Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day Four: Florence to Sunset Bay

(back-dating this post, too, so that it falls on the day in which it occurred. Actually posted on Aug 3rd.)

Day four was our shortest-mileage day of the entire trip.  It was a day of transitions and of learning.  We learned that you need to at least set a target departure time in the morning or you won’t leave camp until 11am.  We learned that it’s not worth washing your cycling clothes if the evening air is too damp for them to dry.  We learned that Vaibhav was eventually willing to go forward with the trip despite his badly sprained ankle and his four flat tires on the first day.  (We learned that Vaibhav isn’t that great at changing tubes on this particular tire+rim combination.  Granted it turned out to be a very ornery combination that requires all but the most seasoned of mechanics to use levers to get the tire back on.)  We learned that you can dry a wet towel over the campfire and that it generally won’t catch fire if it is damp.  This is sort of like roasting a marshmallow for a smore very slowly…

We didn’t yet learn that your towel will reek of campfire smoke after doing this, nor did we learn exactly how dry your towel can get via this method before it ignites.  Those learnings would come on later days.

I asked Vaibhav to shake my tent when he wanted me to wake up.  He did so at 8am and I half-awoke, rolled over for a moment … then emerged from the tent at 9am.  I guess I drifted off a bit.  Oops.

Packing up camp took a bit longer than it should have the first time.  And we needed to swap out the tubes on Vaibhav’s touring bike since neither seemed to hold air.  It turned out to be a pinch-while-mounting issue, as best as we could tell.

We finally rolled out at 11am.  I couldn’t help thinking that I was usually 40-50 miles down the road by 11am, but I figured I did those extra miles early on so that we wouldn’t have to rush now.

But when we took a break at 25 miles and found that Vaibhav had another slow leak, there were moments of doubt … luckily Vaibhav’s girlfriend and I were able to convince him to keep at it and that his luck would change.  We proceeded to ride off with a *fantastic* tailwind for 3 miles, noting that our luck had changed already.  With a wind like that, we could probably reach San Diego by the end of the week!

But then we reached the end of the road instead.  I knew that we were in trouble when I saw a brown park sign that said “fee area head.”  They normally don’t charge a fee to use a through route.  That would be called a toll.  So we rode into the parking lot of a giant ATV park (or Off-Highway Vehicle, as the brochure called them).  A reasonably hot park ranger gave us instructions on getting back to the main road.  We had to ride right back into that headwind.  Ouch.

So by 3pm we were only 25 miles down the road.  The day before I already had 80 mils under my belt at this point.

We had two different possible destinations in mind for that evening – Sunset Bay (near Charleston, resulting in a 50-60 mile day) or Bullards Beach (near Bandon, more like an 80-mile day).  80 miles seemed like a reasonable target the night before … but with the late start and the uncertainty about how difficult “Seven Devils Road” would be, we made a responsible/intelligent call and stopped at Sunset Bay.  It was probably the last time that we erred on the side of responsibility but it was certainly the right call.  After stopping for pizza in North Bend we reached the turn-off for Sunset Bay around 6:30pm, while fighting through a dense, cold fog.  ~25 additional hilly miles could have been a very bad idea.

Sunset Bay was rather quiet and picturesque, albeit cold and foggy.  A park ranger stopped by the hiker/biker site to tell everyone about the night’s Campfire Program – all about Sea Otters.  Lisa from Vancouver made it to the show but the rest of us were too tired/cold to leave the campfire.  We met Steve from Chico, who was riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker.  We also met a couple from Austin (woohoo!!) who had taken a rest day at Sunset Bay after a particularly disastrous ride the day before.  The guy had broken three spokes while climbing past the Umpqua Lighthouse.  Ironically that lighthouse was on the road that Vaibhav & I missed when we sped off to the sand dunes earlier that day.  Anyways, the couple ended up hithcing a ride to the nearest town in the back of a pickup drunk with a bunch of almost-certainly-drunk folks.  In the gal’s words, “I could smell the alcohol on the driver’s breath but we’d been trying to hitch a ride for at least half an hour and this was the only car that had stopped. So we got in.”

Remarkably/unfortunately, Day Four is the one day for which I don’t have any pictures.  My camera and cell phone batteries were both dead.  I charged the phone a bit at camp and bought camera batteries in town a day or two later.  Viabhav should be posting some pictures from this day and I may steal a few and update this post.

A few other memories from Day Four:

  • The bridge over Coos Bay before entering North Bend was pretty intense.  We had a good tailwind and the second half of the bridge was a rockin’ downhill.  The sidewalk started out wide enough that we considered riding there despite the guidebooks’ suggestion to take the road.  In the end, the road was the right call as the sidewalk suddenly narrowed once you got going fast, due to road construction.
  • Seven Devils Rd was a lot of fun.  It was hard to ocunt exactly which climbs counted as the seven devils but somebody had tried to do so and had painted the road with encouragement, and a bit of discouragement.  I swear that we saw, “Yay, devil #2” before we saw “that was devil #1.”  But seeing “devil #7” on the road was definitely encouraging.

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