South Bend to Astoria (78km)
Before breakfast, we cycled up the steep street bedside our motel to view the Pacific County courthouse, an imposing 1910 building overlooking the town, described as an “excellent example of Second Renaissance Revival” architecture. Back down through the town, then, to Chen’s, the only breakfast option in South Bend, a Chinese restaurant which offers American breakfasts. Paul always gets excited when there is oatmeal on the menu and the servings were enormous. Appropriately nourished, we pedalled off on the 101 towards Long Beach, but decided at the junction with the #4 to go through Naselle instead, partly because we were more likely to find lunch there, but also to avoid the westerly headwind as well as a tunnel on the 101. Unfortunately, it also meant missing the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.
Apart from the constant hills, it was a good ride through pastureland and logging country. The 401 eventually brought us alongside the majestic Columbia River and a clear view of the daunting Astoria-Megler bridge. Lois has been obsessing about this bridge for weeks and we had discussed a possible alternate route, but in the end decided to go for it. The bridge, which spans the Columbia between Washington and Oregon, is 6.6 km long, with one lane of traffic in each direction and 2′ shoulders. Pedestrians are prohibited on the bridge, but not cyclists. Along with traffic and narrow shoulders, another challenge in crossing the bridge are the strong crosswinds, particularly at tide changes. After procrastinating as long as possible (Lois), we headed on.
Crossing seemed to take forever and for the most part was less scary than we had expected. However, at the far end, the bridge rises to about 60 meters above high tide. The bridge is being repainted causing one lane to be closed at the top. So, we not only had to climb but we also had to try and get past many waiting vehicles and the wind coming off the Pacific was much stronger at this height. The woman with the stop sign was not too happy that we had not got to the front of the line and in effect told us that the bridge was not built for bicycles. Lois needed to be restrained at this point! We were told to pedal as quickly as we could to get ahead of the traffic and down the steep winding off-ramp. We were a little giddy when we saw the “Welcome to Oregon” sign and agreed that we wouldn’t cross this bridge again!
Our hotel, The Cannery Pier, is a delightfully remodeled old salmon cannery close to the offending bridge. We rapidly became known in the lobby for having braved the crossing of the mighty Columbia River on bikes. Transportation to dinner was by the Hotel car, a vintage Chevrolet Biscayne.