September 7 - From Tokeland, WA to Astoria, OR
DESCRIPTION: Mileage: 77 miles. Terrain: Gently rolling. Highlights: Much of today will be spent along the shoreline of Willapa Bay, passing its wildlife refuge and small waterfront communities. The highlight of the day will be crossing into Astoria, OR, at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. Today is Barbara and Jim's 26th wedding anniversary!
OVERNIGHT: Bayshore Motel, Astoria (503.325.2205)
The group headed off under a thin overcast that kept things cool until our lunch stop at Bruceport County Park, just past South Bend. Much of the area is salt marsh with an abundance of bird life: hawks, cormorants, pelicans, etc. Lots of fishermen in hip boots, too.
Above: At the lunch stop, the surrounding growth was full of ripening blackberries.
Above: There was a huge stump with convoluted roots and lots of hiding places for...?
Above: This is typical of the big logging trucks common along the Northwest coast. For the most part, their drivers are extremely skillful and courteous.
Above: Barbara swings into the lunch stop, well-prepared for cool weather: foot-warmers, fleece vest, arm-warmers, winter gloves, and balaclava to keep her head and neck warm--but bare legs!
Above: One of the interesting features of today's ride was passing through a dark, narrow, hundred-yard-long tunnel. At each end, there was a button for cyclists to press that activated flashing lights to alert motorists to the presence of cyclists in the tunnel.
Above: The finale was crossing the four-plus-mile bridge across the Columbia. The two vehicle lanes were narrow, and the virtually nonexistent bike lanes were littered with glass, dead animals, and other trash. Those who rode across reported incidents of close passes, but most played it safe and opted for a van shuttle.
Above: The span included two vaulting sections for marine traffic, and this one over the main shipping channel turned out to be a challenging climb and descent.
Ride Statistics: We rode 76.4 miles. All agreed it was the hardest day, even though it was virtually flat. The trouble was 18 miles of very rough road in the beginning (punishing to the seat, neck, and hands) followed by more than 40 miles of headwinds through rolling hills. A motorist taking the same route might think it was relatively flat, but to a bicyclist, it was coastal rollers, with a few good climbs. The headwinds were the real battle; they were brutal! The total elevation gain was 1,762--obviously not flat! The best in our group managed to average about 16 mph; the rest did around 14.
Total Washington State Ride Statistics: We rode 454 miles with a total elevation gain of 15,487 feet!
Update on Jim's Medical Condition: After three-and-a-half days of taking antibiotics, sitz baths, and riding around in the van with no noticeable improvement, Jim went to the emergency room in Astoria and had his abscess lanced and drained. There was only moderate pain involved, and it put an end to any possibility of getting in the saddle again for the rest of the trip. But at least he's on the way to recovery and still enjoying the vacation.