We cycle across a modernist iron and concrete bridge as the side winds hurtle against us as a tall, lean man runs beside us carrying a wooden cross muttering religious sayings as we cross paths and reach the other side of an unfriendly cycling bridge. The highway 101 is mixed with commercial vehicles, 4x4s, RV’s, motor bikes which all roar along the highway as supersized machines. It’s holiday season and with this comes a multitude of vacation traffic with colossal sized coach style mobile homes trailing a car or 4×4 with a range of toys strapped to that, which can be from bikes, kayaks or motorcycles. Then people have the cheek to comment on how much we are carrying on our bikes!
While in Portland we had decided we didn’t want to miss any of the Oregon Coast so we decided to start right back in Astoria where we had left about a week before. Instead of a 3 day cycle ride back we took the easier option of putting our bikes on the bus and taking the 3 hour trip back to Astoria. We had heard great things in regard of the coastline and began this section with high expectations. We had also returned to Astoria as we had be given a paper makers contact there (information in the State of Paper post).
Now, sat in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California on a rest day I am able to reflect upon the last 650km over the past 12 days. It has been a magical ride along stunning coastlines staying in well appointed State Parks and meeting a range of cyclists and hikers. Marie from Montreal who we spoke about in the last post has become part of our trip. We met up along the road after leaving Astoria area and ever since we have coordinated our campsites, routes and shared countless meals and conversations. We ride independently due to different paces and stopping needs but we have been very much a happy cycling unit through Oregon.
We have camped every night and stayed in mainly the hiker/biker areas in state parks which have proven to be great and good valve ($7-8 ppn). Some with cycling units which have lockers, power sockets, bike tools and a bike pump! This has become the norm and we certainly are not taking it for granted as we often look back at the nightly ritual of finding a wild camping spot out of sight, rushing to pack up in the morning before we are spotted. Now we have become extremely relaxed, having extended breakfasts and lots of conversations which often leads to a late start.
What has been considerably different is the type of cyclist we have encountered. We knew there would be lots as the Pacific coast cycle route is well ridden, drawing people from near or far. There seems to be a large majority of cyclists doing it as fast as they can, boasting about their large mileage of the day and when they will reach their finish line. The 3 of us have gone against the grain here and are doing a counter movement, cycling the shortest distances and taking the longest. But then we have the time when some have flights to catch or only have a short vacation. But there is a very different cyclist here from the round the world to central Asian travellers. We try and keep quiet about what we have achieved as we feel less inclined to brag about it amongst the west coasters. Since mid way through Oregon the campsites have become more populated with cyclists both heading north and south. It has been nice to chat beyond cycling and get to know people a little more than routes and gear! I think this is why we have hit it off with Marie, where we have shared life stories and enjoyed the day to day of our cycling routine with a like minded strong women.
The coastline has not let us down, especially the south. Rocky coasts, sand dunes, forests, rocky islands and seaside towns have provided us with magical encounters. At times the sheer amount of natural beauty became overwhelming. At Sunset Bay (Cape Argo) we were lucky to see several whales close to the shore and many sea lions on the rocks sunbathing. There have been plenty of climbs, undulating terrain and each days cycling has provided challenges and rewards. The coastal area is a magnet for sea mist and thick fog and we experienced this blanket of white fuzz on many mornings. As you cycled along the highway you would often take a second glance as a rock or part of the coastal hills would be floating in mid air as the blanket wrapped itself around the obstacle.
After 4 days of long cycling days the 3 of us woke up exhausted and this prompted an unplanned rest day at an idyllic spot. The night before we arrived at a hike biker site to experience art rather odd atmosphere, which we had experienced the previous night and decided to avoid a similar night. The previous night we had settled into our hiker biker site by celebrating the end of the day with a cold beer and 2 people entered the site heads down, hoods up carrying their bags. Their was no acknowledgement of our presence and their was certainly an odd atmosphere. The couple did not seem to be hikers or their were no bikes in sight. Fast forward to the next night we approached the site and a dog began barking at us and again a women gave no acknowledgement of us, another odd atmosphere, so this is when we decided not to have another uncomfortable night so Marie cycled to the next forestry park. She came back smiling saying the camping hosts will allow us to camp there for free. We had a perfect spot right on the ocean front, under frees with the sound of the sea was intoxicating. As we awoke the next day exhausted from the previous days head winds and long miles Marie asked the hosts if we could stay another night. They were very generous and we spent a perfect day each resting, walking on the beach, eating and even an afternoon nap at Tilliacum. We met Jeff from Portland on the beach and he chatted to us about the magical place of Cape Perpetua and the unusual experiences he had there. The following morning he loaded us up with energy bars, bagels and cream cheese.
After a few days to reflect we had discussed that the hiker biker sites near the main highway and near to bigger towns where magnets for people on the margins of American society. Perhaps they were using them to move from place to place as this system allowed for an affordable way to spend a night, as they did not seem to be suitable alternative care for homeless or transitional citizens. Also we had met a couple of walkers at the campsites who had mentioned how they had been ‘seen’ and treated as a homeless or person in need. Americans could not seem to separate a hiker (backpacker) from a homeless person which obviously raised some concerns. Laura from San Diego had mentioned that she was resting by the side of the road, reading a book and waiting for the bus for 3 hours and not 1 person stopped to see if she was alive or dead. Being on bikes with the panniers people have not seen us as homeless but as travellers and many have stopped to ask us about our route and generally shown great interest.
The Oregon Coast is well signposted and the department of transport has produced an informative and well design cycling map that has helped us plan and navigate our way south. Oregon is a great place with space to breathe, beautiful scenery and friendly people. It is undeveloped and to have cycled for almost 2 weeks along wild stretches of coast, along quiet country roads and of course busy stretches of the 101 highway without passing any many cities or built up areas has been a dream.
Cycled 680km (approximately)
Astoria – Brookings (state border)
Campsites in order:
Fort Stevens (State Park)
Nehalem Bay (SP)
Cape Lookout (SP)
Devils Lake (SP)
Tillicum Beach (Forest Park)
Jess Honeyman (SP)
Sunset Bay (SP)
Bullards Beach (SP)
Cape Blanco (SP)
Humbug Mountain (SP)
Harris Beach (SP)
All photography by Jack Blake & Barbara Salvadori 2018©