2.3.11 – 25 July 2012: North Bend to Port Orford

From North Bend To Port Orford, A Ride In The Fog

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Read about our rest day in North Bend
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We started our tenth day on the Oregon Coast, eating our free breakfast. Looking out the window, it was grey, as usual. The wind continued to blow, north to south, but not as hard as it had the day before. We were 192 air miles from Astoria, our starting point, and 113 air miles from Crescent City, our planned designation.

We planned our day. There were two towns ahead of us. Bandon was 25 miles away. Port Orford was over 50 miles away. Humbug Mountain State Park was over 55 miles away.  The prior day, we had rested, and felt we could do a long ride. We would decide on our destination when we reached Bandon. We hoped we could reach Humbug Mountain State Park.

Our Route

700 aOur ride from North Bend to Port Orford used the ACA Route, with Vicky Spring as a guide. We would ride the first part of the ride on back roads, and rejoin US-101 not far from Bandon. At Bandon, we would again ride back-roads. After rejoining US-101, we would ride the highway into Port Orford:  0.0 miles – Start on Cape Argo (North Bend); 0.3 miles LEFT on Broadway; 1.5 miles RIGHT on Newmark; 3.3 miles – LEFT on Empire; 8.0 miles – CHARLESTON; 8.3 miles – LEFT on 7 Devils; 14.6 miles – LEFT on Chrome Mountain; 19.1 miles – RIGHT on Humpreys; 21.6 miles – LEFT on 7 Devils; 24.4 – LEFT on US-101; 27.2 miles – RIGHT on Riverside (BANDON); 28.8 – RIGHT on 1st; 29.3 – LEFT on Edison; 29.4 – RIGHT on 4th; 29.6 – LEFT on Ocean; 30.1 LEFT on Beach Loop; 34.4 miles – RIGHT on US-101; 57.8 miles – End (Port Orford)

700 bWe climbed about 3500 feet to get from North Bend to Port Orford. Our big climbs of the day came on Seven Devil’s Road. Starting at Charleston, about 8 miles from the beginning, we climbed 400 feet. At 13 miles, we climbed another 200 feet, and again at 18 miles. After Bandon, we negotiated rollers, with two more attention-getting climbs at 45 and 52 miles.

Our Ride

We rode out of North Bend, taking the Cape Argo Highway. We discovered a large commercial district spread out over a mile or more, to the south of us. There were many markets, restaurants, and motels we might have stayed at. Had we risked the wind on either of the two days in North Bend, we would have found many satisfactory options.

We headed down the grey, windy coast, on an ordinary residential road. As we rode, we became engaged in an extended cell phone conversation with our son David. He was working his way through the admissions processes for the University of Wyoming. We knew we would probably lose cell coverage at some point in the ride. And we were anxious that he complete the necessary steps. We agreed to contact him later in the day.

We rode across the bridge at Charleston, and turned left up into the hills, enduring a sharp climb. The road had names such as Seven Devil’s Road and Chrome Mountain Road. This conjured up images of Green Mountain Road in Washington State.

Once we had made our ascent, we were into endless rollers. At one point, an old pickup passed us and started up a hill. It then began to sputter and moved very slowly. The driver tried, many times, to restart it. We looked at him, and he looked at us, as we pedaled slowly past him. Assuming he was out of gas, there was nothing we could do to help him. There were many houses along the road, and presumably he got the help he needed.

On, up in the hills, we came across a youth touring group. They all seemed so young. Perhaps the mixed company was high school. It was hard to say. They had all manner of bikes, and a bewildering assortment of equipment. What they did all have were helmets and orange flags to make themselves more visible.  Their destination was California. We let them pass. They were only marginally faster than we were. Near US-101, we parted ways, never to see them again.

We entered US-101, and rode for several miles, descending to sea level again. Near Bandon, we left the highway again. We rode near the coast, with bogs and heavy thickets to the seaward side. We could see nothing for some distance, before coming out into the open. Bandon might be a vibrant community. But, the commercial district was treeless and windswept. The sky was grey and foreboding.

We ate lunch, pondering our next moves. Bandon looked uninviting, and it had taken far longer to reach it than we had planned. Fortunately, we still had reasonably fresh legs, and a strong wind at our back. We knew we could reach Port Orford, but were less certain about Humbug Mountain. During our meal, we took advantage of the outlets to recharge our phones and the Garmin.

701 702 703 704 705Wheeling our bikes back to the street, we zipped up our jerseys, trying to convince ourselves the wind was our friend. We rode through the rest of the commercial district and on, down the coast.  High fences and houses blocked much of the public view of the ocean.  Still, we did find several places to look.  While we were becoming a little jaded at the ocean views, the haystacks were still remarkable.

As we stopped for our water break, we were happy to see the sun emerge. It was finally bright and cheerful, the images we had hoped to see when we started the tour. Gone were the gloomy thoughts of the morning. We remembered to take pictures. We hadn’t taken any during the morning ride. But, there had been almost nothing to see up in the raw, foggy morning.  I’ve never been on the moors of Scotland, but that is how I will imagine them until I am actually there.

706Along our route, some rock formations captured my imagination. It was easy to imagine that the spindle in the gap might have been some weathered statue to some ancient deity, long since lost in the mists of time.

We returned to US-101. We saw many bikers in both directions. We stopped and talked with some of them. I have some intellectual resistance to stopping a ride to talk to a stranger, feeling I am losing valuable time. On the other hand, the break is almost always welcome. We share information, and get the thirty-second life story of the other people

We stopped at a convenience store, which openly proclaimed its welcome for bikers. Store owners should take note that such signs work, especially if the clerks are friendly and helpful. While we were there, we talked with another biker, Jake. He was an older gentleman, although he might have been no older than I was. He encouraged us to continue. He was riding the Pacific Coast for the second time, as a supported credit card tour. His wife was in their car. They would spend the night in a motel. She would drop him off, and he would ride as far as he wanted for the day. Because he carried very little gear, he could safely use a road bike. In the evening, she would pick him up and they would spend the night in comfort. We envied him.

720We also met a couple with very small children. Each parent pulled a child in a baby trailer. Their choice of panniers was even more remarkable. They had converted kitty litter containers into waterproof containers. When I first came upon the father, I assumed he was a parent who had gone to the market, and was on his way home. It was only later that, when we came upon the wife, that figured it out. They were biking the Pacific Coast, although I don’t remember where they started, or what their destination was. I am still amazed at their courage. As with other young people, they were slightly faster than we were. We eventually lost contact with them, and never saw them again.

We also met a Dutch couple riding north. They had started out in Chile.  Their destination was  somewhere in British Columbia. They stand out in my mind because, later, we heard rumors that one or more cyclists were injured, to the north of us. We selfishly hoped it was no one we had gotten to know. But, that was a selfish thought.  If they were safe, someone else was injured.

We continued on into the late afternoon. The sun was out. The roadway was good and the shoulders were wide and clean. Traffic was not particularly obnoxious. We worked out way through the rollers. We would crest a hill, and descend to a bridge. Moving quickly through, thankful no wayward RV snagged us, we would then labor up the next rise. We could see the time slipping away from us, and tried not to press. Still, we knew the chances of riding to Humbug Mountain were slipping away from us.

Aggravating this, was growing discomfort in the saddle. My saddle was well broken in. I wear padded shorts. I was well conditioned from a thousand miles of cycling with this bike and this saddle. Long gone were any rub issues. I was feeling pain when I set in the saddle. It was almost as if I were bruising. No matter what I did, the pain would return after a few minutes. Dismounting helped, but did not make it go away. Standing on my pedals, with weary legs, was not a long-term solution.

I revisited this, post tour. The likely problem was the fit to my saddle. The bones which we sit on, often called the “sit bones”, must be supported by the saddle. For instance, if the saddle is too narrow, this can cause problems, as can one which is too hard, or not properly contoured. I did wind up replacing the saddle with a famed Brooks Saddle. Perhaps this will cure the problem.

713Finally, after 7 PM, we rolled into Port Orford, passing the 300 mile marker on US-101 We would have taken pictures of mile markers 100 and 200, had we been aware of them. The town was very small, with US-101 making a sharp dog-leg to the left. Once again, we did not realize there was more on the east leg, although not a great deal more. We ate at the first place we could find. It was an expensive, not very satisfactory tiny Mexican restaurant.

We considered our options. We were weary, and sore. The final five miles to Humbug Mountain was daunting. While the sun was still bright, it slanted in from the ocean now, and we knew it would soon go down. While we had ridden in gloom and rain, we had not ridden in darkness, and were unsure if our lights would be adequate. Besides, from the many southbound cyclists we had seen, we were sure the hiker / biker facility would be crowded.

719Reluctantly, we decide to find a room, if one could be found in tiny Port Orford. Looking on the ACA list, we found a neat, well manicured little motel right on the water. We turned the dog-leg and pedaled straight to it. It had been recently remodeled, and we were careful with our bikes. We did not want to chip or scratch the new paint. It turned out that we passed several more restaurants, any of which would probably have been better than the place we ate.

The light was waning. We lived a harsh truth of touring. Long days meant little time for seeing sights, other than what is visible from the bike. Still, we were mere yards from the ocean. The sun was out. The wind was down.

714 715We walked across US-101 to a monument, called Battle Rock. The monument had been clearly revised, and we could imagine what it might have said. It spoke of local Native Americans driving off a party of a dozen European settlers, pinning them on this small rock for several days. The Settlers eventually returned a few weeks later with a larger party, and prevailed. It seems the West Coast Native Americans had less success than the Plains Indians, although the result was the same.

Our Thoughts

Our ride was, really, two rides. The first ride was up into the fog and mist of Seven Devil’s Road. The climbs were steep, and our ACA maps did not prepare us well for what we found.  The second ride was after Bandon. We rode US-101, in the sunlight, climbing and descending rollers.  There were more cyclists on this day than any other.

We were very tired when we got to Port Orford. Humbug Mountain was tantalizingly close. But, we would have had to deal with traffic and road construction. And, we would have probably arrived at the park after dark. I suspect we would have been totally exhausted by that last leg.

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Read about our ride from Port Orford to Gold Beach
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