A Day on the Road with the Murrs- Guest blog by Emily S. Cleek

Kate Murr

August 14, 2010

It’s late as I sit down to start this entry, and I feel sleepy, refreshed, peaceful, and… guilty. I just had a nice cool shower after a long day in the sun biking with the Murrs, but when I last saw them, they were sitting at a picnic table loaded up with all their belongings next to their tent pitched in the middle of center field. We had yet to confirm a shower on site at the Clatskanie City Park, and temperatures on the road today brazenly approached 100 degrees, surely more with the waves of heat emanating off of the asphalt. We were all sweaty and a bit tired, but Stuart and Kate smiled with serene smiles as their kids played, and my family and I backed out of the parking lot and headed down the road back to our home in Portland.

We (my husband Billie, two daughters, and I) met the Murrs two days ago, and today they let us share a small piece of their grand family biking adventure. My family just moved to Portland from Springfield, MO a few months ago, and we’d been alerted to the Murrs’ actions from various mutual friends. Inspired by their endeavor, my husband Billie extended an invitation of hospitality when they reached Portland, and dinner plans were made. As I speculated on the meeting, I wondered if they were worn out from the journey that was soon coming to an end, or were they energized from all they have accomplished. They walked into our home with warm smiles and hugs all around, and yes, they looked both tired and energized.

Kate’s enthusiasm and encouragement is contagious, and I just can’t pass up her invitation to join them for a day’s ride before the grand finale. As I have only been biking with my girls around town and not across country, I opt for riding just one day; I don’t want to impede their progress on the home stretch with their end date in sight. Today’s (Saturday, August 14) leg is logistically simple, as they were just north of Portland last night, and my husband- who is unable to participate in the ride due to several broken bones he sustained on an unrelated bike wreck- will be available to shuttle me to the Murrs in the morning and back home at the end of the day.

When we pull into the city park where the Murr family had camped last night, we immediately spot Stuart milling around with Jane and Brady. There’s a bouncy slide set up in the park, and the kids are hopping on over. Stuart supervises the kids’ play time until it’s time to head back to camp to check on Kate’s progress packing up. She’s exuberant when I pull up and she immediately greets me with an enthusiastic hug and starts taking pictures. I’m officially a guest rider for the day! We hang out at the campsite a while chatting, putting together last minute arrangements, and letting the kids run around like kids. It’s time to go; we load up the kids and head out. We make it from the campsite to the parking lot (50 or so feet). Then, we have a brilliant, albeit late, idea. Hey- why don’t we load up your extra gear into Billie’s truck so you don’t have to haul it all for a day? Excellent. So, about 5 minutes later and dozens of pounds lighter, we head out again- each of three adults pulling a Burley trailer with one kid in the back.

We make it down the road a few miles (just 2 or 3) and Stuart turns into a gas station to buy some ice. The kids are already declaring their hunger and the Murr parents don’t encourage mutiny, so we find a little park and have a picnic. Food is good, kids get to run around a little more, Kate and Stuart get to clean up after a toddler accident, we get loaded up again, and we’re back on the road. While we ride, Kate easily chats and my passenger (my daughter Ella) occasionally makes comments/requests- “I want water,” “I want to play.” I already recognize the extra patience it must have taken to cross the entire country, thousands of miles, while still seeing to the whims and needs of two little kids. Schedules are hard to keep, and there are a lot of extra little stops or things to be taken care of. But, Stuart and Kate take all of these things in stride today, and the kids are really great. They nap when they get tired, they sing us songs along the route, and they play and embrace each other with great enthusiasm at our rest stops. They add unmeasurable joy to the trip.

We do a good jaunt after lunch and make it down the road another 18 miles or so until we reach the town of Rainier, OR. Stuart had gotten wind that there would be a festival in town, so he stops and asks the first person he sees where we can find it. We are informed that this particular festival is just a day in which people and businesses all over town have garage sales. Okay, not what we were looking for, but surely a good way to discover some deals if you were in a shopping kind of mood. In Rainier, in search of ice cream instead of deals, we are directed to a great little cafe and have a fabulous treat of freshly made milkshakes, homemade cherry pie, and an order of french fries. True Americana!

Now for the home stretch- after experiencing a day in 90-100 degree heat, I know my limits and have already contacted my shuttle (husband) to be on call in case I can’t keep up with the Murrs on the last 13 miles over the coastal mountain range to their day’s destination. Good call- right out of town is the first incline. Up, up, and up, and the sun’s still blazing. When I start to fear that I’ll see that milkshake again, I know that my day is almost done. About ¾ of the way up the mountain, there is a well-placed scenic viewpoint, and there my chariot (aka Toyota Tacoma) awaits! I huff and puff the final feet, pull into the viewpoint and call it a day. The Murrs, however, still have 12 miles and another small mountain to climb before they’re done. To ease the weight burden, we load Jane up with us, then we head to the next town, Clatskanie, to do reconnaissance and find a spot to camp. We procure a place on the baseball field of the city park next to a half dozen large RVs and one other bicycling couple in a tent. Jane teaches us how to set up the tent: First, you look for pine cones. Then, you look for sprinklers (advice that is followed by a story about setting up camp in a place that had not yet removed the sprinklers and getting a wet surprise). Jane is very helpful and comfortable with the camping living. She gets out her toy bag and starts introducing each of her toys to Ella. It’s been a good day.

And, just like that, Stuart and Kate arrive with little Brady in tow. They’ve finished yet another day on the road. We leave them to rest and recover together as a family. It’s been a long and surely challenging journey for the Murrs, but they seem to be handling it with ease, taking one pedal stroke at a time.

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