Small rocky cove on the Pacific coast, with fir trees on either side

Day 5: Typical

Published 2002-05-03

Oregon Coast Bike Ride, Day 5

May 3, 2002

Florence to Sunset Bay State Park
62.59 miles
4:30 saddle time
13.9 mph avg. speed.
Weather: early: cool, still, breaking clouds. Sunny and warm, light NW wind by afternoon.

My typical day might look a little like this one.

I awake with the sun, or a little before. The rising gray lightens the interior of my tent, and I drag myself awake. Years of living in a tent in places like Alaska and Wyoming have taught me a valuable skill: dressing inside my sleeping bag for warmth. After I unzip the rainfly -- a nontrivial effort with my well-loved tent -- I light my campstove and put on about a liter of water to boil. While the water heats up I begin packing my panniers.

“Breakfast” consists of two or three packets of instant oatmeal and a mug of tea. This is actually much smaller than my usual non-touring breakfast of coffee, fruit, and several bowls of sugary cereal. At this hour (usually around 7 am) I eat my meager breakfast more from cold than from hunger.

After I have loaded my bike (and washed my breakfast dishes and brushed my teeth), I begin the day’s ride. Mornings are invariably cool, gray, still, and a little damp. They are also the best time of day to ride. Traffic is very light: usually a few commercial trucks and the serious kind of outdoorspeople -- hunters and fishers. There is seldom an SUV or RV to be seen on the highway at 8 am. In prime riding conditions like this I put in my best speed and longest saddle time during the day.

By 10 am my stomach begins to gripe. I stoked my metabolic fire during the morning with a piece of fruit or half a powerbar, but in 3 hours of pedaling I’ve burned something like 1500 calories, and eaten maybe a third of that. Around this time I begin to look forward to my daily restaurant meal. Around 11 am I stop at a cafe or diner for my midday meal.

The midday meal -- always my largest -- depends a lot on what kind of eating establishment I find. It may be bagels with cream cheese at an espresso shop, but usually I eat a large eggy-cheesey-starchy breakfast. I noticed early on my ride that I seldom felt hungry during the day, but instead notice that I’m beginning to run low of pedal power. Although I order my midday feast with a kind of spiritual indifference (my brain seems to feel I can subsist mostly on coffee), my body demands FAT! and CARBOHYDRATES! Regardless of how hungry I feel, I am always able to eat everything on the plate, and sometimes more. Twice I ate jelly directly from the packets on the table, with no toast to support it.

By now the weather begins to assume its afternoon shape: sunny or broken rain, with a rising wind from a westerly direction. If there’s sun, the wind will turn to a sweet northwest quarter. If there’s rain, the wind will turn a little southwest. Regardless, it is usually warm enough that I don’t need my tights or jacket.

With afternoon warmth and a full stomach, my post-lunch riding is slower going. It feels more relaxed, but also kind of leaden. The miles no longer slick by in rapid minutes. I need to take more and more stops: somehow I have to pee more often, there are more scenic viewpoints, I need to dink around with the saddle height more frequently.

By 1:30 or 2 pm, the road beneath my tires is less interesting than the road between me and the day’s end. I need to apply myself to not checking and re-checking my computer; the odometer seems barely to rise. Within a few miles of my day’s end, I stop at a grocery store to buy a bottle of juice, and something for supper.

No matter how hard my day has been, what quarter the wind blows from, the amount of moisture, the steepness of the ascents, the length of the day’s the time I am within 5 miles of my daily stop I am at a point of exhaustion that the last 5 miles seem almost undoable. Somehow I arrive at the campground I had planned...usually a fine Oregon State Campground, which is posh (hot showers, telephones) and cheap ($4/person for a hiker/biker spot). I dump my panniers at my camp spot, and relax a few minutes at my campsite. Then I take a short ride through the park, marvelling at the just-took-off-my-roller-skates feeling of riding an unloaded bike.

I unpack my bags, set up camp, take a hot shower, make phone calls. As the sun begins to dip, I fire up my camp stove and make supper. Supper is usually an obscene portion of instant beans and rice, or something similar in canned form. My favorite camp meal is canned chili with an extra can of pinto beans and crushed tortilla chips. After supper I boil water for tea, and review my maps for tomorrow’s ride. By sunset (around 8pm), I’ve had a 16 hour day. Up with the sun, down with the sun. Except for one noisy night at Oswald West State Park, I got a solid 8 hours sleep every night.