Route: Highway 101 to Coos Bay, Seven Devils Road, Then Re-Join the 101
Weather: Low 20s, Mostly Sunny, and First Taste of Those Sweet TAILWINDS
Terrain: Mostly Inland From the Open Coast, Solid Climbs After Coos Bay Along Seven Devils Road
Total Climbing: ~815m/2680ft
Breakfast: Oatmeal [with cinnamon, almonds & pecans]
Lunch: Wrap & Banana
Dinner: Store-Bought Ramen with Spices
Snacks: Clif Bar
Beverages: Water, Gatorade
Previous Night’s Sleep: 9:30pm to 7:00am [9.5 hours]
Previous Night’s Accommodation: Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
A Brief Swan Dive Into The Rare Taunts & Yells of Passers-By
Today, I received a handful of taunts and insulting yells from people in passing vehicles. To be honest, I was too enraptured in crossing a bridge or climbing a hill to absorb any of their words deeply. Later in the evening, though, the small collection of incidents did strike a chord within to think.
Why? Why berate a stranger riding a bicycle on the road?
I was never endangering myself or any vehicle. Cyclists are a periodic sight all along the Pacific coast. Occasionally, a big yellow sign informs drivers that cyclists do use Highway 101 and the many bridges the road crosses over [Many coastal towns require a short or long bridge-crossing to pass through].
Still, a half-dozen or so people independently decided to voice their displeasure at my existence on the road. For any number of reasons, that was their choice. Maybe to impress their friends. Maybe to express their anger at my non-motorized presence on a well-trafficked road; for a brief moment, I know I might be a slight inconvenience for a passing vehicle. Or, maybe they do not understand why someone would ever want to travel long-distance on a bicycle. Who would ever do that? Even if I don’t agree, I do understand any of those reasons.
No matter the reason, I feel that every negative incident is rooted in their reaction to my vulnerability and odd-ness as a slow-moving, heavily-packed, touring cyclist. An unknown, nameless one.
I appear vulnerable and odd on these roads. To any given driver, the perception might be that I am vulnerable and odd on their roads. For those few that feel compelled to roll down their windows to taunt or yell, my guess is they feel emboldened by my slight presence. No matter the initial reason for wanting to connect with me in such a negative way, they follow through on taunting or yelling because there is a nearly zero chance of repercussion.
This situation puts these vocal few into a bit of a fear-less position. Less fear of being confronted by the vulnerable cyclist. For those few, it might feel empowering to vocally belittle another.
To be clear, this isn’t an indictment of the people or towns along this stretch, or the state of Oregon. This isn’t an indictment of any place or anyone. Ninety-nine percent of the vehicles and people I’ve encountered have been courteous and, even, encouraging. Just makes me think.
Mostly, I don’t mind. Instead, I think of my connection to those people. I’m not Josh Willms. I am a nameless, unknown cyclist, imposing on their world. A brief, odd inconvenience. That’s it. That’s all. Why should I respond with anger or fear? My connection to them is not personal. It is merely circumstantial.
I’m not angry or fearful. I’m quite all right. Besides, I’d rather focus on the ninety-nine percent of courteous and encouraging passers-by. People have been overwhelmingly trusting and, oftentimes, outwardly loving. I’ll dwell on that instead.