I am officially back on the road. Have been for two weeks actually. It’s actually quite harder to post from the road than I thought it would. Who wants to spend their time in solitary confinement typing away on an ipod when they could be out riding and seeing wonderful things or meeting exciting new people and places. But alas here is a post! I have my whole aunt and uncle’s house to myself with plenty of time to write and catch up. So I introduce to you a new format. There won’t be as much elaboration and whimsy as the other posts. I hope you enjoy it anyway
Day 1: Leaving Ashland
I left a day later than I intended. Actually that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully omens don’t exist because I am screwed otherwise. I wanted to leave on Monday the 8th, but on Sunday as I was trying to clean the Lock-Tite I had managed to get into my rear shifter, I snapped it leaving myself only three functional front gears. So I woke up Monday sniffling from a head cold trying to fix everything and pack my stuff. As my friends were all going out for their different day duties I gave them a hug and told them, “Probably isn’t our last hug.” I think I said goodbye to the Bike Haus at least three times. They are too rad, I couldn’t leave them.
Finally I got everything in order and functioning on the wettest day so far. Intermittent showers followed my friends and I as we rode out to Jacksonville. Its always nice having stalkers follow you out of town. Laurel, Asa, and Ben. Three cool folks who helped me in so many ways while in Ashland. Laurel with finding bike fun in Ashland and good routes through California, Asa with bike touring advice, and Ben with spiritual guidance. All of them became true friends in a short time. Quickly I need to talk about Ben. He is a member of the Bike Pilgrims I met while in Ashland. Absolutely the most inspiring group of people. They are devout Christians who give their lives to God and trust Him to lead them righteously. No cell phones, no internet and they travel back and forth across the country biking and hitching, squatting and dumpster diving, and worshiping without any pretensions and purpose other than faith. I would write more, but I gave them my word I wouldn’t.
After picking pears from an orchard, Laurel and Asa drank beers beside me with my
medicine (hot toddy) in Jacksonville as my final supper. After we parted it began raining consistently. Wet gear, just what you want to start a tour with. Oh, and I saw a deer get hit by a truck. Like I said, omens aren’t real, right? Once I got going my spirits lifted because even though I was sick, even though it was raining, even though tiny bad things were happening, I was on the road. I had begun again. All of that excitement that I had left Portland with and let diminish like the daylight in Ashland came rushing back to me as my muscles pumped my cadence up and new sights rushed all around me. Speaking of rushing all around me, Laurel encouraged me to practice snot-rocketing while riding and more than a noseful smeared onto my face from some botched attempts.
It got dark. Early. Much earlier than I anticipated. I had completely forgotten about Daylight Savings time. I was on a road without a map, unsure if I was heading in the right direction as cars blitzed past me in a washed out dusk. I had turned my light on, but like so many storms from the past, the rain had wigged out the blinking and left it temporarily on the fritz. I didn’t know this at the time while I pedaled on the side of the road trying to wave down cars to see if I was on my way to the campground. Fortunately I came across a man entering his house and called out to him. He told me I was 12 miles from the campground and before I could refuse him, ran inside to get the keys to his truck and helped me load Sir Norte into the bed. First night of my tour and I used a motor. Boo, but you know what, once we got onto the road that I was aiming for, I saw how busy and dark it was and knew that I would have been toast. I thanked the dude and set up my tent and took a shower to get warm. Day 1 done. Lesson of humility learned.
Fun fact of the day: Truck stop weigh station (50 lb increments) says that my bike and I weigh 300 lbs. Two points if you can guess how much the bike approximately weighs.
Day 2: Crossing Borders
Rode through the Applegate Valley to make my first state crossing. I have lived in Portland for the last three years and biked so close to Washington but never crossed over. The drivers didn’t seem to be any different than Oregon drivers, but then again I haven’t been in an area that isn’t blurred with both states.
I rode until it started to get dark which happened to be at 4:30. I didn’t have a planned destination so I wanted to go as far as possible. I rode into a convenience store where two men were sharing a bottle of wine. I hoped to buy a bottle of whiskey of my own in the store but no booze yet. One of the men wore an old military cap and had a large silver mustache. The other, skinnier man was very loud and wore glasses. Both were in high spirits as it was the birthday of the Marines and had both served in Vietnam. “How many was the first corps of Marines?” I asked them. “Well, whoever was drunk enough at Tun’s!” Those first soldiers were mercenaries hired before the start of the war, the men went on to tell me. When I explained my trip will take me into Mexico the louder one said, “Oh! So you’re bringing a big gun, huh?!”
The men told me about the 10.10 mile marker. A local fishing spot that wasn’t used during that time of the year. I could set my tent there and no one would bother me. I slept close to a small runoff from the road to the Smith River. Now that the rains have hit harder in California I imagine that the site is halfway washed out. Despite it being completely unnecessary I bear-bagged my food and spent the evening reading Chogyam, Matthew and A Farewell to Arms. I woke the next morning and took a bunch of pictures. It’s amazing
how even though I’ve lived near similar scenery there is something still spectacular about seeing open space. It took me an hour and a half to eat and get packed. I don’t like that about my setup. I need to figure access and weight better for my bags, or just simply get rid of a lot more stuff. So far that has worked out very well. Lots of clothes, and a bit of bike tools have been given to friends and strangers. Someday soon the gear page should be completed so you can see which essentials I have.
I started my day and passed a bridge on my left and rode on into the town of Huahachi. Lot’s of funny dialogue in this restaurant. I think I accidentally offended the cook by moving my bike to the window where I could see it after he was admiring it. After breakfast I rode to the Redwoods Tourist Center. I found out that I had passed the road to the unpaved route through Jedidiah Smith about three miles back. I was a little bummed
about the backtracking but I started to talking to a guy named Porter, owner of High Sierra Blasting. He offered a ride back to the turnoff so we loaded my bike into the back of his truck with all of his equipment (visions of flying chainrings and steel whizzed past). What a guy. Probably saved me a half-hour or more, plus he put me on a great trajectory. I went into the redwoods via Howland Hills Road and it has been placed onto the Ultimate Things I’ve Done List. It was
like riding shorttrack among giant’s legs. I’ve never thought that I would be impressed by the redwoods but they were unbelievable. I’m still laughing just thinking about it. My family has passed these forests my whole life. That’s the funny thing about destinations. It removes the beauty of the road, for any vehicle. If you are too worried about where you’re going and the deadline you’ve got – no matter the importance – you forget that where you are, and what you pass through is just as wonderful. I know it isn’t always logical to chase romantic ideas, but they certainly need to be pursued in some manner sometime.
After the ten miles of riding through the treebeasts there was an incredible descent full of switchbacks and views of the ocean. I hadn’t seen the ocean for a while and that’s another sight that will always put a smile on your face. It was such an amazing ride. Did a brief stint through Crescent City. The only notable thing there was the flying dune buggy. Just after Crescent City was a long 8-mile climb with a very narrow shoulder. The 101 in California is not like the 101 in Oregon. Very little to no shoulder almost always. Oregon’s isn’t perfect, but there are at least some glimpses of a shoulder. After the climb there was a sharp descent with a turnout for a view. I knew I had a lot of great momentum but I needed to check out the sight. I started talking to a woman about how freeing and empowering it is to travel by bike and had her convinced to ride to see her son down in Arcata when a fellow tourer blurred past. A bid the lady adieu as I wanted to catch a traveller. Which is harder than it seems. They are reluctant to accept tandem offers and only succumb to the greatest of baits: good conversation. I caught up to Andre while he was snapping photos of Paul Bunyan and Babe at the Trees of Mystery attraction. I asked him if he wanted to ride together. He looked at my set-up and said, “Let’s see how our paces work.” He was riding a 29er with knobbies and disc brakes and only two panniers. As you all know, I’m a little more loaded down. We set out at a good pace that I was more than able to hang with and we talked about all sorts of things. Andre hails from Copenhagen, so we had a lot to talk about with bicycles. But it turns out that Andre is also a big Chicago Bears fan. They have NFL in Denmark…who knew? For a while in fact. It was nice though because we also had football to talk about.
We got to Nancy Drury park which parallels 101 and provides excellent places to camp legally and illegally. We rode beneath the splendor of the redwoods commenting on their magnificence and how Denmark is not a part of The Netherlands (I’m a stupid American). We were on our way to the state campground when I caught a glimpse of a bicycle in the trees and heard people shout out, “Hey! It’s some bicycles! Come stay with us!” We turned around a found some awesome folks. The Cultural REcyclists are traveling from Pennsylvania to San Francisco and are “cycling to sustain their ability to live healthy and abundant lives.” They were very fun folks. It was November 11th and there was a worldwide meditation event, so at 7:11 or some hour in the eleventh minute we meditated for eleven minutes. I’ve never meditated before, and thought I had escaped it when I left Ashland, but that morning I had read from Chogyam Prata that you should believe in your inner goodness, and so I decided to take the time to reflect on my inner goodness and use it to spread goodwill elsewhere. And then I promptly went to sleep.
Day 3-5: Making Friends
Andre and I headed out earlier than the Recyclistas. We were up and ready to go at about 8 while they were just waking. Different schedules equals different trips. Andre wanted to go to Arcata and I wanted to get beyond Eureka, but then after a particularly hairy bit on the 101 a couple passed us on some lightly loaded bikes. Andrew and Alyssum were
students at Humboldt State enjoying a long weekend by going on a little bike camp excursion at the site Andre and I decided not to pay for. They helped us get to a coffee shop Andre was interested in and while we were sitting down drinking and chatting they invited us to stay at their house. Boom baby! Shower, cool people and a chance to explore Arcata. They also told us of a great path that wound through McKinleyville and was mostly carfree.
Alyssum forgot to tell us that she lives on top of a huge hill, but Andre’s and my legs were well-conditioned despite being tired. We got to dry out our tents and buy real food and make a real dinner. Alyssum took me to check out Andrew’s bike shop and inquire about the ‘cross race the next day. I decided I was in and so went home to take apart my bike and get it ready for racing. No racks, no fenders, no bottle cages. Completely decommissioned except for a plastic bag over my seat to protect it from the mud.
keg of his home brew for the spectacle. We get there and everyone has a mountain bike, which is strange for a ‘cross race. This was fine for me because that’s what I had so I didn’t feel too out of place. Shawn T., the owner of Revolution was a pal and gave me the tourer’s discount. The race was a ton of fun with a pretty nasty mudhole. I accomplished a life goal by having a beer handed to me mid-race. There was a ton of beer, a ton of food, and lots and lots of good people enjoying a great, muddy day. In the end I got 7th out of 18th. Not bad
from a mixed field. Only lapped by two people. Andrew and the dude who got second.
After the race, Andre and I booked it to a sports bar to watch the Ducks survive Cal. It was fun to be a visitor in a homer bar and be the adversary. The next day, Alyssum organized a ride to go get some cheap pancakes from the local grange. And what a ride it was! About 15 people total and we had a great time, riding and gorging
After the ride, Andre went to watch the Bears game, and I cleaned my bike. Oh, it was good to do so. She was back in perfect shape. It was a relaxing way to end an exciting weekend and a perfect set-up for getting back on the tour.