Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

Monthly Archives: February 2012

My weekend of biking on the Oregon coast

When I travel for work, I try to do something apart from the usual pattern of sitting in meetings talking to people about work, going to dinner to talk about work, going back to the hotel to get done all the work I should have done. I often try to take an extra day to go biking, it is a great way to see the world. I’ve managed semi-work-sponsored bike trips up Alpe d’Huez, in Munich and in Tokyo (surprisingly bad). I’ve been around the San Francisco Bay area half a dozen times. Last year I managed Red Rock near Vegas and around Portland (OR).

A few weekends ago I squeezed in a weekend in Oregon. I had meetings in Portland on the Friday, then went off to Las Vegas on the Monday morning. So it was easier to stay on the west coast than go back to Ottawa. I’d been around Portland a few times; up to Boring, up to that place by Bridal Falls, and a memorable trip around Mt. Hood. But I’d never been to the Oregon coast.

My original plan was to pick up the rental bike on my way out of Portland at Veloce Bicycles, the cleanest little bike shop I’ve ever seen. But they’d changed their opening hours and were closed before I got there. But I had a hotel reservation in Cannon Beach, so I drove a couple of rainy hours out to the coast with no bike.

By chance, there was a place called Mike’s Bike Shop in town that had a rental that fit me just fine. Rental bikes can be pretty crappy; they’re usually spotless with too much emphasis on looking flashy and being light. Few of them are actually solid and comfortable. But the shop owner understood touring, and the aluminum Specialized had a rear pannier and a handlebar bag. This is my kind of bike, plus it was $30 less than in Portland.

Cannon Beach is a nice place and not just a junky tourist town. There’s bits of surfing around and beach walking, but it’s empty on a rainy January weekend. I stayed at the Inn at Cannon Beach, which was just fine by me until I noticed breakfast was served on plastic plates that’d be thrown out. I only see this in American hotels, it is disgusting.


My somewhat failed attempt to use scribblemaps.


On the Saturday, I biked south along the coast on Highway 101 to Nehalem, then inland on Highway 53, and back to Cannon Beach. The coast is a popular touring route, and Oregon recognizes this as a designated bike route. There isn’t always room on the road to have a bike lane on both sides, so they prioritize the southbound route which has the nicest views of the coast.

One problem they have is that there’s a few tunnels that were built narrow by today’s standards. An example is the Arch Cape Tunnel, which is 400m long and slightly uphill. It can be daunting to compete for space on the road with 55mph traffic, so here’s what they came up with. Over the entrances to the tunnel, there’s a big, lit sign that says “bicycles in tunnel” and warns of a 30mph speed limit. Cyclists approaching the tunnel press a button, then that starts the flashing lights over the sign on both sides. It is innovative and progressive, two things you see a lot of in Oregon.

Down in Nehalem, I stopped at this mom-and-pop diner for a late breakfast. The locals there were worried about the layoffs just announced at a cheese factory nearby. The union had gotten them some form of compensation, and they’d be paid comparatively all over the years. So it was a bit strange having a pro-union discussion in staunchly libertarian and republican rural Oregon.

After that, I turned inland on the very calm highway 53. The traffic was almost entirely pickup trucks, some with the hoofs of hunted deer sticking out the back. Most ditches had beer cans in them, and there’s the tell-tale sign of rednecks: the road sign with bullet holes.

I was after something a bit hillier on the Sunday, so went to Ecola State Park on a small road between huge trees. There’s some great lookouts over the ocean. I was trying to get up to Seaside, and was trying to avoid having to compete with traffic on 101. But I noticed on Google maps that there was a small trail that would let me do a cut through. The entrance to the trail was unsigned, and there were fresh footprints on the trail. I thought it’d be like this all the way through. At some point, the trail turns into a gravel path, some of it is too thick to ride on. So I walk; then the road turns to a road under construction, and I have to carry my bike up these hills. For a couple of hours, I cover maybe 3 miles like this and twist my ankle partway. I get close to the highway and figure I can just bushwhack the last 50m, but it is too thick and I end up going around. This was not the adventure I signed up for! And at the end of this? I notice the road’s actually the entrance to a quarry, and visitors are not allowed. Ah well.

On the Sunday evening when the tide was low, people walk out to the haystacks on the beach to see the tidal pools. My choices of footwear were my black leather shoes for work or my bike shoes. Sometimes in travel, biking’s got to take precedence over work.