The beginning of our journey, a quick hustle up HWY 101 to the Oregon Coast, seems further in the past than our one month on the road indicates. But the passage of time occurs without commanding attention when you aren’t bound to the Gregorian calendar and your mobile world remains fairly constant on the inside while the landscape out the window changes drastically and in quick succession.
I’ve never projected anything before on an equivalent scale to Moby, so when the work on our van home was finally complete and the goodbye parties were over, it was surprising to feel at a loss as to where we should next direct our energy. Wasn’t a year of unbound freedom to explore and pursue our passions the goal the entire time? Fortunately, what we shall call destination decision paralysis was alleviated by our good friend Campbell, who was in need of surf buddies on the Oregon Coast. So we pointed our headlights in the direction of Manzanita and after a brief overnight near Fort Bragg, knocked out the miles north in a 12-hour push that we vowed not to repeat.
A mid-October storm that left Seattle largely unscathed wrecked some real havoc on the coast; in Manzanita a tornado touched down and leveled whole buildings on main street! When we arrived, the sea still held quite a bit of wrath and we were pummeled over two days of exhausting effort at Short Sands, though a day getting thrashed in the ocean really isn’t a bad day at all. Returning to Manzanita, where I spent an extremely fun early August weekend with some high-quality girlfriends, was a wonderful and familiar way to kick off our road trip, plus we got to use our avalanche shovels to dig Moby out of a sand pit after a haphazard parking job.
From Manzanita, we embraced the rain of the Pacific Northwest and idled our way through Tillamook State Forest and along the Columbia River Gorge. We discovered that our blackout curtains work extremely well, maybe too well, and Moby proved to be a warm and dark cave of a retreat during drippy mornings parked within ancient forests. It was too wet to bike and we treated these first few days much like a true vacation: we slept in, consumed lots of coffee, read for pleasure, foraged for Chanterelles, enjoyed the seasonal dampness and color changes and created delectable omelets and pasta dishes stuffed with the golden fungal bounty of the forest.
On October 25, the 6th day of our trip, we rode Surveyor’s Ridge on the south side of Mt. Hood. Both Rémy and I agreed that this marked what felt like first real day of our adventure as neither of us had ridden this particular trail before nor were we terribly familiar with the area. It had poured the previous night and was frigid in the morning so we sat in the warmth of the van for a few minutes and attempted to talk ourselves out of riding, masking our comfort and laziness with the ethical dilemma of riding wet trails. As it turned out, the trail drains magnificently and the loam and dirt were perfect with only one big puddle low down.
Mountain Bike Project describes Surveyor’s Ridge as must-ride and one of the best trails in Oregon. While the trail is well-built and flowy fun, the killer views of Hood that dominate a segment of the trail probably earn the ride most of its superlatives. We opted for a 24-mile loop utilizing part of NF 17 to climb back to the car at the end of the actual single track. For me, it was the perfect ride to get back in the saddle after about a month off from biking. I have a love/hurt relationship with mountain biking; I love it and want to go fast with confidence, but I’ve also plunged a brake lever nine inches into my thigh on one memorable outing, concussed myself on another and have had countless full frontal encounters with large and obvious trees in the constant struggle to corner with speed. So whenever I am off my bike for a bit, I always have to battle a little bit of internal trepidation that I am going to royally injure myself the next time I ride.
This did not prove to be the case on Surveyors Ridge; the trail and I got along great and I was having SO MUCH FUN. In fact, I was actively wishing that all future rides would be this enjoyable and fulfilling when my front wheel went a little sideways in some mud and I landed with a thud on my right side. A familiar and awful buzzing filled my ears and my hand suddenly felt on fire. I had managed to land directly in yellow jacket nest, my right handlebar poking into the entry hole. Yipping in pain, I jumped up and sprinted away from my bike, swatting away the yellow jackets that remained affixed to my gloves, merrily stinging away.
Even from 20 yards away you could hear the little metallic ‘ping’ as the yellow jackets ricocheted off of the bike while the repeatedly attempted to attack the strange invader to their home.Rescuing my bike from the swarm of hundreds seemed like a fool’s errand. Perhaps a diversion was in order? I lobbed a fallen larch branch slightly uphill from the bike, but the wasps were having none of it and the branch fell harmlessly to the side of the bike, ignored.
Rémy heard my initial screams and came pedaling back up the trail. The yellow jackets would not abate and after about five minutes he decided that a heroic act was necessary to save the day. With socks pulled high for extra armor, he ran back towards my bike, quickly grabbed it and sprinted back down the trail, hopping on and pedaling away for added speed. He somehow managed all of this without a single sting.
Fortunately I am not allergic to stinging insects and while the throbbing pain was annoying, it was manageable so we continued our ride, had a blast on the rest of the single track, and endured the 12 mile grind back uphill to the trail head. It was a good day, and the first of many excellent bike rides in Oregon, though my desire to find similar joy in all future rides has been amended to exclude yellow jackets.
What We’re Reading, What We’re Listening To, What We’ve Learned:
I’m in the early stages of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. I’m having a hard time getting into the author’s writing style, to be perfectly honest, but the story and period of history that it captures are compelling.
We’ve been enjoying the More Perfect podcast. Developed by Radio Lab’s Jad Abumrad, this timely podcast examines several key supreme court cases and the backstory of the individuals, judges and otherwise, most involved in the decision. Really insightful.
We learned that Vespa is the genus that contains yellow jackets and hornets. Makes those slick little scooters seem a bit more menacing. We also learned that Bialetti just could not meet our coffee consumption needs, plus the plastic handle had a disappointing way of melting when heated over open flame. I think you can do better, Bialetti. We’ve since upgraded to a French press, though Rémy, as the designated dish washer bemoans the daily task of cleaning out the grounds so our search for the perfect two-person coffee apparatus continues.