Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
We left our motel in Bandon this morning at about 7. It was chilly and cloudy but not very windy. We wandered through the streets toward 101, looking for a breakfast place; a gas station owner told us to head into the Old Town area where we would find a cafe, which we did. The cafe was busy, lots of locals who were interesting to listen to, as well as several tourists. The Old Town was done up in historic style - very cute and artsy. We headed out on 101 for a short ways, but then turned off onto a back road which we would be following for the next 20 miles or so to Charleston, next to Coos Bay. We have gotten pretty paranoid about going on Adventure Cycling-recommended back roads by now, but this one seemed more direct and maybe a little less hilly than 101, so we gave it a try. It wasn't bad, a little rough and narrow, but almost no traffic (except for one stretch that was wider, smoother, and also had more traffic). It was a little hillier than we thought, but nothing major, just a lot of ups and downs. It was also very scenic - lots of wooded hills and deep rolling ravines. There were a few houses here and there and some clear-cut areas that looked quite sad, but otherwise it was beautifully lush and majestic.
The highlight of our morning, besides the scenery, was running into 2 sets of bicyclists at the same point on one of these back roads. We had just come up a rise and saw 2 bikes coming up from the other side. We had stopped to take a picture a little ways down from the top and noticed that they were stopping at the top. We biked up the rest of the way and said hello. They were two spry older gents who were out for a ride; the hill they had just come up was a good deal steeper on their side than on ours, so they had stopped for a rest. As we were talking, a second couple of guys came up the hill and stopped to talk, too. They were intrigued by our tandem and our crazy load, not to mention our crazy itinerary. They told us a little about the Coos Bay bridge we would be crossing today and that we had been told we had to walk across; they mentioned that the sidewalk was very narrow, which I didn't like the sound of.
After many more ups and downs, we finally came into the town of Charleston, on the Coos Bay, and stopped for lunch. The restaurant had a nice view of the mud flats beside the bay, on which several people were out digging for clams. Our waitress and a few other locals asked about our trip and wished us luck - seemed like a very friendly town. Then we set off for the bridge. The first thing we noticed, besides how big and beautiful it was, was that there was a lot of construction on our side of the bridge. The sidewalk, on which we were presumably supposed to walk, was closed and there wasn't any sign saying we had to walk across. Pat decided the road was wide enough for traffic to get by us, so we headed across (with much trepidation on my part). It was very narrow and cars backed up behind us when there was traffic passing the other way, passing us only when the other lane was clear. There was a fair amount of traffic going both ways. I was busy trying to get pictures while pedaling as fast as I could so we could get over the bridge, but we finally got busted. A loud voice over a bullhorn told us to go to the other side of the bridge and get on the sidewalk there - not an easy thing to do since the sidewalk curb was very high. But we managed and proceeded to walk across the rest of the bridge. There wasn't a lot of room for me to stand in between my handlebars and the panniers in back, and the sidewalk was very narrow as our fellow bikers had said, so once we got over to the downhill side, Pat walked the bike himself and I followed behind making sure it didn't fall over on him. We were relieved to get to the other side. The bridge itself was truely stunning, though. It was a historic bridge under renovation; one of the things they were doing was cleaning the sides of the bridge and the part they had finished was a beautiful white stone, compared to the gray color on the rest of the bridge stone work.
The rest of the day was fairly non-eventful. We crossed over the Haynes Inlet next to the Bay and came into the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area where there are miles and miles of huge sand dunes along the ocean. The sand seemed to swallow up the trees around the dunes in places, and at one point a very tall dune came right up to the road - a very tenuous-looking situation! There were several lakes and creeks along the road as well and it was all very scenic. The sun had finally just begun to come out so it felt a little warmer, but was still pretty cool. The traffic along 101 at this point was fairly heavy which made the afternoon less pleasant than it might have been. We came to the turn-off for Winchester Bay, our evening's destination after passing a large and beautiful lake, aptly called Clear Lake. Winchester Bay is a small fishing town next to the large Umpqua River. We reached our motel about 4 pm after riding a little over 52 miles in a little under 6 hours of bike time, not as good as yesterday, but not bad considering we had about a mile of walking across the bridge.