Trans-Am Trail - Day 24 - Canyonville, Oregon to the finish at Port Orford, Oregon
Day 24 - Canyonville, Oregon to Port Orford, Oregon
The final day of the Trans-AM Trail (TAT) and things are subdued over breakfast in the motel. We're all suffering from mixed emotions, the high of finally reaching the end of this remarkable and challenging adventure, and trepidation about how we'll feel when it's over.
As usual the sun was out although it was still a little chilly as we headed south on the Interstate to pick up the trail where we left it yesterday. 13 miles of cold Interstate riding and we turned off onto a small highway then another turn and we were once again on dirt, riding a gravel road into the forest again. it didn't take long for us to reach our first navigation challenge, the route I'd managed to program into the GPS had been split into 3, as there were GPS-coordinated waypoints that didn't join up on the GPS maps. When we reached the end of the first route we were just over a mile away from the next waypoint, at an intersection with 3 roads leading off any of which (or none of which) could have been the right one. Wary of all heading off into a dead-end, Harold went off searching to try and find the route whilst Aaron and I took photos and waited for him to return
Harold returned with news that none of the roads leading from the intersection were correct, so we retraced our steps to the last good waypoint and followed the alternate trail, which took us the right way to the start of the 2nd section of route. This took us intially along the valley floor, hidden in the dark forest away from the sunlight as it gradually climbed up the hillside, before finally emerging along a ridge high up with spectacular views all around.
The trail then dropped us down and deeper into the forest, the route taking us down ever narrower tracks until we were following a single-track rough road alongside a deep gorge round the mountainside. We then started to encounter some fallen trees, that lay across the trail, with their roots still partially embedded in the high banking to the right and their tops hanging down into the gorge to the left. It was as though someone had laid these obstacles so we could play a game of "Limbo-Dancing Motorcycles"...
The fallen trees became ever more frequent as we made our way along the trail. At one point we reached a small junction, with the right path heading up and the left path down. There were parts of fallen trees across the entrance to the left path, but the right path had a huge mound of earth a few feet up covering the whole width of the trail. We walked round to investigate and just behind the mound of earth was a very deep rut, carved by a stream that came off the hillside, the other side of which was a steep incline. We all agreed it was impassable, so moved the debris from the left path and took that instead. Here were more trees across the trail, but they all looked as though they had been made passable for a motorcycle, whether it was by breaking off hanging branches or by cutting them so they didn't quite span the entire width of the trail. It certainly looked like someone had been here before us, clearing a way through. So on we went, negotiating obstacles with every turn of our wheels.
With Harold and Aaron in front after I'd held up a particularly obstinate tree for them to pass, I was merrily making my way over a dead tree when "THUNK!" my bike came to a dead stop and fell over, throwing me into the trees on the right side of the trail. I was dumbstruck as to how it had happened - look at the picture below before scrolling to the next one and see if you can spot what caused my fall...
Can you see it? There's a large chunk of the branck of the tree stuck between the crash bars and the engine. As I'd ridden onto the tree, this branch had popped up, and like a medieval knight had "jousted" me off! It took a while to get the branch out, and I'll be taking it home as a souvenir!
By the time I'd righted the bike and removed the branch, Aaron and Harold had returned with news that the trail was a dead end and we'd have to go all the way back to the highway. So I turned round and set off, only to be stopped after a few minutes by Doug and Brookes coming the other way. We explained the trail was a dead end and they turned round to follow us back, only for Aaron to spot one of Brookes' pannier mountings was broken. We left them to the repairs and continued, with me out front limbo-dancing my way back under the fallen trees and riding round the various obstacles, until I reached one tree that reached to within a foot or two of the steep drop into the gorge. Now I don't like heights, and was perhaps a little over-cautious, focusing too much on the drop and not enough on avoiding the tree when... THUMP!... it hit my bike and toppled me off.
As you can see from the photo, I was rather lucky. The bike stopped with its handlebars over the edge and I landed on my feet a few feet down the hillside. By the time Aaron and Harold arrived my hysterical laughter had subsided a little (only to be replaced by Aaron's!). More photos were taken and then we hauled the bike upright and carried on, eventually getting out of the forest without further mishap.
By now it was well past lunchtime and we were miles from anywhere. The nearest town, Agnes, was a fair distance away and off-trail, but we were all exhausted and hungry so that's where we went. The road was as twisty as a curly-wurly on a helter-skelter and I felt dizzy as we made our way in an endless stream of bends for mile after mile. About 20 miles from Agnes the tarmac disappeared and we were on a twisting gravel road, the dust and heat further sapping our energy. When we finally found somewhere to eat I was completely shot. A burger (again) and Pepsi helped a little, the Snickers bar more, but by the time we were feeling up to continuing it was mid-afternoon and we still had 70 miles to go. To get back on the trail would add another 30, so we called it done and took the highway. En-route Aaron spotted some blackberry bushes and came to a screeching halt, leaping into the undergrowth in a feeding frenzy Jaws would have been proud of...
The ride to the finish of the TAT at Port Orford took us via Gold Beach and our first view of the Pacific Ocean, before we turned north on the famous "101". On arriving in Port Orford we parked up and asked a passing Englishman (from Cockermouth no less) to take our photo.
We had covered over 4,800 miles from Tenessee to this point, the vast majority on dirt roads. At times it had been almost too challenging, and many days had ended with us exhausted, both physically and mentally. We'd travelled through heavy rain and intense heat, through dense forests, high plains and desert. Through mud and sand and gravel and dirt, on smooth roads, rutted roads, rocky roads and roads you couldn't even stand up on. We've seen parts of America that most Americans don't even know exist, through towns with a population less than that of my old school. But what a journey...
And now I get to proudly display the official TAT sticker on my bike!
The end of any adventure is just the beginning of another, and so it is with the TAT. Once we'd completed the journey, we enjoyed a celebration meal in the excellent Red Fish Restaurant in Port Orford. We met up with the Kiwi's, who arrived to eat there, and with Doug and Brookes for breakfast and a last photo by the Ocean. We raised a glass of wine to Rick and Mike, our WR250-riding friends from earlier, who sadly didn't get to complete their adventure due to Rick's injury. We toasted Kenny, too, who far too briefly joined us before the mud in Arkansas caught him out and sent him home with a busted rib.
But that's not the end of the story, as I'm still in the States for another 3 weeks. Tomorrow we head south to Medford for a day's relaxation, washing, cleaning and sorting the bikes before I get reunited with my camping gear on Wednesday (fingers crossed!). Then we're riding to Portland together where we'll meet up with Aaron's girlfriend and Harold's wife for one last evening together before going our separate ways. I'll keep writing the blog as I go, but probably not until I leave Portland and my next adventure starts for real - riding solo down 101, through the Redwoods and on to Yosemite...