I’d kayaked the Columbia River into the wind from Mc Nary Dam to the Pacific Ocean, including the nuclear force winds of the Columbia River Gorge. When I got to the ocean, the wind changed and I couldn’t get out without fear of being run down by ocean going ships. One is at a definite disadvantage in a 17′ foot kayak when pitted against the force of the Pacific Ocean and ships many hundreds of feet long with thousands of horsepower.
For days, my trusty sea kayak, a Folbot®, was no more than a pile of aluminum tubes and an outer skin hidden in the bushes behind the dunes on the northern Oregon coast. I’d been camped in a pile of food, water bottles, camping gear and kayak parts after it became obvious it would be foolish, or worse, to try to buck the wind and dodge ships to get over the bar and out into the ocean. I’d been waiting for three days for a change in weather, days I couldn’t afford to spend sitting and waiting. There had been other delays, between the starting point on the Northern Idaho and Montana border, and where I was in the dunes just south off the mouth of the Columbus River. if I was going to make it home to New Mexico by the first of October, I couldn’t spend a lot of time sitting. I’d sailed that part of the west coast on a large sloop and sometime around Labor Day weekend there had always been a big storm. We spent Labor Day weekend tied to a dock in Newport Oregon in 1976. We were the last boat to cross the bar for almost a week ad I didn’t want to be offshore in a kayak in a blow like that one.
On the third day, I packed all my gear and kayak pieces back across country and to the edge of the river where I reassembled the kayak, stowed the gear and began the paddle back up river to a small boat harbor I’d passed. I was in a dilemma: I wanted the entire 4000 miles to be by human power, my human power, but it was beginning to look like I was going to have to do something to make up some time. My friend Bob Campbell solved the problem.
Bob was one of my contacts and after tying the kayak at the dock and calling my wife, I called Bob and told him what wasn’t happening. He said, “Why don’t you rent a car, bring your kayak to my house and I’ll loan you one of my bikes. You can take the bike back to where you go out of the kayak and ride it back here. Then you can put the kayak back together and go into the ocean here.”
What a great idea. I can paddle about 30 miles a day under ideal conditions and can ride a couple of hundred. I could make up all the time I’d lost sitting at the mouth of the Columbia on the ride to Bob’s house in Bandon, OR. From there it would be easier to get over the bar at the Coquille River and into the ocean than at the mouth of the Columbia River.
After making sure everything was secure, I took the bus to a rental car agency, went back with the rental car and packed everything in the trunk, back seat, front seat and any other place that had an inch of spare room. I thought I was going to spend the night in my tent at the boat harbor but, a local policeman who I nicknamed “Wyatt Earp of Hammond,” had different ideas. After my late night encounter with Wyatt, I drove south until my eyes were crossed.
After sleeping in the car in a pullout overlooking the ocean, I got to Bob;s house the next day, unloaded the kayak and other gear, got a few hours of sleep and headed back north. By the time I arrived back at the rental car lot it was dark, so I slept in the car again. The next morning, before the sun was up, I had the bike out of the trunk and assembled. I rode about five miles back to the boat dock, made a u- turn and headed south.
On the way back to Bob’s, I took a couple of side trips to visit friends and relatives. It was a joy being back on the bike, and putting miles behind me at a pace that wasn’t possible in the kayak.
When I got to Bob’s four days later, I put the kayak back together and, after a couple of tries, made it into the ocean and continued south. The original plan was to go to San Diego where our daughter lives and have Celinda bring my bike to Larisa’s house. Celinda would take the kayak back to Columbus and I’d ride the last 1000 miles or so home.
Fate has ways of altering plans, and everything changed when the ocean got nasty a day south of Crescent City, Ca.
Ref: Excerpts from my book Yol Bolsun: May There Be A Road