Touring - pacific coast time frame?
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09-22-06, 07:39 PM
the wheels in my head are churning, mulling over a pacific coast (vancouver bc - imperial beach) trip in april-may '07.
before i really commit to this self supported ride, i'd like to hear a little info about time frame/mileage of this journey. i'd be riding by myself, and will be comfortable with doing 100+ miles a day. with time off work being a factor - how many days should i expect to be gone??
i'll be packing fairly light, pulling a Bob, and stealth camping/bumming at friends houses along the way.
any insight on this route, or experiences that would lend to a better trip?
09-22-06, 08:30 PM
You can't ride 100 miles a day for one thing. For another, you usually ride the distance between campsites which is generally varies a great deal. One day it's 80 miles and the next 35.
Don't try for distance - try for the experience of each section. You can always do the whole coast in a couple of years of trips.
09-22-06, 11:40 PM
Washington is no fun. I'd say two weeks for a ride south down the Oregon Coast (maybe starting in Portland) and N. Cal to SF.
09-22-06, 11:48 PM
Check out Spring & Kirkendall's Bicycling the Pacific Coast (available at Amazon & REI.com) for a detailed description of the route with locations of services & campgrounds, and detailed hill profiles. This will be the best $20(?) you can spend on planning.
They break it out into recommended day-length sections. If you really intend to do 100 mile days, you'll be doing 2-2.5 of their days at a time. They break the whole coast into 34 days/segments (approx, i just counted really quick). I think their days are a little on the short side for an experienced tourist, but 2 in 1 would be a little more than I would want to do every day. And some of their days, while not 100 miles, are quite challenging. Luckily, there are lots of camping options, so you don't have to split it up where they do.
No one can tell you how many days you are really going to take, but my sense is the majority of touring cyclists cover 50-75 miles per day on average, with, of couse, lots of longer and shorter days.
I'm not sure what your touring experience is, so if you don't already know you can do 100 miles, loaded with what you will actually be taking, day after day, you might want to do a reality-check on that. It's an unusually large milage.
If you get that book, you can go over your route in detail and see how it breaks out in days with your intended milage. You'll be able to get a good sense of how much climbing you'll need to do, as well. Don't forget to figure in a few rest days.
I'm not sure the coast is that friendly for free/stealth camping, but there are tons of state park campgrounds with designated hiker/biker sites that only cost about $4/night.
Also, if you can adjust your schedule a month or two later, you'll have less rain. Remember that thing about "april showers".... The absolute best weather would be starting quite a bit later - July/August/September.
I guess if I had a total-time constraint but could pick the start date, I would start later in Vancouver, and end where-ever I ended up when I ran out of time. If I had a fixed start date and a total time constraint, and the start date was early April, I would start in Portland and take my time. I like WA and OR best, and Legget to San Louis Obispo are great too. I haven't done the section from the OR/CA border to Leggett, but I hear that it's not as superb - you're on a big highway a lot. SLO to Santa Barbara is just OK, and south of SB is not fabulous.
Pretty much anywhere on the route you are within a few days' ride of somewhere you can pick up a rental car or get on a bus, so there are plenty of options for escape if you run out of time.
Have a great trip!
09-22-06, 11:58 PM
Yeah, 100 miles a day is really difficult on the Pacific coast. I don't think it's impossible though. It's just a matter of how long you are willing to spend in the saddle on a daily basis, if you are in really good touring shape, and how much you are willing to push your body.
In 2003 I did a long tour, the last leg of which took me from Whidbey Island, on the Northern Washington coast, to Santa Monica, California. I averaged around seventy miles a day while I was riding on the Pacific coast, but I could have done more if I had been willing to get going at the crack of dawn and ride until dusk. I don't know exactly how many days it took me to get from north Washington to LA, but it was around a month. But I took about four days to chill on the beach in Oregon Dunes National recreation area, and a couple of days off in Redwoods National Park. So I think a month should be plenty of time to complete the tour that you are contemplating. Less time should be sufficient if you think you are really fast.
As you train for a tour like this you should keep in mind how hilly the Pacific coast is. You will spend most of the time on this tour going up, or going down. There are only a few days when you will be riding on the flats mostly. And there are several big climbs over the course of the trip. So be sure that you are used to riding in difficult terrain if you expect to be attempting centuries right at the start of your tour.
Also you should consider staying at the state parks along the coast instead of stealth camping all of the time. Most state parks offer hiker/biker sites that are really reasonably priced. Probably about two thirds of the state park campgrounds in California and Oregon offer such sites, which cost three dollars a night in Oregon, and five dollars a night in California. Some of the Washington state parks also offer hiker/biker sites, but they are ten dollars a night.
There is at least one good comprehensive guide to biking the pacific coast, but I don't usually go in for that kind of thing myself. They take the mystery and romance out of the trip in my opinion. But a lot of people find them useful. At the very least you should look for the bicycling specific road maps that Washington and Oregon publish before you head out on your tour.
09-23-06, 03:00 PM
Concerning the profiles - you have to be a little careful of them. Very often they make some really easy climb look horrendous. Outside of Lompoc there's this beautiful valley heading up Highway 1. The book showed a pretty formidable climb with a steep section near the top. When I did that part the valley was pretty nearly flat. I think I stayed in the big ring for most of it. And then "hard" part only required me to shift into the middle ring for perhaps a couple hundred yards.
On the profile the front and back slopes looked the same but when I came over the "peak" there was 2 miles of absolutely killer 11% downhill. I'd hate to be coming up that side I'll tell you that. If you let off the brakes and counted to 10 you'd be over 45 mph on that drop.
The moral of this story is that you really can't trust the profiles so don't worry about them. Most of the climbs aren't really bad - just long. The real killer is the continuous UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN of the rollers in between the climbs.
10-17-06, 01:19 PM
ask my dad if you can use his book. he did the ca coast with my mom about 15 years ago, on steel mt bikes with panniers. and they did high mileage every day.
10-17-06, 02:17 PM
April is pretty early for Washington, even Oregon. It can still be very rainy.
Aberdeen, WA gets almost 6 inches of rain in April - Astoria gets 5.
And during most storms the wind comes from the south, not the northwest.
So you get cold, wet, and have to fight a headwind.
10-17-06, 06:27 PM
It's 1838.3 miles, so you have to do it in no more than 18 days!
Lonely Planet has a Pacific coast route in their book "Cycling USA West Coast." It has lots of side trips too. I found it very useful, especially for its traffic-free route out of Vancouver. But it does send you inland for a very dull stretch to Bremerton, perhaps to avoid a remote stretch of coastline with big distances between accommodations. If I did it again I would stick to the coast - especially if I had a tent.
Maybe you don't need a book? Following the coast makes route planning pretty simple. And if you'll be stealth camping you don't need a book to tell you about camp sites. But I like valygrl's idea of camping in state parks.
I did 90 miles most days, but my average speed was always 16 mph so I didn't spend too long in the saddle. One day I did 159 miles. The road rolls up and down but to find tough climbing you have to leave the coast and go and find a mountain somewhere. (I like mountains so I went on a few side trips. Mt. Constitution on Orcas Isand was so beautiful I did it twice. Mt.Tam was just OK. A little dull to be honest.) I don't remember any really tough climbing on the coast (Though I only got as far as San Francisco before fracturing my skull.) Anyway, if you're happy with daily centuries you must be fit.
I think the highlight of my trip was staying at Orr Springs which is about 15 miles inland of Mendocino on the road to Ukiah. It's a hot spring resort with pools, tubs, sauna, steam room and lots of friendly people who don't wear clothes in the tubs etc. They have log cabins and a camp site. Take your own food - there's no bar or restaurant, just a communal kitchen. Cooking with the other guests is a great way to meet them. Then you all take your clothes off and go for a soak! I couldn't tear myself away. After I busted my head I went there for 3 weeks to recuperate. It was just great.
Good luck with your trip, and I hope the wind will follow you most days as it did for me.
10-17-06, 09:43 PM
Ok eurostar, you better tell us your broken skull story! ;>
10-17-06, 10:21 PM
A friend of mine did the west coast in "record time". He didn't enjoy it and ended up with carpal tunnel syndrome. I agree that 100 miles in a day is too much on this route due to all the hills - especially pulling a trailer. I've done it twice. A 75 mile day was a long day. 35 miles was a short day but not too short. I averaged 55 miles per day over 4 weeks from Seattle to Santa Cruz. That seemed about right.
I agree that you should use the Kirkendall/Spring book as a guide, but not a bible - there are lots of alternative stopping points besides the ones recommended. Plus, the recommended overnight stops are usually crowded because virtually everyone on the route has the book, and many of them follow it exactly.
I disagree that Washington is no fun. From Vancouver B. C. take the coast route into Bellingham. From there go down Chuckanut Drive and out to Whidbey Island. Stay at either Bayview State Park (easy ride) or go a little further to Deception Pass State Park (another easy ride, but a little further. Incredible scenery! Go down by the pass when the tide is really ripping and watch the boats maneuvering in the current as they fish.) From there you can ride down Whidbey Island to Fort Casey, which is kind of a fun place to camp, and take the ferry across to Port Townsend, or continue down Whidbey Island to South Whidbey State Park, which is a pretty spot in the woods on a bank overlooking Puget Sound. If you go that way, you'll end up taking the ferry across to Mukilteo, and proceeding south into the Seattle Metroplex. If you want to visit Seattle, this is a good option. Seattle is a cool city. When you finish there, take the Bremerton ferry across, and ride down Hood Canel to Twanoh State Park - another beautiful, quiet spot. After that, I agree, Washington isn't that great. It's mostly riding on endless roads with nothing to see but tall trees on both sides. I liked the park on the Columbia though. It was beautiful.
If you decided to go across from Fort Casey to Port Townsend, I can't help you much. I've driven there lots of times (30 years ago) but haven't biked it. You can choose to go down the east side of the Olympic Pennisula, or go all the way around. The long way has lots of beautiful spots, but also lots of endless miles with nothing but trees on both sides of the road (and lots of logging trucks.)
10-18-06, 02:44 PM
Ok eurostar, you better tell us your broken skull story! ;>
Oh dear, this is going to make me look like a complete idiot. Well, at least I learned lots of lessons.
I was test-riding a bike somewhere near the Presidio and woke up on my back. I think I probably locked up the back wheel on a corner by using the wrong brake - Brits have their brakes connected differently (lesson #1). I was awake just long enough to hear the paramedic saying "we got a John Doe" - I had left my id at the bike shop (lesson #2). Sometime later I woke up in intensive care and was told that I had landed on my temple, fractured my skull and had bleeding on the brain. I wasn't wearing a helmet (lesson #3). Every hour for the next 36 hours I was asked "who are you? where are you?" etc. to check the bleeding wasn't getting any worse. The neurosurgeon was all ready, knives sharpened, to get in there and relieve it. On the third day I checked myself out against his advice because I was worried about the bill, which was running at $50,000 by now - and I had forgotten to get travel insurance (lesson #4). Still haven't paid and am relieved to find that US Immigration doesn't seem to care about it. I got a bit of brain damage which knocked out my speech centre. Apparently the brain has a way of rerouting around dead cells to replace lost function so after 3 months I was able to speak as well as before. It just takes more effort. I am a big fan of San Francisco General and will always feel bad about not paying. A great place to go for emergency head trauma treatment.
As an aside I'm sure you all know we get "free" healthcare in the UK funded by the taxpayer. The treatment is fairly good and costs a lot. US spending on the Iraq war would give your entire population at least 15 years of it.
10-18-06, 04:45 PM
Wow. Thanks for sharing. Gnarly.
I sure wish I could redirect my tax dollars from war to health care...
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