Today’s ride was one of my favourite of the whole trip. It was also probably the most challenging ride of the tour.
It was long and I was cycling solo again, so it was a tad lonely however it pushed me to a new level that I hadn’t yet experienced. There was an unknown reward at the end which made you realise it was all worth it.
Gerald had already left this morning and was long gone. So this was my first day riding alone since Vancouver Island. I knew this ahead of time but that didn’t make me feel any less sad. Paul, Oz and myself rode out together for about 1k (before taking our different routes) which kind of felt like a victory / farewell ‘lap’. Paul and Oz peeled off left to head back to Astoria, whilst I continued on full steam ahead.
I didn’t tell them this at the time but it was a pretty sad moment for me. You get to know people pretty well when you spend this kind of quality time together so I have to admit that as soon as they were out of the way I did get a little emotional. I soon snapped out of it when I had to concentrate on the rain.
I had decided to do 2 days in one go because the first leg to Nehalem seemed too short amd the second one was doable. One advantage of being by myself was that I could go at my own pace. In the knowledge that it was going to be a long ride I cranked up the speed. I didn’t want it to be like Day 1, arriving in camp in the dark. So I made a conscious decision to take fewer stops, stopping only really for lunch, water and to pee.
I took little detour to Cannon Beach. It was recommended to me by the book and as you’ve probably gathered, any chance to get off the 101 is welcomed. A cute little tourist town with beach side houses and apartments. The shops were full of Sweet Rock and other candies. It was just very quaint. I got off the bike for 10 minutes and wondered on the beach before heading back on the road.
The morning had been pretty manageable. I was making good time, I was plowing through the hills and although very sweaty and obviously having a bit of work out, I was happy wth my progress. Early afternoon gave me something else to think about.Going through Oswald West State Park I had some great hills to climb. They were short but pretty steep and so far the hardest hills to climb to date. Straight into the highest gear – head down and grind out a result. I mean in all honesty they were fine in the end but I would say that these were character building hills that were a great introduction for the ones later on in the trip. The Haribo Sour Frogs that I had in my day bag helped me with some instant energy for these relatively short but steep hills.
What is great is that once you go up, you know that have to go down again. There’s nothing like a the satisfaction of going down after such a climb. However, in cycling what goes down must also go up right? There was one hill that I didn’t quite have to negotiate all the way. This one had a tunnel through it. This tunnel had been of discussion between us all at camp the night before but nothing could prepare you quite for it. First of all, you have a button to hit before you go in. This sets the indicators live either end of the tunnel, warning drivers that there are cyclists inside. Once done, I put on my headlight and back light for extra safety. Similar to the bridge, the shoulder is narrow and the curb is high, so you need to keep some distance between you and the edge. One thing that you’re not ready for is the noise. I couldn’t help but grimace as lorries and RV’s came towards me, the sound condensing and bouncing off the walls. It felt like something was straight behind me. I was lucky enough to only have oncoming traffic so I wasn’t holding anyone up. Although this part was still on a hill my feet were peddling like there was no tomorrow
“Get me out QUICKLY!”
At the top of the second peak of these sets of hills I took a well deserved break. It must have been about 1:30 PM, I ate a small lunch and chatted with some car folk who had stopped at the viewpoint also. The original campsite for this day was only a couple of K up the road in Nehalem, so the fact I had got there for lunch made me feel like I had made the right decision. However I could have probably enjoyed Cannon bay for longer as well as other places on the way
The afternoon dragged. The morning went in a flash but then those hills before lunch had started to take their toll. I went through Brighton, Garibaldi and Bay City stopping really only for water breaks. I stopped at a gas station for water. The clerk was gushing over my accent (a little too much if you ask me) and then again over a soldier in uniform when he came in. A local customer told me to “stay safe out there”. What’s so unsafe there?
When leaving town I saw a Steam Engine (Garibaldi I think). Now . . . this was a bit of a surprise. I only ever really see steam engines on the Watercress Line back at home or in Swanage, Dorset. The west coast was the last place I expected to see it. With great excitement, I waved and made the international signal to honk their horn / whistle (you know the one, like you’re pulling a chain down). The driver didn’t move from leaning out over the edge. I know he saw me. “You are a F@#king miserable . . .” started to float in the air.
Tilamook was my last town before being at camp. So in my head I was nearly there. Tilamook is famed for it’s cheese. From that point onward I saw Tilamook cheese everywhere. I had a thought about visiting the factory, but the way I was feeling, it wasn’t going to happen. The town wasn’t so nice. The 101 ran down the middle of it and it just lacked character. I hung a right on 3rd which turned into the 131. I was out of town as quickly as I was in it, which wasn’t such a bad thing. As it was my last stop, in my head I was already there. I did however have 18k yet to ride. This was an error which I would not want to make again. Mentally I had pretty much given up and wasn’t prepared for that last 2 hours. This made last leg very hard. It wasn’t hilly when comparing it to what I had seen already, or would see in coming weeks, but with a head wind, and 100k already done every, hill was a mountain. I did some serious talking to myself to get to the end. I was hoping that around every corner was going to be the sign saying “Cape Lookout State Park Camping”. I did get to “Cape Lookout State Park” . . . but without the camping. That would be another 20 minutes ride.
I rolled in. I was DONE. All I wanted was food and then bed. However I got to the Hiker Biker camp this changed.I could hear and smell the ocean. My goodness, the freshness. The reason I couldn’t see it was because I was in a forest. The camp spots were in between the tree trunks. Trying to find somewhere without roots was difficult.
There was a couple in a spot a few camps away, but they kept to themselves and then there was a next to mine. I didn’t recognise the tent or the bike so it must be someone new. This someone turned out to be Gen. She’s a Quebecois medical student, in her mid 20’s (Sorry Gen if I’m getting this wrong) riding through to Mexico solo. I was impressed and surprised. Surprised because so far I had only met men in their 50’s! It was nice, no offence guys, to have someone of a similar age around. Gen had originally planned this with a friend who had to pull out . . . but she decided to do it anyway. Cool!
We had dinner together (Scott Brown Special – Condensed Mushroom soup, broccoli and spaghetti) and then went to the beach. To get there we had to pass the entrance. Standing there was Gerald, looking like how I felt a couple of hours earlier. I introduced Gen to Gerald, he went off to camp and we continued to the beach.
Unfortunately there were clouds in the distant West, so we couldn’t see the sun set on the horizon but it was equally beautiful evening. Looking North it was clear, looking South it was raining and misty and out West was sun set. This, my friends, is another example of why this is worth it.
Soon enough it was bed time. It had been a long day (matched by an equally long blog post!). I crawl into bed ready to be rocked to sleep by the sound of the ocean. It didn’t quite work out like that. As soon as I zip up my tent. *rustle rustle rustle*.
“DAMN. Animals . . . what is it?” I asked myself. I had left my day bag (on my bike frame) attached and the marshmallows in a pannier. I don’t bother to get up as it’s obvious they’ve had their fill. I fall asleep as I wanted to. The next morning, the empty packet of marshmallows . . which was in a rolled up pannier, was torn open and over camp. Raccoons had had them. Bastards. My Haribo Sours had been tried however they left them sprawled over camp. I don’t think they liked them. “If you’re going to f#@k with my food, at least have the courtesy of finishing what you started”. YES . . . I know, I should have put them away. Yes I am their guest. Still marginally irritating. Still . . . I was in Cape Lookout – Beautiful
- Route can be found HERE