From Umpqua Lighthouse State Park to the Washburne State Park
Plip, plop, plip. Plop plop. Plip.
It’s raining, or dripping, or at least plip-plopping. “Oh good,” I think. “What a good excuse to sleep in,” and I roll over. We all roll over. No one’s out of bed before 8:30 today. No good excuses either – turns out the tree over our tarp is only dripping with condensation, and it’s not raining anything more than the large green pinecones that the squirrels keep chucking at us this morning (I know they’re aiming, little varmints). Between the damp and the heavy fog, it’s still a good morning for sleeping in.
We check out the little lighthouse museum, then stop for lunch at the nearest diner (and for pie – really, really good pie), then it’s noon and we’ve only done two miles. It’s clearing and the breeze is already picking up: headwinds, here we come. Good thing I’m full of pie.
Despite the wind, the cycling feels good. I’m getting better at not noticing every close call with an RV, and I can even daydream these days. The terror/paranoia is easing into a practiced vigilance. It’s nice to have a little mental space back, to have some brain-RAM freed up from roads and white lines and gravel patches and trucks.
We’re riding through tree farms for a long time. There are patches of tall trees, patches of short trees, and patches of stumps, all quilted into the low but rugged hills. The coast is a funny place, with spruce trees springing out of white sand dunes. Where the highway curves inland the winds aren’t so rough, but it’s getting brisk out here. We keep pedaling. We agreed last night to put in real miles today – our late start didn’t really set us up for success, but on we go.
Late afternoon, and we come out onto the coast proper, where the road climbs the headlands leading up Heceta Head and the Sea Lion caves. The wind is really picking up now. We’re bathed in sunshine, but maybe 100 feet back from the beach a low bank of clouds covers the ocean, so that the silver breakers disappear into gray obscurity. The road is back to steep climbs and blind curves and no shoulder, and our adrenaline is competing with the exhaustion and deep burn of pedaling too fast uphill.
A tunnel ahead pulls us up short. Despite the clear wisdom of having bike lights, we are still riding with nothing more than our headlamps. We put them on red-blink mode, strap them onto our helmets backwards, and ride through the tunnel like the devil himself is after us. Another big hairpin and we come around the corner to Heceta Head itself. The wind is like a wall that we’ve just run into. Pulling into the scenic overlook, we all sort of crashland sideways from trying to lean against the wind while getting off our bikes. The view nearly takes us off our feet as well.
We lean forwards into the buffetings of air to marvel at the white sand beach lying in the crescent between the huge, black headlands. Heceta Lighthouse stands on the hill. Gray whales surface and spout, surface and spout out towards the horizon. The coastal cloud bank has pulled back here for a glittering blue expanse. “Wow! Wow!” I yell to J, the words ripped out of my mouth by the wind. Some places are worth bicycling to.
Our goal for the day had been to camp at the Heceta head area, but Pacman doesn’t want to pay for a campground tonight and the everything that isn’t the campground is a cliff. So we keep pedaling. Past Heceta Head the road backs off from the coast a bit, and the wind isn’t so impossible to ride against. We stop and look at a couple coastal trailheads, but I don’t want to camp somewhere that has big signs reading “NO CAMPING”. I am succesfully deterred, even though I’m exhausted and I’m starting to have rather severe knee pain. I had been under the impression that you couldn’t hurt your knees with bicycling, but I’ve been disabused of that idea. It’s been sort of twinging at me for at least a week now, but this afternoon it twinged and stayed. It doesn’t really hurt so much, except when I bend it. It’s making pedaling tricky. I put my seat up and back and take some Vitamin I and we keep going.
We finally get to the Washburne State Park and decide to stop. The campground is on our right, the day-use area is on our left. The day use area is right on the water, bordered with manzanita groves full of hidden secret places and sheltered green walls. That’ll do. We hide our bicycles and go out to the beach.
The wind is screaming south over the dunes and the water, the sun is burning across the golden sand. Our footprints disappear as quickly as we lift our feet up, and the three of us run across the dunes, across the wet sand, scaring the little seabirds, giddy with the wind and exhaustion and beauty. Sometimes in life you win.