Last Thoughts - Taring Down the Coast - CycleBlaze

Last Thoughts

What has changed and what remains the same.

I particularly would like to make these events present and accessible to parents of teenagers, and also as a support and strategy tool for any teen's dreaming of the big adventure no matter the venue.

"Kids alone on the road today?"  I am asked and I ask myself if unchaperoned teens could safely make a similar bicycle journey down the Pacific Coast today.  My answer is YES! I rode the Oregon coast in 2007 and parts highways 101 and 1 in Northern and Central California in 2008.  It is far safer now than 1963.  There are now cell phones and other electronic means of communications to use in emergencies and just staying in touch.  The logging industry is all but abandoned so there are very few logging trucks, although the wood chip hauling trucks, which transport the ground up third and fourth growth trees, need to be given great respect due to their extreme width and buffeting side winds they create.  The roads are better and wider, and motorists in general have more experience dealing with touring cyclists.  

What with the raising cost of gasoline, cycle-tourism is a welcome growth industry in strapped coastal towns where fishing and logging are in steep decline.  There are inexpensive hiker/biker campgrounds in hosted state parks every forty miles or so up and down the coast.  The big cities have bike lanes, bikeways, and youth hostels.  There are churches that love to put adventurous young people up for the night.. I have met a number of solo adult women riders who seem to do just fine.  Adventure Cycling Association has developed very detailed maps that are constantly updated with current road conditions and services offered along the way.

I have tried to show how public officials and just ordinary people along the way helped us and even protected us.  There were others encounters with helping folks mostly so fragmentary in my memory that I can't give them a real story here.  I am sure there were still others not seen that made our trip safer and more fulfilling.  If there were real dangers, either natural or human surrounding us, apart from the log trucks, we were unaware of them.  

As I stated in the beginning of this journal much has changed since 1963.  But the beaches are just as beautiful as ever and so are the mountains.  I have found if you are willing to take the time to listen and ask meaningful questions the people you meet will go out of their way to give a bicyclist information as to where the most interesting and "real" places are in their area.  On the advice from just such an encounter I left all my gear at Bullard Beach State Park in Oregon a few summers ago and took a forty mile day ride around the beautiful Coquille Valley.  I saw a working timber mill and log pond complete with the tiny tugboats pushing the logs into place.  There was a mom and pop diner with a logger stack of pancakes on the menu (The price is no longer 50¢.) and even a few loggers were seated.  There were beautiful farms and cranberry bogs.  This was very much the Oregon I rode through fifty years earlier.  

By far and away the most dramatic changes have taken place from the San Francisco Bay south to San Diego.  Much of Hwy 101 is now freeway and although it may be legal now to ride on some freeways, it is not much fun.  There are country roads to bypass the freeway.  The Salinas Valley, which is known as the "salad bowl" of the United States is very impressive farm country and is a worthy alternative route if you have already ridden the Big Sur Coast or as is often the case a landslide closes a section of Hwy 1.

US Route 101, the highway of my childhood, and named The Pacific Coast Highway is now officially State Route 1, then it was US 101 Alt.  North of Santa Barbara it became Camino Real, in Northern California it was called the Redwood Highway, then the Oregon Coast and Washington Coast highways.  But it was all US Route 101, and it was our original intention to ride it exclusively.  (In West Coast English 101 is pronounced one-oh-one not, one zero one or one hundred and one.)  By my calculations this grand road connecting the entire west coast of the United States only existed as a completed highway from Olympia, Washington to  Tijuana, Mexico for a little over ten years.  Our ride had some of the symbolism of the movie "Brother Where Art Thou."  As we neared the end of our ride the surveyor stakes lined Hwy 101 and heavy machinery was already tearing up parts of the highway for the new Interstate 5 as we neared San Diego.  And with it the world that it connected was lost to the flood waters of progress.  

Robert Ewing -Western Flyer, 2008/2018

Oh, how glad and happy when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away

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