Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don's Blog: June 19: Getting the Ride Underway

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Don’s Blog: June 19: Getting Underway


The bike ride is now officially underway. Yesterday was mostly taken up with meetings and registration, as well as a bike check. The folks that organize this ride appear to be very organized and very strict on rules and regulations. I suppose it has to be that way, given the magnitude of staging a cycling caravan across the continental United States.


One thing I was not expecting Sunday was to be on the bike, since the riding was set to begin on Monday. As it turns out, the Pacific Ocean is situated some 10 miles from the host hotel in Astoria. A tradition in cross country bike rides is that of dipping one’s bike wheel in the ocean, then doing the same thing at the finish, in the Atlantic. Given that the ocean was 10 miles away, a 20-mile round trip ride was required to perform the ceremony. So I had to adjust my plan and do the ride. Now all I have to do is reach the Atlantic!


There are about 45 riders on hand to do the entire cross country trek, along with another 20 or so going part way. The group is a typical mix of mostly older men, along with a some couples on tandems, and a few solo women. The later will surely not lack for conversation during the course of the ride. Tomorrow the real riding gets underway.


Today marked the actual beginning the ride eastward, towards the final destination. My goal was simply to ride easily and not push too hard. As basic as that sounds, it is not always an easy plan to execute. In a group ride you often find yourself near a small pack of riders. Given the physics of motion and the amount of effort required to move air out of the way in cycling, drafting behind another rider or a group of riders reduces that effort. But in doing so you need to concentrate on sustaining the exact pace of the pack you are riding with.


Since almost all of my training was done solo, I feel most comfortable riding that way. But that can result in a lot of energy output when any kind of headwind is present. Today, for the most part, the wind was our friend, so I was not penalized for riding alone, which I did for about half of the ride. The rest was with various other riders and groups.


It was a challenging route nonetheless however, mostly due to two climbs of more than 600 feet, along with the nature of the road. There was a shoulder on which to ride, but it was not all that wide in places. In addition, all kinds trucks were roaring by at regular intervals, from pickups to logging trucks, to double-sized tractor trailers. On the long descents it made for some nervous moments. In all of my training in Massachusetts, I did not encounter a climb or descent as steep what we saw today. And that is only a small taste of what lies ahead. I hope to get more comfortable with these ups and downs as the ride progresses.


We ended the day’s ride in the town of St Helens, some 70 miles from Astoria. To say this place is depressing would be putting in nicely. A lonely outpost on route 30, it doesn’t seem to have much going for it. That the motel in which we are staying has a wireless Internet connection is nothing short of amazing.


For decades the Pacific Northwest relied upon logging to sustain its economy. With that industry in decline, the region has to had shift to keep pace, but some towns such as this one have found it difficult to do so.


On a lighter note, one of the gals at dinner last night remarked that she saw a "logging and tanning company" in her travels. “That seemed a really odd combination” she added. The tanning sign she saw however, was not a salon to bronze the body, but rather for treating leather, not often seen nowadays. Culture clashes are inevitable, I suppose. On to tomorrow.