I was first in line to order a copy of Cycling Sojourner by Ellee Thalheimer and I am happy for it. If you are looking to do some self-supported touring or bikepacking in Oregon, I highly recommend this book. It passed several of my sceptic-minded tests.
So. My tests of bike packing recommendation sanity:
The Oregon Coast When I moved to Oregon, having just ridden a large part of La Route Verte in Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula (my first real tour!), touted as being second only to the Oregon Coast Bike Route, in, I suppose, bicycle-touring perfection, I was excited to make the Oregon Coast the first big tour I would do. Thankfully I met some seasoned cyclists before summer started and that they warned me that the Oregon Coast is not all it is cracked up to be. Now that I seen the Oregon Coast between Newport and Florence, I would agree. So when the Oregon Coast was included in the Cycling Sojourner, I was worried that this would be another book of unsuitable tours. I was quickly proved wrong. The subtitle for the Oregon Coast section of the book is “Did someone get the number of that logging truck?”:
“[While] the coast embraces cyclists as a part of her touristscape, she doesn’t totally understand what they need (like low-traffic roads; hold the thousands of logging trucks and RVs, please.) [… Know] that you are signing up for some gnarly traffic, some non-existent shoulders and RVs that don’t know how large they really are. If you want remote, ideal roads for cycling with awesome (non-coastal) landscapes, look to other routes in this book.” [pp. 46-47]
Ellee Thalheimer clears the Oregon Coast hurdle.
Crater Lake Rim Last summer, my partner and I rode to Crater Lake and left it in the air whether, once we got there, we would ride all the way around the rim, or just the requisite section to get from north to south. No way. Traffic was bumper to bumper in both directions. No shoulder. Shoulder crumbling away into a cliff drop of hundreds to thousands of feet. Tourist gorvers passing when they REALLY SHOULDN’T. So, when I saw the entire rim as part of the tour, I was again worried. And again, not for long:
If for some reason you are doing this ride during peak tourist season, be aware that the road shoulders are tiny, the road winds a lot and tourists tend to gape at Crater Lake while driving. [p. 122]
Chastised, tail between my legs. That warning is not strong enough though. The ten or so miles we had to traverse were the scariest miles of my life. But I’ll give Thalheimer the benefit of the doubt. She has likely been wiser to ride this in the off-season.
Route Design I have prided myself on how many awesome routes I have found in the scant three years of touring I have done. I’ve learnt a lot along the way. How to find out which roads are paved is non-trivial. Finding where the campsites are along your route is also non-trivial. So I was happy to see that I’d discovered the same route between Crater Lake and Ashland. And encouraged to see a warning I would give:
The six miles that you ride on Hwy 140 grate on the nerves due to heavy traffic and to the fact that up until this point the tour has spoiled you rotten. The climb during this section seemed harder than more difficult climbs on the tour because of the whooshing vehicles. [p. 123]
The “butt-kicking connector” from Oakridge is also how we travelled south to Crater Lake:
[The] three-hour climb begins on roads that redefine what a bicycle tourist might consider remote. The gradient is relentless for miles […] but the ridgeline is ultra-picturesque. After 20 miles of non-stop ascending there’s a […] spirited plunge [to] opalescent pools and perfect campsites [that] test the decision to roll on. [Brian Wilson, p. 109]
Buy it Having passed the hurdles, I got excited by the routes in this book that I haven’t done, even though it means giving up the pleasure of designing the routes myself. The book is written by a self-supporting bicycle tourer for self-supporting bicycle tourers. The pages rip out along perforations and provide cue sheets and maps that will fit in a front pouch or back pocket. Many many camping options are included as well as warnings for water and food availability. I’m planning on the Cascade Classic this summer.
So go get the book. It’s worth every penny.