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Day 7 – Langlois to Gold Beach, OR


Dallas, listening to Mike at the campground, just as it starts to rain

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.


Bridge to Gold Beach

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!).


Day 6 – Reedsport to Langlois, OR


This blue bird hung around, hoping we'd share our breakfast

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.


Heavy traffic as we cross the bridge to North Bend

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 saw a bald eagle

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.


We still had ten miles to go when the sun set

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!

Day 5 – Out of the forest and onto the coast!


Today was a long day.  I have so much trouble finding comfort in the tent, I hardly ever get a good sleep when we camp.  Last night was no exception.  We had chosen to camp about halfway between Eugene and Reedsport, and in between there were absolutely no services of any kind.  Our morning started off with a climb up to the Oxbow Summit.  We literally started going uphill about a mile into our ride, and we didn’t have any water or a way to treat or filter water.  Dallas kept a slow pace, trying to conserve energy, and for once I spent most of the day leading the way, feeling great for how little sleep I had the night before.


Part of the forest the loggers have been logging

Four and half miles later, we reached a clearcut area of forest where loggers were working.  Shortly beyond the logging operation was an RV, and as we pulled up to it a woman stepped out to greet us.  After we asked if there would be anywhere to get water up ahead, she offered to give us some water.  We are so grateful for this, because we still hadn’t reached the top of Oxbow hill and we weren’t going to see anywhere to get water for another 40 miles.  We talked to the woman and her husband for a few minutes – they were watching after the logging equipment while the workers were off duty, and had been in that spot for about 6 weeks already.  It’s kind of sad to see them cutting down the trees, but apparently this area that is being logged was burnt in a forest fire in 1966 and is all second growth forest within the last 50 years.


Smith River

We finally reached Oxbow Summit, and from there most of our ride was relatively flat, but we weren’t through the hills just yet.  We stopped for lunch, which consisted of an apple with almond butter, cheese, hazelnuts we gleaned from a farm a few days ago, and chocolate.  My stomach was grumbling again probably thirty minutes later.  Even though we were both starving at mile 25, we agreed to wait until mile 40 before eating the rest of our food, but at mile 38, there was a nice spot to sit off the road, in the sun, and halfway up a pretty steep hill.  We finished off our last two packets of tuna salad and the rest of our crackers, and one more baby bel of cheese each.  Halfway down the other side of this hill, about a mile after we stopped to eat, there was a little convenience store.


If you're lucky, I'll replace this with the video Dallas took on his phone

We were still in a zone without phone service or internet, but there was an ATM here.  We tried to take out $80, but the machine returned $4.  It was filled with one dollar bills instead of twenties!  Thankfully, the lady at the store apologized for this and replaced the ones with twenties for us.  After refueling on water, sugar and caffeine, Dallas was a rocket.  I could not keep up with him for the rest of the day.  I had been feeling like my legs have gotten much stronger in the last few days, and the rest day really helped.  Now I felt deflated and wanted to give up.  Dallas stayed with me though, and we made it to the end of Smith River Road where it met up with Pacific Coast Highway 101.


I'm sure thieves would listen to this

Turning south onto this road, we had made it to Reedsport!  We made a stop a Safeway to stock up on more food, and by this time it was dark.  Dallas had told me about a lighthouse he really liked when he was riding down the coast two years ago, and it just so happens that we were only 5 miles from that lighthouse.  Also coincidentally, we ended up getting there exactly two years to the day after Dallas had visited it himself!  The Umpqua Lighthouse is pretty awesome.  It’s also impossible to photograph so I’ll just have to describe it (but you really have to see it to appreciate how cool it is).  We had to climb a nasty hill in the dark to get to it.  It’s bright red and white beams of light point downwards to the ocean below, and rotate like a carousel, hitting the trees behind it.


Now we are camping in the same spot that Dallas camped two years ago, and are once again the only hiker/bikers at this campsite.  There is a constant howling or whistling of some sort in the background.  The wind, maybe?  The lighthouse?  After a long day of cycling over 62 miles of hilly forest roads, I just hope I sleep better tonight!

Day 4 – Corvallis to Siuslaw Forest


One of the many grassy fields full of sheep (we also rode by cows, horses, llamas, pigs, goats, ponies, chickens...)

Even though I don’t know if it was totally necessary due to stormy weather, Dallas and I were able to take advantage of our time off the bikes on Tuesday.  That evening it was so nice, we went for a 4 mile run to get our legs moving (and to compensate for eating a cinnamon roll, donut, and pizza earlier in the day). 


A field of pumpkins

The next morning our bodies were feeling refreshed, and we finally had a tail wind!  In order to make up for lost time and get to San Francisco as soon as possible, we decided to abandon the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway and head to the coast straight from where we were.  We made it through 23 miles of flat farmland with the wind at our backs in less than 2 hours.  In Harrisburg, we filled our bellies with breakfast food at Jake’s Cafe and split a slice of bumbleberry pie.  The next few miles went by quickly as well, then we stopped to stock up on groceries at Safeway in Junction City.  It’s god that we stopped, because we didn’t ride by any other food for the rest of the day.


Winding up Wolf Creek Road

Eventually, we turned onto Wolf Creek Road, which led us into the Siuslaw National Forest.  Wolf Creek Road also made me wish I had done a few more rides up to the summit of the White Pass when we were living in Skagway.  The first two and a half miles of this road basically winded up a mountain.  It was only a third the elevation of the White Pass, and I’m sure it wasn’t as steep, but it felt a lot harder with all the weight of our panniers and steel bike frames.  We also started riding uphill after already having ridden 50 miles that day.  We had been making great time all day, riding 16-17 miles per hour for some stretches.  Before we turned onto Wolf Creek Road, I thought we would be able to cover 70 miles easily.  Now I was having my doubts.


The forest provides a stark contrast to the farmland we had ridden through to this point

Fortunately, the 4 miles of downhill made up for the treacherous climb, and the next uphill didn’t seem quite as bad.  This was probably the most beautiful part of our ride, and I really wanted to stop to take photos but was going too fast downhill.  The sun was at the perfect angle to illuminate the tall trees on one side of the road as we descended for the second time.  We had covered 64 miles by the time we found a good place to pitch our tent for the night.  We have a few more climbs awaiting us tomorrow as we make our way over the coastal mountain range and to the coast. 

As we lay in our tent, silence is broken by a strange, loud half-howl.  There is movement outside, not far from where we lay.  Maybe the spot we chose to sleep tonight is less than ideal?  There’s no phone service or wifi for miles around us, so if this post gets published, then we made it out of the forest!


Day 3 – Monmouth to Corvallis, OR


Dallas and I didn’t make it very far today, in spite of our early start.  We were on the road by 8am!  Neither of us slept very well in the tent the night before.  As I was trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing what sounded like fireworks going off sporadically in the distance, with no discernible rhythm.  This sound went on for hours.  Then, I must have actually slept a little bit because I remember both of us being woken up by the sound of howling in the distance.  Maybe coyotes?  We were awoken a second time by the howling a bit later, only this time it was MUCH closer.  Like, right outside of our tent.  Dallas asked me if I had my pepper spray near me.  Terrified, we lay there hoping it would go away.  That night I dreamt that I had to use my pepper spray – on a hitchhiker.


We were packed up and on the road before daylight really filled the sky.  We finally met back up with the scenic bikeway about 7.5 miles into the ride.  Here, there was a convenient cafe that offered breakfast sandwiches, quiche, and coffee.  I figured we would stop briefly to refuel and then be on our way to Eugene, but once settled in, we ended up staying for about 2 hours!  (Dallas’s excuse was that his coffee was still too hot to drink).  Here is where our luck seemed to have run out.  The weather forecast for the day included lots of rain and possible thunderstorms.  We were both tired, and we didnt want to end up stranded somewhere in the middle of farmland, 20 miles from the nearest cover when the storm hit.  Since we didn’t sleep well on the ground the night before, we decided to splurge on a cabin rental at the nearest KOA campground.  This was just an 8-9 mile bike ride from where we were, and we would be safe from the rain.


Upon arriving at the KOA, we unloaded our bikes and made ourselves home in the cabin.  First order of business was showers, then laundry.  Food options at the KOA were rather limited, so we ordered a pizza.  Then we went for a walk on their “Nature Trail” – a short loop around various trees and blackberry bushes.  Back in the cabin, we will rest our legs for the remainder of the evening.  It barely sprinkled while we spent our day lounging around the campground, but Dallas assured me that just 30 miles south of us it was probably stormy and miserable.  Let’s hope so anyway.

Day 2 – Gervais to Monmouth, OR


A lovely trike with flowers at Graham and Peggy's house - note the apple tree in the background!

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.


Troy's bike shop in Salem

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.

Day 1 – Back in the Saddle Again


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.


Riding the Champoeg bike path

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.


This is MUCH more luxurious than our tent - thanks, Peggy and Graham!

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).

New (used) bikes for our next adventure

Back in Portland, Dallas and I spent a few days recovering from our travels from Alaska.  We needed to get moving though, before the weather turned cold and rainy.  It was apparently already too late to miss the rain, so after 2 rest days, we started to get serious about our next move.  Dallas purchased an almost new Kona Honkytonk from our friend Alyssa, and I found an excellent deal on a GT Wheels 4 Life Peace tour bike on Craigslist.  The former owner of my new steed had just finished riding across the US with it – you can see her blog here:

On Friday, Dallas caught up with family in Oregon City while I ran with our friend Kelly in Forest Park.  I spent that weekend testing my bike out on some of John Benenate’s team rides.  It’s heavy compared to everyone’s road bikes, but it will definitely get me out of Portland.  After spending Saturday and Sunday cycling in the rain, Dallas joined me for Tuesday and Wednesday evening group runs organized by other Skora ambassadors.  There’s definitely enough resources to stay active all week in Portland.

My plan was to wait for a few sunny days in a row (which could be weeks here), and get as far south as possible before the rain hits again.  We got lucky on Thursday afternoon when the sun came out (and we got to see our friend Kristina, from Sockeye, who had just arrived in Portland the night before).


Hoping to leave Friday, we hurried to get everything we needed together for another long bike tour.  Halfway through the day, we decided we wouldn’t be ready and would leave on Saturday instead.  Saturday morning came, and we still had a few last minute things to pack and adjust.  By Saturday afternoon, we were still not quite ready.  Hopefully we haven’t wasted our only two sunny days in Portland.  We definitely plan on biking out Sunday morning!

The plan is to head south as far as Eugene together.  Then, I may cut west to the coast and ride down the Pacific Coast Highway.  Dallas is planning to continue towards Crater Lake (hopefully the National Park will be open again by the time he gets there) and south to visit his dad in Ashland before meeting up with me again in San Francisco.  The goal is to get to San Francisco by October 19th.  Keep checking back for more frequent updates along the way!

Missing: Two Touring Bicycles

I write this post with both sadness and hopefulness.

On our last day in New Orleans last year (in May of 2012) we celebrated by going out to a bar.  Our bikes were just outside and a few doors down.  When I went to check on them, I noticed someone standing over them.  As I approached him, I realized the man was attempting to steal our bikes by twisting a broom handle that he had stuck in between the cable lock and the bike frames.  I confronted the man, who looked both drunk and homeless.

“What are you doing with our bikes?”

“These bikes? These aren’t your bikes.” He lied.

“Ummm…yes. That’s my bike, and that’s my helmet!” I retorted, pointing at the helmet that he was wearing backwards on his grimy head of long, tangled grey hair.

He finally decided against messing with me any further and stumbled away.

Having my bike stolen was one of my biggest fears about living in New Orleans.  We made it until our last night without incidence, and I was lucky enough to divert the one feeble attempt that was made to take our bikes from us.  Unfortunately, it was in Portland that our bicycles were successfully stolen.  Unless of course, our bikes had overheard Dallas considering buying a new bike and decided to run away together before I got the same idea.  I can only hope they are together and being treated respectfully, wherever they are, and that they are not too afraid.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and Bianchi Volpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape - both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

Opus Largo with green frame, brown handlebar tape and saddle and army green handlebar bags, and BianchiVolpe with black frame, Terry Liberty saddle and white handlebar tape – both bikes have steel frames and spd pedals.

We were on our way back home from visiting Dallas’s mom in Oregon City, and stopped at REI.  Our bikes were locked up together on the bike rack outside of REI, and we left them alone for maybe an hour, while we browsed the store and ate a quick meal next door.  Walking back to the bike rack, I did not see any wheels sticking out.  That’s when my heart sank in my chest, and we saw the cleanly cut lock on the ground by the rack.  Fortunately, Portland does have good public transportation, and we were able to get home within 40 minutes and only one connection from the MAX to a bus.  But I felt a bit of shamefulness having to walk to the MAX in our bike shoes, helmet in hand, with no bikes.  I started thinking of all the things that I could have done differently to prevent our bikes from being stolen, and I felt as if it were my fault.  We shouldn’t have stopped at REI.  We should have taken the ride that Dallas’s step-father had offered us back home.  We should have locked our bikes somewhere else, or gone back to check on them between shopping and eating.  But in reality, there’s no way I could have known, and of course it’s too late to change what has happened.

Dallas and I are looking on craigslist, ebay, pawn shops and bike shops in hopes of recovering our lost bicycles.  But in the end, we cannot complete our goals without bikes, and we may just have to break down and get new ones.  This gives us an opportunity for something good to come out of it, and perhaps we can strike up a partnership with a bicycle company that would be interested in sponsoring us.  We are totally open to ideas.  In our current circumstance, we will probably end up riding whatever we can find on a budget.