Friday, September 28, 2012

Portland to Portland

The Dalles to St. Helens, OR
September 21
67 miles (and about 19 years off my life)

The next morning at Leif and Sara's, we woke up two times. The first was to Leif's blaring early alarm clock in the living room where we slept, but the second time was a sweeter awakening. I checked my phone and saw that a new donation had been made to our cause. It's been one of my favorite parts of the trip, seeing our friends, family, and co-workers coming alongside throughout our journey  Everyone who sponsored miles not only put money towards rebuilding a clean water well for a village who needs it, but also gave us great encouragement for every pedal stroke along the way. On this particular moment, two friends of ours had donated enough money to sponsor all our remaining miles and complete our goal of $3000!

"Bike in Tunnel" button!
We were super-charged by this despite a growing sense of road weariness that had been accumulating over the past few days. Our planning for the day had found that the Historic Columbia River Highway (the route suggested by our map) was closed for a single mile stretch that would force us onto I-84 for most of the day. Having not relished our experience on the interstate the previous day, we opted for the alternate route on the Washington side of the Columbia River, Highway 14. Due to the change in route (and often un-bike friendly bridges over the river), Leif and Sara gave us a ride back into Washington.

So windy!
Our first 20 miles were windy as we faced off against a strong west wind as it funneled through the gorge along Hood River. The road, although narrower and with more turns than the Oregon side, had only light traffic all morning. Shortly after our lunch break the weekend rush became more evident as we got nearer to Portland. Around one particularly narrow corner a car behind us slowed down to wait. Always aware of the traffic around us, we whipped around the corner at 20 mph and got as far to the right as we could. After the first car passed us, the second one pulled us over.

We slowed down at the nearest pullout and waited to see what the unmarked police car wanted with us... and it wasn't good. He told us the road wasn't safe for bikes, and that it was only going to get more windy and more narrow and more steep. He asked us if we had even seen the car behind us, which of course we had, but he still didn't think we had gotten over far enough or fast enough. We agreed with him that cars have the right of way, but he didn't understand that we can't bike in a ditch and neither can we fit on a roadway on a blind corner with two cars passing us at the same time.

We made it safely to our highest point
but still had 10 more miles of treachery
I am already a healthy amount of nervous being on any road, but his "words of caution" nearly sent me over the edge. He drove off without any offer of help and I very nearly broke down in tears. We didn't even want to be on the road and if there had been any other way, we would have taken it! We still had 26 miles before we could get on a side street and off the highway, so we began pedaling like our lives depended on it. I counted down every single mile. For the most part, cars were aware of us and gave us plenty of space. David expertly guided us up and down that narrow stretch, all the while doing a fair amount of work to soothe my nerves. When we broke out of the narrow valley and into open land, the shoulder widened and I praised God for protecting us for those 26 miles (that turned out to be some of the fastest we'd ever pedaled!).

  
Having trouble rotating pics via Blogger...
but we made it off Highway 14 and back into Oregon!

As we happily cruised along on the glorious shoulder at day's end, I decided that putting our lives in the hands of about 300 strangers in cars each day is not my favorite way to live. We entered Portland on a bike lane over the I-205 bridge. From there, it was all designated bike lanes for us until we reached the hotel that David's parents had booked for us. It was quite the treat, and we even mustered up enough courage to venture out onto the road once more (this time on foot) to grab some Chinese food before crashing on our super plush king sized-bed. We were happy to be alive!

These miles (and then some!) were brought to you by our outrageous friends, Haydn and Sarah Roberts. Thanks for donating enough money to complete our fundraising goal and propel us to the coast and the completion of our trip!

Safe again in the Portland Shiloh -
thanks Mom and Dad Smith!

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