Thursday, July 24, 2008
After sleeping on it, I decided to ask a few more people about McKenzie Pass before climbing up there yesterday. The last thing I wanted to happen was to reach the summit, only to find that I couldn't get through and had to go back and take the Santiam Pass. At a local bike store, an employee told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to get across the pass due to snow and bridge work. While cyclists are allowed to ride up the road, they have to turn around at some point and retrace their path. He spoke with enough authority to convince me that I would have to take the Santiam Pass.
I got a late start because I woke up to find my rear tire partially deflated. It seems the tire had a slow leak. (Did I mention my luck is running out?) I couldn't find a hole in the tube, so I fully inflated the tire and headed out of town. The road was busy, but manageable. On the way up I had clear views of Mount Washington.
Toward the top of the pass, the land was barren. Five years ago, a fire burned over 90,000 acres leaving dead, charred trees covering the mountain sides.
In the Cascades, I passed a series of lakes, waterfalls, and campgrounds.
As I descended, the road ran alongside the McKenzie River. On the westside of the mountains, the land was considerably lusher. Nurseries and orchards became common.
My options for lodging at the 80 mile mark did not pan out. I was in a stretch with no other campgrounds, motels, or cabins, so I had to push on thirty more miles. When I arrived at my destination, Coburg, OR, I was told that the one motel in town had burned to the ground. Fortunately, there were several motels five miles down the road. IHOP, which was next to my motel, never looked so inviting.
When I talk to people about my trip these days, they often tell me how close I am. And today I began the last of the twelve maps that outline my route. So it's starting to sink in that my ride is coming to an end.
The roads I pedaled today were more like those from the East than the roads I have traveled out West. They were quieter back-roads that usually only exist as unpaved, dirt roads in many of the western states. The fields and farm houses I passed reminded me of my rides through Virginia.
As I've moved into western Oregon the wind has picked up and this afternoon it significantly slowed my progress. I was also delayed by a stop in Corvallis, which has to be one of the most bicycle friendly towns in the U.S. I stopped at Corvallis Cyclery to get what I hope is my last new tire tube of the trip. One of the mechanics had just returned from an Adventure Cycling tour of Washington and had done the Northern Tier route a few year ago, so we exchanged notes. Having failed to make it to a winery that I wanted to try before closing time, I decided to cut a few miles from my day so I can hit it tomorrow. For those keeping score at home, I'm about 177 miles from Astoria.