Day 15: Port Orford to Brookings

Port Orford provided us with free camping (on a cliff, where we precariously pitched our tent). After a few stares from strangers, we were finally warned that the morning wind would blow us away. Apparently the wind was so strong it had knocked over an RV (although I’m not sure if I believe that). We slept there anyways, but I decided to pack up super early to beat the wind and grab a coffee. My phone hadn’t been charged in days, and I wanted to relax and catch up with the world.

On the way to the cafe I met a transplant from Minnesota that now lives in Port Orford, and we had breakfast together. He caught me up on the Port Orford insider scoop: the “land grab”, the diverse underground music scene, and the battle against vacation homes.

I was particularly interested in the “land grab” because I had been seeing signs for it since northern Washington. After speaking with people in Washington, the turnover of land seemed favorable to land conservation and preservation. However, my Port Orford informant also told me that a lot of land was being seized for development or pipeline construction.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

After having a long chat over breakfast, we exchanged emails (because he didn’t have a phone), and I headed towards Brookings. My two main stops for the day would be Gold Beach and Samuel H. Boardman State Park. I enjoyed the ride to Gold Beach and, once again, saw hikers on the 101. I quickly realized that Gold Beach was a bit dodgy, with a lot of wanderers and people that were way too interested in my cycling gear. After a brief stop I continued south and hoped to meet up with Ruth and Rob again eventually.

I spent a large chunk of the day at Samuel H. Boardman State Park, which has the most beautiful coastal scenery in all of Oregon and is bike accessible. I did a couple of hikes, only to realize how sore my muscles were.

When I got to Brookings my body was pretty much collapsing from heat exhaustion, so I grabbed a motel room to recover.

Day 14: Winchester Bay to Port Orford

The day started late, and we had a ton of miles ahead of us. The most important thing I learned was that Google Maps and predicted elevation will lead you astray. They must average the elevation, because Google Maps had been messing up the estimated elevation the entire trip. Today it wasn’t even remotely close to giving us a somewhat true estimate. I found that the reading became slightly more accurate when I changed my preferences to kilometers, and that was confounding.

I sped ahead of Ruth and Rob so that I could get to Coos Bay with time to spare. I was eager to eat at the Kurt Vonnegut themed “So it goes” cafe. I should’ve known Coos Bay was going to be bad when I was forced to take the narrowest sidewalk I’d ever seen over a heavily trafficked bridge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one crossing, and I was hassled by homeless men. There was no way around them, so I had to act confident and hope that they weren’t going to haggle me. It was on this bridge that I also realized there are a lot of backpackers hiking the 101. I still don’t understand this. Why hike on a highway when you could be backpacking the PCT?

I was pretty shaken up after my encounters on the bridge, and it didn’t end there. I was constantly dodging wanderers/homeless men in the rough downtown area of Coos Bay. It reminded me of our time in Aberdeen. I hid out at the “So it goes” cafe until Ruth and Rob met me there. I’ll repeat the advice I received but didn’t follow: “Stay out of Coos Bay, or get through it quickly.”

When we finally got to Port Orford we found free camping on a cliff overlooking the ocean, but the wind was heavy. It was a pain setting up and we went to bed immediately after sunset. I was so stressed the entire day that I didn’t even stop to take pictures.

Day 13: Newport to Winchester Bay (Oregon RV Park)

I left Dani and Vinnie early and caught up with Ruth and Rob after grabbing a coffee. I was solo most of the day, but the views were spectacular. There were some big climbs with no shoulder, but I was able to stop in small, scenic towns to relieve the anxiety. I remember doing one h-u-m-o-n-g-o-u-s climb followed by a MASSIVE downhill that overlooked dunes and miles of coastline.

I tried to stop at the Seal Rock lookout, but the line was out of control. Instead, I cycled down from there and enjoyed the hill until I stopped at a cafe for chicken and waffles. Ruth and Rob met me at the cafe and were amazed and amused when they tried chicken and waffles for the first time. I guess they don’t have that in Europe! With full bellies, we put headphones in and powered through to Winchester Bay to find a proper campsite.

Day 12: Pacific City to Newport (Thousand Trails)

There were another couple of big climbs from Pacific City to Newport, mostly passing through dunes and lookout points. We stopped to pick blackberries on the side of the road- our healthy snack.

I kept chaffing and rubbing Vaseline all over my body—we had to constantly stop to do that because of the heat. We left Michael in Depot Bay with his friend and kept going until Ruth and Rob left me in Newport with Vinnie and Dani, the American couple we met at Cannon Beach. They had forgotten their charger back in Cannon Beach, and I had promised I would deliver it to them.

Vinnie and Dani bought me dinner to say thanks, and we stayed at a Thousand Trails campsite after climbing some killer hills right after dinner. It was all worth it because we were able to make a fire, share stories, and have a heart to heart.

Day 11: Cannon Beach to Pacific City

Today I left Cannon Beach alone, but quickly caught up with Michael, Ruth, and Rob for a delicious lunch at Oyster Shack (the fried oysters did not disappoint). After, we headed to the Tillamook cheese factory. “What is Tillamook cheese?”, you may ask. Tillamook cheese is the brand that monopolizes every Safeway, gas station, and roadside stop and shop in Oregon. It is more fondly known to us as the only brand of cheese we could afford.

Unfortunately, the hour long line at the factory scared us away, so we skipped it and used the extra time to cycle to Cape Lookout. Up until our trek to Cape Lookout, it had been easy sailing through flat coastal towns. We expected the entire day to be relatively flat, so we were disillusioned when we saw the climb to Cape Lookout. We all put our headphones in and braved it, stopping at outlook points for pictures and breaks. It really wouldn’t have been that bad if it weren’t for the suffocating heat.

The downhill was steep and awarded us a nice coastal view, spitting us out into dunes. There was so much diversity in the landscape and we were in awe. After we passed through the dunes, we ended in farmland, where we climbed one more hill until our arrival at Pacific City. Upon arrival, we quickly learned that there was nowhere to stay in Pacific City. We even tried the county parks, but they turned us away.

Also, they were a literal breeding ground for domesticated rabbits. Can someone explain this to me?? Please?? I mean to say that there was actual, purposeful breeding of domesticated rabbits that were then allowed to roam the county parks. Welcome to Oregon, I guess?

We gave up and ended up sleeping near a boat launch behind public bathrooms. To close out the day, we had a “Pacific Coast Party” (the name of our cycling group) with our favorite drink local to Oregon, Great White Beer.

Days 9&10: A break in Cannon Beach!

We decided to stay at Wright’s for Camping in a hiker/biker spot at Cannon Beach to wait out the bad weather. I met Danni and Vinnie (Instagram @pairedexperiences)- a recently married couple on their journey to wine country. After being furloughed from their professional jobs in food service and entertainment, they decided to bike the Pacific Coast Highway. They’re an awesome couple and I hope I can find a partner who wants to adventure with me like that someday.

While Ruth and Rob were taking a much needed rest, my friend Amanda came to visit me from Portland!

Me (left), Amanda (right)

We explored Cannon Beach which, if you didn’t already know, is a pretty touristy place. Amanda had her car, so we drove to some scenic outlooks that I wouldn’t have been able to see by bike.

It was pretty rainy, so we ended up just hanging out at camp with the other cyclists. However, we didn’t miss seeing Haystack Rock! We woke up early and got there at low/minus tide so we could see all of the intertidal critters.

Day 8: Artic RV Park to Astoria

Arriving in Astoria!

I LOVED THIS DAY. We passed through so many lovely small coastal towns and even had access to a paved bike path for part of the way. The view changes from forest to estuary/ocean with the rolling hills, and the shoulder is wide with controlled traffic so you can actually enjoy the view. It’s cold and hilly in the forest, but the coast welcomes you with a nice breeze and warm sun.

It was an enjoyable ride, and we even got a lift for some of it (5 miles?) by construction workers because of construction on the 101. My food highlight for the day was stopping at a coffee stand and getting a bagel and a hot coffee to warm up. (I’d been looking for a bagel for so many days, but I guess bagels aren’t a breakfast staple in the PNW).

I really regretted mailing home all of my warm weather gear in Sequim (gloves, hat, and coat) but it warmed up on the coast quickly. We hitched a ride over the Astoria bridge (I had never planned on biking it in the first place, but our European friends did) and grabbed ice cream in Astoria. I said goodbye to my friend from Sequim because her adventure ended in Astoria, and I headed onwards to Cannon Beach where I met up with Ruth and Rob.

Day 7: Lake Quinault to Artic RV Park

Today was especially brutal for the heat, hills, and sore legs. The view wasn’t spectacular but rather foggy with lots of traffic and logging trucks. I was constantly cold, then extremely hot, then cold. I got a coffee to warm my hands up once we made it out of the forest and into a town.

The biggest highlight of the day was when we stopped in Aberdeen and had a pizza and then strapped the leftovers to the back of the bike. Aberdeen was rough and we tried to avoid the highway by following Google Maps which ultimately just led us through a neighborhood of drug houses so… don’t follow Google Maps! Aberdeen is rough and this is especially daunting on a bike; you’re vulnerable to everything around you.

We booked it out of there and finally arrived at Arctic RV Park after a big hill with little shoulder where drivers were unnecessarily aggressive. We shared a camping space with our European friends and got an ice cream (sundae and root beer float) to end the day on a sweeter note. Although today’s ride was a bit tougher, I enjoyed every little town we passed through, especially Hoquiam.

Day 6: Forks to Lake Quinault

Olympic National Park

We slept in and finally left around 9 am. Apart from a brief jaunt through Olympic National Park, the day’s ride was mostly down the rural 101 through depressed logging areas and towns. We passed through a bunch of First Nations reservations, and it was eye opening to see the dilapidated infrastructure of the reservation’s schools and public buildings. I was worried that we may have problems because of the rural poverty and remoteness in western Washington, but everything was fine.

Some areas along the highway were extra hot because of deforestation (no shade to hide in). Today, I finally developed “tunnel vision” and stopped focusing on the traffic around me. I’ve become accustomed to riding in traffic and it’s now pretty normal, aside from the constant fear of logging trucks.

After a quiet day, we finally made it to Lake Quinault and struggled to find camping until a British man approached us and invited us to stay with him and his girlfriend. We all ended up staying in a first come first serve campground near Lake Quinault Lodge. We spent a little extra at a small convenience store, where we rewarded ourselves with beer and ice cream.

Ruth (far left), Rob, and Beth Ann (center)

After we settled in, we hung out with the couple (Rob and Ruth). They were also cyclists and had started their trip in Los Angeles, where they proceeded to cycle up the western states through Montana, and back down the pacific coast. They arrived in the US right before the COVID-19 closures and decided to stay and cycle for 6 months in lieu of returning to Europe.

Stunning, Reflective Lake Quinault

Day 5: Sequim to Forks (Surprise Century Ride Day)

We woke up well rested in Beth Ann’s A-frame camper around 6 a.m. and headed out on the Olympic Discovery Trail (which passes through her backyard!). I struggled to keep my tent from falling off of my rear rack, and began to regret bungee cording everything on instead of investing in proper touring gear.

Our first stop was in Port Angeles — did you know if something happenes to DC, the capital moves to Port Angeles? (I didn’t know it either). We exited the ODT in Port Angeles, and headed west on the 101. There were some big uphills, but they were all very manageable apart from my tent flying off of my bike every 5 miles.

We climbed up the 101 until we stopped at a nice ice cream /coffee place just before Lake Crescent. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it stands out so you won’t miss it. (Hint: look for the emu farm.)

We finally made it to the Lake Crescent entrance, where we were forced to take the 101 all the way around the lake because the ODT was closed for construction. It was a breathtaking view, yet a horrifying stretch. We ended up doing sprint intervals to be able to make it to the pullouts and dodge the RVs. We celebrating surviving this section by taking a swim in the lake.

Lake Crescent

*Important to note that we went on a Sunday when logging trucks aren’t so active (this would’ve been a COMPLETE nightmare otherwise).*

After we felt sufficiently refreshed, we scaled a steep hill coming out of Lake Crescent until we rejoined the ODT and took it all the way to Forks. Beware- the trail includes rural and unused side roads, not a soul in sight. Make sure you bring everything you need (water) with you. Western Washington also has some interesting characters, so don’t be too trusting of everyone you meet. Gun activity (hunting?) seemed to be common even in broad daylight so make sure you’re visible and stay on the trail!

Upon arrival in Forks, we ate amazing Mexican food and then tried to camp in an old logging road. We saw some suspicious activity and got spooked by some bumps in the night, so we ended up getting a motel room. In the end, it was a good decision because apparently we had almost camped in a pretty rough area of town.

After reflecting on the day, we realized we had ridden 100 miles. (We got lost on the ODT because of the closures further north, and this added a TON of miles to our trip.) We basically were on the bike for 11+ hours (with breaks).