While riding in the middle of the country, during some of our hardest days, what kept us going was the thought of riding down the Pacific coast. In our minds, riding down Washington, Oregon and California, with the Pacific Ocean on our right, we would be in heaven. And it is beautiful. Our first evening on the Oregon coast left us in awe.
We took a bus from Portland to the coast, made a quick stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (yum!) and headed for Cape Lookout State Park. We got to the park early and took our time picking out the most perfect hiker/biker site -- secluded, close to the ocean and far away from the regular camp sites. We spent the evening taking pictures and playing on the beach. It was perfect.
It was after we went to bed when it started. First was the wind. I’m not talking about a breeze; I’m talking about a fear-for-your-life-loud-as-all-get-out-gale-force-wind wind. We would hear the waves crash in a deafening roar, and then, just like counting seconds between thunder and lighting, an explosion of wind would hit our tent. Each time, our tent would cave in on us. I thought for sure our tent poles were going to snap. I didn’t even want to look in the direction the wind was coming for fear that a piece of straw would come flying through the air and embed itself in my forehead.
We both barely sleep though out the night while the tent levitated and danced in the wind, and at 4:30 a.m. I heard Melissa scream, “Someone just stole one of our bags!” While in and out of sleep, she watched as one of her heavy back panniers was drug out from under our vestibule.
Barely awake, I grabbed my glasses and headlamp, unzipped the tent and ran out into the darkness yelling back, “Stay here!”
Once outside the tent, I couldn’t see a thing. It was pitch black. I thought I could somehow chase down the person who had stolen our bag. I ran barefoot, blindly through the darkness, at nothing in particular and almost tripped over the bag. It had been dropped 10 to 15 feet from our tent. “I need your light!” I shouted at Melissa, as mine was not giving off enough and I wanted to investigate -- somehow, being half asleep, I had forgotten to be scared.
After I “searched” the area I got back in the tent where Melissa was inside, clutching pepper spray in one hand and our leatherman knife in the other. We sat still for a while, not knowing what to do, wildly waving our headlamps in the direction of any sound we heard. Occasionally I would mumble, while squinting my eyes, “I can’t see a thing.” After about five minutes of silence, Melissa asks, “Why do you have your sunglasses on?”
I reached up to my face and sure enough, I did in fact have on my sunglasses. No, they are not prescription. And yes, I am almost legally blind without my glasses or contacts. For a second we were able to forget about being scared to death. (“I must have look like a damn superhero out there!”)
We called 911. The dispatcher said she would pass on our information to an officer. After that, we somehow fell back to sleep. And then, again, I was woken up by Melissa yelling, “Oh my God!”
It was a raccoon. A damn raccoon. A raccoon who was strong enough to steal one of our bags out from under our tent. Melissa saw its beady little eyes peaking in, looking for more to steal. At least, that’s the story we are going with. Because it makes it hell of a lot less scary.