Hopped on my bike, went 3,360 miles (1 Viewer)

superphoenix

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This summer, I flew to Vancouver, BC with the intention of cycling to Tijuana (which was accomplished). However, I was not interested in a direct route from A to B. I wanted to pass through every major city (300,000+ people and not a suburb), as well as other spots that piqued my interest, mostly "nearby" national parks. It should have taken 80 days but ended up being 94. It's hard to condense what was essentially 1% of my life to a post, but I will try my best (and I will have more in-depth coverage as I start editing my video footage and releasing episodes of my adventure.)

First leg of the journey was flying to Canada. Here are the Cascades from up above.

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Not quite sure where this is! I want to say Columbia River, but looks too wind-y.

I was amazed to see Mt. Rainier from over 100 miles away.

I spent a day seeing Vancouver and then got ready to return to the States the next day.
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I had to cross a bridge in order to go south, but the path was closed off and there didn't seem to be another way on. Not wanting to travel 20 extra miles going around, I lifted all my stuff over a 5-foot barrier and proceeded to bike. I almost evaded the construction workers there, but one stopped me in the middle of the bridge. He was pretty chill, and it's not like I could do anything but continue forward at that point. At the end of the bridge lane, some French-Canadian worker was there to curse me out for being "so fucking stupid" and not realizing that the lane on the other side was open.
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This is a photo of my bike loaded up after I crossed the border. I was carrying my camera, a small cheap laptop, my tent, sleeping bag/pad, tools, food and water, clothes, and cooking materials like propane, a stove, cutting board etc. My weight varied - the bike itself was 35 pounds or so, while the gear loaded onto it could have made my bike and stuff weigh 100+ pounds at times in the trip.

I stayed with a host in Bellingham than night before I continued to the mountains. This was the first test of wilderness. It was raining most days that I was in this area, and I worried about grizzlies and methheads. It was also hard to find a place to camp out because there wasn't a lot of public land there - most space was private property. My first night, I stumbled into the campgrounds of some dude who seemed off, and though I tried to be friendly, he was very distant. I heard weird splashes in the water all night and slept with my knife in hand.

My first flat was in North Cascades National Park. I repaired it but got another flat later because I overfilled my tube to the point where it exploded. Then, that same tube got another flat since I rolled over a bridge with sharp metal grates. I decided to sleep by a boat launch and deal with it all in the morning.

I woke up the coldest I would be on this trip - the weather was supposedly 45 degrees, but with the wind and rain, and not eating enough, I was shivering despite my winter jacket, hand warmers, thermals, gloves, and a scarf over my face. That was a miserable morning. I also had no cell service, so no way to check exactly where I was (luckily I had an idea of where I wanted to go) and I had run out of tubes. I ended up patching the hole in the busted tube with a piece of tape I took off the back of a tire boot. That tube would last me another 500 miles.

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Despite the many logging trucks speeding by in the rain, drivers in Washington are the best to cyclists of any place I've been to, so it was generally very safe.

After my loop around northwest Washington, I ended up in Seattle. Though many aspects of the city were enjoyable, you do notice the hold corporations have on the place, from Amazon's art installations to my host's Microsoft-sponsored transit card, down to a guy carrying a Google bag asking for money.

Now that I had seen the city, it was time to hit Mt. Rainier. This was the first big climb I had to do during the trip - a two-day uphill through the Cascades, made particularly hard in the burning weather. High up enough on the mountain, there was snow on the ground, but it was 94 degrees. I ended up flying downhill at probably an average speed of 30 miles an hour, passing by waterfalls as I touched down on central Washington.

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The "beach" by this beautiful river was my favorite camping spot for the whole trip. I made river tea and watched the full moon rise over the water.

I was getting to be always hungry, always tired. Eating 4000 calories a day, sleeping 9-10 hours every night. But the real challenge would come with ascending the area around Mt. Adam.

I had to climb back to 4000 feet again, but for the last thousand feet, that meant going up a dirt road packed with bumps and mosquitoes congregating near stagnant pools of water. "Going" in this instance did not mean cycling, because the road was too steep for that 95% of the time. Instead, it meant wheeling my stuff up the hill, my bike as a mule to be walked alongside of rather than a machine to be mounted, and I didn't even reach the summit by sunset.

The next day, I finally reached the top after immense effort, but on the dirt road down, I lost my warm winter jacket and my favorite hoodie, and after the hell I had gone through ascending the mountain, I wasn't about to return for them. That evening, I reached the bottom of the hills and of the state, and I received a ride from my host in northern Oregon.

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As I approached Mt. Hood, I prepared for another hard climb, a long slog up the Cascades once more. But surprisingly, I reached the peak of the roads in only one day, and I didn't mind climbing since every 5 minutes the scenery changed. It was one of the most beautiful areas of this trip. As I sped down the road leading to Portland, I hit about 35 miles per hour.

Portland was nearly impossible to get a place to stay. I sent out about 11 different messages to potential Warmshowers hosts, only to have them turn me down. I did manage to get a Couchsurfing host eventually, but before that could happen, I needed to camp out in Forest Park.

Pedalpalooza, the annual month-long bike event in Portland, was going on, and I joined for some events, the highlights of which included screening Pee-Wee's Big Ride in a warehouse and cycling around said warehouse, mobbing a bridge with twenty other people, taking a ride on the side of a hijacked forklift, and getting fifty or so people onto and off of a rooftop we didn't belong on with warmth from an artificial fireplace.

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It was time to hit the Oregon coast. I went west to Tilamook, a last-second addition to the trip only to see its bay which was featured in the game Life is Strange which I had recently played through. Along the coast, I met another guy who cycled from Alaska to Mexico and was returning to Fairbanks. I went through farmland and forest and passed through the college town Corvallis. By the time I got to Eugene, I was having trouble finding a place to stay once again, so I ended up camping atop the roof of a parking garage. Fellow StP member @jimi graciously offered a safe place to stay the next night, where I could stay out of too much trouble.

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After that, it was time to bike through McKenzie Pass and into Bend. I'll let the photos here explain how it was. After Bend, I had to take the high desert down Highway 97 for a few days. I ended up in Crater Lake, where it would be 39 degrees that night, a spot still surrounded by 8-foot snowbanks. Luckily, some guy let me stay in his RV and made me food, tea, and shared some conversation with me. He was another programmer-turned-vanlife guy, and I notice on the West Coast that more people are living out of their vans as a way to stick it to landlords and simply travel without paying rent. The next morning I rode around Rim Road, the path that circles the entirety of Crater Lake, and as luck would have it, the road was blocked off to cars, so I had the entire way to myself, with the exception of the occasional park vehicle or loose rocks scattered in the road.

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You're probably wondering at this point what I did for camping out, but the process was pretty simple. 1-2 hours before sunset, I would decide that it's about time to find a place to camp out for the night, and then I'd bike until I found a spot that was on the side of the road which seemed hidden and was accessible by heavy-ass bike, meaning the angle couldn't be too steep. While this was challenging in the first weeks of the trip, I eventually nailed down the pattern and managed to camp out for half my nights, getting bothered by authorities/private citizens a grand total of 0 times.

July 4th was spent in K Falls, and soon after I crossed the border into California, where I would be for the next two months. Rather than logging trucks, there were now hay trucks passing me on the highway. While there was a lot of beauty in the Pacific Northwest, California is one spot where I said "wow" at least once every day to the natural scenery.

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Once I left Black Butte and the Mt. Shasta area, it was time to spend a day biking down I-5. A particularly sketchy part of passing the freeway was knowing that I would eventually have to cross a bridge with no shoulder and little clearance, and the cars and trucks weren't going to slow down. I eventually sped through it and survived, but this was potentially the most dangerous part of my trip.

Not having a place to stay in Redding, I camped out in a park there, bushwhacking my way to a path through the blackberry vines, and then putting those vines back up as a defensive barrier around me. While no people came by, a bunch of deer did manage to roam around me all night with no apparent fear.

When I didn't have a host, I often stopped at Starbucks to charge my stuff and get work done on the previously mentioned laptop (I had to sustain myself some way throughout the summer after all). This slowed me down by a few days overall, but it was always worth it, even if it simply meant having a break.

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Now that I was on flat ground for a while, it was time to climb again. This time, not through the unfuckwithable Cascades, but up the brutal Sierras. This is the point in the trip where my mental state would slowly start to shift increasingly from optimistic energy to defeated pessimism, particularly as I hit the 8000 foot mark to reach the top of Lassen Peak. The mountains were tough and unending, and I tried to cope with it by counting how many pedal strokes I made or remembering music (since I often didn't have phone service), but that didn't change the difficulty factor. To make matters worse, I had gotten lazy with cooking early on and starting opting instead for canned food, which was taking a toll on me physically and mentally after some time. The natural beauty around me was sometimes hard to appreciate through my physical strain.

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Another hundred miles past this point was the Lake Tahoe area. I managed to get to a campground too early and ended up having to pay the $7 charge, but that was nothing to keep my food safe from roaming bears. I passed by Mt. Tallac, which you may recall from a previous post of mine was a sketchy mountain I failed to climb last year during my Trip Out West. This time, I was determined to finish the climb. Hiding my stuff in the bushes, I ascended the mountain, reaching the summit around golden hour and beginning my descent down the loose, slippery rocks along with the sun. Luckily, I had my flashlight, because eventually the sun disappeared and the moon instead rose. I returned to my bags to find them scattered loosely everywhere - nothing had been stolen, but claw marks punctured my cans, and much of my food had been ripped through. I had to get out.

I cycled to the nearest campground and keep biking around until I found an empty spot. Finally, there was an unreserved campsite where I could stuff my food into a bear box, so that's what I did.

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After that ordeal, the next day it was time to descend the mountain, reaching a peak of about 7000 feet and then coming down fast into Sacramento, the first big city (500k +) I'd seen in a month. Whenever I reached a big city and had a place to stay, I normally would take a day to rest there and see the area. On the capitol grounds, which houses every type of tree in California, I picked a forbidden orange and ate it. (It tasted sour)

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After that, I slowed down a bit. My next ride was to Davis, the university town a short 20 mile hop away. After that, the town of Vacaville, another short ride, where I spent time hiking and listening to my host's stories of cycling South and Latin America. And then, it was time to get to the Bay Area.

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As you may have noticed by now, it is ironically fairly challenging to get housing in a major city. I eventually found a spare spot in Berkeley, but after a lot of asking around. On my way down through Oakland, some crackhead built like Mike Tyson started swinging at the air in general, and then toward me, so I took out my knife and showed it to him, which made him walk away. I then laughed because this guy was twice my size and could have snapped me in half, and I kept him off by flashing a $2 Walmart knife.

Other than that incident, seeing San Francisco again was beautiful, and despite what tech companies have done to the city, the landscape, architecture, and history of the place continue to astound me.

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Later, it was time to visit Santa Cruz, where I had a place to stay inside someone's RV for 2 nights. The rice with peanut sauce that I had made for myself earlier that day in Berkeley must have gone very bad, because a few hours after I had eaten it, I ran to the bathroom of the Subway with a rash in my throat, feeling like I had eaten poison oak and needing to throw up violently. I thought, this is it, after 50 days on the road I end dying in the bathroom of a Subway sandwich spot.

However, the feeling eventually went away, and as you can tell, I didn't die.

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Then, it was a long ride through Central Valley. Everyone told me the valley would suck, that the ride would be hot and boring, but I didn't find it to be that at all. I managed to see a diverse range of crops and landscapes, picked strawberries off the side of the road, and found interesting forested/mountainous space, the most amazing of which was Old Panoche Road.

Getting there involved biking up a lonely road that was almost wholly devoid of cars and entirely filled with potholes. Then, when I hit the downhill, I bumped along those potholes, and while it was dangerous, it was also fun. I enjoyed a beautiful sunset and managed to see the Milky Way that night. Plus, because the road was so devoid of anything (there was a period of 13 hours with no cars), I literally camped on the side of the road and slept there. Despite any difficulties, this was still a grand adventure.

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The positive feelings would not last. I still needed to cross another 50 miles of flat farmland into Fresno, and that part of the valley did suck. Despite the friendly migrant workers waving from their vehicles, the day was searingly hot, reaching over 100 degrees. I finished two gallons of water and poured some onto myself in an attempt to keep cool. When I reached Fresno, I gave one guy I met 5 bucks and a slice of my pizza, but even that didn't boost my road karma enough, because it turned out my laptop had fallen out of my bag. To make matters worse, my bike tube snapped and the tire had now developed a hole large enough to put my fingers through. Luckily, I had a place to stay for the next few nights, but it was a bad time in a rough city that had little to offer besides its surrounding farms.

Originally, I had planned to take my bike through a wilderness area and into Mammoth Lakes, but that would have involved 30 miles of going along a spot with no road and only a steep trail, and I figured it might have killed me. So instead, I decided to detour through Yosemite. It hit 102 degrees as I left Fresno, and because the entire path was uphill, you can bet I was miserable the entire journey.

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Yosemite involved days of uphill climbing. The Half-Dome, a mountain that has tested my strength to its limits last year, poked out through the valley constantly. At this point, my tent poles had been cracked from overuse and abuse, so I tossed them out in frustration, opting instead to sleep out in the open from here, wrapping my tent around me as if it was a blanket. At some point in my climb, I stumbled upon an abandoned campground, which was perfect as I could use the bear box to stash away my food. The next morning, I realized how useful that tool was since an enormous cinnamon-brown bear crossed the road in front of me as I was leaving the area.

After about 6 days of pedaling uphill, I finally reached the peak of the entire journey at 9,000 + feet, and for a while after, my time would mostly be spent going down.

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My bike flew down the top of the Mono County line horrifyingly fast, reaching a speed of nearly 50 miles per hour, as winds caused sliding rocks to chase me down the mountainside. After zooming downward, I ended up in the Eastern Sierras, one of the most beautiful regions of California. However, it was around this time that my solitude started getting to me. I can spend a good amount of time alone, but having two months without anyone by you as you set up your sleeping pad and stove under the full moon in one of the loneliest places in America eventually starts to take its psychological toll.

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As I went farther south, I started to cross into the edge of the Mojave desert. Sand became more present, grasshoppers from the Vegas invasion began jumping onto my bags, and I passed the town of Ridgecrest, which has been hit by an earthquake some two months prior. By the time I reached Bakersfield, I was baking, so I paid 40 dollars for a motel stay so I could shower off, charge my stuff, and have access to some type of air conditioning.

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After the heat, I crossed over past Los Padres National Forest, and halfway through it, the climate started changing to become more moderate as Pacific sea air actually mixed in with the heat. When I reached Ventura, my host got me into a film festival for free, and once I got far south enough, I took a ferry to Santa Catalina island, a spot I had not been to in years. The idea was to cycle from one end to the other, but I had underestimated the difficulty of the terrain, as some roads were so steep that they were impossible to cycle up, and if I had an extra day, I could potentially have made it from one end of the island to the other, but unfortunately, I had bought my return tickets to Long Beach way too soon, so it will have to be done another day.

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Then, Los Angeles. Enormous, sprawling, the #1 cyclist killer in the United States. While I dislike L.A. as a concept, I will admit I had a good time there. The tacos were so good that I can never eat tacos at home anymore knowing they are a weak imitation of what goes there is in California. I finally found a place with good pizza, which was difficult to do over the entire West Coast up to this point, managed to climb aboard some rooftops and bike alongside the L.A. river, and danced with a very attractive girl whose friends tried (unsuccessfully) to convince me that I should pursue her and forget my partner back home.

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Finally, it was time for the last part of the journey - biking down to San Diego and then, finally, Tijuana. At this victory lap phase, there wasn't a lot to report, but I did have a sense of apprehension about entering a city that averaged 6 homicides a day. I managed to get myself a motel for the equivalent of around 20-something USD, and I found myself thinking that this place wasn't quite as bad as it was made out to be, that maybe more of Mexico would be worth seeing later.

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But for now, I was done. I had accomplished my goal. It was time to take Amtrak all the way home, from San Diego to LA, LA to Chicago, and finally, Chicago to New York. After 94 days of traveling, I ended up back home.

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Unlike other journeys I've taken in the past, which have felt more like vacations, this one was epic in terms of length and scale. I had never been away from home or on the road for so long. My standards changed drastically - originally a good day would have involved spending time with friends, while on the road a good day was marked by finding a clean source of water. I learned to appreciate the environment more and reduce and reuse whatever I can. The trip also made me think about political action, because whatever I want to happen in my area, they already have on the West Coast. After the trip, I feel that I have learned to be nicer or more understanding to people, and in keeping with the balance of road karma, my rule #1 is to make sure everyone eats, and easy thing to forget after being jaded by mega-city life for over two decades.

If you're interested in seeing more about this trip, I've recently put together a trailer of highlights on YouTube and will begin releasing episodes of my adventures in the winter. Come watch if you'd like!

 
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AWESOME!!! I love the story, the pictures and the video!!!

You're so right that more people are sticking it to their landlords by living in vans and campers and why not?

It's so cool to meet people on the road like this past summer I was camping out along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin and this guy and his wife offered me BBQ chicken and a couple bottles of beer!

Again, I really enjoyed your story and who says you needed a $50,000 to $100,000 RV when you can do it all by bicycle! That's why I say my bicycle is my RV! Thanks for sharing!
 

Tude

Sometimes traveler is traveling.
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Awesome write up - thanks for sharing. And I agree with your term - EPIC trip!
 

MFB

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Joined
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CO
Agree, most excellent write up.
I felt like I was there.
You picked a great route.
Well done sir!

I liked your insights at the end.
Its wierd, whenever I take extended trips like this the trip itself seems loooong.
When I get home theres this odd feeling of simultaneously having never left and being gone forever. Like Ive seen and done and changed so much but my town is exactly the same. And it takes me a while to get in the swing of things. Anyone else?
 
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superphoenix

superphoenix

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When I get home theres this odd feeling of simultaneously having never left and being gone forever. Like Ive seen and done and changed so much but my town is exactly the same. And it takes me a while to get in the swing of things. Anyone else?
It was definitely weird to be back. I also was fairly sad about having to work again, even if only part-time.
 
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superphoenix

superphoenix

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Very well written! Looks beautiful friend.
I'm sorry if I missed, but any new plans for the nearby future?
Maybe Vancouver to Whitehorse ;)
Thanks man! I'm hoping to hop trains coast to coast this summer. I need a loooong break from bike touring haha.

But other cycling ideas for after that include DC to Florida on my single-speed, NY to WA, or even starting somewhere in New England once the leaves change color and then biking south with the changing leaves.

Also had the idea of hitting up some Central Asian -stan countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) by bike
 
Last edited:

Django

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Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
111
Current Location
Alaska-Argentina on a bike
Thanks man! I'm hoping to hop trains coast to coast this summer. I need a loooong break from bike touring haha.

But other cycling ideas for after that include DC to Florida on my single-speed, NY to WA, or even starting somewhere in New England once the leaves change color and then biking south with the changing leaves.

Also had the idea of hitting up some Central Asian -stan countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) by bike
Pamir highway or in general silk route are highly travelled! Good luck with that
 

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