Rain drums on my tent through the night. It’s warm, dry, and incredibly cozy inside — I’ve taken care to pitch the tent perfectly — and I wake up fully refreshed. The rain has stopped but the breeze from the ocean still shakes drops off branches, making it sound like it’s still raining lightly.
It’s a monochrome morning. The Pacific is the color of steel. White fog has settled on Cape Lookout. Black bastions of hemlock create a very stark, Nordic look. This reminds me of the first battle scene from “Gladiator”, where the Romans battle the Germanic barbarians.
My injured snail, fighting for his life throughout the night, has crawled down the tree and reached the ground. He has left a slimy trail. I’m glad he survived and yet I manage to inadvertently run him over with my bike, this time for good. Talk about wrong time and place!
As I ride the ten miles to Tillamook for breakfast, the color palette deepens in the newly beginning drizzle. In addition to the earlier grays, there are now all shades of green; they are succulent, bright, fresh. I’m wearing my fancy new waterproof clothing, but even so it’s hard to find a comfortable temperature balance. I’m dry but unpleasantly hot.
I win a free cup of cappuccino in Tillamook by unscrambling the word “ubiquitous”. The cafe owner thought it was a hard word, but the ‘q’ gave out the ‘qui’; the ‘o’, ‘u’, and ’s’ gave out the ending; the rest was easy. The morning gets even more pleasant when a couple pays for my breakfast. They pay without even telling me and I barely have time to run out and shout my thanks as they’re about to round the corner.
My attitude toward the Pacific Coast Highway is readjusting. I had set my expectations too high but now understand the highway for what it is: a long, congested, beautifully forested mountain road with long stretches of boring flat fishing/tourist countryside and a few really nice ocean views. The variety is what makes it overall an enjoyable place to bike. Still, I probably wouldn’t do its whole length.
An older German couple in a colorful Cruise America RV pull up to me at a Cannon Beach overlook. We strike up a conversation and I give them some pointers for what to check out down south (among them the North Umpqua Gorge, of course!). As they’re about to pull out, they suddenly stop, the man runs up and gives me a muffin. They pull out and stop again. Now the woman comes out with two big strawberries, ”Here, take this for your legs. One for your right leg, one for your left!”
Riding through a couple of tunnels. The second one has a safety mechanism for cyclists. You hit a button on the approach and a big flashing “Bicycle in Tunnel” sign come on. But I don’t feel like interrupting my nice downhill roll so I fly through the tunnel without engaging the sign. In any case the tunnel is safe — short (~300 m) and brightly lit. It’s cool and damp inside; water drips from the ceiling.
Overcast sky. Heavy clouds threaten to unleash a storm all day, but never do until right after I reach Astoria and settle in at the attractively named “Lamplighters” motel. My window looks out onto the impressive Astoria-Megler Bridge. I can see the dark headlands of Washington across the mouth of the huge, 4-mile-wide Columbia River.
Today I crossed the 45th parallel, the midpoint betwen the equator and north pole.