78.6km out of 1045km
I had many reasons to stay a few more days in Portland, but many more to get back on the road. It was Greg’s birthday today and they were planning a big party for the day after. After my shower and while packing my stuff, Lindsay cooked a nice breakfast for all us. I manage to fit everything in the panniers and since there was a scale in the house, I used it to weight my bike just out of curiosity. Not sure if it’s good to know the numbers. The bike on its own weights about 17 kilos and with all the bags and small things loaded, it goes up to 43kg! 5-10 of them is probable all the food I bought the day before, plus a couple of beer bottles Greg convinced me to take with me. I got ready, we said goodbyes and off I went to the unknown again.
As usual, even though I was planning to leave early, I managed go bet out of the door around 10:30, to head to the near by light-rail station. Since I was starting my day late, I decided to skip cycling out of the city and start my day from Hillsboro, which was just 30km outside Portland.
It was past noon when I actually started cycling and I was wondering if I could make it to the coast in one day. The route went through a small town and a lot of farmland through some really nice landscape. The day was gorgeous, sunny, relatively warm and I was glad the forecast was wrong about the fog and the rain. I stopped to a fruit stand for a pear and noticed that the shop and the whole area was full of Mexicans, barely even speaking any English.
For lunch I stopped at a small town Yamhill and after evaluating all my food options, I decided on a Mexican restaurant. Since they’ve populated the whole area, I thought they would know what they were doing in the kitchen. It had a very nice patio after all, ideal for such a hot day.
Just minutes after I left, I noticed that my odometer had just passed the 1000km mark. It took me two weeks to get here, but I hope from now I will be covering distance a little faster, so I don’t miss my flight.
The excellent Oregon Transportation map, took me through some very quite and scenic roads. I knew I had a big climb ahead of me, but after that it would be just a constant downhill all the way to the coast. I didn’t expect it to be that hard though. For about 2 hours I was cycling on the lowest gear, pushing the 43kilos and my self meter by meter, hoping in the next turn the road will start sloping down again. I have to admit though, the route was amazing, taking me through a vast old growth forest. Finally at the top, I saw the big water reserve, indicating that the hard part was over. Unfortunately it was already getting late, so I realized I wouldn’t be making it to the coast that day and I had to choose between the four campsites the map indicated.
I saw the first campground and I went in to check it out. It was very rustic, without showers and no-one was there. Even though it was a self-pay campground, there were no envelopes to put the money in and the box was sealed. It seemed a bit deserted and I thought I should try the next one 5km down the road. On the way down, I started wondering how comfortable I’d feel pitching a tent in an empty campground. During that whole section, I was barely seeing any other vehicles on the road and the map indicated that there are no services along the 55km of that stretch. I got to the next campsite ready to experience the complete isolation, but secretly hoping for at least a family car to feel a little more secure. While looking for the pay station I noticed one more car, but realized that instead of a happy family it was just a man on his own, drinking a can of beer, without even a tent to pitch. We had a quick chat trying to understand what his story was and I couldn’t stop thinking that he could easily be a serial killer waiting for his next victim. I even wrote down his license plate, so the officers have a clue in case something happened to me. I went off to look for a spot and I was debating whether to stay or head to the next one. Unfortunately the next campground was another 10km away, 4 of which on unpaved road, so I really couldn’t judge how long it would take me to head there. It was already late and I was worried to go any further, so I decided to stay with the dodgy looking man. I think I could do better knowing that big-foot was around, than just me and Jim from California. You were looking for adventures George… there you have it!
Despite my paranoia, the location was excellent. I pitched my tent right next to the stream so I could hear the water running overnight. I put the two beers in the river to cool and started preparing something to eat. It was all dark by the time food was ready and for a few minutes I switched off my headlamp to experience the darkness. Surprisingly, a minute later when my eyes adjusted, the full of stars sky proved to be bright enough for me to see and continue eating, despite the heavy tree coverage all around me. I couldn’t stop thinking how far away I was from home, wherever that may be during this transition period. A feeling of remoteness and isolation I was anticipating to find in the Canadian Rockies but I got to experience without expecting it, a night after I was having drinks with my friends.