November 29, 2004

My wife and I purchased our Willie Weir touring (WW Adventure) bikes late this spring with the glee of kids getting their first set of wheels. I haven't anticipated a bike purchase this much since that JC Higgins used one-speed I got from Aurora Cycle in the 1950's.

Karen and I have done some modest bike touring before in the U.S. and Europe (not quite Willie and  Kat Weir touring Eastern least, not yet). However, overseas, we had to haul our own non-folding bikes through airports, public transit venues, and hotels or opt for rental bikes. Yuck. We're still recovering from biking that first freewayesque traffic circle outside Heathrow Airport (near London) where the cars were whizzing by us off of the M1 on the "wrong" side of the road at 70 mph. And  those rental bikes in France weren't much better than that 1950's one-speed I had.   With our new wonderful collapsible bikes, we'll be able to start our tours at any place that's convenient for us.

While we're not kids by any means (try mid 50's), we are still pretty active, having done multiple marathons, cross country and downhill ski vacations, biking, etc in our middle years. But earlier this year we weren't all that fit. I hadn't ridden a bike at all in 2004 until we got these cycles from R and E in June.  But we decided to get in shape quickly and bike from our front door in Tacoma to San Francisco by the end of the summer. 

The first day of the trip, this September 1st,  it poured rain and even hailed on us. However, from then on, the weather was wonderful. We followed the STP route to Portland, went down the Willamette valley to near Eugene, and took little used Highway 36 to the Oregon Coast. We followed the coast highway (101) and some parallel back roads down the Oregon and Northern California coasts and through the redwoods. We turned west at Leggett, went up the notorious "Leggett Hill" south of the Avenue of the Giants, and followed Highway 1 down the spectacular and less crowded California coast to the City by the Bay. 

We had a wonderful time. Our somewhat less than direct route ended up being about 1,000 miles. We covered 50 to 100 miles a day. When we had another tourist couple (from France, as it turned out, and excited that we had biked before in their homeland) take our picture as we prepared to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, we were fit, happy, and totally pleased with our bikes.   

The WW's rode like dreams. The 27 speeds were useful on the numerous  500 to 700 and occasional 1,000 to 2,000 foot hills. The frame was light but sturdy and handled smooth back roads, pot-holed streets in small coastal towns, some dirt trails we ended up on, and the streets of San Francisco with comfort. They even kept us upright as all those many "Uncle Earls", who probably shouldn't have been driving a KIA, passed us 4 inches off of our elbows in their wobbling 150 foot RV's (towing large SUV's) on Hwy 101.

We had shipped our S and S metal bike boxes (also purchased at R end E) to the San Francisco hotel before our arrival. When we reached the hotel, the clerk wheeled these containers out to us. When she asked where we had biked from, and we said Tacoma, she asked again, "No, really, where did you bike from?". When she realized we weren't kidding, her jaw dropped a bit and her eyes got large (focusing on my salt and pepper gray hair?) She took a real interest in our gear and enjoyed seeing how the bikes could be disassembled.

After the mandatory post ride FOOD, we opened the boxes, took the bikes apart, and put them in. It was a relative breeze, even after a 1,000 mile trip that we had completed moments before. We stored them in our rooms while we "did" San Francisco for the next few days. The return trip with our suit cased bikes traveling on the airporter, being wheeled through the airport (where we checked the bikes in their suitcases like any other luggage without a bicycle surcharge), and riding home from SeaTac in the trunk of our friend's car was flawless.

We really love our new bikes. If you'd like technical information about them, contact the R and E staff. We're not stupid, but we ain't bike techies. However, if you'd like our impressions of these new loves of our lives, feel free to contact us by email.

Thanks to all the R & E staff (and especially Willie for designing such a great bike) for giving us what we anticipate being the ticket to numerous bike adventures in the future.