Epilogue

The Corps of Discovery left Fort Clatsop and began their return journey on Mar 23, 1806. It took one month to reach the Walla Walla River, and they arrived at the Nez Perce village near Orofino in mid-May. There, they gathered the horses they’d left with the Nez Perce during the westward journey, and established camp to wait for the snow to melt. Lewis was impatient. He started out too soon and was forced to return, finding previous campsites covered with over 10 feet of snow. Finally, on June 24, 1806, the party was able to set out with some Nez Perce guides.

During their return, Lewis and Clark split up and explored the Marias and Yellowstone rivers, respectively. During this time, Lewis’s party on the Marias was attacked by a bear, Joseph Field killed a Blackfoot man who had tried to steal Fields’s gun, and Lewis was accidentally shot by one of his own men on the day before the Expedition was reunited. On Aug 12, Lewis and Clark rejoined 60 miles below the confluence of the Missouri and the Yellowstone. Lewis made his final entry in the journals, describing a bird and and some cherries. Six weeks later, on Sep 23, the party rowed into St. Louis.

Back at the warm Portland sunrise, Paige and I walked down to the waterfront in the pre-dawn.

Salmon Street Springs

A lull in traffic: six people, four of them on bikes

Open 7 days a week. It’s free.

Headed downstream on the Willamette

Hawthorne Bridge.

The Hawthorne Bridge is the oldest “vertical-lift” drawbridge in the nation. In 2012, on an average weekday, it carried over 8,000 cyclists every day. It also carries 800 buses carrying over 17,000 people. Daily.

We walked over to Mother’s for migas and coffee, then had some VD (Voodoo Doughnuts) for dessert.

She jumped on the MAX to the airport, and I returned to the hotel to pack the bike. I headed back up the Columbia, past the miles of lakeside and wildfires. Here’s one on the WA side, just north of Rufus, OR, where I stopped for gas.

I passed a convoy of ten onion trucks.

Onions along The Dalles

and some kind of silo…?

150 miles up the Columbia, I veered south as the river veered north, and I began the inland journey. Southeast of Pendleton, OR, I crossed the Blue Mountains through the very scenic Umatilla National Forest.

Oh, I hope not…

The road curves to the southeast, crossing the northeast corner of OR and then the Snake River on the OR/ID border. 429 miles and 7 hours after leaving PDX, I circled the south Boise hotel district before gliding into a decent but overpriced riverside hotel around dusk. I would have been more frugal and headed back to the cookie-cutter hotels along the interstate, but I smelled food from their outdoor restaurant.

On Wednesday, I made 390 miles in 7 hours continuing on I-84 into Utah. One interesting sight on the way was the Malad Gorge, about 90 miles southeast of Boise on I-84. It’s part of Thousand Springs state park.

Looking up the Malad River from the bridge.

It’s only a couple miles long, 250 feet deep. There is a 60-foot waterfall directly under a footbridge which crosses the gorge alongside I-84. I noticed it as I crossed on the highway bridge, so I took the next exit, paid the $4 day use fee, and went over to the rim.

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon. Crevasses forming above the Malad River.

I caught US 40 (after a 10-mile wrong turn) east of SLC and found a campground at Lake Jordanelle in the Wasatch Mountains just east of Park City. One other car camper and a half dozen RVs in the Hailstone camp. Nice campground with showers (open on Oct 3) and laundromat (already closed for season on Oct 3). It was windy so I found a site with a pretty deep depression for the tent and some windblocking trees. This was the coldest night of the trip: 28F. It was fine inside the tent. My tent is a North Face Tadpole, and was a gift from my brother Matt in 1993. One of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever used. In snow, rain, wind–this tent has been perfect for one, and sometimes two. With a 20-degree bag and tent flaps closed, it’s plenty cozy.

The next day I set out over Daniels Pass and down the Strawberry River valley, retracing the route I’d driven when moving from Seattle to Lawrence in 1997. The road crosses the Green River before entering Colorado and the joining the Yampa River. It is a beautiful route through the high desert of northern UT ad CO before arriving at Steamboat Springs, home of F.M. Light, as announced by the bazillion or so yellow signs which start appearing many, many miles to the west.

Hwy 40: highly recommended.

Rabbit Ears Pass, elev. 9429 ft.

Hence the name. Yeah, I know the photo sucks.

At the top of Rabbit Ears Pass, just east of Steamboat on US 40, it was a bright, sunny day.

On to Kremmling, still planning on heading out to the prairie of eastern CO on US 34 via Rocky Mt. Nat’l Park, but storms were forming ahead and the temperature was dropping. I started up the Fraser River as clouds began to gather above. It was still light, so I continued another 30 miles to Granby, where I stopped and put on my electric jacket and gloves. I had already decided to sleep indoors, as the weather was turning and clouds were dropping quickly over the passes to the east and south. But it was still clear to the southeast, so I carried on another 20 miles up the Fraser to Winter Park (on the advice of a hotel sign above a grungy motel in Granby promising a nice room in WP), thus abandoning my plan to visit RMNP and Estes Park. When I got to WP, the hotel turned out to be another grungy motel. There was still cloudfall to the east and to the southwest, but to the south, Berthoud Pass looked clear, and it was only 35 more miles to the next civilization, so I proceeded on, enjoying a cold twilight cruise over 11,315-ft pass on the way to a pizza and a hot springs spa in Idaho Springs. 433 miles in 8.5 hours.

Next morning started with snow.

I stalled for a few Fahrenheits at the Mainstreet Restaurant. By the time I got done with my excellent(!) french toast, the clouds had disappeared and the sun shone brightly on Idaho Springs. I hopped on I-70 to start the long glide across the prairie. But after five minutes, we dropped into a dense fog which hung over west Denver. We slowed to 40 mph or so for the descent into the South Platte River valley, where we dropped out of the cloud, crossed the Denver basin and I set sail across the cold, cloudy, rainy plains. I’d hoped to make the whole 600-mile trip back to Lawrence in one final push–it’s a trip I’ve made many times by car and moto–but variable gusts of wind, frequent fog, dropping temps, and the constant threat of rain almost had me bailing out in Goodland. I’m glad I pressed on, because east of Colby, conditions stabilized at around 45F and the wind let up as the highway turned southeast. I calculated a 7:30 pm arrival in Salina, but quickly realized a 6 p.m. stop in Hays would be closer to a brewpub: Lb Brewery on 11th for dinner and a delicious amber ale, then back to my “highway-vue special” room at the Ramada just at sunset. 370 miles in 7 hours.

The $49.99 special was really a $59.99 special. Apparently (unless you want a smoking room) the lower rate does not apply on the weekends, which must be why it was flashing in red numbers on the marquee on a Friday…? It was rainy and 40F the next morning when I finished loading the black beast for the last time and the final 230 miles, under the driveway portico and the wondering gaze of the three smokers gathered in their pajamas for a morning puff. Arrived back home about 1 p.m., where Paige welcomed me home with lunch and a beautiful bouquet from the garden!

Unloaded and washed the bike in the cold fall afternoon. And about the bike…

What a machine. That is all.

Trip specs:

  • 4,908 miles in 13 days.
  • Average daily mileage: 377.
  • Longest day: 528 miles (Orofino, ID, to Fort Stevens State Park/Astoria, OR)
  • Shortest day: 130 miles (Fort Stevens to Portland, OR)
  • Gasoline used: 114 gallons
  • Average mileage: 43.1 mpg
  • Average price/gal: $4.00 or so
  • Lowest elevation: Astoria, OR (0 ft)
  • Highest elevation: Berthoud Pass, CO (11,315 ft)

I’ve had several people ask me about the best moments on the trip. Two of my favorites are 1) traveling up to and arriving at the spring at the headwaters of the Missouri, and 2) reaching the Pacific at sunset two nights later. I also enjoyed my stay at the Heart River. But the best was walking into the Modera in Portland after eight days on the bike, in my road blacks and boots, my helmet hair perfect like a werewolf’s, to find Paige waiting for me. What a sweetie. Thanks for meeting me for dinner on the far side of the continent, babe!

My mileage plan turned out to be pretty spot-on. I rode comfortable distances, physically and logistically. And I lounged. I took my time. I didn’t even ride in the dark. I enjoyed my camp coffee down by the riverside, usually stopped and sat down for lunch and had dinner by sunset. The bike is very comfortable, very quiet, very smooth. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t wake up ready to get back on and ride. I only had one day–the morning we left Portland–where I could have maybe stayed in one place for just one day, but by lunch I was over that. I could comfortably do 10-20% more miles if I wanted to make time and didn’t stop for random stuff as much as I did on this trip. Which was the point.

What’s next? Well, I was talking with a fellow moto rider about my plans for this trip, and he suggested I do a Four Corners trip. I said, “Oh, I’ve been to the Four Corners…”

Nope. Not that Four Corners. He meant the four corners of the continental U.S.: Blaine, WA; San Diego, CA; Key West, FL; and Madawaska, at the northern tip of Maine. It would be around 11,000 miles for me, and would also take me through the last four states in the lower 48 that I have not visited: FL, NH, VT, and ME. I also have never been to Alaska or Hawaii. I know! I know! I lived in Seattle for years! How could I not have gone to Alaska AND Hawaii?

They’re on my list.

Happy travels,

Eric

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