From Bullards Beach State Park to Coos Bay
Despite the name, Bullards Beach State Park is not on the beach. Our miles for the day on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route aren’t on the coast either. We turn off the 101 after only a few miles and head into the rural neighborhoods where the signs with bicycles point us. It’s always a treat to be off the main road. I start to think I might like bicycling.
I’m feeling good, pleasant, absent-mindedly pedaling when the road takes me rocketing down a very steep downhill. I barely touch the brakes – I can see the road’s uphill reflection racing towards me and I have no intention of wasting momentum when J, who is in front of me, slams on his brakes. I come screeching to a stop behind him, Pacman skidding in behind me. “What are you doing!!” I shout, exasperated. “You only stop at the TOP of the hills!”
“I don’t know if we’re supposed to turn here or not,” he shoots peevishly back at me. A check on the map reveals that we still don’t know if we’re supposed to turn there or not – or if we should be there or not – we haven’t seen a sign for the official bicycle route for a while – oh well. There’s a giant patch of sun-swollen blackberries there, so we stuff ourselves with berries and then continue forward -the only direction we know.
Forward up the hill… it’s a really steep hill. Pacman resorts to walk-a-bike. I’m practicing my mindful breathing state known familiarly as “desperate pant”, and J powers on ahead. Uphills suit him.
We make it to the top of the hill and onto Seven Devils Road, which we’re pretty sure is the route. It’s confusing though, because that’s also where the pavement stops, the road turns into gravel, and there are large “ROAD WORK AHEAD” signs. “Uh, I don’t think this is it,” I say to J and Pacman, stopped beside me, staring at the gravel.
“Yeah, we must’ve missed a turn back there after all…” J replies.
“They wouldn’t make a gravel road the official road for a road-biking route, would they?” I ask.
“Damn, this is going to be a pain in the ass,” says Pacman.
“Maybe we should turn around,” I suggest.
“I don’t go backwards,” Pacman replies back, equably, un-negotiably. J doesn’t want to turn around either.
The road starts off loose, steep, and gets worse from there. It’s being regraded, so large swaths of it are covered with gravel that has been laid but not compacted yet. The guy driving the vibrating the roller down the way stops to let us pass by and we chat for a minute. He thinks we are crazy. I concur. Especially when we get to the switchbacks.
It’s dusty, it’s hot, and we’re walk-a-bike up gravel switchbacks or white-knuckling full-brake descents down them. I left my good attitude on the pavement, and I resentfully bring up the rear. Several miles later, high enough to see out to the ocean again, we intersect another road and hit pavement again. Collapsed on the side of the road to get our legs back under us, Pacman and J laugh at the ridiculous route while I sulk a bit. The walk-a-bike was a big morale hit. Before we got on the bicycles, I was worried that I’d be walk-a-bike quite a bit – worried that I’d be walking all the way up the mountain passes. Finding out that I could pedal them was a triumph. Having to get off the saddle and trudge today feels like a defeat. I sadly munch my crushed potato chips and watch as a pair of road bikers goes riding past on the paved road – the actual bicycle route. At least it’s not that windy yet.
Back on the bicycle route, we start out towards Coos Bay, the destination for the night. Pacman has discovered something called warm showers. Contrary to my first impression, it’s nothing crazier than a couch-surfing community for bicycle tourers. You sign up online and then get access to the database of people who are willing to host bicyclists or provide them with a warm shower. We’ve been trying to get people to host us since Crescent City but we’re un-rated and probably suspicious and the sob story on our profile obviously isn’t doing the trick. Tonight, though, we have a place lined up. The owner of a new microbrewery in town is a Warm Showers host and said we could stay at his place in Coos Bay. We stop by the brewery first, where a local guy asks us if we need work… he’s rounding up unemployed hippie types to trim his weed harvest in a couple weeks, and for some reason we look just the type. Pacman takes his number.
Tired, ready to relax, we pedal back up the hill to the house of the young couple hosting us. Beds for us all, fresh eggs, fresh beds. They’re swamped with work, and leave us to our own devices. “Why do you guys host bikers?” asks J.
“Well, we don’t have time to travel, or enjoy our house, or do anything but get this brewery running… so we figured someone should get to enjoy the space. Plus, we meet interesting people.”
“Huh. Makes sense.”
More than anything, the trust given to us is a comfort. I’m tired of being side-eyed. I’m tired of being a stranger.