© 2018 by Parker T. Pettus, all rights reserved
Table of Contents
Chapter 3 is excerpted for this sample
Part 1: How I became a bicycle tourist
Chapter 1: A Really Dumb Idea
Chapter 2: The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway
Chapter 3: An Experiment in Mobility
Chapter 4: Gearing Up
Part 2 Three bike tours that are unique to Oregon:
Chapter 5: Stonehenge and The Columbia River Gorge
Chapter 6: Eugene to Smith Rock via McKenzie Pass
Chapter 7: Crater Lake and The Worst Strip Club in Oregon
Part 3 The Pacific Coast from Vancouver Island, Canada to the Mexico.
Chapter 8: Vancouver Island, Olympic Peninsula, Washington Coast
Chapter 9: Astoria, Oregon to San Francisco
Chapter 10: San Francisco to the Mexican border
Part 4: Two Tours in Washington State
Chapter 11: The San Juan Islands
Chapter 12: Coast-to-Desert-to-Gorge
Part 5: Two Tours Close to Portland
Chapter 13: Circling Mt. Hood
Chapter 14: Mt. St. Helens Loop
An Experiment in Mobility
After biking to Eugene, I was eager to see what might be reasonable for a day’s mileage with a larger load on more difficult terrain. I picked out a 180-mile loop from Hillsboro to Tillamook, the coast, and back via the Blaine/Nestucca River road. This route crosses the coast range twice and goes over Cape Lookout, offering elevation gains on each of the three days I spent on this trip. 180 miles (Mid-September)
Day 1: Route 6 from Hillsboro to Tillamook is a scenic route with a not-so-good bicycle lane and a lot of traffic. It crosses the coast range, with the summit requiring a gain of about 1500 feet.
Photo 1: Route 6. Attribution is below
Going head-to-head with trucks and cars is part of the bicycle experience, and this route promised to provide plenty of sparring partners. I figured that leaving on a Sunday might help avoid commercial traffic and that getting on the road as early as possible would be smart. I took the first Max train to Hillsboro, and by 8AM I was in the countryside West of Forest Grove, headed for the hills.
Route 6 is a beautiful ride, and I would do it again, but it was a bit unnerving at times. By leaving early on Sunday I had managed to avoid commercial traffic,
but I was right on schedule to join a long, recreational caravan of cars, vans, buses and every pickup truck towing ATVs, jet skis or boats to the mountains or the coast that morning. Traffic diminished as the morning wore on; it might have been better to leave a little later.
It’s not easy to be within a few feet of large vehicles moving at 50 mph, especially on a bike when you can’t see them coming. The rear-view mirror is the wrong place to be looking when rolling downhill at 25 mph and approaching a pothole. You might think that good listening skills come in handy at a time like this. They don’t.
Some vehicles are noisy, like a pickup with a flat-bed trailer carrying a couple of dirt bikes. You know they are coming, but there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you can’t hear vehicles until they are passing, and by then they already haven’t hit you. Backward visibility on a bike is very poor. Neither your mirror nor your ears are idiot-proof. Stay to the right.
Golden Rule #2: Always assume there is a vehicle about to overtake you.
I suppose I’ll get used to it eventually. Experienced bikers tell me to look to my own deportment, and things will probably be fine. I believe that. The CDC’s caveat-studded statics indicate that bicycling has 2-3 times the death rate of riding in a car. In contrast, there is a guy on YouTube who concludes that the risk of death can be higher in a car than on a bike. Well, I’m a statistical analyst, and I say that the probability of getting squished to death by a vehicle is way, way higher if I’m on a bike, than if I’m in a car that is running it over.
One other thing: I have come believe if you, on a bicycle, show drivers
that you are doing your part to avoid accidents, they will appreciate it and, perhaps, show a little mercy. Wear visibility clothing, helmet, take your time at intersections and yield easily and often. Use the pedestrian crosswalk signals in busy, multi-lane intersections. Communicate with drivers wherever you can. Use hand signals before turns. Acquire eye contact with drivers where possible. Let drivers know that you are looking out for them as much as you hope they are looking out for you. See Chapter 12 for more discussion (and some surprising research findings) on this subject.
I rode into Tillamook at about 2 PM. I was astonished that it had taken only 6 hours to go the 60 miles over the mountains. A more experienced and stronger biker would have done it more quickly, and even I could have easily pedaled another dozen miles to Cape Lookout and the beach.
Day 2: Cape lookout is a first-class state park and a favorite with cyclists touring the coast. There is camping right in the dunes, hot showers, and a fabulous, untamed beach. I took some time to hang out before continuing south and gaining the 800-foot rise over the cape headlands. At the summit, there is a 2-mile foot trail that runs out to the point and what must be a fantastic view of the coast, but to do the hike, I would have had to leave my gear-laden bike unattended for hours in a busy parking lot.
At that point, Bicycle Theft Paranoia, which comes free of charge with the purchase of any bicycle, began to set in. I have a lock for my bike, so why not take the trail? Is it any more likely that criminally-inclined people, visiting a state park in a pickup truck equipped with four-foot bolt cutters, are going to make off with my bike instead of stealing that Audi or kidnapping a flat-bed trailer carrying two dirt bikes? It’s hard to say. I didn’t own the Audi, and I didn’t own the trailer, but anyone with the gall to steal stuff like that isn’t going to think twice about taking my bike. If I want to hike to the scenic viewpoint without fear of my bike and/or gear being stolen, I’d have to hitch-hike to the trailhead. Then I’d have to bum a ride home‚ possibly finding myself in a stolen Audi. The only solution was to get out of this crime-infested area and continue biking South.
Sand Lake is a lovely tidal estuary with a lot of birds, fish and so much sand that the winter winds blow it up on the surrounding hills, creating a small desert. A portion of this sandy-land is set aside as a dune buggy preserve for endangering small species. There is a large, well-situated campground which, according to the caretakers, is quiet and peaceful during the early part of the week and at all other times something like a cross between the Indy 500 and a frat party during rush week.
My objective this day was a B&B on Blaine Road along the Nestucca river, but first I had to get to Route 101 and follow it south for a few miles.
If Route 6 isn’t busy enough for you, Route 101 will make up for it. Four miles of logging trucks, narrow shoulders, and fast traffic on this section were enough for me, and I was happy to make it to the little town of Beaver and the Nestucca River. All along, I was mindful of a man who was killed by a logging truck several months prior, riding his bike on this very section of 101. The claim was that he had somehow been “sucked under” the load bed and run over by the rear wheels. That did not sound plausible to me, but at the time I had no better explanation.
Ten miles up the creek is the elegant Powder Creek Ranch. Take my advice. Just stay there. You can have a home-cooked dinner with Bev, Brenda, and Hillary, who made me feel as if I had been reunited with old friends. You can meet Lilly, the happiest dog in Oregon, and roam a beautiful piece of coastal range farmland. It is also perfectly situated for the next day’s ride back to Hillsboro.
Day 3: The Blaine/Nestucca River road is the possibly the best route over the coast range. Traffic is virtually non-existent, the road is in good shape, and the scenery is superb. The road is unpaved for a couple of miles just west of the summit, which might account for the lack of thru-traffic, but I was able to ride nearly all of that stretch. The route winds up mountainside, eventually topping out at 2,000 feet, offering a grand view of the Willamette Valley. The descent is steep, quick, and bottoms out in Carleton.
The route from Carlton to Hillsboro runs through the peaceful back roads of farm and wine country, except for a short stretch on Route 47, which offers the cyclist a final opportunity for up-close, high-speed encounters with huge trucks and heavy farm equipment. I made it to Hillsboro by 4PM and rode the Max to Portland.
What a wonderful loop this is. Mountains, coastline, more mountains and farmland, all in close proximity, and on great biking routes. I learned something new about mountains. When hiking, both ascents and descents can be difficult, but mountains don’t bog down a biker nearly as much. The ascents are still energy and time consuming. but the payoff on a bike is a swift and almost effortless descent. Each of my three 60-mile days on this trip could have easily been longer, and this augurs well for biking in the Cascades. The experiment was a huge success.
Photo 1: M.O. Stevens [CC BY-SA 3.0 () or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons