Saturday, July 30, 2011

Coming Home

St. Helens to San Diego
July 17: St Helens - Tillamook (Cape Lookout)         104.50 - Rain
July 18: Tillamook- Florence (Honeyman)                 117.53
July 19: Florence - Port Orphard (Humbug Mtn.)       103.50
July 20: Port Orphard - Crescent City (Mill Creek)     86.55
July 21: Crescent City - Weott (Burlington)                127.06
July 22: Weott - Westport (KOA)                                73.88
July 23: Westport - Fort Brag - Santa Cruz                  20/bike - 175/car
July 24: Santa Cruz - Big Sur (Pheifer)                        78.57
July 25: Big Sur - Morrow Bay (State Park)                96
July 26: Morrow Bay - Refugio                                   104.12
July 27: Refugio - Oxnard (McGrath State Park)         61.73
July 28: Oxnard - Long Beach (Seaport Hotel)            97.29
July 29: Long Beach - Oceanside - Temecula              68.85/bike - 55/car

Miles Ridden on Return Trip: 1119.58
Daily Average:                           93.29
Total Miles Round Trip:         ~3100

     The ride back was a lot of fun.  I was flying.  By then I had seen most of what I thought I wanted to see so the return trip was about seeing how quickly I could make it back.  I got a ride to St. Helens, Oregon from my friend Miranda.  Miranda made the 1200 mile journey to the wedding from Temecula by car and was kind enough enough to shuttle me out of Washington.  It was great to begin again from Oregon.  It took a solid two days out of my trip through some less than stunning parts of Washington as well as making it feel a little less daunting.  The day I left St. Helens ended up being the rainiest day I've ever rode through.  The cloud seemed to be following me because I after it would dump it would let up for about 45 minutes and the start dumping again.  It was the only rain I saw on the entire return trip though.  It was good to get it out of the way.  I sort of felt like Oregon was so sad to see me go that it couldn't help but cry tears of bitter, bitter separation.  Farewell Oregon.
I Found It!

     Things passed by pretty quickly.  The Oregon coast was a blur.  The Redwoods although still vast and magnificent went by in a flash.  Big Sur was a blip.  I was almost solely concerned with just pushing my body as far as I could go.  Not for the sake of exorcise but mostly because I just wanted to be finished and there were people that I began to miss so much.  Even though I was moving quickly there were things that couldn't help but arrest my attention.  Because I was traveling for longer I ended up seeing most of the coast during the sunset.  I can't describe how beautiful it is riding over rugged coast while the sun is descending over the ocean.

    Coming into California felt like returning home.  Even though I still had 800 or so miles to go, it seemed as though I was on my front door step.  I kept pushing through the hills and forests but ended up having some bike problems.  After replacing my wheel I was actually able to meet my parents in Fort Bragg.  They were in San Francisco for the weekend and gave me a surprise visit.  I couldn't turn down the ride they offered which would cut out some particularly hard northern California coastline.   They took me down to Santa Cruz where I would again mount my bike with the new back wheel and finish my trip.  From there on I conquered some of the bigger hills that kicked my butt when I started.  Big Sur this time was a joy to ride and Lompoc, although still dry and desolate, was just slightly challenging, not devastatingly hard.

Point Sur

     I didn't feel the finality of it all until I pulled in with my dad (who met me in Oxnard and ended up riding with me to Oceanside) to the Santa Monica peer.  It's hard to put into words but all of a sudden the joy of the end and the uneasiness of the uncertainty ahead just hit me all at once.  When you're riding all you think about is where you'll be next or what you need to eat.  Now I started thinking less about the immediate and more about the long term.  What am I going to do?  I can honestly say that I don't know but I'm both excited and anxious about finding the answer.

     Now that it's all over I can't help but think about what my next adventure will be.  Hopefully there will be many more to come and I encourage anyone to find their own as well.  Again thank you for reading.  It has been great for me and I hope you have enjoyed sharing the journey.


Friday, July 15, 2011


     Hello everyone.  First I'd like to thank everyone who has been taking the time out of their lives to read all my posts.  It's been really great knowing that people have been sharing this experience with me.  I feel like I'm a different person.  The miles have beaten and galvanized me into a stronger willed and more focused individual.  Everyone should take the time to do something like this.  Some of the things I've learned and been taught, I feel, could not have come about any other way.   With all of that said... I'M IN SEATTLE!!!

     Finally right?  I've been here for about six days.  I've just been moving from home to home, bouncing around, waiting until Erin's wedding.  Sunday was the second day I was here and that day I went to church with Erin and her fiance Dan.  We went to Mars Hill which is pastored by Mark Driscoll.   One of the many bands put together by the church played and we watched Mark's sermon via video.  This church has grown so much in popularity that all but one of the buildings are satellite venues projecting his one week behind sermon.  The people there have a great heart and it was great to be a part of it for a day.  Afterward the three of us went and had Mexican for lunch.  Now, being from Southern California, I have a certain standard for food that is labeled "Mexican."  Although it wasn't 100% up to par, my carne asada burrito was pretty darn good.  I also got to hear the story of their relation ship during the meal.  They both met while on the same bike tour that I have been on for the past month.  Hear that all you single guys?  If you want to find a good lady, join a group bike tour.  After lunch we parted ways.  Seeing as how they were getting married in less than a week they had a few more pressing matters to attend to.

     This was really the only solid thing that I've done all week.  I've been bouncing around from host to host kind of seeing little bits of Seattle at a time.  The fist night I stayed in Ballard with one of Dan's groomsmen named Jake in his townhouse.  It was definitely a last minute accommodation and I was grateful that Jake could help me out at all.  The next two nights I stayed with my first Couch Surfing host, also name Jacob, in his apartment in Magnolia.  Magnolia is located on top of one of the bigger hills of Seattle which give's it's occupants an amazing view of the whole northwest area.  He was also busy with wedding preparations (he is the best man for his brother's wedding) but he was able to spend as much time as he could with me.  The first day he gave me my own set of keys and I was able to goof around the city without all my gear with me.  The second night I was with Jacob he took me to one of the more prominent Ballard bars to have a few beers and talk about each of our adventures.  Well at least that was the intention.  What really happened was, we unexpectedly stumbled into the bars movie night.  The both of us, as well as about 50 other patrons, ended up watching Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse.  If there is ever a reason to watch Roadhouse, it's with 50 other slightly inebriated bar people.  It was amazing.  Possibly the most awful movie ever was made incredible by the situation in which I watched it.  If you've never seen it, here's an excerpt.
Red Webster: How long are you gonna be in town? 
Dalton (Shwayze): Not very long. 
Red Webster: That's what I said 25 years ago. 
Dalton: Really? What happened? 
Red Webster: I got married to an ugly woman. Don't ever do that. It just takes the energy right out of you. She left me, though. Found somebody even uglier than she was. That's life. Who can explain it? 

     The next morning I left Jacob, spent some time in the city and then headed for my next host's home which was in West Seattle.  This was the home of Grant and Lisa.  Grant met me at the door with his giant golden retriever and then led me around back where to my surprise was my own little house waiting for me.  Well, it wasn't a house... but it was an entirely self sufficient guest room with a shower washer/dryer, kitchen area and a refrigerator.  Lisa made sure I had a dry towel and then they too gave me a key to the garage and the room.  This gave me another day to explore without having to drag my caboose.  Currently I'm staying in the American Hostel in Downtown Seattle.

     The wedding is tomorrow.  I feel anxious not only for the wedding itself but to start riding back home.  This will be my last night in Seattle because I'm leaving right after the wedding tomorrow evening.  Actually, I have a confession to make.  My friend Miranda drove up here from Temecula and she also is leaving right after the wedding tomorrow evening...  Now I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that I'm going to do the dirty, low-down, no-good thing and ride back with her.  I say shame on you for thinking that.  After all we've been through.  I'm only going to do half of the dirty, low-down, no-good thing.  Actually it' not that bad.  She's agreed to let me ride with her down to St. Helens Washington.  Which would save me an entire two days of riding and a whole night in Seattle which, to be honest, is really expensive.  This hostel is costing me 40$ a night.  Anything I can do to save that extra 40 bucks I will.  After the Sunday night in St. Helens I will make the 95 mile ride to Tillamook then take the coast home from there.  Please don't be angry with me.  I just have to get out of Washington.  I feel proud of myself though.  My odometer says that since I've started the trip I've put 1950 miles on my bike.  It hasn't all been forward progress but still... that's a lot of miles.  It's amazing what a little time and about 60 miles a day will do.

     As far as coffee goes, there hasn't been anything that exciting here.  I did see the original Starbucks in Pikes market.  Apart from the the aesthetics of the store they're still selling the same coffee.  They're just using better machines to make equally as awful drinks.  On some street corners if you stand just right, you can see two Starbucks at once.  Seattle coffee roasters traditionally roast pretty dark which just isn't something that I'm into.  Some people really like the harsh and heavy roasted profile but it's just not my thing.  I'm kind of coffee'd out to be honest.  I know it's a little anticlimactic, but I've had so much good coffee from these other places that I think that there would have to be a super stunning shop here to really catch my attention.  And although there is at least three coffee shops on every street corner most of them are mediocre at best.

     This is going to be my last post by text.  On the way home I plan of traveling as fast as I can so I don't think that that will leave me much time to write about my travel back.  I'm going to try to take videos with my iPod touch so maybe I can upload those pretty frequently.  Again, I want to thank you all for reading.  Maybe this story of an out-of-shape kid from SoCal riding all the way to Seattle will inspire you to do something similar in the future.  Anyone can do it.  You just need the time.  And remember...

-John the Rider

Sunday, July 10, 2011

All My Friends Are Dead

Tacoma, Not Just a Truck

Great Book
     From Olympia was the ride to Tacoma.  Not a whole lot stood out to me.  It was a pretty easy ride with the wind at my back most of the time.  There was not much a view of anything as I rode through some smaller cities on the way to Tacoma.  I arrived around six with somewhat of a clue as to how I would be getting to my next host's house.  It turned out that I was way off and after I was able to get directions, mess those up, then get more directions I finally rolled up to my stop.  Even though the house was in a residential district it was nestled within an amazing flowered lawn.  It felt like I was walking through Narnia to get to the front door.  The door was opened by the master gardener that attended to this wonderful land named Connie.  Her husband Mat was working that evening so I didn't meet him for an hour or so later but in the meantime I was treated to another delicious meal.  Something of a vegetarian thai dinner mixed with some pork tenderloin.  It was amazing.  I was also introduced to her daughter Holly and her kids that had just returned from their vacation to San Francisco and Yosemite.  A short time later Mat came home and quickly I felt like I was a part of their family.  I learned a lot about these people as we spent the night sharing stories of each of our travels.  Connie and Mat, who met during a bike tour, both have extensive touring experience.  I wasn't joking also when I said that she is a "master gardener."  It's an actual title to someone who completes a training program and afterward can assist with garden lectures, exhibits, demonstrations and is equipped to answer pretty much any gardening question.  Mat is a social worker that tries to get first offender kids back on the right track.  They gave me a clean bed to sleep in and around 11 I passed out.

    The next day Connie and Mat and I all had coffee together at a pretty decent coffee shop called Valhalla Coffee Company.  I liked the tribute to the masculine slavic lore but the coffee wasn't spectacular.  The barista making the milk drinks did a good job but the drip coffee wasn't handled with enough care to make it worth the price.  Afterwards we went to see Holly's home which was within this beautiful place called the "Narrows."  It's in this inlet where the Puget Sound comes and meets Tacoma which puts these homes right on the water.  They're all built on stilts and the level at which they are above the water is dependent on how high or low the tide is.  The views from these places are absolutely astounding.  When we were finished there we went back to Connie and Mat's place where we would await the arrival of two touring cyclists from Canada.  That night there was another amazing meal of
salmon and ratatouille.  The Canadians were just as hungry as I was and we all at an amazing amount of food.  There's nothing like the dynamic between five cyclists.  As we were talking it felt like we had shared all of our experiences together.  We all at and talked late into the night and after some Klondike bars and some home made cookies we went to bed.  Leaving from a campsite in the morning is easy.  Most times I just want to get out of there.  Leaving from a such a warm and hospitable place is really hard.  The short time it takes to get to know these people is enough to form a strong bond that is hard to pull away from.  Connie and Mat wished me goodbye on a sunny morning as my wheels were pointed in one direction... Seattle.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Washington HO!!!

     Leaving Portland was much less intense than entering it.  I took the 30 which heads north and will continue on to Astoria if you were to stay on.  But I didn't go to Astoria, I went to Washington.  Washington the land of obnoxious wooden debris all over the side of the road.  I shouldn't say that.  The great state of Washington has many great qualities... there's just a crap ton of wood debris all over the side of the road.  As I crossed over this giant bridge from Rainier, OR I was unceremoniously dropped into to Longview/Kelso WA.  I think more truckers than tourist cross into Washington this way so there were no cool signs or tourist information centers or beautiful women putting lays around your neck as you enter the "By and By" state.  You know, I think I may have crossed over on the 4th of July so, the lay women were probably off on holiday.  Longview is somewhat of an industrial town so as far as aesthetics there's not a whole lot going on.  At least on the road I was on.

    My first stop in was at a state park called Seaquest State Park.  This place is one of the stops you should make if your on the way to Mt. Saint Hellens.  It's on the 504 which is a cool scenic rout toward the monster volcano.  Careful if your on a bike though... it's definitely uphill.  As I pull up to the kiosk ready for a quiona dinner and some snoozage the friendly park attendant dropped a bomb on me.  The "primitive" site was 12 bucks.
"Shot to the heart and you're to blame,
 you give state parks, 
 a bad name."
     My eyes must have grown three times the size but I payed the man and went in the park.  The site wasn't bad.  It was just off the beaten path a little and the water and restrooms were a little ways away.  The worst thing about this site was, though, was the amazing amount of mosquitos.  It was incredible.  I felt like Dorthy when all the flying monkeys were trying to grab her and all of her friends and take them away to the Wicked Witch's castle.  It was so bad that after I made my food I had to retreat to my tent for shelter from the devil vampire creatures.  They were poking at me through the screen and I swear I could hear tiny voices cursing and swearing revenge.  I think that somehow a few managed to get in because when I woke up the next morning I still had fresh little bites.
     Anyway, the next day I made pretty good time one the way to Olympia.  A noticeable thing about this part of Washington was the visible clear cutting of the trees.  In Oregon you see logging trucks go by, but no real evidence of what's actually going on.  In Washington in looks like the forrest got a really bad hair cut with an electric razor.  As you ride you see the tall trees then all of a sudden it's open space, over and over.  I wasn't really paying attention too much because all I was really thinking about was the shower that awaited me in Olympia.
    The providers of this delicious shower were Dudley and Dana.  They are wonderful.  I met them as they were on the way out on their own bike ride but they just let me in and gave me free rain of the house for about an hour while they rode.  I showered while they were gone and little did I know that after the shower was to be an amazing meal.  I would soon find out that these two have an amazing ability to whip up gourmet meals like it's nothing.  We we're eating eggplant parmesan that night, yogurt and hot cereal for breakfast the next morning, curry chicken salad sandwiches for lunch and for the road Dana gave me some crazy amazing cold salad dish that I had never heard of before that consisted of: some different wheat, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, mint and cilantro.  Now if you're taken back by this all I can say is, "So was I!"  I immediately felt we were close friends.  They both have really cool touring experiences so it was great reminiscing together of each of our stories.  Dudley had spent over a year on the road at one point.  Together they went around the coast of Australia and Tasmania... and I think the went to New Zealand as well.  So far the people that have hosted me have gone far and above what I ever imagined anyone would for a complete stranger.  I just hope that someday I'll be able to do the same for someone else.  I left there feeling like I was leaving home all over again and made my way for Tacoma... where another amazing experience was waiting for me.

Coffee Notes
-Batdorf and Bronson:  From the early 1800's to the mid 1900's coffee companies, as well as most other companies, labeled themselves simply by using their last names then adding "CO."  I'm not sure if they were paying omage to an old stye but it definitely seemed that way.  It was actually a sizable store.  Not to many coffee shops can afford the amount of room they had.  It felt open like a fancy hotel lobby.  The latte I had was ok.  It had decent art but milk tasted damaged because it was steamed too hot.  I ended up talking to another barista for a while who mentioned that she was riding the STP (Seattle to Portland, a 200 mile ride that 10,000 people do in one weekend) rout the next weekend.  That seems like something I would like to be a part of someday.  She pulled me a shot of espresso as well.  It tasted good but I think that these guys just roast a little heavier that I'm used to, so it wasn't my favorite.  As I left we both wished each other luck for the riding each of us would be doing in the future.

-Olympia Coffee Roasters:  In a word... AMAZING!!!  These guys got it goin' on!  Although they have a pretty small operation they do big things with it.  I had a Costa Rica drip coffee that was fruity and delicious.  It was made using this machine called a clover machine.  I don't usually recommend machine made single cup brewers but this one is amazing.  It seems to create the perfect cup every time.  You don't see them too much anymore because the good ol' 'Bucks bought the company and has the rights now.  These guys have an older model so they can still use it.  On top of the clover though they have baristas that have competed nationally in the Brewer's Cup and placed 2nd and 5th.  The brewers cup is a competition that tests a baristas skill at making single cup drip coffee using any manual method that they prefer as well as their customer service skills.  The espresso was great as well.  Al around goodness.  If you're ever in Olympia make this place you're first and last coffee stop.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Month To Portland

I was bookin!  The road from Tillamook to Portland is pretty stinkin fun.  There's probably a 600 foot elevation climb in the middle but it didn't really phase me.  I was spending the whole day going East.  Which is important because... The wind was at my back!  All day!  All glorious day!  I was riding by a river, the sun came out, I was jammin' to some tunes, I passed by a bunch of touring riders going the opposite way that were having a hard time which made me look like a super awesome riding stud for the first time.  It really has been one of my favorite days of riding so far.  It became a little hairy when I got into the greater Portland area because the road actually turned into a highway.  Not that it was really dangerous, or anything, but these really trafficked roads have tons of debris littered on the sides of them.  Both my front and back tires got punctures.  Fun stuff.  The strange thing was, though, was when I was getting near the city I couldn't see it.  I knew I had to be less than two miles out and all I could see were some big rolling hills.  I kept on going and the road took a downward turn and I went through an unexpected tunnel and then BAM!  Portland.  Apparently Portland was right on the other side of this hill the whole time... Silly Portland.

      Portland is a really neat place.  It is incredibly green.  It seems as though people there have been really intentional about planting and making sure there are plenty of trees and foliage to go around.  As I was looking for the home I would be staying at that night a gigantic shadow passed by me.  I felt like a little fish on the ocean floor that just realized a shark was looming over me and had only seconds left to live.  When I looked up I saw this giant, silver 50's space ship hovering over me.  This isn't science fiction.  It's the monorail that goes from the bottom of the hill to the top where the hospital is.  It was super cool.  It just felt like the future.  A short time later I arrived at my destination and met Mia.  Mia is a really cool free spirited woman.  Currently she's a full time volunteer.  I would try to list back all the organizations she's either started or helped get off the ground but there's no way that I could remember them all.  It was great having conversations with her because she has opinions different than anyone I've met on the trip so far.  She definitely has concern for the wellbeing of the future of the human race and the planet.  For me to talk to someone like this was eye opening and inspirational.   She gave me directions to all the hot spots and great coffee shops in the city and we bid each other good night.

Heart Storefront
Cold Brew/Cookie
     The next morning Mia and I had coffee together and then we separated to achieving or own separate goals for the day.  My main objective... COFFEE!!! YEA!!!  Have I had too much coffee yet on this trip?  NEVER!!!  Actually I took it easy as far as coffee goes.  It was a beautiful day and Portland is such a bike friendly city that I had a lot of pleasure just riding around.  I did visit two amazing shops though.  My first stop was a place called Cellar Door.  It was unassuming and was located on the corned of an intersection.  It had a mostly wooden homey feel and they roast in the basement of the facility.  The girl behind the bar made me an amazing cappuccino.  I haven't really been getting the milky espresso drinks very often because I don't just trust anyone to make them for me.  It's so easy to mess them up.  But she did a great job.  My next stop was Heart Coffee Roasters.  This place was sleek.  The roll up, hanger style doors opened into a futuristic looking black and chrome rounded off shop.  They had every way to prepare coffee imaginable.  They had all the  usual traditional drinks but you could also get your coffee made from a french press, a chemex pour over, a siphon or even cold brew.   Cold brew!  Cold brew is a method for making iced coffee that involves steeping coarsely ground coffee for 24 hours.  Not introducing the coffee to hot temperatures allows it to extract in a completely different way than removing the flavors quickly with hot water.  Avoiding all the potential acidic flavors hot water can extract, it only captures the nutty, rounded, sweet tastes of the coffee.  It's amazing.  It was so warm outside so I got some cold brew and it tasted like i was in coffee heaven.  Heart has got it going on.

     I did stop by the downtown area to check out what had brought me to Portland in the first place.  The Blues festival.  It was cool but to be honest there were sooooo many people and there was nowhere to sit.  Although the music was good it was just hard to enjoy it so I only watched a couple acts and then checked out.  I'm not totally bummed because the festival did bring me to Portland which, after seeing it, would have been a shame to leave out of the trip.  The good thing was that it was located right next to downtown Portland so I was able to just walk around and see the sights of the big city.  Afterwards I went back to Mia's place, packed up and got ready for the next day which would take me out of Oregon.  I was thinking about it and I'm leaving Portland on the 5th of July which is exactly a month after the day I started the trip.  Looking back it doesn't feel like I've been traveling for a month.  Looking ahead it's hard to imagine that I'll be traveling for almost another month.  I'm not really sure how I feel about it.  Some days I feel an almost uncontrollable urge to hop a bus and get back home.  Other days I feel like there is nothing better than what I'm doing right now at this moment.  I simultaneously miss home and love the journey.  It's a weird feeling to have.  I can't say what I'll do for the trip back from Seattle as far as sticking to the bike or not.  Either way I'm thankful for what this all has been and everything I've learned.  But... I still have a couple hundred miles to go.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lincoln City, Tillamook and More Rain

  There hasn't been a whole lot going on the past few days.  I did a super easy ride into Lincoln City where I spent most of my time in the public library.  The clouds parted for the day and I threw a bunch of my wet things, which was pretty much everything, out on the grass to dry.  That night I camped with three touring ladies.  One was new blood like me but the other two had been on multiple tours and had ridden about 90 miles the day before.  A gnarly day for anyone.  Even though I didn't ride very far I still ate a massive amount of pasta and an entire loaf of garlic bread and called it a successful day.
     The next day I, again, was in a heroic battle with my ancient enemy.  The rain was brutal.  Well, for a kid that grew up mostly in desert climates the rain was brutal.  Even if a local wouldn't necessarily call the rain "brutal"... or even a sprinkle, it was still enough to re-soak everything that I had.  Alco, I realized that my "water proof" side bags aren't exactly 100% waterproof.  I made it just south of Tillamook to this really beautiful state park called Cape Lookout. At least it would be beautiful it it wasn't raining.  Fortunately I had some dry clothes to sleep in and it didn't really rain throughout the night so it was bearable.  Actually, the rain didn't bother me as much as I was expecting.  It made me think about how miserable I was on the first day when just a little bit of precipitation was basically ruining my life.  I think after all these miles I've finally just grown to accept what the conditions are around me.  I know now that it's not going to rain forever and that the more rainy and damp I get one day, when the sun comes out I'll appreciate it that much more.  The next day the sun did come out and it was glorious.

    On the way to Cape Lookout there were two notable stops that I made.  One was a really cool brewery called Pelican Bay Brewery which brewed its own bear and had an amazing in house food menu.  This time I decided to get a sampler of all their house beers and I was not unsatisfied.  The second thing was the coffee shop right across the street from it called Stimulus Coffee.  This is the place where I first came into contact with the legendary Stumptown coffee company.  Stumptown is one of the more renown specialty coffee roasters that is based out of Portland.  These are the beans that Stimulus was using and after two cups of coffee I was satisfied that Stumptown's coffee lived up to its reputation.

     I had a couple days to kill before I was expected to arrive in Portland so I hung out in Tillamook for a couple days.  There's not a whole lot going on there except for the dairy community.  There are multiple cheese factories there and one of them has a tasting room... where I did spend a portion of my time.  So after about four days of taking it easy I plan on making the 80 mile trip from Tillamook to Portland tomorrow where I will be hosted by someone that I have never met in person.  We were connected through this network called "WarmShowers" which is a place online where cyclists can exchange information and receive housing and a warm shower in the middle of tours.  My decision to go into Portland was a last minute one and I'm really excited that someone is willing to host me through the holiday weekend.  I continue to be excited and am ready to get some serious riding in.  I feel like a slug.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Just A Little Black Rain Cloud

Marie and Trystan
     I stayed one more night in Florence to refuel the batteries, so to speak.  That night I met a few more riders.  Lo and behold I met a couple more Northies as well.  (Ben and I coined the words "Northies" and "Southies."  It's a little confusing because "Northie" pertains to someone traveling from the south and a "Southie" is someone coming from the north.)  They are a couple from Europe.  Trystan is a kite boarder from England and his girl friend Marie hails from Norway.  They started from LA about the same time I did and it hasn't been until just now that we finally met up.  It was another nice and peaceful night but little did I know, that looming over me was the arch nemesis of the bicyclist.  A dark brooding rain cloud.  (Cue ominous music).
   I left Florence still unsuspicious of the monster ahead of me.  I began to feel a little unease when I began to realize that I was traveling at speeds that I had yet to achieve the entire trip.  At first I thought it was because, well, I'm just the man.  Surely these three weeks had turned me into a top notch ball of muscle and energy, strong and fast enough to tackle anything in my way from here on out.  Needless to say I was cruising along, thinking pretty highly of myself when I realized what was actually happening.  There was no wind blowing at my face.  Up till that point I had had a pretty constant head wind.  Some days more sever than others but it's been a consistent variable this entire trip.  That day the wind was blowing at my back.  This was what was causing me to go so fast.  Now you would think that this is a good thing, which it is, but when the winds change direction it's usually a pretty good indicator that there's a storm-a-brewin.  And sure enough, WHAM!  Rain, rain, rain.
I need the carbs right?
    It wasn't so bad at first.  I pulled into Newport, OR around twelve thirty or so.  I was super, I mean, super stoked because I traveled 50 miles in a little over three and a half hours.  INCREDIBLE.  I've not even come close to that the entire trip.  It was like I was not even trying.  I can't wait to turn around for my southward journey home just so I can experience a constant tail wind.  Before I actually went into Newport  I was told that I had to stop in to the Rogue brewery which is right before you enter town.  The Rogue brewery is pretty cool.  To get to the Pub/Restaurant area you have to walk through all the giant tanks where the beer is fermenting.  It makes you feel like you're one of the crew.  After a pint of the nut brown ale and some super healthy Irish potato chips with ranch I went back outside to get back on the bike.  That's when good ol' Mr. Raincloud shook his wet, dripping hand at me.  Rain time.  I got on my bike and took giant bridge into Newport.  Actually, this is probably the most unfriendly reception I've ever had while entering a city on my bike.  I think I got about three honks and two people actually rolled down their windows, in the rain, to yell whatever nonsense they thought was appropriate and could spew out in the 1.3 seconds it took to pass me.  Now, I'm not saying that it couldn't have been poor riding on my part.  But I think I've been getting better, not worse, as I've been going along.  There must be some underground public angst towards bikers that I don'k now about or something.
     Another key stop was the bike shop in Newport  renown for it's hospitality towards touring cyclists.  Inside there's actually a lounge on the second floor for the traveling riders.  Also, there are showers and laundry facilities and internet access all provided.  Amazing!  I didn't need to utilize the facilities but it was still great just to see it.
     Eight quick but wet miles later I rolled into Beverly Beach state park where a somewhat grumpy state official checked me in for six bucks to the site.  In the hike/bike spot were about ten other bikers, including Trystan and Marie, huddled under trees trying to stay dry for the night.  For the most part it was ok.  It didn't rain too much but I did wake up with a small puddle next to me.  Curses.  Honestly, I almost wish it would rain more.  I'm not sure which is worse; being a little damp, or being harassed and surrounded by mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes have been awful the past few days it was a relief to have a break from their incessant blood sucking.  Even if it did mean getting a little wet.
     Well I'm way ahead of schedule so I made the grueling, ha, 20 miles to Lincoln City where I will be staying at Devils Lake State Park tonight.  The sun is starting to come out so maybe I can dry my tent before bed tonight.  See you soon little black raincloud.

     P.S. I had some surprisingly good coffee at a place in Lincoln called Big Mountain.  It's definitely worth stoping in if you ever are in the area.  He roasts in one pound increments using hot air roasters.  It's about as small a scale as you can go for commercial use but it tasted great and was really fresh.  Sweat deal.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Laundromat In Florence

My home for the Day is Florence, OR.  It's actually a pretty nice little place.  Believe it or not, in this small town of 6000 or less, there is actually some good coffee.  On the short 30 mile trip to Florence from Tugman State Park, I ran into my good northward buddy Benjamin.  He ended up staying at the park only four miles ahead of me the night before and stopped me as I was passing by him at the diner as he was finishing a heroically large breakfast.  We agreed to ride with each other up to Florence where I would stay for the day and where he would turn of and finish in Eugene 60 miles later.  Again it was really nice just to have someone to chat with along the way.  It makes the miles pass easier and quicker.  Also, because he's a stronger rider he was pushing me harder than I would have alone.  I hope to see him again on my way back through.
So I pulled down into Old Town Florence which is actually a quaint little place with some really nice shops.  As I was rolling down the street what did my eyes behold?  COFFEE!!! A roasting company was right before my eyes shining in heavenly glory.  I was in heaven as I was drinking my pour over style coffee and a delicious brownie trying to remember how long it has been since I've had something that can actually be called coffee.  It's been a coffee desert ever since San Francisco.  For a few minutes I was blissfully unaware of anything else but the steaming brew in front of me.  After I broke my coffee daze I hung out for a while, then went to Safeway for some dinner items and went to Honeyman State Park where I will stay for two nights.
    That night I had many companions.  There were about six of us that stayed in the hike/bike area... but only five of us could speak English.  There was a couple from Missouri named Johnny and Anna.  (I'm pretty sure.)  A couple solo girls named Barbara and the other Jenn, and finally a really cool solo rider from Germany named Charles.  Charles couldn't speak english but we felt like we understood his story by the end of the night.  He was just a goofy guy having fun touring the Pacific Coast.  After we made a community dinner Johnny and Anna busted out something that I'd nearly forgotten about this whole trip, a guitar!  It was a tiny one they picked up from a shop for about 80 bucks, but it was a fine instrument none-the-less.  Charles made a fire that night and it just felt good to have some music as we all sat around and warmed ourselves.  The more I go, the more I realize it's the simple pleasures, like morning fire made coffee or fireside music, that can make these sorts of trips really enjoyable.
Yep: A Zoltar Machine in Old Town Florence
    I got out of there before the other campers woke up and found another Foursquare church to attend sunday morning.  It felt good to be in there.  A really calming experience.  Afterward I made a b line straight for the laundromat.
    Before I could wash my clothes I asked a fellow washer if I could buy some soap off of him.  He let me use the soap free of charge and directed me to the best machines to use.  We started talking and after he heard about my trip he suggested that I stop by Portland for the blues festival that's going on the 4th of July weekend.  This sounds like a magical idea.  I'm getting a little tired of riding the coast because although it's beautiful, the wind and chill is starting to take a toll on me.  We talked about the best rout to take and I've decided that if I can figure out how to make it work I'm definitely going to veer inland and try to catch at least one day of the festival.  Before he left he gave me 20 dollars saying that if I could make it that that would pay for two days of the event.  I tried to compose myself from the shock and thank him as best as I could and then he just left... probably never to see me again.  His name is Tom.  A super cool guy.  These random acts of generosity are continually hammering my ego and reshaping the way I perceive people.  It's very humbling.  Thank you Tom.

I'm probably just going to head back, have some more coffee, rest again at Honeyman and head tomorrow for Newport, OR.  So that's where I leave you.  Writing from a Laundromat in Florence.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

1000 Miles and Oregon

Drum roll please.  (Drum roll sound followed by the crash/hit of the symbol and snare together.)  1000 Miles!  Oh yea!  If you travel north from Santa Monica, 1000 miles later you will find yourself in Fort Dick, California.  (I know... look it up.)  I don't think that I have gone via any means of travel, by myself, for 1000 miles before.  I definitely feel like I have accomplished something.  Although I don't like to think that I'm doing this trip for purely selfish reasons, I don't mind telling other cyclists that I pass that I have over 1000 miles under my tires.  (Although the sense of pride quickly dies when I meet guys that have gone over 4000... which I have.)  Not only did I cross the 1000 mile threshold that day but I also broke free from the bonds of California into Oregon.  It was a truly monumental day.

     My first few miles into Oregon felt amazing.  The first sign that greets you is a "Minimum 6000 Dollar For Littering" sign.  So it is very clean.  The air smells better and it is so richly forested that it's hard to believe people have carved out a space to live among the foliage.  It wasn't very windy and there was plenty of space for me on the shoulder of the 101.  The day was good.  I pulled into Harris Beach State park on the end of a pleasant 50 mile day.  The Oregon state parks are... AMAZING!  Still only five bucks, but the are much better kept.  The bathrooms are cleaner than the one I was using at home and the showers are free.  The bike/hike sections are superior by far.  Instead of a haphazardly thrown together site, each space seems well planned out and just nice.  There were some other bikers and we all chatted and bonded the quick way that bikers do.  The best part of the night was that I met this touring guy named Benjamin.  I though I was pretty hard core with the amount of miles I've done and traveling north and all, but he had been riding for over three months from Florida and was traveling to Eugine.  Radical.  Finally another Northward bound traveler.  It was great because the next day we both decided to travel together which is something I've been yearning for since my dad had to leave me two days into the trip.  It was great.  We did more chatting than real biking and actually ended up going in the wrong direction for about five miles, but it didn't really matter.  It was nice just having a companion.  We shared a site at Humbug Mountain that night.  It was good just to be able to share with someone all the similar experiences that we both had.  The good times and the bad, the suffering and the triumphs.  We went our separate ways the next day because he was going to be putting in a few more miles than me.  Alone again I pushed on.

     Theres not a whole lot more to say about the next day.  It ended up being an 80 miler with some serious, serious wind conditions.  North Bend has been the windiest place so far and the hour or so I was there was not fun at all.  It was more of a work out day and I didn't really stop and smell the roses at all I just wanted it to be over.  I rolled into Tugman State Park around seven thirty just exhausted.  I made some food and just crashed.  Tomorrow I plan on doing a short thirty mile day to Florence and then resting on Sunday.  It will be a glorious rest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mill Creek

     I decided to put in another big day so I went from the KOA in Eureka to the Mill Creek Redwood State park in Crescent City.  Another 75 miles under the tires.  There's not a whole lot to say about the ride itself.  I'm pretty much ready to be done with Northern California.  It's been great but it will be wonderful for my constitution to finally ride into another state.  Along the way there were some more of the grand redwood trees and some interesting State Parks with fresh water lagoons right next to the ocean.  This also must be the chainsaw carving capitol of the world because every small town has about five gift shop with chainsaw carving memorabilia.
Fox Gloves: Beautiful But Poisonous
    It wasn't the smartest idea to pick the Mill Creek camp as my last stop for the day because it happens to be on the downhill side of the 1000 foot elevation hill that leads you into Crescent City.  So at about 6:30pm I was thanking my lucky stars that I had six miles of uphill climbing left to go.  In truth I was getting pretty low.  The miles from the past two days were starting to wear on me.  But at the crest of the hill something amazing happened.  The mist from the whole days fog started to clear and the blue skies broke through the tops of the trees.  Then, because there was still some lingering fog, the sun broke shone through like rays of effervescent light.  It looked like the fingers of God were reaching in, caressing his creation.  If there is a more beautiful sight on earth I have not seen it.  It was enough to make me stop on the side of the road just to take in the splendor of the moment.  The worst part was that my camera battery had died earlier that day so the scene will only be alive in my memory.  I doubt that a picture could have done it justice anyway.
Smith Family
     Thankfully there were only a couple miles to go.  I reached my campsite around 7:30 with relief and a readiness to lay and crash down for the night.  But the day wasn't over for me yet.  As I asked a family a couple sites down from me if they could point me in the direction of the camp's restrooms, they not only gave me the information I wanted but pretty much made me an honorary member of the family for the night.  After a hearty, hot, steamy, chilly and s'more dinner the Smith family and I told each others stories  and laughed together as the sun went down.  Mark is a military chaplain and his wife Christy finds plenty of work home schooling their five children.  The family of seven is an amazing group of people that I have had the good pleasure of spending a few short hours with.  They live in the Seattle area and so I hope to see them again before the trip is over.  They sent me away in the morning with eggs and ham and with a full stomach I made my way for some WiFi and a cup of coffee in Crescent city.
     I'm taking a short twenty mile day today, but after it's over I will be in Oregon.  FINALLY!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Too Leggett to Quit

Whoa man.  My legs are killing me.  There is a good reason for this... LEGGETT!!!  Anyone doing the Pacific Coast tour only needs to hear the word Leggett to feel chills of fear run down their knee caps.  I left the Westport KOA and an early 7:30am on the 19th of June, knowing full well there was a colossal monster waiting for me, ready to turn my body into mush.  The Leggett hill begins with a quick 600 foot elevation climb, then brings you to about 150 feet.  After that it's WHOOSH!!! You need to summon all your might and climb to a solid 1800+ feet elevation.  YEA!!!  Yea I was scared.  Yea I was like a small child watching a scary PG13 movie knowing full well that once my parents find out I'll be in big trouble for watching it without their permission.  But, as it turns out, it ended up not being so bad.  It took me at least three hours, but the hours didn't pass by in an agonizing way.  Leggett is actually a beautiful place and being able to see it at a slower pace was nice.  Because I started so early on a Sunday morning there was barely any traffic so it felt like it was just myself and the mountain and nature around me.  You know the old question, "If a tree falls in the forest with nobody to listen, does it make a sound?"  Although I didn't see or hear a tree fall, there were small things that were happening that, if I weren't there to hear or see it, would have gone unnoticed by the entirety of the human race.  Tiny subtle things like leaves falling or bees pollinating flowers or even deer and her fawn crossing the street.  It put life into an interesting perspective.  Life goes on and will continue to go on without me.  I am not necessary nor does the life on Leggett hill need me to thrive.  It has been doing so for thousands of years and will continue to do so long after I'm gone.  Kind of a humbling experience actually.

    When I got to the top of the hill I was told of the Drive Through Tree.  A giant "chandelier" redwood tree that has had its insides hollowed out so that a car could drive through the center.  It is actually amazing.  The fact that a tree, a living, growing thing, could be so wide that a car could comfortably fit through the center of it is just incredible.  I took some quick pictures and moved on, now going down the opposite side of the at incredible, sustained speeds, to my resting place which ended up being Lake Benbow State Park.  It's a cool place but incredibly lonely.  I think there was only one other group of campers all the way on the other end of the park  It wasn't terrible spending the day alone.  It did give me some time to reflect on the occurrences of the past couple days and reminded me how fortunate I am to be on this Journey.

     All right.  Leggett done.  The only problem is, is that from Benbow the nearest hike/bike option is a KOA just north of Eureka which is 85 miles away.  Long day ahead perhaps?  Luckily it's mostly downhill so I just took it for what it was and pushed on.  I stopped for coffee in a small town called Garberville, CA.  You have to stop at a place called Garberville right?  Anyway I needed provisions and warm coffee is just a must some mornings.  I mentioned to the barista/chef that worked at this pretty high-end bakery that I thought the scenery through the mountains is actually pretty spectacular and so vastly different that what you will see in Southern California.  He said, "Yea, it's our little secret."  Life in these places seems slower but the people just love the quiet scenic beauty of these small mountain towns.  Honestly, I don't blame them.  There is an alluring charm to these places.  It would be easy to found yourself settling down for a long time in the Humboldt Mountains.

     On my way to Eureka there is this road that cuts through some of the biggest Redwoods called "The Avenue of the Giants."  This place is absolutely astounding.  A thirty-mile ride through a giant living forest that, in most places, is over thousands of years old.  It's an ancient cathedral with colossal, monolithic, unmoving patrons that have withstood the changes of time for centuries.  Giant sages that hold quietly the wisdom of a millennia secretly within the folds of their branches.  I would bet that some of them even are so old that, as small saplings, felt the earth shake at the crucifixion of Jesus. It felt like a holy place.  I rode on silently, in awe of the majesty of creation.  I felt that any unnecessary noise was a sacrilege.  It was breathtaking and if anyone is in the area, please, divert from the 101 and take the Avenue of the Giants.  It's well worth your time.

     Afterwards I just cranked on, with many miles ahead of me.  A few more trees and a dairy farm or two later I finally rode into the KOA around seven or so.  17 bucks later (AHHHHH) I pitched my tent, ate some food and prepared for the next day. I was getting pretty comfortable, when the sound of two scooters broke my concentration.  The cause of this was two touring scooter riders from Michigan on a "Moped Justice Mission."  John and Bradey are two super cool guys that have gone around almost the entire country trying to raise awareness for human trafficking.  We ended up talking for a while and it was really cool to see a couple dudes utilizing the attention they we're getting for scooting America, and turning it into a conversation starter for a good cause.  Please check out their blog  It's something that we need to be aware about.  They also gave me food… Some pickles, tuna and beef jerky.  A wonderful addition to my pantry that is going to vastly enhance my daily ration of quiona and beans.  Thanks guys.

    Well, I'm going to wrap this one up.  I'm headed for Crescent City today and the end of California is in sight.  Oregon, here I come!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bodega Bay, Gualala, Mendocino, Fort Brag and Friends

As I left San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge on an uncommonly sunny day, I simultaneously felt daunted and relieved.  Relieved by the fact that I had conquered the road from LA to San Francisco and Daunted by the amount of miles ahead of me.  But there was nothing to do but continue on.  Besides, like I said, it was a beautiful day.  The first thing I noticed is how vastly and instantly different the northern California terrain is from it's southern counterpart.  I was now riding through forrest.  A spectacular transformation.  Another bizarre change was in the construction of the housing.  Everything was wooden with almost no curvature to any side.  Super straight and geometric.  I did make one stop on the way to Bodega at one of the many oyster/chowder shops that were along the coast.  It's hard to turn down a fresh cup of chowder to begin with, let alone a specialized chowder only northern chowder restaurant.  Finally I rolled into Bodaga, which is a decently windy coast town.  There must have been some open glass bottles or something like that close to a beach because there was this constant spooky whistling.  I felt like I was in a Scooby Doo episode where everyone thinks there's a ghost, but really it's just bottles by the sea shore.  Only in my episode after they find the ghost sounding bottles there ends up being a man eating ghost anyway...  I wasn't scared.

     The next day ended up being a pretty uneventful ride to Gualala.  I stopped at a small but quaint coffee shop in Jenner looking for internet but there wasn't any to be found.  Internet access and phone service has been pretty sparse the past few days.  But if you're going to find it anywhere it's going to be in a coffee shop... just not in Jenner.   Gualala was nice except for this really crazy domesticated raccoon.  This guy was relentless.  Me and the other biker named Ress could only hope that the other camps were a little more messy than we were so it wouldn't go after all of our food during the night.  Ress scared it away a couple times and we didn't end up getting raided in the middle of the night so it ended up being a-ok.

Judy Bonnes
    Another earlyish start that morning and I plugged along to Mendocino.  Can I just say that although I haven't' really been climbing roads that get me much  higher than 100ft above sea level, but I must have climbed over ten 100 foot hills.  So, although I'm not gaining the elevation, my body still feels like I've been climbing a mountain.  Make up your mind earth.  I forgot to mention that early in the morning on my way to Gualala out of the coffee shop I stopped at, my BOB trailer popped of it's mount and ended up slightly pushing my wheel out of true.  (It was wobbling.)  So the past few days I'd been keeping my eye out for a bike shop to get my wheel looked at.  So I started the day out a little uneasy and I was keeping my progress pretty slow on my uneven wheel.  About half way through my day I stopped at this small town called Elk, California to eat one of my pre made peanut butter and honey sandwiches, when, in mid bite, a local woman came up to me and offered to buy me a cup of coffee at the shop right next to us.  Not being able to turn down coffee and some good company I accepted and we ended up having a really cool lunch together.  Her name is Judy Bonnes and she is a silk painter who lives in Elk.  I had no previous knowledge of the art of silk painting but she showed me some of her stuff and it's really cool.  For all you out there interested in hand painted silk scarves check her out on face book.  (Judith Gates Bonney)  After lunch I pushed on into the wind shooting for Mendocino.  After a front tire blow out in Little River I ended up pulling into a bike shop called Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too and was introduced by circumstance to a super cool dude named Jason.  Jason ended up taking time out of his busy schedule and the mountain of bikes that were stacked up for him to fix in front of me and took a look at my wobbly ride.  What I thought was just a little alignment problem ended up being a broken spoke which Jason replaced along with getting me a couple of extras on to take along with me.  Overall a really cool experience.  I wish I had more time to get to know him and experience the shop for a little longer but I had to push on to the Russian Gulch State Park where I would be staying for the night.  (If you're looking for a cool time in Norther California though check out Catch A Canoe, it's a great family place for canoeing and riding.

     So I was expecting the bleak lonely bike/hike that I've been used to the past week or so when I rode down into Russian Gulch.  There was already a couple there, which was cool, but nothing really out of the ordinary.  Then, all of a sudden about five more bikers ride down to the camp site, completely packing out the space.  This, for me, was amazing.  Apparently these guys, and girl, started touring in different places separately but ended up just getting on the same route and just been staying at the same sites for about a week.  They were all laughing and joking together and reminiscing about their experiences of the previous day and then they just sucked me in.  It was awesome.  Like a biker family we all just started talking about all the what/when/why's of our tours, a guy named Diego gave me nearly a pound of chocolate and the Canadian couple made everyone omelets in the morning.  I was definitely jealous of the bond they had formed but it was great to experience this cool community for a night and a morning.  Yesterday was an amazing day.