Hillsboro to Cape Mears Lighthouse, via Tillamook Forest
Two days, 80 miles and over 2900′ of climbing! (“Ouch,” said my knees.)

A.K.A. the hardest thing I have ever done.
I’m kind of obsessed with bike touring/camping right now. Seriously. So obsessed. You don’t even know. Constantly researching routes and building my knowledgebase, inventory and excitement. I would say it’s embarrassing, but I think I’m finally old enough to be over that nonsense.

So when I learned about Cycle Wild, via a Pedalpalooza intro to bike touring discussion at treasured jewel Velocult, I was reasonably excited, and started following them immediately. Cycle Wild’s mission is “to reconnect people with nature via the bicycle” and they regularly lead mini-tours around the greater Portland area. They also hosted an intro-to-touring discussion specifically for women, and I thought that was neat.

They are an all-volunteer group, and that’s nice. People helpin’ people get out into the world on bike.

Well, I saw that they were doing a Labor Day weekend tour (ride out Saturday, rest & explore Sunday, return to Portland on Monday), and I was super excited about that. I knew in my heart that I just wasn’t up for the route and mileage that they had charted. There was an alternate route, which was more heavily trafficked but was less climbing and a few miles shorter than the primary route – and while the people on the CW FB group were super encouraging, I just knew that the mileage and elevation gain would too much for my body.

But I had an awesome opportunity in a three-day weekend, and I wanted to capitalize on it. So I did something else instead. I researched, cut the route in half, and did a one-way to the coast. I picked a lighthouse – I like one-way rides to lighthouses, apparently – and finally went on my first solo overnight.

A few notes about this ride:

I got a late start for a few reasons, but the biggest was that I was super disorganized.

I rode to the Max (light rail) here in Portland, and then used that to get west of the city. From Hillsboro I climbed up into the Tillamook Forest, which straddles the Coastal Range. Yeah. RANGE. It might not have the majesty of Mt. Hood in the Cascades, but it’s still considered a “range”.

This is a good place to mention that I had indeed previewed the elevation profile, but my body was ill-prepared for this request.

I crested the summit at the last possible moment for my body and the waning sun. I put on a sweatshirt for the descent into camp. It was cold as hell with daylight fading and my sweat-soaked clothing.

Coastal Range Summit on Hwy 6 in the Tillamook Forest

Coastal Range Summit on Hwy 6 in the Tillamook Forest

Headwinds. Yeah. Not sure if it’s always windy when you head toward the coast, but it sure as hell was last weekend.

P-style. DUDE. Not sure if you’ve ever heard about this, but if you’re someone with girl-parts and sometimes hike, camp or otherwise have to pee outdoors or in other unsavory places, you may want to consider one. Along with Dingo, my new bike rack (the old one finally bit the dust for good on me during my birthday bike overnight to Stub Stewart – thank heaven I had extra bungees & zip-ties), and my Camelbak – lady P-style was the friggin’ MVP of the weekend. BEST. IDEA. EVER. You’ll thank me later.

Scaredy-pants. Something I never, ever considered was that I would be afraid at night.

photo 1

This is me being honest. I love the idea of solitude. Hell, I’m an only-child. I downright CRAVE solitude. I crave getting away from technology, cutting out the bullshit distractions and making space in my head. But once night fell, I felt incredibly vulnerable. So vulnerable that I probably slept for only an hour or two. It was a rough night. It’ll take some time for me to either get used to that, become more sure of my own capability to keep myself safe, or just understand that camping solo is not for me. Also, in retrospect, while my campsite was absolutely beautiful in the daylight, I’ll have to be closer to people next time. I picked the site furthest away from everyone because I thought people would keep me awake. Ha. Jokes on me with that one, I suppose.

The second day was 90% amazing. I woke in the morning, pleased with the sunrise after spending hours praying for either sleep or daylight. photo 2

I made coffee and oatmeal..


..and ate creekside


I smiled to myself, because it was entirely, unbeknownst to me, the reason why I selected that campsite in particular. When I broke camp and got moving in the morning, I still had a significant descent to welcome my day. I smiled. Cheered! THIS riverside, flowing downhill reminded me of why I did the work the day before (besides the fact of “bought the ticket, take the ride”). It was everything I wanted it to be.

And then the road flattened out into Tillamook proper. Flats are meh. Flats after barely enough sleep to be functional are just not fun. Flats on no sleep into a headwind are downright awful.

It sure was beautiful though, besides the smell of manure. I wear bandanas around my neck for just this reason, and also auto exhaust or the occasional a-hole who likes to roll coal on cyclists.

The final 7 or 8 miles were terrible. I focused so hard on the coastal range summit the day before that I didn’t really see the two climbs in the approach to my destination. Tired, under slept, under ate. I had a precious bar or two of service to figure out where else I might want to meet Elle*Eye and her niece instead of the lighthouse at Cape Mears. I found a café, and decided that when I got to the point that I would have to turn off course, I would evaluate then. This was Oceanside, Ore – only 3 HELLISH miles from my original intended destination. I decided this was enough.

Oceanside is a cute little beach town with a stunning view of Three Arches National Park and Cape Lookout to the south. I was okay with this amendment. But, no, it wouldn’t work out that way. I tried to send a text saying, “meet me here, I don’t have the legs to get to the lighthouse” but NO BARS. No signal. Not one little smidge of a signal. I even went into the café and tried to call from a landline but they didn’t have long distance, so I couldn’t connect. There was no choice. I walked (read: pushed a heavy, loaded bike) up about two-thirds of those last 3 miles.

I was greeted at the Cape Mears Lighthouse by the two most exuberant cheerleaders EVER!

I am the luckiest duck.


I suffered much. I pushed myself to and past the limit, for sure, but I did the damn thing.

photo 3


As I see it now, my biggest obstacle is as follows: my body, my fitness level – next is the bike. I love you Dingo, but you are a tank, and you might be better suited doing a superlite bikepacking thing with Revelate bags. (Don’t worry, Dingo, I have some ideas for you.) A lighter bike with a better touring geometry that actually fits my body would be amazing. I’m shopping around and plan on slow building my touring bike with my local bike shop here in St. Johns. They aren’t touring specialists like other shops here in Portland, but they are my local shop and I have an interest in supporting them

What’s next? Well, I joined a women’s cycling Meet Up and there’s a 40-ish mile bike overnight to Champoeg State Park planned for Sept. 19-20. I am all about that! RSVP’d
and everything.I went to spin today, and am totally capitalizing on the hard work I’ve done over the past few weeks and am jumpstarting my fitness again with it. I’ve figured out a few things and am MAKING STUFF HAPPEN.




Here is a link to the full album on my personal FB page.

By | 2017-04-15T20:00:22+00:00 September 6th, 2014|Bicycle Touring, bike camping, bike overnight|3 Comments