Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oregon Coast Transportation

Planning my trip to the Oregon Coast was easy except for one item: transportation. The plan was to drive to Oregon, bike south for a week, find a way to get back to our car, and drive back home.

Easy right? Wrong.

Given how popular the Oregon Coast is as a bike touring and vacationing route I assumed this would be a piece of cake. It's not, so I thought I'd help you out by sharing the research I did pre-trip.

Bus/Train

When we first got to thinking about our trip I naively assumed that there would be a lovely train that would whisk us back to up the coast to our car. Give your head a shake girl, you're going to Oregon not Europe! Trains and charter buses don't service the coast so if you want to take one you'll have to head inland to a larger city, then up the I-5, then back out to the coast. Remember that you have to 1) find a bus that will accept your bike, and 2) possibly box up your bike. That makes this option a time consuming and costly headache in my book.

Ultimately, if time is of the essence, don't bother with trying to take a train. If money is your priority and you're alone or with only one traveling companion, this might work for you.

Renting a Car

This seemed like the next most logical solution. Again, I was lost in my big city mentality.

There are very few car rental outlets along the coast. You're pretty much looking at Astoria in the north and Coos Bay/North Bend in the south. If you are willing to head to larger cities like Portland, Eugene, or Medford you'll find a plethora of options but it takes one to two days of riding to get there.

And finding a car rental outlet isn't the only problem. They may not allow you to do a one-way rental. The Enterprise office in Coos Bay had zero interest in our one-way shenanigans. They simply wouldn't do it.

Hertz in Coos Bay/North Bend was willing to rent one-way, but it came at a significant extra cost. Being a summer weekend Hertz wanted to charge us upwards of $400 for a car we only wanted to use for four hours. No thanks.

So for us, renting a car got kiboshed. It might work for you if you're traveling on an weekday and especially if your trip is in the off season.

Flying

If you're going a longer distance or coming from further away, you might consider flying open jaw so that you don't have to deal with getting back to your airport of origin. The only commercial airport on the coast is in North Bend. The inland commercial airports are in Portland, Eugene, Kalamath Falls, Medford, and Redmond.

Keep in mind that you may need to pay extra to check your bike and that you'll need to get a bike box from a bike shop.

Taxi

No, I'm not joking. I'd excuse you if you thought I was because when the guy at Enterprise suggested it I thought he was being sassy. It's actually a really viable option. Since we were on a shorter tour and weren't covering that much distance a taxi would have cost us less than $250 - typically they charge about a dollar a mile. When you consider the additional benefits it becomes a really attractive proposition:
  • You get to sleep instead of drive.
  • It's very flexible. Just call the cab company a few hours before you want to head out and they'll have someone ready.
  • They'll pick you up and drop you off wherever you like. I.E. You don't have to schlep across town to get to a bus station/rental car place/etc.
  • They work 24/7 so you can do the drive whenever the heck you want to.
  • Most of the larger towns have companies that will accommodate this. Just do a little googling and give them a call to make sure.

This was actually our plan until MM found the next option...

Rideshare

When I told Mountain Man that the plan was to pay $250 to take a taxi he thought he could do better. He posted an ad in the Craigslist rideshare listing for Coos Bay and before we knew it we had someone who was willing to give us a ride for a fee that was much lower than the taxi. I was dubious about the whole situation (glorified hitchhiking!) at first, but after swapping some information I decided I was comfortable with it. And if he bailed at the last minute we could easily fall back on the taxi plan.

In the end he didn't pull out, he invited us to stay at his gorgeous house for the night (he's an avid member of the Couch Surfing community), and we made a friend who we've continued to keep in contact with since. This option isn't for everyone, but it's worth considering for those looking for a little adventure.

So there is is for you, the fruits of my research on how to get from Coos Bay back to Cannon Beach with minimal money, time, and hassle. When you bike tour, how do you find your way back home?

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