Days 106-113: Oregon

Such a warm welcome.

North of Bandon, Oregon, the pine forest smells like a very expensive candle. I’m not a fan of air fresheners or scented candles but if someone could reproduce this scent, I would want to buy it.

Except for the first two nights, when hike/bike campsites were not an option, I have been staying at these special sites exclusively all up the coast. While the regular sites are all reserved months in advance, the H/B sites cannot be reserved. Traveling by bicycle or on foot (or kayak!) with no vehicle support is a requirement for staying in one. Crossing over into Oregon, the H/B sites have an additional perk: metal lockers with USB charging ports inside. I have no need for such luxuries as I carry my own universal charging station but it’s a nice touch.

At campground check in, I always ask, “Do your showers require tokens or quarters?”

“Silly biker. You must be from California. In Oregon, we have all the water we need and showers are too cheap to meter.”

I’m so conditioned to insert shiny metal discs into a slot after stripping down in the shower that it feels somehow wrong to just push a button and have unlimited hot water.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been meeting southbound bikers who tell tales of woe about the incessant rains in Oregon. Even the locals concede that it’s been unseasonably rainy. I will eventually pedal all the way across the state with barely a drizzle but not before disaster strikes.

While crossing one of the many narrow bridges, my pannier strap catches on a metal support and gets ripped out, nearly causing a crash. On day two, I am blown off the road by a strong gust of wind while crossing a treacherous causeway. It has narrow shoulders and steep drops on both sides of the road.

The bike lands tire side up. I check for injuries and amazingly, I am unscathed. The bike appears to be mostly intact but the loud crack I heard was my carbon fiber trailer snapping in two. I will not be able to ride away from this with the trailer in tow.

Scene of the accident.

Before I finish assessing the damage, a pick-up truck stops and offers help. Good thing, too, because the slope I slid down is so steep that I’m not sure I could’ve gotten the bike out on my own.

Tom, my Good Samaritan, drives me 11 miles back to a motel in Gold Beach, Oregon. They are charging peak summer weekend prices so a single night cost more than the last 13 nights in hike/bike sites combined. This is the downside of doing such a popular route in summer.

Between the bike shop, the hardware store, the car parts store and the lumberyard, I find everything I need for repairs. Kind of amazing for a town with a population of 2200. I built the trailer so I should be able to fix it. I’ve been rehearsing the procedure for mending this kind of break in my head while laying awake at 3 AM for years so it’s mostly just a matter of putting my plan into action.

I cover the bathroom floor with newsprint and use the exhaust fan to vent the smell of the epoxy. It takes up to four days to cure to full strength at room temperature but can be accelerated with heat so I turn up the thermostat to its highest setting and pretend to enjoy my improvised sauna.

The next morning, the repair looks solid so I load up the bike and just as I’m ready to shove off, I notice the rear suspension shock has completely collapsed. Rats. Is the bike even rideable in this condition?

I spend four hours at the local bike shop (@highhillcycles) troubleshooting the problem but there is no easy fix. They are wisely reluctant to disassemble the shock without the service kit with all the seals and replacement parts because doing so might make it impossible to reassemble the shock. I find the service kit on Amazon and have it shipped to a pick-up location on my route. This means riding for three days with the back wheel 6 inches lower than normal and going slowly enough to avoid big bumps.

In Aurora, I pick up a cheap replacement shock and meet Kevin (@skytrike_kevin), my host for the night. The replacement shock is heavy and the instruction card in the box tells the user to pound in the bushings with a hammer… because using a rock would have been too crude? The interference fit is so tight that I have to take heavy swings. The end result looks like hammered dog shit but I manage to get it installed and put the spring back in my step.

The following day, I arrive in Portland and meet Rob, my host and navigator through the city’s impressive bicycle infrastructure. This is exactly the town you want to roll into with weird bicycle issues. “Keep Portland Weird” is their motto.

After much calling around and mostly getting “we’re currently accepting appointments for next month,” we roll up on Fat Tire Farm at Thurman & NW 27th unannounced. They agree to look at my failed shock in two hours. The prognosis isn’t good. The official recommendation is to service the shock every 50 to 100 hours of riding time. Once around the world with zero maintenance was just too much. The patient died on the operating table.

Before I leave town, my rear brake caliper develops a problem and needs to be replaced. Rob and I head out at 8:30 AM because I have a long riding day ahead of me and don’t want to wait until 10 or 11 when bike shops open. My plan is to find a replacement along my route but by the time I get to my next campsite, Rob has marshaled Portland’s considerable bicycle resources and conjured up the exact part I need. Big thanks to RecumbentPDX for donating the part and to Pat Franz at TerraCycle for mailing it out to me!

I entered Oregon hoping to experience it’s picturesque coastline and dreading its rainy weather and instead I got mostly sunny skies and a very warm welcome everywhere I went. Keep on keeping it weird, you wonderful weirdos.

2 Replies to “Days 106-113: Oregon”

  1. I distinctly remember TELLING you to ‘keep the rubber side down’ when I last saw you! Glad you’re OK, and an amazing on-the-road repair job. Keep the letters and postcards coming.


    1. I remember that quite clearly. In fact, my first thought after the accident was “HJ is going to be so disappointed that I didn’t follow his advice.”


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