Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Update is Here! (Scroll Down)

The really short version: We arrived home just in time for Thanksgiving with our families! Having taken the Amtrak from Denver to San Fransisco (thus avoiding a Donner Pass scenario) we had a safe ride back up the coast to southern Oregon. "Normal" life is definitely an adjustment - more on that to come. For right now we are home through the holidays (New Year's) at the very least. Who knows what the next chapter might hold...

In the mean time, your patience is appreciated while we work on finishing the blog. There is more of the adventure to retell and you will no doubt find some interesting reflections on here in the not so distant future.

Lastly, to all those that we've met and that have followed our travels, thank you kindly - we'll talk soon =D

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winding Down or Wrapping up?

The morning was home to a bittersweet donut breakfast. Clancy’s folks were coming to visit us on the road the following day and Thanksgiving was a mere four days away. Unfortunately, the weather outlook was pretty grim with rain forecasted for the next several days. If we kept pedaling it was going to be cutting it fairly close for the holiday. Clancy didn’t want to rush the last few days of the trip and wanted to keep riding - completely understandable. I on the other hand wasn’t so fond of riding in inclement weather and wanted to be positively home for Thanksgiving. So it was decided; when we met up with his folks I would hitch a ride and he would complete the last leg by himself. It was a tough call - I sure didn’t want to leave Clanc but I equally wanted to meet back up with parents and friends. Maybe the cold rain had made me soft. Speaking of wet weather, it was raining on this fine morning and I pulled out my laptop to kill some time. Clanc got tired of waiting for the weather to change and hit the road.

The rain that day in Leggett never did let up (at least not for long), so I ended up hanging out in the small town all day while Clanc made it up to Garberville. I hit the only two points of interests in Leggett: the “Drive Through Tree” (upper left in collage below) and the K-12 school. The massive redwood was quite the sight - almost as fascinating as the people that failed to drive their cars straight through the tree and removed some extra paint from their mirrors *ouch*. I made my way down to the school when I overheard some ladies at the post office talking about chicken pot pie. When I enquired they extended an invite - you know me when it comes to food! It was quite the spectacle in the cafeteria; there I was eating at the table with the third graders. Took me back to a simpler time at Sam’s Valley Elementary. After we all sang happy birthday to a boy at the table I gave my regards to the chef and ducked out.

The following morning I awoke both bummed out and excited. This was the last day of the trip for me. I intended to ride as far north as possible, tying to catch Clancy before his parents met us on the road. The redwood attractions along the way were pretty amusing. In addition to the drive through tree I had witnessed the previous day, I spotted a couple unique tree houses/homes (also shown in collage) before I entered the “Avenue of the Giants” north of Garberville. The Avenue is a scenic stretch of road just off the main highway that features a high concentration of large redwoods. It was on this section that I spotted Dale and Tresa in their maroon GMC. They hopped out of the truck along with Clanc (they had recently picked him up as well) and I gave them each a big hug. It was an awesome moment - especially since Tresa was the last one from home to see us, having shuttled us up to Seattle more than six months ago to start the journey . A fitting way to bring the trip full circle. I tossed my bike in the back and we headed north towards Eureka where we were to spend the night. Little did I know Tresa had prepared an all out feast for lunch. We stopped at a picnic area and out came the food. Here you can see the impressive spread and an over-indulged Clancy. The best was yet to come though - Tresa had made a shoofly pie for us! This was the confection that we wanted so badly to sample back in Amish country. It was worth the wait…mmmmm.

We reached Eureka in no time and Tresa landed us a plush hotel room at a bargain with her superb negotiation skills. She should be closing deals on Wall Street I tell you! Anyhoo, we settled in, showered up and got to thinking about evening activities. Clancy, Dale and myself decided to head down to the Lost Coast Brewery downtown for some guy talk and Tresa turned in early. The brew was good, the food tasty, and the conversation juicy - you know, all the crazy masculine stuff that went on during the trip that we couldn’t share with Tresa. I kid! It was good to visit in a place that was already starting to feel like home though.

The next morning Tresa outdid herself again and prepared us a red-white-and-blue breakfast. Here she is modeling her creation featuring yogurt, almonds, pomegranate, and blueberries. Delicious and nutritious! With full bellies we loaded our stuff into the truck minus Clancy and his gear. This photo was snapped right before we departed company. Clanc was to ride his bike the rest of the way home (another 190 miles) and we would finish the drive home that day. Another bittersweet moment. We had a safe drive home, where I was dropped off at my Dad’s place to start catching back up. Not to worry - Clancy made it home safe too, and in time for Thanksgiving! He has an entry that will follow about his final leg. Until next time…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cali Coastline

After departing Joe’s company Clanc and I rode across the Golden Gate Bridge and snapped the photo you see here. Traveling once again as two was an odd sensation - it served to remind us that our trip was drawing to a close. Only two more weeks up the California coast (tops) until we arrived back home in Oregon. A bit of a sobering realization for a couple fellas that had grown accustom to life on the road over the last six months. That night we rode late into the darkness, trying to distance ourselves from the suburbs and find a suitable spot to tuck away for the night. At a grocery store we bought and fixed some dinner and met a very interesting fellow. He said that he ran a window washing business and indicated that he lived on a bike as well. He mentioned several times that he was happy to be able to meet his obligations and have a little spare change in his pocket. We couldn’t tell if he was really homeless - he seemed fairly well put together and dressed pretty normal. There was a take away though: if you can swing a simple existence who‘s to tell you how better to live your life? In a way this reinforced our entire trip experience. That night we found a freight/storage container and made ourselves at home - simple, no?

You might think that living on the west coast would make it easy to take the coastal scenery for granted. While we had both seen redwoods previously, we couldn’t help but be awestruck. These are the largest living things on earth after all. I tried to imagine what it might be like for someone that had never seen such terrain before - the rocky beaches and ginormous trees. The sights here are certainly unique to the US, to the world for that matter. That morning we spoke to another cyclists as he was breaking camp. Turns out he was a welder and had got burned out with not having a life. So he decided to quit and cycle cross country (I’m seeing a pattern here - the plight of the bicycle tourist). Speaking of cyclists, we began seeing more riders on the coast than anywhere else on the trip. It got to the point that we just waved, smiled, and kept riding. If you stopped and talked to all of these folks you wouldn’t make it five miles in a day. It was a little ironic to find such a high concentration of cyclists here. I say this mainly because Highway 1 was one of the most dangerous routes we had ridden yet (see sign). Also, “towns” on the coast tend to be very small and offered little in the way of services (esp. with regard to bicycles). In addition, many of the California parks/campsites were closed as a result of budget conditions. I suppose the year round weather coupled with the fabulous scenery is enough to make up for these shortcomings. Watching the extremely talented surfers is also a plus.

When we hit Fort Bragg we felt like we had rejoined civilization. A real town with a library and other services - hooray! We celebrated by using the library, drinking some wine and beer hobo style, catching some great live music at a coffee shop, and going to Denny’s. The last thing on this short list was the only thing we regretted. Even with a buzz Denny’s food did a good job of underwhelming us. That didn’t stop us from eating too much though. Here you can see an exhausted Clancy hitting the sack in the restaurant. Luckily we found a nice construction site in which to tuck away and grab some real sleep. The morning was a bit cold and dreary so we visited the coffee shop again to sample some brewed deliciousness. Yes it’s true: in addition to acquiring a taste for bourbon the trip also got me hooked on coffee. A life of vices I tell you! Anyhoo, we reluctantly started riding though the weather was less than enjoyable. We made it a whole 13 miles to the town of Westport before we got fed up with the cold rain and decided to have lunch at a nifty deli. After devouring some tasty sandwiches and homemade bagels we thought it better to loiter in the library to dry out a bit longer. Good fortune found us here. A gentleman by the name of Norm that we had met at the Deli had driven back to Westport; he had intended to do some hiking and camping in nearby Rockport but was discouraged by the foul weather. “Would you guys be interested in drying out in a cabin at the KOA down the road?” he asked, “My treat.” Why yes Norm, that sounds delightful. The lure of the warm, dry indoors made the remaining five mile ride in the rain much more bearable. The shower that night also felt incredible - we were overdue. In the morn we thanked Norm profusely for the luxurious accommodations and he bid us a safe remainder of the trip. What a great guy - we are indebted to you Norm!

The riding day shaped up to be something else - or should I say riding night. We seemed to be getting into the habit of riding without light lately. After soaking up the last of the coastline in the daylight, we began the trip inland and over the mountains as darkness fell. Our target was the town of Leggett but it was quite a ways off yet. Then the fun started. Clancy experienced our first flat tire of night riding all trip - not very terrific considering changing a tire without light is a royal pain. Shortly thereafter I successfully decapitated my front fender while backpedaling, trying to keep warm (don’t ask). The best was yet to come though. Still a good ten miles out from Leggett we ran into a roadblock, literally. A tree had fallen across the highway and cars began accumulating on both sides of the obstruction. Had there not been anyone else around we would have just shuttled our bikes over the fallen tangle of branches, but as it was we felt compelled to help. Luckily a gentleman and his buddy that lived just around the corner showed up and he had a chainsaw at his place. This didn’t stop the yahoo that had been tugging at the fallen tree with a makeshift arrangement of small ropes and tie-downs from continuing his futile mission though. His antics were getting more and more out of control. After nearly backing into the fellow's truck that had walked to retrieve the saw, he hit his buddy with a branch as he tried to throw it off the road. The tension was palpable - we thought a fistfight was sure to break out. Luckily the gentleman with the chainsaw showed back up seconds before an outbreak to save the day (night). I think this photo summarizes the situation pretty well (yahoo is on the right). When we finally got to Leggett at some ridiculous hour we were thrilled to crash out right next to a K-12 school.