Once we were safely across the Columbia River and on Oregon soil, the biking conditions improved dramatically. The Oregon coast route is an old standard for bicycle touring for very good reason. Endless sandy beaches punctuated by steep cliffs, rock arches, offshore sea stacks in the midst of roiling water. The infrastructure for long distance bicycling may also be some of the best in the country with regular signage and a free comprehensive route map from ODOT. State parks abound, making it easy to find places to rest and all are equipped with inexpensive hiker-biker camping including free hot showers.
Such infrastructure seemed so impressive and welcoming to an American cyclist. But after thinking about it for a while all Oregon has really done is provided a one page map, made sure that their state parks are welcoming to all travelers (not just those in cars and RVs), and added some road signs that show up once every few miles. Is that really all it takes to create a culture where bicyclists don’t feel like second class citizens? Of course that got us thinking bigger, about a future of bike corridors, motor-less freeways, and the concept of traveling differently. What if we were to truly make the adage a reality and focus on the journey rather than the destination? Shifting lifestyles to allow for slower travel with less environmental impact isn’t at the forefront of many people’s minds but as Alaskans, we understand that leaving home is always a bit of a journey. Why not make it an adventure as well?
We passed out of Oregon just as the warm fall weather came to an abrupt end. Onshore winds and heavy rain battered us and our fellow riders into Crescent City, California where a dozen of us took refuge in a church community center. All of us had found the listing separately using a website called Warmshowers, which connects bicycle tourers and charitable hosts. After spending a couple of days drying out and recuperating we continued on down the road. Northern California wasn’t quite the same bicycling paradise as Oregon, instead it presented us with some of the highest and lowest points of our 1,000 mile ride.
Highway 1 is a distillation of coastal California, two winding lanes above sunny pockets of beach. No bicycle lanes or road shoulders were to be found and the bulk of California drivers proved to be unfriendly towards cyclists, if not downright aggressive. In spite of the riding conditions, we still found many empty roads including a closed park service road that gave us over 8 miles of solo riding through ancient redwood forest. Being in the presence of old growth forest is always humbling and this was just another reminder of how traveling differently and treading lighter can only help future preservation efforts.
We celebrated the end of our 1,000 mile journey with loads of friends and family on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. A few days later we rode the rails to the southern end of the state. While we were on the train we decided to explore another part of the world and booked the cheapest tickets we could find to the furthest destination we could get to: Nicaragua.