at least for more than one century…
The coast line is very rugged and often in fog. So by the end of the 19th century lighthouses were set up all along the coast. There is one every 40 miles, each has a singular lightening pattern for recognition. Most of them are still in use. Nowadays the big container ships do not come so close to the shore that they could wreck but for the small local boats the light houses still serve for orientation. They are centrally administered and now guards live there anymore, but they still operate the old Fresnel lenses. These things are incredible. They were commissioned in Paris or England at time and shipped over, they consist of a number of glass laminates that focus the light of a very dim light source (still it us a simple light bulb as you have it in your home) such that it can be seen from 20 miles. The entire lense is egg shaped and turns to make the light blink, if it stopped turning you would have to switch off the light immedistely or else draw a curtain because it could cause forest fires at the point where the lightcone points to. So at least it was explained to me at the lighthouse on Cape Blanco where I finally managed to visit one of them.
It was a day wih lots of wildlife and lots of sand. At the Carl G. Washbourne states park a had a wonderful campsite in the forest, without any companions than a party of up to 3 Steller blue jays, very beautiful but very rascal birds (The ranger told me that one of them once picked his grandma’s head and she was all covered in blood.), and a Chipmunk that would run under my tent. So the next morning to round it up, I stopped at the Sea lions caves.
It was a good way to say goodbye to the sea for a while since the highway leaves the coast once you approach the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, an extended area with massive sand dunes. The riding itself is mostly through forest, so not really that spectacular, especially because these are no longer the lush rain forests from up north. From time to time you may have a glance at the dunes themselves. But obviously it does not make sense to build a highway on sand…
The Jessie M Honeyman states park which I passed around noon has direct access to the dunes, so I took the time to warm my feet on the sand and climb some of the hills. They rent sand boards, so the first dune you climb is busy like a ski resort but once you leave that ridge and go on, you are all on your own, off piste. Inside the park motorised vehicles are not allowed on the dunes, but once you reach border, beware the main distraction around here are sand tours with quads and other sand proven motorised vehicles…
It was a very foggy day. That is not uncommon for the Oregon coast. Where the fog is light it makes a great scenary when it becomes thick then it’s like November at home. Humid, cold and unpleasant.
I did lot of little detours today. First to the Yaquima head lighthouse. It stands out on a little cape which still was deep in the clouds while back on the highway I had already been riding in the morning sun. Lots of birds nest in the rocks around there. You may climb down to the tide pools at the bottom of the lighthouse. It was low tide, you may find starfish there and lots of mussles… but you will be observed by watchful seals out in the water. It is not so sure who watches whom more closely.
I later went to the Hatfield marine science center in Newport run by the Oregon state university. It is a bit chaotic, but they have lots of cool stuff there. Some aquariums with octopuses, fish and all sort of other marine creatures. A kind of open pool where you can touch all sort of funny things like sea cucumbers, starfish, sea urchins, mussles and observe how they react towards it, from which you can deduce how they feed. The staff explains everything to you to even your most naive questions. They have teeth and balenes from different types of whales, skulls of sea mammals (ever seen a walrus skull?), little experiments where you can build some lego houses and then have them swiped away by a tsunami wave. There is material on tidal energy, “migration” of species on ships and the ecological problems this might cause, geology (the tsunamis again…). All for free. So there is much cooler things than the road works you Oregon folks tax money pays for.
The landscape was rolling I left and entered tsunami hazard zone as I climbed up hills and rolled down again, left and entered…
I had a nice backwind all along and let mr push up the last meters of Cape Perpetua, only the hwy top, of course. The road going all the way up winds and twists and is far too steep to be pushed up. There is a rock on the cape shelter from where you can see 70 miles south on clear days. Not today though.
In the afternoon I spent quite some time watching spouting hole, a funny kind of coastal geysir, which with the tides coming in became mor and more spectacular. It is a hole in the cliffs, where the water flows in and is hurled
out from time to time by the tidal waves such that it jumps up in the air.
…this coast line is.
There was an article in the last Velojournal by two guys who did essentially the same journey as I do. They started in Vancouver BC and wanted to ride down the coast until San Francisco. After following Hwy 101 along the Washington coast they were so fed up with the traffic that they left the coast at the Oregon border and went inland. So far, I am pretty much convinced my choice was better (going inland through Washington state and follow the Oregon coast line)
This coast (and the highway!) really are very scenic. It starts out with long sandy beaches occasionally guarded by solitary rocks, memories of an ancient coast line washed away by the tides a long time ago.
There are muddy bays where people dig for clams and you see herons and eagles looking for prey. They have a greenish touch in the occasional sunshine.
Later on it gets wilder. There are cliffs where the ocean wildly bursts against at high tide. Millions of birds nest in those rocks. I had a chat with some ladies who observe several species to study whether commercial fishing has any influence in their breeding success. They let me look through their telescpe to see the the small ones in the nest.
The highway 101 at its best climbs over capes at the very edge of land giving way to spectacular views over beaches, hills, cliffs and the ocean.
Sometimes its hard to make good progress because you want to stop and look at the scenery every instant. One great view chases the next one.
Only the sun seems to be a rare guest. So far I have only once had the pleasure of quietly sitting at the beach without it beeing too windy or rainy or simply too cold in general.
Dear motorist, the only reason you may ever honk when passing a cyclist on the road is to advert her of imminent real and life-threatening danger.
That is NOT to advert her of you passing her. If this is real life threatening danger then YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG. And mind you, she knows you are coming because everywhere outside your airconditioned and comfortable limousine your engine cannot be overheard. YOU ARE LOUD BY EXISTENCE. It is neither to tell her how cool you find her cycling along that highway. SHE DOESN’T CARE. So keep that joy quiet. It is certainly not because she is going sooo slooow uphill and is in your way, for this your breaks are the appropriate means. Your silly and sudden honking will startle her, she might twist in a unforeseeable way which causes IMMINENT LIFE-THREATENING DANGER.
What else could you do after a day of endless and more rain than stop somewhere in Pacific Sea resort get a nice room with covered entrance (aka bike garage) and private bath (aka drying cabinet for wet tents, clothes and shoes) in a inn at the roadside and have a great traditional meal from the local smokery:
Fish & chips & beer
Best fish and chips in my life, honestly. Maybe because it was halibut and not cod. Cod is normally a bit slimey. They also gave me to taste their clam chowder. That is a sort of bechamel sauce with some vegetables and clam in it. Didn’t like it too much. So fish and chips it was, and beer from Eugene, in a paper bag of course.
First I wanted to go on until Garibaldi or even Tillamook, but when I came to Rockaway beach the rains ceased a bit and I had a look at the beach. When I saw those rocks I decided to stay and hope for nice evening light at the beach.
Rockaway beach rocks
It was a good choice, the Inn had the best bed I encountered so far (not as soft as a mashmellow). There is a long sandy beach to the open sea whereas the other two are “real” towns not beach resorts and tucked away in a bay, not much different from any other small American towns.
The Columbia river is amazing. Quite understandable the first European explorers believed this to be a bay. The Astoria Megler bridge connects Washington to Oregon, had I taken the direct way along the 101 through Washington, I would have crossed it. The bike lane is very narrow I was told, so six miles of trying to not hit a railing is maybe not so much fun. And it is impressive to look at even from far.
At Stevenson state park you get this river on one side and the pacific ocean to the other.
Stevenson state park
You also get loads of giant mosquitos and and giant elks blocking the bike trail for free.