Sunday, October 2, 2011

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...

If you're going to San Francisco...

a. they are super bike-friendly. actually just super friendly in general. a guy literally ran out of his store today when he saw us looking semi-confused on the corner to ask us if we needed help with directions.
b. attend the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park (first wknd in October every year) and get an ultimate burrito paired with kettle corn, cookies, and red label scotch. :)
c. have amazing friends that host you in their super cute apartment (thanks Kira!)
d. so many other things... like meeting up with Rose for Sunday brunch (cycling friend from the pac coast) and going out on Kira's family's boat for a tour around the bay!

Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge this morning symbolized so much for us. This is the first big city we have been in since Seattle. We have cycled just over 1200 miles. We only have one week left until we catch the train back up north. And attending the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was a goal of ours from the beginning. San Francisco always seemed to be the illusive dream... but we finally made it! We'll chill here until Monday before continuing our trek south to an ultimate destination of (realistically) San Luis Obispo.

Alright time for some crazy/beautiful stories from our travels:

We attempted the Lost Coast of California and now realize why it has been and will continue to remain 'lost'.  From Eureka, we cycled about 25 miles to the small, quaint town of Ferndale where we loaded up on ice cream cones before the ridiculous elevation changes we were about to encounter. Immediately following Ferndale, we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. For a few hours we cycled up through winding unmaintained mountain roads filled with potholes and  leading to the lost coast that has truly been forgotten. Highway 101 bypasses the Lost Coast of California, a huge chunk of land somebody (clearly a motorist) had recommended we cycle through. The Lost Coast is part of Humboldt County, but has a small population of people who mostly care to keep to themselves as well as keep their land minimally populated.

So Brent and I climb longer and higher than we have at any point on the trip thus far to find the most spectacular views of ocean-meets-mountains at the summit. We start the relieving and fantastic descent toward the ocean, but the thunder thigh-building climbs aren't finished with us yet.  We turn the corner to discover another wall in front of us. Up until this point, we hadn't needed to dismount our 100-lb bikes and push them up a hill. The hills and curves were so steep that we spent a lot of time hiking rather than biking and praying for the next downhill. In about 5 hours we had covered roughly 20 miles and still had 16 to go before A.W. Way County Park, where we planned to spend the night.

As it's getting dark and our legs are feeling more like Jello a truck pulls over to make sure we're alright. He told us we had one last hill to climb before reaching the campground 6 miles down the road. We pushed through our exhaustion, locating the county park sign in the dark and feeling relief for the first time all day. After 8 and a half hours of cycling in one day, we manage to cook some pasta before collapsing onto our sleeping pads.

The next morning, as we slowly wake up and debate whether to take a rest day or continue onward to the next mountain (our only way out of the lost coast) Jim shows up at our campsite (the guy from the previous night who gave us directions to the county park) with two hot, homemade breakfast burritos! We were currently in what is called the Mattole Valley, and Jim invited us to the All-Mattole Food Festival going on at the Grange next door. Community members were gathering with dishes they had made completely from local resources (all the way down to sea salt harvested from the lost coast). Jim said he would cover our admission if we wanted to hang out and have some great food before continuing on our journey. At that moment we knew the decision had been made to take a day off from cycling. :)

We walked over to the festival, partook in filling ourselves with delicious food (crispy duck bites! lamb stew!), and mingled with the locals. The locals of Mattole Valley are a hippie-ish/conservative/isolationist crowd with a focus on local economic and agricultural sustainability. They even have their own currency (Petols) which are completely legitimate and minted by the U.S. Treasury. At the food festival we met Larry, a Dahlia flower salesman (his daughter and son-in-law grow them in Mattole Valley), and our day took an interesting turn. Brent and I had swallowed our pride earlier that morning and decided that we needed to find a ride out of the Lost Coast. With another bigger, scarier mountain looming ahead of us we felt dejected before we even began. Plus, hitch-hiking is always a great adventure. (When in Rome!) We took our chances and asked Larry if he would be willing to give us a ride to the top of the mountain (he was going in that general direction after the festival and had told us a story about when he gave another group of bicycle tourists a ride to the top).  Before we knew it, we were riding three-across in Larry's truck, moving at an incredible speed, and on our way to the next town.  15 miles away in Honeydew, we chilled with Larry on the side of the road outside a general store while he sold off as many Dahlia's as he could to locals and tourists (he claims they sell themselves). We got a couple beers and a sugary treat at the general store and sat on a bridge in the heart of mary-jane country and couldn't believe we didn't have to cycle to the top of the mountain looming ahead of us. By 5pm, Larry had decided to call it quits for the day and the three of us continued the trek in his truck to the top of the mountain. We got to know Larry pretty well, as he is considered an elder in the Native American community he imparted a lot of great life wisdom on us throughout the ride. As we crested the top of the mountain, we had a truly spiritual experience looking out over the rolling hills and forest of northern California's King Range. At that point Larry decided he would drive us the rest of the way to our campsite in the redwoods for the night. He had a 6-pack of beer and some 'local fare', both of which he shared with us as we descended the mountain into thick, tall redwood trees where we would camp for the night at Albee State Park. It was hard to say goodbye to Larry, but eventually he drove back up the mountain to where he lives and Brent and I found ourselves in a 'did that day just happen?' moment when we went to sleep that night.

However, before retiring for the night, a nice couple (Jenny and Jason) touring in an RV invited us to their campfire for wine, beer, and chocolate, and we had the opportunity to regale them with our stories from the road. It was great for us to meet nice, normal people who were driving the vehicles we dread while cycling on the road. :)

The next few days were filled with more crazy climbs, but nothing came close to the thigh-strengthening we experienced on the lost coast. It seems as if we got lost, only to find a community of friendly yet withdrawn conservative liberals, a spiritual native american elder eager to help us 'just be', beauty that can only come from spending time off the beaten path, and some crazy-ace stories. Not. Too. Shabby.

California hills make Oregon's peaks look a bit like small potatoes. Oregon was convenient for cycling in that there was a state park every couple miles; California has almost no shoulder and you never know whether the state park campgrounds will be open or closed. So far in California we have conquered the highest peak on the route, the steepest climb on the route, and we have cycled over 1200 miles! We ran into a pinch in the tiny town of Jenner and had to rent a cabin for the night. It was cold, rainy, foggy, and the sun was close to setting... but we still had at least 10 miles to go to the next state park campground (which may or may not be open). After a full day of climbs against a strong headwind, we wound up wandering into a lodge looking like wet puppy dogs and scored a deal on a small private cabin for the night. We still cooked over our camp stove and boiled water for tea, and the hot showers with real soap and the mattress we collapsed on rejuvenated us for the next day's ride to Samuel P. Taylor State Park just 30 miles north of San Francisco.

Our weekend in San Francisco has been fantastic. We've been staying with Kira (a friend of Katie's from St. Olaf) and her roommates Ali and Rachel at their cute apartment near the marina. Being in a home is refreshing and we've had the ability in a day and a half to explore some great parts of the city. Kira's family was kind enough to invite us on their boat this afternoon and we got to cruise around the bay, do some kayaking, and hang out in the beautiful sunshine with great views of the bridge and the city. We feel like two lucky ducks for sure.

Now it's bedtime for bonzos after a late dinner of ben and jerry's ice cream to refuel us for the ride to Half Moon Bay tomorrow. We've readjusted our plans and will get on the train back up north a week from today in San Luis Obispo. Hard to believe there is only one week left of cycling! Time flies when you're having fun!

That's all for now. We'll try to write again soon. Enjoy the pics below!

~Katie & Brent~

 the lost coast. yikes. we are tired and we just started!
 feeling a bit delirious...good thing we had lots of water.
 hmm. 24 miles to petrolia. it's a bit past 3:00. little do we know we have about 4 and a half hours of biking still to accomplish.
 wahoo FINALLY a descent!
 the views are beautiful. but don't crash on these crazy roads.
 why hardly any tourists come this way.... most especially tourists on bikes loaded down with gear.
 one of many refueling stops.
 it's flat! but we are fighting a headwind...
so beautiful. almost makes up for the trek in.
 Mattole Valley Grange (local community gathering place)
 filling up at the food festival.
 announcing the winner of the best dish!
 the community hang-out. grab a beer and chill out on the bridge.
 Larry said lots of positive energy is in these mountains. :)
 mmmm redwoods.
 brent is rocking the shammey tan!
 1000 miles!!!!

 Our campsite at MacKerricher State Park. We saw a beautiful sunset here.
 Mexican lunch with our Canadian cycling friend Dana. Gotta carbo load!
 LOVE that california coast. The juice is worth the squeeze. :)

 Highway 1! We'll follow this road the rest of the way down the coast.
 A foggy, rainy day. I guess they can't all be sunny and clear...
 We got stuck in the rain and fog with nowhere to crash but a small cabin we scored at a pretty great price in the tiny town of Jenner. We made dinner next to our wood-burning stove, slept in a big comfy bed, and took multiple showers.
 The view from inside our cozy cabin. It was cold outside. Brrrr.
 This deer watched over us in our slumber. A bit creepy? Probably...
 hmmm...think we might need a bigger parking spot for these hogs?
 Brent feels rejuvenated after a great night's sleep!
 Turns out Salt Water Taffy has nothing to do with salt water. But does it have sugar in it?? Heck yes!
 Golden Gate Bridge!

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park. Free festival = the ultimate in people watching.
 We found a nice spot on the grass to chill. (Katie doesn't recognize herself with her hair down.)

 Scotch and a burrito for din-din! mmmmm
 hippies and bluegrass. we're in our happy place. :)
 overloaded bike parking!
 brunch in the castro at 'squat and gobble' with our cycling friend Rose.
 view of alcatraz from the Price's boat.

 Kayaking! The curious sea lions were following us.
 We're on a boat!

Such a great day on on the water :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hello California!

We made it! California has been wonderfully sunny and gorgeous so far. Plenty of crashing waves, unspeakably tall trees, and plenty of surfers to fill the many beaches along the way. But...I think you'll be relieved to know that we haven't yet traded in our bikes for surf boards, however tempting it may be! :)
All throughout Oregon, these signs helped lead the way. Very, very helpful!
 Just another day, another bay.
 Our first full coastal sunset! (The others were too foggy)
 We made it! Hello Cali!
 Now we have these Californian signs to guide us!
 Our view from lunch on the beach. Always a good call.
 Katie just finished climbing 1200 vertical feet in 2 miles! Arrgh!
 So did Brent!
 We were going to stay there. Oops! We stayed at an RV park instead...twas... interesting?
 The sun peeking through  majestic 1000 year old Coastal Redwoods.
 Journal time!
 This tree was 22 ft in diameter, and over 300 feet tall!
 Delicious local Redwood Curtain brews in Arcata! More carbo loading :)
 Camping at the KOA...another interesting experience.
 That sign was right over our heads. Bright side...we had a great nightlight for going potty! :)
 There are arrows like this one all along the path from different people and events. They're fun to read along the way!

We'll put some more stories up, but for now, enjoy the pics! (Sorry they're not all right side up...just don't drop your computer trying to see them!)

Much love and sunshine!