The next day we finally hit the Columbia River, and while it didn’t really provide us with any shade, reduction in temperature, or help with the wind, it did feel like we were making progress. Pretty cool views too, definitely a unique landscape.
Riding along the river was pretty smooth, and with three people the wind isn’t that huge of an issue – we just take turns, usually in 5 mile intervals, up front. For those who aren’t cyclists, when you ride in a tight formation, one behind another, it makes going against the wind a ton easier – you save something like 35% of your energy when drafting in the 2nd or 3rd position. We hit Oregon pretty soon thereafter, marking the final state of the journey (though we’d cross over into WA for a while again)!
We took a dip in the Coumbia just south of a major dam – that was our shower for the evening. After downing some burgers in Ummatilla, we rode across a bridge and state line to a campground in Plymouth, WA. Got a few hours of rest and woke up the next day at 5AM just after daybreak to tackle another long day of riding, about 120 miles to Hood River, where we had another WarmShowers host. The morning ride went great – it was still nice and cool so we covered serious ground. About 50 miles in Natalie and David linked back up with us, so we rode on together. By this time it was about 1PM and the day had heated up, back to around 100. Unfortunately David got a serious flat that kind of blew out the sidewall of his tire, so he had to stop as it was borderline unrideable and unsafe. We were 70 miles in and had 50 to go, and the group sans me decided that they’d rather just hitchhike in to Hood River. I decided to remain a purist a push on, which I knew would be tough but I figured why not – I’ve made it this far.
The next 50 miles were truly brutal, probably the most exhausting and physically challenging experience I’ve had. It was hot, I was already tired and baking from the sun, and the wind had picked up considerably. The Columbia River gorge sort of channels all the prevailing West-East winds through, making for great windsurfing and kiteboarding conditions and awful cycling when headed West. There were times when I was going downhill, and only hitting like 10mph while in a semi aero tuck and cranking hard on the pedals. Getting water was also an issue, as there were few towns or services along the route – I guess I-84? on the other side of the river has pretty much put everything on the Washington side out of business. I stopped by someone’s house and got ice and water which was helpful, and also filled up at a winery. I must have looked absurd and delirious, and I had some serious salt sweat stains on my black jersey. After 30 miles I finally hit a gas station, so I downed a 40oz coke, a 32oz Gatorarde (which I now know contains more sodium than Powerade), and an ice cream sandwich – it hit the spot. After that caloric intake, I felt a bit better but riding on was still a challenge as the winds must have been like, 20-30mph in my face. Its funny, because when I got into town all the people I chatted with told me I was lucky as it was a low wind day – I dunno how anyone can bike that when there are high winds.
I finally made it all the way to the outskirts of Hood River, though I had to cross over a bridge that was closed to cyclists to make it into town. I hitched a ride with Gary, who had a pickup and who also has done some biking – awesome that I didn’t have to wait long and got a ride quick as I was beat. Met up with the group, our host Ross, and had some pizza and beers. Got some ice cream after then back to Ross’s place and crashed. The next morning he made us some delicious blueberry pancakes, great fuel for the road – thanks man! We rode on and finally hit the area of Oregon that has the greenery – it kind of starts to get cooler and nicer as you pass Hood River and the Cascade mountains.
We stopped about 20 miles in at an area with waterfalls – not the main large one, but an off the beaten path one. You had to hike about a mile to get in, climb over a major log jam, and wade/swim through freezing water, but it was totally worth it. Very secluded waterfalls with rocks that you could sort of climb on and then jump into where the waterfall was emptying into. We hung out, swam, took some pictures, and chilled there for a while – we didn’t really need to cool off (would have been perfect midday the day before), but it was still nice to take a break and enjoy the scenery on a leisurely day of riding.
The rest of the ride was real nice, pretty scenic and winding along an old highway route. Had some climbs but nothing too tough, and got rewarded with some great views of the gorge.
After taking a short break to take in the view, we headed on down towards Portland. Natalie’s folks live in the city and she has been there for the summer so we headed over to her place for the evening. We got some food truck dinner, had a beer, then crashed for the evening. This was the ending point for Thomas, Natalie, and David, but Daniel and I were pressing on to the coast the next day in order to hit some water and make it a true cross country ride.
We set out around 9 after having pancakes, and unfortunately I had a flat (though only my third on the trip) right as we started. Must have picked up a staple on the way in that led to a slow leak. I was able to patch it though, and we snaked through the city on some pretty good bike lanes. We were cranking hard through the day and covered the mileage (a bit over 100) pretty quickly, all considering. We hit a few hills but no major ascents – the route just followed the Columbia River.
We arrived in Astoria in the early evening, went down to the most northwestern point, where the Columbia River mixes in with the Pacific Ocean. Did a little photo shoot before hopping into the water and rinsing some grime off.
The water was nice and cool, not too chilly and felt refreshing after a long final day of riding! It was a bit bittersweet to think that this was the end, but I’d been ready to be done with riding. Touring is a lot of fun and it has been a truly amazing experience, but after 45 days on the road its nice to come back to reality and settle down a bit.
After the final leg, we headed to the west side of town and tried to hitch a ride back to Portland, with no luck. We decided to just camp out at the shore point that we took pictures and swam at, and grab dinner and relax. There was a bus the next AM that we could grab back to Portland and that made a lot more sense than waiting around for hours to find a willing person with a truck and space (or multiple rides, as it was 100 miles back). Ate a meatball sandwich and half a pizza and half pitcher of beer, then biked back to the point in the dark and set up our makeshift camp/sleeping area. It was great camping out there with the sea breeze in the air, though we did get woken up around 3AM with the screaming rambles of a bum who also decided to camp out in our area.
Woke up a bit after daybreak, killed some time and woke up at a coffee shop (and had the best parfait in my 26 years), went over to the bus stop and bought tickets, and loaded them up. Currently hanging out in Portland, just sold the bike on craigslist, and about to enjoy some porch beers, have a BBQ, and see the city! Will post more in the coming week or so with some reflections and highlights, so stay tuned. Thank you to everyone who helped me out along the way, whether it was food, shelter, words of encouragement, or just thumbs up passing on the road! Its been a hell of a trip and feels great to be done. Also, I’ve been shooting a lot of video with my camera along the way so I’ll be putting together a compilation later on – probably a few weeks or month down the road realistically, but keep on the lookout for that also!