Editor’s Note: Cycling across the country is a time-honored tradition in America, requiring athleticism, fortitude and a sense of adventure. GP contributor William Eginton recently set out from King’s Beach, CA, for a 5,000-mile journey. This is his second dispatch from the open road.
I chose to go north, fighting the winds. In my ignorance, I thought it couldn’t be that bad; but by the time I had reached Florence, Oregon, I realized just how wrong I was. Already seventy miles deep on the day, I met the coastal city with a 30 mph headwind blasting me. Turning onto U.S. Highway 101, I hit an invisible wall. I put my head down and tried to power through, each pedal stroke seeming to get me nowhere. At one point I looked across the street at a gaggle of cyclists sailed by on the southern tailwind. But on my side of the road, things were going differently. I could only make it seven miles before I had to stop. I had planned on taking two days to get from Florence to Astoria — around 100 miles each day — but as I pedaled toward a campground, I doubted I’d ever make it in that time.
The next two days were a constant battle. Damp, cool mornings pushing up and over the undulating coastal bluffs transitioned into sun-soaked, blustery afternoons. My pace slowed dramatically, and I crawled from town to town. Each one, etched into the forested hills, offered a respite from the relentless winds. I saw countless cyclists traveling south. They all would smile empathetically as if to say, “We see what you’re doing, but you’re doing it wrong.”
The coast was mine: the beaches, the steeped buttes, the expanding sunsets.
This was the sentiment in two of the campgrounds I stayed at. I seemed to be the lone northbound traveler. But I felt like I owned it. The coast was mine: the beaches, the steeped buttes, the expanding sunsets. I had fought my way north — worked for it — and I deserved the vistas, the beaches and the ocean.
If there is one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that there is no turning back. You cannot simply give up and try again when you feel up for it. The wind will toy with you, and your aching muscles will tempt you into thinking maybe it’s okay to stop. Maybe you stop to rest every five miles. Hell, maybe every two, if that keeps you sane. The forces of nature will at some point be working against you, and there are really only two options: soldier on or quit. You need to find a pillar of motivation — food, views and beaches are good — and harness it against whatever struggles you face.
I trudged on over the jagged crests of the 101 and approached Astoria. The skies were spitting a light rain, keeping me cool as I pointed east. My speed increased, I felt the wind at my back, and my quads finally got some well-deserved relief. In two days I’d be in Seattle, where they’ve got plenty of good food, views and beaches.