28 September, 2013

Shaking it Down in Oregon

Shaking it Down in Oregon

We were supposed to be cycling a lap around Iceland. Or touring the Pacific coast  from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico. That was the original plan, but somebody had to go and get laid off and start a new job with only two weeks of vacation: not even enough time to make it to San Francisco. So, instead, our dress rehearsal took place entirely in northwestern Oregon.

We loaded up every piece of gear we intend on bringing around the world — even the winter stuff — and pedaled out of Astoria, Oregon on a chilly, rainy, windy late August morning. We were headed south along the coast through the picturesque beach towns of Seaside, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City, and onward to Newport. It took a day for the sun to burn through, but once it did, it was glorious.

Cape Meares bicycle touring.

The Oregon coast is every bit as beautiful as you may have heard. Wide sandy beaches, headlands and offshore sea stacks and arches create a scene quite rare in the USA.

Cape Lookout bicycle camping.

The hiker/biker campsites at the Oregon State Parks are  spacious, cheap, and come with all the hot water you need. Did I mention they’re only $6 per person?

Cape Lookout bicycle touring

Atop Cape Lookout with the previous night’s campground down below. Our biggest climb of the trip so far, on the third morning, but it would pale in comparison to the climbs to come.

We exited the grocery store in Newport after a  long but gorgeous 70 miles in the saddle only to be flagged down by a car full of people. They lived a couple blocks away and wanted to know if we had a place to stay. We were planning on using the campground two miles out of town, but their offer to come join them for dinner and and make use of their spare bedroom was too much to pass up. We’ve heard of these delightful offers of hospitality, but had never experienced them first-hand. It was everything we hoped. The next night, in Corvallis, we were hosted by a wonderful couple who accepted our Warmshowers request despite having friends over for a dinner party. We rolled up that afternoon and promptly traded the wine we picked up at a winery outside of town for a couple of IPAs from their fridge. Showered and settled in, Jeff and Bettina treated us to an amazing meal of Vietnamese and Cambodian food.

As it turns out, there’s a world of difference between cycle touring with a single set of panniers or a trailer and being fully loaded with four panniers and a duffle bag. Though we expect to field a number of questions each day on our longer RTW trip, we didn’t expect it on this one. In hindsight, that was silly. Just because we knew we were only out for 11 days, how could anyone else? Countless people shouted words of encouragement to us or ran up to question us about our trip. One guy, a runner in Corvallis, literally chased after us for several blocks trying to get our attention before we finally stopped and chatted. Another, an old retired Texan, called us modern-day adventurers and said he hopes his son grows up with a desire to see the world. Another applauded our lack of motor vehicle and thanked us for saving the world. That one we didn’t know how to reply to. If you ever want to feel like a rockstar, throw 60 pounds of gear on your bike and head on down the road.

Santiam Pass campsite

We left behind the cities along the coast and headed inland, up Santiam Pass. 60 miles, nearly all of which were gradually uphill, brought us to Lost Lake and a gorgeous campsite.

We sought out the quietest of forest roads through Willamette and Mount Hood National Forests and enjoyed a mountain calm not often found on pavement.

We sought out the quietest of forest roads through Willamette and Mount Hood National Forests and enjoyed a mountain calm not often found on pavement.

After several long days in the mountains, we rolled into Portland.

After several long days in the mountains, we rolled into downtown Portland for a motel and a visit to one of the city’s best brew pubs.

All in all, the trip went as smoothly as it could have. The rain wasn’t exactly a welcome addition to the trip on that first day, and it took a couple of days to get back into a routine, but we returned home with little to fix or modify regarding our gear and packing. There were a couple moments when we’d look at each other and start laughing. “What the hell are we doing?” we’d ask one another. But always in a can’t believe we’re going to be one of those couples we read about kind of way. The truth is, we didn’t want this dress rehearsal tour to end. Eleven days and 573 miles just wasn’t enough. We want more. And that’s how we know we’re ready…