Kristi and I had a wonderful time in Sisters. We were able to stay with the very same person who sponsored me in Sisters when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014, Kathryn Godsiff and her husband, Allan. On Saturday night, they had a barbecue and invited Lance. I ended up spending the night at Lance’s house in 2014 during my stay in Sisters. We were able to catch up on life and talked about old and new times! Neither Kristi nor I could have asked for a better place to spend our last zero day before finishing this journey.
We left early Monday morning. The sun is coming up later and later, and we’ve had to adjust our starting time accordingly. There are two ways to head west from Sisters, go over the Santiam Pass or McKenzie Pass. Santiam Pass is 20 miles longer, but we’d heard that McKenzie was a more difficult climb, and we could see from the elevation profile that it was a few hundred feet higher. Of course, after doing over 4,000 miles on our bikes, we felt we could tackle the more difficult climb and decided to go for it. But before we got out of Sisters, we got a message from none other than Coppertone! If you have read my PCT blog entries, you’ll know that Coppertone (Vic) is one of the most prolific trail angels on the Pacific Crest Trail. He has an “RV” that he built himself which has solar power and is equipped with his living quarters as well as a fridge, freezer, etc. Coppertone goes to the spots on the PCT that are at the end of the hottest parts of the hikes and serves up root beer floats to the hikers as they arrive!
Apparently, Coppertone was at the top of McKenzie Pass, and as you might have guessed, he was serving up trail magic to the hikers on the PCT as they crossed the pass which included root beer floats! Kristi and I were excited to see him as we began our climb up the pass. All-in-all, both of us agreed that the climb wasn’t nearly as difficult as others had made it out to be and were on top in no time. We took time to take pictures of the lava fields and the surrounding mountains to include Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and two of the three Sisters. We also took the time to walk up to the observatory to get a better view of the huge lava fields at the top of the pass. We then made our way down to where Coppertone was parked. He’s easy to spot because his RV is very distinctive. We were delighted to be able to spend time with him and chat with the hikers as they were coming through, and of course, we took advantage of his kindness and had one of his wonderful root beer floats! I can’t express to you how good it felt to see him again. It brought back memories of my time on the PCT and the seven or so times he met me as I crossed paths with him and enjoyed his food/drink and his company! It was very hard to leave, but Kristi and I needed to make it to McKenzie Bridge, and as I like to say, the trail isn’t going to ride itself, so eventually, we said our goodbyes and headed down the other side of McKenzie Pass.
It was a wonderful descent…and a nostalgic one as well since it was our last big drop before we finish the ride. The pass is at 5,300+ feet, and by the time we stopped for the day, we were at 1,300 feet.
The next morning, we were planning to ride 64 miles to Harrisburg and started at first light. We made great time and were at the 32-mile mark (half way) by 9:15 in the morning. We rode another 15 miles or so and stopped to eat lunch. While we were there, Kristi came up with the wonderful idea of bypassing Harrisburg and going an additional 23 miles to Corvallis. Really? Well, being the hard-headed Jarhead that I am, I couldn’t say no, so off we went. We ended up fighting a fairly strong headwind for the rest of the ride, but we still managed to ride the 87 miles and pulled into Corvallis by 3:45 in the afternoon. It was the furthest we’ve ridden since we began this ride, and we both can tell we’ve gotten much stronger on the bikes, because although we were somewhat tired, we still felt strong when we stopped for the day.
Wednesday’s ride was a shorter one since we did so many miles on day before. We rode 44 miles to Willamina. It was a wonderful day spent going mostly by farmland. It’s simply amazing to Kristi and I how many varieties of fruits there were along the route! Even though we were riding on a major road all day, there were tons and tons of wild blackberries on both sides of the road. There’s no way anyone could starve to death riding through Oregon! There were also apple, peach and other varieties of fruit trees.
Near the end of our ride, we came upon our second winery, Chateau Bianca. Since we were close to finishing, both Kristi and I decided to go in and try out a flight of their wines. Their wines were really good. Kristi and I also bought a bottle of their champagne to toast our completion of the TransAmerica Trail on Saturday.
We decided to stay in an old hotel in Willamina about a mile and a half off the route Wednesday evening. Kristi and I both loved the town. It’s very quaint. I’ve mentioned in the past about how wonderful the pine smells are as we ride, but Willamina is different. It reminded both of us of Christmas, because it definitely smells like we are up close smelling a freshly-cut Christmas tree. We slept with all the windows to our room open! We were excited, because we knew we were going to hit the coast the next day!
The trek out of Willamina started before the sun was up. We were headed to Netarts which was a 69-mile ride. We were very excited to get going and were on the road well before sunrise. Our first stop was about 20 miles in when we got to Otis and ate at the renowned Otis Cafe. Kathryn, our friend and sponsor from Sisters, told us not to miss out on their breakfast. In all honesty, the prices were a shock to me when I looked at their menu. They seemed a bit pricey, but when our food arrived, I understood why! The plates were HUGE! And the food, absolutely delicious! Both of us ordered omelettes, and they were fully loaded with things you’d never imagine putting in an omelette such as asparagus, squash, etc. The various kinds of toast were quite tasty! By the time we left, both of us felt like we were going to go into a food coma! Fortunately for us, the ride out of Otis wasn’t terribly difficult.
We hit the Pacific Coast at Neskowin. We could feel and smell the ocean a mile or two before we were able to see it. It was torture, because the trail took a right turn before we hit the ocean, so we were enticed with a few small peeks of the water through the trees until we finally reached a full vista of the Oregon Coast! We pulled off at the first vantage point, dismounted our bikes, and hugged. We had made it! All. The. Way. Cross. Country!!!
We took time to soak in the view and relish in our accomplishment for a short while and then continued riding north along the coast, anxious to see what all the harping was about from people who told us how beautiful it is. We weren’t disappointed! As we rode north, I kept looking over my left shoulder trying to catch photo-worthy glimpses of the ocean. The ride from Neskowin to Netarts seemed to fly by and we were done for the day in no time!
Netarts is a beautiful coastal town nestled against the coastal mountains. From just about anywhere you stand, you can get a wonderful view of the ocean and the coastline.
The following morning, we were off to Cannon Beach. Kristi had heard about Cannon Beach and decided that’s where we would stay. It was a 50-mile bike ride full of stops to take in the views and take a few pictures to memorialize the experience. The smell of ocean air and pine was an intoxicating mix. It was our last full day of riding which ended all too quickly. Everyone we met asked us where we started, and without exception, they were all surprised when we told them we had started on the Atlantic Coast 3 months earlier.
Upon reaching Cannon Beach, members of the local American Legion asked us to head there for some drinks; so after getting our camp set up, we headed to the Legion and enjoyed the camaraderie of our fellow veterans as well as a few beers. Our last night camping was one of the best nights we’d had on the trail! On our final day, I woke Kristi with a cup of hot coffee, and we both smiled at each other as soon as our eyes met. This is it! One more day of riding, and a short 28-mile day at that! Since we didn’t need to be there until noon, we took our time packing up our campsite but were ready to get going soon enough. Everything was in it’s usual place…clothing and food bags with air mats and shoes securely packed into Kristi’s saddlebags, the tent strapped to her back rack. The trailer was loaded with the sleeping bags, waffle mats, computer, iPad, shower and shaving gear, bike repair bag, medical bag, two bottles of Powerade, two bottles of 7-Up, a bottle of champagne, etc., etc.
Then we were off. I swear, we both had smiles on our faces the entire ride. We found out that the Hood to Coast Relay Race was also being run as we approached Astoria. There were literally thousands of teams in the race. Our trail mirrored their race course for many miles, even though we were going in the opposite direction. So as we rode, we gave words of encouragement to everyone we passed…and there were hundreds! At one point about 10 miles from Astoria as we travelled up Old Hwy 101, there was a road block. As we approached, we were going to go around them, but they stopped us and said that the road was completely out. Not even bikes could get by! You have got to be kidding me! It was about 11:15 and we were supposed to meet people at the finish at noon! The only other way around would have taken us an additional 45 minutes to an hour. Without a lot of options, I saw a possible alternative on the map just to the left of where they stopped us. It was a small road that looked like it might skirt the construction for a half a mile before joining back up on Hwy 101. We decided to try it as the only viable option that would get us there on time. The small road soon petered out and became a gravel trail which soon gave out to a small dirt trial, and before long, we were bushwhacking through the Oregon forest surrounded by blackberry bushes (with lots of thorns), fallen logs, etc. But Kristi and I were determined! After about 20 minutes of bushwhacking, we were rewarded as we managed to get back to the road just past the construction. One of the crew members turned toward us and said, “You two are the smartest ones yet.” Apparently, a lot of others had been stopped and were turned around. But we were desperate and quickly running out of time. So back on our bikes, we picked up the pace to get to Astoria on time, once again, smiles plastered across our faces! We could feel the finish!
We crossed two bridges as we came out of the woods, the last of which brought us into Astoria. We took a left turn following the TransAmerica Trail which took us all the way to the western edge of Astoria where we were met at the roundabout by Mike, the Post Commander of the Astoria American Legion as well as Gordon, who volunteered to escort us into town on his motorcycle. We were also met by Emory who is one of the trail town coordinators for Warrior Expeditions. After greeting everyone and thanking them profusely for meeting us, Kristi and I pulled in behind Gordon’s Harley for the final mile of our ride to the Maritime Museum.
After pedaling furiously to stay up with Gordon, we finally reached the completion of the TransAmerica Trail! Dismounting our bikes, Kristi and I enjoyed a long, lingering embrace to celebrate! We had been on he trail for a total of 103 days, ridden 4,325 miles which ended up being approximately 1,712,700 revolutions of the pedal, and crossed 10 states. Out of the entire way, the only section we didn’t ride our bikes was when we took the ferry across the Ohio River. Although many people we met along the way suggested alternative routes which were shorter or safer or more enjoyable, etc., Kristi and I adamantly refused to alter our course from the TransAmerica Trail. Because of our determination, we were challenged in ways we couldn’t have imagined and were rewarded in ways we would never have dreamed!
So here we are, at the end of our planned journey. What’s next? We get asked that a lot. Well, we plan to spend a few days in Astoria. Then, Tuesday morning, load our bikes onto a bus that will take us to Portland, and then hop a train for Southern California.
Kristi and I will post one more blog entry before we complete this series and discuss our gear, lessons learned etc. But before I sign off, on behalf of Kristi and I, we would like to thank our faithful blog readers for traveling with us on this journey, for your kind and encouraging words, and for the many words of advice/wisdom! To our friends and family whom we met along the way, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to see us as we rode…for entertaining and encouraging us! And for those of you who have lived vicariously through our journals, we hope that you find the courage and the time to do the things you dream of. All it takes is one step at a time…or in our case, one pedal at a time! And finally, to Warrior Expeditions, thank you for asking us to be the guinea pigs, for providing us with the best damn bikes to ride on and the best damn gear to get us through every situation this trip threw at us! Sean, Christine, and Sarah, you three are truly amazing! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
In closing, I think all of us are, at least to one extent or another, jaded by all we see on the news. Sometimes, it’s hard not to think our country is going to hell in a hand basket. But if you really want to see the life blood of the United States, turn off the TV, open the door, and GO! I don’t care if it’s by train, bus, RV, motorcycle, bicycle, or foot. Go alone, go with a loved one, go with your entire family! Just go! Don’t travel the highways. Travel the back roads. Find your way from small town to small town! If you want to understand why the people we met who were doing the TransAmerica Trail from other countries thought Americans were the nicest people they’d ever met, you’ll see once you get out and start meeting them! I have absolutely no doubt that there isn’t a country on this planet that is more diverse, more beautiful, or more welcoming than the one we live in! God Bless the United States of America! (Week 14 mileage: 326.24; total miles completed: 4,326.29!!!)