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SF to Seattle--the "wrong" direction

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SF to Seattle--the "wrong" direction

Old 04-20-14, 01:20 PM
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reecycle
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SF to Seattle--the "wrong" direction

Hi all-- I would like to bike to Seattle from Berkeley, CA this summer with some friends, but you would think that this is impossible given the overwhelming amount of posts urging cyclists to head the opposite direction.

I have toured south along the coast many times (from Gualala to as far south as Santa Barbara) and I can attest to the fierce winds that blow south especially around Cambria and Santa Cruz.

However, I've never ridden the coast north of Fort Bragg. Is the wind miserable (from the point of view of a cyclist heading S2N) here? How about Oregon and Washington? Does anyone know of a good inland route that would get us from SF to Seattle? I've searched crazyguyonabike and BF, but I can't seem to find anything.

Thanks for your advice!
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Old 04-20-14, 02:21 PM
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Do It in the Winter and the winds will come from the southwest. , Summer the winds come out of the northwest..

Summer : AmTrak to Seattle, then ride home , there is a reason people start in the north ,

and its the following winds.
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Old 04-20-14, 02:21 PM
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Well I can't give you advice north of San Francisco to Arcata but I can tell you that the wind is pretty bad all down the Oregon coast to Arcadia. You might consider and inland route.

I don't know if it was the time of year or I just didn't notice it but while it did seem bad the wind south of San Francisco seemed far worse (or great since I was headed in the right direction ).

You could consider an inland route.

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Old 04-20-14, 02:28 PM
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I spend a fair amount of time on the Oregon and Washington coast. I can't remember the last time the wind was blowing from anything but the North. And I barely remember the last calm day. I have also read a fair number of cycling stories. Believe me, you do not want to go South to North. Unless maybe you like pedaling into the wind, not breeze, wind. Like having to pedal downhill. My experience in bicycling in California along the coast wasn't anything like up here.
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Old 04-20-14, 02:32 PM
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i've ridden the pacific coast between Crescent City and SF twice. and from Seattle to SF once. both times major winds out of the north. especially from Astoria south. i wouldn't try it south to north. last year i went up the central valley from SF to Red Bluff, major northerly winds in the valley too.

but don't let me discourage you...
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Old 04-20-14, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by reecycle View Post
Does anyone know of a good inland route that would get us from SF to Seattle? I've searched crazyguyonabike and BF, but I can't seem to find anything.

Thanks for your advice!
There's a inland route called the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trial. It's absolutely beautiful, but has an extreme amount of elevation gain.

I've ridden most of Hwy 101 through Oregon in the "wrong" direction and have to say the headwind is hit and miss. It's not always bad. Usually the mornings are okay, but the evenings can be horrendous. Still, I don't think I'd chose to ride from all the way from Berkeley to Seattle north along the coast.

The Willamette Valley has a route called the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway - it could be part of a "bail-out" plan if the headwind became too annoying. Consider planing your own route.
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Old 04-20-14, 02:48 PM
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Well inland US 395 to 20 & 97..

or roughly ride the Amtrak Route , Mt Shasta , Chico, Grants Pass Oregon Mc Kenzie pass into Eugene,

Or,you can stay east of the Cascades all the way into Washington

if you want .. or use the Columbia river gorge the Dalles , etc. to get to the west side without climbing over them/.
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Old 04-20-14, 03:18 PM
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The winds howl inland through the Golden Gate, then tend to diverge to the north and south once in the Valley. I'd head up through the wine country to Clear Lake (hike and bike sites at the state park), then north either through the ranges or the valley to Redding, and then along the I-5 corridor up to the Oregon border. There's another nice hike and bike about 55 miles N of Redding at Castle Crags SP, but that's the last HB site in CA you'll see. Expect it to be very hot inland along this route in summer, especially near Redding. I've gone north from Redding a couple times in August, and the wind was not a factor at all, just beating the heat and avoiding flats on the I5 shoulder through the Sacramento River canyon.

Can't help you much past the Oregon border inland, though I have read journals that headed that way on cgoab, and they did not mention the wind, either.
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Old 04-20-14, 03:52 PM
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Thanks everyone for the tips!! You all have confirmed my suspicion that biking north along the coast is a recipe for frustration. I remember biking from Berkeley to Davis, CA last summer and cursing for at least 1 hour solid as the wind is relentless north of the Carquinez straight...that was not very fun and biking all the way to Seattle with a howling headwind sounds nasty.

Maybe if I ever want to bike north on the coast I'll try riding north in the winter, as fiestsbob suggested.

We're pretty set on biking to Seattle this summer, so it looks like we have many options to explore! I-5 would take us through Eugene and Ashland, which are places I would like to check out, however I associate I-5 with semi-trucks and cars going 90mph, but maybe it's different farther north. At least I hope so! Staying east of the Cascades looks good too; clearly I have a lot to research! Thanks everyone for the route ideas and all the responses to my very first post!
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Old 04-20-14, 04:27 PM
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There's another issue besides the wind--the views. Southbound, you can easily stop anywhere along the guardrail and look the seals you hear down there. You don't have to cross traffic getting in and out of viewpoints. You have views uninhibited by traffic, pavement, guardrails, etc.
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Old 04-20-14, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
There's another issue besides the wind--the views. Southbound, you can easily stop anywhere along the guardrail and look the seals you hear down there. You don't have to cross traffic getting in and out of viewpoints. You have views uninhibited by traffic, pavement, guardrails, etc.
Funny we did not see many seals along the Oregon coast. But it seemed as soon as we hit the border in CA they just wouldn't shut up! So we surmised that Oregon seals are nice quiet polite creatures while California seals are rude, obnoxious loud mouths.

You are right on the views. The Oregon coast was spectacular. Someone described it as one big long Big Sur and they were pretty much right.

Sadly no matter how beautiful the view there were still those that chose other distractions:

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Old 04-20-14, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by reecycle View Post
Maybe if I ever want to bike north on the coast I'll try riding north in the winter, as fiestsbob suggested.
One problem with winter is it is also the rainy season. Of course if things keep going they way they have been going you won't need to worry about rain. Then again water will become an even harder thing to find.
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Old 04-20-14, 06:17 PM
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When I was a lot younger, 1981, and without much prior knowledge, I rode the Oregon Coast south to north. Actually, it was part of a larger loop. I was tempted to bail over into the Willamette Valley a couple of times, but the valley temps were near the 100F mark; so I gutted it out up to Astoria, before turning east. The winds didn't sound too bad in comparison. Based on that experience my advice is don't do it! My wife and I have also ridden the Pacific Coast Route from Lund, BC to the Mexican Border, and that is the way to go. We would always feel sorry for those poor folks we met heading north.

We have explored a route from Visalia, CA to Oregon's Willamette Valley. We think it can be done with only a short stretch on I-5 near near Shasta Lake and the pass over the Siskiyous on the Oregon/California border. There might be a couple of other short sections until you get up to the Roseburg area where you might have to use the Interstate. From Eugene north there are a lot of options using secondary roads to get to Seattle. We've never ridden it but we have looked at several options when we head south to visit family. Someday we may just give it a shot to see if we can get from Visalia to Oregon without a lot of I-5 time.

Riding on I-5 is not fun, however, it is safe. Again, in my younger, read dumber, days, I rode from Portland to Roseburg on I-5. The plan was for my wife to pick me up on her way south after visiting relatives in Portland. However, she somehow missed me, turning a 4-5 hour ride into a 12 hour one Again, my advice is not to do it.

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Old 04-20-14, 07:06 PM
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Winter storm track on the NW coast gets called the Pineapple Express ... a bit warmer air

allows it to carry more water , north, from circa Hawaii ..
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Old 04-20-14, 09:17 PM
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Reminds me of the cyclists we met in Banff (around July 1). They came west across Canada. Got to Winnipeg and took a bus to Calagry. They'd had enough of headwinds. We had more of an off the right shoulder tail/crosswind but it made riding easy...and hot.
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Old 04-20-14, 10:09 PM
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The north wind on the OR coast are generally much weaker than the winds south of Fort Bragg, CA. That doesn't mean they're fun to ride against, but they aren't the kind that bring you to a standstill like you get around Point Arena. You can substitute hills for wind by riding some of the parallel roads through the coast range, like the Lost Coast in Mendocino/Humboldt and some of the similar routes through Sonoma County. There's few of these in OR as well, but many of them involve unpaved roads.

If you want to ride north, you're likely to find north winds in the summer. From the delta to just north of Redding is the one exception. After that, the only non-north winds will be driven by either a temporary weather system (If you get a tail wind, don't stop until it does even if you end up riding all night.), or some eddy effects from a local mountain. If you're an early-bird you can mitigate the wind since it usually doesn't hit its stride until after 10:00 AM and often much later.
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Old 04-21-14, 09:24 AM
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You generally can use frontage roads along the I-5 corridor, or the ACA Pacific Crest route has much less climbing in Oregon and Washington than in the Sierra and Southern California, plus you can cut out more of the climbing by skipping Crater Lake. Here's a fellow that headed north along it in the late spring of 2012. crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: Free Range Retiree-2012 Ride (S.Pacific Coast to the Sierra Cascade Route N), by Art Birkmeyer

They had some late spring weather fronts go by once he was in Oregon, which are generally followed by northerly winds, so he had one day of headwinds. Not something you'll encounter in the middle of summer, though. In my experience in around there and in the Sierra, you will encounter little if any wind in the morning, followed by upslope winds in the afternoons--that is, winds will blow up toward the crest of a range from either direction. An exception is in the long trough east of the Sierra with a strong 4-corners high pressure system providing a southeasterly monsoon flow--we encountered strong southerly winds in that situation.
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Old 04-21-14, 10:02 AM
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Don't ride I-5, soooo boring, super hot, and yes it continues to be a high-speed heavy truck-traffic route the entire way. Actually - not even sure it's legal to ride I-5.

Sierra Cascades route would be better than the coast. If you've toured before, you know how much more important the roads are than the cities. "It's the journey not the destination" - right? So, maybe re-think that "have to ride to Seattle" think if you don't want to ride in the mountains.
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Old 04-21-14, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Don't ride I-5, soooo boring, super hot, and yes it continues to be a high-speed heavy truck-traffic route the entire way. Actually - not even sure it's legal to ride I-5.

Sierra Cascades route would be better than the coast. If you've toured before, you know how much more important the roads are than the cities. "It's the journey not the destination" - right? So, maybe re-think that "have to ride to Seattle" think if you don't want to ride in the mountains.
Actually, traffic was not too bad on I5 through Shasta Lake and up the canyon to Dunsmuir. The sections of old highway I was able to get off and ride on were much better, though, with access to the river (cold) and some fantastic swimming holes in creeks feeding the main stream. The interstate stayed hundreds of feet above the river for the most part, without shade. Past Dunsmuir, you can take frontage roads up to Shasta and join the ACA route.
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Old 04-21-14, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser View Post
The winds howl inland through the Golden Gate, then tend to diverge to the north and south once in the Valley. I'd head up through the wine country to Clear Lake (hike and bike sites at the state park), then north either through the ranges or the valley to Redding, and then along the I-5 corridor up to the Oregon border. There's another nice hike and bike about 55 miles N of Redding at Castle Crags SP, but that's the last HB site in CA you'll see. Expect it to be very hot inland along this route in summer, especially near Redding. I've gone north from Redding a couple times in August, and the wind was not a factor at all, just beating the heat and avoiding flats on the I5 shoulder through the Sacramento River canyon.

Can't help you much past the Oregon border inland, though I have read journals that headed that way on cgoab, and they did not mention the wind, either.
I wouldn't recommend going from Calistoga to Clear Lake. I did it a couple of years ago and there are no good cycling routes. It's very mountainous (like pushing my bike a good chunk of the time) and no shoulder two lane roads, often with fast traffic and lots of blind curves. I'm kind of surprised I didn't get creamed pushing my bike up mountain after mountain at the edge of the road with no shoulder considering the amount of cars that came around blind curves behind me. Next time I visit my friends in Clear Lake and cycle there I'll go through the valley even though that means more than 60 miles with zero services. I was considering that route (I was coming from Sacramento), but at my pace it meant more than a day without being able to get water unless I stopped at a farm and asked (on top of being a lot less pretty than going through the Napa Valley).
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Old 04-21-14, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by reecycle View Post
Thanks everyone for the tips!! You all have confirmed my suspicion that biking north along the coast is a recipe for frustration. I remember biking from Berkeley to Davis, CA last summer and cursing for at least 1 hour solid as the wind is relentless north of the Carquinez straight...that was not very fun and biking all the way to Seattle with a howling headwind sounds nasty.

Maybe if I ever want to bike north on the coast I'll try riding north in the winter, as fiestsbob suggested.

We're pretty set on biking to Seattle this summer, so it looks like we have many options to explore! I-5 would take us through Eugene and Ashland, which are places I would like to check out, however I associate I-5 with semi-trucks and cars going 90mph, but maybe it's different farther north. At least I hope so! Staying east of the Cascades looks good too; clearly I have a lot to research! Thanks everyone for the route ideas and all the responses to my very first post!
I took I-5 for a little over 30 miles on southern Washington one time when I couldn't find any alternative on my atlas. Even on 4th of July I found it do-able. The grades are really nice (hills become long rollers, nothing over 6% IIRC**), the two big worries are getting a flat from road debris (mostly disintegrating retread truck tires that shed small wires) and any bridge crossings. The shoulder on interstates is often (almost always?) more than a car width, except for when it becomes a bridge, where the shoulder usually disappears entirely! Taking the lane on I-5 to cross a river in 4th of July traffic was a little hairy to say the least, but I'm here to type about it. If possible, try to time your bridge crossings at anything other than rush hour and preferably early in the morning. Riding alongside a highway, the noise isn't pleasant though, I highly recommend bringing earplugs. I always have some with me buried in my camping gear somewhere when I'm touring, and I always forget to dig them out for the highway sections and regret it! Sometimes the noise doesn't seem too bad at first, but at some point I realize that it's driving me nuts!

Some people don't mind riding alongside highways though. It's the big difference in my girlfriends and I's touring styles. We've discovered that she would much prefer to ride alongside a noisy road or even highway than ride over gravel or hills. I don't mind gravel at all (she HATES it for some reason) and I'd prefer moderate hills and nice scenery to riding alongside the noise and view of a highway. I'm hoping that she'll get to the point where she starts to enjoy the journey more instead of largely seeing it as how you get to where you are going. Until she decides to take on some of the route planning, I'm mostly winning right now though!

If you do go inland, I don't know which route they take, but I believe the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride (STP) takes an inland route and I'm pretty sure their old routes are up on the web somewhere. If I had thought of that before I took my trip from Seattle to Mount St Helens, I probably could have avoided that 32 mile stretch of I-5 I took, but I wasn't on the 'net at all the early 2000's when I did it. Be aware that if you are doing the reverse of the direction they go, there may be a spot here or there that their directions don't work for you, but it should be very minor.

Oh! The other thing to look out for when using highways is the on/off ramps. This is easily the most dangerous part about using highways as a cyclist. Pick a technique*, and then sprint across when it is clear(ish)! Having a mirror is super helpful for this!

* Either cross right where the ramp meets the highway, essentially taking a straight line from your path on the shoulder, or ride towards the other end (where the ramps meet the surface street) to deal with traffic when it is moving much slower. The latter method is safer if there is a shoulder on the on and offramps, but entails a detour each time you cross one, sometimes with a bit of climbing.

** I'm not sure this is true going from California to Oregon, I'd be concerned about the grades on the inland route through here.

Last edited by Medic Zero; 04-22-14 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 04-21-14, 10:21 PM
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I rode from San Diego to Camus WA in three weeks. Not ideal to go South to North, but doable. I don't recall any headwinds, but I was lucky.
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Old 04-21-14, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
Don't ride I-5, soooo boring, super hot, and yes it continues to be a high-speed heavy truck-traffic route the entire way. Actually - not even sure it's legal to ride I-5.

Sierra Cascades route would be better than the coast. If you've toured before, you know how much more important the roads are than the cities. "It's the journey not the destination" - right? So, maybe re-think that "have to ride to Seattle" think if you don't want to ride in the mountains.
Depends. If there aren't any other through roads in that area, then it is legal to take the interstate on a bicycle. In some places you'll see signs saying "bicycles must exit", or "bicycles prohibited". I assume if I don't see one of the latter signs when I get on the freeway and haven't passed one of the former, that it's allowed. I'm not aware of a master map or site showing where bikes are and aren't allowed on the interstates. I figure the worst that happens is that you get dressed down by a state trooper if you happen to transgress and then have to find a way around whichever segment it isn't allowed on. It's possible they'll give you a ticket, but very unlikely. Don't take what they say at full face value though, very often police don't actually know the laws and do what they want, leaving things for lawyers to sort out later.
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Old 04-22-14, 07:30 AM
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Yes, this happened to me in Ohio, I played dumb and the officer just ended up giving me directions for an alternate route.

Originally Posted by Medic Zero View Post
....I figure the worst that happens is that you get dressed down by a state trooper if you happen to transgress and then have to find a way around whichever segment it isn't allowed on. ..
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Old 04-22-14, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Medic Zero View Post
I'm not aware of a master map or site showing where bikes are and aren't allowed on the interstates.
Here is the list of Washington State Highways Closed to Bicycles:
WSDOT - Washington State Highways Closed to Bicycles

And on the state bicycle map of Washington, it will indicate where a highway is closed to bicycles. It does that as well on the Oregon bicycle map, but they go the extra step of listing out the specifics of the "bicycles prohibited" on the back of the map. For example, I can ride the entirety of I-84 to the Idaho state line from milepost 10.25 eastbound (NE 122nd Ave), or milepost 15.14 westbound (Sandy Blvd).

As far as I know, it is legal to ride the interstates/freeways on many of the states west of the Mississippi, except where it's prohibited. The prohibitions are usually in urban areas or where the shoulder is going to be compromised. And this is regardless of whether there is another road paralleling the freeway, or a better option for bicycles exist.
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