Okay, so I left off a million days ago at the Starbucks in Fortuna, CA with my newly made friend, Andrew. We decided to head out towards Eureka together, then split off, me heading to my Warm Showers host and him heading to… somewhere; he’d find a place.
We scooted along with the Pacific ocean visible to our left (makes for super easy navigation) and eventually came to my exit. We exchanged numbers in case we might meet up again, then I headed off through town, up and over a series of increasingly steep hills, as always, to my Warm Showers house.
Can I add here that the steeper and frequenter the hills on route to a hosts house may or may not directly correlate with how freaking awesome the people there will be?
As I huffed and puffed my way up, I kept this in mind, and once I reached the Lemmon’s house, my theory was proved correct. Barbie and their in-process-of-being-adopted-forever-and-ever son, Quaden, greeted me at the door and led me around to the backyard.
I met the dogs, the neighbor’s cat, and put up my tent under the careful observation of Quaden. He told me about some of the many other cyclists who had passed through, and then we looked at bugs and snails under an old board lying in the grass.
After my little home was situated, I went in, met CJ and Brian, the two adult foster guys living there as well, and took a nice warm shower, and Barbie let me wash a badly needed load of laundry in their sing-songy washer & dryer set. I had to put on a goofy outfit of cleanish clothes while those were in the wash; a nice dress shirt and long johns. Classy.
After a bit, Dal came home from making pizza with kids at Betty Chinn’s (a major helper of the homeless and underprivileged in the region, like Eureka’s own Mother Teresa). Dal does this every Thursday and the kids totally know they’re gunna have a treat when he walks in the door.
He makes the pizza dough using the twenty-year-old sourdough starter they have. It’s seriously like a family pet now. He made some more pizzas and bread for dinner, and Barbie whipped up this great quinoa casserole for us. Seriously yum.
We all sat around talking for a long time, found out we both have the same cell phone company (Republic Wireless, which rules, and yes, we were very excited when we found out we were both Republic members), and just generally basked in the glow of a warm kitchen filled with the smells of fresh baked bread.
Eventually though, my frequent yawns indicated that my body was ready for bed, so I slipped out to my cozy abode in the yard and zonkered out. In the morning, more delicious bread was made, and they even packaged up a little bit of the starter for me to attempt to make it home alive with.
I figured out my route, said bye to my wonderful hosts, and soon was scooting out in the crisp autumn air, necessitating gloves to keep my fingers from breaking off like the little icicles they were.
Dal had told me that there was a Winco in town the night before, so I made it my mission to visit that old friend of mine; the first Winco we’d seen since May probably. I stopped in, got some bulk goodies, and hit the road again.
I zipped along 101 all day, and stopped for a lunch break at the Humbolt Lagoon State Park Visitor’s Center. I started chatting with the lady, Marna, who runs the kayak rental shop and keeps the visitor’s center up and running. I was telling her about my hosts last night, and brought in some leftover bread to share that Barbie had sent with me that morning. I asked Marna if she’d like any of the starter currently resting in my bag, and it turned out that that very morning she had been thinking of making bread for dinner but lamented not having any starter… Things just work out perfectly sometimes, and so when I left after lunching, it was with a smile on my face and a hug from a new friend.
I continued on, taking the Newton B Drury scenic parkway off 101 north of Orick. On the Stinkel Tour of 2013, we were heading south on 101 and, not knowing the conditions ahead, opted to stay on 101. This was the biggest mistake as we found ourselves climbing up what we later deemed Death Mountain, the roads covered in centipedes, and finding a bloated dead deer wrapped up in a sleeping bag at the peak. On entering Orick after having spent the night on Death Mountain, a lady at the general store told us the scenic alternate was actually a lot less steep, a shorter distance, less trafficked, and just generally a lot more beautiful.
So, lesson well learned, I took the scenic route and found myself quietly rolling under the lofty branches of ageless giants. There was a state park campground on the route, but I had other plans for that night. I wanted to sleep IN a tree, and wouldn’t rest till I had found the perfect one.
As dusk approached, I would stop off at promising trees along the roadside and see if they would make a suitable home for the night. Eventually I did find one, and dragged my bike up and tucked it away, invisible to any passing cars.
I climbed in under the roots of this tree, like a fox burrowing in, and my nose was filled with the musty scent of damp and earth and the soil cradled me in its arms for the night. It was just the magic I was searching for.
note: it was not the tree pictured about, though that one would have been nice…
I woke early the next morning, and continued on my way. I stopped for bit in Crescent City to charge up, perhaps eat some pies, and impulse bought a pair of socks. I was excited to scoot across the Oregon border though, so I didn’t linger long.
I did stop at the casino just before the border to get my fill of free coffees, gamble away two of my hard earned dollars, and reminiscence our shenanigans from the previous tour, where we sneaky camped in the dog poo zone and drank lots of coffee before bed. Such is the life.
But I had a home state to return to, so I continued on. No long after, I spotted the sign marking the entrance of my final (or first) state, and hustled on up. A car pulled up just as I did, three folks visiting Oregon from Humbolt State College, so we swapped photography skills and went on our way.
As I hopped back on my scoot, the rain began to fall. Thank you Oregon… knew I could count of you for that… It was a soggy ride through Brookings, and as I rode along, expecting a campground where there wasn’t one, it began to get darker and rain harder. I eventually had to just pull over to the side of the road, and throw up the tent in the pouring rain.
Everything, including myself, was completely soaked. I climbed in and threw on some semi dry clothes, bundled up best I could, and zonked out. I woke with the sun in the morning, and had spectacular views of the the Oregon coast shadowed by thick boiling clouds overhead. It was still raining on and off, but I had a good goal today to motivate me to scoot on; I had planned to meet up with my pal Steveo at Humbug Mountain State Park (Oregon has the best state parks, by the way).
So I sped along, stopping for just a bit at Gold Beach to munch some breakfast, and the thought of seeing my friend and having a big dry tent and cozy blankies spurred me on. I did see a big dead whale beached on my way along, people milling about it’s huge rotting spine, so that was interesting…
I arrived, having biked the 45 or so miles before 11, and quickly changed into the remaining semi-dry clothes I had squandered away for just this moment. Steveo showed up a bit after I did, and it was fantastic to see her again. It had been over a year and a half, as she had returned from her nine month trip to Chile just a week after we had left, but the great thing about great friends is that you can just pick up right where you left off.
So we did just that, and set up the big four person tent, piled in all the blankies and snacks, and I even convinced her to drive me up to Port Orford so I could toss my sodden sleeping bag and clothes in the dryer and get some extra munchies for our party tent.
When we got back to the campground, we took a walk on the beach, which is incredible, and Steveo said it made her feel like she was in some far away country, with the huge rocks and cliffs cragging up out of the sand.
We went back to the tent and lazed about, munching, drinking, and catching up for hours, listening to the rain pelting the tent, cozy in our nest. As soon as it started getting dark though, my yawns began, and we fell asleep before nine. Talk about a couple of party monsters.
In the morning the sun came out and we went for another walk on the beach, and packed up the tent. After that, we sat just sat around in the sun on the sidewalk, while I laid out my tarps and such to dry.
Just before three, we were talking with the camp host and I was thinking about about heading out to make the short trip to my warm shower host in Bandon. I had looked up the mileage a few day ago, and knew it wasn’t a full day of travel, but when the host told me it’d be about 35 miles I knew I needed to get my butt in gear.
I finished packing up, said bye to my pal, and put on a burst of speed, wanting to arrive before the ever earlier nightfall. I had messaged Brian, my host, a few days prior asking if I could stay, and he said, “sure, bring your stank ass on!” and that I’d need to cook him dinner as he relished turning vegetarians and vegans back to the carnivorous side, so I knew I was in for a fun night.
Just as I was pulling into Bandon, I stopped and picked up supplies to make a big spaghetti dinner, and the sun finished falling by the time I got back on my bike. So I biked the final mile or so in the dark, and luckily as I pulled onto the gravel road leading to my host’s house, his wife, Nicole, and little daughter Olivia were driving out for basketball practice and told me which house was theirs.
I arrived and met Brian, their son Raleigh, their dog Roxie, and another cyclist, Andie, a Brazilian gal who had been there for a few days. I felt at home immediately. Andie was been looking at getting a small dog at the pound in Coos Bay and asked if I thought she was crazy for it. I right away assured her that it was probably the best idea in the whole world.
When later she found out that I had been cycling with my little pal, she said oh course I didn’t think it was nuts of her to get a dog… I had had a rat with me!
Anyways, we all just hung out, talked, had a collaborative spaghetti cooking party, and enjoyed the meal together. Sitting with Brian and Nicole afterwards, we were talking about his childhood in upstate New York, and he told about how his parents had given him this wonderful malamute dog when he was like six and they were best pals. Once day a vacuum sales lady came by, and when she left, he saw that she had the dog jump up into the car with her before she drove off. He walked into the living room and asked his parents where the lady was taking the dog and they just said, “Oh, she really liked her so we gave her away.”
We were all laughing about this awful story, but then a bit later when I was loving on Roxie talking about how I really wanted a dog, Brian said to take her (she doesn’t bark, and he wants a better guard dog). Nicole and I were quick to point out that he was repeating the cycle and that I would just be the vacuum sales lady in this scenario! We were all laughing, but they really were serious that I could have Roxie if I wanted her… a trip down the coast may be in my future plans then…
In the morning, I said bye to everyone and scooted to Coos Bay to go to the post office and loiter. I’d be meeting my dad, aunt, and dad’s lady friend that evening at Sunset Bay State Park and I had all day to tool around. I ate pies, played on the internet, and got caught up on my letter writing.
As it got late, I headed out to bike the ten more miles to the park. It got dark and foggy on my way, so I had to make full use of my ultra-super-bright headlight. As I finally was arriving at the park, I could hear someone calling off in the distance, and realized they were looking for their dog in the pitch dark.
I scooted back, and into a empty parking lot, save one car, and found a gal with big curly red hair and thick clear framed glasses hollering for her pup. She had been calling for an about an hour, but was pretty confident that he’d be able to find his way back. She’d been out watching waves on the cliff side, and this one hadn’t come back to the car with her and her other dog.
I couldn’t bring myself to help call (I can’t yell, for some reason it’s really embarrassing for me… Sarah, the girl, totally called me out on that), but I beamed my flashlight around the woods and the darkness around us. I was all nervous that perhaps something happened like the dog fell into the ocean or got eaten by a mountain lion or another million different things, and I offered to give her one of my lights, or to go retrace her steps on the trail, but she didn’t want me to have to go out of my way or have to leave my light there.
Then she remembered that she had a candle in her trunk and asked if I had a light, and like the good little boy scout I am, I produced. We got the candle lit and just laughed because, though it was a charming light in the darkness of the woods around us, it wasn’t very bright and surely wouldn’t aid much in the finding of the dog.
So we stood around more and we talked about the bike trip, punctuated by hollers of “here boy!” and “cooome on boy!” At one point though she calls out, “good boy! oh good boy!” and a fat little jack russel terrier comes trotting up and sniffs my scoot. She scooped him up in her arms, and it was just a really beautiful moment in the darkness, her face flooded with a smile, and them haloed in the night of the candle.
Mission accomplished, I scooted on, and found the yurt which was to be home fort he night, and had to scrounge around for a place with cell signal to find out what the code was to get inside.
I eventually got in, and blasted the heater, sitting at the table writing letters for hours. I left my bike on the porch and multiple times I’d go peek and find raccoons attempting to get into my panniers. After their third venture, I just brought cycle scoot inside with me, and tucked him behind the bunk bed.
As it got later and later I started to worry when they would get there, and when they finally showed up around 10:30 I was fighting sleep as they excitedly told me about hitting a huge owl on their way. I later deemed it a drive by hooting. Har-Har.
But we all managed to stay up till two a.m. playing games and catching up before I was too tired to stand it any longer and zonked out.
We got up early the next morning and hung about snacking before heading out to walk to the beach down the road. We each were absorbed with finding treasures, watching waves, sitting and talking now and then, and of course, petting all the dogs. After that beach was thoroughly explored, we hiked up and around and down a treacherous path to another little beachlet, and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring that one. The day was bright and sunny, there were hermit crabs and snails aplenty, and I sprawled out and took a nap in the sand.
We came back to the yurt later, and my dad and I made a cookie/wine run to the closest town, where a man in a fake beard and glasses came into the convenience store and the clerk just asked him to leave…
We didn’t stay up as late that night, and woke earlyish in the morning to pack. My dad was to be joining me for the last 180 or so miles, so we loaded up our bikes and hit the road around nine, where I had to make multiple stops to get groceries for dinner, drop letters off in the mail, and pick up a spare shifter cable.
We stopped at McDonald’s for pies and so I could plan our route ahead, and my Auntie Clair and Shery stopped by with coffee and to say a final goodbye. They were playing paper football and Adam (my dad) flicked it directly into this old lady’s head across the way. Can’t take him anywhere…
Once we got going again, we made another quick pitstop at a thrift store to try to find some sore of basket for Adam to put his water bottle and handy things in on his front rack. He got this perfect little bucket, we rigged it up, and scooted on.
On the bridge out of town, the bike lane was incredibly narrow and four or five different cars honked and/or flipped me off as they drove past. This was literally the rudest people had been on the entire trip, and it was right here in my supposedly bike-friendly state! Oh well…
We rode out to Honeyman State Park, and Adam did fantastic, in fact he was just scooting along ahead of me nearly the whole day, so when he asked how the hills compared to others on this trip, I had to act all boss and be like, “what hills? I didn’t even notice any hills…”
At the park, we scooted to the welcome center yurt, and ate our dinner of beans and played farkel (also called ten thousand, a dice game) till well after dark and the rain slowed down. We marched out to the hiker/biker spot and I set up the tent and we zonked.
I got up early the next day and packed and waiting for the old man to wake. We zipped up to Florence, about eight miles, and stopped at the McDonalds for pies, coffee, oatmeal breakfast, and more letter writing.
We scooted on, and had great views of the coast, stopping at one point for pb&j bagels. A few miles after that we rolled into Yachats where there was a restaurant my dad recommended, so we stopped for beers and a second lunch. Now that’s traveling in style!
But then it was getting late and we still had 25 more miles to go, so we zipped out. I saw a dead black bear on the side of the road, the first time I’d seen bear roadkill…
We stopped a bit earlier than anticipated because it was getting dark, and found a day use area to sneakily throw the tent up in. It was incredibly windy out, but thankfully it didn’t rain, and we fell asleep with the sound of the waves crashing just a few hundred feet away.
We got out of there early in the morning and headed into Newport. The McDonald’s in town had no outlets, so we did our morning loiter at the Starbucks in the Fred Meyer on the far side of town. After that, more scooting, and we entered Lincoln City, where we stopped for a quick beer at the Rusty Truck brewing co, and called my grandpa to wish him a happy birthday. The dude is 77 now!
When we left, Adam put plastic bags over his shoes, and thoroughly embarrassed me like the good father he is, and soon enough we were taking our exit of 101 and onto hwy 18 and heading inland and for home!
We crossed the coast range, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be (maybe just from perspective of crossing other mountainous regions), and made it to Spirit Mountain Casino for free coffee, a warm building, and perhaps just a bit of video poker (I had my did quit while he was ahead, and we earned six bucks while being entertained and dry).
Outside, we rolled behind to the employee break area and took over some picnic tables under some canopies to make ramen soupy dinner out of the rain. Security may have came by to ask why we were there, but I shrugged them off. There weren’t any signs saying we couldn’t be there.
We talked with some of the employees and we ate, then scooted out to check the situation with RV lot and see if we could pull off a sneaky camp there. But there were cameras and it was patrolled, so we decided not to push our luck. Adam knew of a park just up Hebo Lake Road, so I figured we ought to go give it a chance.
It was dark out, and a bit frustrating to only be 25 miles from home, but we scooted along to the Fort Yamhill Heritage Area and scoped the place out. There were a few pre-fabs that we figured we could crash on the porch of, but then, as we were walking around with flashlights, we found this huge coliseum thing and some wonderfully covered wooden porches. Despite this place being so close to home, neither of us had ever been before, but it did serve to be a wonderful sneaky camp spot.
Security came by a few times in the night, but miraculously, their bouncing flashlight beam skipped over our hut and afforded us a nice dry night of sleep.
In the morning, it was quite chill, and rainy, and we waited for it to settle a bit before heading out. We passed Sheridan and all the roads were intimately familiar, the miles counting down to the end of this journey for me.
We stopped at the coffee shop next to the DQ and got in one last good loiter, somewhat reluctant to go home, but also eager to finally be back.
Then we left, with just 14 or so miles to go… and took the exit for McMinnville… and rolled onto third street dressed in full autumn colors… and into the bike lane on Evans which has felt the soft spin of my tires for years upon years… and turned onto my street… and finally, to home.