Here is a journal of my cycling tour adventure on the Pacific Coast. I put this blog post separate from the regular blog since it is so long, and it's also not a skating or canals topic. For the most part, I followed the Adventure Cycling route--I note where the course I took was significantly different from Adventure Cycling's route. I actually rode it as a "section-biker" in four out-of-sequence segments over the past year (Canada - central Oregon coast, San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo to San Diego, and central Oregon coast to San Fran) but the ride is presented here in "geographic" order. Other than the start / finish in San Francisco, I travelled to or from the segments via planes, trains, buses, and automobiles. I've highlighted notably good or interesting locations to stay along the way. Each day is complete with mileage and elevation gain statistics (gross feet of climbing on that day's segment) for reference.
You can navigate through this journal as you would a blog (by scrolling down and clicking 'Previous' to go further in the report) or click on an individual entry for a particular day in the list below:
Day 1: Vancouver Canada to Bellingham
Day 2: Bellingham to Port Hadlock
Day 3: Port Hadlock to Olympia
Day 4: Olympia to Winlock
Day 5: Winlock to Astoria
Day 6: Astoria to Pacific City
Day 7: Pacific City to Florence
Day 8: Florence to Bandon
Day 9: Bandon to Brookings
Day 10: Brookings to Orick
Day 11: Orick to Myers Flat
Day 12: Myers Flat to Cleone
Day 13: Cleone to Ft. Ross
Day 14: Ft. Ross to San Francisco
Day 15: San Francisco to Watsonville
Day 16: Watsonville to Ragged Point
Day 17: Ragged Point to San Luis Obispo
Day 18: San Luis Obispo to Buellton
Day 19: Buellton to Malibu
Day 20: Malibu to Dana Point
Day 21: Dana Point to San Diego and the border with Mexico
I used my Garmin and have traces of the route--for those of you on Garmin Connect, my username is bikerunetc.
I've included a few photos to illustrate the route, but you can find more on Flickr:
Vancouver to Eugene
Oregon and Northern California
San Francisco to San Luis Obispo
It was quite an experience to ride the scenic and dramatic Pacific Coast.
Left: the box containing the bike being put on the plane. Right, at the start point of my tour at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
Day 1: Vancouver, BC to Bellingham, WA. 65.6 miles, 2,624 ft. of climbing (105.7 km, 800 m)
I started my tour by flying from San Francisco to Vancouver on United—the base airfare cost less than the additional $175 fee for the bike—and arrived at the Vancouver airport mid-afternoon and took a cab to a hotel in the nearby suburb of Richmond, BC with the bike still in a box. I chose a hotel next to a bike shop. This gave me a greater confidence in reassembling the bike given I’d never done such an extensive disassembly / reassembly before. I had fears of either the airline or me mangling one of the parts or never getting the cable tension and shifts correct for my journey. In the end, the only reason I needed the bike shop was to purchase a fender and a tire gauge, which I hadn’t managed to accomplish before setting out. That evening, I did a little sightseeing in downtown Vancouver by taking the tram line, which was newly built for the then upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics. I decided my tour would “officially” start the next morning at the Richmond Olympic Oval [speed skating]. It was a short distance from the hotel, and then I could pedal along a crushed stone riverfront bike path and then join up with the Adventure Cycling route a short distance away. Another option would have been to start in Stanley Park, ride through downtown, and then connect with the route, but since I was a speed skater, the Richmond Oval seemed most appropriate.
Much of this first day was a ride through the suburbs of Vancouver, and was only mildly interesting as a bike tour. Suburbs in Vancouver look like suburbs just about anywhere, especially the ones on the route. As I approached the Canada – US border, a light drizzle had turned into a steady rain. I was thankful I’d decided I installed the fender the previous day, and as the rain increased I put on my rain gear. At the border, the rain was pretty heavy as I pedaled up to the security booth. Despite having my passport and driver’s license, I was directed to go inside the border office and had to wait in the same line with all the people that had difficulty with their papers. The reason given was that since I had flown to Vancouver, there was no means to track my “vehicle” crossing and then re-crossing the border. I suppose they log vehicle license plates that go over the border and return, and the bike of course has no license plate and was in the cargo hold of the airplane for the journey into Canada. Arrgggh. Nothing worse than standing in a line for half an hour or so in damp gear. I finally was allowed to get going again and the person at the counter was very polite and said a lot of people tour on bikes and I wasn’t that unusual. (Why couldn’t this have been worked out at the car booth window?)
The route continued on into Bellingham and I decided to stay on “motel row” (Samish Way) at a Travelodge. Not only was it affordable, but it had a washer / dryer and was a short walk to an REI and several places to eat. I had managed everything for the bike aspect of the trip, but had no belt for my blue jeans, so yes, the REI was necessary.
Day 2: Bellingham, WA to Port Hadlock, WA. 77.9 miles, 4,047 ft. of climbing (125.4 km, 1,234 m; not including another 6 miles on the ferry)
After a first day that featured a boring ride through the Vancouver suburbs, an uninteresting rural area at the US-Canada border, a frustrating delay at the border crossing, and a miserable day in the rain, my second day may have been one of the best days of the entire Pacific Coast tour. The first miles out of Bellingham were on a shelf road perched on a hillside overlooking Bellingham Bay in the Salish Sea. This offered pleasing views of the bay and shoreline with its pine forested hillsides running down to the shoreline, reminding me of the scenery riding around Lake Tahoe (minus the high mountains in the distance). After ten or so miles, the road entered flat farmland, punctuated by interesting sloughs. This section was very serene, I think I saw more cyclists and definitely saw more fisherman than I saw cars here. The route then continued on Hwy 20, which was pretty busy but not terrible after passing Anacortes. After the spectacular Deception Pass, the route then took me through Whidbey Island. This was very scenic, so much so that I didn’t feel cheated in that I hadn't opted to spend a day or two exploring the nearby San Juan Islands. Once past the Ault Field Naval Base, the island became very charming, reminding me of little fishing villages in Maine. Coupeville is an enchanting little town near the southern end of the island. I had timed my ride well, and had a short wait for the car ferry to the Victorian era town of Port Townsend. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, and despite the many interesting places to linger in the historic seaport town of Port Townsend, I continued on to Port Hadlock. I stayed at the Inn at Port Hadlock, a very nice hotel right on the bay. This was a nice place, a bit pricey, but worth it.
This day had it all for the touring cyclist: views of a forested bay in the morning, quiet stretches of farmland (with a few very good farmer’s roadside stands), high bridges over dramatic landscapes, and quaint historic seaport towns. Maybe the best day of the entire Pacific Coast tour.
Clockwise from upper left: Forested hillside leading to the bay south of Bellingham, boats near Edison Slough, tranquil bay on Whidbey Island, Deception Pass Bridge.
Day 3: Port Hadlock, WA to Olympia, WA (alternate). 96.1 miles, 5,389 ft. of climbing (154.7 km, 1,643 m; the alternate from Shelton was about 17.5 miles before my friend met me)
The next day was a run south to Shelton. The scenery was okay, with nice views of the Olympic Mountains jutting up in the distance to the west, the Hood Canal bay, and stretches of forest on either side of the road to go along with small towns and cities. At Shelton, I left the Adventure Cycling route and headed east to Olympia. There isn’t really a great way to do this; Hwy 101 is more like an interstate in that area with 4 lanes and high-speed exit and onramps. This can mostly be avoided by using the access roads and roads such as Old Scenic Hwy 101 that parallel 101, meandering back and forth alongside the current highway. A friend that I was staying with picked me up at the Blue Heron bakery at the edge of Olympia.
Day 4: Alternate route of Olympia, WA to Winlock, WA. 58.0 miles, 1,408 ft. of climbing, (93.3 km, 429 m)
I visited with my friend and his family in Olympia before starting out mid-day, so I didn’t plan on travelling as far (especially since the day before had been such a long ride). Very little of the ride was on the Adventure Cycling route other than near the towns of Centralia and Chehalis. As far as the ride, this was almost a rest day given the nature of the route I took. I rolled out of Olympia on the Chehalis Western Trail and then onto the Yelm – Tenino Trail, both of which were paved converted rail-trails.
I then continued on rural roads to Winlock and stayed at the nearby Ranch House B&B. This day was mostly a very peaceful, quiet, scenic ride given the use of the rail-trails.
Day 5: Winlock, WA to Astoria, OR. 85.5 miles, 4,453 ft. of climbing (137.6 km, 1,357 m; alternate from Winlock rejoining route in Castle Rock was about 20 miles. Includes the roughly 1.25 miles on the Cathlamet ferry.)
This day had some scenic highlights, but also was a challenge. The early part of the ride, before I rejoined the Adventure Cycling route, was through a rural area on a grey, foggy Sunday morning. I had my only dog encounters of the entire tour, on two different occasions with snarling, angry dogs that looked as if they had been bred (or inbred) as attack dogs. Rather than a normal dog coming out of a normal house or farmstead stimulated by the dog "chase response", instead, these mean-looking dogs came from homesteads each comprised of compounds of several rambling, ramshackle buildings, which gave me the impression the dogs were guarding meth-making operations. I got past the dogs, and after pedaling more miles that morning, I greeted the Columbia River and headed westward. The first twenty miles to Cathlamet have a minimal shoulder, so I put my hands in the drops and hammered through it. At Cathlamet, realizing I had mis-timed getting to the ferry that crosses the Columbia River from Washington to Oregon, I lingered at the grocery store with my lunch until near the time of the next ferry, and then I pedaled the last few miles from Cathlamet to the ferry. Once across the Columbia into Oregon, the ride into Astoria featured a series of forested climbs on the rather busy Hwy 30. Being caught off guard by the relatively tough climbs on Hwy 30 dampened my enthusiasm for this particular day, but I suppose, like Lewis and Clark some 200 years before, there was a sense of satisfaction in reaching Astoria and the Pacific Ocean.
Day 6: Astoria, OR to Pacific City, OR. 88.7 miles, 4,667 ft. of climbing (142.8 km, 1,423 m)
After a needed laundromat stop early in the morning, I rode over the bridge crossing the mouth of the Lewis and Clark River and turned south. From there, the route is “classic” Oregon coast cycle touring. I was continually encountering and riding with a wide variety other people touring the coast from here to the California border. While the route is nearly all on Hwy 101, the shoulder is pretty wide and the scenery spectacular. Gorgeous beaches, sea stacks reaching skyward defying the elements, quaint small vacation towns, forested capes, parks, bays—this section has everything which is why it is so popular with vacationers and cycle tourists as well. My favorite parts were the forested hillsides and the sandscape by Sandlake. I splurged and stayed the night at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda.
Across the road from the hotel was Cape Kiwanda State Park, which was full of people enjoying the sunny, warm weather at the beach, in the surf in a dory, and viewing the nearby sculptured sandstone cliffs. After a dinner at the brewpub, I was rewarded with a spectacular sunset. There were laundry facilities in the hotel and a nearby grocery supporting the adjoining RV park, which has 10 tent sites. A truly spectacular place to stay and the coffee shop has a computer for use with internet access as a bonus.
From left: Coastal overlook, brewpub at Cape Kiwanda.
Day 7: Pacific City, OR to Florence, OR. 103.7 miles, 5,262 ft. of climbing (166.9 km, 1,604 m)
Another great day heading south on the Oregon coast. The obvious highlights included the lighthouse at Heceta Head, where, if you want, you can stay at the lighthouse keeper’s cottage next door.
Even though it was almost October, there continued to be a steady stream of fellow touring cyclists given the amazing scenery. This is maybe the best time to tour here given a better chance of sunny weather and also that it's not peak vacation season for car and RV traffic on the roads.
Above: various views along the coastline of empty beaches and rocky shoreline areas.
[Day 7.1: Florence to Eugene. 80.4 miles, 2,573 ft. of climbing (129.3 km, 784 m)]
It was time to end this segment of my tour, so from Florence I headed east towards Eugene. This ride is part of Adventure Cycling’s Transamerica route, and for much of it parallels two rivers. It was in the 90s (> 30 degrees C) by the time I reached Eugene and I “officially” concluded the ride at the University of Oregon’s legendary Hayward Field. From there it was a short ride to the Amtrak station where I had a few hours to clean myself up a bit, box up the bike, and get something to eat. The Amtrak bike box is much bigger than boxes from local bike shops, and all I had to do was take the pedals off, loosen the headset and turn the handlebars sideways. After the overnight train, I arrived in Oakland the next morning, put the bike back together, and hopped on BART for a ride to San Francisco and a short pedal to home.
Day 8: Florence to Bandon. 75.1 miles, 3,942 ft. of climbing (120.9 km, 1,202 m)
It was early afternoon on a July day the following summer when my tour resumed from Florence after I had rented a car, driven to Coos Bay / North Bend, and took a cab to Florence. Okay, this wasn't the most "green" bike tour. Unlike the clear weather on the coast the previous September, Oregon and California are known for coastal fog in summer. Which meant that a lot of what I saw of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area was sandy hillsides by the road, a lot of vehicles towing ATVs and dune buggies, and the occasional break in the clouds and fog with views of the dunes. A little disappointing. By the time I got to Bandon, I had put on enough clothing for a wintertime ride including vest, turtleneck, cap, and leg and arm warmers.