After the reunion, Leah and I began prepping for the next leg of the Fall’s wanderings. There were a few more loose ends to tie up with Foundroot and a couple of boxes to be sent but by then end of September, we got on our trusty bicycles and pointed southwest to the Washington coast.
Our legs adjusted fairly quickly to pedaling through the days, but the scenery went from suburban and not particularly bike friendly, to seemingly endless country roads through truly endless clear-cuts. The region south of Olympic National Park marked the beginnings of Green Diamond Resource company’s holdings which we would continue to see through the redwood forests of Humboldt County in California. Since I am no forestry expert and would rather not get too far into a digression on the subject of sustainable logging in this space I would just like to share one, I think telling, observation. We were passed by hundreds of logging trucks on our ride and the one thing I continually noticed was the diameter of the logs. Few seemed to be much larger than 18″ in diameter, and the very largest barely making it to 24″; they looked more like the birch trees of Southcentral Alaska than the legendary giants of the Pacific Northwest. A lesson in diminishing returns.
We really began to hit our stride when we reached the coast a few days in. Terrain flattened out and the constant sound of waves crashing ontobeaches with the open ocean beyond was mesmerizing. Near Grayland, Washington a local gave us a tip to get off the main highway and sent us riding through the midst of the cranberry harvest which we spent the better part of the day watching, and speculating about. It was like stepping into another era. The country roads were lined with old farmhouses built on to berms overlooking what appeared to be private bogs, one for each house. The bogs themselves had been drained and were busy with people, from teenagers to old men, pushing motorized harvesters similar to lawnmowers that filled burlap sacks with the harvested cranberries. Some of the bogs had narrow gauge railroad tracks running through them for flatbed carts which were used to transport the filled sacks back to the road. All of it looked so old timey it was surprising to see that every house had stacks of Ocean Spray boxes out front ready for pickup. It appears that when Ocean Spray claims to be a grower-owned cooperative, it isn’t an exaggeration.
Our final barrier to making it into Oregon was the Astoria-Megler bridge. It looked daunting, and every person we met on the way there assured us that our impressions were correct. In order to span the immense Colombia River it is over 4 miles long which makes it the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. Its two narrow lanes are congested with the traffic of travelers, commuters, and logging and cargo trucks. We were also assured that the meager shoulders we would ride on are packed with scraps of garbage and the remains of unfortunate birds that had attempted fly over it. Most terrifying of all is the sudden 196 foot rise on the Oregon side to accommodate boat traffic from the Pacific Ocean up the river. With this first terrifying challenge of our bike trip staring us down we thought long and hard about our strategy… and then chickened out. Instead we waited for three hours to hop on a commuter bus which dropped us in downtown Astoria.