He learnt to communicate with birds and discovered that their conversation was fantastically boring. It was all to do with wind speed, wing spans, power-to-weight ratios and a fair bit about berries. Unfortunately, he discovered, once you have learnt birdspeak you quickly come to realize that the air is full of it the whole time, just inane bird chatter. There is no getting away from it. – Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
At the risk of having you all experience what Arthur Dent went through when he learnt birdspeak, I’m going to talk a lot about what it’s like to pedal north, or as I like to call it, The Wrong Way, along the Pacific coast. You’ve been warned.
So last I left off, I was sitting in Eureka, trying to get people registered as potential new bone marrow donors. The people at Cal Courts were amazingly friendly, and we got over a dozen people to register! I tried to get a wod in, but people kept wanting to swab, so I very happily did that instead. The next morning, Tuesday April 28th, I dropped in on Humboldt CrossFit and got a few more people after they completed their wod. I was sad to leave Eureka, but it was time to ship the swab kits back to San Francisco and get back on the bike.
As I was leaving my Motel 6, a lady in the parking lot told me to take lots of pictures. I was heading for some incredibly picturesque places! I was a little behind schedule, and I wondered if I would be able to visit Patrick’s Point as originally planned. But I figured that I would regret it if I didn’t spend time there, so I made camp early at Patrick’s Point and took myself for a nice hike. And I’m so very glad I did. If you’ve never been to Patrick’s Point and are able to, you must go.
There are all kinds of interesting rock formations, sea stacks, secret little beaches, and incredibly varied and super dense forest. The trails are clearly marked, but also rugged enough to give you the feeling that you’re off on a wilderness adventure. I took a small bottle of wine with me and found a little outcrop to sit and reflect.
I tromped around for a few hours and could easily have spent another couple days there. When I got back to the campsite, which I had all to myself, a couple more bikers showed
up. They were a German couple, finally the first people I met silly enough to travel north. I got all nervous when I first met them. I had the feeling that they were real cyclists, probably covering a hundred miles a day, bicycles packed at maximum efficiency (I didn’t see any of their gear stuffed into trash compactor bags and bungee corded on), who would set up camp in five minutes, go for an invigorating jog, cook a healthy and nutritious
meal with the perfectly calculated optimum number of calories and macronutrient ratios, be in bed by 8:30, and then up and back on the road by 6:00 without leaving a trace. I was so relieved to find out that they’d only just come from Eureka as well. And then they pulled out bottles of beer and kicked back, telling me that they are fascinated by the other cyclists they’ve met who get up and on the road so early, while they’re just getting out of their tents at 8:00. Then they said they were taking the next day off, and their next planned destination was Orick. Orick? I thought. That’s where I was planning on having a mid-morning snack the next day. Maybe I’m not as bad at this as I thought. Anyway, they were delightful people, and we hung out for a while together, and they showed me some of their nifty solar powered gadgets. And sure enough, I almost didn’t get to say goodbye in the morning, as I had everything packed up and ready to go just as they emerged from their tent. Granted, it was their day off, but still, it felt weird to be the early bird for once.
So on April 29th I was on my way to Crescent City. The views continued to be absolutely amazing, and I finally came upon a beach that was easy to access. Well, relatively. It turns out it’s really difficult to push a loaded touring bike through sand. But I was determined to dip my wheels in the Pacific Ocean. So I took off the panniers and kept going, and up until that point, I’d say that was the hardest I’ve worked on this trip. Or maybe hindsight just made the climb up Mt. Tam not so bad. Luckily, there was a man sitting on the beach with his small dog, so I got him to take some pictures for me.
I also wanted a close up of my wheels in the water. Very carefully I approached the ocean and got the shot I wanted.
I was so focused on hitting the shutter button as many times as possible during my window of opportunity, so at least I got a nice shot of the disaster that came along.
Well, I’m glad I took the panniers off. The water came up almost above the wheels, so fortunately Mr. Lion stayed dry, being still strapped into his basket. I had to fight really hard to hold onto both my phone and Lutz as the water rushed back out and my pants were completely soaked, but it could have been much worse. And I was lucky enough to have a bright sunny day, so everything dried off pretty quickly. While I waited for things to dry, I called Nadya and got her caught up on how everything was going. I was actually incredibly happy and feeling totally optimistic.
It was difficult to keep pedaling, because the views were just amazing. I wanted to take pictures of everything. And I remembered Jamie and Dave, the Irish cyclists I’d met, and how Dave was griping about Jamie taking too many pictures, and he told him that there are already plenty of better pictures of these places on the Internet. He’s right, so I just tried to focus on enjoying the moment. Later I met another delightful older gentleman hiking his way down the coast who introduced himself as Baja. I’m going to assume that’s his trail name. The hikers have their own culture of trail names. When he said goodbye he asked me, “Kiss on the cheek from a dirty old man?” Then he thought about it and said, “Well, not dirty mind dirty, sweaty and grimy dirty.” I’ve been laughing about that since.
Well, at least I was laughing until I started climbing some really long and grueling hills. Getting into Crescent City took about everything out of me, and then I got my first taste of real wind. I might have thought that I’d experienced wind before, but I hadn’t. I got into Crescent City and had about a mile and a half of flat cycling to get to my campground, and it took me about a half hour to do it. When I got there I found a spot protected from the wind, crawled into my tent and refused to get out. I unzipped the tent just enough so that I could set up my JetBoil on the ground, made myself some hot chocolate and called it dinner.
My experience with the wind filled me with dread. The next day, April 30th, I knew that I would have to get as much cycling done as possible before the wind kicked up. I had wheels on the road at 7:00. There was no fooling about that morning, I just got up, packed in record time, and left. It wasn’t until I was almost falling off the bike with hunger that I decided to stop at Smith River. There was a little place called Alta’s Burger Bar, a tiny little diner, where I sat at the counter and chatted with a couple locals. I asked for an omelet and a pancake and the chef gave me a look.
“That’s a lot of food,” she said.
“I’ll eat it,” I replied.
“Just wait till you see what she gives the dog! You ordered way too much!” laughed the guy sitting next to me.
“That’s impossible,” I said. I had skipped dinner and breakfast and had been cycling this morning already for over two hours. I needed food, lots of food.
I didn’t know that an omelet would be made out of four eggs and come with a couple potatoes’ worth of home fries and that a pancake would be bigger than a dinner plate. It was too much food, they were right, but I surprised everyone by not leaving that much behind. In fact, it was almost the perfect amount. And it was all incredibly delicious, too. They admired how much I ate and said good, I would need it, because after all, I was going The Wrong Way.
And then I was super motivated to get moving, because I was so close to the Oregon border! I started getting texts from people watching my progress on my GPS tracker. My first border crossing! The anticipation! My first time to Oregon! So of course I took a selfie at the border, and then I was about to take one with Mr. Lion, but I looked across the street and watched as someone pulled up in his car to the Welcome to California sign. He took his selfie, and then he reached into his car and took out some kind of action figure. He posed the action figure by the sign and took another photo. What a weirdo, I thought, and left Mr. Lion in his basket.
And that was about it for feeling accomplished that day. The wind kicked up, I had more uphill to do, and this was when it became obvious, without a doubt, that north was The Wrong Way. Facing down this wind is unlike anything I’ve ever tried to do before. I’ve never been so convinced that the wind is a living, sentient being, intent on making my life miserable. It deliberately wraps itself around me and squeezes me, I swear it does. And it grabs hold of my front panniers and tries to lift them up so that my bike will flip over the back wheel. When it can’t do that it tries a different approach and comes from the side, trying to blow me either off the road into the ditch or straight into traffic. For a while I looked forward to going uphill, because at least the hill blocked the wind. Downhill was actually worse than going uphill because I still had to pedal hard to keep going and not be blown back up the hill, plus the bike was so difficult to handle as it got shoved around. But then the wind figured out how to push me back as I was trying to go uphill, and with a narrow shoulder and with logging trucks passing by, which make the wind even more squirrely, I called it quits.
In a turnout I just let everything drop and collapsed on the ground. At least it was sunny. I kind of dozed and had vivid daydreams and thought about what would happen if I just made camp here. Finally I decided to keep going, only to discover that I had been only two minutes away from the top of the biggest climb of the day.
So I battled and battled and battled the wind. The coast was beautiful, but the more I saw of the coast, the more vicious the wind got. There were several little bridges to cross, and those were the absolute worst. I gave up trying to ride my bike on the bridges and just walked across them. I finally saw a sign saying that my campground was a half mile away, but I was stuck on a treadmill. I got off the bike and started pushing. Even just walking in the wind would have been a struggle. When I got to the campground the ladies there took great pity on me, informed me that I was going The Wrong Way, and let me stay for free. My tent almost blew away as I was setting it up, but I managed to hold onto it and anchor it down with my panniers. Gloriously enough, the campground had the most amazing showers.
And then it was the first of May! It was another long day of battling the wind. I met more people going south, who all told me I was going The Wrong Way. I met a couple guys from Kentucky. I’m so scared of traveling through Kentucky since I heard horror stories about people being chased by packs of dogs there. I asked them about this, and they did nothing to alleviate my fears.
“We’re from one of the two civilized places in Kentucky,” they said. “You don’t want to go anywhere else in Kentucky.” I’m feeling wary, but I’m still going to assume that these stories are exaggerated. I also met a 70 year old man going south who’s done cycling tours all over the place, but then he wanted to talk to me about his all vegan, all organic, non-GMO diet and toxins in the air and toxins in the water and Big Pharma and the exploding rates of autism, so I excused myself and continued going The Wrong Way.
Then I saw someone I recognized! Back when I was hanging out with Jamie and Dave, they showed me a picture of another fool traveling north. He’s from Tunisia and cycling a recumbent bicycle with a sail on it. “You’ll catch up to him,” they told me. “Easy. He’s being blown towards you.” He looked like he was trying to enjoy himself, but I think he was fairly miserable. He clearly didn’t want to talk, but he was trying to be nice, so he asked me where I was camping that night. I said I was aiming for Bullards Beach, and he said he would meet me there so we could talk. I had my doubts that I would make it there, and even more doubts that he would, but I said ok. Well, I made it to Bullards Beach, but he never showed up. Which was fine, because I was in a foul mood. I mostly ignored the other nice people at the campground and sealed myself up in my tent. They could hang out and chat about bikes and camping gear and food and amazing pictures they took… they were heading south. They didn’t know what it was like to be going The Wrong Way.
The next day, May 2nd, I was tired of fighting the wind. I decided to embrace it instead. I took myself and my new zen attitude on the road nice and early. I didn’t see the other bikers that morning. Either I was off to a really early start, or, as I always suspect, they were up even earlier getting in a nice jog or doing sun salutations on the beach. Anyway, my zen-ness worked. I stopped for another ridiculously large breakfast in Charleston and was feeling pretty good. A nice guy with a truck offered me a ride, and the day before I might have taken it. But I was determined to appreciate the wind today and thanked him and kept going. I let myself
stop for some treats for the night – a loaf of sourdough bread and a tall boy. I covered about 65 miles and got to my campground just south of Florence exhausted, but very happy. I cracked open my beer, and it was the best I ever had.
After that things just continued to get better. I was now ahead of my schedule, which was both good and bad. Good because I was ahead of schedule, but bad because I had been planning on meeting Lïv in Newport at the Rogue Brewery, and now our timing wasn’t going to work out. Oh well. We’ll make up for it some other time! As I made my way up to Newport I allowed myself to be sucked into one tourist trap, Sea Lion Cave. Despite the hokey sign that looks like it’s from some 1930’s horror movie, it’s actually incredibly neat. And I got there just in time to see a few gray whales pass by close to shore! I was so happy I even got talked into buying some fudge. Why do these places always sell fudge?
The whole place was just extraordinarily beautiful, with the picturesque Heceta Head Lighthouse on a nearby outcrop.
So on a side note, I’ve noticed that there are a whole lot of bugs on the road. Butterflies and moths love to hang out on the highway, and I’ve given up trying to dodge all the caterpillars or millipedes or whatever they are that are everywhere. Finally I took a picture of one. Hey entomologists, anyone know what this little guy is?
On May the fourth (*be with you*) it was time to make a decision about whether I would stick with the coast and the wind and the climbing to head up to Tillamook, or if I would cut inland early and get to Portland on 18. After discussing with some locals at the hospitality center at the campground just south of Newport, it was clear that 18 was the way to go.
Even though I had just declared the wind my new bff (I understood now that all his squeezing and shoving around were just his clumsy ways of hugging me) I figured that we would probably meet again. So after going through Lincoln City, saying goodbye to the coast with a bowl of seafood bisque, I
started making my way east. I stopped in the small town of Willamina (pronounced will-uh-MY-nuh) where I got a real bed for the first time since Eureka. I stayed at the Wildwood Hotel, where they have a hostel section that they recently started up because of all the cyclists they get. This night I had the place to myself, but I could easily see it being a great place for a group of cyclists to crash. The people were extremely friendly and welcoming, and the hostel had a wonderful warm home-like feel to it. I spent a great deal of time talking with the chef of the hotel restaurant, and in the morning he treated me to a walking tour of Willamina and a latte. I seriously considered staying another day there, but Portland was calling! I was on my way to meet some friends of my Cousin John’s.
So I got back on the bike and had the flattest ride since leaving home. The miles were just flying by. And I couldn’t help but notice that everyone wanted me to drink wine. Wine tasting was being advertised everywhere. Arrows pointing me to vineyards and wineries, signs telling me to keep it local with pictures of wine glasses, it was only a matter of time
til I wandered into a wine tasting room. Oregon pinot is the thing to go for. I’ve actually made an effort a couple of times to try Willamette Valley (btw, pronounce Willamette like dammit – I pronounce everything wrong here) pinots in the past few years, so I figured I should take advantage of the fact that it was now all around me. The wine guy was actually from San Jose, but he looked extremely happy to have relocated himself to Oregon. I promised myself I wouldn’t drink the whole bottle (just a small one) but we spent so long talking that I did anyway.
Pedaling was significantly harder after the wine, but I managed. It was all so flat compared to what I’d been doing for the past two weeks. I was feeling rather smug about that until I hit my hosts’ neighborhood. It was like suddenly being transplanted into San Francisco. I had about two miles of extremely steep climbs, one right after the other. So I arrived at their doorstep a proper sweaty mess. Then I got spoiled with dinner and more wine.
So what’s next? Well, the CrossFit gyms in Portland have been unresponsive, so I spent all today writing emails with CrossFit gyms in Boise (they’re super enthusiastic!) and uploading pictures and writing this blog post. Tomorrow I’ll go pester some CrossFit gyms here in person, and hopefully at least point them in the direction of the Swab and Save Someone (SASS) campaign for CrossFitter Lori Nam. I’ll even swing by the Be the Match office in Portland and see what’s going on over there. Friday Kevin and Sunyoung are coming in from Seattle on the train, and I’ll meet them at the station and off we’ll go to Boise!