We celebrate my last day on the coast.
Christophe waits for me to catch up near Beverly Beach.
It hurt like hell every time I moved. The only thing that caused me more pain than moving was lying still in my sleeping bag. I rolled carefully onto my side, unzipped the bag then slowly crawled out of the tent. Standing up was agony. It felt like every muscle in my body had been pounded with a meat hammer. I hobbled over to the picnic table and leaned heavily on my hands. “What is zee matter?” Christophe asked.
“Oh, man,” I croaked, “I don't feel so good.”
“You are sick?”
I shook my head weakly. “I think I overdid it yesterday.” I didn’t feel like talking. I arched my back and began working out the stiffness. I rubbed my legs and arms and my lower back to get the circulation going. I stretched and tried to shake my joints loose. After ten minutes of this I was able to move enough start my stove and get some water going for breakfast.
“I checked zee runes last night,” Christophe said, “today we weel have a fine treep.”
“Runes?” I muttered. “What runes?”
Christophe reached into a pouch lying on the table, pulled out a small wooden oval with a stone embedded in it. There was a cryptic letterform painted on it. “I learned from a shaman as I was riding across zee Gobi Desert. Zee runes can tell zee future.” He smiled. “Today, we have a fine journey.”
“Did the runes say anything about my black and blue body?”
Christophe shook his head. “Eet weel pass. Zee first couple of months you weel have zeez pains as you geet een shape. Eet ees good!”
I shook my head, runes, I thought.
I shuffled around camp packing my panniers and loading them on my bike. It took longer than usual but by 8:00 I was coasting down the hill to Highway 101.
The morning was cloudy and cool but off to the west I could see a few patches of blue headed our way. Well, I thought, at least we’re going to have good weather. By 8:30 it was raining hard. I pedaled along through the storm with my head down, feeling miserable and very sorry for myself. I huffed and puffed up every little incline; even the flats seemed to tax my endurance. I wanted to stop and lay down at the side of the road. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this kind of life, I thought. As I suffered along, wallowing in self-pity, negative thoughts running through my head, I had serious doubts that I would actually do Bike Around The World after all. Shucks, I’d be lucky to finish this little trip!
Riding through these things always got my blood racing.
Then something curious happened. After a few miles, my cadence started to regain its old rhythm and my breathing came easier. The road felt smoother and the rain seemed to be letting up. The hills weren’t so steep and I began to make better time on the flats. Suddenly, riding didn’t seem like such miserable work. While my mind had been busy contemplating failure, my body had begun to get back into the groove it had developed over the past few days, weeks and months of cycle touring. I hadn’t consciously tried to pick up the pace. It was as though when left to its own devices, my body knew exactly what was needed to get the job done. My legs felt strong, there was no trace of pain in my arms and shoulders and my backache had disappeared. I actually felt good. I guessed Christophe had been right about my aches and pains being a part of the shaping up process. Maybe there was something to those runes, too, I thought.
Every section of the Oregon coast is so picturesque that each day’s scenery seems better than the last. That aside, the ride between Beverly Beach and Honeyman State Park has got to rank as some of the most spectacular country on the whole ride. It’s mostly rolling hills with one last moderately big hill toward the end, just before the second and last tunnel on the coast.
There are lighthouses, amazing beaches and of course the world-famous Sea Lion Rocks. We pedaled through this bucolic countryside, stopping often to gape at the all the natural wonders. Around noon, the weather began to clear and by afternoon we were riding the last few dozen miles in shorts and jerseys. As we rode side-by-side along one stretch with a particularly wide shoulder, it struck me that I’d be leaving the coast the next morning. “Hey, Christophe,” I said, “this is my last day.”
I stopped so often to take pictures, I filled up my camera.
“Zat’s right.” We rode along in silence, then, “Tonight I make zee special dinner.”
As we rolled into Florence, the last town before camp, we pulled into a Safeway and loaded up on fresh seafood and vegetables and a bottle of zinfandel. “Ah,” I said, looking at the bottle Christophe chose, “Le vin blanche!”
“Le vin blanc,” he corrected, “vin he ees masculine.”
“Blanc smhmac,” I joked, “this is gonna be good!”
Honeyman M. Memorial State Park is located about three miles south of Florence. We crossed a bridge across an estuary, climbed a slight hill, and then, coasted another mile or two to the turn off. When we rolled our bikes into the campground we discovered that there were two other tents there but no bikes. We theorized that the other campers were probably out enjoying the extensive network of sand dunes.
It all made sense now. For the last ten or twelve miles we had been passing places with signs advertising “sand boards’ and dune buggy rentals.
I never got tired of the Oregon coast. Around every corner
was a new adventure.
Soon, Christophe had a roaring fire going and was busy chopping up onions, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini. “Do we need my stove?” I asked.
“Oui, you make zee rice.” Christophe had his dozen or so bottles, bags and pouches of mysterious spices out and was seasoning the bubbling vegetables. “Eeen a little while, we put een zee muscles and shrimp,” he said, tossing in a pinch of seasoning from a plastic zip lock bag, “zen we let eet simmer for an hour or zo.”
The aroma rising from the beat-up frying pan was almost too much to resist. My stomach was doing flip-flops and I remembered a Baby Ruth candy bar I’d stashed in my handlebar bag. I got it out and broke it in two. “Here you go,” I said offering half to Christophe.
He shook his head, “I do not eat zat sheet,” he said, “eet looks like zee turd.”
I shrugged and wolfed down the whole thing.
A little later, a ranger, an older man with thinning gray hair, came through camp picking up litter. “Have you seen the guy in that tent?” he said, indicating a blue North Face job situated a few yards away.
“Nope,” I said, “why?”
“Well, he checked in three days ago and no one has seen him since. We think he spent one night, then, rode out the next morning leaving everything behind. We don’t know where he is or what happened to him. If he doesn’t show up soon, we’re going to call the cops.”
“Have you checked inside the tent?” I asked.
The ranger glanced over at the tent then back. “I haven’t personally, but I think one of the other rangers have.”
“Should we go have a look?” I said.
The ranger hesitated. “I don’t think so. He’s probably off on a side trip or something.”
“Maybe he knows someone in town and is staying with them,” I offered.
“Probably met a girl,” Christophe theorized.
We all were thinking the same thing; that our fellow biker had been in an accident or met with some form of foul play.
“Jesus,” I finally muttered, saying out loud what was on all our minds, “I hope the poor guy isn’t lying in a ditch somewhere…”
We all traded serious glances. The ranger looked off then back. “Well, we’ll call the cops if he doesn’t come back by tomorrow. If he shows up before then ask him to let us know, will you?”
By now the rice was done and Christophe had added the seafood to the vegetables. He stirred in the rice and added more water and spices. The scent wafting up from the pan was out of this world. “Open zee vin,” Christophe said, “eet ees ready!”
I filled my cup and Christophe’s. “Viva Le France!” I said and held up my aluminum cup.
“Viva Le… What state are you from?” Christophe asked.
"Viva Le Washington,” he said and we clinked cups. We filled our plates and ate like hungry lumberjacks. It was by far the best dinner I’d had on the whole trip. Trying to describe the symphony of subtle flavors is like trying to describe a sunset, so let’s just say it was damn good and leave it at that. I thought of asking for the recipe, but trying to recreate such a meal in such surroundings would be an exercise in futility, so I just ate and drank and enjoyed.
It was dark by the time the four women showed up. They pushed their bike through the camp and leaned them up against trees around their tent. “Can we come over and sit by your fire?”
“Sure,” Christophe and I said in unison. We’d emptied the bottle of wine and were feeling pretty festive.
The six of us sat around the flickering fire and talked for a couple of hours. The women, all in their late twenties, had ridden in from Eugene a couple of days before. They’d been out exploring the dunes and were planning on making the return trip to Eugene the next morning. “No kidding,” I said, “I’m going to Eugene tomorrow, too.”
“That’s great,” one woman said, “we can all ride together.”
This trip is just getting better all the time, I thought.
Tomorrow: Day Seven: Cycling From Florence to Eugene.