Book Review – Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall

I went bicycling along the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to San Francisco last summer (2016) and this book was a bit of a life saver. OK, I’m being slightly dramatic, I would have been fine, but the book certainly was extremely useful

I bought this book at very last minute. I didn’t actually know it existed until my Air bnb host brought it to my attention about 3 days before setting off. As a planner (although this can be argued by the fact I was re-doing my route 3 days before leaving) I got the pencil out and made plenty of notes.

I had never done a bike tour before, or any tour which I had to organise myself so I was in new territory here. Bicycling the Pacific Coast made the whole experience so much easier.  

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Each chapter resembled a leg of the trip. Some legs were more manageable than others but legs none the less. After a brief description of what you would see in that day, it goes into  step-by-step log of directions. It’s very much like a recipe book, with a detailing the itinerary with quite precision.

Each chapter is accompanied by a map that details the camp sites, hostels and side trips, as well as an incline chart. This is really helpful in not only identifying where the camp sites are, but also how close (or far in some cases!) they are from each other. If you’re flagging then you had an idea on if you’d be able to push on to the next one. For me this was the key feature. Food and water was in its abundance but if you’re not much of a stealth camper, this is what would put you at ease the most. The side routes are interesting as well. The 101 isn’t always the most pleasant of roads to be on so any opportunity to get off it, we decided to take it.

In the written instructions you will also find that they note where the last supermarket of the day is as well as the nearest bike shop, if you need to get supplies. This was very useful, as it prevented you from stocking up too early and weighing yourself down at the first available market, but also put your mind at ease when your bike is a little dodgy! On top of this anything of interest in the area can be found here too, from quirky museums to hot springs that aren’t to be missed. The only thing is that this book was originally written in 1984 so the economic landscape of some areas have somewhat changed since. Although it is regularly updated seeing as the internet is in our pocket, we did check once and a while that the said bike shops were still there! In honesty, we didn’t have any issues but it is worth noting that the deli counter at the supermarket may no longer be there. To get around the changing of shops and landmarks, the majority of directions are based upon your relation to the mile markers that are on the road. 

As a first time cycle tourist, and having never been to the west coast, this book really proved to worth it weight. About 50% of the riders that I met on the trip also had this book which is testament to it. And the majority of those that didn’t, were following someone else that did! It was easy to follow and had all the key information that you need. The distances didn’t always feel  100% accurate and the inclines could be a bit deceptive but otherwise the book had everything I needed.

I would certainly compliment this book with a detailed road map, either on your phone or on paper. They are far more detailed so it will give you more freedom to find some more of those side roads and little trips that aren’t in this book.

Overall, I would give this book a 4 out of 5 tree rating!

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