The Oregon Coast

There hasn’t been much time for updating the blog. We’ve just been riding and enjoying the scenery. But now it’s time to bring you up to speed on what, where, when, how, why… and why not.

After spending a night under a roof, courtesy of Neil, a famous Warm Showers host in Seaside, OR, Christoph and I continued south to Cannon Beach. We had hoped to have a short day and stay there but the best camp site in town was not yet open for the season. The only other one wanted $37. And apparently this was “a deal” as she should have charged us an extra $10 for the second tent. We chose to pass on the “deal” and ride on to Nehalem, instead, where the Nehalem Bay State Park offered us beautiful, serene camping for a mere $10, including hot showers.

Nehalem campsite.
Nehalem campsite.

It’s off Highway 101 a bit, through the quaint town of Manzanita. The grocery store there had everything we could possibly want, including roast chicken, which we added to our meal for the night. A bit longer day in the saddle than we had wanted but still only 50 km. We had a relaxing afternoon and were joined by a couple from Kimberley, BC. The beach at Nehalem is lovely and we wandered its expanse as the sun set, taking photos.

Dinner: pasta with pesto and veggies and roast chicken breasts.
Dinner: pasta with pesto and veggies and roast chicken breasts.
The wind playing in the dunes at Nehalem.
The wind playing in the dunes at Nehalem.
Paul photographing at Arizona Beach (photo by Christoph Hšhmann)
Paul photographing at Nehalem Beach (photo by Christoph Hšöhmann)

In the morning we passed through town again to stop at the bakery for some real bread, rather than the supermarket variety, sugar-laden stuff that passes for it. The road veers inland a ways to get around Tillamook Bay and through the town of the same name. It’s claim to fame is cheese. Not a big draw for me but we did stop to pick up stove fuel at a giant outdoor shop on the edge of town before turning off HWY 101 to take the more scenic route around Cape Meares. It’s been closed to traffic for years because the road is slumping and unlikely to ever get fixed. The beauty of cycling is that those kinds of obstacles don’t really hinder us as we cycled around the gate and over the cape to the lighthouse.

The Cape Meares light house.
The Cape Meares light house.
The view from Cape Meares.
The view from Cape Meares.

Cape Meares is the first in the Three Capes Scenic Loop, a 60-kilometre route. The second is Cape Lookout and the third Cape Kiwanda. How this makes a loop, I don’t know, but it is a lovely ride. We finished our day at Cape Lookout, again at a state park with hot showers and a hiker-biker site for $5 a head. Oregon has this really well sorted for those of us who choose to leave the car at home. Most people in the camp sites arrived in big rigs, hauling their living rooms around.

The Three Capes Route through Oceanside near Cape Lookout.
The Three Capes Route through Oceanside near Cape Lookout.
Cape Lookout.
Cape Lookout.

It was so nice at Cape Lookout, we decided to stay for a day. We’d been on the road for 10 days and it was time for a rest. Our bodies needed and deserved it. We still had a long way ahead of us and there was no point in overdoing it. We had enough food after stocking up on all the essentials in the tiny town of Netarts.

Cape Lookout sunset.
Cape Lookout sunset.
Starry sky through the trees at Cape Lookout.
Starry sky through the trees at Cape Lookout.

There were other cyclists in camp. The couple from Kimberley we had met the day before. Kendra and SaraMae, whom we had met at Neil’s in Seaside were there, as well a few others. They all left in the morning, leaving the place just to the two of us. It was a gorgeous and relaxing day. Just what we needed to recharge.

Sunrise at the Cape Lookout campsite.
Sunrise at the Cape Lookout campsite.
Beach pools at Cape Lookout.
Beach pools at Cape Lookout.
Little bloomers on the forest floor.
Little bloomers on the forest floor.
Spiky tree trunks at Cape Lookout.
Spiky tree trunks at Cape Lookout.
Salal sunset at Cape Lookout.
Salal sunset at Cape Lookout.

From Cape Lookout, the Scenic Cape route continues on a small road and immediately climbs for 4 km with grades up to eight per cent. A bit of a test after a day off but the legs were fresh. The nice part of this route is that it’s off HWY 101 and there is little or no traffic. It continues south past Cape Kiwanda and through Pacific City before rejoining 101. But we were on the highway only for a few kilometres until the town of Neskowin where we turned left on to Slab Creek Road, the original Highway 101. It’s a bit longer but has a gentler incline and almost no traffic – a cyclist’s dream. It’s a 9-kilometre climb but the grade is only between 2 and 5 per cent.

Slab Creek Road north of Lincoln City.
Slab Creek Road north of Lincoln City.

The Adventure Cycling Association has mapped out many nice diversions from the highway making the route much safer and more pleasant for cyclists. The traffic on HWY 101 can be busy. It’s loud and too many drivers go too fast and get too close to us. It can be an unnerving experience. But most drivers are considerate and give us lots of space on a road that often has little or no shoulder.

Moss-covered bridge on Slab Creek Road.
Moss-covered bridge on Slab Creek Road.

We finished the day in Lincoln City after cycling around Devils Lake. The hiker-biker site was not the nicest spot as it’s on the edge of the campground and basically across the street from some houses. Kind of like camping in somebody’s front yard. We met a northbound cyclist here who had begun his journey six weeks earlier in Tijuana, Mexico. Beto is from Guadalajara. He is fulfilling a dream and doing it on an old six-speed with only a rear rack and rear brakes. He wouldn’t be able to use front brakes anyway because Beto doesn’t have the use of his left arm. He is a strong, young guy with a remarkable attitude and a great smile. We spent the evening together, swapping stories from the road. He’s partially funding his trip by selling CDs of his music. Christoph and I each bought one. I told him if he makes it all the way to Vancouver, we would host him.

Beto getting ready for another day on the road.
Beto getting ready for another day on the road.

We said farewell to Beto in the morning and headed back out on 101 south. Overnight, the weather had turned and it was a drab morning. No nice detours off the highway today, except in Newport where we stopped at Yaquina Bay Park for lunch before crossing a busy bridge. Showers came and went but we stayed mostly dry, ending our day after 90 km at the Cape Perpetua campground where, a short time later, we were joined by Andy, another southbound cyclist. We had bought steaks for dinner to bulk up our pasta meal. A great way to end the day.

Protein addition.
Protein addition.

The weather did not improve overnight but it was dry. Together with Andy, we headed back out on the road. On the outskirts of Florence, we were stopped dead in our tracks by one of our favourite things: a roadside diner. Kathleen and Nina’s proved to be a worthy stop for our second breakfast. We heartily indulged.

Cape Perpetua.
Cape Perpetua.

This section of our route was somewhat unremarkable. Lots of campers, RVs and trucks hauling dune buggies. It will never cease to amaze me how we humans can come up with ways of burning fuel and making noise. We just kept piling on the miles until we got to Winchester Bay and the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park where the showers were free and the mosquitoes quite horrendous.

Christoph trying to stave off the mosquitoes at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.
Christoph trying to stave off the mosquitoes at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.

Andy chose to hang out for a day to wait for his friend who had fallen ill in Lincoln City and stayed there to get over what ailed him. Christoph and I carried on and were happy our route veered off the 101 at Northbend. It’s far too busy on that highway. We took the Cape Arago Highway and at Charleston turned left onto the Seven Devils Road. Wondering what the seven devils were, I said to Christoph that I hoped it didn’t mean seven climbs, but it meant exactly that. Each climb was a little higher than the last but followed by a very fast descent back down to the highway just outside of Bandon.

The final Devil on Seven Devils Road.
The final Devil on Seven Devils Road.
Seven Devils Road.
“The real Devil has an engine.”

We made camp and went into town to have a meal instead of cooking one. Sadly, the Irish pub was closed as it was a Sunday but there was another fine restaurant in town where we had fried fish and a mountain of chips, washed down with some local beer. Back at the campsite we had been joined by some other cyclists and a few homeless people who seem to be going from campsite to campsite. It’s cheap accommodation and there are usually hot showers to be had. One of the cyclists was Rod Norton from Tlell, a small community on Haida Gwaii, BC. This would not be our last meeting.

The Coquille River light house at Bandon, OR.
The Coquille River light house at Bandon, OR.

Fortunately, our next day began with cycling along a very scenic road through Bandon and its southern outskirts dominated by lovely beach-front homes, most of which seemed to be available to rent. It’s lovely at Bandon. The beaches are beautiful, dotted with haystack rocks of all sizes, home to all kinds of sea birds and sea lions.

Public bicycle art in Bandon, OR.
Public bicycle art in Bandon, OR.
Bandon Beach panorama.
Bandon Beach panorama.

After some 10 blissful kilometres, we were back on the 101 dodging trucks and RVs going through towns with nice names like Dew Valley, Laurel Grove and Four Mile, offering all sorts of art and sculpture. In Langlois, we were stopped dead in our tracks again by the appearance of a roadside diner with a sign that demanded we try its offerings: The Greasy Spoon Cafe. Good thing we did. There’s nothing like a hearty plate of bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast a couple of hours into the day’s ride to provide much-needed calories.

Wood sculptures for sale on the road south of Bandon.
Something Awesome: wood sculptures for sale on the road south of Bandon.
Made from found materials on local beaches.
Made from found materials on local beaches.
A gastronomic beacon in Langlois, OR.
A gastronomic beacon in Langlois, OR.
Second breakfast.
Second breakfast.

With a second breakfast under our belts, a jar of homemade jam in a pannier, and some valuable camping info from the locals, we soldiered on. The weather finally turned from drab to sunny again and we happily rode through Denmark and Sixes to Port Orford where we found groceries and the scenery much improved as we were back on the coast after having been inland on the highway.

Be brave and follow the signs. (photo by Christoph Hšhmann)
Be brave and follow the signs. (photo by Christoph Hšöhmann)
Jumping for joy back on the coast at Port Orford. (photo by Christoph Hšhmann)
Jumping for joy back on the coast at Port Orford. (photo by Christoph Hšöhmann)
I just have to stop and smell the flowers sometime.
I just have to stop and smell the flowers sometime.

We chose to bypass Humbug State Park, even though it looked lovely, but chose instead to carry on to Arizona Beach. This is also a state park but seems to be a day-use area, however, the guys I talked to at the Greasy Spoon had assured me it was fine to camp there. Beaches in Oregon are public and state-owned, so, theoretically one can camp on them. There was no indication that camping was not permitted. There were washrooms and a water tap, as well as picnic tables, and acres of flat ground. We had everything else, and we had the place to ourselves. The sun caressed us until it set and again warmed us as we awoke the following morning on the wide open beach. It was one of the nicest places we camped.

Arizona Beach.
Arizona Beach.

The ACA route took us off the 101 onto Cedar Valley Road, It winds through the hills north of the Rogue River, eventually bringing us to the river’s mouth at Gold Beach and it wasn’t hard to find a diner for second breakfast. We ran into Rod Norton again but he had just had his second breakfast and chose to cycle on.

Christoph north of Humbug Mountain, OR.
Christoph north of Humbug Mountain, OR.

South of Gold Beach are some of the nicest coastal areas in Oregon, I think. From the cliffs of Cape Sebastian to the hay stack rocks of Myers Beach where wind surfers take advantage of the prevailing northwest winds to surf and almost fly, and the expansive beaches at Pistol River.

Windsurfer at Myer Beach, OR.
Windsurfer at Myer Beach, OR.

By mid-afternoon, we were in Brookings, just north of the California border. We found a bike shop to buy another inner tube for Christoph and ask for advice about a clicking that had developed in my bottom bracket (I discovered later that afternoon at camp it was from the left crank that just needed to be tightened a bit).

One of the viewpoints near Cape Sebastian.
One of the viewpoints near Cape Sebastian.

Rod was already at the camp site on the outskirts of Brookings, as well as a few other cyclists. We tended to bikes and beer, chatting until the sun set before turning in for the night. After 17 days on the road our rhythm was now perfectly in synch with nature’s daily cycle.

Here is a map of our journey through Oregon. Click on it and it will open a new page where you can dissect all the data, if you wish to do so.

Oregon Route Map

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7 thoughts on “The Oregon Coast

  1. Hey buddy, I always love the escapism that comes with reading for your blog. The vivid pictures and thoughtful commentary always makes me feel like i’m right there with you guys, minus the saddle sores, broken back and wet socks of course. I Look forward to your next adventure so I can live vicariously through your exploits once again. Unless of course your next adventure involves a five-star hotel in the Caribbean, and the only wheeled vehicle is a courtesy golf cart taking me down to the poolside bar. Because if that’s the case, that’s my kind of roughing it and you can count me in. Just say the word, and ill start working out my margarita arm. I wouldn’t want you to have to leave me behind because of a pulled bicep.

    As always great read, well done buddy.

  2. I never tire reading your stories and looking at these gorgeous pictures, Paul. Well done. Go away again…..soon . A fantastic trip.

  3. Great recap AND you solved a question I was having. Last time i rode the coast I just too 101 from Pacific City to Lincoln City. I’d heard about the turn in Neskowin, but wondered if it was worth the extra miles. Sounds like it is!

    Thanks! and great recap!

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