August 20, 2006
This was slated to be a momentous day, but I was feeling unmotivated when it began. Glancing at the map yesterday, I had planned to ride from Eugene to Florence, and back in a single day. This would be a very long day at something like 140 miles. Since I’d be leaving most of my gear in the motel room, I figured it was doable. Besides, it would be neat to have my highest mileage day coincide with my arrival at the Pacific Ocean..
The lack of motivation this morning probably stemmed from a late start, enforced by a blowing headwind. The winds have been out of the west all through Oregon, and today was no different. Riding without all my usual gear was nice. Despite the late morning hour, I was still off to a good start.
Then I saw a road sign that changed things. It said “Florence: 57 miles.” This was after I’d already rode 30. Checking the map, I realized I’d miscalculated – it was really 90 miles from Eugene to Florence!
Impossible. Without any of my gear, there was nothing to do about it but turn around, ride back to Eugene, and see The Pacific Ocean another day.
But the coffin wasn’t nailed shut. On the return ride, I crossed paths with Troy and Mel one last time. They were in high spirits, as this was the final day of their trip. They were presumably confused as to why I was riding east, so I quickly explained.
“Now there’s gotta be some way we can work this out.” Troy said. They told me there’s a bus that runs from Florence to Eugene. “They let you take bikes on the buses in Oregon,” Troy told me, “If not, we’re renting a car anyway, so you could just take the bus and I’ll drive your bike back.”
Meanwhile, Mel got on the phone with a friend of hers, who went to a computer and checked the bus schedule online. “Leaves at 8:20am, takes one hour,” she said.
Hmm… this was sounding too good to be true. Still, I didn’t have any overnight gear with me. Outback was supposed to call, and the manager said yesterday that I could be starting tomorrow. I hadn’t even bought work clothes yet – there was no way I wanted to screw up that opportunity. The IHOP interview was also supposed to be at 8am tomorrow.
“Alright, let’s go!” I said, and turned my bike to the west.
They were so excited to be reaching the ocean that it was infectious – especially Troy. We came to the Florence-57 intersection, and he said “The penultimate turn!” It was the second last turn – only two roads to Florence.
We took a break at a small store, where I picked out a 20oz Mountain Dew, a Snickers, and a king size Reese’s cups, with a huge smile on my face. Things were feeling celebratory and goofy – I got a great picture of Troy and Mel outside the store. “Do I look bad ass?” Troy asked.
The profile map showed one last minor climb before descending to the coast, and it was a piece of cake, especially without hauling the usual loaded weight. It felt so great to be at the crest of that hill – you can’t imagine. To start coasting down the other side wasn’t so bad, either.
There was a small clear lake – seemingly a local hot spot for summer camping and boating. It had a camp store where I opted for a quick break and a 20oz. Coke. There was a chair on the front porch, and I leaned back, sipped my drink, and looked out in the direction of the lake. I was barely sweaty, the sky was blue, and the weather was perfect… so it was cool, but not chilly.
I hooked in the radio earpiece for the first time of the day, and the very first thing I heard was “IIIIII wanna rock yoooouuuuuur gypsy soul, just like way back in the days of old. Then magnificently we will float…” Perfect. When that foghorn blows…
Later I heard that new Tom Petty song from Highway Companion – which I really like – but doesn’t the beginning sound like George Thorogood One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer? Later I heard The Kinks Lola, so at the next store with Troy and Mel I found myself reaching for a Cherry Coca-c-o-l-a. Those old boys ought to get some royalties on Cherry Coke.
I also bought what I thought was a small packet of those cheddar/peanut butter crackers, but out front I discovered that they had this red gooey spicy stuff between them instead of peanut butter. Oh well, they tasted alright, no matter how radioactive-looking they were.
Finally we drew closer to the ocean, turning off the back roads onto route 126, the main artery into Florence. “The final turn!” I now said. There was heavier traffic and some trucks. It had a wide shoulder, but it was often bumpy and rough. The west wind blew stronger than ever, and I did what I could to let the others draft off of me, since I wasn’t carrying much weight.
The sky grew dark and grey, and there was no more blue to be seen. Moisture blew in. “What is this strange feeling?” I thought, “Humidity?” This must be the notorious Pacific Northwest weather. It didn’t matter. We were counting down the miles.
We passed the five mile marker, and I noticed Troy and Mel had stopped about a quarter mile behind me. I took the opportunity to park my bike and take a leak. When I was done with that and they were still pulling stuff off of a bike, I suspected mechanical trouble and rode back. Mel had a flat tire, five miles from the ocean! Now is that fitting or what. Troy had her back on the road with impressive speed – faster than I’d ever fixed a flat.
We rolled into Florence around 7pm, not without a little hooting and hollering on this day. During the last miles into town I managed to ride with no hands and “raise the roof” – an impressive feat – considering the handlebar bag and loaded front panniers!
We were counting down the miles to Florence, but once we got there it was a whole separate task to find the ocean, and quite a few more miles. By now we could sense the evening progressing, and I for one was getting downright cold.
After some extra-credit riding to the north that felt like it took forever, we saw ocean on the horizon, we saw sand, and we dipped.
It was a curving shoreline – not the full beach with tall waves that I’d seen in other people’s Florence photos… but hell, it was salt water.
Frankly I was cold and sort of wanted to get it over with – I’d be seeing enough of The Pacific soon enough. People at home have asked if it looks any different than The Atlantic. My answer – no, not today it didn’t. It was cold, cloudy, and foggy – not quite the blue Mexican paradise where seagulls fly over Tim Robbins as he sands his boat, and Morgan Freeman strolls along the beach with a top hat and briefcase.
We ate out for dinner and split a motel room. I had some fish and chips, and a Kona microbrew from Hawaii. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.