Four days cycling the Oregon Coast Part 1 – Fort Stevens to Nehalem Bay

[This was originally going to be one post but I am a verbose kinda guy and got to the end of the second day and figured that would be enough reading for y’all so stay tuned for scenes from the rest of the trip tomorrow!]

A Fort Stevens with the wreck of the Peter Iredale behind me August 2016

Although I had once done a 4 days bike trip in Holland in 2007 it was with a guided tour where each night we returned to the same hotel in Noordwijk an Zee where all our stuff lived while we adventured. It was amazing and I have a million pictures and maybe I’ll write about it one day but it was a whole different thing than going bike camping alone on the Oregon coast for the first time in my life.

In the 1970s Oregon was courting the cycle tourist (way ahead of its time IMHO) so the coast route is pretty well documented and frequented. Many of our state parks also have this amazing thing called hiker/biker sites that are no reservation sites for 5 or 6 bucks and cannot be accessed by motor vehicle. On the coast they are spaced just right for staying in each night. I also knew that in 4 days my girlfriend and her mom would be there to pick me up in Newport. But still I was nervous as I loaded my packed bike, so heavy with all my gear, into the Amtrak bus that would take me to Astoria. You can definitely ride out to the coast, but we actually have a fairly good system of interconnected buses that go to various places on the coast called the NW Connector that most people don’t know about. (My friend Nom actually just updated their website!)

I passed Cannon Beach and Seaside, knowing I would be biking back down the next day, but I wanted the full experience and to grab a burger and a coffee at the hip Astoria Coffee House before spending the night at Fort Stevens so I could have a full day starting in the morning. My stay in the big city was short but I did get compliments on my rig, my knitted seat cover and my opposite of stealth Poler one person tent by an adorable older man who worked at the bike shop right next to coffee. Then it was just a short and easy (ok that long bridge was a little scary) 1o mile ride to the park.

Here’s a record of my ride on Strava. I’ll be pasting the rest below as well:

Because it was my first short trip I didn’t yet have a small stove or pot and was going to go mostly cold food and snacks but the park will bring you firewood in a little golf cart and the KOA across the street had a camp store with hot dogs and the like so I took a little ride to the WWII museum, past the wreck of the Peter Iredale and grabbed some groceries before attempting to start a fire and make dinner.

I was struggling when a fellow cyclist tourist from Japan came by and helped my get my fire started. A little embarrassing but a good way to introduce yourself, Shuhei became the first friend I met on the route. But he wouldn’t be the last. He started the route in Vancouver, BC and wanted to ride as far as at least San Francisco but he was also the first one to introduce me to this Pacific Coast Bike Tour bible that goes all the way through southern California that it seemed everyone else I would encounter was living by.

Bicycling The Pacific Coast: A Complete Route Guide, Canada to Mexico

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“This hill sucks”

My first full day started out flat and easy enough but I knew the famed “7 devils” were ahead. A series of hills, really only 3 are big bad coastal mountains, but that was enough for me. For some reason I thought that even though there were mountains on the way to the coast once I got there it would be flat. Not so much. But after a brief pit stop in Seaside for coffee and watching a beach volleyball tournament get set up I got started on the first. I was not alone in my anguish and was somehow hearted by graffiti I saw that read “this hill sucks” with a little stick figure drawing on a bike. I was super ready for my fav fish and chips spot in Cannon Beach by the time I got there.

There were more hills to come but CB was busy and people cheered me on. It made me feel good and gave me some legs to get up that next beast, Neahkahnie mountain. There’s also a scary tunnel in this section where you hit a button and it flashes lights to tell drivers that there are cyclists in there but my faith in that is never high that they’re paying attention. When I got there Pacific Power trucks littered both sides of 101 and when I hit the button nothing happened. Instead I faced a deep dark tunnel with no lights. But faith in humanity was soon restored as one of the power engineers came up to me and said he would grab his truck and escort me through the tunnel. No cars on my ass just a big badass PP truck flashing its lights and enforcing my right of way. Hell yeah!

My little Masi all loaded up with the view from the top of Neahkahnie Mountain right after the scary tunnel. Worth it?

My campground that night was Nehalem Bay just north of Tillamook. I took some great pictures at the windy beach that had some strange cloud formations close to the beach rocks, took a shower, plugged in my extra solar battery, and kinda wish I had checked out the “fly-in” campground for small planes.

I really wanted to record my rides and that takes a lot of battery juice from your phone. Solar chargers aren’t amazing in cloudy coastal Oregon but I did get about one bar from keeping it out in the sun while I rode and would also just leave that in the bathroom to charge rather than risking charging my phone in a public bathroom I didn’t want to hang out in.

This hiker/biker site was a lot more populated than the last and when I started to smell the weed wafting my way I decided that it was time to stop being antisocial and make some friends. I’m glad I did. There was the couple from Ireland who had started in Calgary and had some crazy stories of being cheered on by the locals and they trudged slowly up the Rockies unable to speak, unclip, or use the walkie talkies to check on each other. Whatever, I just walk my bike when I can’t deal (which I did many times on this trip btw).  There was the American couple who had each been biking separately across the country for a year and had just decided to give their relationship a real go and bike together starting in Seattle only a week before. There was also a young guy from Mexico who started in Vancouver, and an older guy on a recumbent. It was quite the crew.

Turns out they also knew Shuhei. They had cycled with him through a lot of Washington but they all stayed the previous night in Cape Disappointment just on the other side of the Columbia River, while he pressed on to Fort Stevens. They were glad to hear he was doing well and visiting Portland. We chatted a little more before I had to slink back to my tent exhausted.

I don’t know if it was an indica but I soon passed the eff out.

Crazy cloud formations over Nehalem Bay

[Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!]

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