A fieldtrip with Colby, George, and Acadia.
It’s been over a month after being back from the trip & I still think about it every day. I’m pretty positive that my buddy, George, feels the same. At times, there’s a simplicity on the road that strips away much of the drama that society carries with it. It’s a beautiful feeling & worth every difficult moment. Before this 17 day venture riding North from SF to Portland, George & I only made one overnight bike camping test trip happen at home. We had an absolute blast on it. The mental thought of this trip had us really excited, with plenty of nerves too. The main goal was to walk out the doors of our home on a chosen morning & ride North to Portland, with the amazingly analytical, mapped out mind of George. “Turn right!”
We put more energy into preparing for this trip more than anything before. This was mainly due to finding the best way to carry my pup, Acadia. She’s a 39 pound Border Collie/German Shepard mix. I’m 31 years old & have realized over the years that I have abnormal ideas in which most people look at me in shock when they ask what you’re up to. On our test trip & some small rides, we used a double-wheeled, single arm attachment trailer for the pup. This created an insane amount of drag & flex, making 90 miles feel about 60% more difficult. I used the B.O.B. trailer on a few local test rides in town & it is very efficient & well designed, but a situation like this is unique to it’s own.
I’d rather have my pup right next to me & know that she feels the same due to her behavior. I also wanted to avoid any chance of a trailer getting sucked under an RV trailer swaying out on Highway 1. After months of racking my brain, cardboard demos, & driving my wife up the wall bouncing ideas back & forth, I finally came to a final idea… in time for one evening test ride a few days before venturing out. Now, it was my responsibility to get us safely to Portland & enjoy the ride together along the way. George, Acadia, & I were in for on hell of an adventure!
When Colby asked me if I wanted to ride self-supported from San Francisco to Portland with him this summer, I pretty much agreed to it right away. Sounded like a good time, and I had fond memories of bike touring in Europe while growing up. Never mind the fact I hadn’t ridden further than 15 miles in the past decade and owned next to zero camping gear.
So I started doing a little preliminary research and in the book “Cycling The Pacific Coast” by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall – the first two pages are dedicated to the reasons not to ride North up the coast. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find more of the same. Everyone seems to ride South on the Pacific coast. We started asking around and were given scores of reasons why we would have a miserable trip. People warn of trip-ruining headwinds, no shoulder to ride on, and even comically “worse views” from the east side of highway 1. It was enough to not only make you never attempt to ride north, but to give up cycling altogether and buy an RV. Even once we got on the road, the “advice” did not stop. Other cyclists shouted “you’re going the wrong way!” at us more than once. But we decided to go for it anyway, hoping for the best.
Well, we are here to tell you today that everyone predicting our downfall was wrong. Riding North up Highway 1 to Portland was one of the best experiences of our lives. Headwinds were manageable and rarely bothered us, even over the “7 Devils” out of Bandon. The shoulders appeared about equal on either side of the road and of course the magnificent views were everywhere. The worst part of riding North was all the people trying to persuade us we weren’t having a good time!
This was one of our favorite moments of the trip. I was checking out some riding spots at this school/community center while the sun was setting. I came around one of the buildings to the site of George blasting a soccer ball into the net while Acadia watched on. George spent some of his childhood in England playing soccer & is damn talented at it. Leaving the field, Acadia decided to try to jump through a hole in the soccer net & got her back legs stuck. First time seeing her completely freak out.
DAY 3 // We were incredibly thankful for friends on this trip & took a rest day after being shaken up. On Day 2, we had a good ride in the morning, but Acadia was on edge & still adapting at only 10 months old. We pushed through thanks to George’s good vibes & expected some Sunday traffic in the evening coming from Bodega, but it was mental. In the final 6 or so miles to camp, we had about 6 inches of shoulder with consistent cars going 70mph + both ways. If we swerved which was simple with the weight of a loaded bike & pup on board, there would be no coming back. As George said, we’re pretty certain everyone in the Bay Area was racing home, while texting, to go watch Game Of Thrones. Ironically my very close friends Bobby, Lauren, & their pup Reuben had arrived at our camp site as a surprise & quickly came to the rescue. A huge thanks went out to my buddy, Wolfman, for being ready in a heart beat too. So grateful for these incredible friends.
DAY 4 // Favorite pit stop of the trip. We shook off Day 2 & had a rad ride on the coast to Fort Bragg & on to MacKerricher. Bobby & Lauren took Acadia & some gear for the day to give the pup & us a break.
The sun was beaming through a little trail through the trees leading to the sound of the ocean. There was only one direction to go.
Fortunate once again. Chip offered to drive up to make us a solid meal & bring food replenishments & he did much more than that. When he arrived that evening we were at a crossroads as carrying Acadia, her carrier, & food was draining my energy (approximately an additional 50 lbs.). It’s pretty difficult for me to part with her, but 50-70 mile days with her were a bit out of reach at that point. We made the call that morning & Acadia rode home with Chip. It was an awesome ride & learning experience with the pup. Adapting each day was essential.
DAY 7 // Avenue of the Giants to Arcata. Sixty six miles, three pancakes, unlimited coffee, too many bridge crossings, & one decaying entire mattress spring wrapped up in my back wheel that we had to cut out. Energy was up & a rad day overall.
DAY 8 // Arcata to Elk Prairie. I was happy to ride some backroads along the coast & push through a few stretches of highway riding. Thought a great deal that day about how much of a catalyst a bike has been for most of my life. So much to still see.
Camp was a little Elky. Shot taken from my phone, as the Elk was in closer reach to my camera.
DAY 9 // Elk Prairie to Harris Beach. Starting the morning off right with coffee at sunrise before riding through the Oregon border.
DAY 10 // Very sweet neighbors camping next to us & had the chance to play with their Golden Retriever pups. Always a treat to meet such kind & generous folks.
DAY 12 // Sunset Bay to Honeyman State Park. George cruising out this morning & taking full advantage of the roads before the heat kicked in.
DAY 13 // Afternoon at Honeyman State Park. It’s always a treat when friends are passionate & super excited about the little things. George mapping out some sweet routes in between some swimming sessions at the dock.
We’ve landed on the moon. This was a long day for us in Cape Perpetua. We arrived at camp at around noon. We we’re a bit torn to push on or keep on schedule. We crossed the highway to the coast & I feel asleep on some rocks while George wrote about the trip & played with some time lapses as the tide came in.
DAY 15 // Cape Perpetua to Neskowin. Foggy morning highway roads & bridge crossings transitioning into mountain backroads to end the evening.
DAY 16 // Neskowin. Last piece of Salmon being warmed up with some Tsampa Soup. We were very grateful to be fueled by quality food for 17 days of riding thanks to @patagoniaprovisions helping out.
DAY 17 // Oregon Coast Range to Portland. We headed out at sunrise from camp to the summit. All smiles from George on the long downhill stretches of mountain roads. One of our favorite parts of the ride.
Moments after arriving in Portland from our trek North starting in San Francisco. George’s girlfriend Emily was there to greet us & take a photo of this memory. My wife Allie flew in that evening for us all to celebrate together & have a few beers. This was the adventure of a lifetime spent with one incredibly kind, hilarious, & generous dude. It’s amazing how happy we can be with so little (if you don’t get crushed by an RV) focusing in on the moments at hand & trying to enjoy the ride along the way. So much to continue simplifying to make room for more good times & experiences.
Some highlights of the trip for me were riding Avenue of The Giants in the morning fog, having Colby fix all my flat tires (thanks Colby!), seeing an Elk in our campsite and getting to eat second breakfast every day. Second breakfast truly is the best meal of the day. We’d have oatmeal and coffee at camp each morning and then ride 10-20 miles to some old-school diner and get pancakes, bacon and eggs. On the last morning, we woke up with tons of energy knowing that we’d almost completed our 17 day journey and it was all downhill to Portland. The satisfaction of completing a journey like this while simultaneously starting your day with a 10 mile downhill on an empty road, 2500ft from the top of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range into the Willamette Valley was really a feeling that can’t be beat.
So if you’re thinking of riding out of San Francisco north up the coast – just go for it!
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