Out: 90.86 mi / 6:53:17 time / 13.2 mph avg. / 36.0 mph max. / 3888 ft. climbing
In: 77.20 mi / 5:22:35 time / 14.3 mph avg. / 35.0 mph max. / 2796 ft. climbing
Stayed at Cape Lookout State Park
Joel had come home from Arizona on Wednesday night, so we decided that on Friday, we would head out together for the big blue sea, the western edge of the country: the Pacific Ocean. On Thursday I started coming down with the family cold, so I went to bed really early Thursday night and got 10 hours of sleep in an attempt to compensate. That helped a lot, though I still wasn’t 100% in the morning. On the other hand, I was able to lighten my load slightly for this trip, since I didn’t need to take my cooking gear, or most of my clothes. I still carried all five of my bags though, and since I was carrying some of Joel’s stuff as well, I was probably only a few pounds less than normal.
That meant that even with all the rest-and-recovery I had, the 1000-foot climb that starts immediately on the western side of Portland was quite a bear. It was easily the steepest extended climb of the trip, with lots of sections between 12 and 15% grade, plenty of switchbacks, and residents giving us nods of respect and congratulations as we toiled our way upwards at 5 mph. I was finally able to glimpse a backlit Mt. Hood when we neared the top of the hill.
Then of course we gave all the altitude back as we descended and entered the sprawling suburbs and stoplights west of Portland, as well as some flat farm country. We made it to Banks and got an early lunch at Subway, which was my first Subway in a long time. From there we would take the Wilson River Highway up over the Coast Range, and then down to Tillamook. It’s a 1500 foot climb, gentle at first, then steep for the last few miles. By this point, Joel has slowed down a bit, unlike the first climb where I had to work just as hard as I normally do to keep up with him. Still, for a guy who hadn’t been riding much recently and really had no business doing a ride like this, he was doing remarkably well. And for me, it was kind of cool to relax and just dawdle (ok, not really!) my way up a hill for once. On the way up we got a honk and a wave from a blue Subaru going by: Chika and the boys were on their way to meet us at the campground.
After cresting the summit, it was mostly a long downhill through the Tillamook State Forest. We did have to fight a bit of a headwind, particularly once we exited the tree-covered mountains. A quick refueling in Tillamook (moreso for me; Joel was a little skeptical about the amount of calories he would be needing), and then in ten more miles we were at the park.
Chika had found a good site in the enormous campground (177 sites?), shaded, and a mere 50 yards from the beach. We got camp set up, including Joel and Chika’s monstrous 6-person tent (I’ll still be sleeping in my own, thank you!) and got dinner started (we’d borrowed a lot of camping gear from their neighbors, so I’d finally doing some fancy-cooking in camp! Ok, well, at least bratwurst!)
Then, before the sun set, I had to see the ocean, introduce my bicycle to it, and get a picture. It was pretty awesome to crest the small dune and suddenly see the breakers rolling in. I had carried myself to the edge of the world, or at least somewhere close to it. Just as I rolled the bike into the surf for the traditional “wheel in the water” photo, the ocean made it clear that it’s not something to be taken lightly, and sent a big wave up the beach that went high enough to flood my panniers, and worse, it got Joel’s cell-phone that he’d stowed in the outer pouch of my rain cover. The wave surprised the heck out of everyone else on the beach too, so at least it didn’t make me feel like a total landlubbing dumbass. What made me feel like a total landlubbing dumbass was when I propped the bike up on its kickstand in the sand, and another wave came along, and knocked the whole bike over right into the ocean. Luckily the rain covers did an excellent job of keeping my stuff mostly dry, even though one of them managed to collect a gallon of seawater inside. By that point, I figured the ocean was trying to tell me something, and I did my best to wrestle the bike back up over the sand dune and back to camp.
After a good dinner, we tried another campground luxury, the campfire. Unfortunately, the wood didn’t seem particularly interested in burning, so it wasn’t a very exciting fire, but it was better than nothing. Joel, Chika, Noah, and Ren eventually got settled down in their tent for the night, while I stayed up for a bit having a beer and tending the fire. Then I went to see the ocean again. This time, alone on the beach, without the bike, and with the bright moonlight making the whitecaps shine above the dark water, it was a much more peaceful experience.
During the night I heard Ren wake a couple times, and there was a minor rain shower, but I slept just as well or better than I do most nights. Camping with two kids with a combined age of three certainly isn’t as simple as doing it solo, but overall, it went surprisingly well. No major disasters, and I think everyone had some time where they actually enjoyed it.
Morning was nice and comfortable, and brought more luxury fancy-cooking (pancakes and eggs). We got everything packed up into the car, including most of our bike gear. I took off my two front panniers and half-emptied my rear ones (we’d carried our own camping gear on the way out just in case Chika couldn’t make it for any reason). My bike was still covered in sand and salt everywhere, and I had to let Joel get a head start on the road while I flushed out my right shift lever, which had stopped working because of all the salt that got inside it.
It was weird riding back over roads that I’d already taken, but it was a beautiful day, with tailwinds this time, so I got over it. We were smart enough to take breaks a little more frequently this time, and natural/organic-food-eating silly-Portlander Joel finally gave in and recognized the necessity (and pleasure!) of calorie-dense foods that are easy to eat (ie: Little Debbies, or in this case, Dolly Madisons!)
Once we made it back over the Coast Range, we stopped at a small restaurant (with remarkably friendly and flirty waitresses!) for milkshakes, and then caught an incredible, smooth, steady breeze that allowed us to easily float down US 26 at 20 mph for nearly 20 miles. Then, to avoid that final 1000-foot hill back into Portland, we hopped on the light rail in Hillsboro and rode it twelve miles and through the tunnel instead (hey, my ride was done when I reached the ocean, so it’s not cheating!) A final four miles through downtown Portland where Joel whipped me once again over his home turf, and then my ride was truly and completely done.
Chika had had the genius to order in a big ol’ pizza, so I ate about half of that, and then took some of the extra stuff off my bike to make it easier for the bike shop to pack up and ship back to Chicago. I spent the rest of the night packing up a 43 lb. box of the rest of my gear to ship back via UPS, went to sleep, and when I opened my eyes again, it was time for Joel to drive me to the airport. Amazingly, the kids hadn’t woken up yet, so I didn’t get a chance to give them and Chika a proper goodbye, but the fact that they were still sleeping certainly had way more value at that point! It was sure nice to spend a relaxing week with them.
Then, it was into the airplane, towards home, where I would cover a day’s worth of bike riding about every seven minutes. Amazing.