Day 12, Nehalem Bay to Cape Lookout State Park, 38 miles
Another peak cycling day. Bluest of blue skies greet me as I rise, have a breakfast of champions – Nancy’s yogurt, banana, Wondermuck coffee and some cranberry oatmeal cookies Jennifer and I baked at the Sou’Wester. I smile as I’m reminded of our sweet times together.
I meet two other touring cyclists in the Hiker Biker site at Nehalem Bay State Park, David and Dan. It’s fun to connect, share stories and destination, and also my extra knowledge, having ridden this route so many times. David is from San Francisco, started riding in Seattle, heading home. Dan is from London, started on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
I’m packed and off, bidding my fellow riders “See you down the road!” And I know I will, since we’re all heading to Cape Lookout for the night. The ride is easy for the first several miles, crossing the Nehalem River and rounding the vast bay. The blue skies are reflected in the water. So much blue! My heart is buoyed to brimming and overflowing with happiness on days like this. Plus the extra joy of my nascent love. Tailwinds and warm memories carry me faster down the highway.
I meet three more cyclists who stop as I’m taking a picture and posting on Instagram, social media spawning actual conversation. Lindsey, Hillary and Michael. They are striving to reach Pacific City tonight, and Beachside tomorrow. Having a sag wagon means they are carrying much less gear, and able to ride further. I share some spots to stop, and tell them of Cape Lookout’s beauty. Maybe we’ll meet up again, though the supported touring cyclists travel much faster than we who are fully loaded.
Later Dan rolls up as I’m taking pics of the train track and river. We chat for a long while, and I find myself sharing many tales of Americana with him, ranging from the current political chaos to Jim Jones to the Rajneeshis takeover of Antelope in the 1980s. I’m aware of the bizarre spin I’m giving him about the US of A, yet can’t stop myself. Laughing and commenting on this too. He seems entertained, and genuinely interested, having no knowledge of many of the stories I conjure up.
We ride on, he’s off faster than me. Up around the corner, due south through Rockaway Beach. I stop for lunch at the Offshore Cafe, and to recharge the electronics. This used to be a quaint coffeehouse, now a higher end restaurant. Blackened rockfish tacos are good, but a bit overpriced. I’m drinking coffee, blogging, day dreaming, then I launch again, down the highway 101 towards Tillamook.
US 101 wraps Tillamook Bay, and the winds are even better at my back. Through Garibaldi, then along the bay, sea stacks rising out of the sparkling sunlit waters. Such natural beauty. Scores of heron are fishing in the shallows. Then I smell the wafting pungent fragrances of the dairy farms that surround Tillamook.
I stop for nostalgia and free samples at the bloated Tillamook Cheese Factory. Less tourist than last time. I make a short great, eager to get to Lookout before sundown. More easy riding through the town, then out to the Three Capes Route. One climb, then a long straightaway. I’m excited to get to the campground, one of the nicest on the coast. Tucked 10 miles away from the busy highway 101, Cape Lookout has pristine beauty and the quiet of its remote location.
I roll into the park just as the sun is setting. Up onto the bluff, to catch a great picture for the blog. I’m setting my camera timer, then running up to post with my bicycle, a kind of epic explorer picture. Third try is best, and I’m thinking I have a contender for the photo “contest” on the Facebook Bicycle Touring group. Maybe one of my best pictures ever.
Then I look up, and Matt is grinning at me. Matt, from Corvallis. I give him a hug, surprised to see him so far from home, and ask him what he’s doing here. “I’m with that girl” he grins even more broadly as he gestures down to the beach. Angelina is here too! She’s one of my best friends, forever, as is the common vernacular. We whoop and hug and wonder at the amazing coincidence of arriving at the same park, at the same time. A bicycle touring phenomenon? Timelessness, happy coincidences are so common along this route. And truly one of my favorite aspects of touring.
We linger as the sun creeps lower on the horizon. The wind has died, and the gentle song of the surf is lulling. A perfect moment. With warm friendship and the glow of a good ride still in my bones. They’re heading to dinner, and I’m going along. Walking to the Hiker Biker we see Dan. Let’s bring him too. I set up my tent, then Dan and I roll over to the yurt Matt & Angelina are staying in. Quaint, heated, these Pacific Yurts are only $45 a night, quite a deal considering the cost of rentals on the coast.
Next Dan and I are in the back seats of Matt’s Previa, careening back over the road we just cycled. Always jarring to get back into a vehicle after traveling hundreds of miles at bicycle speed. And strange to get used to it, just as quickly. What took me an hour and a half to cycle passes in minutes. We’re in a steak house, ordering plates of food, cracking peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor, which is covered with more shells.
Stories continue, our laughter resounding in the nearly empty restaurant. I’m blushing as I text Jennifer, then look up to see Angelina smiling at me from across the table. I smile back and blush even more. She knows so much about my life, as best friends do. Dan is fast becoming a friend as well, brought into the conversation and telling us of his history in London. After dinner, we’re back at the campground in a flash. I’m off to the showers at last, wonderfully hot, a final ritual for a day filled with warmth and bliss.