The Bridge Not Taken

That’s the Coos Bay Bridge, gateway to Oregon’s biggest coastal city. It’s also infamous among cyclists because it’s over a mile long, steep, and has no shoulder, barely even a pedestrian walkway. Its 1930s designer was evidently unable to imagine anything but petroleum-based locomotion. There’s an online debate among bicycle tourists about the virtues of taking a detour to avoid its considerable pucker factor. We opted for this alternate route, a beautiful circuit of the bay mostly on small forested roads that, at one point, offered a view of the bridge with the south end of the Oregon Dunes as backdrop.

No more farms — only beaches, recreation areas, a few small towns, and forest, some large swaths of it logged into rubble. On a Monday morning, this stretch of US 101 seemed way busier than further north, with every kind of tractor-trailer, tanker truck, gravel hauler, and delivery vehicle mixed in with the Greyhound bus-sized RVs towing SUVs and the usual noisy pickups and unmufflered motorcycles. The shoulder sometimes narrowed and left us more exposed than we like, but almost all motorists were careful and considerate. Those that weren’t, well, our hearts are strong and can probably take it.

We had an early lunch at Subway, not our first Subway of the trip. This was by far the happiest Subway we’ve ever frequented: the exuberant woman behind the counter offered expert advice about toppings and sauces, and she was as right as she was energetic. If you’re ever driving through Reedsport, friends, don’t pass the Subway by. If Cindy is working, order as she says.

Coming around Coos Bay on our bridge bypass, we ran into a vicious headwind for a while that forced us into our lowest gears to climb some piddly little hill. Felt like a mile but it was probably a quarter that; we gave it our all but were maxing out at 5 demoralizing miles per hour. We pulled off the road to recover, and just then an oversized load — a doublewide on a trailer? — came crashing by taking up the entire lane plus the shoulder and ripped branches off trees as it passed. Lucky timing.

Then the hills. Many of them. The grades on 101 were not insane, however, and we put our nine days’ worth of experience riding loaded touring bikes to good use, settling into whatever inner space or reverie we could find and grinding up the long climbs with as much philosophical resolve and resignation as we could muster, resisting the continual urge to stop, and feeling the burn in other body parts than just our legs.

Not a lot of civilization after Coos Bay, so we peed in roadside bushes, drained our water bottles, and waited on the turnoff–off 101 for good for the day–for the coastal town of Bandon. The last segment was a pleasure, winding its way eventually through this precious little beach town, with a varyingly brisk headwind. We had finally reached the vast Pacific again, and our cheap hotel room comes with a stunning view of rocks jutting up from the sea.

We watched the sun set from the only restaurant nearby, overpriced but with ample tasty provisions. For all their compulsory pretension, the waiters scarcely batted an eye at our decidedly downscale attire–nowhere near as fresh as the daily catch.

Spot prawns, a local delicacy, almost indistinguishable from lobster.

And so to bed–tomorrow, with luck, our last full day in Oregon.

Today’s data: 80.2 miles, 3669′, 6:24.

2 thoughts on “The Bridge Not Taken”

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