Sounding Off: Biking 1,500 miles along the coast

In 37 days, traveling roughly 1,500 miles, I bicycled solo from Portland, Ore., to my home town of Corona del Mar.

The idea of bicycle touring — traveling long distances via bicycle for recreational enjoyment — has pedaled around the back of my mind over the last two years as a distant goal. This past May I joined the ranks of the unemployed and found myself in a unique situation. With summer around the corner and an open schedule I realized that although a door had been closed, a window was now open for me to accomplish a personal goal — to set out on a bike tour along the Pacific Coast.

There are many positive elements to bike touring that attracted me to the idea of biking down the West Coast. In an eco-conscious world, biking has become a logical alternative to fuel powered transportation. It is in this way that a traveler not only becomes self-dependent but also minimizes any negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Another appealing element was the health benefit that comes with a daily workout routine. The last ingredient that inspired me to turn this adventure into a reality was the excitement of traveling on my own, not knowing what was to come, and without a set schedule or definite timeline to follow. With these ideas in mind I put the wheels in motion to hit the road and begin my travels down the coast.

In preparing for my trip I found that we live in a time and place that nurtures experience-oriented travelers more than ever before. With Internet-based, hospitality-sharing communities, like couchsurfing.org, individuals can share their homes or request lodging from others at no cost while promoting travel. Throughout my trip I was able to stay with 10 different hosts whom I had never met before other than through the aforementioned website.

The kind people who took me into their homes ranged from adult individuals to families, were of all age groups, and shared the curious and open nature that is found in the hearts of all travelers. It was these people, along with fellow explorers I met at campsites or enthusiastic strangers I encountered along the coastline, who made my trip better than I could have ever imagined.

Traveling south along the coast has given me many stories to tell of free couches in warm homes, of strangers inviting me to their campsites for dinner and of random instrumental jam sessions with other bicyclists. Along the way I mainly utilized Highway 101 in Oregon and Highway 1 in California. Except for some small stretches, these highways are legal roads for cyclists and, although sometimes heavily trafficked and without shoulder, are the recommended route for those who want to bicycle along the Pacific Coast. The risks involved in biking alongside automobiles, which can be minimized with reflectors, lights and a properly fitted helmet, are mitigated by the beauty of the diverse scenery found along the West Coast.

Throughout my travels, I was able to experience the raw nature and pristine landscapes that make up the coastline. Large parcels of land have been left undisturbed by man due to state or federal protection and are open for the public to respectfully appreciate. Cyclists can enjoy these areas in a unique way because the pace of travel on a bicycle is slow enough to allow for all senses to become fully saturated by the surroundings while moderate distances are still covered.

As I pedaled forward I made my way through lazy pastures, climbed mountains that gave way to epic views, carved in and out of rolling sand dunes, lumbered through redwood forests that hinted of unattainable wisdom and cruised through flat desert land — all the time hugging the coast and building a long-term relationship with the infinite expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

When I first embarked on my journey I didn't know all that was in store for me. I knew that there would be a lot of biking and countless Snicker bars, but I had no idea how valuable this trip would be. I learned that personal will can conquer any obstacle. I found that a stranger can be a friend in just a few words. In fact, if a normal guy like me can bike 1,500 miles without getting a single flat tire, then anything is possible. I believe that these things are not extraordinary and I hope can be appreciated by all.

HENDRIK BROEKELSCHEN lives in Corona del Mar.

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