...As we walked towards one another there was a clear sense of raised awareness in us both. It would be clear to anyone who sees the packed motorcycle to conclude what I was up to. But what was this individual doing lugging a briefcase around on a recluse road bordering a prison?
Martin was his name (heavy on the "i") - he was a chicano from LA, hiking alone for a few days south toward who-knows where. We shook hands and began our introductions as he kicked the luggage over and sat down on it. During our cigarette-long conversation we looked at maps and talked about what each of us can expect ahead. He seemed like a nice guy, but the massive amount of luggage and the lack of water he was carrying I found to be a bit odd. He offered to help me get the bike over to the other side of the washed-out road and once again I thought to myself; "what/who is it that seems to send a solution my way whenever I hit a serious problem throughout my odyssey?"
Martin stood to my left and pushed on me so as to counter the tipping of the bike as I slowly made it past the roughest part of the destroyed road. I'm not sure how I would have done it without him; it's easy to invoke Murphy's Law in situations like these. One slip of the tire or lack of throttle in the wrong moment and down the cliff you go. The high concentration of all the weight makes the bike very hard to control in slow speeds. I thanked him for his help, gave him some water, we shook hands and parted ways.
My goal for the day was to follow the coast north, trying to get as close to Portland as possible. I was looking forward to the ride - it was a beautiful day, I was well-rested and in high spirits -I even got to glimpse a whale swimming at the mouth of the Klamath River.
The coastal scenery was absolutely beautiful, much like the Big Sur just a bit more populated. The road follows the coast from one small town to another, curving in and out, climbing high along the steep cliff overlooking the pacific, and descending all the way down to the beaches. The temperature dropped significantly throughout the day - it fell to bellow 20 centigrade, which was unexpected and at times a bit uncomfortable. At certain points there was thick fog and winds so strong that I would momentarily be thrown from lane to lane as I struggled to regain control. The wind was especially violent over bridges where the sudden draft could definitely lay an unexperienced rider down.
There were two bikers on expensive BMW machines that I would see often throughout the day. Either they'd pass me or I them, but I could never keep up in the wind with their superior machines. For the most part though I did not stop except to take pictures and fill up.
And so the day slowly came to pass as the temperatures continued to drop. I had made it some miles past Coos Bay, way lower south than I had expected to cover. But there seemed nothing promising up ahead in regards to camping so I turned back with the hopes of finding a suitable spot at Sunset Bay State Park - it definitely sounded enticing enough.
The park was packed with visitors and both campgrounds were at capacity. I continued my search up and down the park's Cape Argo Hwy. until I finally found a gazebo on top of a cliff that I simply had to devote a little more time to. I decided that this portion of the park will be my home for the night; however I had to find an alternative way to get in because at 9pm the patrolling ranger would kick everyone out and close the ramp. I remember passing some narrow hiking trails earlier so I figured some of these must connect to the gazebo area, and so I decided to wing it and hope the assumption was correct. In the meantime, I occupied a picnic table and made a simple meal, vegetable soup and the like. Eating at the end of a cold day, overlooking the Pacific as its waves crashed on the cliff bellow was an excellent way to end the day, and the sun slowly disappearing bellow the horizon seemed to agree. I washed my dishes quickly, had a sink shower, and as 9pm rolled around the ranger escorted me out of the park and closed the ramp. I made it a point for him to see me traveling in the direction opposite of the trails I was intending to violate, for I observed in him a sense of suspicion towards me. Smart guy this ranger!
I knew I only had 30 minutes or so to find a spot and pitch my tent before dark. So I rode back to the trail, squeezed passed the metal barriers up and over a hill and hoped for the best. This was a hiking trail mind you; way too narrow to be able to turn a motorcycle around should it dead
end. And the ground was soft, part wood chips, part mud which would have made pushing the heavy machine backwards next to impossible, especially over and between the hill with the metal barriers at the beginning. I hoped though that I would not need to go through this so I pushed on snaking between trees and boulders over a questionable log "bridge" until I finally reached the gazebo parking lot from a heavily wooded far end. I was extremely happy - my gamble had paid off big time. Here I was in a beautiful part of the Oregon coast on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific. The dark was setting in fast though so I hopped on a small paved trail and followed it away from the parking to be more out of sight. A few hundred meters away I finally found it - the PERFECT camping spot. It truly was perfect, on a little corner of the cliff, out on its own looking toward the ocean, like a bow of a big ship. I made camp with the company of a few deer, shoved the bike behind the tent next to the woods and went to the cliff edge to throw my feet over, lay down on my elbows and enjoy the last few moments of light. The moon was full, the air brisk and I couldn't have imagined a better way to end the day. Shortly after my tired eyes closed inside my warm sleeping bag - I remember the sound of the ocean churning in the distance, violent and strong, but distant, sounding like a highway of trains. And I remember thinking what would have been going through the minds of brave sailors (granted, of questionable intentions and characters) of ages past exploring the then-unknown corners of the world, much of the time without sight of land and knowing full well to be completely at the mercy of these unforgiving waters. Are there any such brave explorers left in this age, and is there anything left to discover - I like to think yes.