Thursday, August 30, 2007

Humbug Mountain State Park to Crescent City, CA

We left camp early this morning with Frank and Rike. A little before Nesika Beach, Frank pulled over and scanned the ocean..... and pointed out a pod of WHALES. Grey whales, feeding really close-in to shore-- first the babies came then the adults, the whole experience was absolutely amazing. It was incredible to watch them blow air and then watch their backs as they resubmerged. This really made Oregon complete for us! It was so moving to watch the whales I actually got a little bit teary.

Frank and Rike, although going for a shorter day than us, were riding a bit faster so Chad and I slowed down and stopped for a lunch break at Arch Rock, a really neat arched formation in the water. We relazed awhile, then he aded on, past harris State Beach, where Frank and Rike were camping. We waved goodbye and headed on.

About 20 miles later, after rolling though lots of flat agricultural land, we finally reached the CALIFORNIA BORDER! It was marked with a large sign, standard, that said "welcome to California," but when we stopped to look, cyclists had written on the signposts messages with their names, origins and destinations. Chad and I added ours, of course.

twenty more miles later we got to crescent city, hot and exhausted. We had no idea where to stay, so we decided to spend our first night in a hotel, which was a GREAT decision by Chad after a long, hot day. The only bummer is that I realized I had left my knee warmers at the California border when we were signing the post-- oh well, hopefully some cyclist picked them up and is enjoying them.

We took LONG hot showers and ordered chinese take out, then vegged out in front of the tv for awhile before falling asleep. Today was long-- 80 miles, 3346 feet of climbing, 11.1 mph average, temperature around 95 degrees! We are getting legs of steel!

Sunset Bay State Park to Humbug Mountain State Park

I was extremely tired last night as we went to be late. Unfortunately, Chad and I spent much of the night battling raccoons who were trying to steal food out of our panniers. They unwrapped Daniel's saddle bags to snatch his Doritos and we could hear them munching loudly on doritos all night long. They are clever little guys-- they also managed to UNZIP Laura's panniers and steal a pepper and some cheese-- however, we recovered her food before they devoured it.

Anyhow, the day started with a really nice climb up Seven Devils Road, which crossed seven little peaks as we headed south. The ups and downs reminded me a lot of the riding in the East Bay Hills in CA, and made me remember how much fun this kind of terrain is. It was also nice to have a break from the 101-- there were virtually no cars and we had the road to ourselves, nearly all the way to Bandon.

The scenery has changed a lot-- the green lush forests have given way to rocky, dry scrub-- similar to Eastern Washington, a beautiful contrast to our days further north.

We stopped for a nice lunch in Bandon, then continued through some side streets past lots of large, abandoned- looking homes (vacation homes?) and to the Face Rock Viewpoint, where the wind was absolutely HOWLING. The scenery was incredible, though-- huge rocks that looked like sea lions stacked in the water.

We rode through Langlois where the wind picked up again and literally carried us into Port Orford. We did some grocery shopping there and headed for Camp at Humbug Mountain State Park, where we were able to watch the sun set on a black sand beach. unreal! After the sunset we made veggie Phad Thai and added some peanut butter...delicious. We were extra-certain to clean up our food so that we would have no raccoon encounters. We also met some more people at camp-- a man named John riding from Cour de Alene, ID to Texas via the cost, and a nice guy named Nick who is headed to San Francisco from Chicago. All these rides make ours seem very easy.

We also decided that tomorrow we will probably part ways with Frank and Rike, as we would like to make a big push across the California border and they are more interested in spending another night in Oregon and taking their time. So it is our last night in Oregon-- a little bitter-sweet, as we have had a phenomenal time!

Today's stats-- 58.5 miles, 2841 ft of climbing, 11.3 mph

Jesse E Honeyman State Park to Sunset Bay Hiker-Biker

Hello again! We left camp this morning a bit delayed because we thought we lost Chad's wallet-- turned out that it was in my backpack. We did, however, manage to leave camp without our clothesline-- which Frank and Rike had already picked up for us once.... so we have lost our first item. It could have definitely been worse!

Today's ride was not especially scenic. It was probably the pinnacle of impolite drivers, actually. We were honked at by multiple rv's, and one guy in an SUV even flipped me off! The most rediculous one, though, was crossing a bridge. In Oregon, they have great bicycle infastructure for tunnels and bridges-- at the beginning of the tunnel or bridge, you push a button that illuminates lights on a sign that says "bicycles in tunnel" or "bicycles on bridge." Anyhow, we pushed the button, then began to cross this bridge, and some guy yelled at us, "you don't belong here!" We just smiled and waved, which seems to be the best remedy for this type of treatment.

All in all actually, the drivers have been extremely polite and we get lots of encouraging honks and waves. Today the mean ones just seemed to be in higher concentration.

Anyhow, we arrived at camp relatively early, as it was a short, fast day. When we got there, the hiker-biker site was overflowing-- there were 18 people on bicycles staying there! Amazing. We met a retired couple spending a year touring on bicycles, another couple doing the same Seattle to San Francisco route as us, and saw Rachel and Jake, a couple we had met awhile back. There was also a group of 4 women on recumbants, some of them going all the way to Mexico! Frank and Rike are still riding with us, and the four of us decided to get a seperate camp to keep the hiker-biker site from overcrowding. As we got set up, two other riders we had met earlier arrived-- Laura, a young woman who rode her bike out west from GEORGIA and is headed to Grant's Pass, and Daniel, a funny guy who is traveling light, eating multiple variations of Snickers-based meals that we had met the previous night. Laura and Daniel joined us at our camp, as hiker-biker had become very crowded.

We walked over to Sunset Beach to enjoy the sunset, and it was amazing-- the bay is enclosed on 3 sides by rock walls, and the sun set between the rock walls, right in front of a rock in the water, which the wave crashed against as the sun sank into the sea. Unbelieveable!

On the way back I had a nice chat with Rachel, who works for a clean energy foundation in San Francisco. We talked about the future and possibilities of the new green economy, and it occured to me that almost everyone I've met on this trip has or is in some way involved in clean energy, green building, or organic farming. It made me very excited about the future, although I also have to take into consideration the fact that the people I'm meeting are travelling by BIKE, which makes them a bit more green-minded than the average Oregon Coast traveler.

We stayed up much later than we should have chatting, but it was fun to have a social night. That is all for today-- we rode 53.23 miles, climbed 2263 feet, and averaged 12 mph.

Beverly Beach State Park to Jesse E Honeyman State Park

Today we rode to Jesse E Honeyman State Park, where we warmed up on sand dunes before jumping in the lake for a swim at the end of the day. We passed through many neat areas on the way to Jesse E Honeyman-- through Newport, OR and the neighborhood of Nye Beach, which had a really nice feel to it. We also ogled at the rock formations at Cape Perpetua, and had a stop at Strawberry Hill to look at a large seal colony.

The campground we're staying at is gorgeous-- the hiker-biker sites are situated in the woods, and a short walk leads down to the bathrooms, as well as an amphitheater where there is entertainment every night. Tonight some gentlemen were performing songs on Native American flutes, and they told the story of how the flute came to the First People. Apparently the woodpecker pecked some holes in a hollow branch for a young fellow as an aid to impress a woman.

In camp, we had a nice campfire before drifting off to sleep-- all in all a really nice day! We also met another German man named Albrecht who is from the South of Germany, travelling solo. He is soft-spoken and very thoughtful-- a really nice guy.

Today's stats-- 60.15 miles, 2874 ft. of climbing, 11.2 mph average

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cape Lookout State Park to Beverly Beach State Park

Today started out with a HUGE climb, the first of three. At the top, we saw a sand forest-- something completely new to us! The site of pine trees growing in sand dunes was quite amazing. We were lucky to experience some breathtaking scenery-- the first stop was Cape Kiwanda, a popular recreation place and a cute town. We ate lunch there, as we got started a little late.

We had another HUGE climb up the 101, then we rolled extremely quickly past beautiful shoreline configurations and past Strawberry Hill, where we had to stop and visit the seal colony. Seals are so funny, little marine sausages with fins-- they pretty much just sit all day and sun themselves, although they do dive into the water occasionally to eat. While we were watching, we met a family traveling from Eastern Oregon-- they chatted with us for awhile and gave us lots of encouragement and well wishes. We pedaled on to our last climb of the day, Otter Crest. I was dreading this climb because we had already climbed so much, but it turned out to be my most favorite part of the trip so far. The road was a one-way loop to the top of the crest with a bike lane on the right shoulder, and there was virtually no traffic. The climb was a gentle slope that hugged the cliff, and at the top, we were treated to a stellar view of our campground below.

Also, today was Frank's birthday! Rike told us, so we surprised Frank by buying him three little cheesecakes and some candles for dessert. We ate this at our campground after an amazing pasta dinner with fresh vegetables. Our campsite is again very nice, $4 each including a hot shower. Hike and bike sites are unbeatable! Today's stats are the biggest yet: 55 miles, 11.4 mph average, 3267 ft of climbing. Woo hoo!

Cannon Beach to Cape Lookout State Park

This morning poor Frank woke up with the stomach flu. Chad and I said goodbye, exchanged email addresses, and talked about meeting up with Frank and Rike later in the trip. We left relatively early from the campground and started out on our hilliest day yet. The first two climbs of the day were over 500 feet each. To get to the top of the second climb, we had to go through a tunnel, which would be scary except they have a button you can push that activates lights on a sign that says "bicycles in tunnel." Oregon is so bike friendly, it is making this tour really care-free for us. Anyhow, the view from the top of the climb was spectactular.

We stopped for lunch at the beach in Rockport, where a small juvenile seagull convinced us to share our lunch. We kept going through the town of Tillamook, OR, and reached our campground much earlier than expected. This is by far the best campground so far-- $4 per person for a beautiful campsite right on the ocean, and that price includes a hot shower!

We got in to camp early and relaxed, and on our way back from the showers we were amazed to see Frank and Rike! Frank spent the morning sleeping, and they rode all afternoon to catch up with us. So our trip with our German friends continues! Today's stats: 51.7 miles, 11.4 mph average, 2631 ft of climbing. Hilly!

Rest Day in Cannon Beach

This morning I woke up with the stomach flu, so we didn't feel like riding very far. I managed to make it over the hill from our goofy campground past Seaside to Cannon Beach, where the sun finally came out. We stopped to eat lunch and check email and Frank noticed a broken spoke on Rike's wheel. We took off the cassette and many spokes were damaged from the chain shifting too far past the cassette- a problem I noticed and helped them fix, but apparently there was already spoke damage! It took a long time to fix the wheel, and I still wasn't feeling perfect, so we decided to just stay in a campground in Cannon Beach and have a rest day.

It was a great decision for us, and Cannon Beach was a lovely town to spend a rest day in! We caught up on email, checked out the beach, and relaxed and did some window shopping. By dinner time my stomach was feeling better, so we had dinner at the local Thai restaurant, which had stellar food. I ordered salmon panang curry, yum!

After dinner we enjoyed the sunset at Cannon Beach, perhaps the most beautiful beach on the Oregon Coast. Haystack Rock, kites flying everywhere, dogs and kids playing in the waves. I see why the Oregon Coast is such a special, popular place. Tomorrow we'll try to get more mileage in.

Tody's total-- 5.92 miles!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bay Center, WA to Seaside, OR

We started AGAIN this morning in the rain. Frank keeps saying, "nice summer you are having here!" and laughing. He is quite strong, so we have taken to calling him Frank Schleck for hauling us up the mountains, and also he is HUGE-- 6'7". Chad has gotten very strong too, and has had virtually no back problems since we left.

The ride from Bay Center started out very beautiful-- we passed a national wildlife refuge on salt flats, and were able to view lots of birds along the way. We also saw a large herd of elk-- 20 or 25 animals.

Today we had our first mechanical issue-- Chad's chain broke on the way up a climb, but we are well prepared with lots of tools and extra chain links, so we were rolling again within 10 minutes.

We stopped for a rather marginal lunch in Chinook, WA, where no one could believe we had come that far on our bicycles. Five miles later, we crossed the HUGE bridge to Astoria-- probably the most exciting/ nervewracking part of our trip so far. The bridge is 3 miles wide with a 500 foot climb towards the end. The view is absolutely spectacular, and we were looking down on the backs of multitudes of migratory shore birds as we crossed the mouth of the Columbia. There were also HUGE ships crossing underneath the bridge.

The descent from the bridge down into Astoria was harrowing-- very steep and winding, although with a great view of the victorian homes in Astoria. We stopped at a bike shop, where I tried to resolve our second mechanical issue-- a squeaky wheel on the trailer I'm towing.

Turns out all the rain has seized up one of the bearings, but no bearings could be found in Astoria, so we lubed it up and pressed on.

From Astoria we continued on to Seaside, nineteen miles further. We had a quick dinner in Seaside and gave the beach a quick nod, then hurried to find camping before nightfall. It was a little bit too long of a day, and we agreed that we need to start riding earlier in the day.

One funny thing about our campsite-- they had free elk viewing for the guests (it was another RV park), but there also happened to be a great many cows, from what we could hear. We saw neither cows nor elk, but supposed that perhaps they put antlers on the cows and told tourists they were elk! Tomorrow we will try to leave earlier.

Today's stats: 70 miles, 12.2 mph avg, 1380 feet of climbing.

Twin Harbors State Park to Bay Center

Greetings! It is still raining and we are still riding with the Germans. We've learned that "schneke" is the German word for slug-- we've seen many slugs so we've learned the word quite well! Chad has also been catching up on his German cuss words that he learned in high school.

The ride today was pretty mellow and relatively uneventful-- we've been doing less mileage than we've originally planned, but the bikes are REALLY heavy and it is much more enjoyable for now to keep the mileage a little mower. Hopefully once we get into Oregon we can kick it up a little, but for now with the rain and some headwinds, this is plenty.

This part of the state is very different than places I've been-- the towns are small and not very touristy, and people seem to just be eking out a living. This morning before we left Chad and I got up early and strolled out to the beach, which was extremely beautiful but VERY desolate. Chad commented that the homes we saw, although beautiful, seemed to be trying to "make friends with the desolation." I thought that was very fitting.

To get to the beach we had to pass through the most amazing stunted-growth forest-- I'm not really sure about its natural origins, but it was filled with stooped, stunted trees and knee-high grasses and sedges. The trees were black and looked nearly dead, except their tops, which were only 20 feet above the ground. It felt as though we were in an alpine or sub-alpine zone, which is probably a result of the crazy weather this place sees in the winter.

We cut our day a little short and opted to stay in Bay Center, a cute fishing village with more dogs than people, although both the dogs and people were really friendly. On the way in to town we passed piles and piles of oyster shells-- an amazing site (pictures coming soon). We opted to stay at the KOA to take another hot shower in the rain, which was nice, but we were quite a contrast to the RV'ers staying there. Frank and Reke can't get over the RV'ing phenomenon here in the states-- they are astounded by the size of the motorhomes, especially the ones pulling SUV's behind them. They are also flabbergasted by the selection in the grocery stores! Anyhow, tomorrow will be a long haul. Today we had another short one: 50 miles, 921 feet of climbing, 12.2 mph average.

Shelton to Westport and Twin Harbors State Park

This morning Edie made us an amazing farm breakfast-- eggs, tomatoes, fresh sweet rolls that Edie's daughter Shayne made, and lots of watermelon. She is quite a special woman-- a shining example of what makes the "greatest generation" great with her pluck, her graciousness, her cheerfulness.

On the way out we took a little detour to see the farmhouse that my mother grew up in. The trees had grown up quite a bit and I wanted to have a look at the old barn, so I knocked on the new owners' door and made friends! They were the nicest people-- David and Cathy-- and they gave me an impromptu tour of the place, which has been kept as neat as a pin. They also have the most humungous hogs I have ever seen..... I will post pictures of them when the computer facilities we visit allow me to.

We took some back roads to Montesano, and enjoyed some time without the traffic of the busier roads. The weather went from marginal to decent and back again, although by the time we reached Aberdeen we had some sunshine. In Aberdeen I saw a Star Wars Store-- perhaps the first one of its kind I have ever witnessed! We didn't stay to look, but I thought it was a pretty funny thing.

We arrived at our campsite near 5pm-- we've been leaving later riding with Frank and Reke, but we are much more visible with 4 people, plus we can move a little faster, as Chad and Frank can take turns leading. Twin Harbors State Park, our campground, was nice-- nothing too fancy, but a great hiker-biker area with hot showers, nice in the rain!

We rode into town to have a nice dinner and get some groceries, and stopped to ask a policeman for directions. Chad approached the parked police car, but to his surprise there was a dummy in the driver's seat, not a real cop at all! That was definitely the funniest part of today-- what small town puts a dummy in a cop car to scare people? ! We spent awhile posing with the cop car then found a decent, although very rowdy, place for dinner.

We got to bed late, as the rain started again-- but we've been staying very dry at night in the tent, so it hasn't bothered us much.

Today's stats: 71 miles, 11.2 mph avg, 1758 ft. of climbing

Shelton Valley Road

Greetings blog readers! First off, sorry for the lapse in communication-- it turns out there are very few computers in Southwestern Washington.

Anyhow, below is the description of our first day.

Saturday, 8/18:

They say you meet lots of very interesting people who are also touring, which this early on has proven to be very true-- on the Seattle ferry dock to Bremerton, Chad and I met a very nice German couple, Frank and Reke, who are doing the same ride. We had not even left Seattle and already we had friends to ride with. We decided to stick together for the first day, as none of knew exactly where we were going once we left Bremerton. The ferry ride over was really pleasant, and we took off down the road towards Shelton, where we decided we might stay if we didn't feel strong enough to push on to Montesano.

However, we had left pretty late and arrived in Shelton around 5 pm, so we decided to call it a night. We had some difficulty finding a place to camp, so we tried to get a hotel, but every hotel in Shelton was sold out. So, at Mom's suggestion, we called a very dear friend of hers, Edie Llarsen, who lives on Shelton Valley Road up the street from Gramma Nita's old house. Edie welcomed us with open arms and allowed the four of us to stay in her barn-- she and I stayed up after the others had gone to bed and caught up. What a way to start the trip!

Today's stats: 46.8 miles, 10.8 mph avg speed, 1896 ft of climbing.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Eve of Departure

We're taking off tomorrow! Chad just finished putting his racks on the Surly and the Bridgestone is all set to go (Thanks to Tyler Blake for loaning me this amazing bicycle). We're in the midst of packing and our brains are endlessly cycling through lists. Last night I dreampt of packing bottomless panniers with cycling gear, inflatable chaise lounges, bottles of Pino Noir, strawberry plants, and Mini kitty in a carrier.

Mini is a little depressed that we are leaving, but hopefully she'll be quick to forgive when we return. She will be getting good care-- thanks to Tye and Christine and our neighbors Jason and Staci.

Packing for this trip has been quite a reflection on what I can detach myself from for the next 24 days. The knitting stays at home this time, as does Harry Potter! In addition to packing cycling clothing, we tried to pack a VERY small amount of clothing that we can wear once we are in San Francisco. We have a very lightweight tent, and yesterday Chad purchased this tiny sleeping bag-- it stuffs into a bag that is only 10" by 5", and weights just over a pound. We also bought an extra camp stove so we can cook with two burners at once should we want to make a stir-fry or boil water while making eggs in the morning. We also bought a small cribbage board so we have some entertainment on rainy nights and lazy afternoons. What else? Lots of bike repair tools, batteries, plastic bags for rain and ground covers, Clif Bars and GU, and some other miscellaneous accessories.

Our plan tomorrow is to hop an early ferry to Bremerton, and head on down the road through Shelton, where my mother grew up. If time allows I'd love to take a swing by the old family farm on Shelton Valley Road-- the barn is old and nearly falling down by now, but there will be some excellent blackberry picking to be found across the street from the old farmhouse.

We may just stay in Shelton-- a nice easy 40 mile day to get started. If we feel strong, we'll push on from Shelton to McCleary, where apparently we can camp on forest service land alongside the road just outside of town.

Beyond a doubt, this will be my biggest adventure to date. My chest expands at the thought of rolling off tomorrow morning, leaving from our front door in Ballard and rolling down to San Francisco. A month visiting the great Bike Nation, where we'll be dwelling as we pedal through three states. In what ways will this change our perspectives? We'll begin to find out tomorrow!