Loaded touring bicycle leaning against a low stone wall at a wayside viewpoint above a broad beach on the Pacific. Air is gray and damp.

Day 3: Obscurae

Published 2002-05-01

Oregon Coast Bike Ride, Day 3

May 1, 2002
Pacific City to Newport
59.07 miles
4:30 saddle time
13.1 mph avg. speed.
Early: gray, about 50 degrees, still. Becoming sunny w/moderate W wind S of Cascade Head.

Two events please me as a cyclist: an empty road, and a vista inaccessible from inside a car. Today’s ride presents both pleasures, and I savor them at a leisurely pace. I think this is why I start my rides before 8 a.m.; at that time the human world is still brushing its teeth while the rest of the world has been awake for 2 hours.

Leaving Pacific City, I round tiny Nestucca bay, which lies entirely inside a wildlife refuge. It is perhaps the loveliest bay and marsh on the Oregon coast. Teals and herons pick slowly through the morning mist. From a car this little bay would occupy maybe 2 or 3 minutes of attention, a commercial break. I get to enjoy it for 15 minutes, riding slowly by.

After a pancake breakfast in Neskowin -- I am beginning to think of food as fuel, valuing the calories more than the bulk -- I leave highway 101 and drive up Slab Creek road. This is the old U.S. 101, also known as the Neskowin Scenic Drive. It departs the coast and rises gently about 1000 feet through tiny farms and old growth forests. Reflecting two weeks later on my ride, I realize this was the finest piece of riding on the coast, as much for its solitude as for its quiet beauty. The Otter Crest Trail -- another stretch of former U.S. 101, unusable as a highway -- provides a cliffside ride without the distraction of RVs and 18-wheelers.

Rounding a steep curve on 101 south of Boiler Bay, I look to my right into the bay. I’m at a place where there’s no turnout, and only barely a shoulder. This view would barely be a blink at 60 mph. The south end of Boiler Bay is a shallow, rocky shelf, sheltered from the open ocean by a reef. It is full of seals (harbor seals, I would guess), bobbing in the water, dozing on rocks.