Bike Tour Update: Test Trip to Oxbow Regional Park

This post is a quick update on preparations for my upcoming bike tour across the United States which is titled 3.6 Million Revolutions for Justice. You can read about the details of the trip on the blog post with that same title. To summarize, I plan to ride from Bar Harbor, Maine to Astoria, Oregon. The ride has been so christened because along the way I am trying to raise funds for two organizations working for economic and climate justice, The Poor People’s Campaign and the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

Thank you to everyone who has written to me in support of the trip and thank you for your donations.

Wes Kempfer standing in drive way with bike loaded up with panniers full of gear.
Is all this stuff really going to make it over the Rockies?

Also, thanks to the excellent resources provided by Adventure Cycling regarding how to prepare for a cross-country bike journey. From them, I learned that before embarking on a tour thousands of miles in length, it is probably a good idea to take a short overnight trip somewhere to test out your gear. After all, it is better to find out that your little boat won’t float in the bathtub before trying it on the high seas. And so, I loaded up my bike with everything I plan to a take on the road with me as if I was going on the actual trip and pedaled out to nearby Oxbow Regional Park. It was approximately 24 miles from my front door to the campsite.

For such a short trip, it turned out to be a good sample of some of the good, the bad, and the ugly that I might expect when crossing the country. To get to the park, I had to traverse the car-centric nightmare-scape that is Gresham-Troutdale. Talk about the ugly! Anyone who has spent a lot of time cycling or walking through suburban strip mall hells such as Gresham knows what I am talking about. But I must brace myself for some miles of this kind of misery anytime I get near an American city, small or large. I’ll be avoiding these places as much as I can.

The good thing is that once one passes through that last busy intersection at the eastern edge of Troutdale, all of that automotive buffoonery is soon forgotten.

A view of the Sandy River from Oxbow Regional Park. There is mist in the conifers across the river.
The Sandy River from Oxbow Regional Park

What really made Oxbow a good trial run was the terrain. The elevation gain on the 1-mile road leaving the park is about 600 ft. There are a couple of steep sections toward the bottom of the hill that, if you are a mere mortal not taking steroids, require your grannyest granny gear. I’ve done the climb out a few times before with a single pannier full of day gear but not with a sleeping bag, tent, tarp, inflatable mattress (I love you, Big Agnes!), backpacking stove, clothing, water, and all the little odds and ends I might need along the way. I am also bringing a laptop and a small travel guitar. I figured that if I could not pedal up that hill with all that crap then something was going to have to stay home. But, yay! I made it though I will admit that 1 mile seemed to take more energy than all the other 47 combined.

Left to Right, Tim, Kirk, and Steve. Steve is the small furry bike mechanic.
Left to Right, Tim, Kirk, and Steve. Steve is the small furry bike mechanic.

So, all-in-all, things went well. I uncovered a problem with my tent that I need to fix before leaving. I also need to make sure I ventilate it enough to reduce the condensation moisture inside. Things were pretty damp inside the tent when I awoke in the morning.

With all systems still a go, I will be leaving Portland by train this upcoming Sunday, April 15. My expected departure from Bar Harbor is around April 21. I hope you will track my progress by following this blog.

I also want to say thank you to my friends at the neighborhood bike shop, Cat Six Cycles. Tim, Kirk, and Steve are friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable about bikes. The gave me a great clearance deal on the Surly Disc Trucker that is my Rocinante.