Victoria to San Francisco by Bike: A Photo Diary
Madeline and Maxim, one of the Victoria Wheeler’s Racers, just got back from a bike trip where they rode from Victoria, B.C. to San Francisco, CA., camping along the way. This was only their second time doing an overnight trip by bike, the first being a loop of Whitby Island earlier in the summer, and neither of them knew what to expect from a longer trip.
Right before they left, Maxim found his grandpa’s old film SLR camera, put new batteries and some film in it, and decided to take photos along the way. He had never shot film before and didn’t even know if the camera worked properly, but luckily the photos turned out.
Here they are (click to enlarge and browse through) – enjoy!
The trip started with taking the 6:10am ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. We were greeted with blue skies and warm weather as we rolled out of town. There is a bike-only route called the Olympic Discovery Trail that heads east and west out of Port Angeles, but in an effort to cover as much ground as possible we stuck to the road. This turned out to be a good decision, as the road passing Crescent lake had been recently re-paved, and gave us our first ripping descent of the trip. If you have never cornered hard on loaded bikes, you are missing out! With extra weight on the bike and bigger tires (I was running 40mm tubeless slicks) you are stuck like glue to the road. Unfortunately as we neared the coast the good weather wasn’t about to stick around…
As soon as we hit the coast, we entered Western Washington drizzle and did 3 big (140km+) days to get through Washington as quickly as possible. With only salal, logging trucks, and the occasional depressed forestry town to distract us from riding, the distance passed quickly. The persistence paid off, and we were rewarded with the first sunshine since Port Angeles on our first morning in Oregon. There is nothing like sun to lift the spirits!
That night the mist and rain would roll in again, and stuck around for the next few days on the Oregon Coast. Despite the weather, riding along cliff faces and up and down headlands was an amazing experience.
As we moved further into Oregon we began seeing fewer depressed lumber towns, and more vacation / retirement towns. Canon beach, one of the closest points on the coast to Portland, was the start of this. For once, we could find good coffee!
The hills just south of Crescent City were the most challenging of the trip. A steep grade and fog combined with no shoulder and heavy truck traffic made for an uncomfortable ascent. However, when there was no traffic around it was absolutely gorgeous. A fitting entry to the Redwoods.
Even though we were moving south, the fog continued to stick around, keeping temperatures relatively low. It was also becoming clear why there isn’t much settlement on the Washington, Oregon, or Northern Californian coastlines: they are incredibly rugged, with few good ports for ships.
Crossing the border into California, the Redwood forests stepped it up another notch. It is difficult to capture the scale on Camera, but these trees are immense. These forests, light traffic, and a twisty road make the Avenue of the Giants an absolute must-ride.
Even in the National Redwood Forest, #crossiscoming. The light coming through the canopy some 350ft overhead was breathtaking.
By now the road had turned inland around the lost coast, and we were greeted with grinding highway-grade climbs and 40°C heat. It was immediately apparent why so much of California was on fire at that time. After flirting with heatstroke for a couple hours, we camped at a state park that had a restaurant right across the street with a large shaded outdoor patio. Good friends were made over cold beverages while trading stories from the day.
The following day was Leggit hill, renown for being the most challenging climb of the trip. Not only did this turn out not to be true, but it ended up being the single best climb and descent I have ever done. An 800m descent with barely 10 meters of straight road and perfectly banked corners took us from highway 101 onto the 1 and back towards the coast.
We got a kind stranger, who also happened to be shooting film for the first time on her trip, to take a rare shot with both of us in it.
This was the beginning of highway 1 – America’s most expensive road per mile. It was easy to see why, with the road being literally bolted onto the side of crumbling cliffs in places.
The 1 follows the coast, alternating between rolling ranch land and gulleys that cut inland, taking you down and up some incredibly steep roads – the type of roads where it is often faster to be on 2 wheels rather than 4 (at least going down).
As we approached the Bay Area, Spanish influence was more apparent, and good coffee was easier to find. It was in one of these towns that we met a couple that offered to host us for a night in San Francisco.
Finally, we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge. Us, and a couple thousand tourists. Crossing the bridge through crowds of humans riding bikes, taking selfies, and walking erratically was one of the most frustrating parts of the trip, but we finally made it into San Francisco. First order of business? Find the best bakery in town (Tartine Bakery), shortly followed by seeing some of the steepest paved roads in existence. And we visited the OrNot showroom to pick up some socks, and get the scoop on the best local riding loops.
If it isn’t obvious yet, we are hooked on bicycle touring. Despite the clouds, occasional rain, and traffic, it was one of the best things I have done on a bike. Travelling by bike is an amazing way to see new places, meet new people, and really get a feel for the places you are travelling through. Before our flight touched down back in Victoria, we were already planning the next adventure.
Maxim: Norco Threshold A Apex (2018)
Madeline: Giant Liv Brava Slr (2017)
Maxim: Ortlieb handlebar bag, and a pair of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic paniers
Madeline: Ortlieb handlebar, frame, and seat bikepacking bags
17 days travelling
76 Hours, 8 Minutes total riding time