Aside from Arizona, which has been given its own summary section, we did very little cycling in the southwest. We bounced around between tons of visits and music and also did some great hiking.
California (19 nights: Oct 9-16; Oct 18-31)
|Distance cycled:||45 mi / 72 km / 292,431 RJP|
|Elevation gained:||785 ft / 239 m|
|Elevation lost:||639 ft / 195 m|
Our time in California can be divided into two distinct periods: Humboldt County and SF+.
We drove down to Humboldt County from Oregon for a long-overdue family visit after many years of absence. We stayed with my uncle with six of his seven kids in a doublewide trailer. It was chaos. It was amazing.
One of the benefits of using a krr was that we had time to take a short backpacking trip which we’d been jonesing for since we left the Olympics. We chose the Lost Coast Wilderness, and WOW! The drive there is the first part of the adventure as you take a curvy, dilapidated road over some steep hills and drop straight down to the coast. We were only able to make a two-night in and out trip due to weather, but we were touched by this place and intend to return to hike the full length.
The SF part of our trip was a mixture of friends, family and music. Most of the rest of my CA family lives around SF, so we were able to have some nice visits. Phish conveniently scheduled their fall tour around our plans, so we were able to see the three-night run there and we even got one of my old classmates to go to a show, which he seemed to enjoy. One of Brandy’s goals for the trip was to go to a west coast music festival and we were able to check that one off the list with the Hangtown Halloween Ball.
I had been to SF three times in my life, but had never actually “visited” it rather than just passing through. I finally put that to rest with this visit and got to enjoy the city. It didn’t woo me while I was there (I think the crazy gentrification and housing prices were always in my head), but I think back now and realize that it is indeed a special place. I was also disappointed with the cycling there, but not surprised considering the stupid court-ordered moratorium on infrastructure that was only recently lifted. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how much they had managed to do in such a short time since the moratorium. I was very impressed with how much cycling infrastructure was available in the surrounding areas as well. Oakland was particularly great for riding, but we also rode through the silicon suburbs when we went to visit my aunt and I was pleased to see how nice it was to ride there and how easy it was to bring bikes on the Caltrain.
Nevada (4 nights: Oct 31-Nov 4)
|Distance cycled:||50 mi / 80 km / 324,923 RJP|
|Elevation gained:||2,379 ft / 725 m|
|Elevation lost:||2,733 ft / 833 m|
I don’t have much to say about Nevada. I have driven all over that state and love it. We spent the bulk of this time partying it up with our friends in a house we rented for the Halloween Phish shows in Vegas. The drive to Vegas was beautiful, like the rest of Nevada. I was impressed by how nice it was to cycle in Vegas. It’s difficult to use the bike for transport because everything is so spread out, but the roads are so over-engineered that there is plenty of space for all the traffic in most places so we felt comfortable riding as we left town. There were some very nice multi-use trails as we got further out of town. We did NOT ride on the Strip, which is a horrible krr-oriented hellhole. It’s a hassle to get anywhere, especially on foot. It is specifically designed so that you either never leave the casino complex you’re staying in, or you take a taxi everywhere. I really can’t figure out why people love this place so much, but with great friends and great music, it wasn’t tough to have a great time.
After a long train ride out West, we spent some great times traveling around Washington, British Columbia and Oregon by train, bike, bus, krr, boat, foot and dogsled. Ok, not the last one. We met lots of friends, old and new, and spent time in stunning natural beauty.
Idaho (Aug 29) Transit only
We passed through Idaho on the train to Seattle.
Washington (15 nights: Aug 29-Sep 3; Sep 8-18)
|Distance cycled:||326 mi / 524 km / 2,117,849 RJP|
|Elevation gained:||15,147 ft / 4,617 m|
|Elevation lost:||15,129 ft / 4,611 m|
Our route took us from Seattle up to Vancouver Island, British Columbia via the San Juan Islands, back to Seattle and then around the Olympic Peninsula. We cycled through incredible beauty in Washington and met really great people there. We also had some of the more challenging days of our trip so far in that state, both physically and mentally. We added the Olympic Mountains to our growing “must revisit with more time” list, but do not really recommend cycling the Olympic Peninsula. I had been looking forward to that ride for quite a while, but in the end it did not deliver. It was a nice ride, but the scenic views were too few and far between to be worth putting up with the absolutely horrible log truck drivers. These guys to date constitute the very worst group of people we have encountered on our trip, by a very wide margin. We felt in danger the entire time we were there and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed by their willful negligence.
We chose the perfect time to visit western Washington because the rains had not yet started and there was an unbelievable amount of apples, pears and especially blackberries available for picking on the side of the road.
The ferries throughout the San Juan Islands were a nice treat, although we didn’t see any whales. Orcas Island claimed both of our brake failures. On a steep downhill, Brandy lost a screw, which dropped the pad it was supposed to hold in place. This is a serious design failure in some otherwise excellent brakes. Luckily she was able to find the pad and poached a screw from another, less crucial spot. I had a brake cable snap while coming down a very large hill. Luckily I had been on the road previously and knew I could coast it out without worrying about some busy junction or crazy potholes. I would find out in a couple months that I had made a serious rookie mistake of not investigating why it snapped (hint: that should never happen).
British Columbia (5 nights: Sep 3-8)
|Distance cycled:||85 mi / 136 km / 549,770 RJP|
|Elevation gained:||2,155 ft / 657 m|
|Elevation lost:||2,178 ft / 664 m|
We had a short, but sweet visit to Vancouver Island. The cycling was fantastic and almost entirely on trails. Our host in Sooke, Justin had been a Couchsurfing guest of ours in NYC back in 2013 right after we first decided to take this trip. We stayed at his parent’s beautiful B & B / blacksmith shop and had a good time catching up.
Victoria is a cute, but pricey town where we had the best sushi of our lives and our first intro to bike polo! I think this town has some good soul, but we just weren’t there long enough to get too far into it. My cousin came down to meet us and we took a krr trip out to the isolated tourist town of Port Renfrew. Everyone says this part of the island is incredibly beautiful. It is definitely pretty, but I was a bit underwhelmed, perhaps because the coast here is so much like Lake Superior so the scenery was not much of anything new for me. We got some more time with BIG trees, which is always magical.
Vancouver Island is HUGE. We only got to see a tiny part of it. Hopefully we’ll get a chance for further exploration in the future.
Oregon (23 nights: Sep 18-Oct 9; Oct 16-18)
|Distance cycled:||215 mi / 346 km / 1,398,469 RJP|
|Elevation gained:||4,340 ft / 1,323 m|
|Elevation lost:||7,926 ft / 2,416 m|
I had not been back to Oregon since I lived there in 2008, so I was excited to come back to this place I loved, but I was also nervous that it might have changed, or I might have changed or my expectations would prove ruinous in one way or another. I am happy to report that Oregon withstood the scrutiny. Portland was as comfortable and welcoming as ever. I was a bit disappointed to find that the city seemed to have stagnated a bit in terms of cycling infrastructure and ridership. Portland was still high on its early cycling successes when I lived there and there was so much optimism about capturing an even greater share of travel. They hadn’t backshifted, thankfully, but there did not seem to be much new, aside from a sweet car-free bridge they were about to open. People I spoke with in the industry seemed a bit disheartened about some negative governmental changes and lack of energy. The low-hanging fruit has been picked and the momentum doesn’t seem to have been enough to take it to the next level. Nevertheless, it is still an awesome city for cycling. I was not at all surprised after six years living in New York to find Portland much smaller and quieter than I remember.
I was not at all let down in the brewery department. There are tons of good ones and we even took a brewery bike crawl one day. On the west coast I discovered that it’s not that I don’t like IPAs, I just don’t like crappy, stale East Coast IPAs. The difference is night and day. On the flipside, IPAs are great on the West Coast, but the diversity seems to be a bit limited. Everyone makes great IPAs, but not much else. It could be worse though, it could be 1976 and everyone could be making light American lagers only.
We also made it down to Bend, and so did our bikes despite being strapped to the top of a Ford Focus. The town was a little more car-oriented than I expected, but we had a nice time, and again, the breweries did not disappoint. The ride over the mountains to Corvallis was spectacular and we got some hot springs action.
We had been looking forward to cycling the coast down to visit my family in Humboldt County, CA, but when we compared the timeframe with the distance, it was looking like we’d have to do some heavy pedaling and I was starting to have some pain that couldn’t be ignored. When my friend Araby offered us the use of her krr AND said she’d go with us to the Phish show in Eugene, it was a done deal. I realized that I probably would not have enjoyed cycling the coast too much anyway. There is too much tourist traffic, not enough shoulders and not enough views. I think the way to see it would be to hike the Oregon Coast Trail and I intend to do that someday. The sea has captured my affection on this trip in a way it never has in the past. Although I consider Humboldt County to be part of the Pacific Northwest in spirit, it’s still in California, so I will lump it in with my Southwest summary.
My conviction that Oregon is a very special place has been reinforced. We had an incredible time checking out some new parts, drinking delicious beer and best of all, reconnecting with some great friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I have also had my conviction reinforced that krr travel is for the birds. It could be great for certain things (like Phish tour!) and some of my greatest childhood memories are of grand road trips out west. These are the trips that started it all for me! But man, sitting in a krr driving around just sucks the life out of me these days. It puts me into a state of hypnosis where I just float unconsciously from one place to another. The air is stale, even with the windows rolled down, there is no connection to the places we pass through and I become insanely tired for no reason at all. After all the cycling touring I have come to realize just how much of the experience of a place is missed when boxed in.