Having done a number of tours, I can’t help but compare the experiences in my mind while I’m riding along. So while cranking along, probably in rain or a headwind based on this ride, I flashed back a bit to the 07 and 10 rides that had 5 massive all-day passes right before the ocean. That didn’t happen this time. And it was awesome. We had been pushing some pretty big miles for a while and were hitting around 70 a day for quite some time through South Dakota and Wyoming. We knew we were planning on finishing on August 15th, so we sat down one night and did some simple math and found out that with two days off, we had to average only 53 miles per day, and didn’t have any real passes in the way either….and thus the Lucky 13 ride took on a whole new flavor.
Flashing back to Wisdom, Montana, we had just crushed 18 miles of 2% downhill in about 55 minutes from Jackson, Wyoming. In case you were wondering 2% downhill early in the morning with no wind or heat is about as ideal as it gets. So we roll into town for some breakfast and have some flat tire issues that take us a few minutes to fix up before we headed out….oh wait. We had just realized that we had time to burn and the charming town of 114 sat high in the Montana mountains with home made pizza in a saloon and a camp framed by a split rail fence and shadowed by some lofty mountains, so after 18 not-so-brutal miles we called it a day and relaxed a bit in the Wild West.
The next day took us over the continental divide at Chief Joseph Pass. Having already done quite a bit of climbing in days past to get to the shelf, we really only had to bump up another 1000 to make it over. Our start that morning was a bit unexpectedly delayed by our camp being iced over and it being way too cold for us to ride with the clothes we had. Having baked in the Wyoming desert so recently we didn’t expect it to get that cold but oh well, some socks on the hands got us through the morning. Also, with all of our spare time the day before we realized that Missoula was 120 miles away and that after the pass it was mostly down hill for almost 100 miles. We have never done 120 miles in a day on any bike trip in the past, so the gauntlet was thrown. So after dropping pretty steeply down the pass for a few miles we set our minds to cranking out 20 mile segments all afternoon long. After a seemingly endless day, we rolled into Missoula at dusk, set up camp at a YMCA and absolutely demolished a Denny’s.
After some time in Missoula and at the Adventure Cycling headquarters we headed over Lolo pass, really not that hard when still comparing to the Big Horns, and dropped into Idaho. We pulled into the Lochsa Lodge for quite a tasty lunch of chicken wraps on the back porch and pried a bit of information from the staff. We planned on wilderness camping at Weir Creek that night so stocked up on some food and they told us we could get breakfast 15 miles into the next day at Wilderness Gateway Camp. So we stuffed our provisions in the panniers and enjoyed some gradual downhill overlooking the Lochsa River. Once we reached our camp for the night, we pushed our bikes over into the woods and set up our tents on the serene shore of Weir Creek for the evening. We’d heard there were some hot springs just up creek so we made our way up to explore and found some people chilling/roasting in quite a toasty hot spring pool perched over the creek and nestled deep in the lush valley. We quickly made friends, as we try to do, and soon learned that tomorrow’s resupply at Wilderness Gateway didn’t actually have any food. Once they realized our slight dilemma, they mentioned that they were staying there and happened to have quite a bit of extra French Toast that we could indulge in the next morning. So after the most amazing night’s sleep ever next to the creek, and motivated by hot breakfast, we stashed our tents and hit the road. When they said they had extra French Toast, they weren’t kidding. We were basically forced to eat seven slices each and two dutch ovens full of ham and eggs. While sitting in a massive food coma for well over an hour we met Mike Walk…more on him later.
The time on the Lochsa river was some of the best riding on the trip, pristine riding along the river, gentle downhill, and mountains engulfing us from all around. After a particularly peaceful day of riding we rolled into the tiny town of Kooskia, tucked in the valley at he confluence of two rivers. We set up camp in a perfect biker town park and headed to the river to swim. While soaking in the bathwater like rapids, AK and I were so enamored with the town that, after two days of pretty easy riding, we decided to take another day off. The afternoon was spent reveling in our decision to stay for another day, playing basketball at the park, customary spades and of course food. There was a little Chinese cafe in downtown, one of two restaurants, and we actually ate there three times in our short stay in Kooskia.
On the road the morning after Kooskia, and back to our French Toast Family, Mike Walk lived 30 miles into the day and offered to cook us yet another breakfast, so being the hungry bikers that we are, we obliged him. We rolled into in house that sat riverfront, found out that he owned a cafe for a number of years, and proceeded to gorge on fresh huckleberry pancakes with home made huckleberry syrup. He also mentioned that he had been voted the best burgers in 200 miles a couple years ago, so we put that info in the memory banks. While food-comaed on his back porch we had scouted some places to camp down river and I stood up to head out, folded my map…… and then AK mentioned that it was getting awfully hot. So after a leisurely 30 miles, we decided to call it quits for the day, stripped our jerseys off and headed down to the river for a mid morning swim. The afternoon progressed with lots of swimming, napping, card playing, and eventually we headed to the store to get supplies for the famous burger. That night, Mike Walk got to work, and did what he is known for, engineered (as he calls it) a dozen half pound burgers that put such a hurting on people that some bikers actually fell asleep in their chairs at the dinner table. I think they were also voted best meal of the trip and we are trying to replicate them at our homecoming party this Sunday.
But now for real, we really did need to get down to biking after so much goofing off…and we realized that we actually had biked over 3000 miles so we had the guns to crush out a bunch of big days over some remaining hills and into the Columbia River Gorge. It was good that we didn’t have to average too many miles, because along the way we realized that the Columbia River Gorge happens to be one of the best place on Earth to wind surf and kite board due to the consistent gusting winds they get out of the west. Getting up early didn’t really do anything since the winds are constant all day long, so we would just get up, hop into a draft train, and systematically knock out miles getting ever closer to that coast line. At least we had lots of windsurfers ripping up the open water to look at while we slowly labored down river.
In our final night in Clatskanie, Oregon, we were so close that we could almost taste the salty air. As was fitting for the trip, rain drove us into a pavilion during the late afternoon so the cards came out one last time (almost) and we hit up a long pizza dinner on our final night. Then as darkness set in we gathered around the picnic tables and had our customary journal night where we sat literally for hours and recounted story after story and laughed long into the night… and didn’t even scratch the surface of all the stories and adventures from the ten week journey. Morning came but the rain hadn’t left, so we ventured out yet again into the wet for our final morning of riding.
We crested one last hill and were greeted by the smell of salt in the air as we dropped sharply into Astoria, Oregon, a mere 18 miles from our final destination of Seaside. The parents and families had gathered out in the cold damp afternoon in Seaside to welcome us…but we’re actually a bunch of ungrateful jerks, so we pulled off at a McDonald’s for a couple hours and lingered long over some burgers and McFlurries and pulled the cards out for what was really the last time, got in one last hand of spades, and cherished that solidarity that would be gone within the hour never to be attained again with the Lucky 13ers.
When we did actually decide to press on to Seaside, we road a relaxing and scenic 18 miles down Highway 101. As we approached our final turn, a motorcycle cop chirped his siren, pulled out in the road, and stopped traffic for us. He followed us down the promenade, stopping traffic at all the intersections and attracting people from the shops to come out and cheer us on as we cruised into the round-about and ended our journey at the base of the iconic Lewis and Clark Statue. The many cheers were mixed with quite a few tears as moms long separated from their sons gave them strong sobbing embraces…despite their absolutely atrocious odor(the bikers that is, the moms smelled fine). Then unexpectedly, the hardest part of the trip was upon us. To truly complete the journey we had to dip our tires in the pacific, and Oregon has done an annoyingly good job of preserving their coast line, so we had to push our loaded touring bikes hundreds of yards through deep white sand so we could dip our tires in the western waters and then dive in fully clothed to the chilly waters of the Pacific. The welcoming committee really went all out on this one, so after some time rejoicing on the beach we hit up a restaurant in Seaside where we had the entire upstairs and patios checked out, followed up the next day by a huge bonfire on the beach, and all the while parents trying to extract from the bikers what really happened on the bike trip….sorry, those stories only get told to the next generation on subsequent trips.
In addition to biking from one ocean to another…a pretty solid feat for a high school guy if I do say so myself (and an old dude)… the Lucky 13 crew was wonderfully successful in their quest to raise money for the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Victory Junction. To date, the crew raised $33,911 and with that we will be sending two campers to Victory Junction next year. There’s still time to donate as well, so head on over to www.Lucky13BikeTrip.com and bust out that credit card for an online donation if you feel so inclined.
Well, back to reality I guess it is…as is always the case with the conclusion of a bike trip. I have to work in 6 hours so I didn’t leave myself too much time for sleeping and my beard is absolutely out of control right now so I’ll need to spend some time taming it before I put myself in front of clients bright and early tomorrow morning.
Biked it. Liked it (I wouldn’t keep doing these if I didn’t) and will actually be back on a bike as soon as this endless rain in Chapel Hill stops….I need to stretch these legs out after some serious car and plane time these last couple days. Oh, and photos are coming soon too, so check back on the Lucky 13 site and Troop site some time this weekend.