Thursday, December 11, 2008

When all I said and done...

From Longview it was 2 more days to home. The first day was my coldest yet as I got rained on from Vader to Chehalis and my right foot fell numb and white for several hours (I have since bought rain guards for my feet for future rides). My buddy Dan "the Great Gormbini" picked me up and took me to his new home. Thx Dan!

I left the next morning for my last ride of this journey. I had dry clothes and clear brisk sky to work with. It was truly a beautiful winter day for my arrival. I couldn't be happier.

I saw this placard in a hotel back in Rio Dell California. It made me laugh. Because most of the time it is probably very true. But for this trip I didn't say much... and I got a lot done.

Oregon to Seattle

In Crescent City California I had some choices to make. I wanted to be home by December 7th, but it was clear that I wasn't getting the miles in to make the timelime. I was about 2 days behind.

EXPLICIT *** I was also bleeding badly after riding. My urine the night in crescent city was a completely red. It was significantly worse than any time before. I had been bleeding for several weeks but the visible blood seemed to go away by the next morning everyday. I felt fine and never weak nor did I show sign of fatigue, until my ride to the Oregon border.

I left from Crescent City and rode inland toward Grants Pass Oregon on highway 199. Narrow cliff side roads overlooking the white water rapids of the Smith River were chilling. The deep caverns sometimes led to open pools of crystal clear water. I could only imagine how cold it was.

But the breathtaking scenery would only take my motivation so far. I was weakening and my legs were not performing as usual. I was nautious and terribly stiff and needed more regular breaks to manage the inclines over this pass. Was is just the cold getting to me? Or was this bleeding something serious to be concerned about? Insecurity about my condition began to accellerate worries about a kidney or urinary infection. I had some abdominal pain as well. It was time to think about health and some rest.

Luckily, I have a long time friend Ericka in Medford Oregon. Even more fortuitous, her father Jerry was in Cave Junction, 30 miles ahead of me on business. Ericka and I weren't sure if we would see each other on this trip since Medford was off my direct path, but the stars aligned and my health concerns warranted the break. So I met her father at Cave Junction and we drove back to Medford and I had dinner with the Burns family.

Ericka has been ill for quite a while and I wish her the best in her recovery. We were sick buddies together the next morning each in our own recliners watching trash TV. It was fun to see her, her bright smile and her parents once again. Thank you guys for the hospitality and needed recovery.

Because of the cold and expected conditions, I decided to take a train from Medford to Portland
Oregon. This would put me back on the timeline for arriving in Seattle on December 7th and it would afford me another days rest for me to recover. I had never taken a train that I can remember (I bet mom corrects me on this though), so it seems like a decent alternative and memory for this trip.

I arrived at Portland's Union Station around 4 PM December 4th and thought I would get a workout at the local Gold's Gym just a couple of miles away. After that I would get a short night ride out of the city to a hotel before tomorrow's ride to Longview Washington. The workout proved a great idea and the ride of 25 miles at 35 degress was a little longer than I anticipated. But there isn't much outside of Portland travelling north on highway 30. I stopped at a little bed and breakfast called the Scappose Creek Inn.

The bleeding was bad once again, however, I had an appointment in Longview to see a doctor for a urine and blood test the next day.

Lee and Deborah have been longtime friends from the early 90's and my college days. Their daughter Faith and I bet high stakes on a game of pool. I put up 100 million and she gambled her college tuition. When I won I settled (out of court) for a piece of Hubba Bubba chewing gum.

I saw the doctor and was told to rest, but most importantly, I had no infection. This likely culprit was diagnosed as "exercise induced hematuria" that would diminish after I took some time off.

... So I stayed an extra day to watch the complete destruction of boxing legend Oscar de la hoya by the mexicutioner Manny "Pac Mac" Pacquiou. Thanks Lee and Deborah. I always feel welcome at your home. See you after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The final two weeks revisted... I have heard from many of you that I didn't update the last two weeks of the tour. For that I apologize. I was exhausted from the arrival home and I just wanted to let everyone know I made it.

So here are details from Thanksgiving on...

Arriving on the west coast was special. Seeing the Pacific triggered emotions of completion and accomplishment that were mine to relish for the chilled moments I stared over the cliffs in complete awe of how far I had come.

These waters would also mark the beginning of a distinct climate shift. No longer would the sun provide warmth and comfort. And the daily ride became more a quest of survival toward the next evening shelter. My endurance would soon be tested on greater levels.
For the next two days I passed through several coastal communities climbing up down the mountanous cliffs. The views provided by the assortment of rock formations accompanied by the endless sounds of the saltwater's powerful force smashing against the beaches seemed infinite. Every angle looking at the same formations transformed the spectacle of beauty into a new perfect image. I couldn't stop enough times to capture the complete beauty and enormity of California's north coast.
At Westport California, the road turned inland to a 3000 foot climb toward the redwood forest. I was looking forward to speeding through the Avenue of the Giants. I remember as a child and then again as a teenager, from a car, the ride through the massive trees. The ride on the bicycle prove to be even more humbling. The roads were narrow and the trees passed by more slowly. Some of the giants encroach into the road and completely shadow the light from the sun. Its cooler and darker here and quietly surreal. I made it 95 miles this day to a motel in Rio Dell California, just outside the southern redwoods. Tomorrow I would be in Eureka.

On my way to Eureka, I suffered my second crash. This time I could only laugh. I was pedalling about 8-10 mph up a straight slow incline on a busy narrow single lane two way highway. The shoulder was useless to me because it was a soft dirt and rock mixture my tires were far to narrow to glide over. I caught the front edge of a small L shaped piece of tree branch with my front tire and it flipped up into my spokes, halting the bike as I quickly squeezed onto the brakes. The wood jammed between the spokes and the front forks elevating the weigth of my pack and the rear of the bike over the top of the front wheel. But it all happened in seemingly slow motion because of the relatively slow speed I was travelling. I felt like I was suspended for a moment, balancing on the front wheel before gently laying the bike in the soft shoulder as the rear of the bike rolled over on top of me completing the full sommersault. Luckily, I fell away from the traffic and not into the congested road. Once again, I found myself laughing at the moment. I picked up the little 6 inch stick that stopped over 200 pounds of momentum in split second. Then I looked at the front wheel expecting spokes to be bent or broken. Absolutely nothing. Wow! I wish I could have seen the crash from the 3rd perspective's point of view. I put the stick in my jacket pocket... I will burn it later.

I wasn't quite in the clear from the crash. My front wheel was no longer round but it was ridable. It would be nearly 60 miles and a day later that I would find my way to Adventure's Edge in Arcata California to replace the wheel and get a few necessary tune up repairs.
The cold weather would prove to test my resolve the next day as the winter air in the upper 30's numbed my hands and feet quickly. My tires struggled to maintain tire pressure as well, and I found myself fixing 4 flats in the 1st 20 miles. I needed a break and the Palm Cafe had the warmth and friendly people I needed to cheer me up. It was Betsy's birthday so it was eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes and birthday cake for breakfast. Two hours later I was on my way to Crescent City, anticipating my next ride to the Oregon Border.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Home - whatever that means

I'm home. After arriving at dusk on Monday the 8th, enduring a rapidly decreasing temperature, I sat on the porch at my friend Junior's house. I just sat down absorbing the moment trying to contemplate the fact that my journey was complete. There would be no getting up to ride tomorrow. Exhaustion overwhelmed the moment from the 90 miles I just pedalled through the a cold winter day. I collapse backward, resting my wool hat covered head onto the deck, and fell asleep...

Home is an elusive word for me right now. I don't really now where it is. There are many places I am welcome but no place any longer I want to call home. Much of this tour has turned out to be a discovery of what "home" will be for me in the future. The good thing is that I have a options. Great options!!!

So there isn't much else to say now that I am finished. But there will be another adventure to follow soon. I promise you.

Thanks for being here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Thanksgiving Feast

For those of you who I talked with before Thanksgiving, there was little doubt from you I would find an appropriate Thanksgiving celebration. But I wasn't so convinced. There were few towns and few people in those towns as the coast and highway 101 has entered its offseason. About 3PM and 60 miles after Tomales I found myself in Gualala, tired and in need of some warmth.
Coastal biking is not easy. The road is a consistent hillside leading to the cliff that looks over the ocean. Then it turns inland down a steep slope that eventually turns shaped like a horseshoe and circles back up to another hillside and repeats the pattern over and over. The hillside is steep and slow and brightens as it faces the ocean and open skies. The horseshoe turns cold and dark and misty as the downward slope propels the bike faster toward the next rising hillside. It is repetitively breathtaking.

The landed flattened as I approched Gualala (pronounce Wallala) and I stopped at the first available open location. It was the Gualala Hotel. Inside were are few vacationers, a happy bartender and a open seat. I took it and ordered the local beer. I asked if the kitchen was open and the bartender let me know the Turkey was almost ready. They had only one meal and it was the perfect Thanksgiving feast.

From Gualala, I woke up the next morning with a Thanksgiving hangover. I can't decide if it was the stuffing or the wine. I'll never know.

From Gualala, I headed to Westport and through Fort Bragg. I enjoyed much of the same coastal scenery I had the last two days. But I knew after Westport I was heading inland to the Redwood forest. So I made several stops to soak in the setting and best implant the memory of these gorgeous days in my mind. California's northern coast is a guaranteed future cycling destination for me to return to.

I arrived at Westport just after dark to meet Otto and get a full nights rest in one of his 6 motel rooms. I would wake in the morning at 5:30 where Otto was already up making coffee. Otto has owned the Westport Inn since 1972 and it is his habit and pleasure to make coffee and invite his motel guests into his home for some of his homemade jam and cookies. It was a real treat to hear is story and meet such a pleasant man. Thanks Otto. I was off by 7AM.

I know by know that heading to the coast and leaving the coast means a climb is ahead of me. And I was right. After several thousand feet of ups and down (mostly ups), with switchbacks and virtually no traffic, I found myself at the entrance to the redwood forest in Leggett California.

I cried pride

Pictures to follow...

I left Tomales as light appeared. There was no rain or much wind to speak of. But it was bitter cold and I was determined to see the coast.

Today was an I-pod shuffle day. My buddy Ben sent me this little blue gadget filled with hours and hours of comedy and music. Today was one of those days where I tune out the other sounds and soak in the scenery motivated by a hard leg pounding ride and rolling hills. I grit my teeth and keep warm by the sheer pace and energy exerted from mashing the pedals over and over again.

As the rising sun glowed through the clouds, the cars passing me were nearly all carrying surfboards. One after the other the speeding cars reminded me I was getting close. I pushed harder and sped faster down the winding hills until a rightward incline opened up the sky and below there was no more land. I was looking over a cliff to the daring surfers below as my ipod blared an appropriate song adding to the magnificence of the storied moment in which I was my own main character. I've travelled coast to coast (the long way) and I cried tears of pride.

I coasted down the cliff road to the parking lot where the surfers were scurring to get out of the water and catch the next wave. The water was 51 degrees one of them told me. Another asked me how far I had been riding. When I said "from Tampa, and this was my first time to see the west coast", he welcomed me with the perfect surfer's response. "Happy f***ing Thankgiving dude!"

My first day of cold rain

...It was really just a drizzle with small spurts of rain. But it was cold none the less. Jason drove me across the Golden Gate bridge to a little breakfast cafe, where I ate a 2nd breakfast and did my best to mentally engage in the cycle weather I was forcing myself to pass through.

San Fransisco is truly a bike friendly community. Beyond just the friendly drivers and the multitude of bike trails, there are actually tons and tons of bikes on the road. San Francisco is the only place in my entire trip where I witnessed a true integration of cycling into commuting life. WTG San Fran.

I sort of weaseled my way through the town of Marin trying to stay close to Hwy. 101, hoping that I would pick up 101 sometime soon after San Francisco to head north toward Eureka. It wasn't to be. 101 is a major highway and not for cyclists, so I change my anticipated route once again and heading west toward the coast.

Of course, this included a challenging uphill just after I past San Quentin prison. For the first time I was swallowed in the canopy of trees with the sound of a rushing streaming to my right. I hadn't seen running water since the bayou's in Louisiana, and it's presence reminded me nostalgically of the streams at home. I was certainly getting close.

The canopy protected me from the drizzle, but patter of rain collecting on the leaves and then falling in colletive drops would intermittently strike me as a cold splash to my face. The only exposed skin to the weather on my rain guarded body. But my feet would soon feel the effects of the water seeping through my cycling shoes. And I once again had a new element to overcome.

Once the toes go numb there is little to feel but much to be concerned about (so I hear). It would take nearly 3 hours for my toes to thaw out tonight. I rode through to dark and found myself in Tomales, CA at The Continental Inn. This was a cute colonial like bed and breakfast with a nice lady, Peggy, who I hinted to (and then she offered) to wash and dry my clothes for me. It was just one night before Thankgiving.