Portland, Oregon – September 02, 2001
Victoria and the lower Forty Eight
With Victoria as my home base I found it easy to cruise all over the southern portion of the island on my now unweighted bike. Armed with a new badass set of wheels (after the old ones got completely destroyed on the Kettle Valley Railroad Trail), I hit some of the sweetest old logging roads and single track on the wet western side of the Island that the world has ever seen. Although the slippery wet roots on the trails were brutal, the moss that covered every rock and downed log made crashes relatively forgiving. Watch out Victorians! If I get deported from the United States, I could definitely live here on the island, for better or for worse. Another person who made my stay in Victoria even more worthwhile was Laura, whom I had met in Whitehorse a few weeks before and who became a dear friend to me. She happened to be in Victoria at the same time I was to clear out an apartment she had lived in before she moved back to Whitehorse. I had the privilege to meet some of her friends, one of whom was a male ex-room mate who was madly in love with her but she definitely wasn’t. Needless to say, I was initially perceived as some new boy toy to be treated with envy and suspicion.
Alaska and Yukon seem like a world away now; one of the few reminders I have are the occasional stands of fireweed that grew in such profusion up north. Most plants that I had encountered in the northern reaches aren’t found around anymore, except the hardy fireweed. Although I will likely find it in the upper reaches of Oregon’s Cascades, I will miss this lavender flowering shrub that has accompanied me virtually everywhere on this trip so far. How far will I ride? I guess California is my new goal, since I let Jasper and Banff go when I was in northern BC. Sometimes I think I should have persisted the weather, maybe stayed at some hostel and waited it out. But I don’t regret that decision, other opportunities have emerged. Besides, now I have another excuse to travel to Canada again, a country I’ve come to love very much.
Now it’s time to get the kayaks ready, so I will sign off and get to work. All the best to you and continue making this world go round. Solomon – “Not all who wander are lost”
San Francisco, California – September 20, 2001
If North America was divided according to geographical features instead of political entities, then a great state named Cascadia would exist which could wind its way down along the Pacific coast from south western British Columbia to Northern California’s Mt. Lassen, where the next state, Sierra Nevada, would begin. To the west of Sierra Nevada one would find Costa Mediterranea and to the south east Mojave. Well, so much for my idea of compartmentalizing the continent. It was not without a twinge of sadness that I made the final adrenaline packed nine thousand foot descent into Northern California’s Central Valley, after having spent the last few weeks riding south along this beautiful mountain range, sometimes on the moist western slopes and sometimes on the more arid eastern slopes. In an amazing display of a mountain range’s ability to dictate climate, I observed rising, moisture saturated clouds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean literally blocked by a wall of rock and raining itself down.
Then, only a couple of miles east of the divide (where the clouds got stuck), the sky was once again blue and the ferns and rhododendron and other plants which made up the temperate rain forest floor gave quickly way to the dry manzanita and fragrant sage of the eastern slopes. Looking further east, sage brush country took over completely, except where replaced by fertile fields of wheat and alfalfa. This is, I found, Oregon’s redneck stronghold. Rarely would a pickup rumble past that wasn’t lifted ten inches, sporting thirty eight inch Super Swamper rubber, and the prerequisite gun rack. The snarl of its engine reminded me that a bored out V8 big block topped with dual nine hundred CFM carburetors and freed from the constraints of a catalytic converter provided the gas guzzling propulsion. Oregon was also the site where a trucker walked up to me at a pull out and insisted that this particular road was off limits to bicyclists, six foot shoulders notwithstanding. I just looked at him stupidly.
Although California’s 14162 foot summit of Mt. Shasta was in my view since I climbed up to the rim of Oregon’s Crater Lake (which, by the way, sports the most outlandish, almost radioactively glowing blue water I have ever seen in my entire life), I never got closer than fifty miles to it. It stood imposing, nevertheless. Instead, Mt. Lassen, California’s most recent volcanic eruption (1915) captured my interest and I decided to check it out. The small hurdle was that I had to drop from the Basin Desert’s average elevation of four thousand five hundred feet down to the gorge of the Pit River at two thousand vertical feet and then climb back up to eight thousand five hundred feet. These are just numbers, but to the mitochondria in my legs that was quite a turn over of ATP to ADP (the little molecules that make turning the pedals possible).
Hell, it was worth it when I got pulled over by a park ranger who wanted to tell me that I was the first to ride through the national park that he had seen. That was cool to hear. The area devastated by the pyroclastic flow of 1915 seemed serene and well on its way to recovery with tall ponderosa pine and colorful aspen having taken a strong foothold in the hardened and cracked lava flows. The summit pass at eight thousand five hundred feet elevation was cold and windy but the view of the dry east and the haze choked Central Valley was spectacular. The downhill, interrupted by two minor climbs to change watersheds, lasted for seventy miles and ended at the foot of the town of Chico at one hundred vertical feet elevation.
I expected drunk frat boys on the streets, as this town is home to Cal State Chico (voted one of the biggest party schools recently), but found the mood somber and the campus closed in the middle of the week. This was, of course, September 11th and the tragedy was just starting to grip everyone. Extremely saddened, I continued south through the farming back roads of the very hot Central Valley to the town of Davis, which harbors a few of my beloved friends.
Aliso Viejo, California – October 05, 2001
The end of the world as I know it
As much as I was looking forward to dinner at home and reunion with friends and family, it was still difficult to point that bike inland for the last few mile when the coast highway tempted with destinations further south. I guess I’ll have to catch up with the rest of the Americas some other time; now is the time to sift through a pile of mail and to separate the junk from useful letters, getting used to a mattress again, relearning how to drive, and, most of all, hitting the ocean. Oh yeah, I should stop by school and see what’s going on there, since it started almost three weeks ago. As far as money is concerned, there isn’t much left anymore, it was all well spent over the last three and a half months. Looks like I have to line up some handyman/construction jobs here and there. Other than not seeing family and friends for a while, it seems I didn’t miss out on too much significant.
As far as the last stretch from San Francisco to Orange County is concerned, the state of California didn’t fail to provide some spectacular scenery and weather, as always. The Golden Gate Bridge was closed to bike and pedestrian traffic due to possible evacuation concerns, so I had to get a ride into the city. No bid deal, except that it’s a lot of fun to stand next to the railing on the windswept center of the bridge and feel the entire suspended portion of the bridge gently sway with the wind. It is so subtle that you have to stand still and concentrate on your vestibular sense to feel any motion. From San Francisco, the Skyline Highway took me south to Palo Alto where I looked up Chris and Erika at their new place for an evening of “debauchery”. Although the party seemed relatively tame to me I should leave some details out so as not to offend some readers.
Recovered by the next morning, I heeded the call of the road and set out to complete the final stretch. It’s almost funny when I think about how long the ride from San Francisco to southern California seemed to me when I first attempted it in 1998. Now it’s just homestretch. This time I decided to skip the Big Sur coast and look for a less beaten path. I found that in the form of Highway 25, which winds its way through the San Andreas Rift Zone where the North American and Pacific tectonic plates slide past each other. This San Andreas Fault is responsible for some spectacular earthquakes that hit California every now and then, the most notable of which completely destroyed San Francisco in 1906. But it was calm and quiet when I rode through there. The stretch between Hollister and Atascadero is devoid of any towns except a multitude of cattle ranches which seemed to have stopped evolving in the 1920’s. Although much of them just sit there in the sun and rust, the tractors, plows, tillers, hay balers, windmills and other farm implement of that era carry a certain charm.
The eastward bend that California’s coast takes at Point Conception, defines the geographical start of southern California and the sandy beaches and palm trees provide the ambiance. Although the Mojave Desert could have been a more challenging option, I enjoyed the ocean too much to leave it behind, so I stuck right to the coast all the way to Laguna Beach. It was hard to believe I reached the beach where I had hung out with my friends John and John on the day that I boarded a plane with destination Anchorage, Alaska. I sat there for a long time reflecting on all the ups and downs I’ve experienced on this trip, maybe to become a better, kinder human, maybe to just inspire some kid to ride his/her bike around the neighborhood a little more and watch a little less TV. I would pin my biggest hopes on all the children who checked out my bike or watched me ride past them. I know there were a lot of them because they would stop doing whatever they were doing to watch this overloaded bicycle ridden by some funny looking guy with curly hair and a wind burned face go past them.