Port Orford to Gold Beach – Our Last Day On The Road
|Read about our ride from from North Bend to Port Orford|
26 July 2012 – Port Orford to Gold Beach
Our eleventh day on the Oregon Coast opened in sunshine. We were 239 air miles from Astoria, and 69 air miles from Crescent City, our planned destination. We planned to bike, at a minimum to Gold Beach, about 30 miles away. Beyond, at about 58 miles, was Brookings. We agreed to decide, over lunch at Gold Beach, whether to press on or not.
Our ride from Port Orford to Gold Beach used the ACA Maps, with Vickie Spring as a guide. For the first part of the ride, we would stay on US-101. For the last part of the ride, we would climb through Cedar Valley, over into the Rogue River Valley, and then into Gold Beach: 0.0 miles – Start on US-101 (Port Orford); 15.3 miles – LEFT on Coy Creek; 15.4 miles – RIGHT on Ophir; 15.7 miles – LEFT on Cedar Valley; 23.8 miles – LEFT on N Bank Rogue River; 28.8 miles – LEFT on US-101; 29.3 miles – end (Gold Beach).
Riding from Port Orford to Gold Beach, we climbed about 2500 feet. We had four significant climbs. Our first climb, to Rocky Point, began outside Port Orford, and was about 250 feet. Our second climb, near Mount Humbug, started at about five miles, and was 350 feet. Our third climb, starting at mile eleven near Sisters Rock, was about 200 feet. Our final climb, up Cedar Vally, started at about fifteen miles, and was over 300 feet.
Our motel was right on US-101, directly across from the beach. The sunlit parking lot astonished us. We rolled our bikes across the parking lot to US-101. Up the road were the cliffs we would have to scale. Shrouds of fog turned the road into a ghostly mystery. We suspected it would be cold and clammy. Our suspicions were eventually confirmed.
Once on the highway, we made our way up a steep slope to a construction area. We had seen the lights up in the heights the night before, and now we were where the action was. Heavy equipment rattled around. Ground shook. Raw earth bore testament to the violence of the machines.
The road narrowed to one lane. As we approached a long line of cars, waiting to go, a construction worker surprised us when he waved us to the front of the line. He pointed to a place, half way through the bottle neck. Beyond that point, there were concrete barriers to protect bikers. With a smile, he told us he would hold traffic until we were safely out-of-the-way. We made all haste to get clear of the traffic. We probably added 30 seconds to the travel time for the cars waiting behind us.
Reaching the crest, we caught our breath. Then we swept down the reverse slope and made our way to Humbug Mountain. Reaching the camp ground, we looked back on the five miles from Port Orford, and wondered if we could have made it the night before. In retrospect, we thought we might have been able to make it, but we would probably have arrived at, or near, dusk.
The disappearance of the clouds and fog delighted us. All things seemed possible. The Humbug Mountain area was tranquil. The camping area nested down in a pleasant valley. The walls were steep, on both sides. A stream ran along the road. We did not see the camping facilities, which were away from the road. We think we would have been comfortable there.
We pedaled past the campground entrance to a day use area. We took an extended break, before getting back on the road. There was little traffic at that hour of the morning, and we had the grounds to ourselves. After snapping a few more photos, we turned back to US-101, headed toward Gold Beach.
We turned back along the coast, into the grey, foggy morning. For the next 18 miles, we could only see bits of the coast. The view was often obstructed by fog or clouds. The roadway varied. Sometimes the shoulders were wide and generous. At other times, the shoulders were non-existent. The Thursday Traffic began to pick up, noticeably.
Logging trucks gave us as much room as they dared. Cars and RVs were another matter. Some gave us as wide a berth as possible. Others either did not see us, with our high visibility vests and blinking lights, or did, and did not care.
On a straight, wide stretch of road, I had one of my more scary encounters. An enormous RV, rivaling the size of a Greyhound bus, probably driven by someone my age or older, swept by me with less than two feet to spare. The suction was enormous. I had to fight my bike to keep from being sucked into the side and under the wheels. I counted myself lucky I rode a bike, with gear, weighing 100 pounds. Had I been lighter, or caught off guard, tragedy might have occurred. The driver must have been ignorant, or careless, or simply unwilling to move out of his lane. For whatever reason, he afforded no a safe distance from his leviathan. To this day, I do not understand that behavior.
At Ophir, we turned off the coast and rode up Cedar Valley Road. We were happy our new road had little traffic. The sun was out again, and it was a beautiful day. Our plan was to reach Gold Beach for lunch, and decide on our destination for the day. We had not packed a lunch, but were well stocked with dates and Luna Bars.
The north end of Cedar Valley Road started at Ophir, and runs south until it opened onto the Rogue River Valley. There was very little traffic, for which we were thankful. We rode serenely along, alone much of hte time. Although we were on the ACA route, we saw no other cyclists that morning. However, all was not perfect in these almost idyllic surroundings. A lush golf course lay just off the road.
One of the unique things about this valley was that there was no clear break between the two water sheds. The canyon walls rose above us, on both sides, continuing from the start of Cedar Valley all the way to the Rogue River Valley. The crest just a high spot in the road. All that marked the transition was a marshy point, which had outlets in both directions. One moment we were on the northern watershed. The next moment, we were on the Rogue River watershed. The broad valley was the largest we saw south of North Bend.
We descended into the Rogue River Valley, and rode along the north bank to the mouth. Fatigue and hunger wore on us. Our ride had taken longer than we expected. After a time, we could see an impressive bridge towering above the river. Near the coast we came upon a small cafe / pastry shop. It was a stylized French Chateau, with stylized prices. With the afternoon wearing on, we decided to stop for lunch, and consider our options.
While we were there, two young women stopped for lunch. We compared notes with them, once we saw they were flipping through ACA maps. It was Thursday afternoon, and they were on the last part of their vacation, needing to complete their ride by the weekend. They decided to press on to Brookings, about 30 miles away.
We considered our options, knowing we had no hope of staying up with the two women. Our ride had already taken its toll. I was unable to sit on a bicycle seat for extended periods. And it seemed like many parts of my body hurt in one way or another. Feeling guilty, we decided to end our day at Gold Beach. We seemed so near to completing Oregon. But it seemed so far. Deep down, I wondered if our tour was about to end.
We decided to stay in Gold Beach for the night. As it turned out, Gold Beach was hosting a county fair. We stayed at a private camp ground on the Rogue River. After getting our campsite, we went into town and got fixings for supper. We also poked about the small town a bit, and decided to pass up the Ferris Wheel and Midway of the County Fair.
Before we returned, Marian wound up talking with a skateboarder who said he had heard, on his scanner, that there had been a bike fatality to the north of us on US-101. It would later turn out that this was the same accident that we had heard about the day before. Happily, there were no fatalities. I often wondered how a skateboarder listened to a scanner,. We failed to ask, and cannot solve the mystery now.
On our ride from Port Orford to Gold Beach, I was guilty of pushing, trying for distance on, what I assumed was a relatively easy segment. While the distance was shorter than others we had just done, we did a lot of climbing. All those things took their toll on us. I could no longer sit in my saddle for more than a few minutes at a time. My neck, back and knees ached. I needed extended time off the bike. Yet, we were so close to the goal, just 45 air miles from Crescent City. I wanted to go on, but feared I could not.
|Read about our rest days in Gold Beach, and the end of our ride on the Oregon Coast|