After 51 days on the move, spending an entire week in Portland was a serious change of pace. We were used to tiny towns with a church, a restaurant (if we were lucky) and seldom more than a few hundred residents. In towns as quaint as these, there was not much navigating or decision-making to speak of. Upon entering Portland we found ourselves surrounded by a never-ending supply of people, restaurants, food carts, breweries, shops and outdoor summer festivals. We had no choice but to hop back on our bikes, keep our maps handy and go exploring.
Even if you know nothing about Portland, you’ve probably heard, like we had, that it is an extremely bike friendly city. We were all very excited to learn how Portland’s bike system worked; visions of magical bike routes and express biker lanes danced in our heads! But what we learned was that this well-deserved reputation depended, more than anything, on a commitment to and respect for bicycle culture and a critical mass of people on bikes. We also learned, after a few days of making wrong turns and hitting dead ends, that knowing the layout and the neighborhoods of a city is (obviously) the key to having a pleasant biking experience!
Did we mention biking makes us hungry? This was not a difficult problem to solve in a town brimming with tasty restaurants and food carts. From late night chocolate prociutto crepes and poutine to delicious korean burritos and super spicy Thai duck, we sure sampled our fair share of Portland’s culinary bounty. But our most exciting food adventure of all was getting to experience a food cart in the making. After a friendly conversation with Andrew, an employee at Tender Loving Empire (Awesome craft store, silkscreen operation and record label: http://www.tenderlovingempire.com/) we got invited to taste (I mean eat..a lot of) Belgian waffles at the house of Andrew’s friends who had just recently decided to open up a waffle cart (VolksWaffle: http://www.facebook.com/pages/VolksWaffle/140341299324897?ref=ts). They had spent the month revamping their van, perfecting their recipes and making the necessary phone calls and were only a week away from opening up shop. We were ever so willing to help them with their trial run by chowing down on delicious, hot waffles, home-made fruit spreads and spiced butters. And we had lots to talk about because it just so happens all of the waffle folk had also gone on bike tours of their own! Oh, Portland…
Another exciting culinary treat was getting to eat and drink at Irving St. Kitchen (http://irvingstreetkitchen.com/), Portland’s ‘Best New Restaurant’, according to Willamette Week. We felt like celebrities as we received dish after complimentary dish, sent out to us from the kitchen by Jenny’s high school Buddy Brian who works as the restaurant’s sous chef. We were also quite taken by the dining room’s interior which was finished with reclaimed barn wood and light fixtures made from rusty chicken feeders and milk bottles. A modern-rustic farmhouse décor, if you will. In addition to feeding us in this classy joint, Brian also let us crash on his floor for a few nights!
At the Stumptown roastery we got to taste – or as they call it “cup” – some of the hottest (get it!?) coffee on the market. We learned how coffee is picked, roasted, brewed and about all of Stumptown’s awesome sustainable business practices: how they are able to address all sorts of social justice issues while simultaneously producing a top notch cup of joe.
Because summers in Portland are so beautiful and unusually sunny, there are a bunch of organized events held outside! At the Bones and Brew outdoor festival, we enjoyed some ribs and cider.
We looked on in awe at the strange and wacky spectacle that is the ‘Last Thursdays’ street fair on Alberta Street, complete with drum circles, hula hoopers, people handing out free lavender, “professional” advice givers and lots of art and crafts.
And we sat back and relaxed among hundreds of other Portlanders to watch The Three Amigos outside on the Pioneer Courthouse Square. If you must know, Janelle is Chevy Chase, Joey is Steve Martin and Jenny is Martin Short. These roles replaced our previous trio: Jenny as William Clark, Joey as Meriwether Lewis, and Janelle as Sacagawea.
Also, we went to Cannon Beach (on a bus, whoops)! Jenny was transformed into a mermaid and we took a very pretty hike in the Ecola State Park while the sun was setting over the ocean. How romantic!
There’s lots more we could say about Portland but really, we just think everyone should pay it a visit. It is all the wonderful things everyone says it is, and then some. If and when you go, bring your bike.
So ends the Giant Mega Adventure. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely in these 8 weeks. Hopefully we were able to convey some of our experience through this blog, but for every person, place and thing that we wrote about here, there are 10 more that we didn’t have time to mention. Being on a bike and away from the comfort of our homes has meant experiencing so many extremes in such a short amount of time. Our intense hunger was met by ever-larger plates of breakfast food. The excruciating pain of riding through a relentless headwind culminated in a sense of triumph and satisfaction that you don’t get from a trip to the gym. The dirt and salt caked on our skin made even a three-minute coin-metered shower feel like luxury. Such extremes can be exhausting, but they are also exciting and life affirming and have a magical way of waking you up to all sorts of possibilities.
The most important and memorable extremes of the trip were when we were feeling low and just plain tired of being homeless and strangers invited us into their homes (or yards!) and cared for us like we were their own. The spirit of generosity, trust and kindness that we encountered so often in our travels will not be forgotten any time soon. We are headed home to see our families now, but we learned during our Giant Mega Adventure that it is when strangers treat one another like family that the world becomes a very lovely place indeed.
As you might have heard, we are in Portland! It took us 51 days (well, 46 biking days), 6 flat tires (mostly on Joey’s bike), approximately 160 Cliff Bars, at least 15 servings of biscuits and gravy, and 7 maps covering approximately 2655 miles, BUT WE MADE IT!!
Thanks to everyone who helped us out, gave us a place to stay, fed and watered us, followed our blog, gave us advice and inspiring quotations. Thanks, also, to everyone, near and far, who joined in our last day parade.
Don’t worry, the blog won’t stop here! We have a week of celebration in Portland to tell you all about. Count on a lot of photos and talk of food . . .
Now is the time! Get off your bum, put it on a bike seat and join the parade! Today we will pedal our last leg into Portland, OR with 2700 miles behind us and face paint ablazin’!
Snap a photo of your bike adventure today – however grand or brief – and you will go down in GMA (Giant Mega Adventure) history as a parade participant! The brave and daring Mira Novak, age 3, is the first to take the challenge!
Email your photo to Joeykorein@gmail.com
We got the hook up in Walla Walla thanks to bicycle enthusiast Rebecca aka RJ! She doesn’t even live in Walla Walla, but through the magic of http://www.warmshowers.org (which everyone reading this should sign up for immediately) she found us the sweetest little organic farm on the outskirts of town for us to set up our tent.
West End Farm grows flowers, vegetables, has chickens laying eggs, baby turkeys for eating (eventually,) and three hard working farmers. http://westendfarm.ipower.com/aboutus.htm. Alice, Jesse, and Dana greeted us with a great meal on Thursday night and gave us a spot in their tent village, which is a summer addition to the farm to keep them cool at night.
We got to sleep in on Friday morning, and when we finally emerged from our tent, we headed into town to the famed Clarette’s for a ‘Big Walla Walla’ breakfast. No, we weren’t planning to bike that day. But yes, we ate all of that breakfast.
After filling our bellies with fuel for our rest day, we headed out in search of wine. First we visited Dusted Valley Winery (“Washington Winery of the Year”, ahem), where we tried a Yakima Valley Viognier, a rose, several Syrahs – one Columbia Valley and one Walla Walla, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. With already stained lips, we headed to Trust Cellars (www.trustcellars.com), where we met Lori Brooks, co-owner with her husband, Steve. Lori poured us a tasty Columbia Valley Riesling, a Cab Franc rose, a couple more Syrahs, and and a Cabernet Sauvignon blend. We are certainly not wine conoisseurs, but it sure tasted good to us. What we enjoyed the most about Trust was hearing about the guts it took Lori and Steve to switch gears mid-life and start a winery… hence the name. As Lori put it, “You can’t write ‘balls’ on a wine bottle.” Also, she gave us some temporary tattoos. Cool.
That night we cooked dinner for our farm friends in their outdoor kitchen and enjoyed the farm until the hungry mosquitoes showed up. We all went bed early so we could wake up for the Walla Walla farmers’ market (some to work and some to eat). We roamed around the stands and ate breakfast burritos and sweet scones contemplating the innappropriately sappy and slow rock synth-ey music selection of the lone musician performing at the market (hopefully we will be able to post a video soon.) The West End Farm’s stand was blooming with flowers, and they gave us some great recomendations for produce for our dinner. We rode out of Walla Walla with our grocery bags full of peaches and squash and began rolling toward Portland . . . seriously . . . it’s on a sign. We are that close!
Lastly, for those of you concerned about our lack of discussion of the famed Walla Walla sweet onion, have no fear! They were everywhere, but all came in large bags that were just not fitting for such light travelers as ourselves. Luckily, we headed out of Walla Walla on an onion route and we were able to pick up a sweet one from the side of the road (it tried to escape from the bins on a truck.) We cleaned it off well, and it proved to be a nice addition to our squash and pasta. Ah, the joys of Washington.
One of the reasons we chose this particular route for our bike trip was that none of us had ever seen very much of the northwest. The landscapes of Wyoming and Montana seemed appropriate enough, but when it came to Idaho, I knew only the one thing that everybody knows – and what the Idaho license plate says – “famous potatoes.” I’m not sure if it was the reputation, or that morning’s measly single breakfast, but as we neared the Lolo pass summit (and border between Montana and Idaho) I was pretty sure we would be coasting down the hill through a sea of tubers – mashed, chunked, smothered, julienned, hashed, baked, twice-baked, french-fried and scalloped.
If it wasn’t for all the very pretty pine trees and sparkling Lochsa river to distract me, I would have been very dissapointed indeed.
For those of you who also expected Idaho to be one large tater tot, here are some pictures to set the record straight.
In addition to landscapes, Idaho also has neat things like the Jerry Johnson hot springs. After the first Idaho day’s ride we parked our bikes and even though it was already getting late, decided to brave the mile and a half hike into the woods to soak in a natural hot spring and chat with some uncharacteristically friendly deer.
It was lovely and we stayed until dusk. The night ended in a decidely less pleasant way as we pitched our tent in the dark at a nearby primitive campsite (at which we were the sole campers) and swatted gnats off our faces until we couldn’t stand it anymore and abandoned the picnic table to eat our dinner PB&J’s in the tent. Not our finest culinary moment…
The next day’s ride was a breeze, coasting down a hill for 60 miles and arriving at our destination near Lowell, ID in time for lunch. We spent the afternoon and evening in a quaint little campsite right on the river. We splashed around, talked with a fellow camper and female corrections officer at a local prison, layed on hot rocks, ate a makeshift version of spaghetti-o’s, roasted marshmallows on a fire and went to sleep to the sound of flowing water.
Our next day’s ride brought us through a town called Kooskia where we sat down and “accidentally” ate a giant second breakfast at the Rivers cafe. Jenny’s order of biscuits and gravy was notable not only for its deliciousness, and its bounty but also its uncanny resemblance to a small model of the north pole.
The rest of the day’s ride was more difficult than expected so we decided to stop 15 miles earlier than we’d planned and stay in the town of Ferdinand. Cyclists beware: do not camp in the yard of Dennis behind the Halfway Country Club (a bar). I will not bother explaining the sequence of events of this weird night but I will tell you that Dennis slurs his words, has “bad blood” with almost everyone in town, demanded a “half order” of our dinner and threatened to throw cantelope at our tent in the morning. It probably goes without saying that we were out of there bright and early…
Onto Lewiston, ID (actually Clarkston, WA which is right across the river) where Brad, owner of TNT cycles, father of 4, avid cyclist and all around awesome guy, resolidified our faith in humanity. We met Brad and his buddy Gregory at the local to have a beer and catch the tail end of that day’s Tour de France, which is now surprisingly fascinating to watch. We all had a nice big dinner together and stayed up late sharing stories and an ENTIRE half gallon tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. He sent us off in the morning with tummies full of matzo bry and apple juice. Thanks again, Brad. You rule.
The ride from Clarkston was uncommonly full of flat tires, hot headwind and hills. We just might have given up midway had we not had the home of Genie and Fred Crowe in Dayton, WA to look forward to. Genie, whose daughter happens also to be a cyclist our age, welcomed us in to her lovely abode atop a hill overlooking beautiful rolling hills of wheat. She fed us a tasty pasta dinner and, in order to satisfy our nasty ice cream habit, a few scoops of vanilla with her own home made rhubarb topping (yum). We took a moonlit walk around the yard, learned about fruit trees, dry peas and Fred’s home made beer made from wild hops. We climbed into bed (real ones) and woke up to home made buscuits, yogurt and granola. Sure is nice to stay with parents – even other people’s parents. Thanks, Genie and Fred, for making us feel so at home!
With our bellies full, we headed down the driveway and biked the quarter mile to Monteillet: a utopian goat farm and fromagerie. The ultra hip young farmers and cheesemakers kindly showed us around and taught us about cheese. We tried some samples, entertained the possibility of never leaving and then instead bought a log of soft ripened artisan cheese to take on the road. In my next life I will be a goat farmer.
The ride between Dayton and Walla Walla was short (30 mi) but windy enough that it still took us all day. There is lots to say about Walla Walla, but I think I have to end this epic blogpost here. Stay tuned for baby turkeys and piglets.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Jenny got stung by a bee for the first and second time:
We’ve confirmed the rumor: if you ask to buy a single ice cream at a Schwann truck, they will HAPPILY give you one for free (and then you will also be happy):
Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes! We were fortunate enough to ride into the happenin’ city of Missoula, MT just in time for my birthday. Well, actually we paraded into town with birthday facepaint, of course. I think our celebratory entry into Missoula really set the tone for our stay, and it proved to be a great spot to celebrate the big 23!
When we first arrived, we went straight to the Adventure Cycling Association offices. Headquartered in Missoula, this is the non-profit that works to promote bicycle travel and who made the maps we are using for our trip. Everyone we have met on our route (who are usually pretty into the ACA and touring culture) told us that we had to stop in and say hello. It was difficult, but we ate the free ice cream they gave us and drank free cold soda . . . rough right? We also went through the touring cyclist right of passage and had our photo taken and added to their wall of cyclists. You can see some of the photos on there website here: http://www.adventurecycling.org/
After our ACA visit, we lived it up in the big city! In just two days we attended a free Thursday night outdoor concert while enjoying freshly fried mini donuts, danced ourselves sweaty at a packed DJ night at the Badlander (a college bar/club,) ate late night biscuits and gravy at the Oxford 24hr resturaunt (and casino . . . yep,) gawked at The Good Food Store’s impressive bulk food section, ate great local food at Biga Pizza and homemade ice cream at Big Dipper, and almost stayed a third day roaming around the many produce and craft markets in the city on Saturday morning. Oh, it was hard to leave Missoula, but we had to make into our sixth state . . . WHAT!
Yes, yes, I realize it’s been a while since we posted a trip update! But we’ve been so busy getting all the way to Missoula, Montana!
After saying goodbye to Matt in Dubois, Wyoming, we began our ride into the wilderness (or zoo, depnding on who you ask) of the national parks. We spent one night in Grand Teton National Park, and two nights in Yellowstone National Park. The mountains were snowy and majestic, and the geysers were impressive (and prompt! as promised), but we happened to arrive during what seemed like the RV convention of the century.
We met some elk, some bison, and some cool guys from Bozeman, Montana who told us enough bear horror stories to dissuade us from meeting any bears.
On Sunday we left Yellowstone and entered Montana. We camped the first night in Ennis, behind the Madison Valley Creamery, next to our new chum Stuart, from Devon, England. We brought the ice cream, he brought the British sarcasm.
The next day we fought our way over a giant hill during a “wind event”. In my opinion, a more apt term for this type of weather might be “wind tunnel” or even “tornado” – it was brutal. But on the other side of the hill was Virginia City, a charming (if slightly campy) historic mining town with some tasty pistachio ice cream. We wound up that evening at Bike Camp (http://www.cyclecamp-twinbridges.com) in Twin Bridges. To our delight, Twin Bridges has done what so many other small towns on this well-travelled cycling route have overlooked. They installed a screened-in building, cooking and bathing facilities, and bike maintenance equipment – all free for touring cyclists.
After Twin Bridges, we headed to the town of Jackson, in the Big Hole basin of Montana. The wind was slightly more forgiving, but the terrain was not. Our route included two intimidating climbs, Big Hole Pass and Carroll Pass. After recovering from Big Hole Pass, Jenny and I wanted to encourage passing cars by giving them a thumbs-up. Then we accidentally accepted a ride from Shane, a friendly grad student, who needed some bikes and people to weigh down the back of his pickup while going up the second pass. Oops… But we made it to Jackson in time to hit up the hot springs and enjoy some beers in the company of Shane’s research crew and a herd of dead animal heads.
Then we biked 92 miles (our longest ride yet!) to Hamilton, where we enjoyed homemade enchiladas and birthday pancakes with
Carl and Terry Tignor, who kindly took us in for the night.
And now we’re here! In Missoula! Taking the town by storm in facepaint and some new “leisure clothes” from Goodwill. After partying it up last night at a dance party downtown, we’re celebrating birthday day number two with more food, less drink. Hoorah!
To whom it may concern: Chamois Butt’r is a far superior product to any other chamois cream. After using an entire tube and failing to find more on our route, it will be sorely missed.