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June 11, 2017 - Connell, Washington

By meriwether, Jun 15 2017 07:58PM

For those who were following my journey and blog from August of 2015 to May of 2016 as I bicycled 9,000 miles along the eastern, southern, and western perimeter of the U.S., I decided to fly back out to Portland, OR, to pick up the trail where I left off on the northern perimeter. I arrived in Portland on June, 4.


So I’ve been back on the trail again - the Lewis and Clark Trail, actually. Back in 2005 I pedaled down the Columbia River Gorge at the end of a 3800 mile journey following the route of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery. And this past week, I have been pedaling up  the gorge, retracing the beginning of their homeward bound journey.


This has been a week of demons for me, questioning at every step my wisdom in deciding to head back out again, and even as I write this, the demons are having their way. 


I arrived in Portland on Sunday, June 4, and that in itself is a challenge - just getting bike and trailer and all my “stuff” back out here to where I left off over a year ago.  


Pedaling the Columbia River Gorge has been a roller coaster of a ride, both literally and figuratively. The Gorge is truly one of the most awe inspiring pieces of real estate in the country - akin to the Pacific Coast Highway in its beauty and majesty. Within 30 miles of Portland  as you travel up the gorge are a multitude of waterfalls that take your breath away.  Cascades that are fed by the melting snows high atop Mt. Hood, they plummet downward in dramatic fashion to meet the Columbia River. Many are within sight of the Historic Columbia River Highway - a roadway constructed between 1912 and 1915 to allow a nascent motoring public to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of the Columbia Gorge. Many of the original bridges, tunnels, and guard rails are still there, their stone work speaking of decades of weathering.  There is a part of the old highway that is closed off to motor traffic which makes it ideal for cycling - that is - if you like climbing, of which there is quite a bit.


My second day out was about 53 miles, but the temperature soared into the lower 90’s and I climbed over a 1000 feet which just sapped my energy. I had to stop numerous times to avoid overheating - I felt much as I did that one day in the Mohave Desert last year when I wasn’t sure I was going to make it 


Had a bit of a melt down in the middle of the week, staying at a Motel 6 in The Dalles, Oregon - just couldn’t move, thinking of that  9,000 miles and the hardships endured . . . and the vast distances of these western states; and the early morning pouring rain and 50 degree temps did help my mood much either.  Floyd also was not on his best behavior, and had to be looked at - a new gear cluster on the rear wheel was called for, and since . . . Floyd is now back on track.


It is hard to find more spectacular vistas. Wending my way along the Columbia's dramatic shores, I imagine that I see five  large  dugout canoes with  the seasoned members of the Corps of Discovery digging their paddles into the churning waters of the powerful Columbia currents, fighting their way upriver. They are are on their homeward bound journey after a year and a half of exploring the Louisiana Territory all the way to that Great Western Sea. In one of the canoes is a man who exudes confidence and authority; it is William Clark. He jokes with the men, encouraging them, taking notes of his observations, working on his maps. William calls out to one-eyed  French voyageur Pierre Cruzatte, “Ho there St. Peter (his nickname), how do you know where you are going with that one eye?”  Cruzatte replies with a glint in his one good orb, “I know where I’m going Monsieur Captain - I’m going home.”  In another canoe is Meriwether, more intense, less garrulous, but focused and observant of all around him, constantly making sketches in his field note book,  giving directions to the men, all the while setting an example with his determination, fortitude, and  honesty. They are surrounded by the other 31 souls of the permanent party of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including a young Indian girl and her infant child. Their 8,000 mile Voyage of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean and back is considered the greatest exploratory mission in American History. 


The above was written from the picnic table at last Saturday night’s campsite near Pasco, WA, and this is coming from a nice little motel in Connell, Washington. I’m on the way up to Spokane where I am scheduled to work with Habitat For Humanity on a “blitz build’” which concludes this coming week. 


During those couple of days when I was quite stressed out, I had a heart to heart talk with my sister about the journey and its future.  The outcome was that I would continue on up to Spokane and reevaluate at the time. My arrival in Spokane will bring me to about 9,400 miles. Looking forward to working with another HFH affiliate, which will be my 16th for the journey.


Best Regards All . . . Proceeding On,


1 comments
Jun 19 2017 07:00AM by Douglas Michael Palmer

To Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity Brother "Biggest of Big Al's": Continued good luck to y'all, Big Al. We're continuing to monitor your resumption of [http://USPerimeterRide.org] with great interest. Your published diagrams of elevations on your bicycle journey are remarkable. Did you pack some oxygen bottles for some of your high altitudes? We continue to support your intriguing travels. We look forward to listening and watching first-hand of your vast experiences. So long for now. -- Fraternally yours with very warm regards, Brother Palmer

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