Neskowin Beach to Tillamook (actual date Sunday 6/8/14)
Sleeping on soft sand isn’t comfortable. Makes for a restless night. At some point I’m sure I hear footsteps and breathing outside my tent, maybe even a drawn-out sigh as if my presence on the bluff is frustrating. I hear someone spit, then walk away.
In my dream, my friend Kali rescues a male husky from a deadly car wreck. Everyone died but him. Kali knows I like huskies and wants to give him to me. She doesn’t know exactly where I live but knows my neighborhood. The dog escapes her leash and tracks me down himself. I see him running toward me with a giant dog smile, his tongue flailing like a wild sprinkler. He jumps into my arms and hugs me. He feels like a blanket at a winter ballgame. He looks me square in the eye and tells me his name is Watt, but he’d love it if I call him Watson. “OK,” I say, “Then Watson it is.”
I walk the sand toward Winema Beach but overshoot the east-veering OCT trail and reach an impassable Nestucca River instead. It’s high tide and the river is crowded with fishermen in dories. Some boats have a solo fisherman while others are a family affair. There seems to be a pattern to the movement of boats. A few stay in the swell where it meets the ocean while others wait their turn and throw their lines in the less hectic belly. There’s jovial banter amongst the boats and I hear a constant ring of laughter. I watch this community from the water’s edge, trying to pick out who I’ll ask to ferry me across. I shout an offer of $20 to a fellow about my age. He agrees, then refuses the money saying the fish aren’t biting today anyhow. He wishes me luck and tells me he’s always wanted to go on an adventure.
On the ensuing long stretch of beach I meet two people, both of whom know my tiny town of Carrboro, NC. I also walk by two young men who stare under the hood of a four by four, its back wheels buried in the sand. Everywhere I look on the beach I see donut marks. Countless tire trails all leading to where they stand. Stuck, I assume, after a night of drunken shenanigans. I have nothing to offer them – not tools nor skills – so I keep on without as much as a wave. I figure I am walking to the town ahead, they can too.
My original plan was to skirt the OCT and take highway 101 all the way into Tillamook. Missing the trail at Winema changed things. I refuel at Pacific City and follow a local’s whispered short-cut instead. And wouldn’t you know it, his short-cut is the OCT.
I pass through Capa Kiwanda and hit Sandlake Road which diverts me around the (supposedly) too-difficult-to-ford Sand Lake. I stop at a junction gas/food station where off-roaders stock up on beer and high-octane gas. Lots of sand rails and backward hats here. Men are men at a place like this and the women who work there call them all “sweetie.” I eat lunch outside while sitting against the ice machine. As I scoop beans directly from the can, one of the workers says, “Wow. You’re really roughin’ it, huh?” I tell her I don’t want to subject the patio crowd to my B.O. and she says that around here people don’t care about that stuff. “You fit right in, sweetie.”
I reach a fork where I have to decide whether to head into the town of Tillamook or stay on the OCT and lose a day since the ferry from Cape Mears across Tillamook Bay doesn’t run on Sunday or Monday. I choose to charge into Tillamook and within an hour the geography changes to farmland. I also notice that along with the many Gatorade bottles of piss, the most common item on the roadside is measuring tape. I see at least a dozen in various forms during this final stretch.
When the miles start to wear on me I stop for a break. I call Katie even though I am roaming and have few bars. We talk about how this adventure is sort of like a 100-mile run. An hour-by-hour play-by-play sounds somewhat psychotic (I love it I hate it!), but the lasting memory is completely peaceful. Once the body and mind (which, by the way, are the same thing) get behind the lifestyle there’s no stopping it. That’s where I am at, and also why I will knock out another 38ish miles today, tallying 78 miles in two days. I feel strong and unstoppable, clear-headed and creative. I tell Katie I may end up wanting to do another walk like this and she just laughs.
Energized by our chat, I bolt the final 7.5 miles into Tillamook in 1.5 hours. Since there are no campgrounds or RV parks I get a room at a shoddy little joint called the Red Apple Motel where everything is labeled. “This towel is for your face.” “Please wipe down sink.” “Television remote.” I don’t feel guilty for staying here especially after a lovely conversation with the old lady at the front desk. She reminds me of my Grandma and I feel lucky to have a few minutes with her.
I order some food and have it delivered. I know darn well that it’ll be too much food and I’ll regret it. I am acutely aware of my addiction to access but momentarily eschew it. When it arrives at my room, I tip the young man $6 and he is shocked. He thanks me profusely, addressing me as “Sir” multiple times. After he leaves I wonder when this happened. When did I turn into someone old enough to be called “Sir?” I don’t want my food to get cold, so I unpack the food, eat until my stomach bursts, I brush and floss then fall asleep with the TV on.