Thursday, October 15, 2009

Long Overdue as Usual

Apologies for the blog bummage- things have been a bit hectic around here. Our pals Sean and Simone moved back to D-town from New York a few weeks ago and Arik and Sean have started up a woodshop in Arik's parents' garage next door. They already have their first client! Despite the flurry of activity we've still made lots of time for biking and running.

We've been biking a ton the last few weeks. We've biked in pouring rain (wet but exhilarating), in total darkness (exhilarating but frightening), and lots in between. Lots of the biking happened during Oak Cliff's (and I'm pretty sure Dallas's too) first ever bike festival- Cyclosomatic. It featured 10 days of bike-centric activities, most of which happened right here in our 'hood. Amongst the stuff we participated in:
  • a historic ride that stopped at places important to musicians (Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Wills, and others)
  • a ride to City Hall to celebrate its unveiling of the "Complete Streets" plan which hopes to strip Dallas of its unappealing "Worst City for Biking" designation with bike lanes and other initiatives
  • a ride to the Texas Theater to watch Beer Wars annnnnddddd
  • our favorite event of all- a block party that included stationary bike sprint races. Lonestar Goldsprints does these races mostly at bars all over Texas. 2 people get on stationary bikes, the crowd masses around the two riders and counts down 4...3...2...1...GO! and the riders pedal as fast as they can for max about 18 seconds. There's no resistance on the bikes so it's really just seeing how fast your legs can move before you pass out, and often, throw up. (See here to get the idea from a different race by the same organization: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8fykMJSnuo) What really sweetened the experience was that two of our pals- Jeff and Kurt- raced. Both did well but Jeff was insane.
He started out around 4th in the qualifying rounds finishing in the high 12 second area. Still, he wasn't too optimistic about his chances b/c the top guy in the qualifiers posted a super fast time under 12 seconds, a feat no one else had matched. Jeff hopped on the bike for the first real race and won pretty easily, again with a time in the 12s. In the quarterfinals, he won again, despite a slow 13 something time. During the quarterfinals, things got serious. A fixie-riding kid from Denton strolled in and wowed the crowd with a time in the 11s- smoking the competition. Now we had two super fast guys to worry about!

In the semis, Jeff triumphed in a close race w/the owner of Oak Cliff Bicycle Company. This time, his time was back in the 12s (his glasses flew off from the effort), but still nowhere near as fast as the fixie kid or the other top guy. Those two battled it out in their semifinal match, with the fixie kid winning. After about 2 hours of racing (which included an excellent cameo by an overweight guy who raced (and won!) while smoking a cig and holding a cup of beer), the stage was set for the final: Our Oak Cliff-born 'n bred homie Jeff v. the fixie kid from Denton, who during his semifinal race donned a Spiderman mask and stripped to his boxers to mimic his spandex-wearing opponent.

Spidey- Photo from the Lonestar Goldsprints Facebook Page

Spidey's Semifinal Match- Photo from the Lonestar Goldsprints Facebook Page

Jeff was nervous and tired but we tried to pump him up and talk strategy. In his past races, he'd taken too long to get going- a faster start could give him a fighting chance. He and his opponent mounted their bikes and the crowd closed in around them. It was time. 4....3....2....1....GO!!!!! And they were off! Both riders were spinning furiously and we all looked up anxiously at the video screen behind them to see who was in the lead. We couldn't believe our eyes- not only had Jeff jumped out to a quick and sizeable lead, he was going over 60 MILES PER HOUR!!!! The fastest speed we'd seen had been around 53 so this was insane. We were all screaming and jumping and encouraging him, and it was working. Thanks to his strong start he was leading into the final seconds of the race. Then Spidey started slowly gaining on him- making up a little ground at a time. In hindsight we should've yelled about it to Jeff but he had no idea how he was doing and right at the end he let off- his speed plummeting all the way to 35 mph. Spidey passed him right at the finish line.

The crowd roared, his friends surrounded him, and he lifted his arms in victory. Jeff slowly dismounted and turned around to check his time. He'd ridden a blistering 11.76 second race. The winning time? 11.60. We gave Jeff high fives and hugs- we were so proud of him and it'd been an incredible race to watch. Spidey came over and shook his hand and said he couldn't believe Jeff had made it over 60 mph. Jeff was bummed he didn't win but was still stoked he'd broken the 12 second mark. He even got a sweet wall sculpture made out of bike parts for his troubles. We mingled for a bit, then Jeff climbed on his bike, wobbly sore legs and all, and rode off into the drizzly night.

Spidey sans mask celebrating his win- ck out Jeff's sweet time- Photo from Lonestar Goldsprints Fb Page

Arik and I were as amped up as we've ever been for a sporting event.

The Cyclosomatic fun continued yesterday- two events had been rained out during the week of the festival and were rescheduled for this weekend. The first was a bicycle photo scavenger hunt put on by photopol.us. Teams on bikes rode around Oak Cliff doing crazy stuff and taking pictures to prove it. Arik, Jeff, Kate and I got to Bishop Arts 15 minutes late but fortunately were still allowed to enter. Arik christened our team "The Unicorns," and we picked up the list of stuff to find. There were about 25 things to choose from, but each was worth a different number of points. The first team back with 200 points won. We were able to bang one out right away:

Bikes on a Wall- 5 points (all photos courtesy of our most excellent photographer, Arik "The Unicorn" Cardenas)

Arik ran across the street to the Soda Gallery and bought us a root beer with 4 straws so we could knock out the next one:

All Teammates Drinking One Drink From Straws- 10 points

Meanwhile Jeff ran into Eno's, retrieved his mug from their bar (you can buy a mug, decorate it, put your name on it, and keep it at the bar) and we'd finished item number 3:

Beer Mug with a Bike on It- 25 points



We decided we'd bike to Jeff's house to strategize and plan our route. On the way out of Bishop Arts, Kate spied another potential photo in an alley. It ended up working perfectly and we had 55 points before we'd even traveled 2 blocks:

Jeff and Mia Borrowing Materials


Construction

Success! Red Cube- 15 points

At Jeff's, we decided we'd go for the big money things on the list since we had to make up lost time. 2 of those involved getting wet so Jeff changed into his swim trunks. He also called his mom to see if she could pick up some shoe polish so we could knock another 3 things off the list. In the meantime, Arik plugged in Jeff's razor and unbuttoned his shirt- sacrificing his bod to the Unicorn cause:

Shave a Heart in a Teammate's Chest- 20 points

Then we were off! We raced down Colorado, then split up, with the boys going to Lake Cliff Park and Kate and I going to Walgreens to see if we could find some shoe polish. Our shoe polish mission was unsuccessful, but the boys bravely crossed one of the nastiest choices off the list:

Swim in Lake Cliff- 25 points- click this pic for a nice "whew lordy this water is stank!" face

Swimmin' in the Lake

Usain Bolt Tries Out Swimming

Next we headed to the Belmont hotel, a sweet, unique, bike-friendly hotel right here in the Cliff. The gate to the pool was locked so Jeff hopped the fence and let us in. He was able to wash off the Lake Cliff grime, warm up, and towel dry himself with some towels left on a housekeeping cart, all while getting us another big money list item!

Swim in the Belmont Pool- 25 points

Next up was a slightly eerie destination. We rode to the Western Heights Cemetery in search of Clyde Barrow's (of Bonnie & Clyde notoriety) grave. 2 bikers were already searching the headstones without any luck so we climbed over the chain at the entrance and started running amongst the graves. I muttered apologies to the disrespected bodies as I trampled the sod and hoped they would understand. A man cried out "Donna! Over here!" We waited for them to take their photo, then posed for ours:

Lay in Front of Clyde Barrow's Headstone- 25 points

It turns out Donna and her husband are both in their 70s and are big bike tourers. They were funny and sweet in that way only old people who've kept their sparkle are. Donna told us "We're not trying to win, but we think we have a good chance to take our age group!" We talked with them a little more as we got on our bikes. Her husband retired from the Dallas Fire Dept in 2002 and he enjoyed talking to Arik about Arik's firefighting dad (who will himself retire in about 2 years). We wished them well, then rode to Jeff's parents' house- they had the shoe polish.

Donna and her husband in their "all teammates drink from one drink" photo- from photopolus

We got the shoe polish, had a few blessed sips of Vitamin Water, then headed out again, this time in search of some storefront windows. We picked one that wasn't yet occupied, but still kept a watch out for cops- no wonder this one was worth 20 points- sheesh! At least it washes off with ease:

Shoe Polish "75208" on a Storefront Window or Street

We weren't too keen on doing two more shop windows, so we settled for the street outside Spiral Diner. A disgruntled but curious waiter asked us what we were doing and didn't seem too impressed by our response so we hightailed it outta there with haste...but not before crossing the last two items off our list!

Shoe Polish "Cyclosomatic" on a Storefront Window or Street (note smiling but disgruntled waiter)

Shoe Polish "Photopol.us" on a Storefront Window or Street

We were done! Now we just had to print those suckers and motor back to Bishop Arts. We rode to Walgreens, expecting to find a line of bikers ahead of us, but instead saw...no one else! In fact, the photo dude told us we were the first ones in. To save time, we just printed out all 60 photos we'd taken, figuring it'd be faster to pick out the good ones once they were printed. Even though we were first at Walgreens, we'd seen people with Polaroids and also figured people would be printing at home or at the nearby CVS. Still, there was hope! The photo dude handed us the pix as they printed, so we were able to write on the backs pretty quickly. While thus occupied, a guy came in wearing a sweet "I Bike Dallas" tshirt, ready to print his pix. He said he thought the only team we'd have to beat was one that was printing their photos at home. Sweet!

We got all the pix, raced out of Walgreens, and tried to ride like the wind back to Bishop Arts. Trouble was, we'd been biking for 2 hours and none of us had eaten anything all day. Not the best combo, and our legs were protesting. Plus a nice stiff headwind decided it was a good time to make an appearance- hooray! Finally we made it to Eno's and ran to the back. We were breathless and excited and happy and tired and.......second. 2 guys stood at the judges' table high fiving each other as they turned in their photos. Argh! A bit bummed but hopeful something would happen, we sat down at a table outside to rest. While there, I overhead the guys talking to one of the judges, saying, "So, does that mean we get 2nd?" Aha! We moseyed over to them to see what was going on. Turns out they'd forgotten to write on the back of the photos- one of the rules. The judges weren't sure what they'd do- split first place? Ignore the rule? Give us first? Oh well, at least now we had a chance!

We headed over to Hunky's to finally eat. It was a little past 2pm and the other bikers didn't have to be back until 3 so we had some time to kill. A somewhat disappointing black bean burger was rescued by delishus tots and a huge root beer. Our bellies full, we went back to Eno's to watch the Cowboys game and wait until 4, when the results would be announced at the Oktoberfest going on in the back. 4 came and the judges took the mic to render their decision: "The riders had to be back by 3pm. The first place team arrived here at 2:08. The third place team also arrived at 2:08 but forgot to write on the back of their photos...." Hooray!!!!! That meant..."First place goes to- The Unicorns!" I can't help it- we're competitive, and we were pretty stoked to win.

Goofy Unicorns- one guy thought we were doing loser "L"s on our foreheads- doh!- from the bfoc site

We each won a supasoft photopolus tshirt along with 3 beers each. Pretty sweet. They also gave out awards for other photos- Donna and her husband ended up winning Funniest Photo. One of the items on the list was to take a picture of all the teammates sitting in a pew in a church, with extra points if church was in service. The pair found a church in service and got a great photo with church members surrounding them as they all smiled and held hymnals. We rode by a baptist church and considered going in but nixed it when we saw some very dressed up, fancy hat wearing, severe women in the parking lot. Also amusing- another item on the list was "walk a really old lady across the street." The guys who got 3rd did that one- and the lucky old lady was our pal Donna! Dunno how she felt about being deemed a really old lady, but she was a good sport about it.

Donna and husband- funniest photo winner- from photopolus

We broke some laws (defacing public property, (washable) graffiti, and even some public urination come to mind :) ), did a lot of biking, and had a lot of fun- a most excellent Sunday!

Victorious Unicorns! - from photopolus

As for running, our new shoes didn't immediately cure my knee troubles. After a nice spell of running 4 miles every day, my knee started twinging and I cut way back. I read up on knee troubles and decided if I could focus on my stride, the pain would go away. So Arik and I set up the camera at a park across the street and videoed our strides. I ran fast and had zero knee pain. Turns out neither of us was as bad as we thought:

video
Mia Running Toward Cam

video
Mia Running Away

video
Arik Profile Run

In fact, my stride is pretty good in the videos. Trouble is, I can't keep up the pace I ran to attain that stride for anything longer than a few blocks. The good thing is, now that I've seen how I should and can run, if I just make a point of remembering what my stride should be while I run, I should be in good shape. I'm also learning from Arik- he can run forever w/o any pain and his stride is different from mine (shorter steps, less kick back, less time in the air). We plan on getting a run in this afternoon, so I'll report back with the results.

So what's up next? The Lake Whitney ride got postponed, no plans yet for the Austin tour, but we do have some good stuff in the works: We'll be running the Turkey Trot (hopefully the 8 mile but we'll see) and will do the Turkey Roll bike ride the week before. Other than that, just enjoying the best October we've had in 4 years.

Be well,

Arik and Mia

ps- Arik's finished photoshopping the tour pix- they'll be up shortly!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back Again

Hola amigos! After 3 weeks of soaking up the sun, staying up late, and hanging with fam, pals, and pups, we're ready for some new adventures. Right now we have three in the works- two that'll happen somewhat soon and one that's more of a long term journey.

Numero Uno: What: Mini bike trip to Lake Whitney with our pal Jeff. We'll hitch a ride with Jeff's mom to Red Oak (to avoid the D-town craziness), then ride 60 miles to the Lake, chill there for a night, and ride back to Red Oak the next morning. When: An upcoming weekend

Numero Dos: What: Bike tour from Dallas to Austin. This one's gonna take some planning since getting out of Dallas and through some of the other cities can be dicey. Also Texas state parks are few and far between and none have the hiker/biker sites we enjoyed on the West Coast. Still, it should be a sweet ride, taking us through the Hill Country and into beautiful Austin, where we'll hopefully be able to bum some floor space from a friend. When: Not sure yet- maybe Thanksgiving week, maybe earlier- gotta get the maps

Numero Tres: What: Becoming supa runners! As some of you will recall, I was consumed during our bike tour with finding the ever sly and slippery Born to Run. Jeff kindly ordered a copy for us on Amazon and Arik and I tore through it two weeks ago. It's a life-changing book and we couldn't get running fast enough. The premise of the book is that humans are born to run but running shoes make us run a way we weren't born to, leading to the injuries that plague most runners. So we high-tailed it to Whole Earth, bought two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers shoes, which are as close as you can get to running barefoot whilst still wearing something that'll keep the glass shards out of your flesh, and started pounding the Oak Cliff pavement.

We've changed our form (no heel-first foot striking and lotsa pitter pattering) but more importantly we've changed our approach to running. We are goofy and happy and carefree while we run- doing somersaults on the golf course, flying karate kicks off hills, and just enjoying doing what we now realize we were born to do. We're running 5 days/week and are up to 3.5 miles/day. Our bodies feel good, we're injury free, and we wake up itching to run.

We're going to start doing races, not for the competitive aspect (we have a "distance first, the speed will come" mentality right now), but because they will take us to cool places, put us on unique courses, and usually include quirky tshirts. :)

We will continue to draw inspiration from the people we rode for, and have been donning our jerseys for our runs. We'll also try to do a good job of chronicling our upcoming adventures on this here blog!

Arik's been working his photoshop magic on the bike tour pix- we'll post them once he's done.

Be well,

Arik and Mia

Monday, September 7, 2009

Who We Ride For: Steve Damm

It is with heavy hearts that we report the passing of a loving, courageous, exceptional human being: Steve Damm. We've never met Steve but have followed his fight against brain cancer in his wife's stellar, love-filled blog: http://checkonsteve.blogspot.com/ Cancer took his physical health but it couldn't slay his wicked sense of humor or his tremendous will to press on. He was one of the people we rode for, and because we were so familiar with the details of his fight, he was one of our biggest inspirations as we rode.

Please send your thoughts to his wife and two young kiddos.

Be well,

Arik and Mia

http://www.livestrong.org/grassroots2009/ariknmiabike

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crescent City, CA to Eureka, CA- Our Eureka Moment

Well friends, we are hanging out at a hotel in Eureka, about 270 miles north of San Francisco, packing up our panniers and readying them for the flight home. After almost exactly one month on the road we've decided to return to base camp a bit ahead of schedule.

It is fitting that our tour is ending in Eureka, because yesterday it was a true Eureka Moment that convinced us it was time to head home. We were biking along a scenic alternate route that took us alongside some beautiful coastline. But instead of feeling that uplifting of spirit that we usually experienced when we saw coastal beauty, and which made all the hills and the cold and the fog and the homesickness worth it, I didn't feel anything. Arik took some perfunctory photos, but at that moment we realized the negatives outweighed the positives. It was a conviction that had been a few weeks in the making, but that we'd hoped would pass with time and distance.

In the movies, it's moments like that that make heroes. They dig deep, persevere, and are rewarded in the end. But, and this is tough for someone as prideful as I am to say, we aren't heroes. We're two kids who set off on an adventurous vacation and ended up struggling through a vacation-less adventure. And though we are confident we physically and mentally could have climbed the hills and negotiated the traffic and powered through the crappy weather that loomed ahead, it just isn't how we wanted to spend another month.

What we've known all along, but what was really driven home by the challenges we faced, is that there were real heroes along for the ride- they were on our shirts. With cancer, there is no returning to base camp or taking a breather. It's a constant, wearying battle, and it's one I'm glad we were able to take some small part in with our fundraising. I wish we could've crossed the finish line in San Diego on behalf of the people we ride for. It was certainly what weighed most heavily on our minds during our decisionmaking process: we didn't want to let anyone down.

Ultimately we painted ourselves into a corner a bit by making our post-school, pre-working world vacation also a goal-oriented, cause-fighting task, and trying to strike that balance ended up wearing us down. Despite that, we don't regret a thing. There are certainly things we could have done differently that would have made things go a bit more smoothly: we could have trained more and gotten some touring experience under our belts, or we could have left without a particular destination in mind and just aimed to get as far as we could. But the month long tour we ended up doing was the toughest, coolest, most rewarding thing we've done, warts and all. We traveled 931 miles, and covered half the country, under our own power. We are proud, we are humbled, and we are ready to go home.

For completeness' sake, here's what happened in the days since our last update:

First, I forgot to mention 2 funny episodes that happened on prior days:

1. We've had to get creative with doing laundry, and Arik's been trying out some unusual methods. The night we stayed at Bullard's Beach State Park (here's the post) Arik took a shower in his dirty clothes and scrubbed them clean. We didn't have anywhere to tie a clothesline, so he just draped the clothes over our bikes. In the morning, he found his yellow tank top laying on a bush close to another campsite. He was confused and walked over to pick it up when the campers told him they'd found it on the ground that morning. Was it the wind? It seemed strange that the wind would've picked up that shirt and flung it 20 feet away while leaving the other clothes undisturbed. Still flummoxed, Arik walked back to our tent, at which time I spied some small gashes on the back of the shirt. I said "did some creature get ahold of your shirt?" Bearded Tom called out, "oh yes- that must be it! There was a raccoon roaming around this morning!" So Arik's shirt, which has already been smeared and stained, just gained a little more character.

2. The following is a tale of danger, chivalry, and death: A number of times we've encountered road construction on our tour, and a common scenario involves a 2 lane road that winds through mountains and along the coast. The construction crews close the road down to 1 lane, then hold stop signs on each end so each lane eventually gets to go. Arik and I usually ride to the front of the line of stopped cars, then wait for them all to pass before bringing up the rear.

At one such stop, Arik decided to go without waiting because we had a shoulder. I wasn't expecting it, and in my haste to get moving my feet slipped off the pedals and my bike wobbled. Anxious to right myself, I turned the handlebars and ended up turning onto gravel, where I promptly slipped and fell...in front of the whole line of slowly passing cars and the construction guy holding the stop sign. Arik leapt off his bike, laid it on the ground, and hustled over to help me up. The sting from my skinned knee was nothing compared to my bruised pride. Saved by my knight, we remounted our steeds and rode off.

About 10 miles later, while struggling slowly up the hill, Arik cried out, "oh no! Where's my sabre!" After looking around on the ground, we realized that it must have come unvelcroed when he put his bike down to help me. We mourned its loss but decided it had died as it had lived: valiantly.

8/30/09- Crescent City, CA to Elk Prairie State Park- 35 miles, 3 hours, 50 mins on the bikes

We picked up cookies and jam at a great natural foods store on our way out of Crescent City and tackled the biggest hill of the trip so far just a little outside of town. It was cold and foggy, but we made it up pretty well and enjoyed a big, fun descent. Arik was freezing after the downhill and had to put on another layer. Not long afterward, we climbed the second highest hill of the trip. Though not as steep as the first, it was much longer and I started to feel nauseous and light headed. We had to stop every mile or so so I could collect my wits.

Cold and Foggy

I felt a bit better once we got to the bottom and started cruising through the Redwood forest. The trees were incredible- towering and huge. We stopped for some pix and as Arik was setting up I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, basking in the serenity of the woods.



Evil Redwood

Mia

Arik

Monstah

Arik

We rolled into Elk Prairie State Park, which was indeed located right next to a prairie set aside for wild elk. We saw baby deer and for the first time dealt with a park where the bear threat was quite real. We had to put all of our food and anything that could give off a scent (shampoos, deodorant etc) in a bear locker and report any aggressive behavior to park rangers- it was intense! It was also the first park where we didn't get any cell reception, so our parents ended up a little worried.

We enjoyed a great shower and afterward met Bill, a 60-something tour veteran who was biking from Eugene, OR to San Luis Obispo, CA with his wife. They do a ton of tours together, which we thought was pretty sweet. Had some red beans and rice and shared a tasty cookie, then retired to the tent to read. This was pretty tough b/c a huge flock of blue jays decided our site was a cool place to hang out and squawk- it felt like we were caught in a Hitchcock scene.

8/31/09- Elk Prairie State Park to Eureka, CA- 52 miles, 5 hours, 33 mins on the bikes

We got movin' pretty early and saw a beautiful deer on the way out of the park:


A little down the road we happened upon a huge elk just chillin' in somebody's front yard, totally unperturbed by the cars flying by or the curious onlookers who stopped for a peek:


We took a scenic alternate route and experienced the turning point I talked about earlier. There were some stretches where the road became a mess of sand and gravel- I have no idea how people tour on skinny tires since we were slip-slidin' along on our hybrid ones.

We made it to McKinleyville ("Where Horses Have the Right of Way") and rode along a bike path that went parallel to the highway- it was nice to not have to worry about cars for a change. The path turned into a rural road that curved through farms, went over a bridge, and then into Arcata. We rode by Humboldt State University and maneuvered through skateboarders and bikers. We got a bit turned around and ended up having to decide whether to get on Hwy 101 (there was a sign that said "Pacific Coast Bike Route") or to try to follow our map (we'd made a wrong turn somewhere). After much debate, we opted for 101, which ended up being a bit scary because it was a true freeway, with cars going above freeway speeds. It was also frigid, but it had been all day.

As we rode along 101 I spied something sticking out of Arik's back tire, flapping as the wheel rotated. I thought it was a piece of cardboard and told him to stop so I could swat it off. Turns out it was a nail-type thing and he had a flat. We pulled off the highway close to some old railroad tracks in the cold and both had a mini-breakdown. Despite our best intentions, in the past week or so the trip had stopped being about the journey and all about the destination: we counted down the miles, dreaded the hills, and looked forward to just making it to the train at the end. We both said we wanted to go home but agreed to think about it as we finished our ride.

Checked into a good hotel in Eureka, called our parents for advice, and decided to go home. It sucked that we wouldn't be able to meet our pals in San Francisco but we couldn't imagine another month of this stuff. Once we made the decision we felt a huge weight lift off our shoulders. We joked and laughed and were full on happy for the first time in a while. We bought plane tickets, then celebrated with burritos and margaritas at a place called Rita's.

Updated: 9/1/09

Got up early, went to FedEx to ship some of our bulkier gear home, then rode to a bike shop called Sport and Cycle. Dan, the bike mechanic, was awesome. He boxed up our bikes for a fair price and even offered to drive us to the airport in the morning. We left a FedEx label with him and he'll have them pick up the bikes. The walk back was long but pleasant- all the big stuff we had to do was taken care of and we could just enjoy the day. We stopped by the Northcoast Co-op, a massive Whole Foods-size co-op, and got some tasty treats, then headed back to the hotel. Reserved an airport shuttle for the next morning (the hotel paid- woo hoo!), then chilled in the room.

We hit up Lost Coast Brewery for dinner, and enjoyed veggie burgers and their homemade brews (Great White for Arik, Raspberry Brown for me).

9/2/09

Thanks to four connections, we actually made it all the way down the coast, just not the way we'd originally intended. We flew from Eureka to San Francisco to San Diego to Denver and finally, 10 hours later, to Dallas. We had a beautiful view of San Francisco and got to see the Golden Gate Bridge as our plane did a loop around the city.

My parents graciously picked us up and Arik's mama stayed up to meet us at home. We also finally got to see our little bear cub Guido. We were worn out from a long day of traveling but pumped up about being home.

Some General Thoughts on Touring

Despite the premature end to the trip, I still firmly believe that seeing things by bicycle is awesome, and usually far superior to glimpsing the world from a speeding car. We did have to put up with a lot of crap you take for granted while driving (bad weather, bad roads, steep hills, feeling invisible etc) but we also saw things we never would have seen from a car. The bikes forced us to slow down and gave us incredible flexibility. We could pull over to look at a vista without having to wait for the "scenic outlook." We saw hawks and deer and elk and rabbits that would've been missed from the driver's seat. We felt the wind in our hair and the sun on our skin on the good days and the rain on our chests and the cold on our fingertips on the tough ones. For better and worse, we felt alive. And I would highly recommend touring as way to travel. Some tips we wish we'd known ahead of time though:

- Start with smaller tours. For 2 big reasons: 1. You can test out your gear and work out the kinks ahead of time. Our gear ended up working out perfectly but we lucked out. 2. You can get your daily mileage up. We averaged around 40 miles/day, which is why our tour ended up taking so long. Many riders average 60-90 miles/day, and can do so comfortably. We would've been a lot less homesick if we had a higher daily average.

- Have a fat wallet or be cool without showers. We initially planned to camp every night a week but one, which we'd spend in a hotel. The trouble was, we wanted a shower every night- can't sleep after sweating all day without one. That meant the county parks and primitive sites (which don't have water at all) were off the table. We also didn't want to stay in RV parks (not big fans of RVs at all). So our options were mostly limited to state parks, which weren't always available on the route. We ended up in hotels/motels much more often than we'd planned, and that made a big dent in our wallets.

- Most essential gear: helmet mirrors. We picked these up in Vancouver and do not think we could have made it without them. I found myself looking up to check the mirror even when I was walking around helmet-less in town- that's how much we loved and relied on those things. Here's the one we bought, but I'm sure any one that clips to a visor would work: 3rd Eye Helmet Mirror

- Essential, but not as essential as the mirrors
A funny touring observation: one of the highlights of our trip was meeting all the tourers along the way. We determined they could almost without exception be divided into two categories: 1. The Type A overachievers who like doing hardcore stuff and/or were crossing things off the "Things Accomplished People Do Before They Die" list and 2. The super chill, go with the flow tourers, who were usually bearded (a la bearded Tom) and/or over 60 (these guys were our favorites). When we set out on the tour, we made a concerted effort to stay in category 2, but as the tour progressed, we ended up creating a third category, and one I would recommend avoiding: 3. People counting down the days till the tour's over.

A Few Final Thoughts

To those who donated, followed the blog, or sent us words of encouragement, our deepest thanks. I don't know how many times we'd come in drained by a tough day of riding and be instantly perked up when we heard your voices or read your words. To those we rode for, keep up the good fight. Thinking of you kept us riding longer than we would have and was sometimes the only reason we kept going.


Be well,

Arik and Mia


P.S. Arik's gonna pretty up some of the best pix and make a slideshow- check back if you wanna check it out

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lincoln City, OR to Crescent City, CA- Two States Down!

After surviving frigid fog, 4 punctured tubes, 7 Devils, wicked climbs, aching quads, and one oblivious camper, we've made it to California! We've experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the trip in the last 5 days but both agree the highs outweigh the lows. We're finishing up a much needed rest day here in Crescent City and after much running around, we finally have time to get ya updated:

8/23/09- Lincoln City, OR to Newport, OR- 32.4 miles, 3 hours, 13 min on the bikes

The night of the 22nd we hit up Aunt Mary's again, visited a cool bookstore (again no Born to Run but we did pick up some cool gifts), and got a tasty pizza on the way home. The morning after our rest day we chomped on some Amy's burritos whilst watching some more Australia's Next Top Model (don't judge mates!). Arik brought the bikes downstairs to check out and quickly realized one of the tires had gone completely flat. It was the same problem we've been having with the tubes all trip: our mini pump requires such vigorous pumping to get any air into the tires that the valve shakes around and ultimately shears at the bottom, leaving a tiny hole and an empty tube that can't be patched. While Arik tended to the tube, I rode off to the post office in hopes of mailing the gifts and some heavy stuff we weren't using back home. Alas I didn't remember until I was in the parking lot that there's no post on Sundays! I sheepishly rode back to Arik and we set off.

The sun was out and the glorious coast was on display. Waves crashed on rocks and the water was a beautiful shade of blue.

Dora, Koonta & Mia

Sweet coast


We rolled into Newport around 4:30 just as it was starting to get chilly. We ate at a place called Savory Cafe in the Nye Beach part of Newport but weren't too impressed. I had a ginormous burrito which definitely filled me up but wasn't super tasty. Then again I'm comparing it to the stupendous Ate Layer Burrito at Spiral Diner, so I guess my burrito bar is pretty high. We stopped by a bike shop and picked up more tubes and replenished our Clif Shot Blok supply (try these- they rock!) then tried 2 bookstores which were unfortunately both closed.

We rode out of Newport via a huge, pretty bridge. We had to walk the bikes b/c of traffic and it was a slow trek. A cold wind roared as we plodded along. Shortly afterward we got to South Beach State Park. It was the least outdoorsy of the state parks we've stayed in- it had a welcome center with coffee and popcorn and yurt meeting halls, but it was just really pleasant. We were the only hiker/bikers there and we went to sleep early- around 7:30.

South Beach State Park

8/24/09- Newport, OR to Florence, OR- 51.86 miles, 4 hours, 25 min on the bikes

Most of the 24th was incredible but it ended on a bit of a sour note. We started by going up and down a ton of hills. Rode past Seal Rock, OR but didn't spy any seals, then stopped in Waldport to run some errands. Finally got to ship our stuff at the post office, got a coke at a co-op, then picked up some essentials at a grocery store (fritos, oreos, and oatmeal- the stuff champions are made of). After Waldport it was straight up awesome coastline most of the way to Florence. Just really incredible.


We did huge climbs and descents that made our eyes tear and our hearts race. A little south of Yachats we heard a ton of barking, pulled over, and peered over a cliff where we spied a huge group of sea lions! They were stinky and loud and hilarious- just trundling along on the rocks and enjoying what looked like a rockin' party. Check them out:

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Post-sea lion partay we apprehensively rolled up to a tunnel. Tunnels usually suck to ride through. Oregon is cool b/c there's a little button you can push before you ride into the tunnels that sets off lights alerting cars that bikers are riding through, but you still are faced with riding down a narrow two lane road without a shoulder while impatient drivers tailgate you or try to squeeze by. This time ended up being pleasant b/c a truck came up slowly behind us, turned on his hazards, and escorted us through- thank you kind sir!

A short while later we realized we'd traveled 650 miles- making us 1/3 of the way through our tour! We had no idea- I thought we'd done around 400 miles max. We were both pretty shocked and stopped to toast ourselves and our bikes with some oreos. No matter what happens from here on out, I am very proud of us.

In Florence, we stopped at one of our favorite gourmet dining establishments:


After Florence we rode through some tree-spotted dunes, then got into Honeyman State Park. It had easily the sweetest hiker/biker setup of all the Oregon state parks we'd stayed in- beautiful trees, semi-private sites- a lot more like the Washington sites but with free hot showers (Washington charges 50 cents for a 3 minute hot shower). There were only 2 other bikers at the site- both sharing one site, so it was pretty chill. We headed off for our showers, which were glorious- tons of hot water, and I even scored a left behind bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap- what luck...or so we thought. We merrily skipped back to our campsite, energized by our shower, happily unaware of the stress that awaited us back at the tent.

When we got there, a girl was tying her bike to a tree a foot away from our tent. We thought it was strange, but both Arik and I are non-confrontational to a fault so we just said hello. We chatted for a bit, and during the conversation she untied her bike from the tree and proceeded to tie it to our picnic bench. Hmm. Still, Arik and I didn't say anything. Then she unfurled her tent, and though there were 4 unused and nicely private sites around, she set up 2 feet from our tent...in our site. We were both confused and a little upset but STILL we said nothing. Content to let it slide, we got in the tent and fell asleep- happy to have turned in early so we'd be able to get a good start the next day.

Unfortunately we were woken up at several points by her conversations- she'd decided to make our bench the hang out spot for some of the other bikers who rolled in. I put in my earplugs, but was awakened around 10 by the crashing and banging of what sounded like 16 pots and pans. Even better, a bright light shone directly into our tent intermittently- the kind produced by a headlamp. I'd finally been pushed to the edge. After an internal debate during which I asked myself what my 2 flippest high school friends (Raffi and Michael) would do, I got dressed, steeled myself, and got out of the tent.

The girl was indeed packing up pots and pans that were strewn all over the table. She had a bright headlamp on and was oblivious to my presence. I explained that though we didn't mind if she used our table, the sun had been down for an hour and a half, we'd been trying to sleep for the past 2 hours, and she was making too much noise. All she said was "Oh." Just a surprised and totally clueless "Oh." I made a grand exit by stomping off to the restrooms, going over all the cool things I wished I'd said. I got to the restroom fueled by anger and frustration, but when I turned to head back I'd cooled off and fear set in. It was pitch dark and I had to find a dirt path that went through the woods and to our site. I had a flashlight and some mace but I was terrified. I got lost once and then ran all the way to the tent. A really infuriating evening after a really wonderful day.

A note here about the whole clueless girl (who I've named Elma, in honor of the city that so tormented us) thing : I know there was a context that I wasn't totally appreciating. The girl was a solo tourer. She may have been scared, she may have been starved for human company, she may have been trying to create an awkward situation just so she'd be able to talk to someone. She may even have grown up in a culture where personal space doesn't exist. Arik knew a woman in art school who sat way too close to him and who, after some awkwardness, explained that she'd lived in a community where everything belonged to everyone so she had trouble with personal boundaries. I get all that. The problem was just the lack of consideration- if she'd said hey can I use your bench or hey can I set up here I'm lonely, or anything like that, we at least could have talked it out and figured out a comfortable solution. The big lesson the whole thing taught both of us was that we really need to nip stuff like that in the bud. If right from the get-go we'd just said hey there, what's going on, we would've had a bit of awkwardness but nothing like what happened when we let everything escalate. argh.

8/25/09- Florence, OR to Bandon, OR- 70.2 miles, 6 hours, 31 mins on the bikes

Despite our encounter the night before, ol' Elma woke us up the next morning with more banging of pots and pans at our table. I wasn't in the mood for another confrontation, so I just put in my earplugs and stuck my fingers in my ears. Like goofy fraidy cats, we waited until she left to get moving, robbing us of the early start we'd hoped for. We had a scrumptious breakfast of oatmeal, oreos, and fritos, then headed out. It was cloudy and wet but at least wasn't rainy. Somewhat hilariously, we saw ol' Elma a number of times throughout the day. She stopped each time to chat, making no reference at all to the night before.

We crossed another long, harrowing bridge, then stopped at Taco Bell again for some dinner. We chatted with a TBell employee on his smoke break while we ate outside on a bench. He was a young guy dealing with the heartache that usually comes with more advanced age: his dad had died a week before and his mom had suffered a stroke and was in a nursing home. He asked us lots of questions about our tour and said he'd always wanted to do one but didn't have anyone to go with. I hope he finds someone.

One of many big, windy bridges

Bridge up close

This next little nugget confirms that when it comes to Toy Story characters we are more Rex the dinosaur then Woody the hero. Earlier that morning, whilst Elma was banging about, Arik overheard her say she was planning to ride to the state park we'd intended to stay in that night. Intent on avoiding the awkwardness such close quarters would bring, we elected to ride on to the next state park- more than 70 miles away. Ambitious? Yes. Pathetic? Arguably. Still, we'd made our decision and soldiered on. It wasn't until we turned onto "Seven Devils Road" that we realized our decision meant we'd be climbing the 7 devils we'd been warned of earlier, and that we'd be doing it at the end of our ride- hooray! Fortunately for us, the 7 devils ended up being more like 7 little coconuts- kinda tough to crack but oh so tasty! They were tough, but totally manageable, and the views as we climbed and descended were stunning.

At the top of the last Devil, with Arik's sabre of course

We rolled into a packed hiker/biker camp at Bullard's Beach State Park and had to share a table with some other campers (yes we realize this is wonderfully ironic, but in fairness, we were invited to share and requested input re: where was best to set up :) ) The guys who offered the table were cool- 2 bros named Nels and Jacob who'd taken the train up from San Luis Obispo to Eugene, OR and now were riding back down. We are toying with the idea of taking the same train from San Diego back up to Seattle once we're done with the ride. It would be cheap, wouldn't take long, would let us check out Portland, and would let us see the coast from a totally new perspective. We shall see what the future holds though- we do miss our fams and our pup!

We cooked some ramen while the brothers ate and were soon joined by a cool guy named Tom and his female companion (can't remember her name- doh). He's a fun, goofy, bearded fellow doing graduate work in math at UC-Davis. He rode by when we were checking into the park and shouted out "Bula bula!" He brought over blueberries and a beer and we had fun chatting with everyone in the dark. The sunset took all the heat out of the day, leaving us shivering. Arik and I walked to the bathroom and looked up at the night sky, taken aback by the number of stars twinkling in the night. I spotted a satellite and remembered laying on the deck of a beachhouse we rented in Surfside Beach, TX when I was little, looking up at the stars with my dad and my sisters as he pointed out satellites and we all searched for shooting stars.

8/26/09- Bandon, OR to Gold Beach, OR- 57.35 miles, 5 hours, 39 mins on the bikes

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning- it was actually kinda hot in the tent. We bade farewell to our comrades and got a good start. Despite the pleasant beginning, the first half of the day was hellish. We started out riding through farmlands on a super windy road. It felt like we were slogging through quicksand. About an hour in, Arik's tire hissed and went flat. He'd ridden over a glass shard and gotten his first non-pump related flat. Hooray. No worries though- we pulled over to the side of the highway, got out our patch kit and the "How to fix a flat tire" printout I'd brought along, and Arik tackled the task. He got the tube all patched up and was in the midst of inflating it when he remembered the ring we're supposed to put around the valve to make it not shake around as much. He said "let's make sure I don't have to do this again," put on the ring, and continued pumping. Not 5 seconds later, we heard another hiss. Yup- the valve stem had sheared. We'd need a new tube.

Annoyed but determined, Arik went through it all again- taking out the tube, putting in a new one, and setting to the arduous task of pumping up the tube with our mini-pump. He had it all the way inflated (this takes about 15 minutes b/c the pump is so small) when- you guessed it- another hiss, another sheared valve, and another tube to waste. We'd been sitting on the side of the road for more than an hour, with cars roaring past at freeway speed blowing dust and dirt in our faces. And he had to do it all again. We were down to our last tube so he went super slow with the pump. He got it aired up ok and finally, after an hour and a half delay, we packed our bikes up and were about to head off. All of a sudden we heard a deep, gospel voice sing "Well I've seen some weary travelers in my day- oh yeah." We looked up and saw bearded Tom riding by. He pulled over to make sure we were ok and his companion said "may this be the last flat of your trip." Indeed! They brought a smile to our haggard faces and we headed off with slightly better spirits.

But the day wasn't done with us yet. Not 20 minutes later, cold, scary fog rolled in like death. There was hardly any visibility and it was freezing. Then, inexplicably, we saw half blue sky overhead and half fog. Soon the fog cleared and revealed the most glorious coastline either of us has ever seen. Tom rode by again, this time shouting something about hot tubs- he's a fun, crazy guy. We stopped every few feet to wonder at the view and take pix. At one point there was a rock rising out of the fog- the kind of thing you'd see in a movie but never in real life. None of it felt real.

video

Crappy Day Starts Lookin' Up



Blue skies and fog

Weary Mia

Sweetness

The fog monster


Arik the Conqueror


Arik couldn't quite beat the self-timer

I decided to trust in the day and took off my long sleeves and windbreaker, hoping the sun would stick around. It didn't oblige, content instead to hide out behind a new batch of scary fog. Arik took a cool picture of me riding through the cold mist:


The next stretch was just surreal. Everything was gray, foggy, and otherworldy. I'd finished reading The Alchemist two days prior, and the story places a huge emphasis on omens. I was therefore understandably unsettled when a pickup drove past us with a huge "Murphy's Law" sticker plastered on its windshield. This was particularly foreboding considering we had no tubes, we were riding through the fog, and we weren't certain the town we were intending to stay in had a hotel.

Fortunately we made it to Gold Beach and as we crossed one last fog covered bridge into town, a glorious neon "Motel 6" sign rose from the mist. We asked the guy at the front desk about nearby pizza and he gave us a brochure for Panther Den Pizza. We were expecting to just get our usual cheeseless pizza but were stoked to see they had fake cheese- what an unexpected surprise! We ordered one with artichokes, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, along with some tater tots and holy moley was it an incredible feast. The pizza was huge and was the best vegan pizza either of us has had. We picked up some cokes from the hotel vending machine, got our laundry done, and watched some tv shows on the laptop. With full belllies and memories of our heaven n hell day, we drifted off to sleep.

Ending the day on a nice freaky bridge

The view from the bridge- glad we weren't down there!

8/27/09- Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA- 57 miles, 5 hours, 40 mins on the bikes

We started the day off with the second highest hill we'd climb in Oregon. The front desk guy had freaked us out a bit about it, saying he'd never made it up and that a restaurant down the road actually gave out bowls of Wheaties just for bikers trying to tackle it. It was tough, but not as tough as we'd imagined, and after about an hour of climbing we were racing down the descent. Still, the climb and the preceding string of longish days started to take a toll. Our muscles were aching, my knees starting hurting, and we just generally felt really sluggish.

One of our last stretches on the Oregon Coast Bike Route

We perked up about 5 miles north of Brookings when we spotted an awesome coastline and a beach called Lone Ranch Beach. When we realized people were down walking the beach, we turned around, rode down to the parking lot, and joined them. I touched the Pacific for the first time and we were wowed by the view.

Lone Ranch Beach

Lone Ranch Beach

Arik and Mia at Lone Ranch Beach

Our route took us off Highway 101 and into some farmlands, which were beautiful but really hilly. Each stroke of my legs as I climbed the hills made my knees ache, and when we looked down to 101 and realized it was just 2 lanes with a nice wide shoulder, we deviated from the route and took 101. Soon, we crossed into California- sweetness! We can't believe we've made it through 2 states just using our old trusty legs. Pretty cool indeed.


We took 101 all the way into Crescent City. As we neared the town, redwood trees started to line the street. They were awesome, even though the first one Arik saw was actually a dead stump- doh! It was an impressive stump though! The miles passed so slowly because of our tired muscles- Crescent City couldn't come soon enough. We found a motel with internet, but their amenities are arranged a bit haphazardly: because we wanted a room with internet access, we couldn't have a fridge/microwave and would have to have 2 beds instead of one. We had also been looking forward to a nice hot bath but it only has a shower. So it goes.

We got settled in at the hotel, then went in search of some eats- we were starving. Crescent City is a strange town- a lot of the businesses we'd looked up on the internet had closed down and bums trundled down the sidewalks while skateboarding teens rolled through abandoned parking lots. Fortunately, China Hut was open and we got a ton of food from the delightful woman working there. It wasn't the tastiest but it did the job. We were still hungry though, so we walked to Burger King and got some fries and apple pies, which we munched on whilst watching...no sense hiding it- Australia's Next Top Model.

We had a nice chat with our pal Jeff, who's finalizing plans to come meet us in San Francisco and bike with us to San Luis Obispo. We are supa stoked about that and happy to see him and Kate.

8/28/09- Rest Day- hooray!

Today we had a much-needed but all too short rest day. We had some fruit loops in the hotel lobby, then took our bikes to get tuned up. The bike shop we'd scoped out had closed down, so we went to one a local guy directed us to. Back Country Bicycle ended up being a great find. Even though they're closed over the weekend, the guy there fit us in. He also had a great pump that turns into a mini-floor pump- should make Arik's life a lot easier. And we got tubes galore. We walked back after leaving our bikes and headed out to run more errands. First to the bookstore- still no Born to Run (I'm starting to think I saw it in a dream), but we picked up Lost World for Arik, which he started reading at the bed and breakfast in Cathlamet, and Things Fall Apart for me. We also got The Hobbit for both of us. They should tide us over until we finally find that shifty book.

Then had some great Thai food at Thai House. We went in with low expectations and were pleasantly surprised by the tastiness. We had fried tofu and a noodle dish, with mango sticky rice for dessert- nom nom nom! Then stopped by the grocery store to restock our pantry and finally got home for a break. We watched a show, then the guy from the bike shop called to say our bikes were ready. We put our dirty laundry in a pannier, picked up the bikes (they feel great!) and rode to the laundromat. Alas in our rush to pack the pannier we left out the books so we had to just chill and chat and wait. The time passed quickly though, and after a chat with a homeless man (Robert) who was refilling his water bottle at the laundry sink and stopped to check out our bikes, and another chat with an old fellow from Alaska who warned us of cougars in the California state parks (hooray!) we headed home for good at last. Ate some burritos we'd picked up earlier at a co-op, watched some shows, and soon we'll hit up Burger King one last time for a late night snack. We're eating like kings! :)

We'd planned to leave tomorrow, but after realizing we hadn't gotten much rest on our rest day, we've decided to make it one more day. It'll be nice to have a real do-nothing day before we march on into the Redwood forest.

Be well,

Arik and Mia

http://www.livestrong.org/grassroots2009/ariknmiabike