So much to write about! For now, enjoy the photos. I’ll add stories soon.
So much to write about! For now, enjoy the photos. I’ll add stories soon.
I stopped to pay my respects at this roadside descanso (New Mexican for a roadside memorial where someone died) along Highway 101, just north of the state park. My assumption is that John Mello died cycling along this section of highway, most likely hit by a car or truck.
I’m at risk of being killed on my bike. Two events that occur randomly keep this awareness fresh. One is the occasional car, logging truck or behemoth class A motor home that passes by just a little too close on a narrow stretch of road with little shoulder. The other is the curious passerby who asks if I worry about being hit out there, or who would be too afraid of the dangers to do what I’m doing. To the former I simply go on about my pedaling, grateful to have dodged that bullet – to be sure, none have been so close as to pose a real threat to my safety, but rather just pressing into my safety zone. To the latter I simply explain gently that I prefer not to live in fear, and that the richness of the experience is worth the threat to my safety.
Evening of the same day… Let’s see, it’s Saturday, September 13th, 2014. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, between Crescent City and Arcata. 36 miles today, that included one climb of 1,200′ and one lesser climb, plus numerous smaller hills. This was my northernmost and first encounter with the giant redwoods, and when I was suddenly riding through my first grove of old-growth ancients, I had to stop to wipe the tears that came immediately. I haven’t tried to photograph these grandfathers, as their majesty can’t be captured.
This morning at the church, Jamie and I were looking online for California biker/hiker campsites south of us. Jamie wanted something 15-20 miles away, as he needed to cut down and rest a bit. (I later learned that he’s several day ahead of his 600-day schedule.) on the government website for the park, I saw that tomorrow (Saturday) is the first annual Run the Redwoods 10K and half-marathon running race and fun run. I secretly thought it’d be pretty cool if Jamie could run in it, for the win-win publicity it could generate, both for the park and for Jamie’s causes.
Jamie left before i did, as i had some writing and business to do. About 4 pm I finally caught up with Jamie, climbing and cussing the last steep climb of the day. He had decided to run, and so had pushed through another long day. He ran about 35 miles today!
I’ll write more after the race, which starts at the visitor center here at the park, near our campground.
After the Race
Well, we both ran the 5K race. I decided to run with Jamie about twenty minutes before the start – I had already showered for the day’s ride. Just took the cleats off of my cycling shoes, rode up to the start of the race as it began, laid the bike down and started running with the pack.
Jamie ran easily with his cart. I thought he was holding back to stay with me, and encouraged him to run on at his own pace, but he simply replied that it wasn’t a race. He later mentioned that he had run this a hundred times.
I ran 28:00, likely my personal record for a 5K race. Jamie pushed his cart and finished just before me; the fastest runner finished in 21:13. Jamie got some decent press coverage, which aids his publicity and fundraising goals. Now it’s time to pack up and continue the ride.
The course was magnificent. The course was on the park’s walking paths, so softer than pavement. It wound in a loop on trails through the giant redwood trees, the “World’s Tallest Trees”, per a brochure for the Redwood Coast. This was the first annual Run the Redwoods”, a fundraiser for the citizens’ group working to support the parks.
I received this message from Paul Schot today:
Great to read your blog! This alternative route looks wonderful. Pity your bike is letting you down but very loyal to keep it and continue bouncing . Didn’t you once ride down this coast on a bike with a dog in a basket? Enjoy the ocean views and keep on blogging! Just don’t spend too much time behind the I-pad, these things drain too much precious moments from our lives. Ride on happy cyclist, ride on!!
Paul currently lives, I think, in Amsterdam, but he could be anywhere in the world. Paul is for me the living embodiment of “we really have no idea how our actions will affect others”. Here’s my story:
In 1990 I was temporarily living at my mother’s house in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had just laid my dad to rest, and I had just met or was about to meet my wife Johanna. The townhouse development in which my mother lived was primarily a commuter home base for working adult professionals, so there were few kids living there. Paul and his sister were the only ones, and I befriended Paul, who was eleven at the time. Paul and his family were from Holland, and Paul’s father was a shipping executive. One day I learned that Paul’s father had left the family, and they would soon have to return to Holland. Paul was pretty devastated by the sudden breakup of his family.
So I took Paul backpacking for a week in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I had gear enough to share, and planned the trip. Paul had never seen mountains or wilderness before. He complained about everything age-appropriate: the climbing, hurting feet, the backpack weight, but he made the trip. We soon went on our separate ways, and I didn’t hear much from him for a number of years.
I looked him up maybe ten years later, and I learned that that week had completely changed his young life’s direction. He had become a climber, and then gone to work with Greenpeace Holland. He sent me links to pictures and stories of his arrests for hanging huge antinuclear banners on the cooling towers of nuclear power plants.
Here’s one photo, taken off the web from 2003: The caption reads: “Greenpeace campaigner Paul Schot scales the dome containing the pressurised water reactor at Sizewell B nuclear power station, near Leiston, Suffolk, Monday January 13, 2003. Nineteen Greenpeace protestors earlier entered the building and say their action is to highlight poor security at Britain’s nuclear power plants and their vulnerability to terrorist attacks, not to tamper with the power station’s operations.”
Since then, that awareness has remained with me as one of the most significant things I have done, as it is a quintessential example of “we can never know how our actions will affect another’s life”. If I ever write my life story, his story would be a chapter
And again we lost touch for some years. Shortly before leaving on this trip I found Paul again and asked about his life since then. He told me in reply:
“My god, well in a nutshell; I have climbed very intensively in my early twenties, while working for Greenpeace on an irregular basis. I didn’t graduate but decided to buy a sailboat. Which i did, and in the following years i fixed the boat up and taught myself how to sail, while doing the occasional odd job to pay for the lifestyle. Then when I was twenty seven I left Holland to sail around the world. The trip would take me seven years and i came back last summer. I am thirty five now!
And I now work as a freelance industrial climber. Actually I am on an oil rig in the middle of the sea right now. A lot of people don’t understand how an environmentalist can work on oil rigs. But I see that differently, I got tired off just pointing the finger at big corporations. Its too easy we are all consuming fossil fuels for just about everything. Most of our production methods are unsustainable. Our overconsumption is just ridiculous and its better we look in the mirror instead of diverting the blame at companies who produce what we demand for our parasitic lifestyles. I would happily compare my co2 footprint with any one.”
And that’s my story about Paul; I hope that you, dear reader, found it worth your read.
Tomorrow, September 11, has long represented an important anniversary for me. This day thirteen years ago was the first installation day of the first batteryless residential grid-tied PV system, the system type that is now mainstream dominant in the U.S. We were on a roof that entire day, trying to hear the news as it was being broadcast, on our service truck’s radio. I have always felt that we were doing our own part for global peace and security by installing PV.
I knew well in advance that I’d leave Oregon with reluctance. I’m not even sure what the two states represent as symbols. I have lived in both years ago, and feel more of an affinity to Oregon. That sentiment played out today – I’m here for a second night.
I had held off laundry once I heard that this park has laundromat facilities. The last time I washed everything ( meaning not just a jersey or shorts, but gloves, helmet and shoe liners, jackets, and the like) was in southern Washington. The combination of a simple shower and a whole set of clean clothes always feels like the start of a new chapter of travels. But it meant that it was noon before everything was back in place and I was riding.
But in Brookings I slowed to a crawl. My speedometer had been acting up over the last few days, a today wasn’t registering at all. Assuming a weak battery, I replaced it, and the device now only reads in German or Klingon, and can’t be reset. I’ll call the manufacturer in the early morning, but for now I have lost all of my mileage records.
Eventually too much of the day had passed to ride into California, and I had some words itching to be transcribed here, so I returned to the same campground. I was treated well in Brookings. In the market, I asked the checker if I could buy a single stick of butter, as that is all I can carry securely at a time. When she said no, a woman checking out (named Theresa) sold me one of the quarters in the pound she was buying. Later, when I needed to stop to handle some email, and drank coffee in a local cafe, the waitress simply gave it to me on the house; my sense is that she can do that by her own discretion, and it was just sweet. It’s like the town is saying in little us “Don’t forget us.”
The tremendous support the state gives to bicycle tourers helps my sentiments too: I’m riding with a state cyclists’ map of the coast, and have enjoyed the camps, the healthy local food, the well cared for campgrounds for cyclists. I’m open to what I’ll find in California, but not expecting it to be as nice.
The ride to Harris Beach CG yesterday was epic. Much of the 45 or so miles had a strong tailwind and I could coast, with just a couple of decent climbs. Coming down off of the climb over Cape Sebastian, I clocked over 45 miles per hour, my fastest speed yet on this tour.
Harris Beach is a gem. It’s the last B/H CG for all of us heading south, and the welcome mat for those iconoclasts (or masochists, given the prevailing winds) who head north. A beach just below us, and a whole section set aside for us, close to bathroom, shower and laundry services, yet separated from the masses, dark and quiet at night.
Oregon has a wonderful state park system. I have never kept count, but I expect that I have passed forty or more state parks of various flavors since I entered the state at Astoria. The Pacific Coast Route maintains an entire series of state parks with biker/hiker areas set aside. All of the campgrounds have free hot showers included with the $5 or $6 camping fee.
Each is different: some are laid out to encourage privacy, while others encourage interaction among the bicyclists. Some are tiny areas and others are large; some are always damp and others dry out quickly; some feel to be integral with the RV and vehicle sites, while others offer a quiet place apart by integral design within the park. None limits the number of cyclists who’ll be accommodated; the “campground full” sign never applies to cyclists or foot travelers.
Tomorrow will likely be my last full day in Oregon. I’m at Humbug Mountain State Park in southern Oregon; tomorrow I’ll ride about 50 miles to a park near Brookings, the southernmost town on the Oregon coast. I have been told that tomorrow’s park (Harris Beach) even has a small laundromat on site, so I’m wearing my last clean outfit today and tomorrow.
The southern coast is much less developed than the rest. Towns are smaller and farther apart. Traffic is lighter as well. Yesterday I rode about 57 miles, and today about 61: campgrounds for cyclists are a bit farther apart as well.
I passed a minor milestone yesterday: the simple bicycle computer mounted on my handlebars calculates and displays average speed over all rolling miles since this trip began. It first showed about 9.33 miles per hour, and has been slowly creeping up as I adapt to the bike and get stronger. Yesterday I achieved an average speed of 10.00 mph.
At ten mph, a thirty mile day leaves lots of room for sightseeing, talking with strangers and blogging. A sixty mile day is mostly spent riding, plus daily routines of cooking, setting up and repacking tent and bedding, and stops to restock provisions. Given the longer miles and shortening days as autumn approaches, I expect my blog posts to a little more sporadic.
Remember Jamie of “Jamieisrunning.com”, who’s running to Buenos Aires? He’s here tonight.
I have received some wonderful comments recently from old friends and new. I have permission to share a few of them:
From my bes’ fren’ Windy: “Thanks again for “bring us along” on your magnificent and joyful adventure!
Keep on chooglin’”
From one of my former Positive Energy off grid customers:
About two years ago I purchased four batteries from Positive Energy for our cabin PV system near Ft. Garland, CO. During my research you and I exchanged a number of emails – you spent a lot of time talking with me and answering questions. Thanks again for that!
Largely as a result of that contact with you and your company, we hired Russ Mueller to be our “solar guy” and he and I spent Labor Day installing a new array on the garage roof at the cabin. During our work I mentioned my conversations with you and he said you are retired, biking the Northwest, and blogging. So, here we are.
I just read your blog to date and it does sound like a wonderful adventure. I’ll be following your progress, so maybe now you have 3 readers!!
From Ian of Guemes Island: “I’m enjoying following your blog, Allan. I’ve never done a truly long distance ride. I’ve ridden 17,000+ miles in the last four years, but have not made the time to be out for more than a week at a time, and rarely that. Bike travelers seem like a grand community, and that sort of people is who I’m looking for for interns here. I’m talking with one prospect now who is into walking. He did the App. trail and the PCT in the last several years. I think biking and walking for transport helps focus people on living lightly, and on what’s important.”
From Alan Santos-Buch, a friend from my solar work who works at Magnum Energy: “What a delight you sharing this journey with your friends. It is a calming and a wonderful read that keeps me humbled and contented during another day at the office! Keep the reality checks coming, safe travels. -ASB”
And for those who recall my post from Cape Lookout a bit over a week ago, I spoke of a ranger who I helped out with a hug and a genuine human connection when I saw she needed one: “Allan
I have spoken of you many times to many people of how YOU helped me during a time of emotional need!
Please know that YOU will live forever in my prayers of Thankfulness!
Once again….THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Bike ON with Your Amazing LIGHT!!!!
Update Monday, September 8th:
I’m in Bandon, on the southern Oregon coast. Cell and wifi will be less frequent, and towns and campgrounds farther apart, so my posts will likely be less frequent also.
Russ from Taos wrote me about some hobbit trails north of Florence that he had remembered from years past, so I made a point of seeking them out. He wrote: “I’ve been to some really cool places on the Oregon coast, but I can’t remember where most of them are. One great place that I went to once is the hobbit trails. You had to know someone who knew where it was, because it was just a series of what seemed like wildlife trails going off 101 to the beach. You had to park on the side of the road. The branches of the trees, snarled from wind, were thick, so you had to crouch down when you went through them — really neat. It was about a half a mile to a nice beach with very few people. It has been developed since then, so there’s a parking area and a groomed trail — and no doubt more people on the beach (I haven’t been there since that happened). You might be able to find one of the smaller old trails though — they’re hard to spot in a car, but being on a bike is very different.”
Sure enough, I found the remaining Hobbit Trail. It’s a Hal-mile trail down to a secluded beach. Rather than describe it in words, I’ll let some pictures convey the message.
The last two days have been filled with tremendous beauty and contrast. I rode from near Newport to a few miles south of Florence, a total distance of only 60 miles over two days. What I first noticed is that the highway traffic dropped way off once leaving Newport. The land was less developed and the area felt less commercialized. The scenery also became substantially more dramatic and more in-your-face raw, and mind-blowingly beautiful.
Last night was the first in which I zipped up my down sleeping bag. I later learned that the nighttime temperature reached 53 degrees – not cold, but cooler than previous nights and weeks. I had expected and prepared for a cooler day, and I enjoyed 70 degrees and sunny as I rode. Then in early afternoon, around Waldport I was suddenly sweating as I climbed a hill. I was passing through a bubble of heat. It continued through Waldport and Yachats (pronounced yah-hots), then suddenly the marine breeze came in and the heat was gone. I later learned that the temperature had hit 93 degrees, and this was highly unusual.
I suspect that most of you who read this are unaware that this trip down the Pacific coast is in many respects a reprise of a similar earlier trip. I rode from Courtenay, Vancouver Island, BC, to Santa Cruz, CA, forty years ago in 1974 when I was 23. I was in Cannon Beach on August 19, 1974, the day President Nixon resigned. In many respects I’m repeating a bicycle trip taken over the same route. That trip was half a lifetime ago, so it’s a rich experience.
On one hand, this is a repeat of a trip I made as a footloose wanderer of 23, then with little sense then of what my life would bring. I’m momentarily as free now as I was then. Now, however, I’m in a very different stage of life. I’m semi-retired, with three kids leaving the nest and much of my life, and the consequences of my choices, now behind me. I have raised a family, started, grown and left a business, maintained faithful married life for more than twenty years, and somehow ended up much grayer and older looking in these ensuing years (even if I feel inside myself as young, healthy and perpetually horny as I was back then).
This time is much more clearly a time of transition between life chapters. The trigger event was selling all of my ownership shares in Positive Energy, the Santa Fe solar company I started in 1997. Other triggers include all of our children, Nathaniel, Emma and Solomon all leaving the nest in their respective ways, paying off our mortgage, and Obamacare, which allowed my wife Johanna and I to purchase health insurance affordably after both having been treated for cancer.
All of this means that I may take these several months to travel and “celebrate retirement, being alive and being healthy” as I have written previously. I’m old enough to draw Social Security if I chose to, but as I intend to stick around for quite awhile, I’d rather wait as long as I can to sign up. In short, I’m not free from needing and wanting to make a living, but am blessed with the opportunity to take this adventure while defining the next chapter.
So this bicycle trip is also a break from the familiar in my little specialty of off grid solar electricity. I have more ideas for ways to make my living in this field than weeks have days, but no clear idea yet which among them to pursue. I could teach, which I already do occasionally. Same for writing for publication in the field. I could continue to do service work in New Mexico, expanding to remote sites and applications around the rural areas of the state, as I have maintained my full licensure. I could consult in several ways: to individuals or even to installation companies who have only done mainstream grid-tied solar and suddenly get an off grid job. And I could periodically take overseas trips to set up installations and teach their care and maintenance in developing countries. I have the perpetual curse of too many appealing options and too little time for them all.
i have been asked a number of times if my wife supports my traveling on my own like this, and I answer that she quite fully supports me being on my adventure for as long as I choose. I add that what I’m doing would not appeal to her: she doesn’t want to sleep on the ground or carry all that weight up hills, and would be happy to end the day with a room and a sit down meal. Johanna toured my way with me before we had our first child, so she has had the experience, but that was enough, thank you…
When I explain this, without fail I receive a comment of approval: “Wow, how lucky you are to have a partner like that” or similar. And I am coming to really appreciate such comments, as they help me move from wishing she wanted to share this with me (an old internal tape) to appreciating what I have. And at the present time, with all three of our children having just left the nest, she’s appreciating her own solitary time, her first in 25 years.
Back to riding… I’m maybe one-third of the way down the Oregon coast, camping at state parks, rather than seeking Warmshowers hosts or simply disappearing in the trees at day’s end. Oregon has their biker/hiker camps quite together: $5 or 6/night/person, with hot showers, picnic tables and tent sites apart from the RV and vehicle-based crowd. The touring bicyclists form a community of kindred spirits, each with unique backgrounds, life stories and motivations for travel, but sharing common routes and experiences. This mode of travel remains a shared social experience. This route, considered one of the world’s top cycling routes, fosters such community; late summer is peak season for touring the Pacific coast of the United States.
When I encounter other tourists , they’ll often ask the usual questions: where I’m going (home to New Mexico), how long I have been traveling (two months), how I like all the hills (just fine, thank you…). Several ask what I eat when I camp. I usually prefer to prepare my own meals, even in developed areas such as the Coast route where there are plenty of restaurant options, as I hold costs down and enjoy the ritual of the preparation and enjoyment of a good meal. So, for example, late yesterday I picked up a small broccoli crown and some green beans (the veggies, along with small zucchini so that can be purchased in small enough quantities for one person for one meal). I prepared a packaged rice pilaf, with added veggies and onion and garlic. Yesterday was a bit special – the local food co-op had a salad bar, so I brought a small green salad to my camp as well. Add a local beer and some dark chocolate for aperitif, and I’m ready for evening stories and a good nights sleep.
Morning usually starts with the ritual of one cup of dark, rich drip coffee. Ian of Guemes Island introduced me to neighbors who roast coffee at their home and deliver it on the island. I was given a pound of “Guemes Sunrise”, which is going to last well into California. Then usually granola with dried or fresh fruit and rice or almond milk. Eggs are hard to carry and can occasionally become suddenly quite messy, but I carry a few.
To complete the bike repair side journey: i had ridden fifteen miles or so from the park to the outskirts of Tillamook, where in fewer than ten minutes I caught a ride to REI with Scott, a custom home builder from Garibaldi. We hit it off well. Like so many, he told me that he seldom picks up hitch hikers. I made it to REI in Portland by 4:30 and was out by 6:45 rolling on a new wheel. After dinner I rode to Ryan and Steph’s home in north Portland, where I camped in their yard. Ryan was an organizer of the Cycle Wild Labor Day weekend bike tour to the park (check out www.cyclewild.org). Steph was home and welcomed me with her hospitality. Scott had offered me a ride back, as he was returning the next day, and it worked out – he circled through north Portland and returned me to Tillamook by midday on Labor Day, and I’m back at the state park for one more night, stocked up and with a working bike.
I rode the long scenic route around the south side of Tillamook Bay, past Cape Mears and its famous lighthouse, which is decommissioned but fully available to the public. The longer scenic route was lovely because it is closed. The road has sections that continually settle and slide down the mountain, and can’t really be fixed, as there’s no bedrock and lots of rain. So it’s closed to cars but entirely passable to bikes. And with no cars, the roadway was covered with leaves and mosses and was a delight to ride, even though quite steep up and down around the cape.
I have now stayed at Cape Lookout State Park for three of the last four nights. I had planned one night, but the wheel repair issue changed the plans. As I prepared to leave this morning, I reflected that this was perhaps the nicest state park camping experience I have had in years. The site is exquisitely beautiful just above the beach, the facilities are well kept, the rangers were helpful, and the hiker/biker section was purposely located far from the industrial RV sections, giving us peace and quiet over the Labor Day holiday. So I made a point of stopping at the entrance station to let Lee, the ranger on duty, of my satisfaction. She appreciated hearing this, as she said she mostly listens to complaints, some of which simply defy reality.
Before I left I also saw that the nearby portapotties were being cleaned up and emptied. I once saw a delightful “mockumentary” Australian film called simplying Kenny, about a man who does this dirty work with gentleness, grace and homespun philosophy. The portapotties had just handled a huge task over the weekend without failing; figuring that the outhouse cleaner seldom receives appreciation for his work, I stopped to thank him. His name was Jim, not Kenny, but he had a similar attitude as Kenny in the movie.
I only rode about thirty miles today. Earlier today I had stopped along the road to adjust a bag, and greeted a German woman whose car had an Ammachi license frame. I’m not a devotee, but had darshan (her hug) 25 years ago when she came to Lama Foundation, where I was living at the time (and where I did my first-ever PV work). Not a big deal, just wished each other well and rode on. I had a State Park destination planned, but on the old route 101 north of Lincoln City, I stopped to talk with a couple outside their rural handmade home, and within five minutes were invited to stay the night. With prayer flags and Buddha statues, an Earth flag and Hindi Om plaque on their dome, this home just had the most welcoming energy. It turns out that both Shuba and Chidambaran are also Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi Ma, the “hugging saint”from India) devotees, who routinely host guests at their home for Ammachi satsang. I had a large tent with bed for the night, right on the edge of a rushing stream. (Their site for their Intuitive Healing work is www.iamawake.com; Amma’s is www.amma.org.)
in the morning I joined them in their morning ritual, which centered around chanting the 108 names for Amma and the 1,000 names for God. I appreciate those thousand names. I believe that the divine takes as many forms as we have imagination to create, that their are countless ways to experience God, and any path that claims to be the one true path is at best deluded.
This ability and willingness to alter my plans as opportunities arise is one of the qualities of this travel that I most appreciate and enjoy. It’s quite unfamiliar, which makes altering my plans on a moment’s notice all the more precious. I’m getting a few welcome comments and replies to this blog, and I appreciate and will share a couple in the next post or so.