Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 58: The Grand Finale

Day #58) August 9, 2011. Eugene, OR to Florence, OR: 65 miles in 5:39 hrs.

Just didn’t have it in me to write a blog yesterday post-ride. So I’m down here in the lobby of the Comfort Inn right now pecking away to get this up this morning. Pete is back in the motel room sawing logs – this after we did the “beerathon” last night at the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR.

Well yesterday was the day. It’s hard to explain the joy and at the same time the sadness of ending something like this. I mean after 57 days of a gypsy lifestyle it all came down to one last ride. I’d kind of been thinking about this day for the last couple of weeks. It wasn’t as if I was fried or burned out, I think it was more a matter of really looking forward to seeing my loved ones and friends again. It gets kind of lonely out there doing a solo with this day after day thing into a new place, new town, new state. You can talk on the phone, do skype, the whole nine yards, but after a while you just begin to crave the real deal, the flesh and blood. That’s me of course, and we’re all wired differently. But I think I’d have a hard time doing something like this that would put that facet of my life out of commission for many months or even years at a time.

So anyway Monday night I did that damned Chinese buffet for dinner, having already let the lunch buffet settle for about 6 hours. The buffet was like crack for me, I just couldn’t for the life of me resist the temptation to get my arse back in there and much and sushi and egg rolls again. I purposely waited until 6 pm for all the food from lunch to digest such that I could re-enter the “ring” with full force. And that I did, hitting the sushi table first for a full plate of rolls and a big dollop of wasabi. Then on to the appetizers with hot & sour soup, egg rolls, spring rolls, peanut chicken, fried rice and fried dumplings. And of course there were the entrees, which included beef & broccoli, garlic shrimp, chicken & cashews and on and on. I walked out of there 4 lbs heavier!

Had a quick Ninkasi Oatmeal stout and it was off to dreamland. Got up at my now standard 5 am and began to prep for an 8 am start. Did the complementary breakfast, packed, had way too much coffee and was just totally ready to roll at 7:30 am. Now I had called Pete at 7 am and told him that the weather looked good up in Eugene, with the heavy fog cover already breaking up and some spots of blue sky visible. He indicated that was the same case for weather down along the coast at Florence. He’d camped out at the OR Dunes which is just south of Florence. Looked like we were going to get a WAY better day yesterday than the non-descript day on Monday. Well, I was just so packed “n” ready that I decided to get a jump on the day and roll out at 7:30. And that was it.

Rolled down Rt 126 into downtown Eugene on what was turning into a really nice day – temps in the low 60’s and the sun beginning to pierce through the thick fogcover. Had to do a bunch of turning on Rt 126 as it jigged and jogged all around the city. Finally made it onto the west side of town and began the truck towards the coastal mts and the town of Veneta. Heck, I yanked my vest off as soon as I got out of town. Tuesday morning was a heck of a lot warmer than it had been on Monday, and what’s more the thick fog cover had really broken up in the first 45 min of cycling such that was graced with a really beautiful party sunny sky. Now I was hoping that I could get about 2:15 hrs of cycling in before I hooked up with Pete, this just to kind of push me a bit to get good mileage and average speed for the day.

About an hour outside of Eugene, at least on the bike anyway, I could see the coastal mt ranges in the foreground, just kind of getting bigger and bigger. Now to me, having rode across several pretty significant mt ranges, these coastal mts looked more like big tree-covered foothills. By the time I’d gotten to the town of Veneta the day had just become spectacular, with such wonderful temps to cycle in, a cool breeze blowing out of the northwest, and just picture-perfect sun and cloud combination. “Yup,” I’d said to myself, “this is going to be an amazing way to finish up a trip.” And the really cool thing, the thing that just had me jazzed to a pretty high level was the fact that I was going to meet up with a friend to finish the ride. It was a carbon copy of last year’s final ride, when Barney met up with me for the final ride to Everett, WA. You just don’t know how wonderful this feels to have someone take the time and effort to join you for the final ride of a long trip like this. It just heightens the whole experience exponentially. I really think it comes down to being able to share that experience. Solo traveling has it’s place in my life, and I really enjoy many facets of it, but the one downfall of doing a solo is that you just cannot share some of the special experiences. Today I could.

Got through Veneta feeling really, really good. I had the legs today, I had the weather, I would have a riding companion in a matter of an hour or so. The butt – well it was what it was – just in a constant state of sore, even with than new dbl shorts I’d been wearing since the Burns to Bend ride! Now the traffic had been pretty thick from Eugene to Veneta, but once past Veneta it totally thinned out. My berm was fantastic, being anywhere from 3 feet wide to 6 feet wide, and smooth and fast feeling. The only downer, and it really wasn’t that bad, was the occasional logging truck which would go by, sending out this light plume of sawdust and bark behind it as it zipped by me. I’d just turn my head down, chin against breastbone, such that the dust wouldn’t get in my eyes.

By this time the road was starting to do this false flat climbing along the Long Tom River and a rail line leading me up into the coastal mts. Within 20 min I was on my way to the first of two kind of passes for the day. The first, at an elevation of 767 feet, well it went by like a second hand ticking, I mean it was over and done with in a matter of minutes. Compared to what I’d been climbing for the past 2 months, this was really so short and mellow that I was kind of dumbfounded. I was able to go middle ring the whole way up, and then just took this wonderful flier on the way down, where again, the western side of the climb was much steeper and longer than the eastern side. Around me was what appeared to be like a “rain forest” with these massive pine, or hemlock trees covered with long drapes of moss and fuzz. The mt air seemed so “earthy” smelling and pungent what with such vegetation.

So by that time I’d been riding about 2:15 hrs and at the very bottom of that descent I saw a rider coming at me – a rider on a mt bike with a red kit on… Pete Baughman. Man that felt good to see the dude. He did a U-turn, pulled up to me and we bumped fists. Turns out the guy was just riding like a madman to try to get 30 miles in before we met. He said he knew that I’d take off early to try to the “the jump” on him. It’s amazing, in that we’re all so damned competitive in every facet of our lives. I mean even when we were planning on meeting, the both of us wanted to try to get as far as we could before the other guy appeared. He definitely got the better of me yesterday, covering that ground from the ocean and into the coastal mts at like 17-18 mph on a bloody mt bike!

So I said to him, “ok get ready to go REAL slow.” And he was totally ok with that. He described the remainder of the ride as being pretty fast, with a long stretch up along a river and then just one small pass of about 500 feet in elevation (he has a Gamin 705 which does elevation) and then a flat and fast finish to the coast. So we rode for about a half hour together and then stopped at this little “last chance” kind of grocery store in the small hamlet of Walton up in the coastals. Got a some soft drinks and a bag of Pepperidge Farms chocolate chip cookies and sat down in the warm sun on a picnic table to much and get caught up on each other’s lives. Now Pete and Jane had just moved from Kent, OH to Washington state, so everything has been going at 100 mph as of late for them. They’re still settling into a whole new lifestyle and place, but I could tell from the way Pete was describing their new life that it was exciting and wonderful.

The stop was a quickie and we were back on the bikes, with Pete pulling me as if it were a 30-mile leadout! I mean we were just flying along the RR tracks and through the mts. There were times when we were motoring along at over 20 mph. And then came the second pass, and as Pete had said, it was an approach of about 2-3 miles and then just a small pitch up to the top. Managed to stay on his wheel all the way up the approach in the big ring. And I have to say that I was surprising myself at how good I was feeling going up that long false flat approach. Then when it pitched up I had to hit the middle ring, but again, as was the case with the first pass, this thing was over in a matter of minutes. Then I was home-free with nothing more than a descent and a long run along the Siuslaw River to the Pacific Ocean.

Now we did have to go through this 500 foot long tunnel at the start of the descent, which was pretty cool because is was sloping down mt. Then the descent, not too switchbacky, and pretty fast for about 3 miles, where I just let the yak do the work of pushing me down mt. Pete, well he was back flat, chin down to the gooseneck just flying down the mt. From then onward, along the Siuslaw River and the RR tracks, Pete just got in front and did this monster pull into what was becoming a pretty significant headwind out of the northwest. As each mile ticked off and we got closer and closer to the ocean the wind just intensified that much more. Now I swear that there were times when I was tucked in his draft, with my front wheel of a fully loaded rig just 6 inches off of his rear wheel. I mean the dude was approaching like 21-22 mph at times into that wind, and if I left that wonderful draft I’d have gotten spit out of there like a freaking tornado!

God the miles were flying by. By the time we hit 10 miles to Florence we were varying between 16 mph into a super gusting headwind or like 21-22 mph when the wind wasn’t gusting. And by that point I was counting them down, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and on down until the magic 1-mile marker. Once freaking mile to go and the trip would be completed! And then bang, we were in Florence. Now the good news was that we’d made it in an amazing 4:15 hrs, and well, not really the bad news, but the other news was that we still needed to ride further to have access to the Pacific Ocean. You see Florence is not situated right smack dab on the ocean. So we crossed over the very famous Highway 101, and continued west on a county road, then took a right on another county road that ran parallel to the ocean. Problem was that there were nothing but these exclusive “gated” communities all along our left sides with zero access to the ocean. So we just continued north along this county road hoping to come across beach access in the not too distant.

That finally came about 3 miles up the road, where we turned in and descended this steep little asphalt road, and then turned left onto a gravel road and into a parking area. And there it was – the Pacific Ocean at low tide. Pete checked out the access to the water, cajoling me to walk the whole rig down to the water and dipping the front wheel into the Pacific. But it was a chore, with me having to push the bike through deep, loose beach sand, down a little hill and onto the beach. Then I had to push the rig through a kind of quicksand down to the water. So there I stood, with the water lapping lightly at my front wheel while Pete took several pictures. With the mission accomplished he came down and it took the both of us to push the rig around in the wet sand, and then up and over that sandy hill and back onto the gravel parking lot. DONE! At this point we traded bikes and both got treated to a whole different riding position. Pete looked as if he were riding a tricycle what with my seat so much lower than his, and I looked like I was standing because his seat was so bloody high. I mean I was getting a prostate-ectomy on that high seat. Pete on the other hand was nearly hitting his jaw with his knees due the seat being so low. It was pretty funny and a very cool way to end the trip.

We traded back the bikes after a few miles back up the road. Back in Florence my rig was broken down and stowed in his car and on the bike rack, and he pulled out a Black Butte Porter for me as a congratulatory gesture. I phoned Judy to let her know that the mission was accomplished and off we went, up Highway 101 to Newport where we had a room reserved for us at the Comfort Inn. The scenery along the way was just something that you have to experience – absolutely stellar! Now I do have to say that there is a TON of traffic on the 101, so it’s not like you’re just cruising down this nice little ocean-view road. This pup is heavily trafficked, and despite the many cyclists we saw riding this thing with full pack, I really don’t know if I’d enjoy doing that for 1200 miles of heavy traffic. Pete and I both talked about that, and how difficult it would be to deal with that kind of traffic for 1200 solid miles. What’s more the wind off of the ocean, God it was like gale force winds at times. And really, judging by the bend in all the ocean-facing trees, you’d have to do this thing north to south or else you’d be fighting a headwind the entire way.

Nope I was VERY happy to be in a car…and be DONE. Had to go about 50 miles north on the 101 up to Newport. And as I said the sights were just picture book around each and every turn. Maginficent! Newport is really a pretty big place compared to Florence and all the little towns we’d passed, and the great part of the whole thing was that there was the Rogue Brewery in Newport. THAT was our diner destination. Got to the hotel where Pete was finally able to crack a few beers, and where I was well on my way to getting toasted on Black Butte Porters, because by then I’d had three on the drive to Newport and two more in the hotel room B.S’ing with Pete.

Finally quite jawing and got showered and changed to go to the brewery, which was right down on this awesome little waterfront district. Great vibe to the place. The Brewery restaurant was as I expected, just totally point on with great food and stunning microbrews. We did some homemade bread with mozzarella and then some fried calamari, this amidst some great beer. I did some porter and chocolate stouts, while Pete did the IPA’s. After a super diner I cohersed him into searching out some fresh seafood, where we ended up on this pier at a restaurant that made what the sign said was some “great clam chowder.” Got to bowls to go and ate the soup on the pier in the twilight. Soup was wonderful. And there on the wooden pier, after sharing many a fine brew with a good friend, listening to the gulls and the waves, and smelling the amazing smell of the sea and fish, I felt as if that day was right up there with my day in the CO mts with Brad, and my day doing McKenzie pass with Rob and Rema. Yup, three really amazing days with four really amazing people – those are the most memorable days of the trip for me, the days where I’ll remember the feel, the sights, the smells and the sounds and the friends. Those will be the days that are burned into my mind like no others. Thanks to all of you who made those days so special!

That was it. Now I’ll do one more blog as a kind of postscript to the trip, a blog that I just don’t know where the hell I’ll go with, but one I think needs to be written nonetheless just to give a sense of finality to the whole adventure this summer. So I’ll have that last blog up in a day or two. Right now I need a little time to reflect on the past two months.

From the beautiful, sunny west coast of Oregon, all the best to everyone…….Pete

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