Monday, October 31, 2016

Days 17-28 - 10/20/16 - Up on a Hill....Back to Burlington Campground

Note: names and locations have been changed to protect the innocence and dignity of some individuals

The road to Dunkin felt like a road I shouldn't be on.  Not like it was busy or dangerous, it was quite the opposite, nearly deserted.  I rode through some nice redwood groves on the opposite side of Wiggly Worm River for a while until the road started to slope up.  For 12 miles I climbed upward, winding up switchbacks on the neglected road that carried me past many dirt roads stemming off the main vein, either leading to intense inclines or declines far into the pines where I'm sure people are doing things they don't want other people to know about, hence the "No Trespassing" signs and my feeling of being where I shouldn't be.  But I pedaled on, I was meeting Jim at 3:00 and I didn't want to make him wait for me.  After riding up for 12 miles, the next 8 were all downhill.  However, the road was so rough and curvy I had to ride my brakes the entire way into town.  "Town" is a loose term.  The road spat me out in front of a market with a gas station with at least a dozen hippies smoking spliffs and cigarettes, probably looking for work or waiting on a ride to the next farm or just smoking spliffs and cigarettes.  I sat on the bench, away from all the hippies and waited for Jim. 

I'm glad I was early because so was he.  We broke down my bike, loaded the car he borrowed to come and get me and headed into the hills.  I would not have made it up the next road on my bike, it was steep and rugged, and steep, insanely steep.  At the top there was one of those roads that lead into the abyss of pine trees and this is where we were going.  Bryan met us at the top of the hill with the quad.  I rode my bike, trying to keep  up while him and Jim sped along to the farm.  We passed through a couple gates on our way.  I got the top of the hill tour, the good places to pitch a tent, Jim and Wilson's cars equipped with tarp overhead, the outdoor kitchen consisting of a double burner and a mini grill, a few coolers, a few storage bins for dry food, a fire pit, and a sink with a shower head for the spigot. 

And just before the road continues down the steep hill to the rest of the farm was the trim room, a large, maybe 12' by 12' army tent filled with Delilah, Armando, Elfinah, Tish, Arnie, and Tequila.  There was a small patch of weed plants next to the tent, the tip of the iceberg.  Hundreds of other plants were scattered about at different sites along the windy road but, I didn't see these until later.  We got to trimming.  Jim was my teacher.  He showed me how to clear the leaves away to reveal the beautiful, hairy buds that we're all so accustomed to smoking.  It was easy to know what the finished product should look like, I've seen enough weed in it's final form.  It was a struggle to acquire the finesse to trim quickly and efficiently, I kept wanting to double check my work and make sure I got every leaf; Jim and Wilson call this competing in the prettiest nug contest, they don't have to be perfect they reassured me. 

It took me a couple days to get a good pace going.  In those couple days it seemed like everyone left but me, Jim, Wilson and Tequila and it was like that almost up until I left over a week later.  Trim room conversations are in their own category when it comes to socially acceptable discussions.  The afternoon I got there, Tequila was telling the tale of when she broke an ex-boyfriend's dick during sex.  Half the room was in stitches as she was telling it.  The other half didn't understand all the details because half the room spoke Spanish as their native language.  Luckily, Tequila was able to translate for them.  I feel like I've known Wilson for a year now but, I met him for the first time up on the hill.  Him and Jim met up a little over a year ago, I don't remember where or when but, it seems like they've been living out of Wilson's car, rock climbing, and trimming pot together ever since.   I'm stoked I finally got to meet him.  So it was the four of us trimming for a couple days on Lieutenant Dan's Farm.  When you sit in a small room with the same people for 12-15 hours a day, you really get to know each other.  I'm not talking about the usual, "Where are you from, blah, blah, blah….."  We talked a lot about shitting. 

There's no toilet up on the hill, just a nice shovel to dig a hole and a roll of TP.  I nearly died laughing when Tequila said, "When I go to take a shit, I'm terrified I'm going to dig up someone else's shit."  It's a genuine concern.  Jimmy and Wilson have been up on the hill for over 30 days, that's over 60 holes with 60 shits, the probability of digging up shit just gets higher and higher.  That's not all we talked about though, we're not savages.  Lots of times we all just shot the shit with music playing in the background.  But other times, we all sat quietly, listening to educational podcasts, story-tellers, even local radio programs that broadcast political and world news.  Sitting and listening to people speak is something that calls back to the 50's, pre-TV. 

How nice it is to listen, not get sucked into a screen, just carry on with work while a voice attempts to shed some light on something you never even thought about.  As much as I've enjoyed living under a rock my whole life in terms of world news and politics, it felt so good to listen in on Democracy Now, the news source broadcasted over the airwaves right in Humboldt County.  It's also funny to hear the commercials and the sponsors, all stores dedicated to pot growing.  It's ironic to think I lived on a hill for 10 days, completely out of cell phone range, and I felt more plugged into the world than I ever have before.  The threat of weather was present from the start of my time on the hill.  I don't know what day I got there, when it started to rain or how long it rained for but fuck, did it rain.  It blew, too, the wind, that is.  The whole storm experience while living outdoors was one for the books. 

We all added some extra tarps to our tents, an added barrier against the elements.  Luckily, day two of the storm was a bit of a lull, we needed it.  None of us did an amazing job tarping our tents so most of us were drying all our stuff above the mini propane heater in the trim room.  I used to hate the idea of getting into my tent all wet, getting water on my sleeping bag and pad, waking up damp.  But why?  I asked myself.  There's always time to dry things, always a way to reset before things get worse.  For most of us anyways.  Just before the storm hit us, Hurricane Matthew ravaged Haiti, killing hundreds, leaving survivors with no food or water.  Our situation on the hill did not seem so bad in comparison, even when the tarps in our outdoor kitchen collapsed, caught the wind like kites and melted into puddles where we found them the next morning.  Life goes on.  With all the added water, trim camp became swim camp and we welcomed it, even taking shits outside in the wind and rain.  Before the storm actually hit, Wilson took his phone out to the tree up the road, the only place on the hill with cell service, and downloaded the three part audio book, The Golden Compass. 

Although it was written for kids, maybe preteens, we enjoyed every minute of escaping into this other world while the rain hammered down on the soft, trim tent roof.  We laughed as we picked out parts that might allude to something more "adult" than the average 12 year old picks up on.  There were days when we listened to nothing else for 10 hours, just immersed ourselves in the story that bloomed in all our hazy heads, forgetting what world we're in.  There was one night after dinner, the rain ended earlier in the day and the sky was clear for the first time in five days.  The moon had not risen yet.  I walked past the trim room where light was pouring from the rectangular windows, I walked to the edge of the hill and looked up at the stars.  I could smell the subtle skunkiness of the pot plants in front of me, heavy with water from the rain, bowing down from the weight, full of the magic that is released when dried and smoked, magic like the clear view of the stars above, the faint streak of the milky way spanning the entire slice of open sky above from the tops of the mountains in front of me to the tips of the trees behind my head.  I thought time was tough to keep track of on a bike tour but, nothing will compare to the loss of time on the hill.  The 10 days I spent there could've been 72 hours or a whole month.  The sun eventually came back out and we worked a couple days in the sunshine before I packed up my tent and got a ride off the hill. 

Tequila needed a ride down to the next town so Jimmy and Wilson took the day off as well and the four of us re-entered civilization.  I did not smoke that morning but, I never felt so stoned and confused buying groceries in the store with dozens of other people around me.  It's amazing how different living situations, time and sensory deprivation show us how malleable the mind is, how loose and fluid reality actually is.  We're all in different glass containers thinking we're seeing the world and life through a clear and unaltered lens.  The truth is, we're all delusional, from the folks in cubicles on Wall Street to the dirty hippies shitting in holes, smoking spliffs and living up on a damn hill.

Days 16, 15, 14, 13 - 10/8/16 - Honeydew, CA

I might be missing a day, or I might be adding a day, I'm not sure at this point.  It doesn't matter much.  It's an emotional day.  I parted ways with Flo, Lau, Will and Martin to head back up North to work on a farm with Vinny and Nelson.  I wouldn't have broken up the gang if I didn't think this would be the only time I get to hang with Vin.  I'm also excited to kill some time and make some money.  I'm not trying to spend more than a week in the hills but, who knows. 

The five of us took a day off at Burlington Campground yesterday.  Will wasn't sure if he was going to stop and work with his cousin for a couple weeks.  I was also waiting to hear from Vin.  And we were also just resting beneath the redwoods, not much of a rush to get away from these beauties.  We woke up slow yesterday, all of us.  It was cold, no excessive amounts of dew, it was dry, cold and dry and we loved it because it wasn't wet. 

Blue came over, a bowl packed, ready to hit the road.  He's an old-timer, 64 years old but lookin' like 70 and talkin' like he's 17, a real nice dood.  We convinced him to hang around another day although, he didn't come on our hike with us to Founder's Grove.  It was a short walking trail, just four miles from the campground. 

We took turns reading the information from the pamphlet like we were on some school field trip.  We learned about how the trees are all part of one big system, how they share nutrients and how even dead, fallen, decaying redwoods are as much a part of the system as any of the other trees; there's something to be said of that, living things are just trying to live, we ought to be helping each other do that but, I guess humans aren't always as smart as trees. 

The five of us didn't arrive at Burlington Campground all together the day we first got here.  Will, Martin, and I rolled in mid-afternoon after we had eaten some blackberry popsicles we got from a roadside fruit stand along the avenue which happened before we stopped for lunch under the giant trees in one of the many groves along the road.  I was worried that Lau and Flo got separated from us and that we wouldn't share the experience of riding through the avenue together. 

Just before the sun completely disappeared from the sky, the two French Canadian girls came rolling down the road, yelling to us at the campsite as we were prepping the fire; our group was still whole.  It's such a beautiful, unparalleled experience to find like-minded, crazy people on the road that are equally excited to ride with you as you are with them.  Friendships blossom fast, bursting open with sparks and colors like throwing a whole package of roman candles onto a campfire at once, all shooting and popping in unpredictable directions, striking this and that, illuminating familiar surroundings in beautiful and strange ways never before imagined.  And then it's gone, dark again, smoke covering everything, and you're alone.  That's how I felt when all my friends went South and I back North. 

But nothing is ever over until it's over and can anyone really ever say anything is truly over until they die?  That's almost claiming ability to see the future.  I know the road works in its own way that doesn't necessarily correspond with the nature of time; it's very possible I'll see all my friends again on this trip, just as much a possibility of never seeing them again. 

Everything comes down to the flip of a coin, seemingly random but, the forces that send that coin up and bring it back down are part of the same system, guiding objects up in the air down to the timeline of events one way or another with careful intent or distant apathy, who can tell?

Days 12 and 11 - 10/5/16 - Elk Prairie State Park, CA

Just outside of Crescent City is Stout Grove, an old growth forest where there are mighty redwoods up to 2,000 years old.  We couldn't pass up the opportunity to see these massive creatures.  From the church, it's about a 16 mile round trip, a trip we wanted to do early so we could get on the road to ride to the next town. 

A little behind schedule we got to the sign that read, "Stout Grove 4 Miles" at the threshold of where pavement became gravel.  It didn't take more than three seconds for us to stop in our tracks and stare straight up at the towering redwoods.  We knew it would be a slow 4 miles to the short walking loop that is Stout Grove. 

We stopped and stared many times, smoked beneath the shelter of the trees –"these trees are tall, we have to get high"–the five of us crawled inside a tree and had plenty of space to stop and dance and then crawl out like clowns coming out of a tiny car.  Lau and Flo turned back before we got to the end but, Martin, Will and I rode to the grove and then continued the journey of foot. 

The journey became more intimate.  We walked on the soft forest floor made by thousands of years of pine needle build-up; we walked on the remnants of fallen trees, cut down trees, and got our faces up to the gnarled knots and twisted burls in the trunks like we were wandering through some museum of modern art. 

We high-tailed it home, Will actually skidded off the road he was going so fast, and got their much later than planned.  We still had 30 miles to cover with a couple massive hills to get over. 

The sun came out for us, a beautiful afternoon to ride through.  The hills were indeed massive, winding up endlessly next to more redwoods and the downhills did not disappoint.  It was a ride through a magical forest, a preview of Avenue of the Giants, the scenic route I drove through last year with Nick, Vic, and Adrian.  At that time in my life, I never thought I would be back over here a year later on my bike. 

Life's funny that way.  I feel like that trip happened last week.  Time is so fucked in my head; it's lost its linear nature, every experience is new while still calling back to the past causing this strange overlap in my mind like everything is happening all at once.  If only everyone could live outside of time for a while.  Now, the morning after, we're all still hiding from the rain in our tents.  I just saw two deer, a mother and her child while I was taking a leak outside. 

They were so close but did not seem afraid, just kept eating the cold, wet leaves.  Who knows if the rain will let up but, there's no rush just yet so I guess we'll smoke a little and see what happens.

Day 10 - 10/3/16 - Crescent City, CA - Day Off

I think a dozen people stayed here last night in this church, folks from all over, traveling solo and traveling in pairs, teaming up and joining forces on the road like a snowball gathering mass and momentum resulting in several pairs of wheels and hundreds of pounds of gear rolling down the Pacific Coast.  When I'm by myself and people ask me where I've been and where I'm going, I'm always happy to answer them and chat til their heart's content, I don't ever mind.  But when this many people with this many miles and towns and stories under their belts, the whole spiel of "where'd you come from" and "where are you going" isn't necessary. 

All that matters is the road has brought us all under one roof.  This roof just happens to be over a church under the care of Katie Berkowitz, a kind, hospitable soul who opens her doors to traveling cyclists in exchange for hugs.  Places like this are brilliant for taking a day off, doing some laundry, and making some real meals with the other friends of the road around you.  That's what Martin, Lau, Flo, Will and myself are doing today, relaxing.  Five others packed up and left this morning.  We all slept in different areas of the same open room, the walls lined with piles of panniers, chairs draped with wet clothing and maps unfolded and open on every table. 

We wished them all well, Herbie, Laura, Peter, Dave, and Jackie as they rolled out into the early morning drizzle.  Breakfast happened in stages; oatmeal and coffee, french toast, and juicy, tuscan cantaloupe.  Then the five of us set out to do laundry down the street.  Will rolled a joint on the folding table and we smoked it out front.  Then we all fantasized about another family dinner like we had last night: stir-fried veggies and rice with plenty of garlic bread.  And beer.  Today, we decided on onion soup, pizza, kale chips, and an apple crisp made with apples that grow behind the church.  The sun has yet to come out today but, it has yet to rain more since this morning.  We made it back to home base with fresh, clean clothes and all the ingredients to make too much food again.  Joanna was holding down the fort while we were out; another cyclist traveling with her friend from BC to San Fran.  Like some sort of commune, we took turns teaching each other the yoga moves that we use before and after rides. 

Or maybe it was more like a birthday party for little kids, taking turns choosing the games.  We did stop to play some card games and share snacks.  I'm very grateful to have such good people to share this day off with.  I certainly have not been as productive as I'd like to be on my trip down the coast in terms of writing, reading, drawing and even taking photos but, this portion of my journey seems to be more about the social aspect since it's a major bike route, much more so than my random trail that took me coast to coast.  I'm in good company, I couldn't feel any luckier.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Days 9, 8, 7 - 10/2/16 - En Route to Crescent City, CA

It's hard to believe we'll be crossing into California today.  It's hard to believe it's October.  Despite my feeling of being on an endless Summer, it is very much Fall.  Yesterday Julie, Will and I got blasted by some heavy rain and intense winds after we took a break in Gold Beach, got some groceries and then smoked a joint outside.  Julie and I met Will the night before at Humbug Mountain State Park. 

As we rode downhill through the jetstream, we passed the cold, blue Pacific and the massive rock forms that stretch along the beach like remnants of an asteroid that broke into pieces upon hitting the Earth.  And then the sun came out.  The winds stayed with us and we were dry within minutes.  The day before, Julie and I missed a little bit of rain when we stopped quickly for lunch and coffee.  15 miles after that, Julie realized she lost her other pair of riding shorts off the back of her bike. 

So she hitched back to town.  I wasn't sure if we'd meet back up but miraculously, very shortly after I landed in Humbug Mountain, Julie came rolling into the campsite, just before the sun went down.  She's been experiencing the kindness of strangers that comes with being on the road.  She was able to hitch back to town then out to the campground while finding her shorts. 

Although, I did try to convince her to not be so attached to the shorts but, she felt she needed to go back for them.  I'm sitting with Will, Lau and Flo in a cafe in Harbor, OR.  Will met Lau and Flo at some point and now the four of us are killing time and warming up before our short ride to Crescent City.  We're all staying at the same Warm Showers place in a church.  The sky was rumbling with thunder this morning without much water to follow.  As soon as we hopped on our bikes, the rain came.  It was a wet couple of miles here to this cafe but, the sun is now out and we'll be moving on shortly. 

I still can't believe I left Portland last Saturday and will be riding into California today, over 500 miles in 8 days.  How am I going to spend these next 5 months?  I know it's going to be one big blur just like the last 8 days; one long, beautiful goddamn blur.

Days 6, 5, 4 - 9/29/16 - Sunset Bay State Park, OR

A hot cup of tea after a warm meal is a new thing for me; I did not have any cookware the entire time it took me to get across the country.  My life on the bike has improved supremely since leaving Portland.  Yesterday I made noodles for lunch right on the shore, winds constantly blowing, I felt like the man who invented fire.  We didn't get on the road til 11:00 this morning.  Julie and I, that is.  She's from Boston, riding from Seattle to San Fran and somehow we found each other out here. 

We met yesterday briefly on the road; her and another couple came up behind me while I was shedding some layers on the side of the road.  The other couple, two young Brits that got hitched less than a month ago and are traveling on bike around a handful of countries for their honeymoon.  The four of us didn't ride together too long, we were in a hilly area along the shore, a situation where everyone goes at their own pace. 

And with as many scenic viewpoints to peer out into the bright white distance, it wasn't a quick ride for any of us.  But, we all met back up at the same campground, Honeyman State Park, where a bunch of older doods were already set up and handing around a flask of whiskey. 

I had met one of them, Erik, at Cape Lookout State Park a couple days ago.  He takes interested folks out on bike tours as part of his job.  Where do I apply?  So 7 of us cyclists were gathered in this hiker/biker site with the ultimate hippie, Stephen, that has been traveling since '67, so he says, and has been wandering back and forth to and from different state parks with hundreds of pages he's written about all his life experiences on all the different planes of reality he exists in. 

But only Julie and I left the campground the following morning, everyone else had plans to stay another night, even Stephen.  It's hard to pinpoint anything specific about my journey down the coast thus far.  The weather has been beautiful and the scenery takes my breath away constantly.  It's hard to believe it will get better but, that's what people keep telling me.  Well, bring it on.