October 21, 2006
I wake in my tent, and realize that it’s dimly lit. It’s prime time to get this day started.
Unzipping my fleece and sleeping bag, I hear the young camper next door go “Moooo!” He’s mooing at cows in the field across the road. Heh. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never mooed at a cow myself.
He’s excited to begin a day of fishing, and his enthusiasm is infectious as I pack up in the misty, pre-dawn air with a carpe diem vigor. Tent poles snap together between gloved hands underneath my visible breath. The inside of my rainfly is soaked with overnight condensation, but I stuff it in the pannier anyway.
I’ve slept in wool socks, blue jeans, and layered shirts topped with my fleece hoodie, and begin riding in the same outfit. It’s almost 7:30am, and the sun is still hidden. Short autumn days are a far cry from high summer in Kansas.
I’m a rolling icicle after a mile to the cafe in Pacific City. It’s a tight, 5 or 6 table affair on this early Saturday morning, and the place is full. Regaining feeling in my fingertips, I overhear a couple celebrating the opening hours of their 50th wedding anniversary. I think that’s one thing I likely sacrifice in these crazy ambitions – a 50th anniversary. If I were to be married tomorrow, I’d have to live to be 76. No matter, I guess such an anniversary is rare any way you slice it.
Less than an hour underway, I already strip to my red shorts and t-shirt. I get a kick out of sitting on the guardrail to remove my socks and shoes in the open air, and taking off my jeans as cars go by, because they don’t know I’m fully dressed underneath.
I climb high off of Route 101 on a deserted road, winding through a forest west of Cascade Head. It’s a long ascent, but I’m fresh with coffee, and consequently a good attitude. It leads me down to the west side of Devil’s Lake, with a series of rolling hills that go into Lincoln City.
By now it’s mid to late morning, and tourists and weekenders are out in force. I assume that many locals figure this is the last good-weather weekend of the season.
Lincoln City has a cool strip with a long ocean-side viewpoint on one side of the road, and a series of cafes, stores, and gift shops across the street that aren’t gaudy or overly commercial. A young couple asks me to take their picture there, and I snap some scenic shots of my own before grabbing a king size Nutrageous bar and Mountain Dew before riding on.
The scenery is awesome as I hug the coastline for 25 miles to Newport – waves, beaches, cliffs, rocks… oh yeah. Newport is essentially the center of Oregon Coast tourist activity, for good reason… much of the most beautiful stuff lies near it, and it’s the largest town – population 10,000. I catch a view of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
South of town there’s even more dramatic coastline. I come upon a series of large rocks with a sandy path leading up them. Atop the tallest rock, I see the silhouette of a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sitting on a fold-out lawn chair facing the sea – as if on a high throne.
“This is one of my favorite spots,” he says. “I fell in love with the area – I’m building a house back in those hills right now. You know, in the winter, the climate sort of stabilizes. It’s more crisp and clear than the other times. Now, you see,” he waves his hand toward the cresting waves, “In the afternoon the sun hits that cool water, and you get this foggy stuff over it… That’s the way to live life – doing what you are. I took off and spent a year in Europe when I was young – with my first wife. We were penniless for a long time, but it was great.”
He smiles, and we gaze toward the straight blue horizon. I have him take a picture of me sitting on the rocks below. Riding onward I look back, and from a hundred yards away I see his outline still perched on the rock.
Farther along I cross a bridge to Waldport, and pick up what my dinner – more chicken Ramen with tuna. I’m particularly smitten with this meal lately.
South of town I ride with the sunset. It’s along one of those gorgeous stretches I’ve heard about, where from left to right it’s like – mountaintop – cliff – road – me – cliff – sand – ocean – big rocks – sunset. Close to the horizon, the sun sinks at a 45 degree angle from south to north. I think of my friend high on his rock, taking in the same view.
Reaching Carl Washburne State Park after dusk, I register for hiker/biker camping. With the site all to myself, I go about setting up camp and cooking alone in the quiet dark, at the foot of a tall grove of trees.
The tent is still wet from last night, and I wipe it out with a dry bandana. Curling up to sleep on a bed of dry needles, I remember how my dad used to play “Nature Sounds” cassette tapes. They featured thunderstorms, bird songs, ocean waves, and the like. Tonight I drift off to the real thing. Life is good.