (I guess everything is local in Vernonia) Cedar Inn pub and bellied up to the bar. I couldn’t read the menu because it was your typical no window pub and it was dark and I forgot my glasses. So I asked Lori the bartender her recommendation. Bacon Swiss burger with grilled onions was her answer and boy did she deliver. It was awesome!  With fries and two Migration IPAs my bill was $20. What?!?  I’m moving to Vernonia. 

I was able to call the camp host and got my tokens and a shower.  Whew that was close. 

The night was surprisingly uneventful. I got a couple snacks at the store and crawled into my nice REI 2 person tent with Walgreen floaty and slept great. 

I packed up in the morning pretty well but the Walgreen floaty didn’t empty very easily and my right front pannier was bulging a bit but I had the extra room. 

A quick stop for coffee and breakfast burrito at Black Bear coffee and the ride home. 

Dare I say it?  I think I’m ready!!!