Starting location: Econolodge, Portland, OR
Ending location: Somewhere on Meadowlake Road between Beaver and Portland
End of day cumulative mileage: 269.2 (including STP miles)
I woke up well rested enough to soberly think about the journey ahead. It’s about 800 miles to Davis. Most of that’s on the well traveled Pacific Coast Bicycle Route. I wasn’t too worried about that part because I had a map and guidebook for that section of my ride. I was most worried about finding a route to the coast from Portland. So I spent several hours on my laptop last night researching on Google. I eventually found a route provided by the city of Portland, but for some reason it started in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland about 20 miles to the west. So I spent this morning finding a route from my motel to Hillsboro with as few turns as possible.
My motel was less than half a mile from the Portland train station. I seriously considered taking the easy way out and buying a train ticket home. But I decided I could never live with myself knowing that I had given up on my goal before even starting. So I scribbled my route onto a notepad and I was on my way. I didn’t get very far before running into my first mishap.
Less than a mile from the start, just past the train station, I rolled over a big pothole, and the rattle caused something to rub against my front wheel. I pulled over and looked down at my wheel and saw that my front rack had bent so that it was rubbing against my front tire. So I considered my options. The train was starting to look like a good idea. The rack bent easily enough back into shape, but there was too much weight on it, it would probably bend again. As luck would have it, I had stopped in front of a post office, so I decided to ship some of my extra gear home. My laptop had served its purpose, I had found a route to the coast, so I decided to ship it back. I sent home some extra clothes and my extra sleeping bag, along with my heavy pedal wrench that I had needed to box my bike for the train ride.
I think that lowered my load by a good 10-15 lbs. With less weight on the front, the steering was more responsive and I felt a lot safer. The rack seemed like it would hold up ok. So I decided to continue.
It’s a pretty dramatic change going from riding with 10,000 other riders with full SAG support on well marked routes to riding alone, completely unsupported, navigating on unfamiliar roads using a few notes scribbled on a notepad I took from my motel. I tried to create a route with as few turns as possible. Little did I know that my route would lead me up one of the worst roads for bicycling in the Portland area. The road was called Cornell Blvd, I chose it because in Google maps it looked like it would take me most of the way from Portland to Hillsboro.
It was a pretty tough road with lots of climbing, longer and steeper than anything at STP. The shoulders were very narrow and the traffic was very fast, and there were even a couple of tunnels to ride through. I hate riding my bicycle through tunnels. I never know if cars can see me, and it’s scary as heck because all the engine noise from cars and trucks gets amplified.
Luckily I survived and made it to the top. At the top there was a parking lot where this hippy guy setup a fruit stand. I ended up buying some blueberries and a jar of honey from him. He remarked that the road I had just traveled was a infamously bad road, there was a bad car crash out there almost every week. He said at least the hard part was over, it was all downhill to Hillsboro from there, and wished me safe a journey. Hippies are cool.
The rest of the day’s riding was easy in comparison. My only concern came later in the evening. My original goal was to make it all the way to the coast, but by around 6 o’clock it became apparent that I wouldn’t make it. So I started to look for a place to spend the night. I was in the middle of nowhere on this road called Meadowlake road, which appeared to be a logging road in the middle of nowhere. I hadn’t seen a town in a while, I didn’t even see any campsites. I was in a pretty hilly area, so even setting up a makeshift camp on the side of the road didn’t seem like an option.
I found one private road that looked promising. The only problem was it was clearly marked, “No Trespassing.” I decided to give it a look anyways. The terrain past the gate ended up being too steep to camp at unless I blatantly camped right in the middle of the road. I actually considered it. It seemed like government property, and I figured if anyone were to come, it would be during normal business hours of 9-5. So as long as I cleared out of there early in the morning, I would be ok. But in the end, I figured I still had a good hour or more before sunset, so I decided to continue up the road a bit.
I didn’t go very far, only maybe a quarter of a mile before I spotted a turnout with a little embankment. I figured if it were flat on the other side of the embankment, I could camp there out of sight of passing cars. It ended up being a nice flat spot, and it even had a little fire ring, so it had been used as a campsite before. But there was something about the spot that bothered me and made me hesitant to stay. But my now I was pretty tired, and the sun would be going down soon, so I ended up setting up camp here.
All I had to protect myself was my bike helmet, a flashlight and my camping knife. I kept them by my side when I went to sleep. I was probably being too paranoid, there was probably nothing to worry about.