A few weeks before reaching Eugene, we’d planned to take a detour from our trip in order to fly down to San Diego to attend my grandma’s memorial service. The logistics for this seemed complicated, but actually fell into place very well. We’d planned to check with a local bike shop, but George and Alice offered to store our bikes and extra gear for us, and we took a bus to Portland, spent a day there with a Warmshowers host, then flew to San Diego for a few days with family. It felt very odd and a bit surreal to be back in big cities, traveling without our bikes, and living normal life in normal houses!
We retraced our plane and bus route back to Eugene, and picked up our bikes in the afternoon. After approximately 7 hours of sitting in various forms of transportation earlier in the day, we were ready to get moving, so decided to start riding the 35 miles to Triangle Lake, where our maps said there was a campground. Biking in the evening, as the air cooled, was really pleasant – and it was nice to be back on the bikes as we entered the final stretch of our trip! We got to the tiny lakeside town around 7pm, and… no campground and lots of no trespassing signs. There was a church on the edge of town with lots of lakefront land, a family was camping there and told us they were just visitors renting the spot but pointed us to the pastor’s house next door. I can’t believe this was our first time all summer needing to knock on a stranger’s door about a place to stay! Steve, the pastor, called his neighbor and got permission for us to camp on their waterfront spot – a small lawn with a view of their dock – and let us use the church restrooms and kitchen. It ended up being a beautiful spot to watch the sunset over the lake, and we felt incredibly lucky and amazed once again at the kindness of strangers.
The next morning was a pleasant 40 miles through sunny pine forests and farms down the valley to Florence, which is ON THE COAST! Florence is a cute touristy seaside town, and we celebrated by getting seafood at a restaurant on the pier, although it’s technically a bay and not the true ocean. We were warned in the local bike shop that the next stretch of Highway 101 – which we’d follow all the way north to Astoria – was the worst, narrow shoulders and curves and wind and distracted cars. It was beautiful, soaring cliffs and fog drifting over the green hills giving glimpses of the ocean below, but cold and so windy, there were times we could barely move forward. We were going to stop at a store/campground that was on our map, but there was no store and we needed dinner, so we pushed on, dragging because we hadn’t really eaten enough that day. We finally got to Yachats, an ocean vacation town, went to an awesome little brewery/farm-to-table restaurant and looked up hotels. Camping in the cold fog just didn’t sound fun. We found a motel with a weird little lighthouse room with twin bunk beds, but it was cheap and dry and warm! We swam in the hotel’s basement pool and cooked our mac’n’cheese with our camping stove on the bathroom floor, and slept like rocks.
Due to enjoying the comfy beds, we didn’t leave til 10 the next day. Cold and dreary weather is not motivating! Our route led along the beach for a while, and we trekked down across the sand with our bikes to get pictures by the water. Realizing we truly went sea-to-sea with our bikes felt pretty incredible. We passed through a lot of cute beach towns, stopped at Rogue Brewery in Newport, and planned to camp at a state park near Lincoln City but once again it was cold and foggy so we opted again for a hotel. Our tolerance level for toughing it out clearly plummets when it’s cold and wet!
We ate breakfast at the hotel and left earlier than the day before. Our route was hilly but beautiful, including a detour inland from Highway 101 which brought us sunny pine forests before returning to the fog of the coast. I got stung by a bee that flew under my helmet strap and ended up with a swollen cheek – this was my second bee sting while biking incident of the trip! Robert somehow seems immune. We passed Cape Wakanda, where beautiful rock formations shrouded in mist came in and out of view, and passed through the town of Cannon Beach with it’s iconic Haystack Rock. Finally, we stopped at the Tillamook Creamery for the tour, cheese samples, and ice cream. We meant to go a few miles further, but we hadn’t factored in that the Oregon coast on weekends during the summer is a vacation destination, and every hotel was either sold out or super expensive, so we found a tent site at an RV park near Tillamook. We cooked pasta sitting in the cold mist, making us both a bit grumpy.
With the scarcity of hotel rooms, we went ahead and booked rooms for the next two nights in Astoria, the official end of the TransAm route, and it was surreal to think that we had only a week left of biking and needed to start thinking about what would come after. We spent a good chunk of the next morning sitting at our campsite working on job things – telephone interview for me and response to a job offer for Robert. We didn’t leave until nearly 11:30 with 70 miles to go to Astoria, not the best planning! We made good time, though, along the flat beachside parts, lots more touristy little towns and then some scenic cliffs. We went through Cannon Beach with its distinctive Haystack Rock – and amazingly, had sun for much of the day! It was exciting to come into Astoria after so long anticipating it – we entered from the south and had views of the huge Astoria bridge and the colorful town perched on the hill of the peninsula, with large freighters in the Columbia River beyond. It was cloudy but with that beautiful golden evening light shining on the water. We stopped for burritos then biked down to the hotel along the waterfront, stopping to venture out only a large pier for views and to gawk at the sea lions piled on the end, barking frantically at us.
We spent the morning of our rest day sitting in the hotel lobby overlooking the ocean, working on planning and drinking lots of coffee. The historical signs told us that Lewis & Clark camped at the overlook where our hotel was located. We headed into town for the afternoon to visit a bike shop and explore, and thanks to it being the weekend of the Astoria Regatta, we joined an enthusiastic crowd to watch the marine parade of Coast Guard ships and local boats before getting a wonderful seafood dinner. We got soaking wet biking back to the hotel in the rain, enjoyed the hot tub and then to my chagrin found that the laundry room closed at 9pm, so we were unable to wash our completely dirty wardrobe. Between this, and the emotions of nearing the end of the trip, I was a pretty grumpy person when we headed to bed.
Heading into the next day, we were geared up for a week of finding our own route up the peninsula, now that we were no longer on an ACA route. We’d initially considered crossing the four mile Astoria bridge to the western coast of the Olympic Peninsula and going around that side, but as we’d researched we realized that route would be very remote, with limited services and lodging, and most likely very wet. Instead we decided to follow the river east and follow a more central route up to Puget Sound. It was a pretty pleasant ride from Astoria, winding along the Columbia River through wet forests filled with ferns and moss. We had several climbs but none more than 600 feet of elevation gain, and passed through several small towns. We got to take a tiny ferry over the Columbia to an island covered in farmland before connecting to the other side by a bridge, where we wound through neighborhoods to the larger town of Longview. We had to stop to look at the map a bit more since we no longer had the convenience of a pre-made GPS route to follow.
We planned to make it to a campground north of the town of Castle Rock, but shortly before entering town Robert got a flat, and upon further inspection of his rear tire, noticed cracks at the base of each spoke all the way around the rim. After a roadside discussion of how risky it would really be to continue riding with the tire in that condition, we decided to play it safe and stop in Castle Rock for the night. Since a repair would require getting to a larger town, this effectively ended our trip – it was still sinking in as we slowly rolled into town and tried to figure out the best way to get a ride from there the next day. It felt rather anti-climactic to all of a sudden just be done. At first we arranged for my mom to drive down and pick us up, since we were headed to her house, but serendipity and the kindness of near-strangers showed itself again when Gary, a cyclist we’d crossed paths with briefly in Kansas and who’d been tracking our trip on Strava, saw a comment from Robert about our technical difficulties. He and his wife just happened to be on the southern WA coast and was going to be driving back to the Seattle area the next day, and offered to swing by and pick us up. He even rigged up a rooftop bike rack out of wood that morning to make it work! We traded lots of bike touring stories on the drive, then finished out our biking by riding on to the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston to meet my mom.
We spent several days at my mom’s house recuperating and planning for our next big step – the move to Denver to start our new jobs in just a few short weeks. We packed up our bikes to send them on to Denver, and felt a mix of bittersweet feelings as it sunk in that our TransAmerica voyage, this incredible journey of pushing ourselves, experiencing new places, and meeting so many people, had come to an end. It’s taken way longer than we’d planned to finish writing about our trip – expect one final post with a summary of statistics and things we learned along the way, and thank you so much for reading!