We here at Edinburgh Bicycle Coop have been lucky enough to have life-long cyclist and novelist Geoff Aird write about his latest adventure cycling route from Seattle in Washington State, USA to San Diego, Southern California, USA following the pacific coast highway. Join Geoff as he cycles from Seattle to the Oregon coast bicycle route, over the famous Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco and along the California coast highway. Hear about the interesting people he met and the up's and down's of his remarkable journey.
Reading about Geoff and his adventure will hopefully encourage you to take your own cycling adventure in 2024 whether that involves longer distances, a foreign adventure or just to get out cycling more.
We have split this epic adventure into 4 parts to be released weekly so here is the first installment of Geoff's incredible journey down the US pacific coast route. So, without further ado, over to Geoff...
I've been cycling for nearly forty years and each year have completed a ‘moving on' cycling trip abroad and it's always been somewhere in Europe. Having retired ten years ago and now with much more free time I decided to take on something more adventurous! The USA appealed and I started looking at maps to put together a long trip. Then a friend told me about a tandem trip he did with his wife thirty years ago – the Pacific Coast Highway (or Highway 101); right down the west coast of America from Seattle in Washington State, through Oregon and onto San Diego, California, the entire route totalling a distance of approximately 1500 miles. The more he told me the more it sounded like a full-on adventure!
Direction of travel - Research showed that north to south was the preferred direction of travel. The prevailing wind is generally north/northwest, plus cycling south meant being on the ocean side where the hard shoulder is wider. September seemed the best month; the rainy season in the northwest begins mid-October and the traffic is lighter than in mid-summer.
Accommodation - I booked all my accommodation in advance and the final schedule was twenty-five cycling days averaging 60 miles/day with five rest days along the way.
Equipment - I used my Specialized Allez bike with a pannier rack fitted. Luggage consisted of two rear panniers and a handlebar bag with a Perspex cover containing my maps, I've never got into GPS! My motto for keeping luggage down to a minimum has always been ‘wash as you go!'
The Flight - On the 13th September I flew from Edinburgh to Seattle with a transfer in Dublin. My bike was in a bike bag in the hold and fingers crossed it wouldn't get damaged en route. The flight was uneventful as was the taxi journey from Seattle airport to my hotel. I assembled the bike and was relieved it was okay. The following day I rested up, slept off the jet lag and was ready to go. It felt exciting, it felt like a huge adventure; being on the other side of the world and about to cycle an iconic coastline.
The first Leg - Seattle to Pacific Coast Highway
Seattle, Washington State to Newport, Oregon (Four days – 242 miles)
Cycling Day 1
I was nervous and excited as I packed my panniers knowing I would be doing this routine most days for the next month. I left the bike bag in the hotel room! It's about 170 miles from Seattle to the coast. Getting out of any city on a pushbike can be difficult and this was an unpleasant first morning! The southern suburbs of Seattle are choc-a-bloc with fast food drive throughs, firearms stores, and fentanyl addicts crashed out on street corners. Juggernauts thundered by as I clung to the narrow hard shoulder which was often strewn with glass. I cycled south of Tacoma then forked right on Route 507 which took me into rural, quiet Washington State. It was mid-September, warm and dry with an autumnal feel. Little did I know that of the thirty day trip I'd only have one wet day, two cloudy days and the rest was clear blue skies, glorious sunshine and a healthy tailwind! My destination that night was Chehalis, a small, provincial town. That evening I ate at Denny's – an American diner-style restaurant which I frequented on many nights down the west coast.
Cycling Day 2
Day 2 started well, and I was into the swing of things; cycling on the right means looking over your left shoulder which takes a bit of getting used to. Traffic was light on this rural road to the coast. What could go wrong?!! Approaching a steep hill, I engaged the front derailleur to move onto the small chainring. Disaster! The derailleur moved over too far, got mashed up in my back wheel and broke off! I was absolutely devastated as this was unrepairable on the road. I stood there, covered in chain oil with bits of derailleur in my hands. I thought the whole trip was off at this point. There was nothing around for miles. I decided to hitch a lift. Ten minutes later a woman pulled over in a Chevrolet pickup truck! She checked the internet and there was a bike repair shop in Astoria, about thirty miles south and on my route. It was further than she was going but she said she'd take me there! What kindness! With the broken bike in the back of the pickup she drove me down to Astoria and the bike shop. On the way, Andi told me she and her husband owned an oyster farm in Willapa Bay. I offered to pay for the fuel, but she wouldn't accept a dollar!
I was sceptical that the bike shop could carry out the repair as part of the derailleur had broken in two. However, Emilio, the old Mexican mechanic said he'd make the part!! It took him two hours, filing the handmade component into shape with a hand file and drilling the holes with a tap and die set! Proper old school! Two hours later he came running out the shop shouting ‘Geoff, it's fixed. Now you can cycle all over America!'
An hour later I lay on my bed in a Motel 6 thinking, ‘What a day!' Four hours earlier I thought the trip was over but the kindness of Andi picking me up and the craftsmanship of Emilio the mechanic meant I was back on schedule. Those two lovely people saved my holiday. I slept well. Things could only get better – and they did!
Cycling Day 3
The next day I cycled from Astoria to Tillamook and had my first views of the stunning Oregon coastline. In fact, I rarely lost sight of the Pacific Ocean during the 340 mile journey through Oregon. US-101 which is also known as the Oregon Coastal Bike Route winds along the ocean where rock and tide meet in dramatic fashion, through quaint seaside towns which seemed stuck in a bygone time. After Cannon Beach the route edges inland through rich dairy lands and onto my destination that day – Tillamook, where cattle outnumber people, and the smell of manure hung in the air!
Cycling Day 4
I set off next morning under a beautiful sky for the final leg of this stage to Newport and my first rest day. Even though the derailleur was repaired I still winced each time I went onto the small chainring, and I never used the big cog on the back just incase! The climbs in this part of Oregon were long but not steep so it was a case of finding the right gear and tapping it out. Traffic was light and drivers courteous which I was relieved about as the road had little in the way of hard shoulder.
I approached Lincoln City looking for a place to have lunch. Suddenly an elderly man ran out onto the road and stopped me. He asked if I was riding the Pacific Highway Coast and when I told him I was he gave me a map and a bottle of water! He explained that he was a retired librarian and lifelong cyclist and a couple of days a week he would sit at his spot and if any cyclists approached with panniers, he'd stop them and offer these gifts! I sat with him for half an hour next to his box of maps and a crate of water bottles and put the world to rights!!
Lunch was battered seafood at J's Fish and Chips in Lincoln City which is the most developed section of the Oregon coastline, seven miles of outlet stores and motels. Then onto Newport, an old fishing community with a historic bay and my first rest day. My legs were sore, but I felt good getting this first stage under my belt.
End of part 1 - Part 2 is available now.
Join us next week for the second installment of this incredible journey where Geoff travels from Lincon City, Oregon along the California coast and through beautiful redwood forests, to Arcata, California coast.
Geoff Aird is a life-long cyclist and retired firefighter who has turned his hand to writing novels when not on his bike. Geoff's debut novel “Within the Walls” follows a criminal investigation that reveals a sinister underbelly to the seemingly sedate seaside town of Berwick upon Tweed. You can find Geoff's debut novel on Amazon uk or in G C Greave bookshop, Berwick upon Tweed, where the novel was set.