Let’s start with some basic statistics, to provide a bit of perspective: My onboard bike computer registered 3,400 miles upon my return home. Using some highway mileposts I determined that it read about 2-3% optimistically. So I’ll say I rode “a little over 3,000 miles” on this trip, most likely about 3,300 miles in total. This would make it the second longest bicycle tour I have completed; in 1976 I rode 3,700 miles around the greater Pacific Northwest, including about 1,100 miles of the original coast-to-coast Transamerica Trail during its inaugural year.
I was in the saddle with the wheels turning (that’s what makes the computer register) for around 135 hours. My average speed was about 9 1/2 miles per hour when I started out across Oregon with Donovan, and rose to nearly 11 mph by the trip’s end. My top speed was 45 1/2 mph, coming down a steep hill on the Oregon coast.
My $150 Craigslist special 1997 full-suspension Trek mountain bike was so poorly suited to touring that it drew questions from knowledgeable cycling geeks and even became the butt of my own jokes. I had to completely change my plans mid-tour or I would have ended my trip soon after it began. The bike will never be used for touring again!
The trip in brief: I left New Mexico on Saturday, July 5th and arrived home on Wednesday, October 22nd, for a total of 112 days. I usually camped and cooked my own meals on a backpacking stove. I stayed with Warmshowers hosts perhaps a dozen times, each a warm and rewarding stay. I also stayed with a dozen or so hosts through professional connections I had made in the solar industry.
I left Santa Fe on Amtrak, with both bike and trailer boxed up with my gear inside, arriving in the Bay Area Sunday evening. I spent one day at the big Intersolar exposition in San Francisco, talking shop with fellow solar geeks and writing off the train fare as a business expense.
I then headed to Yosemite with Dick Kamprath, my father-in-law, for a family gathering at Wawona with my wife Johanna’s extended family. This was the first time I had come to Yosemite as a typical tourist; always before I avoided the crowded Valley and headed to the high country, but I enjoyed this new way of being there.
After a few days in Yosemite and a couple more in the Bay Area, I successfully hitchhiked with bike and trailer up US 101, CA 199 and I-5 to Albany, Oregon. My bicycle touring began on July 19th, and about here is where I begin the blog. After a day checking out old haunts (I lived in Corvallis/Albany area in 1977-1982) and replacing a broken freehub body, I rode east across Oregon with Don Yoder, about 320 miles or so. It was on this section that I determined that my original idea of continuing into Idaho and bikepacking Adventure Cycling’s new Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route was a dangerously foolish plan given my bike, equipment and timing, and changed plans instead to do a Pacific Coast road tour.
I hitched back across Oregon and up north of Seattle. After visiting several PV manufacturers, I spent about two weeks in the San Juan Islands, being wined and dined by fellow solar bozos. I then rode from there down the coasts of southwest Washington, Oregon, and California to around San Luis Obispo, which is roughly half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I then attempted to hitchhike across the Central Valley of California and the Mojave Desert to New Mexico, but ended up taking buses to Gallup. The final portion of the trip was a ride from Gallup to home.
The touring in the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington reprised a tour I led there as a community college class in 1980. The tour down the coast as far as Santa Cruz essentially repeated a tour I had done forty years earlier – “half a lifetime ago” as I told those I met along the way – when at 23 I was in a very different stage of life. The last portion of the coast route, from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo through the Big Sur coast, I had ridden even earlier, in 1971 as my first-ever bike tour.
I naturally developed a few “elevator speech” answers to strangers’ questions questions about what I was doing. Here’s the one that’s the core of it all: in response to “Why are you doing this?”, which I was asked frequently, I answered: “This is my gratitude tour. I’m traveling to celebrate three things in my life for which I’m hugely grateful: First, I’m grateful to be celebrating retirement from the solar company I founded in 1997, the success of which allows me to take this time in my life away from working; second, I’m grateful for being alive, after having successfully gone through radiation and chemotherapy for cancer 2 1/2 years ago; and third, I’m grateful for being healthy enough at 63 to be able to do this wacky travel adventure. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Some people found this to be highly inspirational. When someone would tell me that they imagined doing something like this someday, I would encourage them to join Adventure Cycling at www.AdventureCycling.org for $40/year ($33/year for 60+ old farts like me). Their magazine was so full of tour stories, bike and gear evaluations and how-to articles that for me it served as a source of inspiration to actually make this happen.
So for now, that’s the trip in a single blog post.