The past five days are a blur.
I lose count of the number of times different hail storms pass through. I start each day with wet socks and wet boots. Everything is soaked. The rain doesn’t stop for more than a half-hour at a time.
I knew this was coming. Last Sunday, the forecast simply called for continuous rain each day. I decided then and there that I would be cycling a good distance each day regardless of the weather. I couldn’t wait this one out without losing a week’s worth of progress.
From Nehalem to Bandon, I cycle down the coast of Oregon. Somehow, my spirits are high despite the constant rain in my face. At a certain point, it’s preferable to be on the bike versus not because at least my body generates enough heat through movement to keep me warm.
The downhills are brutal. Even with all my rain gear – rain jacket, rain pants, rain gloves, rain overshoes (like booties, yes) – I manage to finish each day wet to the core. Oregon’s state parks are a refuge at the end of every day. For $7 or $8, I can pitch my tent, take a hot shower, and use a proper bathroom. It might not sound like much, but it makes a world of a difference after a day of 5-6 hours cycling in the rain.
My eyes become so used to the dark PNW skies underneath my dark cycling sunglasses that each time I enter a grocery store to stock up on food, I feel like I’m getting a migraine due to the fluorescent lighting.
The coastline doesn’t disappoint though. The cliffside views are stunning, and the ocean looks harsh as it slams its waves against the jagged rocks that Oregon is famous for. I even see some otters enjoying the sixth hail storm of the week. I think briefly that the views would have been better in the sun, but I may not have appreciated them as much. It is what it is.
Miraculously, the sky almost always seems to cooperate with me for just enough time to set up and tear down my tent each night and morning. There are several occasions when the sky is dry just long enough for me to cook a quick meal and then get in the tent. Then all hell breaks loose.
Of course, I also end up cooking some meals sitting in the rain at a picnic table with limited tree branch cover. What difference does it make at this point?
I get used to the rain and cold and stop checking the weather.
I even manage to complete my first “century” this week, which is what the cycling community calls a day filled with 100+ km. I do 101.7 km and couple that with 1,184 meters climbed. Maybe the rain makes me a better cyclist? I don’t know if that is necessarily a lot of travel as I have no references in the bikepacking or cycling world to base it on, but I was actively moving on my bike for over 6 hours and definitely feel it the next day.
I meet some incredible individuals this week too. There are two French guys traveling north from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska. They bring me comfort in thinking that I’m not that crazy after all. There are others out there too cycling in this rain!
Charlie (aka Poptart) is a retired thru-hiker with a crazy long grey beard. He greets me at the hiker/biker camp after I complete my century and we share a nice, yet brief, conversation. Any social contact is usually good after days like these alone in the elements. It probably helps keep me sane.
Then there is another couple: JT and Linda. I end up seeing them at two different campsites, so we get talking a bit more the second time around. After sharing stories, JT grew up in the same city in Virginia that I did, and even went to the same middle school! He and his wife are traveling in a rented van for a week to explore the Oregon coast as they leave Florida for a bit. They have mountain bikes strapped on the back and are full of good energy. JT has done a few trips of his own by bike too.
They offer to help me with support, logistics, really anything. A super kind offer. I pass them one more time on the road, we say some goodbyes, and they book it further south then I will make it in a day by bike in pursuit of some mountain bike trails. I hope to meet up with them at some point in the future and share some more stories. It’s a small world!
Each day, I want to write what happened and what I saw, but I arrive at camp mentally and physically exhausted. On top of that, I have to take every second of decent weather to set up my tent, try to cook a meal, and move all my stuff out of my bike bags and into my tent without getting soaked. There is no guarantee of dryness and the weather changes in a second.
I’m writing this now on a much-needed rest day after 5 days of intense (for me) cycling. I wake up to blue skies and enjoy Bullards Beach after riding 5 km into town to do some laundry. Everything I own smells terrible.
It feels good to regroup. I’m still feeling absolutely dog tired, but I’m hopeful that I will wake up tomorrow ready to go! Only a few days left until I reach the Californian border… Oregon is passing by quickly.