Crescent, OR to Canyonville, OR – 219.8 miles
We started the morning slightly earlier than normal expecting a higher mileage day as we made our final approach to the coast. We grabbed some grub, slammed some coffee, and packed up to go.
The trail headed out of town and we hit our first detour of the day as the road ran directly through commercial property with “no trespassing” signs promising prosecution. We decided a conflict with 5-0 wasn’t ideal on our next to last day, so I quickly found an easy way around the property. I led our bypass back through town and down a side street. As I slowed and began the turn off a main paved road, I suddenly felt and heard the impact of a freight train with the rear of my bike.
My bike accelerated through the intersection with the collision nearly knocking me off, as whatever hit me was somehow still attached. By some luck, I managed to hold on and stay upright. I felt the train finally detach itself from deep in my rear and I steered to a stop. I looked back over my shoulder and saw Naomi rolling to a stop with her bike on its side in the middle of the road. I jumped off my moto and ran over to see if she was okay. After a few seconds she slowly sat up and said she wasn’t hurt. I helped her up and then got her bike out of the road before it ended up in more pieces than it already was.
Naomi said she hadn’t known where I was leading her on the detour and looked down at her Garmin for a split second. She wanted to see where the next turn was and how long the way around would be. At that same moment I downshifted and slowed from 45 mph to about 5 for the turn onto deep gravel. That’s all it took for our day to derail.
We sat for several minutes reeling from what happened and trying to make sense of it. We were both unhurt for the most part and a quick survey indicated our bikes were in working order too. The train ended up with bent handlebars, a bent foot peg, and a broken number plate. My bike’s exhaust is cracked and bent with fiberglass packing hanging out and my foot peg is broken…not too bad for getting smashed by what felt like a CSX locomotive.
We gathered ourselves and took inventory of the damage, then had a discussion about whether we could make it to the coast. The final decision was to try and finish the trip. We had come too far and were too close to not make the final push, even if it was with moderately injured bikes and bruised bodies. Our steeds fired up and we got on the road headed into the Umpqua National Forest. Naomi quickly adapted to the awkward hand position provided by her bent handlebars, but shifting, braking, and all other parts seemed to function fine.
The trail initially took us through more thinned forests and sandy logging roads. Stacks of timber laid by the road with piles of debris waiting to be picked up. The place looked like a hot mess and didn’t provide ample distraction from the morning’s events. The path eventually switched to hard packed dirt with tall pines, firs, and spruce lining its sides. Many areas had recently burned leaving towering black sticks in place of lush green growth.
We filled up at a gas station conveniently located in the middle of the park and took a couple extra minutes to sit. I think we were both still pretty shaken from our bikes’ close encounter, so we took a few extra moments of silence during our break. Back on the road we came across several fire roads blocked by either rock slides or piles of dirt placed by the forest service. I let Naomi lead the detours and we made it around without incident.
The day slipped away and we soon found ourselves riding in the dusky sunlight. We entered an area that very recently saw fire evidenced by the strong odor of smoke, pink tape indicating escape routes for wild land firefighters, and signs in peoples’ yards thanking them for saving their homes. Darkness overcame us and we once again finished the ride by the light of our bikes. We rolled into Canyonville around 10 pm, got a room, and I crashed into the bed without dinner.
Today’s lesson: Always dress for the crash, not the ride.