Picnic table next to a small parking lot at a coastal wayside area. A bicycle is upsidedown on its handlebars next to the table. All the touring gear is spread across the table; one wheel is off the bike, and the tire is off the wheel.

Day 2: Humility

Published 2002-04-30

Oregon Coast Bike Ride, Day 2

April 30, 2002
Oswald West State Park to Pacific City
58.62 miles
4:20 saddle time
13.5 mph avg. speed.
Gray, cool, wind W. Growing colder with light rain in the afternoon, wind turning SW

After a fitful night’s sleep -- Oswald West is a better place to party than to sleep -- I get an early start on a hard day. The lovely curve of Nehalem Bay heralds the beginning of the northern Oregon coast’s hardworking, thin-living zone. Tourists visit Tillamook for the cheese factory ... and not much else.

Tuesday night, exhausted, after 2 flat tires, a contrary wind flinging handfuls of misty rain, howling traffic, shoulders paved with glass, I surrender in Pacific City. I rent a tidy, pocket-sized room at the Anchorage Motel, whose proprietor, I discover, is an avid cyclist.

Today’s pleasures are civilized, and feel positively Turkish: a hot shower, clothes washed in the bathtub, a meal in a restaurant, television. I watch a Gap ad: four actors riding their bicycles down a long hill in San Francisco; it makes me smile. I wonder why a bicycle manufacturer -- or a bicycle manufacturer’s trade organization -- doesn’t gear up a publicity campaign. Something like “Got Milk?” Not an ad selling Schwinn bicycles, but selling the very idea of bicycling. The image of people riding bicycles conjures such a simple joy, remembered from childhood. In an America where 40% of adults (I recently learned) exercise not at all, such an ad would qualify as a public service announcement.

The hard ride today did not lack for poignant moments, however: I stopped on the Nehalem River bridge to watch a young seal in the water playing with a piece of discarded plastic. I sometimes joke that some parts of the world aren’t worth watching at thirteen miles an hour, but this is disingenuous. In my previous life as an archaeologist, my motto was “A bad day outdoors is better than a good day indoors.” My bicycling motto may well be “The world is always better outside the windshield.” On the Nehalem River bridge, a dozen motorists, dazzled by velocity, impelled to pay homage at the next officially-designated Scenic Viewpoint, missed exactly the kind of scene they drove all the way from Portland to see.