Day 135–140, 23-28 Nov 2008: Metal Cowboys, cycling in Portland, giving thanks with an old friend and to the beach…
Before we headed over to Portland, we had to visit an old friend we had never met! I had known MC & Dave since years by email & via the 7summits.com forum, but we had never met in person. It was great to finally meet them and we stayed longer than planned as they took us on a nice sightseeing trip through the Columbia River Canyon, with its gorgeous waterfalls and hosted us for the night in their great house. It was hard to say goodbye the next day, but we had another interesting date to get to that evening…
After arriving late at night in Portland, we ended up in the house of a well-known cyclist: Joe Kurmaskie, aka ‘The Metal Cowboy’. It was much fun to talk about his and our tours and meet and having dinner with his wonderful family in person, after having read about them in their books. It is great that even a well-known person like Joe gives back by offering ‘Warm Shower’ to biketravellers.
After adjusting our bikes we managed to catch his escaped cat the next morning, and we headed off to see Portland. It is known to be pretty and one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US and our hopes were high. We got quite disappointed; even though there were many people cycling and there were some nice streets with alternative shops and interesting architecture, it was still another noisy big city, mainly because of endless streams of large cars.
I realized that we had gotten spoilt in Amsterdam and the Netherlands: everything is focused around cycling: almost all roads have separate bike lanes, with their own traffic lights and distance markers. Nobody wears helmets because it is safe to cycle and because bicycles have the right of way in many situations. Here in Portland it was already nearly impossible to get into the city from the North as there are no clear signs and the big I5 highway has no easy way for bikes to cross the river.
25th November: Portland – McMinnville 63km: meeting an old friend!
After staying one more night with Couchsurfer Adam (one of the few Portlanders without a car?), we pushed our bikes up the steep hills and continued along the Pacific Highway 99. The rain came down nonstop and we had to adjust our brakes, in order to safely stop for the many traffic lights on the wet hills.
Once out of the city we stopped at a SafeWay to get some lunch and got into a bizarre conversation with some teenage kids. It deserves its own post which I will try to write up soon…
Back on the rainy road, I was passed by a car who pulled over to the shoulder. Thinking it was somebody who wanted to encourage us in some way, I stopped and waited for the driver to step out into the rain. It took about half a second before I recognized the smiling face that appeared on the asphalt: Ben! Our cycling buddy from the Dalton Highway! It had been 4 months since we had said goodbye in Fairbanks after riding down one of the hardest roads in the world together with Ben and his friends. Even though it was pouring rain, he thought he recognized Ivana’s Santos Bike and when he passed me as well, he was sure it was us!
It is a small planet after all, especially as we had no idea that his family lived so close. He was on his way to a place called McMinnville, to spend Thanksgiving there. He jotted down the name and number and promised to email their street address.
We had already arranged to spend the night in the house of Gary Schultz, an active traveller, who showed us pictures from all his great trips, but the next day we went to see Ben’s family: Carol & Mike. They are amazingly warm people and immediately invited us to stay the next days, so we could celebrate thanksgiving with them. It was nice to catch up with Ben as well, so we gladly accepted the invitation. We spend all day preparing the huge meal and had a great time together. Though we had so different backgrounds and beliefs, we were all thankful for life and for the opportunity to meet warm people like them.
28 November: McMinnville – Otis, 82 km, back to the coast
It was a fast ride to the coast, we zoomed across misty fields and empty hazelnut trees and had only one small pass to conquer before we could follow the Salmon River down to the coast. We had some trouble finding the place of our Couchsurfing host Alan, but when we got to his place it was worth the extra meters of uphill.
Alan lives close to the coast and he took us across the estuary for a walk on the beach, just in time before the night fell. While Ivana made some more of her famous pies, we finished the night watching some movies, getting ready for yet another famous part of our journey: The Oregon Coast!
Joe Kurmaskie is a famous cyclist as he has written and published many stories about his travels, very recommended for cyclists as well as couch potatoes with a sense of humour and adventure.
He got the nickname “The Metal Cowboy” from a blind person he met on the way… He also met his wife Beth on one of his trips, and it is very nice to see them and their family (3 boys) together now!
Joe is trying to get 1000 1000 Americans to (re)start cycling again before August 9, 2009, see also the news announcement on BikeTravellers.com.