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:

video

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