Across America in a Pedal Cart… What Were We Thinking??

Hi,

My name is Nash Hoover.

If you’ve found this page for the first time, and are wondering what it’s all about, here’s the short version. In the summer of 2011, when I was 13 years old, my dad and I rode a electric-assist pedal cart across the United States. I blogged about it on this website. You can find out the details on the Our Story page, and if you want to follow the adventure, you’ll have to read backwards from the oldest to newest posts, which is the way blog sites work.

It’s been almost a year since the trip, and I’m adding this final post so anyone who stumbles on the page will have some idea of what they are reading about. A lot of people have asked me if I’d do it again. I have to confess that, even though it was an amazing adventure, I’d probably say no. Been there, done that, and had too many close calls with logging trucks. My dad’s already planning some new type of crazy adventure, and I’m game. But if it involves another road trip, I’m going to insist on something a lot bigger and faster.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Last Day’s Ride

Thursday August 11 2011

After two months and eight days on the road, the last day of the trip seemed a little bit unreal at first. But putting on the riding shorts one last time and hearing the rumble of passing trucks brought both a sense of familiarity and relief. The day began with high hopes, but about a mile out of town we lost power to the wheel. The problem was caused by a bolt that sheared loose from the drive shaft. After some improvisation with an Allen wrench that we wedged through the shaft, then a quick trip to an auto parts store for a new bolt, we fixed the problem and pressed on. We headed 25 miles along the coastal highway, with rought pavement, no shoulders and great views of the Pacific.  We planned to stop in Manzanita and visit the library for a mid day rest, but it was closed. So instead we switched to our smaller gear for hill climbing, and took on the two of the trip’s final three big hills to reach Cannon Beach. On the second downhill, we actually rode through a tunnel – something I’d wanted to do all trip long. We ate lunch at Doogers Fish House while leaving the vehicle’s battery pack  plugged in on the restaurant’s front porch to charge for the final push. The last hill was supposed to be one of the steepest of the trip, but with our trusty low gear we where able to climb efficiently and drift down the other side with ease. After the last descent we stopped at the library in Seaside where I did online school while my dad went downtown. He said it was quite touristy, and that I didn’t miss much. After the charge we continued and did the last 16 miles on one of the busiest roads on the trip. When it came time to cross the Astoria bridge, traffic had calmed down some, but not by much. Across the two-mile–long bridge there was no shoulder and cars both ways, so we probably caused the worlds largest traffic jam. After the crazy road and holiday traffic, pulling into the Cannery Pier Hotel, alive, was a relief.

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Fair Weather

August 10, Tillamook, OR

After getting through a long  day of flat tires and breakdowns on the way to Corvallis on Monday, we figured our luck would change. But it turns out we had a few more problems to sort out. With a new gear case and chain drive, we started out strong, but the motor drive chain soon began to skip again. My dad had a “Homer Simpson” moment – DOH! He’d put a new chain on an old gear, and it was the worn gear that was skipping, not the chain. We kept going north out of Corvallis, using more muscle power than motor to climb some small hills. Meanwhile, I got on the cell phone to talked my Uncle Brian into picking up a new gear from the EcoSpeed factory in Portland and driving it to us in Salem. Brian and his family just moved back to Portland after living in Europe for many years, and we were lucky that he was close by, and could help. Also, it was good to seem him, Aunt Virginie and my cousin Dillon. They all drove down to have dinner with us. We hope to see them again this weekend in Astoria. This morning, we had blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s. It was a perfect day to head for the coast. Our route took us west through an Indian reservation, were se stopped at the Casino for lunch, but not gambling. After a couple of hills and some blind curves with logging trucks but no shoulder, we made it to the relative safely  of Highway 101, and then on to Tillamook. When we checked into our hotel, the clerk told us it was the first day of the Tillamook Fair, which is supposed to be one of the best in the country. Around seven in the evening, we rode two miles out to the fair grounds. This really is farm country, because the fair wasn’t so much about the rides as the animals. I took a lot of photos of cows and tractors and other agricultural things, then spend some money at the carnival booths. More than once, I thought I’d won something, but the carnies always said I didn’t. I did end up with a couple of small stuffed animals and a blow-up shark, which is probably OK, because the giant stuffed bull I wanted wouldn’t have fit on the vehicle. Tomorrow, we will start for Astoria, and with any luck, will be there before dark.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bad Luck and Good Samaritans

August 8, Corvallis. 190 miles to Astoria

After doing more than 100 miles and climbing over a mountain on muscle power alone, we thought we deserved to sleep in and start late. Plus, we knew the new part we needed wouldn’t be arriving at the Bike Friday factory until mid morning. The factory was about eight miles west of our hotel, but even at our pedal-only rate of 7 mph, we had plenty of time. The Bike Friday Company makes really neat folding bikes that fit into a suitcase, but are also serious touring bikes. I test rode one  fitted with an internal rear hub and really liked it. I told my dad I’d ride it to Astoria and he could take the vehicle. Rob English, who is the head designer for Bike Friday, helped my dad disassemble the vehicle’s drive system to replace the bearing. By then, it was almost three o’clock. We wanted to get to Corvallis by night, and if we followed the Transamerica route, this would mean doubling back about 9 miles, then riding another 47. While we were having a late lunch at a nearby taco stand, a man struck up a conversation and started asking about the vehicle like people usually do, then ended up giving us some advice on the route. He said Highway 99 had a wide shoulder the whole way to Corvallis, and was significantly shorter. I checked on the iPhone at it was shorter by about 11 miles, plus the road started just a couple of miles from our location. Maps don’t always tell the whole story, because the road turned out to be a very busy 4-lane, with lots of big trucks, but at least there was a wide shoulder. The vehicle ran perfectly for about three miles, and then the chain started skipping. This happened the last time we changed the drive chain. My dad said not to worry, because it takes some adjustment to the tensioners to get the chain just right. A little bit too tight and it binds; a little too loose and it skips. Also, it seems to stretch a little bit when you first put it on. The trouble is that adjusting the chain is much harder on our vehicle because of its position. We have to stop and lift out the 90-pound cargo and battery box, then crouch down and loosen a bunch of bolts that are hard to reach. Every time he does this, my dad ends up with greasy hands, and it never improves his disposition. He stopped and made adjustments four or five times in a couple of miles, with trucks whizzing by just a foot away, and then we had our first flat time in quite some time. A big screw had worked its way into the right rear tire. We patched the tire; the motor chain kept skipping. But rather than turn around, we used mostly muscle power to reach the town of Junction City. There were a couple of dingy hotels there, and it was after six. My dad said he’d make one final try, and if that didn’t work, at least we’d have a place to stop. He switched to a spare chain we’d been carrying, and everything seemed to work fine. From there, it was just 27 miles to Corvallis, and we had three hours of daylight. We decided to push on, and took off on 99W, cruising at 15 mph. Five miles later, the left rear tire started going flat. We stopped and went through the whole routine of lifting the cargo box, hoisting the rear end onto the box, removing the tire, and so on. There was a small hole, which we patched.  A mile later, it went flat again. Close inspection showed that the patch had failed. It was a new type that we’d bought in Sisters. The salesman at the bike shop said these patches were better because they were self-sticking, so you didn’t need to wait for glue to dry. My dad pulled it off and used one of the regular glue patches. That lasted another two miles, then another flat on the same tire.  This time, we found that the original hole had turned into a tear. Removing and changing patches must have stressed the rubber too much. So we dug into our spare tube bag, and were eventually back up and rolling. At least until the right tire went flat for a second time.  By now, it was dark. We’d lost a lot of time with the tire changes, and meanwhile, the shoulder had disappeared, the road had gone to a two lane, and there was a lot of heavy truck traffic whizzing pat in the dark. We pulled onto a side road, and my dad said he was about at the end of his rope. While he was fixing flat number five, which was also caused by a failure of a new style patch, a lady from a house right across the road came over to check on us. At first she believed that we where hobos or thugs, but once she talked to us she found out that we where normalish and nice people. After getting acquainted and learning her name, Mrs. Lindi Zeller invited us inside to give us some water – and in my dad’s case a beer. While inside, we met her husband, Zeke, and her two dogs. Claire and Maggie. After some talking we found out that the road got narrower and busier as we got closer to Corvallis. Her husband and her agreed that we would get killed on the road that late at night, so after some talking they arranged a ride with her sister Sherree Horning and her brother-in=law Ted, who had a cargo trailer and lived right down the road. We loaded the vehicle onto the trailed and Ted ferried us the final 10 miles into Corvallis. It was pretty late by then, but after checking into a cheap hotel, we realized we’d skipped dinner, and took the Vehicle out for a late night cruise of the Corvallis downtown.

 

A special thanks goes out to:

Zeke and Lindi Zeller and to Ted and Sherree Horning, we are thankful there are still good people in the world.

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pushing On

August 7, Eugene, OR, 245 miles to Astoria.

 

This is another post by Pierce, aka dad, as Nash has fallen asleep after a long day of travel. We got a very early start yesterday in anticipation of our final big climb of the trip – a route that would take us over the Cascades at McKinsey Pass, then down into the Willamette Valley. Blue skies and cool morning temperatures set an optimistic tone, and all seemed to be going our way. Then, a few miles outside the town of Sisters, the drive train started making ominous ratcheting sounds, then ceased to function. We’ve long since learned to deal with chain and sprocket issues, but this was something different: a bearing had come unseated from it’s carrier, affecting the electric drive, but not our ability to pedal. Short of turning back and hoping to find a machine shop in Prineville or Redmond, our best hope seemed to be pressing on to the much larger town of Eugene… which meant continuing our 3,400-foot climb up to McKinsey Pass. Back in Kansas, we’d spent a morning limping towards to a repair facility using pedal power along, but that was on the relatively flat terrain of the Great Plains. Taking on a major climb without the electric assist seemed far more daunting, but we decided that we’d press on at whatever speed possible, getting out to push if necessary on the really steep bits. And so, we spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon inching upwards at 4 mph or less, and there were indeed a few occasions when I dismounted and put my shoulder to the stern of the cart while Nash applied full power to the pedals and steered. Our chosen route was a scenic byway that disallowed commercial trucks and larger trailers, but as the day wore on, recreational traffic picked up, and the road turned narrow and twisty, with limited sight distances. A few miles from the summit, the route intersected a massive lava field, and in many places the road builders simply cut a canyon-like swath through the dark rock rubble, creating narrow conduits with precipitous walls just beyond the pavement sidelines. On several blind turns near the top, we took turns walking well behind the vehicle to flag down any approaching cars that might otherwise round one of these entrapping chasms and discover our slow-climbing vehicle too late to react. Needless to say, it was a relief to reach the top, relax a bit and take on the view, Our true reward came in the form of a carnival-like swoop along nearly 15 miles of descending switchbacks. We could smell the brake pads heating as we slowed to keep the cart upright on tight turns, and on more than one occasion the speedometer moved north of the 40mph mark. Once safely into the river valley, the challenge wasn’t over, as the scenic route intersected with the far busier Route 126, which carried a heavy load of weekend traffic. For the remainder of the afternoon, we hugged a narrow shoulder while long lines of RVs and SUVs thundered passed. After passing several small resorts and campgrounds that were filled to capacity, we found the McKinsey River Inn, were we were able to pitch our tent on velvet-soft grass in an apple orchard not far from the river. After a quick plunge in the cool, fast-moving water, we enjoyed a late dinner and an early turn in. Today, well…. It was more of the same as we slowly pedaled our way along Route 126, making use of every available scrap of shoulder, and sometimes pausing on narrow stretches to wait for a break in the seemingly incessant lines of traffic. After hundreds of miles of light contact with automobiles, it was quite a wake up call. There not much to be said of the remainder of the day, other than it involved long, slow hours of effort, with a final respite in downtown Eugene. Tomorrow, (Monday) we will spend the morning getting the drive bearing repaired, and  begin our final week of touring up the Willamette Valley, then over to the Oregon coast. If there is an up side to our past two days of toil, it is bragging rights. We proved ourselves capable of moving our 700-pound cart/cargo/passenger ensemble significant distances using human effort alone – albeit at an average of 6 mph – and did so while climbing one of the West’s major mountain ranges.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Dry Ride

August 5, Prineville, OR, 370 miles to Astoria

After going through the mountains of Eastern Oregon, where there were trees at higher altitudes, we came into an area that was almost total desert. A few miles after we left Dayville, the road went through a crack in the hillside that looked like it had been cut with a giant knife. Actually, it was the river that cut through what was once a huge lava flow. The land was dry and rocky, and the highway had a lot of overlooks with signs explaining the area’s many interesting geological features. From reading these signs, we learned that this land had a really interesting and turbulent history, with volcanic eruptions, mudslides, earthquakes and all sorts of other catastrophic events that buried a lot of prehistoric animals, and created a lot of fossils. We stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds, went through the visitor’s center, and then did some hiking into the dry hillsides. A lot of important fossils have been discovered here, and there are a lot more waiting to be found.  The next 50 miles were hot and dry, with just one town along the way. Eventually, as we got towards Prineville, the grass and trees came back, and so did the traffic. For most of the last week, we were on roads with very light traffic. Now we are getting into an area where there are a lot of vacationers, which means motor homes and trailers. Fortunately, the roads are getting better, and have wider shoulders. We can see the Cascade Mountains in the distance, which are still covered in snow. Tomorrow, we’ll start our climb over Mckinze Pass and the final leg of our journey.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mountains and Valleys

 

August 4, Dayville, Oregon

450 miles to Astoria

Some people have been asking why I don’t post every day. Well, the reason is because we are still in some places where there isn’t Internet access all the time.  West of Baker City, there is a whole lot of open space in the middle of Oregon, and plenty of mountains, but very few WiFi hotspots. Two days ago, we started out of Baker City, got 20 miles up the road, and heard a disturbing but familiar sound from the engine. It was the drive chain skipping, and my dad wasn’t happy about it because he said he’d already tightened the adjustment screws to the max. That chain had been on since Kentucky, with a lot of big mountain climbs since then, so it was not surprising it was pretty stretched out. We coasted back down to town, and he made arrangements for a new chain to be sent ahead. Meanwhile, we had saved the original chain, which was a lighter duty model, but OK if we used limited motor power. From Baker City, the road goes over a series of mountain ridges that line up north to south. Since we had to go west, this meant climbing over one ridge after another, with broad valleys in between. We learned that the route followed an old narrow gage railroad that was built for logging and access to the inner valleys. There was a big gold rush in this area in the 1800s, and some of the towns that are now just dots on the map once had thousands of miners. Our last two days seemed like we were either climbing a long grade or swooping down the other side, but we did find time to swim in a lake and a couple of rivers, and we found a section of the original track in the woods near the highway.  Western Oregon’higher mountains are covered in trees, while the lower hills are dry and covered in scrub brush. The valley floors are green because they are irrigated, and there’s a lot of ranching. This evening we are staying at the Fish House Inn in Dayville, which is a RV park that also rents rooms in an old wooden house. My dad and I agree that it’s more fun to find places like this rather than staying in a chain hotel.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Riding Out of Hell (Canyon)

August 1, 570 miles to Astoria

After riding through some of the steepest and hottest terrain on the route yesterday, it was a miracle that we where able to wake up early and get going by 6 am. The reason for our early departure was to beat the daytime Oregon heat. To get out of Hells Canyon we had to climb up 1,300 feet over a big hill and into Richland, which sat in the middle of a green valley surrounded by the dry hills of the high desert. After that first long climb, we rewarded ourselves with a long breakfast stop at a place where the locals gathered for conversation and coffee. They showed a lot of interest in our vehicle, and my dad got a lot of advice on how to improve it, whether he wanted it or not. After getting fully charged, we set of into a 40-mile stretch with no electricity, food, or water. The only interesting thing about the road we where on was that it followed the Oregon Trail, which was the route that pioneers took to Astoria long before us. Once we made it through the wasteland, the last few miles to Baker City was an easy downhill run. Baker City has a big historic district with a lot of buildings dating back to the gold mining days. We checked into the Geiser Grand, the town’s oldest and nicest hotel, and napped through the afternoon heat.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

On the Road Again

July 31, 625 miles to Astoria

After spending nearly four days away from the vehicle and with family, getting back into the loop of things is challenging. Last Thursday, we stopped off in Donnelly, Idaho, were my Grandmother, aunt and cousin are spending the summer. They have a nice four-bedroom house near the lake, and we spend a lot of time swimming and catching up.  On Saturday, I went flying in my aunt Amy’s airplane, into the mountains and canyons around the McCall area. It would have been nice to stay a few days longer, but we have a schedule to keep, so today, we set off for the Snake River canyon, and the Oregon border. After a couple of weeks in the high country, with cool temperatures, it was not enjoyable to find temperatures in the high 90s down in the canyon. And on top of the afternoon heat, we had a flat tire. Things got better when we reached the Oxbow dam and stopped for a recharge and a swim in the river. After that, we did a 17-mile slow climb up the Oregon side of the canyon to the town of Halfway. The town got its name back in pioneer days, when there was a logging camp at one end of the valley, and a mining camp at the other. They wanted to build a post office, but couldn’t agree where, so they but it half way in the middle.  We are staying in a 120-year-old hotel that used to be a brothel, and some of the furniture looks original. WE are happy to be into the last state of the trip, but tired from the heat, so I’ll say goodnight and sign off for now.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Grangeville, ID. – 680 miles to Astoria

July 23 to July 26

This is another multi-day post, because we haven’t had Internet or even cell phone service for several days. Last post, we were in Lolo Hot Springs on a Saturday night, and the altitude made for a cold sleep. With frost on the tent, it took a bit longer to get out of the sleeping bag on Sunday morning than usual. Then, we had to wait for the sun to come over the hills so we could dry out the tent and tarps. So we started later than usual. Fortunately, it took only seven miles of moderate climbing to reach Lolo pass, and the Idaho border. At the top there was a very nice visitors center with a comfortable lounge inside a log lodge, and a lot of interesting displays  on the history of the area. Out front, a group of reenactors dressed like mountain men showed us replicas of original maps made by Lewis and Clark, who came through the pass on their way west. After stopping at the pass, we made a fast descent down to the headwaters of the Lochsa River. About five miles later, our left tire went flat. My dad said the inner tube couldn’t be patched, because it was the valve stem that had failed. He changed the tube, but by then it was early afternoon, and getting hot. It was nearly 80 miles to the next town, so we decided to make it a shorter day, and stopped at the only piece of civilization in the entire valley, the Lochsha River Lodge in Powell ID. It was barbeque Sunday at the restaurant, so after eating plenty of barbeque my dad walked over to our cabin and slept for part of the afternoon. Later he went down and waded through some brush to get to the river, where he dipped his feet then almost got bit by a snake.. The next morning we headed off into the wilderness of Idaho, literally. Highway 12 runs along the Lochsha River, which is the border for the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness area. Ahead of us was a 65-mile section of road with nothing but primitive campgrounds and trails, and no chance of recharging our batteries. Our normal range with the batteries is between 35 and 50 miles, so my dad decided that we would start of by pedaling without electric assist down the long, slight downhill as the road followed the river. The pavement was really rough, and that plus the pedaling–only mode knocked our speed down to about 10 mph, but we made the first 30 miles without using any of the battery. Unfortunately, we had another flat on the left rear, and it was the same problem; the valve stem sheared off where it went into the rim.  My dad dug around and found his last spare tube. He was a bit worried, because he said this that if the same thing happened again, we’d be stuck ion the side of the road, 200 miles from a bike shop. Then, he became bit more optimistic when he decided that our new tires might have caused the problem. They had a softer sidewall to absorb the bumps, he said, and we’d been using a really thick, stiff tube. He figured that the tubes were sliding inside the tires, which pinched the valve stem. His second spare was a thinner tube, and he said it might have more grip on the tire. We didn’t have any more flats, but every so often, we’d look back at the wheel anxiously. What was more disturbing was the truck traffic. Later, when we read the Transamerica Route Guide, we learned that since the original route was created back in 1976, a lot more trucks were now using Highway 12 as a shortcut to Idaho. And these weren’t just 18-wheelers. Out west, there are all kinds of big truck rigs with four and five back axels, huge dump beds and second trailers. The road had a lot of twists and blind curves, and there was no shoulder. Most of the time, we could hear the trucks coming and do our best to head for the ditch, but one truck that was following another didn’t see us until the last minute, and came close enough to give me a good scare. A few miles after that, we reached the tiny town of Lowell ID , which was really just a gas station/store and a restaurant/motel. We checked in to Ryan’s Wilderness Inn for the night and slept soundly. Because we where early to bed, we were also early to rise, and get started. We had another 25 miles of riding on Route 12, and my dad figured that if we started before 6 am, it would take the trucks starting over the Lolo Pass at least an hour or two to get down the valley and start passing us. By then, we were in the town of Kooskia having breakfast. The waitress at our breakfast stop told us that Route 12 was one of considered one of the most dangerous roads in Idaho. Fortunately, after that we switched to Route 13, and were out of the heavy traffic. But the adventure wasn’t over. After following the road up a river valley for a few miles, we came to a construction zone, where a flagman told us there was a two-mile section of one-way traffic. When it was our turn, we got at the end of a line of traffic and peddled like crazy to keep up as we snuck past some huge machines that were chewing up the other lane into a pile of asphalt gravel. A half-mile later, we passed another huge machine that was digesting the gravel, adding fresh tar and spreading it out as new pavement. The final challenge of the day was a 10 miles climb that rose 1,500 feet up the side of a gorge onto a high altitude plateau. As we slowly pushed ourselves up the long, steep hill, the mp3 player became evermore encouraging for us, playing old rock and roll tunes that got our feet pumping. Then it suddenly switched to a mellow Jimmy Buffet song, but even that didn’t stop us from getting up a 9 percent grade and to the town of Grangeville. Tomorrow, we have a bit more climbing to do, then a huge, steep downhill as we head towards New Meadows and a reunion with several family members who are spending the summer in Idaho.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments