July 25, 2001

7/25/01 County Line

57.9 / 5158 miles

Although I woke up to overcast skies, the temperature seemed warmer and there wasn't any fog or mist. Rode through sleepy Hammond and Warrenton. From one park, I had a view of the Hwy-101 bridge from Astoria to Washington state despite the clouds.

Even though it's shorter than the 4.1 mile Astoria-Megler Bridge, the ride across the bridge from Warrenton still seemed long. Especially when the shoulder almost disappeared over the high bridge span. It was rush hour in Astoria and again I had to cross the highway. Good thing I grew up on the city streets of Kansas City, riding roads most wouldn't.

Dangerous ride in rush hour across the bridge

The name Pig'n Pancake sounded interesting, so I decided to stop for breakfast. The library wasn't open yet, so I headed for the Maritime Museum on the waterfront. At first I though they were closed because of the major construction expansion going on. While most of the museum was open, the large exhibit hall was closed. As part of it's Naval History section, they played FDR's speech following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

I get really irritated when people follow rules, even when they make no sense. At the library, they had two internet computers, one with a 15-minute time limit, and the other for 60-minutes. The hour-long computer didn't work. So, even though no one wanted to use the computer, the staff refused to let me use the 15-minute computer longer than the time allotted. My 'quick update' eNewsletter was bleak. I debated whether or not to be up-front with everyone following my ride. I guess I don't want it to be a surprise if I cut the adventure short. But today I did remember some similar feelings I had at the midpoint of my Appalachian Trail hike. That gives me hope that this will work itself out.

As the day wore on, the clouds disappeared and the glorious sun came out. That morning, Astoria seemed like a dying, dirty waterfront town but with the sun, the city seemed to blossom. Even though the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail route finishes at the museum, I decided my end of the TransAm would be at the Astoria Column. It seemed appropriate since I started at the Victory Monument column in Yorktown, VA.

I should explain that Astoria is built like San Francisco, with hills that go straight up. So, I tried to bike up the 600-foot Coxcomb Hill to the base of the column. Well, I made it part of the way. Even pushing it up was almost too much for me. But it was worth it.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926, standing 125-feet. Depicted in a continuous spiral mural up the column is the "westward sweep of discovery and migration which brought settlement and western civilization to the Northwest Territory." The view from the top was breathtaking, Or maybe I was just out of breath from climbing up the 164 steps.

The Astoria Column

By the time I stopped by the bike shops, Bikes & Beyond and Hauer's Cyclery & Locksmith, it was getting late. I think because of the mood-uplifting sunshine, I decided to push on instead of going back to the Fort Stevens campground.

But my route had me on the busy Hwy-30 between Astoria and Portland. Even though it's only a two-lane, the shoulder was big. It actually had a lot of climbing which I hadn't expected. I did laugh though when one pass measured 635'. Had a good view of Puget Island from Bradley State Park. I was relieved when I pulled off the highway to catch the ferry at Westport.

The ferry runs every hour and I just missed the previous one by ten minutes. Found a place out of the wind to wait. Monty came over to talk. He grew up here and met his wife, Sharon, on Puget Island. They now live in Castle Rock. When I complained about the overcast skies of the Pacific Coast, he said they get a lot more sunshine this far inland. Very good news to me.

A few walk-on's joined me as I pushed the bike onto the ferry. Leroy was taking his grandson, Dalton (age 6), across the Columbia River and back on the ferry. "You must have a lot somethin'" he said about my trip. When I had trouble getting Dalton to give me his name, Leroy couldn't believe it. "His older brother thinks he has a disease because Dalton talks from sun up to sun down, even past that." he smiled.

Dalton havin' some fun with his grandfather

Stepping off the ferry, I entered Washington, another state line crossed. Puget Island had quite a few farms for an island. Even for someone as used to wind like I've had, the north breezes here in the Columbia River valley were pretty cool. Crossed yet another bridge to Cathlemet. Even though the sun seemed high in the sky, a quick look at my watch showed it almost 6PM with ten more miles to go.

The road followed the river, sometimes next to the Columbia's banks, other times it would climb high along the bordering mountainsides. As I rolled into the County Line Campground, I had worked up a sweat.

As the wind quickly gave me a chill in these wet clothes, I talked a bit with camp host, Larry. He confirmed what I'd been hearing all across the nation from Virginia. "We just haven't seen the cyclists this year like we have in the past." I sure hope that isn't a trend.

This river is just amazing. It's so wide it looks like a lake. I think it's about two miles wide here at the campground. About five miles downstream from here, I saw a half-dozen windsurfers taking advantage of the Columbia's world-renowned winds. I couldn't believe the speeds these guys were able to achieve. Their see-through sails reminded me of dragonflies as they wove past each other on the water. And while cooking dinner, a huge container ship swept past. I couldn't even get the entire length in a photograph.

So huge, it looked close enough to touch

All-in-all, a good day. Here I sit writing in my journal, listening to a good radio station out of Portland. Now, without a guidebook, I guess I should figure out where I'm going tomorrow.