Blog Archive

Monday, October 26, 2009

Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA

Parker and I departed Ryan’s house in Portland on a route that took us through downtown Portland and out through farm fields towards the coast.
On our first day we met up with a fellow touring cyclist named Andrea. We first encountered her while she was sitting roadside looking at her map. When Parker and I pulled over to chat with her she immediately told us that she was overwhelmed by the sheer distance between her current location and her final destination of San Francisco. She was out of water and not sure where she was going to camp. Andrea was only 30 miles into the ride and she was already having doubts about her ability to make it to San Francisco. An underestimation that Andrea would remind us of when she made it San Francisco two days ahead of us!
Parker and I suggested that she join us. That night we camped at an area that had originally been reserved as a buffer zone between the white settlers and the Native Americans. Bob, the park host suggested that we hide our tents to avoid any late night hassle from the Park Ranger. The three of us enjoyed a peaceful sleep and the following day we made our way to the coast and started to head south when we intersected Highway 1.

On the second night from Portland we stayed at Ryan’s parents beach house in Waldport. Once again, thanks to the generosity of others, we were temporarily living a life of luxury. We enjoyed ocean views, laundry, showers and a full kitchen. We would like to give special thanks to Ryan and his parents for so generously accommodating us on such short notice.

Having done the coastal route back in 2004 with a group of 14 friends the landmarks and campgrounds along the coast revived some old memories. What differentiated this trip, (besides the 100lbs of luggage on my bicycle) was the great weather. Our 2004 trip was plagued by so much bad weather (11 days of rain I believe) that lack of comfort became comical. One morning on our 2004 trip I remember waking early to the screams of our good friend Avery. When we rushed to uncover the nature of his cries we found him in 4 inches of standing rain water on the downhill side of the Taj Mahal (a walmart quality wall tent). In the end, our positive energy made up for any lack of sun. I believe everyone would agree that the 12 days from Seattle to San Francisco were some of the best days any one of us have spent on a bicycle. I can honestly say that those 900 miles spawned my obsession with bicycle travel.
11 of the 14 Riders....September 2004


Rather than report on the daily routine of our travel between Portland and San Francisco I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the colorful characters that we encountered along the way.

The Pacific Coast Cycling Guide that I used for camping references, warned against transients in many of the hiker / biker campsites down the coast. The book states, “You may be better off paying for a regular campsite.” Parker and I would like to tastefully disagree. It was this so-called transient traffic that made this trip down the coast so memorable.

Kemo (the earth ox) – Avenue of the Giants, California

As Parker and I pedaled through the majestic shadows of the Redwoods on the Avenue of the Giants I caught a glimpse of a barefoot man navigating a dry creek bed and climbing over downed trees. I smiled and thought to myself what an interesting cast of characters this magical place seems to attract. We pulled over a quarter mile later and I ran inside a local shop to refill my water bottles. When I returned this same barefoot man had Parker cornered and was in the process of delivering an impromptu sermon.

I joined Parker and we listened as this man preached the “word of jesus” and warned us of the temptations of the devil. At one point he even asked us if we would be tempted to eat the moon if it was made of chocolate. When he finally paused to take a breath I started asking him questions. It was painfully apparent that this guy had a story to tell.

Kemo (as his friends call him) is an “earth ox” traveling the “silk road” through America. The route is arbitrary and is determined by the word of God. Kemo’s silk road has conveniently dropped him at some of America’s biggest music festivals including a recent outing at Reggae on the River.

Kemo has had 4 wives, kids with all them, has spent time in a straight jacket in a mental institution, and was once diagnosed as “retarded.” He used to live an affluent life and would vacation in Hawaii every year but didn’t gain purpose until he took to the road. Kemo travels the silk-road in a Ford Windstar and he also calls this van home.

You can imagine our astonishment when Kemo told us that he was carrying over a thousand pounds of organic vegetables and fruit in the back of his vehicle and our shock when he announced that he would be giving us food for our trip.

We left Kemo with full food bags and sense of bewilderment. How could someone who has nothing be so generous?

Robin, his dog & Chuck – Van Damme State Park


We ran into Robin 20 miles south of Fort Bragg in Van Damme State Park. I was instantly curious about Robin’s story because it is very unusual to see someone actually hike into the designated hiker / biker campsites. Robin arrived to the campsite in the late afternoon with his dog in tow and a noticeable lightness to his step. It was very apparent that this guy has walked a few miles in his life. Within 5 minutes he had camp set and he was enjoying an adult beverage.

When Parker and I arrived at Van Damme State Park it didn’t take Chuck but 5 minutes to make our acquaintance and figure out our story. Chuck was so inspired by our passion for travel that he brought us a paper bag filled with vegetables and started handing them to us to cook. It was apparent that Chuck had spent the afternoon lubricating himself with libations but regardless this guy’s generosity with his food was overwhelming.

After cooking Chuck’s organic vegetables, Parker and I invited Chuck and Robin to share dinner with us around one of the picnic tables. We were both excited by the prospect of getting to know these two interesting characters.

Chuck’s clean-cut appearance and well-groomed moustache disguise the fact that he lives a challenging life. As it turns out, Chuck is homeless and lives in a shelter in Santa Rosa, CA.

This marks the second occasion in one week where Parker and I received a generous portion of food from a homeless person. Throughout the trip we have both been amazed and humbled by the kindness of others but it is the openhandedness of people that have nothing that has given us a new perspective on humanity.

Robin has been traveling the road for over 20 years. With hundreds of thousands of miles of hitchhiking and backpacking experience, Robin has truly mastered the art of budget travel. It’s guys like Robin that need to write travel guides because he makes the Lonely Planet Traveling on a Shoestring Series look like a joke.

Robin has lived and worked everywhere. His list of professions includes; fishing boat deckhand in Alaska, painter, contractor, fisherman, farmer in Mendocino County, etc. Although he currently calls Reno, Nevada home, Robin spends most of his time and energy traveling.

Life is all about putting yourself in situations where you will be able to walk away with a good story. Robin’s has taken this philosophy to heart and his current collections of stories are mind blowing. Some of my favorites include…”how I bummed $100 off a bum,” “my decision to never buy a fishing license,” and “my trip down the Pacific Coast Trail” and “my plan to take over the world.”

Oris - Point Arena, California


We met Oris as we were leaving a Taco Shop in Point Arena. After brief introductions, Oris says, I know you’re probably asking yourselves ‘is this guy closer to 78 or 79?’ Well I can tell you I’m closer to 79.”


Oris has been passionate about bicycle travel since a young age. Oris has pedaled his Trek bicycle over 81k miles (pictured below). When I commented on his Keen Newport sandals he told us they have helped him to pedal over 12k of those miles.

Oris told us that in all those miles he had never encountered anything as crazy as what had happened to him earlier that morning. As Oris rounded a bend in the road he caught sight of a large buck deer. The deer was extremely startled by the sight of Oris and in a panic decided to jump in front of him. As Oris braced himself for impact with the deer a pick-up truck came flying by him and struck the animal head on. Oris said the animal exploded like a “cherry bomb.” He said the only thing more amazing than the truck hitting the deer was the fact that he was not covered in blood.

Other notable characters include; two homeless wanderers that we ate dinner with at Clam Beach County Park in Humboldt County, Cat Boy in Gerberville, CA, Jeannette, a Canadian woman who is traveling solo on her bicycle for the next year.



To see the photos from this segment of the trip click here:

http://pebblepedalers.com/photos/show/72157622550411940

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