Author Topic: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip  (Read 3373 times)

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Offline lipsjochem

Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« on: February 19, 2018, 09:58:40 am »
Hi everyone!

I'm new to this forum/ACA in general, but have been an avid bike tourer for the last few years. This coming May, my partner and I will go on a new adventure through the US: it'll be my first time on a bike trip there, and it will be both her first time in the US and on a long bike trip in general. This means we could really use some advice with regards to the route and some general travel tips!

First off, we have about four to five weeks; four would be ideal as that would give us enough time to visit some relatives in LA with enough time to spare. We are both in our late twenties and reasonably fit: I toured with full luggage before, going through mountain passes of 2000m+ (~6500ft), but my partner has not, so we'll have to take into account that she might need some time to adjust. I expect us to average about 50 miles per day, less in the first week, hopefully more a little later on. We're looking to do a combination of (wild) camping (let's say about 75% of the time), couchsurfing/warm showers (about 15% of the time), and hotels/motels/B&Bs etc. (about 10%).

This brings me to the first question: What are, or how can I find, the rules and regulations with regards to wild camping for the states of Washington, Oregon, and California? Is it legal in certain circumstances, or generally accepted?

We had in mind to start off with the Pacific Coast trail, then depending on how things go, perhaps cross over to the Sierra Cascades route around Eugene, finally heading to SF over the Western Express trail. We both have a strong preference for this route as it would give us about a week of generally easy terrain before taking on the challenge of going through the mountains and we would get a lot of variety in scenery. However, I do wonder if it would be 'too much' within the time we have, and we'd have to see how my partner adjusts to going on a bike tour for longer than a few days (the most she has done so far).

What are the general experiences of people who have done (parts of) these routes before? I saw that the Sierra Cascades route will probably still be partially closed around May (around Crater Lake at least as far as I saw: https://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvisit/hours.htm), so we would have to take some small detours. Does anyone know of any alternative routes? How difficult is crossing over the Cascades around Eugene really, and how about the route that follows after that? I'm also wondering how much water we'd have to carry (or most miles/km in between water points).

Lastly, does anyone know if we could rent a car in SF to carry the bikes to LA with? Or would it be better to take a Greyhound/train? Ideally we'd rent a car with bike rack on the back, but I haven't been able to find anything like that online.

And of course, any other feedback/ideas/tips/questions would be most welcome. It'll be my first time taking a bike on a flight as well (used to just buy/sell/rent at the destination) so advice on that would be much appreciated.

A lot of questions as you can see, so thanks so much for any help!

Cheers!

Jochem
The Netherlands


Offline John Nettles

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Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2018, 10:16:42 am »
Welcome Jochem,

I will answer a few questions but not all.  Others will probably be able to provide more accurate answers.

Generally speaking, it is not legal to "wild camp" in the US on private land.  I would guess the majority of private land owners would not be happy to find you camping on their land. However, if you ask, many are willing to allow it.  Public lands may or may not allow it.  The vast majority of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is free and legal to camp on.  However, finding decent maps of the mostly unsigned land is a pain.  I am unfamiliar with state laws along the west coast regarding wild camping so can't help there.  However, along the coast, there are many state parks with "hike/biker" campsites, inexpensive camp sites in the state park reserved only for bikers and hikers.  So while not free, a pretty good deal.

Be sure to do the Pacific Coast going southbound as the prevailing winds will definitely favor you.  Also, the stretch between Monterey and Morro Bay south of SF is outstanding.

As far as experiences go, I would definitely suggest you check out the journals over on CrazyGuyonaBike.com.  That should give you a good idea.

Cars are easy to rent from SF to LA.  Easier but a little more expensive than Greyhound but you don't have to box the bikes. 

Hope this helps, John

Offline lipsjochem

Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2018, 01:28:37 pm »
Welcome Jochem,

I will answer a few questions but not all.  Others will probably be able to provide more accurate answers.

Generally speaking, it is not legal to "wild camp" in the US on private land.  I would guess the majority of private land owners would not be happy to find you camping on their land. However, if you ask, many are willing to allow it.  Public lands may or may not allow it.  The vast majority of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is free and legal to camp on.  However, finding decent maps of the mostly unsigned land is a pain.  I am unfamiliar with state laws along the west coast regarding wild camping so can't help there.  However, along the coast, there are many state parks with "hike/biker" campsites, inexpensive camp sites in the state park reserved only for bikers and hikers.  So while not free, a pretty good deal.

Be sure to do the Pacific Coast going southbound as the prevailing winds will definitely favor you.  Also, the stretch between Monterey and Morro Bay south of SF is outstanding.

As far as experiences go, I would definitely suggest you check out the journals over on CrazyGuyonaBike.com.  That should give you a good idea.

Cars are easy to rent from SF to LA.  Easier but a little more expensive than Greyhound but you don't have to box the bikes. 

Hope this helps, John

Hi John!

Thanks for the info! Indeed I do not expect one person to answer all the questions I have, so any bit of insight anyone could provide is welcome. I didn't know about the BLM land, but after a quick search I agree with your assessment about the maps. I will try and see if I can find some just for around the route.

A colleague at work who's been to the US several times now has told me that car rental companies won't allow you to store bikes in the back of a car without them being boxed. Is this generally true or did she just have some funny experience?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2018, 01:35:03 pm »
I do it all the time, almost on every tour.  Granted, I usually just walk/uber to the car rental and then take the car back to the hotel/campground and load up.  I also may use a cheap drop cloth, get a Home Depot or a hardware/paint store for $1-2, and put down first to prevent oil, water, etc. from staining.

Note:  Almost all bus companies do require boxing of bikes.  Amtrak, our train system (nothing compared to Europe's) has lots of trains that allow you to roll on the bike unboxed.  Most, but not all so be sure to check.

Hope this helps, John

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2018, 02:31:57 pm »
Amtrak, our train system (nothing compared to Europe's) has lots of trains that allow you to roll on the bike unboxed.  Most, but not all so be sure to check.

The Coast Starlight (train from San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles) has roll-on bike service for $20 per bike. If you are just worrying about getting from Point A to B at this point, it could be easier than car rental. And yes, our national rail system pales compares to Europe, but it will get you there!

Offline lipsjochem

Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2018, 01:34:26 am »
And getting there is the most important thing really, thanks for the advice guys! Sounds like renting a car or Amtrak would be preferable to taking a bus then.

I really hope someone can also give me some insight into the proposed routes; I'm also wondering if there is any hilly/mountainous route that we could do before arriving to Eugene (say, climbing more than 600m/2000ft) to give my partner a feeling for taking on a mountain pass. If it's too hard for her we could decide then and there to go back to the coast instead.

Offline Steel, my bike

Re: Seattle to San Francisco - 4/5 week trip
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2018, 01:43:35 pm »
My daughter and I rode the Sierra Cascade last June. The people we stayed with in N California said they toured only wild-camping with no issues. We stayed in campgrounds and with Warm Shower hosts which made for a great combination.
If you'd like more info I'd be happy to speak with you. Let me know if you want a phone number to call.
Bill