Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bike Tour - Crater Lake and NorCal

“The wonders of the world are only made more magnificent when you approach them from the humble perch of a bicycle.” - Bound South. True that. Biking in Crater Lake NP, the Redwoods NP and along Hwy 1 in northern California lets you experience some of the most breathtaking scenery up close, personal and at a meditative pace at which you can truly soak in it's magnificence.

I took the train up to Klamath Falls OR, hopped on my bike and rode to Crater Lake and then on to Crescent City and south along the coast to Santa Rosa. I have wanted to do this for a long time, to ride my bicycle for days on end with the open road in front of me. Over a period of 9 days, I covered about 630 miles with 45,000 feet of elevation gain. And I was rewarded with sights and experiences of a lifetime.

Being at Crater Lake is like being inside a postcard. The serene blue waters with gray mountains in the background are a mesmerizing sight. Riding through the forests of Oregon calmed my mind and cleared my lungs. And then the Giants of NorCal, the Redwoods. They are a sight to behold, tall and stately, yet quiet and gentle.
And the scent and sounds compliment what you see, to create something nearest to perfection. Riding by the ocean is always a joyful experience. The vast blue expanse, the cool breeze, the waves tirelessly carving away at the rugged cliffs, the tiny sandy beaches, the muted lighthouses, everything about it speaks to the soul. A sunset over the ocean is timeless in its beauty. The rolling farmland interspersed with tiny towns took me far far away from my daily routine.

The people you meet along the way is surely one of the highlights of a bike tour. Troy, a fun guy from Seattle, became my riding buddy for the second half of my trip. He was riding from Seattle to Big Sur. And there was this British couple in their early 20's who were hitch hiking and camping their way down the coast. I had thought that that happened only in books. Then there was this guy who hardly carried anything besides his sleeping bag. He slept under a tree or the stars every night. And there was this guy from South Carolina who biked across the US, passing through the Nevada deserts in June! And he didn't have a stove.
He cooked all his meals with fire made from firewood he gathered every evening. The list is endless. There are a lot of fun, quirky, adventurous, insane people out there.

My daily routine started at the crack of dawn. Eat breakfast, wash, pack up and hit the road. Then pedal the whole day with breaks for food and pictures. Reach a campsite in the evening, set up camp, dinner and hang out with others there or go exploring the state park or national park. Hit the sack at 9pm. Food; well, the days were filled with endless eating. Breakfast, followed by hourly snacks of trail mix, peanut butter and bagels, and fruit. I usually had two lunches at some deli or cafe. And then more snacks, followed by dinner at campsite.

The main daily activity of the trip was biking of course. Hours of pedaling through beautiful countryside and small towns. I liked the sound of my tires on the road when I was cruising along. Mile markers were the faithful companions. Of course, it was not all cruising. Uphills always lurked around the corner. Even the smallest uphill is killer if you are not patient. Use granny gears and great granny gears and the steepest climb will be overcome in due time. There were numerous occasions when I had to put mind over matter and keep going.
“End of Lane” signs on the uphills usually signified end of climbs and were much looked forward to. And sometimes I didn't look forward to the downhills either. The toil of the uphill would leave me drenched in sweat which would freeze me as I whizzed downhill. And since drag is proportional to velocity squared, the steep downhills are a major waste of energy.

The trip went to plan as my bike and body did great. I used the Oregon DOT, Adventure Cycling and Krebbs maps to plan my trip. These maps help you get off the highway when possible and take you along scenic routes. They also provide additional information about campsites, towns and services, elevation profiles, etc. which is useful when on the road. Smart phones might not work at most places as cellphone network coverage is quite poor.

A couple of things that I would do differently, given a chance. Do not camp at Del Norte SP. It is a lovely park, but the campsite is so far down in the valley, that it took me close to an hour to get back on the highway the next day. Secondly, less daily mileage would be better for my body and also give room for weather and mechanical issues, if any. Something like 60-65 miles a day would fit my level better.

I am glad I was tougher than I thought I was. Maybe that's because I simply had to be. I think a lot of life is like that. The edge of toughness can be dulled by too much comfort. Get out there. Life is an adventure, dream it and live it.

1 comment:

  1. sounds like a great time you had Danny! proud of ya :P :)