Flying into Portland is a popular choice, I used Icelandair, they are cheap, and I liked the service. take some food on board though, their choice is pretty poor for big eaters. Beware though they charge you £92/$115 each way for the bike and you can’t prepay online. Me and John Souter met in Reykjavik airport for the final flight together. The US immigration at Portland were pretty cool too.
Portland airport even has a bike assembly point, a bike stand and tools with a trackpump, and a place to dump your cardboard box, superb but we never used it.
Pick a place to stay close to a station on the Portland max light railway and your arrival here is much easier. Build your bike at the airport and then take it on the train, or just take the box either way is simple as the terminal is right outside departures.
Off the train at Holywood we were thrust into the aftermath of the big local news event where two guys had been murdered whilst defending a racist abuse attack. The place had become a shrine in both memorial and protest, and was teaming with people and TV crews.
Our Air BnB pad had an en-suite garage, heaven to us as we fought the jet lag to assemble our bikes in our very own workshop.
My journey here of three trains, two buses and two planes and all the bike bag humping involved had taken it’s toll and somewhere along the way I had strained my back. Awaking I was struggling to get out of bed, this involved rolling out and then raising from the floor, oh boy what a start.
We cruised easily out to East Portland in the welcome heat to check the bikes and hit a few brewery taps and bike shops. Luckily pedalling wasn’t to much of a strain, getting on and off the bike, now that was comical.
First chance meeting was in River City bikes, the guys there were keen to meet more Transam racers and offered free coffee. Lochy from Australia was there collecting his brand new bike bought by a complete stranger after his was damaged in an accident. Too bizarre and long a tale to tell here, but he didn’t even know what bike he was getting until arrival, and his receipt for the build looked cool.
Me and John had to make sure we slept well tonight and some relaxing juice was in order at the Lead Dick, the bar taps here are super impressive.
With many riders in town it was a great chance to meet up and get to know some. It’s interesting hearing of their plans and targets, and forming opinions of wether they could deliver on them. It also makes the dot watching more interesting as you tend to treat the people you meet as your adopted family for the whole trip. Requests to meet up were noted on TABR Facebook page and names we’d seen for months became real people over various weird food choices.
Andy Lawrence from the UK, Russel Slater from Canada, and Rod Staines from Australia. Rod had used my download of the USA maps on his Garmin, and we joked how I had spiked his ride before it started. Jen Colesaw joined us here too.
Still suffering a bit from the jet lag that evening we stayed local in Hollywood. Walking over the railway dodging the flower givers and endless candles, for food and beer rather than searching out more riders for an evening session.
Andrew Suzuki had inspired a ride from Portland to the start in Astoria and the route looked fun so we rolled out early on the Thursday into quiet downtown Portland to meet quite a group of keen riders.
119 miles – 8hrs moving – 4000ft elevation – 14.7 avg – 11 hrs 08 actual time
It was clear we had a wide range of abilities assembled, mainly Americans so this was going to be a good chance to learn some initial tips on hobo riding in the US. The Crossley’s a lovely Father and Daughter pairing were there offering support and help as they were driving up. We lined up for photos and this group were to become our TABR family who we would closely follow for the next month.
All yesterdays riders were there, with Andrew, Timothy, Megan, Eric, Jeremy, Simone, Jen, Prashanth, Deneka, David, Danny and James
Andrew Suzuki’s bike looking stealth and light, this boy meant buisness but did a great job of keeping the ride together mainly.
The ride as you could predict quickly broke up, traffic lights and stiff climbs but we were soon out into the countryside. We stopped after about 30 miles for the first minimart raid, it had taken time to break free of Portland. Time to get familiar with the strange alien goodies on offer, and noticing that everywhere sells cliff bars, protein goodies, and a vast selection of trail mixes. Strangely I’d lost John and no one had seen him, rather worrying so I bid the group farewell and waited for a couple of puncture tail enders to arrive. John wasn’t one of them, he was a big boy I knew he would turn up, so left a text and carried on solo.
I then enjoyed some riding alone, the first time to have a good look around, happy not to be following strange nervous riders close up. So much so that when a group shouted from a water stop I waved and carried on, starting a cool long section of well surfaced cycle track. The Banks-Vernonia State trail wound up through the woods, this was cool. The fast group caught and passed, it was interesting to see who were the strong riders, and maybe who was overdoing it so soon. It bought some comedy moments as riders overshot tight hairpin bends by Hwy47.
The lead pack reformed we conveniently dropped into Vernonia at 55 miles, time for the ravenous racers to hit a well placed Subway. A relaxed stop and chance to get to know the fast riders and to try and contact John without success, he can’t miss us here. Lochy arrives after a while, a walking disaster area, now having lost his passport and all his money, what a guy.
This was my first introduction to the incredible cooling effect of overactive air con, getting going again I was bloody freezing and had to put a jacket on. Pumped full of coke and E numbers it suddenly turned into a race, dudes were smashing it down the road, Lochy passes me smashing the pedals, nice one listened to the advice of others then 😉 the joy of youth. The rest of the ride is spent in a small steady group with chilled David Barstow and James Folsom from Portland and Deneka from Poland who has a low budget wild plan and reserves of speed, he will do well. It didn’t take long before we passed Lochy crawling up a slope having blown his tits off, oops! I didn’t laugh, honest.
Pretty soon the coast arrives and on cruising the shores of the Columbia river it finally hits me I’m here at the start of the TransAm bike race, oh boy. Pulling up to the Columbia Inn John jumps out of the room showered and laughing, somehow he missed us and hammered on thinking he was behind all day. What a plonker, we all had our own trackers on to test them, he never though to check. The Motel turned out to be just perfect, cool receptionist and plenty of other racers there and easy walking distance to the food and bars, recommended.
That night we went to a brewery for food, a get together organised by the riders, because as we were to come to appreciate if you want stuff to happen at this event it’s down to the riders alone. There is no way you can engage with all the racers of the TABR and some remain just names on the roster, it’s great to meet as many as possible. It was great feeling part of a group already with our pre-ride crew and meeting more riders over great food.
Those of note from Astoria; Anton from Sweden when I found out we had a mutual friend, Brian the Ex pat from Sheffield now from Switzerland, the two Kennys, and the Osbourne race pair. Again big up to the Crossley’s for starting the organising off on this night. So much talk of doing it in 20 days, over 200 miles a day, get real, that’s for the top 5, was it the beer talking.
The next day was pretty relaxing with a bit of local tourism, plenty of eating and buying of snacks for day 1 of the ride. In the afternoon there was an official meet up at the Astoria tower, be warned the ride up here will test your legs, climbing the 164 steps to the top viewing platform more so. It was a haphazard affair signing on and being given a hat, to be honest compared to the TransAtlantic and TransContinental races it was a joke. It was a shame we never got a good group photo up there.
There was another meet up at the brewery but I was suffering back spasms by now and retired early very worried after buying a stash of Ibruprohen. John was the only person who knew I was suffering, there was no way I wanted to be discussing negatives with anyone, even friends and family, before the race had even begun.