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Saturday, May 19, 2012

How bike tours are sometimes born

When people think about "bike touring" they tend to think in the more epic scale. They picture the Pacific Coast, the Trans-America route, round the world expeditons. Some sort of scenic destination. These are tours that happen because the genesis of the idea of the trip is the bike tour itself.

But there is the converse. There are tours that happen not because of the act of touring, but because one might want to go to a specific destination. This may be a destination that one would typically drive, take Amtrak, a bus ride, or even fly to. These are destinations that might not speak "bike tour", per se.

But the benefit (or problem) for someone like me is that I can't just go somewhere. After touring for so long, I find that going somewhere--anywhere--is an excuse for a bike tour. These tours may not look super-exciting on paper, but that's not always the point.

Two weeks from today on Saturday June 2nd is the Olympia Comics Festival. This small comics event has been going on for over a decade and I've been to it several times before. But I haven't been thinking too much about comic and zine events over the past few years, so it didn't register until my friend Fiona mentioned it. Hmm, could I go? Should I go? After thinking about it for a couple days, I decided yes, I should. Here's the very cogent reasons that won me over:

  • I haven't been to Olympia in two years. We passed by the outskirts last year on the Cross-Con Tour last year, but didn't go into town. Olympia is the kind of town I like to visit every year or two for about a day or two. Other Cascadian towns that fall into that category are Eugene, Corvallis, and Bellingham.
  • It would give me a deadline for finishing up some comix projects that have been sitting on the backburner the past few months.
  • I would get to see other comix friends like Jason Shiga and Shannon Wheeler.
  • I would be able to sell comix and zines to people.
  • And most importantly, it would give me an excuse to go on a bike tour!
Now this isn't the first time I toured from the Comics Fest. The last time I visited in 2008 I took Amtrak up to Olympia then rode back to Portland. This was soon after I purchased my beloved Long Haul Trucker and I wanted a good opportunity to test it.

So now the first tour of the year is going to happen soon. Totally by accident.

The last week or so I've been in the planning stages for this tour. I have about a week to play with, right after the big Cycle Wild Memorial Day camping trip to Silver Falls and right before the beginning of Pedalpalooza on Thursday June 7th. I could take the train up (or back) and do the tour as a one-way excursion, but I feel like I want more riding than that, since Olympia is only about 130 miles from Portland, about two days of riding. 

I'll ride up following a fairly well worn route that I've been on before to Olympia with some minor modifications. This area, while not spectacularly scenic by any means, is pleasant enough with bucolic rolling hills, quiet roads, and enough small towns to keep me stocked up. There are two primary ways one can ride north following the I-5 corridor, one mapped by Adventure Cycling and one the Seattle-to-Portland annual ride. I'll use a mix of both depending on what I'm feeling, but I will definitely cross the Columbia River at Vancouver rather than use the more common crossing at Longview, WA. I've done that bridge once and that's enough, thank you. I'll probably stay with a few warmshowers hosts on the way up and allow myself two days in Olympia: one for lolygagging, one for the comix fest.

Now I could just simply come back to Portland the way I came, but that would be too boring for me. So I'm adding a twist. I'll come back south as far as Chehalis, WA and then head westward to the coast via Washington Route 6. I've been meaning to explore this rural highway (and the partially-finished rail-trail that parallels it) for awhile, as it sounds like it's the "holy grail" out to the coast: low traffic volumes, decent shoulders, a low summit over the Coast Range, and fairly scenic. 6 joins US 101 at Raymond, so I'll take 101 south towards the Oregon border/Columbia River. This part of the Washington coast is also unexplored territory, so it would be nice to finally check it out.

The only real uncertainty on this tour so far is the end-point. This all depends on timing and energy, as I'd like to be home Wednesday night (June 6) so I'm fresh for Pedalpalooza. Also, April is staying home so I don't want to be away too long. I want to spend a little time in Astoria and from there I'll either ride home or take a bus the rest of the way. We'll see.

I'll keep you updated as things progress. I plan on departing Portland on Wednesday May 30th.


  1. Sweet!!! Brother,I can't wait to read all about it :D

    Also and a side not,Nick's school lets out for Summer vacation this sometime soon you can read about our first bike-camp/mini-tours I hope :D

    The DC

  2. YES! i'm looking forward to the ride report from Chehalis: when I discovered that trail a couple of months ago it seemed delightful. Have a great trip!


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