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Bikefag “Coming of Age” Bike Tour: Portland to San Francisco (Part 2)

October 6, 2010

I’d never been on a “real” bike tour before – unless you count the time I attached a B.O.B. trailer to der Eisentraut and rode most of the way across Colorado with “Dad” (Dan Lionberg).  Or the time Aaron, Brandon and I stole racks from abandoned bikes in Paris, bungee-corded trash bags full of our possessions onto the backs of our “fixies,” and rode from Calais to Amsterdam.

But Dad was at the helm for the first excusrion, and Brandon, Aaron, and I could huddle together in the warmth of each others’ ineptitude.  This time, I was flying solo.  I was going to need all my own gear, my own expertise, my own money, and my own tools.  Also, I’d be on tour for a long time compared to those early juants.

Thankfully, I wasn’t actually flying solo.  The Bike Gods have blessed me with many friends who ride bikes (not to mention, like, thirty roommates).  It only took a couple of calls and Facebook posts to borrow some paniers, a stove, a tent, a sleeping bag, a rack, maps, extra spokes, and pretty much everything else that I’d need, other than ironic cycling clothing (which I had plenty of).

Another thing I lacked was any idea what the fuck I was doing. But once again, The Bike Gods intervened.  My BiFF Grace had a couple of friends (Nick and Mary of Sampo Films.  Check out their blog.) who just toured the Pacific Coast to screen their filmed-by-bike “Field Guide to November Days” (hey, they’re Portlanders..).

Turned out Nick had two days off at the same time I was starting my journey, so he offered to ride with me from Portland to the Coast.

I met with Nick the night before to get some maps.  And the dude was – as is typical with Portlanders – totally rad.  He taught me that being thirty was something to look forward to, not be terrified of; he played me Sparks‘ “computer disco” masterpiece “No. 1 In Heaven” (RS link); and he reaffirmed what I already knew: I’ve gotta move to Portland!

Nick, it would turn out, also knew how to ride.

Day 1: Beaverton to Cape Lookout State Park, 70 mi.

After breakfast with my BiFF Grace, and some final packing, Nick and I wouldn’t be able to get on the road until noon.  We decided to skip all of the suburbs and take the Max all the way to the end of the line in Hillsboro.

EVERYONE wears vintage wool jerseys on Portland's Max

It was typical edge-of-town riding at first – some strip-mall highway with a bunch of suburbanites in SUVs, just like anywhere else in America.  But unlike most strip-mall highways in America, there were wide bike lanes.

The riding got good after Forest Grove, as Highway 8 followed Gales Creek for fifteen or so peaceful miles.  I really felt like I was in the Northwest, you know? Even though it was the end of the summer, and the farmlands were getting a little bit yellower, it was all still mind-blowingly green compared to Colorado.  And the greenery was just getting started.  Once we merged onto Highway 6, and gained a little more elevation on our way up the main feature of the day’s ride – the pass over the Coastal Range – we got into the evergreen forests I’d seen from the plane and was expecting to ride through all day.

I liked two things about riding on Highway 6:

-They had elevation markers for every 500 ft increment, as well as the elevation of the top.

-There was a big bike lane

I disliked the following thing:

-There was a lot traffic, and it was largely of the boat-pulling, diesel-blasting, Portland-Librul-Hating variety.

But the climb took my mind off that for awhile anyway.  It was a perfect climb, really: steep enough to get the job done, but never too steep to necessitate a downshift to the little ring (which was helpful, since I didn’t have a front derailleur).

Unfortunately, I was busy trying to seem fast to impress Nick, so I didn’t snap any photos, but there are so many cool rivers around the coastal range.  Well, in Oregon they call them creeks, but to a Coloradoan, they’re rivers.  If you’re into jumping off cliffs into exotically deep-turquoise rivers with whimsical white rock features (and who isn’t?), Oregon is your state.

Nick and I had to beat the sunset, though, so we kept moving all the way to the mighty 1,600 ft. summit of the Coastal Range.

We were nearing the ocean now for sure.  You could feel it in the air on the way down the coastal side. We could also feel the calm ocean breeze (in the form of a sustained 25mph headwind) on our way into Tillamook.

Nick wanted to go to some “lounge with frogs everywhere” that he “always went to” when he was in Tillamook.

And I’m glad that we did!  I got oysters from Netards (rhymes with “retards”).  They tasted pretty good, but what the hell do I know?  I’m from Colorado!

After that, we went to Safeway (or maybe the local equivalent), where Nick laid down a whole bunch of wisdom:

-Get a dessert from the grocery store’s bakery, Nick suggested.  And we did: carrot cake.

-In Oregon, there is a magical place called Fred Meyer.  It’s like Wal-Mart, Safeway, and a food coop all in one.  There, one will find Dr. Bronners soap, bicycle inner tubes, half-price fried chicken, organic berries, bulk trail mix, tools, knives, gas for your stove, SD cards, and perhaps a stray dog.

-Look for the mini cans of corn and green beans.  You can add them to Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice, Idahoan mashed potatoes, Zatarains Red Beans and Rice, etc.

-Get a banana for your oatmeal (I started getting strawberries too whenever I could buy them in reasonably small quantities).

-Don’t forget to buy oatmeal (well, he didn’t actually tell me that, but he should have).

-Always make sure you have cash for the camp ground BEFORE you leave the last town.

-Remember to save some quarters for the showers once you get to California

I stuck to Nick’s advice pretty much every day of my tour (except that I increasingly went to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at restaurants as the tour progressed).

Nick showed me the way from Tillamook to Cape Lookout State Park.

First glimpse of the Ocean! (actually an inlet)

We arrived at Cape Lookout and sure enough, the “hiker/biker” camping was five bucks, just like nick said.  And what a deal!  The place was incredible!

Other than the experience of actually riding down the coast, one of the coolest phenomenon of touring the Pacific Coast is the hiker/biker areas of the state park campgrounds.  Most importantly, they only cost five bucks a night, so there’s really no reason to bother hiding out in illicit forests, unless you really need to.  The camp grounds almost always have electrical outlets in the bathrooms, and showers (believe me, you WANT a shower every day after sitting in a chamois in coastal humidity for ten hours every day).

And Cape Lookout is one of the best camp grounds I went to on the entire tour.  The hiker/biker section was separated from the main “earth raper” section by a road.  Each campsite had its own fire pit and picnic table.  We had our own bathroom.  And we were right next to the beach.

The campsites are just to the right

Nick and I ate our Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice with corn and black beans, and our dried fruit, and our carrot cake, then we hit the sack by 10 or 11.

It was really exciting to be camping that first night, even if I had no sleeping pad and I kept waking up every 20 minutes to try to find a more comfortable way to sleep on the ground.  I must have gone to sleep eventually, though, because when we woke up it was already 10:30.

Nick showed me the ropes on the oatmeal-making, and the the panier-packing the next morning, before we headed out of the park and went our separate ways.

Nick and I stopped to say our goodbyes before i headed south on the Three Capes Scenic byway and he headed back north to Tillamook.  It was good to have a guide for the first day of the tour, but I was on my own now.  Time to head South and see what the Coast had in store for me.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom R. permalink
    October 7, 2010 8:59 am

    I hope that when you pull to the campground, there’s 2 signs:


  2. October 18, 2010 1:29 pm

    Part III, Part III, PART III!!!

  3. Antigone permalink
    November 6, 2010 2:13 pm

    I love it. You write like you speak so I feel like you’re just telling me a story.

  4. May 30, 2012 12:48 am

    Hi, how long did he trip take from Portland to San Fran?

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