Last August, there were only two kinds of people in Portland. Those who want to ride their bike to the coast, and those who have already done so. I know this because every person with whom I spoke about my plan to ride from my front door in Portland, to Pacific City responded one way or the other. The experienced riders had all kinds of advice to share, from the best roads, views, and food, to favorite camp spots, warnings of logging trucks, and the last possible chance for water. I looked forward to encouraging and advising the inexperienced riders after completing my trip, too. After all, I had just taken possession of one of the sweetest new road bikes around, and I was anxious to put it to the test.
I’ve done fully loaded bike touring alone…but that was 15 years ago. Outside of the daily commute, I could claim absolutely zero training, nor prepping of gear. With that in mind, I envisioned our “tour” to be more like a couple of very long days in the saddle, separated by a rest day. There would be celebratory beers, and deep slumber, and sun. Lots of sun. The City of Portland’s website has outlined a gorgeous route in detail, avoiding most major highways,winding through areas with enough human population to keep it safe. Choosing a good partner for the adventure is key. My boyfriend was game, plus, he’s more fit than myself, and a slightly better mechanic. Perfect!
We decided to go light and fast, carrying the most minimal gear in small backpacks, plus a tiny handlebar bag that Jandd has probably been sewing for 30 years. I was particularly proud of the rigging I created to attach this ancient bag to the impressive girth of my fancy modern head tube. The Nestucca River route has camping spots, but we wanted to enjoy that certain kind of freedom that only comes with riding a 17lb carbon racing machine. I reserved a room at The Craftsman Bed & Breakfast because I liked their location, their online reviews, and appreciated their thoughtful discount offered to bicycle travelers.
The mid-September weather held up for us, and we headed out in shorts and jerseys with the sun shining. We rode past farms and vineyards before the coast range provided steep, challenging climbs. My boyfriend had no problems with this, but I struggled and felt like I was going “backward,” as they say. The scenery and sunlight made for perfect photo opportunities, but we worried that stopping too often would force us to ride in darkness. In my head, I expected dramatic music to accompany the moment we crested the mountains, treated to a view of the sea far below. Instead, we rode a steady pace, surrounded by tall trees, the sounds of a cold creek, and very few humans. The famous dirt section of the Little Nestucca River Road was delightful and kept us on our toes. The last few miles roll alongside dairy farms, sand dunes obscuring the ocean view but not the scent of salt water.
We arrived at the doorstep of the Craftsman B&B, chilly and hungry. The innkeeper greeted us warmly, with fresh-baked cookies, coffee and the keys to the kingdom. We stashed our bikes, cleaned up quickly, and joined the locals for fish and chips. The rest day on the beach turned rainy and windy, but after an incredible breakfast, we climbed the biggest dune, ducked into Pelican Brewpub for lunch, followed by many a coffee and Los Caporales for dinner. We’d earned every calorie, and we’d need more for the return trip tomorrow! During the night it rained, but I crossed my fingers for a clearing. After another fantastic breakfast, we loaded up. The innkeeper surprised us with freshly baked goods for our jersey pockets. The sun came out, and we rode homeward with new knowledge of every bump, crack and sweeping turn of the road.
This is a great way to get ready for a longer tour, but a perfectly respectable journey in its own right, too. We rode over two centuries in three days. Needless to say, my legs were toasted, but my next few mountain bike races felt effortless!!! When you’re ready for the more epic trips in Oregon, check out our friend Ellee Thalheimer’s book, Cycling Sojourner, which we stock at the shop. Bon Voyage!