From Kooskia we rode out on highway 12, not strictly the best way for bicycles and certainly not the way adventure cycling would have you go. Labor day traffic was making its way home too so lots of trailers and boats that got close enough to almost make me look like Vincent Van Gogh.
It was still great riding along the same Columbia river that carried Lewis & Clark with the rest of the corps of discovery and trying to picture there faces as we carved around each bend, happy just to have mountains at their back I guess. We arrived in the aptly named twin towns of Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA which marked our first entry into Washington state. We killed some hours in town so not to arrive at the campsite too early which was a further 6 miles down river. We were joined that night by 2 more cyclists who split the cost of one space with us to make it a cheap deal all round. Showers took quarters, 50 cent for 3 minutes. I was done in 2 which taught me how efficient I can be, fast hands.
We had a scheduled date to arrive in Portland to make a concert in a few days time so the ride from Clarkston to Walla Walla would be the first in a series of 85+ mile days. This meant we were reliant on the winds being favourable, our maps described them in this area as often being fierce from the west, luckily they were straight out of the east, thank you cycling gods.
Walla Walla is pretty much the US capital of onions, it was tangible in the air and visible in the fields. The only onions we would be consuming that night were the ones laden atop our pizza, I couldn’t verify whether they were local. All I know is there should be Wallabies in Walla Walla.
The scenery along the gorge which we joined shortly after leaving Walla Walla was a pleasant surprise. We were following the Lewis and Clark trail as a means to an end reaching Portland but it quickly turned into some of the most magnificent riding I have done in the US. A peach stand by the side of the road was too good to turn down on such a hot day so I pulled over to get a juicy fix. The guy only seemed interested in selling 6 at once, I was just after one. He told me I could just have one for free, I insisted on giving a dollar which he declined but I slipped it under a tray regardless.
I kept the peach until reaching the Oregon state sign and savoured it by the baking roadside, so refreshing. Almost too big to hold, the juices poured down my shirt with every bite.
Eal rejoined me shortly before we crossed back into Washington again to take the alternate side of the river. We hit a bad patch of road, recently there have been stretches of roadworks where fresh oil has had loose gravel poured over the top. Without having time to bed down it makes riding bikes a little tricky. It lasted for 5 shaky miles before we could enjoy the rest of the scenic route to crow butte (crow butt) state park. The shower was out of service tonight but the Columbia river was inviting enough to take a dip, warm too!
The ACA maps highlighted a stretch of 80 miles with limited services, a quick peanut butter & jelly sandwich with bananas would have to fuel me until the first town on route, Roosevelt. Rolling into town after putting down around 30 miles there was no guarantee of a good meal, most places seemed closed until we reached the last place in town, a mini mart with a quite splendid cafe area inside.
By recommendation of the other cyclists in the logbook I ordered the breakfast burrito, incredible. What a gem, the women who served us told us how all the cyclists are delighted to find that place, unsurprising. We bolted on with tailwinds again for what would be a 115 mile day. Me and Eal got separated for about 70 miles after I passed up going half a mile off route to a gas station which he had taken after me. Stunning riding again along the gorge, I had mount hood as the backdrop all afternoon. He caught up as we began to ride through a series of small tunnels, they each have a button to press for bicyclists to warn drivers but they are so small I stopped pressing it after the first few.
Camping was by the river (took another dip) again in a really small county park for free! I got to talk with Flavia for a while on the phone which was great to check her progress. We had already bought wine for the evening however and older motorcycle guy in the spot next to us bought a 6 pack of beers and gave me and Eal 2 each to share with him, cheers hombré! I almost feel guilty when I catch myself taking that kind of generosity for granted, American friendliness is seemingly insurmountable.
With the promise of several rest days waiting for us we blitzed towards Portland the next morning where we would be staying with my friend Emily and also meeting up with more friends from my TransAm trip, Stefaan and Tara. The winds blew us along nicely down the gorge with only a fleeting stop for lunch at a Safeway followed by and overdue haircut at Supercuts! Cheap and cheerful.
The evergreen highway along the Washington side of the river was in pretty bad condition for the last the last 10 miles before crossing back into Oregon, dodging cracks and potholes as we rolled. Eventually we made it to a bike path that ran down the centre of the interstate over the Columbia. A very disorientating experience with 3 lanes of traffic whizzing by in opposite directions. Once into Portland I recognised street names and followed my memory along Lombard towards the St Johns neighbourhood. It was great to be back again seeing all the familiar places and faces! Stefaan and Emily met us at a bar for a post ride drink catch up. We now have a few days off the bikes here then a few more hopefully up in Seattle with La Flavster.