We rounded the top of the ridge to catch a glimpse of the San Francisco skyline. The impressive view was intensified by our lack of civilization for the last month. We rode down side streets and dedicated bike paths following Greg, our guide who had taken a break from his day ride to escort us to the Golden Gate Bridge. As we drew near we began to marvel comedically at the torrent of tourists on rental bikes heading the other direction. Our humor was short lived, however, as we approached the bridge and realized that we would be riding as salmon against the stream of oncoming bikers and pedestrians. It was slow going as the mass of humanity parted to let us through. Once in San Francisco we headed straight to Cha siu baos (BBQ pork buns) in the Sunset District. As I ate my third delicious sweet bun filled with bbq pork, V and I reflected on the bike tour so far…
We began our ride on Whidbey Island, setting out into the beautiful countryside on my blue steed Tucker, and V’s green dream machine Mindy. Beauty was soon joined by brutality, when exhaustion began to set in. During the first week on the road, our sore muscles were exacerbated by a stiff headwind. Exhaustion magnified minor setbacks and made the miles go by slowly and painfully. By the middle of the second week our muscles and minds began to adapt, and the amazing rugged coastline kept our focus. On June 28 we were lucky enough to take a back road called Otter Crest Loop Road just south of Depoe Bay, Oregon, one of the many fantastic detours that got us off the highway. That night I recorded the experience: “This stretch of road was not only free of major traffic, it featured great views of the sheer bluffs and a bike lane half as wide as the single motor vehicle lane.” Less traveled roads, like Otter Crest Loop Road, were definitely highlights of our trip.
Other such paths included:
- Newton Drury Scenic Road: A seven mile stretch of gentle downhill through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. One is required to do nothing but coast as you gawk at the massive redwoods rising over 300 feet all around.
- Avenue of the Giants: Twenty miles of rolling terrain in Humboldt Redwoods State Park bordered by the winding Eel River on one side and shaded by might redwoods on the other. Vines climb well over 100′ up the tree trunks their thick foliage adding another dimension to the redwood groves.
- Beach Loop Drive, Bandon, Or: Beach Loop Drive exits highway 101 just north of Bandon, takes the rider through the Bandon town center then along gorgeous seacliffs within a sleepy neighborhood on the south side of town. Beach access abounds including Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint where massive rock formations jut impressively to form islands in the sand.
New friends made our trip even richer. Late in the evening after a rugged sixty mile day we arrived at Lake Quinault in Washington. We were unceremoniously denied a campsite by the evil non-bike friendly Lake Quinault Lodge. Finding ourselves in dire straights, we asked to share with a friendly looking solo camper taking photos from his lakeside campsite. Michael welcomed us enthusiastically, then did so again into his home in Bandon, Oregon a couple weeks later. We had such a good time that we stayed a second day and went to the river to swim, snack and drink moonshine with Michael and his housemate Brian. In the days that followed we met and repeatedly camped with an excellent crew of fellow bike tourers making their way south along the Pacific Coast Highway. We were lucky enough to meet Nick who we bumped into multiple times a day before joining forces for our final victory ride into his hometown of San Francisco.
If riding into the Bay was our victory ride, then meeting up and eating with my cousin Ben was our victory celebration. In response to our last minute invite to go camping, Ben met us at a campsite near the Russian River with two bottles of wine, a cooler full of beer, and a gourmet breakfast including toast with hummus, smoked salmon, onions, capers and fresh dill. I have always known Ben to come prepared but I knew he meant business when he tossed down a huge stack of firewood and began to setup a tent made for glacier camping. The next day he drove us up to hike in Armstrong Wood State Park before we parted ways, still feeling content from the toasty campfire and delicious food we had enjoyed.
We are currently taking a two week break from the bike tour to hang out with family. V’s dad Hector’s 60th birthday party promises to be a blast given the tales I’ve heard of the guests and the well stocked fridge. We will then head off to New Brighton State Beach to soak up sun and hang out with some of the most special people in my life.