TransAm Day 81 Final Day

Tom writes:

Eugene to Florence: 132 kms

Florence

All the way across!!
All the way across!!

Total number of punctures: 8 (Ami 5, Tom 3)

Total distance for the whole trip: 6782 kms

 

So we got up on the final morning to partake of our final breakfast, put on our Lycra for the final time before finally hitting the road for the final excursion.

As you can see the whole atmosphere was either blessed or tainted by finality, depending on how you see things.

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Amina’s mum had come all the way from Akalla, Sweden to join us for the run to the coast and it turned out to be a long day in the saddle that awaited her and the rest of us.

Here she is posing with her daughter and the two bikes that would be accompanying them.

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The ride itself stretched the 132 kms from the town of Eugene to Heceta Beach just north of the town of Florence and the only place close by with good access to the beach.

It was long but not too tough, at least for experienced athletes like Ami and myself, there was one reasonable hill for us to climb and the final eight kilometres were into a pretty strong headwind which somehow felt like quite a fitting end to this mammoth tour.

The rest though was slightly downhill, through suitably beautiful countryside, on a road without too much traffic and with a nice surface for our tyres to get their treads into.

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Above all the weather was absolutely perfect, sweet sunshine without being murderously hot, in all probability because we were so close to the coast. (I love those last seven words…).

We rode slowly partly so that Marianne, Ami’s mum, could keep up, but also on some level to really enjoy and fully digest what we were about to achieve. Three months ago in Virginia it was difficult to fathom that we would someday be in this position and now we were nearing the end. Quite emotional even for a cold blooded cynic like yours truly.

On reaching Florence we posed by its welcoming sign and then headed in a bit of a daze and a lot of a wind for the beach.

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Time now for the traditional dipping of the front wheel. We put on our trans am shirts, the ones we had promised not to wear until the moment of truth. It was cold and windy but very satisfying.

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I decided to do what I had secretly promised (threatened) to do all along, despite the tempest around us. Challenging American prudery and in defiance of all rules of tanning I quickly stripped off and ran off into the waiting arms of the Pacific ocean.

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And so to the banquet.

Jared and Johnny had organised a great meal and as a surprise to everyone also bought small gifts for all of us reflecting our character or lack thereof. I got a children’s tool kit as a testament to my amazing bike mechanical skills while Ami got some junk food to supplement her obsession with nutrition.

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We got to eat each other with the help of a rather delicious cake and the atmosphere was one of joy, relief and just a tinge of sadness.

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At some point in the near future, when emotions have calmed down a tad, I intend writing a reflective piece on the whole trip.

How we felt, a few dos and don’ts, and general thoughts about preparation and surviving the perils of the North American continent might be interesting for other potential masochists.

Right now though everything is a bit upside down in my head. I am waking up in the morning ready to clip in my shoes and pedal off towards the horizon before realising that I can be lazy and stay in bed. It almost feels like something is missing in my life which is maybe why the first thing I did this morning was to go to the gym and ride for an hour on an exercise bike.

But we have done it. We have cycled the Trans American Trail from Yorktown to Florence!!!

No one can ever take that away from us.

Sweet dreams.

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STOP PRESS!!!!!!!!!!

Tom writes:

This is not to be a long post as we are so tired we hardly know where we are.

More info will be coming soon but the big news is…

WE MADE IT!!!!

WE HAVE CYCLED THE WHOLE TRANS AMERICAN BIKE TRAIL FROM YORKTOWN, VIRGINIA TO FLORENCE, OREGON.

WE TOOK EVERY CENTIMETRE OF THE 6800 KM TRAIL WITH NO AUTOMOTIVE ASSISTANCE WHAT SO EVER.

WE ARE VERY PROUD OF OURSELVES.

Here are a couple of photos, but as I said, we will be writing more within the next couple of days.

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TransAm Days 78, 79, and 80 28th, 29th and 30th of July

Tom writes:

Mitchell to Redmond: 109 kms

redmond

Redmond to McKenzie Bridge: 124 kms

McKenzie

McKenzie Bridge to Eugene: 93 kms

eugene

So near but yet so far...
So near but yet so far…

Total number of punctures so far: 8 (Ami 5, Tom 3)

Total distance so far: 6650 kms

 

So we have reached Eugene, the second biggest town in Oregon and, coincidentally, also the penultimate stop for us on this at times seemingly never ending opus.

Right now I am lying on my hostel bed enjoying some peace and quiet and wondering gently to myself how I am likely to feel this time tomorrow. We have a good 120 or so kilometres left tomorrow before we hit the coast and some strange form of normality returns to our lives and after it is done I wouldn’t be too surprised if a tiny tear or two may be found in some lone corner of my eye.

On the plus side I know that we are both going to feel a real sense of achievement at the fact that forever more in our CVs we will be able to title ourselves “Conquerors of the Trans Am”. We are both fitter than we have ever been and the tiredness that we both absolutely feel is far more mental than it is physical. Churning out the necessary miles every day for three months does take its toll on the old psyche even though I personally really enjoy most of the time spent in the saddle.

The sadder bit is going to be the saying fair well to some people who we have really grown to like during this long period. These are folks who have fought the good fight with weird humour and a great spirit which breeds a little bit of an all for one, one for all vibe. We have certainly had some great laughs and the odd moment of sadness, but surprisingly few arguments which in my opinion is quite impressive considering how intensive everything has been.

The sad fact of the matter is though that however much you try to stay in touch the chances are that we will probably never see most of these people ever again.

To all concerned, we are going to miss you.

From left to right top row: Ami, Dave, Karla, Tom, Jack, Jared, Madison, Zoë and Ronny. Kneeling: Johnny and Christi.
From left to right top row: Ami, Dave, Emily, Karla, Tom, Jack, Jared, Madison, Zoë and Ronny. Kneeling: Johnny and Christi.

(Embarrassing admission: I just updated this photo as I just saw I had forgot to name Emily in the group picture. No slur was intended, just a simple stupid error. Sorry Emily.)

I continue now with an embarrassing admission. In my last diary post I said that we had seen some of the famous Central Oregon painted hills but I realise now that this was bullshit.

On the evening after penning this our lovely host from the Spoke’n Hostel, Mitchell (and once again if you are in the neighbourhood support her business, it was in the top three of places we have stayed at on this trip) took us on a little excursion to see the real Painted Hills that the area is so famous for.

And they were unbelievably spectacular.

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When you get up close you see that the surface is like caked, dry mud; someone in the group compared it to unpopped pop corn. Apparently the effect is caused by ancient climate change that even the major oil companies can’t be blamed for. You can read more about it the geology behind it here if you are interested. All I can say is that it is amazingly beautiful.

Three days of riding followed though the usual glorious countryside (which isn’t, as Stephen Fry suggested, another word for the extermination of Piers Morgan). We took our final real climbs of the trip and the last one, McKenzie Pass was quite an experience.

The climb wasn’t that steep, although it was pretty long, but as we neared the top we suddenly found ourselves in a lava field left after the eruption of a nearby volcano about 1500 years ago.

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I don’t know if I would describe it as beautiful – although on second thoughts I probably would, in a similar way to the Dungeness coastline in Kent, England being beautiful. Not lush, green and soft but jagged and harsh.

I loved it.

Descending the other side we dropped a total of about 4000 feet (1200 meters) which was particularly glorious as the landscape we now were whizzing through had for some reason best known to itself turned itself into a rain forest.

It is not often you see a scene change like that in such a short distance. Apart from the fact that poor Ami was stung by a wasp at speed on the way down, it was an exhilarating few minutes in the saddle.

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Not much more to report from the rest of the rides except that Eugene seems quite a nice sort of town in a hippy kind of way and that Ami’s mum has turned up to ride the final stage with us tomorrow.

My good wife will I am sure write a bit more about that at some point.

Nearing the end now.

Auf Wiedersehen.

TransAm Days 73, rest day, 75, 76 and 77 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th of July

Tom writes:

Halfway to Baker City: 87 kms

Baker

Baker City to Prairie City: 108 kms

Prairee

Prairie City to Dayville: 72 kms

Dayville

Dayville to Mitchell: 62 kms

Mitchell

We can almost smell the ocean...
We can almost smell the ocean…

Total distance so far: 6324 kms

 

First to a point of order.

I received a complaint from a reader who shall remain nameless but obviously has too much time on her hands (due in the main to the fact that she spends most of it in various South Sea paradises), that I spelled the word hail/hale wrong in not one but two of my previous pieces.

This is of course the fault of the English language generally and The Oxford English and Webster dictionaries specifically and can hardly by any stretch of the imagination be attributed to your humble correspondent in any way whatsoever.

To those among you who may feel the need to comment on similar vulgarities in the future, I recommend a course of genuflection and a dozen hale maries until such time as you realise the error of your ways. 🙂

OK back to the business in hand.

We left you in limbo last time as we prepared to power our way into the amazing town that isn’t Baker City. My weird mind couldn’t get a certain quite good song made great by a phenomenal sax solo, out of my thoughts as I was riding but sadly there was nothing about the place that lent itself to such musical wonderment.

I was  reduced to vaguely hoping for Sherlock Holmes or even Danny the brilliant radio presenter to bring this cruddy place to some sort of life but sadly it was not to be.

We did play a solitary tribute round of the sausage sandwich game just for the hell of it though. It was a layover day after all and there was shit all else to do.

On the way there we broke the 6000 km barrier which we celebrated in the usual way by taking a stupid picture. We were for once at the top of a nice mountain at the time so there was a reasonable view for a change.

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We are now three days into the last seven and I must admit that my enthusiasm for describing more routine examples of astonishing beauty is diminishing at the same rate that my thigh muscles are getting more toned after fighting and defeating yet another slope.

It is beautiful around here but I am no poet and can’t be arsed finding new adjectives to describe it.

This picture anyway is typical for the deserty and scrubby landscape that we see between the foresty bits.

Eat your heart out Wordsworth.

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I am so uninspired right now that I just spent an hour watching chess on the computer which might sound geeky but really is.

But even someone who understands only the fundamentals of this honourable game (like me for example) should sacrifice an hour or so to see the brilliantly funny communicator and pedagogue, Jan Gustafsson playing banter blitz against patsies. (While discussing movies, basketball and other bullshit).

Anyway we stayed at our final campground a couple of days ago and I managed to grab quite a nice picture of an old railway station (I refuse to utter the word “railroad”).

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We apparently have enough money in the kitty to stay indoors until the end now so the tent has been packed away and won’t be seen until sometime in another life if I have my way.

To be fair I have quite enjoyed sleeping under canvas and being woken by annoying birds but the pitching and unpitching part I can well do without.

What do you all make of this by the way?

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Anyway we will skip to where we are now which is the nicest hostel we have stayed at so far, run by people who burn for providing cheap accommodation for velocipedes.

It is an ex church that is now half a church/half a hostel and is an interesting concept.

A lovely place it is, in any case.

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If you are ever in Mitchell, Oregon why not give Spoke’n Hostel a try.

We got some pics of the famous painted hills and another gorgeous gorge but now it is time for some nourishment so until a later moment in my life, au revoir.

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TransAm Days 70, 71 and 72 20th, 21st and 22nd of July

Tom writes:

Grangeville to New Meadows: 130 kms

NewMeadows

New Meadows to Cambridge: 86 kms

Cambridge

Cambridge to Halfway: 98 kms

Halfway

Into our final state
Into our final state

Total number of punctures so far: 7 (Ami 4, Tom 3)

Total distance so far: 5995 kms

 

Literally minutes after writing my latest masterpiece in Grangeville, which incidently I am sure you all enjoyed as much as the latest episode of Eastenders, we were hit by a hale storm that made the one in Powell, Montana look like being sprayed by a medium sized sprinkler.

If table tennis balls were the order of that evening then here it was their tennis equivalents and by the way they were striking the sides of our tent it felt like it could have been Roscoe Tanner serving them up. (A reference for the old timers 🙂 )

Our tent stood tall as usual but some were not so lucky. In the aftermath of the attack I took this photo of one of the unfortunate ones. (No one we knew I hasten to add.)

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Our ride the day after was one of the longer ones on this tour and we set out early (amazingly on the notoriously late rising Ami’s insistence) for New Meadows.

We have both come to the conclusion that Idaho very easily could qualify as our favourite state. The landscape has been wonderfully beautiful but crucially also incredibly varied. (Take note, Kansas).

After an early climb we were confronted with a view over a valley to end all views so we just gawped at it for a while.

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This photo, despite Ami’s beauty, barely does justice to its wonderfulness.

We then followed the gorge of the Salmon river which even had fine grained sand beaches to lure you into its clutches. We resisted the urge to bathe this time as we had a lot of pedalling left to do, but it would have been pleasant as the heat was really starting to come into its own by this time.

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I quite liked this bus as well.

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On leaving New Meadows the day afterwards we were confronted with the following information that left us so underwhelmed that we had to take a picture of it.

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I guess we had to cross it at some point.

An uneventful, reasonably short and not too hilly ride was met by quite a civilised camp ground that had a (shock, horror) hand shower, hot pools and above all a really comfortable temperature all night long; so comfortable that I was able to sleep in just my pants (underwear for you Americans), snugger than a bugger in a rugger scrum.

A lovely picture of Ami outside our tent:

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And today we hit Hells Canyon. After a climb it just hit us as we rode down a sweet gradient and it was very beautiful. Our resident know-all (in a lovely way, he just happens to have done this trip about 30 times already), Ronny, warned us that this could be a tough day what with head winds and temperatures in the 40’s, but this never really materialised.

Instead we just pedalled jauntily along marvelling at some spectacular sights.

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Slightly after this award winning photo was taken, we hit one of our final milestones.

Oregon!

Yupp, our final state (if you don’t count Euphoria) is now in our greedy little grasp and it really makes you feel like you are at last on the finishing stretch. We feel ready to sprint like Usain Bolt (on a bike) into the welcoming waves of the Pacific Ocean in the very near future.

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It gives the extra energy we need to stay focused and enthusiastic about the final week.

It has been a long trip and it is easy to tire of the routine of riding a long way, pitching a tent, sleeping in a straight jacket before packing your tent once again in everything from freezing cold to boiling heat, winds and rain.

Repeat the above ad infinitum and it is easy to see why you might get slightly pissed off.

There has been the occasional meltdown, and one or both of us have at times been the guilty party when they have occurred, but in general I am amazed how well our group has kept everything together.

Now when the finish line is in sight we both feel like we have got a second wind and are raring to go all the way to the bitter end.

Until then, bis später.

 

 

Some pictures from Missoula, Montana. ACA headquarters

Tom writes:

While in Missoula we got some quite nice piccies taken.

From left to right top row: Ami, Dave, Karla, Tom, Jack, Jared, Madison, Zoë and Ronny. Kneeling: Johnny and Christi.
From left to right top row: Ami, Dave, Emily, Karla, Tom, Jack, Jared, Madison, Zoë and Ronny. Kneeling: Johnny and Christi.
Zoë and Ronny.
Zoë and Ronny.

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Dave, Madison and Jared.
Dave, Madison and Jared.
Jared and Karla.
Jared and Karla.
Johnny, Jared, Christi and Arlen( ACA's big boss man).
Johnny, Jared, Christi and Arlen( ACA’s big boss man).

TransAm Days 67, 68 and 69 17th, 18th and 19th of July

Tom writes:

Missoula to Powell: 92 kms

Powell

Powell to Syringa: 116 kms

Syringa

Syringa to Grangeville: 65 kms

Grangeville

In the bigger perspective.
In the bigger perspective.

Total distance so far: 5681 kms

 

A little update on what has happened since Missoula.

We rode out into the morning and headed for the huge wide open spaces of Montana hoping for the wonders of nature to show themselves to us again in all their glory.

Little did we believe that such an experience would hit us smack bang in the middle of town before we had even left the Macdonalds and Subway infested suburbs.

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The deer must really be tame if you can find them lounging around in suburban front gardens.

Our ride was pleasurable without being particularly memorable, arriving in Powell (once again a total non-entity of a place) in the early afternoon.

From being absolutely gorgeous weather it turned nasty as soon as we hit the mattress with our by now rather tired, if still incredibly beautiful, bodies.

We had our first hale storm of the trip and the projectiles hitting our tent were literally the size of table tennis balls. We were very glad that we weren’t out having a wee or something when it struck us. Thankfully however it didn’t last for long and ever since we have been blessed with cloudless sun drenched skies. Long may it continue.

The pleasant temperature and general good demeanour of the weather made quite a nice welcome to our next state (and time zone) which we reached the next morning. Idaho.

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Our first impressions were really sweet. From the state line we immediately hit a beautiful downhill which lasted for what seemed like forever or at least all the way to our camp in Syringa. (Whichever is longer).

The road followed to the letter the course of the almost transparent Lochsa and Clearwater rivers all the way down, while the scenery around us was mountainous and heavily forested.

Very pretty.

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On arrival we went for a swim in the already mentioned Clearwater rapids. European as we are and secluded as thought we were, we decided to do the only right thing and skinny dip.

There really is no other way to swim and we were absolutely loving the cold, clear water refreshing the parts other waters couldn’t reach.

Then a group of canoeists came by and not only that, decided to leave their vessels at the exact point where we were frolicking.

I think they were more a lot more embarrassed than we were and we couldn’t avoid snickering a little as they left us. I guess though that the smiles would have been quickly wiped from our smug faces if we had been arrested for indecent exposure in this rather prudish country they call the US of A.

Thankfully we weren’t.

Our ride from Syringa to where we are now, Grangeville, was one of the shorter ones we have had recently, a mere 65 kms. This was compensated by an eight kilometre climb of such steepness that other mortals would have turned around and gone home.

Not us though, we fought our way up without resting or walking the bikes, catching Emily and a couple of archaeologists in the process.

We are getting very muscular legs.

Great view at the top too.

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Now time to enjoy our evening barbecue.

Toodlepip.