Seattle to Bremerton ferry

The ride begins in Bremerton Washington, but our trip started in Portland Oregon. That’s where we loaded our bikes on the train and enjoyed a nice 3 1/2 hour train ride to Seattle. From there we rode our bikes all of 4 blocks to the Bremerton Ferry terminal where we caught the next ferry across to Bremerton. It’s about an hours boat ride. 

The start of the ride in Bremerton WA, rain!

Day 1:  The ride start was located at the Hampton Inn just off the ferry. Start time was 12:01 am Thursday morning.  This is where we gathered and waited for the start.  The riders hovered in the lobby while the hotel staff wondered what the heck was going on.  With our strange looks and superior numbers we managed to hold off any eviction until the ride started. Almost as if on cue the rain began just before the ride.  You could tell which riders were northwest locals immediately by their telltale mudflaps on their fenders. Randonneurs from more fair weather regions were fendered but un-flapped, and one Arizona rider distinguished himself by going fenderless! The early pace was brisk but not unreasonable and the group stayed together. I found my place behind a rider with a mudflap and defended my position from any intruders!

The first checkpoint in Matlock WA.

Eventually the rain began to taper and the ride began to break up into smaller groups.  After following the Hood Canal for a few miles we arrived at the Matlock checkpoint (mile 56) and regrouped with a few more riders.  We were still riding among the lead riders and the pace was good.  From here the roads got a little busy with early morning logging trucks and most of them gave us very little room on the road.  Crazy bikers!

The second checkpoint in Raymond WA.

I was happy to arrive at the next checkpoint in Raymond Washington (mile 105).  It was after dawn but there was still no sun. The rain had stopped but overcast skies remained. It was bright and warm in McDonald’s though and our group enjoyed a fine breakfast.  After McD’s we continued south down the coast but not always in sight of the water, eventually arriving at the bridge where we crossed the Columbia River over into Astoria Oregon. From here on the weather looked like it would be much better!  The rain had stopped and the sky had partly cleared and we would not need our raingear from here on.

Entering the 5 mile Astoria Bridge over the Columbia River

We had moderate headwinds as we headed south from Astoria through Seaside and on to the Cannon beach checkpoint for lunch (mile 183).  This part of the ride was a little fuzzy for me and nothing in particular stands out. I remember a few moderate climbs and then rolling into Tillamook (mile 225) for and early dinner.  On the last leg of the day Joe and I were both feeling good and we scorched the next 25 miles into Pacific City. We arrived just about 8 pm and had covered 250 miles for the day. This was to be our first overnight stop and we were able to get a shower and a bite to eat!

Day 2:  We arose at 2am for a 3am departure. The plan was to get a bite to eat and take off. But, there was one problem. When we arrived the previous night there were no shops open and none this morning as well. We didn’t really have that much food with us and the motel only had coffee and old donuts. We pooled our food and made the best breakfast we could out of it.  Some packaged ham and a little cheese, 1/2 of a coke and some shot blocks was about it for each of us. Mmmm! It would have to do because the next food was hours away.

Overlooking Lincoln Beach OR, just after dawn.

About 10 miles out of Pacific City the route turns and climbs up Slab Creek Road. This is where my troubles began. With the light breakfast I ate, I was hoping that there was nothing too difficult in the ride until I could resupply at a store or somewhere.  Slab Creek Road is not a huge climb but it was enough of an effort on an empty stomach to put a hurt on me. I started to bonk and had to slow to a crawl. I made it over the top but started shivering uncontrollably on the descent. My tank was empty! I made it to the outskirts of Lincoln City and found a 24 hour Shell-mart but the damage had been done. It would be a long time before I would fully recover.

Heceta Lighthouse OR.

We breakfasted in Depoe Bay and continued south. Joe was getting a little restless waiting for me so we agreed to each ride our own pace for a while and so we seperated. It would turn out to be the best choice for both of us. I was still riding slowly and it was looking for a time like I would miss the cut-off time at the next control. Eventually I found my legs again and my pace picked up. I pulled into the Reedsport checkpoint at about 4:10 pm, with 16 minutes to spare. I felt pretty good about that since for a while I didn’t think I would make it at all. Somewhere in this section my computer did an auto reset so now my mileage references were lost. I would have to measure the distances between each turn. It wasn’t a huge problem because the total mileage had been off for awhile, first reading low, then high, which indicates that there were significant discrepancies on the route guide.

Roosevelt Elk, just east of Reedsport

I had kind of a long stop at Reedsport (mile 376) and when I departed I immediately got a flat tire. Once I got going again however I finally started to feel pretty good. It only took 12 hours to recover from my early morning bonk! The route turned inland and followed the Umpqua River now. I was cruising pretty well now and I finally caught one rider about 25 miles in, then  2 more riders in Elkton. I was starting to feel like I was back in the ride! After Elkton we started some climbing again but it was dark and hard to gauge how tough the climbs were. It seemed like a long climb but it probably wasn’t so bad. Once over the top and down the other side the terrain turned pretty mellow and it was easy going to Roseburg. There was a problem however, many of the road signs were missing at the designated turns. The mileage cue was usually close but without a road sign to confirm that it was the correct turn I could not be sure that I was on route, and with the earlier mileage discrepancies I was at times uncertain. I hadn’t seen another rider for hours so I could get no second opinion. Somehow I was lucky enough to find the correct way in but I really hate having to be lucky to survive! A wrong turn at this point would have been disastrous!!!

Once in Roseburg the route-finding got easier for a minute, but when I turned onto the grounds of the VA hospital it turned weird. The roads were smaller and the signage was gone. There were at least 6 unmarked intersections and almost no street lighting. After several wrong turns I stopped to try to figure out which way to go. A minute later a local police cruiser stopped and asked me what I was doing. They didn’t wait for my answer and told me I had to leave the way I came immediately. I tried to explain where I wanted to go but they didn’t want to hear any of it. At this point in the ride I was getting grumpy and I snapped back that I needed to go forward to the Travel Lodge. They allowed me to move on but followed me off of the grounds. It’s not like I was sneaking around, I was lit up like a freaking Christmas Tree! Looking back I am a little surprised that I didn’t end up in handcuffs. I pulled into the Travel Lodge in Roseburg at 11:50 pm (mile 460.0)

This last incident may be what finally tipped the scales for me. When I pulled into the hotel I was quite unhappy. Aside from the navigation problems, I had a number of personal issues that were hampering me. The early morning bonk had also done some long-term damage to my day. Sitting at Denny’s and getting a bite to eat I decided that even if I got 2 hours rest it was going to be difficult for me to finish in time. I decided (perhaps too hastily) to pull the plug on the event and DNF here. At least that way I could get a little relief. Joe was still in the hotel room when I arrived and would continue on and finish the ride but for me it was sleep.

Day 3: I was shuttled to the finish and saw most of the other riders still out on course but my ride was over. I killed some time in Klamath Falls and the first riders started coming in at about 5 pm Sunday afternoon. Joe arrived just after midnight. We overnighted Klamath and then caught the train back north the next morning. It would be about an 8 hour ride back to Portland.

Although I failed to measure up to the standards of the riders whose company I was keeping, I didn’t feel out-of-place on the train ride back while chatting with other riders about the event. It is unusual for me to experience the kind of supportive demeanor exhibited by these riders. It didn’t really matter to them what your ride time was or whether or not you even finished. Just that you were out there giving it your best made you their brethren. That kind of acceptance really helps! It is uncommon among other cycling groups in my experience.

My final summary of the event is that even though I DNF’ed I did enjoy the ride. It was a beautiful route and there were many positive moments to reflect on. I have a couple of other observations about the route as well. I feel like the provided navigation tools favored those riders who used GPS. The cumulative mileage errors and missing road signs out on the course led to questions on the accuracy of the cue sheet. GPS users who were following a track would not have suffered this uncertainty. The missing road signage was not discovered in any pre-ride, again a GPS user may not have noticed. Those of us who prefer to use traditional navigation methods will suffer when a route is not verified in person and just laid out on Google Maps. Also, available services shown on the cue sheet did not always match up with the real world. What might be shown as 50 miles without access to services on the cue sheet was in reality well serviced with shops etc. In my world, the availability of services is noted because I cannot assume that other riders will know where stuff is. If you miss that “one stop” you might have to go 50 miles without even seeing a cow. I have not been in this area before and had no idea of the availability of services. It would have been nice to know that I did not need to carry so much!