Hopping down the Oregon Coast (part 1)

Astoria to Seaside to Cannon Beach to Arch Cape to Manzanita to Nehalem to Wheeler to Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi to Bay City to Tillamook to Cape Mearres State Park to Oceanside to Netarts to Cape Lookout State Park to Pacific City.

So the last week has been spent meandering down the Oregon Coast line from Astoria to Pacific City and what an amazing ride we have had!

On the advice of Lizzie Le Mare, a fellow Tibblette who in 2017 drove the west coast on her honeymoon with Ben we have decided to take it slow along the Oregon coast, riding from town to town, taking in the atmosphere of this very special part of the pacific coast.

The scary bridge into Astoria – we got a ride across

First up Astoria, a very laid back place made up of coffee houses, craft beer breweries, galleries and people making ‘stuff’. As we later learn from our Airbnb host, Chris (a carpenter by trade) Astoria is a place people choose to live who can make ends meat by what they do or what they create and hence it has become a place of artists, artisans and coffee makers!

We had an overnight stay and on the advice of our previous BnB host we visited the Buoy brewery and sat by the water with a small beer of choice (for someone who does not really like beer I am doing well to develop a taste, albeit sticking with the very mild pilsner varieties. Claire on the other hand is getting stuck into all manner of IPAs and ales (quite revolting in my book, but each to their own)).

Highlight of the visit to the brewery: a glass floor with a view of the rocks below where very large seals choose to spend the night and bask in their unwanted celebrity status.

Beer was then followed by a very delicious pizza (one half one flavour the other half another….I like this concept!)

As Claire has already mentioned in our last post the next day involved a waterside yoga class with a Henry VIII look a like teacher and accompanied by suitably appropriate lute music. I mention this class again because I was rather proud of myself for being able to do the crow pose for the first time ever and without breaking my nose. OK the pose only lasted for a millisecond but I am hoping this first tentative step will lead to greater things!

This was then followed by a delicious breakfast and espresso coffees in Street 14 cafe. Great coffee, great granola / yoghurt and a great atmosphere.

Then it was on the bikes and a 50km ride to ‘Seaside’. We took the long way round, which involved us crossing another much shorter and less stressful bridge than the previous nights entry into the town and then riding around Fort Stevens State Park (a former military enclave and now a place to camp, ride bikes, walk and view nature). Rumour had it the area is inhabited by a lot of Elk. Signs warned us of this fact but no sightings on our particular trip.

The quiet of the many pedestrian/ cycle only routes making up the Park eventually gave way to route 101 and large amounts of traffic. We took our place on the hard shoulder and with heads down pounded out the miles as quickly as we could.

We eventually arrived at Seaside just as a heavy sea mist started to fall. Apparently such mists are more common in June than August but because of the extreme heat being experienced inland over the last few weeks the coast has seen the mists arriving in the morning, burning off by lunch and then returning in the evening.

So to Seaside. Well on first view not at all appealing. Car orientated shopping malls along route 101 and a random, unplanned settlement built for the influx of summer holiday makers. We find our home for the night, a small motel, which has been jazzed up with brightly painted doors and windows and murals. We have a large room and deposit our bikes, shower and hit downtown.

Seaside’s centre is made up of a Main Street, Broadway which supports every conceivable food choice and various places of entertainment. On reaching the beach we find it in the process of being covered by volleyball nets. On checking out why on the internet we find that Seaside is about to become host to the west coast’s biggest beach volleyball tournament. (We did plan a return to Seaside but big rain and cozy fires in Arch Cape prevented us from getting back onto our bikes and making the return journey to watch this event- see below).

We eat (an amazing seafood curry) and then to bed. Next day we pack up and after much searching eventually find a much needed laundry in a neighbouring hotel and sneak in (pretending to be guests) to get our limited mobile wardrobes clean.

Cannon beach haystacks
amazing planting in cannon beach
A place to stay
Loads of rabbits on Cannon beach

Onto Cannon Beach...

After a great coffee (Seaside Coffee House) we take the short trip to our next stop, Cannon Beach. A very BIG contrast to Seaside, even though it is only a short jump down the coast. Set off route 101 the town revolves around a main street called Hemlock Street. It is fronted by 2/3 storey buildings, clad in wooden shingles , which have either been left to grey naturally or are painted in subtle shades of beach blues and greens. Hand painted signs identify the many guest houses, beach huts or hotels (Whale Rock, Pelican bay, Surfside, Wave motel – you get the vibe!) and given the time of year confirm that there is ‘No Vacancy’. Gardens and public spaces are planted with an amazing range of plants. Deep blue and purple hydrangeas, grasses, pines, catmint and fennel feature in a big way and look stunning. In addition all the shops are adorned by the most over the top and enormous hanging baskets and people sit around looking at the sea and each other on brightly coloured steamer chairs.

The beach itself comprises endless soft white sand, big breakers and a number of large rock ‘haystacks’, which punctuate the beach expanse. Both being geographers way back in time we spend a few moments of discussion working out how these stacks came to be. Both get it wrong and resort to google to find that they are intact the remains of enormous lava flows which emanated from the earth’s crust in Idaho (Yellowstone National Park) some 45 million years ago and travelled some 300 miles to the ocean. The coastline was apparently some 75 miles inland then, but the lava flows were so powerful they plunged into sediment far offshore and then re-erupted at another location.

We cycle through the town and find our home for the next two days: Grey Whale Inn. A wooden terrace of six linked beach chalets with a little terrace, which I guess were built in the ‘ 50’s. They are situated pretty much on the beach. We unload and then walk along the beach to the main town, have a beer in the Pelican Brewery and then a bowl of steamer clams cooked in beer. (Note: Steamer clams cooked in beer, whilst sounding like a good idea is not. Our view stick with white wine).

We then walk home along the beach and are struck by the fact that there are a lot of rabbits. They are everywhere! Munching their way through everything and they are not like our wild rabbits – these look like a colony of roger rabbits – white ones, brown ones and black ones. On trying to find the story behind the many bunnies we ascertain that no one really knows. Rumour has it that a women in the 1960s let a whole load loose and well they just bread like rabbits. Apparently some locals have tried to make pets of them but they are so inbred that their teeth grow extra long and they have to be shaved down periodically or they cannot eat!…strangely no rabbit stew on the menus!

Next morning it is cold and misty and Claire and I get up early to cycle into town to do a yoga class. This time with Shelly who we learn has a love of 80’s disco music. After a very serious beginning involving stretching and the pling pling of eastern music she informs us of her love of said disco and on que the Bee Gees Nigh Fever starts and we then do a series of weight bearing/ weight lifting moves to the strains of Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire and Chic. Loved it! And a great way to get us going and to stretch our bones and muscles.

The lesson finishes with a few tears from Shelly and talk of buying a small chi wa-wa dog….we don’t quite follow the mood of the class and swiftly leave and find ourselves some great coffee. Two places to recommend: Insomnia coffee and the Irish Table (both these establishments hosted us for several hours as we planned out our trip down the coast and beyond as the clouds prevailed). Eventually the clouds lift and we sun ourselves on the beach and walk along the vast expanse beach that is Cannon Beach. This beach is the perfect beach to preambulate, sit and watch the world go by and this we did for a good few hours.

Riding from Arch Cape to Manzita

Move onto Arch Cape…

Then it was time to get our bikes together and to jump to Arch Cape and our next stop on the journey. Our home, a building that had originally been a post office, grocery and general store. Originally built in 1939 and known simply as the ‘Beach House’ the building served as a guest house and post office. The property was bought and sold and eventually was converted to a very comfortable and luxurious Inn. Our room still had the original fire place where the community used to sit around and share the gossip of the day.

We dump most of our stuff early in the morning and then set off south to Manzina. What a great ride! The sun was shining and we had our first real experience of the Oregon coast. The coast road hugged the mountainside and took us up high where we could get fantastic and expansive views of the beaches below or plunged to sea level and ran along the beach edge. It was a very exhilarating and spectacular ride.

Prior to dropping into Manzina itself the opportunity to do laundry in one of the few, if not the only coin operated laundry in the district. With yet another clean wardrobe we ride into Manzina and have some lunch in ‘Left Coast Siesta’ – a great little Mexican restaurant- and enjoy some pretty lovely black bean and chicken taco salads. Whilst eating we learn that the women’s club of Manzina is having an ‘Open House’ tour of all of the houses in the town (and yes this is a town that supports an number of super designer beach shacks) on 25th August…damn too early again. We discuss how much we would have loved to nose round these amazing homes.

We then pick up some food in the local supermarket – note: food is really expensive! I blame Brexit and the poor exchange rate. I buy a few veg, some cheese, charcuterie and chocolate and the bill comes to $100! A lot – even to me who never ever considers what food costs!

We load up and ride back to our lovely Arch Cape enclave, cook an amazing supper and get stuck into the ‘Arch Cape Chronicles: A bit of Oregon Coast’s Past’ by David and Alma English. What a fascinating place. Settled only some 100 years ago, a small number of beach plots have been handed down the generations and a small multi generational community now inhabits this amazing beach. The book chronicles the lives of the first settlers through to the current day. A great story!

The activities of night one at Arch Cape are repeated on night two. Although this time we take a walk on the beach, which we virtually have to ourselves. We are, however treated to the site of two groups of brown pelicans who run up and down the coast swooping down to collect fish. We then walk back to our rooms and collect blackberries on the way and stew them for pudding and sensibly (unlike last night) we have purchased a small half bottle of Provence Rose , which makes the night just perfect!

Riding to Oceanside

A great coastal ride to Oceanside

Next morning it is up early. It is raining (boo!) but we must move on. We pack our bags and set of at 9ish. Our first stop a revisit to Manzina for coffee and then we ride on to Tillamook. A great ride hugging the coast line and various river inlets. The landscape comprises big seas scapes, marshland and woodland. A train line follows the coastline and as we approach Garibaldi an old Casey Jones steam train passes us.

Now Garabaldi? How on earth did this town get its name? Is Garabaldi not a 19th century general who helped unify Italy? Or is it a biscuit (fly cemetery?). Well something to do with a man named Daniel Bayley who was the first significant property owner in the area.He was appointed by President Grant in 1870 as the area’s first postmaster and given the duty of naming the postmark. In the same year Giuseppe Garibaldi helped unite Italy after a military career devoted to democracy around the world and Bayley felt moved to name his post office after his hero.

Interesting!…then it was onto Tillamook. The landscape transitions from coastal beaches to large fields full of cows. This is dairy country (apparently!) and the town is famous for its cheese. We pass a large factory on the outskirts of the town, which is the main cheese making factory and a significant visitor destination. Looking at the vast numbers of people eating in line outside the factory we decide to pass on by, stopping instead at another Pelican brewery for lunch (but not beer this time!).

We then take a right onto route 131, which hugs the the coast around Cape Mears. This is the highlight of the day, following a ride right by the water with huge views across Tillamook Bay. A headwind makes the going tough but due to part of the highway being closed because of subsidence we have the road to ourselves and enjoy the solitude and the bird life (herons, pelicans, cormorants, guillemots (no puffins, sadly) around the shore.

We reach the furthest point in the headland and read the sorry tale of T.B Potter who at the turn of the 20th century had a dream to create a second Atlantic city in the location. The sea, however destroyed his dream as is told in the photo below. Claire and I were, however rather intrigued to read that a hotel in the new city had the first automated fire sprinkling system. The road started to climb and we both discussed at length how such a system might work. I won’t share as it is one of those embarrassing conversations shared by people with little mechanical or practical knowledge. However the talk go us to the top of the hill and we managed to negotiate the road that had subsided into the sea.

TB potter’s sad tale

Eventually we descend into Oceanside. A big hill up is rewarded by a fast run down into the village with dramatic glimpses of cliffs, conifer clad hillsides and dramatic views of the seas below. We find our home for the night and what a treat – a beachside property with a 180 degree view of the beach (does not get much better than this!). We shower and go to the local cafe, Roseanna’s. As it said in the book – rustic , homey kitchen by the ocean. We both order filet steak (cooked perfectly!), a salad and a glass of red wine and concur that the ride had been one of the most enjoyable that we have ever done. We then returned to our picture window put on some jazz tunes and watched the sun go down – a great day!

A ride of two parts- coast then river valley

The next day it is up early to ride around 100km. The ride is billed as a ride of two half. Part one will take us along the coast to Pacific City and part two will take us eastwards inland on our journey to Portland. However our intention is to spend a couple of days making our way to Portland as we read the area is the heart of Oregon’s wine country and there is an opportunity to visit vineyards and sample the many wines on offer. Obviously not to be missed in our book. Claire will elaborate on our tour of the wine lands in the next blog BUT firstly I will complete this part of the journey, which ends at Pacific City. However prior to reaching Pacific City (not a city, just a small grouping of holiday homes and a couple of shops) we are treated to a great ride along the coast on a low trafficked roads known as Whiskey Creek Road and Cape Lookout Road. The first part of the journey presents views of Pacific Ocean and Netarts Bay form various vantage points – up high and waterside. The tilde is out and the bay is full of people collecting steamer clams. Exposed sandbars are also full of seals basking in the early morning sunshine. In addition an array of blue heron wade through the marshes looking for fish. We are also treated to early morning sunshine, beaches, mountains, greens and browns of the salt marshes and the greens of the conifer forests.

We then enter Cape Lookout State Park and start climbing through a forest. We can hear the ocean below but cannot see it until we reach the top of the climb where the trees break and we get a great view of Netarts Bay and Beach stretching form miles into the distance. We then have a great descent and fairly flat run into Pacific City and a quick pit stop before heading in land.

So this brings me to the end of our ride along the Oregon Coast. We will return to it in a week or so and hence referring to it as part 1.

Highlights….well so many!, but in summary:

– Yoga with our Henry VIII and Shelly.

– Pelican brewery the beers and the food.

– The coastal rides – all of them!…the views, the colours, the smells, the wildlife, the vastness of them.

– Learning the history of the Arch Cape community.

– Our picture window in Oceanside

– The filet steak in Oceanside.

A footnote.…..Claire and I did spend quite a lot of time discussing if this was a book what would we call it….there was a book a few years ago (one of those ‘find yourselves’ books) called ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and we spent quite a bit of time adapting that title….but after some thought today I think I would call it ‘Finding equilibrium’ …..involving eating (a lot of good things and searching out foods and flavours we have never tasted before) ; cycling just enough to feel very well exercised and on roads which are off the beaten track but not too far of the beaten track such that we are not too far from a hot shower, an espresso and a good restaurant; tasting fine wines and beers of the region; doing yoga with whoever and wherever we can to ensure bodies do not seize up; going with the flow and laughing a lot……I.e. a big enough adventure to appeal to the middle aged adventurer!

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