Encore: Getting Home (Astoria to Portland)
One thing’s for sure: I’m not pedaling back.
This morning, I bought an $18 bus ticket to Portland. The ride’s about two hours, and you can depart at 8:30 a.m. or 6 p.m. I’d prefer to take the early bus and have all day to bum around Portland, but the ticket agent said she couldn’t guarantee room for my bike, so I decided to ship it home out of Astoria. Unfortunately, with Bikes and Beyond opening at 10 a.m., my 6 p.m. fate’s sealed.
After a leisurely breakfast and coffee (what do you mean I don’t need to ride today?), I headed over to the bike shop. They’ll break down and box your bicycle for $50, or give you a box and loan you a pedal wrench for free. I elected for the latter and promptly blocked a large portion of the sidewalk dismantling my Cross-Check. Besides my tire irons and pump, this is the first occasion I’ve had to break out my tools. I’m very pleased with its performance since leaving Pittsburgh about 5,200 miles earlier. Off came the pedals, racks, wheels, fenders, sideways went the handlebars as I carefully packed everything in the roomy box. Bikes and Beyond provided a bunch of bubble wrap and foam to protect components, as well as a plastic fork brace and axle covers to keep the wheels from punching holes in the cardboard. The shop charges 15% of the UPS shipping rate as its fee — very reasonable. Scott, the owner, said it’d probably be between $100 and $150 to send the bike to Pittsburgh.
With the bike squared away, I spent the next hour or so hoofing it up the Astoria Column, a 125′, 164 spiral-step structure that grants great views of the Columbia River, Oregon, Washington and the Fort Clatsop area. You can buy a balsa-wood airplane and watch it glide for a seeming eternity. Then, back to the waterfront, where I picked up a load of postcards and a lunch tip: fish and chips at the Bowpicker. The converted fishing ship offers fried Albacore tuna and fries. I waited in line for just over an hour, and I’m glad I did.
It’s strange, and not a little nauseating, to be on a bus traveling 70 m.p.h. to Portland. We retraced some of the ground I’d pedaled through over the previous two days. Once in Portland, I took another bus to meet my Esther and Timo, my Warmshowers hosts for the night at a local brewery. I really wish I had my bike with me: Portland’s really bike friendly, and hauling around a duffel that has room for a body (probably two with a little dismantling) was less than pleasant. The beer was fresh and the conversation nice. Two of their friends joined us for beers. Paul and Caroline pedaled across on the Northern Tier a couple of years ago as their honeymoon. Paul and I made plans for an early breakfast at Pine Street Biscuit before the brunch crush descends. With conversation turning to favorite brunch locales, I felt big-city home.