Bicycling Beauty (Part 1) – My Solo West Coast Bicycle Ride

We finished. Our hike through the mountains and valleys of the pacific northwest from Glacier National Park in Montana to the sparkling pacific ocean off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington was over. We walked 1,200 miles with our rugged little human feet. And just like that we were done. It is a strange feeling to finish a long walk. After my Pacific Crest Trail hike, I headed home and it was like experiencing culture shock in my own home town. This time I planned a whole new ending, or should I say, beginning! Now that the hike was over, it’s time to hop on a bicycle and ride it down the west coast to my parents door in San Diego, a 1,800 mile journey on pavement, with wheels! Fast!

I buzzed around the apartment my parents good friends were hosting us in on Bainbridge Island. I was anxious. How am I supposed to switch all my backpacking gear to my pannier bags!?! This felt so foreign to me. It was such a simple task that I could not wrap my head around. I have this tendency to throw myself into lots of transitions into the unknown which is actually quite stressful, especially for the third year in a row. It took me almost the entire day just to move my things from one bag to four small bags. I had to choose what would go where, as though it was my last chance to get it into its perfect place, to be convenient in all possible situations I imagined I might be faced with. I had to be reminded that I was allowed to figure it out along the way and that it didn’t have to be perfect right then and there. This was my first bike tour, and Ted’s too. We were a little out of our element.

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With full bellies, a few tears, and some sarcastic comments about the huge hill ahead, Ted and I rode off in the rain to a distant land called Home. We stopped a bunch of times to make adjustments and were trying to get into a new flow together. From the wilderness to the pavement, it was quite a contrast. Cars driving by made us both nervous. We intended to ride our bikes 50 miles that day and we only made it 25. We argued on the side of the road and almost called it quits right there. But on we went with rain drops falling in my eyes. We stopped in a busy city with no shoulder and slept in a hotel our first night to wash off the mud and dry ourselves out. It was a harsh first day on the road.

Ted was already feeling like this bicycle ride wasn’t right for him, but we decided to keep going after some discussion. In my head swirled ideas of whether or not I would continue on my own if Ted did leave. Would I make it? I was having doubts in myself, for what? I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, despite other hikers on the trail even, I deliberately slept alone almost every night. That solo journey has become a foundation for who I am still becoming.

We continued on our wheels, the cars terrified me. They came by me too fast and didn’t seem to care about me. It felt like they said “fuck you” every time one passed. I was not having much fun, and neither was Ted. We were going through a different kind of culture shock – a concrete jungle full of wild animals called city people! And what a strange world it was.

Once we reached Shelton Washington, Ted and I were rescued by my lovely friend Bonnie when we found no where to sleep in town. We celebrated Ted’s 28th birthday while at her house and enjoyed time with her, her husband Carlos, and their daughter Maya. This visit was truly a blessing, a great example that the trail always provides. We would have had nowhere to sleep if it wasn’t for her!

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Back to the road we go! With optimism in our hearts we peddled on down the road, and within just a few hours I was on the side of the road at a rest stop with tears streaming down my face. After talking with Ted about how frustrated I was with the cars going so fast, we continued on to our camp that night and the next morning I called my Dad to talk to him about continuing on or coming home. He always tells me, “Abbi, no matter what you choose, you will make it work”. After he walked me through some basic bicycle maintenance, Ted and I rode on, and towards the ocean this time! After all the time we’ve spent navigating through busy cities, finally – the ocean. This is what we came for!

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For the first time on this bicycle, I felt amazing. The ocean to my right and a quiet road to my left. I was cruising. I started having better feelings about going all the way, but Ted still wasn’t sure. Gettin’ in our groove, we traveled through sleepy farm towns, along quiet bike paths, and up and over steep hills as the sun hung low in the sky. Comparing myself to the almighty Ted made it difficult to determine my own fitness level, but when we came across other long distance cyclists and passed them going uphill like they were standing still, I realized my strength, which both boosted my confidence as well as my desire to continue on. We camped at a deserted campground that night, watching the sun set from the beach as we ate dinner. Tomorrow we would leave Washington and ride across a really long Bridge over the Columbia River into the state of Oregon.

We had our bikes looked at in Astoria and snuggled in our tent at the hiker-biker campsite of Fort Steven’s State Park. It drizzled all night. When we awoke everything was saturated. I drank my Naked smoothie, ate strawberries for breakfast and we headed out. For the next couple of days we rode along the coast of Oregon while my desire to continue strengthened and Ted’s patience with this ride became less and less. We cycled alongside a beautiful view of never-ending sea stacks and stopped at the famous Canon Beach where The Goonies was filmed. Bicycling was actually becoming fun, I was loving it! We camped at the most glorious hiker-biker site at Cape Lookout State Park. I frolicked and did yoga as the sun was setting, Ted sat on a blanket reading a book. Smiling at my shenanigans with love in his eyes. We have done so much together, spent so much time in places so far from anything, we are partners. We are connected at the heart and we both know we will likely separate soon. We try not to think about it as we get comfortable by the campfire with our new friends Sarah and Dade, on their overnight bicycle ride.

 

We continue south and after a huge climb, I surrender to a long and blissful descent with a smile that takes up half my face. At the bottom we find a tiny community with a small store. I make a sandwich while Ted shops for less nutritious snacks. We sit at a wooden table by the front door, surrounded by open pastures, listening to an old man talk about how he could care less if California fell off into the ocean. We both look at each other, wondering how anyone could be so hateful. We are Californians, and think it’s a fine state indeed. In California I have seen some of the most beautiful wild places in the world and I’ve certainly met a lot of great Californians too! All ya need is love dude!

Ted and I ride out of there and it is slow-going. Ted simply is not enjoying this part of our trip and there is not much I can do or say to change it. Our friend Flanders from the Pacific Northwest Trail has made plans to visit us when we reach Florence, so with that in mind I convince him just to make it there and then we will part ways and I will keep going. So we call it a day at South Beach Campground and make our final stretch together to Florence where we show up at the hotel Flanders got for all of us to share and we are flabbergasted at how nice it is. It is a fancy hotel right on the beach! All the frustration subsides when we are greeted by the wonderful smile of our familiar friend. We eat fancy food, drink fancy wine, tell stories, and enjoy the comfort of a big fancy bed. Flanders offered to take Ted to the train station the next day, so this night was our last together for a long time. Ted and I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be to actually part after so long together, so many adventures shared. Outside the hotel, with my bike packed and Ted’s in the back of Flanders Subaru, we hug. Tight. Tears come streaming like a river from both of us, faces red and smushed, we say goodbye. Flanders and Ted drive away as I mount my bicycle trying to keep myself together…

Suddenly… I am alone. Ted and I have been together nonstop for the past two years, and attached at the hip for the past 3 months! Now it is just me, going down the road on my bike. I probably shouldn’t have been riding with all those tears in my eyes, but I did. For all the emotion, I made it a short day to get to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park where I planned to pull myself together and gain a new perspective on how this is all going to be for me now that things have changed.

I had feelings mixed with sadness and excitement, too. I loved traveling alone, and I knew I just had a few days to get through the lingering feelings of something missing. I hurriedly rode my bicycle through fishing towns and missed the turn off to my campsite, tacking on an extra 8 miles or so to get back to where I made the mistake. The detour was lovely, no one was on the road and I was surrounded by sand dunes. I felt ecstatic, singing and riding and eventually getting to my campsite in the forest, overlooking the sparkling ocean. I set up camp holding back my tears then put a few things in my daypack and wandered off toward the ocean on a trail that supposedly went to it. The trail took me to the dunes and I went barefoot towards the ocean, but I arrived at a road and across it was a dense forest blocking me from the water, no trail in sight and the sun would set soon, so instead of trekking on, I walked along the road and put my thumb out at the first car to pass. An old man and woman drove me back up to the campground where I sat by the lighthouse and watched the sun set, just me this time. Just me and the lighthouse.

With so many low mileage days behind me, the next morning I woke up early because I had an 80 mile goal to get into my solo groove! I was up and out of camp before anyone was awake and I cruised for hours without stopping. I only stopped when I got to a cannabis shop because I had offhandedly heard that on October 1st it was going to be sold recreationally in Oregon. Today was October 1st! I had to stop. The line was so long and I was in such a groove I didn’t want to waste any time, so I got back on my bike without any goodies and had lunch at a little cafe before beginning a major climb called the “7 devils”. I kicked all 7 of those devils butts and kept on going going going until I made it to my destination – the great, majestic Cape Blanco. Fucking amazing place to stop on a bicycle tour. Most beautiful beach I have ever seen, and pretty far off the beaten track. I had the whole hiker biker site to myself. I felt so proud of myself…

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The following morning I woke up and got out of there to ride my final full day in the state of Oregon. The ocean waves crashing and flowing beside me all day long, except when I rode around a cape. The road took me winding in through a forest with pines and aspens quivering in the breeze. A didgeridoo song came on my iPod, and I was feeling it. Wooooweeewoowiiiwooooowaaaaaa 🙂 I had lunch at a park beside the road. It had toilets, spigots, benches, and a river flowing through it. My day is silent besides the sound of the waves, the wind, my breath, and music from my iPod. I spoke to no one. I’ve gotten used to the buzz of cars beside me. I’ve developed trust in their ability to avoid me and the reality of their existence in my immediate environment no longer made me bitter.

With the ocean in view again after rounding the cape, I am in flow. I am a cruising lady, just rolling along, breathing in life, seeing beauty all around, legs spinning, mind full of song. I am content.

I find my last Oregon campsite at Harris Beach State Park just before sun set and I immediately go down to the beach so as not to miss the days finale. I carry my bike down to the sand to keep it safe and close to me. I explore the sea stacks with bare feet and see a lone woman eating beans out of a can. I sit by my bike and decide to make dinner, too. On her way back to her car she sits down with me and tells me she just came from Crescent City (a town I will pass through tomorrow) and that she is headed to Portland. We share stories and philosophies whilst sitting in the sand and hearing the crashing waves. She leaves me with a hug and I head back toward the campground to find a place to sleep for the night. A kind Japanese man leads me to the “best spot” in the hiker biker site and there I put up my tent and stash my food in the raccoon-resistant locker. Construction went on all night long and I barely slept at all! Which made me want to get the hell outta there as soon as I got up. Noise!!

Goodbye Oregon, nice flowing with you. Hello my lifelong home, California – my beloved.

After having lunch in Crescent City, I had a massive climb toward the Elk Prairie campground, my proposed destination for the night. I rode through bizarre communities who became famous for their giant sculptures of dinosaurs, Paul Bunyon and his blue ox. Evening began to set in after a lot of climbing, and less and less cars came by. I had the roads to myself. Once I reached the top of my last hill for the day, I breathed in the crisp fresh air of the great redwood forest as I descended fast toward my campsite. I feel complete and utter bliss when I descend, it is especially good when it is somewhere gorgeous like the forest! My bones were chilled once I reached the campground. The stars came out and darkness allowed them to shine so bright. It was so quiet as the fog began settling into the meadows. I camped with a couple who had taken a bus there from Arcata and were just backpacking around the area. In the morning I had the urge to leave, but I realized that I hadn’t taken a full day off in three weeks. So as my legs told me to ride, my mind said “um, why are we stopped?”, and my heart said to me, “it’s time to rest Abbi”. So I got a map of the trails from another cyclist and I walked through the ancient and massive forest to the desolate beach. I stretched and allowed the sun to shine where it usually doesn’t. There wasn’t a soul in sight.

I made a loop of my hike and wandered back through a fern covered canyon. Some of the fern species are as ancient as the dinosaurs! I splashed through the stream barefoot as I made my way, in awe of the greenery and the sound of the water. I climbed out of the canyon when it became too narrow and reconnected to a trail that would take me back to my sleeping place. I met a man who was hiking alone, we stood in the forest together and flowed right into a philosophical discussion about life and in his presence he honored me, and I felt acknowledged and satisfied after sharing that time with him. We wandered off in opposite directions never to see each other again, but with smiles on our faces. The walk was farther than I had anticipated and before I knew it, the forest was too dark to see. I was thinking about mountain lions and walking swiftly. I was relieved to find pavement that lead to my tent, and in those last few moments I met a fox whose eyes glowed in my direction. He scittered off without a sound…

 

The next morning I said goodbye to my new friends and rode off into the forest again, stopping in the “town” of Orick where I check the one store they have for some fruit to eat. I was approached by a man who wanted to talk to me about bicycle touring, which I am happy to do, but his energy came on a little strong, and I found myself trying to escape his grasp. I saw the white vehicle he was driving, and noticed it about half an hour later, stopped in the middle of the road as though he was waiting for me. Beyond creeped out! I never saw him again. I cruised past Patricks Point and into Trinidad, a really cute little beach town where I had lunch at the Beachcomber Cafe. They had homemade cookies and pastries, as well as healthy and delicious lunches full of veggies and greens! I spent a few hours here checking emails and writing in my journal. Children from the school across the street flooded in and bought all of their fresh cookies, one by one. I would really like to return to this town, it really stands out in my mind as a place that feels good to be!

Always beauty, beauty everywhere. Ocean beside me all the way. I am headed toward Arcata, a hippie-college town that I’ve visited in the past. I didn’t stay for long because I realized I didn’t actually like the vibes. This town seemed to attract hippie-looking people who yelled a lot and were drunk all over the town square. I didn’t like what I saw and hit the road again. I had to ride my bicycle on the freeway for a little bit, which was completely hellish. It was something like five lanes and everyone was driving 70 MPH or more. Luckily, the shoulder was huge, probably eight or ten feet wide. I ended my day at the Eureka KOA campground which was conveniently placed next to the freeway and some kind of a wood processing plant. It was ugly, noisy, and smelly. I cringed at the site of my campsite set behind the KOA store. At least they have a laundry facility and a shower and I was soon joined by another cyclist on the same trip as me. He was an older french man who was jolly and sweet. We shared light conversation over dinner. I was comforted by his presence.

The next morning I left. As I blew with the wind into the depths of the great redwood forests, my heart ached with the beauty of the journey I was on. Stopping on bridges just to look down to see the canyons and rivers along my way. Breathing and peddling, day in, day out. Breathing, peddling, seeing, smelling… Human-powered travel is one way to live in the present moment. While driving cars we miss so much, like the feel of the wind, the sounds of children playing, and the smell of a dead cat in the road. I sense the energy of the people passing me by, full of years of stagnant energy, tense and anxious. They need to go for a bike ride!

I ride through quiet communities along the Avenue of the Giants. Sunflowers swaying, red barns and stained glass in stillness beneath an indigo sky. I smell dinner cooking, I imagine it as fresh as the food I can see growing on the land around me. A homemade meal of fresh vegetables. I silently wish for them to see me and invite me inside to eat…

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Please stay tuned for Part II coming soon…

 

5 thoughts on “Bicycling Beauty (Part 1) – My Solo West Coast Bicycle Ride

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