700 miles, 14 days, three friends, one Pacific Coast Trail.
Three University of New Mexico students took time out of their summers to road bike the northern portion of the Pacific Coast Trail from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco.
“I think it's definitely kind of a dream that we all shared and then we all finally decided to bite the bullet,” Caleb Brenden, one of the bikers said. Brenden is currently a senior at UNM majoring in business administration.
Brenden embarked on the trip with fellow Lobos Ben Lane, a student studying liberal arts, and Julia Andreas who is majoring in biology. However, Andreas and Brenden agree that Lane was the mastermind behind the trek.
Lane said that the original plan was to bike the Pacific Coast Trail with his brother. Then, his brother became busy and he began to embark on small rides with Andreas. Their first trip together was biking from Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“We both kind of died on that trip a little bit,” Lane said, also mentioning another difficult ride in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It was definitely eye-opening though to do that one,” Andreas said. “Kind of prepared you, like this is much harder than you think it’s going to be.”
Lane met Brenden through a class his first year of college, however, they did not become good friends until Brenden joined the Lobo Life student group and the two further bonded over Dungeons and Dragons.
All three bikers are part of the Lobo Life with Lane as the president of the club.
Brenden expressed his shared interest in biking the Pacific Coast Trail and, just like that, he was included in the plan.
“It’s funny because we went and we bought the tickets after only (riding) like 30 miles,” Brenden said. The three agreed that they had a good group dynamic, saying “ we bought the tickets, and the rest is history.”
Lane said a good deal of planning was done for the trip, but not everything could be planned for, since they had never done this route before.
“I don't know if you're ever going to be fully prepared for something like that because you really don’t know what to expect,” Andreas said. “I can train here all I want ... but if something goes wrong — if I bust a tire, if some part of my bike breaks or if I get injured — I can’t prepare for that here.”
One thing the group could not plan for, for instance, were the hills they encountered on the trail. On one of their most challenging biking days, the group rode their normal 50 miles but encountered an unexpected 4,000 feet elevation incline.
“A big part was just not knowing and the adventure kind of prepared us for the adventure,” Brenden said.
Brenden described the day as not only the most difficult physically, but also mentally adding that the incline is higher than the Sandia Crest.
“It was the first time for all of us,” Andreas said. “There was no way that we were going to get it perfect. We were going to learn no matter what.”
They acknowledged that the whole trip consisted of a lot of memorable experiences and “firsts,” such as seeing a whale spout through its blowhole when they first encountered the coast just outside of Portland.
During their first rest day, which happened to be Brenden’s birthday, they stopped for the night in Eureka, California. The hotel they were staying at had a complimentary limousine service, so they enjoyed a night on the town and Brenden his first ride in a limo.
“To be in clean clothes and then to be riding in this limo...we felt like human again.” Lane said.
After many more miles and strange encounters in northern California towns, the group finally rode into their last stop for the ride — San Francisco.
Andreas described the final ride into the city as her favorite part of the trip. They began riding their final 30 miles before sunrise along the coast into San Francisco.
“The sun started coming up and you could first see it over the ocean. It would hit all the little ships out there,” Andreas said. “That was really pretty”
She described the sun streaming through the eucalyptus grove and how the lack of traffic made everything quiet.
“The sunlight coming in caused you to start to feel warm,” Andreas said. “You could smell the ocean and the Eucalyptus. That was by far my favorite.”
The original plan was to begin the ride in Portland and end nearly 950 miles south in Santa Barbara, but the unsustainable conditions of riding 60-70 miles a day without rest led the group to make a unanimous decision to end the ride in San Francisco.
“I feel like we could have done it physically if we had to, but we weren’t enjoying it as much as we wanted to,” Lane said. “It was our trip, we had to remind ourselves. We wanted to stop and smell the roses.”
After arriving in San Francisco, the group took a bus to Santa Barbara to catch their flight back to the Land of Enchantment.
“I think we enjoyed nature in a really cool way,” Brenden said. “I think that slowing down and enjoying life in the moment a lot more important than big plans or anything”
In light of their experience, the cyclists wanted to leave a word of advice to drivers.
“Watch out for your fellow cyclists,” Andreas said, “because we can’t do too much to get out of the way.”
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria