Pacific Coast Tour: Day 4
Day 4: Aberdeen, WA to Astoria, OR
Approximate daily mileage ~ 77 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 348 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 2600 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 9200 feet
After the deepest and most sound sleep of my life the alarm sounded at 6:27 AM. In attempt at being a gracious Couchsurfing guest I was on the road shortly after saying goodbye to everyone who was also up at that time on a Saturday morning. Breakfast consisted of a king size salted nut roll – one of my favorite convenience store sources of calories other than Clif bars. The morning started with dry gear (not clean, but dry) for the first time since leaving Vancouver. As the trip continued I gained more and more appreciation for little things like dry gear and comfortable places to sleep.
The dry gear didn’t last long as there was heavy fog and sprinkling rain that quickly saturated everything. Despite the rain I was feeling fantastic with very little traffic and well recuperated legs. The first 15 miles went by in almost an instant. I encountered one other cyclist also riding a road bike sporting a backpack similar to my set-up. This was uncommon as most people riding long distances have a significantly different bike set-up specifically for touring and hauling the usual required gear in panniers. (More on the bike set up in a later post) I said “hello” as I passed and we exchanged a smile and a head nod. Less than 10 miles later while pedaling up a hill it suddenly became much more difficult. After a glance at my rear tire it was clear I had my first flat. After stopping near the top of the hill for some investigation there was an obvious laceration in the tire. After a few minutes the man I previously passed came up and stopped to ask if I was okay. He saw what was going on and insisted I must replace the tube. We talked some more and he said he was riding from Alaska to Panama! He said that it was his 21st day on the road. This was incredible and provided inspiration for the remainder of the trip. He said his name was Gou and he snapped a photo of me before taking off and saying, “Catch me…you ride much faster!” The truth was I wasn’t riding anywhere until this tube was fixed.
Now, before starting the trip I had put Stans sealant in the tubes in hopes of stopping any such punctures and a lot of the sealant had sprayed out in the process of the flat. Stans is great stuff for helping these situations, and I had faith in it. So I used one of my few CO2 cartridges to re-inflate the tire hoping there was enough sealant to fill in the defect. Sure enough, the cartridge filled it and it seemed to hold pressure. It was a large gash toward the sidewall of the tire so for some added reassurance I used super glue and gorilla tape to try to reinforce the gash. After some delay I was back on the wet road. The next town about 5-10 miles down was called Raymond where I stopped at a McDonald’s for a couple quick breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and to warm up. Thorough inspection of the tire showed it was holding air and by this time the rain seemed to stop with moderate temps in the 50s and clouds remaining.
The road conditions were very nice with wide shoulders continuing down the hilly and numerous twists of highway 101 through the tiny towns of South Bend and Nemah. Similarly good road conditions were to present down highway 401, Lewis and Clark Trail Highway, through the towns of Naselle and Knappton. About this time the wide Columbia River came into sight and there were breaks in the clouds revealing some of the blue sky behind – a glorious sight. The next great sight in the far distance was another visual masterpiece, the Astoria – Megler Bridge. Being the longest continuous steel truss bridge in North America crossing from Washington into Oregon it is truly spectacular. I had previously heard from Jim that crossing the bridge by bike is a rather terrifying experience. Naturally, I was intrigued why he described it this way. So I snapped a few photos and began the long trip across the 4.067 mile long bridge. I quickly found out why Jim had described it the way he had. There is no bike lane, a decent incline, and absolutely no shoulder with heavy vehicle traffic and high winds. At the same time there were large birds of prey, blue skies, and sunshine guiding across the entire way making it a highlight of the day and of the whole journey.
Arrival in Astoria, Oregon was a great relief as there was a nice bike shop, Bikes & Beyond, in town where I could replace the tube and reinforce the laceration in the tire with some gorilla tape on the inside wall. At the bike shop I met a guy with a decked out electric bike also traveling from Vancouver to the south with his final destination in LA. An electric bike didn’t sound like a bad idea after another decent chunk of miles and a knee that had become pretty painful and inflamed. In addition to the much needed rest, Astoria is a really fun small city with a great atmosphere. There is much to be explored from the boardwalk along the Columbia River with a trolley running up and down to restaurants and breweries. It’s even home to the movie, “The Goonies”. Luckily, I was able to get a place to stay at the Norblad Hotel which has limited hostel rooms available. The Norblad Hotel would come recommended as it has nice and clean accommodations in a great location. Arrival into town at a decent time also allowed for a sit down meal of local Chinese food at Golden Star as suggested by the bike shop owner and some live music at the Fort George Brewery across the street from the hostel. Welcome to Oregon.