Day 11 - Portland OR to Clatskanie OR (77 miles)
Today was Saturday and I had been looking forward to attending church. I'm a Seventh-day Adventist and we worship on the traditional Sabbath day instead of Sunday. As there is a very large Adventist community in Portland I was confident of finding a church to attend. Just so I wouldn't shock them, I put on some semi-descent clothes instead of my usual cycling attire.
I had breakfast at a restaurant just up the road from the hotel. There were long queues of people waiting for tables, even though it was only 08:00; probably a reflection of how popular Portland was that weekend, as evidenced by the problems I had finding a hotel room. Since I was alone I was able to sit at the counter, which is a great place to sit anyway; one has a better opportunity to meet people than when ensconced in a table or a booth. It also gave me a close view of what people were eating, which was in many respects disconcerting - at least to a vegetarian!
Meat and eggs were the order of the day, served with the large portions for which American restaurants are famous for. I had a waffle which I ordered with the butter on a side plate and no whipped cream. I had been fortunate to see the way they normally served it and I knew that I had no hope of coping with their normal servings.
My waitress was friendly in the typical way of most Americans and I was surprised to hear that the young child sitting at the end of the counter with her father was her granddaughter! I forget that I'm now 44 years old and that there are people my age (and younger) who are grandparents -- probably in part because my wife and I don't have any children.
I cycled towards town and the church which was closest to the hotel. Portland, at least this part, was much hillier than I had expected and since it was a hot, humid morning I worked up a sweat quite quickly. So much for wearing my semi-decent clothes. The traffic was surprisingly heavy, but there were cycle lanes which gave me a modicum of security. The church was further than I anticipated but I duly arrived only to find it closed. I was quite disappointed but this was not the first time that I have had such an experience. I found out later that there had been a regional meeting which everyone attended, but so much for catering for people wandering in off the street. They didn't even put up a sign telling potential visitors their options. Very bad form.
There was a school adjacent to the church so I parked my bike out of the way and changed into my cycling clothes. I then headed west further into Portland. My map was at a very large scale so I had to dead reckon it to find my way back to the cycle route. I just headed west and eventually found myself in the centre of the city. After a few wrong turns I came across the Willamette River, which essentially marks the western edge of Portland. With a bit of navigation around the one way street network I crossed the river and found myself in 'old' Portland.
This area was marked by a series of lovely old brick buildings, but there was also a huge number of itinerants, many of whom were sleeping in the park running along the Willamette River. It was very sad to see so many needy people and I wondered what they did for the extended periods when it rained. Were I to be homeless Portland, with its high rainfall would be well down on my list of places to stay.
There was a trail along the river which I decided to follow. A woman stopped me to chat. From San Francisco here husband had spent 3 years travelling around the world by bicycle. She had joined him for Vietnam, while she was 6 months pregnant. I was impressed. She shared with me how she missed the simplicity of long-distance cycle touring when all you need is carried on your bike. I could relate. These tours are so rejuvenating for me, physically, psychologically and emotionally. The ultimate stress relief.
The trail was very popular, it was a lovely warm, sunny Saturday morning, and I could see that it continued across the river. Pity that I hadn't found it earlier. There were many walkers, cyclists and joggers. I followed the river north, winding my way past offices and apartments. There were historical plaques describing the history of the area. Portland was a terminus for grain produced further inland, and at one time the river was lined with grain silos and other primary produce industries. Today most have vanished.
The trail ended and I found myself in an industrial area. I just continued along the river but eventually the road ended at an industrial park. Blast. I wound my way back and eventually found my way to Highway 30 which would take me west towards Astoria. It was a very busy road so it was not much fun. I stopped to call my wife and then chatted with some fireman who were getting refreshments. They were very friendly and keen on seeing my maps showing the route I had followed. They advised me to follow Highway 101 north in Washington which proved to be great advice.
On their trip L&C observed that this area was ideal for settlement by Europeans (it was already heavily populated by Indians), with Lewis noting that it was "the only desireable situation for a settlement which I have seen on the West side of the Rocky Mountains". The Portland/Vancouver area were by far the largest populated area on my trail, and I was glad to see the back of them.
It was yet another hot day, not that I mean to complain. I would far prefer to be toasted and roasted than wet and soggy. There were quite a few cyclists making the most of the day, but unfortunately also quite a few motorists. At least the road had moderate shoulders, but I missed some of the quiet back roads I had been graced with up until now. My weather was quite the opposite to that encountered by L&C who were presented with misty, cloudy days. On 3 November Clark 1805 Clark wrote "the fog So thick this morning we did not think it prudent to Set out untill 10 oClock". The Indians had guided them through channels but the expedition was excited since they knew the end was near.
At the delightfully named town of 'Scappoose' I went into the local Chamber of Commerce and cooled down. They were well equipped with information on things to do in the area so I used that as an excuse to dawdle and reduce my core temperature. The thermometer outside read 105 degrees and without a cloud in the sky it was no wonder I was melting.
I was tempted to go into St Helens as it seemed to have a few interesting sights to see, but I decided to press on towards Ranier. I had a lunch break at the local 'Safeway' supermarket. Sitting in a shaded corner with my bicycle, I enjoyed eating half a chilled watermelon. There are few things in life as refreshing on a hot day. At the telephone booth there was a tract from a very conservative Seventh-day Adventist group espousing their narrow minded view of Christianity. Given my lack of success earlier that morning in attending church I found it quite ironic.
My destination for the day was Ranier but when I got there I was unsuccessful at finding a place to stay. It's main claim to fame seemed to be a bridge crossing the Columbia to Longview. I had a rest under the bridge and then headed onwards -- and upwards. There was quite a climb for the next few miles. Still, it gave me a fantastic view upriver.
When tacking a long hill one just puts the head down and peddles. At the rest stop where I took the above photo a couple stopped and complemented me on my tenacity. That is one of my traits -- and not always for the best. At the top there was a lookout where there were two young people and their dog. They were living rough in their car and looked the worse for it. Another sign that things aren't the best in Oregon. I later read in the paper that there is a very high unemployment rate in the state and yet people from other parts of the country still come looking for work. For those with jobs, wages have been depressed by the ready pool of unemployed people. A very sad situation.
It was a downhill run to Clatskanie which, as always, I enjoyed. On my way down I had a fright since I saw a young deer emerge from the road and go to run across the road. I was certain that it was going to be hit by the uphill traffic, but fortunately the lead vehicle stopped in time, frightening the deer so that it returned to the forest. I had passed quite a few dead deer during my travels so I was pleased this one got away!
Clatskanie was nestled in the bottom of the valley and looked to be a nice town. There was one motel which I had called earlier. It was run by East Indians (from Gujarat), like most of the motels in the US it seems. It would be interesting to see what percentage of American motels are owned by people with the name Patel (in Gujarat as common as the name 'Jones' in Wales). Facing the afternoon sun, the room was like an oven but at least the air conditioner worked.
After a cooling shower I went across the road and had a huge meal of pizza and salad bar. The restaurant had a display with the photos of the locals who were serving with the US armed forces. I thought it was great to see such support. They lost money on me with the salad bar - never let a hungry cycle tourist into an 'all you can eat establishment'. We may not be large, but there is a huge hole which needs to be filled. There goes all the profit.
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