Thursday, June 13, 2013

Oregon Coast Bike Tour

I had never been to the Oregon coast, and never done any bicycle touring. I knew I wanted to do both, and liked the idea of not driving a car at all. My sweetie Max and I sat down a few weeks ago to devise a trip that we could do in five days of riding. We wanted to cover some ground but also not over-do our mileage since we were first-timers. Here's what we came up with!

DAY 1:
We put our bikes on the Metro bus to get downtown, then caught an early train from Seattle to Kelso/Longview in southern Washington. It was an unusually hot and sunny day for early June. We headed west on Highway 4 which runs along the north bank of the Columbia River. Behind us much of the time was a stunning view of Mount Saint Helens.
At the town of Cathlamet we turned south and crossed a bridge onto Puget Island. From there we took a little ferry (carrying 3 cars) across the big river onto the Oregon side.
At that point it was nearly 5pm, and we had been up since 5am and already ridden about 30 miles. We still had 30 miles to go, and they were going to be hilly with a headwind. But we really wanted to make it to Astoria the first night, so we pushed on, and rolled into town by 8pm. I was so exhausted I was ready to just go to bed without even eating dinner. It literally sounded like too much work to move a fork between a plate and my mouth. Luckily the Fort George brewpub was just a couple doors down, so we got some food and a delicious Spruce Bud ale.

DAY 2:

I slept in a little, focused on hydrating, slathered on some aloe, and the morning started looking up. We had not been diligent about sunscreen and got pretty burned the day before, so we were actually happy about the overcast weather. We walked around town, saw some historic sites, and drank some Stumptown coffee.

(Our bikes with Astoria bridge behind)

We headed south and west from Astoria on Highway 101. I have to say that even though signs started marking the "Oregon Coast Scenic Route", the ride was not that impressive between Astoria and Seaside. After a late lunch we rolled into a misty Cannon Beach and my bike met the ocean for the first time.

After Cannon Beach, the road got pretty spectacular. More sea stack rocks, and the highway curving right along the water. There was a narrow cave tunnel with a button to push to warn cars of cyclists. We rode on a bit farther that evening before setting up camp here.
 DAY 3:

We got an early start and decided we would stop and make coffee and breakfast at the next good view point. It wasn't long before we climbed up to this in Oswald West State Park.
The scenery was getting even more striking, and the weather had gone back to sunny.
We passed through some cute small towns and crossed beautiful rivers,
and really cool river estuaries.
We stopped at a Manhattan beach for a picnic lunch, quiet in terms of people but roaring loud waves.

As the highway went inland and we got into cow country, we had to make the requisite stop at the Tillamook cheese factory. I've wanted to go there ever since high school when I heard you could visit. We read a bike blog where the rider was not impressed with his visit, and my sister and niece also said they were disappointed when they went over spring break. But I thought it was an interesting, worthwhile stop. Then again, after riding in the hot sun since 7am, I probably would have loved anywhere where I could fill my water bottles, charge my cell phone, use the bathroom, eat local ice cream and get cheese samples.

There is a Three Capes Scenic Route which is a detour off the 101, but the road was closed. We ended up doing a small detour through Netarts and riding this lovely coastal road in the early evening.
We got to Cape Lookout which has a State Park with car camping, but they also do hiker/biker-only designated sites. We picked up some firewood and a six-pack and rode to our site with the essentials.

Our site was in the woods, but right off the ocean. It was a beautiful place, plus a neat way to meet other bike tourists. It sort of felt like an outdoor hostel for cyclists. People wandered by each other's camps to ask about the trip they were doing. We met two young women who had just flown in from the east coast to do a two-week trip to San Francisco. We met a retired man who was just beginning the TransAmerica route.

DAY 4:

We awoke to another sunny day. We made breakfast and coffee and fared the San Fran riders well before heading out. Within a mile, we started the biggest hill climb of the trip, about 830 feet in a mile and a half. We stopped part way up to catch our brea--, er, take a picture.
We rolled into Pacific City in early afternoon, and when we saw the Pelican Pub we knew had found our lunch spot with patio right on the beach.

We were feeling okay in terms of energy, but both with sore muscles, so we decided to take it a little easier today. We got into camp early and had plenty of time to stretch, write in journals, and make dinner.

DAY 5:

It was time to head away from the coast and back east. We had a really nice ride down through the Siuslaw National Forest over the coastal range. We were still lucking out with the warm and sunny weather.

The hills turned into the flat pastoral landscape of the Willamette Valley, with puffy clouds and a clear view of Mount Jefferson.
We got to Salem that evening after about 60 miles of riding. We were pretty happy to take showers, eat dinner, and have one last celebratory local Oregon microbrew before calling it a day.

DAY 6:

The next morning we caught the train home, changing once in Portland. It was a really fabulous trip with a nice mix of activity and downtime to soak in the scenery. While on the train, I was already thinking about what bike tour I might want to do next. But for now I'm going to enjoy being back in Seattle, and let my quadriceps take a little break.


ElizaBeth said...

Every time I think you couldn't possibly impress me more... you somehow manage to. I can't believe you'd never been to the Oregon coast before! And for the Tillamook naysayers... are they crazy?? I LOVE watching them make the cheese and then eating squeaky cheese curds and getting a big scoop of ice cream. Glad your first bike trip was a success.

Becca Dean said...

Awesome pics and an insanely inspiring trip! You rock woman! You rock!

AmberAnda said...

Eli- I know, it's weird I managed to miss all high school and college camping trips down to the coast. Glad to hear a vote for Tillamook! It made for a well-timed break for us on that hot day. Becca- thanks for your comment and thanks so much for reading! :)