Day 40, Cape Lookout State Park to Yachats Drift Inn, 92 miles
The peaceful surf lulls me awake, but far earlier than I need to rise. 4:30am? I wanted to get up around 6. I try to sleep a bit more, but can’t. I’m thinking about how far I intend to ride today. And why. Why? To see this beautiful coast again, once more, before returning to my life in Corvallis, back to the grind of running the restaurant. Back to face the many things I’d left behind, what seems just a short while ago, yet also seems a lifetime ago.
I break camp, make breakfast in the chilly darkness. Sun is rising later, setting sooner. Fall is progressing towards winter. I shiver at the thought of snow. I pack my bike, push off. Time is 6:10am. A full hour before sunrise. Temperature on the bike computer is 47°F. I’m glad I’ll get heated up by the long climb up Cape Looking, which begins immediately after the park drive.
My bright headlamp helps, peering into the dark ahead. I’m crawling at such a slow pace, remember climbing this hill just a few weeks ago. A different mood then, the excitement of so many miles ahead on the tour. Today, this feels like winding down, spinning back on the great adventure, so near to the end. There’s a certain extra weight I’m carrying up this hill, along this road today. The highway winds up around corners, through the darkened forest.
I top the cape, pass the crest of the road and see dawn light just beginning to appear on the horizon. Ah the beautiful colors of sunrise, the same as the sunset. Are we wired to enjoy this beauty? I remember hearing a certain tribe of monkeys, all lined up along a tree branch, facing the same direction. This baffled the researcher until they realized the primates were watching the sunset. Innate, a desire for color, for feeling, for the promise of a new day, for the letting go of the day at hand.
I descent the cape, chilly still, slightly warmer as I head on through the dunes near Pacific City. On past fields and farms with curious bovines, then along the beach and over Cape Kiwanda, stopping for coffee and a sweet. I don’t linger too long, many more miles ahead. The highway follows Nestucca Bay, then rejoins 101. I take a left turn just before Cascade Head, following the Old 101 Scenic Highway. The road follows Neskowin Creek, a quiet, poorly maintained road, nice break from the long four lane climb over the head. But more miles, maybe this wasn’t wise considering my day? I push on, just one climb on the 10 mile bypass, then a long descent which ends in the small town of Otis.
Breakfast at the Otis Cafe! Too much money, but worth the break. A long phone call with a friend, talking about everything. So important. How we accept our emotions, especially the more challenging, like grief or anger. How to accept, express, reconcile. All grist in the mill of self-exploration and discovery. Ah, the adventure of exploring the inner world, how it mirrors the outer. The ride calls me, I remount my bike, head on to rejoin 101, then ride through Lincoln City, on to Depot Bay, then the climb over Cape Foulweather. I stop often for pictures and views. The temperature is warming, but just over 60°F. I don’t linger, not on this ride.
My strength is good still as I head into Newport. Over 50 miles down, I stop at Oceana Co-op. Another home base on this ride into nostalgia, as I head home from my long time away. The sun is dipping lower as I leave Newport. I cross the beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge, a turning point in the ride. I know it’s mostly flat from here to Yachats, but nearly 30 miles to go. I’ll be arriving after dark. I ride on, along the long beaches of the central coast. I’m approaching Ona Beach as the sun sets. I stop to watch it dip below the horizon, clouds and smoke in the sky making for a beautiful display. Smoke, still. The world is burning, somewhere. As is my heart, still on fire.
On past Seal Rock, then over the Alsea Bay Bridge. Only 8 more miles to go. My pace is slowing, slowing. Physical fatigue? Or am I resisting the end of the ride? Not wanting to reach the destination. I approach Beachside, see the campground is still open. I forgot, closes after the 31st, I could have camped once more. But I’m staying at the Drift Inn tonight, a cozy bed and hot shower await. I roll into the tiny town of Yachats, the victory lap. I ride past Yachats Brewery, see they are closed and that I missed seeing Nathan once again. I head on to the Drift Inn.
I pick up the key to my room from the bartender, then roll around to the entry in back. I grab my bags, dump them in my room, then enjoy the hottest shower on my trip. Divine! And helping me with what I suspect is a lingering head cold. That has been dogging my ride too. Much less energy to cycle when sick. I stumble over the restaurant, order seared ahi over a cobb salad, soup, dessert I could have skipped. Then back to my room, falling into bed after an exhausting day. 92 miles, far too many to enjoy this ride.
Why do I push myself at the end of a tour like this? Because I can? Am I trying to prove myself? Or resisting the coming of the long winter, the cold weather, the stark leafless trees, rainy skies, long nights? One more ride, dragging out the summer and fall. This tour, more than many, has been one of reclaiming myself, after a year of confusion and loss of identity. I’m going home tomorrow, uncertain what I will find greeting me on my doorstep. But I’m ready. A fall into a deep sleep in the warmth of this room, muffled surf coming through the opened window.