Thisawayz and Thatawayz

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who only dream at night. – Edgar Allan Poe

Cycling the Pacific Coast

As reported by Bikeportland.org there are fix it stations, bike racks, covered shelters, and food storage now going into the hiker/biker sites in Oregon State Parks. Reading this article brought back so many wonderful memories of when we cycled down the west coast.

One of the best things about cycling the coast is meeting up with all the other cyclists at the hiker/biker sites each evening. While it’s almost impossible to get a drive-up camp site in the state parks for everyone else from Spring to Fall, they never turn anyone away who comes in on foot or bike. Often we had access to the best sites along a lake or the ocean, and all they charge is $5 per night. The west coast is very cyclist friendly, particularly Oregon. We loved the communal atmosphere where everyone would sit around the fire each night, in the hiker-biker sites, discussing where they’d been and what their next plans were.

We met a German guy who had gone out of his way to get up the Dempster Highway so he could start his trip from the most northern point. He planned to cycle all the way to the most southern point of South America. He didn’t have any idea how long it would take him. He had all the time in the world.

A young kid we met, from Montreal, had made his away across Canada, before heading down the coast. Quite happy to get off his bike and hitch a ride with people he met at gas stations along the way, to him it was about the experience, not the means of getting there. He told us the campground we met him at was the first place he’d actually paid to stay. The $5 per night that was a deal to us was a decadence to him. He’d spent it because it had been a while since he’d really been able to talk to anyone and he was getting lonely. His camping setup was our first introduction to a camp hammock tent. It was easy to setup, comfy, and waterproof and worked especially well for camping in areas where he wasn’t supposed to be.

We met college students on their summer break, and retirees on their life break, a newlywed couple on a unique honeymoon, and an environmentalist moving to a communal organic farm. There was this homeless man who had recently been kicked off a friend’s couch, given $20 and a girl’s bike with no gears. Cycling past him, as he pushed the little bike up the hills, he’d then go flying past us on the down hills. Turns out, it wasn’t just gears he was missing, but brakes. For someone with limited cash, he sure made bad choices. At the grocery store where we met up with him again, he spent over $5 on a ready made sandwich, when he could have bought bread, meat, and cheese that would have lasted him much longer. Then he tore out all the vegetables in it and threw them away. He told me he was planning to spend the rest of his cash to try and get on a bus to California. He knew he didn’t have enough money to get there, but he was hoping they wouldn’t kick him off.

Surprisingly, for two people who pride themselves on being introverted, we found the best parts of this mode of travel was how it meshed all the hours alone with just our own thoughts and meeting all sorts of new people along the way. It became quite normal to have other cyclists pull up alongside us at some point in the day and travel with us for a while, striking up conversations as we all moved along. Our size and ease of mobility meant it was so easy to stop along the way, to chat to people, to head into a fair, even to take part in a church fish fry. If we’d been in a vehicle, we’d have missed all this.

The biggest downside to cycling the coastal road is having to share the road with impatient drivers, especially the logging trucks and huge RVs. There isn’t always a lot of room on the side of the road and it can be terrifying to look back over your shoulder and see a huge monster bearing down on you. It definitely gives us an appreciation for all the cyclists we travel past in our RV.

There’s a book that everyone cycling the west coast purchases. It’s the bible of the west coast long distance cyclist, called Bicycling The Pacific Coast We found when we stayed at the campgrounds on the itinerary in the book we’d meet lots of people in the evenings, but when we went off course, we’d often have the sites all to ourselves.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Tracey – I came over here from RVillage. Your blog is very entertaining! I really connected with this post because a few years before I was injured Tony and I rode our bikes down the California coast from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. One of the best parts of the trip was the talking with all of the other cyclists. It's been over twenty years but we're still talking about how much fun we had on that trip!

  2. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    We rode from Vancouver, BC to Florence, OR. That was about 3 years ago. I think it is our absolutely favorite trip. Our plan has always been to go back and finish the coast, especially the area between SF and SLO. Now we have a second bigger dog (25lb), we'd have to either leave him at home, or tow a bike trailer. Our 5lb chihuahua sits in her bag on the back of my bike.

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