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bike shops, book shops and sea lions

In Newport, I visit the bike shop in the hope of getting a kickstand for my bike. I am really sick of finding places to lean my bike when I stop on the road to take a photo or have a snack or any number of other reasons. Often there is nowhere suitable and I either have to lie the bike on the ground or simply continue on my way until I find a more convenient spot.

Bike Newport doesn’t have a kickstand that they deem up to the task of supporting a fully loaded touring bike but the staff are keen to offer help to a long distance cyclist. The guy serving me invites me to use the staff lounge upstairs.

“We try to be like a day hostel for cyclists on tour,” he says. “You can have a shower, do your laundry, watch TV…”

I opt for internet access and spend the rest of the afternoon curled up on a comfy sofa catching up in Cyberland. The guys on the floor phone ahead to Florence, the next town with a bike shop, and ask them to order a kickstand in for me for tomorrow.

In a pattern that is becoming a little too familiar, at 5.30PM I hurriedly pack up my computer and get on the bike to find a place to camp before dark. I want to get to the State Park about fourteen miles north of Florence where Dave had suggested I might find more mushrooms but the sun sinks below the horizon long before I arrive. Luckily, an alternative state campground appears before total darkness descends.

The campground is small and relatively empty and I have the hiker/biker camp to myself. I cook a couple of lobster mushrooms that I have stashed from the morning and then a red lentil stew, making sure to hang my food securely in a tree when I have finished cooking.

In the morning, I get up early while the sun is still caught amongst the branches of the trees above me on the hills.

Sun coming up.

Sun coming up.

The first event of note is a passage through a tunnel. While the Oregon Coastal Bike Route tries very hard to live up to it’s name, the route, as detailed in a free map available throughout Oregon, for the most part follows Highway 101, a major highway with heavy traffic. Apart from occasional signposts on the highway reminding car drivers to “Watch for Cyclists” there is no real reason to consider it a bike route in any sense other than that in which any road can be considered a bike route.

However, this tunnel is equipped with a sign and flashing warning lights to indicate when cyclists are in the tunnel. The lights are activated by a button at the entrance of the tunnel. Pushing the button pleases me in the same way that pushing an elevator button amuses a five-year-old – even if it doesn’t give me a huge amount of extra confidence when I set off on the murkily lit narrow tarmac strip burrowing through the mountain. Fortunately, though, the tunnel is not a particularly long one and I pass through it, wincing as the cars pass, but, without incident.

You can only hope that the car drivers take heed of the sign and flashing it lights. It doesn't seem to slow them down much.

You can only hope that the car drivers take heed of the sign and flashing lights. It doesn't seem to slow them down much.

On the other side of the tunnel, as I continue a steep climb around the cape, I become aware of a strange noise. Gruff shouts start to echo up and down the rocky cliffs. It sounds a bit like a bunch of half-deaf old men standing around a bar during a football game trying to make themselves heard above the TV or a political demonstration where a whole lot of people with cheap megaphones are competing for attention but neither of these options seems likely in the circumstances. I ride on puzzling over the sound until I pass a pullout and stop. A couple of men are peering over the wall. I join them.

Far below, is a vast sea lion colony. The animal are heaped, carelessly, together; piled up on top of one another seemingly largely indifferent to each other’s presence. Every now and then one clambers over the pile of recumbent bodies causing a temporary upset. Each disturbance results in some frantic barking and snapping before the creatures subside into torpor once more.

I sit on the wall, next to a man studying the colony closely with a pair of binoculars, and watch fascinated by the sheer number of these animals. The tide and the sun are both rising and as sunlight and waves start to wash over the rocks where the animals are resting the agitations become more frequent and more sustained. The man shares his binoculars with me and together we put forward various theories regarding sea lion habits and behaviour.

An unbelievable quantity of sea lions heaped up on the rocks below Highway 101.

An unbelievable quantity of sea lions heaped up on the rocks below Highway 101.

As the sun and tide rises the animal become more restive.

As the sun and tide rises the animal become more restive - although even a restive pile of sea lions appears pretty relaxed.

I continue on my way to Florence where I find Bicycles 101, the bike shop, on the highway, as I enter the town. My expectations have been raised by the warm welcome I received at Bike Newport yesterday but the girls behind the counter appear to regard the entrance of a customer into their domain as something of an unwarranted intrusion. They know nothing of a part that may have been ordered for me.

When I don’t leave immediately, they eventually try to attract the attention of a guy talking on his cell phone. He is deeply involved in conversation and the unseen participant in this dialogue is clearly mixed up in a difficult relationship. The guy manages to interrupt his counselling session for long enough to inform me, without further explanation, that the order wasn’t placed. He then returns to his call. “Cut her loose,” he advises. “Cut off her credit card. Show her what life is about.”

Nobody inquires if there is anything else I might need or, in fact, heeds my continued presence at all so I go on my way, disappointed, and without buying the replacement brake pads that I will need shortly. Feeling thwarted, I wander off into town to find some form of consolation.

A bookshop is the obvious solution. I stop first at a second-hand bookshop but it offers thin pickings. I am directed to another bookshop around the corner that stocks new and second-hand books and inquire after a couple of titles that I am interested in, to no avail. I finally settle on Cannery Row by Steinbeck, a book which came up in conversation with Sheila on Lasqueti Island.

I am about to pay for my chosen book when I remember the mushroom guides that Dave recommended. The woman directs me to a shelf next to the counter. She has a number of copies of both All That the Rain Promises and More and Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora in stock. There is a cheap second-hand copy of Mushrooms Demystified and I weigh it in my hand for a long time before passing it up, regretfully, in favour of the far smaller and less comprehensive ‘hip’ pocket guide, All That the Rain Promises and More.

I leave the shop excited by my new purchases and very keen to find a likely place to hunt mushrooms.

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