Sleep was impossible, last night. The wind was blowing like crazy–to the point that it was flattening our tents. My tent was about six inches from my face; and I was sliding downhill toward the ocean; and my stakes wouldn’t hold in the sand, so the tent fly was flapping all night long on all four sides; and it was so cold, I couldn’t get my hands and feet to warm up, and, and….. I woke up at 3:30 AM, then couldn’t fall asleep again until just before it was time to wake up. I hollered over to Karen to see how she had slept. She had had a ‘fitful’ night. We laughed.
Once breakfast was eaten and our campsites were all neatly packed away, it was time for a walk on the beach. And this was not just any walk, for me. It was a walk with my own personal marine biologist to educate and entertain me.
And what follows is some of what we may be eating in the future. The first two photos are sea palm. Yummy.
I think this is cysto sera. It has beans in those pods on the right hand. Yummy.I took notes, and now I feel like I’m failing the test. Don’t flunk me, Karen. I think this is dulse. Yummy.And this is ????? I can’t remember. I did fail my test.
We said goodbye to our private beach, and Karen hauled my panniers to the top of the hill into the park in her car, for which I am eternally grateful, and we said our goodbyes. I wish I was traveling with someone fun like Karen. We would be having a blast all day, every day.
So the day went like this. I passed more scenic coastline–miles and miles and miles of it.
The Ten Mile Beach Trail took me past all kinds of coastal habitats that are part of Mac Kerricher State Park: beaches, headlands, dunes, coves, wetlands, tide pools, forest, a freshwater lake, on one side of the trail. The other side of the trail was either more of the same or cool vacation rentals. The trail terminated at the cool mural covered restrooms below. They really know how to do it up, at some of these parks!
As soon as I entered Fort Bragg, the town adjacent to the park, one of the first things I came to was…..Denny’s!!! Amazing luck, don’t you think? I had an incredible lunch, there, and left in a state of bliss. Fort Bragg was never a military fort, it was just named after a military man. But it was a decent little town. It had a Safeway store, so I was able to resupply my groceries and Gatorade, which is always nice.Above is the Historical Society building that caught my ye. Below, a mural. You know me and murals.Down the road was this piece of property for sale. If I bought it, would it really work for me?The scenery for the rest of the day was more ocean views, then a few miles down the road from Elk, the route turned inland toward a little town named Manchester–my destination for the night.
I stayed in a KOA cabin, so I could do laundry, shower for as long as I wanted to (most campground showers are coin operated), and be guaranteed a good night of sleep. I loved my little cabin and the ‘Kamper Kitchen,’ that made it possible to cook without getting out my stove, and clean up in a sink with soap. Modern conveniences are such a treat!
With a great night of rest, in a little cottage in the Redwoods, in the tiny little town of Phillipsville, under my belt, I loaded up steed and hit the road.
About 11 miles down the route, I was passed by a speeding fire truck en route to a fire. Another mile down the road, as I approached Graberville, a Sheriff’s deputy was arriving to join the fire truck, then as I passed, more emergency vehicles arrived. A range fire had just started in the dry brush that lines the forest in that area. I didn’t have time to sit around and watch how it went down, but I didn’t hear any news on it, later, so they must have been able to control it.
The scenery of the day was what we would call high desert, in Arizona, tourist attractions, and more Redwood trees.
No, I didn’t stop at Confusion Hill to find out what is so ‘historically interesting,’ there. Just not that curious, and definitely not in need of more confusion than I already grapple with on a daily basis.
And here is where things started to change. After a couple of ridiculous climbs, outside of Leggett, I descended out of the Redwoods and passed the terrain below, with trees blown permanently eastward. And then the road turned, and I was on Highway 1 following the coast. And I mean, right on the edge of a cliff following the coastline.It was Sunday, so there were a lot of people cruising in their hot cars, motorcyc;les, antique cars, etc. I’m pretty sure this Porche and Bugati were waiting for me to take my rightful place with my legendary vehicle. And this is where I met Joseph Silva, who volunteers a couple of days a week with the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana. After talking to him, I may get involved with the organization, when I get back home. They help veterans who served in the US Armed Forces as citizens of Mexico and other countries, but later were deported, because they never had time to complete the citizenship requirements and get their US citizenship. Many of them didn’t have time to work on it, because they were deployed to the Middle East doing grunt jobs. What a great cause!It’s always fun talking to folks along the way, but I had to get down the road to my campground, which, this evening, was going to be the Westport-Union Landing State Beach. As I pulled up, I noticed that not only were there no showers, but the toilets were composting toilets. No way. I draw the line at running water. So I peddled down the road to the next lodging I could find, which was the Westport Beach RV Park and Campground.
And this is where I met my new friend Karen Gray, a marine biologist on an adventure of her own. She is headed up to Samoa, which is across the bridge I rode into Eureka on, two days ago. She’s going to help set up kelp and shellfish growing operations on the site of an abandoned pulp mill I rode by on the weird Google Maps reroute I took that day.
We had both arrived just minutes after the staff left the check in office, for the day, and were reading about self check in, when we figured out that both of us were traveling alone. We agreed to split the cost of a campsite ($46) and camp on the beach together. And we’re talking about having the entire beach to ourselves. There are about 15 beach campsites, but we were the only ones there, which was awesome.
We worked together to set up camp and cook dinner, then had an enjoyable evening of girl talk. Karen is an endurance athlete of another variety. An open water swimmer, she had clocked a 2-mile ocean swim that morning. And she’s a life coach, too, so I’m sure she was working her magic on me the entire time, and we were both being entertained by each other’s lives and the things we have in common. Hopefully, we’ll cross paths again, someday. Can you see our tents and my bike in the above photo? Once our campsite was all set up, the sun set on another lovely day.
A good part of the day, today was in yet another Redwood Forest, and it did not disappoint.
Leaving Eureka, the traffic was terrible. I have good tail lights, radar and a mirror, so at no time was I in danger, but riding in Saturday morning traffic, with no shoulder, will never be fun. Once I broke out of town, life improved immensely. I first rode along Humboldt Bay, then, after passing Lolita, followed the Eel River for the rest of the day.
This is the river crossing into Del Rio, a cute little town, where I stopped to buy pink lemonade from a couple of six year old girls.
Across the Eel River again, I stopped for lunch at the market in Scotia, which since the 1800s has been a lumber mill factory town, built by Pacific Lumber Company, which is now bankrupt. The lumber mill is massive–approximately a mile-long complex of sawmill buildings, log piles, cut lumber, etc., with more logs piled up on the hill on the other side of the road through town. Now owned by Humboldt Lumber Company, the sawmill is still active. The company built houses are all pretty much identical to each other, with a few different models for various pay levels of employees, and the legal process is currently underway to subdivide all the land with houses on it, so the people who live in them–employees and retirees of the mill–can actually own them. Wouldn’t that be great?
Shortly after leaving Scotia, I I rolled into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and began cycling the 32-mile long Avenue of the Giants, the picturesque roadway through the park.
Within the park is some privately owned land and a few little towns. These two trucks were parked in front of a little off-the-grid “compound” of people who live in tents and ancient camp trailers.
Below is my favorite wood carving yet.
Sorry. To you, the two pictures below may look the same, but to me, they are distinctly different. Don’t want to forget the treetops.
My last shot at dinner was the restaurant in Miranda, a little resort community three miles from Phillipsville, where I planned to spend the night. I stopped at the Avenue Cafe, and was seated at a table by myself. The place was packed, so when a couple arrived and needed a place to sit, I offered them a couple of seats at my table. My dinner mates were a young LDS couple, Robert and Crystal Rogers, from Vacaville, CA. He is an Air Force C5 pilot, and she is about to graduate with a Business degree from BYU Idaho. Congratulations Crystal! I enjoyed talking with them, and hopefully our paths will cross again somewhere, someday.
My favorite day of the ride so far! I will explain. Got an excellent night of rest, last night–on the floor of the RV Park rec center. Had a real bathroom to use during the night, cooked my oatmeal and hot cocoa in a kitchen with running water, so no stove or dirty dishes to deal with; then got moving early. The last of luxury–kind of.
As I was pulling out of the park, Rick, the owner, stopped me to tell me about the difficult climb at the beginning of my day. Thanks, Rick. Way to put a damper on my morning. (Not! I already knew about it.) He told me that it starts after the bridge leading out of town, and that there are bears on the bridge. What? I have no bear spray or whistle with me!
Taking this photo of the Klamath River, I looked down to see a couple of seals sharing a fish that one of them had just caught. They were so cute! And they were good sharers too.
Once across the river, I was in Redwoods State Park, surrounded by beauty. Did you know that Coast Redwoods used to grow many places in the northern hemisphere, but now, due to climate change, the only place in the world they grow is a 40-mile-wide swath of land that stretches from Southern Oregon to the south end of Monterey County, California. I’m riding in that swath of land.
I just wanted to mention how polite the little critters are, in this forest. I set down my baggie of super delicious trail mix, to snap a photo, and forgot about it for about 10 minutes. When I went back for it, it was completely untouched.
Ran into this herd of elk on the side of the road.And then, the fog set in. Bummer. That kind of cool mist would be a treat, in Arizona, but it really cuts into your ability to see the scenery, when you’re a tourist on two wheels.
So I decided to take a break and try my first elk burger ever. It was delicious, but I’m not sure I could taste the meat over the onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese it was slathered with.
When the road took me back to the coastline, the mist cleared enough for more spectacular coastal scenery. You may have noticed that I never get tired of the rock formations.
An obscure and rugged coastal road, led to an obscure coastal bike path. Somewhere, along the way, I met up with a couple named Will and Jennie, from Australia. They started their ride in Calgary, Canada, and are on a multi-month adventure that sounds amazing. Very inspirational!
The bike path kept turning into gravel–steep gravel, so I found a spot to exit, and got on Highway 101, but in this part of the state, it is a limited access freeway, and at that time of day, the traffic was crazy. So I asked Google Maps for advice on how to get to my cheap motel for the night, and it routed me through about 10 miles of countryside, with happy herds of cattle and sheep, and one bison.
Finally, I got to Eureka, and what a cool little town it is. There is a huge section of the downtown area that is nothing but well restored Victorian houses from yonder years.
This house was built by a lumber baron, William Carsen, who also built the pink house across the street for his son. Why pink, Dad? Anyhow, the house is now a men’s club, with guards in navy blue suits posted to keep people off the property. I learned that when I tried to get a little closer to get a better photo. No police incident, thankfully.
The downtown has a lot of public art and murals–two things I really really enjoy. There was also a festival of some sort going on, with food trucks, and you know how I love food trucks. So I beelined to my motel to clean up, so wouldn’t look and smell like a freak of nature
There was a long check-in line at the motel, but I wasn’t going to miss the sunset.
And when I got to the front of the line, the motel clerk was waiting for me. She pulled out–Da Da Da Daaaa–my new Garmin, an iPhone sent by Steve Moss, and a box of chocolate covered strawberries from ?????? (A secret admirer? Wait, only about 5 people even know my itinerary.)
And that wasn’t the only surprise at the front desk. Viktoria Hetzel, a young Russian/German gal I met a few days ago, was staying at the same motel, and the motel staff put us in adjacent rooms. It was great to see her again! She’s a beast on her bike, routinely riding 100+ miles per day. She had taken 1.5 days off, since I last saw her.
After I cleaned up, we headed downtown to check out that festival, but it was over. So we headed to a Co-op across the street from the motel, where Viktoria had already shopped for her dinner, and loaded up on deli food and chocolate milk. Then we headed back to the motel to share those strawberries, which were amazing!!!
This morning, I got up early, like two of the three cyclists in the hiker/biker campsite, and was set to hit the road early. But this was one of those sites with the bike repair setup and bike stand, so I took some time to detail and lube my chain and drive train. Just as I was getting ready to pull out, the third camper, a young guy named Vincent, from Montreal, came over to inquire about what I had been doing. He has had the same bike for years; has been piling on WD-40; and has never cleaned his chain or had a shop do it for him. So we put his bike on the stand. His chain and gears looked like they were covered with thick tar. I pulled out my cleaning patches and chain cleaner/lube, and we got to work on his bike. What a mess!
Just when I was ready to leave Vincent to finish the job, yet another cyclist pulled in–this one a John Denver look-alike with a classical guitar strapped across his back. He proceeded to tell Vincent that he wipes down and lubes his chain daily. Daily! Wow! I need to up my game on maintenance.
Today’s route covered three types of terrain: countryside with ranches and farms, tree-lined roads, and roads that followed the ocean. Can’t beat that.
The best part of my day was crossing over into California. I’m going to miss seeing all the recreational marijuana shops (Not!). When I was riding through Bandon, a couple of days ago, a couple of tourists who looked to be about my age, pulled over to ask me if I knew where they sell marijuana. I thought to myself that they must be on something to think I might even have the answer to that question.
I’m going to miss Oregon. Hopefully, I will come back soon. What’s the plan, Dale?
And what’s the first thing you come to when you’re heading south along the coast of California? Redwoods, and tourist attractions.
Going off route to check out Smith River, which is supposedly the Lily Capital of the World, I saw a lot of fields, but no lilies.
And just down the road from Smith River is the Pelican Bay State Prison. A lovely spot. I’m guessing the people who live in manufactured homes in all the nearby small towns work there.
Passing through the town of Fort Dick, I saw no sign of a military installation. Just more manufactured homes.
In Crescent City, the route took me by an animal rescue location with this beautiful mural. It turns out that the people on the mural are volunteers, their children or their grandchildren, and the dogs are all former rescue animals.
In Crescent City the route went way off Highway 101 to follow the beach on the west and south side of town. I contemplated staying on the highway, but went with the longer route, which was a great decision. The beach was amazing, with rock formations, birds, cool beach houses, cool beach mansions, etc. I stopped over and over again, to take in the scenery, and believe me, an iPhone camera cannot do it justice.
The Battery Point Lighthouse is just off the shore of Crescent City. Commissioned in 1856, it is only accessibly during low tide. The rest of the time, it is on an island, its configuration when I rode by.
Did I mention that there were some heavy duty climbs on today’s route. I have no idea how long they were or what the grade was, but the longest was a real killer. I thought it was over when I reached this sign, but I was wrong.
Eventually, the road leveled out, and a while later, this was the beginning of about six miles of steep downhill. I LOVE steep downhill. It’s my specialty.
Then I rolled into this tourist attraction. Did you know that Paul Bunyan had a blue ox named Babe? I didn’t. Check out the chest hair on Paul Bunyan, and check out how big he is compared to itty bitty little me.
On my way to my rest stop, for the night, I passed through the Yurok Indian Reservation and took in yet another breathtaking ocean sunset.
My digs for the night are the floor of the rec room of an RV park that offered free laundry and wifi. It’s owned by a retired marine and his retired navy wife. So I get another holiday from setting up my tent, crawling around on the ground, and dealing with insects.
It was a great day in the saddle. After a good night’s rest in a motel, just as I pulled out on the road, I bumped into a fellow from Belgium named Gerth. Super friendly guy, but I left him in the dust as he consulted a local biker on an upcoming trail option I too was considering.
If you remember my conversation, last night, with the man in the grocery store, he wasn’t kidding about the scenery on the route. More rock formations and pristine beaches with no people on them appeared almost immediately, as I rode down the route.
About seven miles and some heavy duty climbing into my ride, I came to the campground I was scheduled to pitch my tent at last night. Boy am I glad I didn’t push myself to make it there. I would have been completely wiped out.
More beautiful ocean scenery followed. Miles and miles of it.
Then alas, I came to my own turf. A left turn onto Arizona Ranch Road, which led to Arizona Beach Motel. I thought about how warm it probably is in Arizona, right now, and how chilly it was right then, and briefly considered checking this out, but I’m not that big of a sucker. I wasn’t falling for it, so I kept riding.
I did fall for the Prehistoric Garden–the part you don’t have to pay admission for. A gal from California, who I met a few miles back, pulled in just as I was getting set for a selfie, and up rides Gerth. He snapped the excellent photographic specimen below of me and Chris.
I wish Chris was moving down the route at a faster pace. We have a lot in common–well kind off. We both wear white sun legs and have green panniers and bags on our bikes, and I think she is also riding down to San Diego. Unfortunately, she gets off her bike and pushes it up grades above 4%, which has to put a damper on progress, and she attempts to stay with Warm Showers hosts every night, which would really cramp my style.
Gerth and I crossed paths a couple more times. We were moving at about the same pace, and both stopping to snap photos, but somehow I got ahead of him. After crossing over into Gold Beach, his destination for the night, I stopped for an early dinner, in hopes that I’d see him again. He pulled up just as I was getting ready to head down the road, and we exchanged blogs addresses. If I end up riding in Europe, next year, with Erwin and some of the cast from last Fall, I will definitely look him up. Super cool bridge leading to Gold Beach.
From Gold Beach on, the air was foggy and misty, and it stayed that way for the rest of the day. It got to the point that I had to take my glasses off, because they were getting wet from the mist.
Just after arriving Brookings, I pulled into a big hiker/biker site at Harris Beach State Park where I camped with three other cyclists who are riding to various destinations on the Pacific Coast Route. We’re all going different distances at different paces for different reasons, but we all crossed paths at this place and time, and enjoyed some time together chatting about our adventures.
If you want to know the way to this girl’s heart, take her for a long walk on the beach in Brandon, Oregon.
I’ll get to Bandon’s beaches later, but first, let’s talk about my morning. The first order of business was calling Garmin for help with my cycling computer. After playing around with it for an hour, the customer service rep offered to send a replacement to my next hotel stay, which will be in a mere four days. #!%?€&$ I am still working on wrapping my head around four days without my Garmin. Four days with a lot of distance and climbing. Only another Garmin owner/enthusiast could ever know my pain.
Add to that the text message I received from T-Mobile, while I was sleeping:
Free T-Mobile Msg: You’ve exhausted your data roaming allotment. Data roaming is now unavailable. Blah Blah Blah…..
What the heck! Is this some sort of conspiracy? T-Mobile’s service area is pretty much on existent, so for the next 12 days, when next billing cycle begins, I will be able to make phone calls and send text messages, but won’t be able to use data of any kind on my phone. That means no Google Maps or ability to look up the next bike shop, Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, Dairy Queen or motel, unless I am at a McDonalds, Starbucks, motel or library (thank you Bill Gates)a with wifi. This is where I realized how dependent I am on technology to do EVERYTHING on the road
I brought up my ride on Google Maps, before leaving my cheap motel, but within a mile, the map stopped working. So now I needed to find a place with wifi to hopefully get my ride for the day up again, so I could get the turn-by-turn instructions and at least know where I am, distance-wise, in my route for the day. That worked for a couple of hours, then the map stopped working again, and I was back to no map, no Garmin, no nothing. I was suffering immensely.
But alas, I do have my paper maps with me. I have to get out my glasses to read the microscopic directions and map markings, but I have those with me too. So that is how I made it through the day. It was very painful, and it eventually got dark, but most of the day’s route followed Highway 101, and there are signs on the side of the road telling you which town you are in and the names of streets, etc., so I survived.
Break. I will now put my big girl panties on and make my best attempt to not whine further about the technical issues of this day and the next three days to come. Positive affirmations, Eileen. You will survive this moment.
So the day started out with cutting across the peninsula I stayed on, following a road that passes both McDonalds and Wal-Mart–places I needed to do business with. After making my first left turn, i was facing a hill with–well I wish I could tell you the grade, but I don’t have that data any more–a ridiculous grade. I was almost instantly standing on the pedals and putting everything I had into moving forward with my 97 lb beast of a loaded bike. That lasted for about 10 yards, before I had to put my feet down to keep from falling over. The only way I was going to make it up this hill was pushing the bike, but I couldn’t get any traction with my feet on the steeply angled road surface. They slipped and slid, and I could only take about four steps at a time, before having to stop to catch my breath. What was probably 1/10th of a mile took me over 10 minutes to climb. And that is where I realized what I whimp I am.
But once up that hill, I was back on my game. After stoping at McDonalds, where I loaded up on greasy calorie filled food, I got my map back up on Google Maps and headed for Wal-Mart. Resupplied with Gatorade and Lithium batteries for my Spot Tracker, I was back on the road.
The first town I encountered was a little shipping and fishing town named Charleston. Pirates of the Caribbean has nothing on the Davy Jones Locker here.
Then the ACA maps put me on a 17.5 mile spur, that took me through a super hilly forested area, where a lot of logging has been going on. I passed a National Estuarine Reserve, whatever that is, and some beautiful scenery and vistas, all while encountering very few cars. Such a treat. I would love to live near a quiet, hilly road like this, so I could train on it.
Bandon was next on my itinerary for the day. Beyond being a cool little town, its local bike shop, South Coast Bicycles, has a good reputation. I pulled in, and Jake, the young man on duty, basically dropped everything to work on my bike. My disc brakes and derailleurs were in need of adjustment, my derailleur hanger was bent, and I needed my tubeless tires refreshed with sealant.
In the course of working on my bike, he offered me a place to stay for the night. That would have been great, but it wasn’t far enough down the road to work with my schedule, so I had to decline. I talked to him about shaving another ACA spur off my route for the day, to save miles, and he told me, “No way.” After giving me directions to the library, so I could get my map up again, he sent me on my way.
Within a mile, I was riding on Beach Loop Road, and this is just some of the scenery. Wow! It was late in the day, and I was running out of daylight, but I had to keep stopping to see these rock formations and the tide coming in. And the sandy beaches with no people on them. Breathtaking. (See paragraph one.)
Riding out of Bandon, the sun was setting, and I still had about 28 miles to go to get to my campground for the night. Jake, the bike mechanic, lived just past World Famous Langlois, population 177, according to my map (I’ll never know what made such a small town so famous). I had already calculated the distance to my campground from there: 18 miles.
It was now getting dark, but I have some great lights on my bike, and I actually enjoy riding at night. Arriving in Bandon just before 9 PM, I found an open grocery store with hot deli food. Dinner. I asked a gentleman in the store about the road between Bandon and my campground, and he told me that if I rode it in the dark, I would miss some of the best scenery in Oregon. So, I checked myself into another cheap motel and set myself up for a restful night in a comfy bed, with lots of wifi, a long hot shower, and time to make a couple of phone calls.
One of those phone calls was to my friend Steve Moss, who has been following my ride from Orange County. He has generously offered to send his extra iPhone to my next hotel stop. In just three days, I will have all the data I enjoy back at my fingertips. Can you believe it? Thanks Steve! You’re my hero!
Forgive the low tech map and graph below. It’s all I’ve got for three more days.
I got moving early today, expecting a 73 mile day with 3271 feet of climbing, which is a scary undertaking for this girl. Within the first four miles of my day, I blew an entire hour on my first two stops. is this some sort of conspiracy?
First, I got suckered into riding down to the beach on a super steep park road to see the Heceta Head Lighthouse. When I got down there, the lighthouse was in the trees, and there was no way to see it from the park, without taking a long hike. Ummm….not going to happen today, folks. So I read about the bridge up above, the one I was going to cross after climbing that super steep hill.
It turns out that bridge is historic, as all bridges seem to be, here in Oregon. In 1931, the state newspaper wrote about this bridge, “You can’t help but wonder how in the dickens the Great State of Oregon wants to make an expenditure like this to cross a little creek that isn’t more than knee deep.” We’re not talking just bridge here, we’re also talking adjacent tunnel. But cars (and bikes) need to be able to travel the coast, right? Spare no expense.
It’s worth noting that after climbing the hill, crossing the bridge, passing through the tunnel and rolling down the road a little, I came upon a scenic turnout with this view of the lighthouse. Wish I had a bigger lense.
My map told me I was coming up on Seal Rock, and signs were promoting Seal Caves up ahead, when I started to hear barking from below. Sure enough, it was more of those seals we saw in Astoria, lounging on the rocks and swimming in the ocean and tide pools. So when I came to the Seal Caves, I took a pass. It looked like another walking adventure of undetermined length, and I was conserving my time for the climbing up ahead.
In Florence I stopped at Safeway to resupply my cookies and Gatorade and to get a banana. Then it was time for my healthy lunch. If you’re on a diet, don’t be a hater. I need calories, right now. Lots of them.
The. next thing I new, I was in Dunes City looking at a huge sand dune on the side of the road and a sign advertising sand surfing. Oh my goodness–I have to try that! There were also ATVs ready and waiting for my next visit. When I am coming back to this town? I had to stop and talk to my sister Janette on the phone about this place.
Why didn’t I snap a photo of that sand dune? I guess, because I figured I would see a bunch of them up ahead, as I was entering the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
There were sand dunes through the trees, which you can’t get a photo of. There were forested areas with sand on the ground. There were lakes with lily pads on them. Just no pristine sand dunes that you can see from the road, aside from the one in Dunes City. Don’t laugh. Here is my best shot.
Fred Wahl Marine Construction, is a business that caught my eye, as I headed into Reedsport, with several large vessels in various stages of restoration.
Now I was on the quest to see yet another lighthouse, at the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. More cautious, this time, I cycled into the park looking for the lighthouse. How far was I going to have to ride to see it? Let’s just say, that it was nowhere in sight, and there was no telling how long this park road was, so I cut my losses and headed down the road. Hope I didn’t miss something magnificent.
What I saw instead was this–a triangular jetty system built to cultivate oysters and mussels. Now how magnificent is that?
My last stop of the day was a Veterans Memorial, just before the Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge into North Bend. I loved the quote carved into one of the granite slabs at this memorial: “There shall not be peace until the Power of Love overcomes the Love of Power.” Better still was the citation: “Latrine Wall, Pleiku, Vietnam 1968”. You know, you don’t see Veteran’s Memorials as frequently, in the Pacific Northwest, as you do in the southern states. Funny thing, eh? You also don’t see US flags flying in front of houses and businesses as frequently either.
I had planned to camp in Sunset Bay State Park, but instead got a room at a Super 8 motel, so I could do laundry, have wifi and make some phone calls.
A footnote: After six or seven hours of cycling, I have to hook my Garmin cycling computer up to a battery pack to recharge it. Late this afternoon, I went to do that, and for some reason, it would not charge–its battery display hovering at 1% charge. Being addicted to data, riding without heart rate, cadence, current mph, average mph distance, grade and other data will surely make me crazy. One of my phone calls tomorrow AM will be to Garmin Customer Support. I am hoping for a miracle.
Sunday started out with big plans for going to church. I had laid out my dress, shoes and cycling kit the night before, so I could make the wardrobe changes easily. It was just going to be a two mile ride in the wrong direction, but that would be no problem. Unfortunately, I awoke to a very cold morning, and my tent and tent fly were wet from dew. So I hung them on a fence to dry. But the wind kept blowing them off the fence, and things were flying everywhere, and a few other things went wrong. In the end, I missed church. My next shot at church is in Long Beach, which is 3 weeks down the road. How frustrating!
Lincoln City was a much bigger town than I expected, but once outside of town, the scenery kicked in.
Passing through Fogarty Creek State Park, it looked like this.
Depoe Bay was a fetching little town. That “World’s Smallest Harbor” is something to behold. The twisty, rock lined entrance to the harbor is just 30 feet wide at high tide. I watched two boats full of tourists blast through the harbor entrance like rockets, because that’s what it takes to keep the ocean from smashing them like an ant. The town is also has a whale watching center, but this isn’t whale watching season, so no need to stop there.
Heading down the road, as I approached Otter Rock, more spectacular scenery unfolded.
Next up was Yaquina Bay State Park, home of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, which was commissioned in 1874. I never had a chance to ask what the purpose of the tower to the right of is. In Arizona, we would call it a fire tower. Do they have fires in wet places like this?
It was later in the day when I hit Seal Rock. There are steps to climb down to get to the bottom where you can get a better view or possibly commune with the seals, and the rules to follow were duly noted.
Needless to say, I didn’t have time for either of those activities, but I did have time to talk with two couples who had also stopped there.
The first was a couple of gals from Canada who have scrimped and saved for five years to have enough money and time off to take a six month vacation. They drove from Montreal westward across Canada, then south down the coast of Canada and the US. From Southern California, they are heading to Arizona and the Southern Utah National Parks, then Colorado, with sketchy plans from there on out. They are having quite an adventure.
The other couple, Monica and Christian, are from Poland, but they currently live in Atlanta where Christian is a CPA extraordinaire with an international CPA firm. Monica is a cyclist who is involved in a Swiss non profit called BikeWithMe (bikewm.com). Its charter is to bring people from around the world together to cycle and discover new places. Sounds like great fun! Let’s go! I really enjoyed talking to them, and hope too see them again some day. Perhaps when their US travels take them to Arizona? (You’re reading this, aren’t you, Monica?)
After passing yet another historic bridge, I stopped at Cape Perpetua, which has more amazing views.
And alas, I arrived at my campground in time to find a cushy spot to set up camp. Once again, I bedded down amongst other hikers and bikers. A couple of guys at the site are hiking the Oregon Coastal Trail, which goes north to south and has quite a bit of walking on the beach. Today was so windy, they had to get off the beach and walk on Highway 101, because the wind was picking up sand like it would dust. Now that would be a bummer, wouldn’t it?
Who knows how many years of pine needles were piled up under me. All I know is that it made a super comfy mattress for the night.
Boy did I sleep last night! I was in a very busy campground, packed to the gills with Labor Day partiers. There were loud parties going on into the wee hours of the morning, but nothing could keep me from my sleep. Nothing!
When I woke up, this morning, the temperature was 49 degrees, which to this Arizonan, is freezing. It made it hard to get out of my warm cocoon. When I finally did drag myself out, my tent fly was soaked with dew, so I hung it out do dry while I cooked breakfast and broke down the campsite.
One of five college girls I ran into on the road, yesterday, came over to my campsite to chat and use my electrical hookup to charge her devices. Super nice girl. The group of girls probably doesn’t realize how lucky they are to know each other. I don’t know another female who would jump on a bike and go for a three to four day tour with me, much less something longer.
Riding through Rockaway Beach, I ran into these cool rock formations in the water of the jetty, and wondered if they are the reason this place got its name.
If this were Arizona, people would swim out to the rocks and climb all over them, but it’s Oregon, and the water is freezing cold. So far, besides a couple of kayakers, I haven’t seen anyone in the water.
Just a few miles down the road was Tillamook, which claims to be a free museum with free tasting, etc., but is really a bunch of photo ops a huge promotional effort, and a way to make money off of tourists. The place was busier than Disneyland, with the museum, gift shop and food operations completely overrun with people. As much as I love ice cream, I wasn’t going to wait in those lines. No way!
If only there had been time to stop and check out the Air Museum that was on the other end of Tillamook–but I needed to move on down the road.
During the rest of my ride, I rode through a bunch of little resort communities, Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Siuslaw National Park. The route was generally flat, with a few little hills here and there, and an almost two mile long super steep climb toward the end.
While riding down the coast three signs are posted over and over and over. The coastal cycling route through Oregon was established by the State of Oregon, and they continue to maintain it and promote its use.
For every “Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone sign I pass, there is usually an “Entering…” sign across the street. And they are sometimes posted pretty far inland.
Another thing I see over and over again, is river and creek crossings. Basically, there is water flowing everywhere.
And yet another thing I see a lot of is parks. There’s a very high density of city, county, state, and national parks. Devil’s Lake State Recreation Area, where I’m staying tonight, has special campsites set aside for hikers and cyclists. There are free showers; charging lockers with outlets in them, so we can secure and charge all our devices; food lockers to keep food safe from pests; a bike repair station with a stand, tools and floor pump, so cyclists can do maintenance and repairs on their bikes; and individual racks for securing bikes. All this for only $8 per night. I can’t wait to see the amenities of the other Oregon State Park campgrounds that are on my itinerary. And when I get home from this ride, I will definitely be writing some letters to let the State Parks leadership know how much I appreciate the cyclist facilities in their parks.
I hated to leave Astoria, this morning. There was so much more to see and do, and who knows when I’ll get back there again. Hopefully sooner than later. I goofed off for a couple of hours with Dale, while attempting to catch the blog up, then ate “brunch” at McDonalds–a Big Mac AND a fish filet sandwich to hold me over, in case I couldn’t find a place down the road for dinner.
My ride started out on the Astoria Riverwalk, which dumped me off on Highway 101. I stayed on the highway all day, today, and it worked out perfectly. Oh, there was traffic, but there was also a nice shoulder for probably 95% of the day. Before even getting off the Riverwalk, I stumbled onto the Astoria Maritime Memorial, which pays tribute to ships captains, pilot board captains, etc.
Once back on Highway 101, I crossed a long bridge to get to Warrenton and begin my journey south. The view across the bay was amazing. The skies were cloudy and ominous, but luckily for me, rain never materialized.
And now I found myself on the Veteran’s Memorial Highway headed to Seaside. You know, I served in two of those conflicts: Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Passing through Seaside several times in the previous two days, I never had a chance to catch a photo of the colorful sign at the entrance to the town.
My next stop was Cannon Beach, which was named for a cannon that washed ashore on the beach after the USS Sloop of War wrecked, while attempting to leave the Columbia River and enter the Pacific Ocean. Apparently, it’s a treacherous maneuver, due to the currents.
In Cannon Beach, I took a few minutes to reacquaint myself with Haystack Rock, the first of many rock formations I encountered today.
And a few more miles down the road, I passed through Cape Arch Tunnel, which would have been scarier, if there hadn’t been a button to push, before I entered the tunnel, that lit up warning signs at both entrances to the tunnel, warning that a bicycle was in the tunnel and to slow down to 30 mph. I can’t say that all the vehicles slowed, but the ones going my direction did.
The tunnel was the beginning of a long climb almost to the top of Neal-Kah-Nie Mountain, the tallest mountain on the Oregon coast. There were spectacular views from several viewpoints.
The best part of the climb was, of course, the descent, which took me through Manzanita and Nehalem, where I stopped to refill my Gatorade and get a bite to eat.
On leaving Nehalem, the route did my favorite thing–it met up with some railroad tracks and the Nehalem River, which pretty much guaranteed there would be a lot less climbing. As I looked out over the river, the vistas were amazing. This is definitely a beautiful spot.
I had the wind at my heals, now, for the first time on this trip, and I was flying along. I flew through a couple of small towns, and pretty quickly found myself at Rockaway Bay, where I planned to camp at Barview Jetty County Park.
When I pulled up to the park office, it had a “No Vacancy” posted. What have I been thinking? We’re coming into Labor Day weekend, and campsites along the coast will be scarce. But in Oregon, campgrounds have campsites set aside for hikers and bikers, who tend to not have solid plans and arrive with very little notice. As fancy RVs and travel trailers were being turned away, I got myself a campsite, set up my tent, and took a shower. The weather forecast says the temperatures will be down to 52 tonight. I hope I don’t freeze!
Not knowing anything about Astoria, I left it to Dale, who lived here 40+ years ago when he was in the Coast Guard, to show me around. We started out at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park–a very cool place. After checking out the museum, we headed out to explore a reconstruction of Fort Clatsop, where the expedition party waited out the winter of 1805-1806 at the mouth of the Columbia River. Learning about the individual members of the company, including, of course, Sacajawea and William Clark’s unnamed black man servant, was fascinating.
Then we were off to Fort Stevens, built during the Civil War to defend the mouth of the Columbia River. The museum was pretty much non existent, but there was a neat little World War II era Jeep, that brought back memories of Hawkeye Pierce. We were able to wander around two large bunkers with emplacements for artillery, and a third (Battery Russell) with a huge gun in place.
In 1942, the fort was fired upon by a Japanese submarine, making it the only military installation in the continental US to come under enemy attack. It wasn’t a very successful mission for the Japanese, as only one of the 17 fired shells hit land, and that one didn’t actually hit a target. How did the commander of the fort react to the attack? As much as the men on duty in the bunkers wanted to take out that submarine, he ordered them to stand down and hold their fire, as firing their guns would have given their position away to the Japanese. Smart fella, eh?
Here’s a photo of me with a replica of the artillery shell used by the Japanese.
We were not quite through with things military when we headed to our next stop, which was at the top of Coxcomb Hill, the high point overlooking the mount of the Columbia River. I’d been hearing about this thing called the Astoria Column all day, and now I was finally going to see what people had been talking about. Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome, the 125 foot column is the world’s only large piece of memorial architecture made of reinforced concrete with a pictorial frieze that spirals upward, depicting the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray in 1792, the winning of the West and the arrival of the Great Northern Railway. Inside is a 164 step spiral staircase that leads to a viewing platform on the top. It is from there that we each launched a couple of cheap balsam airplanes to see how far they would fly. My first flight immediately spiraled toward the ground, then caught a draft and drifted upwards, above, through and beyond the trees for probably 7 minutes. After seeing my plane fly around, one little boy, who I’m thinking was 9 years, and who complained loudly as he followed us up the stairs to the top, exclaimed to his Mom that if she gave he a couple of dollars, he would go down to gift shop and buy a plane to send flying from the top. She gave him $10, and he was back shortly with enough planes for every member of his family to have two flights. Most of them lasted less than a minute, but his probably lasted 10 minutes. Amazing.
The next stop on my tour was the Astoria Riverwalk, where we made a quick stop at the Columbia River Maritime Museum–quick only because it was 40 minutes from closing. We watched a 3-D movie about hurricanes, then hightailed it over to the Dauntless, a Coast Guard Cutter that was docked nearby. The ship had numerous decals on the side of the bulkhead, each marking a millions pounds of either marijuana or cocaine captured by the crew. We didn’t count them all, but they have capture a lot!
Further down the Riverwalk are the city docks, a good part of which have been taken over by harbor seals, who lay around, bask in the sun, bark, fight, sleep, and otherwise prevent boats from docking there. They were pretty darned entertaining.
Our final stop of the day was Seaside, where we found a spot to watch another beautiful sunset.
Thanks, Dale, for making the time to take me on a whirlwind tour of the best sights in and near Astoria! Had a great day!
Finally, today, I got out the door early. After a stop at Safeway to pick up some Gatorade and a couple of huge cookies. Cruising through downtown Longview, I road alongside the Cowlitz River and past Sacajawea Lake.It is at this point that I missed a turn and didn’t notice it, because I was so distracted by the immense quantity of logs laid out before me. Never seen anything like it in my life!
Then, unexpectedly, I found myself at the Lewis and Clark Bridge crossing of the Columbia River. Thinking it should have taken longer than that to get to the river, I consulted Google Maps and was informed that I was on its version of the bike route to Astoria, Oregon. So I completely ignored the ACA maps and kept moving forward. Within five minutes, I knew that was a huge mistake, but for some stupid reason, I felt committed to my decision and stuck with it. I was now stuck on a 1.5 mile long 7% grade–the first of many I would encounter as the day wore on.
If there was a silver lining in this, it was the people I met at the first viewpoint I came to, which was at the top of that first grade. A gentleman named Mike Johnson, from Maryland, was stopped with his cousin and her husband, who are Swedish and whose last name is Johansson. They are on a long trip together in a van, and we had a great conversation about our travels, and cycling, and the joys of being retired and single, and other topics. It was a pleasure to be reminded of how nice people are throughout the world and how much we have in common.
Once back on my bike, the long steep climbs did not let up most of the day, ascending up to two miles at a time at grades of 6-7%. As I passed through Clatskanie, I was hoping for a place to stop for a snack, but no joy. This town had nothing to offer.
So I pushed on to Westport. En route, there was a billboard touting a place called the Berry Patch, where thousands of pies are baked every year. Now we’re talking–something to look forward to. And I was not disappointed. A bowl of homemade soup and a piece of warm marionberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream were amazing.
When I went to mount my bike, again, an older gentleman inquired about my ride. As I talked to him, I realized that he is the owner of the restaurant and accepted his invitation for a private tour of his commercial kitchen, where he makes and bottles several varieties of delicious soups and jams that he distributes throughout the area. Fascinating and delicious stuff!
Back on the road, the route eventually met up with a pair of railroad tracks that it stayed relatively close to for a part of the rest of the ride, which, as you know, makes for leveler riding. And as I approached Astoria, I kept stumbling onto spectacular vistas.
The plan was to take a day off in Astoria, so my Portland friend Dale drove out to meet me and show me around, which is going to be REALLY nice. We got rooms in a really cool hotel/hostel called The Norblad, and headed off to see the sunset from the beach at Fort Stevens. In 1906, the Peter Iredale, a cargo ship, ran aground here in bad weather, and some of the masts snapped. This many years later, it is a really cool shipwreck. And the sunset was breathtaking.
I got an early start today! Are you proud of me? I try to clean my chain and check the air in my tires every three days, but this morning, my pump would not push air into my tires. I needed to find a place to use a real bike pump to top off my tires. So I checked for bike shops near my cheap motel. The sporting goods store I reached on the phone told me that only one shop in town works on bikes, it is only open from 10 AM – 2 PM, and it is located at the community pool. Sounded a little weird, but I was desperate. The pool was not far off my route, so I went for it. Sure enough, the place was open, and the three people working there were all over helping me.
Turns out that they are a non profit that the city has donated the use of their old pool building to. They take donations of bikes and parts and use them to build working bikes that are given to homeless and needy people. In the 15 minutes I was there, six people stopped in to drop off or pick up bikes.
Dave, the guy who runs the place, advised me to not take the ACA route, for reasons I could have guessed, like unnecessary climbing due to use of obscure side roads. So I followed his route, today, and it worked out wonderfully.
I first rode through the historic downtown of Centralia, which I would have been routed around, had I followed the ACA route. Being a fan of monuments, I was not disappointed. Centralia was founded by a former African American man named George Washington. He is honored by a mural and a bronze of him and his wife going over their plan for the city.
And then there’s the town’s war memorial. It started with the names of World War I casualties, and moved forward through time to Operation Iraqi Freedom, where it appears to have run out of space. I’m sure they’ll fix it some day. They also had this cool monument with the following inscription: “We live in deeds, not years; thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not figures on a dial.” I like that.
Heading on down the road, I came to Chehalis and the Lewis County Historical Museum. Truly, it was just an organized collection of old stuff.
The coolest thing in the place? An iron lung in an employee only back room. When I was growing up, Polio still existed, and I remember hearing about polio victims being put on iron lung machines. When a couple of the employees saw how interested I was, they invited me back and plugged it in, so I could see how it worked.
As I rode on, I passed by some cool sights, including the Jackson Homestead, founded by a John Jackson in 1847 to house his young family. It’s location on the Cowlitz Trail, halfway between Puget Sound and the Oregon Trail, made it a natural rest stop for travelers, a civic and social hub, a grocery store, post office, hotel and U.S. District Court. All in that little tiny cabin. Can you believe it?
On down the road were a cool barn and farm truck, Lewis and Clark State Park, a Minion made out of tires (who will help me make one for my grandkids?), and a water tank with a cool mural on it.
Of course it goes without saying that along my entire route, again, were more tree farms. Big trees, little trees, perky trees, saggy trees, Christmas trees, and commercial lumber trees.
Toledo, the oldest settlement in Lewis County, is the gateway to Mount St. Helens. I considered taking a day to cycle up to Mount St. Helens, but decided that needs to be part of a separate trip.
In Toledo, the route changed directions and started following the Cowlitz River. then near Vader, it turned again to follow both the river and the railroad. You know what that means, right? That means it became less hilly and more flat, which is a nice way to end the day.
You know my late start problem isn’t always my fault. The cheap motel I stayed in, last night, had already shut down their laundry facility when I arrived, so I had to wait for them to reopen it this morning at 9 AM to do my laundry. And then there was the problem of my dozing off while trying to catch up on two days of blogging. But that is all water under the bridge now. The fact is that I hit the road late again, so I felt pressure to keep moving to avoid arriving at the motel late. But once I got going, I kept finding reasons to stop.
The first stop of my day was in the town of Elma. The train monument in front of the post office is what caught my eye, initially, as my two year old grand baby, Lily, loves anything having to do with “choo choos”. When I stopped to take a photo, I noticed a couple of really cool monuments that told what the town is about–logging.
It is hard to see the detail in the bronze of a man. It corresponds to that statue in Blaine honoring the sacrifices of families of seamen, except this one honors the sacrifices of loggers–every day they do their jobs.
Moving down the road, the next town I came to was Porter, which, no doubt, is somehow in honor or memory of my friend Lloyd Porter. Even if it’s not, I thought of him as I passed the Porter bar which was next door to a cannabis shop.
It was at this point that I had to decided whether to take the winding ACA route, which potentially had a lot of needless hill climbing, like yesterday’s route did, or take a US highway that runs alongside a railroad track. Obviously, the route along the railroad won out. It passed through miles and miles of commercial tree farms and had spectacular views of the Chehalis River.
The town of Oakville claimed to be Timber Town USA, and I’m a believer. It had a couple of timber operations where a gazillion freshly cut logs were being processed.
I then passed trough the Chehalis Indian Reservation, with its very own casino. I had to stop to read the electronic billboard to see if I like any of the entertainers scheduled to perform there. I’m not into Randy Travis, but the “Fire Kitchen Buffet” caught my eye. But I was focused on the finish line, so I kept moving and staved off hunger with some chocolate chips and nuts from my feed bag.
My motel is next to an outlet mall, so I walked around the shops before grabbing dinner at Denny’s–my new favorite cheap restaurant.