My dad used to call these “character building” days.
Apparently, given the state of my adult character, I didn’t get enough of them.
From Pacific City to Astoria it was well over a hundred miles, as I took the Three Capes Detour and then made the hideous mistake of taking the scenic route along Lewis and Clark Road out of Seaside.
But at the beginning everything went great. I found a clean port-o-potty a half-mile from Camp Tampon, then found a whole bunch of gears that were big and wanted to roll. It had only taken 22 days for me to get the magical combination of strength, endurance, AND speed, and man, did it feel good.
In some ways the stretch from Pacific City, along the Three Capes, and back to the 101 was the most peaceful and beautiful of the entire route. The fog wasn’t too thick, it was pleasantly cool, there were no cars, and the countryside was beautiful and lush.
By 2:00 I was in Seaside. The traffic was backed up for miles and I hammered along the shoulder at 20, five mph or more faster than the cars. I was less than fifteen miles out of Astoria and would be there in plenty of time to scout out a campsite. I looked at the map and saw that it had a “scenic route” along Lewis and Clark Road.
“Sounds good,” I thought, and bore off the 101. The road immediately turned into a 3-mile climb. I had every opportunity to turn around, but stubborn.
At the top of the climb both sides of the road were surrounded with forest land owned by a timber company. “Keep Out!”
“Violators Will Be Prosecuted!”
“Closed To The Public!’
These and various other invitations were hung about the giant iron railings that barred access to what looked like delicious little campgrounds amongst the trees. I rode around one and immediately found a perfect clearing.
Unhappily, at that moment the Subway triple-salami-jalapeno-cheese-bun-foot-long hit my lower G.I. tract; it was practically backed up to my throat so violent was urge. In one corner of the grove was a giant mound of dirt that had been bulldozed. I waddled over, climbed up it, and dug a very deep hole.
It’s times like this that I really put my years living in Japan to good use; I’m a ninja master of the flat-footed squat poop. I lowered my bibs, and at the magic moment a lady appeared out of the forest with her dog, walking across the grove.
There wasn’t anything I could do; “Hello, there!” was out of the question. However, I will say that she walked about as fast as I have ever seen someone walk without actually breaking into a sprint.
Afterwards I lay down in the grass, knowing that I was safe for the day and therefore the night. The giant iron barricades made the area invasion-proof. I drifted off to sleep on the grass and was rudely awakened by the clank of iron barricades being opened, and a pickup driving on gravel.
“Hey, you can’t sleep here!” the man shouted.
“Can’t you fucking read? You’re trespassing! Get the fuck out of here!”
Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about the little gift of posterity I’d left buried in the dirt pile. “Okay,” I said.
I repacked and now it was 3:30. I was miles from Astoria but hopefully it would be downhill. It was, but only hopefully. In reality it was rolly and hard. Nowhere looked good for a bivouac because I was out of water. I rolled into the Ft. Wetspot National Park and saw a Sprinter van with four bikes on the back.
Perfect because I hadn’t had air in six days. “Hey,” I said, “got a floor pump?”
“No, but I have a compressor. It will work fine.”
The guy took out the compressor and hooked it up to my tire, which was only a couple psi shy of perfect. All the air hissed out. “Fuck,” he said. “That never happens.”
He fiddled with it some but my tire stayed flat. “I got a hand pump,” he offered.
“Okay,” I said.
Feeling a bit guilty he rolled up his shirt sleeve and revealed arms bigger around than Gussy. “How many psi you want?”
“How many you got?”
He flexed. “Enough to pop your tubes.”
“Let’s stop at 60.”
Incredibly, he aired it up to that and I was off. I turned towards Astoria, back again on the 101, and was spit into the teeth of a character building headwind. After about five miles my character was insufficiently built, so the wind redoubled and I double-slowed.
I reached Astoria near six o’clock, pulverized and unable to even think about finding a hedge or an illegal park site. Instead I saw a Holiday Inn Express. I staggered in.
“Got any rooms?”
The lady stared at my Black Lives Matter facemask. “Let me check.”
“At least you didn’t say no. Yet.”
She smiled. “We have one left.”
“I’ll take it.”
“I’ll take three of them, then.”
“We only have one.”
“Okay. Then one it is.”
I got to my room and realized that it didn’t have B&J ice cream, Oreos, or milk, so I dashed out and got all three. After that dinner I bathed a long, long time, feeling sorry for the crew that would have to de-ring the tub with acid and sandblasters. Then the power went out and stayed out the whole night and next morning, which bothered me zero as it replicated my camping perfectly, only with a soft bed and hot bath.
When I went to check out I complained and asked for a discount. “Of course, sir, we’re very sorry for the inconvenience.”
“It’s okay, I’m just not used to not having electricity.”
“Of course not.”
“So how much is my discount?”
“We’re going to drop the room price down to $60, if that’s okay.”
I hesitated. “I guess so,” I said.
“It’s the best I can do.”
“Well, I appreciate it.”
And I did. The penultimate map was finished and the following day I’d make my summit attempt on Mt. Canada, without oxygen. It was only 400 or so miles. What could possibly go wrong?
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