40th B'day Excursion - Day 4
Day 4 of our 5 day adventure was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and we planned a leisurely day of cycling from Kelso, Washington to St. Helens, Oregon – only 30+ miles. Before the day began we decided to give the boys a fresh dose of an American tradition – going to Denny’s. ;) Better yet, it was my official 40th birthday - so Denny’s celebrated my day with a free Grand Slam Breakfast. Yipee! Note, we are a family of food snobs – my spouse is chef and writer, we frequent chef-owned restaurants in the food-Mecca of Seattle, and we travel a lot – so we are full of opinions. But, nothing beats the greasy-spoon classic Denny’s. Ironically, none of us felt “classic” afterwards; all of us were a bit lethargic and ready to crawl back in bed.
After a late start, we gathered our bikes and rode through downtown Longview, before approaching the “Lewis and Clark Bridge” – a massive cantilever bridge spanning the Columbia from Washington to Oregon (same designer as the Golden Gate bridge). While the bridge originally accommodated both pedestrians and motorists (built as a private tollway) – subsequent improvements have all but forgotten people. We elected to walk our bikes up and over 2.3km bridge with a peak of 340ft (a long, tall bridge) – windy too. (Note, I would not recommend even walking over the bridge for young children, our adolescent boys are experienced cyclists and of adult-size already. As an alternative, it is not uncommon for local trucks to offer a ride over the bridge – pick up at gas station/espresso stops on either side of the bridge – you’ll need to offer about $20).
Upon cresting the Lewis and Clark bridge, we crossed the Washington/Oregon state line and rode downhill into Rainier. Hooray! 200 meters later, and another flat! Yet again, Caleb had gotten stymied by radial-shrapnel (from semi-truck blowouts left-over alongside the road). After realizing we had no more spare tires for the boys (and a few expletives on my part), I sat down roadside to “teach” the boys how to repair a flat (then wait and let it dry…). Fortunately, an espresso stand and bathroom were nearby, so we may good use of the break (as Denny’s passed through all of us).
Oregon Highway 30 (Starting in Astoria) is a traditional start/end point for trans-America cyclists (going East across the entire state of Oregon following much of the Columbia River). However, a Sunday on Memorial Day weekend, and nothing was open (including, no bicycle shops). After reassembling Caleb’s bike, we clambered back aboard and rode along to St. Helens. It was an easy, rolling river-basin ride and we made good time as our pace quickened drafting one another. We did have to stop about every 6-10 miles to pump Caleb’s sagging tire, but it worked. While stopped, we met some local cyclists and Europeans too – setting off to cycle across America (cool!). By mid-day we arrived in St. Helen and unloaded in our hotel, the Best Western. Unfortunately, the hotel was a “dump” – easily one of the worst of many travels near and far. Undeterred, we unloaded quickly and then set-off to find the best food experience we could off the highway, down along St Helen’s quaint waterfront (Note, whenever accommodations suck, we always elect to splurge on a great meal – it can make up for a lot).
Downtown St. Helens boast some nice B&Bs and great food options (from fine dining to pub grub). We collectively decided to try the Klondike Restaurant & Bar and were delighted. Offering a variety of bistro and burger favorites, the Klondike hit the “mark” for all of us. Our enjoyment was further complemented by great, draft root beer for the boys and fantastic cocktails (meaning, like top 3 places we’ve had cocktails worldwide). Janelle and I were shocked! Thankfully we did not drive, so we ordered several concoctions of the Klondike’s talented bartender. Like I said, a great food (and drink experience) can easily overcome poor accommodations. Score!
Unfortunately, the ride back to the hotel after our meal (about one mile away) was a bit painful. Note to self, stay in one of St. Helens fancy B&Bs (within walking distance) for a get-away weekend with Janelle. We’ll be back. ;)