Sunday, September 30, 2007

An Oregon Coast Photo Album

Have you every read a good book really slow -- savoring phrases, and re-reading those that resonate? Or how about eating Peanut M&M's one at a time, sucking on them until the candy coating dissolves, and the chocolate melts as a creamy coating on your tongue? I wish I had more time for the first, and I gave up the second long ago. But we found a new thing to do slow -- traveling by bicycle -- which is pleasurable in its own way.

We cycled from Portland, Oregon to Klamath Falls, Oregon, starting in late August. We covered 750 miles in 16 days, with a couple of extra days of rest. We were fully self-contained, with sleeping bag, tent, and food stashed in some really nice panniers. We headed northwest from Portland to Astoria (about as far north as you can get in the state), and south along Highway 101 until we reached the border of California just north of Crescent City. We left the ocean and crossed the Coast Ranges to Ashland then on to Klamath Falls. We are new to bike touring (except for one overnighter), and with a significant investment in equipment we were anxious to see if it suited us.

When traveling by bike, subtle changes in temperature and wind speed and direction are fully experienced. One can't help notice things about the road often hardly perceived in a car -- the width of the shoulder, the quality of the pavement, the grade, and roadkill. At about 50 miles a day, enough ground is covered to have a memory bank full of images by the end of the day. We cycled through many small towns -- some quaint, some a bit depressed -- but in each we were welcomed and drawn into conversation with locals. On a bike, the barrier shell of an automobile is gone, and people want to know where you have come from, where you are going, and are open to share the best of their part of the world.

Below are a few images from our trip, with some commentary. Also a trio of videos -- riding the train, John cruising, and me rolling along. We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed our adventure.

We drove our truck to Klamath Falls, stopping in Reno to pick up some bike boxes from the Amtrak station. We continued on to Klamath Falls, where our plan was to board the train and ride it to Portland. The afternoon before our departure we packed the bikes in the boxes at our campsite, just to make sure everything fit and be ready for departure time.

Very soon after leaving Portland we were in the countryside, passing farmhouses and fields of corn. A short stretch of bike trail outside of Vernonia was lined with apple trees and blackberry bushes.

We stopped often to pick berries throughout our trip, growing wild along the road. John at one point exclaimed "we are surrounded by food".

We reached the coast on Labor Day weekend. Inland Oregonians flocked to the coast, baring their white limbs to the sun, soaking up their annual Vitamin D requirement. This beach outside of Manzanita was pockmarked with their footprints at the end of the day.

Good weather was our fortune during most of the trip. The coastline was a series of ups and downs -- up over the "heads", where the views were spectacular, and down to sea level. This view is looking north from Cape Lookout.

John riding in the fog on a particulary lush stretch of road.

Can you say "fun Fun, FUN"?

Lighthouses from early in the century dot the coastline. Many are still operational, but most are historical structures that are open to the public. Heceta Head Lighthouse is spectacularly situated on a cliff jutting out into the sea.

The glass windows at the top of Heceta Head Lighthouse.

We were unaware when we started that the Oregon Coast is one of the premier bike routes in the country. Oregon is kind to cyclists, and the entire route was signed with well-marked and generally generous shoulders. We stayed in Oregon State Park campgrounds nearly every night. Most had a area designated for hikers and bikers, separate from the main campground and their campfires and generators. Other campers arriving by motorized vehicle must reserve months in advance for beachside sites, while we arrived and were assured a campsite without reservation at a mere cost of $4 per person. We enjoyed a hot shower every night, a welcome luxury on those late afternoons when it was cold and damp.

John walking his bike over the McCullough Memorial Bridge north of Coos Bay. The bridge was over one mile long, and due to no shoulder, and cyclists are required to walk across. We were able to ride over all bridges along the route, other than this one. But it was often a nerve-racking experience, since motorists had to wait behind us, or tried to pass with minimal buffer.

Roses at Shore Acres State Park, a botanical garden situated on the cliffs south of Coos Bay.

Morning light on seamounts south of Bandon.

A typical lunch -- Tillamook cheese and artisan bread. We only ate out a couple of times on the trip, but we did seek out local bakeries. I still salivate at the thought of the tangy whole wheat sourdough bread we bought in Nye Beach....

Leaving the coast, we spent a night in California's Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park, a place that evokes nothing but awe.

Once we left Ashland and climbed the 4,000 feet over the mountains, we were out of the coastal-influenced landscape of lush green and free blackberries. The golden rolling foothills were quite a contrast from the landscape of the last couple of weeks.

The loop was closed with our return to Klamath Falls. We got home fueled by petroleum instead of bread, cheese and berries.

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Anonymous said...

Loving your blog - as I sit here reading and watching Matlock - you inspire me to get OUTSIDE!!!!!

Keep those blogs coming.


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