After so many months of planning, it’s kind of weird to think it’s all over – and I’ve been schlepping around the house in a bit of a down mood in the week since we got home.
For much of the year there were all the pre-trip logistics to deal with, not the least of which was ordering the new tandem. I spent a lot of time studying the ACA route, some other blogs, and then supplemented that information with an in-depth town by town (and the road in between) study of google maps to work out the likely stops, and likely daily distances. We knew we could be a bit flexible and decide as we went along (and we did that). But we also had a return flight deadline, so we had to be sure we could do it, with a few days to spare, as well as a few rest days to recharge during the ride.
This was where we actually rode.
Click on the map to link to a zoomable map. Complete with every little detour and wrong turn! (Just not the laundro-mat rides on a couple of afternoons. He didn’t want me to include those 😀 )
We were able to stitch the multiple rides together using this app, and a bit of stuffing around. (Exported it back out of Strava to Garmin thence to RWGPS, because RWGPS gives a bigger/better non-member/public view than Strava does.) There’s something not quite right going on about how the elevations show below sea level, but you get the gist.
Overall, about 1200km ridden, and 12,000 metres climbed. 17 days of riding, with four rest days in all. Our biggest day was our first day (because of no accommodation options in the middle), so then we went easy for the next few days – and then mixed it up a bit, but with a few solid 80k, +1000m days.
We mostly followed the ACA Pacific Coast route, with a couple of notable detours that we’d picked up, and one notable skipping of a section of the ACA route – through Ferndale. Seems we missed some cute architecture, but we’re more into the natural scenery than buildings. Swings and roundabouts.
Before we went over I read a particularly harsh opinion about the route (and generally about the country) by someone from the UK. While I think much of it was unfair (and overly premeditated to an extent), I think she did have a bit of a point about the whole ‘Cycle Route’ promotion thing. Even in the 1200km section that we did, there were several quite frightening highway sections that are not bike-friendly at all, and we experienced a couple of really hairy close passes. The ACA guide does warn about this, and I don’t see any improvement in road infrastructure likely to happen that would improve conditions in any way in the near future, so it is very much a route you need to take on with your eyes open (and preferably in your little rear vision mirror – I would have been completely beside myself in some parts without ours.)
I think we missed some fabulous scenery with the smoke haze and the fog during the first week … but what can you do, it is what it is. With the smoke, one can only be all too aware that there was one hell of a fire happening out there, and that there are more important things at stake.
Fog and smoke aside, we were incredibly lucky with the weather. It only rained on one day, when we woke up at Brookings with rain and forecast thunderstorms – hence deciding we may as well make that a rest day, with the added comfort of knowing that the rain would be a godsend to the firefighters. The morning we left Fortuna it was raining a bit, so we kitted up in raincoats and booties – but we were stripping off within an hour of riding – and that day turned into the 35-degree stinker through the Avenue of the Giants.
Knowing the towns and facilities as we do now, we might well plan to stay in different places. Garberville would be the major example of a place to avoid staying in at all costs! (But then we wouldn’t have interesting stories to tell!)
While I tend to bashfully confess to other cycle tourers that we meet that we are ‘soft’ touring – staying in motels rather than camping – I’m still very relieved that we can do it that way. Other than the comforts of a hot shower each night (and the ability to strip off the knicks and walk around pants-less for the sake of one’s nether regions!), the relatively lighter load to carry, and not having to cook, I am overwhelmingly happy we do it this way from a bike security point of view. Once checked in, with bike ensconced inside, we are free to check out the town, or go into a market together, without worrying about the bike being stolen. I don’t think I would sleep that well at night worrying about the tandem if we were camping.
As with other choices and factors, it’s a ‘swings/roundabouts’ and ‘horses for courses’ thing.
It would have been great to be able to say we’d done ‘border to border’, instead of just that section, but I think we bit off enough to chew this time with the whole buying the new tandem and setting off on it thing. We met some great people along the way, and have been wistfully following their blogs as they continued past San Francisco. My legs would not have been interested had they been given the offer to continue – but my head and heart might well have tried to talk them into it. Time. Money. And, as one of those fellow tourers responded to me when I shared that thought: “The end of a tour is always bittersweet.” Very true.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to tick the box on those northern and southern sections. Too many other parts of the world, and indeed our own country, to check out. Never say never, I guess.
Naturally, a lot of our take on it all can’t help but include a cultural comparison, even though we share the same language and many other ‘first world’ things. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to evaluating the country with that oft-heard ‘greatest country in the world’ claim hanging there in the background! (Summary – the coffee and tea is appalling, and why on earth do they not have kettles?! But the beer is great 😀 )
But maybe that’s a topic for a separate post and even blog!
Now … where to next?