This ‘not a blog’ has no profundity, it’s simply been a journal of some of the people I’ve met and places I’ve seen over the last several years. It won’t become a book, it’s time I lock the doors but I’ll leave on the lights in case people should stumble upon the words. If anyone has questions about cycle touring, wwoofing, travelling on a shoestring drop me a line. As karma goes I’m far in debt, were there a bank of karma I would be deep on the debits side of the ledger and light on the credits. Fortunately I don’t think one can go bankrupt on karma, I look forward to paying off that debt. It goes without saying thank you to everyone thats been a refuge for me, given me food, water, conversation or a smile; it wouldn’t have been the adventure it was without you.
I remember sitting on the same beach 2 years ago, each time a day before the end of the pacific coast. The big difference probably being one was the beginning and now it’s the end. It’s a little strange but wonderous to be able to say I’ve travelled around the world, it shrinks the perspective of the world. Theres lots left out there to explore, a popular question so far has been where to next. I wish I knew the answer to that question along with the answer to lots of other questions.
Having passed Leggett hill under my own power this time felt good, as everyone who has done it will tell you it’s a lot easier than it’s built up to be. Leggett is the start of Hwy 1 which is what I associate with the beginning of ‘Sunny California’ it’s where the route starts hugging the coast and it is officially southern California. To my disappointment I descended the hill into a thick fog that stuck with me for the next few days, there went my sunny. After I passed Leggett I had to turn up the tempo in order to make it to Los Angeles in time for a Summercamp project. Running centuries from Leggett on down to LA meant that I was doing in one day that took me three days on the previous tour. The byproduct of doing it this quickly is that none of the regular tourers will manage to keep up that kind of pace. Were I to give one piece of advice to anyone doing the Pacific Coast it would be to take your time and enjoy the ride. I had to break one of my cardinal rules of not riding at night a couple of times in order to get to particular spots, not fun again.
Strangest roadkill I’ve seen on the raod? A lobster in Maine, I literally had to do a double take in order to identify what it was I almost ran over. I just imagine that the lobster thought he was making his grand escape, only to flop onto the highway where he cooked on the blacktop.
Looking for the same experience as the last ride is perhaps the wrong attitude to have taken this time around but it proved to be no less magical a second time around.
I did manage to ride with a fellow from Canada for a few days starting from Humbug mountain on through the redwood forests. Patrick was a guy who in many ways seemed to be mirroring my first ride down with constant bike problems and not having the right gear for the time of year. Luckily for him I had a spare set of long johns and other warm clothes to help him get through the colder nights. According to rangers I spoke to on the way through Oregon the number of cyclists had certainly started to dwindle in the week before I got there, which I wasn’t very surprised at.
Much of Oregon is as I remembered it, except the hills got a lot easier a second time through. It is just as beautiful as I thought, which is a good thing since I encourage just about everyone I meet that they should do the Pacific Coast on a bike and especially Oregon. I thought I might have been more prepared for the attack of raccoons this time around always securing my bags at night before going to sleep. This didn’t deter them very much getting a few of my bagels one night and some of my granola bars. I hate raccoons. Another night they put some small holes into my panniers, which was probably one of my worst fears. Which means that one of my waterproof panniers is no longer water proof. I can see people laughing at me on this one, and on the whole I can see why. I just wish that Oregon put in bear boxes on their campgrounds like California does, it would make life so much easier and less frustrating.
I have to thank Mr. Ed from Oregon for dinner and all the smoked salmon he shared. I met Mr. Ed as he was cycling into the park and we got to talking about travels and he invited me to dinner which was really great. He had just landed a 48lbs salmon a few days previously and had been busy smoking it. He talked a lot about Spain as he’d had 14 trips there so far and I got to share a lot about other countries. He loaded me up with some salmon steaks and a heap of smoked salmon which I shared with some other campers when I got back to camp.
Getting to the Drury Parkway in Northern California is probably the best stretch to cycle down, for those that have gone down this particular stretch they probably remember it well. It’s one of the first tastes of the redwood forests and probably the most magical. There is very little traffic on this road and you coast downhill for almost 10 minutes in the quiet hush of the redwoods. I don’t think I would ever get tired of this road as the magic there is only interrupted occasionally by a passing car. I almost get annoyed by being intruded upon but their sight and sound is quickly swallowed by the forest and again your alone in the forest of Endor.
One more update for the rest of the way down the coast and some pictures.
Quick note to say that I’ve arrived at the end safely. I’ll post my thoughts in the next few days, the short daylight and long rides left me little time to post while riding so hopefully I can catch up soon. Things may be crazy in LA for a while so bear with me.
Thanks goes to Angie, Matthew, and Sam for hosting me in Seattle. I see again why I could live there, it just has a good energy and having friends there helps. The beer, food, and company was good. Two weeks went by far too quickly and it was time to hit the road once again. Of course I was already worried that I would be behind the cold as it’s already over a week after I had left last time.
Riding the pacific coast a second time I won’t lie and say I’m not looking for a similar experience to what I had the last time through riding with 4 great people. I almost found a piece of it starting the trail north of Seattle I ran into a British couple who treated me to dinner at the Public House in celebration of finishing the Northern Tier (or my version of it.) Unfortunately the next day I was heading into Seattle while they continued on south.
Speaking of looking for a similar experince of last ride I did get a chance to catch up with Jay who met me at Lincoln City and shared a pizza while he recounted to me his exploits of the last couple of years and I talked about riding around the world. Great to catch up with one of the gang from the last ride.
I found the hills of Washington to be the hardest yet and Oregon to be pretty easy compared to last time where I started each day agonizing over the many hills I’d have to crest. I do find myself thinking about where I took breaks last time and hills I had to walk my bike up, I’ve come a way from back then. It’s weird but the weather has been strangely similar to what it was last time, riding into Astoria dripping from head to toe was exactly how I rode through last time and riding into Cape Lookout to a cloudless night is just how I remember it. If things continue this way I’ll be soaked to the bone once again riding through Crescent City.
The first day riding out of Seattle it settled on me that this was the end, quite the depressing thought and something I don’t dwell on much but it’s the truth. Time for reality very quickly.
I have to give Alastair a lot of credit, I’ve now climbed the hills that lie between Canada and Seattle and they are a rough reminder of what Washington offers. I say this even after climbing all the mountains across America; Washington hills for whatever reason have me lower and lower on the cogs at a time when I didn’t think I really needed them any more. Had I started in Vancouver last time who knows how it would have went for me last time.
I’m happy to be back in Seattle, it’s probably one of the big cities I can be in and not feel overwhelmed. Though I do have the feeling I’d be pretty happy anywhere with a roof over my head, but it’s always nice to be sharing time and food with friends again. We managed to hit all of my favorite spots in town and get introduced to a few others now that Matt and Angie have had time to scout the area out properly.
I only have a few states left in this whole ride and it’s crashing to an end. I added a few pictures, I know I’ve seriously been slacking in the photo department but when I’m riding 10 hours a day it leaves little time to shoot around.
Random notes on Montana, don’t ride too close to the road or you’re bound to get run over and don’t ride too close to the shoulder as you are bound to startle a snake that will then start to rattle. I didn’t go back to investigate the markings on said snake as my legs got a boost of adrenaline. Riding on I90 was not fun but it was one of the few ways to get back on track and recommended by Adventure Cycling, the mountain passes I got to ride through after that were amazing, it baffles me that we dare to put roads through some of these mountains. Stop in Missoula if you cycle through to get some free ice cream and soda from the Adventure Cycling office, you may even get your portrait taken like my cousins did. Thanks to Kay and Bryan in Missoula for putting me up for the night and the beer.
I slid through the pan handle of Idaho and camped the night at a state campground. The campers next to me had a little 4 year old girl who upon seeing me set up my tent invited me to share the fire with them. She was super charming and we made smores and shared stories late into the night. That was about all I saw of Idaho, I was mostly glad to be out of Montana where the speed limits are a little out of control.
I’ve now crossed the Sherman, Wauconda , and Loup Loup passes leaving me only the Washington pass tomorrow, it’s supposed to be a brutal uphill since it’s the only one mentioned in my maps. Other than that I’ve now officially gone through a hail storm, on crossing the Wauconda pass last night it started a crazy lightning storm with heaps of rain coming down. I decided to try and lose as much altitude as possible with the remaining light I had left, on the way down it starts hailing like I’ve never seen before, the whole road was white with pea sized hail. As I learned from Gina, hail is rain the bounces and tends to hurt as I’m doing 30 mph down a 5% hill. After a while it stopped only to have the road washed out as I turned a corner, I didn’t have enough time to stop and almost ate it fishtailing across the road but managed to hang on. I finally went about 10 miles in the pouring rain before it started to let up and I found a place in a ranch yard.
I’ve crossed the divide, the continental that is. The elevation gain on it is just over 2300 ft in a shade over 6 miles. To put this into perspective that is like riding from Kahului to my house in Kula except int Maui you get 14 miles to do the same gain meaning the slope of the MacDonald pass is something fierce at times. Once I got to the top I considered camping at 6000 ft or barrel to the bottom as the sun was setting anyway. It’s hard to pass up a long downhill like that after spending a few hours churning up the hill so I figured it was worth it to go down for a while. I think I would have made my Uncle Bill proud by passing a Winnabego on the way down.
Getting out of South Dakota wasn’t easy, the road was busy and the winds didn’t want to let go but I was definitely glad to have the end of the plains. As many a tourer has said they prefer mountains over wind, at least mountains end while the wind will grind away at you all day. I know I’ve said I wouldn’t complain about the wind after Denmark but the distances I’m having to grind out against the wind here is extreme.
My impression of Sturgis is that the place is a little to commercialized for it to be as roughneck as it’s made out to be. I do hear that 600,000 bikes attended this years bike rally taking over the town and the outlying area. South Dakotans tell me that it’s really just lawyers and bankers who get to play dress up for a week and pretend to be bikers. Not exactly what I would consider hard core. Thanks goes to my aunt Carol for putting me up for the night.
Making it into Billings was a welcome sight, mostly because I would have a bed to sleep in and knowledgeable advice on bike maintenance. My uncle Bill managed to have the bike stripped down within hours of me making it there and a cleaner bike hours later I tested going up the bluff they live below. We squeezed in a ride the next day and I managed to keep up with my uncle who is a pretty serious rider and all around bike guy. Good food and a comfortable bed is always welcome.
By my estimate I have 2 days to Washington and then it’s all downhill from there, I wish this were true. But in the grand scheme of things one state doesn’t seem to compare to much anymore.
Getting to visit the Minnesota state fair for a second time was just as much fun as the first time around. I’ll try and recount what was consumed over and 8 hr period. We started with a chocolate malt with raspberries, and then moved over to the corn booth and each had a corn. After that I had read about the grilled chocolate banana and marshmallow sandwiches (probably the most unhealthy thing I tried this year.) After that I had a polish sausage wrapped in a dough and baked (called a Twisted Sister) and had a frozen mocha for dessert. I split a order of fries with Aunt Patty and had some Tom Thumb mini doughnuts. To top it all off I finished the night with some roasted cinnamon almonds. I’m probably forgetting some things in this list but that is only a small sample of whats to be had at the fair, good times and good food.
Minnesota, like Michigan, for me is good for the soul and the stomach. Good family there who roll out welcome mats when I get there is more than I can ask for. I did try to get up on water skiis again this time around but the results were the same as last time, except I pulled a muscle in my leg and decided that was enough tries this time around. I hope that third time is a charm, it just means I’ll have to make it back to the lake again someday to try again. Thanks to all the Minnesota gang for the hospitality and what seems to be an endless supply of ice cream.
I broke down one night and paid for camping on my first night in South Dakota at a small state park next to Watertown. As it turns out I’ve found my new favorite greeting. “Want some steak?” After I had setup camp for the night and just as I was about to break out the bagels and peanut butter for dinner a little kid about 7 years old walks up to me from across the road and asked me the question. I looked him dead in the eyes and replied, “yes.” He said he would fix me a plate but instead I followed him across the way to where his family was set up, there was about 10 of them camped at a few sites and had just finished dinner with a couple spare steaks on the grill along with potatoes and salads and desserts. I gave my story of where I started and where I was going and got the usual responses. I’m glad I stopped there, it was worth the camping fee that night.
The rest of South Dakota was plain, and just rolling hills most of the time. I rode through another thunder storm and watched lightning crash a few miles off in the distance. Super cool. The wind on the other hand was reminiscent of Denmark, the only major difference here is I had another 350 miles to go against the wind. That thought almost crushed me. Fortunately the day after I got passed Pierre the wind turned in my direction and I churned out a 130 miles to try and gain back some of that lost mileage. The road less traveled is what I chose to do in South Dakota meeting only a few cars every couple of miles after passing Pierre. It also means there is not much to see either, plains on either side of me occasionally punctuated with some cows. Towns are probably populated by no more than 20 people and I’m constantly worried about my water supply. I’m kinda glad that I almost have this state behind me, only one more long state to go and it’s a doozy.
I cheated, I accepted the fact pretty easily. Let me explain. Leaving Michigan gets harder each time I visit, there is certainly something beautiful about the lakes, rolling hills, fresh corn, and family there. My cousin Jim offered to drive me from Ann Arbor up past the Macinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, I rationalized this offer to stay an extra day at my auntie and uncles house and not be behind in my schedule across the continent. As a good friend asked me, ‘whats more important, peddling or people?’ An easy question for me to answer. I’d list everyone in Michigan that I saw to thank them but then this post would get too long, suffice to say that I appreciated all the food, beer, and conversation with everyone there along with the bike rides and lawn mowings (even if I do break windows.)
Hands down Wisconsin was the nicest state to ride so far this trip. 99% of the ride through the state is done on county roads that are barely trafficked, even on weekends. It’s all rolling hills through the state with forest on both sides of the road for a greater part. I didn’t start seeing cows or farms until the last days ride and only one sign in the entire state for cheese for sale. This isn’t the typical route through Wisconsin. One guy I met said that the average population of Northern Wisconsin was 5 people per square mile. I’m not sure where the defining line of north and south Wisconsin is but I believe it as stretches of Wisconsin were fairly empty.
While I don’t stop at every diner I see, I do treat myself once in a while just to see if I can find the diners of old. I like to find the diners where theres a bunch of old boys bellied up to a table, pancakes are the size of your plate and a no-nonsense waitress serving endless cups of weak coffee. The old boys gab about nothing more important that whats going on in town or the weather. It proves to me that life really can be that simple and trouble free. It’s rare to find these establishments and I’ve only managed to find a few of them, if you stop in Butternut Wisconsin look for Jumbo’s and step into what feels like someones kitchen, it provided enough energy that day to ride forever.
At this point in the ride I’m guessing it’s more or less halfway through the ride, I could say this because I’m crossing the Mississippi or that I have about 22 days of riding left, this is a rough estimate of days left, but I hope pretty close to accurate as any longer and I’ll be riding through snow somewhere above 6000ft. I leave the Adventure Cycling route for a greater portion of the remainder meaning I have no clue where towns, grocery stores, or gas stations are. This gives me a little bit of anxiety because I rely on the latter two for water and food which probably means I’ll stop at every one I see to fill water.
Adding Pennsylvania to my list of states I’ve rolled through on this trip is something of a sham. I did manage to camp over night in the state so it counts but I think the total mileage in the state came out to just a shade over 45 miles.
Speaking of mileage, I’ve now managed to throw in 3 days of 130 miles or more. The last two days before making it to my grandmothers old farm I churned out two consecutive days of very long distance riding. This was done mostly in the hope of getting an extra day off or at least get to some good food earlier. I don’t especially like going those distances, each time I’ve done it by the end of the day it feels like all will to peddle is gone and somehow my feet keep going round in circles.
Ohio turns out to be really quite flat which kinda helped with the long distances and peddling my way through Cleveland didn’t turn out to be as hard as I had imagined. And as I was rolling through there I realized as I was going by Browns stadium that I think I had been there with some fellow UH band members when we were at either the big dance or another NCAA tournament, I can’t honestly say I remember which.
I don’t regret pushing hard the last two days before getting to Manchester (I arrived a week ago today.) After being greeted by my aunt my first question was if there was beer in the fridge. I’m glad my family knows me well and is willing to pull out the stops when I get here. My cousin had the fridge well stocked with Bells for my arrival and we got straight to bbq’ing and drinking a few beers with cousins, aunts and uncles. A great way to end the day and start a break in Michigan.
After a week off the cycle (minus a ride with my cousin through the UofM and some byways of Michigan) it’s time I get back on the cycle. The family managed to squeeze in a great bbq at the old farm with lots of people, food, and beer. I got to mow some lawns while I was here and spend a lot of time visiting people.
I’ve added a few pictures I’ve taken along the road.