We worked into the afternoon finishing up the last blog post in Portland, eating local artisan bread and jam at the hostel and then packed the bikes to leave the city. After just about a month on the road, the vast majority of our nights have been spent in our tents, with our bikes by our side... home is where the bike is! While in Portland, however, we had left our bikes on the street and carried our luggage into the hostel - up staircases and down corridors before spreading out all of belongings on the floor of a shared dorm. The difference was notable and it felt bizarre to be out and about, far away from our bikes that had been so consistently within our sight. Packing the bikes involved several trips to and from our room, trying to carry as many items as possible while maintaining a free hand to manage door handles and key cards.
All was under control and the bikes were almost packed when Ben's bike went toppling over, knocking into Dom's bike which in turn fell ever so slowly into a brand new BMW GS 650 parked slightly too close to the Alaskentina circus on the slanted city street. Tym called out "The beemer, the beemer!" as he grabbed onto the handle bar of Dom's bike while throwing his hip into Ben's bike, stalling its journey to the asphalt dotted with old chewing gum and oil stains. Ben was able to grab onto the BMW before it lost its balance and the two boys, hearts pounding, stood awkwardly supporting three bikes under the blistering sun until Dom came slowly wandering back from returning keys and filling up water bottles. Despite the shaky start, we were back on the road, jackets unzipped to let the warm wind come in and circulate around our wet t-shirts, damp with sweat.
We would ride west for a couple of hours back towards the coast, passing through inspiring farmland lined with perfectly straight rows of grapevines and lines of mown crops complementing the handsome hills, softly undulating against the horizon: an elegant intersection between mankind and the once wild landscape of the Pacific North West. Old barns dotted the agricultural oasis, crumbling back into the soil in the shadow of new buildings poised to take on the future of cultivation.
Once on the coast again, the temperature dropped suddenly and drastically. The mist returned to the road, hanging over us and our bikes, giving an almost eerie feeling to the cliffs, trees, and water that were muted in colour by the stubbornly thick grey-white vapour. Our speed decreased with the visibility and the S curves and U turns of the spaghetti-like roads grew in number and intensity. The sun did break through occasionally revealing fantastic cliffs covered by windswept shrubs and the bright sea of pastel blue that crept up in shallow waves onto the shore. It felt as though we were riding along the frame of a painting that we would never be able to afford.
Small towns came along a dime a dozen, and we settled on a campsite at Alder Dunes where we stumbled upon vast sand dunes in the middle of the forest, at least a kilometre in from the shoreline! Pictures were hard to take over the course of the day as the vistas were so brief between the cold stretches of mist, but it was a stretch of road that will not be forgotten.
The next day was our last in Oregon which had been full of beauty and amazement. We really could have spent at least a month exploring the state. With the farms, the rainforest, the cliffs, the sand dunes, the green ferns, the grey water and blue water, the long bridges and high bridges, the hot sun and cold mist, the small towns and the big city. It has it all.
We stopped at Gold Beach, venturing down past a gate under the elegant Rogue River Bridge. Tym and Ben took the thin dirt track past the gate, almost tipping over as their saddle bags scraped the posts and shrubs bordering the narrow path before Dom quietly pushed open the unlocked gate. With age comes wisdom. Dozens of low lying fishing boats mingled in the foggy bay, as we lined up the bikes for a photo and spent a minute soaking in the beauty of the coastal town. The next stop was in a town called Brookings, the last in Oregon along Highway 1, for a big supper before reaching the Golden State where we camped among the redwoods - our first taste of the famous evergreens. The redwood species is known for its towering trees which are the largest and tallest in the world and live for thousands of years. Yes, thousands. They have a thick corduroy texture that runs up and down their enormous trunks and they stand together shoulder to shoulder in the forest providing a cool climate under the sky-high canopy.
Our first morning in the California was as cold as Oregon and we were beginning to wonder if the state would ever warm up. The highway then turned inland and the heat was unbearable. Even at 100km/h the air was hot and did little to cool us down. A taste of reality for the next chapter in our journey south. Along the road that day we saw signs of the devastaing drought and wildfires that have been affecting the area. On the roadside were numerous water-use advisories and firefighters putting out hot-spots in the dry undergrowth. A stark reminder of reality for the locals as our care-free journey continued through their homeland. Still wearing sweaters and long johns from the chilly morning, we stopped at the first town for an ice cream and to shed some layers before turning on to the 'Avenue of Giants' which is a spectacular secondary road through the redwood forest. We stopped for pictures now and then and really enjoyed the ride, finishing the day with a swim in the South Fork Eel River.
Taking you back now a few weeks to Northern BC, we had met an energetic American boasting about Highway 101. "Where the 101 meets the 1," he told us, "there is a town called Leggett. It's f@#$ing epic bro! You're dodging redwoods going around twisties all day. You might get stuck behind minivans checking out the view but I just double-yellow pass those f@#$ers!" Well, we were approaching Leggett and his voice echoed in our heads - we needed to get on to this road! We were now prepared for the heat, without any sweaters or long johns, and after a stop by the drive-thru Chandelier Tree, a 2400 year old Redwood that you can pay $3 to ride right through, we followed his advice and took Highway 1, also called The Redwood Highway, back out to the coast. Well, our friend was absolutely right, and described it perfectly - nothing more needed!
We got back to the coast, hitting another wall of frigid air on the way and once again a stop was in order but this time to warm up. Highway 1, now dubbed The Shoreline Highway, put us back in the mist and the fog along the rugged coastline. Giant jagged rocks were partly plunged in the froth of the shallowing ocean appearing to have been plucked from a prehistoric time as age-old sea birds swept down to feed on the barren rock. Where farmland was feasible, the crops held on to sloping plateaus that tilted towards the abrupt edge of the cliff. This stretch of road had more twists and turns and from various hilltops the road could be seen weaving in and out of view behind hills and through trees. Just perfect. It really felt as though the road was custom built for us... except for all the other drivers!
We crossed lush valleys, stopped at a beautiful lighthouse, and watched webs of tangled tree branches pass us by through the autumnal weather before stopping at Salt Point State Park for the night. With a hot campfire burning the local hardwood late into the night, we sat together reflecting on many topics that have crossed our individual minds throughout our journey thus far. In particular, we discussed our society's growing addiction to technology. We all reluctantly agreed that although this trip has taken us away from screens for most of the day, we were still reaching for our iPhones at every stop, checking with waitresses for the wifi password. Much of our time online was spent ordering spare parts, updating our website with photos, and keeping in touch with friends and family, but there was still enough mindless social media browsing that we agreed to reduce our technology time, and to spend more time actively absorbing the local cultures and people.
We packed our gear in the morning, cell phones buried deep in our pockets, with San Francisco set in our sights. We ventured east, away from the coast, and the heat increased along with the traffic as rural communities condensed into urban suburbs. Crossing over the lower deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, we leaned into a heavy cross wind that rushed in off the San Francisco Bay. The steep hills and split-level streets of the Bay Area welcomed us to El Cerrito where we would spend the next few days with Ben's cousins. Tires and oil were changed, a gasket and fuel filter were replaced, and some electrical gremlins were settled on the street in front of Beebo and Tom's house in Berkeley where sandwiches made with love were generously brought to us and required tools were made available. The work was done between delicious feasts of Italian pasta, Mexican tacos and artisan pizzas, and cold local beers were never far from mind or mouth as we enjoyed a continuation of the brewpub culture of the west coast. We would like to extend a sincere thank you to the California Cousins, in particular Brenna and Devon, for making our stay here so easy, so enjoyable, and so unforgettable. Your generosity is much appreciated and our stay has been incredibly comfortable. Thank you!
Today Dom's bike will be put back together again and a few supplies will be replenished as we prepare to leave English North America and begin our journey into the land of cervezas, surfing, and siestas.