I started my tour in July 2013 by cycling down the Pacific West Coast as a warm up; a warm up which turned into an amazing five weeks as the cycling was easy, the hiker/biker campsites were a great way to meet other cyclists, and the scenery was beautiful. Though I had never toured, knew absolutely nothing about bikes and hadn’t trained at all for this trip, this didn’t seem to matter as I was able to start out slowly (doing fifty or so kilometers a day) before increasing my mileage when it felt right. Within a few weeks I was cycling 80-120km/day, and loving every minute of it. Along this route I stayed with various hospitable families who renewed my faith in humanity, was encouraged along by passing cars, swam in rivers amongst the gigantic redwoods, and fell asleep beside the beach listening to the crashing waves. I also met dozens of other cyclists, from students to retirees, doing this same route which made nights around the campfire a whole lot of fun.
“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness.
The Pacific Coast of the United States is an incredible place to cycle. It is logistically easy, the people are friendly, the scenery is stunning, and there are plenty of other cyclists to meet along the way. Though I completed the entire section from Northern Washington to San Diego in five weeks, I would suggest taking at least six in order to spend more time hiking through the redwoods and exploring the many beautiful beaches along the way.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
I walked into a bike shop today to pick up the tires I ordered weeks ago. After explaining why I was there, the guy who worked upfront smirked and said, “Yeah, someone just called in about you, he wants to buy the tires for you.” I was absolutely baffled and could hardly imagine that someone had really tracked me down in order to buy them for me. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, a cyclist I had met on the road yesterday (who I biked with for a good ten miles) walked into the shop. There are no words to describe how touched I was by his kindness. How was it possible that a guy who I had only known for a day drove over thirty miles through San Diego to buy all the bike gear I needed for the next leg of my adventure.
“Of course I’m crazy, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
“Please pull over… Please pull over,” blared from behind me, jarring me out of my day dream and causing me to look at what was causing the commotion behind me. Only then did I notice the cop who was slowly creeping up behind me, trying to pull me over.
Welcome to Central California, where biking is not an acceptable form of transportation.
“He went out and did the things he dreamed about, not simply for a two-week vacation in trimmed wonderlands, but for months and years in the very midst of wonder.”
One of the questions I get most often is, “what inspired you,” or just simply, “why?” It’s hard to say really, it wasn’t just one event that sparked this trip, but rather a gradual build up of things that lead me to type in “bike touring around the world” into google. Once I had read other cyclists blogs though, I was hooked.
I clearly remember at fourteen sitting in a hostel in Switzerland when a few older Belgium boys (probably only eighteen or nineteen at the time) walked in, decked out in their biking gear. They were biking the Swiss Alps for a few weeks (not touring, just different day trips) and I remember thinking to myself, “someday, I’m going to be that cool too.” At sixteen I remember briefly meeting a young man in a German hostel who had just graduated from law school. He had taken the summer off to bike through Europe, and I remember being completely awe-struck at how amazing that sounded. After that, the thought of biking across a country didn’t enter my mind again until a few months ago.
“I can’t have bad dreams when I sleep under the stars.”
Where do I sleep? Well, that just depends on the night.
Imagine ten small tents, another ten people on a large tarp lying under the stars, and twenty-five bikes scattered around, leaning on trees and picnic tables. The two or three tables allotted to this special “hiker/biker” site are inevitably full of food, people, and every kind of stove imaginable, because the first thing a biker does after changing out of his or her spandex is to cook a well earned meal. What makes these sites what they are, though, are the people. Take this scenario for instance. There are five college girls from all over the country who met up to bike together, there are three Canadian guys who just graduated from engineering school, as well as a dad and daughter duo from Quebec. There are a few American college boys who have taken the summer off to bike, a guy with a guitar making his way to San Francisco to play, a fellow from who knows where who doesn’t speak any English, two older homeless guys biking wherever they can find food, and a hiker who just hiked the California Coast Trail.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
I have been living in a cloud for the last few days. I would wake up, with a wet tent, in a cloud. I would bike all day, through the cloud, which made for horrible visibility. And then in the late afternoon or evening, I would arrive at my campsite only to find that I still hadn’t escaped that darn cloud. It has been the foggiest few days of my life, and I could never imagine living in this dreary area, even though the coast and scenery is beautiful. The last stretch of the route has taken me through the countryside once again, where there are probably more cows than humans. A large town in this area was anything over 1,000 people, as most of the towns had under 300. The highway twists and turns around sharpe bends, and climbs (and descends) constantly. I was able to share this somewhat treacherous ride with the same bikers I have been with (not every night, but often) since Oregon, but now that we have all arrived in the big city, we have gone our separate ways.
“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”
The last few days have been extremely diverse, both the camping and the riding, which goes to show that not everyday on the bike is by any means the same. I spent one of the best days this trip cycling through the “Avenue of the Giants,” a small road that took a thirty mile trip through the redwoods. It was cool (there was lots of shade), there was a beautiful river to swim and bathe in, and it was a very easy ride with almost no traffic. The next day though was completely different. The small road once again joined up with the busy freeway, and the day turned into a nightmarish Californian sauna. Since the road had veered away from the coast it was over 95f, and I spent the day climbing hills, without shade, beside a steady stream of impatient drivers. Sounds like hell right? Well it was, but near the end of the last climb of the day I remember thinking to myself that there was still no where else I would rather be. Fortunately that was the end of highway 101 for me, and the rest of my trip will continue along the smaller and very hilly highway 01. Though there is no shoulder, it is not very busy (and the cars have been considerate so far), and it follows right beside the coast which means it is a good fifteen degrees cooler than it would be inland. The downside to this road are the hills. Instead of long climbs (which are fine since you get into a rhythm and hardly notice you just climbed over 1000 ft), highway 01 is a constant path of small steep rolling hills. These are extremely frustrating because there is no way to get into a rhythm, you are constantly changing gears, and even the downhills aren’t that fun since you have to use your breaks (there are lots of very sharpe curves). Now, instead of the hundred degree day I experience a few days ago, I’m sitting in a sweatshirt outside a cafe on a cloudy sixty degree day. The weather here is about as crazy as I am!
“Adventure is a state of mind. It is an attitude. I wanted an adventure, a journey, a challenge, not a holiday. By doing no research every day would be novel, unexpected and exciting. Every day I would need to seek out food and water, somewhere to sleep.”
After people have talked with me for a bit about my trip they always ask if I have my nightly destinations planned out ahead of time. I definitely don’t for a few reasons. By having a specific place to be you take away the spontaneity of the trip and don’t allow for opportunities that present themselves, opportunities that you could never predict. I also have no idea how many miles a day I will feel like doing ahead of time, or where I will want to take a rest day. Plus, I never would have stayed with all the lovely people I have met with along the way if I had some campsite always planned out. The reason I have chosen the bike is to get off the beaten tourist track and to meet people from all walks of life, and by having such a ridged schedule, you take away all of that. For most of you, the thought of not knowing where you will be sleeping that night when five pm rolls around probably scares you. Well actually, that thought has probably never even crossed your mind. For me though, that’s exactly what I am looking for.
“The secret of happiness is freedom.”
The redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. There are two types in California, the Sequoia, and the Sequoiadendron (Coastal Redwood), and both species are true giants. These trees can live from 2,000-3,200 years old (depending on their species), can grow up to 375 feet tall, and weigh 500 tons! The most impressive aspect about these threes though is their girth. These are the kind of trees twenty-five people can hug at the same time, and still not touch. They are incredibly resistant to fire, insects, and disease because they have a foot-thick bark protecting them. Unfortunately, this bark has done nothing to protect them against their only predator, humans, who have successfully cut down 95 percent of their population. The remaining trees are now in four different state parks throughout California.