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!”


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!