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Biking The Oregon Coast   August 2009

Last February my friend, Paul Nicholson and I realized we both had milestone birthdays this summer. The actual numbers are far to large to write in this limited space . We decided  to celebrate our birthdays by riding bikes the length of the Oregon coast from Washington to California. We originally had 6 other riders lined up to join us but one by one they backed out.

On August 3 2009 we will begin at the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria Oregon and ride to the California border on US Highway 101. A distance of approx 388 miles. We intend to ride 50-60 miles per day. I will try and keep you updated daily of our progress.

Most of the roadway has  24 inch shoulders but some extended sections have none at all. There are also 2 narrow tunnels we must share with cars and trucks.  "Grandpa"in his RV, taking one last trip before his Glaucoma gets too bad to drive, is our greatest danger . 

This is the first extended bike trip for both of us so wish us luck. We are very excited. (about the ride not our birthdays)

Aug 3rd 2009  Oh What a day ! After a fitful night sleep we started  near the mouth of the Columbia River and headed south on Highway 101. Paul and I had trained hard for this ride  the last several months but until we hit mountains we had no idea if our training worked. Thankfully the first 20 miles were flat. After stopping for a break we headed into the mountains and oh  what mountains they were. Neahkahnie Mtn gave us 7 miles of uphill grade. We were surprised at how well we did  and I am proud to say we did not walk at all.

Right in the middle of the mountains we had to ride through a very narrow , very dark and uphill tunnel. Paul called it "The Tunnel of Death". It was no fun having log trucks go by us inside. It was the most stressful point of the day. Thankfully we only have one more  tunnel to deal with.  God Help us !!

At Cannon Beach we took another well deserved break. Then back to the mountains. I had an adrenaline rush and a tremendous sense of accomplishment reaching the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. Indiana has nothing like it.

After descending the mountains we had 24 flat miles to Tillamook Oregon where we are spending the night. Our first day was great ! We discovered our training paid off, our bikes worked fine ,we had no flat tires or crashes and we did not get run over. We rode 65 miles  through some pretty tough mountains. Nobody is more surprised than us.  It is 8:30 pm now and we are tired and headed to bed.

August 4th Day 2  I woke up expecting very sore muscles but felt just fine. I hated to leave a nice comfy bed but after a quick breakfast Paul and I hit the road . Luckily the first 15 miles were all flat and we made good speed of around 12-15 miles per hour.

The Oregon Coast Bike Route took us off  highway 101 and routed us to Pacific City . It was nice leaving the heavy traffic , having nice shoulders and none of the hills were bad.

After lunch we hit  the first big hills of the day. Several were 2-3 miles of up hill grade . I am proud again to say that  we rode every hill nonstop. Once we got to the crest we stopped for a quick look over the side before we hit the BIG hill of the day.


Before I go any farther let me tell you about my riding partner. Have you ever heard the story of the Princess and the Pea ?  Since the first hour we started this ride Paul has complained about his helmet not fitting right and how he was going to have a bald spot on his head at the end. Today he said something was poking him in the head and it felt like a nail. At our lunch  break he complained about having a ridge  pressed into his head. You would have thought it was a 2X4 in his helmet. I was getting pretty tired of hearing about it. He finally figured out a piece of plastic from the liner was the culprit. One snip of scissors  borrowed from our waiter and the problem was solved.  God only knows what he will complain about next. LOL

While taking a break before hitting the BIG mountain of the day we met a group of riders from California. They started in Canada  and were headed south. The oldest was 71 and the youngest was 60. They were great.  Richard was the oldest and is a biking machine. He told us they try to out frugal each other and have touring down to a cost of $15 per day.

Next came the BIG Kahuna hill of the day !  It was 6 miles of progressively steeper up hill climb !!! We have worked out a plan on attacking the hills. I ride slower than Paul  and lead to set the pace. Paul rides behind and suggests which gear to be in.  We talk each other through it until we hit the top.  Once again I am delighted to say that we made it over this monster hill without stopping.

Paul Here:
     Snacks are an important part of our breaks. I have been sharing my peanut M&Ms with Janet. Yesterday during a snack break at a KwikiMart Janet came out with some sort of energy bar that tasted like a vitamin pill wrapped in brown candle wax. Today we ran out of gum which is very important for keeping our mouths moist.  At our rest break Janet bought  WINTERGREEN gum !!!! Who the heck wants to chew Wintergreen gum ?? Janet has now lost snack buying privilages for the remainder of the ride.


Janet again

Let's just talk a little about the wind. Every guidebook we read about riding the Oregon Coast mentions that during the summer a strong wind blows from the north to the south helping to push riders along. That is why we started at the north end of the state and headed south. Well just our luck this summer is different. We have had a strong head wind the entire way !!  I am going to write a nasty letter to somebody when I figure out who is responsible for this wind. .

We are having a very enjoyable ride even with the wrong way wind. It is hard work at times but the people we run into are great , the scenery is very pretty and we continue to surprise ourslves in our hill climbing abilities. Today we rode 55 miles. We are tired but not exhausted. I can't wait to find out what adventure we have tomorrow.


August 5 day 3

     Before we get into todays ride let me clear up the gum issue.  Here is a picture of the package.  Now you tell me how I would know it was wintergreen?  It really was not that bad but to hear the Prince you would think it tasted like paint thinner.

We started from Lincoln City, it was a relativily easy day with no huge hills.  Today was the first day we saw the sun and the scenery was spectacular.  Rather than showing you more photos of us here are the views we had today.

I felt great all day but the last rest stop of the day my feet needed a breath of fresh air.

We ended the day in Yachats Oregon, a 50 mile ride.  After  doing much needed laundry and eating a supper of Smoked Salmon Fetticini we are headed to bed, Tomorrow we are back in the mountains.  OH JOY !!


Paul here again

       God bless the man who invented  Chamios Butt'r !!!!! Being discreet I can not tell you exactly where it is applied but I think you can figure it out.  Applied liberally in the morning it makes a whole world of difference.  Let me also add that there were no serious snack or gum malfunctions today.  All things are right in my world again.

August 6,  Day 4
     As much as I hate to admit this Paul made a really wise decision for us to hit the road an hour early as we had several large mountains to climb with very little (maybe 4-6 inches) for us to ride on.  We wanted to make the climb before the 1-800-rent-an-RV were up and running.  It did make a huge difference.  Besides the steep climbs we had to deal with "The Tunnel of Death Part II".  This tunnel was very narrow but well lit and short.


After the tunnel we begin to hear the barking of Sea Lions at Sea Lion Caves.  This is something you would completely miss driving by in a car.

The scenery once again was breathtaking!  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

At our lunch stop Paul discovered he lost his cell phone at the start of the day. He was not willing  to ride the 25 miles back to look for it. After a hot turkey sandwich and blackberry pie in Florence, OR we had 20 miles of mountains to get to our evening destination.  Along the way we hit the magic halfway point of our trip at mile marker 194.

We made it 50 miles to Reedsport just before the rain started.  It may be summer in your world but not on the Oregon Coast.  Our daily temperatures have never been above 65 and today never got above 55 degrees.  We sweat climbing the mountains but freeze coasting down.  Mexican food for dinner this evening and looking forward to a 55 mile ride tomorrow.  Believe it or not we are having a ball !!!!  The motel where we stayed last night found Paul's cell phone and is shipping it to his house.



August 7th - Day 5

        We awoke to 50 degrees and light rain but of course that won't keep Paul from riding. Luckily the rain only lasted an hour. My light rain coat kept me dry and warm. 

Today's route took us inland from the shoreline and was the least scenic of the ride so far. We did get a nice view of the lighthouse at the mouth of the Umpqua River. 

The highlight of the day was the Coos Bay bridge. It is very high ,very long and very narrow. Paul thought about riding across but with traffic being so heavy I told him there was no way I was riding across. Luckily the sidewalk was OK . It was a very long walk though. 

Over all it was our easiest day. After riding 52 miles for the day we stopped in Bandon Oregon and spent the night in a seedy Motel. There is nothing quite like hearing a knock next door at 2 AM and the words "Sheriff's Department". 




August 9, Day 6

We started by leaving Bandon at 8 am.  The day was suppose to be a 57 miler by finishing up in Gold Beach.  By 10:30 we had come 25 miles and stopped for lunch at Port Orford.  As we left our lunch stop we knew we had several mountains to climb but felt strong.

On previous days during our last hour of riding I was like the horse headed to the barn but today I could feel Paul chomping at the bit.  We had talked earlier in the day about finishing which would of meant a 92 mile day and with the mountains we had ahead of us and it being day 6 I thought it was a real outside chance.  When we descended what was supposed to have been the last mountain of the day it was time for a pow-wow.  It was only 2:00 and we had finished our 57 miles.  After the pow-wow the vote was 2-0 to go for the gusto and finish which meant another 42 miles.  My only request was a drink and a snack.  I had a vision of a glass of tea in a cushy booth but instead it was a bottle of Lipton Tea and a yeast doughnut in the grocery store parking lot.  We faced the largest mountain of the entire trip.  We climbed it like champs non-stop.  After making our final descent the adrenalin was pumping and you would have thought we were in the California gold rush.  We cranked off our final miles in blistering time as we could smell the California border.  Rounding the final curve and seeing the "Welcome to California" sign was the most unbelievable feeling.  I was overwhelmed with emotion and the tears of joy flowed for my goal was achieved!

My final thoughts

     I am thrilled to tell you I enjoyed every minute of  bicycling down the Oregon Coast and I'm sorry it's over.  When we were planning this adventure I had a wee small voice that kept planting seeds of doubt, not to mention the look of disbelief  on peoples faces when I would tell them we were going to ride 388 miles.  But we kept moving forward with our planning, training and believing.  There was one thing that disheartened me during this ride, we only saw 2 other gals bicycling the coast.  I would encourage you ladies to get on your bikes and ride.  

Cheers.....Janet Harding



My Final Thoughts-Paul

       This ride was neither easy or risk free. Nothing worthwhile in life ever is. Looking back in the years to come I will not bring up memories of the long flat stretches or the warm sunny day but rather of the hill climbs, the short ride in the rain and the chill of each morning . It is in overcoming hardships that give adventures like this a value. I enjoyed every moment of this ride.  So much so that I felt deep remorse in having it end.  Already I am planning  to ride it again in July 2010. 


Get Fit or Die-  Paul Nicholson