Oregon!

Day 11, Washington Border to Nehalem Bay State Park, 48 miles

Jennifer drives me to the north end of the Astoria Bridge, dropping me off for my next day of cycling. Our parting is bittersweet. Far more sweet than bitter. We are still reveling in the bliss and chemistry of our new romance. And planning to meet again in a few days, down the central coast. I just spent the last couple days getting to know her better, sharing the mundane and deeply emotional, our heart connection growing ever stronger.

A long lingering hug, then I finally break away. “Give me a 15 minute lead, then you can pass me in the middle of the bridge!” I mount my ride, pedal strongly with the tailwinds of the mighty Columbia. Ah, the Astoria Bridge, a five mile long wonder of engineering and necessity. An easy crossing on a fairly wide bicycle lane, which is a grace as dozens of cars, logging trucks and RVs pass me as I pedal along. Jennifer passes me as I begin to climb the high span on the Oregon side. I wave as her car joins the others, rising with the roadway over the blue waters below.

I pedal up the steep span, am waved on by the flagger above. A treat to go ahead of traffic, I pump hard past the heavy solvents wafting from the painting operation down the side of the bridge. Brave people, those bridge workers. Past the second flagger, then a fun looping descent down the other side into Astoria. Back in Oregon! Never felt so good to return to my home state, after the week of isolation and high priced camping in northwest Washington. I pedal over to the Astoria Coop, get a few things for my trip. It’s already afternoon and I’m now facing over 40 miles to my stop for the night. Going to be a long ride.

Both traffic and winds on the Youngs Bay Bridge are mercifully light. Highway 101 turns due south, and I pick up a helpful southerly tailwind. I’m rolling past Gearhart and Seaside, then begin climbing around Cannon Beach. No time to detour into this small artist colony not turned resort and high end vacation town. The sun is sinking, sinking on the horizon as I pedal on. Past the Arch Cape tunnel, I stop for a sunset picture, and groan knowing I’ve got 10 miles to go. Two more big climbs too, before and after Oswald West Park.

I put on my headlamp at Oswald before the second climb, glad as the 700 lumen torch fills the roadway in front of me. The climbing isn’t any more difficult than others I’ve done before, but I’m a bit more fatigued than usual. I recall why. As is oft the case for new sweethearts, we didn’t get much sleep over the weekend. I’ll catch up on this tonight.

I crest the climb as 101 wraps the cliffs of Neahkahnie, one of my favorite views on the Oregon Coast. Completely dark below, I can see the lights of Manzanita to the south. I remember the first time I rode this highway, on my first solo tour in 1985 after graduating from Oregon State University. I think that trip was when I fell in love with bicycle touring, the wonder, romance and epic achievement of traveling hundreds of miles by human power alone.  In the darkness I’m not enjoying the view from Neahkahnie this ride, but the wonder and romance are here nonetheless.

Ah, a two mile descent to end the ride. I take the lane, no cars really on the highway anyway, flying down the darkened roadway, headlamp blazing a lighted path ahead. I turn into Manzanita, stopping for dinner at a taqueria for a much needed dinner. It’s cold outside when I again mount my ride, pedaling the last 2 miles to the campground. Hot shower is the first task at hand. I wheel my bicycle, bags and all, into the wide disabled stall. Hot water, so good on my chilled and tired body. Time to shave back my scruffy beard too. A stylish goatee?

Warm clothes, wheeling over to the Hiker Biker site, where I see the glowing reflector whitewalls of several other bikes. And glowing eyes in the middle of the trail, suddenly scooting up trees on either side of the path. One large raccoon pears down at me, as to two smaller ones on the other tree. I really hope the mommy won’t suddenly fall out the tree and land on me as I walk directly under her.

I’m so tired. Grateful for the adventure of the ride, and also that the ride is finally over. My tent goes up quickly and I collapse into the warmth of my sleeping bag. I fall asleep almost immediately, with a song in my heart for my new love and dreams of her sweet embrace.

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