When Lauren replaced her car with a bike and a Thousand helmet last year, she didn't realize she had made a choice that would set her out on a multi-state adventure. After discovering her love for bike commuting, Lauren took her passion to the next level with an epic ride over 1,600 miles down the Pacific coast from Seattle to LA – documenting it all on her Instagram, @lalacycles.
We caught up with Lauren to learn more about her ride, her tips for new bikepackers, and the unexpected lessons she learned on the road.
THOUSAND: Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to take your epic ride from Seattle to LA.
LAUREN HANANO: In March 2018, I traded in my car for a cheap blue cruiser I got off Craigslist. For one year, I commuted to work 5 miles each way on my bike. I’ve never been much of a biker, but I instantly fell in love. Riding my bike to and from work everyday was so liberating. In the beginning of Summer 2019, I was burnt out from overworking and needed to take some time off for myself. Upon leaving my job, I thought to myself that I may never have this amount of time again, so I might as well make it memorable doing something that I love. Within one month, I bought my first road bike and began planning a trip of a lifetime.
T: Why did you choose that route specifically?
LH: As a first time road cyclist and solo female traveler, I looked for a route that was beginner friendly and safe. After some research, I booked a one-way ticket to Seattle and decided I would bike south along the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles. The Pacific Coast is known amongst cyclists as the ultimate training ground for touring in the U.S. There are lots of campsites designated for bikers along the route. This gives cyclists a variety of options on how far they want to cycle each day. It also means that there will be several other bikers at the campsite every night, creating a fun, safe, and educational experience.
T: What advice would you give to someone who wants to go on an epic ride but doesn’t know where to start?
LH: The hardest part about doing a bike tour is finding the time. Once you are able to carve out a month or two from your schedule, anything is possible. I barely did any preparation. I planned to do this trip a month before I left; I bought my plane ticket a week before my start date; I taught myself how to disassemble my bike and pack it in a box via YouTube. Once you have confidence in yourself, everything else will fall together. If you’re not in shape, you can go at your own pace and build endurance after a few days. If you don’t know how to do something, you can teach yourself or learn from someone else. What’s most important is to enjoy the moment you are in and take it day by day - or hill by hill.
T: Are there any other big rides on your bucket list?
LH: I have a crazy dream of doing a tandem bike trip in Italy to enjoy the coastline and tour remote villages, all while stopping at vineyards along the way. Before I go off exploring Europe, I’ll probably start locally and do the transamerica route which goes laterally across the United States. I am especially interested in exploring the South and the East Coast. I also see myself going back to Washington and biking the Olympic peninsula. So many trips!
T: What are some tools you used for planning your trip?
LH: The internet! The community of bikers online is very active and encouraging. I joined a forum and had so many inspiring posts and tips on how to plan my trip (the trick is, you don’t plan it, you just wake up and bike as far as you feel like). To map my route and find campgrounds I followed the book, “Cycling the Pacific Coast” by Bill Thorness. YouTube was my main source of learning how to do basic repairs on my bike. There are also many local bike co-ops where volunteers will work with you on how to maintain your bike. One last thing to look out for is the REI garage sale, I got a lot of my camping gear there for a huge discount.
T: What are some lessons you learned that you hadn’t expected?
LH: Learning to be present. Although problems would arise, they never seemed that big, because everyday, no matter my mood, I would look up and see the view, accomplish new goals, and everyday, I was happy.
T: What were your favorite moments from your ride?
LH: The people! Although this started as a solo trip, I was never alone. Of my 6 weeks on the road, there was only 1 night where I camped alone, without friends, but yet, there were other bikers camping next to me so that doesn’t even count as being alone. I made so many friends along the way that I truly never felt alone. The friendships I made on this trip are everlasting and were definitely the highlight of my trip.
T: What were some of the memorable stops on your trip?
LH: Living in California for 8 years, I thought I’ve seen it all, but I was so wrong. I’ve driven along the coast a few times, so I wasn’t expecting much, but biking is such a different experience. I was in awe at how beautiful the coastline was. I enjoyed every single day on the trip, but if I had to highlight a certain stop, my favorite parts of the trip were the Avenue of the Giants (Redwood forest in NorCal) and the coastline from Monterey to Big Sur.
FOR MORE PHOTOS AND INSPIRING MOMENTS FROM LAUREN'S TRIP, BE SURE TO FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM @LALACYCLES.