The real California

It’s now a few days past Thanksgiving and most food coma’s should left behind on the Lazy Boys and couches. Now, it’s the impending end of the year holiday, which for some brings out the proverbial ‘Grouch’ and others an intoxicatingly jovial character. Part of me really does miss this environment. It’s a lesson. Really, I do love the Christmas Holiday. I find myself humming or whistling the holiday songs somewhere around June, as I did while riding the Dalton Highway. It tends to get my mind off certain drudgery I’m experiencing. Maybe the songs actually help those who are subjecting themselves to the chaos and gluttony this time of year. Enough of this diatribe, we are nearly finished riding the coastal shoulder of California with Baja on the very close horizon. And it’s been great in so many ways!

We crossed into Cali October, 3rd on a very hot day. Maybe it was the heat, or the satisfaction of finishing the blog that day, or we had all of Cali to ride, but at some point my head went deep in reflection. Time, distance, elevation became the focus and it’s all relative. Time passes if we go or not, so make use of what we have. Distance is the space between points A & B & C & so on, and elevation will, be somewhere between. These don’t change. So it’s our choice to see the Western Hemisphere in this mode of transportation. If you read The Lost Coast blog you will understand the crazy shit we subject ourselves to see the seldom seen areas that grace our landscape. Bikepacking would open so much more to see.

This first night was among the giants at Jedidiah Smith Redwoods SP. Giant Redwood spanning hundreds of feet high, many living an average of 500-700 years with some as old as 2,000. However, because over 96% of the old growth have been logged it would be difficult to experience these ‘Old Souls’ very easily. Riding through made us feel very small.

A big focus of the WHP is to connect with elders, or members of Indigenous Nations to record their story of cultural effects from climate change, commercial industry, and consumerism and the Yurok was one such contact. Chinook salmon have been the food source of the Yurok for hundreds of years. They have been sacred to the Yurok and represent their culture. I spoke with Joe Hostler with the Yurok Environmental department and he said in the past decade or so they have experienced a drought on the Klamath river preventing it from naturally flushing rock-clinging parasites that cause Sea Shasta, a worm that kills the fry, thus impacting the necessary 12 thousand fish a year needed to sustain the tribe. However, by 2020 a dam 150 miles up the river is slated for decommission/ removal that would help in bringing that state of the river and that of the salmon back to a more natural existence. The full interview is under the Education-Interview tab on WHP website. 

Before our epic ride through the Lost Coast we stayed in Ferndale, a quaint Victorian town with all the buildings down Main Street on the National Historic Registry. What really caught my attention was the Mind’s Eye Coffee Lounge/ Manufactory, and True North Boats owned and operated by Marc and Lea Daniels.  The front houses the coffee lounge with a library, sea skeletons of walrus, pelicans, vertebrates, abalone shells, and antlers. Framed on the wall was a pair of handmade, beaded Aleut mittens. Suspended from the ceiling were three skin-on-frame sea kayaks. Through a large window at the back of the lounge is a view of a dreamy workshop where Marc conducts classes on boat building, Baidarka’s to be specific. The morning we left for the Lost Coast they sent us off with coffee and a couple Snickerdoodles. 

The fog shrouding Ft Bragg was ominous our morning of departure causing a safety concern – will drivers see us? The forecast of rain also had us leary of road conditions and drivers. We set up camp at Gualala Point and made dinner before the precip descended. With the thought we had set up in a hiker/ biker site we were greeted in the deluge by a park officer who made it clear we were in a reserved walk-in site that is $45 a night, not $10. It was either her sympathy and kindness, or her discomfort of getting soaked she let us stay without charging full price. Peter, a former Outward Bounder from the good ‘ole days in Whales, and Heather, retired school teacher from England stopped along the rode and invited us for tea and to share stories. They also are bike tourers and have traveled through many countries on bike. We journeyed on to Jenner where we had to stop at Cafe Aquatica, not for anything specific except the vibe. A man queried of my speaker on my handlebars, then stated he and his friend designed and built it in their studio apartment in San Francisco, then of course sold the business for big $$$$. If you do it right you can set up your tent in the back of the cafe as we did then wake to fresh baked goodies and coffee. And if you linger until noon there’s live music and pretty awesome locals. We met Ivan from Monte Rio who was really there to waste time and check wind patterns. When the wind shifted from the upper valley of the Russian River to that from the sea his mind altered to paragliding. He invited us to the bluffs looking out over Goat Rock. If you’ve seen Goonies, this is the place at the end where Captain Jacks Ship sails around the point. He then invited us to stay at his house and, to The Blue Heron for music later that night. The next morning he dropped us at the entrance to Goat Rock, we said our ‘see ya laters’ and took off. Up to this point the coast has been pretty epic. There are many hills, switchbacks, narrow shoulders, and traffic but the scenery makes up for it. 

We met many cyclists everyday, some we met weeks before whom we seem to do the hopscotch with. Father/ daughter, friends, couples, and solo cyclists are doing some section of the coast, a few, like us, the whole Western Hemisphere. We are everywhere! The next few nights where full of happy surprises through the generosity of strangers. Greg from Petaluma stopped at our camp thinking at first we were someone else but gave us a bottle of wine, bag of chips, and avocados. A friend of Ivans that lives in SF stopped by our hotel to give Alexia natural meds for her stomach and appetite. Then at the Costa Noa KOA, where we thought we could easily score a hiker/ biker site, was full to capacity. The new managers, Kelly and Dave, were so intrigued with our trip they led us to an epic site away from all others, with full access and use of the facilities without charging us. These folks among many others are who we call Road Saints. There are some out there who don’t qualify for this designation, raccoons! Many times in the middle of the night we are greeted by these bandits. One exceptional mid-night visitor was able to un-clip, and pry open Alexia’s pannier, pullout an unopened jar of peanut butter, unscrew the lid, peel back the foil and nosh four feet from our tent. Others took a liking to the cotton balls in Fitzroys trailer through which arms reached and grabbed and nibbled. Another morning we noticed his bag of food was chewed open with food and packaging spread everywhere. They had unlatched the metal clasp securing the food box. Needless to say those little fucks got what they wanted. 

The biggest concern cyclists have north of Big Sur is how to get past the massive Mud Creek slide that took out the road, and reshaped the coastline with over 5 million cubic yards of rock, mud and derbris. Two different thoughts on this passing; take the Nacimiento road before the village of Gorda which entails all traffic being rerouted, and a gnarley, long, and dirty ascent. Or, hang out at the Gorda Inn until the security guard leaves his post around 6:30pm then pedal on around the first gate, over three barricades down a rocky switchback and along the rest of the paved road for about 10 miles. You will also accumulate around 10,000 ft of elevation in this stretch. I hear if you get busted there is a $500 fine for every barricade you cross. Stealth Team 8 enjoyed their evening mission. Life’s too short not to take certain risks! 

“SIR, NO DOGS ON THE BEACH, AND IT MUST BE ON A LEASH!!” I gave Johnny Law a salute, clipped Fitz to the leash and walked back to our campsite. As I stepped foot onto our site I unclipped him. Seconds later, Sheriff Putz Stikler careens around the corner and pulls into our site, as I’m picking up Fitz’s poop, he confronts me. He tells me all I did, which I agreed to, then says there are signs saying dogs must be on a leash, and are not allowed on the beach, any state beach or park. This of course I didn’t agree to because, apparently the sign is on the trail on the other side of the building we walked behind, we didn’t see it. “This is your warning, next time I will cite you.” He drove off to examine the sign, then parked behind trees watching us. Can’t respect authority who can’t look you in the eyes without wearing their sunglasses. 

Eucalyptus takes on a more pleasant, Ayurvedic, menthalatum kinda scent when wet. We were biking in the rain to San Simeon and it was refreshing. The Elephant Seals were lounging and jousting and prepping for the winter. The rain let up in time for the Cayucos Classic car show. It was really cool seeing these beauties, but I wanted to surf and got an offer to use a board from a guy traveling North and Central America. Unfortunately, the surf was flat here and at Morro Rock. Next time! Alexia and I were at a point where we cracked the proverbial shell of silence and discussed our thoughts about the ride, the Project, funds, alternative plans, feelings, place to call home at the end. It all struck a nerve with each of us yet, left us not knowing what to do about any of it. We’re going to ride on and let the Universe play it’s hand. 

Greg invited me to surf with the Wednesday Warriors, the 70+ old guys, at Refugio Beach. He was already out on the very small waves so we met some of the ‘Warriors’ one of which called us “fucking crazy” for doing this ride, especially with a dog. A little over an hour later we left with gifts of persimmons. In Goleta, at the M Special Brewery, we met a very happy group of people – the brewer, Joshua, many regulars, and Eric and Meaghan, who left and kindly returned with a care package of natural meds for Alexia, and tasty edibles. We hung out for about five hours, which seemed like eternity, but left very happy and lighthearted. Onto our first Warmshowers host, Michael, who has hosted over 300 cyclists in his backyard, which happens to have avocado, lime, orange, and plum trees. He expressed his desire to bike again but not alone, preferably with a lady who digs him and cycling. Our fingers are crossed for you Michael. 

November 9th, rolled into Ventura and Patagonia Headquarters, a place where, for some reason makes my heart happy and I feel at home. One of the first persons we ran into was Mary, the CEO’s assistant whom we met a year ago. She mentioned to Alexia I looked like I lost weight and that she would be back in a minute. Mary came down the stairs with three boxes in her arms and led us into the wonderful cafe to then open the boxes and present us with Patagonia Provisions sample pack with Salmon, Stampa soup, Chili, Buffalo jerky, breakfast grains, and fruit bars. We will eat well and healthy for a couple weeks. I ran into my friend Nate who was busy working on editing new footage on the incineration of the Tasmanian forests for something fucked up like planting more palm or extracting some nonrenewable resource, I can’t remember exactly but sounded like another move by big business. 

Later that night we went to our second Warmshowers host, Sandbox Coffeehouse, owned by a very kind and community supporting guy, Todd. It happened that it was open mic night and was well worth the early arrival. Met Joe Vandenberg from Omaha who has been in Ventura for nearly 40 years. We spoke a bit before he played and sang his duet of the National Anthem, of course in his theatrical pose, a real performer. He invited Alexia and I to stay with him the next night and for as long as we would like, weeks or months is what he hinted at. As for the Universe working on our trip dilemma, it seems we have both had a renewed sense of direction and purpose. It could also be that when we were last in Ventura we were inspired to do this trip. Joe is a religious man and has dedicated his life to God. He has also walked across the U.S. and bicycled over 6,000 miles throughout the states, all in the last four years, he just had his 74th birthday on November 24th. He is a loving, magical, and inspiring man, and we are very fortunate to have gotten to know him. We left Ventura renewed, and rejuvenated and set up with some great goods from the Wharf Feed and Grain, Topa Topa Brewing, Patagonia, Pat. Provisions, and FCD Surfboards.

The stretch through Malibu was bedlam, traffic was made worse with all the trash cans along the road and bike lane. We stopped for a snack at Topanga and was greeted by Annette and Dave, locals who were intrigued by our rigs and trip. She donated $100!!! On Venice Beach we were far from any campsite so we searched for cheap dog friendly hotels. With only a couple available we contacted Su Casa and got the most epic deal from David, a Road Angel; he waived the $100 dog fee, gave us an initial quote of $159 for $200 room, when there he upgraded us to a swanky studio on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the ocean priced over $300, and safely stored our bikes. My friend Arlene, who I haven’t seen in over six years, showed up with pizza. Good times, great people so far in California. Our next stop was to stay with another friend who relocated to San Clemente a few years ago. Pam has been an Outward Bound instructor for 17 years and is also a traveling nurse. She did a course this summer in the Boundary Waters with a great group of students and a stellar co-instructor. The next day her partner returned with 200+lbs of fresh Bluefin Tuna after fishing a hundred miles of the coast. We spent a few hours processing and vacuum-sealing all of it, then ate sashimi for the next couple hours. Pam took us for walks around town and along the beach and filled us in on the history and current happenings. The next day, Paul, her partner and fisherman extrordinaire made an exceptional dinner of Poke and a pasta salad gourmondes would crave. She connected us with another former Outward Bound instructor who lives on a boat with his partner in San Diego, who happened to need a boat and cat sitter for the next five days. It was a hot day riding through Camp Pendleton WTB, Oceanside Carlsbad, and Encinitas to Cardiff by the Sea to the entrance of San Elijo State Beach. I took the surf mat we got from FCD out the next morning and caught five great waves. After devouring the finest donuts and fritters from VG Donuts and Bakery we off to stay on a boat. We met Simon at The Bay Hotel and Marina for him to give us the lowdown on boatlife. He spent an hour or so showing us everything we needed to know, which was a lot to live on a boat. Although we did not sail we lived on a boat in a slip for five days. 

As our North American tour comes to an end we are fastidiously prepping for the Latin American leg of which there is a bit of trepidation due to travel warnings, health certificates for human and canine, bike and pet grooming, routes, water, cell phone connections, accommodations, the list goes on and on. So as for California, the experience of the road, scenery, and activities have all been top of the list experiences right up there with the previous four thousand miles. What really got me was disproving that Californians are rude, selfish, mindless, whacked -out people who don’t add to our social health. Well that’s all bullshit! They have been nothing but kind, generous, selfless, humans! 

The Lost Coast Experience 

What is isolation? That is, in the physical sense. My friend Vince told me of the Lost Coast before I departed on this expedition and that it was well worth the experience. He rode it a couple years ago as a destination bike trip. He however missed the extension of this route which continues out of Honeydew on the Kings Peak and Usal roads for another sixty miles. We were curious what this whole thing was about. So, as a common phrase Alexia and I pass back and forth, “Gotta go to know.” 

The “Lost Coast” was named after the area experienced depopulation in the 1930s. In addition, the steepness and related geotechnical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped and remote portion of the California coast. This sounded very intriguing to us and with a bit of grit (literally and figuratively) we would reap the rewards. 

Day One: Being sent off with Snickerdoodles from Marc and Leah Daniels of the Mind’s Eye Coffee Lounge and Manufactory in Ferndale, we hit the ‘Wildcat’ (Mattole) Rd. For six miles up and around and switch-backed until it seemed like we summited only with one, maybe two more miles of meandering. It was, at this point, the most grueling hill I’ve ridden. It’s a real real mindbender when coming upon a turn with the thought of it leveling out for just a bit but seeing the road serpentine 2-3 more switchbacks. After viewing a mountain lion, petting horses, and enjoying lunch by Bear River, we were greeted with the worst hill right outa Capetown. Not long, but steeper than before. The descent to the coast put the brakes into hyper-over-use; gravity and weight put the heat on. The creek at the bottom of the hill was on private property and access would have been a long walk back from the beach. As we road along the Coast, we came upon Jesse, a surfer and grower. I asked if he had another board, which he did back in Petrolia. He was coming back in a couple hours and would bring it. He also mentioned that the Driftwood Shack we were standing by was built by his buddy, was secure, breaks the wind, and is seldomly used. “Feel free to stay in it.” So, Alexia and I filtered water from a nearby stream and set up camp. Jesse showed later with a 7’6″ and we surfed the slow and heavy waves next to Old Man Rock. He invited us to see his grow operation the next day if we crossed paths in town. Alexia and I were so beat we crawled into our bags around 7:30. As the clouds cleared the stars came out in force and the Milky Way spread from the horizon of the Pacific Ocean across the night’s sky.

Day Two: The coast road from the shack was lovely but short lived. The hills began to Petrolia. Although we didn’t run into Jesse, the cool little town with it’s Post Office/ General store, Fire Dept and little cottages reminded me of Ward, CO. One road in, and out. Tie-dyed sheets hanging in windows, worn out vans, stray dogs, and the ever-present scent of ripe bud in the air. More hills on to Honeydew with the thought of camp and rest in the very near future. Once there, the general store had thirty+ people hanging out to get on trimming jobs. A few provisions in tote, we biked to Honeydew Creek campground which resembled a run down gypsy village. There were people from Spain, Germany, Wales, England, US, Czech Republic, Argentina, France and quite a few dogs. When the money to be made trimming bud is so great the calling for this work ripples across international currents. 

Day Three: After we spoke with a group of trimmers about wages, work conditions, their homes, pinky was filled with Mr. Nice and we were on our way up, yet again, another gnarly set of hills for six miles. We took the right on to Kings Peak road for another twelve miles. This decision was the beginning of the treat; it was unpaved, rutted, dirty, dusty, steep switchbacks, and loose gravel. It was an everlasting twelve miles of the smell of pot! If only technology could capture smells. We made it to the top of the junction at Shelter Cove Rd when a local guy said “if we haven’t been there we should stay for the beauty, but be careful on the road down, it’s steep and traffic doesn’t expect cyclists.” You could light his breath on fire from the alcohol. He then passed us on the way down honking his horn. The brakes took a beating again in the near two mile, 1900ft descent. Another man, Tom Kopf, stopped us and said, “Holy shit, now that is an adventure!” He offered his yard for us to set our tent, but after chatting for a short while he offered his spare bedroom and shower. 

Day Four: In Shelter Cove and giving ourselves a Day Off. Although we rode through town to a couple of the natural attractions, we chilled for the most part. We had coffee and croissants at the Fish Tank. Here, I read an article in The Surfers Journal about one of the last great watermen, Bud Hendricks. During one of his escapades he was asked by a guru, “Who are you?” His response, “I’m an Abolone hunter, shaper, Marine, Schooner pilot, Matador, bronze sculptor, bird photographer. “The guru stated, “That’s what you are!” Bud thought for a moment and said, “I’m a human being.” I’ve been intrigued with old guys like him. I also pondered what is it to be a human being? I often ‘do’ and seldomly ‘be’ so does that make me a human doer? This has been an ongoing thought and struggle of mine for years. 

This town is isolated. It’s a long shot from Highway 1 and down a crazy steep road. The locals are fishermen, growers, trimmers, painters, construction workers, laborers. Most everyone has done, or still does a mix of all. For the Cali coast the homes are actually affordable, and they’re good sized, most with an ocean view. There is one bar, a Brewery being built, one coffee shop, two to three dining options, a well stocked but pricy general store, and a block from the ocean cliffs an airstrip. It’s quite the thing to park your Cessna walking distance from your front door. 

Day Five: Having coffee on Tom’s porch and contemplating our next step, his neighbors stopped by with more coffee and muffins. They were giving us the scoop on local topics and work in the area. Tom showed and offered us a ride to the top of the hill. Considering the 2.3 miles up, no shoulder, fast driving locals, and not safe conditions to let Fitzroy out of the trailer, we were more than accepting of his offer. We said our “see-ya-laters” and rode to Wailaki CG for a peaceful nights rest. 

Day Six: The four and half miles to Usal Rd was cool, smooth and shrouded in redwoods. Then our world as we knew it changed dramatically. Sure, we could have stayed on the pavement and loop around to Redway, but that was way too long. Instead,  we took the metaphorical ‘Bull by the horns’ and went for a ride. As with anything challenging and worth doing there is usually some glimmer of accomplishment. Yes, when it’s all over, but we just began. And there wasn’t a glimmer of anything but pure grueling, thigh-grinding, body-pounding ruts, rocks, ravines, branches, hills, switchbacks for the next solid twenty miles…and it was enjoyable. Even Fitzroy gave a slight expression of joy while trottting with us. This is isolation, or at least  what our bodily senses were experiencing. Space, cool breezes among giant redwoods, sabres of light, sea and forest scents wafting, sweat, muscle pulses and strains, all moving through a lost and beautiful environment. 

Day Seven: The first seven hundred and fifty feet were a rude “good-morning!” So steep and unconsolidated there was no more pedaling. Pushing, slowly advancing foot by foot, no purchase between Chaco tread and loose aggregate it seemed a relentless attempt. Finally,  a crest in the road. The payoff were nice rollers to the seamlessly never ending down to Highway 1. Here we were met with dump trucks coming and going posing a problem being there was no shoulder. Although nicely paved this is a coastal road along a dramatic geologic divergent zone. There are hills and vistas and views north where we were, and south to where we are going. The Lost Coast is isolated, so much it makes the adventure of the mind, body, and soul worth the challenge, to look deeper inside, push beyond physical limits, and discover some latent mental stamina. 

Island Life…a picture story

The eighteen hour ferry ride on the Northern Adventure from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy offered a prelude to the coming fourteen days on an island I knew very little about.

The people, many locals of ‘Van Isle’, we met briefly shared their little secrets, the special places we should visit. I got a sense these people looked at us not as tourists, but someone who would actually go to these places and respect them as they do.

Bare in mind this is mostly Northern Van Isle life, not much to do with the southern bit. Here there is a very strong sense of community, pride, hard work, and a lot of ‘Island Time’, or relaxation and fun. The culture, a diversity of Indigenous Nations is pronounced and well respected. The northern coastal people know deep secrets they share with few and, if you’re fortunate you’ll be invited. 


A sampling of photos from Team Members, Alvin and Alexia. These photos were taken within the last two years and represent farming, sustainability, bicycle touring, and community. The Western Hemisphere Project was built on excitement and passion from experiences like these. Alvin and Alexia will continue to build upon this knowledge and hope to grow your interest in these issues as well.