After leaving Portland we decided to head North again up to Astoria so we could get in the whole of the Oregon coast. Day one was nice and cruisy, day two was also supposed to be ok with only 50ish miles planned. We hopped in for a morning coffee and googled the best routes to take up to Astoria. So off we set, pretty late, the sun was shining and the roads were quiet. After about 8 miles a car passing us beeped, pulled over ahead of us and a guy jumped out asking us where we were heading. It quickly transpired the road we were cycling down was a dead end. He explained that the road turned into old logging roads and it’s almost impossible to get through on a bicycle, that he did it once on a mountain bike but spent a lot of time carrying the bike, us with our loaded tourers wouldn’t stand a chance. So, we turned around. 16 miles later we were back to where we started. Following the other, slightly longer 60 mile route to Astoria. That ended up being an 87 mile day. Trying to look for every silver lining, while we were in the supermarket that evening we learnt that after 6pm all baked goods were 3 for $1. It might be gluttonous and very un glamorous to eat football sized donuts sat in a car park but we were beyond caring at this point and the sugary goodness lifted our spirits.
The next day we planned a super short cycle to seaside. We’d heard of the legendary Neil Branson from Harry whom we met in Victoria. He’s a school counsellor who has been opening his home to travellers since 2008. Neil has a massive heart and is always on the go. The day we arrived he was in and out the house watching his school’s various athletic performances throughout the day. Football, Soccer, Basketball, Softball, X-Country, Track. If Seaside High School has a team you can bet your bottom dollar Neil will be there supporting them.
We awoke the next day to absolute miserable weather, luckily for us Neil agreed we shouldn’t be going anywhere. Also luckily enough Lucy and Dave who were also staying with Neil thought the same thing. The four of us gelled instantly and spent the day getting along just great. That evening Neil took us all to the Friday Night High School Football game. My first ever American football game. It was ridiculous. I spent the first half asking absurd questions, generally turning my English nose up at it and wondering why each team had 3847 players. After about half time, helped by a hot coffee my view started to change. Ok, the game is a bit slow and in my eyes having 4 goes to move 10 yards is a bit ‘wussy’ BUT the entire school and local community was involved. Every single person seemed to have a job, ether on the team, in the band, as a cheerleader, selling hot dogs, being water boy and half the town had turned out to support them. Also, who the hell am I kidding. I would have LOVED to have been a cheerleader when I was in school. Prancing about in a short skirt yelling at people, certain individuals who know me now would argue I do a lot of that anyway….
When we finally left Neil’s house the next day we continued to roll down the coast in beautiful sunshine. We didn’t know it at the time but we were about to be blessed with 7 days of beautiful sunshine and coastal views. Never cycling on our own our peloton of cyclists at one point included seven cyclists of different nationalities. English, Irish, Austrian, Canadian, American, Mexican and Romanian. It was really great having new people to cycle with and chat too, learning about new places, people and experiences but I also realised that I am my fathers daughter. It’s not the first time I’ve had this revelation. A few years ago I went to Emberton lake for a spot of open water swimming, as I was changing aka standing just in my underwear* a lady approached me and said
‘you must be Steven’s daughter’
‘Yes, I am. How do you know?’
‘You have the same figure……’
Now I’m not sure who that compliments or insults more, that stood in my underwear I look like a 50 something year old man. Or, my dad stood in his underwear looks like a 20 something year old woman?!
I digress, this time I realised I’m like my Dad because I am a bit of a loner. I like company, but I don’t need it and sometimes I do need the loneliness. Maybe it’s what has drawn us both to ultra endurance sports. Herbie likes to joke that ‘if I’m not miserable I’m not happy’ and I guess it’s true. Among meeting all these new incredible people, laughing, joking and making new friends I was also craving a day alone in the saddle.
I’m sat here in a church hall typing this, torn between trying to be as honest as possible and not have all my new friends think I’m a complete moody cow. I LOVE meeting new people and everybody we’ve met so far on this trip has 100% enhanced my experience, but sometimes if you last name is Garrod you can’t beat a good day of misery just to get your head straight again.
Ok, back to the plot..
One of the super incredible things I have learnt about from meeting new friends is Smores. Smores are as much as an American institution as the deep fried Mars bar in Scotland. A campfire necessity you melt a marshmallow on the fire then sandwich it along with chocolate in between two sugary cinnamon biscuits. They are about 600 calories but amazing! Camping with new friends has inevitably meant lots of campfires and lots of smores.
So just to recap, a day of 5+ hours of loner bike misery in the sunshine finished off with an evening of campfires and friends is slowly becoming one of my favourite kind of days.
Today we finished the Oregon coast and crossed into California. Like I mentioned earlier we have come to stay in St Pauls church hall to try and hide out the rain for a couple of days and do some washing. Oregon has been incredible. It’s absolutely stunning (helped by brilliant weather) and I have turned into a ‘woo girl’ on account of descending beautiful cliff roads yelling ‘woo’ at the top of my lungs. Yes this is my life, and I’m loving it.
*Emberton lake is the home of Olney Swimmers. There are no changing facilities so you either get ready before you get there. Or like me, just get changed next to your car and don’t give a dam if anybody is looking.