Oregon Coast

Astoria to Brookings

Posted by Gordon Dunlop on December 28, 2015

##A first Thanksgiving, crashing waves and ‘riding’ out a storm

Our first full day in Oregon began with a beautiful sunny morning and a ride through the rolling green hills south of Astoria. We were cutting across the north-west corner of Oregon towards the ingeniously named town of Seaside and our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. The adrenaline was pumping as we neared the coast and what was another great milestone on our trip. This was our first encounter with a body of water that will act as our travelling companion for a large part of the coming year, through the US, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador and Peru!

I’m not sure if it’s a product of having grown up on the coast in Scotland, the soothing sound of crashing waves, the thought of winding coastal rides down the length of the US coast or the promise of beautiful sunsets but, upon reaching the coast, I felt a rush of excitement. There was a great sense of achievement in having made the transition from the spectacular, rugged mountain terrain of Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia and Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula to a new landscape of vast, unadulterated ocean, stretching out to the horizon. Our arrival at Seaside marked the turning of a page on our journey.

In Seaside, we spent a night with a fantastic Warm Showers host, Neil. Neil seemed to have a revolving door of passing cyclists and surfers and he reckoned, during the past year, he’d had at most ten days where he had his house to himself. During a beach volleyball tournament the previous summer, he’d opened up his home to nineteen people in one night! After a rest morning in Seaside and a slap-up Thanksgiving lunch (comprising peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches in a supermarket carpark!) we headed south towards Manzanita, with a stop-off at the incredibly scenic, Canon Beach, where we had some fun in the sand and behaved like a couple of delirious kids at the seaside!

We had a few tough climbs between Canon Beach and Manzanita, although, we were constantly rewarded with spectacular views of the coastline. The toughest hill of the day was the last ascent before the town of Manzanita. As we caught our breath at the viewpoint at the summit, we didn’t even notice the group who had set up a table and were celebrating Thanksgiving. Within seconds, two sizeable cups of wine were thrust into our hands and we were invited over to feast on their crackers and cheese. As if this wasn’t enough, upon learning that our plans for Thanksgiving dinner amounted to dehydrated vegetables and pasta as we camped by the roadside, the group asked if we’d like to join them! We were both so speechless that I don’t think either of us actually answered their question, though, the looks on our faces must have spoken for us. We spent an amazing evening and had a great Thanksgiving dinner with the group of friends. It was a humbling act of generosity and really encapsulated the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Two other guests at the Thanksgiving dinner, Andrew and Erica, invited us to spend the next night with them in the village of Oceanside. This village was only 35 miles south of Manzanita and so it made for a short, though scenic, day on the road. Andrew is a fellow cycle tourist and it was he who had come across to us with the wine the previous day – knowing it’s exactly what we’d have needed after a tough climb! We spent a great night chatting with Andrew and Erica about their travels and Andrew’s cycle tour from New Jersey to Argentina. He had some fantastic stories and some great tips for the road.

Having sacrificed some mileage over the last few days, while we enjoyed Oregon’s fantastic hospitality, we certainly made up for it in the subsequent three days. Beautiful coastline and favourable weather made for excellent cycling as we passed the towns of Lincoln City and Florence. The road leading to Florence was a highlight as our route took us off the highway and onto a winding coastal trail along the cliffs. The views were breathtaking!

From Florence we reached the town of Bandon after conquering the infamous climbs on the Seven Devils Road. In Bandon we had another Warm Showers stay with Brian and Nicole and their two young children. It was great to arrive at a Warm Shower after such a long few days – the family were great company and we had fun with the kids! Brian was larger than life in every sense – a 6ft 8” basketball coach with a great sense of humour. He confessed that he wasn’t really interested in us but having so many warm showers guests coming to his home, from all over the world, was a great education for the kids. Apparently we just passed the selection criteria by virtue of my ‘exotic’ accent!

After clocking up 150 miles in two days, we decided on a nice easy 35 mile day from Bandon to Port Orford – or so we thought! After two weeks of November sunshine the weather was beginning to turn on us and a storm was brewing. We endured 20 miles of riding into severe head winds which were growing stronger by the minute. As we reached Port Orford and set about looking for a camp spot where our tent wouldn’t be blown away, I was aware of a presence at my back wheel. Alteira was an angel sent from heaven! She had snuck up on me on her skateboard and, with a cheery smile, asked if we needed somewhere to stay the night. We ended up staying with her friend John and his wife in a cabin in their garden and not a moment too soon as the storm hit with a vengeance. We had to ‘ride’ out the storm for two days as the coast was battered by 90mph winds. Port Orford was a great place to ride it out. They have a fantastic little community with a real cooperative spirit and we enjoyed some great hospitality, chat and food with Algeria and John, as well as some great music courtesy of the very talented Sean, the most laid back man in the world, and his equally talented friend, Matty.

After two fantastic days in Port Orford, the storm passed and we attacked the last 60 miles of the Oregon coast as we neared the state border with California. We’d been promised that this stretch was the best scenery on the Oregon coast and it didn’t disappoint. The remnants of the storm made for some huge waves battering the hundreds of rock formations which adorn the coast and made for a spectacular side show to our ride. As we struggled to resolve visa issues and stolen bikes only two weeks previously, the Oregon coast seemed a million miles away. To have now seen it in all its splendour and to have met so many more great people along the way, made it all worthwhile.