Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 66: The Finale

Sunday, September 11

Miles: 65
Eugene to Florence, OR

Ok, first of all, WE MADE IT! WAHOO!!

The day started out like any other day. It didn't really feel like anything special was happening, we were just riding again like always. We left our hotel and had our last pre-biking breakfast (McDonald's egg sandwiches). We rode through the city of Eugene, which was not busy at all since it was Sunday morning. Once we left the city, we were on a two-lane road with a ton of traffic. The shoulder was pretty narrow, and in some places nonexistent. Since route 126 is the only road from Eugene (the second largest city in Oregon) to the coast, there was so much traffic. Most of it was RVs, which made it even worse. We had to cross over the Coastal Mountain Range, but the highest peak was only 769 feet so it wasn't bad at all. About halfway there, we stopped at a farm to have lunch. Everywhere out here advertises that they have espresso, which I find very odd. There are a bunch of tiny stores that are drive-through only for espresso. Even random places like antique shops have espresso. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm sure I will! They were out of blackberries at the farm stand so we waited a few minutes while one of the workers picked us some more- they were incredibly delicious!

We also had some awesome heirloom cherry tomatoes.

We got back on the road and started our final climb before we got over the last mountain. It was a slow, gradual climb for a few miles and then we came upon a tunnel that we had to go through. The tunnel had a 7% grade (downhill) and we had to push a button to alert the cars that there were bikers in the tunnel.

The lights started flashing and we pedaled as fast as we possibly could to get out of there. It was freezing cold and the sound of the cars was deafening. It sounded like the cars behind us were right on top of us and were going to hit us. I was too scared to look back but Ben said there actually weren't any cars behind us, it was just the cars going the other way making that awful noise. After that terrifying trip through the tunnel, we emerged into the fresh air again. Somehow, going from one side of that mountain to the other resulted in a complete change in the weather. It went from 90 degrees and sunny to 60 degrees and dreary. We had to stop to put our jackets on and our hands were numb from the cold. It didn't feel right that we had to end our trip like this! Shouldn't it be beautiful out, everybody cheering us on, a marching band playing music? No such luck.

We stopped again 15 miles before Florence to try to warm up. We got cheese sandwiches, baked in a pizza oven because the cafe didn't have a grill. They actually turned out pretty good! The last 15 miles were kind of torturous- we were freezing, the wind was blowing really hard into our faces, and we were riding at about 8 mph. This is definitely not how I envisioned ending our trip.

Ben and I reminisced a lot about all of the crazy adventures we have had for the past 2 months. We remembered the dinner we had in Seebree, Kentucky at Pastor Bob and Violet's house. We started laughing again as hard as we laughed at dinner that night. We talked about the amazing times we had, the great people we met, the ridiculous situations we often found ourselves in, and we admitted that even though it was awesome to almost be in Florence, we don't really want to end this trip. We have just had the best time for the past 66 days, and it is going to be really hard to say goodbye to biking! Our bikes have been our closets, kitchen table, and lounge chairs (if only it were as comfortable!) for so long. My bike almost feels like an extension of my body. I can remember the first day, when we left Yorktown and the bike felt so awkward with all of the weight. I couldn't even stand up to go up a hill because it would shake so much. Over the past 2 months, Ben and I have become experts at setting up our tent, cooking dinner on a tiny stove, and biking for miles on end. We are so efficient now- it doesn't seem right to stop! But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.

We entered the town of Florence.

We picked up a bottle of champagne and went down to the ocean to officially end this journey. We were both more sad than happy at this point. But, its a good thing that we are sad to end the trip because that means we really did enjoying ourselves and had an awesome time! It was 3305 miles of constant adventure and it was definitely worth the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it happen.

We are so grateful that we have had the opportunity to do this. We owe the success of this trip to so many strangers across America that went out of their way to help us in any way they could. And we are so thankful to everyone at home for supporting us! Its been a trip of a lifetime, and we have the best memories that with be with us forever.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 65

Saturday, September 10

Miles: 92
Sisters to Eugene, OR

We woke up to the smell of donuts and followed it to the bakery in town. We had breakfast and got an early start on the road (early for us now means 9am). We started climbing right away but it was the usual mountain gradual, slow and steady. We got to a lookout a few miles from the top and we were right on a huge lava rock field. A volcanic mountain across from McKenzie Mtn had erupted 1500 years ago and deposited volcanic rock all over the area. It looked like something from a different planet!

As we were climbing, the lava began to encroach on both sides of the road. After 15 miles, we reached the summit of McKenzie Pass- over 5300 ft.

There was an observatory constructed from the lava rocks at the summit, which was pretty fun. We could see the smoke from forest fires off in the distance.

Over the next 15 miles we dropped more than 3300 feet. There were steep switchbacks and sharp turns. The speed limit signs actually applied to us for once- 15-20 mph for most of the way down. The side we climbed was much easier because we started at about 3000 ft in Sisters. We have to get down to 800 ft in Eugene!

The west side of the Cascade Mountains are like a different world from the east. The east is dry and barren, with less than 10 inches of rain annually. The west side is lush, green, forested, and just beautiful- as much as 100 inches of rain per year. it was such a treat to ride down into the beautiful green forest that actually looked like the landscape at home, with the addition of massive mountains.

We had a downhill ride for about 40 miles. It was awesome! After that, it was up and down but once we got under 1,000 ft, we never went above it again. After all, we are getting to sea-level so we have to go all the way down to 0 in elevation. The ride was so pretty and easy that we made it all the way to Eugene before dark! Ben said today was his favorite day of riding- he didn't even want to stop until we got to the ocean (I wasn't that motivated). Today's ride was definitely one of my favorites as well. I'm glad we saved the best for (next to) last!

As seems to be our luck lately, the first home football game of Oregon State University, located in Eugene, was today. They won 69-17 against Nevada. But that meant that all the hotels were extremely expensive or completely booked! This is a real city so there are no campgrounds. Eventually, we found a motel that we could afford. We took our first showers in 3 days which felt amazing, to say the least!

Now we have 61.4 miles left to Florence. Both of us don't really know what to think about reaching the coast tomorrow. It's been a long, eventful, amazing, challenging, tough journey and we are finally about to reach our goal. I'm so excited to get there, but at the same time sad to end. It also seems so surreal that tomorrow is the last day. Maybe it will sink in when we see the ocean for the first time since we left Virginia!

Day 64

Friday, September 9

Miles: 43
Prineville to Sisters, OR

Ben had a flat tire when we got up in the morning, which was foreshadowing for the rest of the day. We ate breakfast at a diner filled with a ton of Harley riders in town for the rally. To say the least, I was happy to get out of Prineville.

We rode about 10 miles out of town and Ben's back tire went flat again. We were on a pretty busy road so we found a patch of mulch to fix the tire. When we sat down we realized the mulch was full of tiny splinters, which got all in our hands and shorts. We actually had to change our shorts because the sprinklers were too tiny and too many to get off. Anyways, Ben patched the tube and we were on our way.

We got into the town of Redman and got some ice cream. About 10 more miles and Ben's tire went flat for the third time today. We just felt like giving up. We didn't even find anything that would have caused the flats so it kind of felt hopeless. This time there was some splintery mulch left in the tire so that might done it. After patching the tube again, we kept our fingers crossed that it would hold.

Finally, we got into Sisters. We decided to stay there because immediately leaving town is the biggest mountain pass we will climb in Oregon. We didn't feel up to that climb at the end of the day.

When we tried to find a spot at a campground in town, we found out there was a folk festival this weekend and every campground and hotel was booked solid. We figured we had nothing to lose, so we asked a motel if we could pitch our tent in the yard. The owner there was awesome and let us put up our tent for free. She was originally from Vermont, so it's no wonder that she was so cool. We went out for pizza and then called it a night. The motel owner even turned off the sprinkler timer for us, so we avoided a repeat of our night in Unity!

160 miles to the coast- can it be true!?

Location:Sisters, OR

Day 63

Thursday, September, 8

Miles: 55

We woke up at the Bike Inn to roosters crowing and ducks clucking. We looked out the window and saw that there were tons of animals in the backyard! Ducks, chickens, billygoats, cats..

I went down the street to buy some coffee to donate to the bike inn for future users (there was a coffee maker). We cooked awesome egg sandwiches with the eggs, English muffins and cheese provided for us in the fridge. It was awesome to cook breakfast on an actual stove again!

We rode for what seems like forever to the next town, Dayville. We were mentally unmotivated and stayed at the general store there for over an hour, drinking redbull and eating candy bars.

We rode a bit further and went into an awesome gorge carved in between two mountains by a river. It was beautiful but uphill

The view just before going into the gorge

This area used to be a tropical jungle and there have been awesome fossils found here from that time

It was slow going for over 30 miles uphill. It was hot and tiring. I started feeling a bit ill, like weak and shaky, probably due to not enough water. Eventually, I felt so bad that we had to ask a person driving by for a ride into town because we were just too spent. Jay and his wife Kelly were kind enough to drive us into the next town, Prineville. They were from Idaho but driving to Madras, about 30 miles north of Prineville because Jay is a helicopter pilot and was going to fight a forest fire. He had a lot of cool stories about flying, which he learned to do in the army.

Once we got into Prineville, we discovered that there was a 3 day motorcycle rally going on. This meant that there were a bunch of loud, drunk Harley Davidson riders surrounding our campsite. They were loud all night, then woke up early and were loud again. Then they all started their engines, revved them for a good while and rode off, only to return a few minutes later and resume their noisiness. That was rather annoying.

Location:Prineville, OR

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 62

Wednesday, September 7

Miles today: 60
Unity to Mount Vernon, OR

We were awoken at 4 am by the sprinklers coming on in the city park and spraying at our tent. This continued until a little after 7, when we were planning how to make our escape from the tent without getting ourselves and our stuff completely soaked. Luckily, they turned off and we got out nice and dry. Unfortunately, Ben's panniers were in the direct line of water and aren't completely waterproof so all of his clothes were wet. There was no laundromat in Unity so he had to wear damp clothes. We went to breakfast at the Watering Hole and had another great, filling meal. We are always amazed when we wake up so hungry after a big meal the night before. We met another cycling couple headed east at the cafe. Dave and Ryan started in Portland and are headed to Savannah, Georgia! We did the usual cyclist meeting stuff: compare routes, share stories about the wind, ect. They told us about a bicyclist only place to stay in Mount Vernon, which seemed pretty awesome so we thought we would try to stay there, about 60 miles away.

We hit the road and pretty much immediately started climbing. An hour and a half later, we reached the top of the Blue Mountain Pass at 5100 ft.

 The green sign in the background is the summit sign.

Hydrating at the top!

We were so happy to be back among trees! We were in a national forest for a good part of the day and it was really awesome. After being in the desert since Colorado, we loved seeing the trees again. And it makes the climbs so much more interesting! We flew down the mountain- about 8 miles at 25-30 mph- what an incredible feeling! And it feels even better knowing we put the hard work in to get up to the top and earned that downhill.

We got down the mountain and right away started climbing another. At this point we joined back up with the ACA Transamerica route, so we can use our maps again! This was exciting because they list places to stay and services in each town, we even didn't realize that we've missed using these maps, but we did! We will use the Transamerica route all the way to Florence now.

Another 1.5 hours later, we reached the top of Dixie Pass. These climbs really are not difficult. We are never really working that hard, in fact we are usually having a conversation the entire time up. It makes the time go by much faster, and we never get out of breath at this pace. The climb was about 6 miles and we were going 4 mph. It's just slow and steady, which I really like. At the top we ate some apples and granola bars and enjoyed the amazing view. I kept wanting to stop at every turn on the downhill because I just could not believe how beautiful it was. Our descent faced the Strawberry Mountain range and the valley in between. Just gorgeous!

We had a 10 mile descent into Prairie City, where we stopped for water, and then continued 13 more downhill miles into John Day. We were starving and each devoured a footlong subway sandwich. Then we went to the laundromat and did our laundry. It was 7pm by the time we left John Day and headed the 8 more downhill miles into Mount Vernon. We know we will have to climb up to 5300 ft again tomorrow, but this extensive descent was so worth it!

We got into Mount Vernon and found the Bike Inn. It's a guest house next to the owner's house. Nobody was home but a sign on the guest house welcomed us in. There is a kitchen, futon and bathroom. The cabinets and fridge are stocked for our use. Places like these are so amazing, we cannot thank Christy, the owner, enough! The hot water heater is being replaced so we went down the road to a motel to take showers for $2.50 per person. We were still full from our sandwhiches, but we marveled at the kitchen and looked forward to the morning when we would cook the eggs, cheese and English muffins In the fridge! The eggs are from the chickens in the yard. There are also goats, cats and the a dog, Barbie. Barbie and I played catch for a long time- she's the sweetest dog!

It is hard to put into words how awesome it is to stay inside after camping for so long. It is such an incredible luxury to sleep on a fold out futon! Christy is the best for donating her house, food, time, and money into creating this place for cyclists! We love it!