Everything you wanted to know about my bike trip

My smart, lovely friend Molly gave me some feedback on my blog (which I love—everybody, give me feedback please!). She said, so your posts are great and all, but you don’t really tell me what you do everyday.

Good point. Molly sent me some questions that she wants answered, and I figured some of the rest of you might want answered, too. Here they are:

Miles, days, hours, campsites, etc.???

2,049 miles. 39 days of biking. 57 total days of travel. 29 campsites. I was a guest in 11 different homes. I stayed at a hostel for 1 night.

Name your top three spots along the coast. Photo or description required.

If you’re gonna make me… I guess I would say Cape Kiwanda, Oregon, which was just a cool place to hang out on the beach. It was full of fishermen, surfers, and recreationalists. I really liked the stretch of Highway One from Leggett to Marin County. It felt most like a backroad–complete with cows and cattle guards. The roads were quieter and I felt removed from the bustle of touristy towns and beaches. Lastly, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur), California was stunning. It has a beautiful collection of Redwoods and a crystal clear river–Big Sur River. Who knows what you’ll find in that river–it could be anything from the meaning of life to people playing beer pong (see photo).

Cape Kiwanda, Oregon Highway one

Big Sur River

Best biking meal on your journey? And, because I have to ask, what was the worst?

Lunch in Astoria, Oregon, was pretty damn good. The thing is… southern Washington was not my favorite place for food. The first fish and chips I had in Westport (Washington) were fine. But three more days of it and I was done. I don’t mind pizza and greasy omelets. But I need my greek yogurt, kale, and raw almond fix every once in a while and I was WAY overdue by the time I got to Astoria. It was the first city since Canada to have a whole foods store. I bought lots of organic things and I took them out to the riverfront to eat. The glorious sun beamed down on me while I gorged myself with green things. Wondrous.

The worst meal was probably the night I ate an apple, nuts, and canned oysters. But even that wasn’t too bad.

What was the hardest day?

The hardest day was the day from Fort Myers to Standish-Hickey State Park (California). It wasn’t the longest day, or the hilliest day, but it was the hottest day. That day the coastal route took us inland about 15 miles. That’s all it takes for temperatures to jump about thirty degrees. It was a shock to the system after getting used to the temperate coastal weather. The recorded temperature in Garberville (a town en route) on that day (July 30) was 102. Most of the ride was on the wide open 101; no shade to be found.

Garberville
I took this picture on that day. This van was having a rough time of it, too.

What was the best day?

The Golden Gate Bridge. No Big Sur. Gah. Nope. I can’t. I just can’t. IT WAS ALL SO GOOD.

Golden Gate Bridge

Were there any dangerous roads?

Yes. But nothing that you can’t handle. Before I left for my trip I was pretty concerned about the roads in California—especially highway one in Big Sur. When I talked to people and told them what I was doing, they were like, be careful in Big Sur! The highway is so curvy and hilly and the cars drive so fast—don’t die! Well, I’m here to tell you that you won’t die. If you start in Canada, then by the time you get to California you’ve already seen it all as far as roads go. The coastal route covers all kinds of roads—quiet backroads to busy four-lane highways. Each type of road has a different set of risks associated with it. The only time I started to get legitimately worried was when I got stuck riding in fog, which happened a few times in Oregon and northern California. Bridges can also be a bit nerve-wracking. I recommend pulling over and waiting for traffic to clear before crossing. That said, lots of people bike this route and we all make it through okay.

Was there ever not a campsite to stay at?

Campsites are pretty consistent down the coast. There is a state campground about every 20 to 40 miles apart. If there’s no state campground, there’s usually a private campground. As I’ve mentioned before, some campsites have designated hiker/biker areas that are reserved for cyclists. I mostly camped at hiker/biker sites, but I camped a few times at regular campsites. I was never turned away. I do recommend getting a map of designated campsites. Don’t expect one to appear whenever you want to stop.

My beautiful yellow tent at a campground in Canada.
My beautiful yellow tent at a campground in Canada.

What would you think about all day?

Lots of things! I daydreamed. I wrote blog posts in my head. I had conversations (in my head) with people. I yelled at bad drivers. I thought about food. I counted the miles. I sang (or if I was biking in a group we all sang)—Wilco, Weezer, Vance Joy, Nelly Furtado, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, that I’m gonna marry her anyway song—oh man that song was the bane of our existence.

Were you ever scared?

Of course. There’s always the first day jitters: I remember getting off of the train and stepping out onto the streets of Vancouver alone and thinking, what the hell did I just get myself into?! But you just go one step at a time. Later that night I met a very kind cycling family of four that helped me quiet those doubts.

Some evenings I got nervous about not finding a campsite. You see, my days tended to go like this: leave camp between 8 and 9am, ride 20 or 30 miles, stop for lunch—which somehow turned into a read, write, talk to the retirees at the local tourist office, find a grocery store, send some mail stop. Then it was 3pm and I was like, I’ve only gone 30 miles today?! So I’d try to get 40 or so done in the afternoon. More often than not I was riding through sunset. A few times I rode in the dark. But I had lights on my bike and it worked out okay every time.

Also, there was one night in Canada when I could hear something moving around outside my tent and I swear it was bigger than a squirrel.

What kinds of weather did you encounter? List all.

I was pretty lucky. I think I got more sunny days than were owed to me. When I was inland (Canada, northern Washington, northern California, San Luis Obispo) the weather tended to be hot and dry. It was usually manageable except for that one day in northern California… The coast was at times, cooler than I would have liked, but again, quite manageable. Nights were cold, but that’s what your tent and sleeping bag is for. There was one (only one!!!) day of rain. It was in Oregon and it was miserable. Everything was so wet, I couldn’t imagine ever being dry again. (But here I am, in my bedroom, 6 weeks later, perfectly dry.) Spitting fog was pretty consistent down the coast. It’s the kind of stuff where it’s not raining, but somehow everything gets wet…

Fog
I have never known fog so intimately as in northern California.

So, this seems like the kind of thing that would change your life. Has it? How?

Yes, it changed my life, but not in an Eat-Pray-Love-I-spent-one-year-abroad-and-now-I’m-a-better-person-and-have-direction kind of way. It changed my life the same way than any significant experience—like a new job or going back to school—will change your life. It was a collection of experiences—I met a lot of different people who believed different things. I faced small personal challenges. And all of those experiences together changed who I am a little. How… I’m not exactly sure yet.

If nothing else, my trip affirmed that there is nothing like bike travel. It will be part of my life forever. Next trip on the list: Trans-America.

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