From Tillamook To Pacific City, Riding Around The Capes
|Read about our ride from Manzanita to Tillamook|
Our third day on the Oregon Coast opened to grey skies. We were 50 air miles from Astoria, our starting point, and 250 air miles from our planned destination, Crescent City. We planned to bike to at, least, Cape Lookout State Park and camp for the night. Instead, we pushed on, stopping in Pacific City for the night. Our tour took us through three Capes, Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cap Kiwanda. We got our first taste of small hamlets on the Oregon Coast, at Netarts.
Our ride from Tillamook to Pacific City used the ACA Route and Vicky Spring as a guide. Our route was straightforward: 0.0 miles – START on US-101 (TILLAMOOK); 0.3 miles – RIGHT on Front; 0.6 miles – LEFT on Cedar; 0.8 miles – RIGHT on Highway 131; 2.2 miles – RIGHT on Bayocean; 7.5 miles – LEFT on Bayshore; 12.0 miles – (OCEANSIDE); 14.5 miles – RIGHT on Netarts Bay (NETARTS); 25.8 miles – RIGHT on Sandlake; 26.8 miles – (SANDLAKE); 32.2 miles – STRAIGHT on Kiwanda; 34.6 miles – LEFT on Pacific; 34.8 miles – RIGHT on Brooten; 35.0 miles – END (PACIFIC CITY)
We climbed about 3000 feet to get from Tillamook to Pacific City. Two big climbs accounted for about half of the total, with rollers, some quite steep, making up the rest. The first big climb was at Cape Meares, 500 feet, about nine miles into the ride. The second big climb was at Cape Lookout, over 800 feet, about 22 miles into the ride.
Morning came to Tillamook. Light rain had persisted through the night. We gazed out the breakfast room window. The sky was grey and dreary. A bramble patch, too thick to walk through, and too tall to see over strained to jump the fence and overwhelm the strip of lawn. Left unchecked, I think much of the Tillamook area would look like that.
We rolled our bikes down the serpentine ramp, and out to the street at 9 AM, rather late for us. Zipping up our rain jackets, we picked our way through Tillamook, taking care to avoid narrow streets with large numbers of cars. We left US-101 for the rest of the day. During the course of the day, we rounded three capes – Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, hence, the Three Capes Scenic Route. Capes mean climbing, and forgetting about straight lines on maps.
The early part of the ride was easy. The drizzle was just light enough to make us clean our glasses at our 15 minute rest points. The shoulders were largely, non-existent. Fortunately, there was almost no traffic. Houses were, occasionally clustered. This segment turned out to be one of the most service starved roads we were on in Oregon. We spent a lot of time riding along Tillamook Bay. The far view was striking. We could look to the north, and see the places we had ridden through the day before. The near view was unappealing. The tide was out. Vast mud flats stretched in both directions.
We rode the gentle road to the barrier islands, protecting Tillamook Bay from the Pacific. We came upon the remnants of a dream. Someone had striven to create an early 20th Century Atlantic City at the mouth of Tillamook Bay. Developers erected a on the barrier island, with the hope of turning it into a major resort. Alas, the creators failed to grasp how and why barrier islands exist. The islands, entirely sand, stand guard at the mouth, protecting the inner reaches. Storms come and go, battering the islands, adding and taking sand away. Over the course of twenty years, the sea washed some 100 houses away. Finally, the residents abandoned the ill-fated venture. Nothing remains except a few streets. I wonder if anyone, alive, remembers the town?
After making the turn at the Cape, a climb from sea level to the heights of Cape Meares greeted us. On a fully loaded Surly, climbing 500 feet in two miles takes time, and energy. We slogged our way up, sometimes riding, sometimes pushing. The road was, generally good, and traffic was light. We were thankful we had not tried the road the day before, in the rain. The climb would have been dreadful.
At the top, we debated going to the light house. Having recently been at Astoria Column, on a rainy day, we had a far idea of the visibility. We would have had to wait for a specific time for a tour. We decided to move on. It was too early to eat, not that we had lunch fixings.
We glided down the backside, and made another substantial climb through Oceanside. We made a jogger’s day, when he passed us as we labored up one particularly steep slope. We saw no hint of stores.
We arrived in Netarts, surrounded by thick trees. The Garmin showed a large number of streets, but the houses were well hidden. At the Marina / Park, we chatted with two women. There were only two restaurants, one they did recommend, and they could not recommend either motel. We counted ourselves lucky that we had not pushed into Netarts the evening before, looking for food and lodging. We stopped at the better of the two restaurants, for an early lunch.
We saw no food store. The thought of stopping at Cape Lookout died. It was Pacific City or bust. Believing we had a huge climb to get to Cape Lookout, we held our breaths each time we made a little climb. Our unease only grew as we continued to descend back to sea level. We reached the campground entrance without making the climb.
Immediately on the other side of the entrance, we began one of the biggest climb we did on the Oregon coast. We did it in true hiker / biker fashion. The road was good, the shoulders were wide, and the traffic was polite. Knowing it was the last big climb of the day, we worked our way up it. Besides, there was really no safe haven to go back to.
The sun came out, and cheered us up. At several turnouts, we were able to get a good look to the north, back to Cape Meares. We did not trust our elevation profiles, so we were uncertain exactly how far we had to go, to reach the time. I was relieved I climbed better than I had in Oswald West State Park.
We arrived at the top of our second cape for the day. We expected a broad view of the coast. Instead, we were in a tree-hemmed parking lot. A path led to an overlook. Since we could not take our bikes with us, we decided to go on.
One over the top, we dropped 900 feet to Sand Lake. Sand dunes and trees shielded us from the ocean. Sand threatened to drift across the highway. And we could see an enormous expanse of sand. It was well named, a lake of sand. After stopping at the convenience store for a break, we pressed on down the road to Pacific City.
The last miles tested us. We found ourselves in rollers, periodic ridges, that would rise perhaps 100 to 150 feet high, forcing us to a crawl to get over them. On one of the hill crests, we saw a Thousand Oaks RV campground, but there were no food stores nearby. We pressed on. Somewhere along that road, we crossed Cape Kiwanda, our third cape of the day. It was hardly noticeable.
We got into Pacific City later than we had expected. We had started a little late. Two big climbs had taken their toll. With no reasonable camping prospects, we checked in to yet another motel. For the only time on the Oregon Coast, we were not allowed to put our bikes in our room. The owner made us put our bikes in an enclosed stairwell. We had no key. When we wanted our bikes, we called the front desk, and waited for them to open it. There was no ice machine, with ice available only at the adjoining bar. As with other places, we were unable to get the wi-fi to work properly, and spent much of the night grumbling about the cost.
The Three Capes ride was along one of the more remote stretches of coast we found, until we got to southern Oregon. Between Tillamook and Pacific City, there were few towns, and almost no service. If one of our bikes had broken down, we would have been out of luck.
When we stopped at Tillamook, our carefully laid pattern of State Parks was scattered. We planned our stages to take advantage of the better Hiker / Biker State Parks. Instead, we came to them at awkward points, like Cape Lookout a mid-day. If I had adopted a more flexible approach, I would have stopped worrying the plan. I would have enjoyed our tour more.
|Read about our ride from Pacific City to Lincoln City|