Montana to California – Part 7, Gold Beach OR

{ Thursday June 29th, 2000 }

This picture is not terribly interesting but it was my first view (on this trip) of the Pacific Ocean so I thought I would share it

From the beginning of this trip Vancouver B.C. has been my goal. A physical as well as a symbolic one. I feared that I would feel like a failure if I didn’t make it there. Well I am afraid that I won’t be making it to Vancouver. The reasons are many but there is one overwhelming cause . . . I am heading south.

Closed Gate at McKenzie PassI got to Florence two days ago. I stopped at Safeway to get some food and when I came out I turn south on 101 instead of north. All that day I had been intending to go north so I am not sure exactly what pushed me but the choice has been made. I am very excited about it. Last summer I drove up the coast to Vancouver, almost the exact route I was planning on riding, but I have never been to California before. My destination is San Francisco and possibly further south depending on time and money.

Kris Yahner on the foot path through the lava flowsThat’s the most recent news but let me go back and tell you how I got here. I left Bend and headed through Sisters, a little tourist town at the base of the Cascade Mountains. It is named for the three peaks outside of town called the Three Sisters. I left town and headed to McKenzie Pass. After nine miles and a mild climb I reached the gate. The pass is closed during the winter and it doesn’t open until July 1st. I was not feeling one hundred percent, physically, but it was an easy climb. I met some other cyclists and hikers on the road. It was so nice to not have to worry about traffic, as the road is very narrow.

The view from the Dee Wright ObservatoryI met a guy who when I ask him his name said,” Well I guess my name is Phillip”. I gave him a questioning look and he said that he was trying to use his middle name. He was going through a bit of a rebirth. He must have been in his mid to late thirties and he had been a farmer in North Dakota for while. Then he went to the University of North Dakota to be counselor. He decided that he didn’t like that so last Easter he set out with $1000 and a $100 Volvo. He had been on the road ever since. He seemed like a nice guy and we had a long conversation about what was important in life and that kind of thing. He did most of the talking. He was a nice guy but I left the conversation feeling a little depressed. I was glad that Phillip was trying to make himself happy rather than just letting life happen to him but he seemed so confused about what would make him happy and I just don’t think that I could handle that in my thirties. So I shared a candy bar with Phillip and then continued on my way.

Two of the Three SistersI got a flat tire and was not feeling my best. As I got to the top however I felt much better. The pass is in the path of a lava flow. Many of the mountains in the cascades were formed from volcanoes. As you come to the top of the pass you enter a giant lava flow. The entire pass is covered with the black rocks that extend to the surrounding peaks. In some places you can see what look like dry riverbeds where the last lava flowed.

Dee Wright ObservatoryAt the summit of the pass is the Dee Wright Observatory. It is a small tower built out of the volcanic rock. It has two levels. In the lower level is a small room that has small window looking out to the surrounding peaks. Under each widow is a label naming the mountain you are looking and the distance you are away from it. The top level is open and has beautiful views. I thought that the top level would be a great place to sleep that night. It was only about six o’clock and I had only gone thirty miles but I was tired so I put my bike in the lower level and slept in the top level. You aren’t supposed to camp there but I figured that the road was closed and it was six miles to the gate so no one would be coming up there in the middle of the night. The stars that night were amazing. Bend was the closest large town and that was over 30 miles away. I slept well but the wind kicked up during the night and it got a little cold.

My Camping Spot in the ObservaoryThe next morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise. Had a breakfast of cold pop-tarts and fig newtons (did I mention that I lost my stove somewhere in Idaho). The road from the top of the pass is with out a doubt the most enjoyable road I have ever ridden. It consists of small rolling hills that move through the lava flows. After a while trees start to appear and the road begins to descend into the forest. The Cascade Mountains trap most of the moisture that comes from the west which is why you have the high desert to the east but the forest on the west side of the range are lush and full of under growth. As the road descends into the forest it starts to get really fun. It twists and turns around enormous trees and the switchbacks back and forth across the mountainside. There was no traffic so I used the whole road to carve the turns. It the most fun I have ever had riding on the road. In fact in was almost as much fun as mountain biking. Eventually thought it ended.

The road down McKenzie PassI spent the day riding to Eugene. It was a nice ride but the traffic got a little heavy and the shoulder a little narrow. I spent a night in Eugene and then rode to Florence. It is so nice to be out of the desert. I much prefer riding in the forest. I got to Florence in the afternoon and went into that fateful Safeway. When I came out I headed south to the Oregon Dunes State Park.

Oregon has the nicest state parks I have ever been to. All the campgrounds have hiker/biker sites. This is usually a couple of fire pits and picnic tables in the corner of the park. They are really great because you get to meet people who are doing the same thing that you are doing and there is a great sense of camaraderie. Let me tell about some of the people that I have met at these sites.

Sunset Bay State Park

First there was Gary. He was 62 and had been on the road for over a year and half. He had ridden mostly around Oregon. Just kind of tooling around, and he smoked a lot. There was Mike who had just graduated from Harvard and was starting medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. He was riding from Vancouver to LA. I met up with him two different nights and we rode together for a while yesterday. At Sunset Beach I met Bill and Jan. He must have been in his mid fifties and she in her late thirties. They were riding from LA to Seattle. They were riding recumbent trikes and were taking there time. They had been on the road for three months. They have a website as well. James was from Scotland and he was 26. He was also riding a recumbent trike but it was heavily modified. It had a small engine on the back that drove the wheel by a clutch and roller system. On the flats he could reach 35 mph. He also holds the world record for fuel efficiency. His trike gets over 1000 miles to the gallon. The riding on the coast has been great.

The coast near Bandon ORThe scenery is beautiful and the wind blows to the south. Riding with the wind is great . . . Big Ring Spinning the whole time. I had on mishap. I got a flat tire on the trailer and I couldn’t fix it so I had to ride twenty miles to the nearest bike shop with a flat tire. Not much fun. That is all for now. I should be in California tomorrow.

View of MT. Washington ( I think) from McKenzie Pass


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