Astoria, Cape Lookout State Park, Coburg, Corvallis, Cycle touring Hwy 101, cycle touring Oregon, Eugene, Lewis and Clark Road, Nehalem State Park, Old Scenic Highway 101, Pacific City, Pacific Coast, Tillamook
The TransAmerica bike route is a bit over 4,000 miles in length. Not every pedal stroke of which, I must admit to you now, has been a cycle touring gem. Some of it is a chore, a moral snapping, mind numbing chore. There are whole sections that are only part of the route because they are unavoidably in the way. Blog after blog entry here has featured photos of either Esther or myself on a bike in a bleak landscape, with the road disappearing to a dusty horizon. There have been whole weeks that taxed my creativity to make the shots look different. If you were bored by them, you can only begin to know the tedium of having to ride a heavy touring bike through these barren landscapes. Then there is the unmentionable heat.
I am not the first person to complain. The cowboy drovers of old saw off boredom by fighting, betting on just about everything, more fighting and betting. In desperation, if nothing else could be found, reading and reciting to each other the labels of dried goods. There are whole states that I have made a solemn and binding pledge never to ride a bike in again.
We have made it across the United States of America for the second time, and not many people can make that claim. When we started I put the chance of getting across at not much better than 20%. You remember me telling you just how painful injections of Cortisone in your foot are. Well, we set off with me wincing every time I put pressure on the pedal. If I had a job to go to that had involved standing up, I would have been off sick and watching ‘ daytime TV ‘ from a comfortable chair. There is never anything guaranteed about such an endeavour. There are bike chasing dogs of Kentucky to avoid. Pot holes that can swallow your bike, and lapses in concentration that can find you in a ditch and involved with the American Medical System. Then there are the RV drivers to avoid, which is more down to them than you and a whole load of good fortune. ” Never pedal faster than your guardian Angel “, which is a wise German saying.
We set out from Eugene on the final bits of our journey towards the Pacific. Bits of our equipment had chosen the last few hundred miles into town to wear out. The bike industry has in our absence decided that the 9 speed drive that we are using is now RETRO, and available only in the bottom of dusty draws or on Ebay. We are both on new chains and I have a new rear deraileur. There was a choice of one. Which explains why I am using one that operates in the reverse direction. After more than 30,000 miles of changing gears by pressing the lever in one direction, it is time to pull instead of push. I hate the very concept of Sudoku, and I think I dislike this more. We are not getting on.
We set out on Quilt day. It was a sad day, not because of anything quilt related but because we were rather fond of Eugene and its bike friendly beer centric culture. ” We could live here “, which we had not been saying about too many places. Back out to join the river bike path and then out into farmland that was already deep into harvest time and turning the rich soil for a new crop. Which is when it struck me that there can not be a place on earth beyond the place where they are made, in which it is possible to be overtaken by more Subaru. Every second car in Oregon is a Subaru.
A couple of days ago, before our wet traverse of the McKenzie Pass ( it was one of the wettest days in recorded history we have since discovered ), the corn was not yet ripe. Here, summer is having one last kick of the ball and geese are seen in the morning sky on their way south for winter. We ride on, and have a comfortable day with the highlight being a ‘ Bald Eagle ‘ spotted by Esther – good for her. We did not find our grove today and stop short of where we had intended. The only place that may allow camping is a state park. A couple of miles off route to be greeted by a NO CAMPING sign. We negotiate a ‘ pitch out of the way and be gone by dawn ‘ spot with the warden.
Broadleaf trees and a river under a star flecked sky. It could not be much more perfect. The calming sound of water is not universal. A dripping tap can rob you of sleep, as can a toilet overflow. Water causing pebbles to chatter or in the form of vast oceans washing onto a shingle beach and you are into the arms of St. Elijah, ( patron saint of sleep – feast day July 20th ).
Back onto HWY 99 and heading West towards Monmouth in cool morning air. HWY 22 which we pick up next, is less wonderful as we head in the direction of Buell. Horrid, heavy with traffic even on a Sunday morning. The day passes with curses and incantations towards the drivers of RV’s. Another short day that once more ends with a pitch next to a river and a second night of near perfect sleep in our little tent.
We are on the road again next morning. Just because I had little more to do or think about, I decide to zoom out the gps. There it is! on the screen in all its baby blue blueness, The Pacific Ocean and the coast that will be the end of our journey across the USA. I had done the same thing yesterday and we had stopped short and camped. In Year 1 we would have raced for the sea and ended the day with no place to camp. We are a little bit wiser now. We turn away from the main highway and take the scenic route to the coast.
The first thing that I recognise is a wood pile. We have crossed our path from 3 years ago. It is quite a moment and a bit disappointing that it is marked by a wood pile. There are tall trees, damp shaded pools of darkness, and the smell of earth that is wet to the touch. We are on familiar ground.
We come to the coast and a possible viewpoint. The fog of the Atlantic NW coast robs us of our moment of triumph. The view of the sea is held in mist so close we can hear it. Onwards to Pacific City and familiar things. I ask the cook who is taking a break from the grill, and standing outside the diner ” How Many days till Christmas? “. There can be few places in July where this is not a stupid question, and this is one of them. We ate here before on a cold morning with rain forecast. Outside there was a row of cat bowls with hungry guests – cat, cat, cat, racoon, cat, racoon, cat. They are all gone now and I am sure the health inspector had something to do with that.
Rather more emotionally than expected, there is a place to touch the water, just around the bay. That is it then, we have crossed the USA and now it is official. We continue along the coast, one moment in sun so strong you need to lather up with factor 30. Around a bend and the next miles are biked in winter gear and freezing temperatures of thick fog. We camp at Cape Lookout, one of Oregon’s lovely state parks along the coast. It is full, but arriving by bike gives you the privilege of ‘ Hiker-Biker ‘ and a cheap pitch for the night guaranteed. There is no ‘ looking-out ‘ to be done as the fog drops onto the sandy beach early in the afternoon. You will need to indulge me a few art photos of the landscape.
We sleep the sleep of the traveller on our happy campground pitch. The normal visitor just a hundred feet away packed together as tight as farrowing sows. It is just 56’f in the blanket of fog and moss hangs from the old trees that stand around our tent. Whilst the air is still cool, the morning is bright and clear. The beach is covered with people gathering clams. Our route takes us along the coast, by sheltered harbours and mud flats. We go inland, but then turn to take the coastal route. The traffic this morning is mad and we turn inland again and make up the route towards Tillamook.
We pass through the town of Garibaldi. Few towns are named after Italian revolutionaries in the USA. In Britain he is more known for a biscuit named after him – which after the fig and the humble digestive is one of my favorite. Into, and out beyond Tillamook, the road shoulder is varies from poor to downright unridable and often vanishes for long stretches. I am not happy one little bit. The wind has been gathering strength all day, and is now blowing a gale right in our faces. The Chinook Winds win and we pack in after just 41 miles, exhausted. Another night of Hiker-Biker joy for us.
A big climb to over 500 ft and of course it is straight out of the tent and on complaining legs. We are on our way to Astoria with the sea on our left. Everyone else wants to go that way today, logging truck, big rig and a fleet of RV’s. It is not nice at all. Lewis and Clark made the coast here and must have been thrilled to see the end of the Columbia River and the Pacific. We are every bit as enthusiastic as them to get to Astoria, believe me. The wind is howling in our ears ( we know we are doing this coast in the wrong direction! ) and we cross over the main little bridge towards town. The high road bridge goes overhead and out over the Columbia as you enter the town along the river. With the State of Washington on the bank to our left we pedal into this town for the second time. You would imagine we can not fail to get to SEATTLE now and then it is onwards to touring of northern England and Scotland. But there is strong beer to be drunk in Astoria’s craft brewery district first.