The rugged and famous “Lost Coast”, friendly communities, beautiful stretches of ocean-side cycling, and many miles of sun. Get a glimpse of what it’s like to bicycle down the Pacific Coast of California! Join the team on the next leg of their adventure to Argentina.
Forests, ocean views, and companionship found in Washington and Oregon. Get a glimpse of what it’s like to bicycle down the Pacific Coast of Washington and Oregon! It’s been so much fun pulling together videos. We have both learned a lot through this initial process and look forward to continue documenting our adventure. One more video from California coming soon…
First Nation culture, remote views, wildlife, fellow cyclists, and good music were plentiful. Get a glimpse of what it’s like to bicycle through Canada!
Working on some videos of the ride so far. Let us know what you think, we’ve learned a lot! More coming soon…
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!
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.
I could probably count how many times I asked Alexia, “Do you want to move here?” but that would be every time we stopped on a vista, shore break, or quaint beach town with a mountain backdrop, which was often, maybe countless times. There is a special kind of intimacy felt here.
At the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is a welcome mat with more than one direction to head into the heart of Oregon, whatever that means to you; east along the Columbia River Valley toward Portland, diagonally meandering southeast among swift rivers and hilly forests, or tuck along the Pacific coast heading south with the scent of sea air, pine, fir and spruce, and estuarian richness. We started diagonally with the intention of taking a break at our friend’s Mangalitsa pig compound. However, that meandering route would first introduce us to white-knuckle-pedaling skinny-road logtruck-jousting and crazy-local drivers.
During our time at the Doss Family Farm, an enjoyable seventeen days, we were able to resupply with necessary items, work a few farmers market, take pigs to market, tend to pigs, put up fencing, taste some fine beers from Kaiser Brewing, and help clean and organize the ‘compound.’ We all enjoyed a departing meal and beer at the Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. And just like that, we were off to continue our ride tucking the Pacific coast south.
With a new trailer for Fitz, and panniers donated from Ortlieb, we were off but still heavy. I chock it up to living on the road and out of our bikes for the next twenty months. Despite the sacrificial objects left behind, we still like the creature comforts that add weight like small binoculars, tenkara rod w/ flies, camp pillow, books, sketching pencils and pad, wetsuit, and a few extra electronic goodies.
Once on the road it appeared to be a highway of cyclists and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) through hikers transplanted due to the Oregon fires. Coastal riders going from Vancouver to San Fran or San Diego, transcontinental cyclists going east to west or vice-versa, long-distance folks going from Alaska to Bolivia, and the diversity of characters hiking over 2600 miles on the PCT starting on the Mexican border heading north, or starting on the US – Canada border letting gravity pull them down were all festering along the Oregon Coast along with us.
Another beauty of Oregon are the state parks. Five bucks per person and free unlimited hot showers. Well needed and deserved as the days were not necessarily long in mileage, but this time of year it was hot and the hills steep and long.
Back to this intimacy I/ we have with Oregon. I have passed through my daily thoughts while riding and that is there are few places – States – that really get me jazzed about what they offer in combination of outdoor activities, outdoor work, community, local and statewide vibe, government policies, cultural diversity, progressive and sustainable methods in craftwork/ farming/ ranching/ closed-circle food systems, healthy and diverse ecosystems, fresh water resources, and access to land. Oregon, Minnesota, and Vermont are these states. No state is perfect in everything, that would be unnatural, but without getting deep these are the places I have come to enjoy, appreciate, respect, understand, and get lost in. Having spent over two months of the past year in Oregon the thorn of intimacy is deeply set.
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.
It’s been too long since the last post and I apologize for that. So forgive this lengthy update. Some stats to begin with. Back on the road with 23 days of cycling and 19 days off. In 23 days I have pedaled 1336 miles through Alaska, Yukon and upper British Columbia. And, I have burned 60,042 calories, that’s an average of 2,611 calories a day. My farthest distance was 100 miles – the beautiful day into Whitehorse, which by the way made me think this, as well as many other stretches, is what the Rockies in the lower 48 must have looked like 175 years ago. Obvious how we can really over love places. The day with the most ascent was from Coldfoot, AK to the Arctic Circle at 4389.8 ft. Surprising, being that this section of road in lower Yukon to Liard Hot Springs feels like a constant up and down for miles, and miles.
The 19 days off have been well spent. The first day I had arrived back (3:30 am) was to Sunny Spruce Homestead, north of Fairbanks, the homestead Alexia was working at for 2+ weeks. There, we became part of the family. Not only did we help with chores, but also made dinners, went to one son’s baseball game, and the other son’s BMX race, of which I also competed in my age group. Second place ain’t bad for not racing in 34 years. We took a weekend off to take Alexia to Palmer, AK to recert her WFR, only to blow out our CV joints on the van putting us down to Anchorage to get them replaced. Needless to say she missed her course. The sense of homesteading appeals greatly to us. Andrew and Tracyann George are not only a wealth of very useful and practical information, they live a very simple and healthy life, from the land with respect to all they take or grow, in a very open and loving environment. Itadakimasu!
Alexia and I had agreed to hopscotch from Fairbanks to Tok. She would drive ahead, explore areas, set up camp, and I would meet her later that day. This was very helpful, and enjoyable to be able to still bike then see her and Fitzroy at the end of the day. It also gave me another opportunity to product test the Highway 61 panniers Frost River had donated for the ride and feedback of the product. Sorry, no feedback on the site at the moment. Let’s just say they have a specific use.
June 23 was an emotionally difficult day; we separated from Tok River campsite. Neither of us wanted to leave the other but knew I had to bike on and she needed to get to Pelly River Ranch, five hours north of Whitehorse, Yukon to start her next WWOOFing experience. I began thinking more of having her bike with me and asking to join me on this ride, but thought she was happy doing what she was doing. I know it was hurting her deeply to have Shelton gone but not realizing she was really becoming depressed. This didn’t really hit me for another two weeks. I had made it to Whitehorse and instantly fell in love with this small city. The people, culture, sense of community, everything you want and nothing you don’t. Alexia had been able to email and ask me to contact Sue, the owner of the Ranch who worked in Whitehorse during the week. we had connected and I found myself getting a ride that Friday to the Ranch for a three day stay. While waiting for Friday, Catherine, an interested local had emailed me weeks before asking when I would be in town. She wanted to help me, show me around, introduce me to elders and other important people in town, and ask me about the whole ride. She is planning on doing this ride next year and wanted my perspective.
While in town I had met with Sean Smith, Counsel member of the Kwanlin Dun. He had shared his thoughts on where his People were, where they had been, what they experienced, experiencing, and vision for the future. He is a force for alternative energy, both for the town and his People. And carries great hope for the future of his people to become self-reliant, free-thinking, and de-colonized. Our meeting was voice recorded and will be transcribed and uploaded on the interview section of this site in the near future.
Through Catherine I met Joe Tetlichi, an elder of the Ft. McPherson Gwich’in First Nation, also, the Chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board (PCMB). He was roasting Caribou heads as part of the Adäka Cultural Festival going on for over a week. Offering me a piece of the cheek, I couldn’t resist, and felt a unique connection as others weren’t openly offered. We met for a more formal meeting after my return from the Ranch. Joe shared what the PCMB does, concerns they have for the herd, as well as his People who rely on the caribou for subsistence. This meeting was video recorded and will be uploaded after editing. Thanks for your patience!
Friday came and I met Ken, Sue’s son. He picked me up then we picked up Sue to head north. We also stopped at the Dempster Junction to pick up James, a young Scottish WWOOFer. Two hundred miles north on the Dempster and 33 mile west sits one of the most beautifully remote cattle ranches. Since the ’50’s this has been in the same family and run as a cattle ranch. It sits along the Pelly River, 3 miles north of the confluence of the Yukon river. Dale and Sue started hosting WWOOfer’s a few years ago in order to help them but also share and pass on their vast knowledge of this type of homesteading. It reminded me of the times I spent on my stepfathers family cattle ranch in Stockton, MO but so much more vast and serene. Alexia and I had canoed to Fort Selkirk, an old outpost for traders, trappers, prospectors, and the Anglicans. Dale picked us up and ferried us to Stepping Stone, their closest neighbor, and layover for the Yukon Quest Dog Sled race. Here, the family had made pizzas in the stone oven, and opened up a jam session with banjo, guitar, ukulele, and violin. Quite the evening along the Pelly. The days spent at the Ranch were long mixed with gardening, weeding, mowing, implement maintenance, cooking, and some exploring. The realization of Alexia’s sadness and depression hit me early on the day I was to leave. It was July 4th, her Mothers birthday as well as the day she proposed to me a year before. I knew she wanted me to stay until the weekend so we could take off together, but I really felt an urgency to go and get biking again. She understood. Even though it appears to make it easier, in reality it was tearing both of us up inside. As Sue and I were heading out I had thought many times to tell her to let me out. She even said “what’s your hurry, this is your trip and you can do whatever you want.”
Back in Whitehorse, I resupplied groceries and got to Wolf Creek camp where Catherine and her friend showed up for dinner, beer, and convo around the fire. I left Wednesday morning for the road again. It was a late start, my legs were heavy and the headwind to Carcross was not one bit enjoyable. It was a 37 mile day which felt like 100. Getting back in the groove of cycling after days off is not as easy as when I was 20 years younger. Those are just numbers and I could care less what they mean. I have SISU, and am determined to live out my 40 yr dream.
It was the sixth of July and I had made it to Squanga Lake, a beautiful Yukon Campsite. I had set up camp, walked to the lake to freshen up and then eased into a relaxing evening. It was only a 50 mile day and I was feeling good about the progress through the hills. Another cyclist came rolling in later in the evening. He was Richard from Yorkshire, England and also was cycling to Ushuaia, by another route though. Being that I get up and out early I didn’t think we would see, let alone ride with each other. Later that day after a suggested stop at Johnson Crossing for the cinnamon bun, here comes the Brit. At 55, he has power and stamina as long as the weather is faire. We rode together, although not starting out together, for seven days. Making it to Liard Hot Springs from Coal River was a glorious day for me. It was raining, cool, and only 36 miles. It was also the day Alexia was going to arrive from the farm. The funny thing about riding with Richard was the day before was a warm and sunny 94 mile day, I was struggling, he reveled in it. Alexia came in that evening and we decide to stay an extra day to take advantage of wifi and the Hotsprings. All things are good again in the Universe. Except for the 300 wildfires in south and central BC closing all roads on my route.
June 1st was not a fruitful day. This is the day I planned on leaving Prudhoe Bay. My thought and understanding was to get a ride to PB and that it would be somewhat easy. Not so! I said my goodbyes to Alexia, Fitzroy and Shelton and biked out of Fairbanks May 31st fully loaded, as far as Hilltop Truck Stop, about seventeen miles. There I found it disconcerting to find that most truckers are not allowed to carry passengers because of insurance unless it’s a life or death situation. Needless to say, after four hours of trying to procure a ride, Alexia picked me up and we went to the homestead where she would be working for a coupleweeks
We decided it would give me a jump if she dropped me off the next day at the Yukon River Bridge, about 140 miles north. Once there I immediately got a ride with a private contractor who would drop me off at the Gilbraith Lake camp entrance, it was 9:30 pm and as light as it was at noon. I was north of the Arctic Circle; no trees, more intense light, and views of grand beauty in all directions of the Brooks Range and the tundra.
After a very restless night I biked about 20 miles to the top of a hill with even more expansive views, and a place to get a ride. Alaska DOT was resurfacing sections of the highway in an unfamiliar process. They would grade the section in both directions leaving a lengthy pile in the center, a water truck would go in one direction then the other spraying a lot of water, then a truck loaded with calcium chloride would pour that onto the wet surface. This process continued on the same section possibly five times.
Five 1/2 hours went by with no rides. However, some trucks, contractors, and tourists did stop out of curiosity. One very nice contractor, Mark Nichols, and I had a good conversation. His son is stationed at Offutt AFB south of Omaha, my hometown. He gave me the lowdown on the rest of the road to PB, then asked if I would like water or anything. He said, ” better yet, let me give you this!” He handed me his lunch, a massive sandwich and a granola bar. “Better take what you can get.” He left and I walked back to my bike in disbelief, feeling so gracious for this kind gift, I choked up a bit inside.
I decided I had enough waiting around and would bike on. Big mistake! That muck created from resurfacing stuck everywhere including my feet. I was barefoot in Chaco’s and calcium chloride burns the skin. Half-hour later I was lucky enough to get a ride to PB from a couple of truckers. I sat in the driver’s seat of the disabled truck they were towing and viewed the tundra and my future route in the same direction I would be bicycling. They stopped now and then to check on the rig, and asked me if I needed anything. My response, “Preparation H, and a Chiropractor!” The air-ride seat was a test on my rear end, as well as the constant bouncing rearranging vertebrate.
Dropped off at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, one of two choices. Both owned by the same entity. One room here has a bed, lounge chair, closets, and a TV. Bathrooms and shower rooms are shared by all on that floor. The pay off was the 24 hr cafeteria. Full service with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner and stocked to the hilt with produce, dairy/ non-dairy products, grab-and-go’s, and every non-alcoholic beverage one could think of. I gorged, fueled up, stock piled, and went back for seconds. I showered and had another restless night.
This is the day I start and I have cold sweats and nausea. Should I stay an extra day and heal or pack up and bike on? I started packing fifteen minute before checkout with barely enough rest. I took full advantage of the breakfast options – twice. Milled around contemplating the right time to take off and discussing this with two Aussies who were also heading to Ushuaia by bike. It was 22°, 18° with wind. Finally, at 1:30 we took off. I wanted to grab a couple stickers at the General store so, I told them I would catch up shortly. Leaving PB/ Deadhorse was long, lonely and frustrating. The road, aka haul road, aka Dalton Highway, was deep gravel, rutted, wash-boarded, and not friendly to cyclists. Add to that the trucks and the dust they kick up. The day went by and by 8:30 pm there was no sight of the Aussies. I had ridden past an exploration pit/ camp about a mile when a truck stopped. It was Elsie, the trucker I spoke with at Hilltop days before. She had not seen any other cyclists ahead, nor campers that made me believe they stopped at the camp. I turned around I cycled into the wind to the camp. Sure enough, they were there and were invited to stay in a room. The manager was somewhat reluctant to take in another, but with a grizzly prowling around he felt a bit obligated. So I stayed in a Comex with heat and a very small window. We were invited to eat what ever was available, mainly grab-n-go’s, until the cook gave us the last three pieces of berry cheesecake and a bag of double chocolate cookies. The cooks here were angels and made sure we didn’t go without. The Aussies got two different rides that day. That is why I never saw them, except in the distance, in my imagination.
Day one was a quick lesson in biking the haul road. Bike the center until you notice a truck or vehicle in either direction. In that case move to the shoulder and slow down or stop. Stay off the soft shoulders. Stop often and stretch, especially your back, shoulders, and arms because your death grip on the handle bars trying keep the rig on the road, as well as the washboard, is intense.