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Kelly Coplin’s Blog

Bike Touring - The Ultimate Road Trip

Kelly Coplin

Posted September 27, 2012 in Living Sustainably

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I’m officially convinced that I have the best job. Ever.

In early September my colleagues and I biked from Fortuna, CA to San Francisco, CA with 150 other concerned citizens to raise money and awareness for organizations working on climate change and bicycle advocacy.

Here was our route!California Climate Ride Route.jpg

The 320 mile trip took five days to accomplish. Five glorious days. We tackled the Northern California coast as a part of Climate Ride – an incredible organization and event. Climate Ride allows riders to direct their fundraising money to the environmental non-profit of their choice, and is the largest environmental charitable bike ride in the country. It has also been dubbed a “green conference on wheels” since so many participants are leaders in the environmental movement. I’d ridden Climate Ride before – last year in fact – but this year’s temperate fall sunshine felt a world away from the rainy, blustery conditions we encountered on Climate Ride 2011 (aka Storm Ride 2011).

We started along the Eel River….

Eel River Photo.jpg

We road through the iconic Mendocino Coast….

Mendocino Coast Photo.jpg

And we ended at the San Francisco Civic Center!

Civic Center Photo.jpg

This was actually my third time completing this route, as well as the third time I’ve ridden this section of the coast on behalf of the environment. The first time I rode from Fortuna to San Francisco was with my good friend Jess McNally after graduating from college. Jess and I biked from Portland, Oregon to Santa Cruz, California, while touring intentional communities working towards sustainability goals. And unlike my two trips with Climate Ride, we carried all of our own camping equipment on our bikes! Needless to say, it made Climate Ride, with its sag wagons and catered meals, feel QUITE luxurious!

After my trip with Jess, I was hooked on biking – not only as a form of transportation (which is how we viewed our bicycles on our trip), but as a way to travel that is respectful, responsible, and adventurous. When you travel by bicycle, you meet people and experience your surroundings in a way that is ultimately much more fun than when you travel by car. While cars certainly continue to have a role in our society (I’m super grateful to have access to my boyfriend’s car at a moment’s notice), there’s nothing like connecting with your surroundings and a community from the seat of your bike.

The coastal rollers (biker speak for rolling “hills”), cool ocean breeze, regular blackberry picking stops (way better than energy bars), and artist villages so small you’d miss them if you blinked, are just a few examples of the subtle joys of bike touring – joys that you’re almost completely blind to when you’re in a car. Sure, you can pull your car over at a turnout for a couple of blackberries, but I can guarantee that they don’t taste nearly as sweet as they do after a 2,500 foot mountain climb.

Needless to say, I prefer to spend my vacations motor-free.

In this spirit, this past June my boyfriend and I completed our first ever tropical bike tour! A ten day, leisurely bike ride around the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Photo.jpg

I’d been to Hawaii several times before, and I’d done multi-day bike tours as well. But this was the first time I biked through a lava field, a desert, a rainforest, volcanic steam vents and one of the country’s largest cattle ranches all in the same week. The range of smells – from hot rain hitting asphalt to flowers to sulfur to manure – was an olfactory adventure in its own right.

Climate Ride is primarily about promoting bikes as a form of transportation, but I also want to highlight the value of bikes as a vehicle for pure pleasure. Bikes take transportation, and make it not only healthy and green, but also exciting, enriching, and exploratory. There’s nothing like knowing that you’ve pedaled every inch of road between two destinations. By the time you are done with your trip, you have picked up on aspects of culture, community, and infrastructure that are imperceptible when you’re traveling by car.

Thank you, Climate Ride staff, for providing Team NRDC with the opportunity to experience the pure pleasure of pedaling through some of the most beautiful country in the world for yet another year! What a lucky lady I am, to have spent nearly 15 days this summer and fall doing nothing but spinning my wheels.

Honokaa Coast Photo.jpg

My helmet on the Honokaa coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

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