Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Stage 1: The idea, opportunity, and beginning leg of the trek.

Ferry to Southworth

The idea came to me after meeting so many baggage laden riders while on weekend rides and family vacations. I often approach fellow bicyclists and inquired about their trek. It’s astounding to hear how far they have come and I am always in awe when I hear of destinations like Cape Horn, Mexico City and New Orleans. Curiosity prodded me to explore traveling by bike over long distances and the Pacific coast seemed to be the most realistic trek based on well documented ride reports, magnificent sights, cool summer temperatures, and plenty of campgrounds and cities along the way. All I needed was an opportunity. That golden opportunity arose after being laid off from my job and landing a new one with a start date three weeks out. There were fifteen days between my wife’s birthday and my good friend’s 40th (neither of which I could miss), so I planned for that window. I had been riding mountain bikes and commuting thirty miles (each way) to work on a regular basis the six months prior; this riding would pay high dividends on the trek I was about to make.

Ready to Rumble!

Considering my physical condition and days allotted, I came up with two options: start in Vancouver, BC and end in San Francisco, which would take about fifteen days if I traveled 100 miles/day; or start in Seattle and travel seventy miles/day to arrive in San Francisco in thirteen days. I discovered that forty to sixty miles/day was the norm for most bicycle tours along the Pacific coast, and I estimated I could increase the mileage by fifty percent if I traveled reasonably light and gave myself plenty of time each day to complete the task. I bought a one-way ticket on Alaskan Airlines ($150 plus $50 to check a bike in a box) and the plan was concrete. My favorite bicycle shop, The Bicycle Business (thebikebiz.com) gave me a bike box, helped set up my bicycle for the long haul, and offered many travel tips. I bought my reserve food, tires, tubes, bell, rear view mirror, a bright tail light, seat bag, and multi-tool there. My goal was to travel light but hold enough gear to camp comfortably.

My load and  a Washington state wildflower called Foxglove!

These are the items I brought:
  • 3 sets of bicycling shirts/shorts
  • 1 cotton t-shirt & shorts
  • 1 Long John base layer (top and bottoms)
  • 5 Clif bars (reserve food)
  • 5 Hammer Gel packets (end-of-day boosts)
  • Sun screen (SPF 30)
  • 2 pair of riding glasses (one dark, one clear)
  • Mini MP3 player
  • Flip phone
  • Road maps of Oregon and Northern California
  • Oregon coast bicycling map (free online at http://cms.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/docs/oregon_coast_bike_route_map.pdf)
  • 6-foot cable lock
  • LED tail light & head light
  • Multi-tool
  • 2 tubes and a patch kit (for the inevitable)
  • 5 and 6mm nuts & bolts
  • Tylenol, band aids, first aid cleaning solution
  • Clean wipes (pack/25)

Day 1: Sacramento, CA to Shelton, WA
Ride time: 6 hours
Distance: 65 miles

Leaving, the Sacramento weather was so inviting. It was 105°F that week. I imagined southerly cool breezes pushing me along the coast line. On the plane I sat next to an Air Force Airman who was coming home from his duty station in Dubai, where it was 135°. As the plane started to descend, the dark clouds over Puget Sound were imminent. It was sixty degrees and raining in Seattle but I was okay with that. I quickly reassembled in the oversized luggage claim area. The airport baggage agent offered to watch my bike while I filled up my water bottles and to throw away my discarded cardboard box. I also met a cyclist who had just flown in from Iowa and was meeting his brother in Astoria the following day to ride across the States to Vermont. We gave each other sincere good wishes for a safe trip, and I was off.

Disc Golf anyone?

But getting out of Seattle was not easy. The Pacific Coast Cycling book was a godsend for this task. There were over twenty turns to take before reaching the ferry to Southworth (across Puget Sound), which was only five miles away. I wanted to get on Highway 101 as soon as possible, for the safety of a six foot bike lane (or passing lane). I met another bicyclist on the ferry who was from southeast Oregon and was doing a day ride around the Isle of Vashon, which I rode many times on my Vespa scooter. He was in for a real treat, with rolling hills, dense trees, and winding roads. I almost joined the man; however, getting to the Oregon coast was my main mission and it was already early afternoon--I needed to log some mileage. This and the next day were the most mentally grueling. Being on the road spinning away was awesome, though! The highway cut deep through areas of Washington’s heavily forested region. The mid-afternoon traffic wore me down and I turned on some tunes to get through it, and stopped in at a fruit stand for some delicious local raspberries, Washington apples, and jerky. At 8pm I made it to Shelton, WA, labeled “Christmas Tree Town, USA” for its deep history of logging. I kept seeing signs for bears, so I opted to settle into this town for a warm bed. Seeing a gas station / smoke shop, I stopped in for some friendly directions. Indeed the Southern Washingtonians were nice and I got advice about a place to stay and eat just three miles up the road. My butt, feet and hands were getting sore at this point, so it sure felt good to spread out on the front lawn of this hostel and watch fellow travelers pass by on the highway. Shelton is a very sparse town, with a Safeway, two competing Chinese restaurants, a Dominoes Pizza, and a KFC. I opted for both a piece of Washington apple pie at Safeway and Dominoes artesian thin crust pizza, then watched both versions of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory back to back as I mapped out my next day’s travels.

Stay tuned for more!