Bike touring is an addiction. After I completed my first tour it was like I had figured out the meaning of life. Everything seemed simpler, and more attainable when traveling by bicycle, even though it was at a slower pace. After your first tour you won’t want to wait until you can get back on your beast of burden for the next ride to freedom.
After graduating from college in the summer of 2012, I did my first bike tour which was a whopping 200 miles from Portland, Oregon to the Pacific coast. Within the next month I quit my job as a chef at a gastropub and set off on a 1500 mile tour from Portland to San Diego.
My bike tour would be completely self-supported, meaning I carried everything I needed for my own survival. Bike touring is much like any other outdoor activity like backpacking, river-running, or hiking—it allows for you to feel apart from society and connected to nature. However with bike touring, depending on the route, you have the potential to stop at breweries, cafes, bars, sleep in motels once in awhile, and even watch a movie if you want. This is why the pacific coast route was so amazing. Oregon and California have a wealth of amazing breweries and cafes, which I stopped at whenever I could. Four weeks into my trip I had the opportunity to weigh my bike at my cousin’s house near Malibu, it weighed 90 lbs, afterwards I weighed myself—I had gained 10lbs! I told myself it was muscle mass, but that is arguable with all of the beer I was consuming at this point in the tour.
The pacific coast route is very popular for tourers. Every day you meet you’ll meet someone, somewhere, who is on their way south. For me, I found that I had groups of people that I ended up riding with. We ended up becoming as tight as a family could on the road, sharing everything: food, bike parts, booze, stories, and campfires. I felt so intimately connected with these people who, just a week prior, were complete strangers. Near Bandon, Oregon I met three memorable guys. Matt has been on a tour for five years, he is 60 and rides really hard and very fast. Will, from Seattle, was riding his mothers Raleigh steel frame bike from the 70’s, he rode faster than I did, and was always wearing vans and jeans. Kibben, from Victoria B.C., was riding from Canada to El Salvador. Kibben and I became such good friends that we ended up riding most of my trip together, and in San Diego all my relatives welcomed him in like he was my brother. I met Swiss people, Canadians, Alaskans, old people, young people and so many others from different places and backgrounds, just heading south.
An incredibly epic day came when Kibben and I made a big push to make it to San Francisco from Bodega Bay—a 70 mile ride. We were inclined to do so because that Friday night in the city was the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a takeover of cyclists in a very anarchist form upon an urban area, to help bring awareness to cycling and the rights cyclists have. There are no leaders and no planned route, and as we witnessed, things can get out of control quickly with commuters being upheld by unruly cyclists.
We rode into the city via crossing the Golden Gate Bridge after getting lost, a lot. Almost nothing is cooler than riding a touring bike across iconic bridges and landmarks. We arrived at the financial district, the start point for the ride, just moments before everyone took off. The emotions of riding a fully loaded touring bike into San Francisco to a plaza filled with ‘tens of thousands of other cyclists was almost unimaginable. We rode about 10 miles, but decided to leave Critical Mass, because of how out of control and dangerous, it was getting. Instead we rode 10 miles uptown, via the ‘wiggle’, the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, eventually finding my Cousins house. It ended up becoming a 90 mile day and was probably the most emotionally driven day of the entire tour. The warm shower at my Cousins house may have been the best shower of my life. Upon re-teling our day that evening, it may have sounded very unreal, but it was all true. That became the mantra of the tour; I did that—I rode my bike here. It always made me laugh and smile.
The closer we got to San Diego the more the drivers around us became agressive, and the more dangerous it became for us, it was as if we did not belong on ‘their’ streets. The entire L.A. area was crazy, because we rode the boardwalks the entire way from Santa Monica to Oceanside. We rode through Santa Monica and Venice Beach on a Sunday…it was crazy. At this point my Uncle Steve had joined me and on this day I reunited with Kibben the Canadian whom I hadn’t seen since our shenanigans in San Francisco two weeks prior. The characters out on the boardwalks during weekend were amazing and extremely overwhelming to say the least. At one point I had to stop my bike to witness 15 guys simultaneously roller skating while listening to ‘a lovely day’ by Bill Withers on a large sound system…they were all shirtless. When the group I was riding with noticed I had fallen behind they returned to the skaters to witness the most amazing scene on the whole boardwalk.
I will never have enough time or words to tell about the experiences I had and shared with fellow tourers, friends, and family on this trip. I recommend that everyone quits their job at least once, purchases a bike and gets on the road for at least one tour. It will change your life, take my word for it.