Short Days Can Be Hard Too

18th – 19th Aug 2018

Ilwaco to The Bridge View RV Park 21kms

No rushing this morning, we have a very, very short day today. You see, there is an enormous and perilous bridge, that spans the Columbia River, connecting Washington State, with Oregon. It is called the Megler Bridge, and it is 8kms long, with the last two kays, up a 7% gradient. With the winds coming mostly from the Northwest this time of year, it makes them crosswinds on the bridge, and they do get quite gusty, up to 60miles an hour. With a narrow shoulder, it can be dangerous, so it is best to have a good plan of attack. Ours, is to get up early, it will be Sunday, and get across it before the RV’s start moving, and while there are no trucks and no wind (doesn’t usually start till lunch time). So today, we were just going to plod on down the 101, to Chinook, do some food shopping, then cruise through to the RV Park. Easy peasy.

A couple of pics I have found on Google, of the Megler Bridge. Awesome isn’t it?

Nuts and berries for breakfast, a couple of coffees, and then we’re off. We rolled through the Saturday markets at the marina, which was nice, and picked up some fresh tomatoes and fruit. Then we road the backstreets of town before getting back up the hill out of town. It was a very pleasant ride through to Chinook, which was a nice looking place. It was wall to wall fishing rigs, and we enjoyed a nice relaxing coffee in the sun, watching them all. Not forgetting to pick up some beer and wine, we eventually rode off again.

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Marina Markets in Ilwaco. Lots of nice art and of course organic goods.

Cute little drive thru coffee place. We sat for ages and enjoyed the sunshine and large coffee.

Chinook marina, and some of the billions of giant rigs in town.

Next minute, the smile was wiped right off my face. There was a tunnel ahead, with NO shoulder, and I mean NONE. It had a button to press for flashing lights to warn motorists, and a very narrow raised footpath about 2 foot wide. With flashing lights on, and having done tunnels a few times now, I thought this would be okay, but as I rode up onto the path, in the tunnel, I realised, that this was not going to work. The path was littered with everything from mud, to broken glass and hubcaps. If you fell to the left, you are in a gutter of slimy mud, just before you fall under the next speeding pick up truck. So that was me out. I decided if I fell to the right, into the wall, I could get off my bike to walk. There was no space to put my foot down on the left, so that is what I had to do. Fucking hell, Will is still riding. How is he doing that?

I walked that tunnel, moving debris out of the way with my foot, to get my bike past. Cars were zooming by, tooting (at what, I don’t know), and somehow, Will had made it though. I walked through slippery thick mud, glass, and water, before getting out the other side. Nightmare!

Oh, I didn’t mention the noise. It was deafening. The already loud trucks just sound so much louder. Never doing that tunnel again.

A few deep calming breaths, and a drink of water, then we hopped back on the bikes to get blown the last six or so kilometres by the tail wind. It was a nice cruise along the waters edge. At the park, Greg greeted us. A fit man in his early 60’s, retired, and very friendly. There was a bit of confusion with our booking, which didn’t seem to have completed, but it wasn’t a problem anyway. They’d sort us out. Chatting to Greg, we discovered that he had ridden pack horses through the USA, back in the late 80’s, just for something different. Now that would have been a sight.

Our first vision of the Megler Bridge in the flesh. It is daunting.

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The RV park office. Cute hey?

We sat in the shade, considering where to put our tent, when Preston and Theresa (the owners) came over, with their dog Shocks. We thought he was a hairy little warthog. What a cute dog, strutting around in his warthog haircut. Theresa also had some interesting tails, of sailing across the Pacific, and even reaching Australia. Then she showed us another more secluded spot, we could camp. Out of the way, and out of the wind. 

What a cool dude, loving himself sick. He enjoyed harassing Diablo, who was begging to tap out. Warthog dog 1, Tassie Devil 0.

While we set up the tent, and got sorted, some fishermen came to clean their catch. Guess what they caught? Yep, Salmon. Doug, and his mates had come to the area just for the Salmon run, and told us a bit about the system. So they each get a license, that allows them to catch 1 only, per day. But it has to be one from the hatchery release program. When they come from the hatchery, they have their dorsal fin trimmed, so that is how they know which ones they can keep. But one each, per day? Not to mention the season runs until the catch limit is reached. The “department” set the limit, for example 35,000. As the boats come in, they are counted, and once that total has been reached, game over. Hardly seems worth it to me, but it is serious business here.

This is better. Quiet, with a lovely stream and no wind. Very nice. Those fish look good, but the guys reckon they were small ones. Will doing his best Breaking Bad impressions again. Heizenburg and his ice cooking van.

Our new location also allowed us to chat to some of the residents, there are quite a few in this park. Sandy and Steve are fixing up an RV, and have four husky dogs. Sandy told us she had had a stroke about 22 years ago, (she was 29 when it happened), and she wasn’t expected to recover. Now she has a slight speech impediment, and is a bit wobbly on her feet, but otherwise copes really well. They had a big job ahead of them with the RV, and were managing to live in it with four big dogs, so I’m sure they’ll do well. After we had our dinner, which was rice with everything we had left, salami, ham, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes and spinach, Sandy came over and gave us some ice cream with fresh blackberries (no pee, she said with a laugh). How lovely. 

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Sandy and Steve with the van under renovation. Very nice people.

It was a good day, and we think we are ready to tackle the Megler Bridge to Astoria. About 8,000 cars use this bridge daily, it has a small shoulder about 60cm wide, and is renowned for strong cross winds. It’s long and steep, but we believe our strategy is good. Sunday morning, people will be at church, sleeping in, and not driving trucks. The RV’s don’t move out till after ten, so if we get going around 8:30am, we should have a good run. Oh, and the wind doesn’t usually start till lunch time. Wish us luck.

The Bridge View RV Park to Astoria (Oregon) 21kms

Neither of us slept that well in the night, another tent went up next to us in the darkness of night, and not too quietly either. Then, I guess, we were both a bit anxious about this giant bridge. But the alarm went off, and we got straight into action. We can if we have to, you know? No breakfast, or coffee, there will be plenty of time for that on the other side.

On the way out, Sandy and Steve waved us off, and snapped a couple of photos, and also promised to drive over, stop in front of us, and snap some action shots. Haven’t got them yet, but hey, it was a cool gesture. It was a smoky and foggy morning, even a little cool, so we both turned on our flashing lights, front and back, and headed for the bridge.

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It looks gloomy, and it was. But we made a good plan, and a good start.

The first three quarters went pretty well, although it was eerie looking into the fog and seeing the big climb grow out of it.

Light traffic on the bridge for the first part, and we were doing good sticking together. Heavy boat traffic in the river today, I’ve never seen so many boats all fishing in one spot. Hundreds of them. But focus guys, eyes forward. The small shoulder was full of debris. Big chunks of wood, lots of metal fragments from cars, even a few large dead birds. Hard to miss it all, so fingers crossed everything stays intact. As we smash across it, we lose sight of the other end in the fog. It looks creepy. Next minute, the steep climb appears, and before we know it, we are gearing down, down, down, and the legs are just pumping. I look up, and Will is just easing away from me, and I’ve got nothin’. I’m just grinding away, doing the breath counting thing, even out the ins and outs, spit flying, eyes forward. Then “toot, toot toot, toot!” “Fucking jerk! Mother….well you know what! A big white pick up, super close to us, decided to scare the shit out of us. For what you tosser? Ugh!!!

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Check that concentration. Where am I?  Way back still in the danger zone.

Only one tool and one truck, and we made it down the other side, and onto the Astoria Riverwalk Trail. Woo, hoo, let’s not do that again, hey Will? It actually only took us about half an hour, and now we can have some breakfast. My choice of establishment was Pig & Pancake. Sounds like everything you need after a frightening experience. It was close, and it was busy. Good sign. We had to wait about 5 minutes for a seat, then got coffee, and ordered our food. Chicken fried steak and poached eggs, which come with pancakes. Yeah, baby, yeah! Will just had bacon and eggs with his pancakes. All comes with free coffee refills, and was fantastic. Definitely won’t need lunch today.

Yep, it is an awesome bridge. Some people reckon they don’t even like driving over it. I know why, but I’m glad we rode it and made it safely.

Unfortunately we were unable to check in until 4pm, so we decided to take a ride along the length of the trail, and then back again. It ended up being about 6kms long, so we managed to beat our required minimum of 12kms. Phew! Lots of great things to see in Astoria, and we made a few notes for tomorrow. We also stopped at the infamous Rogue Brewery, and at the docks to watch the basking and barking Sea Lions. There was heaps of them, all males, and just laying on top of each other, making a bloody racket.

So much fun to watch these lazy buggers. Trying to fit as many of them on a platform as possible. 

Eventually we thought we’d just go sit and wait in the Hotel lobby, until we could check in, and Fred (the receptionist) was cool with that. Funnily enough, it didn’t take long, and we got checked in around 2:30pm. Bikes stowed safe and sound in the locked basement, and we relaxed on the comfy bed. The Norblad, is kind of a Hotel/Hostel, with shared bathrooms and toilets, and all in an old building. The decor was very hip and retro, and well done. It was also located next to many breweries. Uh oh! We just relaxed and got things sorted, before taking a walk around the neighbourhood and stopping to check out the closest brewery Reach Break. Woo, very good beer, the least alcoholic was 4.5% the most 10%. Danger-ous! Lucky there were a few food vans right there, so we could eat something, before staggering upstairs to fall into bed. Good day hey?

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How many you had there Willsie, you’re chatting to your invisible friend.

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