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Pacific “Coming of Age” Bike Tour: Portland to San Francisco (Part 3)

November 5, 2010

Day 2: Cape Lookout to Otis, 37 mi.

Heading South along the Coast, now alone, I got to try out my tour legs at my own pace – which it turned out was a pretty good clip.

I was hoping to ride about 90 miles to one of the State Parks near Newport.

My legs were solid gold all morning.  The first item on my agenda: ascending the spectacularly mossy, ferny, humid, cool 800-foot climb out of Cape Lookout.  I stayed in the big ring, standing, for the entirety of the climb, smugly congratulating myself for the big-gear climbing ability that a season of single-speed mountain biking had surely imparted.

Only in Oregon do they have bike lanes in the middle of nowhere

The Three Capes Scenic Byway rocked my world pretty hard that first day on the Coast – mostly because I didn’t know what I was in store for during the next seven days, and because I come from the edge of a 1,000-mile corn field that would be a barren deathscape without irrigation.

I sucked an aged roadie’s wheel for a couple of miles until he dropped me on a climb (keep in mind the forty pounds of shit on my bike).  I ate a delicious ham and cheese croissant in Pacific City.

Shortly after Pacific City, I got my first taste of the “Old Highway” – Slab Creek Road.

Whenever possible, the Oregon Coast Bike Route directs cyclists off of Hwy. 101 to something more pleasant, and usually not much longer.

Always follow the bike route! Even though it seems like it might be faster to stay on the 101, I was always glad I took the bike route.

Slab Creek Road was a mile or two longer, but it avoided a much higher and steeper climb.  Also, I only saw one car and two bikes in eleven miles!

Then my friend and former roommate Chelsea called.  She happened to be driving from her new home in Corvalis up the coast to a friend’s house in Nehalem – driving right by me.  Awesome!

When Chelsea found me, she suggested I get in the car and drive with them to Nehalem to go surfing; then she could drive me back to where I was supposed to be tomorrow.

It seemed like a pretty stupid idea considering I was just barely starting the second day of my nine-day tour, but I figured “what the hell,” I’m on vacation anyway, right?” So I got in the car and drove 65 miles in the wrong direction on the Oregon Coast.  I didn’t end up getting to surf, but it was worth it.

Day 3: Oregon Dunes Lookout – Bullards Beach, 70 mi.

Day Three of my “solo” “bike” tour saw me driving south along Highway 1 in Chelsea’s Subaru for half the day.

We made coffee while driving to save time!

Jet Boil

Shameless (and indecipherable) Bean Cycle plug!

Ah, some proper Colorado coffee! Not that Oregon bullshit!

There wasn’t a chance in hell that I’d make it to San Francisco on time if Chelsea dropped me off where she found me, so I had her drive me to approximately where I would have been – skipping about 80 miles of riding.  I was happy to skip Lincoln City.  It looked like probably the biggest shit-show on the Oregon Coast (i.e. not even close to the shit shows I would encounter in California).

By Newport, I was wishing I was on my bike, as we were going by some pretty cool stuff – but who am I to question the will of the Bike Gods?

I finally got on my bike at about 2pm, starting just south of Florence and was greeted with a swift tail wind to speed me along more-or-less to where I should have been, had I kept riding.

I rode the first 50 miles in three hours.

Hell, at this pace, I could ride a hundred miles starting at 2 in the afternoon!

After the Oregon Coast Bike Route left the 101 to ride along Hungryman Cove (seriously) and crossed another inlet at Juggalo stronghold Charleston (they were super nice Juggalos, btw, as most I’ve actually talked to are (but that’s another story)), the Route turned uphill and into the wind on 7 Devils Road (again, I’m not making this shit up).  The next sixteen miles took me two hours (yep.  That’s eight miles per hour average), on 7 Devils’ steep, incessant hills.  But it was also probably the highlight of the day’s ride.

McCullough Memorial Bridge, coming into North Bend/Coos Bay. HUGE tailwind at this point!

One of the never ending series of short, steep climbs on 7 Devils Rd.

Which way?

7 Devils batted me around for a little while, but eventually lost interest and allowed me to coast down from its ridge-top perch, back toward the sea, another Southbound tail wind, and the easy (though congested) riding of the 101.  I was at the day’s camp ground before I knew it, still feeling fresh-legged, with more than an hour of daylight to cook and set up camp.

I had some cans of green beans and corn, along with a bag of Idahoan mashed potato flakes, all unnecessarily lugged over 7 Devils Road, despite the fact that Bandon, and its supermarket, were one mile further down the road.  I went into town anyway, to supplement my canned dinner with a foot-long sub, but I did eat everything.

The hiker/biker camp at Bullards Beach sucked (Bummers Beach?  Bullocks Beach?) – a thin stretch of grass for tents capped by picnic tables on both sides.  Also, there was practically no one there.  Also, my phone was almost dead and I found out I’d left my phone charger in Portland.

I was starting to feel that loneliness I was worried about, and I was getting borderline creepy-old-man with my biker neighbors, overhearing their conversations and jumping in uninvited from the adjacent picnic table.

Time to go to bed , I concluded, after poring over all of the information I had about tomorrow, my silent headlamp threatening to go the way of my cell-phone.

The sleeping pad was worthless, and I tossed and turned, trying to find a comfort, and wishing I could convince Chelsea to drive her car and meet me again.

Day Four: Bullards Beach – Brookings, 87 mi.

I experienced the same phenomenon that morning that I’ve felt countless times in my real life: as soon as I get on my bike and start riding toward a goal, the psychic funk of an empty, low-down feeling vanishes.  And if it comes back to taunt me after the immediate jolt of locomotion wears off, it will be washed away by the steady buzz of healthy pulmonary circulation.

You can’t be lonely while riding a bike.

I wonder if I only do this because I quit drinking, I think.  But by then I’ve already ridden thirty miles in just shy of two hours, another swift tailwind helping me along.

“With a tail wind like this, who needs liquor!”

The first couple of hours seemed to happen before I even realized my legs were doing anything.  I got to Port Orford too early to justify stopping for lunch at a seafood restaurant Nick had told me about, so I kept riding, higher and higher above the coast, watching its azure waves from far out – both the waves myself practically coasting uphill alongside one another.

You don’t have much to do out there other than pedal, so I recorded a video:

By the time I stopped in Gold Beach, I’d somehow convinced myself that it was an hour later than it actually was.

2:36? Wait, did my phone go back to Colorado time?  Or would that make it 4:36?  It must actually be 3:36.

“Excuse me, ma’am, do you have the time?”


“Oh.  Awesome!  Thanks!”

Somehow I was within 25 miles of my destination and it was only 2:36!

(keep in mind that back when I rode the tour that I’m now writing about, it was summer and it stayed light until eigh)

I Had a crab cake burger for lunch, and hung out a long time, drinking coffee and writing detailed notes in a notebook that I have since lost.

I’d been riding by some pretty mind blowing shit for the last two hours, but the woman at the restaurant (What was the name?!  Where is that notebook?!!!) told me that the bext part of the entire Oregon Coast was coming up between there and my destination of Brookings.

Yeah. whatever, I said to myself. Local pride…

But I was proven wrong, as usual, when I came upon the sea stacks at Myers Creek Beach.

The last fifteen miles of coastline before Brookings were dotted by little rock islands with miniature forest hats.  It was like being in some sort of children’s novel.

The woman at the restaurant in Gold Beach was definitely right.  The stretch between Gold Beach and Brookings was the most beautiful stretch of the Oregon Coast.

My campground was above the famously picturesque Harris Beach – which I didn’t go to because I wanted to go into town to go to a meeting of my secret cult and also to Fred Meyer before it closed (where I found a cord for my cellphone).  Here’s a picture of it from the internet:

The hiker/biker site at Harris Beach was worlds away from the slapdash treatment I received the night before.  There were separate tent sites cut from the brush, all with their own fire pits and picnic tables.  That night I ate fried chicken, most of a box of strawberries, two eclairs with ice cream in them, garlic sesame sticks, and nearly a full loaf of bread.  There were two younger guys two sites over from me who introduced themselves when I came in, so I went over and ate my dessert with them.

Toby was from Germany and Yeonjoo was South Korean, but living in Vancouver, B.C. to study English.  Toby had a lot of questions about the Sierra Nevadas, and was trying to figure out the best route to get to Burning Man from the Coast.  He smoked cigarettes while he agonized over the steak and baked potatoes he was trying to cook over the fire for the two of them.

“Dees wahs a baahd idea.  Ach, it’s taking for-effah!  I shood nevah haf donn eet.  Oh vell, eet vill verk, right?” (maybe I’m over-doing it)

Being an American, it turned out, didn’t make me a more competent cook or better-versed in California geography.  But I hung out with them for awhile anyway and asked them about their tours so far and their lives back home.

Yeonjoo was riding from Vancouver to Mexico.  He was sort of new to cycling, but looked a lot fitter and better-equipped than most of the people you see out there.  He had already gone to school for engineering, but came to Canada to learn English (which he said was an essential skill of the trade in Korea).  His English definitely needed work, but he was at that adorable stage where he was capable of communication, but totally unaware of any cultural mores associated with our North American act of communicating.

Toby was much better-versed in American culture, American slang and American conventions.  He had gone to college in a small town in Indiana or Iowa or something (again, the lost notebook…).  He was riding this Rohloff-hubbed, internal-shifting doomsday bike with mountain bike wheels.

He’d been riding from Alaska, and was planning to ride across the Mexican border, if not further.  Toby told me stories of riding all night in Alaska when there wasn’t a campground.  He ran into Yeonjoo somewhere in Washington and they’d been riding together ever since.  When I asked him how long he’d been riding, he said he didn’t know.

“I finally broke dowan and gott an iPad in Washington, but o-ther than that I’ve been pretty cutt ofe”

Toby and Yoenjoo were celebrating being in the big city (Brookings is the biggest for a couple of days in either direction) by drinking several beers each.  We talked until the wee hours of the night (by bike tourist standards (11pm)), and said our goodbyes.

My first “full” day in the saddle was pretty good.  I was worn out, but ready to ride again the next day.  I had a working telephone, so I could call my Dad (a cyclist himself) and let him live vicariously through my tour.  The next day I’d cross into California and ride more-or-less the same mileage (other than a couple of bigger climbs). I finally got a halfway decent sleep that night, despite my shitty sleeping pad.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2010 4:31 am

    Let me guess, Toby had a Rohloff 14 gear internaly geared hub? German cyclotourists love their Rohloffs..

  2. Alvin Holbrook permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:42 pm

    Great post! Keep up the work, I can’t wait to read the rest.

  3. November 18, 2010 7:09 am

    So. Did you have a tail wind?? Maybe? I didn’t catch if you did. Dog Dog

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