Day 3: Honeyman to Bullards Beach State Park, 66 miles
Third day, I am going to push the envelope, riding farther. Training on the fly. Butt is going to hurt. But what about the rest of me – my legs, arms, wrists, neck? What about my heart, mind, soul?
Long rides push the limits of endurance, not just on a physical level. The long hours in the saddle, pumping pedals for mile after mile, climbing thousands of feet, give the mind lots of time to think. Lots of time. To think, review, ruminate, contemplate, worry, obsess, dream wonder. Today, I will do all of this.
I’m off just before 8am, knowing the 66 miles on the odometer translates to over 8 hours on the road. Daylight hours are growing shorter, so I want time at the end of the ride to set up camp before dark. The first miles go easy, long straight stretches through dunes, by sand locked lakes. I linger at the Tahkentich Landing, to take is the serenity of still waters, lily pads, reflected clouds and patches of blue. Onward, a long gradual climb yields the delightful descent into Gardiner. I remember the paper mill that was here 20 years ago, with a car shower so the employees could hose off the sulfuric acid mist from their vehicles. I don’t miss the acrid stench. But here a company town, with no more company. The story of rural Oregon.
On to cross the historic Umpqua Bridge. I marvel at more art deco engineering by McCullough. I pedal on through Reedsport and Winchester Bay. I’m looking forward to coffee and that sweet roll from my last tour through here. I find the roll has grown three times in size, but not in quality. Not recommended. Fuel for the miles ahead. Back on the road, I climb long and past the Umpqua Lighthouse turnoff. Legs are sore, arms aching. I stretch my shoulders, which alleviates numbness in my wrists. To road continues, seeming endless miles through chilly shaded groves of fir.
Now the miles are weighing on my mind. I’m remembering so much. Past tours through here, windows into my youth, my early adult years. The arrogance and ignorance. And anxiety. So much I didn’t know, and didn’t know that I didn’t know. If I could do those years over. But no! Here I have arrived, at my 52nd year, humbled and wiser for all the mistakes and diversions. Onward, I ride. I remind myself of my goal: to stay in the moment, this moment. What am I experiencing now, here? A sore butt. Straining legs. Tingling fingers. Sweating brow. Beating heart. Panting breath. And now, a clear mind. So clear.
Around the next bend, the Veteran’s Memorial appears suddenly, and in the distance the wondrous North Bend Bridge. I so love this bridge! Steel spires rise like the gateway to a cathedral, views from the deck are stunning. There is a scaffold where crews are likely giving this beauty a much need paint job. A tailwind has picked up, and blows me through North Bend and Coos Bay, save a short stop and the Coos Head Coop. Pawn shop, where you can buy bikes or guns, or get that payday loan you’ve been wanting so much. A sign of rural financial stress. No wonder mills are shut down: here we are exporting whole logs to China, where they made into plywood for concrete forms. Or to be sold back to us at Home Depot. Reganomics and globalization at its finest.
Enough ranting! I ride on to Bandon and my home for the night. One more climb, two actually, starting at 53 miles. I’m tired of riding, and chilly from the wind and sweat. I stop to rest more than once on these last hills. Ah, the crest at last, and a 4 mile descent to the campground. I roll in and meet Alice, a London cyclist who started her tour in Vancouver BC. We chat a bit and Roberta appears. Thought I’d be trailing behind her a couple days.
The wind is blowing through the shore pines, and clear skies make for a chilly night. I plug in my gear to charge in the cool solar power USB lockers, use the bike repair stand to oil my shift cables. Knees are weak as I set up camp, grab a shower, eat some hummus and chips from the coop. I am in bed just after sunset. I’m exhausted but exuberant, enjoying the blessing of endorphins and new friendships. Looking forward to sweet dreams.