Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hello, Oregon!

“Sort-of-Sabbatical” Day Fifteen, Sunday June 17

I’m surprised that this morning is the first time I have to navigate in fog.  This isn’t a hazard I deal with much in the desert, and I’m relieved to learn that the vision deficiency that keeps me from riding at night does not apply to fog. The mist sticks around just long enough to be an amusing novelty, while I make my way to the state line.

Hello, Oregon!

The road may be a bit straighter, the views a little more hidden, it may be misty with the threat of rain, but there’s no shortage of eye-popping sights.  In fact, there are just too many, and I know I’ll get nowhere if I stop every quarter mile taking photos, so I’m riding hesitatingly, paralyzed with indecision. I can’t seem to commit on the fly to any one best spot and instead, ride right on by each spectacular glimpse through the trees, missing one opportunity only to find a better one a few hundred yards down the road.  And then another.  And another.   By the time I get near Pistol River State Park, I finally grind to a stop.  I must take a photo!

Pistol River Area OR

It’s not long before I discover my first Oregon factoid. All gasoline stations are, by law, full service. At my first fueling stop, the young attendant proudly announces that he knows how to fill a motorcycle and is clearly having a difficult time not salivating all over the shiny red Italian gas tank. But more often than not, it’s an awkward affair.  I hand my credit card over, the attendant swipes, picks up the gas pump and hands it to me.  I shrug and fill my own tank.   Clearly the system was not designed with motorcyclists in mind.

I’ve got a short travel day ahead of me, primarily because I’m not sure where I’m going.  I camped out at grocery store in the early morning fog for a bit, stocking up on groceries, and availing myself of a power outlet while I researched weather, camping and routes using my agonizingly slow phone.  I’ve had it in the back of my mind to explore the Columbia River Gorge, the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, and eventually tag the Canadian border, but now I wonder if it's worth riding several days in the rain just to achieve the proverbial stamp on my passport. It seems I’ve reached the end of the sparkling weather on the coast and I need to decide what to do.  So I decide to decide tomorrow, and plan a short day of riding and wandering around the southern Oregon coast in the meantime.

The area is sprinkled with viewpoints, parks and interesting sounding places on the map, like “Seven Devils” and “Face Rock,” and I hop from one to the other, trying to capture the scenery, but somehow I can’t manage it. I zoom in, I zoom out, try this angle and that, but I can’t simultaneously capture the interesting shapes of the mammoth rock formations strewn about in the shallow surf, and the grand scope of the wide vistas. The day is flat grey, which, although part of the charm of my immediate experience,  doesn’t offer any interest to the shots.  It’s beautiful and special, but on the camera it’s just not working, and I’m frustrated.

Bandon, OR Scenic Viewpoints (1)

When I roll into Bullard’s Beach State Park, I learn my second factoid about Oregon.  Camping is remarkably cheaper than the $43/night * I’d been spending in California. And there are showers.  And the showers are free.  Plus, I didn’t have to reserve my site days in advance.  As I set up my tent,  I’m nodding with approval until an opportunistic raven catches me off guard.  It’s ransacking my luggage, only a few steps from where I’m standing, and is has my cheese sandwich nearly unwrapped. I have to make an embarrassingly loud commotion before it decides to lazily flap barely a foot further away.   I can almost hear its eyes rolling at me,  and I tuck into the sandwich before finishing the task of unpacking.

The park includes the Coquille River Lighthouse, and I get a little tour up the narrow spiral staircase to the top.  Remember the signs warning of rogue waves at McKerricher State Park two days earlier?  Seems that the lighthouse parking area was hit with just such a wave in 2001.  Right outta the blue.  Weird.   And just a few weeks earlier, the first debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan began to arrive in the area.   Also weird.

Coquille River Lighthouse Bandon, OR

Since today I’ve decided to set up camp first and explore second, there’s still enough daylight for me to head further up the coast.  A logging truck reminds me that I'm not in Arizona anymore (as if I hadn't noticed already). It’s alarming, staring down those enormous tree corpses that look like they might strike back on the human race by sliding out from their restraints at any moment**.  I keep a wary distance until I can pass.

I’m wandering aimlessly now,  a port with fishing boats here, an unusual bridge there, and I completely miss my planned turn off that would loop me back to my campsite via more curious sounding venues and unexplored roads.  But I’m feeling lazy and, honestly, too strangely indifferent to seek it out or even photograph those sights I do find mildly interesting.  I sigh as I turn the bike around.  I’m annoyed at the caution I must exercise regarding my inability to ride at night. And my tent, which I usually keep with me until the end of the day, just in case, is on the other side of a drawbridge at the moment.  I’m forced to plan for the possibility of a significant delay.  As I head back the way I came, my spirits are perplexingly low.  Perhaps I was right a few days ago when thinking the rest of my trip is bound to be disappointing. Or maybe I’m reluctant to admit that the outbound portion of my trip is coming to an end.  The entire state of Washington, along with most of Oregon, is blanketed in rain which is projected to stubbornly stay put for days.  My time is not unlimited, and it just doesn’t make sense to continue in the rain when there is plenty of sunshine along with countless wonderful destinations inland and south of me.  So while I still have much to see, and probably 2,000 unexplored miles to traverse (not counting Sort of Sabbatical Phase Two!), there’s no denying that tomorrow my trajectory, however circuitous, will turn on itself and reverse course.

My funk is abruptly cut short when dinner at Tony’s Crab Shack brings much needed focus to my day. As I stroll in, peering at other diners’ plates in what I hope is an unobtrusive manner, one of them*** guiltily admits it’s her third night here in a row. I’m sold, and order the half plate of crab.  After only a few bites,  I scold myself for my modesty and frugality.  Why did I order the half plate, when the whole crab plate was clearly the wiser choice?  Afterwards, I stroll about the place, which is part crab shack and part bait shop (the two are safely and securely divided, as far as I can tell) and enjoy happy memories of Zeek's Creek Bait and Tackle, first stop on so many father-daughter childhood fishing trips long ago.  I snap a photo to send to my brother, who will instantly understand the reference.  Certain things are universal – colorful lures, buckets of worms, minnows and eels, and a decor of proudly displayed photos featuring the ones that didn’t get away.
 Tony's Crab Shack Bait Shop Bandon, OR

Tony's Crab Shack Bandon, OR
I'm pretty sure this is Tony.

I take one more walk to the ocean before dark, to revel in the mist and surf. On the rare occasion of such weather in Tucson, people step outside their front door in wonder, and call over to a neighbor who invariably has done the same thing, “It’s gorgeous out today, isn’t it?”  Ahh, perspective.

Bullards Beach State Park

Bullards Beach State Park (1)

*Includes reservation fee.
**I’m told it happens.
***Small world moment!  Turns out the couple lives in Sedona, AZ and she is good friends with a former employee of the Tucson Symphony!

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