Fresh Legs, Whales, and the Oregon Coast
For almost two years, my girlfriend Lindsey and I have been preparing for a fun trip and beautiful bike tour to a part of the United States we’ve never really seen. On July 26th we departed from Florence, Oregon, a coastal town about halfway between California and Washington, with the goal of riding cross-country on our road bikes to Bar Harbor, Maine.
We started the trip by enjoying about 200 miles of Oregon coastline while we rode north before turning towards the East. Despite fighting a headwind while riding along the coast, we were constantly amazed by the rugged beauty and sharp contrast between the sea and the cliffs. It took all the self-control that we had not to blow our entire budget feasting on all of the seafood fresh off the boats in each coastal town.
In fact, we were behind schedule after the first week of riding because we were spending more time at breweries, roadside seafood stands, and simply relaxing by the Pacific. In the tiny little town of Depoe Bay, we spent the majority of an entire afternoon just watching grey whales surface only a few hundred yards from the ocean’s shore.
The Heat and Portland
Our costal adventure ended once we reached the town of Astoria where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific. At this point we turned inland and started heading east, riding along the river. We immediately missed the cool ocean breeze and were faced with the heat wave that the rest of the western U.S. had been enduring.
In order to beat the heat, a 5am wakeup call became necessary. This allowed us to put in our usual 50-60 miles on the bike before the blazing afternoon sun. Instead of riding, our afternoons were spent cooling off in the rivers or hunting down an air conditioned cafe to hideout in before tacking on a few more miles to set up camp.
We arrived in Portland about noon a few days later, and took the rest of the day off to enjoy some of the local brews, indie food joints, and great company. Portland was a super cool city to spend a lay-over. Bike lanes on almost every street alleviated the stress of riding a loaded-down touring bike through a metropolitan area – which could otherwise have been quite terrifying.
Wind, Wine, and Wheat
Our route out of Portland followed the northern shore of the Columbia River on the Washington side before meeting up with US 12 which leads to Missoula, Montana through Idaho.
The coastal air rushes up the Columbia River Gorge like a wind tunnel, so we were thankful that we were heading east and very appreciate of the strong tailwind. With winds gusting up to 25 mph, it felt as though we were pretty much blown all the way to Walla Walla.
Beautiful vineyards lined the road and the added speed gave us time to visit a few of the amazing wineries along the river for mid-afternoon tastings. Many of the wineries were small which added a very personal touch, and we were able to learn about the local grapes we were enjoying.
After leaving the wine regions of Walla Walla and the Columbia River Valley, we headed into endless fields of golden wheat just before crossing into Idaho. A variety of farmers markets offering fresh bread and local honey became our usual stop to help with our quickly growing appetites.
On a journey of this size, It’s a huge psychological boost to leave one large state behind and cross the border into a new one. The Idaho section of our bike tour is one really long, continuous climb along the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers. Our short-term destination was the headwaters of these beautiful rivers, located in the Bitterroot mountains that border Idaho and Montana.
Each morning we would get up early to beat the heat and were rewarded with cool mountain air and minimal traffic. Idaho served us up 150 miles of cool riverside riding along the scenic byway while we ever so slowly gained elevation towards Lolo Pass, our first real climb.
This gateway to the Rockies consumed most of our day, but we took our time and even stopped in at a roadside diner for a hardy refuel and rest before tackling the last few steep miles. Lolo was the first true test of our legs and although tired, we were happy to see how much stronger we felt compared to the short climbs along the Oregon coast.
Now it’s a few rest days in Missoula before heading up to Glacier National Park. From there our route will be surprisingly simple. We’ll head east along the northern border of the U.S until we reach the great state of Maine. I can’t wait to see what the road ahead has in store for us.
Mike Dicken, Bike and Ski Technician, Jans Park Avenue