2.3.03 – 17 July 2012: Manzanita to Tillamook

From Manzanita to Tillamook, With A Stop At The Air Museum

Read about our ride from Astoria to Manzanita

Our second day on the Oregon Coast opened to grey skies.  We were 34 air miles from Astoria, our starting point, and 272 air miles from our planned destination, Crescent City.  We planned to bike to Cape Lookout State Park and camp for the night.  Instead, we stopped at Tillamook.  With the rain falling, we stayed in a motel.  We took a side trip to the Air Museum, one of the high points of our tour.


1 manzanita to tillamook map

Our route was based on the ACA and Vicky Spring routes.  Our route was:  0.0 miles – START on Park Road (NEHALEM BAY STATE PARK);  0.1 miles – LEFT on Gary;  0.9 miles – RIGHT on Necarney City;  1.9 miles – RIGHT on US-101;  2.7 miles – Nehalem;  12.9 miles – Rockaway Beach;  17.4 miles – Garibaldi;  22.2 miles – Bay City;  27.6 miles – END (TILLAMOOK)

2 manzanita to tillamook elevationThe ride from Manzanita to Tillamook included about 1600 feet of climbing.  There were no major climbs.  The steepest climb, about 100 feet, greeted us after we left the campground and headed toward US-101.  We climbed rollers all morning, something our legs, weary from the day before, were unhappy about.


Our first day had gone so well.  We enjoyed the camaraderie of our fellow travelers.  We had decided we would try to make it to Cape Lookout the next day.  Our companions had also decided on the same goal.  We hoped to see them again.

We slept soundly, and awoke about 6 AM, to a grey morning.  The night had been on the warm side, dropping to no more than the low 50’s.  I was almost hot much of the night, sleeping on top of my bag, covered only by the bag liner.  Some of the others were stirring.  We remembered the camaraderie of the night before, and shared that we would try for Cape Lookout.  Many intended to stop there, too.  We hoped to see them that evening.

The off-key note was my Garmin GPS.  The night before, I had used the solar panel to recharge until the sun got too low.  Curious about the charge level, I had turned it back on.  Another chore distracted me,  and I thoughtlessly left it on.  It was completely discharged, of course.  My attempt to use the battery pack to recharge failed.  It was hopeless, but I plugged it in while I shaved.  I only got enough charge to turn it on and confirm our route to the highway.  We expected the clouds.  We hoped to see a repeat, where the sun would burn through and we would have a bright afternoon.  We luck, we could recharge the Garmin at lunch.

Don and Naomi shoved off about 7:30.  Tom was making breakfast when we left.  Emily was packing her stuff, and preparing to find a bus to Portland.  We set out at about 8 AM.  We thought we could make it to Tillamook for lunch.  We did not take any food with us.  That was a mistake.  We also believed, incorrectly, that we would have to climb a very challenging hill to get to the campground.

We left the camp ground and made for the shortest way to US-101, rather than riding back through Manzanita.  We started with a particularly steep little hill.  I always fear the first hill, not so much that I will not make it over it.  I have to get used to the climb being slow, and, possibly, hard.  Shock and dismay bubble to the surface when the ride starts with a climb.  The only happy thing about it is that the shock effect wears off, and future climbs are just more of the same.

There were no big climbs for the day.  Still, I struggled.  While not feeling any particular aches and pains, I felt flat, like I didn’t really have “it” for the ride.  My low energy levels were, of course, the result of the ride from the previous day.  I didn’t really feel like I hit my stride until later in the morning.

4We rode through the little town of Nehalem, with mist and clouds shrouding the distances.  The Nehalem River and Bay were beautiful.  The twists and turns of the river protected the valley from the worst of the Pacific winds and tides.  As we neared the headlands, we could look across the two miles to our camp ground, and the hill we had labored up the day before.  The only thing that was missing was the sun.

We cycled on good roads and polite traffic.  Tom, one of our companions of the night before, passed us just before Rockaway Beach.  We saw him again a little later, and then for a third time near Tillamook.  It was nice to have a friend, even if he easily and effortlessly pedaled away from us each time.  He, too, worried about the rain, declaring that he would stay in a motel if it rained, no matter what the cost.  We hoped he was wrong.

As we passed through Garibaldi, we wondered at the origins of the little town.  Surely, the founders were Italian immigrants, proud of the Italian unification.  As we approached Bay City, we regretted our decision not to buy lunch earlier.  We looked for a likely place to eat, but did not really find anything until we got to the outskirts of Tillamook.  It was nearly 90 minutes later than we had planned, and our energy reserves were very depleted.

It was beginning to rain, so we sought shelter in a Burger King.  I recharged my Garmin and we took advantage of the free wifi to plot our next move.  (For touring, we have a new verb.  BK – to huddle together, using all available on-line and hard-copy resources to replan an in-work segment;  to drink copious amounts of diet caffeine;  to wickedly eat burgers and fries).

The forecast was not encouraging.  Rain was forecast for all afternoon and well into the night.  We considered our options, and whether we should press on to Netarts, or spend the evening in Tillamook.  In the end, in part because there were things we wanted to do in Tillamook, that we decided to call it a day.  One option we considered was just riding to Cape Lookout the next day, and spending the night there.  That would have put us back on the original sequence, and a day behind.

Riding to Cape Lookout the next day, we would find that we made the right choice to stop in Tillamook, no matter the disappointment.  It took us much longer to get to Netarts than we imagined.  And the choice of motels and eating establishments was extremely limited in that small hamlet.  Camping would have been dismal and wet.

Using the ACA recommendations, we secured a room at a nearby motel.  The room was spacious, but the wifi was spotty, a common theme for the trip.  Marian, having been in Tillamook before, suggested we tour either the cheese factories, or the air museum.  It was getting late in the afternoon, and we did not feel we had time for both.  Of course, I voted for the Air Museum.  As we prepared to ride south of town.  Don and Naomi came out of the parking lot of one of the cheese factories.  They, probably, spent the night in Tillamook as well.  We never saw them again.

With our bikes unloaded, our Surlys felt light.  They handled like nervous horses, and it took me a few minutes to stop over-steering, braking too soon, and starting out in ridiculously low gears.  We worked our way through town, quickly realizing main street was not safe for bikes.  We veered off into side streets, and soon found our way on the south edge of town.  Not too far away, we could see the hanger for the Air Museum, and headed out into a light rain.

Tillamook Air Museum

4The museum is located in an Airship hanger, the last remaining of several.  It stands in a field, alone.  the shape of the hanger was familiar.  It looked quite similar to the hangers at Moffett Field, across from Lockheed Martin, in Mountain View, California.  The hanger was built to house the large airships that Admiral Moffett commissioned (USS Akron, USS Los Angeles, and USS Shenandoah), pattered after the great German Zeppelins of World War I.  Those flying dinosaurs came to tragic ends, but the hangers live on.  Unlike the metal hangers in California, the Tillamook hanger is wooden.

Marian visited the museum when our children were young, with her sister.  They had driven in a car.  She thought is wasn’t far.  And, it didn’t look far away.  The distance was deceiving.  I was more tired than I realized.  As we approached, I realized

We locked our bikes up, paid an exorbitant fee, and went inside.  Hunger still gnawing at us, we loaded up on carbs, and then went into the cavernous, unevenly lit interior.  Then we went inside.  For a time, I forgot who I was, and how I got there.  I wasn’t a touring cyclist anymore.

5I went back in time to a favorite era, and fond imaginings.  Everyone from my era remembers Snoopy and the Red Baron.  And I was looking at an aircraft of that vintage, although it was a Nieuport, rather than the Sopwith Camel immortalized by that feisty little beagle.  The plane was so small.  The Museum claims that all of their aircraft air-worthy.  The Nieuport was 100 years old.  I wondered if there were any original parts left on it.

13Another plan that caught my eye was the Messerschmitt ME-109.  This plane was the mainstay of the Luftwaffe in the Second World War.  It had outperformed every fighter it had faced, until it met its equal in the British Spitfire over London.  The Germans continued to upgrade and improve performance, until the end of the war.  This plane was alos very small, although much larger than the Nieuport.  We wondered how this aircraft wound up in a field in Oregon.  The swastika on the tail assembly was jarring, a grim reminder of the need to fight, and win, that war.

10Another legendary aircraft, flown by Japan, was the Zero.  This small airplane, upgraded many times during the war, was small, agile, and quick.  In the early years in the Pacific, this fighter proved deadly in dogfights with the larger, heavier US fighters.

7Those familiar with the Battle of Midway know the importance the Flying Boats played for the US Navy.  Land based Strawberry 7 was the first to find the Japanese Fleet, before the Japanese Carrier aircraft found the outnumbered US carriers.  This airplane was larger than most others in the hanger.  This aircraft, and later variants, were mainstays for recon, long-range patrols, and air sea rescue.

9The plane that changed the Pacific War was the Dauntless Dive Bomber.  These bombers, flying off the three US Carriers, caught the Japanese Carriers unprepared for an air attack, sinking three of them in the space of minutes.  The last Japanese Carrier would not survive the following day.  The Dauntless, unlike the more famous Stuka, was able to perform a vertical dive, and drops 1000 pound bombs with great accuracy.

8The US Navy answer to the zero was the Gull-Winged Corsair.  This carrier aircraft escorted carrier torpedo and dive bombers to a far away target, and successfully engaged Japanese fighters.  The Corsair was much larger and heavier than the Japanese Zero, but was nimble enough to stay with the Zero, and tough enough to take as much punishment as it dished out.  For those having spent too many hours watching bad TV, this was the airplane flown by Pappy Boyington.

11The P-47 Thunderbolt, nicked named the Thud, was very heavily armored and armed.  This aircraft, built like a tank, was designed, not so much to out-fly enemy fighters, as to outlast them in a slugging match.  These aircraft also proved invaluable in a fighter-bomber role, as ground support.

12The most outstanding prop fighter of World War II, and the most famous, was the P-51 Mustang.  With its high performance British engine, this aircraft could out-fly and out maneuver any prop fighter in the world.  When the German jet made its appearance, the Mustang was able to survive, because it could out-dive the jets, a tribute to its original mission concept as a dive bomber.

The loud speakers boomed.  It was closing time.  We blinked, coming back to the present.  We remembered we were wandering around an old building in Oregon, clad in tight-fitting cycling gear.  We ran into a family from Wyoming.  The were stand-offish until they noticed my Wyoming bike jersey.  They were from Saratoga, Wyoming, a place we had driven through short weeks before.

We returned to our bikes.  Someone had tampered with Marian’s front light.  Fortunately, it was still there, and still worked.  Counting ourselves lucky that we had left the panniers in the motel room, and carried our handlebar bags with us, we checked our bikes.  Everything was in order.  We pedaled back to town, often into a wind-driven rain.  We ate supper, hoping the rain would lift, and we could be on with our tour.  The night was too short.


At the time, our ride disappointed me.   The day before had taken its toll on us, and we struggled on this smallish ride.  We should have refueled sooner than we did.  We had not covered the ground we had planned on.  Not only that, we were back in the rain, staying in motels.

Only later would I realize what a gift the fatigue and rain offered.  Events forced me out of the destination mode, into the tourist mode.  Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I visited the Air Museum.  I will always treasure that experience.  To think, I would have traded it for a few more miles on the road.  What a mistake that would have been.

Read about our ride from Tillamook to Pacific CIty

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Filed under Cycle Touring, Travel

Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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