Bicycling days slideshow

Bonus post – a slideshow from the bicycle days.

 

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Days 124 and 125: Going nowhere fast

Days 124 and 125
Miles: 0
Portland

My burning desire to finally get back on trail and to start the final push to Canada has been thwarted by my burning desire to hang out in Portland, eating delicious food, taking naps, and seeing old friends. Snap. On top of that, doing our food resupply for this last stretch seems to be a three-day process for me and J. One day to buy, one day to pack the boxes, and one day to mail them…

The weather is beautiful, heartbreakingly perfect, the sort of weather you don’t even realize is weather until you think back on days full of lunches on patios, long bike rides around town, evenings outside: Portland in the summertime.

Our chores are almost done. We’ve been to REI (new undies and socks). We stopped by the Snow Peak store, full of titanium and other things we can’t afford. I bought a new titanium spork. This one is purple. I also bought a beautiful wool blend, long-sleeve shirt, on an incredible sale for a still outrageous price, to replace the purple one I’ve worn down to rags. J convinces me that’s it’s too beautiful to ruin hiking, so I just put in the box of things to mail home instead.

Most importantly, we bought hundreds of dollars of groceries. We sat down on the sidewalk in front of Safeway in downtown Portland and ripped everything out of the excess packaging (so much packaging!) and bicycled it back to J’s brother’s apartment. J’s brother&girlfriend are healthy types, the sort of people who have a house full of delicious, nutritious, organic food and a drawer of high-end chocolate, and it is downright embarrassing to be doing our hiking resupply in their house. J and I wait until they leave to do the necessary work of divvying up bags of candy bars (pounds and pounds), 2 lb bags of gummy bears, 2 lb bags of sour patch kids, 2 lb bags of skittles, potato chips, wasabi peas, instant potatoes, pop-tarts, tortillas, tuna packets, brownie mix to stir in straight with our instant coffee, and on, and on. Once it’s all sorted and packed into USPS priority boxes, J tries calling some of the resupply stops in Oregon to see if we can re-route some of the boxes there (that we never picked up) to resupply stops in Washington. Shelter Cove resort won’t even talk to PCT hikers about their boxes unless you’re there in person to pick it up, and we are no exception. Other boxes we simply can’t find. (J threw away the tracking numbers back in Reno, and I’ve been upset with him about it ever since. I should probably get over it, but it continues to be a problem, over and over. Don’t throw away your tracking numbers! Don’t do it!) But! finally the Big Lake Youth Camp kindly agrees to forward a box for us.

Aside from chores and the temptations of the good life here in Portland, the biggest reason for our delay is PCT days. I’d never heard of PCT days before yesterday, but apparently it’s a thing – a thing sort of like kick-off (aka ADZPCTKO). It’s in Cascade Locks, right where I will be getting back on the PCT, taking place at the same time I will be getting back on the PCT, and I have a ride. (It’s 3D to the rescue again.) I wasn’t initially interested in going to PCT Days – I don’t need any gear, and I don’t know that I’m particularly excited about getting caught in the hiker bubble that will inevitably result. And, one more thing that I don’t particularly like to acknowledge to myself, is that I’m still not sure how I feel about my bicycle detour, and I’m definitely not sure how I want to talk about it to all the other hikers who put the miles in the hard way. (The real way?) There are the things that happen in your life, and then there’s the narrative you spin out of the raw material. I’m not sure that the narrative isn’t more real than the facts. The facts disappear with the passing of time, gone through your fingers the moment they’re over, but the narrative – the story – persists. Every day I spin that narrative a little bit more, here on this blog, choosing what is positive, what is negative, what I will preserve, and what I leave to moulder on the dust-bin of a leak memory.

I don’t have a story to tell yet about the bicycling. It hasn’t needed to be a story, it still was. Now it’s over, and I get to create it from scratch.

Meanwhile, last night in town. A mad push to finish some blogging, a last night with friends. Forward and onward.

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Day 123: Work??? and other thoughts

Day 123
Miles: 0
Portland

We wake up on Nick’s floor, next to Pacman, snoozing on the couch. Back in town. So many chores, decisions. The detritus of town-living.

Being in the city is still overwhelming, even after being on the highway for weeks. A city is funny place to transition back to the trail, but that’s the plan. I’ve been texting with 3D, and she’s in Portland too, which is crazy and amazing.

Wait a minute, you say. What DID happen with 3D? Last that Team Whiskers saw her, she was riding away, alone, to find her way back to the PCT. Short story is she pedaled north into the blistering Central California heat to the small town of Weed, fortuitously caught a bus to Ashland, OR, and found her way back to the PCT, then hiked Oregon. (The longer story can be found on her blog, HERE.) She sent us texts of hiker parties and rainbow kitty unicorn butterflies and Crater Lake. We sent her pictures of redwoods and the sea. She was the instigator of this crazy bicycle detour, and then left us to ride it out her own way, on a parallel journey, ending up here, now, same as us.

I have all these mixed, conflicting feelings about the PCT, and being a thru-hiker, and seeing other hikers. J and I have had an on-going discussion/argument about what, exactly, does it MEAN to be a thru-hiker, and we continue it. It’s a good question. I’ve been thinking about it since my very first day on the trail, when I had to decide if I was going to call myself a thru-hiker or not. Can you be a thru-hiker when you haven’t gone thru anything (or hiked a single step yet)? What if you only go part way thru? What if, just for example, you bicycle thru, just for a part of it?

The other question, for me at least, is just how much all of this internal questioning is motivated by what I think my peers will think about it, about me. So much of “cool” crowd in the PCT/long-distance hiking world seems centered around the glorification of those who hike faster, longer, farther than anyone else. Competition seems so firmly ground into our psyches that most of us have no idea how to deal with having dozens of other people around us having parallel experiences. It doesn’t make any sense to think this way – your first 25 mile day is not negated by your friend hiking their first 26. In fact, no one’s achievement is in any way affected by any other’s. The PCT is not a race. It’s a place, 2660 miles long, and one mile wide. Seeing all of it in one year, in one trip, in one go, to see it thru – that’s something special. But it doesn’t have a thing to do with your worth as a person.

Or so I tell myself. The things I know consciously, I am striving to learn to understand unconsciously. A lifetime of living in the ratrace is hard to shake. I know that getting off the trail and onto the bicycles has saved my PCT trip. My feet, after a month of not hiking, have finally stopped hurting. (The shooting heel pain struck as recently as last week.) My body is strong again. My spirits are high again. More importantly – most importantly – my soul-destroying, neurotic obsession with an “orthodox” thru-hike, at the exclusion of finding meaning, hope, or joy in my journey, has faded and left. I would not have relinquished it voluntarily, but the fires took it from me. Gave my heart back to me. A gift.

This is something I will have to think about some more.

Speaking of the ratrace, I’m going to go into the office today. (It weirds me out just to write this sentence.) I was lucky enough to get a leave of absence for this summer, and I didn’t have to quit my job like so many others. However, my work email password expired in… May… so I don’t actually know if I really still have a job. They could have laid me off two months ago for all I know. I can’t update my password unless I’m on the company network. I tried to update my password in Reno, as my friend Jule, who was hosting me, works for the same company, but the network was down that day. So, I’ll try again today, at the office in Portland.

I borrow Nick’s car, and navigate his standard through Portland traffic and a maze of freeway interchanges and through the suburbs – all terrifying. I’m out of practice at this sort of civilized thing. Wearing my hiking pants and the shirt without any holes, I walk in and convince the admins to let me borrow a computer, and I catch up on my email.

Can’t say I’ve missed it.

I still have a job, and I’m relieved/disappointed to have real life waiting for me, just around the corner. You have to pay for adventures somehow, I guess.

I haven’t managed to take care of any trail chores – resupply, etc, – but those can wait till tomorrow. J and I relocate from Nick’s place to J’s brother’s, and say goodbye to Pacman, who we leave to his own devices. Then, biking down the streets of Portland, we run into Chris and Sarah, fellow thru-hikers who were stranded by the fires in the town of Chester with us. The PCT! It’s almost here. PCT, PCT, PCT I chant to myself, pedaling across town. PCT. PCT.

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A word from Pacman

Pacman, my friend and traveling companion for a month and 700 miles now, keeps a facebook community page where he shares some of his life adventures/escapades. I thought he summed up the bike trip better than I ever could, so I asked if he would mind if I shared it here. He generously agreed. (Some swearing.) (Check out his facebook page for his take on his PCT adventures, it’s worth your time. You can find it HERE)

By Pacman:

The sound of my knobby all terrain tires screamed as they ripped across the pavement. My manpaws wrapped tightly around the soft rubber grips of the handlebars. I leaned forward and low, tucked in my knees and elbows trying to be as small as possible. closing in on another hairpin turn my pinkies extended out to work the front and rear breaks as I shot a glance behind me. There at the top of the hill was Gizmo rocketing in behind me, head low, yellow team whiskers flag going apeshit as it sliced wildly through the air being dragged by the old fishing rod zip tied to her right pannier. My head back straight now I braked hard on the straight away, bike brakes don’t work we’ll at 35 mph, just before the turn now, I release the breaks and lean hard, almost, can’t help but drift to the left and too dangerous to look back, swing out of the turn hard and back into another, trying so hard to ride the line and not turn myself into taco meat, the road straightens out just as the logging truck behind me busts out with the engine break. The heinous metallic gurgling sound of the 18 wheeler clearing its throat combined with the wind, wheels, and white zombie I had blaring in my earbuds sounded like the fucking apocalypse bearing down upon me! My monkey paws squeezed tight, narrowing my eyes I took a deep breath and held it as the barreling, rock throwing, beast of a machine lumbered past, the air in front of the truck tries to push me off the road so I lean in to compensate, then at the rear the air sucks in the other way trying to pull me into it making me lean against, in a half second the truck was past and I released my breath only to capture it again for the next wild corner.

Between the amazing downhills. And tortuous up hills, the heat, the cold, the rain and fog, the UPS delivery trucks constant attempts to take us out, the 50 foot travel trailer rigs piloted by elderly folks that can’t see over the dashboard, people giving us thumbs up as well as the ones who flipped us off, the late night intruders, the dicks who swerved to scare us, the hipsters, hippies, organic ( and non-organic) farmers, bums, peddlers, vagrants, townies, and drunks, not to mention all those who told us we would die. From pulling this bike out of the boneyard in NorCal to posting it for sale in Portland Oregon this 683 mile bike ride up the coast has been a non-stop action packed, edge of the seat thriller that can be perfectly described in two words. “Terrifyingly magnificent”. Team Whiskers Northbound Janky West Coast Death Proof Bike Tour complete.

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Day 120: the end of a road

Day 120
Miles: 20*
From Clay Myers state park to Cape Meares

Despite all the gray and the clouds and the gloom of the coast, it hasn’t actually rained on us – until last night. Nick must be our bad luck charm. Or perhaps he’s just his own bad luck charm, seeing as he forgot to pack his rain fly for what is turning out to be a very rainy weekend trip. Ol’ Big Blue, our trusty tarp, kept him dry last night, but it’s not going to be any help for any of us this morning.

We pack our things into plastic bags and get ready for a chilly morning. I zip my frogg toggs jacket on over my pack and the four of us ride out.

Riding uphills in pouring rain, downhills in pouring rain, and I think about how this bicycle trip is almost over. Nick is riding with us all the way back to Portland, and this will be over in the length of a long weekend. I feel like we’ve been riding bicycles forever. The Pacific Crest Trail seems like a long ways away, although technically, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in weeks. I’m glad to be getting off the bikes, but I’ve also sort of hit a stride. Maybe not today. This rain is cramping my style.

Nick is much faster than us, and he takes the front with J while they buddy it up. Pacman and I bring up the rear today, stopping first to fix Pacman’s flat tire, then to fix mine. Looks like we both ran over the metal staples in the road.

It’s lunchtime, I’m wet, I’m hungry, I’m cold, and we’re riding into the little town of Netarts. We find an espresso shop and set up camp at a table by the window to warm up. It’s a good thing the staff is friendly, because we stay there for hours. The evening is going to creep up on us quick, though, so we head back out to find a place for the night. The clouds have rolled back to let in the sun and the steep uphill to Cape Meares reminds us that we probably didn’t bring enough water. (Where’s the PCT water report when you need it.)

Cape Meares has a road that wraps up and around the headland before coming back down to run alongside Tillamook Bay. A series of landslides has destabilized the road, so it is closed to cars. But it is open to bicyclists. This sounds like a bicyclist booby trap, but’s it’s actually a bicyclist’s dream – a windy, scenic road that is totally closed to cars? We walk our bicycles in past the gate and start a dreamy ride down the winding road pasted with wet leaves, silent except for wind in the trees.
“This is pretty post-apocalyptic,” Nick observes. The black, nice pavement looks both new and abandoned. We look for a place to camp, but the trees are too thick. We keep riding with our eyes peeled for a temporary home and we finally find it where the road meets the landslide.

The landslide turns out to be below the road, not above it as I had imagined. Instead of sliding onto the road and covering it with debris, the slide is pulling the road out from under itself and the landmass slumps. The road itself is crevassed with tension cracks, all backfilled with gravel. On the downhill side we see the original curve of the road, with old pavement curving out until the pavement disappears in huge blocks slumping far down the cliff. The old road section is bermed off, but just on the other side of the berms are long stretches of pavement that used to connect. Plenty of room to pitch some tents! We just need to remember to stay away from the cliff side when we get up to pee in the middle of the night.

Like always, the free campsites are the best ones. Quiet, spacious, with a view – we watch the clouds turn gold, then pink, we make pot of soup to share, we watch the ocean go from blue to silver to gold to purple. “Well,” says Pacman, “looks like a good time to get a little squirrely.”

Last night by the sea.

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The end of the road

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Looking out over Tillamook Bay

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Day 117: into the wind

Day 117
Miles: 41*
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.

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Heceta Head

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J, getting the shot

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Me and Pacman

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Beach dunes

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Day 116: working hard-ish

Day 116
Miles: 22
From Coos Bay to the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

The hardworking young couple is at work and out of the house long before I get up. Pacman has been up’and’at too – I can tell by the smell of sizzling bacon that draws me into the kitchen. Pacman is flipping pancakes. “Mornin’,” he greets me. “I thought we needed some bacon and eggs.”
“Shucks, that smells awesome. Need some help?”

I get started cracking eggs. J is reading the morning paper. Man, the bicyclist’s life is the life.

We tidy up after ourselves (leave no trace still applies) then roll out. It’s noon.

Our first stop out of town is in the bicycle shop in North Bend, the little town just past Coos Bay. J is in the inner tube section while Pacman and I wander around looking at bicycle accessories that we would like, but won’t buy. “Hey, check this out,” Pacman calls over to me.
“What?” I ask, wandering over. He’s standing in front of a t-shirt display. Printed on the t-shirt is a picture of a logging truck on a bridge, about to run down a cyclist who is screaming in terror. The text says: “North Bend Bridge SURVIVOR”.
“Ha! Ha!” I crow. “Who knew a t-shirt could so perfectly capture what it’s like to be a road bicyclist?”
“Check out the tick-marks for cyclists run down on the logging truck bumper,” points out Pacman.
“Oh man, I want this shirt. Do you think it’s bad luck to buy the shirt before we’ve crossed the bridge?” (All the south-bounders hit Moe’s Bicycle shop after the ride of terror. We still have it coming up.)
“Good question,” says J, who has just joined us.
“Maybe it’s a show of good faith?” I ask again.

We decide to take our chances, and J and I pick out shirts. It comes in all sorts of colors, but we get it in neon yellow hi-vis. Pacman already has a hi-vis shirt so he forgoes the purchase. Bedecked in glowing yellow, we ride off to the bridge.

The moist coast of Oregon is watered by a ladder of rivers, running straight west from the coastal range to the sea. All the bridges seem like they were built at about the same time, in the same style, elegant, simple, with art-deco details. And every last one of them is barely wide enough for cars to pass each other. The spans are huge, crossing the river right where the river meets the ocean, swollen with tides and estuaries. There’s no shoulder to speak of, so we clump together and take the entire lane in the hopes that no one will try passing us (someone always does). It’s a study in adrenaline, pumping the pedals to get over the rise of the bridge, huge metal machines breathing down your neck. Logging trucks are scary, but they’re also driven by professionals, and they usually give us plenty of space. I can’t say the same about RVs, or trucks, or jerk-faces in compact cars.

The North Bend Bridge is just another span to cross, although maybe a bit longer than usual. We make it off the bridge in one-piece, only getting yelled at three times between the three of us. The headwind is back. We pedal for about an hour then take a three-hour break. Another forty-five minutes in the saddle and we’re at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. It’s embarrassing to write this blog post. Thru-hiking is going to be a terrific shock to my system… either that, or I’m going to be strong, muscled up, and well-rested, and I’m going to cruise through Washington. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am feeling much better these days. I’ve put some weight back on so I’m not looking so super-model scrawny these days, and you could bounce quarters off my thighs, which have put on muscle with bicycling in a way that hiking never did.

We’ve had three days of clear weather, but the fog rolls in right as we roll into the gray whale lookout point. “See any whales?” J deadpans, looking out into the featureless gray expanse.
“Oh, about twenty,” I snark back. By the time we ride up to the campground hosts to check in, there’s a fine drizzle. We’re drenched in sweat from fighting the headwind and all three of us are deeply chilled. We’re about to go to our campsite when Betty, the host who has been checking us in, asks if we need anything. “Some hot chocolate would be great!” J says.
“And a yurt,” adds Pacman.
“Haha, oh, well, I don’t think I can help with that,” replies Betty, in a lovely midwest lilt.

The campground is shrouded in fog, and filled with huckleberries, if you look around. We’re sitting around the picnic table boiling pasta when Betty walks up, carrying three styrofoam cups filled with hot chocolate, which she leaves for us. We sit and laugh at our journey, at the goodness of the people we’ve met, about the marshmallows that Betty put in our hot chocolate. Time for bed.

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Hi-vis for the win! My bicycle family.

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Nice view, dude.

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Day 115: warm showers

Day 115
Miles: 29*
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.

Outvoted. Shucks.

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.

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Day 114: Losing things

Day 114
Miles: 33*
From Port Orford Heads to Bullards Beach

Not even the crack of dawn, and we’re strapping down our gear and rolling out. It’s windy and cold – it’s supposed to be beautiful and calm, right? We aren’t supposed to have a headwind till the afternoon. Life is supposed to go as planned, right?

We go screaming down the steep hill and brake into the coffee shop to warm up. If it’s already windy there’s no point in hurrying. I discover I’ve lost my sunglasses. It’s not too far to where we slept, as the crow flies, but there’s no way I’m riding back up at hill. Darn. I’ve had those glasses since Campo.

We compensate for the wind with long and frequent breaks. I don’t think we’ve been biking more than four hours a day… going back to thru-hiking may be a shock to the system.

We’re inland all day until arriving in Bandon, where we while away a few hours at Face Rocks, yet another spectacular stretch of coast, but it’s as windy here as everywhere else. There’s some debate about what to do or where to go but I’m antsy to get to a camping spot. I so often feel like I don’t have a place – like I’m homeless. I never felt homeless on the PCT. I felt like I was home all the time. Somehow that feeling didn’t transfer to the tiny strip of asphalt right of the white line on the highway.

Food and supplies at the local grocery store – Pacman gets in an involved conversation with a passerby about our trip just as I want to go. He’s posted a cardboard sign on the back of his bike that says “Mexico to Canada”. He uses it to get people’s attention, and from there, to try and talk them into giving us stuff. It’s had a mixed record, attracting more crazies then road magic. Lots of people will talk to us, but no one gives us a cold soda.

From the grocery store it’s a short trip to Bullards Beach campground, set mercifully into a little lowland between the coast and the hills behind us, and we get out of the wind for the first time. The hiker/biker section is small and cramped and packed with cyclists. The rest of the (huge) campground is packed with (huge) RVs. Tent camping is dead here too, I guess. It’s like we’ve kennel-trained our own selves, taught ourselves that we can only be comfortable when we’re separate from each other, hemmed in by walls. We take our boxes with us. Even the other bikers (all in tents) are flabbergasted by our tarp and lack of separation from -outside-. Pacman is cowboy camping tonight and they can’t even start to wrap their heads around that one.

Hopefully we’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight in this campground. It was a bit brisk on the top of the headland last night. I’m thinking fondly of bed when I realize that I’ve lost my titanium spork. My spork! I’m devastated! I was going to pass that thing down to my grandchildren! I hate to lose things. It’s somehow worse when the thing was free. It’s like I’m squandering gifts from the universe.

We spend the evening hanging out with the other cyclists, a motley crew tonight. I think a bike allows for a greater range of traveling styles than backpacking does. There may be some seriously heave packs roaming the trail, but none that weight 150 lbs+, like some of the kits here tonight.

J and I tuck ourselves into the back of crowded campground for bed. “Well,” I say to him, “another day of biking and we ain’t dead yet.”
“Not yet, not yet,” he replies. “Good night Gizmo.”
“Good night Dirtnap.”

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Day 112: going the wrong way

Day 112
Miles: 27*
From Harris Beach to the Rogue River

Bicyclists aren’t quite the same breed as hikers… 8:30 in the morning and every biker in the campground is still here. We’re the same as ever – last ones out of camp, even here. We haven’t really meshed with the bicyclists that we’ve met so far. It’s obvious that we don’t belong – I feel like we’re the biking equivalent of a wannabe thru-hiker that shows up on the trail with an external frame pack and blue jeans, heading southbound. The thing about the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, see, is that everyone is SOBO. We’re the only northbounders we’ve met. The other cyclists all think we’re crazy. We know, because every single one of them tells us. “North! Ha ha don’t you know you’re going the wrong way?!” they tell us. I swear, the next person who tells me that… Our steadfast denial of the existence of the seasonal headwinds has so far served as a prophecy.

The plan for today is Port Orford, a fifty mile ride. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a beautiful day, mid-seventies, sunny. The ocean gleams like hammered metal to our left, with tucked away beaches and rocky shores. It’s downright spectacular really. My pictures all look beautiful, all look the same – ocean, cliff, ocean cliff, sunset ocean cliff.

There are couple good-sized climbs today, and my legs burn. I’m having to learn how to watch out for this. When hiking, I can hike through the burn into a steady cruise, but with biking my legs burn and burn. I think on a bicycle I can hang myself out there a little too far, stay geared up a little too high and get myself into a pace I can’t maintain.

We’ve only been going for an hour, but the wind that everyone keeps blabbing about has finally blown in. The headwinds aren’t a hoax after all, a myth of the road planning department in order to keep all the bicyclists on the same side of the road. Our uphills are uphills, but now our straightaways and downhills are uphills too. I feel a strong sense of moral outrage at having to pedal to go downhill. I guess this is what I get for going the wrong way.

At a pullout we stop and drape ourselves over our handlebars, spent. “So this is the headwind everyone kept talking about,” Pacman remarks dryly.
“No kidding,” says J.
“Yeah, this kind of sucks,” I add in. We’ve only done ten miles and we’re exhausted. “Maybe let’s not go all the way to Port Orford today?” I suggest. Everyone else is ok with that.

I’m looking forward to walking again.

The wind gets much worse, but we battle through it for another 16 miles to Gold Beach and a Subway restaurant. We eat our sandwiches and cookies while we try to figure out where to camp. There are day use areas, but no campgrounds nearby, and we don’t have another 10 miles in our aching legs. A chat with a local guy at the Subway diverts us to the south bank of the Rogue River, just north of town, to hopefully find a spot on the river bank to stash our bikes and stealth camp.

About a mile in we find our spot – a little parking area and paths to the river bank. It’s not even creepy. I’m ok with some mild concerns about getting washed away in the high tide or getting attacked by sea lions (why do they sound so close??) and whatever that noise is in the trees in the dark… as long as it’s not people I’m worried about. (So many friends have told me to be sure to be safe on the trail, but as far as I can see, it’s about the safest place around. The fewer people around, the safer you probably are. Just based on personal experience.)

We’re going to try an early start tomorrow to beat the wind, which appears to escalate throughout the afternoon. I hope we have a respite, at least for a little while.

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Watching the sea lions hunting salmon in the Rogue River.

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