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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
How I got into cycling: When I was little I biked everywhere. When in high school I biked the whole Cape Cod. In my late 20s I then got into triathlons.
Favourite moments when cycling: I loved the stretch we did between Syringa to Grangeville when we went up the steepest hill on the trip before ending up riding on a plateau full of wheat fields. It was like being back in Kansas again.
Cheese or chocolate?: Cheese but it’s a close call
Biggest disappointment or negative moment when cycling: Madison getting injured on this trip. (She had acute tendinitis for the final half of the tour).
Say something funny: Treat your problems like a dog does. If you can’t eat it or screw it, then piss on it and walk away.
Cycling ambitions: Near my house there are 84 miles of mountain bike trails. I intend doing most or all of them.
If you were to strap a piece of bread and jam with the jam side up onto the back of a cat and drop it from a high building, how would it land?: The cat lands on its feet
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
If you were to strap a piece of bread and jam with the jam side up onto the back of a cat and drop it from a high building, how would it land?: The cat will land on its feet, because you said the jam is strapped to the cat, thus the cat is the host and the jam the parasite.
How I got into cycling: I cycled as a kid, but when I hit 40 I decided I wanted one with shift gears. At about the same time I attended a lecture about going on with your life. At that moment I decided that I wanted to ride my bike across the country.
Favourite moments when cycling: This whole trip even though I have hated parts of it.
Cheese or chocolate?: Chocolate.
Biggest disappointment or negative moment when cycling: Feeling that I couldn’t do it in the beginning of this tour. Also having to walk up hills.
Say something funny: A man was in the grocery when two produce guys come in and one says to the other, “do you believe this asshole asked for half a head of lettuce”. The man turned around and said, “this gentleman ordered the other half”.
Cycling ambitions: None, but I want to do my old 22 mile ride and see how I fix it.
If you were to strap a piece of bread and jam with the jam side up onto the back of a cat and drop it from a high building, how would it land?: The cat will always land on its feet.