Wait, did you go somewhere?
Over seven weeks of biking, my wife (Anne) and kids (Ruth, age 5, and Max, age 2) biked down the west coast of the United States. We started in Vancouver, BC, and finished at the Mexican border south of San Diego, CA. We stayed in hotels, but were otherwise unsupported. We carried what we needed, and resupplied from local stores. According to Strava, we traveled 1934 miles and climbed 98,943 feet.
So how’d it go?
Really well. We hit our target every day, which meant we didn’t have to adjust any hotel reservations. The weather cooperated, mostly. The biggest mechanical issue was a single flat tire, and the biggest medical issue was probably scraped knees on the kids from playing too hard at a playground.
Are there bike paths down the entire coast?
No. There were a few sections with separated bike paths, but most of the miles were spent on roads and highways. In particular, we became very good friends with US 101 and CA 1.
Did you have sponsors? Were you fundraising for something?
No, this was a family vacation.
Wasn’t it hard with the kids?
Yes, although not quite in the way I had expected. It turned out that the biking was the easy part. I mean, sure, it’s a lot of work to pull the kids and all our gear up hills. But really you just shut up, find your rhythm, and keep pedaling. And the kids were pretty cooperative with getting in the trailers and staying in them for most of the day.
The hard part was bedtime. Anne and I were tired from biking all day, and just wanted a shower, a meal, and a bed. Ruth was often tired, since she could help with the pedaling, but still kind of restless. Max, who had sat in the trailer all day, just wanted to play.
At first, we tried to do our normal bedtime routine, with putting both kids to bed. But it turns out you can’t just command a two year old to go to sleep. Ruth would be mostly ready for sleep, but then Max would rile her back up again.
Eventually, we found a modified routine, where I would take Max for a walk while Anne read Ruth her bedtime story. When I came back, Ruth would be halfway to sleepy land, and we could focus on Max. Sometimes, he still wasn’t quite ready, so I’d take him for another walk.
Take me through a typical day
Wake up between 7:00 and 8:00 am. Lounge around for a bit and get breakfast, usually from the hotel lobby. By about 9:00 am, we could get serious about getting dressed, packed, and loaded up. We’d let Ruth watch TV and try to keep Max from wandering off while we got the bikes ready outside.
At about 10:00 am, we’d be ready to roll out. At about 12:30 pm we’d start thinking about lunch, hopefully with at least 20 miles behind us. We picnicked every day, with sandwiches purchased either the night before or earlier that morning from a grocery store, deli, gas station, whatever we could find. Depending on what was available, we might eat in a city park with a playground, or a state beach with some picnic table, or on the ground at a pullout on the side of the road.
Then back on the road. Other than lunch, we usually didn’t stop for more than a few minutes at a time for pictures, a snack, a breather, or the restroom. We’d arrive at the hotel for the night sometime around 5:00 or 6:00. Anne and Ruth checked us in while I kept Max entertained. Then we’d figure out how to get all our stuff into the room.
Shower for the grownups and figure out dinner. Most days we’d walk to a nearby restaurant, then a grocery store to resupply food for the next day. If there was a pool at the hotel and we could find the time and energy, we’d go for a swim.
That would take us to 9:00-10:00 pm. After a bit of prep, I’d take Max out for a walk while Anne did bedtime with Ruth. Then, I’d return and help with bedtime for Max and work on the day’s writeup. I finished up around midnight most nights, then promptly fell asleep.
How was the weather?
Really good. We hit some scattered showers in the north, but only one day that was fully rainy. It wasn’t windy or cold, though, which is what can make rain miserable.We trained in far worse conditions. Just when we were thinking about shipping some rain gear home, we caught a bit more rain near San Francisco.
There were windy days, too, especially in northern California. Sometimes we got a nice tailwind, sometimes head, and sometimes from all directions. The worst was probably a steep climb with crosswind in the switchbacks.
We hit some heat in Big Sur, but further south it largely cooled as the sky was often overcast.
Any close calls?
The scariest moment was north of Fort Bragg, when a pair of big dogs ran onto the road, getting to within a foot of Ruth in her trailer. They didn’t chase us for long, though. The stretches of Highway 1 / PCH between Malibu and Santa Monica, then later through Laguna Beach were by far the worst time on the road. Lots of traffic, two lanes in each direction, narrow enough that we needed to take the lane. That would have been fine by itself, but the drivers were incredibly angry. Lots of honking and shouting obscenities. Even pedestrians got in on the shouting.
For food and lodging, the closest call was our arrival in Klamath. The convenience store / restaurant / hotel office closed at 7:00 pm. We rolled up at 6:56 pm and checked in and bought microwavable dinner
I’m already jonesing for more. I’ve caught Anne talking about “when” we do trans-America, not “if”, although she insists she’s talking about retirement. I’d guess we’ll do some weekends, and maybe a weeklong trip somewhere relatively local next summer. Then maybe something in Europe in two or three years. We’ll have to figure out what to do when Max outgrows the Chariot.