NOTE 23 January 2014: New posts are no longer posted to this blog. New stuff at my new blog, Please go there! All old and new posts are there, and you can also comment, too!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts on my 2012 tours: PDX-Olympia-Astoria, June

Hello friends! Over the next week or so, I'm going to share thoughts and conclusions from the three tours I've taken this year. Hope you enjoy. 

The PDX-Oly-Astoria Tour was a weird beast. It wasn't a really big or epic tour, like the Cross-Con Tour of 2011. But it was the first tour that I took since the four and a half month expedition last summer. So this would be the tour that I would find out if I still liked all this touring business.

Since I already knew the answer (yes), the stakes weren't that high. The big hurdles for this tour were:
  • To see how my revised setup for 2012 would work. 
  • To see how it would be like to tour solo again. The last time I toured by myself was in 2010.
As for the tour itself, the main reason I decided to do it was to go to the Olympia Comix Fest, not because of any burning desire to ride the route. The distance between Olympia I had biked a few times before. And truth be told, it's sort of boring. A nice kind of boring, as there is some nice bucolic countryside that the route traverses, but it isn't in the league of biking along the Coast, through the Cascades, around the Puget Sound, etc. That's why I decided to spice it up a little bit: try some different roads on the way up to Olympia, and go out to the Washington Coast. I would use a route to the coast (SR 6) that I hadn't been on before, and I would see a part of the Washington coast (the stretch between Raymond and Ilwaco) that I hadn't been to yet.
Rainbow Falls on the Chehalis River

So the ride itself was a success. My 2012 touring setup on the Long Haul Trucker, consisting of front panniers, handlebar (rando) bag, and Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag in rear worked great. It was less capacity than the big tour, and that was a good thing. Everything fit pretty well.

As for touring solo, well, you know it has its ups and downs, but it was overall good. It was nice to have some thinking alone time. Though I will admit there were many moments where I wished April was along, especially during some lonely nights camping.
As good as the scenery got. Near Vader, WA.

The route I picked was pretty decent. There was one stretch of I-5 between Woodland and Kalama that was about as thrilling as you would expect, but the alternative was a steep monster of a hill. The new routing that I worked out between Kelso-Longview and Olympia was pretty choice with the exception of Littlerock Road outside of Olympia, which given the choice I wouldn't ride on again. SR 6 through the Coast Range (or more specifically, the Willapa Hills, which this section of the range is known as) was great: quiet, decent pavement, mostly ample shoulder, and no major hills. I don't think I had to get into my granny gear the whole time on that road. 101 on the coast wasn't bad, low traffic and usually decent shoulder. As for the scenery, neither road delivered that much. On 6 it was forested or clearcut hills and teeny "towns", on 101 it was a mix of estuaries, forests, and clearcuts, as the road hugs Willapa Bay, not the "true" coast. I'm glad I did this section of the coast, and glad that I discovered another route to the coast (possibly the easiest one yet), but I doubt I'll be back soon.
Waiting out the rain, again. Outside of Castle Rock, WA.

As for the weather, well, it rained a bunch since this was early June and real summer weather is still a few weeks away. It never truly poured (though it came close on the ride into Raymond), more a typical heavy mist. I can recall only one dry day, and of course it was the "day off" in Olympia. Every other day had precipitation at some point. But hey, I'm a hardy Northwesterner, so I can deal.* And my gear dealed as well.

The only real bummer of the trip was my Warmshowers experience in Olympia. I don't like writing publicly about this stuff, since I don't want to come across as someone who badmouths hosts (especially to potential hosts who might check out this blog), but I feel I should mention the fact that my host told me that I was the only person she had hosted because she has ignored all other requests, which if you are part of the network, you are not supposed to do. I found that rude and childish. As for the experience itself, it was the stereotypical Olympia house crammed with students and the like. She never indicated that on her profile (and her profile also indicated I would be sleeping in a bed, which in reality was a couch). One could say at this point I'm nitpicking, and you might be right, but if things had "clicked" I would probably have ignored these things, but after talking with her for a bit I knew we weren't clicking. That's why when the opportunity to camp on the Saturday night with the other cartoonists, I jumped at it.
US 101 winding 'round Willapa Bay north of Ilwaco, WA

Despite that, I still thought it was a good tour. I got back into the rhythm of touring after eight months away. Sure the route was a bit boring, but for the this tour, it was a good thing. My next two tours would be much more challenging.

*Yeah, this is probably the point where you remind me I'm from Connecticut.

1 comment:

I'm no longer allowing new comments on this blog. You can comment on the exact same post on the new blog. Go find it over at

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.