Day 74 (August 10th 2016) Eugene – Florence OR; 80 miles

WE DID IT! It is the day we all have been waiting for. We have officially ridden from coast to coast on bicycles. It was a day some of us had minor doubts about seeing , but we all made it in one piece.

The ride to the coast was a long one, but with it being the last day no one seemed to mind. The mindset was let’s get to the beach! It was a beautiful ride full of greenery and hills. We hit a lot of headwind the last 20 miles from seabreeze, but powered through in an adrenaline fueled rush.

It took some time to actually find the beach, but eventually we did. It was windy and freezing complete with an ominous fog that didn’t let us see too far. But we could see the waves so that’s all that mattered.

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We met my parents at the beach, it was great to see them there supporting us on our final ride. They even got us a banner to commemorate the occasion. Unfortunately little Addie couldn’t be there to join in with the festivities but I’ll see her soon enough.

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We all celebrated with a delicious dinner (steak and salmon a plenty). It was nice to have a final meal with everyone to reminiscence about the last 2 weeks. We were able to laugh at memories that in the moment were horrible and painful. Alec also gave a beautiful toast to our accomplishment.

Sheena and I originally had grand plans of riding up to Astoria, however, due to a number of issues, we decided to take the shuttle back to Eugene. There we’ll relax until my friends meet us in Portland in a few days.

It is definitely a weird feeling having completed the trip. We made new friends, shared lifetime memories, and experienced some of the most difficult physical and mental challenges we have yet to face. It is a bittersweet feeling because it was such a great experience. Adjusting to normal life will be complicated, but at the same time, being off the bike will feel amazing. We have seen the country in a way many people are not lucky enough to see it, and I think we have all gained a new appreciation for this great nation.

Special thanks to everyone who supported us on every step of the way. The motivational messages helped me get through this trip with a smile on my face 🙂

Day 73(August 9th 2016) McKenzie Bridge – Eugene OR; 55 miles

Today was an easy and beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. With the clouds still hovering in the mountains it was very magical and beautiful. We made pretty good timing because it was mostly downhill.

We left camp late because of the low mileage and general fatigue. It was also raining so it was a messy camp breakdown. It was eerie how our second to last day was so comparable to our second day of the trip in Virginia. Cold and rainy. But much different emotional feelings.

We’re staying in a house tonight in Eugene. It’s beautiful and a real treat for us so close to the completion of the trip. We spent some time in the city and got a delicious meal.

Tomorrow is our last day! It’s a long one, but my parents will be at the finish line and I have a feeling it will be a super emotional end to a great journey.

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Day 72 (August 8th 2016) Prineville – McKenzie Bridge OR

Another awesome day in the books! Today we finally reached the point where Oregon looks like what Oregon is supposed to look like! But not before Sheena suffered another flat.

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We ascended McKenzie pass, THE LAST PASS OF THE TRIP! Unbelievable. It was a 15 miles climb that was relatively gradual. When we reached the top we could see all the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Hood, Mt. Washington, and the 3 Sisters (I thought we hit those earlier, but I was wrong). We also were in the midst of the lava fields, which looked like another planet, or maybe Hawaii at least.

After reaching the peak, we stopped for a while at the observatory. It was freezing up there. Unfortunately it was cloudy so we didn’t get to see the mountains too clearly.

The descent was absolutely amazing. We were surrounded by forest and greenery. The road was windy and curvy, which could’ve been a recipe for disaster, but there was no traffic so we were okay. It felt like we were in a fairytale. And the feeling continued into our camp in McKenzie pass. The camp we’re in is right by a river and looks like it was plucked out of a fairytale. Absolutely stunning. I’m definitely a fan of central/western Oregon.

Right now we’re sitting around a campfire reminescensing about the trip and having some good laughs.

Day 71 (August 7th 2016) Mitchell – Prineville OR; 47 miles

Today was a short day, but not without a long climb! Ochoco pass looked rough, but we were able to ascend without too much trouble. Luckily we got that out of way early so the rest of the ride was smooth sailing.

We met a rider today, Dan, from Norwood PA, which is super close to where Sheena and I went to college. It was nice talking with someone from our neck of the woods.

We arrived into Prineville relatively early and we were able to visit the town’s brewery. I had a delicious pineapple cider.

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It seems so surreal that we only have 3 more days left in the trip. I am excited, but nervous to return to the real world. It’s been nice not having to work, but it’ll also be very nice to get off the bike. It’ll definitely be a reality check to get back into civilization where peeing on the side of the road is frowned upon and where eating with utensils is a requirement. But like with anything else, we will learn to adjust.

Day 70 (August 6th 2016) Mt. Vernon – Mitchell OR; 68 miles

Even though it was a much shorter day than yesterday, today felt a lot longer. We had a climb that seemed never ending. It was gradual, but just mentally defeating because of the length.

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We rode through Picture Gorge, which was gorgeous. We had steep cliffs on either side of us for a few miles and it felt like we were in Jurassic Park. At one point we even had a crane flying next to us, like a modern day pterodactyl! The rest of the ride wasn’t as scenic unfortunately.

Tonight we are staying in a brand new bike hostel in Mitchell. They opened in May and are looking to branch out to other small towns. It is a wonderful hostel and the people who run it are extremely nice and helpful. We got in early and we were able to take a nap and explore the small yet charming town.

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Tonight the people who run the hostel took us all on a field trip to Painted Hills. It was really pretty during the sunset. Afterwards they treated us to ice cream. They are truly gracious hosts.

Day 69 (August 6th 2016) Baker City – Mt. Vernon, OR; 90 miles

Today was originally supposed to be a shorter day, however, some last minute changes added an addition 20 miles to the ride. We conquered the Three Sisters by noon and they weren’t nearly as bad as the elevation map would lead us to believe. We finished the last few miles with relative ease.

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The biggest hardship of today’s ride was a wildfire that was wreaking havoc on Oregon since Sunday. The smoke was heavy in sections and made it hard to breathe. I had to take a few puffs of my inhaler. After climbing the hills it felt like I just finished smoking 5 cartons of cigarettes.

We took a break in John Day in their visitor center. The woman was very nice and accommodating and even told us that next year they are hosting a solar eclipse viewing party. It is drawing 50,000 people from around the world. Hotels in the area starting booking up in 2011 and all rooms are currently booked. For a town of 2000 people, it’s a huge deal and will boost their economy significantly.

We are staying in a very nice hostel tonight complete with a dog that reminds me of precious little Skippy, rest her soul. We ate in town and had a delicious blueberry milkshake.

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Even though today was a high mileage day with lots of climbs, for some reason it felt short and easy. Luckily it decreased mileage for tomorrow’s ride, so we’ll get in with plenty of time to see the painted hills.

Day 67+ 68 (August 3rd and 4th 2016) Richland – Baker City OR; 42 miles

Because yesterday was a short day, Sheena and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast that did not consist of oatmeal. We went to a nice cafe in Richland with one man who did everything – server, cook, and bus boy. He was super busy but made us a delicious breakfast. We set out around 9 am for the ride.

The first 22 miles were great, nice and easy with beautiful views inside the canyon. The second half was a little rougher, but we accomplished it without too much of a sweat. During the ride we kept seeing souped up race cars drive by us, all different kinds. There must’ve been a hundred of them. Now I don’t know too much about cars or racing them, but some of them did not seem like appropriate race cars. Something tells me that a Subaru Forrester is not meant to have racing decals all over it, but what do I know.

Jake decided to make his triumphant return after days away from the group due to major bike issues. I give it one day before his entire bike just completely combusts.

We got into Baker City early and we were able to explore it and have a fun night. Today was a rest day so we slept in and took naps throughout the day. We even went to the movies! We saw Star Trek, a movie I wasn’t too interested in and could barely follow. It was just nice to do an activity other than biking.

There is definitely a sense of excitement to be done with this trip I compare to the feeling of “senioritis”. I know that personally I am more careless with packing and am constantly looking for misplaced things. I am also less worried about the upcoming day’s ride, cause what a hill or two or even a really tough day when in 5 days I’ll be completely done?? Tomorrow is one of those days, we are transversing over the infamous 3 sisters, but eh. We’ve climbed worse!

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Day 66 (August 2nd 2016) Cambridge ID – Richland OR; 68 miles

We did it! We made it to our final state! I couldn’t be happier and prouder to say that we all made it in one piece to the last state on the trail. We left Idaho (without seeing one potato the whole time) and entered Oregon via Brownlee Dam. It was beautiful, but yet a tease. While still in ID, we could see Oregon right across the river for miles. Yet when we crossed over the bridge, we were all pretty happy to finally be in its borders.

Oregon didn’t treat Meg too well, with 3 flats it was a rough day. I picked out at least 7 thorns from her tires. Luckily after inspecting mine, I had none. Murph also had a flat, kicking her out of the no flat club. Now its membership is only 2, me and Helena. I have a feeling that my luck will soon run out, likely the last day of the trip.

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We are in Hell’s Canyon proper, but it doesn’t seem much different than the last few days. Still hot, still not much in the way of towns or amenities. At the very end of the day we climbed a pretty brutal hill, steep with headwinds. Coming down was terrifying, because not only was it steep with a lot of blind turns, the wind was whipping us all over the road. As per usual, Sheena sped down. I had to take more than one break to cool my brakes. And my nerves.

Tomorrow is a short day, thank God. Much needed after these last few days!

Day 65 (August 1st 2016) Riggins – Cambridge ID; 85 miles

Last night when thinking about today’s ride, I thought it would be much like a log in a failing expedition’s diary. In fact, I thought today’s post would go a lot like this:

“The endless weeks on the trail have caught up to us. We are fatigued beyond comparison and morale is low. Day 2 in hell’s Canyon. Sheena is leading a death march. 35 miles in this god forsaken place without a break. It is hot. Really hot. We almost ran out of water but the friendly natives replenished our reserves. This land is not fit for human habitation. The good in this is that old Bessie is has proven to be a noble and reliable steed in these trying times. While others have fallen, she has stood the test of time. Speaking of time, we are all disoriented. We have no concept of what day it is, let alone what time zone we are in. Idaho has proven to be a worthy adversary. We have yet to find ourselves in need of resorting to cannibalism. If/when we do, Jake will be the first to be sacrificed.”

Okay, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it was a fun distraction when riding today. Since tomorrow we are in the thick of Hell’s Canyon, don’t be surprised if the blog post reads very similar to above.

Shockingly, today wasn’t bad at all! Sure it was hot, but when riding along Hell’s Canyon and street names like “Seven Devils”, what do you expect? There were plenty of hills, but there were also plenty of descents to make up for it. We rode pretty far without breaks, trying to beat the heat.

We crossed the 45th parallel, which I didn’t know was a thing. It apparently is halfway between the equator and the North Pole. The sign denoting it does a fine job at explaining it, as the picture also shows.

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We are staying in a city park tonight without showers. We were reassured that the sprinklers weren’t going to be going off tonight, so hopefully we stay unexpected shower free. We talked with a guy, Chris, who rode two TransAm tours before, in addition to other tours as well. He is house/dog sitting for a friend and invited us to use the shower. It was a welcome invitation because of how sweaty we were after the ride. Another trail angel to the rescue!

For most people August denotes the end of summer and isn’t necessarily a positive thing. But this year, August 1st is special. Even before this trip, I knew it was going to be special. It felt so far off and I knew that if I made it to August, I would definitely finish the whole trip. And it’s here! So if nothing horrific happens, in 9 days we’ll all be done this epic adventure.

Day 64 (July 31st 2016) Kooskia – Riggins ID; 90+ miles

I wrote a really nice post, but it got deleted because Idaho hates reliable internet connections. So here are some bullet notes:

Felt like Kentucky, steepest hill we’ve encountered since.

The second climb of the day gave way to 10 miles of hairpin turns without a guardrail to protect us from flying off the cliff. Sheena loved it, me not so much.

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Really hot, we have entered the mouth of hell’s Canyon, greeted by the locals with “how’s Hell treating you?”

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Last 20 miles were defeating, but we luckily rode with a group of transammers (including a father and 13 year old daughter tandem duo) who kept us going at a good 18 mph avg.

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Prepared for my eventual Survivor debut by bathing in the river.

Apparently we have time traveled, because we are back on Mountain time. Idaho is confusing and it makes no sense.

 

Arlen, an ACA tour director visited us last night. It was nice to meet him and he warned that these last few days tend to be the most dangerous, with the most hospitalizations due to fatigue and excitement to be done = carelessness.

Sleeping next to the salmon River tonight, looking forward to falling asleep to its peaceful flow. Except the wind is absolutely ridiculous.

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Sheena’s corner makes a triumphant return!
So the last few days have felt like an emotional roller coaster and maybe a physical one after today. It seems that every time I am feeling completely over this trip, something really great happens and lifts my spirit. So I’m just going to touch on some of those awesome moments.

On top of Lolo pass a couple of days ago I had the pleasure of meeting these great guys. One of them, Sam, was from Baltimore and went to Calvert hall back in the day. It was so wonderful chatting with someone from home. He served 3 tours with the Marines in Vietnam and told me all about his time. Sam and his buddy were hilarious and completely changed my mood and entire day.

Then today turned out to be one of my favorite days, despite how long and hellish it was. The ridiculously long steep climb in the beginning turned out to be totally worth it. That descent was beautiful and so much fun. After that, Em and I were feeling rough and out of nowhere a few other random tourers showed up and changed our mood right around. We ended up crushing the last 30 miles with them.

Fun fact: “Highway to Hell” played on my mix today. Very appropriate. Today was rough and tomorrow we ride through Hell’s Canyon. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t go beyond 100°F.

 

HEHE Found the original post!

This morning felt like deja vu. I could’ve sworn we were transported back into Kentucky. We hiked up 2 steep hills, one the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Appalachians. We went down one descent that was, to me, really terrifying. It was a steep grade with hairpin turns without guardrails. Sheena, in her usual fashion, sped down like like a crazy person. Every time I went past a curve, I peaked over the edge to make sure she didn’t fly off the cliff. This went on for 10 miles. The rest of the morning was rolling hills surrounded by farms, just like good old KY.

After the morning and some quality breaks, we hit the heat. We have entered the appropriately named Hell’s Canyon, greeted by locals with the phrase “how are you all enjoying Hell?”. It’s lovely. After nearly letting the heat bring us down, we met up with a group of transammers going the same way as us. We stuck with them for the last 20 miles, averaging an impressive 18 mph. We stopped at a local fruit stand for a break and delicious pie. The group we rode with consists of 6 people who just happened to be leaving From VA the same day. They stuck together for the most part. Two of the riders is a father daughter tandem bike, the daughter is only 13 years old. The father does the TransAm with all his kids, with the exception of one who didn’t want to. Kids these days. They were really fun to ride with and were a needed motivation to carry on with the ride.

We are staying right by the Salmon River tonight and it’s gorgeous. We took baths in it and I look forward to sleeping to its soothing flow. Except the wind is crazy, hopefully the tent doesn’t fly away!