Monday, September 26, 2011

The Not so Lost Cyclists in Northern California

California started almost like a foreign country. After passing the welcome sign, we entered the fabled Agricultural inspection station. Many bicycle tourers have ended their trips here, being jailed for life sentences for trying to sneek a illicit cherry across the border. For us, the Fable Foursome, we simply got a smile and some free maps and were on our way. So be it.

Nor-Cal, or North California for some, started with the Del Norte county, where farm lands and wild coast lines dominated the days leading up to the coastal Redwoods, the tallest trees to live on this planet. Lets talk a bit about the Redwoods. They are massive. They are the biggest collection of bio-mass (life/energy) on this planet. When you are in a redwood old growth forest, of which 5% is left, you are in the middle of the most alive place on Earth. In life, a redwood tree can support about 1,700 species, form it's base to the canopy. In death, a redwood tree can support about 4,300 species. They are prime examples of the absolute full cycle of this planet, of how life and death are both intricate, important parts of the cycle. We mourn death, while we should celebrate, both the soul/energy of the person whom we shared many times with, and the life that all death ultimately supports.

We traveled for a while along the rugged, sea stack littered coast line before entering the national and state parks that make up the Coastal Redwoods.  We biked amongst giants that towered above us.  We gazed like children up, lost in the magical grip that these massive, seething trees exude.  We felt small, humble, prayed over by the quiet giants.  being amongst the redwoods is feeling like a child struck in constant awe, silent by the majesty of it all.


Then the lost coast happened.  On the map, it looked like a nice scenic detour along the coast, a few miles out of our way, and in theory flat riding.  Nice.  Plans, like civilization, is built upon a faulty foundation and can so easily crumble.  It turned out to take us 2 days, over 60 miles, and the hardest, steepest climbing i have done on this trip.  Hours of climbing over the friendly sounding, Rainbow Range, and we started the death descent down the hill known locally as "The Wall".   A near vertical descent over the worst road on Earth, it makes the roads in Utica seemed paved in gold.  After breaking: a pannier screw, brake arm, and crushing my headset bearings, we were blessed by bike touring divine intervention.  Taking the smart way down, Christine rolled up in a pickup truck with our saviors for the day, Jib and Jane who lived just in the next town of Petrolia, with a little ups and downs in the way.  Turned out to be 20 miles and more difficult hills before i rolled exhausted into their house where we camped for the night.  Another tough day of climbing had us on the Avenue of the Giants for some of our last redwood riding.  We have been along the coast since, with foggy days where only the sounds of the crashing waves 100's of feet below let you know there is a cliff close by, with sweeping vistas of the wave battered rocky shoreline, from the fennel growing wild on the road, to the people and places, sights and the sounds, we have traveled along the fabled north coast of California, and just now took a dip along the Russian river to Occidental and a day of rest.

From here, we four pull into San Fransisco for our last days together.  Christine must return to Vermont, where the sun does shine but not like it does here in California.  Andrea heads south too, but her timeline is different and we probably will say Auf Wiedersehen to Andrea.  Me and Chris will head to Big Sur and then make our way through the lush valley of California and north to Yosemite.  There we will pass into the Mojave desert as we cruise on down to the lowest point on this trip, Death Valley

Eduardo and the Dog are doing well, a little tune up today and some wheel rotation has us feeling juicy.  Check out all the photos at picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics, check out Chris's blog at http://reallylongbiketrip.blogspot.com/, and let your self have the freedom to love, and love the freedom that you have.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two guys, a girl and the Oregon Coast

It wasn't always this way. I had biked for a few days more than four months, over 7,000 miles by myself, across nearly 25% of the United States. And then, just like that, it all changed. Chris arrived in Portland as planned, and a scant two hours later, after using the supplied bike stand at the Portland Airport, we were on our way to drop off Chris's stuff so we could explore Portland and get some biking in. We hit a local brewery before Chris said we had to go somewhere his girlfriend told him about. We got there, and I saw nothing of any importance until a rude biker biked by me to close and said sorry. Turns out, I knew this biker. Yes, seems I didn't get up early enough that day as a fast one was pulled on me and Christine secretly came out to Portland too to bike for about a month with us down the Pacific coast. We therefore became the 7 Foot Gang. Another day biking around town, getting last minute supplies and tweaking our rides, and we went to bed early with bike touring dreams in our head.

We left Portland via the light rail to avoid riding in the urban area surrounding town and the traffic. We got off at the end of the line and jumped on the highway west, and then south before leaving to make our crossing of the coastal range which stood between us and the pacific ocean. A tough first day for my new mates as it was hot and sunny and a whole lot of climbing, but they we certainly getting into it quickly. We made camp at the top of the summit and talked about the next day of hitting the coast.

Hit the coast we did, with Pacific City being the first stop on our coastal route.  we lunched and enjoyed the salty sea air before heading off and camping for the night.  A day of head wind and 80 miles had us tired and sleeping early.  But we meet up with the German again, and our threesome became a foursome overnight.  

We have thus continued south along the coast with occasional routes that take us off highway 101.  When that happens, its very nice indeed as the traffic is constant, not always heavy, but non stop on the highway and the little side roads are much nicer.  The terrain is up and down, with most climbs not too bad.  I find that somehow I end up in front of the group, stop for all to catch up, and then we continue on our way.  Being part of a group is much different than making all the decisions and choices for and by myself before.  I like talking about the day, what is upcoming, and just joking around at night in camp.  Now that I have been to the one place i needed to be at a certain time, Portland, I feel more inclined to simply bike and get where ever we get that day, it don't matter.  There's no fire.  

Every turn we take opens up another spectacular vista of rugged sea, rock islands with trees growing atop, birds inches from the surf cruising on the winds.  and there we are pedaling or freewheeling it, soaking in the sun when it shines, breathing in the fresh air, and loving it all, bingle by bingle of course.  

As always, head over to picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics to see all the action.  With a growing sense of freedom and expanding capacity to love, keep pedaling.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Phase 1: Complete

You'd think by now that I would stop expecting tinker tape parades, media frenzy and general hoopla when I enter a town upon my steel steed.  You'd be wrong.  It seems that I was the only one aware that I was entering Portland after spending just over 4 months (127 days) cycling from Burlington, Vermont, traversing these states and provinces, wandering on the road, in my mind and in my heart for endless hours.  Life can become a blur, as we try to look behind, what we did can be covered in fog.  Four months is not forever, but the infinite things i have seen, experienced, the people places and animals, it can crowd my head and sometimes I dont see the past as clearly.  Of course, its the present that I am really into, and biking bingle by bingle helps re-enforce that it is the NOW that is always most spectacular and sweet.  With that said, lets take a look back:


May 3, 2011 Burlington, Vermont - September 7, 2011 Portland Oregon
Miles Traveled: 7,060.9
Days Cycled: 119
Zero Mile days: 8
Time Cycled: 615 hours, 30 minutes
Average Daily Distance: 59.3 miles
Longest Day: 132.04 miles, 10 hrs, 33 mins
States Cycled: (12) Vermont, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Washington, Oregon
Canadian Provinces: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia
National Sites Visited: (17) Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks, Apostle Islands, Pipestone, Badlands, Minuteman, Mt. Rushmore, Windcave, Rocky Mountains, Flaming Gorge, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, North Cascades, Ross Lake, Mt. Rainier, Olympic
Canadian National Sites: Kootney, Banff, Jasper
Mountain Passes: (19) Colorado - Rabbit Ears 9,426 ft, Milner 10,758 ft, Trail Ridge 12,183 ft, Muddy 8,772, Fall river 11,796, Montana - Badger 6,760ft, Big Hole 7,630, Chief Joseph 7,264, Lost Trail 7,014, Marias 5,280, Logan 6,646 Alberta - Sinclair 1,486 m, Vermillion 1,640m, Bow 2,068m, Sunwapta 2,035, Yellowhead 1,131 Washington - Loup Loup 4,020 ft, Washington 5,477ft, Rainy 4,855 ft
9 Continental Divide Crossings

There are probably other things I can say, but i really dont feel like sitting around adding everything up or making up random stuff.  If you really need to know more, just ask.  Tomorrow, Chris arrives and we'll ride form the airport officially staring my Phase Two: Portland to Austin.  we have about 4 months to travel the Pacific coast and southwest before meeting up with some more touring friends in Texas.  But what the future really holds for us, who knows.  Thats what makes cycle touring so great, we dont need to know, only go.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Washington: The Everything State (Part 2 of 2)

Like the famous explorers, Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, I set off from Seattle with a shiny new drive train, fully packed food bag and a smile on my rested face via the ferry to Brainbridge Island where I crossed over onto the Olympic Peninsula and hooked up with the infamous highway, the 101.  It was a long day of highway biking and some frustrations trying to find the poorly signed Olympic Discovery bike trail but find it I did and I pulled into Port Angeles and a warmshower host on the edge of the Hurricane Ridge road.

My destination after leaving Port Angeles was unknown even to me.  I figured I would cycle till I stopped, either on the Pacific coast or in the rain forest, both of which were on my route.  I ended up camping by the coast at La Push, which I later learned is a now famous area due to the Twilight book series.  I got my first splash of the cold ocean water after nearly 4 months cycling across the states.

A short day followed as I made my way mostly east and into the Olympic National Park to hike in and camp at the Hoh Rain Forest.  Much different than tropical rain forest, and the big thing for me was that i was in the area in the United States that gets the most rain and I was getting sun and warmth.  Not to shabby I dare say.

After a night under the mossy trees, it was back west to the rugged and hard packed coast before heading east once again for the 2nd rain forest in the park. another hike, more wonderful slugs, and a cloudless night where the stars did shine bright.  An early start had me on the road along with the logging traffic as I altered between clear cuts and replanted forests.  Visited the super tourists town of Ocean Shores and spent a very very cold, foggy night camped behind their very nice high school.  A cool wet morning turned into a sunny warm day as I made my short way inland around Gray's Harbor and to Twin Harbor State Park where I meet up with my second touring partner of the trip thus far, Andrea the German.  The German was cycling the entire Pacific Coast trail from Vancouver to San Diego.  We rode for the next two days together, and most likely will bump into each other again, as all of us cyclists are pretty much on the same path south.


It was an 80 mile day to the south tip of Washington and the terminus of the Columbia river at Cape Disappointment.  This is near where the Lewis and Clark exploration ended.  This is not where we would end.  A hiker/biker site had me and the German, along with another team of two cycling south along the coast.  I know I will see many bikers for the next few weeks along the coast, a nice change from my nearly empty ride of other bikers for much of the last 4 months.

The end of my time in Washington was marked with a 4.1 mile bridge spanning the Columbia river to Astoria, Oregon.  We ran into a German couple cycling Alaska to Argentina and all four of us braved the bridge and rode helter skelter style till we were on dry land in the state of Oregon.

And so, I am now one day ride outside of Portland, where tomorrow will also mark the end of my 128 days on the road solo, from Burlington to Portland.  I am nervous, though probably not as much as Chris "Hop-a-long" Childers is, but still, nervous.  Stayed tuned for the much anticipated 4 month wrap up and summary, where I spill all the juicy stats of the last four months, make up a few fun facts, and give a vague idea of the next months to come.

Enjoy the photos at picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics, enjoy the waning days of summer, and with freedom and love, keep pedaling.