WHO: Eric Meyers, 45, and his daughter, Sophie, 15, of Belmont
WHERE: Oregon and California
WHEN: Two weeks in August
WHY: "I have to take the blame for it," Eric said of his plan to take his daughter on a 450-mile bicycling trip. He had done a similar ride when he was 20. "I thought right after Sophie was born, this would be a great thing to do with one of my kids." Over the years, he had mentioned the idea to Sophie, who has two younger brothers. Her reply, she said, was, "OK, Dad. Whatever. Maybe." Her "maybe" became "yes" when she decided, "I wanted to go to California."
GEARING UP: "In the spring, we started training, going like 15 or 20 miles," Sophie said. "I'd done other sports in school, but not that season." Added Eric, "We weren't religious about the training. When I did this years ago, it kind of felt like you get in shape along the way. I was pretty confident that Sophie's fitness level was strong enough to start out."
CARRY ON: They loaded clothing, tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment into panniers. Eric carried twice the weight Sophie did, "as I should have," he said. She had never camped before and ended up liking it. What she didn't like, she said, was taking only three sets of clothing. "It was gross."
UP AND DOWN: Using special cycling maps, they plotted their route by terrain and availability of food. "If it was really hilly, we'd do less," Sophie said. "We'd plan where we were going to eat lunch and buy stuff for dinner." Their most challenging hill, or "the hill from hell," Eric said, was on their way to a campground outside Crescent City, Calif. "It continued for 3 miles, then it was all downhill into the campground and we thought, OK, tomorrow morning starts uphill." Their longest day was about 75 miles, he said.
CULINARY CAMPING: They often cooked burgers and even ribs on the grills at the parks where they stayed. While camping, they met some other cyclists, though only a couple were Sophie's age, teenage sons of a cycling dad. They introduced a German cyclist to s'mores at one campground. "He loved them," Sophie said.
IMPROVED VISION: "We were usually either on the water or in the redwoods. It was so beautiful," Sophie said. "We saw some cute coastal towns." Some of their favorites were Bandon, just south of Coos Bay, in Oregon, and Crescent City and Mendocino, in California. They enjoyed meeting residents in the towns where they stopped. They noted how it was unusual for father and daughter to travel together, and that one man said something to Eric about his "lady friend," which amused them. Eric set the record straight.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU: "I realized how much my dad and I have in common," Sophie said. "We're both really methodical and see a lot of things the same way." Eric said he was impressed with his daughter's "patient problem solving," and her ever-increasing riding strength. They also found they enjoyed eating more than they had thought possible.
OVER THE BRIDGE: They rode over the Golden Gate their last day, to finish in San Francisco, where Eric has a brother. The ride "was definitely the hardest thing I've done in my life," Sophie said. "I probably wouldn't do it again, but I was happy I did it and really proud of myself." Said Eric, "Being out there, you're living moment to moment, seeing great scenery, the exercise is fun, and we met many people along the way. I'm not sure what other kinds of travel I've done where you feel like you're stepping out of your life to that degree."