Autocycloid Convergence

We left the somewhat depressing Tillamook (“more cows than people,” said the pubtender at Pelican Brewing) about 8:45, though it took at least 10 minutes to turn left across 101 out of the Western Royal hotel. Fueled by a bowl of Cheerios and a hard-boiled egg (each), we covered the 25-ish flat miles to Pacific City, where we had a brewpub (sans brew) lunch on the (cold and windy) beach, thinking things could be a lot worse.

During those six or seven daily hours in the saddle, one’s mind wanders far and wide. Sure, there’s the earworm problem, but there’s also time to ponder your past, your future projects, and the odd phenomena taking place in the present moment.

If we could convince the National Science Foundation to fund our field research, we could write this whole trip off our taxes. What we’d study is provisionally termed Bidirectional Autocycloid Convergence Tendency. Expressed in the language of mathematics, it goes something like this:

(1/WsWr)(Rc/V) = P(abc)

… where Ws and Wr are the width of the road and shoulder, respectively, Rc is the curviness coefficient of the road, and V the visibility around the curve, and P(abc) the probability that a and b, two cars coming from opposite directions, will converge exactly where a cyclist, c, is forced to ride in the lane. In English, even if the road has been empty of cars for 5 or 10 minutes, two cars will appear exactly at the same time, forcing either a three-way squeeze, or one car to hang back, or worse yet, one car (usually a pickup) to aggressively pass on a blind curve.

Today’s ride was mostly on US Hwy 101, a busy main artery used by both tourists and commercial traffic. For the most part the shoulders are wide and well-maintained, if badly needing some gravel swept. Four times today our route gave us relief from the constant roar of cars, trucks, and motorcycles, by bypassing 101 on a quieter road which was usually also more scenic and more gently graded.

The most memorable of those four breaks from 101 was Slab Creek Road, which we caught just south of Neskowin and took to the tiny town of Otis. The road was splendid, a little pothole-y, sure, but shady and hilly and mercifully free of traffic. The best kind of climbing, winding narrow lanes with no cars, and excellent descents. The most spectacular stretch, though, in keeping with the Autocycloid Convergence Tendency, was at the narrowest of bridges–where we met not one or two or three but at least half a dozen cars, trucks, semis. All, naturally, at exactly the same moment, as the one-lane-only bridge curved upward and we were in everyone’s way.

The other thing that makes that road memorable: we’d heard, early in the day, leaving Pacific City, that today was the start of the fifth iteration of the Trans-Am ride, and on Slab Creek we started getting passed by the riders. These riders leave Astoria (at 6am today, it turns out) and race 4200 miles to Yorktown, VA, and many of them average 200+ miles a day. (As we write, the current leader has traveled 245 miles in just under 14 hours.) If you’ve enjoyed following our modest little tour, you should watch Inspired To Ride, which vividly documents the first Trans-Am race. It’s well done, and it also left us reading and obsessing about other epic bike rides (across Siberia! across the Nullarbor plain of Australia! across Africa!). Stay tuned….

Ashley being passed by a Trans-Am rider on Slab Creek Road.

They ride hard, self-supported, but carrying little; they sleep an hour a night if that. It was hugely humbling to be passed by one after another intensely focused racer, and comforting to know that unlike them we’d be getting a decent sleep in our tiny tent somewhere not too far down the coast.

After stopping at a few scenic overlooks, we rolled into Beverly Beach State Park at about 4:30. We learned that today is Oregon State Parks day, which meant a free camp site. We bought the makings of a camp dinner (soup, canned corn, bread, cheese, and a Hershey bar), along with beer, water, and firewood, and set up camp. Quiet, on the patch of grass designated for bikers and hikers, and peaceful. Finally got a fire going, devoured our rations, played Phase-10, and called it a night. Tomorrow looks like a shorter day.

Day 9 totals: 71.8 miles, 3101′ climbed, 5:43 in the saddle.

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