When I woke in the morning to glorious sunshine over the Oregon Dunes, I was in my element: nervous, excited, terrified and a million other emotions all rolled into one. Today I would conquer a fear and achieve one of my [admittedly rather new] ‘bucket list’ aims: sand buggy-ing.
I had worked my magic pleading with Matt the night before and after I’d priced it up with the campsite host, he’d agreed it might be worth the cash to give it a go. We wandered up to ‘Steves ATV Rentals’ by the campsite and I literally threw myself to their mercy and asked what they’d recommend for a first-timer. We’d decided we’d alternate on a single rental for the hour while the other looked after Theo and observed: as such, it was decided that an automatic single quad was probably the best deal for us. After signing a form and watching a 10minute video, we were quickly shown the basics by one of the guys and left to our own devices. I was astounded that anyone in their right mind would let me, of all people, near one of these things (Matt continued to have reservations about letting me have a go right the way through- it has to be said, I’ve go a bit of a reputation for being, shall we say, accident-prone?!) but they were incredibly relaxed and seemed to accept that my British drivers licence meant I could exercise decent-enough control over a vehicle (hahahaha…)
Matt was to go first- I have to admit I was a little nervous, given that the last time I went on a quad I was about 7 or 8, and it ran away from me as soon as I touched the throttle- and sailed off down the road towards the dunes while I lugged behind with Theo. Watching him fly over the dunes was amazing- these mountains and acres of sand rose like mini mountains, and by their very nature are of course a new, fresh playing field every day- every hour, even! For the most part the sand was completely unspoilt and smooth, and would fly up behind Matt with a satisfying whoosh as he raced through the terrain. Matt enjoyed half an hour of playing and exploring before I ventured to have a go.
I have one word for that experience: awesome. Totally and utterly AWESOME.
I started out timidly, climbing only the small hills I felt were within my reach, tentatively pushing on the gas until my confidence developed and soon I was flying at top speed. There’s something so utterly satisfying about flying through the sand, and such an adrenaline rush even as you feel it slipping from under you, dissolving away as you push through it, making every move unpredictable, enthralling. I started climbing higher hills and laying off the brake as I plunged down on the other side. I left my stomach at the top of so many of those dunes- part of me was terrified, but I loved it, every minute of it, fear and all. I found it tricky to steer and hard to predict what I could realistically achieve- at one point I sped towards a dune with gritted determination to conquer, only for the quad to bail just a metre from the summit. Not enough momentum; I had to slide down backwards instead!! However even the blips didn’t deter me; I had become almost invincible, somehow powerful.
I felt like I was flying- and remembered again with vivid detail how it felt the first time I fell in love with skydiving. Total freedom; a pure rush, that sensation of knowing you’re overcoming your fears and inhibitions, pushing yourself and challenging yourself. Let it be known, I have a fear of motorbikes: for me, this was pretty damn close and yet here I was, speeding over sand no less, on my very own quad.
I could have stayed on those dunes for hours, exploring all the terrain, pushing myself harder, higher and faster. The weather was incredible and the sight of mile upon mile of pure sand was like nothing I’ve come across. Unfortunately, Theo didn’t share my passion for the dunes and eventually, we had to call it a day. But WHAT a buzz- and for me, what an achievement. That’s something I will hold onto indefinitely- just amazing.
Leaving the dunes behind, we set off into the heat of a beautiful day, following miles of dunes and forest as we headed towards Coos Bay. It wasn’t long until we greeted our first real challenge for the day: the Coos Bay Bridge, heading into North Bend.
As we approached the bridge, I noted with a degree of trepidation that it was another uphill affair- but thankfully not as extreme as the dreaded Astria-Megler bridge, and most certainly not as long. As we drew up at the base, we paused to set off the ‘cyclist warning’ button that activates flashing lights to alert drivers to our presence on the bridge and (in theory) adjusts the speed limit accordingly. As we were placing our feet onto our pedals and waiting for a gap in the traffic, a woman pulled up on the opposite side of the road and wound down her window.
“It’s a dangerous bridge to cross!” she shouted out in warning. We simply nodded in acknowledgement- what could we say in reply to that?-and made to set off.
“SOMEONE’S GONNA GET KILLED!!!!” She shouted at us as we departed.
Great vote of confidence, thanks. I have one word for her- but I’d best not post it, just incase….
We entered the bridge and found it narrow and busy, with traffic unable to pull out much to pass and failing to adhere to the 30mph limit restriction that in supposed to be in place when cyclists are crossing. However, the gradient of the climb wasn’t too bad; and we had the weather on our side this time, with glorious sunshine and mild winds. We simply pedaled fast and cuddled as close to the right-hand side as we could.
About halfway across, I was made to jump out of my skin when a car came racing past right alongside us, making no attempt to pull out to pass and barely missing the side of my panniers, and a woman suddenly leaned out of the window and screeched in my ear, “SIDEWALK!!!!!”
Matt stuck up his finger in reply and childish as it may be, with no means to make an audible reply, I promptly followed suit.
Honestly, who do these people think they are? And come to think of it, who do they think WE are? Do we look like idiots? Do they honestly believe that I’m some sort of thrill-seeking fool with a death wish, who would voluntarily put my life at potential risk by unnecessarily exposing myself to dangerous roads if there were a safer alternative- especially when we have a child in tow? Or perhaps they believe I purposely insist on sticking to the highway purely to cause them annoyance and irritation? Of course I would take the sidewalk if a.) it wasn’t closed, at both ends, with huge barriers barricading the entrances, due to building works and b.) it wasn’t so ridiculously narrow that the trailer wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of fitting onto it in any case.
Despite the increasingly popularity of cycling as a whole, and a general awareness both at an official level and amongst motorists of the growing cycling community, there remains, it seems, a certain…belief, that we are secondary ‘citizens’ of the road and are, in fact, ‘trespassing’ on what some motorists believe to be ‘their’ territory. Such beliefs are infuriatingly obnoxious and ignorant to the extreme. The road is a shared entity for a vast spectrum of people and vehicles of all shapes and sizes; from the large logging trucks and commercial lorries, the over-sized RVs and gas-guzzling pick-up trucks, to your everyday commuter and, yes, cyclists. We have as much legal right to be there as anyone else; and yet as the inevitably slower user, with the need for others to overtake us where shoulders or cycle routes aren’t sufficient, we’re regarded by some (I strongly suspect, non-cyclists!) as an inconvenience, a nuisance, an irritating and inferior intruder upon ‘their’ domain. Before anyone protests, naturally I am not daring to tar all motorists with the same brush (being a driver myself for one!) and I wouldn’t be so hubristic as to make such a gross generalization of motorists in general- but fellow cyclists, step up and tell me if you agree- because I’m sure I’m not alone in perceiving this.
No-one has the right to tell me to get off the road- particularly when that specific road is, in fact, part of the Oregon Coast Bike Route and, therefore, a dedicated cycle route- AND when I had undertaken all necessary precautions (wearing high-visability clothing and lights, setting off the alert and keeping as close to the kerb as possible) for using it. And yet this person, whoever they were, had the audacity to nearly cause me to fall off my bike by shouting at me from their vehicle, whilst endangering my life by passing so close as they did so. I would love to be able to shout to the many, many motorists who pass me- “MOVE OVER!” or “SLOW DOWN!” but naturally, I can’t. Or I could, but I wouldn’t be heard. I have to accept there are other users of the road, who have as much right as I do to be there, and that yes, there will inevitably be more than a few of those who are quite simply bad drivers- those who are reckless, or quite simply arrogant, and as such refuse to make allowances for other, more vulnerable road users such as ourselves.
I tolerate such drivers; I anticipate their lack of attention to us and ride defensively, as safely as I am able, adhering to all the safety guidelines and highway codes of which I am aware: I give way in the right places, even if it isn’t my place to do so, I pull in close if I hear a vehicle approaching behind me- thanking those who take the time to wait for a break in the traffic before overtaking!- I always use bike lanes and shoulders where available, and I pull into lay-bys or resting points if my presence is causing a tailback or difficulties for drivers behind us. I like to think that I’m a pretty considerate cyclist, as far as I can be. And really, in return, I’m not asking for a great deal. Merely the acceptance and acknowledgement that I am a road user, I do have a right to be there- and as such I deserve to be recognized and treated with the same courtesy and regard as any other vehicle on the road. I shouldn’t have to deal with drivers who are, in effect, endangering my life or that of my son because for whatever reason, they believe me to be inferior or undeserving of my space on the road. And motorists, please note: the sidewalk is not a place for cyclists- narrow, busy and filled with pedestrians, we actually pose more danger- both to ourselves and other users of the pavement- when using these than we do on the road. In fact, many areas of the UK are now bringing into action (or are, indeed, already using) fines for cyclists who use the pavement, sorry, sidewalk, instead of the road.
Really, motorists, it’s simple.
Slow down- the 30seconds or minute that it takes to wait for that car on the other side to pass aren’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to the length or time of your journey as a whole, but speeding up in the hope that you’ll beat that car coming from the opposite direction and then flying past at 70mph does make a big difference to my ability to control my heavily laden bike.
Pull out- there’s a big wide road there, so use it. If there’s a whole lane you can use, why insist on giving me just 2-3 extra inches? It’s terrifying; it’s too close; and the backwind from your vehicle can easily send me wobbling.
Right; rant over, off the soapbox I step.
After spending our morning racing over the dunes, we’d opted for a half day’s ride to finish at Sunset Bay, and were glad for the shorter day. This was our 9th? day in a row on the bikes without a day off, and the weariness and soreness is beginning to impact upon our ability to clock the miles needed. We found even the smaller hills a struggle as we weaved our way through North Bend and into Charleston: when our campsite for the night finally appeared into view, we sank into the hiker/biker site with true lethargic relief and were overwhelmed by a feeling of ‘can’t be bothered’-ness and indifference to our surroundings. It took all the energy we could mutually muster to assemble our tent before we realized we’d re-made one of the amateur mistakes of our early touring days and neglected to buy food ahead of arriving at our site. We were obliged to cycle back into Charleston, a few miles back- not good, not good at all.
We’d been told that the Sunset Bay area was spectacular for sunsets and incredible views over the water- however, we were to be hugely disappointed as the beautiful weather from the morning had all-but disappeared, the sky resuming it’s previous moody demeanor, with heavy clouds covering any trace of sunlight and masking the blue skies we’d woken to that morning. A cold wind whipped at us and the air was heavy with unshed rain- whatever views there were to be had out on the bay, they were marred by the temperamental weather, and the general state of exhaustion combined with the grey skies left us unmotivated to venture out to explore too far.
We sunk into our tent early that night, but our hopes for a good night’s sleep were dashed initially by our overactive, wide awake toddler- who adamantly refused to go to sleep until gone 10pm- and then in the middle of the night, I found myself woken by a bright light being shone in my face.
“There’s raccoons outside!!” Matt hissed at me, head torch on, as he peered out of the door of our tent.
“Eh? Rackets?” I mumbled in my half-asleep state.
“RACCOONS!” He repeated, “They’re trying to steal our food!”
I mumbled something incoherent and dozed back off. Matt, after scaring away our unwelcome intruders, fell back to sleep also.
Imagine my dismay when I woke in the morning to have the rice krispies we’d been forced to cycle 6miles to buy the previous evening, and found they were gone- clean gone, disappeared. I searched around in disbelief, because surely a raccoon couldn’t take the entire box??
Just metres away from the tent, I found the only remaining piece of evidence: one tiny, torn off corner from the outer cardboard box: “ispies” it mockingly read, just to confirm my suspicions. But I’ve gotta hand it to the little guy- that’s some seriously clever thieving. He got under the tarp, opened the back of the trailer and ran off with an entire, unopened and reasonably large box. I’m impressed- if a little hungry!- especially given that there simply wasn’t another trace anywhere. Clever little devils.
A day off is long-deserved and yet with facilities so far from our site, it seems tomorrow is not deemed to be that day. We’ll be waking in the morning to day 10 in a row on the road…
Miles today: 28
Total Miles to Date: 1185