Monday, September 3, 2007

Portland, OR-The End of the Line

We're here! But most of you already know that by now. We rolled into Ryan and Nicole's driveway (Ross' brother and sister-in-law, who have been our gracious Portland hosts) Saturday afternoon about 1pm, and since then I have been relaxing, enjoying Portland, and catching up with people via phone. I have not been blogging, but my fans are clamoring (who are you mattw?) for a wrap up, so here goes...

We finally left Sheila and Harold's house in Paterson at 11am Thursday morning to start on a final, "easy" 3 days. It was our latest start of the trip by far, but we were only going 60 miles...

Our first 30 miles were hot and windy, and fairly uneventful, except for the windmill transport that kept passing us on the highway. I was pretty excited as these huge "wide load" and "long load" trucks kept passing, with huge propeller like objects on them. When we got to our first check in point of the day, about 30 miles in, all the windmill trucks were in the parking lot, and I finally realized that those propellers were actually the blades of the windmill. It was pretty cool. Along the ridge of eastern Washington we had already seen quite a few windmills, and after talking to some of the drivers I found out this one was destined for the same fate. If you can't tell, I am really fascinated and excited about this technology. After constantly hearing about the energy crisis, and then spending all summer biking through the US, seeing some of the countries amazing environmental wonders, utilizing wind power just seems to make so much sense...

Anyway, back to biking. We checked in with one another about 30 miles in, and we all agreed we were feeling lazy, but could make it another 30 miles down the road to Maryhill State park. It would be an earlyish day-at least compared to the night before, and we could set up camp and cook in daylight and maybe even swim in the Columbia! Somehow though, this plan never materialized. We left our rest stop about 3 or 3:30, and the wind turned strongly against us, with some fairly large hills looming ahead of us. Nine miles from our destination, for the first time of the trip, I stopped at a farm house to ask for water, that's how hot and slow the afternoon was going, and the woman I talked to there described the day as if we were "living in a hair dryer." Very pleasant.

Fully watered up, I kept biking, and it kept getting later, and later, and later, and I seemed to be very far from any large signs of civiliazation, but very close to huge highway intersections and crossroads. I finally turned on my rear and front lights, briefly worried about Armin and Ross running out of water, then had my closest run-in with a semi, and turned my mind back to biking and getting to our destination. I followed signs to the state park, rode down a 2 mile hill, and met Ross at the entrance to the state park, right as you could officially say it turned dark. It was really the most scary day of biking I'd encountered yet on the trip. And of course it was the Thursday of Labor Day Weekend, so the campground was completely full. Luckily, Ross had arrived at the park just as the ranger was leaving, and the ranger took pity on us, letting us stay in the vacant group campground free of charge. We got to sleep in a really nice pavilion, and I didn't even have to set up my tent. I just set my sleeping bag right on the concrete. Armin had a less than ideal night though, as it got too dark for him to keep going, and he slept at the top of a pass about 3 or 4 miles from the campground. You'll have to check with him for the details...So much for our easy day.

In the morning Ross and I climbed the hill back up to route 14 and met up with Armin. It was a bit less windy than the day before, and the barren brown wasteland look of eastern Washington slowly began to fade as the pines began to spring up on the side of the road. The wind was much kinder to us, and we were also heading a bit more inland, so the gusts of the gorge couldn't get to us. But we did have to go through 7 tunnels, that really make me fully appreciate the definition of the phrase "wind tunnel." Before entering these short tunnels, we would push a button that turned on a flashing light, alerting drivers that bikers were in the shoulderless tunnels. This was fortunate indeed, as the winds in the last tunnel were so strong that they ground me to a near halt before pushing my front tire about 3 feet to the left. It was a bit scary, and definitely got my adrenaline pumping. But the three of us made it through, and met up in Stevenson WA before dark, found a place to camp on someone's property, and actually got to spend our last night all camping together.

On Saturday morning, Armin left at 6 and Ross and I left at 7, catching up with Armin on the road. We were about 55 miles from Portland. Ross and I stopped at Ross' mom's house in Vancouver, WA, where I had sent a backpack of clothes, and where Ross also had clothes to pick up. Since Armin was down EIGHT spokes at this point, he waited for us in a park, rather than putting any extra miles/strain on his wheels. Ross and I biked the last 5 miles from Vancouver to Portland with backpacks on, always a nice way to end a cross-country bike trip, and a sure way to really aggravate my carpel tunnel. But we made it! We got to Ryan and Nicole's about 1pm. We cracked a beer, did the official weigh-in, showered, and finally made it to Old Country Buffet (Ryan drove us, and was shocked and awed by our massive consumption. Oh, and I could probably add disgusted to that list of adjectives as well). The rest of the day was spent napping, and watching television, before gearing up for going out Saturday night. Nicole and Ryan followed our Saturday night celebrations with a great barbecue on Sunday, with friends and neighbors stopping by, who were more than willing to listen to our stories from the road.

Of course, more than once over the course of the barbecue, we heard the question, "well, what's next?" Well, I am taking a nice, long relaxing train ride to LA on Wednesday, to spend some time with a good friend from high school. Then I'm taking a cheap flight to San Francisco to see a good friend from college, and then I'll be back in Portland by the end of next week. From Portland I think I am going to bike up to Seattle, where my sister and her family will be on vacation. I'll spend a few days with them, and we will visit some relatives who live out there, before all flying back to Vermont on a red-eye September 22nd. I'm looking forward to the next two weeks of traveling, but I can't wait to get back east, just in time for the New England foliage, and to finally really buckle down and focus on my dissertation (I am making a public announcement of that here so that someone will hold me to it !). Ross is staying in Portland, and Armin is still not quite sure of his plans.

So after 3376 miles on the road, this blog is coming to an end. With a generic title like Platonic and Gin, I may continue to post from time to time, but for the most part, I think my foray into the blogging world may be just about complete. I will check for any additional posts though. If there are any questions I failed to answer, or questions about bike trip prep, or anything else, I will do what I can to answer them. I also have a long train ride ahead of me in the next couple days, so I may be inspired to write one more post on bike trip reflections ...

If not though, thanks for reading and posting. Your comments often helped keep the trip exciting and my spirits up-the posts reminded me that what I found monotonous at times was still pretty exciting in the grander scheme of the trip. Also, thanks again to everyone who hosted us along the way. And a special thanks to Ryan and Nicole who have been letting us continue to stay here, fulfilling my Portland whims of Burgerville blackberry milkshakes, and driving me past my old Portland stomping grounds. You guys have been really terrific.


Patrick said...

Congratulations on making it coast to coast and for doing it the hard way by battling headwinds and mountain ranges. (Love the part about wind power...I had misty eyes.)
Keep blogging about your train trip and other travels. I'm used to traveling vicariously. We should do a victory lap on the Burl bikepath and have champagne on the patio when you get back.

julie said...

yay, julie!! you are amazing and hardcore! it was great to read your adventures along the way. keep me posted on other non-biking adventures as well!

Jennifer said...

Congratulations Jules! You accomplished an incredible feat! So proud of you my friend!

mattw said...

AAAhhh!!! This time it's a contented sigh rather than a frustrated yell. I started reading all three blogs about a 3rd of the way into your trip and have been reading every day since.
I'm a frustrated cycle tourist who is living vicariously through you 3, Mike Jamie and Chuck and Dom and Amie to help me deal with the mundanity of riding the same routes day after day. Thats who I am.
I did send you some tips on dealing with the numbness in your hands when you first started to mention it. It took a couple of minutes for it to sink in that the post I was commenting on was already quite a few days old which meant you probably would never see it. Oh well I tried.
Congrats on your achievement, you should be extremely proud of yourself. I wish they grew girls like you here in Wisconsin.
Thanks to you and your fellow travellers for some good reading over the past weeks. I'm truly sorry to see it end.
Maybe next year you'll be able to read about my bike trip. Maybe!
My daughter is graduating from high school next summer (she thinks bikes are for dorks) but will be leaving 2 cats, a dog and a young iguana home for me to deal with when she leaves for college. Which is why I say maybe next year.
I'll quit rambling and just say thanks again to you, Ross and Armin for allowing me to "ride" along.
Be proud and good luck with your dissertation!

mattw said...

p.s. I thought Platonic and Gin was kind of clever.

Mrs. Shu said...

haha, Julie:

You indeed write the closure and it reads as fabulously as all your postings in blogs all the time.

This is just grand, to know and to love you more.

Q_Monroe said...

mmm, blueberry burgerville shakes. mmm, burgerville.

don't you mean that running a half marathon is next? and that then you're probably going to continue on your quest to become a 46er? why not become a naked winter 46er while you're at it?

i agree with patrick -- keep blogging, you are funny and a fab writer.

is mattw married? i love midwestern boys. they are so damn polite and wholesome.

mattw -- if you think platonic and gin is clever, wait till you read julie's original lettter to gin. it's magnificent.

omg, mrs. shu you crack me up. if you ever wanna read my blog, it's

julie, come home!


mattw said...


Q_Monroe said...

oooh. interesting.

happy 27 jules!

moun'ain girl said...

we'll see about the half marathon suz. i'm not sure i'll be ready for it by the end of the month, but maybe i'll run bandit. and no naked winter hiking for me, brr. or no winter hiking at all maybe, unless i get some really kick ass gloves.

as for your match making efforts with mattw, i appreciate it but i think we all agree that wisconsin and vermont are just a little too far apart. no ldr's for me (that's long distance relationships, for those unfamiliar with robbie speak), but suz, you can keep looking for prospects for me in burlington...

moun'ain girl said...

oh, and patrick, yes champagne on the patio, and beer fondue too! i'm hoping to find a weekend when the boston gang can come up to join the burlington gang for some fondue and foliage. oh, and match making too...hilary will fill you in if you've forgotten the plan.

Alli said...

dear jules,

I know I'm a bit late with the congrats on the end of your epic journey but I wanted to actually read your last posts before I congratulated you.

You rock and you're such an incredible writer - this has provided so much entertainment over the past few months.

Have a safe journey back east!

much love,