Salem to Pacific City: A Wet Mess that Didn’t Disappoint

The Map

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A number of weeks ago, a friend of mine who owns a beach house in Pacific City had the idea of doing a ‘Man Weekend’ up at the coast. Yes, that’s right – a man weekend. Let’s just say that the verbal itinerary (determined during a particularly raucous bar hop) included all the imaginings such a decadent epigram imply.

But when one of the fellow conspirators for said weekend asked me to join him on a bike ride up to Pacific City, the weekend’s already glorious potential was all but confirmed. Joseph had sketched out a couple potential routes that started on highway 22 until we reached Willamina, where we would then veer north onto highway 18 and take Willamina Creek Road and Coast Creek Road up to either Gilbert Creek Road or NF-14, a gravel forest service road, depending on how we felt when we reached the fork around mile 44. We would eventually arrive in Pacific City, where our plan was to go to The Pelican Pub and Brewery before heading to our friend’s beach house and napping ‘til others arrived Friday night.

We left Salem around 8:30am with a forecast that promised little rain until the afternoon. This was not to be the reality. After about 30 minutes of riding, a steady drizzle gained momentum, turning into a saturating rain an hour into our ride. Both Joseph and I were determined to get to Willamina before stopping and pulling out our rain gear. Unfortunately, Willamina was over 30 miles from our original destination, which meant that even with both of us drafting each other and switching every mile, often cranking out 20+mile an hour averages, we were both completely muddy and soaked when we reached a general store in Willamina. It didn’t help that neither Joseph nor my mudguards dropped low enough to prevent a mud-dominant cocktail from spraying all over the unfortunate caboose in our two person peloton.

Joseph and I were hauling for the first 30 miles, drafting and switching every mile.

Yep… it got dirty and wet in a hurry.

My hairy legs acted as little nets for all the dirt and grime Joseph shot up at me from the road.

Once in Willamina we wised up and draped rain gear over our shivering bodies, assuming the feeling would never again fully return to our extremities. Fortunately, the next hour and a half involved the only major climb of the day, which warmed us up considerably, and since logging trucks were the predominant if not sole vehicle we encountered on the road, careening around corners and nearly giving us a heart-attacks, we had our adrenaline to warm us up as well.

This sign says it all.

A particularly long climb…

Which led to some well deserved downhill.

Eventually it was decision time, and it didn’t take long for either of us to determine that this time around, we’d prefer to stick to pavement versus gravel. NF-14 promised another 1,000+ feet of elevation gain, which neither of us were particular keen on, especially since we both weren’t exactly in pristine biking shape at this point in the year. Another time perhaps. Instead, we continued on Gilbert Creek Road, which became Bible Creek Road, and then turned left onto Upper Nestucca River Road. It was a beautiful quiet ride and mostly downhill. It felt like the last 20 miles or so passed us by with little to no effort on our parts.

Glamour shots of the bike on a picturesque bridge.

My Kona Sutra all geared up.

Our route eventually popped us out on highway 101 in Beaver, where we made a quick pit stop and talked about our end game plan. Both of us acknowledged the level of nastiness we both exuded, but we likewise acknowledged that a beer at The Pelican would taste really good. In the end, beer trumped other people’s comfort levels with our disheveled visages, and we pulled into Pacific City’s best brewery looking like two drowned, albeit contented, rats.

Made it to Pacific City and The Pelican.

The rest of the evening was spent lounging and waiting for our friends to arrive, and the weekend itself didn’t disappoint: crabbing, hiking, board games, cooking, camaraderie, community, and an unforgettable night of karaoke/other shenanigans that left all of us with some pretty hilarious stories to tell in the morning, at least those of us that were able to speak above the dull pounding and ringing in our heads.

Beach hikes…


And more beer than any of us could possibly drink in a weekend (we’re not as young as we used to be), although we gave it our best shot…

All I know is that Joseph and my choice to ride to the coast was the perfect initiation to what would end up being an ideal Man Weekend.


Categories: Oregon Bikepacking, Pedals and Packs, Pubs and Pinots

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4 replies »

  1. This route looks rad! I have done a route out to the coast via Hebo Rd, but this looks a lot better. Ima do it someday.

    PS – Kenzie pass May 17? YAY!

    • Awesome route for sure, but next time I’m definitely taking the gravel alternate. As far as the McKenzie Pass goes, Trish has it in her calendar to be there! I can’t make it since it’s during the work-week, but some day I’ll make my way out there.

  2. I am thinking about doing this ride early may now, prob may 13. Will incorporate into a tour down the coast for a bit.

    How big of tires you recommend for the gravel section? Was it super loose gravel vs hard packed?

    Ack, some other time Ben. I am stoked to ride with you sometime!


    • Joseph and I only rode a little ways up the gravel road before turning around and taking the paved forest road the rest of the way into Pacific City, but it looked to be a somewhat well-maintained road with only slightly chunkier than average gravel. Ideally you’d probably want 38-40c tires if you have them, but you could go lower if you don’t. Since I don’t, I’d feel comfortable using my 35c tires on it for sure.

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