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Sometimes I even know where I'm going.....but not often Cycling down the Pacific Hwy in the USA

Hoquiam to Reedsport and the stuff between

UNITED STATES OUTLYING ISLANDS | Saturday, 28 May 2011 | Views [536]

the Astoria bridge, my camera was on a weird setting, hence the multi images

the Astoria bridge, my camera was on a weird setting, hence the multi images

Something happened to my week. I lost track of it for a moment and suddenly it was gone.

But I'm taking that as an indication that I'm having fun. Because time only flies if you are doing so.


I stayed in Hoquiam for an extra day and lay around in my tent and was extremely lazy, something I was very happy to do.

The next day it rained again but I had decided to ride on so that is what I did. I cycled in the cold wet morning through the grey industrial area of Aberdeen then up a riolly riolly big hill on my way to Raymond.

Raymond, someone had told me was half an hours drive in a car......which isn't a helpful piece of information to someone on a bike. On the map it said 25miles.


I'm actually starting to think in Miles instead of Kilometres. The reason being that I am having trouble convincing American's to change all their maps and road signs just to suit me. They are being quite stubborn about the whole thing to be honest with you.

So until they wise up and change to Metric like the rest of the planet I'm stuck in Miles.

25 miles is not so bad, I thought.


Except that it was 25 miles of up and down and wriggling around. It had lots of those hills that keeps going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and every time I got around a bend thinking 'it has to be the top' it was still going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.....

and on.

If you got sick of reading 'and on' imagine how sick I got of seeing more upward inclination.

Plus it was raining.


I got cold again. Three hours later I reached Raymond entirely fed up with rain and hills. Raymond was doing what any other self respecting rural town does on a Sunday and had shut down for the day.

All except the Carriage Museum. The Carriage and Coach Museum had a very helpful awning under which one bedraggled cyclist sat and gnawed on a sandwich.

Then because I was shivering too hard to deal with cycling straight away I went in to the museum and paid $3 just to warm up.

The women there, Kay, was sympathetic and she gave me a tour of the place. There followed an entertaining hour where Kay and I looked at; granny coaches, nanny coaches, the family station wagon, chick magnet coaches [olden day Ferraris] a morbid looking hearse, a black Cabbie [The type Sherlock Holmes always got about in] and I found out that I was averaging the same speed as a Stage Coach. [ten miles an hour].

It was interesting to see all the old types of coaches and how similar some of the interiors were to modern cars.

Then Kay showed me the olden day clothes that visiting children are allowed to dress up in. Which was probably a mistake on her behalf.

Soon I had tried on every bonnet and cap and raccoon skin hat offering and insisted that Kay try stuff on as well.

Then we sat in the back of a wagon and imagined we were crossing the American wilds.

Or at least I did. I don't know what Kay was imagining.

When I finally exited the the little museum I felt that I had in fact, learned something. Plus I was warm. A thing never to be underestimated.


The scenery changed from forest and timber towns to swampy coastal fishing towns. South Bend greeted me with a gust of salty rain and the smell of sea food. The rain blew around a sign that read; 'forget spring, bring on Summer.' I couldn't have agreed more.

Some twelve or so miles down the flat swamp girt highway I found Bruce Port.


Bruce Port is a tiny little state park. It was up a hill over looking a big bay. Looming cedars shadowed the empty camp sites and as always everything was green and damp.

But there was a covered picnic area. The kind of place where a saturated touring cyclist might attempt to dry out, cook dinner and otherwise take advantage of a non wet spot to place a rump.

Not surprisingly it was occupied.


A couple of bicycle tourists were spread out over one of the tables, gear everywhere and various bits and pieces hanging off the railings in the breeze.

They waved me over.

It turns out I had camped across from them in Kalalock, only it had been so wet and cold no one had ventured out of their tents to meet one another.


I have discovered over the last few weeks that just because I'm a bicycle tourist does not mean that I will automatically have lots in common with other bicycle tourists. Sure, most folk are good for a chat and a 'where you going? I'm going...' conversation, but often that is all there is. And often couples don't feel the need to include a stranger, having all the company they can handle.

Jen and Jy were different. They are living on their bikes, and so rather than being in any great hurry to get somewhere they were happy merely to dwell. Having meet lots of people on a mission to get from one place to the next with all emphasis on speed and distance travelled, I found this attitude appealing.


We spent the evening chatting about all sorts of random topics. They turned out to be fans of both Monty Python and Dr Who. And much of my time spent with them included putting on accents and reciting favourite lines from both shows. Jy and Jen seemed to think that cycling could be frivolous and silly. I'd been beginning to think that I was the only one who rides along arguing comfortably with myself using three different personalities. Jen assured me that she does it herself. Jy was perfecting an Irish/Jamaican accent to greet strangers with, just to see their reaction.


They had spent the winter on a mountain snowboarding after touring on bikes last summer. It sounded slightly familiar. I forget the exact type of bike they rode. A Peace 9 or something. A big mountain bike with disc brakes, huge fat tyres and a tiny lowest gear, necessary when towing a trailer full of every and any type of food known to man. The things that came out of the panniers was a constant surprise: A whole package of flour, a kilo of cheese, a spice box and of course a coffee grinder.


At first I did wonder, but as I got to know their way of travel it began to make sense. They were on the road for the long haul, not the mad frantic dash the rest of us poor fools undergo, but the slow happy ride of people who don't need to get anywhere abruptly. Weight is not an issue for Jen and Jy, life is.


I rode to Cape Disappointment then next day, with the loose agreement that they would be along the next day. It was a sultry day with a slight head wind, thankfully no rain fell [that was the first day of the entire trip that I had been dry all day]. And I made it the 40 or so miles down through the marshy swampy inlets to the bottom of Washington.


That night as I was cooking dinner at yet another state park I heard a woman's heart felt yell; 'Jason NO!'

A black tailed deer bounced through my camp site looking slightly perturbed. I watched it pass me curiously. The woman continued to cry out from behind the trees and then a dog came shooting around the shrubs fully intent on a veal dinner.

I laughed when I saw it, fully expecting a wolf sized hound to emerge, I almost missed the miniature dachshund as it raced towards the forest. It was the type of dog that would need a stepladder to take on my ankle.

But the woman seemed terrified that he would vanish into the trees, rejoin his wild brethren and be forever more known as, 'Death Snarl'. So I yelled at him and told him to 'git back'.

He did, the woman reclaimed her precious 'Jason' and the camp ground descended once more in to tranquillity.


The only thing I did the day after that was wander up to the information centre and learn about Lewis and Clark. I went in thinking that it was a tv show about Superman. [I'd watched it was a kid, 'Louis and Clark'] But when I came out I knew stuff.


Lewis and Clark went from East to West across the top of America in 1803 to 1806. The idea was to open up more land to the US. They were greeted warmly by pretty much all the five hundred or so Indian tribes they encountered.

In return for that hospitality they mapped the crap out the terrain which over the next 40years meant that the US came in and displaced the Indian people.

That was Lewis and Clark. Seeing sights that 'no civilised man had seen'.

It was interesting. But it did seem a shame. The Indians should have killed them, then it might have taken them longer to get wiped out.


In the evening Jy and Jen turned up and we had fun sitting around not getting rained on. But as I have discovered, the world can never be entirely devoid of mild trials. The absence of rain created a 'camping discomfort power vacuum'. Mosquitoes with a distinct lack of competition rose up and filled the void. They attacked in droves.

Fortunately Australian's never seem to be that appetising to North American mosquitoes. As long as I've other humans of differing nationalities nearby, I tend to be left alone. While Jy and Jen were madly slapping themselves and cussin' I wandered about largely unmolested. Apparently I'm a 'last resort' meal, only to be sucked on when all other better tasting homo sapians have been sapped.


We all went for a ride without panniers the next day. By rights I should have been lots faster than them, I have the hybrid with the skinny tyres. They have the mountain bikes with the big fat tyres of doom. But no, they are just too strong. Soon I was trailing along behind trying to breath. It is a good thing I think, that I don't cycle with others. I have a definite inclination towards the meander.


We went out through the forest then jumped on the coastal bike path and wove and wound and wiggled along the coast up to Long Beach. There we had a burger at an all American Dinner [complete with American flag and tinny country music] then we went to the pub and had a beer. The bar was full of old fat sailors who talked by yelling at one another and waitresses with huge eighties hairstyles. Our waitress carded me, [that's American for 'asking for ID']. She spent at least five minuets staring intently at my Canadian driver's license. So much scrutiny did she subject me too that I began to wonder if I was in fact old enough to have a beer.

Twenty one, twenty two, twenty three....surely I'm the legal age in every state by now....? I thought, while wearing a slightly strained smile and trying not to blink. Eventually the enormous eighties style hairdo and it's associated head decided that my 'fake id' was too good for their collective intelligence and got me a beer.


The next day we carried on to Astoria. I carried on sooner than Jy and Jen simply because I didn't need to grind any coffee beans before I got going. I am glad coffee is one addiction I have thus far managed to avoid.


North American's are INSANE about their coffee. Every day, without fail, no matter if I'm in the middle of nowhere or the middle of a city, I will pass several espresso booths[tiny buildings, generally stuck out in a car park by themselves that sell coffee].


To get to Astoria, the top of the state of Oregon, I first had to pass through a tunnel and then spend four miles on a bridge. It is sort of like weeding out the weaker cyclists. The tunnel was not particularly fun. Merely because it was dark, there was not much room to ride and the noise of the traffic was amplified a gazillion times so that it felt like I had nine million cars sitting on my back tyre all angry and hungry from my blood. I burst out the other side of the tunnel in a cold sweat feeling shaky.


Free of the tunnel I next faced THE ASTORIA BRIDGE. According to some random people I met on the road, it is the longest bridge of its kind in the world. Though what kind that is exactly I'm not sure. All I know is that I was happy it had road works going on when I crossed. The road works meant that the cars and trucks and buses were going slower and they were held back often. Essentially leaving my lane traffic free for about half the time I was on the bridge. Thankyou Cycle God:> There was a minuscule verge that was made even smaller by the amount of gravel and glass in it.

I made it across and was immediately confronted with Astoria.


I had been assured that Astoria is a marvellous spot full of marvellous people. What I hadn't been told was that after the quiet sleepiness of rural Washington, Astoria would be altogether too swift and noisy.

There were cars on my road!

There were lots and lots and lots of cars on my road!

And people everywhere. Talking and walking and basically getting in the way of my bike.

Feeling put out I peddled on to the bike shop and retreated from the swarms of humanity.

At a place called Beyond Bikes I met Pat. Pat was that all American boy that I'd seen in comic books and on the side of milk cartons. Tall, broad, wholesomely good looking with blue eyes and open friendly grin. It was hard not to like Pat.


I told him that I was sick of getting flat tyres. In six days I'd had four. Asides from the two I've already told you about I'd had a further two.


On the day I'd gotten into Cape Disappointment my back tyre had gone down just outside the grocery store. Tired and angry because I only had five miles to the camp ground and the stupid tyre refused to stay up until then. In a fit of frustration I ate an entire block of chocolate while pulling off the back wheel. Chewing aggressively on a now grease covered piece of chocolate, I got my tyre levers working and was soon inadvertently eavesdropping on the family behind the fence some meters away. They weren't difficult to overhear.


The child, probably around four or five was singing along to Bryan Adams, or someone who sounded a whole lot like him. I admired the way the kid knew ever single word and the tune. The mother came out and started screaming at him. For the next half an hour, while I worked on my bike I listened to the woman roaring at her offspring to 'stay in the yard, don't go near the pond, be a good boy.' Occasionally there would be moments of respite where she would be calm only to explode into greater apoplexy. I felt a certain amount of amused sorrow at their predicament.


The next day my front tyre had gone down overnight.


So, fed up with sitting on the side of the road wresting tyres off wheels, I asked Pat to give me the thickest, toughest, roughest, meanest, ugliest, steel plated, kevlar reinforced, bullet proof, glass resistant, bump durable tyre he had. And I asked him if he could please stick the darn thing on my back wheel!

And then I asked him to put a rack on the front. I got panniers as well. My reasoning being that if I shifted some of the weight from my back wheel to my front wheel I'd get less punctures.


All of which he did.

Cheerfully.....he really was like a young Captain America....before he got frozen in an iceberg. [I know you lot don't read comic books, don't worry the film will be out in July and this comment will make more sense].


Whilst he worked on Caribou I wandered around Astoria. It was a nice enough spot, but I was put off by the yuppy populace with their designer dogs and fashionably old fashioned clothing. There was, in my travel stained, reflective jacket wearing opinion far too many 'manicured hippies' and philosophy spouting college students. A town of abundant education with little life experience too match. I had a cup of 'Mexican hot chocolate' at a place where you pay extra to be treated with the same respect as a Jew in Auschwitz. The waitresses and coffee makers were rude, sarcastic and I felt like pouring hot coffee down their immaculate aprons.

It would appear that four flat tyres and five days of constant rain washed away all my tolerance.


Pat got everything working on my bike and I was happy. I left town as two tall sail ships were firing blanks at one another on the Columbia River. I don't not entirely sure why they felt that having a staged battle amongst the cargo ships was a good idea, but it looked like fun.


The eight miles to Fort Stephen was horrible. Straight into a headwind, surrounded by aggressive traffic I reached the camp ground feeling stressed out. The noise of traffic and the roar of the wind I've found can be more wearing than the moving of pedals.

Luckily Jy and Jen were waiting for me at the State park and we had another mosquito filled evening of discussing the days ride.


Jy [being a bike mechanic] showed me how to tune my gears, because I'd discovered that every time I'd taken my back wheel off, my gears start clunking off their chain rings. There are few things more irritating than climbing a steep hill and nearly knocking yourself out when your bike skips a gear and drops you, chin first onto your handlebars.

Jy pointed out the knobs to twiddle to get the bike back in tune. He tightened my brakes up. They hadn't really been working so well, and considering that I am daily hurtling downhill at 35kph on a narrow verge in the company of logging trucks with several kilos of gear speeding my decent....well lets just say having brakes that work is a good thing.

He also told me to stop oiling my chain.

But chains are supposed to be oily.” I protested.

Yes but there's so much on it that it's picking up all sorts of dirt.”

But oiling is good.” I said stubbornly.

But too much oil isn't. Look at your chain, then look at mine.”

I did, his chain was a clean fresh looking thing that gleamed in the evening light.

I returned to The Delinquent Caribou. My chain was dark black and gritty.

I stopped oiling my chain.


He also trued my back wheel. To those that don't know, truing a wheel has something to do with tightening and loosening spokes to make a wheel that is warped, straight again. Jy did that thing that people who like machines do when they are working. He sort drifted off peering, hmming, fiddling and twiddling and forgot that Jen and I were there.

Every bike.” He said when he emerged from his bike fixing trance, “has a soul of its own.”

I nodded agreement for he spoketh truth.


I left Jy and Jen the next day. I had a long way to go and unlike my American cycling friends, only so much time to do it.


Riding away from Jen and Jy hurt. I meet a lot of people on the road and mostly I part ways easily, I've travelled enough to know that I'll meet more good people down the track. With Jen and Jy it didn't matter, they are good people and I didn't want to leave.

So it was a heavy heart that I rode on to Nehalem some 47miles south.


The morning was easy as it often is. The sun shone, I had a tail wind the scenry was pretty. If there was too many cars on the 101 again I ignored them. Found myself in a place called 'Sea Side'.

Sea Side was fascinating for the first five minutes and terrible for the next twenty.

If McDonald's ever built a town it would probably look a lot like Sea Side. A cardboard cut out place full of gimmicky shops, plastic entertainment arcades, and at the end of the street a weird round about where people sat around and stared at the sea. The beach was lined with tall apartment buildings. And it was occupied by the brand of American's that give the rest of them a bad name. Fat and loud!

I ate an egg sandwich and watched them in horrified curiosity.


I hid my reflective vest so I wouldn't attract attention to myself. I didn't want to get stampeded by a herd of obese tourists thinking my bright orange jacket was something good to eat.

I left my bike outside when I went to the bathroom. I wasn't concerned about theft, as I doubted any of the inhabitants of Sea Side would know what to do with a bicycle.

Down the road I nervously entered Cannon Beach terrified that it would be another Sea Side. To my joy I found a small quaint village. Relieved I had lunch in the playground, listening to the well trained fathers obey their children's every whim.


Nehalem..... I discovered later was on the other side of two enormous hills. A situation I was blissfully unaware of as I left Cannon Beach. Fifteen miles, I thought, no worries.

Then I started going up. I continued going up for just over half an hour.

That was a load of crap!” I gasped when the road finally began to descend.

I clung to the handlebars on the swift plunge down the other side and was happy to find that having front panniers stuck me firmly to the road. Balance eh!


Then the road went straight back up again.

For another half an hour.

Climbing for that long at the end of the day does something to a woman's soul. Three quarters of the way up and I pulled over lent against a sign and had tried not to cry. I've come to call it 'wrecking' or 'hitting a wall'. And it isn't so much that my body gives up, it's more a mental thing. My mind simply doesn't want to keep going. It says 'Kym this is bullshit! You know its bullshit, I know it's bullshit and there's nothing either of us can do but keep going.'

I got to the top of the darn hill.

Oh look.” I said to my bike. “What a great F*#*ing view!” Oregon was spread out below us, a big white rind of hazy coast stretching away into the dark green hills. The 1000 foot cliffs plunging down into the booming Pacific Ocean. I was angry at that 1000 foot cliff, it had hurt me, I didn't want to be impressed. But it was impossible not to be.

Stupid view.” I growled while photographing the snot out of it. Then I coasted down the other side, feeling that I really would feel better if there was more than foot tall wall between me and that cliff edge.


I spent the night at Nehalem amongst the company of no less than four other bicycle tourists. None of whom were as awesome as Jen or Jy.


To be fair there has been an awful lot of stuff between then and now. If I type about it all you'll probably get bored. If you aren't already.


So I'll sum up.

I've ridden from Astoria to Reedsport which is about 201 miles but a little extra because of various detours. In the last week I've camped by the ocean,

cycled more ridiculous hills,

maintained a strict diet of trail mix and cream cheese,

bought bread which is baked by an ex-drug addicted con,

helped two teenagers find a bathroom,

got kept awake all night by an classic rock radio station that was being played at full volume by an old hobo from Tennessee,

finished my fantasy novel; full of sex, pagan gods, war and blood sacrifices,

was given a new book about fruit which is surprisingly full of the same themes,

did my laundry at a bike shop,

found another bike shop that also sold guitars [because while riding one should also be strumming.....?]

caught an elevator down to a sea cave and met sea lions,

climbed a sand dune that inspired Frank Herbert to write the Dune series,

was given a cup of tea in a public restroom,

had three people in one day call me a Kiwi and considered homicide, [Do I SOUND like a New Zealander?!]

hit a head wind and got tired,

talked to Kevin who had just cycled across the country and figured he had nothing better to do than simply cycle back,

talked to Gavin who averaged 105 miles a day,

met Mike who owns a bamboo bicycle,

listened to Herb who rode around the Grand Canyon got tired, brought his fist down on his seat and broke it, pushed his bike to the bus stop intent on selling it and getting a bus ticket home, after five days he got back on his bike [with it's broken seat] and cycled home,

wondered why James was heading across the country on a down hill mountain bike,

declined to join Todd and Charlie on a acid trip,

spent a nervous night in torrential rain in Honeyman State forest hoping my tent wouldn't float away,

saw a man touring on a fixed gear bike and thought he was silly,

rode through glorious farmland, many small fishing villages and rugged forested coastline,

Got here, decided to treat myself to a real bed at Reedsport Economy Inn


Will now sleep. 

Tags: bicycle touring, camping, coast, oregon, oregon coastal bike trail

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