Chunky riding.Plus tires rule! (Also, Click here if you missed Part 1.)

The Coast Range is threaded with gravel roads: fine gravel, hard packed gravel, loose gravel, and in a few cases, ballast-like chunks of basalt that aren’t yet gravel. With our big balloon tires serving as shock absorbers, we happily pedaled along feeling confident and relaxed as we ambled up the endless peaks and down the troughs of the coast range. We found shade beneath ancient firs and blazing sun in clearcuts. Dipping into valley bottoms we forded sparkling streams and rode miles of ridgeline roads without a drop of water.

Can you see the tiny rider in the picture?

The primary paved routes that cars take to the beach all follow the major river valleys are narrow and direct, but congested. The combination of gravel, twists, gates, and single-track riding meant that we could thread through places vehicles couldn’t. That kept the traffic down to the locals and loggers. It also had the interesting effect of creating moments of extreme quiet, where only the crunching of rock under our wheels could be heard.

When a vehicle approached, there would initially be an imperceptible increase in sound until one of us was woken from our pedaling trance and became aware of its presence. “CAR BACK,” someone would shout and we’d scoot to the side of the road as a pickup, log truck, or other work vehicle would wave and leave us in a cloud of dust.

Making it to the beach was a literal low point.

Our route was anything but direct. We climbed in and out of multiple watersheds each day. Our progress was so convoluted, at times I felt like a sailboat tacking back and forth into the wind just to go straight ahead. The slowness was enthralling. I didn’t think about time, I just enjoyed pedaling, and stopping to take in the scene, to examine a big tree, to pick blackberries, and to simply be. Andy would set up his camp chair, I’d get out my sketch book and watercolor paints, Vince would stare up at an old growth tree in wonder.

Vince ponders the imponderable.

The state of affairs was epitomized the afternoon we discovered a reservable campground deep in the woods. The vehicle gate was locked, but being on bicycles, we simply pedaled around it. Its bulletin board noted that the whole place could be rented for $200. At a tree-studded campsite, we spread our odd assortment of lunch goods (tuna pouch, peanut butter and honey, tortillas) on its picnic table and marveled at the massive trees flanking an ice-cold stream burbling behind us. We ate in companionable silence with an occasional outburst about how someone would rent the site for their big event, or how marvelous it was that nobody else was here on such a sunny, pleasant day. No thought was given to the volume of rain that pummels this place for the other 11.5 months a year, but summer bike trips are not about practicality.

Eventually the trance was broken and we pedaled on, knowing that we’d find some other off-beat place to camp later. This pattern continued for six days. It didn’t really matter where we went, the magic was in the motion.

Note puffy pillow on back of bike!

But when we got there, wherever there was, we had everything we could need or want: a six pack of beer, a bunch of cookies, a can of ravioli, two actual paper books, a big solar panel, and most importantly, good company. It was glorious.