The past few days were ripe with the reaching of milestones; the biggest one being to enter Oregon, the State of no sales tax. It’s like we’ve reached the second chapter of our adventure. So far, it has been a most relaxing few days. But our last few days in Washington State were not bad, either. We enjoyed the end of our trip’s first chapter as best as we could.
Day 14: Cosmopolis to Bruceport County Park, 53.5km
Getting to wake up in a real, cozy bed after two weeks of inhaling each other’s foot fumes and trying not to roll off a sleeping mat can definitely be added to the (rather long) list of ‘best things ever.’ Plus, Marnie makes us wonderful breakfast – scrambled eggs with bacon, buttered toast and homemade raspberry jam. Normally her guests don’t get such a service. But, since it is Sunday, she made an exception since she does not have to rush to work.
Around 9am, Zoe gets picked up by her dad, and both our lovely hosts are off to catalogue some dead seabirds. Well, Marnie is following up on her citizen scientist duties – John doesn’t really have a choice but to tag along and reluctantly help her out. We are allowed to stay behind at the house and get ready in our own time. Again, I am awestruck at how trusting these people are – truly incredible.
Taylor and I take care of our bikes, pack our now wonderfully dry belongings (and clean clothes!) back in their bags, and wait for the sun to come out and clear away the fog. We leave around 11:30am.
The road to Raymond is a hilly one. I count four or five big climbs – always accompanied by their downhill mirror image. After the first hill, we stop at Clark’s Restaurant, which John had recommended for their milkshakes. The latter turn out to be the best ones we’ve ever had! Taylor gets chocolate; I get banana and spiced apple. We also each get a burger. I’m not eating again until dinnertime.
As we ride through South Bend, I spot ‘Jayden’s German Store.’ I feel as though destiny is calling my name. A box of fennel tea, some Milka chocolate, and some Bavarian potato pancake mix later, I am good to head towards Bruceport.
It does not take much longer to reach the county park, which sits on a hill overlooking the bay. The camp host, a friendly, middle-aged lady, offers us the covered day area to stay for the night, for $20 instead of $50. The weather forecast being questionable at best, she does not want us and all our gear to get wet. We gratefully accept the offer, the memories from Lake Quinault still etched in our minds.
Day 15: Bruceport County Park to Cape Disappointment State Park, 69.5km
It rained over night, but we and all our belongings remain totally dry. Again, a big thank you to the camp host for letting us use the covered area.
By the time we leave, it is neither sunny nor rainy. The skies seem indecisive. However, they look quite a ways more friendly towards the south than the north – we get a lot of sun, with occasional cloudy intermissions, all day long.
I am listening to music while I ride for the first time. Portugal. The Man, Shred Kelly and Current Swell keep me company. Since music makes me happy, this makes me a really happy cyclist overall (which I always am, but this is like the icing on the cake).
We follow Route 101 as it makes an unnecessary, but scenic loop westward to Seaview, on the Long Island Peninsula. We ride onto the beach, until the road becomes one with the sand. We are looking out onto the Pacific Ocean once more.
Cape Disappointment is located just south of the little port of Ilwaco, on the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. Unlike the name would suggest, it doesn’t disappoint us at all. But that is because we arrive on a gorgeous afternoon.
On the other hand, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which named this spot, had a really bad bout of weather in the area in November 1805. Also named the Corps of Discovery Expedition, it was the first to cross and explore the Western portion of the modern United States. They ultimately reached the Pacific Coast by travelling down the Columbia River. First, they settled on the northern shore for the winter, but decided to switch shorelines after the weather, in true Washington State fashion, was throwing storm after storm at them. They built their new winter encampment, Fort Clatsop, on the other side of the river, where the skies were more clement, but not before naming a few places they left behind in line with their experience (Cape Disappointment and Dismal Nitch, for example). We are, all in all, located in a place truly important to American national history.
We set up camp and go explore. I decide to bike all the way to the tip of the North Jetty, where a beach made of soft, smooth sand welcomes me to sit down and read for a while. Eventually, I try to ride my bike in the firm and wet sand close to the waves. But it is super difficult! Plus, not wearing any shoes doesn’t make the pedalling any easier.
Day 16: Cape Disappointment State Park to Seaside, 60km
It rains in the early hours of the morning – again. There is still so much water dripping from the trees when we wake up that we are unsure if the rain has actually stopped. Taylor gets out of the tent to check and she reports back that most of the sky is actually bright blue, altough with big clouds hiding the sun. It looks like we luck out once more!
Today is a big day – not in the amount of kilometres that we bike, but in its significance. Indeed, we are about to enter Oregon State, which I consider to be a more symbolic milestone than breaking the 1,000km-mark or being for on the road for 14 straight days. Plus, we get to do so in a most spectacular fashion: over the Astoria-Megler Bridge, with 6.6km North America’s longest truss bridge.
Furthermore, the body of water the bridge spans across is none other than the mighty Columbia River. While it is teal-coloured, fast-flowing, and almost still in its infancy up in Revelstoke, down here it is an absolute colossus whose water slowly pushes its way into the Pacific. To me, it is mind-blowing to think that I am in the presence of the same river, the same water as I would be so much further up north. I feel a wierd connexion. And, who knows, maybe it took the water from Revelstoke also just a little over two weeks to get here? In any case, I am struck by this powerful symbolism. This is a truly special moment to me – one that I am not likely to forget in the years to come.
Once we get onto the bridge, we soon spot the ‘Entering Oregon’ road sign. It is probably ill-advised to stop, especially because the shoulder is narrow. But we do it anyway – it would be a crime not to capture this important moment on a photograph (or two – or twenty).
We roll into Astoria and pass in front of its various downtown store fronts. It is quite lovely indeed. We go for lunch at the Blue Scorcher Bakery and Cafe – Taylor and her best friend Laura had stopped here a year ago when they went on a roadtrip to visit The 7 Wonders of Oregon. She gets a triple grilled cheese (the best one of her life, apparently), and I opt for an aragula salad – it’s delicious. What can I say; I love greens. We also load up on oat cakes, scones, and small loaves of sourdough bread.
We also stop by the local bike shop, which unfortunately does not have its own stickers. However, it carries arm warmers – the item of clothing that I was missing to really make me feel comfortable with the minimal amount that I brought along – and Cascadia stickers. While I am by no means a proponent of this seemingly semi-serious independence movement, I like the idea behind creating a sense of community and place within the Cascadian bioregion and the Pacific Northwest as a whole (as well as fostering environmental awareness). So I get a sticker of the Doug flag and put it around my bike’s seatpost.
Once we reach Seaside, we roll through downtown and then along the ‘Prom’ – the seaside promenade – to get to our temporary home for the next two nights. We are staying with somewhat of a Couchsurfing and Warmshowers legend whose name is Neil, lives only four blocks from the beach, and has a big smiley face, with the words ‘Love you Neil,’ spray-painted on his garage door. He is a retired college professor who still coaches track and cross country high school teams. An avid traveller himself, he’s visited countless places and offers up as much space of his house as possible to help the travelling community grow.
Neither Neil nor Carrie – a long-term Couchsurfer from Idaho – are home when we show up. But we were told that the doors are unlocked and that we should make ourselves at home. Taylor and I are baffled by the trust these people put into total strangers. We put our bags in an empty bedroom, take a shower, and walk to town to have seafood. We end up at Dooger’s, which we, over the course of our dinner, identify as a bit of a less greasy seafood and fish version of the Spaguetti Factory. I end our trip’s sober streak by ordering a glass of white wine.
Day 17: Rest Day in Seaside
Neil has agreed to let us stay at his house for two nights, so we finally have our first day off the bike (after over two weeks of daily riding). It feels utterly relaxing not having to pack our bags for once. Really, the main reason we want to take it easy for a day is that we want to recharge our mental batteries, slightly weary from constantly being on the move and having to shift camp every night. Our bodies feel fine – physical exhaustion is definitely not the purpose behind our day off. But while this is an adventure about going the distance and achieving something big, it is also a vacation. So why not take it easy when we have the opportunity?
I decide to go for a run. It’s not what you would expect a bike nomad to do on her day off. But the proximity of the beach and the sunny weather make for an opportunity I can’t ignore. I just crave it. Also, the prospect of not moving much for a day makes me wierdly uneasy – I have to do something about it.
In the afternoon, Taylor and I hang out in town. We eat bagels, drink coffee, write postcards. We spend 10 minutes on one of the beach swings, while I try to think of an actual term for a female manchild. Because that’s definitely what I am. Got any ideas?
We have dinner at Neil’s house – oven-baked yams and countless vegetables. It’s nice to be able to use a fully-equipped kitchen, for a change.
Day 18: Seaside to Cannon Beach, 14km
My legs are sore from running. Over two weeks of daily long bike rides and it’s a casual beach run that gets me. But my leg muscles are not used to barefoot running, which is more challenging than having the support of a shoe.
Not that my sore muscles really matter. We are only biking over the hill to Cannon Beach, where our next Warmshowers hosts live. It is basically another day off for us.
We get there around noon and start by exploring the northern portion of the beach that is nestled against Ecola State Park. There are horse tracks in the sand. Then we slowly move through the downtown area, where tourism’s influence can be felt. There are numerous restaurants, pubs, and little stores; the buildings are small, beach-front-style wooden houses with bright white or blue window frames.
The house of our hosts, Angela and Jim, looks and feels like a luxurious B&B retreat. Sitting on the hill just outside the tsunami zone, it overlooks the beach and Haystack Rock, Oregon Coast’s most famous sea stack formation. This 10-million-year-old pillar of volcanic rock towers over the beach like an ancient cathedral, withstanding wind and waves constantly knawing at its sides. Our host’s live in a truly spectacular location.
The house itself is big and built over several floors, with large windows facing the sea. We each get our own bedroom – mine looks out to Haystack Rock. We are immediately made to feel so welcome by Jim and Angela that I feel as if I am staying with long-term family friends. Or at a 5-star hotel.
The skies clear up just in time for Taylor and I to explore the beach. We get changed and walk down to the big rock. Nature feels more alive and wild here than it does over in Seaside, where the beach feels more ‘groomed.’ I can’t stop looking at this volcanic formation. It really blows my mind.
Fate strikes as a golden Labrador chooses us to play fetch with her. Taylor and I each throw a couple of balls into the waves. Then, we go downtown and spend about half an hour in the lovely bookstore, adding titles to our personal to-read lists.
Back at Angela and Jim’s house, we relax on their balcony as we look out onto the beach, beer in hand. They make us steaks with potatoes and broccoli for dinner. We drink red wine and have a lot of ice cream for dessert. The drinks fuel our discussions until relatively late at night. We talk about Trump and American society, Fanny May (for which Angela used to work until her retirement) and the housing crisis, close calls on Jim’s week-long mountain-biking trips from Durango to Moab, and much more. We feel lucky and grateful to be in such excellent company. This is more than just hospitality – I just haven’t figured out yet what exactly it is.
This is how far we’ve come in 18 days (the route is approximate, Google Maps is not the ideal software for this):
Looking at this, I realize that we have travelled an incredible distance in a relatively short time. Even if you drive, you are on the road for quite a ways. But we are doing this propelled solely by our own engines – our bodies. I am really proud of ourselves!