Dan Stranahan is a Bedrock ambassador who travels often by bike in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Read about Dan's adventure by boat, bike, train, and more from Washington state to Bedrock Sandals HQ and back.
The trip started as an idea: A multi-state bikepacking trip using as many travel options as I could, other than flights and a personal car. Then came a rare opportunity.
My dad, an avid sailor asked if I wanted to help him sail his 33ft wooden boat from Washington State to the California Bay Area in July. I was excited at the chance to experience the open ocean without the burden of boat ownership.
I quickly said yes.
By mid July, I had boxed up my mountain bike and shipped it to the bay, packing my climbing gear just in case. I left the dock at 2am with no plan other than getting to San Francisco, and pedaling from there.
After setting off on a trip, things have a way of falling into place. I was able to resole my Cairns just in time, putting a Vibram scented breath of life into my elderly webbing. After hearing from Dan about the Re-Sole Project, I wondered: Was the process streamlined enough that others would take the time to send in their old sandals? Did the webbing really outlast the soles long enough for it to be worth it? When I stopped in, the crew was able to resole my sandals on the spot. To date, my original cairn webbing is still kicking strong. I even gave my old soles to an old friend, who put new webbing on them for another chapter of his adventures.
Before rounding the NW tip of the Olympic Peninsula, we made our last stop in the small fishing town of Neah Bay, WA. I sat down in front of the community gym, and logged onto a spotty wifi network. There, drifting in the sea of bikepacking hype was the detailed route guide for the Oregon Timber Trail.
Leaving Neah Bay, I wrestled over how I would get to and from the Timber Trail. In the end, I sailed, rode the bus, Amtrak, BART, crammed my bike in the back of friends cars, and it worked. It often felt like climbing a ninja-warrior wall of logistical hurtles, but every bit worth the reward.
Below is a guide to the ins-and-outs of moving through the U.S.A., with a bikepacking rig and no car. My hope is that maybe, if given vague pointers more will take the leap from their front door.
Boats can be bike friendly. If your journey is coastal, bike fees for ferries are often little more than the cost of walking aboard. Plus, a ferry ride can be an incredible way to experience a new place. For nautically oriented riding Check out areas like Washington State (The San Juan Islands, specifically), the CA bay area, Catalina Island, The Great Lakes, British Columbia, Alaska, etc.
Scan local port bulletin boards and craigslist for “crew wanted” ads. Make some money while you get from A to B. In this case I had a family connection, though I’ve known other intrepid tourers to get spontaneous sailing crew jobs in the middle of their tour.
The Amtrak system can be tricky to navigate and a little disorganized, but bike-friendly in the end. Your bike generally falls under the category of “checked baggage,” though the fee, and whether or not you will have to box up your bike (don’t sweat-boxes are large, and bikes don’t require extensive tear-down) depends on a few things: The stations your traveling through, your tire size, (more likely to need a box w/ tires larger than 2.0) how full the train is, which route you’re on and who is helping you.
Lots of variables! So call the stations you plan on using to get their specific info, and show up early. Once I showed up, my experience was smooth. I arrived at the Jack London Square station in Oakland, and despite the Amtrak website, and what friends told me the person at the concierge was able to load my 3.0-tire bike onto the Pacific Starlight without boxing or removing bags, for around $20. Standard practice? A kind act of touring karma? I have no idea. Please find out and report back.
Apps like Warm Showers, reaching out to old friends, and crowdsourcing info via social media fostered many connections en route. Throughout the trip I shared what I had, and was gifted many things. I often trading my own skills and time for things like borrowing a car to run errands, an address to ship bikes to, etc. The depth of the human instinct to help was profound. And what do you, as bicycle guerilla camper have to give? A postcard? A tune up for your pals neglected klunker? Buying dinner?
This may seem obvious, and it’s value can’t be overstated…Friends and strangers have so much to offer, and you may have more to share than you think.
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