Portland to Astoria

What a day! So today I rode from Portland to Astoria. I left the La Quinta Inn by the portland airport in Maywood Park about 7:40 this morning. Portland was a neat city to ride through. The old downtown section was cool. But the fun ended quickly when I started climbing as I went out of the city! The hill going up West Burnside was killer. About 1000 feet of gain in about 2 miles. The rest of the burbs were fine after that. 

At about mile 30, I was out of side roads and it was time to get on 26, the sunset highway. Lots of traffic, but a big wide shoulder. I didn’t go a quarter mile and had my first flat. No biggie. I just swapped tubes as I brought 2.

Just 5 miles later, another flat. Not good. In the interest of saving my last tube, I decided to patch it. Got everything back together and it wouldn’t air up! Took it back apart and found another hole. Patched that one. Upon inspection of the wheel, I noticed my rim tape was bad and had walked over. At least I found the cause. A couple patches in the rim fixed the tape problem, but when I put everything back together, it still wouldn’t take air. Took it apart again to find the patches weren’t sticking. I was a bit suspicious about them to begin with. Just didn’t like the look of them. Solution: I have some other patches! Tore the first ones off and put new patches on. Put it all back together…. Still didn’t work. The new patches wouldn’t stick either. At this point I’m completely frustrated and quite honestly a little scared. I have one more tube, but if I use it and have another flat, I’m still 70 miles from my destination and a bike store. With no choice, I get out my last tube only to find that somehow I managed to put an old tube in my gear when I was packing back home. This one has a patch on it. Good grief. Hopefully it will take air. It did. Of course I was all puckered up the rest of the way as I hit every bump, but I made it just fine. 

The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful, but full of gorgeous scenery. All the pictures of the northwest just can’t do it justice. EVERYTHING is green and lush. Most things are covered in moss and ferns. The trees are huge! Even the aspens, which are dwarfed by the firs and pines, are enormous. It seems most of the biggest trees have been harvested. I have seen stumps that look to have 6-8′ diameters. The stumps seem to be their own little ecosystem, as they have all manner of fauna growing out of them. I even saw an evergreen about 2′ in diameter and probably 100′ tall growing right in the center of a huge stump. Amazing!

When I arrived in Astoria, it was too late to carry on to the other side of town and go to the campsite I had intended on staying at, so I went to the hostel. The Norblad is a hostel/hotel that is the oldest hotel in town. Built in 1923, the architecture is really cool. Everything has been restored and renovated as of 2007 and it is very nice. 

Burger King was my choice for dinner. After the long day, I figure I’ll be ok with a little fast food. Love me a tendercrisp! 

Today’s stats:
Total mileage-105.75
Ride time-7:46
Total time- 10:00
Average moving speed-13.59
Top speed-39.11
Elevation gain-5632

I have arrived!

After a long day of flights, I am now in Portland! Everything went without a hitch. There was a long line to check in at Lambert, but I made my flight in plenty of time. My flight left STL at 10:45 am central and had stops in Oklahoma City and Phoenix, which made for a long day and no lunch, but I can stand to miss a meal or two! When I arrived in Portland a little after 4pm mountain time, Bullseye was here too. That was certainly a plus! I hopped a free shuttle to my hotel, the La Quinta Inn Airport, had Domino’s deliver a pizza to my room, reassembled good ole Bullseye and organized my gear. I’m here and ready to go! Tomorrow will be quite a jaunt. About 100 miles to Astoria, where the trail actually begins. Now it’s time for some sleep. Tomorrow… I ride!

Ready to roll!!!

All packed up
All packed up and ready to roll!

 

 

 

So I’m finally all packed.  Bullseye and a bunch of my other gear are all packed in the box and will be checked baggage.  The rest of my things are packed in one of my panniers and that will be my carry on.  My goal was to carry only those things away from my house that I will be carrying on the trip.  Other than the box, some packing materials and a roll of tape, I have been successful, thanks to some research online and some Youtube videos that only I would find interesting! 😉

The theatrics of my phone situation  from earlier yesterday and the night before worked out in the end.  After a long night and day of what seemed like wasted time spent at the AT&T store, driving to St Louis, at the Apple store, driving back home, and finally, restoring SOME of my things onto the phone from my computer, the phone is back online and pretty much back to normal.  I did however loose about 400 pictures from a recent vacation with the wife in Colorado.  Bummer.  All is well that ends well though.  I now have new software on the phone and a bunch of music, which was what started the whole mess!

Now it is entirely too late and I am entirely too wound up to sleep.  I’m feeling like there ought to be something that I should be doing to prepare, but it is finished.  All that is left is a drive to the airport and a flight to Portland.  It just doesn’t seem like the day has come to actually go.

My busyness has kept my thoughts occupied up to this point and I have forgotten to think about how much I’m going to miss my wife after tomorrow.  But now reality is sinking in and I am dealing with the idea that I will spend the next 40 something days away from her.  And the kids.  I think that will be the biggest challenge of this trip- not only being away from the ones I love, but also being alone with nothing but the open road to distract me from it.  I’m a big boy, but I love them and I don’t like to be away from them.

On the other hand, that is one of the very good reasons why I need to do this.  The alone time will hopefully lead to penetrating thoughts.  Thoughts of who I really am and what I want to be.  This is a chance to “find myself”, no matter how cliche that may sound.  I have a great opportunity with this trip to realize what I’m made of and come back a stronger, more focused man.  And that is exciting, my friends!  Let’s get this show on the road, literally!  Tomorrow, like everyday, is the first day of the rest of my life and I am making the choice to use that day for all it is worth.  Tomorrow I begin the journey of a lifetime.  4262 soul searching miles on a bicycle across this great land we call the United States of America.  How cool is that?!  Trans Am trail, here I come!  Let’s roll!!!

Hurdles

This will be short as I have a ton of things to try to do today, but I wanted to take a moment to fill everyone in on the latest developments.  I really should have expected something.  As things have progressed, for the most part, it has been flawless.  No late shipments or issues with my gear, other than the tires, but I’m not going to talk about that right now!  Really it has been easy to get things in order and I’m surprised at that.  Until last night.

The one device that I am taking that is most central to everything that I want to try to do is my bike.  Duh?!  The second most important thing is probably my iPhone.  Just three weeks ago I was still sporting the Razor that I had been carrying for what seemed like eternity.  With all that this trip entails and the things I want to do, ie this blog, I upgraded to the iPhone to have Internet and quasi-gps ability in case I need it.  I have really fell in love with this phone and all its abilities, which should’ve made me a little more careful I suppose, but I just didn’t see this one coming.

Last night I tried to sync my phone to iTunes on our computer so I could put some music on.  I figure with the hours of alone time, it might be a good idea to have some sort of entertainment and music fits the bill for me.  Well, iTunes wanted to upgrade the software on the phone, so I let it.  Or at least let it try.  The short story is iTunes locked up, the phone locked up and as of now, it’s a $400 paper weight.  Yee-frickin-haw.

So in addition to everything else to do on my last day in Farmington, it looks like a significant amount of time will be spent either at the AT&T store or on the phone with Apple trying to get this fixed.  If you was going to get together with me or contact me in any way today, my suggestion would be to either email or Facebook message me.  Grrrr.

On the bright side, if this is the worst thing that happens to me on this trip, I will consider myself very fortunate.  🙂  One more day!

To be inspired is to feel alive!

As I continue preparations for my trip, I have been talking to anyone I see and telling them of my upcoming journey.  Of course there are those occasional folks who think I’m nuts for even thinking about riding a bicycle across the country and that’s OK.  The uncertainty of not really knowing where you are going to get your next meal or where you will sleep the next night is just too much for some.  They need the comfort of the known and that is just fine.  For them anyway!

Then there are those of us who live the everyday life, but wish for something much more.  An adventure like nothing else.  I am one of those people.  As I meet and talk with folks in and around my life, more often than not, I see a sense of awe and inspiration in there eyes when I tell them what I am about to embark on.  Several have just came out and said that I am an inspiration to them.  That is really cool.  I’m not the kind of guy that needs to be validated by other peoples views, but it’s refreshing to be told when you are making a positive impact on someone.

That being said, I am feeling inspired by humankind.  The excitement I am seeing in my friends and family is amazing!  I guess inspiration breeds inspiration and so on.  We inspire each other and now I want to reciprocate a bit more.

Here is a link to a video that went viral not long ago.  Thanks Bruce Marler for the link.  This kid has got to have really supportive family around him to have these wise words at such a young age.  Good parenting works!  I hope you find the video interesting and inspiring.  The premise is that you might go out and ride a bike.  Or learn to ride a bike.  But if not, I hope you find the inspiration to do whatever it is that you are feeling compelled to do to better yourself and/or your situation.  In the words of the late MJ, make that change.  Shammon!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE0muwQHMdI&feature=player_embedded

Preparations continue

I realize that there is quite a gap between my first post and this one, but it has been a whirlwind month!

Since making the decision to go, I’ve been planning everything, ordering equipment, trying to get as many rides in as possible and still spend time with friends and family in preparation of being gone for two months.

As of now, I suppose I am prepared.  My bike isn’t packed and neither is my gear, but I do have everything accumulated that will be necessary for the trip…I think.

First off, my flight from St Louis to Portland is this Saturday.  So only two more days!  I’ve received all of the orders from Nashbar and REI.  I have my panniers in from Thetouringstore.com (highly recommended by me if you are in the market for panniers).  I’ve spent way too much money at Trans-Am Cyclery, my local bike store.  And I’ve gathered up all of my backpacking gear that I had stored around the house.  I’ve weighed, culled, re-weighed and culled again.  As it stands now, I am looking at about 34 pounds of base weight for my gear.  That doesn’t include food or water, but it puts me in the range of weight that I wanted to be.  As I’m not riding an official touring bike, the lightest weight of gear possible is best to reduce the stress on the bike frame, and also the engine!  😉

Now I just have to get all this stuff packed for my flight.  You would think might not be that big of an issue, but in the interest of arriving in Oregon with everything I need intact (important) and nothing more than I need (ie luggage), it might be interesting.  I really don’t want to carry any superfluous things along and I would rather not ship anything back as soon as I get there.  It’s going to be a challenge.

The bike will be in a bike shipping box recycled from the local bike shop.  Lots of packing!  I sure hope the airline is gentle with my girl.  The rest of my gear that I can check as baggage will probably end up in in the box as well.  Then I will use one of my panniers as my carry-on.  Hopefully all goes well!

I’m still have to take care of some honey-dos and last minute issues.  Oil changes for both vehicles, licensing for my truck that will expire while I’m gone, a little bit of yard work and some miscellaneous other things around the house.  All that being said, things seem to be wrapping up nicely!  Hopefully I can get everything packed later today and save Friday for all my running around.  I keep telling myself, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.  Yeah, I’m showing my fatherhood there!  Soon enough I’ll be in Astoria and begin this great adventure.  I can’t wait!

Decisions: How it all began

So yesterday was the day.  The day I decided I am going to ride the TransAmerica Trail.  There is so much involved in planning and preparing that my head is spinning just thinking about it, but the excitement is pure.  I’m going to ride my bike over 4200 miles across the United States.

The story doesn’t begin yesterday.  Of course to really tell the story correctly, would mean going back and recounting events from my childhood that brought me to this place.  That being said, I don’t have enough time, ink or paper to bore you with that.  Let’s just start on my 39th birthday, June 14th of this year.  The day I decided to quit my job at Iron Mountain Trap Rock.  Five years of unhappiness at work culminated in a ten minute conversation with my boss where I let him know I was done.  That day I made another decision.  I would no longer sit back and wait for life to come to me.  It was time to MAKE things happen.  So I quit the job.  No more 80 hour work weeks.  No more working weekends and holidays.  No more swing shift.  No more crap from a job I couldn’t stand.  Time to enjoy life.  Spend time with my wife and kids.  Ride my bike.  Go hiking in the Rockies of Colorado.  Sleep in.  Stay up late.  Some days just be lazy.  And that’s what I’ve done for the last month and I’m not ashamed to say I have enjoyed it!

Over the last month, I have seen cyclists come through my home town of Farmington, MO riding their bikes loaded down with gear.  They are on the TransAmerica Trail.  Every chance I get, I stop and talk to them and I’ve heard them speak of great adventures.  I’m envious!  I think to myself, “I would love to do that!”  So the little wheels in my brain started spinning.  Could I actually pull it off?  Without a job, I have the time.  I’m pretty sure I can do it financially.  I’ve discussed it with Jeneen, my wife, and she’s cool with it. Then I start trying to talk myself out of it.  It’s a big expense.  A lot of time.  It’s risky.  I’m a little scared.  Who am I kidding?!  I’m a lot scared!  4200 miles by myself on a bike?!  That’s nuts!  But wouldn’t it be so cool?

So day after day I go back and forth.  I just didn’t know.  Maybe I’ll go.  A big maybe.  Then yesterday it happened.

Yesterday I went for my last training ride in preparation for RAIN.  That’s the Ride Across Indiana.  160 miles in one day from Terre Haute to Richmond.  It’s coming up this Saturday.  So my riding buddies John and Bruce, and myself went out for an easy spin on 28 miles.  When we finished, we all peeled off and headed for our homes.  Like I said, the Trans-Am runs right through town.  Actually, it runs right up Maple Street, less than a block from my house.  As I was coming up Maple, I see a touring cyclist up ahead.  Headed west into the great unknown.  Time to catch them and hear their story!

So I caught up right at my street.  Her name was Laura Leeson.  20 years old.  Headed west.  She had left Yorktown, VA three weeks before.  Amazingly, she said that prior to her trip, she had less than a week of experience on the bike!I asked if she would mind if I rode with her awhile and chat.  She obliged and as we talked, I kept thinking how brave I thought she was.  Just 20 years old and by herself.  Crossing the country on a bike.  Amazing.

I asked her lots of questions, because that’s what I do!  Whether she had a blog or not.  Typical stuff.  The one thing I was really curious to know was where she was staying along the way.  She said all camping.  Mostly RV parks and state campgrounds.  That brought me to the most important question for me.

You see, if I was going to do the Trans-Am, I would camp.  It just doesn’t make sense to me to have the expense of a hotel every night.  That and it seems to be a little bit of a cop out.  The Trail is about adventure, not continental breakfasts.  And I’m fine with roughing it.  No big deal to me.  But my biggest fear is the camping out west and dealing with bears.  I don’t know why.  I know people do it all the time without issue, but it’s a sticking point for me.  I guess it is just something unknown to me, growing up in the mid west.  So I asked her what would she do?

Her response was short, sweet and to the point.  “I’ll just get two cans of bear spray.  I’ll be OK.”  I said, “Well, alright!”  Inside I was thinking YEAH right!

Later yesterday afternoon I was riding in the car with my oldest son and in an attempt to get him interested in cycling in some way, I told him the story of meeting Laura.  Of course I mentioned that she is doing this with very little cycling experience.  His response was an upbeat “cool”!  Score one for dad!  I just might convert him yet!

That’s when it happened.  I said, “When I take my tour…”  I actually said it.  It wasn’t the typical if, it was WHEN.  I stopped mid sentence and told him, “That’s it.  I’ve made my decision.  I’m going.”

I realized that my fears and concerns were just that.  Fears and concerns.  Should I let them control or dictate what I’m going to do?  Not if I intend on chasing life.  Fears are healthy, but not something to stifle ambition.  No, I’m going to LIVE life.  Enjoy it for everything it’s worth, just like Laura.  Is there risk?  Sure.  But nothing ventured is nothing gained.  I don’t know my departure date yet.  I’m not sure of particulars.  But I am sure of one thing.  I’m going on a bicycle tour of the TransAmerica Trail and I’m going this fall.  Wow.