Portland to Vernonia
Labour day. For many a day of rest, for 11 cyclists going through a strange town full of traffic lights and tram tracks that meant blissfully quiet roads. Arriving at Banks we searched out the cafe , shut, mmm.. I signed we'll have to make do with Mr Shell and the associated gas pumps. However I'd forgotten to read my own notes and a sharp eyed Pip spotted the Banks cafe further sown the road where mammoth sandwiches were consumed. The afternoon as spent cycling the Banks Vernonia cyclepath. Built in the 1920's to transport lumbar it was Oregons first rails to trails project and is 21 miles of tarmacced bliss through the Douglas firs. We were getting concerned smiled Glen as he shook my hand. We'd arrived at Sports Haus having formed a peloton and hammered the 10 miles north from Verononia. Everyone headed for the hot tub. Glen explained that the fire department required them to have a 5000 gallon pond on hand, so rather than have a stagnant pond in the garden he'd plumbed in the tub. Dinner was a feast, ribs, pasta salad followed by apple crunch all washed down with a glass of wine from a local winery. It had been a long day and at 2100 we tucked ourselves up to the sounds of the forest, with deer grazing and a clear dark sky full of stars
Vernonia to Astoria
Jetlag finally caught up and having slept 11 hours it was up for breakfast and our hostess Sandy had laid out bread, cake, fruit and eggs. Setting out we were greeted by great tarmac, a flat road and the logging truck. Logging is big in these arts and they outnumber cars, which sounds worrying. However they are great drivers, always overtaking with metres to space, so far less intimidating. We were travelling through a land unpopulated, even the Elk at the Elk viewing area had disappeared, houses were few and far between and aside the views and Douglas firs there were few distractions, but if you stopped awhile and the ticking of the freewheel stopped the silence was amazing. It was after 40 miles that we found a food stop. Typical shop/saloon where the Country music blared out and the car park was littered with huge pickups and Red Dodge cars with huge exhausts. This was something that you only get on a cycle tour as it gives a real flavour of the area you are passing through. The clues were there, chainsaws on the wall, stuffed animals on shelves and the TV tuned to the hunting channel, yes we were in 'real men territory' 5 miles later we could have been in a different world as we entered Astoria. Sited at the very North Westerly point of Oregon it's no longer a place to pass through, now more of a destination with cruise ships arriving and a gentrification of its waterfront. Having checked into the excellent Crest Motel we taxied downtown to the Buoy Brewery. Fabled for it's beer it's restaurant has a trick up it's sleeve, a glass floor through which you can watch the sealions tussling over planked sleeping areas looking fat and contented.
Astoria to Garibaldi
We gazed at hundreds of sealions snoozing and leaping about on jetties in Astoria. You could hear them from the road as we turned along 38th street towards the coast, honking at each other. Onwards through Astoria taking the tram track next to the coast and having passed under the enormous Columbia River bridge akin to a giant mecanno kit, we started Oregon Coastal route. Busy busy busy as we hurtled along a flat road with a wide shoulder in search of he coast and it was only at the aptly named Seaside that we found it courtesy of the 1.5 mile long boulevard that runs next to the beach. Climbing to a view of the coast at Osward State Park at the top of a long climb was worth every pedal stroke as the views were stupendous. Checking in at Garibaldi took awhile during which we demolished the cheese and salt water taffy in the foyer, well what do you expect with a bunch of hungry cyclists. We finished the day with a good meal with a great waitress next door at the Hook Line and Sinker sports bar.
Garibaldi to Lincoln City
An imaginative breakfast. I tried Avacado on Scone, could be worse and we headed south along 101. The railway continued by our side, a sure sign of flatness and we kept moving at a pace as today was a long one. Into Tillamook, home of the cheese that is Cheddar but not quite as I know it (where's the crumble?) Here we headed right for the coast and the 3 peaks Coastal Route, expecting a hard but worthwhile trip hugging the coast. Trouble was that a landslide had blocked a section 2 years ago and it was still under repair. So we headed to the coast a shorter way. Onwards hugging the coast tightly, past herons, cormorants and Pelicans?? Were we really in Oregon? The roads were quiet as we climbed passing Andersons overlook where the view should have been sea and surf, but all we had was the coastal fog. We arrived at Salmonberry Inn to be greeted by Liz who ran the place. All the rooms were beautifully set and we finished the day with a takeout Chinese.
Lincoln city to Yachats
Ah dressed for the office, smiled Liz as we tucked into french toast, fruit, bacon and eggs. Rest day over we saddled up and started the easiest day. At 48 miles it shouldn't take too long. Within 2 miles on the right was a line up of old cars, including an Austin A40 that Tony had driven as a police car in the 1950's. Great car but the drum brakes were terrible he lamented. Oddly right next to all this testosterone driven memorabilia were a bunch of electric cars and the earnest lady tried hard to get me to test drive one, maybe I should have taken the Teslar for a quick spin. Oregon was experiencing a warm spell, trouble was that as the land heated, it drew the fog in, so for the 3rd day the views were poor. However round Depoe bay it cleared just enough for us to spot the spouts of grey whales as they migrated from Alaska to Baja peninsular. In the summer 90 resided here and these whales are unique as they filter sea floor sediment for food. Newport was one long conurbation next to the coast and was full of the green signed Oregon Coast Bicycle route which guided us through. For such as an easy day we were surprisingly late, but the last 20 miles were fast and flat along the shoulder of 101 with the cars, RV's and trucks whizzing by to our left. On the right was mile upon mile of pounding surf, interrupted by holiday homes with the obligatory no beach access signs and private property stay out. We finished at the Fireside Motel, built in the 1960's it had a fireplace in each room and the rooms were huge.
Yachats to Reedsport
The next 25 miles until we finally left the Pacific was a treat. Miles of breaking rollers onto practically deserted beaches and the urban sprawl of the last few days had gone, probably thanks to the tens of State Park along the route. The first stop was a Heceta Head. It's in the process of renovation to bring it back to the standard to which the keepers kept it al those years ago. The only hiccup was a volunteer over polishing the original English lens and managing to push out the central section of one of the prisms, $ 25000 later it's been repaired. So it went on, fantastic vistas, ascents and descents in the company of other cyclists heading south. The most remarkable was a guy riding a road bike with an enormous backpack heading for Brazil!! Waving farewell to the coast with one last fabulous vista, it was inland to Florence and lunch before the last part of the day that was basically a heads down and get there to Reedsport as to our right were dunes and not much else. Ended the day at the Harbour Lights restaurant, wooden interior and lovely food, then back to the basic but clean Economy motel.
Reedsport to Cottage Grove
0830 breakfast back at the Harbour lights. The specialty round these parts is Marionberries and Linda’s pancake was smothered with them. We headed east along route 38 along Umpqua River scenic drive. Following the Umpqua river, the road snaked through the forest as the RV's rumbled by. Roosevelt Elk are the largest mammal in Oregon and they so enjoyed the meadow grass in the valley that they stay put and a scenic turn of has been built about them, so that's another wildlife encounter ticked off. Through Drain, then the last 20 miles into Cottage Grove continued the gentle uphill climb with the added excitement of the interstate. Sounds dreadful but with a speed limit of 65 mph a wide shoulder and a rumble strip between us and the traffic it felt pretty safe and when we hit the slip road I gave a I5 (high five) to everyone. Finished at village green resort, which was really a motel in disguise with a restaurant on site.
Cottage Grove to Oakridge
Beep went the waffle iron and the time warp that was Village Green continued. Music from the 1940's echoed about and folks shuffled about. Onto the Row River Trail, at 16 miles it's one of an increasing number of rails to trails projects in the USA. This one has the added attraction of covered bridges and we found a couple of them as we headed down the trail. 'You guys are awesome' cried an American lady as she realised where we were going and joined us down the trail on her bike, something she did every day. The trail skirted Dorena Lake and Oregons drought was much in evidence as it was half empty. Stopped at Dorena to refuel and get provisions and then set of for the long climb. It stared easily enough a gentle slope heading into the National Forest. Then after 16 miles it just got hillier as the road reared to 10% in places but eventually we conquered it. So we finished in Oakridge and the English manager had written Welcoming United Kingdom cyclists on the board outside.
Oakridge to Rainbow
Past the covered Bridge at West Fire and into the Willamette National Forest. Extending 110 miles along the western Cascades it's predominantly Douglas Fir and the heights of many of the trees were a sight to behold as we pedaled through. The area is still actively logged, though we saw no logging trucks and were only passed by 4 vehicles all day. From the top was a fast descent with a fast stream to our right producing more vegetation, until finally we dropped to Cougar Reservoir. Alarmingly empty, exposed tree stumps and vivid colours marked its presence and the road went round its western edge. In gathering gloom the drop from the reservoir didn't take long and Harbicks Country Inn was very welcoming. The owner had kindly reserved a table at the restaurant over the road so we chomped the night away on the usual favourites, in my case the salad bar.
Rainbow to Sisters
A leisurely start at 0800 as we munched through pancakes, oatmeal and coffee. It was raining as we left, raining as we climbed and almost raining as we descended as today was the McKenzie pass. The first bit was easy, a gradual incline along the main road for 8 miles before turning right along east 242 or the McKenzie Pass Scenic byway as the moss covered sign proudly told us with the added bonus of trucks were banned, looked great. Along the ridiculously tall Douglas Pined lined road we went, as the rain continued to fall we passed the 2000 foot then 3000 foot marker with the rain continuing and no let up in the gradient, it became harder and colder. We weren't quite as cold as John Templeton Craig who froze to death delivering mail in 1877 but passing his memorial and grave it was starting to feel like it. Never mind onwards and upwards, however a change was in the offing and at just under 5000 foot it flattened and we were able to speed along skipping the puddles as we passed the prairie flats. Then suddenly the most incredible change as we were now in a lava field. As far as the eye could see there were blackened rocks of all sizes. As we passed over the top it was a relief to descend to the warmth of Sisters.
Sisters to Madras
The sun shone and so did the snowcapped mountains. Back to Takados for breakfast with a very happy waitress who hustled, bustled and sang her way through the service Mary the motel owner waved us of and we headed for the recommended bike route east out of town. We didn't get far as to our left were the 3 snow capped mountains/volcanoes of the Sisters range, much clicking of cameras and we were of again. So it continued, around every turn the 3 mountains loomed the horizon and another more peaked one in front of us. In between these picture stops the road flowed fast as there were no climbs of note at all. Smiths rocks completed the bike route out of Sisters. Basically a series of enormous rocks fashioned by the wind from volcanic activity, it's now a Mecca for rock climbers with over a thousand possible climbs. Into Culver for drinks in the Beatle Bailey burger joint. We crossed the railroad, the bringer of prosperity and zig zagged to another of natures attractions, Pallisades State Park. Making Cheddar gorge look like a furrow made by a pointed stick this place had a series of vertical walls hundreds of feet high enclosing a flooded valley. At least this answered the question of why do folks need boats in a desert and they were clearly being put to good use as it was Saturday night and the rock music reverberated upwards to our high vantage point.
Madras to Maupin
0730 start, go for breakfast to the Black Bear diner. pretty hard to pick out, not a lot of carved, plastic enormous bears in the parking lot to show us the way!! The theme continued inside, bear ketchup, bear sugar even paw prints across the plates. The place was packed and we settled in for the usual, oatmeal, pancakes, eggs and bacon washed down with mugs (black bear of course) of weak coffee. Retracing back the way we came in last night under the watchful eye of at least 8 volcanoes, of which 5 were snow capped. A fast descent and now we were heading around Lake Simtustus, the last stop before Warm springs Indian Reservation was rainbow market, where the chief trade seemed to be tins of beer to fuel the locals. Entering Warm Springs Reservation, the museum on the left was closed, then the enormous casino right hand side followed by a series of climbs through barren, fire wrought nothingness, no wonder the Indians were settled here. Descending into Maupin we stayed at the riverside lodge at Imperial River
Maupin to The Dalles
Continental breakfast and with the climb, I figured it was a 3 bagel day, so blueberry, plain and everything nicely tucked away we headed along the Deschutes River along the trackbed of the now defunct railway. The fly fishermen were out and so was the sun and it was a shame to reach the end after 8 miles to turn north and head for The Dalles. The climb out took us through parched farmland with the occasional irrigation system providing some greenness and once the road flattened we crossed over the 207 to snack at the shop in Tygh Valley. Back onto the 197, the last major climb of the holiday took us up a wide shoulder with the odd truck passing. with a gradient of 6 % it was a steady grind from 350 to 800 metres. Descending into Dufur, we all settled into the Pastime Saloon, a place where every conceivable wall was covered in Elk and deer heads, beer mirrors and sketching of wild west stars. The 197 wound its way south, but we chose to take the back roads through the freshly cut corn. As far as he eye could see, it was a sea of yellow with the occasional isolated farmstead on he horizon. Past abandoned houses and mill houses we went before finally following a delightful valley towards Cascade Locks.
The Dalles to Cascade Locks
The last phase of Oregon started here, the mighty Columbia River which we would be following for the final part of the trip. It seemed appropriate to look around the Columbia Discovery Centre. Two halls, one side history of the gorge, the other local history. Really well laid out and set out the ride really well. Back on the road again, we started to appreciate the Kings Road or historic Route 30 as its now called. The engineering feat must have been remarkable and much was still in evidence. The glorious triple white wooden barriers instead of metal barriers, stone arches lining water culverts and the intricate use of concrete to create lovely bridge decorations and as the Model T Ford had limited horsepower like us, the grades were gentle so all we had to so was through in a low gear and spin away. So proud of their road we our predecessors that they made a monument of certain points, so the climb to Rowena Crest was marked by a pull in and fabulous views east along the river. It wasn't as quiet as the 1920's as below us the interstate hummed away and the occasional ridiculously long train rattled eastwards. The engineering marvels continued at Mosier twin tunnels. finished in 1921 after 2 years work they proved too narrow for the modern car so were filed in after the interstate was built. In 1995 work started to reopen them and now they are a shared hiker/biker path, beautiful. We finished the day at Cascade Locks
Cascade Locks to Portland
The one big attraction today were the waterfalls. 'The highest number of waterfalls in a State park in the west coast’ an advert proudly proclaimed and sure enough they were attractive, mostly as they fell from such a height. Wahclella and Horsetail came and went, then the mother of all falls, Multnomah. It’s so popular that it had it's own gift shop, snack bar, even had it's own birthday party a few weeks ago. 100 years since, white man stared at the double waterfall taller than Niagra. Onwards and upwards, literally as we climbed the perfect 5% grade to Crown Point. Here was sited a sandstone monument to the highway, a mix of gothic and art deco architecture that you could climb and admire the views eastwards along the Columbia River. So the gorge had finished, the river long since tamed by dams in the 1930's had widened and the valley walled softened. Descending to Corbett we had a final stop with no vegetables in sight, all pulled pork, fried chicken and pastries. The final part of our journey took us into Portland and back along the southern bank of the Columbia River courtesy of a bike path which seemed a fitting end to 19 days round the State.