• Cory Howell

Day 2: I Find Myself Hoping

Tillamook → Otter Bay

60.0 miles

↑ 2595 feet ↓ 2556 feet


The climb was so steep, we walked our bikes.


Even though we knew about Oregon’s brutal inclines, the reality of 800 feet of elevation to Cape Lookout still took us by surprise. 


Swapping ideas about storytelling and spirituality helped take our minds off the climb, and the forest of sitka spruce and western hemlock felt welcoming as we passed through.


When we finally reached the summit, we pulled into the trailhead parking lot for water. Across from us, a group of four piled out of their car. One of them--a thin man in his late fifties or early sixties--let his eyes linger on us. I gave him a smile and a nod. He walked over.


“Where you headed?” he asked.


“We started just outside Portland, and the goal is San Francisco,” I said. His eyes stayed on our bikes. He didn’t say anything, so I prompted him: “Have you done any touring?”


He nodded, squinted his eyes as he looked at the trees around us.


“About 35 years ago,” he said. “Went from Alaska down to California. It took about 60 days, a charity ride for mental health. About 500 miles was on unpaved gravel. And we had these thin tires.”


He pinched his fingers together to emphasize the thinness of the tires.


“Wild,” I said. 


I wanted to ask about the charity ride, his affiliation with the cause. But before I could, his group walked over.



Our ride took us through a diversity of landscapes and communities. We saw a diversity of people.


We started in Netarts Bay--a beachside community known for its oysters, crabbing, and clamming. Locals in boots and overalls waved to us from the mist as we peddled by. My hands were numb with cold as I waved back.


We stopped for lunch in Neskowin, home to a famous ghost forest. We chatted there with a man on vacation. He mentioned a disability that kept him from doing something like a bike trip, but he’s still able to go camping.


When we finally returned to the 101, we passed through Lincoln City, kite capital of the world. Pictures I saw online showed hundreds of colorful kites flying against blue skies. But after coming from quieter streets, all I noticed was the cars, the noise, the smell of exhaust.


We passed Depoe Bay, home to the world’s smallest navigable harbor, and made our final climb to our lodging at Otter Rock. 


Today had seemed like so many climbs, so many cities, so many miles. I’d already sweated through all my clothes, and the sense of relief at arriving was more than I’d expected.



Within only a single ride, we saw communities flying different political flags, communities responding to COVID-19 by instituting strict measures, or nearly ignoring the pandemic altogether. 


We saw communities dependent on the biology of the Pacific, and others that struck us as downright suburban.


And in each place, we tried to smile at people, tried to nod. We tried to find a common ground to strike up a conversation. Even within these different landscapes, experiences, ideas, I find myself hoping that we can find something that ties us all together.