Five Reasons to Ride North on the Pacific Coast Highway

It seems that almost everyone we’ve met along the way has had a different reason against riding north on the CA-1. Some say it’s the wind or the weather, others say it’s the traffic or the lack of shoulder; others simply laugh and say, “You’re going the wrong way!” It is true; guidebooks generally advise against travelling north due to the strong headwinds that northbound travelers face. We’ve experienced these winds a bit, but it’s all been manageable. We think there are just as many reasons to travel north as there are not to do so. Before you knock a Mexico to Canada trip (or anything in between) consider these:

1. The scenery becomes more and more beautiful. Southern California is nice and all, but it doesn’t even compare to Northern California and Oregon. Travelling north gives you something to look forward to as you move up the coast. We started in dry desert-y beaches, and are now staying in campgrounds surrounded by lush pine forests (Big Sur!). I’d say the increasing beauty up the coast definitely overshadows the wind.

2. It gets cheaper! Campsites get cheaper. Food gets cheaper. Laundromats get cheaper. Everything gets cheaper the closer we get to Oregon. It was definitely a blow paying $10 per person at some of the Southern California campgrounds, but Northern California’s $5 per person is pretty nice. We also hear that showers are free at state parks in Oregon. (Apparently Washington is a little spendy for camping, but smoked salmon – a.k.a pure, non-perishable muscle power and energy – is cheap, so it all evens out).

3. You will have a constant stream of information. At the start of this trip, we didn’t buy a book; we didn’t even plan past our first two campsites. We just thought we’d figure it out as we went along. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to because almost everyone we’ve met has been heading south. This means they’ve already scoped out the best (and the worst) campsites, restaurants, and sights. Because of friendly southbound travelers we found out that the central coast had absolutely no water, something they all had to find out the hard way, and we were able to plan accordingly. Let me tell you, living is pretty easy when you don’t have to stress about planning.

4. Learn killer relaxation techniques. Okay, so sometimes we get headwinds, and they really aren’t that fun. However, being stuck in strong winds gives us a chance to practice complete relaxation and acceptance of our surroundings. Get zen with it and ride against the wind. (Also, you’re gonna get wind no matter what direction you ride. We even got some killer tailwinds the other day!).

5.  Riding north automatically makes you a complete bad ass. You can totally boost your confidence by doing it because everyone you meet will be like, “Wow that’s so hardcore. You are awesome.” You will feel incredibly cool and strong.

So as Tim likes to say to the ragged old ladies on the backs of tandems who call us crazy for riding north, “Don’t knock it till you try it!”

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They don’t make ’em like this in Southern California. Also, we learned about this incredible campsite (Kirk Creek) from some southbound travelers. Double whammy!

What goes up…

There is a well known rule of physics (that is more casually known as common sense) which states that what goes up must come down. I’m sure you’re all familiar. In cycling, it’s a mantra to help get us through those super steep climbs.  Well, most of us. I think I’m one of the only cyclists on this planet who may prefer the climb to the descent. I know it seems crazy, but I have my reasons.

We just passed through Big Sur, CA. If you know the Pacific Coast, you know that means steep hills. The views were amazing, as is usually the case from lofty elevations, and let me tell you I worked for those views. I earned them. Then in an instant I’m flying down, and the hill that took forty minutes to summit is overwith in less than five. It’s a little bit disappointing. It’s like putting 3 hours into preparing a meal that’s devoured in 20 minutes. Even if the end result is worth all of the effort, it’s a little sad to see it disappear so quickly.

Of course, barreling down the 1 on a four-inch shoulder is slightly terrifying. It’s little bit difficult to put total faith in a bicycle, and very difficult to put total faith in the drivers behind me. I’m trying to take it as a lesson in control and to just go with it (and hopefully by the end of this trip my hands won’t be numb at the end of each day from squeezing my handle bars in terror every time I go down a steep hill).

IMG_1113A view worth climbing for

Next Adventure

“Oh, yeah. We have a flight to LA in August; then we are going to ride our bikes back to Portland, and then go from there,” I casually respond anytime someone asks me what our plans are upon returning to America. We’ve been scheming about this trip for at least 3 months now, though it seems like more; and it has been something to look forward to, but definitely not high on my list of thought-priorities. I’m normally thinking more about food, or how to control whacked out Taiwanese children. This morning was different, though. Something caused a brain-switch to go off, and I started realizing that I really am doing this, and I may or may not be completely insane.

Coming to Taiwan was a huge step. Moving to a country where you don’t know the language is pretty terrifying. I had never taught before. Tim and I lived together before, but never alone-together like we were when we first got here. We didn’t have our big network of friends anymore, just each other. There were so many things to be unsure about, but for the most part I just chose not to consider them.

I think this angle is necessary when taking these types of giant leaps that make little sense. It has definitely been my approach with our bike trip. I am so excited about the idea of being on a bicycle and camping for 2 months, that I haven’t thought much about actually being on a 2-month-long bike trip. The concept is so romantic and dreamy; my mind will not let me think about the challenges we are going to face, nor the fact that we are going into this with basically no training at all. We don’t even have bikes yet, but I decided that I want to do it, so I’m going to do it. 

For whatever reason, the crazier the action is, the less inclined I am to start second-guessing myself. I can’t just grab a jar of mustard at random; I have to scour each and every label at least 3 times, but I can easily jump into a crazy scheme like moving my life to Asia, or spending two months on a bicycle. It doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

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Look out for more updates on our tour, and stay with us during our last two months in Taiwan. We are really going to try to make them count. 

Taiwan-a-saurus Rex

One of my favorite things to do is to get on my bike and cruise. I love the exercise and biking affords me the opportunity to take unusual routes. By going off the beaten path I’m able to discover my neighborhood and my city at large.

Yilan is a “small” city in Taiwan. For a city of about 29,000 it is very spread out. There are sprawling rice patties all around and large swaths of area devoted for tea growing in the mountains. The downtown areas are full of bustling markets and winding alleys. By cycling (no pun intended) I have found out way more about my city than I would by driving or taking public transport (plus the Yilan bus is a little worthless).