On the road with Katie Spillane

By Midge Pierce

For transcontinental cross- Canada cyclist Katie Spillane, SE Portland was the mid-point, time-wise, in her solo bike trip from Quebec to Colorado.

With the most grueling mountain roads still ahead of her, she rested in Buckman, repaired her bike and stretched her asphalt-conditioned limbs on the relatively forgiving off-road trails of Laurelhurst, Mt. Tabor and the Gorge.

She hoped to wait out the worst of the July heat before tackling the Cascades, Bitterroots and various peaks and passes through the Rocky Mountains.

Averaging 60 miles a day over the 1200 miles she has already logged, Spillane’s childhood training in classic ballet and wilderness camping have stood her in good stead.

Now an attorney, the Colorado native is a bonafide, multi-lingual citizen of the globe who has lived in China, Europe and now Canada where she clerks for judges on cases ranging from Constitutional law to money laundering.

When she found herself with the summer off and a desire to visit Oregon friends, she hit the road with little training, other than knowing legs can take a lot of abuse.

”It’s much less complicated than people think. Leave stress behind and have the courage to go.”

Rerouting to avoid construction and road closures is a daily necessity, Spillane said, noting that online maps and occasionally locals have misdirected her onto flooded roads, treacherous gravel and remote areas with too-close encounters from logging trucks.

She’s experienced first hand the axiom: “There are no wrong turns, only new adventures. You learn to adapt when something doesn’t go the way you expect.”

One expectation was to find fellow travelers on the road. Though she saw a few through-cyclers in the PacWest, she saw none on the road in Ontario.

With a nod to caution, she used a train pass across the driest, most isolated stretches of Canada to connect with an aunt who joined her in Vancouver B.C. for the “mostly downhill” trek through the Olympic Peninsula to Oregon.

The best parts of the trip have been along waterways like Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the Puget Sound. Among the worst was navigating Beaverton. “Then I found Washington Park –  a lovely way to enter Portland,” she acknowledged.

Katie Spillane

Readying for the Rockies was a particular challenge as she calculated how much water she would need, and checked road weather and fire conditions. Because every ounce matters to a solo cyclist, she debated whether to alter bike balance and add bear canisters to her load.

Unlike the experiences of the author of Wild, there is no package waiting for her at every rest stop or a movie deal in the future. She can relate to the desire for simplicity.

“It’s nice to throw off workday worries and wake up with basic decisions. If you have three t-shirts and one is clean, that’s what you wear.”

Still, friends and parents worry and strangers call her crazy, but as she peddles down the highway – and preferably byways – for her toughest leg, this she knows: “The most interesting things in my life are those other people have tried to talk me out of doing.”

On the road with Katie Spillane

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