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Bike Tour '07

Following are links to words, pictures and maps from a 1426-mile bike trip i took this spring from the Bay Area, southward, more-or-less along the San Andreas Fault Rift Zone on my fixed-wheel, fixed-gear bike. On the second leg of the trip, i took a train up to Seattle and rode south, through Centralia, over to the coast, and further south along the coast to Eureka. In Eureka, i met up with Adrienne and we rode together over the Trinity Alps to Redding.

Navigating the site
To the left, you can click on any leg of the journey (corresponding with each day of the 32-day span of time) to see details in words and images for the day. The legs you can select from the map obviously only include days when i actually changed locations. Days during which i stayed more-or-less in the same place—as well as during the transition from the southern to the northern sections of the tour—can be selected from the list below. For the most part, there are only pictures from the days when i covered ground, but i kept notes for most days, regardless of my travel. Pictures can be selected from the scrolling row of thumbnails at the bottom of the page.

Day Date Route
1 April 12th Santa Clara, CA to Scotts Valley, CA
2 April 13th Scotts Valley, CA to Santa Cruz, CA
3 April 14th Santa Cruz, CA to Monterey, CA
4 April 15th Monterey, CA
5 April 16th Monterey, CA to Parks Valley
6 April 17th Parks Valley to Pinnacles NM
7 April 18th Pinnacles NM to Parkfield, CA
8 April 19th Parkfield, CA to Selby Ranch
9 April 20th Selby Ranch to Hanline Ranch
10 April 21st Hanline Ranch to Rose Valley
11 April 22nd Rose Valley to Santa Paula, CA
12–14 April 23rd–April 25th San Francisco to Seattle via Walnut Creek & Pleasant Hill
15 April 26th Seattle, WA to Olympia, WA
16 April 27th Olympia, WA to Rainbow Falls
17 April 28th Rainbow Falls to Bruceport Park
18 April 29th Bruceport Park to Fort Canby
19 April 30th Fort Canby to Barview, OR
20 May 1st Barview, OR to Gleneden Beach, OR
21 May 2nd Gleneden Beach, OR
22 May 3rd Gleneden Beach, OR
23 May 4th Gleneden Beach, OR to Beachside S.P.
24 May 5th Beachside S.P. to Sunset Bay S.P.
25 May 6th Sunset Bay S.P. to Humbug Mtn S.P.
26 May 7th Humbug Mtn S.P. to Harris Beach S.P.
27 May 8th Harris Beach S.P. to Elk Prairie
28 May 9th Elk Prairie to Eureka, CA
29 May 10th Eureka, CA
30 May 11th Eureka, CA to Pigeon Rock
31 May 12th Pigeon Rock to Forest Glen, CA
32 May 13th Forest Glen, CA to Redding, CA

On the writing
I became overwhelmed with writing after reaching my cousin Ron's beach house in Gleneden Beach, Oregon, just in time to reach shelter in the midst of a two-day long hail- and thunder-storm. I still kept notes, but they are quite sparse, although they become more detailed by the end. These notes were primarily meant to jog and stimulate my fading memory, as i had had the intention of turning these memories into a narrative at one point. I'm not sure that i'll ever get around to that, but hopefully the reader will find something useful or interesting here, nevertheless. In general, looking back, i find these writings somewhat tedious, loaded as they are with repetitive narrations of miles progressed, feet climbed and scenery traversed, peppered here and there with a few personal and political musings. To the bicycle tourist interested in retracing some of this wonderful route, there may be some interesting information. Otherwise i'm afraid i may bore the reader, though i don't want to discourage him or her.

On my equipment
As for the manner in which this writing came to be available on the internet, the reader may find it of note that it was put into digital format from the beginning. Bringing an entire laptop on a bicycle tour is needlessly cumbersome. Instead, i brought along the cheapest PDA i could find that would work with a hard-wired mini-keyboard (the Palm Zire 71). The keyboard is sometimes difficult to use and data entry can be slow and unreliable, which will explain many of the typographical errors, for which the reader will have to forgive me. A photograph of my setup can be seen on Day 24. As mentioned numerous times throughout the site, i was riding a fixed-wheel, fixed-gear bicycle, steel track frame, 32-hole road tires with racing rims and dubble-butted spokes. I also carried an extra cog and an extra chainwheel for the steep hills. Not exactly what one thinks of as a touring rig. Basically, it is the same bike i work on as a messenger, with the exception that i added a rear brake and a lightweight rear rack. Both made fixed-wheel descents tolerable, as i was able to coast down longer hills by unclipping from my pedals, putting my feet up on the rack. I carried only a bivy sack and down sleeping bag for shelter, and not many changes of clothes. In most respects, my gear resembled the minimalism of the ultra-lightweight backpacker.

Why i rode fixed
While i am definitely a partisan of the fixed wheel since i was hooked on it a few years ago, i won't attempt to convince the reader that there are all these very practical, rational reasons for touring fixed. Yes, it is nice having less things that can go wrong on the bike. Yes, it can be helpful, especially in cold weather, to keep the legs moving on long descents so that the next climb doesn't hurt like hell because your legs are cold. Yes, the weight savings is a bonus. But ultimately, i ride fixed—and i tour fixed—because it feels good, and not just because i like to imagine myself as hard-core, although the challenge can also be rewarding. I think fixies are beautiful, and they tend to make the cyclist ride more beautifully. It's prettier, simpler, less noisy, and it requires rather more deliberation (and, hence, less laziness) on the part of the cyclist.

Some general thoughts on the tour
I have wanted for many years to tour down the Pacific Coast by bicycle, and the experience was no less amazing and beautiful than i had expected. I am particularly glad to have taken the routes that i did that were off of the more well-traveled roads. For the cycle tourist accustomed to frequent opportunities to restock supplies and find comfort in the company of other folks one meets upon the road, these routes may prove too lonely and too lacking in resources to be enjoyable. For my own part, however, i welcomed the challenge and the solitude and the lack of traffic. While i won't tread so far into the realm of individualist mythology as to suggest that such experiences "build character," i do appreciate the more deliberate and deliberative space one is forced to occupy out in the middle of open pastures, having not seen anyone, any cars, any stores or even any plumbing for a day or more, with nothing but one's bike, one's muscles, one's wits, and a bit of forethought. This contemplative state i had occupied came into stark relief during the North American Cycle Courier Championships, back at home in San Francisco. My strength was, as one might imagine, pretty good, but i performed horribly in the races, mostly because i had almost completely lost the ability to hustle—a key skill of any bike messenger. I was too calm and too at ease and too little hurried to perform well in an environment where stress and adrenaline are one's best friends.

In any case, i can't recommend too highly the lightly-traveled roads i took, largely at the suggestion of my friend Quentin, who deserves a milion thanks. And while i had myself considered tackling some of these hills on a fixed-gear kind of crazy, i feel confident now recommending it to anyone with a modicum of experience with fixed-wheel or track bikes. I would suggest, however, that a more sensible combination of cogs and chainrings be brought along than what i had. Unfortunately, i was only able to change both the cog and the chainring at the same time because the chain would either be too long or too short otherwise. Some better planning would have resulted in more gearing combinations and, more importantly, increased options for solutions in the event of massive tire or chain problems.

Anyway, thanks for checking out my site and feel free to visit the contact page at my blog, Grey Wool Knickers, if you have any comments or questions.