Lessons from Cycling the Oregon Coast

I’ve returned home from riding my bike along the Oregon Coast. It has certainly been a long trek, and while I’m not ready to go another 380 miles this next week, I can say that I had fun, and will likely go on future tours.

Distance Moving Time Elevation Strava Link
Totals 383.7 32:12:28 18,461
Day 1 45.3 3:55:06 2,180 Activity – 395076910
Day 2 44.7 3:51:03 1,988 Activity – 395840477
Day 3 59.8 5:05:38 2,429 Activity – 396811337
Day 4 62.1 4:52:56 3,131 Activity – 397449985
Day 5 55.7 4:27:54 2,364 Activity – 398907047
Day 6 59.9 5:16:48 2,814 Activity – 398907072
Day 7 56.2 4:43:03 3,555 Activity – 399560114

When I initially conceived of biking the coast I was in a groundless spot in life. This was early in the summer of 2014, and I was in the process of getting a divorce.

A major life changing event can make you realize that many of the assumptions you have been making in your day-to-day living are no longer relevant. For me, I started to examine everything and asking myself questions like:

  • “Do you really like the house you are living in? How about the city?”
  • “Are you happy with the job you have?”
  • “Are you living up to your full potential?”
  • “Are you actively pursuing your passions?”

My initial reaction to the divorce was to leave the house, sell all my belongings, and move to a new city. In short, lose myself and find a new me. But as I examined these aspects of my life, and those underlying motives for change, I realized it wasn’t the shedding of old skin that I wanted, rather what I needed was to rediscover old passions and amplify forgotten, or under-used talents.

This means finding and improving one’s core self – and is much different from maintaining the status-quo. Part of this self introspection had now turned into a visceral need to test myself against something much larger than me. I was out to prove something.

So I turned to biking. One night over drinks I voiced a half-formed, half-joking thought of biking the coast, not really knowing what that entailed. The more I thought about it though, the more it felt like a good step.

So I started small. Since I work remotely, I began to force myself to commute. I would throw my laptop into a bag and ride seven to ten miles into Portland and set to work in one of the many coffee shops. This meant I was logging anywhere from 16 to 20 miles on my bike any day that I was commuting.

Repeating this as my new daily rhythm meant I was logging 80 to 100 miles per week on my bike, and so the prospect of a larger tour didn’t seem so impossible.

Granted, there is a sizeable difference between 100 and 380 miles in a week, but when an idea is large and far off, it is easier to squint your eyes and gloss over the differences. So planning was easy, and my routes were mostly the same paths I ended up riding.

So what did you learn?

I like going fast. Those long slow climbs are not as fun as they say, though really I suppose I have never heard anyone say that they enjoy the climbs. Some of my favorite times on the trip included coasting on the long descents with the wind at my back (Top speed of 47mph on Day 4 — Yes!).

I like the Southern Coast. Much of the Oregon Coast is beautiful, but I must say that I really was taken away by the beauty south of Port Orford. Many of the awesome geological formations that I love in the north, like Haystack rock in Cannon Beach could be seen everywhere.

Things are more fun when surrounded by good people. When I initially started to tell people I would be doing this, I was hoping, but not expecting many people to join. While I was the only person in our group to cycle the coast, things were made so much more pleasant by having my parents and girlfriend along to share morning coffee and evening campfires.

But most of all, I’ve learned the importance of aiming high and finding ways to surprise yourself.

Before starting the trip I knew I could do it. I was cocky, and didn’t really know what was to come on my first cycling tour.

On the third day, on a stop for water in Lincoln City my outlook had changed and I knew I certainly couldn’t finish. I had ten more miles for that day, and around 250 for the rest of the trip. My muscles were sore, and my butt was aching. I now had a more realistic understanding of what I had undertaken.

Still, worrying about large challenges isn’t helpful, so I pushed through and finished that day. I slept. And I finished the next day. And slept. I inched to the top of each cape and bombed each descent. By the end of day 7, I was within 20 miles of the border and I got my first flat of the trip. I fixed it and peddled on. I crossed the border and finished something I knew I couldn’t do.

I look back a couple of weeks after finishing, and still can’t quite believe that I finished. That first week back – my butt was still a little sore, but my muscles were mostly better, if just a bit tight. But now, something I thought was impossible, is now just impressive.

This change in perception has secondary benefits as well. My horizons are wider. Instead of a list of impossible tasks, and unrealistic dreams , I now have a much longer list of ‘impressive’ possibilities.