My Solo Tour Revisited-Planning is the hardest part

Sometime around early August, I decided that I was going to go on a long, multi-day bike tour. All of my trips up to this point had been single night trips with other people. The Bumbershoot lineup didn't excite me and since I was out of vacation time (because I'm still tied to the corporate man), the only time when I could feasibly do a 4 day/3 night tour would be Labor Day weekend.

This will likely turn into a multi-part post. Part 1, planning.


I had the following criteria for my trip:

  • New campgrounds (for me)
  • As bike friendly roads as possible
  • Food & water stops along the way (didn't want to bring a filter)

With these in mind, I started scouting out possible route ideas. I started with the Adventure Cycling Association's maps, and quickly found the Washington Parks route. I learned that Metsker Map's in Pike Place Market sells these maps, and being a total visual/tactical person, I went on my lunch break to check them out in person. I look at things on a computer all day, and I knew that if/when this trip actually happened, I'd want a paper copy anyway.

Flash forward a few days to the map store. I wandered around lost/bewildered/confused forever, even after finding the maps that I think I needed. Turns out those 4th grade geography skills didn't transfer over to 29 year old Marley. I thought I knew how to read a map. Turns out, reading a map for bike riding/touring is WAY DIFFERENT than reading a map for driving a car!

Thankfully, I ride socially with some amazingly helpful people, and when I reached out for help in learning how to read a map and route plan, I was met with wonderful advice. One guy even went so far as to have a virtual Google teleconference with me, to teach me about topographic features, RideWithGPS features, and advanced route planning! What a guy! Some of this  advice was so helpful, it would be selfish of me to keep it all to myself. Here are some of the most helpful links they shared:

Route Planning in the Modern Age - I think I read this page 30 times before making my route.

Caltopo (Topography and Map Overlay)- I didn't use this one quite as much, but some people swear by it. 

Ride With GPS - Basically the best. You can set it to optimize for cycling, shows elevation gain, super easy to use.

Armed with a paper map of the Olympic Peninsula and a million links, I cleared my dining room table and pulled out my computer and paper notebook. Following the advice from the Oregon Guidebook, I outlined my broad planning outline and goals for my trip: 

  • Leave on Friday, Return on Monday (4 days, 3 nights)
  • 30-60 miles per day
  • Utilize public campgrounds (no rouge camping for this girl, at least on this trip)
  • Stay on roads as I'd be alone and wasn't feeling super confident in going back country for my first solo trip

With these in mind, I literally just starting routing my course. Finding a campground on the map, Googling the distance between them, writing them down, circling, highlighting. The first night of planning, I geeked out for almost 3 hours. By the time I called it a night, I had 2 campground options for night 1, 3 options for night 2, and 2 options for night 3. Nobody has ever accused me of not being prepared.

My handy map of the Olympic Peninsula.


The next step was to map my intended route in RideWithGPS, to get an idea of distance and elevation. To be honest, I had done the first 55 miles of the route, so I was familiar with it. On that trip, however, I had gotten a ride back and didn't complete the return leg. Part of the motivation for the route of this trip was to ride the rest of the route that my friends had ridden in May, as they had all raved about how beautiful it was.  After putting it into RideWithGPS, I was pretty satisfied with it. Each day's distance looked totally do-able and the camping options looked great- a good mix of state  and national parks. With two weeks before the ride, I had plenty of time to plan food, finalize gear, and get ready.

I posted the route on the forum and didn't get much feedback. Maybe they knew something I didn't...but everything seemed ok according to all my research, so at this point, I was pretty set on my plan. 

Day 1: Ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge, 17 miles to Kitsap Memorial State Park

Day 2: Kitsap Memorial to Seal Rock or Dosewalips State Park

Day 3: Dosewalips to Twanoh State Park

Day 4: Twanoh to Bremerton Ferry & home

Totally reasonable mileage & elevation every day. Food stops along the route. Everything seemed perfect. Or so I thought....

Coming soon: Post 2, The Ride

(Spoiler alert: My tour only ended up being 3 days long, I got food poisoning and almost had another Oregon Outback shitstorm level emergency, and the roads I chose were not so bike friendly!)