< Brookings, OR | Los Angeles, CA >

Sunnyvale, CA


I started this trip just over 100 days ago by disassembling my new bike, packing up my new gear and flying up to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. I had never been there before, and until a few months prior to the start, I hadn’t even known where Prudhoe Bay was on a map. But I was sure that this trip was something I was capable of doing, and the more I thought about it, something I had to do.

I’ve been asked many times what made me decide to do this trip. And the answer is that I don’t know. For the past several years I’d been fantasizing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or traveling around the world, or bicycling from Vancouver, B.C. to Tijuana, B.C.N. I don’t know why I started to dream of doing those things. But as the process of my life continued on, I felt more and more that I needed to do something. When I finally read about this trip, I immediately recognized it as being right, as fitting. I don’t remember the exact timing, but from reading about it to deciding I would do it took about two days. A week later I had started to take inventory of what gear I needed, and a month later I had already purchased my plane ticket.

So I don’t know what made me decide to undertake this trip. But it wasn’t a hard decision at all.

Anyway, when last you heard from me, I was in Brookings, OR. I am now back in Sunnyvale, CA. I was so excited to finally be back in California. A few miles after crossing the border I saw my first redwood tree, and the smell of it was so evocative of all of the hiking I did in the Santa Cruz mountains growing up, that I couldn’t help smiling. This was finally my country!

Around the time I reached Eureka, my 26th birthday rolled around. To my great delight, my parents, my brother Brian and my aunt Joanne all came out to help me celebrate. We had a great time, and my birthday cake was even larger than I could eat. Well done on the cake, Mom!

After they left on the 27th, I continued south into Humboldt Redwoods State Park and rode along the Avenue of the Giants. I went to the founders’ grove and paid my respects to the fallen Dyerville giant and learned that the Rockefeller grove has more biomass in it than any equivalent patch of rain forest. I finally made camp at Burlington State Park. At the campground I met Bill and Lynn again, who I originally met just north of the Washington/Oregon border. It was really great to see them again.

The next day I made the push over Leggett hill, and the hill after that to arrive at Westport Beach on the Mendocino coast. When I got there the wind was so strong that I couldn’t make a fire, so after finally getting the tent staked in and everything set up, I ate peanut butter sandwiches. By morning the wind had died down, and I headed south again. I think that I did more climbing on this day by going up and down along the coast than I did the previous day by climbing first a 2000 ft hill and then a 700 ft one. The whole day felt like climb, climb, climb, sharp twisty descent, 150 degree turn, and repeat. I feel that my technical descending skills improved greatly on that day. But there were places where the road flattened out, and they usually coincided with small or medium-sized towns. I stopped in the town of Mendocino to eat and check my email. The architecture there was beautiful, and it compares well with the stunning land and seascapes all along the Mendocino coast. I remember thinking at the time that I was unsure if Oregon or Mendocino had the better coast line. I’m inclined to believe Mendocino (of course they hardly compare to the Kenai Penninsula or the Alexander Archipelago in Alaska).

The next day I rode into Sonoma county just after the town of Gualala. Down the road at Fort Ross, I toured the rebuilt old Russian fort, and paid my respects the the southern-most extent of Russian Alaska. Fort Ross was built to grow grain to supply the operations up in Alaska. It failed in this, because the coastal climate is poor for growing wheat. But it succeeded wildly as a place for otter hunters to decimate the California Sea Otter population. I pushed on after a while, and ended the day at Bodega Dunes State Park.

After washing my underwear under a faucet, I hung them out to dry on a tree near my tent. I was all set for this to work out wonderfully (it usually does), but then I was surprised by rain during the night. I was too warm and dry inside my tent to bother about it, so I figured I’d let them had an additional natural rinse. In the morning I wrung them out as best as I could and packed them away. I had also left my matches out the previous night to let them dry further (they’d mysteriously gotten wet a few days before), and the rain made starting any sort of cooking fire with them a hopeless prospect. So I rode into the town of Bodega Bay, and went to see what the day old bread section of the supermarket had on offer. While eating breakfast outside the supermarket, I talked to a man who was employed as either a crab fisherman, or the local crazy (maybe he held both offices) about various fishing and otter related topics, and I learned of the theory that the California Sea Otter was actually hunted to extinction and the Sea Otters we have now are actually Alaskan Sea Otters. He may be right. I have no idea.

While riding down the road I passed a couple of cyclists ahead of me. When I looked at them I was surprised to see that they were the Belgian and Dutch cyclists that I’d met way back in Stewart, B.C.! We stopped ahead at the local market to catch up and discuss plans for further down the road. In case I didn’t mention it way back then, they are doing the same trip I am. It was fun to hear them speak Dutch with each other, and continually surprise them when I would agree or disagree with what they were saying. But we had different goals for the day, and so we finally parted ways in Point Reyes Station.

As I was leaving Point Reyes Station, I passed a bicycle shop. Figuring I’d stop in and check on whether they had the type of tire I wanted (a favorite activity of mine ever since my rear tire wore so thin it started to get flats like that was its job), I was delighted to learn that they had exactly what I wanted. The new tires handled so much better than my worn out ones and I could go over small bits of glass without busting out the patch kit. I was so happy!

And the day ended when I arrived in San Rafael to meet my brother (the same brother who came up for my birthday). He volunteers at a wild animal rehabilitation center called Wild Care, and it’s really neat. We went out for dinner at a local restaurant. On the menu they had the options of ordering a regular pizza (ideal for two people) or a mini (ideal for one), so I went for the regular. I guess the waitress couldn’t believe I’d want a regular because when the food came out I got a mini. I asked her about it, and she said she’d made a mistake and would put in the order for the large. After she walked off I figured I’d just eat the mini and another mini rather than letting it go to waste. When I ran this idea by her, she seemed relieved to have a solution that didn’t involve wasting the pizza and brought the original mini pizza back out. But after I’d eaten half the mini (a task that took no more than a couple of minutes), she said that it was too late to cancel the order for the large pizza, and she’d be bringing that one out as well. What’s this? A chance to prove to my brother that I could eat as much as I claimed I could! Alright! So I made short work of that second pizza and we retired to Berkeley to go play billiards and darts.

I spent the night on his sail boat, and in the morning he dropped me back off in Sausalito, where I made the ride across the bridge, through the beautiful city of San Francisco and down the coast to Half Moon Bay. There I turned inland and began a very long climb up highway 92 and Skyline in the sun, and met my Dad in Woodside for lunch. The day finally ended here in Sunnyvale. And now it’s break time again.

< Brookings, OR | Los Angeles, CA >