Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oregon Dunes: Recon

We knew going into this deal that we were taking a huge gamble, weather-wise.  We'd been hawking all the weather sites for days, including the National Weather Service, Accuweather,, Weather Underground, etc, as we built our composite consumer prediction.  When you get really into the comparison of weather sites, it's clear that the NWS is by far, the most pessimistic.  They sure as hell don't want to over-promise, on the taxpayer's dollar, apparently.

Below is a snap of the site's report on the day before we were supposed to leave.  Hundreds of miles and hundreds of dollars were at stake.  Inches of rain and double digit winds were in the forecast throughout the duration of our stay.  Naturally, we decided to go for it.

By Friday morning, we sure as hell were wishing we had listened to the National Weather Service.  It had rained overnight and into the morning and we were already cold and wet, and it looked like we were in for a whole 'nother day of this shit.  To combat the depression, Ward f'ing KILLED b'fast.

The smell of procrastination hung in the air around camp all morning, but by mid-day we'd finally donned our plastic rain shells that would serve only to make us wet from the inside instead of the outside, and headed out in search of the dunes.  Oh, and I forgot my plastic pants.  So the bottom part of me would be getting wet from the outside while the top half was getting wet from the inside.  Smooth move, Ex-lax.

From Winchester Bay,  you have to ride on the road out of town for a while and then you have to hit the beach for an even longer while.  All-told, you have to ride 5 or 6 miles in the rain and wind, on a fatbike, on a soft surface, just to get to the starting gate.

About as artsy as a kelp ball gets, I would propose.

And the beach is separated from the dunes by a wide stripe of thick, rain-foresty growth that you will not get through unless there's a trail that's been hacked and maintained, generally.  One exception to this is at the parking lot to the motorized section of the dunes, which drops down and almost kisses the beach and allows easy access across the rainforest.  I finally got my first glimpse of the dunes and although this pic doesn't do it any real justice, it's grandeur exceeded my wildest expectations.

Everything was sopping wet, as you can see in the foreground of the previous pic.  It was too wet to get our cameras out and so I don't have much in the way of ride photos, but we did get out and play in the motorized area.  It was my first exposure to big, legitimate dunes, and it was fun, in a kinda/sorta way.  There were some totally sucky parts and some pretty fun parts and then just a shit-ton of hard work in between.  All of it was hard work, actually.

But we were slowly working our way towards the boundary of the motorized section, across which lies the . . . wait for it . . . NON-motorized section.  The minute we crossed that boundary, the quality of the sand was just night and freaking day.  The thing is, the motorized sand gets churned by huge, high horsepower tires 12 months a year and it is just whipped cream.  The non-moto stuff, by contrast, is firm and so, so RAD.  We were having a damn blast, even in the shit rain.  As a result, we stayed too long and burnt our energy candles a little too hard, because we still had a long ride back on the beach.  By the time we got back to camp, we were fried eggs.

What we had done though, would turn out to be extremely important in terms of what would occur the following day:  We had figured out that the place we needed to save all our "gas" for was the non-moto dunes, and that we wanted to burn as little as possible getting there.  We'd also played with tire pressures and figured out a bunch of other shit.  For example, I'd gone out with clipless pedals, which turned out to be the most giant PITA in the sand.  My stupidity is incredible, at times.  First thing I did when we got back to camp was to yard those out for the flats I'd *wisely* brought along.  I am so damn smart, that sometimes I amaze even myself, but I digress.

Camp was wet and dreary and to add to the gloom, our riding clothes were now soaking wet, with no way to dry them.  As was everything else.  If I hadn't have brought my easy-up, I think we might have bailed at this point and found a cheap motel to overnight at and then bee-lined home at dawn.

Damn good thing I brought my easy-up, then.

I thought my tent was roomy, but Ward's Big Agnes was the Taj Mahal.

Complete with a massive vestibule for doling out serious bike affection.

The inside.  Are you even kidding me.  Holy living hell.

Every time you move someplace new, there seems to be an extrovert neighbor that's maybe just a little bit over the top.  Ours was Jonathan Livingston, so named because he breaks all the seagull rules.  There were no other seagulls around in camp.  As in none.  There were seagulls all the hell over every other square inch of Winchester Bay, but only Jonathan in the several acres we were camped in.  When does this even happen?

We sort of starting feeling sorry for him, like maybe he's some sort of outcast, but still, we didn't dare feed him.  'Cause conventional wisdom told us that would just bring the flock in, right?  And who wants that?

But by this time, he'd been hanging around for almost 24 hours and he was just so diligent, and so I broke down and tore off a piece of pita bread and threw him some scraps.  Still no other gulls.  Amazing.

Finally, after a few minutes, another gull dropped in.  Jonathan eyed him, puffed himself all up and started trotting toward the intruder.  Wisely the stranger retreated to the sky.  Moments later, a second intruder touched down.  Again, Jonathan puffed all up and first trotted, then full-on galloped, straight towards the trespasser, eyes all intent and burning.  This time, the intruder was a brave fool, and stood his ground.  Beaks jack-hammered at hummingbird frequencies, and feathers flew, and soon the stranger was departing, as quickly as he'd arrived.  Just another routine encounter for Jonathan, apparently

Ward and I just marveled.  Jonathan was clearly badass, and nothing but.  He'd figured out a gig that suits him and carved out his territory and he didn't need nobody or nothing else from any other damn birds.  Word, Jon, you earned our respect.

And maybe our fear.  Later in our stay, I tossed Jonathan a piece of frosting that fell off of a breakfast pastry I was eating.  He picked it up and spit it out and puffed all up and glared straight at me.  "Sorry!  Geez, bro, mellow the hell out."  I quickly went and got some pita bread and tossed some scraps his way.  I didn't have the courage to make direct eye contact with him for the rest of our stay.

The one luxury amidst our otherwise harsh, manly set of circumstances was that there were showers onsite, complete with seriously hot water. Dumbass that I am, I neglected to bring a towel.  But at this point, a hot shower was not going to not happen.  Finding a bath towel for sale in Winchester Bay, then, is no small task.  But I unleashed my tourist charm on the locals for some advice and was soon hound-dogging a trail to the awesome second-hand/discount/thrift store at the very end of a rural strip mall in Reedsport, some three miles down the road.  I chose not to think about where it had been, or whether it had been washed, but to instead focus on the $2.99 price tag and my incredible resourcefulness.  Sometimes I am so smart that I blow my own mind, but I digress.

The one other luxury amidst our otherwise harsh, manly set of circumstances was a floating seafood restaurant within easy walking distance from our campground.  As things had gotten overly harsh, we felt it was time to utilize this resource.

And so we did.  Trust me, though, when I tell you it was brutal out there.

Back at camp, the bastard rain just kept coming . . .

The day's ride had my metabolism all jacked up, which ran the fish, shrimp and chips straight through me during our fireside chat that evening.  I night-capped with a genuine grilled cheese sandwich.

Meahwhile, all the primal activity in the forest behind us continued, as was evidenced by the sporadic, unearthly noises that continued to emerge.  Luckily, my tent is constructed of high-strength, consumer-grade nylon.  I happily retreated to its superior protection.

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