Where we’ve been staying and what we’ve been doing.
We’ve decided to switch from this method of recording our exploits and instead will be posting up standalone diary blogs. Yes, we think that our continuing cycle tour is that interesting – we hope you agree. See ‘Latest Posts’ for more…
4 Dec 2010: Savouring the final few miles of ‘wilderness’ before the LA metropolis we skirted around the Santa Monica hills, spotting dolphins close to shore and keeping a vain lookout for whales chugging down to Baja. Malibu was a shock to the system, away from the beach the place was an impenetrable marching procession of concrete freeway and traffic. After Malibu the list of famous places began in earnest: Santa Monica, Venice Beach, etc… and we glided along the boardwalk in a slight daze. We were (unreliably) told that the LA area is the size of Wales. I can believe it, took us three days to get to Laguna Beach and to Clive and Silke’s house (up in the hills, reached after an epic nocturnal climb). Orange County is an interesting place, as crazy as Vegas in parts, but the difference being this place takes itself very seriously. You can shop at a place selling only Cadillac golf buggies for example – bonkers. Luckily our generous hosts introduced us to something of the OC you don’t see from the freeway – messing around in rock pools, sipping crisp wine gazing over the ocean, and indulging ourselves by making Cottage Pie with real HP sauce – bloody marvellous!
29 Nov: Stuffed as a turkey with turkey and all the trimmings from Thanksgiving we left San Luis Obispo under uncertain weather conditions. As the nights are drawing in, and getting cold, the prospect of camping out is seeming more and more unappealing. It gets dark at 5.30pm and we have found ourselves crawling into our sleeping bags before 8.30pm on more than one occasion. So, setting ourselves up with a couple of ‘warmshowers’ stopovers we looked forward to an adult bedtime and the warmth of solid walls and a roof. Annie provided that and an awful lot more, truly amazing hospitality – she is also an avid Obama fan, the first we have come across, and has a life size cut out of him to prove it! The next day we crossed the mountains in the rain, climbing gradually to over 1,000ft to whizz down the other side to reach the ocean and arrive in Southern California – palm trees, flat beaches, Baywatch style lifeguard lookouts. After a night’s camping we reached Santa Barbara and were taken in by Anthony and Tori, whose enchiladas were nothing short of amazing and are truly some of the most genuine and kind people we have met so far. He has ridden the Baja and gave us lots of tips about Mexico to get our mouths watering in anticipation, and our legs twitching with the excitement of cycling down the desert peninsula.
23 Nov: Road trip over, we returned to the coast (at the exact same place we left it of course!) unloaded the car to reload the bikes. Feeling enthusiastic to be back in the saddle we set off to attack the Big Sur coast, which fought back with a vicious headwind. Feeling out of shape and demoralised we set up camp in the dark and crawled into our tent just in time to shelter from the biblical thunderstorm that broke overhead. Feeling vulnerable under canvas we passed the time by having a timely debate about which is safer – tent under tree, or out in the open…? Surviving the night off we went, headwind thankfully blown out and the Big Sur coast dramatically before us. Dodging a few raindrops we toiled up the hills as the ocean boiled below and we were rewarded by stunning vistas and even a double rainbow! Back on the flat after two epic climbs to reach Ragged Point we sailed past elephant seals rucking on the beach and extravagant Hearst Castle. Rain is never far away, and as we ploughed on towards San Luis Obispo and a hostel, we got another soaking. On top of which Ned got a puncture and I had a whimpering session as Big Sur took its toll on my knees. Never have we been so glad to find Juliet and our old friend Bengt at the hostel with a cuppa waiting.
12 Nov: Once again the storm fizzled out as fast as it arrived and the coast was bathed in California sunshine. Not only that, we were treated to a blistering tailwind so that we literally cruised into Santa Cruz without turning a pedal, well almost. On the way we stopped at the fab Swanton Strawberry Farm, happily finding more than just sprouts and artichokes which this part of the world grows in abundance. Santa Cruz (regarded as one of the best places in the world to surf) is a colourful place where we were welcomed with open arms by Michael – our cycling friend from Oregon. After paying a visit to the UCSC Farm we settled down to enjoy sun, sand, surf and sustainable food (of course) from the farmers’ market. Here we experienced our first tamale, the first of many to come, and pulled pork – an American classic. The obligatory microbrew followed. Feeling a little worse for wear we wobbled off towards Monterey. Entering Steinbeck farm country we stopped to harvest some fresh strawberries (in November!) and were flabbergasted as for the next ten miles we saw no other crop. At Monterey we stayed at the Veterans’ Memorial Park where they played the US version of the Last Post at 10pm as it was Veterans’ Day - very fitting. Even the raccoons stood to attention and the sealions seemed to stop barking for a moment.
6 Nov: Prying ourselves away from the Bay Area (musings available here) feeling fully rested thanks to Lennie and Stephen’s hospitality, some free yoga and no pedaling for a week, we hit the asphalt on gleaming bikes, and in clothes that smelt sweet rather than sweaty. Our first day back in the saddle was a toughy – we finally got a taste of some fog, and about 20 miles south of San Francisco we had to negotiate a stretch of road affectionately known as the ‘Devil’s Slide‘. Here the highway narrows to one lane and there is no shoulder (that we cyclists crave). Horror stories abound, thankfully the sun re-emerged and the wind didn’t blow – parts of it were even quite enjoyable. The rest of the route along Highway 1 was stunning, and at Pigeon Point Hostel (our first hostel, treating ourselves to a bed in anticipation of another storm) we were delighted to take advantage of the hot tub – what decadence!
27 Oct: Waking up to a storm in Bodega Bay (where Hitchcock filmed ‘The Birds’) we sought refuge at the Roadhouse coffee shop where Jimmy went out of his way to help us out. To the extent that he found Kevin who let us hole up in his house while the wind raged and the rain lashed the windows. And on the morning of the third day the sun returned to Northern California and we set off with renewed vigour. So much so that we missed a turn and sailed past (with a tailwind) by 4.5 miles before realising our mistake. Despite the mishap we remained in high spirits, maintained by pit stops at Hog Island oysters, Tomales Bay and cheese tasting at Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Station.
22 Oct: So, to Mendocino County where every fifth vehicle smells of the local produce. Making a stop-off in the unassuming town of Elk we bumped into Geoff from Wigan, who kindly showed us to a secret camping spot (via an indecipherable map) just to the south of the San Andreas fault. Surviving our night in the earthquake hot spot we spent the next night at Gualala Point – a campground invested with raccoons where we slept with one eye open to protect our belongings from their greedy clutches. South of Fort Ross in Sonoma County (winery land) the rain came down and the road went up…and up…and up…
15 Oct: Passing through the wonderful town of Arcata (a place that we stopped at for a coffee and stayed four hours) we headed inland again through perfectly preserved Victorian Ferndale towards the redwoods and the Avenue of the Giants. From the one horse town of Leggett the guidance on the map said ‘the 28 miles to the coast is arduous’ – gulp! Not wrong – we climbed to 600 metres above sea level then whizzed back down to the coast on a breath-taking (in more ways than one) ride we are still recovering from! Highway 1 along the coast was worth the pain – at some points we were so high along the bluffs that birds were flying below us! Discovering a party near Willits for young farmers we made a somewhat epic journey back inland again (involving some hitching, to avoid another ‘arduous’ ride back across the mountains) to reach it…more on this later
12 Oct: Our last days in Oregon we experienced some vicious headwinds, which in turn seemed to incite some vicious arguments between us – must be something that pedaling 5mph downhill does to you. Happily by the time we crossed into California we were friends again, and although the sun wasn’t exactly shining when we crossed the state line, the sky was definitely brightening. Entering the land of the redwoods, or sequoias was breathtaking – the silence in these groves of the world’s tallest trees is actually deafening, and the experience is akin to entering a vast natural cathedral. These are special trees indeed. We camped at Elk Prairie Campground, which lived up to its reputation as you can see.
7 Oct: Apart from the scenery it’s the people that we are meeting as we pedal south that is making the journey special. We have come across some inspirational cycle tourists – there’s the guy cycling to Sacramento with a large dog in his trailer that had puppies on the road! Or the German couple who have been in the saddle since April with their two year old son in tow. Then there’s Sam and Shanna who have been on their journey for the last nine months, planning on making it to one year away on their bikes before returning to Australia. We enjoyed our first BBQ with them at Bullards Beach State Park. We’ve been chatting to other campers too, there was Kathann and Beth who invited us into their RV on a cold night at Sunset Bay, a chance to see how the other half live. On balance we prefer the tent! Back on the farm trail we made the detour up the Coos River to visit River Bend Jerseys to see a dairy farm in action – more on this later.
2 Oct: Back to the coast, and heading south – like the hoards (gaggles?) of Canada geese flying overhead. The stretch of coastline from Cape Kiwanda to Florence is what cycle touring is all about – hills, yes but with those views you just munch them! It is awesome in the true sense of the word (as opposed to the overused sense in common parlance). Over the last few days we’ve seen gray whales and pelicans off the coast at Boiler Bay, been serenaded constantly by the crashing waves, stopped off at Corvus Landing Farm to buy vegetables, and bumped into Wade from Kansas who has been cycling with us. To top it all off we visited Rogue Brewery in Newport who source their hops from their own fields and have won more beer awards than you ever thought possible.
29 Sept: Cruising 15miles downhill from Mossback Farm to Scott Dickey’s place, we were treated to plush accommodation and more enthusiasm for farming and for our trip than you can shake a stick at. Farming just over one acre he provides vegetables for 12 local families during the growing season via a CSA scheme. We helped out a little preparing for winter cover-cropping (essential in a state as rainy as Oregon to avoid the topsoil getting washed away), but mostly we enjoyed Scott and Brandy’s hospitality (the best muffins and bread pudding yet), and grilled them on farming and many other things besides. We got an insight into politics, dropping in on a debate between House candidates in the mid-term elections on local farm issues, and generally enjoyed lovely McMinnville in the sunshine. Catching the bus and train into Portland we got to visit Deschutes Brewery (home of the beer we’ve been drinking since we crossed into Oregon), and hang out in the Alberta district where our first couchsurfing host, Eli lives. After spending a morning munching in the Tin Shed, and giving our bikes some TLC at the Community Cycling Centre we prepared to return to the coast road.
27 Sept: Our time at Mossback Farm has come to an end, after spending a happy four days working on firewood, land management, and in grilling Rich and Val mercilessly on their farming experiences. They have hit on raising beef cattle whilst restoring their 33 acres of land as a way to farm part-time, enjoy the land they have and turn some profit. Having reared chickens, sheep and pigs for meat they settled on grass-fed beef (and what tasty beef it is!) as an option that could fit into their busy, varied lifestyles of other pastimes and employment. Their place is a bucolic haven in the mountain foothills – a peace and serenity that was only broken by the sounds of coyotes howling at the moon, plus the squeals of fear as Ned cut my hair for the first (and possibly the last) time!
23 Sept: The last few days have taken us into Oregon, down the gorgeous northern coastline – along Cannon Beach and up and over Cape Lookout, some of the best scenery so far plus the sun finally came out! We met lots more cyclists and bumped into our old friends cycling from Anchorage, plus a few others. We also sampled some fresh cooked oysters – almost a foot long and 7yrs old, seriously! We’ve now headed inland taking the Nestucca River – a 65 mile route over the Coastal Range, and yep that means mountains – to make it to within striking distance of Portland. At 6pm yesterday heading towards an uncertain destination after 9hrs on the mountain road we got picked up by Val from Mossback Farm. Her husband Rich (who we contacted about wwoofing some time ago) had been tracking us for a few days on our map page and realised we were cycling right past their farm. They took us in bedraggled and totally astounded by our stroke of good luck – so here we are, serendipity in action.
19 Sept: Visiting such lovely sounding places as Dismal Nitch and Cape Disappointment on the Lewis and Clark Trail (in the pouring rain, obviously!) we found our way to the Green Angel Sustainable Living Center, Long Beach, WA. Wwoofing for Larkin Stentz for a few days we were able to dry out, warm up and get our hands dirty planting and harvesting. An experience much needed, and one we were very grateful for. In the area we checked out the Astoria Column and also our first Oregon microbrewery, Fort George - the best thing to do on a rainy afternoon: lose yourself in a menu of 40 beers!
16 Sept: Following the Adventure Cycling Association maps we’ve been bumping into lots of fellow cyclists, from Sally and her tour group, to the guys from Seattle - one of whom has cycled every state of the US, and most European countries (including doing Lands End to John O’Groats on a three speed Dutch bike!). We’ve been putting the miles in, on the road in the pouring rain mostly along the magnificant Columbia River along the border with Oregon, but also catching a glimpse of some mountains – especially Mt Rainier (after a 37mph down hill stretch – woo hoo!). We also had our second puncture on Charlotte’s bike – darn hard shoulders full of stones and staples.
13 Sept: Leaving Seattle we set off to follow the Adventure Cycling Association Pacific Coast Route map. Riding through pine forests, we zipped along the banks of the sluggish Hood Canal, around serene Lake Mason enjoying the dappled light and shade of the peaceful forest. A peace that was only broken by the occasional over-excited dog chasing us a little faster down the road – a hazard for cyclists everywhere! After our first 60 mile day we stopped in our first RV Park in Elma – every night’s a little different from the last!
11 Sept: Staying put in Seattle for a few days with our generous hosts Lottie and Stuart, we have been able to explore this city of surprises. So much more than birthplace to some of the world’s biggest corporations, the various neighbourhoods are full of places to get great coffee (forget the watery muck from Seattle’s most famous coffee shop) and great microbrewed beer, plus fresh, local, organic food. There are also loads of independent bike shops. We visited Pike Place Market, Capitol Hill, the salmon ladder and stuck around especially for the Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair. We also had the best breakfast at Portage Bay, serving pancakes bigger and thicker than you’ve ever seen, with a choice of toppings that is truly mesmorising! - all very lovely.
8 Sept: Wobbling off a little worse for wear, we headed towards Seattle – home of Starbucks, Amazon.com and Microsoft. The ferry trip from Bainbridge across the Puget Sound is wonderful – even on a hazy day. The Sound has an average depth of 62 metres and a max depth of 280 metres. It’s also home to the Giant Pacific Octopus – the largest in the world. Dipping in for a evening swim the average temperature felt around about freezing!
7 Sept: Continuing on the trail we crossed the Hood Canal Bridge - the longest floating bridge in the world. Fuelled by fish tacos, beef jerky and bread and butter (a diet fit for athletes such as ourselves!), we reached Kitsap and after putting up our wet tent (and fixing the first puncture so far on Ned’s bike) we decided to go for a beer at the Four Corners Tavern. Bill the bartender and his clientele gave us plenty of free beer, and a freshly cooked crab entirely on the house. Hospitality indeed!
6 Sept: Preparing to enter a new country requires a clean pair of socks, and as we set off for the ferry to the USA this seemed like a sensible thing to do. Leaving Canada in the mist and rain we told ourselves we would come back and kayak, ski, hike, spot salmon(!), try some maple syrup…the list is endless. Entering the USA via the Olympic Peninsula we were in crab country - an instant reason for exicitement, the crab round here are BIG. On the Olympic Discovery Trail in the rain we met a couple cycling from Anchorage to Mexico – a first sign that there may be other nutters out there doing something similar to us!
5 Sept: Vancouver Island is our last stop in Canada before entering the USA. We’ve been enjoying our last chance to visit the truly mind-boggling Mountain Equipment Coop - why don’t we have this in the UK? – and taking advantage of some great (flat) bicycle trails.
2-4 Sept: We dragged ourselves away from Glen Valley after 4 amazing days – we could easily spend a whole year here. Before we left Cat showed us what goes on after dark in the chicken coop - 300 birds crammed onto an A-frame; a sight not to be missed (or maybe you had to be there!) Arriving on Salt Spring Island was like stepping into another food and farming paradise. The island of 10,000 people has a thriving community of small scale organic produce businesses and an idyllic sunshine soaked location (though not much water). Farm gate sales are an institution here, perfect for hungry cyclists who are constantly thinking about where their next meal is coming from! To top it all Ruckle Park camping ground ranks pretty high among the best places we’ve stayed ever.
29-31 Aug: Finding out about Glen Valley Organic Farm has been the pleasurable task of the last few days. A co-operatively owned and farmed 50 acre spot growing mixed fruit and vegetables for a CSA scheme, farmers’ markets, and local restaurants that Chris and Jeremy manage along with some very dedicated and wonderful helpers. More of all of this to come… We’ve been helping at markets; weeding and hoeing; harvesting onions and courgettes; packing and sorting veggies; and above all benefiting from the kindness and generosity of this inspirational little community.
28 Aug: Dragging ourselves away from the delights of Vancouver we embarked upon the first real stage of our journey, saddling up and wobbling off on bikes about as responsive as tanks. Our destination, Glen Valley Organic Farm, 40 miles inland up the Fraser River Valley. We were following the annual salmon pilgrimage, on the last leg of their epic journeys upstream to spawn and die. Everywhere we stopped people kept telling us how this year the run is the largest in almost a century. We haven’t spotted a single one of the 25 million strong hoard that are apparently out there somewhere…although we’re definitely benefiting from the fishing bonanza that is taking place. Arriving tired, and cursing the books and extra pairs of shoes in our panniers, the farm looked like paradise as the sun was setting over the mountains in the distance. With no food, and very little in the way of Canadian camping experience our new hosts, Chris and Paige sorted us out with plenty of homemade pizza and some good advice about local wildlife!
25-27 Aug: After almost a week lazing about enjoying Vancouver we took the plunge and set off for our first WWOOFing stop, a short ride away at Southlands Farm. Jordan Maynard is managing a CSA project with 13 members, educating young people about food and farming through a summer programme, studying Agriculture, running for his university, and much more besides. We helped in the garden and his parents’ stables for a couple of days – getting an idea of what it is possible to do with a small patch of land, a good consumer base and a strong vision. As we were planting carrots and protecting the seedlings with plastic cover from the rats, a French proverb came to mind that we saw at an exhibit in the Museum of Vancouver.
‘One for the mouse, one for crow
One to rot, one to grow’
How profound, and how true! The concept of land stewardship involves putting more in than you take out, and of course sharing with fellow creatures the bounty, however annoying that may be.