Saturday, July 26, 2008
I arrived at the Pacific yesterday afternoon. Although I hadn't reached my final destination, I was officially on the western shores of the country. I'm not certain but I may have heard angels singing.
After a six mile ride out of Monmouth yesterday morning, I stopped at the Eola Hills Winery. Eola Hills is an avid supporter of cycling, hosting bike tours of Oregon wine country every Sunday in August. These forty mile rides stop at four wineries for tastings, include a lunch stop and then end with a barbecue back at Eola Hills, where they offer unlimited food and wine. My next few rides will be more along those lines. I sampled a few red wines before starting my last stretch to the coast.
The highway heading west was extremely busy. I worried that my last few days were going to be full of unpleasant, stressful riding. Fortunately, as I approached the coast, my route moved onto less traveled roads. One stretch of road, Old Scenic Highway 101, was narrow, winding, and overgrown. Two cars passed me over the course of ten miles.
I hit the coast at Neskowin, OR. I pedaled off route so I could get my first look at the ocean and then followed the coast for twenty-five miles. The road rose and fell, providing great viewpoints at its peaks. Monolithic remnants of an earlier shoreline rise from the coastal waters.
I camped out at Cape Lookout, an Oregon State Park. Hikers and bikers pay a quarter of the price and have guaranteed spots at many Oregon parks. Four dollars secured me a spot within 100 feet of the ocean, where I was lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves.
For the first time on my trip there was a critical mass of campers in the hiker/biker section of a park. In fact, I have probably seen as many cyclists with touring gear in the past two days as I have during the previous seventy-two days. Most of these bikers are on short trips down the Oregon coast and wonder why I would cycle up the coast, against the wind.
I was up and out of the campground before anyone else was stirring. The skies were overcast and it soon began to drizzle. That early in the morning the roads were wonderfully quiet. Mist over the water made everything seem even more peaceful.
Continuing my free sample tour, I stopped in Tillamook at the Tillamook Cheese Factory welcome center. I watched workers process the sharp cheddar from an observation deck and then tried a variety of cheeses. The place was a madhouse, so I didn't stay long.
Outside the Tillamook center, I met Len, a fellow cyclist, who was heading down to San Diego. Len told me that he had been diagnosed with stage four lymphoma five years ago. He credited cycling with the fact that he was still around. Between chemo treatments he tries to take a long ride -- this was his fourth trip down the western coast. In September after he finishes this ride, he has another treatment scheduled. Despite his diagnosis, he looked healthy and strong and was tackling the tough hills along the Oregon coast.
Oregon has designated much of Highway 101 as an official bike route. The state has done a great job with signage, including a button-activated warning sign that cyclists are in the upcoming tunnel.
On the advice of a few cyclists I met back in Wyoming, I decided to stay in Seaside tonight, a town sixteen miles south of Astoria. I have heard that Astoria does not have easy access to the ocean, so I've enjoyed Seaside's two miles of beach.
The town suffers a bit from Niagara Falls syndrome, but on the upside that means multiple places to buy fudge. I had dinner at a sushi bar. When the sushi chef found out I was wrapping up my cross-country tour, sushi and beer were on the house.