Setting compasses west, then turning east and pedaling
The weather page in the Cape Gazette tells the story. Last week’s low temperature was 38 degrees. Turn that number around and you get the high: 83. Welcome to spring along the coast. On Wednesday the wind blew out of the south. High in the mid 70s. Today it’s blowing out of the north-northwest. Expected high in the mid 50s. At least the ocean temperature is rising. It’s up to 52 now. Time for the fish to start biting.
Becky and I have been watching the weather out in Astoria, Oregon, in an area not unlike Delaware’s Cape Region. Astoria, named for one of the U.S.’s first millionaires - John Jacob Astor - sits on the south bank of the mighty Columbia River where it flows into the Pacific Ocean. Like Lewes, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Astoria is a small town steeped in history that started out as a trading post for European settlers. Astor multiplied his already-considerable fortune when he applied his entrepreneurial skills to developing a trading center for furs, brought from the vast Northwest by European and native American trappers to the present site of Astoria.
In that era at the beginning of the 19th century there was already great demand in Europe and China for furs to warm people in the northern climates. In Delaware, traders were already in on the fur boom. Kent County’s Leipsic - on the banks of the Leipsic River - sits on the edge of a great marsh network thick with muskrats and their houses. The settlement became the hub of Delaware fur-trading enterprises in the 18th century and eventually took its name from the German city of Leipzig, an important European fur-trading center.
That’s the kind of dot connecting I’ll be looking to do over the course of the next few months when Becky and I are pedaling east from Astoria to Lewes. We aim to see the U.S. at 10 miles per hour. It’s one of those 60-ish things. We broke that barrier a few years ago and decided if we ever were going to ride across this great country, we better do it now. That was a year and a half ago. Been planning and strategizing ever since.
On May 11 we fly to Portland, drive out to Astoria to meet up with our bicycles that we shipped to a bicycle shop a couple of weeks ago, and then begin the 4,200-mile journey. Just like the trappers, we will have panniers packed with all our gear. Instead of mules carrying the bags, ours will hang from racks on the bikes.
Our plan is to rise each morning at the crack of dawn, boil water for coffee and tea, breakfast on fruit and an energy bar, break camp and then hit the road with the rising sun. If we average our planned 50 miles a day, we should – Lord willing and we can cross the Rockies, the Mississippi and the Appalachians - pedal back into Delaware some time around Labor Day. Riding west to east with the prevailing wind and the prevailing psychology: getting closer to home each day.
I’ll be blogging regularly with maps and pictures to track the journey. My blog - Sea to Shining Sea within Barefootin’ - is at capegazette.com. Scroll down on the left side of the front page and you’ll find me with a group of other fine bloggers.