Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Homestretch

Clarkston, WA to the Dalles, OR
30, 70, 92, 81 miles
September 17-20

After visiting the new Resonate office in Pullman and doing even more catching up with good friends, Jordan's newly-wed wife, Rebecca, picked us up to drive us back down into Clarkston to resume our journey. We had restocked our food supplies of fruit, jerky, and trail mix at the Co-Op, so we were ready to ride with full hearts and full munitions.

We we're climbing our way out of Clarkston at 3:30pm. It was a late start for us, so we had already decided to only do 30 miles that day. It was an intense afternoon of climbing before arriving in Pomeroy. We camped at the county fairground. It turned out to be pretty nice, with a corner of grass where cyclists could camp for free with access to water, restrooms, and showers. Cattle mooed us to sleep, shrill coyotes entertained us throughout the night, and a rooster woke us in the morning.

Our goal for the next day was to arrive in Walla Walla, WA in the early afternoon in order to be able to enjoy the town and even do some wine tasting. It was another hard day of riding that reminded us of the dangerous beauty of "the Palouse": the rolling hills we love to watch go by from our car windows move much slower and are slightly less fun to see approach on the horizon when you're on a tandem bicycle pulling the weight of everything you own. We were grateful for warmer weather as well, but the afternoon heat was getting to us. But we won our battle against those hills and pulled into Walla Walla around 2pm. Our favorite wine tasting destination was called Forgeron. They were harvesting and crushing their grapes while we were there, so we got to eat a few chardonnay and merlot grapes right off the vine and drink their freshly pressed juice.

We got up early the next morning to try to beat the heat as we made our way to Crow Butte State Park, 80 miles away. This leg of our journey was truly taking us into "middle of nowhere Washington." Our morning leaving Walla Walla was cool and scenic as we sped past vineyards and orchards. We reached the Columbia River by late morning and followed it a few miles to the Oregon border. At first, we enjoyed the familiarity of the Columbia and the large sweeping views of its wide expanse. Unfortunately, the dry dirt and dead grass all around it was less than engaging and eventually wore away our excitement over the miles and miles to come.

We crossed back into Oregon at Umatilla after a nice long afternoon coffee break to cool our muscles and warm our spirits. Highway 14 in Washington was fairly shoulderless but had limited traffic. We enjoyed smelling the onion, carrot, and potato trucks go by. We were exhausted when we arrived at Crow Butte State Park, which is on an island in the Columbia. David set up his hammock and we had a restful evening. The camp host even pulled up in his golf cart to tell us camping was free for cyclists, so we pretty much love bike camping in Washington now :)

The next morning we were back on highway 14. We slowly made our way into "civilization," i.e. places with gas stations and roadside cafes. We crossed the Columbia back into Oregon on a narrow, single lane bridge at a town called Biggs. Our destination of the day was The Dalles, OR, where our friends Leif and Sarah live. We were excited to see them (and eat at my #1 favorite fast food chain, Burgerville!) but we still had a section on Interstate 84 to get through, and I was NOT looking forward to biking on the freeway.

There's something you need to understand before I write about our next 100 miles to Portland, because this makes a huge difference. The Columbia River, like most rivers, is a great route for bikers because rivers generally cut through the hills and mountains to get to their destinations in a nice and steady slope. The Columbia in particular has it's own gigantic gorge, with the Cascade mountains and all kinds of rolling hills on either side. This means its passageway is narrow and there are very few roads on either side. At times, I-84 (fast and busy) is the only way of getting through the gorge on the Oregon side and Highway 14 (narrow and windy) is the only passage on the Washington side. Neither option is great for bikes.

So anyway, we were forced onto 84 for an 11 mile stretch. The shoulder was wide and we had a rumble strip of protection but I hated the speed and sounds of the cars whipping by us. 3 times the road narrowed over a bridge and we were forced into the lane of traffic (sorry moms, I'm only writing about this at all because we made it out alive and will never bike on interstates again!). All 3 times God truly watched over us because despite the consistently  busy rush of cars, not a single car approached us while we were on the road. Thank you, Lord and thank you everyone who has been praying for us!

We moved quick though, and made it off the freeway at about 20 mph. We were rewarded with a first dinner trip to BURGERVILLE! Leif picked us up from there and took us to his home, where we hung out with him and Sarah and met their son, Liam and dog, Moose. We had such a great time catching up with them :)

So, SPOILER ALERT! I am actually typing this from Portland, OR, which means we have successfully biked from Portland to Portland! I say this because when I post about our next day, I want you to know we survived. Our day into Portland was a tad bit harrowing, to say the least, so stay tuned for the story!

These miles have been sponsored by our church family Tom and Crystal Dufresne, UI Chem-E survivor Adam and his lovely wife Kelly, a new friend Ethan Zuck, and Dr. Tommy and Nancy Thomas. Thank you, each of you!

No comments:

Post a Comment