After last night’s night-ride to Springfield we’ve left the perfect set up for our final two days riding to Florence, 60 miles today followed by a final 22 miles on Saturday. And the riding conditions are perfect – we’ve left the stifling heat of Eastern Oregon on the other side of the McKenzie Pass and now we are in the coastal zone. The Pacific is doing its job with temperatures down to the mid 80s fanned by a cooling breeze.
With little to recommend Springfield (a long messy strip of retail) the four of us head five miles down the road to Eugene in search of a diner. We are all going to miss these great breakfasts when the ride is over! Inevitably with so few miles left to do we’ve begun to lose some of our impetus and Eugene proves a difficult farmyard to leave, in part because it’s such a great cycling town, with an extensive network of paths and trails. We pass the Bike Friday factory (see post of July 11th for pictures of Harry and Celia’s Bike Fridays bought in Eugene) and pop into numerous bike shops trying to find new chains and somewhere that will ship Mike’s recumbent back to Chicago.
For the first time a member of staff in a bike shop wants to shake my hand. I’ve always maintained that I’m nothing more than a man on a bike, but have I finally earned the right to call myself a cyclist? As Terry buys the chains and recounts how many miles we’ve ridden I find myself being high-fived across the counter. The TransAmerica has brought about a transformation I didn’t expect. I could get used to this.
By midday we’ve ridden barely 15 miles and only seven of those on route so we ride on past industrial units and reclaimed wetlands before we stop for lunch at Donna’s at Low Pass where she looks after us royally. It’s one of those friendly independent restaurants with good home-style cooking and where you feel instantly welcome the second you step in the door.
It also had some great signs on the walls such as the one at the top of this post – they must have known we were coming. The four of us down strawberry smoothies before moving onto cookies and lemon bars. We all know the eating must stop soon – but at the moment we are (only just!) still cycling.
And then it’s time for our final hill. Yes the very last one of any major significance – it comes straight after our nosh out at Donna’s, but we breeze up a few hundred feet and there it is – the very last hilltop sign – elevation 1,022 feet. Curiously it appears to be peppered with bullet holes. At various times we’ve all been advised that we really should carry a firearm to protect us from the ‘crazies’ that apparently roam through mid America (we met very few apart from those mad enough to ride across the country) but presumably this is what they were for – a celebratory blast of gunfire to smoke out that final incline. In true British style there were no firearms involved but merely a few cries of ‘Bloody good show, old chap’! And then it really was downhill all the way.
We stopped in Deadwood for supplies and found the locals deep in conversation about a local man who had stolen some machine guns and was wanted by the police, so we promptly moved on. We spent the night camped in the grounds of the Evangelical Church in Swisshome, our tents pitched under enormous cedars that could have held up the roof of a cathedral. As we cooked under the stars it felt right that our final night on the trail should be under canvas. We’ve spent almost two and a half months outside and some of our most memorable moments have been gathered around the cooking stoves sharing stories and noodles.
Tomorrow the TransAmerica will be over – and now that we are this close I don’t think any of us want it to end.
Today’s Miles: 61
Miles since First Landing: 4237