Having said our goodbyes to our hosts outside Newport- and Theo having begrudgingly bid farewell to the beloved tractor that was his object of attention for the majority of our stay!- we set off under a grey, heavy-looking sky, fully anticipating -with a degree of dread- a day of rain ahead of us. The coast that had been so placid, tranquil and beautifully calm previously was now a rugged and vicious force- crashing white waves breaking and churning upon the shoreline, sending spray metres into the air and pebbles flying in all directions. We started to climb the cliffs alongside the coast, slowly but steadily, with countless state parks and turnouts inviting us to come closer and appreciate the scenery before us, or venture onto the acres of public beach that are characteristic of this section of the 101. We were slightly gutted that the bitterly cold wind and overcast weather didn’t really lean towards this kind of exploration of the coastline- but nonetheless, it was quite fascinating to see just how powerful, intense and wild the ocean could really be- how the surf pounded mercilessly against the rock and whipped up all it encountered- driftwood and debris, shells and wildlife- before devouring it under heavy waves. I shudder to imagine just how extreme conditions must become during the winter months.
As we edged towards the town where we were to pick up our groceries for lunch, we noticed at the side of the road a black travelers wallet, just abandoned by the shoulder. I stopped and picked it up and saw that some poor guy had managed to drop it full of his bank and credit cards, his ID and license, his student card- everything. It’s my worst nightmare- the wallet we have holds our passports, the very small amount of cash we own and our cards, my drivers license, the key for our bike lock…everything and anything we could possibly need. I felt really gutted on behalf of this guy- only a young student from Alberta, obviously traveling- so as soon as we pulled into the next town, I popped into the Visitor Centre and handed it in, assuming that was probably the best place, if any.
Moments later, I popped into the store next door to pick up supplies, and glanced at a guy hovering by the counter as we came in. I looked at him twice and then carried on. It wasn’t until the end of shop that curiosity got the better of me and I approached him to ask if, by chance, he’d lost his wallet.
“YES!” he exclaimed, “Why? How did you know?”
“Oh, I found it- I’ve handed it in next door at the visitors centre!” I replied.
The guys expression was utterly priceless. He threw his hands up and clenched his fists to punch the air as he paced around in obvious relief. It seems dramatic and maybe to those back home, it kind of is…but when you’re traveling, your life is literally in those little wallets- without money and ID, you’re completely stuck. Endless phone calls and visits to various officials and so forth would be mandatory; it can take an age to cancel all your cards and have replacements sent out (and when you’re cycle touring and staying in a different campground every night, getting an address to have them sent to is worse still…!) and until then, if you have nothing, you’re relying on people’s goodwill and kindness to tide you over. The guy whose wallet we’d found was also a cycle tourist- it felt great to be able to do a good turn for another of the ‘cycling community’ and was a bit of a buzz to know I’d done a good deed for the day!
It’s also taught me to keep one of my credit cards separate from the rest- just in case.
Continuing to follow the 101, we crossed a few small bridges, under which the sea would be forced into small channels, creating a thick creamy-yellow foam that looked suspiciously like a badly-poured can of Guiness. The aptly-named Devils Churn Wayside was just one of these that we passed- but in spite of the force with which the waves battered the edges of the channel through which it flowed, the erosion-resistant volcanic rock withstood its beating. Pretty impressive demonstration of the forces of nature in conflict!
The guidebook had warned of some of the Oregon Coast’s “steepest hills” past Yachats Oceanic Wayside, and as such we switched into our low gears and prepared for a hefty workout, but found it never truly materialized. Climbs, yes- but slow and steady, rather than steep, with plenty of level sections or brief downhills to allow for recovery. The route was windy, however- winds of up to 100mph are apparently common along this stretch!- but nothing compared to the rather memorable day we both got blown off the road in Canada.
We passed by Cape Perpetua before stopping at the Strawberry Hill turnout, which is reputed for having many sea lions and seals close to the shore. After a precarious (!) climb down the rocks, we actually managed to get pretty close to a huge collection of both sea lions and seals, collected together on stretches of rock close to the shore for protection from the rough waves. Theo couldn’t quite understand what we were telling him as I pointed out the sea lions- “they’re not lions, mummy!” he protested as I pointed them out, “NOT lions!!” I tried repeatedly to explain, but he was adamant. “Seals” went down slightly better! We were also able to show him his first starfish in a rockpool close by- a day by the sea is definitely an education for him!
We passed through Cape Creek Tunnel- another shoulderless, uphill affair, but thankfully only a slight gradient and nowhere near as long as the previous nightmare that greeted us after leaving Seaside! After this, the road ran very close to the coastline- though very high up, with a sheer drop just a metre or so from us at points, which added to the windspeed to give the whole experience a slightly adrenaline-fuelled element (and, I’ll confess, made me ever-so-slightly queasy on occasion!) Behind us we could see the Heceta Head Lighthouse- a beautiful lighthouse still in use, that sends a beacon of light over 20miles out to sea. Shortly after this, we came across the Sea Lion Caves, a popular tourist attraction that we felt Theo would enjoy, and decided to venture to take a look. An elevator (replacing an old wooden staircase!) takes you over 200ft down through a cliff to the world’s larges known natural sea lion cave, where you can peak through a window cut into the cave and see numbers of sea lions and seals in their natural habitat. It was amazing to see all the cubs, the enormous ‘king’ of the cave (apparently weighing over 2200lbs!) and hear the roars and calls amongst them- Theo was completely fascinated and simply couldn’t be pulled away from the window!
Our campground for the night was the Jessie Honeyman State Park and when we arrived, we were pleased to see a note in the reception window inviting bikers to use some of the ‘normal’ campsites if they wanted to be closer to the facilities- and so avoiding the heavily wooded, mosquito-infested hiker/biker site, we were able to set up camp right next to the shower block and feel less ‘excluded’ from the campground. We came across two other solo touring cyclists and another cycling family (although with teenagers!) and had a great evening chatting to them all and sharing experiences. Our trailer also attracted a lot of attention from general campers- but all genuinely interested and fascinated by what we’re doing, intrigued as to how Theo is dealing with life on the road and often completely shocked when they discover we actually came across Canada. I’ve literally lost count of the number of people who have asked how we coped with the bad weather in Canada- but I have to be honest, the worst weather we had was probably coming through Washington!
The following day was a fairly slow, rolling ride through acres of Oregon’s sand dunes and sandy forested areas. The weather continued to be overcast and moody in the morning, although it was beautiful in the afternoon (if a little cold); the hills varied from aggressively steep to long and trying and if I’m honest, the day passed us by without much notice. On days like that, I do tend to feel a pang of guilt- this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I should be appreciating every moment I can!- but realistically, I don’t have to love every day on the road; I don’t have to take in every stretch of forest, every beach and every state park. It’s just the nature of a trip like this; some parts are spectacular, monumental, truly breath-taking and those memories you hope you’ll cling onto right into old age. Some days…well, they’re just another day, another stretch of the same, without incident or interest. Perhaps the best part of the day was that upon stopping at the KOA campsite for the night, I went to have a casual chat with the manager about the local area- and emerged from the office 20minutes later laden with leaflets, advice, and best of all… a key to one of the wooden cabins for the night. The prospect of having a proper mattress and a roof over our heads was a huge bonus!
The good thing is though, on a trip like this? The spectacular days far outweigh the ‘standard’ ones. Although it’s true that some days, Matt and I struggle to remember just what we’ve done, where we’ve been…that’s when it becomes vital to undertake something like this- a blog, that records all those tiny details we’d otherwise forget, with photos to trigger our memories and help ‘store’ them until we have the time to stop, breathe and really savour them.
Until then, I’m too busy living it to remember it!
Miles Today: Seal Rock (Newport) to Jessie Honeyman State Park: 47.7
Jessie Honeyman State Park to Oregon Dunes (KOA): 38
Total Miles to Date: 1157