Tested on the road

Central Oregon Coast, Lincoln City to Coos Bay

Let’s see, about this pursuit of wonder. The tests to my intention come quickly. In the hero’s journey, challenges along the path would be seen as dragons to be slain. I’m not feeling heroic though. My tests are garden variety, starting with my body: aching legs, knees, butt, back. Did I mention I hadn’t trained much for this tour, save a few rides a week for the last month before embarking? I’m going slow on the flats, much slower on the hills. I’ll get stronger as I go along, but I’m impatient. And judging myself. Why was I so lazy? I had all the time during shut down, every morning I could have ridden. I could be in the best shape of my life, instead, this.

Immediately out of Cape Lookout I’m faced with the first climb of the day. Pedal, rest, pedal, walk a bit, pedal more. The vistas are stunning at Anderson’s View Point. The air is chilly due to recent rains, my tent holding out well the night before. I crest the summit and descend through sand dunes and scattered shore pine. The Three Capes Route is a delight for bicycles. I’m struggling to ride, and the miles seem longer and harder. I rejoin 101 after Pacific City. Traffic is lighter this time of year, and the shoulder is wide on this part of the highway. I climb Cascade Head with the same starts and stops as Lookout, pedal, rest, walk, pedal. How many times have I said there’s no shame in walking up a hill? Can I give myself that solace too? I reach Lincoln City and decide to stay at Devil’s Lake State Park. Not my favorite, but I’m spent for the day.

The next day I set out refreshed for what I call my home beach. Living inland at Corvallis, this part of the central coast is as familiar as my back yard. The riding is easier, mostly flat with rolling terrain. I’m slow on the smaller hills, and enjoy the climb over Otter Crest Loop. The weather is still, no wind, ocean waves seem to gently lap the shore. At one spot along the climb I hear the beautify rushing of a cobble beach far below, round basalt rocks rolling in the surf. I roll on through Newport, on to Waldport, and stop for the night at Beachside State Park. When I arrive there’s just one person in the hiker biker, seems to be talking loudly to himself. Then two other fellows show up, down from Newport for a weekender.

One more stop at the Green Salmon coffeehouse, before I leave my home for several weeks. Bittersweet, so much has changed over the pandemic. I don’t see Adrian, who I used to banter with every time I went there. I sit outside at tables covered with dew. A dense fog is rolling in, suddenly blanketing the headlands. I wanted to spend more time in town, but the cold south wind has me seeking shelter. Weather becomes the next test. I put on my longer clothing, jacket, wool hat, but I can’t shake the chill. Only one way to warm up, start riding. Up over Cape Perpetua, on to Strawberry Hill, Bob Creek, Stonefield Beach, Washburn State Park, Hereto Head. All my favorite vistas obscured by the dense, chilly fog. I roll through Florence, over the Siuslaw bridge, landing in Honeyman State Park. I set up my tent, head over to a blissfully hot shower, then back to camp for the night.

The hiker biker site at Honeyman is nestled among towering trees. The silence of the camp is shattered by the roar of ATVs. This is a portent of things to come down the road. Florence is the northern tip of the Oregon Dunes, a vast stretch of the coast enjoyed by off-road enthusiasts. The roaring ATVs echo through the gentle forest. I see carved into my table “Abolish Car Culture”. Indeed. And ATVs as well. I tuck in for the night, awakened by fireworks blasting at 10:30pm. I imagine the job local law enforcement must have trying to reign in such behavior.

I set out the next morning with a forecast of rain. This means also strong headwinds for my ride. Along the Pacific Coast, storm systems spin counter clockwise. Storm fronts bring southerly winds, breaking the normal prevailing northerly winds. The ride is a slog, my mood darkens with the clouds. Crossing into Douglas County, trucks seem to be louder, driving a bit too close. Accelerating upon site of my bicycle. One even “rolling coal”, intentionally gunning his Diesel engine to blow black smoke into my face as he passes. I say “he” because this is the crux of truck culture: toxic masculinity on petrochemical steroids. I don’t even try to ride up the McCullough Bridge today, opting for a stroll up the sidewalk. Trucks even honk at me then.

Has it gotten worse over the past two years? Or am I noticing this more? I’ve always been harassed in Douglas and Coos Counties in the past. Somehow, I just waved it off. This year I gave a different gesture to an SUV that honked me in Lincoln City. Gotta be careful down here though, who knows what that gesture might bring from these drivers. I stop at the Coos Head Food Coop, a respite from the cold and duress of the road. A quiet, gentle spirit in this store, good food, friendly people. I feel like crying, and laughing at the same time.

I opt for Motel 6 tonight, a room with a jacuzzi tub. I normally would have continued on to Bullards Beach on this ride. But after 40 miles my legs are spent. I’m glad to watch from my window as the rains arrive. I sleep well, and opt to stay a second night. Why don’t I get my hair cut? I’m tired dealing with the hair ties. How about a little color to hide the silver too. A new day, a new do. And on soon to the south coast. I’ll be relieved to be finally past the dunes. But one more soak in the jacuzzi tub before I leave.

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