I was a little excited about today's ride. I was on the coast highway now and I knew I was going to get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time in sixteen years. After high school I joined the Navy and wound up stationed on an aircraft carrier out of San Diego for over four years. I know it sounds completely cliche, but the sea really does get into you. Whenever I get near any ocean it has an immediate calming effect on me and this time would be no different. Except maybe that this time I NEEDED to be calmed a little more.
When I actually hit the road this morning, though, I started to wonder if I really would see the ocean at all today. Most of the coast was socked in with fog. I had driven more than an hour and knew that the beaches were a hundred yards or so to my right, but they may as well have been a hundred miles away. The only time the fog really cleared was when I would get into the tall forests. It was like the trees were eating the fog. It was clear and sunny inside the forest areas but as soon as I came out of the trees I was right back into the fog. I was finally able to get a view of the ocean when the highway literally butted right up to a thin rocky beach. I pulled over and took a picture in case it was the only decent look I was going to get today.
A little ways farther down the coast, I stopped for gas in a little town that had a sign for a lighthouse. I've never been close to a lighthouse, much less toured one, so it seemed like a nice diversion for the day. The fog was really thick as I decended to the beach to find the road up to the lighthouse. The little museum and gift shop at the Umpqua River lighthouse (http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_121.php) is housed in the old Coast Guard barracks next door to the lighthouse itself. The Coast Guard now has regular housing built nearby and troops still live there today. As it turned out, the museum only takes cash, so I had to drive back down the hill and across the beachhead to the little town to find the one working ATM and withdraw some funds. Then I rode back up to take the tour. It was a short little 15 or 20 minute guided walking tour with a very informed guide. It's nice taking a tour that's not guided by some lackey motivated only by his paycheck and reciting obviously-memorized lines. I won't go into all the details about this lighthouse, but one interesting thing is that it's one of only two in the US with access to the bulbs from the bottom. This means that you can climb up inside the light while it is still operating. They let visitors stick their heads up inside for some really beautiful pictures of the inside of the lens. I took a few pictures and made my way back to the gift shop. I toured the museum for a few minutes. It has some great photos and large models of ships and boats of the region, as well as a surprisingly large gift shop. I soon got back on the road, happy that I'd made this side stop.
The rest of the day was spent hauling down the coast highway, heading toward a meet-up with more geocacher friends the next day. I was intent on getting as many miles down as I could, but the fog and the chill made it uncomfortable at times. Still, the farther south I got the taller the trees became and I was looking forward to getting into the redwood forests the next day. I finally stopped for the night in Eureka, California, eager to rest up and hit the road early tomorrow. It had been another very cool day. I had put another 275 miles on the bike (total of 3922 for the trip), and I was feeling pretty good.