We’ve been through hail, thank fog we made it through
We have covered some couple hundred miles since Timmy’s last blog post, had a few hundred or so runny noses, and met some overly friendly people along the coast. This is Kyle writing this post, which I agreed to do a few days ago after I found out that “Within Biking Distance” was not a food blog Timmy and Lizzy were writing about bike friendly vegan restaurants and actually about our trip. So here goes, I’ll start where Timmy left off last time…
After a quick coffee in the finest of American establishments – the gas station mini mart – we saddled up and continued south from Reedsport, passing lakes and farmland on easy coastal terrain. The wind and rain surely slowed our pace, but the ride was beautiful as always in these lush temperate forests of the Northwest Coast. One incredible subtlety of less than ideal conditions is you tend to find authentic joy in the simplest of pleasures: weak, but hot coffee that feels good on your cold hands, a salty snack, the unleashed countryhouse dog, goretex, the small break in the weather, a small let-up of the wind, and honest company to share all the small victories with.
After a long stretch of riding, we pulled over below a closed weigh station awning to dip carrots in peanut butter and talk about the ride and enjoy a rest before another stretch heading across the McCollough Memorial Bridge into North Bend (just north of Coos Bay). It didn’t take long for the moist, almost tropical microclimate of our rain gear to turn against us as we stood still in the cold breeze. Soon, we were back on our bikes and back to a comfortable riding temperature cruising into the sprawl above North Bend. Up ahead was the seemingly endless bridge crossing the wide expanse of the silty bay. As always, the wind picked up in intensity just before our treacherous traverse. All day we had had plenty of breathing room from the speedy traffic thanks to the generally wide shoulders of Hwy 101. This would not be so during our crossing into North Bend. We grouped up before the approach to the bridge, Lizzy’s story of a treacherous crossing on her last trip through here echoing in my head. Lizzy pressed the shiny button to light up the “bicycles on bridge” sign and we kicked off into slick roadway. As we pedaled across, the crosswind grew, blowing from our right. Any moment of relaxation and we would be thrown halfway across the road in a moments notice. As we neared the crest of the bridge, the wind suddenly picked up and rain turned to hail. Peering out from below the flap of my raincoat hood, the hail was driving completely horizontally across and into our faces. The line of cars was slowly building behind us. It took all our concentration just to keep our frail bikes as close to the shoulder as we could. Occasionally, we briefly wondered what the folks in the cars and trucks behind us were thinking. They definitely thought we were crazy, most probably thought we were insane. With the strong sidewind, the otherwise gentle coast down the backside of the bridge was more strenuous than any other portion of our day. Throughout our traverse, I sympathized with phytoplankton floating powerlessly in the ocean. In our case, we were lost in a sea of wind, hail, and horsepower. After what seemed like an eternity, we made it across, and I slowed to greet Tim and Lizzy’s grins as the line of cars rubbernecked and speed off into North Bend.
A flashing sign spanning both lanes of interstate announced our arrival into North Bend. This otherwise slightly hokey sign might as well have been the pearly gates announcing our arrival into eternal paradise. The weather was still poor, but at least we had traversed the bridge. We made a quick stop at the tourist information center for Lizzy to communicate with a warmshowers host we had yet to hear back from. Within a few minutes, we discovered we had a warm dry place to sleep thanks to our host, Scott. If the woman at the information desk didn’t think we were insane as we came in dripping with rain and melted hail, she certainly did as we laughed and jumped for joy, unable to contain ourselves upon hearing the good news. We stopped in at Safeway to get ingredients for some curry, a nice break of our usual meal of beans and tortillas, and biked to Scott’s house. On our way, we saw the leftover remains of a snowy Sunday. A lonely snowman stood just down the block from Scott’s house. Once inside, we learned this was only the third time the Coos Bay area has had snow in fifteen years, as long as Scott’s family has been here. We made our meal, petted the dogs, and talked to the twins, Hannah and Maddie, who at thirteen are more grown up and adult-like than I am, ten years their senior.
The next day we got out early and biked on hail covered road down to Grocery Outlet, which still didn’t open for another 45 minutes. We sat inside a nearby casino and Tim and I ordered a nice hot breakfast of hashbrowns, eggs (for me), and coffee (decaf for Tim). The radio played some upbeat oldies one of which was “Monday, Monday,” by The Mamas & the Papas.” The “ba-da, ba-da-da-das” and the chorus immediately became our trip theme song which we haven’t stopped singing for more than a couple minutes on our trip.
Later that day, powered by some delicious bargins thanks to Grocery Outlet, we made a left turn off Highway 101 in Charleston and headed up the first of seven steep hills on Seven Devils Road. Fighting gravity and trying not to overheat, we encountered each new challenge with a little less energy than before, until we were at the top. From there we turned at Beaverhill Rd and on to Whiskey Run to begin our decent back to 101. Some highlights from this section include the painted messages left behind by previous cyclists and my encounter with likely the oldest man I’ve ever seen, driving a station wagon down the steep hills. As old and decrepit as he looked, he seemed to be actually a great and safe driver.
It was in this hilly section that I realized just how awkward on a bicycle I must look, I still can’t mount or dismount my bicycle without really thinking about it, and my sleeves are covered in snot as I still haven’t properly learned how to spit or snotrocket off my bicycle without getting most of the goods on myself. The opposite is true for my cohorts who definitely have a few more miles on their bikes than me. Tim always looks sharp in what we like to call his “safety turtle” outfit, and Lizzy is more at one with her bike than I am at one with myself. She looks comfortable and graceful. If I get distracted, she is already halfway up the hill in a moment, seemingly effortlessly.
Back on 101 we were treated to our first patch of blue sky and a break from the wind as we rolled into the town of Langlois. At the small library, Lizzy journaled, I read, and Timmy blogged the last blog post you read. We killed time there, hoping for the cover of darkness so we could pitch our tent nearby in the large grass field adjacent to the library, a forest and some farmland. Unfortunately for us, the librarian was working late so we headed north a couple blocks to make dinner under the patio of the market we had passed. It was closed, but as we were heating our leftover curry, every few minutes a car or truck would park near the door, a person would unlock the door head inside and walk out a few minutes later with a handful of groceries and the occasional ice cream cone. We were confused for awhile, because there was no way there could be this many owners of such a small store. Turns out all the locals have keys and they just write down what they take. Pretty neat. The people were super nice and the actual owner, Jake, gave us handwarmers for the night. Earlier, a local who we thought at the time was the owner of the store, told us to pitch our tent in the field next to the market, behind the big wood pile. We did end up doing just that instead of camping at the library, or at the state park 15 miles down the road, which was the story we were giving to the locals who passed. This was one instance where it paid off to pretend to be a lot more clueless about distances, geography, and the sanity of riding bicycles on a highway at night.
So far this trip has been different than a lot of my expectations. For one, it’s been fun to plan day by day as opposed to having all our stays and campsites lined up for the next week or so. When bad weather rolls in people seem to take pity on us, even though we are not deserving of it. I believe Timmy and Lizzy will continue posting about their journey as I head off in a different direction. We’ve fallen a bit behind but made it to California where the weather is nicer and the drivers a little less so. Stay tuned to hear about more of our adventures and crazy coincidences and our trip south of the border (spoiler alert: we make it to California). Thanks for reading and hope this blog finds you well.