The Oregon Coast has been incredibly good to us thus far. It has blessed us with fantastic weather, great new friends and pedalling partners, and overall wicked good times. From spending time with our hosts Angela and Jim in Cannon Beach, to riding the past few days with awesome company, the Oregon chapter of our adventure has been more than good to us.
Day 19: Rest day in Cannon Beach
As I look out of the bedroom window this morning, I see a grim-faced and dark Haystack Rock presiding over dark skies, dark waters, dark sands, and agitated air. However, it is still early and the weather will likely clear up later.
Except that it does not do so. On the contrary, winds pick up even more after breakfast, and suddenly we find ourselves to be stormwatching through the living-room window. Coming from the South, the wind lets the rain zoom horizontally across the landscape and moves grains of sands in straight lines along the entire beach.
All in all, this would be atrocious weather to bike in. Not necessarily because of the rain. The problem is the wind, which seems to, at times, gust to about 60km/h. That amount of headwind would make every cyclist in the world absolutely miserable. I really don’t look forward to hopping in the saddle and really hope it clears up by noon.
The rain becomes weaker, but the storm picks up even stronger – and Angela and Jim offer us to stay for another night. It immediately sinks in how lucky Taylor and I are; we gratefully accept their offer. We had not planned for this second rest day. But plans need to be flexible. Plus, spending another night with our hosts and getting to enjoy their beautiful abode (as well as Cannon Beach) for another day is a thrilling prospect.
Since we have established that we stay, Taylor and I put on our rain pants, Gore-Tex jacket, and beach sandals and go brave the wind. I try to sprint against it but am moving no faster than a snail digesting its Thanksgiving dinner. After, we go to Sleepy Monk – Angela’s and Jim’s favourite coffee shop. Their cappuccino is delicious, and so is their gluten-free and vegan banana bread. We get our hosts a gift certificate as a thank you, so they can buy some more coffee there once their home stash runs out.
Once we return to the house, the weather is actually clearing up. The cover of clouds gets ripped apart and the sun finally comes out. The wind almost dies down, and thus it is time to finally bring out the frisbee that Taylor has been carrying in her bag for almost three weeks. I’m better at catching and throwing the disk than I remember, even though my hand-eye coordination is almost legendary by its absence.
Jim makes us all dinner and we let the evening unwind with a round of Settlers of Catan (which Taylor wins – beginner’s luck), wine, and salted caramel taffies. It is a really fun evening, and we go to sleep past midnight for the first time.
Day 20: Cannon Beach to Cape Lookout State Park, 93.5km
We leave Jim and Angela’s house under bright blue skies and are excited to spend a full day on our bikes again. I almost get a little emotional saying farewell to our now friends and hosts (I’ll do my best to stay in touch with them).
We climb a decent-sized hill and stop for a break at Oswald West State Park, one of the popular surf beaches in the area. Since it is Saturday and sunny, a lot of people are out enjoying this gorgeous little strip of Oregon Coast. It is not a very long beach, nestled between capes. We watch as surfers catch wave after wave. We also check out the dead whale that has been making the local news for the last few days. A dead humpback, it is being left to decay naturally in the sand. Since Jim asked us to name him, I decide to call him ‘Dingo the Dead Humpback.’
The ‘Save Short Sands’ environmental group is having a rally in the park, raising awareness for the spraying happening in the cut blocks upstream from the park. Areas higher up in the hills have recently been cleared, and now the logging companies are using herbicides to keep the plants under control. The problem is that these chemicals get into the stream and ground water, effectively having a negative impact on a much greater area than the initial cut blocks. Local residents’ water has been contaminated, and so has the stream that flows into the ocean at Oswald.
The road carves around hills, high above the sea, to get to Manzanita. It is a funky little town, where we stop at a local health food store to stock up on veggies and snacks. Unfortunately, the avocado I buy turns out to be far from ripe.
Once we get around Nehalem Bay, we finally, after all this time, encounter some tail wind! We almost feel like we are flying towards Tillamook. We’re coasting down the coast at a sustainable 26km/h.
We meet four other cyclists over ice cream at the Tillamook creamery. They all met at Neil Branson’s house where they waited for the bad weather to pass (they got there the day we left for Cannon Beach), and have decided to bike together for the time being. There’s Herbie, an Irishman, and Laura, who’s English. They started in British Columbia and are biking all the way down to Argentina, which they hope to reach by the end of 2017. They have a blog of their own, Pedalling2Patagonia, which is worth checking out. Then, there’s Dave from Connecticut, a thru-hiker who just finished the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Now really skinny and equipped with a pretty good flavour-saver (a.k.a. beard), he’s biking down to San Diego to get to his sister’s wedding. Last but not least is Giuliana and her cat-litter-bucket rear panniers. Actually living in Romania, she spent the last months in Delaware on a work and travel program. Wanting to explore the West Coast, she decided to do so on a bicycle and on as little a budget as possible. She rented her bike from her Seattle Couchsurfing host and is trying to make it to San Diego before her flight back to Europe mid-October.
We all hit it off immediately. All of us wanting to stay at Cape Lookout State Park for the night, we decide to go together. After a quick grocery stop at Safeway, our six-people pelloton reaches the campground just in time for sunset.
Herbie, Dave and I convince ourselves to go for a dip in the Pacific. I’ve been wanting to do this since Taylor and I reached the coast back in Washington! The water is not even as cold as I thought. Plus, showers in Oregon State Park campgrounds are free and really warm, so we can wash the ocean salt off our bodies and warm ourselves up.
After dinner, we swap stories, Dave tells us about his time on the PCT and reads us two poems. The starry sky is incredible and I see about seven shooting stars.
Day 21: Cape Lookout State Park to Beverley Beach State Park, 101km
We wake up to more gorgeous, open skies. Taylor and I decide to join our new-found friends for the next few days. As the saying goes: the more, the merrier! Plus, we get along so well that not travelling together would be a wasted opportunity.
Our little group of six gets ready fairly quickly and is on the road by 9:30am. We have to climb a hill right off the bat. But hey – the downhill is always rewarding. Dave and I send it on the relatively rough and twisting road. It almost feels like flowing down on a mountain bike!
We push on to Neskowin for lunch. Their little grocery store carries gnocchi – I guess this settles it for dinner. Another $7 well spent, I think.
We take a detour on the old 101 – it is a bit longer, but there is almost no traffic and it is nice and shady for the most part. Plus, it is less steep than following the actual highway. It is, all in all, pretty mellow. Once we are back on the main road, we all draft behind Herbie for a while. There’s a banana peel on the road. I wonder if someone was trying to play real-life Mario Kart.
Now that I have other bikes to compare it to, I notice than Rudolph (yes, that’s my bike’s name) rolls forever once it picks up speed. It does have the biggest rolling radius – 700-42c tires, after all – of all bikes in our group, which I am definitely not complaining about.
After stopping in Lincoln City for groceries, we still have about 30km to go. We leave the 101 again for the last section, along what is called Otter Crest loop. The views are drop-dead gorgeous and we even see some whales! This road, with this group, is definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
At the campground, we split the fees for a normal site, which is cheaper than if we all paid the individual hiker/biker fee. Travelling in a bigger group is worth it!
Herbie discovers the absolute magic of Idahoan instant mashed potatoes and is hooked for life – maybe because he’s Irish and thus has an innate special relationship to this vegetable? In any case, his dietary choices are set for the foreseeable future.
Day 22: Beverley Beach State Park to Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, 98km
Another gorgeous morning with cool people unfolds. Laura needs to fix a flat before we get going in the already hot morning air.
We are cranking and going really fast. We stop very little and I manage to drink from my water bottle while biking for the first time – it is a bit awkward.
We stop for lunch in Yachats, right on the water, and have already travelled 50km. We ain’t just cranking – we are full on hauling ass. My legs are feeling it and suffering through it, especially after yesterday’s long and hilly ride. At least we have a little tail wind helping us out.
The coastal scenery is just incredible. When you think you’ve seen it all, you ride past another gorgeous bay with cool rock formations, tidal pools, and the like. It looks wild! The road takes us around Heceta Head, where it snakes its way up and around hills and rock faces, and rewards our efforts with glorious ocean vistas. On the way down from there, I break my previous speed record and fly down the hill at 65.6km/h. Next goal: going over 70km/h!
In Florence, we shop at this big grocery store called Fred Meyers, which has the cheapest deals I have ever seen. They sell their about-to-expire loaves of bread for 39 cents! I get a bar of white Toblerone for only $1.29! And, best of all, they sell my favourite, nut-butter-filled Clif Bars, for $1.25 a piece. Outside the store, a mushroom connoisseur who used to be a Warmshowers host back in Missoula, Montana, gives us a bag of freshly-picked chanterelles.
The campground is only a few kilometres outside of Florence. However, as I bike through town, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to keep up. Furthermore, the back of my bike suddenly feels extremely bouncy… I stop to take a look at it and my suspicions are confirmed: I have a flat! However, it is a slow-leaking one. I have enough air in the tire to not be sitting on the rim, which is why I decide to keep going. Thus the very last section of the day becomes a full-on sufferfest for me. Luckily, it does not last long.
Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park is located in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area – another one of the State’s 7 Wonders. We run around in the sand and go for a swim in the lake, which is much warmer than the ocean.
Day 23: Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park to Sunset Bay State Park, 90km
I have to fix my bike this morning. I couldn’t find the hole in the tube – it must be minuscule. I just throw in one of my spare tubes. Herbie lets me borrow his bike pump which is, while stile being small and portable, much more efficient than mine. I still break a sweat to get my tire pressure up to 80psi.
Since I have bike business to take care off as well as packing up all my belongings, I take quite long to get ready. Dave, Herbie and Laura decide to leave – either we’ll catch up with them, or meet them at Sunset Bay (our goal for the day). So it’s Taylor, Giuliana and me for the day.
After the last few big and fast days, we feel no need to speed. Plus, Taylor’s legs are tired. This means we are back at our own pace of stopping more often to drink and take pictures. This doesn’t mean that we’re slow, though. Our average pace is only about 1km/h slower than yesterday’s but feels much more relaxing.
As we roll through Winchester Bay, I notice a sourdough bakery. This obviously requires a stop. Four ginourmous bagels later, we start climbing up the hill, where we stop for lunch at the Umpqua River Lighthouse. The bagels are really good.
Our little trio makes it, thanks to a strong tail wind (we average about 30km/h), to North Bend in absolutely no time at all. As we get to town, we see Herbie waving at us from outside a bike shop. Laura needs a little spare piece for her light. After that, we get groceries, as per usual. We wonder if we will meet up with Dave, or if we has decided to keep going and do a 100-miler day.
The question answers itself as we roll up to Sunset Bay State Park, where we see him waiting for another cyclist: Jackie, 23, Mexican who grew up in Toronto and is a tree planter. Another Canadian! She’s super rad, also uses bucket-panniers, and is on her way to San Diego. We all pile into a campsite again, for only $3 (including firewood). After dinner, we watch the sunset and play frisbee on the beach.
I realize that the most memorable moments of this trip – the highlights – are all about and made by the people we encounter along the way. I want to keep them close to my heart and remember them for a long time because I got to experience them together with absolutely incredible human beings. I am so grateful for meeting all these souls and share some of my adventure with them. I am sure Taylor feels the same.
Christopher McCandless was write when he wrote, all alone in the Alaskan wilderness, that ‘happiness is only real when shared.’