From Crescent City, CA to Harris Beach State Park, OR
This morning is miraculously clear – like we carried the sunshine back with us. It’s our first sunny day since we left hwy 36 – a good day to restart the journey. I’m nervous but it’s time to go.
We meet Pacman at the Burger King, his bicycle leaned against a bench out front. There’s another bicycle there as well. It matches all of ours, but it’s a local itinerant, not a bicycle tourer. I can never decide if we have more in common with bicycled homeless or the lycra-clad vacationers with $2000 machines. We’re our own sub-category, I think.
“Damn son, so good to see you guys,” Pacman tells us. “I fell in love with a homeless girl, gonna come back and marry her.”
“Well, maybe not. You guys ready to ride?”
And we’re off, riding into the sunshine, happy to be together. It’s good to be reunited with Pacman, our last link to the PCT. This journey feels so derailed, directionless. We’ve left our path and our fellow pilgrims for beaches, redwoods, fog. Restaurants and hot showers. Cell phone service all the time. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Part of me doesn’t believe that this will ever loop back around, but the road is there, it goes north, and that is our cardinal direction of choice.
Roadside blackberries, a pleasant day, the Oregon Border. Oregon! Done with California at last! One hundred and eleven days in California. I wish we’d been able to walk the entire way, to be able to say we walked California one end to the other… Well, we’re still self-powered, and we’re here. Oregon!
As soon as we cross the border the highway shoulder gets wider. This is a good sign. (Almost as good as the Welcome to Oregon sign, ha.) We ride the wide shoulder to Brookings, stop in town. I go in a thrift store on the main drag to try and maybe find some bicycle shorts that aren’t size XL mens, but I buy a pair of gleaming white Nike hi-tops instead. Pacman and J go across the street and spot that says: Brewery. The arrows point down a set of stairs to the building’s basement, and they follow like it’s the Pied Piper. We go down a long hallway into a very small tasting room, with a few locals inside, drinking pints. We plant ourselves on the stools and pretty soon the tiny room is packed to the brim with a friendly crowd from town, pans of food and desserts filling the countertops: it’s their Thursday afternoon potluck. (What is this, Cheers?) They fill our plates and make us tell our stories, egging us on (as if I needed encouragement). One couple offers us a place to stay for the night, but I’m still not very good at taking advantage of hospitality and I somehow flub it, and after everything we end up back on our bicycles, looking for a place to stay. I don’t know if being so reflexively self-reliant is always a virtue. Maybe I should learn to accept help.
Luckily there is a state park just down the road, and we ride the two miles just before sunset, pay $5 each for our hiker/biker spots. J and I go down the cliffs to the beach, a wonderland of gleaming sand, cliff faces, water and light. Cormorants skim the waves. A family of sea otters runs down the beach. Sea otters are terrible runners. They look ridiculous.
The state parks here in Oregon come with free hot showers, but it takes me half an hour of wandering through a vast parking area of RVs to find the bathrooms. I see one family sleeping in a tent, and hundreds of RVs. When did “camping” turn into “RVing”? Why does one night at a camping spot cost $35? I though camping was supposed to be the cheap option, the way for families on a budget to get out and see the world, or at least a way to make your kids learn how to entertain themselves for at least one night without electricity. This place is so lit up you can hardly see the stars.
I’m not even grateful for my shower. The coast is fabulous, but this campground depresses me. I miss being able to sleep under a tree for free.