Vancouver to San Francisco Tour 2016 – A Cycle Tour by someone who’s never cycle toured before – Day 8 – Bay Center, WA – Fort Stevens, OR

OK, so today is my last day with Oz and Paul. They are heading off to Portland tomorrow so I am going to have to make the most of their time. And it’s not as if I’ll catch-up with them either as they will head East as I go South the following day.

Yesterday I said that it was only my thighs that were aching. That was a bit of a lie. This time it’s my knees. They are starting to ache and just feel very sore. The last few days are really taking their toll. I put this down to my seat not being high enough. Easy enough to change. But this is OK, as I had in my sights a rest day 3 rides ahead, over in Newport.

Oz, Paul and I ride off at the usual time, with Scott and Andy sticking together doing their own thing. Whilst on a nice bit of flat we see something shimmering in the distance. It does look like a push bike, but there’s something attached to the back – wait – it’s a pole and flag. We make some ground over the next couple of miles and we get closer. It was a German flag flying in the wind. Now it wasn’t huge, but of handheld size that you get on I don’t know, the Queens Birthday.

The gang elders had just been discussing the bridge. Full of joy at the thought you can see (L-R; Gerald, Oz and Paul)

We had just met Gerald. Gerald is in his early 50’s, and very, well German. Of course in an endearing way. He was quite frank and serious but I tried to lighten the mood with my very good German. He wasn’t so impressed (of course my German phrases are very rude, along the lines of “deine mudda . . .” – too soon maybe). Anyway, Gerald wasn’t quite the conversationist but we we got to know him a little better. He was from Frankfurt, ‘of course’ had done many tours before and this was his dream ride. So it felt special to be sharing this with him, even if at the beginning it felt like that he maybe wanted to be left to his own devices (well . . . tough!). Language was certainly a barrier more than anything in getting these conversations flowing. Gerald would fondly be known as Ze German from that point on wards.

The Astoria End

It was a tough but great ride. Of course the views were incredible. We had a new gang member with us, so all was looking good. Bald Eagles soaring above my head which was beautiful yet very distracting when trying to ride. Looking up you then realise you were either veering into the middle of the road or into a ditch – but it was worth it.

It turned out we were unsure as to how we were going to cross the Columbia River. It was wide and Oz was convinced that the Bridge wasn’t suitable for bikes. Now I wasn’t quite sure what they meant by this but I would certainly understand why soon. We turn a corner and there it is. . . The Astoria Bridge, taking us to the land of The Goonies. So I tried to take a photo, but I had to take it in 2 shots because it was so wide.


The Washington End

According to the sign, its fucking massive. OK maybe it didn’t put it like that, but it was 4.1 miles. Now I still didn’t really see what the problem was with this, but what followed put caution into all bridges from that point onward.

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The Astoria Bridge – Longest Bridge Ever . . .to be cycled across by me . . . so far (photo – Gerald)

We did the bridge in 2 teams. Oz was coasting in behind us and Paul encouraged Gerald and I to go ahead. Also for traffic it was probably easier to over take 2 bikes rather than 4. So the reason why bridges aren’t so fun is that they have multiple hazards that seem to come straight out of a text book:

  1. The shoulder was narrow. I mean really narrow. It was maybe a 1.5 foot wide, meaning that we were pretty close to the pedestrian walk way. This walk way was pretty high so it came up to the bottom of our panniers. If we got too close it would scrape and potentially put us off balance
  2. This meant that we were close to the cars on the left. They would crawl next to us, taking their time not to hit us. Surprisingly, all of these cars were nice.They would wait until it’s safe to pass and give us as much room as they could. Still, when you’re going slow (see next point) you (I) become pretty wobbly.
  3. The Wind – Not my own, but as you are on a bridge over 4 miles of water, there are big cross winds. This slows you down and doesn’t help with the wobbling. It was pushing us into the road so the margin for swerving was pretty wide.
  4. Debris – Tires, glass, nails and lots of dead birds. There must have been about 5 dead birds graciously laid out over the road. They must have been cycling birds as they only ever seemed to be in the shoulder. And I must add these weren’t sparrows, these were big sea gulls. They stank and required riding around

So all in all there was a lot to concentrate on. The First part was pretty flat so it was relatively manageable, but then there was the steep climb over the crest of the bridge. With the wind and gradient, this was a head down and pump kind of job. A grind for sure.

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Me spearheading the Astoria Bridge (photo – Gerald)

One consolation was that there were road works going on at the top so we could rest. We edged our way to the front, looking into the passenger windows of all the cars that had just over taken us. We got to the lights and saw that it was one lane of traffic only. So chatting to the traffic control guy he asked us to wait until the cars on our side had gone and they would hold the traffic the other end so we had a nice safe ride across. I don’t think his mate got the message. As we rode on when told, the traffic had started coming the other way. Negotiating oncoming traffic on 1 line over a 400m high bridge wasn’t the most liberating of rides. But all is well that ends well. There was a nice downhill part at the other end and we waited for Paul and Oz at the bottom. They managed to get a free run at the bridge as I think the traffic control guys got an earful from someone (not me!)

Where’s Wally?

Feeling proud of ourselves, we march onto the next part of the ride – we weren’t far from camp. Then . . . there was another bastard bridge that was about 4 miles long too. This one had a head wind. It was cold, tough and required more grit to get though. OK, slightly dramatic, it wasn’t a snowy mountain, but it wasn’t what we wanted to see either.

Gerald writing his notes down from the days events. “Scott war urkimsch heute”

Over the other side we rolled into camp. I inquired a little bit more about the Tsunami signs and protocol from the rangers office when we were checking in. I wish I had kept my mouth shut. In slightly more diplomatic words:”If an earthquake hits here, you probably won’t survive. It’s sand that will just turn into liquid”.

“If you see the ocean retreat pretty quickly – run”. Luckily we had maps detailing the evacuation route so it would be FINE. Oz is a master earthquake and tsunami man, having written programmes to help detect such events. I wouldn’t quite say he put me at ease, but I knew that the likelihood of me being there when it happened was very unlikely so I was OK with that.

It was a landmark day. New State, new people, and final day with others. We had the first marshmallows over a fire today. I was living the American Dream seen in the films!


Cheers, Scott

Route can be found HERE

Day 9 can be found HERE


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