The third day of our trip featured some serious hammering. We had a tailwind with us, the road was in great shape, scenic, and flat. Before we knew it, we had made Yachats and our breakfast stop at the Green Salmon, some 20 miles into the ride. The Green Salmon now occupies a special place in bike tour lore as the second best breakfast stop ever (you can find my favorite by checking out Day 4 of my Portland to San Francisco bike tour or just wait another day into this one!).
This establishment is very green/organic/vegan/gluten-free, which sometimes can almost be a turnoff for me. However, in this case, we had chocolate croissants and scones and mexican coffee and chai lattes and everything was absolutely delicious. The service was warm and friendly and the Green Salmon was packing a full house, another good sign, yet we were able to occupy a great table outside next to our bikes. A very worthwhile stop, indeed!
Post-meal, we continued on a solid pace, finding our rhythm in a way we had failed to truly do on the first couple days. This section of Oregon coast is not only good riding, though.
To me, Cape Perpetua is the Big Sur of Oregon. The stretch of coastal beauty that we passed on the second half of the day’s ride made serious attempts at outstripping Big Sur as the most spectacular coastline I’ve witnessed in the USA.
Cape Perpetua has many of the same elements as Big Sur, including: jagged coastline, heavily forested sections, windswept vistas, impressively built depression-era bridges (and some new ones, too), and serpentine roads that wind their way up and down the coastal hills. In addition, the areas approaching and past the city of Florence feature sand dunes that seem entirely out of place in such close proximity to the dense greenery of the adjacent forests.
After managing to side-step the biggest tourist trap on the Oregon coastal bike route (for just a bit more about the Sea Lion Caves, read here), we ran into the third or fourth sign we’d seen of a cartoon horse asking us to “come ride with me.” Apparently, some enterprising fellow with a stable full of horses has colonized the Oregon coastline with horseback riding venus. The horse pictured below seemed pretty mellow…in that it did not move more than an inch or two as I moved all around it taking photos (it also appeared to be the oldest horse in the history of the world, so maybe that’s why).
Along the Oregon section of the Pacific Coast Route, one runs into a number of these coastal chains, such as the ever-present Mazatlan Mexican restaurant, Mo’s Restaurant, and Dutch Brothers Coffee (a preponderance of drive-thru coffee stands in general, really). Mo’s restaurant is a staple of seaside Oregon towns, despite having universally low ratings on Yelp. We were told by a fellow touring cyclist that we should put the reviews aside and give it a fair try, particularly the clam chowder, but we didn’t really have a good opportunity to take on that challenge.
Before continuing on with the fun parts of this post, I must point out that for touring cyclists, a great opportunity presents itself upon entering the northern end of Florence. Just across the street along the main route sits a laundromat with good and fast machines, where one might also rest a sore backside on a cushy couch, charge electronics, and utilize free wi-fi. It’s called 37th St. Coin-Operated Laundromat and Showers.
After the laundry stop, a consistent tailwind pushed us into the town proper and over the bridge towards our camp for the night, Honeyman State Park. I had high hopes for this campsite, because on a previous bike trip it had been a true highlight of bicycle touring camaraderie, and we were certainly not disappointed. As we set up camp on the edge of the communal firepit, cyclists came into the hiker/biker site by their ones and twos until at least a dozen of us had settled in for the night.
After a beer run with the Belgian and Dutch riders, Anthony and I made friends with another touring cyclist, Matt, and wandered over to the sand dunes, for which this place is well-known. The sand dunes at Honeyman State Park make for a great sunset backdrop; some of the best images of the tour were framed here. We walked and sometimes sprinted up a few of the dunes, looking for the ocean, but after a number of botched attempts, settled into admiring the sun’s last rays pushing through a distant grove of trees. This is a magical place.
Upon our return to camp, we walked the ridiculously long route to pick up firewood and then set about starting a fire in misty conditions. We called upon our eagle scout of the camp, Matt, to make damp wood burn, but his efforts led to only brief glimmers of flickering hope.
After an hour of trying, which included help from a 60-year-old touring cyclist who brought EVERYTHING along with him and another who poured straight-up cooking fuel onto the wood, I felt better about my own fire-building failures. In the end, our Belgian compatriot came through when he added to the mix a gigantic candle he had been grudgingly lugging along for the last week. From that point, the fire burned well, surpassed only by the communal alcohol and storytelling.
Towards the end of the night, as one-by-one, just as they’d come, the fire-gazers returned to their tents to bed down, the Belgian and I got on the topic of pro cycling: the wet and cobbled stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France, why Boonen and not Gilbert is still the Belgian hero, and the recent, exciting GC battle at the Vuelta Espana. The Belgian was impressed that an American new anything about European racing and I was happy to be able to share my thoughts with an equal-versed cycling fanatic. Add Belgium to my list of places to visit and visit soon!