This was such a beautiful day. Dallas and I enjoyed sunshine and comfortable temperatures all day, with gorgeous views of Oregon’s coastline along much of the ride. The first half, from Gold Beach to Brookings, was awfully hilly and included some of the longest climbs of our tour so far. The descents were rewarding but were over too quickly. I felt like much of the first 30 miles was spent climbing hills at a pace of around 5 miles per hour.
Brookings is the southernmost town in Oregon, and Dallas and I spent a little too much time there. Since all the hills slowed us down, we got there a bit later than anticipated and didn’t actually get our daily dose of espresso until after 2pm. This coffee shop we found was nestled by a harbour, with several docks and a cluster of little food places right off the road. In between coffee and pizza, we spoke with Jeremy, who was staying with his girlfriend on their sailboat. Like us, he had quit his job for a more adventurous and fulfilling life of seasonal jobs with plenty of vacationing in between seasons. Hopefully we will run into him and his girlfriend again down the road.
We ordered a pizza with salad on it from the nearby pizza place, and then moved on to the place next door for ice-cream cones before hitting the road again. It was after 4pm when we finally left Brookings, and it was another 30 miles to Crescent City. We finally made it to California! So far, I think Oregon is more beautiful, but our route took us inland a bit once we crossed the state border. More coastline and redwood forests await us tomorrow, so I’m sure California will redeem itself.
Dallas and I had hoped to make it a few miles past Crescent City and into Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park to set up camp, but the sun was setting as we stopped at the grocery store, and Dallas had remembered climbing a steep hill with no shoulder to get out of Crescent City. We didn’t want to deal with that in the dark, so we’re staying in town tonight and will try to get an early start in the morning to make up for it.
Today marks the end of a week since when we left, and in total, we’ve gone 350 miles. Both of us woke up bright and early, with high expectations for the day, which we failed to meet. Dallas started tuning his bike derailleurs and tightening spokes, and a man in the campground named Mike struck up conversation with us, delaying our packing. This guy had ridden up and down the coast 13 times before, and also around Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii. He stuck around for a while, and went on about bicycles, his dogs (at one point he had 12 of them living in his RV with him), and the felony he got after 13 years of selling marijuana in Michigan. We were hoping to get to Port Orford and into a cafe before the predicted rain began, but it started misting just before we were ready to leave. When we did venture out from the safety of the tree cover, it started to rain steadily.
The first 14 miles to Port Orford were pretty miserable, but it actually stopped raining just before we got there. Paradise Cafe is a small diner on Route 101 that boasts free WiFi. We sat down in a booth next to a couple, and the man immediately started talking to us. He told us that they were also camping around there, and they were impressed with our riding. He also told us about their pug (named Pugsly) that only has three teeth and needs to eat special food. Then he must have thought we were bowing our heads in prayer when we were actually trying to steal glances at our menus, because he told us how nice it is to see young people pray before a meal. We politely engaged the couple in conversation, but then moved to a different table after ordering so we could sit by the one outlet we could find and charge our phones. Before leaving, the woman gave us $20 for our breakfast! We are always so blown away by the generosity and kindness of strangers, and this was no exception. It definitely pays to be nice to strangers.
We had perfect weather for the rest of the day, but we were way behind our hopeful schedule, and our legs were just too tired to maintain a fast enough pace. Much of the ride after Port Orford was within view of the ocean, and it really was beautiful riding. We were still 28 miles away from Brookings (our goal) when we stopped in Gold Beach. We found a really cheap motel, although we ended up spending more on dinner at the Port Hole Cafe (we were really hungry!).
This morning I woke up before Dallas’s alarm sounded. I had actually fallen asleep and slept fairly well all night! So I guess its not impossible to get a decent sleep in the tent, but I definitely appreciate a good bed. Both of us were in high spirits this morning after having had some good rest, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of apple, cheese, and turkey jerky before packing up the tent and getting on the road.
This is when I discovered that the lighthouse, which we had climbed so steeply to reach the previous night, was not even halfway up the hill. We started our morning off by finishing the ascent before rejoining with highway 101. From there, it was about twenty miles to the next town of North Bend, and another 3 miles to get to Kaffe 101 in Coos Bay, where we remained for a good hour or two. This place was adjoined to a Christian bookstore, and was much larger inside than it appeared from the street. We snagged the table just on the other side of the window where our bikes awaited us and then ordered two cups of soup, a panini, a carrot cake muffin, marionberry scone, chocolate peanut butter cupcake, chocolate covered espresso beans, and two triple-shot lattes. AND we took advantage of their WiFi. So yeah, we were probably there for two hours.
Our goal for the night was a campground by Lake Floras, about 46 miles away. The Pacific Coast Highway is much different from the country roads and forest roads we were on before. This road sees a LOT of traffic – large, heavy, loud, fast-moving traffic. For the most part there is a shoulder or a bike lane to ride on, but the traffic was still far too close for comfort in many spots. In spite of this traffic (or maybe motivated by it) Dallas and I made great time after leaving the cafe…until we reached East Beaver Hill Road. I despise any road with the word “hill” in its name. This was the steepest climb we’ve encountered by far, and it continued for far too long (over a mile…maybe two miles). It was so steep that I tried to stop and walk, but had more trouble pushing my bike up the hill than riding up it.
We stopped again for groceries in a town called Bandon. It was my turn to go in and buy food, and I came out with half of a roasted chicken. I normally don’t like chicken, but it was strangely appealing to me in the market. We sat on the ground just outside the entrance and ate the warm, delicious chicken before hopping back on our bikes for the last 17 miles or so of rolling hills.
Aside from Beaver Hill, our ride went pretty smoothly and quickly. We had a tail wind and managed to cover 66.66 miles of rolling hills for the day. It was, however, dark when we arrived at the campground, and once again we had to set up the tent in the dark. Hopefully we chose a decent spot!
This was supposed to be a rainy day, which was going to be quite miserable for riding bicycles. I awoke to the sound of rain outside our window, but the sun hadn’t risen yet so I fell back asleep, thinking about what a wet start we were going to have. When Dallas and I finally did wake up for real, the rain had stopped and blue skies were visible behind the dissipating clouds. The weather forecast had gone from 80% to 0% chance of rain overnight. Dallas and I are seriously the luckiest people ever.
We got back on the road about an hour earlier than we had started the day before, hopeful to make it about 60 miles. Twenty miles and almost 2 hours later, we were in Salem. We stopped at the bike shop owned by Troy, Graham and Peggy’s son – and we arrived just as the sky darkened and started to spit rain at us. Troy wasn’t there, but the other employees were friendly and said we could leave our bikes inside while we went to get lunch. By the time we had finished eating, the sky was blue again and the sun was shining.
Our next stop came just 13-14 miles later. Exhausted from the headwind and rolling hills, we took a short detour into the town of Independence to pick up some food at the market. Just a block before the market, we passed a cafe advertising pies and ice-cream. This was just what we needed. The man working there came outside and watched as we were locking our bikes together as if we were crazy. “Nobody ever steals in Independence. They’d get shot. The cops here are good, and everyone knows each other. No one steals.” Still, we weren’t going to risk losing our new bikes! No sooner than stepping inside, the sky opened up for the third time that day and poured rain onto our bikes. The man, who called himself Dutch, asked how he could make our perfect day any better. He explained that the kitchen had closed two hours ago, yet their Open sign was still on and there were three people sitting at a table drinking coffee. He then ignored all of our attempts to say we just wanted dessert while he went on listing the sandwiches and quiches and salads that he could still make for us (it seemed that the only thing out of the question was the soup, which was apparently delicious). Once we could finally get a word in, we managed to order lattes and pie (ice-cream came with the pie at no extra charge!). As we were finishing up our pie, Dutch came over to our table and told the story of the historical town of Independence, which is the end of the Oregon Trail. Then, he seamlessly interluded into a discussion on natural disasters and how the whole west coast from Crescent City to Vancouver is going to be destroyed by earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Independence is the epicenter of the fault subduction zone, but Dutch isn’t concerned. He’s prepared.
It was after 4pm when we finally said goodbye to Dutch and left his 2EZ Cafe. The sun was shining again, but daylight time was limited. Until just before Independence, we had been following the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, but we decided to take a different route from here and try to cut 7 miles out of the trip. This brings us down the opposite side of the Willamette River and through more farmland. The scenery has been good so far, and the hills and headwinds haven’t been any worse than they were before we deviated from the bikeway. Amongst all the farms and private property, we lucked out again today and found a small spot of state park land with a trailhead. There was a no camping sign, and there was a bar across the entrance to the parking lot, but we were able to slide in with our bikes and find the perfect spot to pitch our tent just as the sun set.
Despite two days of false hopes, we were finally, definitely ready to leave on Sunday morning, which happens to be exactly two years to the day that Dallas had initially left Portland before ending up in New Orleans. Still, it was almost noon when we finally rolled away from the house we were staying at in Portland. My loaded bike seemed incredibly heavy, and my legs felt sensitive to even the slightest incline. We were both out of practice after not having toured in so long, so it took a few miles to gain our balance and momentum. That momentum was killed as we followed fallen lifesavers and other pieces of crushed candy up the steep hill to Dallas’s mom’s house in Oregon City.
After a brief stop in Oregon City, Dallas and I continued to Champoeg (pronounced ‘Shampooey’) State Park – the start of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which would take us south to Eugene. At the park, while we shared an apple with almond butter, a park ranger approached and asked if we were camping there. We still had about two hours of daylight, so he pointed us in the direction towards the next campground, about 20 miles down the scenic bikeway.
It seemed like a lot of people were burning things outside today, and the wind kept blowing smoke to our senses before we could see the source of all the fires. We rode through miles of farmland rich with fall crops like apple and hazelnut trees, corn, and pumpkins. We still had just under ten miles to go when the sun touched the horizon.
As we pulled over to put our lights on, a truck pulled over to ask us about our bike tour. Back on the road, just a short distance beyond this and around a corner, the truck was pulled over again. A guy got out as we approached and offered us his parent’s apartment behind their house for us to spend the night. It was half as far away as the campground and included a bed and shower. We eagerly accepted the offer, and they gave us directions to their home.
Graham and Peggy were waiting for us when we pulled up to the garage, where their beautiful apartment is attached. They showed us around and told us to eat or drink whatever we found in the fridge. We are so grateful for such generous people who open their homes up to us, and we both hope to return the favor some day.
Distance covered today was just under 50 miles (not bad for starting at noon).
I apologize for neglecting this website for so long. When I’m not actually bicycle touring, I don’t think there’s much point to writing on here, but I know that some people have been curious about where we are now and what we are doing (and when we are planning to hit the road again!). I will add some more posts to fill in the details about the summer later, but for now I will write about where I am right now.
After pedicabbing in Newport for the summer, Dallas and I purchased a one-way flight to Portland, Oregon. We flew directly from Boston to Portland on September 11th, and we plan to stay here until the end of the year.
While Dallas was able to get to work immediately on a construction project remodeling an apartment building, I spent the next 6 weeks looking for a job. It wasn’t easy, but fortunately the weather stayed nice for a while before the rain moved in. I printed out a bunch of resumes and biked around town for days, dropping resumes off, mostly at bike shops. I also spent a fair amount of time performing online searches and applying for gigs on craigslist. It took nearly 2 months before I finally landed a seasonal position at the Columbia Sportswear outlet in Sellwood, just a few miles from where I live (and all downhill).
Dallas and I ran the Portland Marathon on October 7th, and Dallas impressed me with his time of 3:32:14. I’d like to see Paul Ryan beat that! In his first marathon, Dallas ran faster than I have ever run a marathon. He’s definitely a keeper.
One thing I noticed about Portland, which is one of the only platinum level bicycle cities, is that everyone here is pretty good at bicycling. There’s a whole network of bike paths and lanes throughout the city, and the local cyclists (of which there are thousands) zip by with purpose at intimidating speeds. During the morning rush hour, cyclists stream towards downtown dressed in cool rain gear and all carrying some sort of cycling bag either on their backs or bike racks. I have honestly never seen so many cyclists in this country and so many fast bicycle commuters in any city (including Amsterdam). I’m not used to being passed on my bicycle by other cyclists, but during my first few weeks in Portland I had trouble keeping up with most cyclists of all ages and genders.
Aside from the predominantly cold and rainy weather, I have enjoyed living in Portland. It has a great outdoor culture, and accommodates runners and all sorts of outdoorsy people in addition to bicycle commuters. Our roommate, Gerrit, has been generous to lend us his car on occasions when we want to get out of town – and usually he will go with us. We’ve been trail running in Washington and Multnomah Falls, camping on Mount Hood, and most recently ran a trail race in Eugene.
Before I was hired at Columbia, I was in search of gigs I could do through craigslist. I ended up putting the pocket trumpet I bought in New Orleans to good use and performing in a play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade, for short). Having never played trumpet for anything before, I was nervous, but the show went well. Being part of the play inspired me to audition as a singer for a Winter Solstice performance, but I did not get called back for that.
Also since moving to Portland, Dallas and I decided to audition for the Amazing Race. We had our friend, Justin, help us put together the video for our application, which you can see here:
We have had friends visit us here in Portland, which is always fun. Dallas’s friend, Linus, and his friend Vito, came to town for work one weekend and cooked us fettuccine Alfredo with veggie sausages. My friend, Ashley, came down from Vancouver, BC with a bunch of friends for a weekend. One of Dallas’s friends, James, who he met while cycling down the coast before he came to New Orleans, was bicycling up the coast with his mom, who was on her first bike tour. They stayed for 2 or 3 days, and explored the city while it rained the entire time – and James made incredible Bengali lentil soup.
My friend, Adam, from Rhode Island, was visiting during Halloween, and we made him a costume like ours. We searched for a place to buy cheese curds so he could make poutine, but had to resort to buying poutine at one of the food trucks. And most recently, Duffy and Kara, friends from New Orleans, stopped in for a few days on their way to a job that was waiting for them in California. Kara cooked delicious vegetable soup and made salad, which she served with bread and ginger snap cookies for dessert. To any friends who are reading this, you are more than welcome to come visit as long as you give us a bit of notice to make sure we’ll be home – and cook us dinner one night! (Dinner is not required, but always appreciated).
Dallas has reunited with his band, Lowenbad, and will be playing a show on December 14th at a bar called Scandals. I may get to play trumpet or trombone in a few songs! (We picked up a trombone on craigslist for only $25). If you are in the area, it’s worth checking out.
We plan to leave in the spring on our bicycles and head for South America. I will try to update again before we leave Portland, but for now, I think I’ve caught y’all up to everything we’ve been doing here!