1997 Oregon to SF

Touring Team Oregon, plus Two –  Golden Gate or Bust

Prologue:  Three members of Team Oregon, Nancy Peterson, Chris Ansari and me, Dave Ertel, plus two co-workers, Marsh Johnson and David Gray set out by bicycle from Yachats, Oregon on May 17, 1997.  Our destination was the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.  The trip was a lifelong dream for Marsh.  For the most part the rest of us got roped in because it sounded like a fun trip.  As for touring experience, this was Chris and Marsh’s first tour, David had done some touring in his college days.  Nancy and I go on a tour every year.

Riding through redwood tree

Riding through redwood tree

Chris planned our mileage and stops based on the fact that he thought we could manage 100 miles in a day and the fact that we had seven days.  Counting back from San Francisco he determined that we should start in Yachats.  The night before we started, Nancy recalculated the distances and changed our itinerary to basically what we ended up following.  As it turns out, most days were in the 100 mile range and some had some big hills.  We had a great time but everyone agreed that we should not let Chris plan the mileage for future trips.

We credit-carded this trip, meaning we stayed in motels and ate at local restaurants.  Probably good idea given the mileage.  Everyone carried rear panniers.  Marsh and Chris rode their mountain bikes with slick tires, David was on Chris’s commuter bike while Nancy and I rode our tandem.  Everyone had fenders, except Marsh.  The weather the week before the trip was warm and sunny.  We hoped that it would hold for our trip but you never know about Spring on the coast.  Expecting the worst we all carried full rain gear.

We all managed to talk relatives into giving us a ride to Yachats on Friday the 16th.  Nancy’s Mom, Chris and Marsh’s wives.  We ended up spending the night before our start in a motel just north of town.

As for training…

Day 1: May 17, 1997  –  Yachats – Bandon  104 miles, 16.9 MPH, 4330 feet

After the good-byes we left our motel at just past 7AM and rode to Yachats for breakfast.  We all had first of many traditional pancake starters at the same restaurant that Nancy and stopped at in 1988 on our first bike tour.  After breakfast, Marsh could not find his wallet and had to ride two miles back to the motel.  Turns out that he had it with him all of the time (just what he needed was an extra 4 miles today!).  We hit the road around 8AM.  We went around Cape Perpetua in a light fog with the sun trying to come out.  Even in the fog, it was still a very scenic ride.  The fog eventually burned off and we had beautiful sunshine all day.  In the morning, we rode through Florence where we all stripped out of our morning coats.  While we were waiting for Marsh to switch into his bike shorts from tights, the front tire on the tandem blew off.  It had done the same thing in the garage the night before the trip.  Two blow-offs and I got the message.  I put our spare tire on.

We had lunch at a Subway in Reedsport.  We met some Germans touring from Seattle to SF.  We made it to North Bend around 1PM, waited for Marsh and David to catch up.  From there it was only 30 more miles to Bandon.  We went through Charleston and out to Seven Devils Loop.  It was a nice road but had lots of hills, steep ones.  Marsh was riding slower so Chris dropped back, David, Nancy and I rode on.  At one of the junctions, after waiting for 30 minutes, the three of us left a note, but they never saw it as they had made a wrong turn and ended up getting back on 101 a little early.  Eventually around 4:00, we arrived at Bandon and the youth hostel.  Chris and Marsh came in 20 minutes later.

In the hostel, Nancy and I got the penthouse room while the guys shared the men’s dorm.  Warm showers and a little stretching then we were off to dinner.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant, La Fiesta, right next door.  Marsh reminded us that the reason he was slower was because of the extra miles he rode in the morning.  We were all pretty beat still enjoyed the Dos Equies and great burritos.  After dinner we walked to Dairy Queen for a hot fudge sunday, then over to the grocery store for some supplies.  Everyone was in bed by 9:00.

Day 2: May 18, 1997  –  Bandon – Brookings  90 miles, 15.1 MPH, 4030 feet

We left the hostel around 6:30 and rode over to the Mineral café.  Had another plate of pancakes and rode out the back road from Bandon.  Before joining up with 101, we stopped at “Face Rock” for photos.  We rode inland past the cranberry bogs.  We cruised along with Chris on our wheel until Port Orford, then stopped for a snack.  By now it was already pretty warm.  Turns out that David and Marsh stopped on the road a ways back so by the time they caught up to us, they already had their break.

After Port Orford, we went up and around Humbug Mountain, again very scenic.  The downhill on the other side was fast and fun.  The best part was watching Chris in our mirrors try to peddle as fast as he could to hold our wheel on the downhill!  We stopped for lunch in Goldbeach at a great market/deli.  From there it was up and over Cape Sebastian and through Samuel Boardman State Park.  We stopped at a couple of the many view points to look at the sea stacks.

When we reached Brookings, we rode ahead down to the harbor front to check out a newer hotel.  By the time we rode back up the hill to town, everyone was there.  After being thrifty the night before at the hostel we all agreed that the Harbor hotel just the ticket tonight.  Our rooms are right on the beach, only 30 feet to the water.

After getting cleaned up and doing laundry, we walked to a local sea food greasy spoon.  Chirs out did everyone by having two servings of fish and chips and a bowl of chowder.  From there we hit the waterfront ice cream shop for a treat.  In bed again early as we have a long day tomorrow and more hills, or at least that is what the maid says.

Day 3: May 19, 1997  –  Brookings – Arcata  103 miles, 14.2 MPH, 4430 feet

We left the hotel at 6:15.  Headed over to the greasy spoon where all the fishermen hung out.  Had the usual pancake breakfast and made the expected impression on the locals.  When we started riding it was chilly.  We opted for a frontage road called Oceanview Drive over 101.  It took us along the coast and past the famous Brookings Easter Lilly fields.

It was a flat 30 miles until we got to Crescent City.  We stopped at the Redwoods National Park headquarters and got the scoop on the best route.  There was really no choice other than over the Crescent Hill, a very narrow, shoulderless, steep road that had pretty heavy truck traffic.  The trucks didn’t seem to want to slow down or even pull over when there was a passing lane.  With the stress, we hardly noticed the redwoods on the uphill portion.  The downhill was stunning with a great view of the ocean.  We rode into Klamath for lunch.  While Chris circled on 101 waiting for Marsh and David, we checked out the stores and restaurants.  Turns out that the only place for food was an “Indian” bar.  Nancy had grilled cheese while the rest us of ate burgers.  Not your perfect mid-day meal but we couldn’t be picky.

After lunch we rode along 101 until we hit the Newton Drewy parkway.  Bit of a tough uphill but the road was much quieter and the redwoods were great.  The payoff was 5 miles of gradual downhill through some huge trees.  Very spectacular.  At the end of the grove we came upon an elk preserve with pretty tame elk sitting in the meadow right by the road.  Joined back up with 101 just outside Oric where Chris originally had us spending the night.  Good thing Nancy re-planned things, it was dive.

From here it was back out to the ocean.  We came upon another rider that was stopped on the shoulder going our way.  He said that he had just pulled his bike out of the ditch after being run off.  He was Australian and claimed to have been on the road since 1991!  We never got his name but affectionately called him Australia Bob.  The fall had loosened one of his front racks and he appeared not to have any tools.  We tried to help but the bolts on the rack had actually rusted over.  It was hard to believe that he had ridden all that much unless he was just hanging out for a while because he had a huge stomach and skinny legs.

After another 10 miles on busier 101, we took a turn off at Patrick Point Road.  Actually a very nice road.  That could have been because the road was washed out at one point we were on single track.  Cool on a loaded rode tandem!  Nancy did pretty good on the back, only a couple yelps.

The last 10 miles we paced lined it into Arcata.  The rest of the guys were pretty tired but we took the lead.  The shortest route was along 101 where it had actually become a divided highway.  It had a great shoulder until this long bridge just at the end of the day.  We made it across but I was worried about the guys as it was long day and everyone was beat.  We didn’t get in to town until 6:00!  From there it was across the street to another great Mexican restaurant and finally with everyone else passed out, Chris and I finished the laundry.  A long day for all!

Day 4: May 20, 1997  –  Arcata – Garberville,  88 miles, 14.4 MPH, 4430 feet

Looking at the map, it appeared to be a short day.  We decided to try making it into town early so we hit McDonalds for a quick pancake breakfast (they had not heard the free refills on pancake rule L).  We were on the road early.  We had to wind our way through Arcata, then some more divided highway and more city street winding in Eureka.  Pretty busy with bigger cities in this area of the coast.  Just after Eureka we turned off 101 for a less traveled farm road.  This was a great road until we hit some very steep hills just outside Rio Dell.  The road was very washed out in one place.  We actually had to carry the bikes over the landslide for a couple hundred yards.  With lots of grunts and help from the guys, we made it to the other side.  No wonder traffic was so light.  In Rio Dell we stopped at a bakery and got the skinny on the road ahead.

We were now into the Avenue of The Giants.  This is great road that parallels 101 but has no traffic because it is very curvy.  The trees were just great.  It was all I could do to keep from staring up at them. The road was very smooth and just meandered through the grove, great stuff!

We stopped for lunch at little diner in Hagen Flat. We phoned ahead to the hotel in Benbow but found that it would cost $170 for a room for three for the guys and decided to stop a couple miles before there in Garberville. It was getting pretty hot by now.  On our way out of the lunch stop, we paid $1.50 to drive through a live redwood that was cut in the middle.  Kind of hokey, but when in Rome…

After a couple more hills and some more Avenue of the Giants, we came to Garberville.  There was a very nice Best Western right on the main drag.  Nancy and I got two rooms and while she showered, I waited on the road for the guys.  Turns out Marsh had the only flat of the trip and it was a while before they got there but everyone made it eventually.  Garberville itself is pretty weird.  There are only 1200 people there and there were lots of dreadlocks-like kids hanging out.  We never did find out for sure but we guessed that there was some sort of concert that week.

For dinner, we found a great Italian restaurant across from the motel.  We all had big plates of Spaghetti and what had by now become the beer of choice on the trip, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  With another big day and the pass over Ligget planned for tomorrow, it was lights out early with a 6:15 breakfast plan.

Day 5: May 22, 1997 – Garberville – Mendicino, 80 miles, 14.1 MPH, 5230 feet

We were out of bed around 6:00, packed and headed to breakfast.  Everyone was a little nervous for the hill at Ligget.  As we started for the café, the free breakfast room at the motel opened.  Before the other guests even got up, we had eaten all of the muffins and sweet rolls.  Not as good as pancakes but we ate lots!  Coming out of Garberville, we had a good climb to start, then a big downhill into Bembow.  By this point in the trip we were climbing faster that Marsh and David, with Chris alternating between hanging onto us to dropping back.  At Bembow, we were able to leave 101 again and ride more redwoods on Bembow drive.  It was darn cold in the shade.

Once back on 101, we had a close call with a logging truck.  It caught up with us on this steep rise just as the shoulder disappeared and when a motorhome was coming down the road.  Rather than slow down, the truck just barreled past us.  All I could do was stop and reach over with my right hand to the guard rail hold us up.  Between my hand and the rear saddle bags, somehow we did not fall.  It got quite a yell out of Nancy, but in the end, no damage was done.  We were now looking forward to the hill at Ligget, it at least got us off 101.

We finally made it to Highway 1 and the infamous Ligget hill.  As often happens on the infamous hills, it was not that bad.  There was very little traffic, the sun was out but it was not that warm yet.  Pretty windy but we weren’t going that fast.  Chris rode to the top with us, about a 7 mile climb. The downhill was much more frightening, equally full of twists and turns, but much more speed.  We sent Chris on ahead as we rode the tandem’s third brake and negotiated all of the switch backs.  As we neared the ocean, the fog started to roll in.  We actually had to stop twice, once to put our coats on again and once for leg warmers.  At the bottom we rode through a non-existent town on the map called Rockport.  Then it was time to strip back to shorts and a jersey again for another 2000 foot climb over a headlands to our lunch stop at Westport.  Along the way we saw lots of sea lions on the rocks near the water.

At a deli in Westport we ordered up sandwiches and sat in the sun waiting for Marsh and David.  While we ate a couple of cyclist came up the road from the south.  They were from back east and had been on the road since May of 1996.  They didn’t expect to be home for at least another year.  Interesting couple.  They claimed to be traveling to small town America to talk about the value of recycling, they were vegans yet while we ate our lunches in the fresh air, they joined us and proceeded to hand role cigarettes and smoke.  Takes all kinds…

Eventually Marsh and David joined us and we started towards Mendocino.  There was lots of up and down, just enough to make the legs hurt.  Chris hung onto our wheel like a madman.  Both he and Nancy would groan when we tried to power over the rollers, good fun!  Eventually, we made it to Mendocino and found an inn to stay at.  There were no motels.  We walked into town, bought souvenir sweatshirts and hit a burger joint for dinner.  We had burgers and great homemade fries.  Chris had two beers to drink and then told me I looked two months pregnant!  Don’t know where that one came from, a good laugh and a good reason to make him suffer more tomorrow!

Day 6: May 23, 1997 – Mendicino – Bodega Bay, 100 miles, 15.0 MPH, 5570 feet

We got up early, had breakfast in the room and took off about 7am.  We had rolling hills in the early morning, with a really big hill out of Elk Creek.  Amongst the rolling hills we saw quite a few deer.

We stopped for water in Gualala and then stopped for lunch at Stewart’s Point.   We picked a nice spot for lunch and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  After we passed Fort Ross we went up a big climb right along the ocean – a great view, right along the edge.  There was quite of bit of climbing up and going back down, and then back up again.

Lunch

Lunch

We finally made it to Jenner and from there it was only 10 miles to Bodega Bay.  We stayed in a nice hotel, had some great seafood for dinner and headed to bed early.  The cumulative effect of the recent days is taking effect on us all.

Day 7: May 24, 1997 – Bodega Bay to San Francisco, 78 miles, 13.1 MPH, 3000 feet

We had a bit of a sleep in this morning and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast about 7:30.  Unfortunately they were quite rude in the restaurant, wanted to know if we had reservations and then told us it would be awhile before they could serve us.  So we took the hint and decided to eat breakfast on down the road in the next town, about 8 miles away.  It was raining, and started to rain really hard.

We stopped at a little grill in Valley Ford.  Quite a place – full of farmers waiting for the rain to pass over.  It was pretty small, we ended up in the back corner.  It did have great pancakes though.  By the time we left, the rain had let up quite a bit.  As we were leaving, Chris discovered he had broken a spoke!  He fixed it up and we were on our way.

We had some great riding, once the sun came out and we dried off a bit.  We rode around Tomales Bay, which was full of oyster beds and egrets.  We got a bit of extra time to view it after Chris got a flat. We stopped for milkshakes in Laquintas, and from there it was city riding the rest of the way, with lots of turns.  We finally made it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which lived up to its name.  Spectacular views.  There were lots of people walking across the bridge.  We stopped for pictures, and then made our way across.  At the other end of the bridge we ran into a cyclist who stopped to talk to us.  He ended up escorting us down to the wharf, which was very helpful.  From there we found our way to the hotel, where we got cleaned up.

We had to get our bikes to the train station early to make sure we could get them packed up for the next day’s trip back home, so we decided to do that in the afternoon.  We rode down to the Bart station and took the train out to Emeryville.  It took about 2 hours to get everything packed up.  From there we made our way back to the Bart station and headed back into the city.  From there Marsh headed out to meet up with some friends he was going to spend a few days with.  Chris and David had plans to meet some friends for dinner; so Dave and I headed out to a favorite sushi bar for a celebratory dinner.  We took the cable car back to the hotel to get the full San Francisco experience.

The next morning we headed back to Emeryville early to catch the train back to Oregon.  It was a great end to a great tour!

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