Oregon and the Cascade Mountains
On April 22, 2012, Wayne, Howard and I pushed our bikes out onto the sand near the waves rolling in from the Pacific Ocean at New Port Beach, Oregon. People, dogs and children dotted the beach front. Seagulls soared over the breakers. The sun warmed all of us as we prepared for camera shots of the beginning of our bicycle ride across America.
"Hey miss," Howard said to a passing beach walker. "Could you please take a shot of us?"
"Sure," she said as he handed her his camera.
She took a few shots and handed it back. Several other beach walkers marveled at the signs on our bikes: "Across America" and "Coast to Coast."
From that beach, we faced 3,500 miles of hills, mountains, plains, cold, hot, rain, snow, towns, cities, good pavement, otherwise pavement, physical effort, mental effort, patience for what Mother Nature tossed into our path and our own interaction with one another and the people we would meet.
I walked out to the waves and scooped up a small bottle of Pacific Ocean water. I would scoop up another bottle of the Atlantic Ocean. Those bottles would join six other bottles to make eight bottles to represent my four coast to coast bicycle journeys across America in the past 35 years. Each crossing taught me many lessons in my youth, middle and now into my "later" years. It's all a great learning experience. I want to make sure I stuff my bucket-list with all I can while I walk this planet.
"Let's git 'er done," Howard said as he pushed back toward the city of New Port Beach.
"I'm with you," said Wayne.
"Pedaling my bike as fast I can to keep up with you guys," I said.
As I looked back over the ocean, the waves crashed eternally over the beach. The ubiquitous seagulls squawked as they fought over some food that washed up on the sand. Within three months, I would stand on the Atlantic Ocean to see the same scene. In between, I would live a ton of memories, snap a wheel barrel full of pictures, create a video of the journey and learn more about life from interactions with people.
I look forward to the animals we will see and the people we will meet.
Bicycle adventure presents certain physical, mental and emotional challenges that most travelers never consider. While it looks wondrous to pedal a bike across a continent, it's hard core, hard physical muscle work. At times, when I have a 10 mile climb up a six percent grade, it's slow going and arduous work. At other times, it's smooth sailing "Zen of the Crank" when my mind and body feel bliss, joy and spiritual energy as the body works at maximum efficiency. It's a heck of a "high" not understood or appreciated by most folks unless they ride a bicycle for many days with sixty pounds of gear.
We bought two days worth of food at the local store. We aired up the tires.
"Let's do it dudes," I said.
We headed east on Route 20 which would connect with the Oregon Trail. By the way, the trail from the 1800s still shows the wagon ruts to this day when you cross over it. The entire north woods of Oregon still operates with old railroad tracks, the big timber companies, logging and hard living. And, truly, oh so much beauty on so many levels.
We pedaled into deep woods and wood chips scattered all over the highway. We pedaled along the Little Elk Creek. We pedaled through bright green moss growing on the dead and live trees along the road.
We reached Philomath where a couple saw Wayne on his back with his feet up looking like a dead bug. After a day of pounding the pedals, he felt fatigued. His bug pose caught someone’s attention.
A woman said, "Here's $20 to have dinner on us...we pedaled our tandem all over Alaska so we know you're having a great time."
I grabbed the 20 spot and thanked her! They drove off.
"We are money magnets," I said to Wayne.
We pedaled all the way into Corvallis where we stayed at Joan's house. She featured a hen house, garden, apple trees and two huge redwood trees in the back yard. Monster trees and only 50 years old! Joan featured simple living, quiet living, peaceful living and joyful countenance.
Next day, we hammered the pedals through small and old towns. The Coca-Cola signs dominated. Lots of old 1965-70 pickup trucks! Dr. Pepper with 10/2/4 on the bottles! Wood chips filled the highways where the logging trucks carried their product to the mills. When they rolled past us at 65 mph, they blew us off to the side with their first air draft and nearly sucked us into their rear tires. The fresh smell of cut wood wafted into our noses.
Along the route, the old towns really gave a glimpse of Mayberry RFD with Andy, Aunt Bee, Opie and Barney. Every town featured a hardware, gas station, bank, seed business, barber with a revolving red/white/blue barber's pole, hospital, veterinary clinic, 5 and 10 store, dentist and chiropractor.
Out of Sweet Home, we rolled into thicker wilderness and rising incline as the road began its serpentine route through the Cascade Mountains. Big spruce, Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine shot into the sky like green cathedrals. They dominated! Above, hawks and eagles soared across the vast blue sky. We followed the Santiam River.
Everywhere, winter receded, but as we hit 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 feet, Old Man Winter made his last stand with cold winds, seven foot snowbanks and dark, threatening clouds.
Pedaling through that deep wilderness, a sense of quiet awe inspired me. The woods, as Gordon Lightfoot said, "Are too silent to be real."
The nice aspect of cycling stems from the silence of our bikes. We came upon deer grazing in the glen. Canada geese played in a pond. Mallards guarded their new nests. We when we scanned the woods, we saw woodpeckers and crows. The sky always presented several hawks soaring on the thermals. Sometimes, we watched a hawk flutter above his potential unsuspecting lunch, then dive to grab it with his outstretched talons.
When we stopped, we listened to the trees. We listened to the wilderness whisper through the branches. We listened the heart beat of nature every throbbing and pulsing through its vast creative network. Tumbling waterfalls energized us, raging rivers enthralled us and the chatter of a squirrel brought the wilderness music to a daily crescendo.
The great woodsman John Muir said, "Leave the loathsome tension of the big cities, come to the mountains and your troubles will fall away like autumn leaves."
As we climbed to 4,617 feet, our lungs worked, our breaths labored and our legs worked hard. We reached Santiam Pass.After all that effort, we felt a sense of bliss at reaching the top. The mind clears of the hard push up and relaxes for the long ride down. We celebrated our triumph in the corridors of our minds. Then, down, down, down along fantastic wilderness colors until we began to pedal again.
Part 2: Ahead, more climbing to reach Tombstone Pass....
How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World
Live, laugh, love and pedal onward,