Armed with a new pillow and a frying pan we continued South over the Astoria/Mergler bridge out of Washington State and into Oregon:-). At 4.2 miles long it is billed as the longest ‘something’ bridge in the world, but we are slowly realising that a lot of things in the USA are the biggest, longest, tallest, shortest, steepest etc etc in the World….or at least billed as such!
We have travelled by car quite a bit (several thousands of miles) in the States in the past, but travelling by cycle exposes you a lot more to both the scenery and the people. We are stopping in places we might not normally stop and meeting people we might not normally meet (and there is a big old spectrum of people here) and it’s taking a bit of adjusting to. We have travelled through areas filled with big multi storey properties, with long drives containing shiny new trucks and huge RV’s, many of which are the size of coaches in the UK. Then we have travelled through communities obviously at the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum. Run down properties over grown with weeds and trees, broken down cars littering the area, homeless people wandering the streets, some of them even use the campsites to sleep and shower. It’s a side of America we have read about, and seen to some extent in the past especially in bigger cities, but we have seen it pretty regularly through our 750 miles so far. Also the Americans have their own way of doing a lot of things which can be a little bit different to many places in the World but on the whole most people we have encountered have been very friendly and extremely helpful. Sarah has had a couple of very minor issues with her bike and with up to 150 miles between bike shops it’s best to get it sorted when we can and they are open. We met Tim the owner of “Bikes and Guitars” (a strange combination) in Florence, Oregon. He opens the shop three and a half days a week …. “sometimes”. He obviously doesn’t meet too many people but he got Sarah’s gears running smooth as you like and charged $0!!
We have been exceptionally lucky with the weather. Everything we researched said plan for rain and mist in the mornings while heading down the Oregon Coast. Luckily, so far, we have had neither. Each day for the last week or so has been a replica of the next, a little cloudy in the early morning (which generally burns off by about 10am) then it’s blue skies all day and evening with temperatures rising to the mid 20’s. That coupled with a light tail wind has been providing us with almost perfect cycling weather. It almost feels too good to be true and we do say several times each day that everyday like this is a bonus.
Since entering Oregon, we have stayed exclusively at State Parks and all but one in the hiker/biker section. The locations have been stunning and the camping areas unbelievable. They even have charging stations for your mobile phones, cycle tools and a high pressure pump. We have also met a few people who are doing a similar cycle as we are, but travelling at different paces. Judith (from Switzerland) is travelling alone and likes to stop and sample the local breweries on occasion. Jeff (from the USA) who was a climber by profession, but became too old, is cycling from Vancouver to Los Angeles to visit his daughter and then he is off into Texas. Eric (originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Vancouver) he cycled across Canada last year, he travels very slowly and we might even pass him again after our month out in southern California! Finally Pierre and Eleanor (aged 72 and 68 respectively) who are Australians are doing the trip on a tandem. They are a lovely couple from Perth and have invited us to stay with them, when we are there next January, and use their tandem. Sarah is very keen on this but Steve is not so sure… he can see the positives and the negatives “too easy for Sarah to sit back and relax” is his view!!
One evening after eating a huge pile of food (“told you the frying pan was good idea”) we decided to take a two mile walk from the campsite, through the woods, down to the beach. As we set off we saw several signs warning of bears and cougars and what to do if you see one. Steve thought instruction number 5 “fight back” was particularly amusing! It was getting dark, so we armed ourselves with head torches and set off. After a mile or so Sarah found the amount of fluid she had drunk during the day was catching up with her so she decided to hop behind a bush and make things a little more comfortable. We were quite deep in the woods by now and she was just about to start the process when all of a sudden, absolutely out of nowhere at what seemed like a 100 mph, came two huge deer!! One was heading straight for Sarah. It slammed on its brakes and came to a skidding halt before turning on its heals and took off back the way it had come. The second one however came to a stop, about 10 feet away from Sarah, and just stood there watching us. All three of us were frozen to the spot for what seemed ages (but was probably only a few seconds) before the deer took off into the woods. “I thought it was a bloody bear” said Sarah “my heart is pumping out of my chest”.
The day to day cycling is going extremely well, we have got into a nice routine packing and unpacking the tent. We each have our own jobs and it seems to all run smoothly. We generally get an hour or so under our belts before we then stop for coffee. Sometimes if we are feeling particularly hungry we stop for food. A stack of pancakes and maple syrup for Steve and scrambled egg, bacon and French toast for Sarah is the favourite so far.
We then continue on until we find a scenic spot for some lunch which we normally make up ourselves the night before. The final stop of the day is a grocery store to buy food for the evening. We try to do this as late in the day as possible to avoid carrying the extra weight but on a couple of occasions we have had to buy the evening before due to lack of services on the following days route. Steve has signed up for a Safeways card which seems to be the most common supermarket. He is totally impressed with his daily savings and it is going a small way to help compensate for the current poor exchange rate!
Finally it’s off to the campsite and setting up the tent. Steve has a run while Sarah showers and relaxes with her book. Then after Steve has a shower, we cook dinner together and settle down to a couple of hours in front of a roaring campfire.
Over the last year or so we have started using ear plugs and eye masks for sleeping, especially when camping. Sarah in particular finds this helps with a good nights sleep. Steve tends to sleep ok without them and puts his eye mask on around sunrise if he wakes up. We have a couple of little pockets inside the tent where we keep them. On one particular morning Steve was woken by the sound of the birds, so he reached for his ear plugs stuck them in and then, trying not to wake up too much, felt for his eye mask and went to put it on. For some reason he couldn’t find the right orientation of straps and eye covering, after several attempts he finally gave in, sat up opened his eyes fully and examined the mask, only to find it wasn’t a mask at all but Sarah’s clean pants she had put in the wrong pocket for the morning!!
As we travelled through Oregon we decided to stay a couple of nights at a campsite near a place called Florence. We spent the morning of our day off relaxing in a little cafè drinking coffee, eating bagels, charging electrical devices and catching up on correspondence. Then in the afternoon we went to explore the immense sand dunes for which the area is famous. These are huge dunes which people sand board down and drive across in ATV’s. The whole area was very impressive so we pitched up by a lake and sat in the sand, Sarah reading and Steve snoring. All in all a really chilled out day, just what we needed.
After Florence we continued South. Then the weather turned. We got up one morning to thick, dark, rain bearing clouds. We quickly packed away the tent, loaded our bikes and set off, as soon as we started pedalling it strated to rain. It rained and it rained and it rained. All day horrible heavy rain. We took refuge in a coffee shop in a small town where the young owner, Kenny was also a touring cyclist, he took pity on us and didn’t mind us taking up a table for two and half hours and drying out our clothes. He even stayed and chatted with us for about 30 minutes. Eventually we felt we should leave and went back into the rain. Sixty miles after starting we finally arrived at our campsite. Numerous times along the way we had discussed stopping early and getting a hotel room but we both agreed if we did that everytime things didn’t go according to plan it could become a very expensive trip! We have Airbnb’s planned along the way and some reasonably good places for our month trip by car, so we have plenty of “luxury” to look forward to.
Luckily it stoppped raining soon after we arrived, and after a couple of hours of cleaning bikes and gear, eating a hot meal and having a hot shower we were tucked up in our sleeping bags all warm and dry ready for the next day. Luckily the next day we had gorgeous unbroken blue skies again and probably the most scenic route so far. By the time we arrived out our Airbnb in Brookings the rain was forgotten about and the hot tub was well in use…yes hot tub!!
One final thing. On the evening after we had cycled all day in the rain, just before turning in for the night Steve went to clean his teeth, he put some toothpaste on his brush and began scrubbing, seconds later, he was spitting and swearing and running for water. “What’s wrong” asked a worried Sarah. “I’ll give you a tip” said Steve “don’t clean your teeth with mosquito bite cream”!!