Sunday, July 31, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 10

Day 10 – Wild, Wild West

Stats – Little River to Gualala – 50.4 miles

The alarm went off at its usual time of 6:20am, but I let us sleep in a little as I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of miles to accomplish today and my body also reminded me of the crazy amount of hills we did the previous day. I slowly woke up to the drippy sound of a drizzly rain outside, and when I finally opened my eyes, I discovered a giant banana slug lumbering its way across the outside flap of the tent. Ewwww.

We made a lazy morning of it, enjoying our usual coffee and oatmeal (Eric, who likes to swim upstream, enjoyed his tea and tortilla with peanut butter). We said goodbye to our friends Gwen and Roger, Rose, Loren, and Jonathan, and watched them ride off. We finally set out, only to find the leg from Little River to Elk to be very hilly. Our legs were very angry at us, complaining since they already did so much work yesterday. The northern California coast doesn’t have a lot of sandy beaches, mostly just rocky bluffs, so the road takes you up and down, from one bluff to another, through dry, brown grass and agricultural land.

We arrived in the small town of Elk around 11am for second breakfast, which has become Sabrina’s favorite meal of the day. There is an adorable little bed and breakfast there, with a beautiful garden, and even has a little garden shop and general store on the property.

We bought coffee and peach cobbler at the little café and the manager suggested we sit out back on their deck and enjoy the view. That we did. There was a fabulous ocean view below, with large rocks and big waves. We watched a flock of pelicans swoop around, listened to hummingbirds chitter, and watched a lizard sunning himself near some wildflowers.

We reluctantly left our oasis at Elk to find the hills not much easier. In fact, about a mile out of town was what we were warned as the “steepest climb on the Pacific Coast”. Umm…. Yeah. We all walked it at one point – except for Eric. It was ridiculous – tight turns, and super de-duper steep. I would be afraid to go on that hill even in a car.

When we got to the top of the hill, we found a bikelist from Portland who had snapped his chain climbing said ridiculous hill. He tried to fix it, but the chain tool broke and his extra link became unusable. He was preparing to hitchhike back to Fort Bragg to get to a bike shop, have his bike fixed, and then bike the 30 miles he just did – again. Fortunately Ben had a chain tool and also had an extra link on his chain that would work for his bike, so after a little delay we were able to get him back on the road.

After that crazy hill, things seemed to settle down a little. We got in a good groove of “fun rolling hills” – bomb down the hill as much as we can and try to let the momentum carry us up the next hill. There were no straight stretches. Just one hill after the other. We were planning on eating lunch in Point Arena, but it ended up being a linner due to the hills and the crazy headwind we hit entering Point Arena. In town, we found it to be lacking the organic burrito place we heard about. In fact, most businesses were either closed down for good, or closed because it was Sunday. It was kind of hard to tell, due to the shape that most of the buildings were in.

We did find a cute co-op Market/Deli in the town, simply called Arena Market. It had a large selection of organic groceries as well as some food that was made in-house. We all got some deli sandwiches, and Ben and I got some white corn soup. The couple from Tennessee were there, as well as Loren (the Bike Friday guy). They also had free wi-fi, so we took some time to recharge and work on the blog. The weird thing about this co-op was that it was extremely out of place. Everyone in this town looked sketchy. Ben mentioned this to the normal, nice guy behind the counter at the co-op, and also told him about our fugitive experience in the redwoods, and he was surprisingly met with a confirmation. Yes, this is where people go to hide out. This is the area where people take kids when they are kidnapped. The cops don’t come to town for burglary calls anymore, because they are so many and it’s too far to drive.

Okay. Don’t live on the coast of Northern California or in the Redwoods. Unless you are Big Foot.

As we left Point Arena, the climate got a little cooler. We noticed some deer prancing through someone’s yard, and a group of turkey vultures leering at us, trying to figure out which of us was the weakest.

Watch out, there's a T-Rex in Gualala, too!!!!

We rolled into our campsite at the Gualala Regional Park at a decent hour in the evening, but once we got to the hiker/biker area it felt like dusk. This would be because of the amazing bay trees that covered the whole area. Eric and I wanted to climb them very badly.

Here we found Rose, Gwen and Roger, the couple from Tennessee, and the old Trek guy again. Most of them had planned to go to Salt Point State Park, but that was about another 20 miles and they, like us, decided to take it easy on their poor overworked legs.

Once everyone was quiet and mostly asleep, Ben heard a rustling near our tents. He opened up his tent to find that we were being raided. A clan of about nine raccoons had come into the camp and were eating food left on the ground, but then were preparing to locate more. They knocked over Tennessee guy’s bike and were getting ready to gnaw into panniers when Ben found them. He scared them away, woke up the rest of our friends to warn them to secure their food, and secured our own food. Sabrina and I stayed in our tent and listened as they came within a few inches of our tent, and hoped they decided to leave us alone. Their little sniffers were loud, and they chewed with their mouths open. Sometimes they would come near Ben and Eric’s tent and Ben would slap the side of the tent and they would scurry away to the bushes and chitter. It was a very entertaining evening. Murphy valiantly guarded the critter box (but we lost the picture... sorry guys).

Only a few days left until we are in San Francisco. The adventure has been amazing, and we have certainly learned a lot. But we are starting to look forward to soft beds and showers that you don’t have to feed quarters into. Here’s what we learned today:

If you are a fugitive, the Northern CA coast is the place to be.

If you are a raccoon, raiding campsites after dark is an essential skill

Always put the food in the critter box.

Raccoons are loud chewers.

Our legs can carry us super far, up hills, both ways.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 9

Day 9 – Get 'er Dun

Stats: From Leggett to Little River 62 miles; 530.5 cumulative miles

We agreed to get an early start to our day today. And by early, I mean: “We get up at 5am, and leave by 5:30.” No breakfast. No coffee. No time. We are not going to get caught in 100+ temperatures on the biggest climb of our trip. No more heat exhaustion for us! And so, for once, we woke up before everyone else at the hiker/biker site! Me, I suffered from a bit of a Gout attack (second time in the last 5 years), but really couldn’t figure out the trigger, so I chalked it up to dehydration from the day before.

The big spike is Leggett; the little "bump" on the right
is "stupid hill." A challenging, large hill all by itself.

After rolling out, we began the slow ascent up the hill right past Leggett. At just over 1800 feet, it was by far our highest elevation gain. And with very steep grade to match. We crested the hill after a couple hours of climbing, and after coasting down a little, we chose to stop and make “camp” at a pullout. We enjoyed a warm cup of coffee and oatmeal as we watched the cyclists we camped with the night before slowly wiz past us one by one. Gwen and Roger (a couple from Canadia that we have camped with for several nights) stopped and told us about Jonathan’s sighting (Portland cyclist I mentioned earlier) of a cougar at the top of the mountain. He was visibly rattled, as were we all, since this road is very remote, and people are actually ON the food chain out here!

After finishing up breakfast, we put on some layers of clothes, and continued down the hill. Then we stopped, and put on more layers of clothes and continued the descent. After one more stop, and yet more layers of clothes, we finally hit the bottom. The descent was crazy steep, very, very long, and a lot of fun. But the chill was compounded by the 20 degree change in temperature; since this mountain is the demarcation line between the interior heat of California (which we experienced yesterday) and the very cool maritime temperatures we had been riding in for most of the trip.

Having found better weather, we continued riding through *yet more* remarkable coastline (yawn) and beautiful lush forests, covered with sword ferns and stinging nettle… oh, yeah, and another huge hill. Which by itself would have been enough of a “big hill” for a day. But we had to climb the steep 600 foot hill right on the heels of Leggett. Stupid hill.

We made plans to stop in Fort Bragg for some lunch and laundry, but between us and Fort Bragg lay over a dozen very steep short descents, and very short steep ascents – each carving into a river mouth with a fast switchback, and a steep climb. Kim and I got into a regular habit of calling out “fun part, fun part…” as we whipped into the sharp switchback, and then calling out “sad part, sad part” as we ratcheted into gears 1:1 to climb back out.

About 20 miles outside of Fort Bragg, I noticed a broken spoke on Eric’s bike, and told him that we didn’t have time to stop yet, and he needed to stop riding it like a tonka truck (Eric looks for “the path less travelled” and often enjoys adding needless exertion to his body and his bike). He did his best to ride gingerly, although that would be impossible in the upcoming moon-cratered bike path just outside of Ft Bragg.

In Fort Bragg, we stopped and had Mexican food, then we split up: Sabrina rode to the library to babysit electronics that needed juicing up; Kim did laundry; and I worked on Eric’s wheel outside the Laundromat. On our way out of town we stopped and got coffee to go from Starbucks and shopped at Safeway. It felt normal. Unlike riding in the sticks for the last several days. We then said “goodbye” to normal, and rode off into the sticks again to camp for the night where we met up with three more Portland cyclists, as well as Jonathan, Gwen, Roger, and Rose.

Gout is feeling better. The burn is feeling better. The knee injury is feeling better, and there were no more logging truckers today. It was a good day, but easily the most exhaustive because there was such a huge cumulative elevation gain.

Showers, tents, great conversation, and sleep.

Friday, July 29, 2011

[written/posted by Sabrina]

Day 8- Caker than Cake

Stats: Weott to Leggett – 49 miles

Dear Reader,

Today was supposed to be the day with the least mileage, a sort of rest-on-the-go, with a total of 39 miles. Unfortunately, between stopping to camp early the night before and taking a different route to avoid hills, we ended up adding 10 miles, making our easy day almost indistinguishable from a typical 50-something mile ride.

We set out in the morning wearing jackets and long pants to fight the chill in the eternal twilight created by the redwoods. As this was our last day on the Avenue of the Giants, we were eager to see the much-talked about drive-through tree and other anomalies that make the forest famous. We found what we sought…but it was not exactly what we had pictured.

These special trees, which we had kind of expected to just stumble upon somewhere down the road, had apparently become enough of a tourist attraction that they could no longer be left free to the public. Thus we found them secured behind a gate with a list of fees, where some capitalist (in the true spirit of the American economy) had made a business out of traveler’s curiosity.

After bartering the price down from $3 a cyclist to the car rate, which would be $6 for our whole group rather than $12, we entered the park. We enjoyed the adorable “tree house village”, which consisted of two tiny little houses carved intricately to have doors, windows, and even an in-wall bookshelf (complete with carved books and chess-piece bookend). There were also tiny little stairs next to the wood-carved love seat, which lead up to a petite attic with more windows (and lots of graffiti).

After this we went to go see the legendary drive-through tree, and were incredibly disappointed with what we saw. I expected a tall, broad redwood straddling the main road, rustic and hardy. Instead, we found a sickly tree; hole hacked roughly through the base, listing at a 45% angle, no longer able to support its own weight. Several cables supported by other trees nearby were the only thing keeping this sad tree from collapsing to the ground. Later we would find out this was the “Balancing Tree”, and that the actual drive-through tree was further in the park. Woops! But we got pictures with the tree we did find, “driving” through on our bikes.

As we began to make our way out of the forest, we passed through several small, unfriendly towns, of varying sketchiness. It was in one such town that as Kim, Eric and I watched a drug deal, Ben happened to overhear a conversation in which a shady-looking guy admitted that he was a fugitive from the law, on the run and hiding in this small town. It took every ounce of restraint Ben had not to chase the convict down the alley into which he had disappeared. (I actually think that if it weren’t for the fact that our only weapons were my small, dull pocket knife and Eric’s mini hand saw, he probably would have.)

Kim was eager to move on from this felon’s paradise before we got ourselves killed, but Ben couldn’t leave until he had eased his conscience by detailing what he saw to a police officer parked nearby (good job Ben). Thus on this odd and fairly creepy note, we left the cool, green Avenue of the Giants and rejoined the cranky loggers and semi drivers on a hot and dusty highway 101.

By mid-afternoon the day had become sweltering, 104 degrees according to some locals at a grocery store. The day that was supposed to be “caker than cake” had become a nightmare. The entire day was a steady uphill climb, so that even the downhill stretches were really only flat, and the recently paved road radiated heat from below us, combining with the blistering sun to make a giant convection oven, roasting us like turkeys.

When Kim started to come down with the beginning stages of heat exhaustion, we pulled off the highway to consult the map and take a break in the shade. As we poured our dwindling water supply over our arms and legs in an attempt to cool off, I spotted an oasis in the desert: lawn sprinklers. Laboriously biking through the park entrance to the grass area, we all but dumped our bikes on the side of the road, stumbling desperately to the spray of water.

I have never wanted, needed water so badly in my life. We ran with our arms stretched over our heads in blissful abandon, chasing the water with giggles of delight. Pouring water from a spigot over our heads and soaking our shoes, drenching every surface and then drenching it again. I cannot imagine a greater sense of relief, or fully describe how welcome it was.

After a good half-hour of frolicking, we got back on the road. The water had made the ride much easier, uphill as it was, and even though it was still unbelievably hot we fared much better than we had before. Several hours later, after most of the water had evaporated off our sodden clothes and we had again depleted our water supply, we found a second oasis.

A random tourist store on the side of the road called “The Legend of Bigfoot”, selling redwood carvings, postcards, t-shirts and all manner of knick-knacks. The kind owner was glad to hose off Ben and Kim as she watered her garden, and even allowed us to stash our now-hot water bottles in her ice chest. We also took the opportunity to chill with Bigfoot, and Murphy got a chance to meet his long-time hero Shrek. After rest in the shade and ice cream (yay!) we found enough energy to push through to Standish-Hickey State Park, where we camped among many of our friends we had met along the road, and shared horror stories of the intimidating Leggett hill, which we would all be climbing tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 7

Day 7 – The Not Cake-r Day

Stats – Eureka to Weott – 63.8 miles

We were reluctant to leave our wonderland of fun at the Eureka KOA, but in looking at the map, we calculated our miles as the same as Day 6, and the elevation climbs were easier. So while we were packing up, I told the group that while yesterday was cake, today will be cake-r.

It didn’t quite end up that way.

Before we left, the camp stove we were using tipped over, spilling boiling water on Ben’s leg. We were able to get some burn cream from the KOA, and stopped by Target on the north end of Eureka to get some ointment and groceries, knowing we would have few services available for the next few days. After we got started, the ride was easy and flat, just like we predicted. We rode past Humboldt State University, and I remembered that this was one of the environmental colleges I looked at as a teenager. This totally explains the environmental vibe we got in Arcata.

Hippie fish hut on the water in Eureka.

Outside of Eureka, we left 101 and went on back roads, headed towards Ferndale. Everything around here is named “fern” or “redwood” something… We passed the small towns of Loleta and Fernbridge, which only has a population of 59. The terrain was relatively flat, agricultural land that reminded us a lot of the Willamette Valley tour – only with rougher roads. It was slow going after Fernbridge because we also hit a nasty headwind.

Once we got to Ferndale, we (well, I…) couldn’t take enough pictures of all the cute houses and shops, all with an old Victorian theme.

Main Street in Ferndale, CA

As we were riding down Main Street, Sabrina and I smelled pizza and almost crashed in our hunger. I would highly recommend the Ferndale Pizza Co – we could hardly eat two slices of pizza without being stuffed, and this in our ravenous state!

Yummy pizza place...

After we left Ferndale, things got pretty rough. We enjoyed our time in the town, and even explored a unique cemetery just outside of town. As we were heading out on Grizzly Bluff Road, we were surprised by a really steep hill. And then surprised by another really steep hill. And another. The map we have shows elevation, but not grade. And these were steep hills. What made it worse was that the road was in such bad shape, we didn’t get the reward of bombing down the hills for fear of hitting a bump that would pitch us over the handlebars. We had to take a lot of breaks to get through that section.

Shortly after we returned to 101, we got off again for the long anticipated Avenue of the Giants. We once again experienced wonderment as we rode through the groves of giant trees. Fortunately for us, since our afternoon of steep hills took longer than expected, we were once again in the redwoods in the evening, and traffic was almost non-existent so we didn’t have to pay attention to how straight we were biking while we were also gawking.

Sabrina pretending to hug a giant redwood (there were spiderwebs...)

We called it a night at Weott, staying at the Burlington State Campground. We had enough time to take some unsatisfying showers (you have to pay $0.50 for a 5 minute shower in CA, and our water temps/pressure was sub-par) and eat a satisfying trail-food dinner. We begged, borrowed, and stole bug spray, because the mosquitoes were horrible. Us Oregonians don’t think of these things. We all look like we have the measles now… so there won’t be any up-close pictures.

We haven’t blogged about all the people we’ve met on our journey, but it’s interesting that you see the same faces for a week or two. The ones that aren’t barmy (and even some of the barmy ones) look out for each other, barter food and other goods, and talk bike shop. There’s a kindred spirit of adventure and independence that pulls us all together. But then we also meet some new people at every spot. At this campground we met a young couple of bikers named Mike and Nicole, friends in their 20’s who decided that since they were unemployed and unhappy in L.A. they would bike together from Vancouver, BC to Mexico. Kind of a self-discovery mission. They were also at the Prairie Creek Campground when we were, but we didn’t get to chat much there. Mike’s stories had us in stitches sometimes. We also met a sketchy gentleman from Bend (we think…) who was biking because he doesn’t have anything else to do, though he’s held jobs doing just about anything. He was also really looking forward to the large bag of weed he was planning on procuring and smoking all at once in Garberville. We made mental notes to avoid Garberville. Finally, we met an older gentleman who is from Illinois who is biking this route for the who-knows-how-many-ith time, and is very familiar with bikes and biking trips all across the U.S. We muse that he must be a teacher, using his summertime to bike everywhere.

Even with the rough climbs we had, we still enjoyed our day and experiences. It’s hard to put it all down in words. There’s always a sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that you propelled yourself 60 miles on your own steam. There’s things you can see on bike that you would never notice in a car. It’s not always cake-r, but it is always worth it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 6

Day 6 - California Ninja Cycling

Stats: Prairie Creek State Park to Eureka, CA; 53 miles; 355.7 total miles.

We slept in the Redwood forest. And we woke up NOT eaten by bears. That was good. But after that it was a mixed bag. Actually, we were awakened by the sound of Jays playing in the trees above our tent, and soon decided that God must have made them beautiful to make up for the way he made them sound. (have you ever hear a Blue Jay caw?? At SIX AM? How about 10 of them??)

The day started out leisurely enough, since we only had about 50 miles to ride, which was, as we all know, "cake" for our fearless group of intrepid bikelists. But before getting out of the park, disaster struck. Sure, every bike has had little mechanical hiccups, but not like this. The bolt holding my rack (which holds most of my gear) had come loose. After closer inspection, I discovered that it had not just "come loose" but it had actually pulled out (stripped out) all the threading from my frame eyelet. (In other words, "It broke the frame of my bike")

After a while, we managed to figure out a system for getting me back on the road, with my gear in tow... but minus a rear disc brake. While Eric and I worked on the bike, Sabrina and Kim went to check out "Big Tree" that we passed coming in (they're so creative with names in the Redwoods). Murphy was impressed. The sign said that a lady wanted to cut it down and use the stump as a dance floor. Murphy would have been impressed by that too.

After we finally left the park, we discovered elk. And deer. Actually, we clarified that elk are indeed much, MUCH larger than deer. *End chapter of wonderment*

*begin chapter of Ninja terror* Then we discovered that we had several miles on 101 without alternate routes. So, as we trudged along, we quickly realized that the drivers on this stretch don't know how to respond to cyclists on the road. None of them slowed down. Well, that's not true. They did slow down a little, and they did give us room... a little. Noticeably less than in Oregon. What took us by surprise was the logging truck drivers.

The logging truckers do not move over. At all. They do not slow down. At all. And they even blast their horn as they approach, in order to tell you to get away from the lane of traffic. As the tail rider, I personally got buzzed by trucks 1-2 feet from my handlebars, before they realized that we weren't trained in the art of California Ninja Cycling. When they realized we were untrained, they gave Kim, Sabrina, and Eric a little bit more room.

For example, on one particularly steep ascent, we stopped for water by the side of the road, after a long straight stretch (good car visibility), and shortly after the lanes split into a passing lane (maybe 20 feet past the split). Our group decided to take a break. Rose, a lone cyclist we met on the way was gaining on us. And right as she got to where we were at, she was buzzed within a foot by a logging truck that could have chosen to move over before yielding to passing traffic, but didn't. These drivers need to get their licenses revoked.

After that, I learned California Ninja Cycling. I watched in my mirror for a logging truck. Then I'd yell out "LOGGING TRUCK" and it didn't matter if the highway was divided, 4 lane, or ample shoulder... we jumped into the ditch. Each time. And many times the truck passed without yielding an inch to our safety. Ninja Cycling. I've never had to do that in my life.

After about 15 miles of Ninja cycling, we got onto more peaceable roads, and the rest of the route kept us away from logging trucks. It did take us on some very picturesque routes with yet more beautiful rugged Pacific beauty. We have finally ridden far enough that people have fuzzy geography about how long/far we've been riding. It's nice.

Also, on a few unrelated notes: We all agree that the riding is easier. Even yesterday; with three massive climbs and 70 miles under our belts, we felt peppy, chipper, and if the sun hadn't given out on us, we could've ridden more. My knee is almost 100%, and other than the bike debacle and the logging trucks, the ride was very pleasant.

Just before Eureka, we rode into Arcadia. In contrast to Crescent City yesterday, which looks like a little run-down LA ghetto, Arcadia looks like it was pulled out of Portland's Sellwood district, or maybe even Eugene. We felt right at home. We rushed to catch the bike shop before they closed so that I could repair the rear caliper on my bike, and asked where we should eat dinner.

Their suggestion was a food cart that was relatively new, that served excellent Indian food. All four of us agreed to go, so Eric was stuck tagging along with a landslide majority vote. The food was amazing. We got green goo, and brown goo, and bread to dip in the goo, and then I got orange goo served in a cup with a straw. The strange spices didn't sit well with Murphy.

Tonight we rode into a KOA which has little known hiker/biker slots. Since so few bicyclists stay here, we are more of a novelty than in our other biker campgrounds. Tonight: laundry, recharging computers, hot tub, blogging, bed.

Despite our frustration earlier in the morning, we are of great spirits, and we feel very rested. Oh, and we're excited to keep going :)

Day 5- Whales and Wonderment

Stats: Brookings, OR to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA – 70 miles

Dear reader,

Our ride started out pleasantly flat for a change, and with clean laundry, refreshed groceries, and full bellies, we were feeling pretty good about the day. After crossing the border into California (woohoo!) the trees began growing in size, gradually introducing California’s legendary redwoods into the scenery.

We stopped for a BLISSFUL lunch at Jack In The Box, (seriously we couldn’t stuff our faces fast enough) during which I got in a quick nap. We were dreading the next segment of our ride, having been warned by a nice (not insane) biking couple that the hill after crescent city would be the worst incline of our entire trip.

We set out full of trepidation, even before we mounted the base of the hill, we could see it rising up before us, leering at us with its steep ugly face. The climb was indeed long and painful, our toiling punctuated by RVs and logging trucks zooming by waaay too close for comfort. However we were rewarded on the other side with a long free-fall down the hill we had just conquered, and a beautiful view of the beach where we stopped to celebrate Kim’s birthday with an apple strudel loaf.

After reaching the beach and taking a few more pictures of the gorgeous surf, we stumbled across our “hokey tourist trap of the day” in the form of a giant sculpture of Paul Bunyan, and Babe the big blue (anatomically correct) ox, perhaps the most awkward thing I saw all day.

A few miles later we were in the process of crossing a bridge, and couldn’t help but notice that a huge crowd of people were crowding the edges, staring into the water. At first we just thought these people needed a life if they thought a calm river was this absorbing, but as we paused one of the gawkers shouted “there’s a whale in the river!” What?! Interest piqued, we pulled over to see an honest-to-goodness blue whale, swimming in the river below us. Some of the bridge people informed us that she had swam up here with her calf three days ago, feeding on the salmon in the river. Her calf had just left to return to the ocean the day before (it was the whale equivalent of a college student, apparently it is common for the calf to leave around 6 months old), but the mother had stayed behind. Some felt that she was sticking around to finish cleaning out the river of its fish population, while others thought she was too big to pass the sandbar that blocked the ocean, while her calf was still small enough to navigate it. Whatever the case, we wish luck to the lady whale and hope she has a safe journey home.

All these things, the views, the whale, even the incredibly campy tourist attractions, were causes for wonderment as we continued on our ride, but they were all blown away when we got to our campsite, which was conveniently located in a state and national redwood forest park. Everyone knows these trees are huge, and most have seen the pictures of cars driving through, etc. But there is no way to really, truly comprehend how massive they really are until you are standing at the base of a trunk bigger than your house. And then to have an entire forest of these mammoths, blocking out the sun and making the late afternoon into dusk, branches and limbs big enough to be trees in their own right. It was a the very best reward for a long hard ride and a terrific way to end the day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 4

Day 4 - The Barmy Bunch

Stats - Port Orford to Brookings - 68.2 miles

There was a bittersweet feeling this morning as we left our campsite around 9:30am, after taking a peek at the view from Cape Blanco State Park, the most westerly State Park in the US. It was nice to take a liesurely morning eating breakfast and enjoying coffee, but we also knew that we had many miles to accomplish today. We also knew that the biggest hill we were to tackle in Oregon lay ahead of us.

Our day started out rough, as we found the route to Ophir quite hilly. We had to take a lot of water breaks, and break for a second breakfast. The road got v.e.r.y. narrow and rough around Humbug Mountain State Park. We also had to run away from dinosaurs.

Sabrina protects Murphy as we flee from the dinosaur.

After Ophir, though, the map took us off Hwy 101 until Gold Beach. Using what we learned yesterday, we decided to stay on 101 and see if our theory was correct, in the hopes that the road was less rough. Not only was the road smooth and the shoulder abundant, but the terrain was nice and flat (and had awesome ocean views!), so other than some butt-igue, we rolled into Gold Beach feeling pretty good.

We knew that after Gold Beach was the hill that we saw on the map as the mother-of-all-hills in Oregon. It rose to 800 feet continuously in a short span of miles. We re-fueled at Rachel's Coffeehouse, which shared space with the Gold Beach Bookstore, in preparation for our climb. We really enjoyed the padded benches in the outside seating.

Don't knock it 'till you try it!

As we were getting ready to leave the coffeehouse, we were approached by an older gentleman from Portland named Johnathan who was also riding to San Francisco, but solo. He asked if he could ride up the hill with us as he was feeling pretty tired and was looking for some moral support. He offered a thanks by way of the small amount of foodstuffs in his pannier - almonds, raisins, and whiskey. We agreed to accompany him without accepting his gracious offer, although looking at his road bike and his light load we knew he'd be going at a much faster pace than us.

Gold Beach hill was actually not that bad. It was very long, but the incline was modest and we were able to make it with one water break. We weren't prepared for the "fun rolling hills" that came afterward, though. Riding those after a taxing morning and a large climb proved to be difficult. Our gorgeous view of the ocean the whole time was our saving grace, including a view from atop the highest bridge in Oregon.
Scary-high bridge, but amazing view!

Johnathan was very patient and waited for us at the top of the hills, but after a while he gave up and continued on.

We arrived at our destination in Brookings around 7pm, staying at the Harris Beach State Park. We met back up with Johnathan, and since the campground is full we are again in the hiker/biker area, punctuated by a gentleman who is riding across country and has not lived in a house in 42 years. I don't know what it is about Ben, maybe his kind eyes, but he is a magnet for these folks. We have good digs tonight, though - showers, laundry, and the ice cream truck even came by! I couldn't think of a more perfect way to end our day.

What we learned today:
1) Code words for "Big Hill" - Cape, Viewpoint, and Passing Lane
2) The "solo" riders are very social and questionably screwball. The ones riding in groups keep to themselves and are not loopy.
3) Word of the Day - "Barmy". While it literally means "full of barm" or "frothy" is also an adjective to describe someone who may be off their rocker.

San Fran Tour - Day 3

Day 3 - The Price and Penalty of Piety

Stats: Coos Bay, OR - Cape Blanco State Park - 61.2 miles; 164 total miles.

Because it's Sunday, and because we have a big ol' church family down here in North Bend, we really wanted to take the time to worship God in the morning. While staying the night with Carter and Amber, I asked them if they normally have cycle tourists stay over and worship in the morning "No, never, he said" Well, super. Either we're very pious :) Or very stupid.

After worship got out (12:15), we were sent on our way with a 'tour de Coos' itenerary of where to stop at everyone's favorite food joints. Super good advice, since food touring is just about my favorite part of the experience!

But things didn't go quite as planned... Early in the morning, while loading up our bikes to ride to church, I (Ben) tweaked my knee stepping up on a boulder. Immediately a sharp pain shot through my leg, followed by an audible popping sound everytime my knee bent. The ride to church was very painful. (In fact, this knee injury reminds me of when I chipped my tooth rafting down the Deschutes river; a story for another day)

During worship, I iced my knee, and committed to being kind to my knees today. After leaving church, our first stop was "Fisherman's Grotto" in Charleston. A lovely fish and chips place, where the owner IS a fisherman, and his catch supplies the restaurant (literally located right off the dock!) I stupidly asked if the tuna was fresh.

While the fish 'n chips were ohmygoodness good, we pulled out at almost 3pm (with still over 50 miles to accomplish). This was stupid. Really stupid. The big climb of the day was right after Charleston, and our full bellies, combined with ridiculous grades meant that we faced the real possibility of re-visiting our lunch. We invented a barf-o-meter scale; from 1-10, and encouraged each other by calling out what number we were (8, 9, 10 represent imminent potential for the technicolored yawn).

After realizing what a late start we have had to our day, we knuckled down and committed to fewer breaks than usual. We *needed* to get to our campsite before dark. The hill kept climbing higher and higher until we entered a fog bank. No visibility, blind corners, rough roads, and the threat of 2nd helpings of fish all worked together to make our progress very slow. Probably averaged around 9 or 8 mph.

After about 20 miles in the fog bank (which Eric was enthralled with), we descended into the city of Bandon. And we were met with beautiful views that we had NO time to stop and enjoy. If it weren't for Murphy's insistence on stopping, we would have just pressed on. Just like Murphy to squander our time...

After enjoying the view in Bandon, we rode - nay we flew to our destination, Cape Blanco; in a vane attempt to beat sunset.

We learned a few things today:
1. 'Cape' always means 'Big hill overlooking the ocean.' So we should stop being surprised by them. Even if we rode off route to camp at one.

2. Everytime the Adventure Cycling map takes us off 101 the traffic decreases, but the roads deteriorate, and the elevations are usually significant. So, chase these alternates on your own risk.

3. Pejorative means 'belittling, derogatory, or disparaging.' And for the record, I did *not* use this word correctly. But I was very close.

Here's the explanation for the 'word of the day, from Ben:' I get tired. When I get tired, I forget normal words. So my vocabulary expands, and sometimes I may, or may not know the meaning of the words I'm using. So it's become a fun game to find what word I'm using, and to determine if I'm using it in the right context. Here's the tally so far: Day 1: Ubiquitous. I thought it meant unique. It means almost exactly the opposite. Day 2: Adulation. I thought it meant to give praise and adoration to someone. I got it right (although Kim looked up Adolation, and found a completely *different* definition in the urban dictionary). Day 3: Pejorative. I thought it was more closely related to implicating yourself in a lie. So, I think I get half-credit for this one...

We rolled into Cape Blanco shortly after 10pm. Set up camp, bathed, and then went to bed. Oh, wait. I'm the only one in the crew that took the time to bath. Ugh, and I'm the caboose. *here's to hoping for a tailwind*

Sunday, July 24, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 2

Day Two- Awkwardness and Adulation

Stats: Florence, OR to North Bend, OR - 46 miles

Dear reader,

We started our day about 6:00 this morning, after listening to Ben chattering for an hour, both to himself, to us to get up already, and with our fellow travelers at the bohemian commune camp. We began our ride, being forewarned that the first leg of our journey was through the "ubiquitous" corridor of death. Along this stretch of treacherous road, inexperienced drivers man unwieldy RVs and trucks hauling all manner of trailers and ATVs, barreling down the road at break-neck pace. It’s everything they can to just to stay in their lane, and if they can’t, well...just pray you’re not in their way.

Luckily we were able to set out early enough as to avoid the bulk of these mammoths of mass-destruction, climb the hill that would never end, and make it to a nice cafe and natural food store by noon. Since we were way ahead of schedule, we set up temporary camp there, bought a few items to secure guilt-free bathroom rights, and lounged around for the next few hours, charging cell phones and iPods while getting in a card game, a few chapters of a book, and even a nap.

Once batteries and bellies were full and recharged, we set out from our home away from home, heading out to the house where we would be staying tonight. Through the course of the day we played leap-frog with several of our bohemian biker friends from last night’s camp, as well as a gaggle of road cyclists, each passing the other and in turn being passed as we stopped for meal breaks, Kodak moments, and map consultations.

After another good climb (and by good I mean another gross, nasty hill that would also never end) and a peaceful break at the Umpqua lighthouse with a view of the sea, as well as frequent map-checkings, we decided to take a nice mid-afternoon break squatting off the side of the road. We happened to find an unoccupied hammock, which was soon occupied by an unconscious Ben cuddling with Murphy, who was tuckered out.

As our rest break extended from a few minutes to 90 minutes, we decided to head out again. Venturing into North Bend, we stopped for dinner at Taco Bell and intended to end our lazy day at a state park camping ground when North Bend Church of Christ youth minister Carter Davis and his lovely wife Amber unexpectedly rescued us and let us crash at their apartment!

A slow day of meandering on bike, punctuated by two 90-minute breaks and ending at a nice roomy apartment with showers, laundry, and two wonderful people ready to drive us to and from grocery stores and wait on us hand and foot? Yep, this bike tour thing is hardcore.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

San Fran Tour - Day 1

Murphy enjoying some cherries with lunch.

"The Ubiquitous Map"

Stats: Newport, OR to Florence, OR - 56.8 miles

We didn't know what to expect today. What is the weather really going to be like? Is there really a tailwind? Are we going to breathe exhaust fumes? Are the hills going to torture us into asking for a slow painful death in its stead? What does the map really trying to tell us? Can we reach our destination before dark? Will the campground be "rustic"?

Not knowing what to expect is kind of nice. Because then I'm not disappointed if things don't meet my expectations. However, it's still hard for someone like myself. I am the "task master" of the group. I'm the time keeper, the pace setter, the little-Suzy-know-it-all. Except when it came to this trip.

We purchased bike maps for our tour, and I've spent many hours looking at the map. I've figured out the distance, know where to look for possible campgrounds, and understand the symbols. But the elevation map is what gives me an anxiety attack. It's not specific enough for me. We were pleasantly surprised to find the weather AMAZING, the salty breeze refreshing, and the initial traffic and hills to be a snap. But we knew that our first "hills" as indicated on the map were after Yachats. On this ubiquitous map, we see about 3 large hills and 1 small hill between Yachats and Florence. So that's 3.5 hills, right?


It's 3 significant hills, and the rest are "fun rolling hills" that aren't as significant but still count as hills in my book. I don't even know where the 0.5 hill went. So we have now concluded that the map makes up its own rules regarding hills, because many of them don't make it on the map.Which makes Gold Beach more foreboding, because it's a "really" big hill on our map...

Actually, our day went swimmingly. We made amazing time, enjoying the weather and the tailwind. We arrived in Florence at 4:30pm and had dinner at a tasty pizza joint called Restobar (the best place in town according to many of the locals we met). We rolled into our campsite around 7pm and feel like we live in a commune with a bunch of hobos. We met a number of wanderers today, most notably a young guy who rode from Fort Collins, CO to the ocean and is going to ride to Portland for a wedding. We felt a certain solidarity with him, since we're going to a wedding, too.

Sabrina and Eric wish they brought a dictionary, so they can throw Ben under the bus when he makes up words and/or meanings. Like ubiquitous. Which, although it's a real word, meant almost the opposite of how Ben used it. We've decided we'll be including in each post a "word of the day" as brought to you by Ben.