Quiet highway


Day 3: Banks to Fort Stevens State Park, 94 miles

I am riding a long stretch of the Nehalem Highway, an uninterrupted back road with so very little traffic I can hear everything.  The wind rustling through the grasses.  The beating of the turkey vulture way across the field.  The bubbling brook.  The soft whirring of my bicycle tires.

So quiet I can hear my own thoughts.

I hadn’t intended on such a long ride, so early into the tour.  It is a testament to the work by Don that my left leg isn’t complaining.  And I am glad my mind isn’t complaining, not now anyway, hear on this abandoned road.

Three hours earlier, I was complaining a lot, about how far this ride was going to be.  I’d ridden the Banks-Vernonia Trail, a 20 mile converted railway.  At the end I somehow thought it would be just 40 some miles further to Astoria.  When I stopped and checked Google Maps, I was stunned to discover 65 more miles to go!  I cursed, downed some Clif bars, then got back on the saddle and pedaled on.  I am on this tour to ride, no?

Miles go fast on a river highway, rolling at a gradual grade.  Route 47 follows the Nehalem River, so it is mostly downhill for 50 miles.  Whoops, I’ll need to pay for that later, which comes at 60 miles, a 1300 foot summit over the Saddleback Mountain pass.  On the other side, a well deserved descent, at least 5 miles.  But still 20 miles to go before Astoria.  I am tired, but I want to get a picture of the 5-mile bridge and I am racing the sunset.

I reach the Youngs River estuary as the sun is dipping, painting the sky with a brilliant display.  I look east, and see the full moon rising through purple tinted clouds.  Suddenly I am glad for the 80 miles, which put my arrival here, at this very moment, to see this incredible beauty.

Onward, 5 miles to go, I catch a dim picture of the Astoria Bridge.  Then I sit in a pub, eat a burger and try to work up the courage to get back on the bike and ride 9 miles more to the campground.  Even bad karaoke doesn’t get me out the door until after 10pm.

Full lights blazing, I cycle over the Youngs Bay bridge and through Warrenton, out the long road to Fort Stevens State Park.  94 miles, 8-1/2 hours in the saddle.  Too tired to set up the tent, I lay the sleeping bag on my ground cloth and fall asleep under a full moon.


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