92 miles (148 km) – Total so far: 4,031 miles (6,487 km)
The pre-penultimate day of my grand adventure across these United States was wonderfully joyful and fulfilling. A cobalt blue sky framed the vibrant green of Williamette National Forest. In the distance to the South, the Three Sisters Mountains proudly displayed their snowy rainment. To the North across the McKenzie Pass, old man Mt Washington looked sternly down on the surrounding wilderness. Our path was to take us directly between the Sisters and Mt Washington. Today was to be my final ascent over a mountain pass of the trip. I covered up my odometer to focus on the journey rather than the destination as I made this final climb.
Day 73 and I remain flabbergasted by the fact that each landscape I’ve crossed is unique in it’s geology, vegetation, and beauty. Only yesterday afternoon I had been climbing out of Deep Canyon in the extreme heat surrounded by desert brush punctuated through with heavily irrigated pastures. Today, the scrubby plants have been replaced by lush ferns and vines in the undergrowth of truly massive pine stands.
Near the top of the path, recent (1,500 years old) lava flows have drastically altered the landscape and vegetation leaving behind vast fields of volcanic rock. On the edges of these fields, brave little saplings cling to the rocks and find purchase in the older soil blown over the top of the new formations. I’m simply saying that life, uh, finds a way.
After a longish hour we began our descent. Persephone has always loved the downhills, so I sped off in front of Paul and Terry. I maintained the internal mental illusion that I was coasting down towards… well, the coast. In reality, there are a few small hills tomorrow, so It isn’t quite all down hill, but for practical purposes it kind of is.
If you accept by this point that my bike is a horse, it isn’t a stretch to understand that Harleys are jackals. A pack of feral motorcycles flew past on the upslope with no regard to the somewhat obvious yellow line blazing in their faces. Pipes set to ridiculouslyobnoxiousmaxiimum volume, they did their best to destroy the peaceful nature of the forest. But they were soon gone and I was able to continue enjoying my descent
The first 2,000 feet of elevation drop happened startlingly quickly as I wound down the tightest switchbacks and hairpins of the whole trip. I stopped twice to squirt some water onto my rear brake rotor, the stream of liquid instantly turning to steam as it hit the extremely hot brakes. Each time I stopped I found myself having a hard time letting gravity take over again as I enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.
Repeatedly stopping and gawking allowed Lord Montague and Burly Chassis to catch up to Persephone and myself. The three horses and their riders continued on out of the forest and then began the more serious work of putting on some miles to get to our2 stopping point at Nimrod, OR.
Short of our goal for the day, Tuan, who we hadn’t seen for a fortnight, caught up to us. He informed us that our grandly laid out plans for the final two days weren’t going to work because there was no good campsites or motels in the band laying 20-60 miles past Eugene. After much discussion of our options the final consensus was to push on to Eugene for the night, giving us only 80-ish miles to cover the last two days. Our new plan enables us to take things slow and arrive at the coast with plenty of time for pictures and “fuffing about” as Terry calls it.
As we cycled, the mountains became less grand and the river valleys more lush. There was a symmetry to this area in that it strongly resembled the tidewater section of Virginia where I had started my journey a lifetime ago. We cycled a strong 15 miles, arriving at Vida where Paul stopped in the C-store to get a quick beverage.
By now it was 7:00 PM and the light was fading quickly. With just under 30 miles to go to Eugene I could see that we’d need some special motivation to get us to our new target. Time to drop a <b>Pie Bomb</b> ‘What’s a pie bomb?’, you ask. Well, let me educate you. Back in Missouri, Jerry and Jonathan revealed to us that when they were facing a particularly big mountain pass, they would each eat a Hostess fruit pie, inducing a gut wrenching sugar rush that afforded them the power to push through to the top.
Not one for half measures, I pedalled over to the local cafe and bought a massive 14″ triple-berry home baked pie. The proprietor went to put this Marionberry, Blueberry, Huckleberry monstrosity into a pie box when I imperiously held out my hand dismissing the need for such frivolity. This monstrosity of a pastry was going to be completely inside the stomachs of four grown men in less than 15 minutes. The other three of my party exhibited the classic signs of alarm and panic as I dropped this Atomic Pie Bomb in front of them and ordered all hands to present sporks. The faint of heart may want to skip the time lapse documentation of the impact of the APB
The four of us straggled out of the parking lot a bit sluggish as we viscerally understood that our collective body weight had just increased 7%. But the effects of that much sugar soon took effect as we formed a peloton and attacked the 28 mile slight downslope to Eugene. The landscape flew by us as each rider took a 10 minute shift in the front of the group, slicing through the wind and creating a slipstream for the other three riders to follow behind. At the end of our collective 16,000 miles and 288 days of riding, each of us is in the best shape of our lives. With the cool air around us, and a churning furnace of pie filled fury in our guts, we screamed through the 28 miles in 92 minutes. It was the most joyful and exhilarating ride of my life.
Tomorrow is a full day as we cycle towards the coast. We’ll stop just short to allow ourselves a victory lap in the morning air.