Summary – day 06 – Portland to Neskowin (Wednesday 31 August)

Day 06 – Wednesday – Portland to Neskowin
Posted by Mike

Estimate: 97.6 miles, actual: 92.63 miles – result! Well done Garmin, (actually a little less than expected because we’re not cycling from Sauvie Island where we were originally planning to stay).

Avg speed: 15.3 mph – good – feeling that we’re getting into our stride now.
Cumulative distance: 439.61 miles

The Magic Moment of the Day occurred very early on. We’d said goodbye to Roberto and Dave and were riding towards the city centre. Just as we approached the riverside cycleway entrance ramp on NE 1st Street and NE Lloyd Blvd, someone caught up with us on their bicycle and behind me I could hear them say: “Hi, Matthew. Where are you riding to today?”

This was surreal to say the least. We know – and could name by sight – precisely three people in Portland, (and we could account for all their whereabouts: Roberto was at work, Dave was at a garage having the tyres on his car replaced and Larry was probably still in bed with his boyfriend, but definitely in Seattle and not in Portland at all). In any case, this person was a woman on a bicycle … and we definitely didn’t know any women in Portland.

Matthew was completely thrown by this encounter. Who was she? How did she know his name? He said that we were heading to San Diego. “Oh, I know that,” she said, “but where are you going TODAY?” “Neskowin” he said rather meekly. It turned out that this was Lisa, a member of Warm Showers and she was someone who we had e-mailed to ask if she could accommodate us. (She had offered us a place to stay, but we’d already agreed that we’d stay with Roberto, so we’d sent her a message thanking her for her kind offer, and explaining that we’d already secured somewhere else to stay). But what are the chances of this happening? Anyone?! Almost 2.3 million people live in the Portland metropolitan area, thousands and thousands of them are cyclists. How on earth did she manage to be in the same place at the same time as us and how did she recognise us? Lisa? You must put in a comment and let us know, otherwise people won’t believe us! I imagine that if a movie were ever made of our trip, this would be the point where people would think that our story is unbelievable!

We had a nice chat with Lisa – who works as an analyst at a medical insurance company. She told us about her cycling trip to France using Warm Showers, but she was heading to work over the Steel Bridge – in the other direction to us, so we said goodbye and headed out of town on along the river to route 99 West.

As we left Portland heading south-west to the Pacific coast, we passed under a cable car over the river. Later we rode past a ‘Self-Service Dog Wash’ Matthew wondered, “How does the dog serve itself?” Mike found this laugh-out-loud, uproariously funny and it kept him giggling for about the next 20 miles. (Perhaps he’s been exposed to a bit too much sun than is good for a pale Englishman). There was also a sign for a ‘Psychic Reader’, someone who knows what’s in a book without opening it we wondered?!

The tone was set for the day now and I was reminded of one if the funniest stories I was ever told. It was at a Colston Hall symphony concert in Bristol with an academic friend who told me of the research worker who was visiting a university department to ask one of the administrators if they could have “a list of faculty staff, broken down by age and sex.” The administrator replied: “That would be all of them.” I laughed so much my sides hurt, face streaming with tears and I was still guffawing and stifling giggles all the way through Bruckner’s 5th Symphony, which is really quite a serious piece and hardly the stuff of mirth.

Perhaps it’s necessary to be an academic to find this story so funny. University administrative and clerical staff are special; they do an incredible job, usually for not very much money. As well as all the usual admin-type tasks, their work involves them guarding and protecting academics from students. Academics spend most of their time trying to avoid students of course, so the work of the university administrator is hardly inconsequential. I suspect that university administrative and clerical staff are not really appreciated by academics as much as they should be – they do their jobs with enormous professionalism and it’s not often that they let their guard down. So that’s why the story is so funny.

Anyway, it doesn’t take much to get Mike laughing, so perhaps some of you would like to comment with your funniest stories or jokes to keep Mike giggling on the road? If you want, he knows a couple of other very funny stories, (that is, he thinks they’re very funny, while Matthew just rolls his eyes). Anyway, Mike is happy to relate some other funny stories as we wend our way south – if people want him to, that is. (*pause while tumbleweed blows in the wind*).

So … “Do pray tell us your hilarious joke.”(That line borrowed from Priscilla Queen of the Desert, just in case you feared that we were only interested in highbrow culture after the earlier Bruckner reference. Although, come to think of it, anyone would only need to read this blog for two minutes to know that high culture is, unfortunately all too rare here).

By McMinnville Municipal Airport, we passed the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. This looked fantastic from the road – they obviously have an impressive collection, some of it displayed outside – including on the roofs of the main exhibition buildings, which were cleverly designed to look like the planes were taking off from them. On one there was a Boeing 747 – it looked amazing. Mike would have liked to go in, but Matthew put his foot down, (quite literally, as he pedalled off and left Mike gawping at the planes).

At about McMinnville the west wind picked up and we were battling with it on an off most of the rest of the way to Neskowin. This made the 15.3 mph average speed particularly pleasing – some of the riding was hard work today.

As some (very small) compensation, we stopped for lunch in McMinnville. When I asked for an oat biscuit the sales assistant started laughing uncontrollably – I keep forgetting that they’re ‘cookies’ in the US, but perhaps someone can explain why saying biscuit is so funny – we asked her why oat biscuit was funny, but she was laughing so much, that what she said didn’t make any sense.

At McMinnville we turned onto Highway 18 and then passed through the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation – there were local election posters for seats on the Indian Council. Just after Willamina we changed to a much quieter route, the Little Nestucca River Road – it was stunning, we rode along a narrow, twisting, undulating road through the Nestucca valley. Pine trees, steep mountain sides giving way to open fields with grazing cows and fast-flowing streams cascading over waterfalls – it reminded us of Austria. The damp conditions are perfect for the moss that grows on almost all of the trees and branches. On some trees it grows so profusely that it hangs down like cobwebs – very dark green, quite eerie and beautiful at the same time. Matthew had read about these Oregon ‘rain-forests’, so to see them first-hand on such a lovely stretch of road was a bonus. We enjoyed a fantastic descent, crossing little single-lane bridges towards Highway 101 – the north-south coast road that we’ll be following now for most of the rest of our journey south.

As we approached Highway 101 we could see some high exposed rocks in the distance, that we assumed were part of the coast or in the sea.

It was so tantalising, to be nearing the Pacific Ocean ‘proper’, (the areas further north, was the Pacific Ocean, of course – but it was interrupted by islands and promontories). This time we expected to get an uninterrupted view of the Pacific. And then we saw it. Just before Neskowin. Matthew has never been to the west coast of the USA or seen the Pacific Ocean. It’s incredible and huge and thousands of shades of blue and white – a white translucent mist hovered just above the water near the shore.

A few minutes later we arrived at Neskowin and our accommodation. A third floor ‘condo’ – not a word we use in Britain, we’d call it a furnished studio flat I suppose. The windows and balcony looked out to the sea and an islet called Proposal Rock, (curiously, Mike resisted any temptation to propose). We checked in and went down to the beach, the sun was setting, the beach was beautiful and Matthew’s took his first paddle in the Pacific Ocean, (the water was bloody cold!).

Proposal Rock, Neskown

While we were having lunch in McMinnville, (and after the oat biscuit incident), a women asked us where we were heading and recommended Oregon Pinot Noir, (we’ve been riding past lots of vineyards and ‘wineries’) and she also said that pizza at the Hawk Creek Café in Neskowin was good, so we went to have a pizza. While we were waiting another customer said that I had cool shoes – I wear my vivo barefoot running shoes when I’m not cycling – they’re very light and fold flat. We talked a bit about our journey so far. Ruth and her partner Glen are on vacation too – seeing where they end up each day. We were called to our table and had been there a few minutes, when Ruth came back over to our table say: “I just had to ask, how far are you going?” We said that we were going to Mexico and told her about our blog – she gave us her email address and I said that I’d send a link for my shoes too. So it’d be good to hear from Ruth about how her journey continued after we parted company.

Dilemma of the Day: Should Mike have some Oregon wine? Decision? No. He doesn’t really drink. Matthew had some though, he said it was lovely – cheers!

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