Pacific Coast Tour – Oregon
Denis Kertz, ©1999
I packed up and said good bye to the Vancouver guys and rode down the road 12 miles for breakfast in Seaside. I stopped at the public library to check my email and this time I was able to read and respond. Weather was overcast and 55F. Next stop was Cannon Beach, a big touristy area on the beach and an artsy type of town. I decided to take a side trip to Ecola State Park that reportedly had a good view of the beach. The sign said 3.5 miles and warned RVs about the steep and winding road. The road was VERY steep and I was quickly in my lowest gear. It wasn’t long before I wondered if I could make it at all, certainly not if the steepness continued for 3.5 miles. Just when I was ready to give up the road eased up a bit and became more rolling. After about 2 miles I pulled into the park and the ranger said bikes were free, saving the $3 car admittance charge. As hard as the climb was, the view was spectacular and worth the effort. The view to the south overlooked Cannon Beach down below with tree lined mountains tapering off at the sea. This was the rugged Oregon coast line I had expected to see. Down below were rocks jutting from the sea that provide nesting grounds for a variety of bird life. To the northwest was the famed Tillamook lighthouse on a little island
After savoring the view, I retraced my way back down into town and ran into the Vancouver guys. I had hoped to stop by the local bike shop for some chain cleaner but it was closed on Wednesdays. Leaving town provided some nice views but nothing like the park view. The Beach Loop out of town rejoined 101 and eventually headed straight for a mountain. I guessed the road went right, around the mountain, but it went neither right nor left but straight through a tunnel, the first of two tunnels on the Oregon coast. I stopped and attached my flashing red tail light, pressed the button to warn motorists that a cyclist was in the tunnel, and pedaled like mad. The tunnel was up hill so I wasn’t cruising but only one vehicle entered the tunnel in my lane. After the tunnel, the rode continued to climb for a couple of miles. It eased up but then began a longer climb up Neahkahnie Mountain that resulted in a nice panoramic view of Nehalem Bay below.
Descending, I noticed that my cyclometer appeared to be having problems handling high speeds as it changed erratically, something I had also noticed yesterday. At the bottom, I stopped at a cafe for dinner before heading into Nehalem State Park. The hiker-biker site was only $4 but the sites were located in an area where someone just ripped some cedars down with a chainsaw, leaving branches laying around, and then carried in a couple of picnic tables. Still, not too bad for $4 and a hot shower. My Vancouver friends were already in camp and had the best site.
I hiked out to the beach thinking I might catch a sunset but clouds were coming in from the horizon so I was treated to a cloud set. On my way back to camp, I saw a deer eating near the camp entrance, then a couple more and then a few more, for a total of 7. They didn’t seem fazed by me or anyone else and a couple of youngsters were playfully chasing each other around. Eventually, they wandered off although 3 of them came back for a cameo appearance later in our hiker-biker camp.
I packed up and headed back to 101, approximately 2 miles, and in a mile came to Nehalem. The first place I stopped, a deli, didn’t have a newspaper so I went further into town to a cafe with locals and newspapers. I ordered 3 cakes and oatmeal and the waitress said “You better be hungry” and I just smiled a little, anticipating that this would be a good breakfast. Breakfast was good until this guy sat down at the next table and lit up a cigarette. Although smoke doesn’t bother me that much, I had forgotten how much better a smoke-free environment was.
Clouds were not so dense this morning with temperature about 52F and it looked like the sun might poke through early. Starting around Nehalem Bay, there was an armada of about 20 boats strung out fishing. The first 30 miles of the ride were flat and smooth sailing, with the ocean on the right and foothills on the left. As Tillamook approached, the foothills receded a bit and dairy farms made their appearance. Just outside Tillamook I stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory and took the self-guided tour, which was OK but nothing special.
I headed into Tillamook looking for the bike shop. I gave up when the address listed in the phone book identified an old, decrepit looking building. I stopped at a hardware store that had some bike equipment but no chain cleaner so I gave up. From downtown Tillamook, the Three Capes Scenic route took off west, away from 101 along the southern shore of the bay. The road was not very good with bad spots in the asphalt, some repaired and some not, but it was a good panoramic view of the bay.
Rounding the end of the bay, the road headed south and started a steep 1.5 mile climb. Ironically, a sign warned of a rough road but nothing any worse than the previous stretch of road. I put my gear in low and ground it most of the way to the top until I came to a mud slide section in the road with somewhat of a view. Right next to the road on the low side was a real estate For Sale sign with a SOLD marker. It was hard to imagine who would want to buy this section. At the top, I took a detour to Cape Mears State Park with a nice view of the beach to the south down below and the Cape Mears Lighthouse. At this point I ran into the Vancouver guys coming in who were struggling a bit with Achilles heel and knee ailments.
Leaving Cape Mears, I headed down the road to the beach
and stopped at a grocery store in Netarts.
With no other food in sight, I nuked a couple of burritos along with
chips, Gatorade, and ice cream for desert.
Five miles later I pulled into Cape Lookout State Park and signed in
($4) for a hiker-biker site. These were
the best sites so far with tall firs and close to the beach and far removed
from the regular (vehicular) campers.
After cleaning up, I headed to the beach. Again it looked like I might see a sunset before the clouds
coming from inland would block the sun but the inland clouds won the race and
snuffed out the sun.
It was a foggy morning as I packed up and left. Today promised to be harder than normal with 3 capes to climb. The first one was 2.7 miles at the start and I was immediately in my lowest gear. Anderson’s Viewpoint along the climb wasn’t much good with the fog. Next was Sand Lake where the sand-colored pastures along the road were, in fact, sand. I missed the recommended stop at Cape Kiwanda Park and pulled into Pacific City after 15 miles, needing breakfast. Unfortunately, the only place I could find open was a yuppie type bar/grill on the beach with just an OK breakfast. Leaving, I found there was more to Pacific City around a bend and probably could have found a better breakfast spot. After 26 miles the 2 mile climb over Cascade Head began, all in low gear. On the way down the other side, I noticed again that my cyclometer acted up when I reached 27-28 mph and dropped to 0 mph, giving me no credit for miles. The engineer in me made me stop and I adjusted the magnetic pickup gap with no effect. Then I moved the magnetic pickup slightly up the fork and that did the trick. Now I got credit for all my miles and I maxed out at 41 mph.
A little further and I pulled into the tourist town of Lincoln City, which was about a 5 mile drag of stores and motels along 101 with almost constant traffic. I checked a phone book for a bike shop and public library, both along 101. At the bike shop I found it didn’t open until 1:00 so I had to wait 15 minutes. While waiting a young cyclist came by with a pair of wheels that needed servicing and we chatted for a few minutes. When the shop opened, I got my chain cleaner but in a bigger size than I wanted. At the library I found they had only one PC and it was tied up for another hour so I skipped my email check.
A little beyond Lincoln City, I stopped at a grocery store for refreshments and a vanilla ice cream chocolate chip sandwich (VICCCS) which had started becoming an addiction. Fortified, the route was easy although it was getting more windy and more cloudy as I approached the appropriately named Cape Foulweather climb, the last of the 3 cape climbs, although this one seemed easier as I didn’t have to shift into the lowest gear right away. At the top, I took a turnoff to a gift shop but views were practically non-existent due to the fog. I continued downhill and followed signs for a restaurant that turned out to be closed. So I retraced my way part of the way back up the hill to a lodging/convention site and descended a short, steep hill down to the Flying Dutchman Restaurant only to find it was closed until 5:00. However, I was told there was a grocery/deli at the turnoff to the Beverly Beach State Park that was my destination. Retracing my way out of the lodging complex was the steepest climb of the day and I barely made it.
It was just a few miles to the deli where I managed a burrito and chips dinner. Then I continued to the park and the hiker-biker site, which was a small open area surrounded by trees. One couple was already there on a layover day and later two other guys would also arrive. I think the Vancouver guys probably headed on into Newport where there was a hostel. Just before turning to the deli I saw another cyclist up the road who could have been Mike. That was the last I saw of the Vancouver team. The couple already in camp was from Arizona. They had flown to Seattle, went up to Anarcortes, over to Vancouver Island, and down the coast on the same route as mine. The campground itself was huge and a human zoo on this Friday night.
I woke up to fog and a damp tent with temperature in the upper 40s. There was almost too much fog to cycle with visibility only a couple hundred feet but I thought I would be OK on the wide shoulder. On my way out of camp I checked a phone book for a library that was just west of 101, most of the way through town. The bike route left 101 as it entered Newport but went near the library. Once I located the library I headed a couple blocks east to 101 in search of breakfast. The first place I stopped at was just an espresso and I got directed a few blocks north on 101 to Four Daughters and a Son. The place was encouragingly busy and I ordered my usual oatmeal and pancakes. The waitress must not have believed me since I got only 2 pancakes so I had to insist on the full order of 3.
After breakfast I headed back to the library and got there just after it opened at 10:00. There was already a person on one PC but there were 2 PCs so I grabbed the other one. A librarian came by and signed me in, making a formal affair out of this, but all I had to do was sign my first name to a form. Not sure what that accomplished.
The Bible said there was a lot on tap today but I wondered since there was considerable fog and little visibility. I picked up my route through town from the library and crossed the Yaquina Bay on the 1/2 mile Newport Bridge. I detoured to the Marine Science Center just on the other side. It looked like a nice place to spend more time but I could only give it a cursory tour. Continuing, at Seal Rock State Park, several large rocks just off the beach were home to a variety of bird life. I spotted 2 large birds on the edge of a big rock.
At Yachats, I stopped for a break and talked with a guy riding an unloaded bike. He said he had toured from Eugene to San Francisco twice and said great views were down the road. I commented that his bike was awfully light and offered to help load it down but he declined with a laugh. The upcoming miles were reputed to be some of Oregon’s most scenic. The Bible suggested a side trip to the Cape Perpetua Viewpoint, which required a very steep 1.8 mile climb. I pretty much had talked myself out of this side trip, citing the lack of visibility but after the Visitor Center I shamed myself into trying the climb. Still I wondered, as other steep climbs required my lowest gear and the Bible’s characterization as a very steep climb made me wonder if my lowest gear would be enough.
I started out slowly in my low gear and quickly pared down to my short sleeve jersey. I ground my way up at 4 mph, doing little switchbacks in the road to ease the slope a little. When I made the top several people commented on the climb and I modestly claimed it was too short. But the view was outstanding and well worth the climb and it wasn’t hard to believe that this could be as claimed, “Oregon’s best coast view.” The best view was to the south with rows of tree-lined mountains dropping off at the sea. On my way down, another cyclist on an unloaded road bike was coming up and I privately, smugly thumb my nose at him.
Next up was Strawberry Hill where some sea lions were sunning themselves on some rocks just offshore. Occasionally they slithered off the rocks into the water, probably to cool off. Continuing, there were many scenic turnouts and I took my time and made slow progress. One turnout had a classic lighthouse view of the Heceta Lighthouse. Here I met a guy who had traveled from Eastern Oregon to Astoria on his way to Coors Bay. He was on a mountain bike and carrying all of his gear in a backpack that he carried on his back. I shuddered to think of traveling like that with such a high center of gravity.
In a bit of a hurry to make my evening’s destination, I took off but in a couple hundred feet heard an awful racket so I stopped and on the rocks below were about 50 sea lions sunning themselves. Their barking was what I heard and they looked like fat sausages. This was the Sea Lions Cave area where just ahead a commercial enterprise takes people down an elevator for a closer look but up here the view was fine and free, proving once again that the best things in life are often free.
Just as I was ready to leave I saw another amazing sight. An elderly woman, at least in her late 60s if not 70s rolled up in her touring bike with a trailer. She was from Grand Junction, Colorado, and had been on the road since April, traveling from the west coast to Florida to Maine and back to the west coast. She was joined shortly by her companion, another elderly woman about the same age with panniers on her bike. It was inspiring to see two women of this age doing so much cycling and they made my Cape Perpetua climb seem rather trivial. I probably should have taken more time to talk but I pushed on as I had another 15 miles to go and daylight was running out.
Still there were more viewpoints and I made some more cursory stops before motoring into Florence looking for food. I stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a quick dinner but it was hard to get going again even though I only had about 4 miles to go. I crossed a bridge and then had a final uphill run before coasting into the Jess M. Honeyman Memorial Park at about 7:00. I met another cyclist who was walking back to the hiker-biker site as I registered. David was from Missoula and had cycled from there. He had just spent the day repacking his bicycle bearings and mentioned meeting another cyclist who turned out to be Suzette, who appeared to be a day ahead of me. David had a mountain bike and was pulling a kiddies trailer loaded with his equipment. I got the feeling he would have talked all night but it was almost dark and I needed to get set up. Later, another person, presumably a hiker since I never saw a bicycle, walked into the pitch dark campsite and set up his tent using a flashlight.
I was packed up and gone by 7:45, my typical time, and nobody else was up yet in the hiker-biker site. It was another foggy morning with temperature in the low 50s. I thought I might be able to get breakfast nearby at Dunes City but nothing showed up so it looked like it was going to be 18 miles to Reedsport for breakfast. It was a quiet, peaceful Sunday morning along a road bordered by trees on both sides. I stopped at the Oregon Dunes Overlook but could see almost nothing due to the fog. I knew the ocean was close because I could hear it. This area was part of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
With nothing to see, I cruised into Reedsport on an empty stomach needing food. I stopped for breakfast at a busy looking restaurant where I manage to find a Sunday Oregonian (Portland) to keep me company. Fortified, I tried to get some cash at a bank ATM but got rejected. So it was onward to Winchester Bay where I missed the turnoff to the Winchester Bay Scenic Tour and Umpqua Lighthouse, which was probably just as well as I doubt I could have seen anything anyway.
After 40 miles I had to cross the Coos Bay Bridge where cyclists are warned it is illegal to hold up traffic on the bridge. Traffic was virtually constant and the bridge was narrow so I rode the narrow (3 foot) walkway and concentrated to make sure I didn’t move to the left and a foot fall off to the roadway which would not be pleasant. Then I left 101 and wound my way through North Bend and Coos Bay on to Charlston. I stopped for cash at an ATM bank along the way (with no mention of an access charge) and bought refreshments and a paperback at the grocery store next door. Eight miles later I ate dinner at the Chowder House in Charlston and had another VICCCS for desert. I also inquired and was told the next door Breakfast Barn would be good for breakfast in the morning.
A few miles outside of Charlston I stopped at the Sunset Bay State Park where there would not be a sunset as the sun had only threatened twice to fight through the fog. I secured a $4 hiker-biker site where I was the only camper. After setting up camp, I took off on my unloaded bike up the road a few miles to check out some scenery. First stop was an overlook where some interminable noise revealed hundreds of sea lions “sunning” themselves on the off shore rocks. Their barking was probably their irritation at the lack of sun. Here I met a retired couple from Brookings who told me the best scenery was yet to come. When the woman commented about not being able to cycle much, I immediately cited my encounter yesterday with the biking ladies. Down the road just a little farther, Cape Arago State Park had some nice scenery despite the fog. Here I arguably got rained on as I felt a few misting drops.
Back in camp I started my daily log write-up when I was disturbed by a noise. I looked up to see a young deer had wandered into the campsite and stared at me from about 20 feet away. It was unclear who was more surprised, me or the deer. Then this youngster, after apparently deciding I was harmless, calmly trotted past me within 6 feet. Turning around to watch, I saw another deer and this youngster pursued dinner with some aggressive nursing. With my camera right in front of me, I managed a photo as they walked out of the campsite. Amazing.
It apparently drizzled through the night as I heard occasional rain drops on the tent and my tent was wet in the morning. Packing up, I headed back into Charleston, about 30 minutes later than normal. I usually wake up about 6:30 but it was closer to 7:00 today. The Breakfast Barn might have been a good breakfast but I learned it doesn’t serve on Monday or Tuesday. Fortunately, the Chowder House where I ate last night was open for breakfast. After breakfast, there was a fairly steep hill to climb for a mile and then it leveled off to a rolling ridge top with some relaxed, short climbs. Due to the fog, there was no view until 10 miles or so when the fog lifted enough to reveal an ugly scar of clearcuts, as if Mother Nature wanted this to be seen.
Then a right turn started a nice winding descent that I kept under control. A left turn brought the route back to 101 and on into Bandon as the sun came out. At Bandon I stopped at the cheese factory that had a nice sampling of cheese, unlike Tillamook, as well as ice cream which I couldn’t pass up. The beach loop through Bandon had some nice views of sea stacks tempered with some fog. Then the route headed inland a bit with some farm views of golden fields backlit by forested hills. When I pulled into Port Orford, I stopped for dinner, as it was the last chance before camp. After dinner, the temperature had noticeably dropped. There were some nice views of the shore again but considerable fog fought off the sun again.
I pulled into Humbug Mountain State Park that had decent hiker-biker sites contrary to what the Bible said. I ran into two guys and their girl friends who were the two women cyclists I saw just outside of Bandon. These two couples were on their way to San Francisco. One of the guys had just did an endo a few miles back and bent his fork, facing the prospect of a hitchhike to Brookings unless he could manage to bend the fork enough to ride it. The other guy was pulling a kiddies trailer.
At the hiker-biker site I met Dan from Edmonton who had cycled from Portland and was going to Brookings. Dan was recently laid off from his cabinet making job and took the opportunity to do this trip. He had met Suzette yesterday and also the two elderly women cyclists. I was impressed that Dan’s bike had a 52/39 chainring setup and what looked like a standard cassette. He was presumably carrying much less weight with only rear panniers and a handlebar bag but still he must have been pretty strong to ride with his gearing.
When I woke up, there were several deer in camp right next to where Dan was camping. When Dan woke up, I managed to discretely warn him so he wouldn’t scare them off. It was 21 miles to Gold Beach so I ate some granola to hold me until breakfast. This was supposed to be a very scenic route but I’ll never know, as it was foggy all day. The route was, I am told, on the side of a cliff and occasionally you could almost see the ocean below. An uneventful ride to Gold Beach and uneventful breakfast.
After breakfast I checked the library for email but the librarian told me they had email turned off. I doubted she knew what she was talking about but I didn’t argue. She did tell me there was a book store with Internet access on the other end of town so I tried that. Unfortunately, the access was so slow I never even got my email list after 10 minutes of waiting so I gave up and wasted $1.25 (for a 15 minute session).
Outside of town started about a 5 mile climb that was probably the longest of the trip. Dan passed me up after about 13 miles and he was definitely faster than me, virtually flying past me. There were some touted viewpoints along the way that I checked but I could barely see anything. I pulled into Harris Beach State Park where Dan was already camped and setup camp. Brookings was only a mile away so I cycled into town and checked the library. All the PCs were in use so I stopped at a Pizza Hut for dinner. Then I headed back to the library at 5:30 where I was able to use a PC until 6:00. Email access was still very slow but I did manage to get through all of my email. Then I had desert (another VICCCS) and headed back to camp to clean up.
I decided today would be a rest day. I’d been on the road for 14 straight days, averaging 50-60 miles per day or about 400 miles/week compared to my typical 100 miles/week on an unloaded bike. My legs had started feeling the strain even if no day had been particularly hard. In addition, given the foggy weather, it seemed an opportune time to do some wash plus it was CMA (Country Music Association) award night.
So after packing and saying good-bye to Dan who was taking the bus from Brookings to Portland to catch a plane back to Edmonton, I rode into town for breakfast. I found a reasonable motel ($35) within walking distance of a Laundromat where I did my wash. My clothes really weren’t that bad since I had two pair of shorts and shirts and each evening I rinsed out my riding pair and hung them on the back of my bike to dry out during the day. Of course, when it’s foggy and the sun doesn’t come out, the drying process doesn’t work so well. Nevertheless, its nice to do a real wash and get everything spiffy clean.
After washing, I reviewed my equipment and made a pile of unneeded equipment. I had some extra cold weather clothing that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need plus some maps and propaganda that I no longer needed. I borrowed a box from the motel folks, cut it down to size, and took it to the post office for shipping to my friend Dave. I estimate it weighed close to 5 pounds.
After another visit to the library and one to the local bike shop, the fog had cleared out and the sun was shining again. So I rode back to Harris Beach and stopped at the beach. It was nice to see some actual scenery again. There were a couple of large rocks that a bunch of sea gulls had commandeered for their own. A couple of guys were kite flying. I took the opportunity to stroll the beach some and spend some time reading a paperback. But all good things must come to an end and after about an hour and a half the fog rolled back in. I headed back to town to eat, do a little grocery shopping, and settled in to watch the CMA show.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 1999. All rights reserved.