Fletcher and I got back a few days ago from a bicycle tour down California’s central coast. We started in San Simeon and rode down to Ventura stopping in Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Santa Maria, Buellton, El Capitan State Beach and Santa Barbara along the way — nearly 220 miles all told. It was a great, great trip and we’ll definitely bike tour again. Follows is the tale of our trip.
Day 0: Hearst Castle and San Simeon SB
Evening Odometer: 2329.2
We got on the road at 8:30am, headed towards San Simeon State Park. Stephanie had very graciously agreed to drive us up there, camp with us for the evening and then pick us up again in Ventura. The trip wouldn’t have happened without her and Fletch and I are both very lucky to have her on our side. Further, she also knew of a good bike shop in Santa Barbara, and this turned out to be a handy thing.
The night before we left when I was doing one last run-through of the bikes, I noticed that my rear wheel had gone funny again like it did last year at the Livestrong ride. I suppose that I could have busted out Zinn and rebuilt the hub myself, but with a week of cycling on the line I really didn’t feel up to it. Enter the Wheel House. They’re a mostly commuter-oriented shop in Santa Barbara, but boy howdy do they excel at pulling insufficiently-prepared touring cyclists’ behinds out of the fire. I called them from Oxnard and they had the rear hub rebuilt (it needed it) and the wheel trued within half an hour of the time we arrived at their shop. Plus there was a great little farmers’ market across the street. We killed the short time we had to wait there. If you’re ever in SB and need some bike work done, or if you just want to see some cool European city bikes and meet some cool people, really do stop by. They’re great. Here’s a picture of their shop:
As an aside, I wrote names and contact information for bike shops in pretty well every town we might be in in the margin (well, the ocean) of our AAA map. Outside of the Wheel House’s information, we didn’t need it, but I found the practice to be infinitely comforting and recommend it to everybody on tour. Sure, you can get the same information from your smart phone or whatever, but the batteries on a map won’t run out.
After the brief mechanical break we made a quick run up to Orcutt for lunch at the Orcutt Brew Company, formerly The Loading Dock. It was pretty good. There was a classic car show going on at the time, and they fed us. Can’t ask for more.
From there it was on to Hearst Castle and the 3:50 tour. Fletch and I have never been and Stephanie hasn’t in ten years, so it was “tour 1″ for us. I’d like to go back and try the night time tour with the costumed docents some time. Also, I’m thinking of doing my back yard up like Hearst did his pool. What do you think?
Camp that night was at San Simeon State Park. We got to our site and started in on the usual routine of setting up the tents and the rest of the site before dinner. The ground there was pretty hard and we visibly had to work to push the tent pegs in to the ground. In a very neighborly fashion an RV’er in the next site over loaned us a hatchet with which to pound the tent pegs in to the ground. Not five minutes later I smashed my thumb between the hatchet and one of the pegs. Blood shot everywhere. I jumped around and put great effort in to not swearing. It was ok.
Stephanie got me patched up and then made a run to fetch some ice. While she was there, she noticed the sub-3oz bags of whiskey. They’re meant to go through airline security, but they worked equally well for camp site… medication.
Saturday night was to be our last camp meal that wasn’t freeze dried. Stephanie pulled out all the stops, making us tri-tip sandwiches, grilled chili-lime corn, a green salad and a nice bottle of wine for dinner. It was a pretty amazing meal, camp or no.
Despite proximity to the Kybo, we all got a pretty good night’s sleep and were up and at it ready to go the next morning.
Day 1: Ride to Morro Bay
Evening Odometer: 2359.7
Average Speed: 10.4mph
Max Speed: 27.3mph
We spent the morning packing the bikes up and in general getting ready to go. It was a bit of adventure making sure we didn’t accidentally leave behind any gear necessary for the trip. Same for making sure we actually brought everything we needed. Fletcher had forgotten his sleeping pad, so he borrowed Stephanie’s. He also forgot his glove liners (it’s cold in the mornings on the central coast!), so again: Stephanie’s went with him. I decided at the last minute to bring my fleece on the trip. (Good thing, too: I wore it every day.) So a few more things got strapped on to my bike than I had intended.
Before we hit the road we re-dressed my thumb. A quick before and after:
I had to cut my glove a little bit to fit the bandage through. Good excuse to get new gloves, I guess. After that, we were ready to go.
We rolled out of the camp site and on to PCH where we’d spend our entire day riding.
The coast between San Simeon and Morro Bay is truly beautiful. It’s green with nice rolling hills and really cool. Perfect for riding. I imagine that’s what the coast between SF and San Simeon is like, except with more traffic and bigger hills. (I’d like to try that some day, anyway.) Along the way we met another cycle tourist who was heading from Oakland to San Luis Obispo over the weekend. We were pretty impressed by that.
We made two pretty big mistakes on our first day of riding. First, we — and by “we” I mean “I” here — didn’t do a particularly good job of applying sun screen and didn’t reapply at all for the entire day. So I spent the entire trip with a pretty good burn on my arms. Second, we didn’t stop for snacks at all that day. Big, big mistake. We both got pretty close to bonking that first day. Lesson learned on that one: we stopped for a quick bite to eat — a fruit leather or some nuts or whatever — every hour or so of riding for the rest of the trip, and that worked out well.
About ten miles outside of Morro Bay I asked Fletch if he had put his fleece in his pannier, as I didn’t remember seeing him do so in the morning. Nope, not so much. I called Stephanie who had just gotten out of mass in SLO and she agreed to meet us for lunch and drop off both his fleece and the gloves that she had loaned him that morning that were in the pockets of the fleece. I was very glad that she hadn’t headed down the coast already.
After lunch we rode over to Morro Bay State Park and set up camp. We had a reservation for a normal camp site, but the hike and bike sites there looked amazing. They were up in a quiet little corner of the park, right next to the golf course. I definitely want to stay in them some time.
We went for a walk that afternoon, saw the marina, the nature center, the golf course, etc. There’s a really nice view of Morro Rock from the nature center. Fletch was getting hungry at that point, so he decided that it would make a nice snack.
Later on that night we enjoyed an exciting freeze-dried dinner and a cup of tea, and then we played cards for a bit and turned in for the evening. Despite being completely full, the camp was pretty quiet at night and we slept well after the day’s ride.
Day 2: Ride to Pismo Beach by way of San Luis Obispo; eat an unexciting lunch
Evening Odometer: 2391.8
Average Speed: 10.7mph
Max Speed: 33.6mph
Morning in Morro Bay was quiet, chilly and foggy. Perfect, perfect stuff. We woke up before most of the rest of the campers and went for a walk. The fog was thick enough that we couldn’t really see more than 100 feet or so in any direction. The golf course was particularly fun in these conditions.
Our first camp breakfast — coffee/tea and oatmeal, every day we camped — went too quickly and the weather was just too nice to do anything other that sit and take it in, so we hung around for a while longer and just enjoyed the quiet camp.
Eventually, though, we got riding, and it was amazing. The entire first day was along the pretty busy Pacific Coast Highway. The road in to SLO, on the other hand, was about half and half farm roads and secondary highways. One road in particular — Turri road between South Bay Blvd and Los Osos Valley Road — was a pretty perfect example of the Best Roads, the ones that “connect nowhere to nowhere and have an alternate that gets you there quicker.” It was only five miles, but it was easily the most enjoyable riding of the trip.
At one point there was a short but steep hill, but it lead to a screaming descent that gave us enough momentum to travel up and over the next two hills without pedaling. Here’s Fletch coasting up the second of them.
I would very seriously consider making an entire trip just to ride on this road again. Maybe take the train from LA to SLO, ride out to Morro Bay for some hike&bike camping, and then ride back. Or maybe stay a few nights in MB and ride in to SLO for lunch every day. Turri Road was that good.
One of our unstated goals for the trip was to find and enjoy local lunch spots during the trip. It was the one meal of the day that we weren’t going to be cooking for ourselves, so probably best to get something other than the same things we have every other day at home. Well, when we got to SLO around lunch time, it was pretty busy and we were getting pretty hungry, and when we passed a Chipotle — which almost always seems to have a patio section — we were just too lazy to pass it up. I felt kind of bad about this, but at least it only happened once.
Later on in the trip, I asked Fletcher what the hardest climb had been for him. His answer was the ride from SLO to Pismo Beach. The really sad part: this ride is 100% down hill. Turns out, though, that if you ride it in the afternoon, there’s a mean headwind and you have to really work just to move forward. And there were 15 miles or so of this. Good times.
We made it to Pismo Beach State Park only to discover that there are in fact two camp sites — Pismo Beach and Oceano — and that we were at the other one. Also, disturbingly, that neither site offered hike&bike sites. Apparently the California State Parks web site claimed that they did for the longest time, and they would often get riders down from Big Sur or wherever, expecting to be able to find a $5 camp site and being told that the next one down was at Refugio SB, easily another 50 miles (and a couple of big climbs) on. The park staff asked us if we would mind housing any other cycle tourists in our (pre-reserved) site should there be any. So at least they’re looking out for the unfortunately misinformed.
Despite the camp facilities snafu, Oceano was a really great site. There was a really nice nature loop around a lagoon, and the beach was a short walk away. Fletcher and I went to check it out that afternoon.
We didn’t have our beach togs with us, and I can’t quite explain the face that I’m making, but it was a great time all the same. That evening we went for another walk down to the dunes where the ATV crowd hangs out. I was worried for a bit that they would be loud and disturbing, but I didn’t hear them from the camp site even once. In fact, the whole camp was really nice, quiet and clean. It was a good place, and we slept well again.
Day 3: Ride to Santa Maria via the Adventure Adventure Route
Evening Odometer: 2419.5
Average Speed: 10.4mph
Max Speed: 25.9mph
Our camp site was really nice and we had an easy ride ahead of us, so we took our time in the morning. Had a loop around the nature trail, Fletch took some pictures of the abundant ducks, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. It was only day two, but we were already in a pretty good groove, meals-wise. Whoever got up first (me, usually) got some water started, and we ate. I did the clean and hot rinse, and Fletch took care of drying the dishes.
It was 11:00 before we hit the road that day — definitely our latest start — but that was ok, because we had a pretty short, pretty flat day. Well, sort of. We’re both use to eating lunch around 11:30 or so, and by the time noon rolled around we were both way too hungry. Fortunately, there was a cool road side deli that served Santa Maria-style tri-tip burritos. Win!
After lunch I started to seriously question the mileage notes on the ACA map. We were supposed to turn off of Los Berros miles ago, yet we hadn’t seen the road we were supposed to turn on. By the time we hit the 101 highway, it became clear that the reason for this was that the route slip I jotted down that morning completely skipped the turn in question. We were 3 miles or so off course. Whoops.
Rather than track back all the way to the listed turn, I talked Fletch in to taking a “short cut” through some ranch land. The nature of this diversion became pretty obviously when we hit a quite steep, medium-sized hill less than a quarter of a mile in to our new route. The whole thing turned out to be that way: short but steep rollers through a really beautiful part of the state. I liked it a lot; Fletcher I think liked it a bit less.
Eventually we made it back on to our planned route, rode a mile in to a stiff headwind (that would have been at our backs for half of the day if we stuck to the ACA’s recommendation) but eventually found our way in to Santa Maria, where we stayed at the Best Western, ate dinner at a restaurant and went bowling.
The camping was nice, but it was good to sleep in a bed.
Day 4: Ride to Buellton and learn how to climb on touring bikes
Evening Odometer: 2464.1
Average Speed: 10.4mph
Max Speed: 31.8mph
Our original plan for this day was to deviate heavily from the ACA route and ride Foxen Canyon road in to Buellton. Stephanie and I have driven that road a dozen times. It runs through the area’s wine country and is nice and winding, quiet and beautiful. I’ve wanted to ride it for a long time.
On her way home on Sunday, Stephanie drove our proposed route with a sober eye towards cycling it and discovered a few things. First, it was super-exposed farmland for the first ten miles. Next, there’s very poor cell coverage the entire way. Finally, there are basically no shoulders, and that combined with people driving from tasting room to tasting room makes for trouble. I couldn’t disagree with her assessment that it was potentially a bad idea, so Fletch and I formed a plan b: stick to the ACA route to Lompoc and then take the relatively tame 246 highway in to Buellton.
The only problem with this plan is that the ACA route has you going over Harris Grade Road in to Lompoc. Now, the name of that road — Harris Grade Road — should set off an alarm bell or two for cycle tourists. Any road with “grade” or “mountain” or “pass” in it is likely to be steep. HGR didn’t disappoint. Why it takes this route rather than the slightly longer PCH is quite beyond me, but we were resolved to stick to the maps whenever possible.
When we got to the foot of the climb, a sign read “winding roads, next four miles.” I interpreted this as two miles up, two miles down. Fletch’s take on the map — which shows a long, steep descent on the other side — read it as four miles up. Either way, we were both in our granny gears and braced for a climb. It was steep, there were a lot of switchbacks and it was really hot, but we were doing it.
He doesn’t exactly have a smile on his face, but here’s Fletch about half way up. The climb ended up being two miles with an average grade of 5%, but there were good stretches at 8% which weren’t fun at all. When we got to the top the frowns disappeared immediately and the “type two fun” — fun only in retrospect — nature of the day made itself apparent.
There was a cool sign painted on to the summit of the climb. It was gratifying to make it up something that the locals have labeled as somewhat of a challenge.
And just to prove that I was there as well and had worked going up:
This was definitely the biggest climb of the trip, and I believe the biggest climb that either Fletcher or I have ever done, and we were doing it with fully loaded touring bikes. It was very tough at the time, but I’m really glad we did it.
We coasted down in to Lompoc and had a nice lunch at the American Host restaurant there in town. (Pro tip: The best iPhone application for town-to-town cycle touring isn’t something focused on maps, it’s Yelp so you can more easily find the lunch spots with patio sections. Unfortunately, I don’t have an iPhone. Fortunately, Stephanie was willing to help us out the night before. Yay Stephanie!) From there it was a short but enjoyable spin over the 246 in to Buellton and the fabulous Flying Flags RV Park.
A quick tip about RV parks: they don’t all take non-motorized campers 100% seriously. Flying Flags had a “non-hookup” section for the likes of us. It was a big open field with regularly-spaced picnic table and no shade. Definitely suboptimal.
They also didn’t at all like that we rolled up to their check-in area in any condition other than fresh out of an air-conditioned RV. They pointed out the showers on the camp site map with a “you may want to visit those.” Thanks, Flying Flags. There wasn’t a lot of other camping in the area — no state parks and no BLM land — so any port in a storm, I guess. In the future, though, I think we’ll either skip Buellton or make that a hotel or B&B night.
The one good thing about that night: We were in the middle of wine country, and the convienence store on the corner had a really nice Zaca Mesa Syrah at a great price. So there was that.
Day 5: A brief reminder about the importance of maps on the way to El Capitan SB
Evening Odometer: 2491.2
Average Speed: 9.7mph
Max Speed: 24.7mph
This was another day where we were traveling towards the coast, so we wanted to get as early a start as possible to avoid the headwinds. A guy in Santa Maria told us that they started at 11:00am every day. “You can set your watch by it,” he assured us. So we broke camp early, got breakfast at Mother Hubbard’s there in town (really nice, but with very limited patio seating) and made for the road. We were on the 101 that day, and all of my pre-trip research had assured me that bicycles were good to go for that section of road.
As soon as we got to the 101 on-ramp off the 246, we saw a giant “NO BICYCLES OR NON-MOTORIZED blah blah blah” sign. Crap. This was definitely a spanner in the works. All the alternate routes added a bunch of miles and a bunch of climbing to our days. So we pulled off the road to regroup and try our best not to panic. Unfortunately, we pulled off on to a vacant lot with a bunch of crap in it, which caused our only flat of the trip. This did not help things on the panic front.
We spent a bit studying maps, and then we called Stephanie to see if she couldn’t use her magic internet powers to help us out. She got us the number for Caltrans and did some additional research while we tried to call in and find out what the road status was. Six calls to Caltrans yielded nothing but a bunch of transfers to the bike coordinator who wasn’t in his office at the time. (We left a message, and did in fact get a call back, but a week later. Thanks, Caltrans.) We even gave The Wheel House a call, because they’re awesome and probably had a magic answer for us. Very amusingly, they were on the phone with Stephanie at the time, as she had the same idea that we did. They didn’t have any authoritative answers, but did know that people rode the 101 between Buellton and El Capitan all the time, so it was definitely possible some how.
We had committed to the least objectionable alternate route — an extra 10 miles with only a 1.5 mile climb — and let everybody know that we’d be going that way, but decided to make one last call before we did and hit the CHP up for any info they might have. I explained our situation to the operator who transferred us to a local officer. As soon as I told him what was up, he told me that there was in fact one more on ramp for the 101 in Buellton and that bicycles were permitted there. He went on to give me turn-by-turn directions to get there. I forget the officer’s name, but he was awesome and totally saved the day. Thanks, CHP!
It’s kind of unfortunate that we didn’t catch this alternate exit or what it meant on our AAA map. The weird thing is, when we got in to Santa Barbara, the hotel gave us a local bike map for getting around the city. It had cycling routes through all the surrounding towns, and their map of Buellton made the correct route to the 101 as clear as day. So I really recommend the Traffic Solutions Santa Barbara County Bike Map if you’re ever going to cycle in the area.
It was a mostly uneventful ride from Buellton to El Capitan, although the climb out of Buellton was rough and there was a lot of traffic on the 2 mile, 6% grade descent to the ocean. Oh, and those headwinds? We got them the entire way out. We were pretty beat by the time we got to camp, so we set the bikes up against the table and had a lie down in the shade. It was really pleasant.
El Capitan State Beach was pretty nice, if not really noisy that night. (Lots of people with stereos at their camp, or in their RV’s running a generator for the AC.) We took a nice walk down to the beach and watched the sunset which was fun. I bet it would be a super nice camp to stay at in the fall or winter when there are fewer people. There’s also a bike path that I think runs all the way up to Refugio SB. I’d like to give that a go some time.
Day 6: An evening in Santa Barbara after a day of bike paths
Evening Odometer: 2513.6
Average Speed: 10.3mph
Max Speed: 24.4mph
Our plan for mornings on the trip was as follows: I’d wake up early, make a cup of coffee and enjoy that while Fletcher slept in. Thing is, we woke up at basically the same time every day, so it never happened. Until Friday, that is. I woke up pretty early and enjoyed a nice quiet morning of coffee and reading. It was really nice.
The ride in to SB was definitely to be our shortest of the trip, but there were a whole gang of twists and turns on account of Santa Barbara’s truly excellent bike path network. It was great — taking us through the UCSB campus and almost all of the way to State Street — but required a little more work preparing the route slip than usual.
For lunch we stopped at Super Cuca’s, which is a great, great carnicera and taco stand. I highly recommend the Super Burrito.
I wasn’t at all interested in beach camping in Santa Barbara on a Friday night — too high a probability of party campers — so we made Friday another hotel night. This afforded us a chance to clean up, catch a movie — The Other Guys, which is skippable — and dinner on the town — the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, which serves just the burger we were looking for. We made it an early night and planned to get a quick start in the morning so we could make it to Ventura for a not-too-late lunch.
Day 7: Cry “Mechanical” and let slip the riders of Cool Breeze, and our last day on the road
Evening Odometer: 2548.2
Average Speed: 10.9mph
Max Speed: 27.7mph
Right after lunch the day before, my chain started making an ugly noise. It sounded like a stiff link, so I lubed the chain at the hotel and thought I had it cleared up. On the way in to Breakfast in the morning it started making the same sick sticking sound once per chain revolution. I figured it was bad, but it could probably make it 30 or so miles in to Ventura. It didn’t even make it to the city limits.
Fortunately, I had all the tools to fix a broken chain, including a spare master link. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and vagrants kept trying to hold conversations with me while I was working on it. This lead to me somehow losing half of the master link, which made the repair much, much more difficult. Once again: The Wheel House to the rescue. We walked the bikes eight or so blocks to their shop where they had me rolling inside of half an hour. Thanks again, Wheel House!
Second attempt. We finally made our way out of Santa Barbara. Amusingly, this was the same day as the Cool Breeze Century, an annual ride put on by the very cool Channel Island Bike Club. The route starts in Ventura, either goes through the hills or up the coast depending on whether you’re doing a metric or imperial century, and then heads back to Ventura. This meant two things for us. First that there would be a ton of roadies out there riding with us — Fletcher counted 98 of them passing us, and we passed 14 or them. Second, that the entire route in to Ventura would be chalked on to the ground and we would be hard pressed to miss any turns. This turned out to be the case.
The ride from Santa Barbara to Ventura certainly wasn’t the shortest of the trip, but it’s such an easy route with a tail wind the entire way that it went by super quickly. The Cool Breeze riders were really nice; we got thumbs-up from a bunch of them, and a few slowed down to ask us about our trip. I suspect the all roadies would secretly like to be out on bike tour, kind of like I really could have gone for doing that ride on a racing bike instead of a fully-loaded touring bike. I guess I’ll just have to do Cool Breeze next year.
Fletch had great legs the entire trip, finding every county or city limit sign he could find and demanding that we sprint them. It was a really, really good day of riding, and I was almost sad to see the trip end when we rolled up to the Anacapa Brewing Company to find Stephanie waiting at a patio table for us.
After a week on the road, however, we were both ready to get home. I was somewhat apprehensive at the start of the trip about the scope of it. Could Fletch handle seven days of riding without slowing down? Quite the opposite, as it turned out. Would we show up unprepared and somehow run in to trouble? Turns out if you camp as often as we do with scouts, you tend to show up prepared. (Modulo that fleece.) Would we enjoy bicycle touring? Absolutely. I don’t think an active week in the out of doors with my son could have gone much better. It was a great time, and I genuinely look forward to doing this again.
Pre-tour prep (Nerdy stuff)
If you’re interested in the how’s of our trip — what sort of prep work did we do, what sort of gear did we ride with, etc — here it is.
First things first: both my cycling helmet and my in-camp woolen cycling cap are off to the Adventure Cycling Association for their excellent cycle touring maps. We spent most of our trip on Section 4 of the Pacific Coast Route, with a couple of days deviating — sometimes slightly and often intentionally — from the published route, and our final day on the top of section 5. These maps are wonderful resources and basically do the hard part of finding fun and safe roads for riding. If you’re going on any sort of bike tour, I can not recommend these resources enough.
Just to be safe we picked up a road map of the area from AAA. Good thing, too, because our planned deviations from the route — in to Santa Maria to get tri-tip and to Buellton so we could ride on Foxen Canyon Road (which we didn’t end up doing but whatever) — weren’t well covered and we would have been both lost and sad without a more comprehensive guide to the roads.
One map we didn’t have but would have been very well off to have from the go is the Traffic Solutions Santa Barbara County Bike Map. It’s an amazing resource for SB County, and does a really good job of filling in any gaps between the very focused but non-comprehensive ACA maps and the comprehensive yet not at all cyclist-oriented AAA maps. Too bad we didn’t pick this up until our last night on the road. I’ll be sure to pack this the next time we tour in or through Santa Barbara.
If you’re curious, here’s a map of our route. I’d highly recommend using the ACA maps if you’re doing it on your own, though.
There is a huge, huge overlap between backpacking gear and cycle touring (the camping variety as opposed to credit card touring) gear, and as luck would have it we already do a bunch of backpacking with Fletcher’s Boy Scout Troop. Our usual backpacking stuff along with some notably cycle-centric additions — chamois shorts, DZ Nuts, spare tires and tubes, a gang of hex-wrenches and spoke and chain tools and more zip ties than any two cyclists could use during the course of a week, bike locks, etc. — was way more than sufficient for this trip. For both of us, the bill of goods read more or less:
- A change of cycling clothes
- A change of in-camp clothes
- A fleece
- A full set of rain gear that we mercifully never had to use
- A sleeping bag
- A ground pad
- A cup, a bowl and a spoon
- A few water bottles
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, a small towel
- A small head lamp
- A Leatherman (Fletch) or a combination small knife/cork puller (me — hey, we were in wine country…)
- Our personal first aid kits
- A book (Fletch brought The Fellowship of The Rings, and I brought Charlie Stross’ The Atrocity Archives)
And for crew gear, we brought
- Maps (ACA and AAA)
- A notepad and a few pens
- A tent (REI Quarter Dome T3)
- An extra tarp for throwing over the bikes (possibly unnecessary)
- A stove (MSR Whisperlite Internationl)
- A small cook set (A couple of pots with lids, a set of hot-pot-tongs and a nice scrubby cleaning pad)
- A small kettle, which was awesome for coffee/tea in the morning
- A small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. (Thanks, Stephanie!)
- A bike repair kit (2 spare tubes for each of our bikes, a spare folding tire for each, a patch kit, two pumps, 3mm, 4mm, 4.5mm, 5mm, 5.5mm, 6mm and 8mm hex keys, phillips and standard screwdrivers, a chain tool, a spoke tool, a couple of multi tools for good measure, a whole galaxy of multi-sized zip-ties, some duct tape and spare length of cut inner tube)
There is one piece of gear that I would like to make a separate mention of, a piece of gear that held a truly special place on our trip. Because Feltcher and I both have a scouting background, and because we can’t — just can’t — go on a trip where we know that we’re not bringing something that we may very well need and it would be a bad thing if we didn’t have it when we needed it, we — ok, I — brought a roll of toilet paper with us. I am convinced that this is now one of the most well cycle-traveled rolls of toilet paper on the continent. Every camp we stayed at was very well stocked in the TP department. Oh well. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
Whenever we camped, we planned to cook and eat dinner and breakfast in camp. As with the gear, we went with what we know: backpacking food.
The menu for each day was pretty boring, but then I’m a pretty boring guy food-wise in the woods. Here’s what we had:
- Coffee for me (Nescafe’s instant, which was pretty awful. I need to find something else)
- Irish Breakfast tea for Fletch (quite good. Maybe I need to start drinking tea)
For snacks while we ride:
- Dried apricots
- Dried strawberries
- Walnut chunks
- Various and assorted fruit leathers
- Chocolate bars
- Instant miso soup (while we waited for the rest of dinner — this was a huge win, as we didn’t have to wait 10 minutes of the rice boiling and eight minutes for the Mountain House to cool before we had something to eat)
- Boil-in-a-bag brown rice
- Assorted Mountain House dinners
- Sleepy Time tea for after dinner
Even though we weren’t in bear country, we packed all of our food in a bear canister. This helped both with organization — where is it? Does it smell? It’s in the bear canister — and with the critters. There are no bears on the central coast, but there are all manner of ground squirrel and whatnot, and I didn’t want any of them gnawing through our panniers to get at the dried apricots or the DZ-Nuts. The bear canister (a BV 500) worked like a champ for us.
Bikes and Panniers
I was on a Surly Long Haul Trucker with a pair of Ortlieb Bike-Packer Classics, an Ostrich handlebar bag and a VO baguette for the tools and spare tubes. All worked like a champ. Fletcher was on a Giant Boulder SE with some Nashbar-ish panniers, a Nashbar-ish handlebar bag and a rack trunk from REI. His gear did exactly as well as mine did. (And at half the cost. Advantage: Fletcher.)
We didn’t do any. For a trip where you’re riding about 30 miles per day, you probably don’t need to do any. That said, Fletch has done a 50 mile ride with scouts before, so he knew going in to it that he could cycle farther than we would be doing in any day. I imagine just knowing that is super helpful.
And that’s it
We really liked cycle touring, and it wasn’t that much more involved than just camping. Give it a try. You’ll like it.