A Night At The Crapera (USA Day 106)
When we left Portland, it wasn’t raining. Yes, it was grey enough, but we even had the sunscreen conversation. I strapped my solar panel onto the back of my bike, for goodness’ sake.
Well, that didn’t last. Within the first three miles we’d folded up the solar panel, uprooted our panniers for the raincoats and well-and-truly zipped up, as the rain began. Getting wet isn’t really a problem: our raincoats keep us dry in all the relevant places and our legs are generally working hard enough not to notice the cold, but what really sucks is trying to navigate without drenching our phones. Paper maps are all well and good, but we’d plotted out the route from Portland to Astoria on Strava, without the help of the ACA, so directions were by screen and screen alone.
Once we’d latched ourselves to the correct road west out of town, we climbed up a steep and verdant hillside through soggy forest full of vines and ferns on a fircone-strewn shoulder, playing raincoat hokey-cokey as we balanced the rain and the sweat. The summit of this climb was in deep cloud, so that despite the road being called NW Skyline Road, and the ground dropping away dramatically to both sides through gaps between houses, we only saw white.
Portland’s outskirts stretched on and on, long after we could confidently identify our location as ‘Portland’. The houses grew in size, their gardens changing identity: was it an orchard? A field? A farm? A forest? Along the route, in a gap between rain showers, we collected blackberries and apples from trees and brambles that made up the verge, filling our Ziploc bags with enough fruit for days. More importantly than our lust for free food, there was something about the leafy, drizzly, autumnal day that made us feel more than a little like we were back in England. I felt the suggestion rising to my lips, “Let’s take these home and make a pie,” before remembering where I was.
Our first real town was North Plains, followed by Banks, where we stopped under a supermarket awning to shelter from the storm and make friends with a rather anguished-looking mechanical horse who Amy dubbed ‘Sapphire’, and rode (for the price of a quarter) while a crowd of shoppers gathered to watch.
The rain lost interest once more, so we gathered our things, kissed Sapphire goodbye and found the trailhead for the Banks to Vernonia rails-to-trails route, our first such path since Illinois. Being offroad was a lovely change, despite the rain, and allowed us to plug in some music, pull on our hoods and power through the final miles without worrying about traffic or navigation.
It’s the sort of day when anybody with any sense would get a hotel, but we’ve camped just before Vernonia, next to a small compost toilet which acted as our shelter while we changed, packed up our stuff and ate some dinner, all accompanied by a sewery funk that’ll stay with me for days. It’s not exactly ideal, but the tent shot up in a gap between showers and all our stuff is locked away and dry. I’m just hoping that of the many spiders in the compost toilet, all of whom were brown and all of whom seemed pretty reclusive, if any decide to crawl into the folds of our bags then they leave again pretty sharpish in the morning. I don’t want my internal organs melting out of my belly button. Not again, anyway.
I can’t believe I’m saying this: this time tomorrow, we’ll have reached the Pacific Ocean. We’ll also have passed 5000 miles on this trip, which is impressive since the country is about half of that length, sea to sea. There’ll be more rain tomorrow, but I’m not sure it will matter. Tomorrow we’ll have crossed a continent.