Saturday, December 28, 2013

Off the Rails

The past couple of years, about this time I turn into the Cycling Santa.


I zip-tie a Santa hat to a helmet, antlers to the front of the bike, and blinking colored lights to the frame. Last year, I did this with my Salsa Casseroll, but this year it all went on Sparkletini. The shiny stuff on Sparkletini made it look very festive.

Decked out in this fashion, I then try to get out for a few bike rides in more populous areas -- usually slower trips into downtown Franklin for lunch or shopping. Last year and this year I was also able to do this ride on Christmas day.

Now, downtown Franklin is mostly like the downtown area of most small towns in America. It's so small that it's kind of stupid to say "downtown" at all -- not like there's an uptown or an east-side or a west-side. There may be a "bad side of the tracks," but having ridden a bicycle regularly through downtown Atlanta I can tell you that the worst part of downtown Franklin is a veritable garden spot compared to Techwood Homes or the projects of South Atlanta.

However, downtown Franklin is probably a bit more affluent than most small towns on the planet. There isn't really any single big company in Franklin itself, but there are a ton of people in the music industry that live around here, and the town itself is very "touristy." The old movie theatre has been beautifully restored, and now serves beer and wine and shows classic and first-run films, as well as regularly hosting music acts of all genres. The old drug store -- Gray's -- is now a trendy restaurant. They kept the big "Gray's" sign, so it's "Gray's Restaurant."

Bottom line: It's nice. True to its past, but still trendy and functional. And, during the holidays, it's much more Bedford Falls than Pottersville.

So, I did my Cycling Santa thing into town just after noon on Christmas. It was kind of cold, but warm enough that folks were out walking and running and playing with new footballs and stuff. I saw two other riders on bicycles, both of whom seemed to be working hard to get in some kind of workout. There were a few cars, too, but not very many. And everyone got a wave and a smile and a loud "Merry Christmas" from Cycling Santa. Most of them gave me at least a wave and a smile back.

On my return route, going down Old Carter's Creek, I passed a group of kids out playing in somebody's yard. A boy who looked to be maybe 10 years old came running after me, yelling "You come back here! You come back here!" I wasn't sure what he wanted, but decided not to stop. For one thing, I needed to get back, but mostly it was just because I didn't care for his tone. Instead, I yelled over my shoulder, "I'll be back again next year!"

Why do I go to this trouble for a little 20-mile bike ride? Why not stay home and be warm and hang out with my family?

Well, part of it is because I needed a bike ride. I still like riding my bike -- even when it's 45 degrees out. And I like to think that it's fun for the folks that see me. "Oh look, Martha. Santa finished his deliveries and is riding his bicycle. Ha-ha-ha."

But part of it is also to spread a little cognitive dissonance around. As I mentioned, there were other bicycles about, but I wanted people to see a bicyclist who wasn't just heads-down trying to maintain 225 watts for 30 minutes. They needed to see a bicyclist who was out having fun, dressed like Santa, yelling "Merry Christmas." They needed some personalization ... a sense that we are also kindred spirits.

Besides, buzzing Santa at 45 mph and yelling "Get up on the sidewalk" is the sort of thing that gets you on the Naughty List.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Right Place at the Right Time

Things looked dire. And they were supposed to get worse.

I needed a November 200K, and there are only two cycling weekends left for me in this month. Rather than hope for better weather next weekend, I decided to do it this weekend.

Early in the week, the weather looked iffy. Then, it solidified into yucky. Sunday would be crap, so I decided to ride Saturday ... when the forecast just called for crud. A couple of friends were coming along, and we were good to go Friday afternoon.

Then, one friend had to back out Friday night. Saturday morning about 4, I got a text from the other friend -- he was sick, and couldn't come.

So, it was just me riding the Cathey's Creek 200K permanent ... again. (This is the fourth time this year that I've ridden it solo.) And, as the sun supposedly arose at 6:10 this morning and I hit the rode, it was foggy and drizzly.

Like I said, dire. Supposedly, the fog would get blown away later that day by the 15 mph winds out of the south, about the time the rain chances went up.

Worse.


The drizzle came and went, but the fog stayed as I headed south towards Peytonsville. Most of the leaves have been blown off of the trees by recent rains and wind, but most of the roads on this route get enough traffic to come them clear of wet slippery stuff.


Starting up Pulltight, there were a bunch of turkeys in the road. Apparently, the wild ones don't worry about Thanksgiving.


Surprisingly, the wind was still light when I started heading south on US 431. I made a quick stop at Marcy Jo's, then hurried on trying to beat the wind.


The wind did begin blowing a little harder just before I turned east, but it was out of the southeast. In sailing terms, that left me on a broad reach -- a nice, fast way to go. I virtually flew to Glendale, and then on to Mt. Pleasant. It was just after 11 am when I finished a quick slice of pizza and headed towards Hampshire.


I had to fight the wind a bit heading up onto the ridge, but the wind was behind me again going down Cathey's Creek. Incredibly, it kept pushing me on the long climb up Love's Branch and on to Williamsport.


I didn't stay long at the control there since I wanted to beat the rain. It started spitting on me as I cruised north for the last 25 miles, but I was smelling the barn ... or some hot chocolate from Frothy Monkey.


Like I said, it looked like it was going to be a crappy ride -- and, in the pictures, it looks like it was a crappy ride. But it turned out to be one of the fastest and easiest times that I've ever had on that route. Sometimes, you just gotta go ahead and do the ride and hope that things work out well.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Gentleman's 400K

Did I ever tell you about the first brevet that I ever rode?

It was 2005. We had just moved up to Nashville, and I had ridden a whole bunch during that summer. There was an email or something that mentioned this thing called "Ride the RAT," where the cyclists would cross the state. I thought it was some kind of big club ride with a t-shirt and rest stops, and it sounded like fun.

After making some calls, I was told to be at the home of Bill and Sametta Glass about 5 am so I could get a ride to the start. Two vehicles went up from there, and I squeezed into a truck with Barb Joffe and her boyfriend to get up to Clarksville. We parked at a convenience store and unloaded our bikes while I looked around for other riders or a table with folks signing people up and handing out t-shirts, and the next thing I know there's just the six of us rolling across the Kentucky state line in front of Fort Campbell, heading south.

The wind was out of the north that day ... not strongly, but hard enough to give us a little push. Someone said that we usually choose which way to run the route -- north or south -- based on the wind forecast. The temperature was pretty good for mid-September in Tennessee, and we moved along briskly on mostly quiet roads for the remainder of the day. I was tired when we got to the Alabama state line just before dark, but had enough fun that I wanted to do more rides like this.

Of course, it took eight years for me to do that ride again. And we did it very differently this time.


Since both RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter were out of town for the weekend, I had two days to do whatever kind of ride that I wanted. Unfortunately, with them out of town there was nobody to drive me to Clarksville to start the ride, nor anybody that could drive down to where the Natchez Trace crosses into Alabama to pick me up.

Barry Meade came up with the solution. He lives near Clarksville, and suggested renting a room in Collinwood, about 15 miles north of the state line end. All we needed to do, then, was get up to the start in Clarksville, do the 250K brevet, then backtrack to Collinwood to sleep. We would then get up Sunday and ride the 80 miles back up to my house, from which Jeff Bauer would drive Barry back home.

It was just under 260 miles of cycling ... or what Jeff called "a gentleman's 400K."

Dave Harris very kindly offered to drive Jeff and I to the start. We found Barry there, and soon the three of us were on our way down US 41 -- fighting a headwind.

Now, this wasn't a strong headwind. It was probably about 10 mph, more or less. But a 10 mph headwind for 150 miles, when you're used to a tailwind and trying to finish a ride in daylight, is a nasty thing.

Fortunately, it's not a hilly route, and the roads are pretty good. Jeff and Barry are strong riders, and they slowed down enough to keep me close. We had a couple of issues with a nagging back wheel on Jeff's bike, which wanted to go flat for no apparent reason, but between the three of us had enough tubes to fix things.

We were tired and ready to eat when we finally got to Hohenwald, 106 miles in. We all had foot-long Subways, chips, and cookies, before we headed out to the Trace.


The wind was starting to ease up when we got to Collinwood. We quickly refueled, and then headed down to the state line. It was dark when we got there, finally finishing the official 250K portion of our day, and we were a little slower going back up the 15-mile gentle climb to town. There, we got to our room (the "hotel" only has two rooms, but each has three beds, a full-size refrigerator, microwave, sofa, and dining table), changed, and went to the restaurant next door. Although they were about to close, they opened back up for us and cooked us hot food.


We were three happy but sore cyclists when we got into our respective beds about 10 pm. I slept fitfully due to some aching legs, but felt better when we got up about 5 am. We went down the street for breakfast, then got dressed and packed and hit the road by 7 am.

The wind was still out of the south, thank goodness, but clouds had rolled in. We made good time throughout the morning, leaving the Trace for a brief break at the store in Fly, TN. There, we ran into Vida and Lynn Greer, who were out marking the route for the Gran Fondo. After a quick snack, we took Leiper's Creek Road up to my house.

I would have thought that my tour would make me ready to easily do a ride like this, but I guess that the slower pace and shorter days were not enough. Nonetheless, it was fun to ride with Jeff and Barry, and good to see that I've got the legs for a 250-mile trip this late in the season.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finishing at the Fred-Fest

Pictures from today are here.

So let's cut to the chase: I made it. 1,118 miles. 90:45 saddle time. 55,800 feet of climbing.

Memories, impressions, experiences, friendships ... priceless.

The campground last night was full of cyclists, which made it kind of fun. It was also really sandy, and drizzled most of the night, which made things messy this morning when I had to break everything down and pack it all up. Somehow, I still managed to warm up a couple of muffins, fix some coffee, stay half-way clean, and get out of there by 9 am.

I had carefully packed things so that I could just zip into Bodega Bay and drop the rear panniers and my tent at the shipping store. It was 33 pounds of stuff that I had sent back home, since I wouldn't need it again. It was also 33 pounds and a little less windage for me to bother with today.

Yippee!

You wouldn't think that it would make that much difference, but it did. All day, the bike climbed just a little better. Plus, I was able to ride hands-free whenever I wanted for as long as I wanted, unlike the "just take hands off the bars for a second and then -- uh-oh, grab 'em quick" stuff I had to do for the last three weeks.

As I was heading down California 1 I saw a yellow arrow suggesting that I turn left and go to Bodega. So I did. It was less than a mile, and it's where the church that they used in the Alfred Hitchcock classic, "The Birds" is. There's also a store there with a bunch of memorabilia from the movie. They make a good cinnamon roll, too.

I then had a long climb up towards Valley Ford, where I intercepted Val and Jude. They were the only riders who had left the campground before me, and had stopped in that town for a big breakfast. Weighted down by all of the food, I was able to attack and drop them on the hills past town ... bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

I quickly cruised through Tomales down to the bay, on through Marshall and Point Reyes Station before stopping on Point Reyes Petaluma Road to eat a candy bar, put on some sunscreen, and get the last of the sand from the campground out of my socks and sandals. The route then turned on to a multi-use trail that went along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard before getting on that road to pass through Lagunitas, Forest Knolls, and Woodacre.

There was one last long climb, and then a sweet descent into Fairfax. It was 2 pm, so when I saw a burger joint in that town I turned and had a big lunch. Back on the route, I took a series of quieter roads and multi-use trails through the suburbs north of Sauslito before finally getting on the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was kind of cool riding over this bridge into the city, except for the mixture of speedy commuters trying to get in their training rides and/or take the Strava segment, and a bunch of folks riding rented "Blazing Saddles" hybrids who didn't look like they'd been on anything with two wheels since fourth grade. I just tried to stay out of everybody's way and get it done.

The route had been good in the GPS until this point, and then it flaked out. I knew which way that I needed to go, however, and was able to get far enough that way until the GPS chirped "Course Found" and directed me the rest of the way to Big Swingin' Cycles near the Pacific Heights neighborhood.

The shop knew I was coming, and soon had everything sorted out with Sparkletini. The shop owner even called a small locally-owned hotel a few blocks away and got me the "friend rate" for tonight and tomorrow.

It was a great trip, and everything really went surprisingly well. There were a few things that I might have done differently, and I sure wish that the wind that supposedly normally blows out of the north had been blowing out of the north for the past three weeks, but all in all it was a blast.

But I can't wait to get home to RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, all of my friends, and the same old roads that I've ridden dozens of times. I've had enough novel experiences for a while.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Twisted

Pictures from today are here.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about trees.

They're interesting on this coast. I mean, they're interesting anywhere if you're into trees, but as someone who has spent a lot of time with trees in the southeastern United States I can definitely say that these trees are far more interesting than the ones that I so frequently cut down in my youth.

For one thing, they smell different. There are bunches of eucalyptus, and they smell like some kind of salve ... maybe the kind that you would need if your flesh had been flayed the way that the eucalyptus trees here seem to have been. This smell mixes with the sage that grows wild here to assault the olfactory almost as badly as pear trees back home when they bloom in the spring. It is a vibrant and promising kind of stink -- a promise of good times just around the corner.

The trees here have also been twisted with torture. They want to grow towards the light that is so often abundant above the ocean, but the wind rebuffs them, turning them back, bowing them in obeisance towards the mountains to the east, and eventually knocking them over when it tires of their stunted grotesque growth.

And, by the time I came to this thought, I was feeling kind of pushed around by that bitch wind myself.

I was up early this morning, and had eaten a little breakfast and broken down my tent by just after 8 am. Soon, I was back on California 1 heading towards Sea Ranch.

This part of the coast is a little more desolate, so I didn't stop for "second breakfast" until I hit the little store at Stewart's Point. By then, I had figured out that the statistical improbability was against me again, and that the wind was blowing strong once more out of the south.

The terrain did not help, with steep little descents and climbs for every cove along the way.  I passed through Fort Ross, then trudged up the long climb towards Myers's Grade on the way in to Jenner. I considered stopping for lunch there near the Russian River, but decided to push on to my overnight stop at Bodega Bay.

The fog came and went, but mostly just came It would sometimes turning into a light drizzle that would mostly just moisten me and my sunglasses. I kept turning my lights on and off, although at least cars did the right thing today and usually passed with appropriate aplomb. Me? I stpent most of the day keeping my head down and trying to stay under the wind ... or at least trying to keep it from knocking me over.

I finally got to Bodega Bay a little after 2 pm, stopping at a little restaurant on the edge of town. There, I found Jude and Val again. We caught up, and they told me that they were camping where I had planned to camp that night, at Bodega Dune State Beach. After they left, I ate a hot cheeseburger with fries, poked around town a bit to find a place from which I could ship some things home tomorrow, published my previous blog post and pictures, and did some grocery shopping before backtracking to the campground.

There, I also discovered Chris. He was looking for Will and Joel to show up soon. There was also a nice British cyclist named Matt, a fellow named Rob, and two young tourists named Sara and ... well, I can't remember what her boyfriend's name was. Sorry.

After I pitched my tent and grabbed a much-needed shower, I talked a bit with everyone and then turned in for bed. Tomorrow is the last day of my tour, and I should finish the day in San Francisco. The wind is supposed to behave ...

Learning to Chill

Pictures form today are here.

Yesterday felt weird.

Part of it was just being in a hotel room in a strange town full of strange people, but most of it was just because I didn't have anything to do. I mean, I had things that i could do to stay busy -- I cleaned the bike, went out to breakfast, walked around, saw the movie "The Butler," and stuck my toes in the ocean -- but I wasn't doing it all on a bicycle. I didn't have some other place that I needed to be that night ... some place further south on my journey.

I was, basically, without a purpose ... or, more accurately, a goal. And apparently I need goals.

That's something I'm going to have to work on if I want to do more touring. A lot of the folks that I've met on this trip who do this regularly seem to have no problem taking a day off and doing something other than traveling when the opportunity -- or the right place -- presents itself. One lady that I met said that she spent a couple of days in one town just because she met someone and they hit it off, and her friend let her just stay on the sofa and hang out at her house while she was at work. She said that she worked some, and then baked bread.

Maybe when I learn to chill out more I can also learn how to bake bread.

Anyway, this morning I forced myself to sleep until almost 7, and then headed back south into downtown Ft. Bragg for a leisurely breakfast and then a stop at the bike shop to put air in my tires. I had eaten an excellent breakfast Sunday at this place -- Nit's -- but when I got there today they were packed. Then I found that the bike shop didn't open until 9:30. So, I topped off my tires with my little handpump instead and headed north for a quick cup of coffee and sausage biscuit from McDonald's.

See what I mean? No chill-ability.

California 1 was a little busy for the first few miles, then quieted a bit just before Mendocino. I saw yellow arrows pointing into that town so, although the Adventure Cycling route didn't indicate it, I went in. It was worth a couple of extra miles, as the route went around the wild coast there, plus the town itself was just cuter than anything. It made me wish that I'd popped for a room at one of the Bed and Breakfasts there for the last two nights instead of the discount motel in Ft. Bragg. It also made me proud that I was able to chill out enough to detour into Mendocino in the first place.

I started looking for someplace for "second breakfast" as I went south through Little River and Albion, but nothing clicked until I hit Elk. There, I saw a nice diner with three bicycles out front. When I went in, I found my three companions from Leggett: Chris, Will, and Joel.

Over breakfast, they told me how they had been plagued with a series of flats near the top of that first climb leaving Leggett, and then more of them for the remainder of the day. They had ended up staying at a state park hat night, and then were at Van Damme Beach while they explored Mendocino and Ft. Bragg.

After eating and filling bottles, the four of us rolled out together; however, the terrain on this part of the coast is very rolling and we were all soon separated. I regrouped with them a couple of times on climbs and at scenic viewpoints, but lost track of them by mid-afternoon.

I stopped in Point Arena for a soft drink and waited, but when the guys didn't come in after half an hour I moved on to Anchor Bay. There, I got a sandwich and waited some more before giving up and doing the last few miles to my campsite at Gualala Regional Park. The guys said that they planned to camp here, too, but never showed up.

Maybe they're having another series of flats, or they may have gone to another campground. Or maybe this is why I keep moving on -- I'm not the kind of person who gets invited to couch surf and bake people bread.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Go Down to the Sea Again

Pictures from today are here.

Ah! Finally, a couple of decent descents.

The day started with climbing, of course. Some of it was on Hwy 101 when it was a busy pseudo-interstate, and some of it was on Hwy 101 when it had become a more calm road wending through the redwoods, but a lot of it was on quiet roads with good pavement that somehow just ran along next to Hwy 101 so that cars stayed off of it. And that was cool.

The day was cool, too. I got an early start because the weather forecast for Leggett got into the mid-80s in the afternoon, but ended up wearing arm- and knee-warmers all the way up there. When I stopped at the diner across from Standish-Hickey to eat a cookie and chocolate milk about 10 am, I was still cold.

Just past this point, the route finally left Hwy 101 for the last time, turning towards the coast on California 1. Right after this turn was the road that went to the Drive-Thru Tree, which I had planned to go see; however, three other touring cyclists were just rolling out as I pulled up. We chatted a bit, and I decided to skip the tree so that I could climb towards the coast with them.

We all hung together for about half a mile, and then two of them fell off and a fellow named Chris and I climbed together. He told me that the three of them lived in San Francisco, and had gotten a ride with their bikes up to Arcata so they could take the week to ride home. At one point, I stopped to take off my arm- and knee-warmers and see if the other two guys would come up, but they didn't. I then caught up with Chris just before he stopped to "take a natural," and I soft-pedalled the rest of the way to the top ... but neither he nor his friends ever came back up. I even stopped and ate a banana that I had grabbed at the hotel, before finally deciding to start down.

And that was the first great descent, complete with smooth pavement and easy swooping curves. After this came easy spinning through more redwoods for a few miles, still soft-pedalling to see if the three guys would catch up. Then there was a steeper climb for a couple of miles, followed by another excellent descent, and suddenly I was back on the coast.

I stopped a bunch here to take pictures of the beautiful scenery on this virtually empty shore. Somehow, there were almost no cars for the first 10 miles -- it was like the Lost Coast, but without the suffering to get there. Of course, there was still work, since the road regularly curved around and had short steep descents and climbs. By the end of the day I had gained almost 5000 feet of elevation.

When I got to Westport, I stopped at the little store for lunch and found my old friends Jude and Val, along with a cycling tourist from Minnesota named Nate. They were all just finishing their sandwiches, and Jude told me about the places they had been since we last talked before Eureka. They headed out while I ate my lunch and chatted some with Nate, and then Nate left. I paused to put on sunscreen and see if the three riders from San Francisco might show up. They didn't, but another two tourists -- Rich and Sissy Byrd from Spartanburg, South Carolina -- came in on their tandem. We talked a bit, and I discovered that they knew my friends Bill and Sametta Glass, having done "warm showers" with them in Nashville.

Rich and Sissy were getting sandwiches, too, but I had been hanging around Westport too long and wanted to try and catch up to either Nate or Jude and Val. I wasn't fast enough, however, and was soon turning off on the multi-use trail in Cleone and riding back roads into Fort Bragg. I got to the hotel where I had originally planned to stay ... albeit two days from now. And then I checked in for two nights.

Yeah ... I'm going to take a day off. I may not even ride on Sunday, or take any pictures, or write a blog. Don't worry about me, though. By Monday I will be back on the road towards Gualala, where I should be camping.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to the Real World

Pictures from today are here.

I slept pretty well last night, although it was a little chilly. About 2 am, I stepped outside the tent for a bit and looked up at the sky to admire the stars. You just don't get a night sky like that unless you are way out in the middle of nowhere. The Milky Way was a solid river of light, as you sometimes see it closer to a city, but that river was not as stark since there were all these other more distant stars, galaxies, nebulae, and what-not all bumping up against it and muddling up behind it.

When the sun began to come up I got up, started some coffee, and began packing. Just before my water was boiling, my little stove sputtered and stalled -- the fuel cannister was empty -- so all I got for breakfast was warm coffee and a cold English muffin.

Just after 8 am, I was on the way to Honeydew. The road continued its ups-and-downs to that little town, where I walked my bike across the treacherous one-lane bridge over the river and began climbing.

And didn't stop for over six miles and 2000 feet of elevation.

I had been worried that this climb would be like yesterday's, where things just got painfully steep. It was six miles (like yesterday's) but with another 500 feet of elevation gained. A basic calculation of this slope would infer that it would be steeper. Fortunately, however, yesterday's six-mile climb had included a few ups-and-downs, while today's was just up. It got steep once or twice, and my knees and quadriceps were pretty sore by the end of it, but at least I never had to get off and push the bike.

Like most cyclists, one of my favorite things about climbing mountains is that you then get to go down the other side. That's why I really felt cheated when I started down the other side just to find that it was rutted, pot-holed, gravelly, and steep. The holes hid in the shady spots, so I was forced to ride my brakes all the way down, weaving and dodging what I could, bracing myself for what I couldn't, and worried throughout that I was going to either break a spoke or a wheel or at least get a pinch-flat. Towards the bottom, my brakes were a lot looser than they had been, making me wonder just how badly the pads and rotors were now worn.

The road stayed bumpy as I entered another redwood forest, so although the scenery was nicer it was difficult to enjoy it. I stopped a few times to get some pictures, but was basically glad when I finally crossed Hwy 101 and turned on to the Avenue of the Giants.

I now had a tailwind and a gradual climb. Soon, I was in Myers Flat, where I had originally planned to stay the night. However, the only restaurant in town had gone out of business, the grocery store had a sign telling bicyclists not to park there, and the whole place just felt mean. Besides, it was barely 1 pm and I still had a good tailwind. I would have liked to have eaten lunch there, but decided that it just didn't deserve my money.

Pressing on, I passed through more towns, finally stopping in Phillipsville for a snack. From there I had to get on Hwy 101 for a bit, and found that the road was just as busy as ever, but the shoulder was thinner. After a couple of miles of this, the route turned onto a quieter road going in to Redway.

In Redway I stopped at a bike shop that the guys at Henderson's in Eureka had told me about. The Redway guys checked my brakes, ruled them functional for another few hundred miles, adjusted them so they were tight again, and then refused to take any money for their work. I left a twenty on the counter anyway, telling them to buy a post-work six-pack on me.

From there it was just a couple of miles to Garberville, where the Best Western hotel beckoned. I checked in, got cleaned up, and finally had my first real meal of the day at a pizza joint next door. Then it was call RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter, do some laundry, and write this blog.

My plan for tomorrow is to press on up to Leggett, which makes for a long day with a lot of climbing. If I get there early enough, I may go ahead and roll down the coast to Fort Bragg. That will officially put me two days ahead of schedule, so if Fort Bragg is nice I may take a day off there and just hang out.

The Lost Coast

I don't think the "Lost Coast" is lost so much as it is hidden. And guarded.

Today sort of put me back on course, since I ended up at one of my planned evening destinations ... just a day earlier than I was supposed to be here. I like that, however, since it gives me some flexibility. If it rains now, I can take a day off. If I get sick of riding, I can take a day off. If I come to a town that says, "Hey! Hang out here for another day," then I can do that.

The flexibility is nice. I just hope I can let myself take advantage of it.

After grabbing an apple fritter and coffee in Eureka, I got back on the route and headed south. The back roads hit Hwy 101 at a WalMart, so I stopped there and bought some more minutes for my back-up phone (which is now my only phone, since my iPhone crapped out). Now I can call RandoGirl at night and talk all I want.

The route stayed on Hwy 101 for a while, and that road totally sucks this far south. It really resembles the Hwy 101 that I remember taking to get to Mt. View in Silicon Valley when I would fly in from San Francisco, instead of the quiet two-lane that it often was in Oregon.

Fortunately, this didn't last as I got on more quiet roads, eventually climbing Eel River Drive through Loleta, then turning onto CR 211 to Ferndale. There, I briefly admired the scenery (it looks kind of like an Old West movie set, but with a paved road and trucks instead of horses) and bought some groceries for tonight's dinner.

Then, I turned on Mattole Road and suffered.

It took less than a mile for me to begin thinking that this was a mistake. The surface was very rough, and the pitches were horribly steep. I was still turning the cranks over, but just barely. Then, I had to stop to take off my arm- and knee-warmers, and was forced to walk until I got to a part that was level enough to get back on the bike. This break actually felt good ... slow, but good.

The slope backed off a bit, so I pedalled a few more miles. Then the slope got horrible again and I walked some. Finally, it turned acceptable for the last time and I got to the top.

The way down, however, also sucked. Remember that surface and the pitch? It was just as bad, so you had to ride your brakes or destroy your wheels. For my Nashville friends, think Old Natchez with a 15% downward slope and you'll get an idea of what the next six miles were like.

I passed another couple of touring cyclists near the top and tried to talk to them, but they didn't seem interested in chatting. Maybe they were tired from the climb, or focusing on the descent. Maybe it's me. (I found out the next day that they're from Germany, and do not speak English well. So at least it wasn't me ...)

When you finally get to the bottom, you cross the Bear River and -- you guessed it -- start climbing again! Only this hill starts off steeper! I stayed on the bike for as long as I could, then got off and started pushing. One section was so steep that I almost couldn't push the bike up it. If there is a touring cyclist with a fully loaded (100 pounds or more) bike that has ever done this route without walking his or her bike, I want to meet that person. Just not in a dark alley.

After the nasty part, the climb eases and you can get pedal okay. Then you have another cruddy descent to -- finally -- the payoff. This is where you ride along a halfway descent road that goes along an empty coast. I mean EMPTY. Like there is one house at the very start, a couple of farm buildings, and lots of cattle. If you ever wondered what coastal California may have looked like 1000 years ago, this is it ... with the exception of the cattle, fences, powerlines, bridges, and roads, of course. And I wasn't there 1000 years ago ... I just look that old.

Really, go to the pictures. I'll wait.

See what I meant? Dang.

The coast road eventually ends by turning west, where there is (of course) a tough climb. This one didn't need walking, however, and I was soon over the other side and headed into Petrolia. There's a new diner on the edge of town that Adventure Cycling apparently doesn't know about, and I got a great cheeseburger with extra pickles from them. I credit the pickles for staving off muscle cramps for the day.

I stopped at the market in Petrolia for fluids, then did another harsh climb to get to my campground at A. W. Way County Park. It's a nice campground, with showers and good sites. I rinsed out my biking clothes and fixed some macaroni and cheese with tuna for dinner, and am now writing this blog and swatting mosquitoes.

Tomorrow I will post this blog and the pictures, after I finish the Lost Coast Alternate. There's a climb up to above 2500' between me and there, however. I anticipate a few more nice walks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Eureka!

Today's pictures start here.

I slept better than I had thought that I would last night. It was kind of cold, and most of the other campers were not there for cycling but for the coho run; thus, they came in late to clean fish, and got up early to go catch more.

The Log Cabin Restaurant had just opened when I pulled up on my bike, so I got a short stack and bacon and was back on the road by 8:30 am. There was another long climb a couple of miles down Hwy 101, then a short descent, and then I turned off on the Newton B. Drury Parkway and climbed some more.

It was worth it.

The road was quiet and lovely, with huge redwood trees all around me. The grade up was pretty mild, and the way down was even more mild -- I think that I just coasted along at 15 mph for about five miles. As I rode happily past cathedrals (or "cateederdoodles," if you're Irish) of young and old redwoods, the few cars that passed did so with respect and calm, obviously enjoying the reverence of this beautiful place as much as I was.

I returned to Hwy 101 for a bit, passing thru Orick. This town has a little more going for it than Klamath, and I stopped at the grocery for a drink and some candy bars. On the way out, I noticed bicycles in front of the town diner, and saw some of the riders from yesterday. I considered stopping again, but they looked as if they had just sat down to eat and I needed to press on.

At this point, Hwy 101 rolls along the edges of the Humboldt Lagoons. It would have been very nice, but traffic was getting a little hectic. At one point, I came across a semi truck that had taken a curve too fast and rolled over. Police were directing traffic around it, and this gave me a series of decent openings going south. I hate to take advantage of anyone else's misery but ...

Past the lagoons I started another climb, Hwy 101 remaining four lanes all the way now. Most of the cars moved over, and since the shoulder was sometimes "iffy" I stayed in the right lane for most of the way up. Near the top, I passed a ghost bike dedicated to a cyclist who died this year. It makes you think ...

My next stop was Trinidad, after a long easy descent past Patrick's Point. Stopping at a cafe there, I got a sandwich and coffee, then used their wifi to upload pictures and yesterday's blog. There were two young men also hanging out there with two puppies, and they were trying to get somebody to help them fix the flat tire on their car. A couple of the locals lent a hand and got the tire repaired, but the guys seemed to be trying to also find somebody to let them couch surf there for an indeterminate length of time. I could understand the desire -- it was a lovely town -- but eavesdropping on their conversations when nobody else was around let me see that their motives and methods were kind of sleazy.

I went out via the harbor to see more of this pretty town, and on the way back to the route saw a couple of the cyclists who I had spotted in Orick. Turning around, we chatted and then headed out on Trinidad Scenic Road -- a lumpy, iffy lane that was quiet and had gorgeous views.

The riders -- Jude and Val from Iowa City -- were strong, and we cruised along this road and back to Hwy 101 briefly, then took a series of multi-use trails by McKinleyville and Arcata. Parts of the path were not paved and steep, making for a bit of a challenge, but eventually the route turned onto all-paved sections that joined with quiet roads and a great pedestrian bridge to get over the Mad River.

Jude and Val were also going to Eureka, but staying at the KOA campground before town. Thus, when I lost track of them on the road out of Arcata, I didn't worry too much -- I'll probably see them tomorrow, after all. Instead, I headed into downtown Eureka to check out the hotels and find a bike shop.

The shop I picked was Henderson Center Bicycles, which ended up being a good ways east of Hwy 101. The guys there were worth the trip, however, as they immediately put Sparkletini on a stand, lubed everything, and tweaked the brakes and a few other items. They admired the setup, of course, and we talked titanium, tires, and spoke-lacing patterns. I always love a good bike shop.

After a quick stop at the bakery next door, I headed to the nearby Quality Inn to do laundry and grab a fast-food dinner. Tomorrow, I'm probably going to get back to my real route, but with a little extra. If it all works out, don't expect a blog as I'm going to be spending the night in the middle of nowhere.

Windfalls

Pictures from today are here.

You can tell a lot about someone from the way that they handle setbacks. Some people get flustered and confused, some start flailing about, and others just stop dead. Many folks try to fix the issue, while others just give up and step away in hopes that the problem will fix itself ... or someone more able will take over.

I've always had the most respect for people who take a moment to analyze the problem, gather information, get ideas from others, and then choose a direction that effectuates a solution. This usual works out well, and I wish that I was the kind of person who could do this.< br />
You can also tell a lot about someone from the way that they handle windfalls -- you know, those gifts that just kind of fall into your lap at little or no cost. Some hide them away, while others make the most of them immediately.

I guess that today I was in the second camp of that, since I had a literal windfall and used it to do an extra 20 miles with a nasty climb that I wasn't supposed to do until tomorrow.

Since I had stayed in a hotel last night, it was easy to get an early start this morning. I grabbed breakfast at a restaurant down Jerry's Flat Road, and was heading out of Gold Beach by 8 am. Within half an hour, I was on the two-mile climb up Cape Sebastian.

As climbs go around here, this one was long and a little steep, with pitches averaging about eight percent. Worse, the shoulder kind of comes and goes, so you just have to take the lane and make the cars go around you. That's about as easy as you would think ... except when it comes to some pig-headed semi trucks and one or two RVs.

The wind was out of the south again, but lighter today. I made good time going through a series of state parks for the next 30 miles, stopping at most of them to take a picture. At one of these, I met a young lady who was heading back to Seattle with her mother, having just completed the same trip that I am currently doing. At a park before Brookings, I chatted with a local who had questions about my ride, and he also recommended a good place for lunch.

The burger place in Brookings was super, thanks to fresh-baked bread and perfectly done french fries. I was back on the road just after noon, and made a quick stop for water and candy bars after turning on Lower Harbor Road. While I was in the shop, three touring cyclists went by, so I jumped on my bike and ran them down.

The three guys were college students headed for Virginia. We talked a bit, but they were stopping at a store just before the California line. I gave them one of my RandoBoy cards and told them to look me up if their trip ended up including Nashville or the Natchez Trace.

After stopping for a picture at the "Welcome to California" sign, I jumped back on my bike. The wind was now mostly a cross-wind, occasionally getting behind me, so that I flew along on some of the next flat sections at over 16 mph -- not much normally, but huge for what I've been touring at lately. A series of quiet country roads brought me to the beach and Crescent City just before 3 pm.

So, here's my windfall: I'm early enough that I could check in to my hotel, but I did laundry last night and didn't want to just goof off for half of the afternoon. Also, my legs weren't really all that tired, and I liked the idea of getting a jump start on the next day's route.

Which is why I ended up pushing on. Within a couple of miles, I was beginning a climb that would take -- more or less -- six miles of work on another road where the shoulder was often nonexistent, with semi trucks and RVs giving me no quarter. I gained 1200 feet of elevation, finding myself riding amongst giant redwood trees in the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

The descent out was pretty good, thanks to some construction near the top that took the road to one lane. I waited until all of the other downhill traffic had gotten by, and then pulled into a real lane (just like I was a car or something) so that I didn't have to get on the shoulder or even hug the line.

I was soon climbing again as I headed into Klamath, where I planned to stay the night. Originally, I was going to get a hotel in Crescent City, but the only hotel in Klamath was full so I went down the road to an RV park. The only restaurant nearby was also closed, and there are no real grocery stores here, so I bought a couple of tacos from the convenience store.

Thanks to getting in some extra miles, I'm going to change some things around for the next few days. Tomorrow I will probably grab a hotel in Eureka, and then either start the Lost Coast Alternate the next day (which would make that one day earlier than planned) or head straight to Myers Flat. In effect, this will either gain me one or two extra days. I'm just not sure how I'll spend them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Lost Weekend

Sorry I've been out of touch. Pictures from the three days since last we met begin here.

First, why I've been missing: Saturday night, I thought that I didn't have cellular signal at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. Sunday, I found that I did have signal after all, it was just my iPhone that was on the fritz. Unfortunately, my signal at the state park (Bullard's Beach, just north of Bandon) was so bad that I couldn't post. Tonight, I'm at a Motel 6 in Gold Beach, and the wifi is excellent!

So, you ask, how's it going? Pretty good, really. Saturday was a rough day for cycling, with a nasty headwind that made my 77 miles with 2500 feet of climbing a bit of a chore. I left the hotel in Newport about 7:30 so that I could quickly get across the bridge over Yaquina Bay.

The first few miles were dreary and foggy, as you can tell from the pictures ... such as they are. There's only so much you can say about a picture of fog. "Oh, look -- fog." And, "Supposedly, there's something cool there ... behind the fog."

Past Yachats there was a series of climbs, starting with Cape Perpetua and on to Haceta Head. I stopped for lunch in Florence, and then moved inland from the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The wind continued to strengthen as I went over climbs to Dunes City and beyond Reedsport, then picked up groceries in Winchester Bay before entering Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.

The park had a few nasty climbs of its own, but soon I was at my campsite and set up for the night. It was still foggy and chilly, but I felt better after a hot shower and changing into non-cycling clothes. Another rider came in then, a fellow from Norway named Bjorn, and then Matt and Julie and their dog, Jet. We had met on the road a few days back heading into Tillamook -- for more on them, see their blog at A Pink Frame of Mind.

Four more young tourists from Vancouver came in then, setting up in the next site up, and another young lady cyclist named Kerri. We all ended up talking until after dark, when I finally trudged off to my tent for sleep.

The morning looked better, but I dawdled through breakfast and packing up. Bjorn had a long day planned, and he left early. Everyone else was still there when I finally rolled out at 9 am.

The breeze was still out of the south, and I had a few good climbs early on. It was almost noon when I got to the bridge to North Bend, and traffic was nuts so I walked the bicycle up the narrow sidewalk running along the side of this very long high bridge. Another touring cyclist came riding up halfway to the top, and I apologized for holding him up. When we got to the top, there was an opening in the traffic so I quickly put my bike back on the road to coast down.

A few miles on, I stopped for a quick lunch at Taco Bell and tried my phone again. This was when I discovered that the phone wasn't working right. As I walked back to my bike, however, I looked over towards the mall next to the restaurant and saw that there was an AT&T store. I went in, and they tried to fix my phone. When they couldn't, they called Apple and tried to work through the problem. When Apple got to the "Tell him to plug the phone into his computer and resynch it with iTunes step," we were at a stalemate.

Leaving the mall, I found that the wind had stiffened while I was wasting time with Apple. I fought it out to Cape Arago Hwy and on into Charleston, then turned on Seven Devils Road. This road is apparently popular with the local cyclists, but is extraordinarily tough in a headwind. It pitches up into the teens at a number of places, and I was very glad to finally be off it and back on Hwy 101 about 5 pm.

It wasn't much further to my evening's destination, Bullard's Beach State Park. There, I found Matt and Julie (and Jet) had just arrived and were setting up camp. Also there were Tim and Kim McAllister from Leftbridge, in Canada (just south of Calgary, they said).

I set up my tent as quickly as I could, having to pause regularly to swat mosquitoes until I finally doused myself with Deet. After stowing my gear, I quickly rode into Bandon and bought groceries (as well as some Off wipes for me and Julie), then rode back to fix dinner. Only after eating did I allow myself to grab a shower and then jump into my tent (where the mosquitoes couldn't find me).

It rained during the night, but I slept fairly well regardless and awoke at dawn. After the previous day, I had decided that the key to dealing with the wind was to ride as early as I could, since it seemed to get fierce the later the day got. I packed up, put on more Deet, broke down my tent, loaded up, got dressed, and was rolling out at 7:30 am.

Kim and Tim had the same idea, and we stopped in Bandon to eat breakfast together. They were very nice, and had done a number of interesting tours. I really enjoyed talking with them.

The three of us headed out of town on the Beach Loop Road, including a harsh little climb up a 100-yard multi-use trail. The day was gorgeous, with just a bit of offshore fog but plenty of sunshine as we rolled along back to Hwy 101. The three of us would separate and then regroup, but ended up together again at Port Orford when we stopped for lunch at a fish and chips place.

Along the way, I ran into another touring cyclist pulling a trailer. He was touring full-time, having recently retrired, and was living out of his trailer. I also ran into Matt and Leslie, who I had last seen on the road in to Tillamook last week. They are due to fly out of San Francisco the same day as I am.

I left Tim and Kim just past Port Orford, getting back into my "git 'er done" mode. There was a climb around Humbug Mountain, and then a return to the coast for more miles of great views and harsh headwinds. At Ophir, the route turned inland on to Cedar Valley Road, which was gently rolling and fairly calm. At the Rogue River, the wind returned as I headed back towards the ocean, and I was spent when I finally saw the bridge over the river at Wedderburn.

Although I could see my hotel from there, there was a deli that looked inviting. I went inside and got a pint of chocolate milk and a slice of cheesecake that brought me back to life. Half an hour later, I was checked into my hotel and doing laundry.

Tomorrow is my last day in Oregon. I'll ride over 60 miles with (supposedly) 4000 feet of climbing. Since I'm in a hotel tonight, I should be able to get an early start. The weather forecast is for a little less wind, but still out of the south. Oh, well ...

Friday, August 30, 2013

That May Have Been the Best Bike Ride Ever

Pictures are here.

Four miles into a six-mile climb today, I realized that I was having a great day. I mean, really GREAT!

So, that probably sounds crazy. It's a six-mile climb, right? But it was six miles at an average of just under five percent grade, and it was a super-quiet and shady road. The pavement was only so-so, but the views were incredible. Lush evergreen all around, with an undergrowth of fern. The lower mile or two had fields of cattle and corn and grain, with a few houses and barns with the usual west coast bucolic ex-hipy vibe.

And a lot of it was just because I felt great. The bike felt perfect for this kind of climb, and my legs felt remarkably fresh ... no problems from yesterday's unintentional dismount.

The weather was also about as good as it could get. Cool enough that I felt right with arm and knee warmers at the bottom, I pulled off the arm warmers pretty quickly and left the knee warmers for the duration. The dew and sweat beaded on my arms as it evaporated, keeping me cool as a climbing cucumber.

The climb got steeper for a bit, and then eased off to almost level when I ran into a group of four young touring cyclists. They were taking a break and eating a snack, and I stopped to ask how they were doing. "Good," one of the girls said. "We just hope we're at the top."

"It looks like it," I said, and thought unfortunately ...

Today was full of things like this. I slept a little late, then rode into Pacific City and had a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll at a bakery. When I realized that I had forgotten my bottles at the hotel, I headed back and quickly retrieved them, then got back on the road with a nice tailwind.

I cruised through Oretown and Neskowin, and then up the aforementioned climb on Slab Creek Road. After a fun, easy descent, I considered breaking for an early lunch in Otis ("My man!"), but the cafe there was full of folks who beat me to it. So I headed on to Lincoln City instead.

The Adventure Cycling route avoided much of the town by going on the other side of Devil's Lake via Devil's Lake Road. This was a gently rolling, quiet street full of pretty houses with nice yards, and I enjoyed every inch of it. When it returned to Hwy 101 at an outlet mall, I was genuinely sad.

Going south again on Hwy 101, I started looking for somewhere to eat lunch. Instead, I saw a shop selling chocolate and went in for a quick snack. A milk chocolate coconut haystack and chocolate-covered Twinkee on a stick later, and I was full of energy once more.

The next few miles were a procession of riding on the ample shoulder of Hwy 101 and stopping regularly to take pictures of yet another incredible seascape. I ran into the young cyclists again, who had briefly teamed up with another young man from the Netherlands. There was also a group of 14 riders who were doing the Oregon coast down to Crescent City, but staying in hotels and supported by a couple of vans. Maybe someday I'll try that.

I had one other "incredible road" experience just past Depoe Bay, when the route turned on to the Otter Creek Loop near Otter Rock. The road shadowed Hwy 101, but only allowed one-way traffic going south; there was a lane for cars, and another for bikes. The grade was, again, nice and easy, and the views were splendid.

The few miles from there to Newport were a breeze ... helped greatly by the 10 mph wind at my back. I explored the city a bit, and then checked in to my hotel and called RandoGirl. After I got cleaned up and unloaded the bike a bit, I went down to Nye Beach for dinner at a funky restaurant there, and then came back to the room to do some laundry and write this blog.

When I checked in to the hotel, I told the clerk that the day had been beautiful. "Well, wait'll you get further south," he said. "That's the pretty part of the coast."

I may not be able to stand this.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Predominant." That Word Does Not Mean What You Think It Means.

Today's pictures are here.

I only saw one other cycling tourist today. He came pedalling in to the store in Sandlake just as I was about to leave, head down, suffering, trying to force his bike over flat ground, moving well off the road to get into the wind shadow of the store.

The store owner and two other locals were sitting with me on the front porch of the store. As the rider got off the bike and walked up the steps to the porch of the store, he said, "you know, I picked this route because the winds were predominantly from the northwest. I was supposed to just be able to sail along down the coast."

Yeah. Me, too.

Leaving my hotel in Portland this morning, it was blustery and wet but not raining. I got the bike out the door of my room and realized my rear tire was flat. I guess it's better when these things happen at the hotel, because it was easy to roll it back in and change the flat and then get cleaned up again.

Fortunately I had plenty of time. After grabbing a bagel, I went by the bike shop down the street and pumped my tires full, and then bought a fresh patch kit. It was mostly down hill from there to the Greyhound station, where my bus came on time.

A little after 1 pm, I was back in Tillamook putting my bags back on the bike. As often happens at bus stations, there was a strange little man hanging out who tried to tell me that he was the model for George Jetson, and something about a weird code that I should tell the Canadians when I go across the border.

Ah, the life of a ramblin' man!

I cruised north to the local megamart for a sandwich, zip ties, shop rags, and a new electric razor. And by cruise, I mean "cruise" because the wind was behind me for this mile and it was strong! After my shopping when I began heading in the direction my route was supposed to go today, I knew that I was in for it.

The Adventure Cycling route has an option to skip a hilly route down over Cape Meares and through Oceanside. I thought about taking the short cut, but that would be easier and less scenic. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view), the road to Cape Meares was closed. Thus cut almost 10 miles and over 500' of climbing out of my day's plan, but it turns out that this was okay.

My shortcut returned to the coast at Netarts, where I paused to eat the rest of my sandwich and watch the fierce sea. Then it was back on the Three Capes Scenic Route, pushing my way down Netarts Bay Drive, sometimes shifting into the small ring even though the road was flat and I was down in the drops. The wind eased a bit as the road moved inland to begin climbing the 800' over Cape Lookout.

The fog was thick for these three miles, but the road was nice and quiet, with a bike lane most of the way. When I finally reached the top, the wiind came back with a vengeance, and I had to tuck low and feather my brakes to keep from getting blown into the other lane.

Near the bottom, I entered a mile of road bordered by sand dunes. Pines were in the distance, slowing being enveloped by the drifts. I've never seen anything like it.

Then it was a right turn past Sandlake, with more of that fierce headwind. This went on for another 10 miles, as I eventually topped the last of the capes -- Kiwanda.

Just before Pacific City, I was riding near the right edge of the road when a car passed me. As it went by, I noticed that the right edge of the road was crumbling in, and I needed to move left. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do this very well, and ended up making an unintentional dismount. My left elbow and hip got banged and scraped a bit, and it temporarily knocked my handlebars and saddle askew, but I was able to fix everything (pretty much) and get moving again within a minute.

My original plan was to stay at a campground, but after the harsh day and the spill, I decided to treat myself with a hotel. The first one that I came to, after another crummy crosswind descent, was the Inn at Cape Kwanda. It's very nice, but more expensive than any other place that I've stayed at so far this trip. After a hot bath, doing some laundry, and a good pizza, I feel pretty good again. Hopefully the world will be right again tomorrow, and the wind will be back to it's proper predominant place.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Bicycle-Friendly Community

For pictures from today, go here.

It rained last night, but stopped (for the most part) before I got up very early, broke down my tent, loaded up, bade my riding companions from yesterday a bon route, and headed to the Tilllamook traansit center to catch the bus. I was early enough to get breakfast at The Pancake House. The bacon was thick and the boysenberry syrup tasty.

The bus ride was a steamy warm bumpy flight through a green mush. Ferns and thickets and slashes of gold bank laid bare, then glimpses of a silver river far below, rocks sensed more than seen beneath tumultuous turbidity. You could wipe the window clear of condensation for a minute and play a kalaidoscope game with the view: Blurry foliage up close then - pop! - a clearing with a yellow logging yarder ticking cool. More blurs and - pop! - a series of signs bellowing KEEP OUT and POSTED and NO TRESPASSING to let you know that somebody by gum moved up here into the hinterlands for a reason (darn tootin', you betcha!).

We reached the top of the mountain range and the world slowly changed, firs giving way gradually to fields of amber grain sown and shipped. There was corn, but it was shorter than ours ... probably the result of a different moisture to sunshine ratio than in Tennessee. A farmer on a John Deere tractor was plowing under last year's dismal yield. Mobile homes with mossy roofs. Mills and lumber yards that are obviously the biggest industry in town.

Then, it was the Portland suburbs, and ubiquity settled in like a comfortable pair of Birkenstocks ... arranged, of course, in such a way that the brand name showed. The bus stopped and disgorge many of the Tillamookians (Tillamookites?) in front of a See's Candy shop. I almost jumped out myself.

Further in to town down busy US 26, we finally hit our ultimate destination -- the Greyhound bus station -- and I jumped off with my bags, got my bike off the rack on the front, loaded everything back up, and spun away to explore. I stopped at an Embassy Suites that was less than a mile away, but their price was a little ridiculous. After a little more exploring, I hit a Travelodge that was just over two miles from the bus stop. As the clerk said, "we're clean, but you won't get a chocolate on your pillow." Sold!

I couldn't check in for another four hours, but the clerk let me stash my bags in the hotel office. I then went back in to the city center. The pictures pretty much tell the story -- a funky little town that has managed to embrace cycling as both a means to exercise and a means to travel. There were bikes everywhere, either under people travelling thither and yon or securely bolted to the omnipresent bike racks. The number of apparently homeless people wandering around made me whip out my little lock a few times to lash Sparkletini securely to a post..

Two funny things about the homeless folks: One was the guy that I saw with a sign saying "Need $5 to get a job." He was sitting by an on-ramp to the interstate, wearing dirty clothes and with a pretty grimy looking beard, talking to somebody on his cell phone. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it seems like if you have your own phone number you're not technically homeless any more ... right?

The other funny thing about the homeless folks was this: When I would lock up my bike, I would then take my front bag and bottles and helmet into stores with me. Maybe it was this, or maybe it was because I wasn't dressed very nicely -- wearng cheap zip-off-leg light khakis and a wicking rayon (but collared) shirt -- but the store clerks weren't sure whether I was one of those homeless guys or not. I stopped at a Safeway for some Gatorade for tomorrow and went to use the rest room, but it was locked up and you needed a code, and the lady in the deli wasn't sure that she should give it to me.

Of course, it may also be because I haven't shaved for a few days, and was frankly looking a little dirty after biking about town much of the day. I left my old electric razor (a very cheap one -- no big loss) in Elma, so I may go out this evening and buy a new one. I was playing with the idea of growing my beard out on this trip, but if people are going to treat me like a hobo I may have to rethink that idea.

Or I can get a sign and try to earn a living.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fools Love Company

NOTE: I'm going to try something different. Because blogger doesn't play well with an iPad (at least, for writing blogs), I am not embedding any pictures in today's blog. To see the pictures, go to my Picassa Web Album for the West Coast 2013 Tour (this link may take you right to today's pictures).

What do you know? There are actually other cyclists doing this route!

I got up to wet streets but no rain, so after getting a nice cup of coffee and pastry from a shop downtown I headed out on the route. Less than half a mile from my hotel I came up two other touring cyclists headed my way.

Oliver is from Sacramento, and had ridden up from there to Vancouver and was now heading back to Coo's Bay to end his trip. Max is from Frankfurt, Germany, and is riding his recumbent from Anchorage (with a ferry ride in there, somewhere) to San Diego.

They were super-nice guys and good riders, and the rest of the morning we headed down the Oregon coast, enjoying the sights, sweating up the climbs, zipping down the descents, and doing what we could to stay out of the way of passing RVs and logging trucks. Although I had originally planned to camp at a state park before Garibaldi, by lunch I had decided to ride with them all the way to their evening's destination in Tillamook.

Just after a brief break for lunch, we came upon another four cycling tourists -- two couples that weren't really riding together, but had also met on the road. One couple was just heading out onto the road, so they joined us for a few miles. They were staying at a Warm Showers house in Bay City. The other couple was heading to Tillamook like us, and we ran into them again there. They ended up at the same campground as Max, Oliver, and I.

It was really a phenomenal day, with no rain while we were riding and just a light drizzle after we had finally set up our tents. Check out the pictures and captions for more information.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Well, They Talk About It Being Rainy Up Here ...

So, the forecast for Sunday night was a %20 chance of rain. That means that it's going to rain.

It woke me up a bit, but mostly it just meant that I had to try to dry the rain fly on the tent again before I packed it. I took it all to the covered picnic pavillion, packed stuff up, dried it as best I could, fixed my coffee, and managed to get on the road just before 7:30.


The roads were wet, but the sun was breaking through the clouds. I had a long way to go today, so I was pushing the pace more than I had the previous two days.


The first part of the day was fairly flat, as I went along the Cowlitz River. There was even a spot where I got onto a quiet road running through fields, passing under I-5. It was really a lovely morning.


I stopped briefly for coffee in Castle Rock, after which the road turned more into the wind and the hills returned.


There was a very long climb next, followed by an even longer but more gradual descent.


Finally, at the bottom of the descent, I turned east on Hwy 4. The wind was at my back and the road was flat for over five miles.


I knew that the Columbia River was just out of view to my left, but these overflow lakes full of lillypads were gorgeous.


The down side of this road was the logging trucks and RVs. Soome of the logging trucks were loaded, and some were on their way to get loaded. I think that this big thing was on its way back from loading the trucks.


Eventually, the road moved far enough south that I could see the river. Across was Oregon, my destination for the night.


There were a few long climbs in here, too, but eventually I got to Cathlamet.


It was about 11:30, and I was making good time. But I was really hungry, too, so I tried to find a sandwich that I could get to go. My first stop was a convenience store, but they didn't have anything. I bought some sun screen, and went down the road to the grocery store. They didn't have sandwiches, either, so I bought a box of Wheat Thins and a package of cheese. Paying for this, I asked the clerk if the ferry to Oregon ran, and he said it went every hour.

Loading my lunch on the bike, I saw that I had four miles to go to the ferry, but only 15 minutes to get there. I settled into time-trial mode and pedalled hard ...


... but just missed it.


One hour later the next one came, and 20 minutes after that I was heading west again. But this time I was in Oregon and on US 30.


About 2 pm, the rain started. Thirty minutes later, it got serious and I stopped to put on a jacket and cover the panniers. US 30 was much worse than Hwy 4 had been, too, with a lot more trucks and RVs and cars that seemed determined not to move over at all for cyclists.

It was at this point that I actually ran into some other tourists going my way. They were stopped at the top of a hill, and I pulled over to see if they needed any thing. They said, no, they were just pausing for the traffic. I asked where they were going, and they said San Francisco. Me, too, I replied. I asked where they were stopping for the night and they said Astoria. Me, too, I replied. I asked where they might go after that, and I think that this was the point that they figured that I might be interested in riding along with them. So they said something vague and I got the point and moved on.


I finally got to Astoria about 4 pm. I found a bike shop to get some chain lube, and then found my hotel. It's ... well, not expensive.

The rain paused in the evening, so I walked into town and checked things out. After grabbing dinner at a microbrewery, I went to an old movie theatre downtown and watched "Despicable Me 2." Although the movie was only so-so, the theatre owners are doing a great job trying to bring it back.

At the bike shop, the guy selling me my lube told me that this was the first real rain that they've had all summer. It was not what I wanted to hear. Hopefully, it will be brief.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mayonnaise on French Fries

It's easy, as you ride along here in western Washington, to forget that you're not in Tennessee any more. The countryside is gently rolling, green, bucolic ... with cows and sheep and goats and llamas penned up to one side, watching bored as you pedal past. Fields are full of hay, mostly rolled now and shrinkwrapped into giant Hostess Ding Dongs to be called into play during the coming winter.

But, as Vincent Vega once said, "it's the little things."


Some are obvious, such as the mountains. Today, they shadowed my ride to left and right for the first flat 30 miles. "Come play with us, Danny," they called, as I motored along on my big wheel and kept my eyes fixed forward. Eventually, I knew that I would enter that elevator full of blood ... just not now, please. Not now.


The casinos aren't subtle, but when are they ever? Cars whizzed past me on a Sunday morning near this one, spewing fools hoping to strike a deal with the one-armed bandits. Money-changers, trading coins for delusion.


The subtlety was left to nature, really. The road was lined with blackberries, but in spite of a reportedly dry summer here they were fat and juicy and thick, unlike the sparse morsels we get back home. And there were other, less-familiar berries -- something that looked like a pepper, and bushes full of dark ominous orbs whose proliferation proved their poisonous persuasion.

Subtle ... a four-P piece of alliteration is certainly not that.

I had gotten a late start, thanks to my diligent observance of the 10pm to 7 am "quiet time" at the RV park. By the time that I had cooked breakfast, gotten dressed, broken camp, and loaded up it was almost 9 am. I grabbed a second cup of coffee at a roadside stand and headed out onto the backroads.



As I mentioned, the route was flat at first. I crossed some lovely rivers, slightly wider and faster flowing than most back home, but otherwise the same.



Another difference, of course, was the weather -- temperatures were more like December in Tennessee.

I'm glad to say that the humor is about the same. From the Barbie dolls hanging from the phone line ...


... to people willing to name their businesses with an eye towards entertainment.


I also went by this place today:


The sign said it was a school, but it looked more like a minimum-security prison. There didn't seem to be anybody there, either. Spooky ...

After 25 miles, I stopped in Rochester at this place.


The owner, Bob Connors, is a bass player who had worked with Stephen Stills and Larry Gatlin. We talked music for a while, in particular our mutual philosophy that it is best when it is organic, and he told me that he is planning a visit to Nashville in a few months and might look me up then. That would be cool.

Bob also makes a mean breve and his candy is great. He is selling this place as of this coming Thursday, but said that the new owners don't plan to change anything. It's been successful for 18 years, according to Bob, so I don't see why they would.

RandoBoy does not ride on chocolate and coffee alone, however. I stopped at a Quizno's in Centralia for a flatbread sandwich, and it was the busiest Quizno's that I have ever seen. As so often has happened during the past few days, people asked where I was heading. The lady in line behind me, when she heard that I am riding alone, promised to pray for me.


A few miles out of Centralia, the road turned up and I had a two-mile climb. Once atop the ridge, the wind came around behind me and I moved briskly along. I saw three touring cyclists, apparently doing the same route but northbound, and then went down a steep descent with a couple of riders just out for a spin. I saw "Dan Henry" arrows on the road about this time, so these were obviously popular cycling roads.


A little further on, there was another climb up onto another ridge with another tailwind. This road took me past Lewis and Clark State Park, where I had to get a picture since we so frequently visit Meriwether Lewis Park on the Natchez Trace.


Five miles more and I was in my stopping point for the evening, the City of Toledo. I quickly found the city park, which does not appear to have anyone else staying for the night. It's only $10 for tents, with rest rooms and a shower. (You have to feed quarters to the shower, but the rest rooms are free.)

My campsite is next to this really cool tree, too.


But the ground is so hard that I broke one of my tent spikes driving it in.



Tomorrow is a long day, as I finish up the state of Washington and end up in Astoria, Oregon. The people at the grocery store here were telling me that I had to visit the Maritime Museum there, and that Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies were both filmed there. Maybe that's another way that Washington is just like Tennessee -- lots of friendly folks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sleeping Amongst Zombies

I'm staying at an RV park tonight that is full of zombies and runners.

That's what the lady running the park told me when I got here, explaining that normally there's more tent room and that the bathrooms are cleaner, but "there's a big bumch here. Half of them are zombies and the other half are runners."

I talked to one of them while I was setting up my tent, and asked her, "are you a runner or a zombie?"

"Both," she said.

So apparently it's not as simple a world as the lady running the RV park thought.


Here's the view from my hotel room this morning. I slept as late as I could, trying to get on west coast time, but went ahead and got up about 5:30 am. After an hour of rearranging things on the bike, I took my shower, checked out of the hotel, and went off to the Family Pancake House for breakfast.


In the course of unpacking stuff, I found that I had left part of the mount for my Vis 180 helmet light. As the above shows, you can overcome almost anything with zip ties.


It took me an hour to get out of Bremerton proper -- partly due to a couple of missed turns. One of those turns had me climbing a really long hill ... just to find that I missed the turn at the bottom of said hill. Once back at the bottom, I think that I climbeed the same hill again, but in a steeper way.


Soon I was riding along either the Hood Canal, which was lined with nice houses. It was still chilly and overcast, and the sky was threatening some rain, but that rain never did fall on me.

About 20 miles into the day, I stopped at a store for some Gatorade and a snack. It had warmed up enough and spots of blue were showing in the sky, so I took off my jacket and knee warmers. Some guys in a truck pulled in at the store and asked how far I was going. One of them was also a cyclist, and he got a big kick out of my Shimano sandals. They also told me that the store was famous for their breakfast burritos. Maybe next time ...


Just past this spot at the lake I turned left and went up a bodacious hill. The guy at the store had warned me about it, and I'd said that I would walk if if  that was what it took to get up. Somehow, I managed to avoid walking, but it was close.


Things were more dry on this road, and I kept noticing how much of the fern undergrowth was dying. I felt a little guilty for being happy that I wasn't getting rained on, with the problems that they are having up here with fires.

Eventually, I got to Shelton. The Adventure Cycling route had me going through town, but my GPS wanted me to go around it via some weird way. It had done this earlier, so I had to go "old school" and pull out the route sheet again. It took another five bonus miles, but I eventually found downtown and explored it. This gave me a chance to find what seemed like the best lunch place in town. I got a burger that was more than acceptable.

I took another wrong turn on the way out of Shelton, so I got to climb another hill that I shouldn't have. Eventually, I got to Cloquallam Road for the last long stretch of the day.


The wind had come up, and was mostly in my face, so this part of the route took longer than I would have liked. I was so happy to see this sign.


I've been re-reading "Sometimes a Great Notion" on this trip, so this road -- which was the roundabout way into Elma -- was  really cool. Of course, they had put down a bunch of fresh gravel and had signs warning motorcyclists to be careful (Hey! What about me?!). But it was easy to ride over, except for the few times that it got caught by a wheel and made a horrible scraping sound as it went by on the fender.

A turn off of this road made me miss RandoGirl.


Soon, I was exploring Elma. It was a nice town, with a good grocery store. I bought some tomato soup and Cheez-Its, plus some stuff to fix tomorrow for breakfast, and then made my way to the RV park and the zombies.

I just cooked my dinner while doing laundry (this is a NICE RV park ... although their wifi isn't too great) and chatted with the zombies while writing this blog. They told me that if you want more information, you can go to www.runforyourlives.com. A couple of them said that they are neither zombies or runners, but were just spectators.


Just goes to show that there is more to this world than is dreamt of in the RV lady's philosophy.