Monday, October 13, 2014

An Oregon Coast Detour

The Oregon Coast at it's finest.  It reminded me a lot of The Great Ocean Road in Australia and Tasmania's coastline

Ever since I can remember my Mom has always told me that the rain in Oregon comes right around my birthday. This year, more than any other, I needed this statement to hold true. I have scheduled my entire trip around my birthday, not necessarily to celebrate at home, but because it is when it gets too rainy in the Northwest to enjoy cycling, at least in my opinion. I had a day of rain in Vancouver, BC, another in Bellingham, and an evening of rain in Seattle, but after that, the rain held out and the weather forecast was skeptically summer-like. The forecast all over Oregon called for record high temperatures and no rain, I couldn't have asked for a better weather forecast and therefore take the scenic detour down the Oregon Coast before cutting over to Portland. Besides, how can an avid cyclist from Oregon cycle all over the world and never have pedaled down the Oregon Coast. In the world of tour cyclists, the Oregon Coast is at the top of the list for being the most scenic section of the Pacific Coast.

I left The Boreas Inn late in the morning after an amazing breakfast and took my time crossing the Oregon border exploring Washington's Cape Disappointment State Park. I reached the mouth of the Columbia River and the Astoria bridge with excitement, but also felt intimidated. Not only did the length of the bridge scare me, about a mile and a half in length, there was both a flat causeway and a high steel bridge that was unfortunately Although there were “Share the Road” signs at the start of the bridge, there was very little shoulder. My adrenaline was rushing as I started across. To my surprise, the official boundary is at the start of the bridge and I entered Oregon with a big smile on my face. I tried to stay focused on the bridge and traffic regardless of the most putrid roadkill I had smelled since kangaroos in Australia. Who would have guessed seagulls make for a putrid smell, flattened and dried out on the road?

The bridge from Washington to Astoria over The Columbia River
When the flat causeway bridge ended a high steel bridge started which was under road construction. All the cars were stopped and of course I got stopped too by a man in reflective gear controlling traffic. He let two groups of car go before allowing me to pedal. Only later did I learn after running into a group of both men and women cyclists, that only the women cyclists were stopped. Ironic?!?!.....I don't think so; the poor man must have been bored and needed some entertainment and conversation high above the Columbia River.

Oh, I see, you stop the women, but let the men cyclist pedal on......I don't blame you!

I was thrilled to see this sign, although I had to stand in the freeway to take the picture!

I made it over the bridge and pedaled into Astoria on the most beautiful of days I have ever witnessed on the Oregon Coast. Temperatures were between 75 and 80F with not a cloud in the sky. Not to mention I had a tailwind and the road was completely flat for the first section of the Oregon Coast. I had a Warmshowers host set up in Seaside, but with such a smooth ride, I decided to continue pedaling and make it to Nehalem State Park south of Canon Beach where a fellow tour cycling friend was camped out. I met Brad, an Aussie from Darwin on a long tour back in March in Tasmania. He had also pedaled around the island, then headed to Alaska, where we somehow missed each other, and had stayed in touch since hoping we could still find each other somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I was over the hump of feeling sad and confused upon ending my trip, but I knew that I would enjoy the company of another cyclist who could relate to a long distance trip and my nomadic lifestyle. Not to mention I'm a sucker for an Aussie accent; I just melt when I hear it!

I enjoyed pedaling on Highway 101. How can you not with sunny blue skies, warm air, and relatively little traffic on the road. The stretch from Astoria to Cannon Beach has been recently repaved and there is a fairly wide shoulder. From Canon Beach down, the scenery starts to get really good although the shoulder decreases. Cars are still reminded frequently to watch for cyclists on the road. In fact I went through a tunnel that asks cyclists to push a button so red lights will flash to let cars know there is a cyclist inside. After stopping in Cannon Beach to take some pictures, I continued on to Nehalem State Park, excited to meet Brad. It took longer than I expected, not because of the hills, but because of the pretty scenery. From Cannon Beach down, the highways hugs the coastline making for spectacular views.

The Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach

Breathtaking scenery from Cannon Beach south
I made it to Nehalem State Park just before sunset and located Brad in the hiker biker site. Oregon State Parks are some of the best in the country for hiker and bikers. They charge between $5 and $10 with showers included! We were thrilled to see one another, it had been 8 months since our paths crossed on the south eastern coast of Tasmania, close to Freycinet National Park and had a ton of stories to share with one another, especially since we had cycled a lot of the same sections of road. We headed over to take some pictures on the beach of the sun going down and the almost full moon and then had dinner, which he prepared for me. What a treat!

Selfie at Nehalem State Park Beach
As the sunset, the moon was in a pretty remarkable state, almost full!

Well after sunset some other cyclists rolled in to the campsite. Ironically I had crossed paths with them twice already on the roads in Bellingham and again on the Hood Canal. They were a group of three heading to Cabo San Lucas. The whole group of us had a great time that night talking and telling stories and still managed to have an early night in our tents by 10 pm. No sooner did I switch off my headlamp, I heard some noises outside, as if people were walking around crunching in the leaves and going through out stuff. I quickly got dressed and opened my tent, to find Brad outside trying to ward off a family of raccoons. Wouldn't you know they had managed to get into my food pannier. I had very little food on me since I was so close to the end of my trip, but the little food I had was about to be devoured by them despite being secured enclosed in my pannier. Raccoons might seem harmless, but they've done more damage than any other animal I've encountered on this trip.

I decided to bring my bags next to my tent in order to keep an ear out for the raccoons, although, like always, I used earplugs to sleep. For some odd reason I woke up in the middle of the night to another sound, this time rather quiet and opened my tent again, to see what it could be. There, starring me in the face was a raccoon dragging away my food pannier with one paw. I couldn't believe me eyes. What a thief! I've been victim to Raccoon vandalism once on this trip and I wasn't going to let it happen again! I was so shocked, I yelled at him and said, “Hey, give that back!” and yanked on it to pull it close to my tent again. At first he didn't want to let go, but then I jut pulled harder and I was able to get it back. Funny, because I suppose he could have just as easily come back again, but thankfully I slept soundly through the rest of the night and when I awoke in the morning both bags were still right outside my tent.
This little guy and his family are NOT as innocent as they look!  (photo courtesy of Brad)
Riding the Oregon Coast Bike Route with Brad  (photo courtesy of Brad)

The next morning Brad and I were up and on the road early, before the other group of cyclists. It was refreshing to have some company and bounce ideas off another tour cyclist who was eager to continue making long bike tours a a regular part of their “normal life”. The morning ride down to Tillamook went by quickly and by 11am we were at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It's never too early to eat ice cream. Tillamook Cheese Factory is a “must see” destination on the Oregon Coast. Not only does it have the best ice cream, the cheese samples are to die for and left unattended, set-up in an “all-you-can-eat” buffet setting, making it easy to go back for seconds without anyone noticing! We picked up lunch items at the Fred Meyer and pedaled east over the Tillamook River to Cape Lookout. After a picnic lunch on the socked in coast, Brad and I split paths. His route was bringing him down the Oregon Coast into San Francisco and I needed to head east into Portland.

Can't help but smile riding on the Oregon Coast in 80F with good company and beautiful scenery (photo courtesy of Brad)

I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!  They should offer a deal for cyclists though, maybe half price liter tubs?!?!?

The cheese samples are amazing and you have to eat them before the ice cream, after too!
Oddly dry for the Oregon Coast, and sand dunes on both sides of the roads
After studying the map religiously, I decided the best road to take inland was a paved rural backroad from Beaver, Oregon that headed east through the Nestucca Forest meeting up with Carlton, Oregon southwest of Beaverton, my first stop in the Portland area. I wanted to avoid the major coastal highways, and was quite pleased with my road choice. Route 858 is one of the most scenic roads I've pedaled in Oregon, winding through farms on both sides of the road, with the foliage on the Oak trees at their prime. There was virtually no traffic and 5 forest campsites to choose from for camping. I pedaled until it got dark, enjoying the peaceful road and a peaceful dusk. I pulled over at the last campsite I came across, which happened to be free and deserted. It was still open, but the water had been turned off. I had one bottle left and used it sparingly. I had one of my mega baby wipe towels left, that I had specifically saved for my last night of camping. I gave myself a quick wipe and went to bed early to the sound of the Nestucca River rushing below and autumn leaves falling on the ground.

Oregon scenery for sure with the moss on the trees and the ferns in the forest 

Me, myself, and I on scenic Rt. 858.  The best kept secret to cross the coastal range from Portland

My last campsite of the trip

I do love my little tent, 2ft by 6ft. I slept so soundly all trip long in this tent

The next morning I was surprised by the lack of traffic. There was a 2 mile gravel section which must have been long enough to discourage vehicles to cross the coastal range on this road. I pedaled to the top of the pass, which was a relatively low grade, and started my decent into the Willamette Valley with the Cascade mountains in the background. Another beautiful day accompanied on my ride and by 11am I was in Carlton. There isn't much in Carlton except for a gas station which has a dive of a diner attached to it, that had the most delicious french toast and pancakes. I had skimped on dinner and had a banana for breakfast, so a big breakfast stop here was a must!

The Cascade mountains in the background as I descended into the Willamette Valley
Pretty hard to beat this breakfast!
From here my ride continued to be pretty pleasant all the way to Forest Grove where I finally hit a bit of traffic. I wanted to arrive in Beaverton early rather than later to have some extra time with my friend, Brianne. She's a teacher as well, one of my few friends I still have back in Oregon. We always make a point of seeing each other when I'm visiting and have fun catching up. Although our lives are so completely different it's always refreshing to see each other. Her husband went to a Portland Timber's match so we could have some girl time together. She wanted to treat me to dinner and would have taken me anywhere, but I was dying for some fresh veggies and soup, which is why we ended up at an all-you-can-eat soup and salad buffet. We had a good laugh because we must have been the most fit people in the entire restaurant and even our combined weight was less than the average customer, but the unlimited salad bar hit the spot. Not to mention they had a chocolate lava cake out for dessert and a soft serve ice cream machine that I hit up for thirds. There's still no shame.......

Loved the slogan of this buffet!  Maybe they'd be my sponsor!

Visited the Nike campus on the way to Brianne's,...."Just Did It!"
The next morning I visited Brianne's second grade dual immersion classroom at Barnes Elementary and enjoyed talking with her students. They had an unbelievable amount of patience and sat we engaged in conversation for an hour before I headed off to visit another bilingual school in north Portland. It was great for me to give my talk in Spanish, I seldom speak in Spanish, using Catalan to talk and email my friends back in Barcelona. Harvey Scott was the second school I visited, upon request from an old high school friend, who I literally hadn't since we graduated almost 20 years ago!

What's in those bags Ms. Melissa, always want to know, so I make them guess

Dual immersion second grade at Harvey Scott Elementary

After my school visit I was eager to ride to my sister's house. Jenny moved houses since I've been pedaling so it felt as though I was riding to the host's house rather than my own sister. I got there a lot earlier than expected so I could surprise my niece at school. It's funny because as soon as I was at Jenny's house for an hour or two, it felt as though I'd been there all along and that my trip was something of the past, a long long time ago. That's the best part about being home with your family. Yes people change and grow when you are away, but you have an established history and unconditional love that doesn't and it is so easy to feel comfortable and slide into a routine. I know I have quite a few followers in the Portland area and some old high school friends, but for this visit, my family was my priority.

We went out for a bike ride.  Peter felt light in the Burley on the back

Gwyneth's soccer fans 
If Peter had his way, we would have taken home about 20 pumpkins!

The Seilos and Pritchards pumpkin picking

The Pritchard clan minus myself, Jeff, and Walter and his family

Tom and Jeff, my younger twin brothers

My parents came up from Eugene, and my two younger brothers who live in Portland came over at various times during the weekend so I could see them as well. We were only missing one Pritchard, Walter and his family down in San Francisco, but had plenty of bodies there to keep us all busy and entertained. We played outside, watched Gwyneth's soccer match, headed out to a pumpkin patch, enjoyed family meals, and went out for drinks. It was an ideal weekend for me, low key enjoying my family's company. I could have easily thrown my bike in the back of my parent's car and headed down to Eugene with them, but I was adamant on pedaling all the way to Eugene for my birthday, cherishing the homestretch of The Loong Way Home. Dare I say, it's October 13th and it's still sunny.......?!?!

1 comment:

  1. I went to Cannon Beach and Columbia River last year with my friend. Who is a great lover of water activities and always love to explore such kind of spots where He can enjoy the lots of water all around him. We enjoy boating and natural sights; moreover at Cannon Beach the sunset view was impressive and fascinating! Your published photographs refresh my memories of that tour. Now I want to go there again to view this scenery before my bus tours las vegas to Yellowstone.