20 May, 2018

The Depart

A day late but close enough:

As per my usual approach to travel, I'm sat in Heathrow Terminal 3 flicking through the pages of Spring and Kirkendall's "Bicycling the Pacific Coast, 4th Edition", forced finally to do some planning and to turn my attention to the issue of where I'm going to be sleeping for the next 4 weeks.

S&K is regarded as the Bible for cyclists heading down the west cost of America, the richly detailed route guides and authoritative tone inspire a feeling of safety and confidence that has been lacking over the last few days. I've had a busy week since finishing work on Friday and in combination with a last minute rush around the Walworth Road in search of materials with which to pack my bike (hopefully stashed safely in the hold within an enormous clear plastic bag as per the recommendations of many grizzled touring cyclists), I've been left with little motivation to flesh out my itinerary beyond "Arrive Seattle. Go South". A consistent theme running amongst the snippets of advice I've received from fellow cyclotourers is that the plan is always the first victim of a touring trip. This also sits harmoniously with my usual approach to travel in which planning anything beyond the next 24 hours is considered a folly.

This trip involves a lot of firsts for me including my first time travelling alone, my first time cycle touring and my first time camping for a significant length of time in a foreign country. Whilst I'm a confident rider courtesy of a few years of London commuting and extensive mountain and road riding experience, I am fundamentally a casual cyclist and the thought of a long journey complete with 20kg of gear is both exhilarating and daunting.

Not more than 10 pages in to S&K however and my confidence has been restored. Cycle touring on the West coast is told as a story of cheap and plentiful hiker-biker campsites, gentle terrain and stunning views, the route studded liberally with wood-clad seaside towns, civil war memorials and national parks. Relieving news.

The only concrete commitment I've made is to book an Airbnb in the Seattle suburb of Burien for the evening of my arrival. I've travelled without a tent and other camping supplies that couldn't be brought on the flight so a trip to the nearest outdoor megastore needs to be scheduled before I can escape to the wilderness. At £40 for the night it wasn't as cheap as I would have liked but there's last minute planning for you.

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