Seattle to San Francisco
Bicycle Tour

Copyright (C) 1991 by C. Anderson - All Rights Reserved

DAY 1 (Wednesday July 10)

Boulder CO to SEA/TAC airport and the Belfair Motel
32 miles - 13mph

I got my new panniers, packed them, snapped and tied them together and headed for the airport with my 17 year old daughter. As I watched her leave the airport in my pick-up truck I tried not to worry about all of the things my imagination tried to convince me would happen to her. I had my own journey to focus on. I checked my panniers and bicycle and carried my day pack. After an uneventful flight (the best kind) I arrived at SEA/TAC airport in southern Seattle. I retrieved my bike and bags, reassembled the bicycle and was under way at 4:00. I asked for directions and set off for my immediate destination, the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry eight miles north.

The bike felt very awkward with all that weight on it. I didn't think I could take a hand off of the handlebars. It scared me. I was going to have to stop just to take a drink of water. Little did I know that I'd eventually be riding no handed, taking pictures of the flowers in my handlebar bag. I also gave a great salute to an ignorant motorist on highway 1, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Seattle was just city traffic. I got on the ferry ($3.50 for me and $.50 for the bicycle) and crossed the sound to Southworth. I followed highway 160 to highway 3 near Bremerton and then went south to Belfair. In Belfair I stayed at the Belfair Motel. I had multiple reasons/excuses for the motel.

It was my first night.
I needed to repack all of my gear in a more orderly fashion. I'm not really a camping buff.
I wanted to see the fourth and final episode of "Noble House."

There was a chinese restaurant on the same lot as the motel, so I had a great time sitting on the bed, watching "Noble House," eating my Pork Fried Rice and drinking "Because you're here, it's Rainier." I had traveled 32 miles on this first non-day of the trip and was pleased with my progress.

DAY 2 (Thursday July 11)

Belfair WA to Lake Sylvia State Park
59 miles - 13mph rolling - 10mph for the day.

In the morning I repacked all of my gear, bought a banana, oj and milk and headed off into a sunny, somewhat hot day at 10:45AM. It was the day of the great eclipse. If you were in Baja or Hawaii, that is.

The roads and the motorists in Washington were fine. I always had an adequate shoulder and the logging trucks didn't seem threatening at all. I started to notice signs in windows; "This family (business) supported by (supports) the timber industry." I was in no mind to get into politics and I respect that the people of this area have supported themselves this way forever - a good attitude to have when in logging country.

I rode 25 miles south to Shelton, the Xmas tree capital of the US. Two million Xmas trees come from there every year. I had lunch (a sandwich at a convenience-deli-video rental store) and I had to ask for directions to highway 101 at the Shell station.

I won't mention people's attitudes much until we get down to Highway 1 in Californey. Suffice it to say that people were quite friendly and usually had a genuine interest in my safety and well-being on this "unimagineably long" bicycle ride. I truly enjoyed talking with the folks I met along the way.

At Shelton I left highway 3, got onto 101 and went about 7 miles south to highway 108. Ten miles later at McCleary 108 began to parallel the main highway (12/8). Some people rode out to the highway at this point, but there's no need to do that. 108 parallels it all the way to Aberdeen. I noticed the power plant cooling towers looming just south of the highway.

Just past McCleary I met my first fellow cyclists. They were cooking a little snack by the side of the road and I asked if they wouldn't mind my stopping and chatting with them. They were a married couple on their way north from LA to Canada. They were going to be on the road for ten weeks. We talked about equipment, food, roads, and campsites. They told me about a campsite (Lake Sylvia State Park) just outside the town of Montesano.

That whole day I had a notion in the back of my mind that I wasn't going to be able to find a campground and should just get another motel. That's the ticket! This mention of a campground near my planned destination wasn't really welcome news. I was still thinking bed, showers, air conditioning, no bugs and no birds going tweet tweet tweet in the early AM.

Thankfully I was able to convince myself to set up my first camp at Lake Sylvia State Park outside of Montesano. Getting to the campground was a steep, 300 foot, 3/4 mile climb north out of town - not too bad. I rode up, got my campsite and went back for food. I also got some Blitz Weinhard, one of the better cheap beers I had on the trip.

I made my first disposable ice cooler that night. I bought a bag of ice ($1) and asked for two extra grocery bags at the store. Later, at camp, I put the ice in a garbage bag inside the two grocery bags and I had a pretty efficient cooler. Not only did it keep my beer cold, but also my milk and oj for the morning. There was always plenty of ice left in the bag in the morning.

There's a supermarket on the south side of the highway in Montesano and there's really no need to make two trips like I did. Take your groceries up with you the first time. Once in Montesano stay on the main road until you get to 3rd street. Then turn right to head up to Lake Sylvia.

Lake Sylvia is beautiful. There were two adjacent hiker/biker sites with their own table and fire pit that cost $4 for the night: the most expensive rate for the whole trip (except wonderful KOA). They were close to the hot showers ($.25 for 6 minutes) and restrooms, but not too close.

The other site was already occupied by Vivian and Jeremy. They were two 17 year olds from Salt Lake City that were doing the same route as I, but didn't need to be to San Francisco until a few days after me. They had gotten to Seattle before me, but Vivian's bike had gone into terminal shimmy from the added weight. She crashed and they'd stayed at a friends apartment in Seattle for a couple of days.

Vivian kept singing Grateful Dead tunes and I asked her if she was a Deadhead. She said, "not really," and started singing "LA Woman." She was a little strange (like most 17 year olds), but had a sweet disposition.

I cooked my own dinner (chicken and noodle broth with a couple of thin pork loins cut up into it) and went to bed by about 11:00. Quite early for me, but part of my reason for going on this trip was to try and break some nasty habits that I've fallen into whilst unemployed.

I learned something about my tent that night. The sides are mostly mesh so I always put the rain cover on. Well, if it isn't cold enough the rain fly doesn't allow for enough ventilation and you wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat (YUCK!). A little adjustment to the rain fly and all was well.

DAY 3 (Friday July 12)

Lake Sylvia State Park to Atsoria OR
80 miles - 13.5mph rolling - 10mph for the day

I got up pretty early, had a banana, oj, and milk for "pre-breakfast" and discussed the days route with Vivian and Jeremy. I knew that Oregon was going to be really nice and there would be lots of support for bicyclists, so I was planning on going the whole 80 miles to Astoria Oregon, where the Oregon Coast bike route begins. Of course after riding all that way I'd have to get a motel room. Yeah, that's the ticket! Vivian and Jeremy didn't think they'd make it that far and were planning on staying somewhere near Long Beach on highway 101. I was planning on taking an alternate to Astoria, highway 4 to 401.

The morning had started slightly cloudy, but soon became clear, warm and later hot. I left Lake Sylvia at 9:15 and headed south on highway 107 to where it met up with highway 101. After 10 miles of riding I made it to the town of Arctic. The married couple from the previous day had told me that there was a good restaurant (and nothing but) there.

I had breakfast at the Arctic Tavern. There was a photocopied joke (like office humor) on the wall. Something about "Col Sanders Kentucky Fried Owls: Regular and Unspotted." I didn't agree with the sentiment, but it was amusing. So were the gals running the place. They had a poster on the back door labeled "Whale Watching" and it had pictures of the waitresses and some kind of scores. They told me that they had all been on diets for the last year and were keeping track of their progress. They also told me there were campsites right next door and that I could have stayed THERE last night. I'm glad I hadn't. The Arctic Tavern looked like my kind of place. I'd have had a few good beers and then stayed and had a few more.

I had two humongous pancakes and an egg. They must have a pretty small grill there because it took me a whole hour to get in and out of there. Still it was delicious. Now I was on my way 16 miles down highway 101 to Raymond where I could by my lunch fixin's and call my daughter. On the way to Raymond I passed Vivian and Jeremy stopped half way up a hill. I can't do that myself. Hills always hurt more when I have to restart in the middle of them.

I ran in to some more cyclists in Raymond. They were going to do 35 miles that day and were most impressed with my 80 mile goal. In and out of the grocery store and I was into a hot headwind and headed west for the coast. I was able to push pretty hard into this headwind because I knew that in about 12 miles I'd be heading south again.

About an hour after turning south I nearly bonked because I was so fixated on just grinding away. About 3:00 I stopped and had lunch. Just after that I stopped at a little diner in Nesham to fill my water bottles. A German woman was running the place. I wished I would have stopped there for lunch, but I was on the move. There was a for sale sign out front so I don't know how much longer that place will be there. "Danke schoen." "Bitte schoen."

I came to highway 4 and rode east with my first tailwind. thumbnail Then south and back west on highway 401 to the Astoria Bridge. The Astoria Bridge crosses the mighty Columbia, is 4 miles long and has just enough room for a bicycle to ride on the far right. I thought the seagulls were going to dive bomb me. Maybe they thought I was going to feed them. I ate a "Panda" licorice stick, paid the bridge toll and went to the Visitor Center at the Chamber of Commerce. It was 5:30 and I felt pretty exhausted.

I picked up an Oregon Coast Bike Route Map.   It is a very fine map showing mileage from Astoria to the CA border with a topograph so you can see where the day's climbs are. Sometimes you could tell exactly where you were by looking at the graph. It also had symbols showing where all of the camp grounds were that had hiker/biker sites, and which had hot showers. Hiker/biker camp sites cost $2 a night and vary in quality and size. It became pretty easy to plan your daily route. Just look for the next hiker/biker site that has hot showers and is a distance that you would like to travel. Very nice!

[The Oregon Coast Bike Route Map in printable PDF format: Click here.)

Another cyclist walked in to the Visitor Center and we nodded to each other. We were both directed to the City Center motel. Don't stay there. It's right on the road and quite noisy all night long (not to mention the fog horn). I had to put the TV on an unused channel and turn the volume up so the white noise would wash out the sound of the cars and the fog horn.

Before retiring, Paul, the other cyclist, and I decided to go eat some Chinese food together. Paul was a "techie" like myself. An American working in British Columbia. I kept trying to steer the conversation away from kumpewters, but it inevitably ended up back there. Paul was going to stay in Astoria and be a tourist the next day. That sounded like a good idea, but I had my schedule and couldn't afford to stand still.

There is a maritime museum in Astoria that looked pretty interesting from the outside. A german couple that I met the next day told me about some wild doings at the Astoria Oprey. Some sort of live, audience participation play where they sold $6 bottles of champagne. I had seen the building. It was a fascinating old building. Paul pointed out that it looked like the city had been rebuilt on top of its old self due to tidal flooding. I believe his observation was correct.

I ended the day with the TV in sign off mode and a pillow over my head wondering why I had wasted $40 dollars for this unpleasant motel.

Day 4 (Saturday July 13)

Astoria OR to Nehalem Bay State Park
43 miles - 12.? mph rolling

I awoke to a heavy mist, almost a drizzle. It was time to get rain ready. I put everything that needed to stay dry in small garbage bags inside my panniers. I put my pannier covers on and put my sleeping bag, pads and tent into large garbage bags. It took me a while to get going, but I finally made it out the door. With my nylon rain jacket on I started down the road. I was no more than three or four miles away, crossing the bridge to Warrenton, when the sun popped out and I had to take my rain jacket off. It had been a drill, but now I knew that I was rain ready. The rest of the day was mostly cloudy with the fog sometimes becoming thick enough to feel like a mist, especially when the road rose a few hundred feet above sea level.

As I rode along toward Seaside I was feeling very good and I had a thought that would help me along the way even if I did forget it from time to time.

"Every day is different. If you carry your expectations from yesterday into a new day you increase your odds for disappointment and you waste time and energy trying to overcome that disappointment. Everyday unto itself."

I rode for 15 miles past roadside peddlers selling "baggies," stopped at a fruit stand to buy a plum and rode into touristy Seaside. I went to the Pig'n'Pancake and got a short stack and an egg for a reasonable $3.50. Then I left pretentious little Seaside. They were having the Miss Oregon contest there that weekend and it made the place worse than usual. I've never seen so many video/pinball arcades in one place. This is where all of the tourists were. It made the rest of the coast even nicer.

I picked up another copy of the Oregon Coast Bike Route Map to put into the clear map pouch on top of my handlebar bag and headed toward the first "climb" - 500 feet in about a mile and a half (6%). This is where the ride, the better part of it, really started. The coast became dramatic and the scenic, little towns started rolling by.

It's not on the map, but when you get to Canon Beach you can take the Canon Beach loop, leaving highway 101, and you won't travel any extra distance. Canon Beach is a bit touristy as well, but no where near as pretentious as Seaside. There's even a decent little bike shop in Canon Beach called Mike's Bikes. Haystack Rock is a nice sight. I don't think you'd see it from 101. I stopped at the visitor center in Canon Beach and ended up teaching the nice white haired ladies there all about Oregon's wonderful cycling maps.

thumbnail There was a deli just before the Arch Cape tunnel and I got my lunch fixin's there. Then on through my first tunnel. I love this state. There's a sign instructing cyclists to push a button before entering. A big sign with four amber lights starts flashing saying "Bikes in Tunnel When Light Flashes - Speed 30."

thumbnail It's a climb through the tunnel and continuing after. I kept going past Oswald West State Park, to the top of the hill and the scenic turnouts before stopping to eat those lunch fixin's. I was rewarded with my first dramatic view of miles of coastline.

With a little bread I baited a seagull into standing on my packs while I took a picture. I got one really great shot, then I screamed down to Manzanita and into Nehalem Bay State Park. Signs on the way in said "Campground Full: No Vacancies," but I just kept going the mile and a half into the State Park. Sure enough. There's always room for hiker/bikers.

This was the first night that I began to experience the comraderie between cyclists in a hiker/biker campsite. I was concerned about feeling too isolated on this trip, but I found the opposite to be true. It took some effort not to become part of a group. I met seven other cyclists here. Five of which I would ride with for a while. I met a fellow from San Francisco, Rick, that had done a lot of touring. He was able to offer advice. There were two young guys (20) from northern Washington State, Mark who was in the marine reserves and Brad. There was a couple from Germany that showed up near dark, and a couple of other guys that were fairly quiet and stuck to themselves. Around midnight a rather drunken French Canadian toddled over to our fire just as we were about to go to bed. He was the only actual hiker that I met on the trip.

The Nehalem Bay hiker/biker site is set up nicely. There are individual spots to set up your tent away from others with a common area in the center containing a firepit and a couple of picnic benches. The ocean is not very far from the site and is well worth a visit. There is a store in Manzanita that is less than a mile from the campsite so it's an easy thing to set up camp first and then go shopping. Buying and burning firewood was also a good idea as it kept the onslaught of the tiny winged bloodsuckers to a minimum. I still felt compelled to use some Cutter's.

There were a couple of new beers to try. One called Heidleburg, that was brewed in Seattle (gave the German fellow a laugh) and a microbrewed pale ale called Red Tail, definitely the better of the two. It was a Saturday night. We stayed up a bit late and probably drank too much beer. This was the only night that I felt I let myself down. I never even made it to the beach.

Continue with Day 5 - 8

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