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.

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