Friday, August 28, 2009

Lincoln City, OR to Crescent City, CA- Two States Down!

After surviving frigid fog, 4 punctured tubes, 7 Devils, wicked climbs, aching quads, and one oblivious camper, we've made it to California! We've experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the trip in the last 5 days but both agree the highs outweigh the lows. We're finishing up a much needed rest day here in Crescent City and after much running around, we finally have time to get ya updated:

8/23/09- Lincoln City, OR to Newport, OR- 32.4 miles, 3 hours, 13 min on the bikes

The night of the 22nd we hit up Aunt Mary's again, visited a cool bookstore (again no Born to Run but we did pick up some cool gifts), and got a tasty pizza on the way home. The morning after our rest day we chomped on some Amy's burritos whilst watching some more Australia's Next Top Model (don't judge mates!). Arik brought the bikes downstairs to check out and quickly realized one of the tires had gone completely flat. It was the same problem we've been having with the tubes all trip: our mini pump requires such vigorous pumping to get any air into the tires that the valve shakes around and ultimately shears at the bottom, leaving a tiny hole and an empty tube that can't be patched. While Arik tended to the tube, I rode off to the post office in hopes of mailing the gifts and some heavy stuff we weren't using back home. Alas I didn't remember until I was in the parking lot that there's no post on Sundays! I sheepishly rode back to Arik and we set off.

The sun was out and the glorious coast was on display. Waves crashed on rocks and the water was a beautiful shade of blue.

Dora, Koonta & Mia

Sweet coast

We rolled into Newport around 4:30 just as it was starting to get chilly. We ate at a place called Savory Cafe in the Nye Beach part of Newport but weren't too impressed. I had a ginormous burrito which definitely filled me up but wasn't super tasty. Then again I'm comparing it to the stupendous Ate Layer Burrito at Spiral Diner, so I guess my burrito bar is pretty high. We stopped by a bike shop and picked up more tubes and replenished our Clif Shot Blok supply (try these- they rock!) then tried 2 bookstores which were unfortunately both closed.

We rode out of Newport via a huge, pretty bridge. We had to walk the bikes b/c of traffic and it was a slow trek. A cold wind roared as we plodded along. Shortly afterward we got to South Beach State Park. It was the least outdoorsy of the state parks we've stayed in- it had a welcome center with coffee and popcorn and yurt meeting halls, but it was just really pleasant. We were the only hiker/bikers there and we went to sleep early- around 7:30.

South Beach State Park

8/24/09- Newport, OR to Florence, OR- 51.86 miles, 4 hours, 25 min on the bikes

Most of the 24th was incredible but it ended on a bit of a sour note. We started by going up and down a ton of hills. Rode past Seal Rock, OR but didn't spy any seals, then stopped in Waldport to run some errands. Finally got to ship our stuff at the post office, got a coke at a co-op, then picked up some essentials at a grocery store (fritos, oreos, and oatmeal- the stuff champions are made of). After Waldport it was straight up awesome coastline most of the way to Florence. Just really incredible.

We did huge climbs and descents that made our eyes tear and our hearts race. A little south of Yachats we heard a ton of barking, pulled over, and peered over a cliff where we spied a huge group of sea lions! They were stinky and loud and hilarious- just trundling along on the rocks and enjoying what looked like a rockin' party. Check them out:

Post-sea lion partay we apprehensively rolled up to a tunnel. Tunnels usually suck to ride through. Oregon is cool b/c there's a little button you can push before you ride into the tunnels that sets off lights alerting cars that bikers are riding through, but you still are faced with riding down a narrow two lane road without a shoulder while impatient drivers tailgate you or try to squeeze by. This time ended up being pleasant b/c a truck came up slowly behind us, turned on his hazards, and escorted us through- thank you kind sir!

A short while later we realized we'd traveled 650 miles- making us 1/3 of the way through our tour! We had no idea- I thought we'd done around 400 miles max. We were both pretty shocked and stopped to toast ourselves and our bikes with some oreos. No matter what happens from here on out, I am very proud of us.

In Florence, we stopped at one of our favorite gourmet dining establishments:

After Florence we rode through some tree-spotted dunes, then got into Honeyman State Park. It had easily the sweetest hiker/biker setup of all the Oregon state parks we'd stayed in- beautiful trees, semi-private sites- a lot more like the Washington sites but with free hot showers (Washington charges 50 cents for a 3 minute hot shower). There were only 2 other bikers at the site- both sharing one site, so it was pretty chill. We headed off for our showers, which were glorious- tons of hot water, and I even scored a left behind bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap- what luck...or so we thought. We merrily skipped back to our campsite, energized by our shower, happily unaware of the stress that awaited us back at the tent.

When we got there, a girl was tying her bike to a tree a foot away from our tent. We thought it was strange, but both Arik and I are non-confrontational to a fault so we just said hello. We chatted for a bit, and during the conversation she untied her bike from the tree and proceeded to tie it to our picnic bench. Hmm. Still, Arik and I didn't say anything. Then she unfurled her tent, and though there were 4 unused and nicely private sites around, she set up 2 feet from our our site. We were both confused and a little upset but STILL we said nothing. Content to let it slide, we got in the tent and fell asleep- happy to have turned in early so we'd be able to get a good start the next day.

Unfortunately we were woken up at several points by her conversations- she'd decided to make our bench the hang out spot for some of the other bikers who rolled in. I put in my earplugs, but was awakened around 10 by the crashing and banging of what sounded like 16 pots and pans. Even better, a bright light shone directly into our tent intermittently- the kind produced by a headlamp. I'd finally been pushed to the edge. After an internal debate during which I asked myself what my 2 flippest high school friends (Raffi and Michael) would do, I got dressed, steeled myself, and got out of the tent.

The girl was indeed packing up pots and pans that were strewn all over the table. She had a bright headlamp on and was oblivious to my presence. I explained that though we didn't mind if she used our table, the sun had been down for an hour and a half, we'd been trying to sleep for the past 2 hours, and she was making too much noise. All she said was "Oh." Just a surprised and totally clueless "Oh." I made a grand exit by stomping off to the restrooms, going over all the cool things I wished I'd said. I got to the restroom fueled by anger and frustration, but when I turned to head back I'd cooled off and fear set in. It was pitch dark and I had to find a dirt path that went through the woods and to our site. I had a flashlight and some mace but I was terrified. I got lost once and then ran all the way to the tent. A really infuriating evening after a really wonderful day.

A note here about the whole clueless girl (who I've named Elma, in honor of the city that so tormented us) thing : I know there was a context that I wasn't totally appreciating. The girl was a solo tourer. She may have been scared, she may have been starved for human company, she may have been trying to create an awkward situation just so she'd be able to talk to someone. She may even have grown up in a culture where personal space doesn't exist. Arik knew a woman in art school who sat way too close to him and who, after some awkwardness, explained that she'd lived in a community where everything belonged to everyone so she had trouble with personal boundaries. I get all that. The problem was just the lack of consideration- if she'd said hey can I use your bench or hey can I set up here I'm lonely, or anything like that, we at least could have talked it out and figured out a comfortable solution. The big lesson the whole thing taught both of us was that we really need to nip stuff like that in the bud. If right from the get-go we'd just said hey there, what's going on, we would've had a bit of awkwardness but nothing like what happened when we let everything escalate. argh.

8/25/09- Florence, OR to Bandon, OR- 70.2 miles, 6 hours, 31 mins on the bikes

Despite our encounter the night before, ol' Elma woke us up the next morning with more banging of pots and pans at our table. I wasn't in the mood for another confrontation, so I just put in my earplugs and stuck my fingers in my ears. Like goofy fraidy cats, we waited until she left to get moving, robbing us of the early start we'd hoped for. We had a scrumptious breakfast of oatmeal, oreos, and fritos, then headed out. It was cloudy and wet but at least wasn't rainy. Somewhat hilariously, we saw ol' Elma a number of times throughout the day. She stopped each time to chat, making no reference at all to the night before.

We crossed another long, harrowing bridge, then stopped at Taco Bell again for some dinner. We chatted with a TBell employee on his smoke break while we ate outside on a bench. He was a young guy dealing with the heartache that usually comes with more advanced age: his dad had died a week before and his mom had suffered a stroke and was in a nursing home. He asked us lots of questions about our tour and said he'd always wanted to do one but didn't have anyone to go with. I hope he finds someone.

One of many big, windy bridges

Bridge up close

This next little nugget confirms that when it comes to Toy Story characters we are more Rex the dinosaur then Woody the hero. Earlier that morning, whilst Elma was banging about, Arik overheard her say she was planning to ride to the state park we'd intended to stay in that night. Intent on avoiding the awkwardness such close quarters would bring, we elected to ride on to the next state park- more than 70 miles away. Ambitious? Yes. Pathetic? Arguably. Still, we'd made our decision and soldiered on. It wasn't until we turned onto "Seven Devils Road" that we realized our decision meant we'd be climbing the 7 devils we'd been warned of earlier, and that we'd be doing it at the end of our ride- hooray! Fortunately for us, the 7 devils ended up being more like 7 little coconuts- kinda tough to crack but oh so tasty! They were tough, but totally manageable, and the views as we climbed and descended were stunning.

At the top of the last Devil, with Arik's sabre of course

We rolled into a packed hiker/biker camp at Bullard's Beach State Park and had to share a table with some other campers (yes we realize this is wonderfully ironic, but in fairness, we were invited to share and requested input re: where was best to set up :) ) The guys who offered the table were cool- 2 bros named Nels and Jacob who'd taken the train up from San Luis Obispo to Eugene, OR and now were riding back down. We are toying with the idea of taking the same train from San Diego back up to Seattle once we're done with the ride. It would be cheap, wouldn't take long, would let us check out Portland, and would let us see the coast from a totally new perspective. We shall see what the future holds though- we do miss our fams and our pup!

We cooked some ramen while the brothers ate and were soon joined by a cool guy named Tom and his female companion (can't remember her name- doh). He's a fun, goofy, bearded fellow doing graduate work in math at UC-Davis. He rode by when we were checking into the park and shouted out "Bula bula!" He brought over blueberries and a beer and we had fun chatting with everyone in the dark. The sunset took all the heat out of the day, leaving us shivering. Arik and I walked to the bathroom and looked up at the night sky, taken aback by the number of stars twinkling in the night. I spotted a satellite and remembered laying on the deck of a beachhouse we rented in Surfside Beach, TX when I was little, looking up at the stars with my dad and my sisters as he pointed out satellites and we all searched for shooting stars.

8/26/09- Bandon, OR to Gold Beach, OR- 57.35 miles, 5 hours, 39 mins on the bikes

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning- it was actually kinda hot in the tent. We bade farewell to our comrades and got a good start. Despite the pleasant beginning, the first half of the day was hellish. We started out riding through farmlands on a super windy road. It felt like we were slogging through quicksand. About an hour in, Arik's tire hissed and went flat. He'd ridden over a glass shard and gotten his first non-pump related flat. Hooray. No worries though- we pulled over to the side of the highway, got out our patch kit and the "How to fix a flat tire" printout I'd brought along, and Arik tackled the task. He got the tube all patched up and was in the midst of inflating it when he remembered the ring we're supposed to put around the valve to make it not shake around as much. He said "let's make sure I don't have to do this again," put on the ring, and continued pumping. Not 5 seconds later, we heard another hiss. Yup- the valve stem had sheared. We'd need a new tube.

Annoyed but determined, Arik went through it all again- taking out the tube, putting in a new one, and setting to the arduous task of pumping up the tube with our mini-pump. He had it all the way inflated (this takes about 15 minutes b/c the pump is so small) when- you guessed it- another hiss, another sheared valve, and another tube to waste. We'd been sitting on the side of the road for more than an hour, with cars roaring past at freeway speed blowing dust and dirt in our faces. And he had to do it all again. We were down to our last tube so he went super slow with the pump. He got it aired up ok and finally, after an hour and a half delay, we packed our bikes up and were about to head off. All of a sudden we heard a deep, gospel voice sing "Well I've seen some weary travelers in my day- oh yeah." We looked up and saw bearded Tom riding by. He pulled over to make sure we were ok and his companion said "may this be the last flat of your trip." Indeed! They brought a smile to our haggard faces and we headed off with slightly better spirits.

But the day wasn't done with us yet. Not 20 minutes later, cold, scary fog rolled in like death. There was hardly any visibility and it was freezing. Then, inexplicably, we saw half blue sky overhead and half fog. Soon the fog cleared and revealed the most glorious coastline either of us has ever seen. Tom rode by again, this time shouting something about hot tubs- he's a fun, crazy guy. We stopped every few feet to wonder at the view and take pix. At one point there was a rock rising out of the fog- the kind of thing you'd see in a movie but never in real life. None of it felt real.

Crappy Day Starts Lookin' Up

Blue skies and fog

Weary Mia


The fog monster

Arik the Conqueror

Arik couldn't quite beat the self-timer

I decided to trust in the day and took off my long sleeves and windbreaker, hoping the sun would stick around. It didn't oblige, content instead to hide out behind a new batch of scary fog. Arik took a cool picture of me riding through the cold mist:

The next stretch was just surreal. Everything was gray, foggy, and otherworldy. I'd finished reading The Alchemist two days prior, and the story places a huge emphasis on omens. I was therefore understandably unsettled when a pickup drove past us with a huge "Murphy's Law" sticker plastered on its windshield. This was particularly foreboding considering we had no tubes, we were riding through the fog, and we weren't certain the town we were intending to stay in had a hotel.

Fortunately we made it to Gold Beach and as we crossed one last fog covered bridge into town, a glorious neon "Motel 6" sign rose from the mist. We asked the guy at the front desk about nearby pizza and he gave us a brochure for Panther Den Pizza. We were expecting to just get our usual cheeseless pizza but were stoked to see they had fake cheese- what an unexpected surprise! We ordered one with artichokes, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, along with some tater tots and holy moley was it an incredible feast. The pizza was huge and was the best vegan pizza either of us has had. We picked up some cokes from the hotel vending machine, got our laundry done, and watched some tv shows on the laptop. With full belllies and memories of our heaven n hell day, we drifted off to sleep.

Ending the day on a nice freaky bridge

The view from the bridge- glad we weren't down there!

8/27/09- Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA- 57 miles, 5 hours, 40 mins on the bikes

We started the day off with the second highest hill we'd climb in Oregon. The front desk guy had freaked us out a bit about it, saying he'd never made it up and that a restaurant down the road actually gave out bowls of Wheaties just for bikers trying to tackle it. It was tough, but not as tough as we'd imagined, and after about an hour of climbing we were racing down the descent. Still, the climb and the preceding string of longish days started to take a toll. Our muscles were aching, my knees starting hurting, and we just generally felt really sluggish.

One of our last stretches on the Oregon Coast Bike Route

We perked up about 5 miles north of Brookings when we spotted an awesome coastline and a beach called Lone Ranch Beach. When we realized people were down walking the beach, we turned around, rode down to the parking lot, and joined them. I touched the Pacific for the first time and we were wowed by the view.

Lone Ranch Beach

Lone Ranch Beach

Arik and Mia at Lone Ranch Beach

Our route took us off Highway 101 and into some farmlands, which were beautiful but really hilly. Each stroke of my legs as I climbed the hills made my knees ache, and when we looked down to 101 and realized it was just 2 lanes with a nice wide shoulder, we deviated from the route and took 101. Soon, we crossed into California- sweetness! We can't believe we've made it through 2 states just using our old trusty legs. Pretty cool indeed.

We took 101 all the way into Crescent City. As we neared the town, redwood trees started to line the street. They were awesome, even though the first one Arik saw was actually a dead stump- doh! It was an impressive stump though! The miles passed so slowly because of our tired muscles- Crescent City couldn't come soon enough. We found a motel with internet, but their amenities are arranged a bit haphazardly: because we wanted a room with internet access, we couldn't have a fridge/microwave and would have to have 2 beds instead of one. We had also been looking forward to a nice hot bath but it only has a shower. So it goes.

We got settled in at the hotel, then went in search of some eats- we were starving. Crescent City is a strange town- a lot of the businesses we'd looked up on the internet had closed down and bums trundled down the sidewalks while skateboarding teens rolled through abandoned parking lots. Fortunately, China Hut was open and we got a ton of food from the delightful woman working there. It wasn't the tastiest but it did the job. We were still hungry though, so we walked to Burger King and got some fries and apple pies, which we munched on whilst sense hiding it- Australia's Next Top Model.

We had a nice chat with our pal Jeff, who's finalizing plans to come meet us in San Francisco and bike with us to San Luis Obispo. We are supa stoked about that and happy to see him and Kate.

8/28/09- Rest Day- hooray!

Today we had a much-needed but all too short rest day. We had some fruit loops in the hotel lobby, then took our bikes to get tuned up. The bike shop we'd scoped out had closed down, so we went to one a local guy directed us to. Back Country Bicycle ended up being a great find. Even though they're closed over the weekend, the guy there fit us in. He also had a great pump that turns into a mini-floor pump- should make Arik's life a lot easier. And we got tubes galore. We walked back after leaving our bikes and headed out to run more errands. First to the bookstore- still no Born to Run (I'm starting to think I saw it in a dream), but we picked up Lost World for Arik, which he started reading at the bed and breakfast in Cathlamet, and Things Fall Apart for me. We also got The Hobbit for both of us. They should tide us over until we finally find that shifty book.

Then had some great Thai food at Thai House. We went in with low expectations and were pleasantly surprised by the tastiness. We had fried tofu and a noodle dish, with mango sticky rice for dessert- nom nom nom! Then stopped by the grocery store to restock our pantry and finally got home for a break. We watched a show, then the guy from the bike shop called to say our bikes were ready. We put our dirty laundry in a pannier, picked up the bikes (they feel great!) and rode to the laundromat. Alas in our rush to pack the pannier we left out the books so we had to just chill and chat and wait. The time passed quickly though, and after a chat with a homeless man (Robert) who was refilling his water bottle at the laundry sink and stopped to check out our bikes, and another chat with an old fellow from Alaska who warned us of cougars in the California state parks (hooray!) we headed home for good at last. Ate some burritos we'd picked up earlier at a co-op, watched some shows, and soon we'll hit up Burger King one last time for a late night snack. We're eating like kings! :)

We'd planned to leave tomorrow, but after realizing we hadn't gotten much rest on our rest day, we've decided to make it one more day. It'll be nice to have a real do-nothing day before we march on into the Redwood forest.

Be well,

Arik and Mia

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Astoria, OR to Lincoln City, OR

Hello friends! We're sitting in a hotel in Lincoln City enjoying our first off day since Seattle. The sun's out, we're well-rested, and we just ate some burritos we picked up at a funky natural grocery store here. The cashier was hilariously nutty: she hummed and talked to herself the whole time she was checking us out. The last few days, like the last 3 weeks, have been a mixed bag: some supa sweet and some supa crappy. We ended on a supa-sweet note though, so it's all good. Here's what we've been up to:

8/19/09- Astoria, OR to Nehalem, OR- 48 miles, 5 hours, 32 min on the bikes

Shortly after our post on the 18th, while our burritos (yup we're burrito fiends) were warming up in the microwave and a new episode of Australia's Next Top Model played on the laptop, the lights flickered and then turned off at the hotel. In fact, the lights went out in all of Astoria. Our burritos were still frozen, so we just busted out our trusty oreos and watched the show until the laptop ran out of juice. The electricity was back by morning so we got to have our beloved burritos before checking out.

We stopped by the bike shop in Astoria and got to air up our tires for free with their super fast hose. What takes Arik 10 minutes of tough pumping with our mini-pump took maybe 15 seconds with their hose. The guys there admired Arik's antenna and shared their own dog-fighting tips and sent us on our way.

We climbed out of Astoria on steep, residential roads, then rode through rural, sunny hills. As we rode into Seaside, OR the fog rolled in with us. The sun disappeared, replaced with cold air and gray skies. We stopped at a bookstore in an outlet mall to search for the elusive Born to Run (no luck again), then headed to Broadway, the main street through town.

A foggy peak

The ocean's supposedly behind me but who knows what's back there?

We'd definitely found the most happenin' spot in Seaside. Crowds of tourists carrying bags of saltwater taffy and licking ice cream cones stacked with 3 scoops of ice cream packed the sidewalks while 4 seater beach cruiser bikes rolled slowly and unsteadily down the street. We parked our bikes outside "The Buzz," a candy shop advertising chocolate-covered bacon, twinkies, and pop-tarts and pretty much every brand of candy I loved and dreamed of as a kid. Arik called his bro Aaron for some help finding a veggie restaurant and/or bookstore while I headed into The Buzz to scope out the offerings. A quick stop here in the storytelling to send a big thank you to Aaron and to our pal Jeff. Both guys have been ready and willing to look up shops, hotels, and directions for us when we're on the road, even when our first words when they pick up are, "can you get to a computer?"

So back to The Buzz- holy cow was this place awesome. I walked in and the smells of chocolate and caramel and fresh popcorn blasted me with childhood memories and stuck a smile on my face that didn't fade even when I went back out onto the blustery street. I couldn't eat 99% of the stuff in there (and good lord were the chocolate-covered oreos tempting!) but the experience of walking the aisles, dodging wide-eyed kids and often their equally wide-eyed parents made me feel like I'd presented my golden ticket at the door and had entered the venerable chocolate factory. We ended up snagging some dark chocolate truffles, which we scarfed down with alarming speed. I next went to the ice cream shop next door to peruse the soda offerings. Arik and I both love trying out new and unique sodas, and this place actually had their staff rate their favorites. We picked up 2 five star root beers and were not disappointed. Note: I realize it's a bit strange that on a trip packed with stunning coastlines, towering trees, and incredible mountains, I can spend two paragraphs extolling the wonders of a candy store that sells chocolate-covered bacon. Such is the nature of my sometimes awe-inspiring addiction (those who've seen me consume a giant box of Nerds in one sitting are witnesses).

Aaron found us a bookstore, so I went to check it out while Arik stayed with the bikes. A gate spanned the front door, but a friendly note assured prospective customers that it was just for the store cat, and that we should come on in. Though small and manned by an unassuming woman, Beach Books was a delight. Karen, the owner, said she knew they'd had Born to Run at one time but would have to check in the back b/c she thought they'd run out. This was the closest I'd come to finally catching that sly minx of a tome but alas I came up short again- they'd sold out. No worries, I'd still check out the place. I'm so glad I did! She had everything from classics to new releases, and just about every book was on my "Books to Read" list. And no crappy filler! Just good, solid books, many tagged with summaries written by Karen or her employees. Although I'd wanted to keep holding out for Born to Run (our pannier space is getting limited) I cracked and picked up The Alchemist. She said I picked a good one, and Arik, who's reading it first, agrees.

Aaron also found us a promising veggie restaurant in nearby Cannon Beach. The town was beautiful- the quintessential beach town. We rolled down the small main street and quickly spotted Sweet Basil's Cafe. We parked our bikes out back and grabbed a seat outside, a move we somewhat regretted as cold fog started to roll in off the sea. Despite the frigidness, the food was delicious! I had a Garden Sandwich and Arik had a Cucumber Sandwich, and we both thought we'd picked the best thing on the menu. Just two mounds of fresh, crisp, healthy tastiness. We hit up another bookstore in search of Born to Run but still no luck. All I can say is this sucker better be worth the wait!

After Cannon Beach, the ride started gettin' crappy. It was cold and foggy and we climbed high up in the hills. We rode through a really dicey tunnel, with hardly any shoulder and cars zooming by. The tunnel amplified all sound so the cars sounded like a pride of roaring lions. I had my rear light blinking but was constantly worried about being seen in the fog. We somehow missed the camping entrance to the state park we'd meant to stay in, and didn't realize it until we'd gone too far to turn back. We soldiered on, but it started drizzling and the fog closed in. We rode along dropoffs where we couldn't see anything beyond the road- it felt like a slip or wrong turn would send us flailing into oblivion. It just felt really scary and surreal and I got pretty shaken up. Arik was ok enough to snap a few pix but I wasn't pleased:

Foggy bridge


Mad Mia

Shoulda followed this advice

We carried on through the fog on narrow shoulders, the cold rain mixing with my hot tears. I was a big bawling baby by the time we got to Manzanita, and when we finally saw the sign for Nehalem State Park I almost had a complete breakdown. The sun was setting, we were cold and soaked, and the sign said we were 13 miles from the park. 13 miles would take over an hour, which would leave us riding in the dark and the fog- basically not an option at all. Ever rational and optimistic, Arik stopped into a gas station and determined that we were in fact only 1.3 miles away- not 13. The man said we'd "missed the little decimal," but after a second look it still looked like 13 to us. I was worried he was engaged in some kind of sick joke, but having no other option, we headed to the park. It felt like it took forever to get there, but we finally made it. The park worker asked us where we'd started the day. When we told her Astoria, she smiled a bit dismissively and said, "Oh that's not too bad. A guy came in earlier who rode 105 miles today!" Thanks lady. We called our worried parents, got set up, ate dinner quickly, and then walked to the showers in the dark. They were hot and free (one of the perks of Oregon state parks) and we conked out quickly- exhausted but finally warm and mostly dry.

8/20/09- Nehalem, OR to Cape Lookout, OR- 41.2 miles, 4 hours on the bikes

After the previous day, we were crossing our fingers for sun and easy riding. The sun didn't cooperate but we did have a nice, unremarkable ride. We rode down 101 pretty much the whole way. It was cold, but not rainy, so that was an improvement. We stopped in Rockaway Beach, OR and got our first good view of the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty but we both decided we aren't big fans of beaches that require jeans and a jacket. We ate two pb&j burritos on a bench overlooking the beach and had fun watching two little dogs chase each other through the sand. It reminded us of Guido and Lex. :-/ We're reminded of Guido often, especially when we ride by Italian restaurants!

First good look at the Pacific

We rode past a number of roadside espresso stands. We picked up an oreo frappuccino at one a while ago and I thought it was just a random oddity, but it turns out they're sprinkled all over our route. A welcome alternative to Starbucks for sure. We missed our turn to the state park but Arik didn't realize it and, b/c he was flying down a hill, (we always seem to get lost right after a descent- it sucks!) he couldn't hear my shouts. I had to ride up and down 3 big hills before I got close enough for him to hear me (we can't hear each other even when we're 5 feet apart when we're doing hills) and we had to turn around and do it all again. We rode 6 pretty miles to Cape Lookout State Park. The park worker lady who checked us in was nice and gave us some shower tips re: where to get the most hot water.

We got set up, checked out the beach, and got firewood. Despite the tips, the showers ended up being pretty stingy with the hot water, but at least we got clean. We had some ramen while Arik tried to get the fire going- a firestarter made it go a lot faster. We had some lentils, which ended up being kinda gross, so we had some chili too. Still unsatiated, I ploughed through a pb&j burrito for good measure. We had some serious appetites goin'. Arik had worn his clothes in the shower to try to wash them (we've had mixed results with our laundry attempts) and his plan was to dry them by the fire. It didn't work out too well and we ended up just strapping the clothes to the back of the bikes and praying for hot, dry weather. We were lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. Arik woke me up in the middle of the night asking me to turn on my light. "The lantern?" I asked groggily. "No- your bike light. I can't see." "Umm my bike light's on my bike," I replied. "Wait, we're not on our bikes? Oh geez..." Turns out he was dreaming that we were riding and when we went around a turn he suddenly couldn't see. His headlight didn't work so he wanted me to turn mine on. Poor guy has some scary state park dreams.

Blurry Arik and Mia by the fire

8/21/09- Cape Lookout, OR to Lincoln City, OR- 44.7 miles, 4 hours, 40 min on the bike

We woke up yesterday, enjoyed a fire whilst eating our oatmeal, then mounted our noble steeds in the crisp morning air. Smoke blew from their nostrils as they pawed the ground, anxious to get moving. The chances of getting Arik's clothes dried seemed pretty slim- the sun stubbornly refused to come out and the air was cold and damp. We got some great looks at the Oregon coast, but it was still a bit cold for our liking. Then, like magic, we moved inland and though the sky was unchanged, the breeze turned warm. We rode by sand dunes, where guys on four wheelers revved their engines and raced each other, and we felt like we'd entered a whole new world. We took off our sweaters and soaked up the warmth, content despite the cloudy skies.

Mia and the cloudy Oregon coast- our campsite was in the trees below

We rode through Sandlake on roads dusted (and sometimes coated) with slippery sand, then stopped at a parking lot in Pacific City to check our map. A slim old gent came puttering toward us with a wheezing, stumbling pug in tow. The pug, named Cho Cho, came over for a visit, and petting her soft plump neck reminded us of our own little portly pup. The man gave us directions and told us we had one more big hill to get over, then wished us luck as he and Cho Cho ambled off.

As we turned onto 101 a little south of tiny Oretown, OR, the sun came out in all her glory and the skies cleared. It was like someone snapped their fingers and decided the clouds needed to step aside. A big thank you to that someone! We stopped in a rural spot to put on sunscreen and eat some pb&j burritos while some cows looked on.

We rode on, warm and happy and energized, until we came to a spot where the route split off. To one side was the steeper, longer scenic route, while straight ahead was the more direct, but sometimes shoulder-less highway. After some debate we went with the scenic route. If we'd skipped out, we would have missed what ended up being the most beautiful, enjoyable stint of riding we've had all trip. The trees were insane- thick and tall and awesome in the true sense of the word. The road was narrow and virtually car-free, and though we climbed uphill for almost 6 miles of the route, the climb was so gradual we never felt winded. All that climbing made for a really sweet descent with hairpin turns, howling wind, and teary eyes. Arik made a video but it ended up being so shaky it was psychedelic. When I pulled up to him at the bottom all either of us could do was grin and shake our heads at the wonder of it all. The pix really don't do it justice at all, but here they are just so you can get a taste:

After the scenic ride we rode into Lincoln City and around Devil's Lake toward the state park. The lake was beautiful, and though we had to struggle through some tough climbs to get around it, we couldn't wait to check out the view from the park. Alas the park was...underwhelming. We were directed to what one of the workers called "a patch of grass" at the top of the park, but which ended up being more like someone's lawn. We were right next to a main street that came off the highway, across the street from houses, and the port o potty backed up to someone's fence. Aside from the noise and lack of privacy, our main concern was the security of our bikes. We'd planned to walk into town and of course would be showering and we just felt really uneasy about leaving our bikes there.

Devil's Lake

After some debate we decided the 8 dollar price tag just wasn't enough to make up for the lack of peace of mind, and that we'd opt for a hotel. We again called on Aaron but he couldn't find anything cheap. We still got our refund and just headed into Lincoln City. The first place we came to ended up being reasonable and had free wi-fi, so we got checked in. Thanks to, we found a pretty stellar eatery which we checked out post-haste. Aunt Mary's Toaster Bistro was a one of a kind place. Part vegetarian restaurant, part sex shop, it was unlike anywhere we'd ever been. No one under 18 is allowed, and the walls are covered in red shaggy carpet. Aunt Mary herself welcomed us in, then told us the offerings off the top of her head. She walked back behind the counter, where she had a stove, and started cooking everything up. She told us there was a lot to see and we should look around, and we gladly obliged.

She had loads of funny stickers and knick knacks. Arik and I have decided we want to start putting stickers from places we visit on our panniers, and we picked a good place to start. Aunt Mary brought over a bowl of soup, which was incredible, and her old dog trundled over to our table and fixed us with a doleful gaze no doubt polished by years of begging practice. We finished off the soup and looked around some more while she cooked up the entrees. They too were awesome, especially the barbecued baked beans Arik had as a side. We had to go into the "Filthy" room to pay, which was where all the really scandalous stuff was housed. The offerings were extensive- she had an entire section labeled "plump"! We left with happy tummies and were glad to have found a really unique place.

Came back to the hotel and ate some vending machine snacks whilst watching the finale of Top Chef Masters.

8/22/09- Rest Day!

Our first rest day since Seattle has been awesome. We've walked around a bit but have generally done a whole heap of nothing.

Some random thoughts:

- Pardon our French, but we've christened Oregon "The Coy Bitch." Every biker we met on the way here told us the Oregon coast would be the highlight of our trip, yet up until yesterday our impression was that Oregon was cold and foggy and full of tree-hauling trucks that mysteriously smelled like a middle school girls' restroom. Not pleasant! Then we have a day like yesterday that just blows us away. It seems Oregon doesn't want to be a hussy and give it all up on the first date, so she's slowly and steadily warming up to us.

- We've determined 4 hours of riding is about as far as we can do and still be in a good mood. Once we cross that line we become, in Australia's Next Top Model-speak, big wingers (crybabies). Every hill feels tougher and every road feels bumpier after the 4 hour mark.

Hopefully we're done with hotels for a while. We love them but they're hard to justify when 8 bucks gets us a hiker/biker site at the state parks. In that vein, a ginormous thank you to my mum, who's paying for this little respite and has given us a most enjoyable break!

Be well,

Arik and Mia

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cathlamet, WA to Astoria, OR

34.2 miles, 3 hours, 15 min on the bike

We're in Oregon! We slept in this morning at the inn, then headed out close to 11:30 to catch the 12pm ferry to Westport. If we missed it, we'd be stuck waiting for an hour, so we ended up really having to motor. We streaked across the beautiful blur that was Puget Island and made it to the ferry with a little time to spare. We chatted with a trucker for a bit, who warned us of the hills we had to look forward to across the river.


Our route did indeed end up being sucky today. We spent the entire 27 miles to Astoria on Hwy 30 which, though our map promised had wide shoulders most of the way, in fact had narrow shoulders and sometimes no shoulders at all. Add to the mix the huge trucks hauling tree trunks that went barrelling by and sprayed gravel and dust in our faces and it didn't make for a very pleasant ride. The route also featured a series of long, arduous climbs followed by super fast (and fun) descents. The climbs were so long and tough Arik ended up crafting some tunes for the occasion, including the instant classic "This is the Hill That Gets on Everybody's Nerves" and a rousing rendition of "What Goes Up Must Come Down" :) I have rather regrettably had Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" in my head since we left Kelly's, and that song usually also makes an appearance on our uphill battles. The upside is the weather has been rockin'! A lot of the folks up here are complaining about it b/c they don't have a/c but we love it- blue skies, full sun, and temps in the high 80s.

At the top of one tough hill, Arik spotted a sign that said "Eagle Sanctuary" and we turned off to check it out. We both were picturing a little nature preserve with baby eagles being nursed to health but in fact it just ended up being a lookout point. We were a little disappointed but our spirits were quickly lifted by the view of the Columbia's Estuary, which Lewis and Clark spent some time in:

The Columbia's Estuary

The detour provided a blessed respite from the stress of the highway and we were sad to rejoin the traffic. 2 fun random Arik moments from the ride: 1. At the top of the first big hill when we were just tipping over to start racing down, an 18 wheeler was crawling slowly up toward us. Arik did the universal honk signal and the trucker gave us two good honks. It was a nice send-off fo sho. 2. With a number of cars around, Arik pulled the dog-fightin' car antenna off his handlebar rack and started waving it around like a sword and shouting "En Guarde!" Then he gallantly pointed his sabre/car antenna in the direction of battle and led the charge down the hill. He is an entertaining chap.

We got into Astoria around 3:30. It's a really cool town, with the river on one side and the ocean at the tip. While cruising through town, another tourer rolled up behind us at a red light. We turned around and realized it was a guy we'd asked directions from way back in Bellingham and who Arik spied in Centralia! He's a cool kid named Ian and he's doing the same route as we are. We checked into the Rivershore Motel and just had time to put our stuff down before we hurried out to get to a vegetarian restaurant before it closed at 5. We walked through downtown Astoria to get there and it's really sweet, with old buildings and unique shops. We walked by an instrument repair shop and saw the owner, a bespectacled old man, almost hidden by piles of books and yellowed papers. I love places like that.

We made it to the Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe with time to spare and both had a toasted tempeh, lettuce and tomato sandwich- supa tasty. After that we went to the Astoria Cooperative and picked up some Amy's burritos, drinks, some more trail mix, and Coconut Bliss ice cream. The co-op was awesome! Just my dream grocery store. I'd really like to help bring one to the Cliff. We've been meaning to try the Coconut Bliss but always passed b/c of the astronomical amount of saturated fat even in a tiny pint (look it up- it's nuts!). But we figured if there was any time to gorge it'd be now when we'd burn it off in a day. It ended up being really tasty- a lot like frozen yogurt. After the co-op we set off in search of some shorts for Arik and my Born to Run book. We found a cool bookstore but no luck w/Born to Run. JC Penney's was the only place anyone could think of for shorts, but for some reason they only had basketball-type ones so that'll have to wait for tomorrow. We made one last ditch effort by biking to the Safeway a little farther into town but still didn't have any luck. It was pretty nice to ride the bikes without them being all loaded up though.

Came back to the motel, watched an episode of Weeds on the laptop, then went out to the Riverwalk to check out the sunset. It ended up being beautiful, with an awesome view of the huge Astoria bridge:

Sunset at the Astoria Bridge

Us, thanks to the trusty ol' Gorillapod

We should be staying in state parks for most of next week, so don't worry about us if you don't see any blog action- we're still alive and will report back when we can!

In the meantime, amuse thyselves with these pix of our wondrous tans:

Mia's Beauteous Thigh

The Zebras

Be well,

Arik and Mia

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Centralia, WA to Cathlamet, WA

8/16/09- Centralia, WA to Castle Rock, WA- 4 hours, 50 min on the bike

Despite the crappiness of the prior 2 days, Arik woke up yesterday intent on making this day a better one. It was supposed to be sunny and warm so I was bummed when we pulled back the plastic shades of our Motel 6 room and saw clouds. I was even more bummed when we checked the weather and realized it was in the 50s. Arik wasn't fazed. He decided to put his trust in the day and pulled on his sleeveless shirt and started putting on sunscreen. I thought it was a bit goofy but played along. Sure enough, as we checked out, a little sliver of sun started to peek through the clouds, and by the time we started rolling out of Centralia, we were riding in full on sun under blue skies for the first time all tour. The heat warmed up our muscles and the sun made the neighborhoods that looked rundown in yesterday's cloudy gloom sparkle. Everything looks better in the sun.

On the way out of town, we turned on Summa St. and had to snap a pic. Arik and I both graduated summa from college (nerd alert! :D) and Arik even taught our 2 year old niece Aly to say the word.

Right out of town we got stuck on a huge hill. Not the best warmup, and it seems like every time we start out on a ride it's uphill. doh. The sun beat down on us but it still felt tons better than the soggy cold we'd been riding through before.

A little ways into the ride we had our first dog encounter, and it pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. The black, athletic dog came running out when we rode past his driveway but the look in his eyes was more curious than menacing. We both calmly said "No" and he just looked at us and stopped. We rode on, keeping watch on him in our mirrors, and he stood in the road and watched us all the way around the bend. It was a peaceful encounter and a good start to the day.

After that we rode through some beautiful terrain- wide, rolling fields, mountains, trees, and low traffic. There were also a ton of cows. One of them ran up to the fence mooing when we rode by- perhaps she sensed kindred spirits? We took a break on a rural road outside the Denture Cup Inn, an "Adult Family Home." We also climbed a couple of tough hills. As we headed up a particularly steep one, Arik said "ok, if we make it up without stopping, we'll make it through the whole tour." After a lot of struggling, we made it and shared a high five, but I asked him not to make such gambles again- my legs can only take so much and I don't wanna jinx the trip!

We stopped in tiny Toledo, WA for a snack. We'd hoped to find a restaurant but the only one we saw was boarded up on the sides and looked a bit seedy so we settled for the mini-restaurant inside a gas station. We enjoyed some crinkle fries and then got back on the road.

By the time we got to Castle Rock we were pretty tired. The sun really takes a toll and we were ready to hit the sack. The state park we'd decided to crash in, Seaquest State Park, was 5 miles off the route. We took a wrong turn and got delayed a bit, but were stoked to finally see the signs for the park. "Just 5 more miles!" we told ourselves. Alas, our map didn't mention that those 5 miles were all over a ginormous hill! We were hot and tired and sweaty and mad about getting a little lost, and now we had to climb a huge hill in the afternoon sun. argh. We passed two other tourers who were taking a break at a particularly tough part, but we somehow soldiered on.

We made it to the park without getting off the bikes, but the other tourers beat us to the check in b/c we got mixed up once we got into the park. We chatted a little with them as we waited to check in. They were dressed much more casually, with plaid shirts and skateboard-style round helmets. I felt a bit goofy in our gear but can't imagine how they'd be comfy biking 40 miles in such nice threads.

We had red beans and rice for dinner and took a shower. The tourers invited us over to share their fire and we had a nice chat. They are pros at this touring thing- the guy (Russ) said his New Year's resolution was to do a tour every month, and he's kept to it. They came up from L.A., took a train for a little bit, and are biking all around the country. They think it'll take a year! They also gave us some good tips, including that we should use tortillas instead of bread (they pack easier and stay fresh longer). They seconded all the rave reviews of the Oregon coast and told us which state parks to check out. They also said we should consider taking the train from San Luis Obispo to San Diego and skipping the LA traffic b/c the roads are not bike-friendly. Arik likes the idea (he's never been on a train) but I'm not sure about it. Also, we are using different maps than they were, so hopefully we take a better route. We'll check it out. We read for a little while and then turned in.

8/17/09- Castle Rock, WA to Cathlamet, WA- 40 miles (we finally figured out our bike computer!)- 4 hours on the bike

We woke up today to sunny, blue skies- hooray! We were a bit wary of our route b/c for the first time, our map advised us of "steep hills." The worst it had ever warned of before was rolling hills, and it's also failed to mention some pretty substantial climbs, so we were prepared for the worst. Fortunately, it looked like once we hit Hwy 4, it'd be smooth sailing along the Columbia River. The hills were tough but nothing worse than anything we've seen, and we never had to get off the bikes and push so that was a small victory. While taking a break in the shade, a solo tourer came rolling up for a chat. He was in his 60s and in incredible shape. He told us he'd been struggling up the hill, staring at the asphalt, telling himself he'd stop whenever the next bit of shade came. When he got to the shade he looked up and we were there! He's also riding the exact same route as we are, all the way down to San Diego- by himself! We have mad respect for solo tourers. This has been tough, but we always have each other to rely on and lean on. To do it all alone takes a lot of cajones for sure. We had fun chatting with him and then headed back on the trail. Hopefully we'll see him again along the way.

We celebrated when we got to Hwy 4 but the highway actually ended up being worse than the hills. It was under construction so the road was really rocky and uneven. There were also a ton of big trucks that kicked the rocks up at us and showered us with dust. Oh and there were some hills thrown it right at the end for good measure!

Hwy 4- pretty view, not so fabulous street

We were tired and hungry when we rode into Cathlamet, but were immediately excited when we spotted the Bradley House Inn. There isn't any camping around here so we knew we'd be in some kind of hotel, but we'd tried calling Bradley House earlier in the day and hadn't gotten through. The sign said there were vacancies, but again when we called and knocked we didn't get an answer. I left a message, crossed my fingers, and hoped we'd hear back soon. In the meantime, we headed to the Riverview Restaurant for some good eats. We had beer-battered onion rings and some pasta, which they graciously veganized for us.

While there, Audi, the innkeeper at Bradley House, called to let us know we could indeed stay there and apologized for being stuck at the doctor's office longer than expected. She'd be back soon and recommended we pick up a brewski at the market and chill on the swing at the back of the house. Sounded good to us! We went back to the inn and took a quick pic before taking our stuff to the back:

We walked down Main St. to the Cathlamet Market and got drinks and chips and reloaded with oreos (we've gone through a ton of these!). Went back to the inn and sat outside and snacked. Audi came out (she didn't realize we were there) and welcomed us in. The place is great! Just really cool and homey- and internet to boot! We took a shower, called the rents, then headed back outside to get some more snacks at the market. We spied an awesome sunset from the front porch and ran back inside to get the camera, then ran down to a path that goes along the water to take some shots- it was gorgeous!

Sunset over the Columbia River

Mia- the white spots are bugs


Got some snacks, headed home, and have been chillin' ever since. We'll be in Oregon tomorrow!

Be well,

Arik and Mia