Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, January 26, 2015

Oregon - Epic Gravel

Or More like Epic Photo Taking

As I mentioned in the previous post, our plan for Tuesday was to ride the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic route. The actual event was held a few weeks before our trip, but we found GPS tracks online, so we figured we could just go out on our own epic ride. 

We planned to stay in Waldport for a second night, thereby allowing us to do this very challenging route unencumbered. Since daylight hours were limited, we tried to get out early, but early is  relative when one is on vacation.

While wandering around town the previous evening we had noticed a nice looking cafe with a breakfast menu. After enjoying tasty breakfast burritos and coffee, we next stopped in at a bike shop where we tried to buy some new inner tubes, as we were already running low. We were a bit surprised that the shop didn't seem to stock any presta valve tubes, given the steady stream of bike tourists heading down the coast. Given the rate of punctures so far, there's a distinct possibility our patch kits might get pressed into service during the trip!

While at the shop, we happened to mention our plans for the day, and the owner told us that he had helped out with the event a few weeks prior. He told us of more culvert work - seems it's culvert construction season in Oregon. He said the epic organizers had a permit to use the forest roads and had provided the forest service with the intended route. They had checked out the route several times in advance, but then the day before the ride, they came upon this new construction - blocking the route. The support vehicles had to take a long detour around, but at least people on bikes were able to get through. We hoped that it would still the case for us.

Anyway, after departing the bike shop without new inner tubes, we made one more stop at the grocery store to get lunch supplies before we finally headed into the hills. We found the school where the event started and rolled up the road looking for the next turn. We turned up a little road that dead-ended at two driveways where we were confronted with some serious looking private property signs. We looked at our maps and saw there wasn't even a road, so we plotted out a new route around this section and eventually made our way back onto the official route on the far side of the private property.

Looking at the website after the fact, it clearly states that the route crosses private property - with a single day permit, so it was my own lack of research that caused us our confusion. Once we got around this first section, we had no problems with access. 

However, by the time we got back on track, as it were, we had burned a lot of our limited daylight, and we still had a lot of hard miles to cover. 

And it didn't help that the route was so scenic, causing John to want to stop frequently for photos. 

Well, not all the photos were of beautiful scenery. We did have to get a few of the culvert construction, our second such encounter in two days!

Once past this construction, we popped out on a ridge with some exceptional views and out the camera came. During one photo stop, I looked at the GPS and started doing some mental math. 

When I customized the screens on my GPS, I created a page that includes data like distance to end and time of sunset, along with current time, temperature and battery life. I refer to this as my Plan B page. It was quickly becoming obvious to me that we would indeed need to go with Plan B. If we did the long route, we'd be doing a lot of riding in the dark. So after stopping for yet another photo, I mentioned that we'd probably need to consider short-cutting the route. John mis-heard this as "Put that bleeping camera away and let's get a move on."

Fortunately we soon cleared up that misunderstanding. The camera did not get discarded and we just decided to take the shorter route.

After a screaming descent down to the Yachats River Valley, we stopped to have lunch. A short while later I noticed a sign for a historic covered bridge, so we took a worthwhile detour up a dead-end road to check out the bridge.

Someday we'll have to return to do the full route. 

While things didn't go according to plan on this day, we did find exactly what we were seeking, exquisitely quiet gravel roads with some challenging climbs and thrilling descents. I must say that the forest roads are quite a contrast to the busy coast road so popular with many bike tourists.  

While the coast road is lovely for sunsets and ocean views, it can be very busy, and there is that notorious wind. Simply mounting gravel worthy tires allows one to head into the hills and see the real hidden gems of the Oregon coast.

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