Cycling the West Coast: An Adventure Begins [Day 1]

Luke Guilford | CycleCycle
Training rides in MHK
One of only a couple “training” rides. Photo Credit: Luke Guilford

Hi everyone, last summer, I spent 33 days cycling from Seattle, WA to Paso Robles, CA. All in all, I rode around 1,400 miles on my father’s old 1980-somethin’ Schwinn Peloton and camped in some of the most beautiful locations along the west coast.

For this series of posts, I will be rolling out old journal entries from the trip so we can relive the life-changing journey and, hopefully, it will provide you with some inspiration to seek your own adventure. 

A little background about myself and this trip. In May of 2022, I graduated college, and I had a little bit of time to explore before I started my “big-boy” job. At the time, I had a burning desire for a long endurance adventure, so I explored a variety of trips. I debated backpacking sections of some legendary trails in the US but ultimately decided that I wanted to hop on a bicycle. The west coast had my interest as it is a popular route for cyclists, and I fell in love with the coast the year before when I worked a gig out in Oregon.

Gear talk. As a broke college student, I excelled in thrifting and finding used gear on the internet. I didn’t have a road bike, so I was able to use my father’s old steel-frame Schwinn Peloton. Scouring the internet, I found used front and rear racks, panniers, and a backpacking tent. I kept the setup pretty basic, but looking back at it I could’ve gotten away with packing less. As you can see in the picture above, my bright blue dry bag contains the bulk of my camping gear, such as my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pillow. The rear panniers held a combination of clothes, a repair kit, food, and a drone. My front panniers typically stayed light, filled with random things like food, tools, lots of tubes, and a colorful glass float that has a fun story I will get to in later journal entries.

I had very little experience cycling prior to this trip. I think the most I had ever ridden was 40 miles when I joined my family on RAGBRAI for a dayMost of the riding I had done was mountain biking some cross-country mountain bike trails in the Midwest and some downhill riding in Colorado.

Did I train for this trip? No, not really. I did a couple of short test rides with the gear and called it good.

Now for the trip. The day is May 18th, 2022, and I just woke up at 3:30 am to catch a flight to Seattle.

Day 1

A great deal of pressure was relieved when I sat down on the plane this morning. I managed to get through security without too many hiccups. I don’t fly often so I had some things in my carry-on that should’ve been with my bike that was getting checked, one of those items was the adjustable wrench I planned on using to assemble my bike. TSA snatched my wrench since they have a limit of 7″ when it comes to the length of an adjustable wrench, and mine was 8″. Luckily, the Sea-Tac airport is for cyclists, as they have a bike station near the baggage claim.

Unboxing my bike at the Seattle airport.
Time to put this bike back together! Photo Credit: Luke Guilford

In typical Seattle fashion, it was raining when my plane landed. I looked like an absolute goof sliding around my bike box and other gear, as I went around looking for the bike station. The bike assembly went smoothly, and I managed not to forget anything. Time to wheel this thing outside and hit the road.

As I’m getting ready to take off into the rainy streets, a police officer stops me and suggests I take the link rail instead to get downtown. So, for my route for the day, I didn’t use Strava or any fancy mapping devices, I basically used Apple Maps and my Adventure Cycling Association map. For today it looked like this.

  • Sea-Tac Airport -> Downtown Seattle, WA (via link rail, big chillin’)
  • Downtown Seattle -> Kingston, WA Ferry Station -> (A nice boat ride, biking will start soon, I promise!)
  • Ferry Station -> Port Ludlow (15 miles and roughly 1,500 vertical feet of climbing)
My route for day 1. Rail system (green), ferry (blue), and cycling (red). Photo Credit: Google Maps

I made it into downtown Seattle, where I finally started biking, and my first stop became an REI to pick up some propane for my JetBoil. I had some time to kill before I was supposed to meet with my hosts for the night. Meandering around Seattle brought back incredible memories of my road trip last year where my girlfriend and I spent time walking all over the city. The more cycling I did, the more my nerves cooled down, and confidence built with every stroke of the pedal.

Time to cross the sound. I hopped on the fast ferry to Kingston, WA shortly after lunch. The smaller ferries sure sway, and bounce around a lot more than the giant, car-carrying ferries I took last summer. Nonetheless, the boat ride was beautiful and now I can start making some actual progress.

Fast Ferry
On the fast ferry Leaving Seattle. Photo Credit: Luke Guilford

I biked a leisurely 15 miles to just outside Port Ludlow, WA, to connect with my Warmshowers hosts for the night (Warmshowers is a non-profit that helps bike tourists find a place to stay and a hot meal). We had a really nice night, exchanging travel stories and eating a delicious meal of lingcod and homegrown produce. I am so grateful to have this stay to kick off my trip, my hosts got me so stoked to take on the challenge, and they provided me with wonderful words of wisdom. We ended the night discussing our “why:” why we seek out adventure, change, pain, beauty, and more. With years of cycling and adventure engraved in their souls, I could feel the excitement they had for my trip.

Today was a full day of living and probably one I will never forget… a true “core memory” as some may say. Nothing exhilarating or epic had happened, but with the new journey ahead, I can tell my life has changed for good. My adventure has begun, and now I have a lot of cycling to do, people to meet, beaches to nap on, and food trucks to eat. Tomorrow will bring a new day, and I will truly get a glimpse of what the road holds ahead for me. I plan on cycling roughly 70 miles to Hoodsport, WA!

Exploring Seattle's trails. Photo Credit: Luke Guilford
Exploring Seattle’s trails. Photo Credit: Luke Guilford

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