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! 

Commencement

 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.

Plan, dream, plan

As a person who loves outdoor recreation, I have quite a few personal trips under my belt, on top of all the courses I’ve led as an instructor for Outward Bound. Those trips have a good deal of planning, but do not have the magnitude of logistics as the Western Hemisphere Project has. Luckily, fortunately, and graciously logistical planning and coordination is Alexia’s specialty. Still, she hasn’t ever coordinated a trip that lasts over a year long… neither have I!

GEAR! The first thing that came to my mind. Again, as an avid outdoor enthusiast, gear gets me excited. Alexia and I love trying out new brands and gadgets in the field. My mindset was in a haze with all the great ideas and collaborations I envisioned. The clarity of the true nature of this adventure, validating our purpose, sourcing funds, creating a webpage took a while to set in. Creating a budget and coming to terms with the reality of what is essentially needed for the ride. We frequently talk about curriculum topics and tools, who to partner with, should I use old gear or ask for new, etc.

Finally, after two years of dreaming, talking about, and chasing shallow pursuits.. it was one rainy evening, in the van at the mechanics, we decided to just start doing. We started by creating a budget. A few days later, visiting the Patagonia headquarters, touring around the building, meeting staff, and meeting Yvon Chouinard elevated my passion for this project and propelled us forward to make the dream reality.

At first, we floundered with the weight and enormity of things. It came down to actual needs and prioritizing those needs (and Alexia getting an official title and the reigns to take off into planning world). First objectives: create a visually appealing website, create honest and meaningful content to demonstrate our capabilities as adventure educators, showcase our credentials and build upon our validity. Reach out to sponsors and start asking for equipment donations. Reach out to farms, people, and organizations to meet with along the route. Reach out to educators and people that are interested in being part of this journey.

So that’s what we’re doing now. Building, creating, connecting, and generating momentum for the future. In the next couple of months, lesson plans and educational resources will be created with future topics outlined. I feel inspired and motivated to continue to seek out this transformative experience.

Daily Mantras
The struggle is real;
There will be naysayers;
Keep on keepin’ on

Dream Board

 

Initial inspiration(s)

The day after graduating with my Masters degree, two good friends, James, Vince, and I bicycled around Omaha. We stopped often at parks, pubs, and eatery’s enjoying the beautiful day but more importantly the camaraderie and freedom of cycling. It was this day we shared our stories of our independent cycle adventure tours and what inspired us to do them. After sharing, we talked about what and where our dream ride would be. This is when I came up with the Western Hemisphere Loop; Prudhoe Bay, AK south along the western spine of North America, Mexico, Central America, and South America to Ushuaia, Argentina, a ride that has been done many times. The “Loop” however, would then continue north up the eastern side of South America, the West Indies, Dominican Republic & Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Florida, up the Eastern Seaboard to Maine then stair-step northwesterly from New Brunswick through Canada, eventually reconnecting at Prudhoe Bay. What a great idea!?!…kinda like my first ride 24 years earlier. Not a whole lot of planning went into that; decide on a starting point, an ending point, where to go in-between, save money, and why not? Why not led to why? Well, it would be a great adventure to see America and places I’ve never been. To be in tune with my senses and the environment. Meet people and hear their stories, and share mine, because people on bikes are cool.

What changed the trajectory of the planning and meaning for that first adventure was a comment my Dad said, “Do it for your sister! Robin, my mothers first child passed away from Reyes Syndrome in 1972, when she was seventeen, I was three. RS is a very rare disease that generally affects children under the age of ten whose immune systems are not fully developed, and who are more susceptible to flu-like symptoms. Her death was a complication of taking aspirin and a compromised immune system. She was 17 and the fourth person that year who lost their life to RS. So I contacted the Reyes Syndrome Foundation in Bryan, Ohio and gave them my story. They in-turn endorsed me, sent four hundred press releases nation wide, and began setting up radio, newspaper, and TV interviews with those interested along my 5,800 mile route. This “why” was turning out to become a meaningful and intense journey. Even today when I speak of, or write about my sister I can’t help but choke up a little. I found purpose in doing something for someone other than searching for fully selfish endeavors. Not to say there wasn’t selfishness doing this, it was for me as well. I was 21 and had a zest for experience and knowledge, especially outdoor adventures. This trip changed many things in the way I saw myself in society, and my purpose in this world.  What I also learned was the importance of reaching out to people in need, educating people about personal health and environmental issues, and inspiring people to live out their dreams.

For two years I had in-depth conversations, made some connections, had dreams, and more but it never really took off. I never lost the passion to do this epic bike ride though and in talking with others, I gained a better sense for the mission of the ride. From reflecting on Outward Bound courses I instructed, being a TA in grad school, and acting as a long-term substitute teacher at Rivers Edge Academy in St. Paul, MN, experiential teaching became a common theme. What I realized was that students were challenged, became inspired, and empowered to positively change their lives, and use their voice and take action. These are effective tools to make change in the world. To broaden young peoples understanding of issues that other people face in distant locations, not just their own community, by introducing the voice, customs, and traditions of other people throughout the Western Hemisphere. Right to their classroom or home via the Internet. This became the Project that inspired me. Effecting change through experiential education; using a monumental bike ride to link cultures with the understanding that action taken by one or more groups of people in one location can impact, positively or negatively, a group of people in another. The images, stories, and state of the world portrayed in the documentary, 180South resonated with me. Many of the issues represented, became ongoing topics that impact cultures around the world. I imagined having lesson plans so students can collaborate and create solutions to make positive change. Now, I just needed to stop talking the talk, and start walking the walk and do this!

Yet, it wasn’t clear how much work was ahead of me in planning this project…

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Alvin Hoy Goeser

Fun facts about the rider

  1. Alvin has been wearing Patagonia clothing since 1989 and has saved boxes of catalogs. His wardrobe is almost exclusively Patagonia and he still rocks some of his older fashions.
  2. Alvin has now met both of his heroes: Yvon Chouinard and Jerry Garcia.
  3. Some of Alvin’s favorite outdoor sports include telemark skiing,  rock climbing, canoeing, surfing, backpacking, and of course bicycling!
  4. One of Alvin’s life goals is to become the oldest Olympic swimmer and/or speed skater.
  5. In 1990 Alvin road over 5,800 miles from Washington to Florida raising money for Reyes Syndrome Foundation.
  6. He swam with wild dolphins at the age of 17