Friday, September 7, 2012

The final finest miles

I decided to end my tour today.  This may sound a bit abrupt, but it was not induced by a sudden panic attack or anything.  I was never quite sure how long I would continue riding.  Truth be told, I had been entertaining the idea of riding down the Pacific Coast and then riding back to Pennsylvania for months.  But as I cycled through the early morning fog of the Oregon coastline on Highway 101, I realized that the tour was over for me.

Initially my concern was that I would be disappointed with not riding an even greater distance, even possibly back to the East Coast.  But I realized that I achieved what I set out to do and that is bike across the United States under my own power.  The challenge for me was really a mental one when I look back on it since I've biked around plenty and new my capabilities there.  It was keeping myself motivated and cheerful day in and day out and not let my anxieties get to me.  Those of you that know me well know what a challenge that was for me.  But after leaving Seattle (which had been my earliest stated goal) I just couldn't honestly drum up the same gusto for travel.  I rode to Newport, OR today and realized the mental fire wasn't stoked anymore.

That's not to say that the riding along the Oregon Coast was disappointing.  Not by a long shot!  You can ride miles along the coast within sight and sound of the booming surf.  The scenery is out of this world and a post card photographer could make their living within 20 miles of shoreline.  In the midst of this beauty, I really wanted to be sharing the experience with someone else.  After riding 5,000 miles largely alone, I knew that I needed to be around a friend or two to add the spark back.  Sure there was a chance I might bump into someone to tour with, but I really didn't want to ride on that notion for more days, weeks or months.

With this trip's success, I am not hanging up my bike touring hat or my adventure hat either (they're both sweet looking hats by the way).  I learned a whole lot more about long distance bike touring and about travelling with myself for company.  This knowledge will help in future plans and adventures.  Which I don't necessarily want to do alone, that much I know.  But for now, I am content to return to State College where I know plenty of folks and the Pennsylvania countryside where autumn is approaching.  I dropped off my bike at Bike Newport to get shipped back and booked a three (yes, you read that correctly) day bus ticket back home.  Three days on a bus may sound utterly horrible to some of you.  But consider that I spent 100 days on a bicycle seat covering the same route!

The Highway 101 bridge leading out of Astoria was cloaked in fog.  This is where bright clothing and reflectors come in handy!
The first beach that I came to in Orgeon, Arcadia Beach, was similarly clad in fog.  I took my shoes off to walk through the sand and saltwater.  The sea was far colder than I expected.  All of you who where hoping for skinny dipping photos will be disappointed.
Yeah, definitely don't skip pushing the button.  It sets off flashing lights at either end of the tunnel that alert drivers to the fact that some idiot is riding their bike through the dark tunnel.  Regardless, you may still be passed by a semi.  Or a logging truck.  Or two.  And they are louder than heck in a tunnel.  A little unsettling, but all in a day's ride!
When you're not riding right down by the ocean, you will find yourself riding up over a cape and gaining a high, scenic perch.  This is looking down at the beach at Manzanita.  Somewhere down there is a guy kite surfing.
Upon arrival at a city campground in Bay City, OR, the campground host handed me a freshly cooked crab leftover from her dinner.  Said crab did not survive for very long.
Scenic Route.  Always choose the scenic route.  Except this time the scenic route included multiple 800' climbs in the cold fog to panoramas that were entirely obscured by dense fog.  Okay, so maybe you shouldn't always take the scenic route.
Did I mention there was fog?
Holy smokes!  In Pacific City, I was able to reconnect with Henk and Marja, my Dutch cycling companions.  The last time that I had seen them was in Berea, KY approximately 4,000 miles ago!  We had been playing a game of cat and mouse with them trailing me by approximately a day until I headed north in Missoula.  They continued west to complete the TransAmerica route and this resulted in us riding into one another on the coast.
I love this sign.  The road is closed, but someone thought it was necessary to add "No Way through for Bikes or Cars".
Necessary indeed if you look closely.  I probably would have tried to ride through too.
Watching the pounding surf at Boiler Bay, I realized that I was content with how far I had come.  The Oregon coast is a terrific place to cycle.  I want to return in the future with a friend to share the experience.
And then I rode through more cold, damp fog.  Are you sensing a trend yet?  I'm told that it isn't always like this.  Maybe.
I have come to the metaphorical end of the road for my trip.  Except for right here where the edge of the road crumbles off a thirty foot seacliff.  That's more like the physical end of the road.


  1. Congratulations Tom, on the experience of a lifetime! May the good memories from the trip continually broaden that beam of a smile you have, and realize that the challenging parts of the journey will have strengthened you in unimaginable ways. Swing by and spend some time in Lancaster. We can probably even talk Mary into baking a pie or two.


    1. PIE!! YES!!! I think I need to eat a few of those after this ride.

      Thanks for all of your encouragement over the past few months Mike, it has really meant a lot. I will definitely come by and visit soon. I don't have a job or a home so probably the first thing I'll do when I get to PA is go on a bike tour and... wait a minute!

      (Seriously though, there's a good chance I'll ride my bike through Lancaster this fall.)

  2. Congrats, Tom! If you start feeling antsy when you get back to PA, you can always make a nice cold weather bike ride up to VT.

  3. Well done, Tom! Can't wait to see you and catch up...perhaps there will be cookies involved. I think you've earned it!

  4. I'm kind of glad someone added the tidbit about bikes on there. I was tempted to try it until I saw that handmade sign.