Well it is off on the long-road yet again for Buff3y the Hardcore Adventure Cyclist. I’ll be winging my way to Colorado on Sunday to resume the ride southwards through the Rockies. Will then be heading south-west into Arizona and then swinging south-eastwards along the Mexican border then on through the southern part of USA to Florida.
For the army of followers out there, will start the blog updates from Sunday after my arrival in Denver. Cannot guarantee that the Spanish pop music will not re-emerge nor that fatigue-induced delirium will not lead to more dodgy postings. You have been warned.
The Co-Motion is having a break and I’m taking the Hilite titanium Pinion 18 speed bike out for a little 3,000km spin. Have reduced the pack size and am now trialing a semi-bike-packing set-up, dispensing with the front panniers, hanging smaller light-weight packs from the rear rack and sporting the Ortleib frame pack, handlebar roll and handlebar bag.
Vegas and five days to eat, drink, gamble and be merry (and not ride a bicycle)! Yep, there are pokies/slots at the airport lounge. Yes, you can go and shoot a machine gun. Yes, there are no clocks in casinos.
There is, of course, an incongruity at the core of Vegas in that there is so much superficiality yet the core is indeed very hard. Hard Cash! It is a healthy assumption to take along with you that pretty well everything and everyone here is specifically focused/designed and honed through years of practice to liberate you from your hard-earned. Pretty well every punter loses and the longer you play the more likely you are to lose. Having got that out of the way you can then get stuck in and joyously waste some money, suck on a plastic guitar full of some god-awful concoction of fluorescent alcohol and have a rollicking good time.
I spent a good amount of time playing roulette at Ceasars where the dealers are classy ‘old school’ wags and have nick names like ‘Lightening Eddie’. The atmosphere is great with good banter over the tables as you consume gallons of free drinks, passive smoke a few packs of cigarettes each day and pretend to know what the hell you are doing while you make increasingly flamboyant and irrational donations to the casino. In just a few short days I must have heard every febrile and misguided theory as to why one number or another should or should not appear soon, all equally ridiculous and well founded. Small stakes gambling should, of course, be fun and it certainly is great fun there (unlike some of the more faded places along the strip). As an added bonus Julius Ceasar and Cleopatra actually stroll through occasionally which is just great. Went to see Mystère Cirque du Soleil (The original format show) which was just marvelous stuff and wonderful athleticism and costumes etc.
We do our level best each posting to bring you the very latest in hard-hitting social commentary; something for which this blog is becoming rightly renowned. Therefore since hitting town I have conducted some field research over at Hooters Casino to test the contention in the recent academic literature that the proximity of large breasts is a contributing factor in punters losing more money when gambling*. The RAAck n Roll Dancers are the latest sensational disrobing act to hit the Vegas strip and with the addition of your delusional correspondent, we became Buff3y & the Buff3ettes for the night (refer photo below). Regrettably we had to let the Robert De Niro impersonator into the shot as he is the slightly retarded brother-in-law of my girlfriend (second from right**). ( * it does) (**if only it were half true)
The National Rodeo Finals are on in town so of course it behooves your correspondent to go and spend some time rubbing chaparejos with the good ol’ boys and gals. Buff3ysbicyclingblog is always poised to perform all manner of daring stunt (refer photo) to keep my readership entertained so here is the latest offering; mechanical bull riding. Now don’t do this at home kids. You need years of preparation for this kind of stunt and at least a few days to recover. I think I may have put my hip out and then un- and re-strangulated a hernia or two. Don’t do this unless you are seriously hardcore! Please note the graceful back-flip on dismount. As students of the work of Tom Lehrer are no doubt aware, “There is surely nothing more beautiful in this world than the sight of a lone man facing single-handedly a half a tonne of (stuffed) angry pot roast!” He actually wrote this in relation to bullfighting but climbing onto one of these things must qualify as a feat of courage and stupidity equal to (stuffed) bullfighting. Square dancing (below) without your own matching black knickers and chaparejos is never a good look so this is best approached as a spectator sport.
At least I didn’t have to suffer the ignominy of the chap (in photo) who bravely attempted to mount the beast while clearly being too fat to do so thus requiring a shunt.
Off for some culture. It has to be noted here for the record what people have known for a long time but have just been too scared to put into print; until now. ‘David’ has a tiny todger and very large hands (refer photo) (Paul, its still true). Foreshortening – shmortening!, he just got the willy and hands wrong. This is the original statue here in Vegas, there being two copies in Florence. In his defense, it is cold in Vegas at the moment with the blowing in of the Santa-Anna winds might have had an impact.
Have taken a few days in San Diego to absorb the enormity of the achievement to date, eat lashings of $3 pizza slices and explore the plethora of Irish pubs in the downtown area.
A big thank you goes out to all those who have been offering encouragement and sending lovely messages. There does, however, still seem to be some lingering confusion regarding comments that could in anyway be construed (by a reasonable person, or me), as critical or negative. This needs to be cleared up right here and now. The previous advice regarding where to post your comments remains in place. To assist further we’ve set up another feedback portal so please forward all negative, idiotic or just boring comments to the link provided below, www.goblowitoutyourarse.com. The team will then do its utmost to respond appropriately and as quickly as possible. As you would no doubt appreciate there is a huge back log of such comments for us to get through so we beg for your understanding in this matter. For those who have left return mailing addresses, please appreciate that it takes time to individually pack the freshest and moistest of dog turds and post them off to you. Therefore please remain patient.
San Diego offered the opportunity to attend a football game (Thanks for the ticket Ian). A great day out was had by all. The temptation is, of course, to follow in the well-trod hoof prints of any number of critics of American football and rabbit on inanely about the steroid fueled gladiatorial machismo of the game. That is along side the temptation to dredge the harbour of banality and go on about the undeniable fact that not a great deal of the playing time appears to be spent actually footing a ball. Yes, of course ‘hand ball’ is more appropriate yet to go down that track would be puerile in the extreme. It is also very true that only skirt-wearing school girls wear helmets and that amount of padding to play a game but that need not be gone into right now. Yes, the boofy lads had the opportunity to express themselves by slamming into each other and the girls similarly through high-stepping ad infinitum. All great stuff.
We at buff3ysbicyclingblog feel that it is far more important to celebrate the game and the theatre of it for what it is; a great opportunity to get out into the car park of a large stadium and ‘tail gate’ up some wieners. The local team is, of course, the San Diego Bustards. Odd they should name their team after the flightless Bustard yet there it is. Quickly inducted in the Denver fan hall of fame, we (the away side) taunted the hometown team as the game went into overtime and the mighty Denver Ducks inevitably exerted their authority. Oddly for a quarterback (the chap charged with the responsibility of throwing the ball), Mr Tebow, the Denver Ducks quarter back is best known for his reluctance and/or inability to throw the ball, preferring to run at the opposition (and sometimes towards his own goal line, much to the chagrin of his team mates). The very enthusiastic and charmingly attired cheer leaders (The San Diego Scrubbers) high-stepped and shook their pom-poms bravely right up until their defeat was secured. Admittedly some points were deducted from San Diego, cruelly many maintain, for having a coach called ‘Norv’ (short for ‘Norv’). To their credit the Bustards fans took the defeat in good humour, the local crowd choosing to take out their justified frustration on Coach Norv through the media at their leisure.
There are more Irish Pubs here in San Diego Gaslamp district per square foot than anywhere else in the world, including Ireland. The Welsh, Irish and Australian contingent spent the bulk of the short stay here in Gastown, sucking on yet more rounds of IPAs at one of the innumerable Irish Pubs.
The Irish, Welsh, Australian triumvirate of pan-continental cycling dominance dissolves here in this city into the annals of pan-American bicycling and IPA drinking folk law (see photo) and we go our separate ways. The Irish continent now takes the easy option of crossing the border into Mexico; The Welsh is return home to clamber up trees while the Australian is left to somehow struggle on through the USA and endure the relative hardship of a side trip to Las Vegas. The good people at San Diego Bike Shop have been kind enough to fit a new set of Continental Travel Contact tires to the beast and look after her for two weeks while I am away.
The comments, cards and letters just keep on flooding in to buff3ysbicycling blog and this blog now runs the serious risk of eclipsing the bulk of those purported ‘adventure’ cycling blogs out there in cyberland. I fear that the narcissistic pleasure that goes along with my new found notoriety as a hardcore cycling adventurer may get the better of me on occasion but I here declare that I will do all that I can to contain my ever-expanding ego as the miles rack up and my global reputation for cycling daring-do balloons correspondingly.
Its been a busy time on the hardcore adventure cycling road since San Francisco and this posting finds your weary yet satisfied correspondent on the southern border of The US of A and at the end of the Canada/USA road. San Diego at last! It’s a long way South still to go till this cyclin’s done but it soothes the soul to stop, reassess and savour the moment of a minor victory along the way. It is now four months and 7,400 km since my first tentative pedal out of Deadhorse Alaska in late July yet it is sobering to think that San Diego is about a quarter of the total journey to the bottom of South America.
I have to note here for the record that the good people of the west coast states of the USA have been nothing but kind, helpful, polite and cool. The coastline has been a dramatic and magnificent backdrop to my incredible exploits and feats of daring-do and although it is satisfying to be finished with Alaska, Canada and the lower 48, I will miss this place and no doubt be back before too long. On-on to Mexico [after a brief respite, including a cultural study trip to Vegas! (by plane this time)].
22nd November (Santa Barbara – North of Zuma Beach) (60 miles)
Managed to get out of bed after the Blue Man Group night and on the road out of Santa Barbara. Met cycling Andy (UK) on the road and we camped just north of Zuma Beach in the state Camp site there. A quick hit of bourbon for breakfast and am on the road again.
23rd November (Zuma – Hermosa) (40 miles)
The boys in the buff3ysbicyclingblog lab have come up with yet another incredible innovation. This time it is the technique for ensuring that you don’t get your bike stolen during the ride through LA. Take the thing into the public toilet with you. So simple yet so very effective! Might raise an eyebrow or two but this is much preferable to having some low-life scamper off with your bike. Zipped through Malibu (which only has septic tanks I’m told!) and Santa Monica (which has very nice plumbing). Its warmer south of SB so can show off the increasingly sexy cycling legs.
Venice Beach had all of the mandatory professional freaks. Great beach services where you can stock up on your medical grade pot and get botoxed on the beach in one hit (so to speak).
There. This is for all those happy snappers frantically clicking away at the Californian coast line. We here at Buff3ysbicyclingblog can give it a bit of silhouette action as well. I spent the night at Hermosa Beach, a bit south of Venice Beach. None of the nightmare scenarios of LA traffic have eventuated, mostly due to the Thanksgiving weekend.
24th November (Hermosa Beach LA – San Clemente (60 miles)
Hard to know where to start with ‘Navajo Dave’. It would be too easy to fob him off as another cycling space cadet on the road in southern California. He did have a very passable patter in new age cycling stoned philosophy and an interesting theory that we could somehow travel back in time by pedaling backwards. Fascinating. In his defense he gave me a bottle of water.
25th November (San Clemente – San Diego) (70 miles)
Arrival in San Diego:
San Diego marks the end of the USA ride and in a way the end of the first chunk of the journey. Next will be Mexico, Central America with South American thereafter.
Just north of SD I met Irish Ian once more and we cycled the last leg into town together. It has to be noted that on arrival in San Diego we did ask a guy to take our photo to record the moment of USA cycling victory for posterity …..and he refused. It was clear that this was because he felt that Ian looked more than a little bit tatty and bum-like and rightly suspected that Ian might be after money. Happily he then focused on your more classically attired humble correspondent, the mistake appreciated and the photo taken.
Welcome to another thrilling chapter in the travel, life and times of Buff3y the Hardcore Solo Adventure Cyclist. There has been a lot of activity on the blog of late with subscriptions way up on the previous quarter (up by 1.3 people) and comments becoming 23.7% less abusive (Paul didn’t comment this quarter). This blogging thing is threatening to go completely viral so please don’t tell your friends, family or corporate sponsors about this site as I just get inundated with emails, cards, donations and letters of support that I simply have to ignore.
I am now blasting down the California coast with Oregon a mere distant memory and LA now firmly in the sights. It is therefore with a skip in my pedal stroke that I offer the latest posting which covers in and around San Francisco.
2nd November (64 miles) (Miranda – Westport):
3rd November (55 miles) (Westport – Manchester)
4th November (68 Miles) (Manchester – Bodega Bay)
There have been a lot of requests recently in the comments portal for recipes of the food that I have been preparing along the way. In anticipation of the forthcoming travel cook book I’ll be sharing a few tasters with you on the blog.
1. Noodles & Spam: Instant Noodles – Open pack and put contents in hot water. Heat Water more. Add Spam. Mulch up a bit. Eat.
2. Noodles & Chili: Heat the noodles (as per above) and drain the salty stuff. Add canned chili con carne (p.s. ensure that the noodles do not stick to the pan).
3. Gravy and Biscuit Do not eat this. It’s rubbish.
There has been some stunning scenery all along the coastline north of San Francisco. I have joined the army of people snapping away at the California coast looking for that perfect shot of the roacks and headlands.
One of the great disadvantages of hard-core solo adventure travel is that you do not enjoy the luxury of duty division at the campsite that others enjoy. Couples I’ve camped with can have the tent pitched and the noodles on the boil long before your long-suffering solo correspondent has had the chance to scratch himself. Am tempted therefore to look for a woman who can share some of the load and duties. The task that is easily the most onerous (for me at least) is getting the sleeping bag stuffed back in the sack each morning: A song therefore (after Cat Stevens):
I’m lookin’ for a bag-stuffin’ woman,
One to stuff my sleepin’ bag-a-a-ag….
When I find that bag-stuffin’ woman,
I won’t be stuffin’ my own ba–hag -ag, no, no. no-o-o
I’m lookin’ for a bag-stuffin’ woman, [- stuffin’ woman]
I can cook and do the rest, -est -est,
When I find that bag-stuffin’ woman,
I’m goin’ ta watch her get undressed – yes, yes, yes….yes I will…
I know a lot of fancy campers,
people claiming they’re hardcore –ore, -ore.
They move so smooth but aren’t good sleeping bag stuffers
When you ask “Why’d you come here for?”
“I don’t know” “Why?” ……
5th November (75 Miles) (Bodega Bay – San Francisco)
The ride into town was complicated by two hours of rain and the delay of stopping at an oyster bar 30 miles up the cost (Hog Island Oysters – highly recommended). It was therefore a very sodden cyclist that hit town via the Golden Gate Bridge.
What a wonderful wonderful city. This is a seriously beautiful city with scale and class and great eateries, drinkeries and gritty bits. OK, I’ll grant that it is full of a lot of odd people and there are some parts that smell a bit of wee, particularly in the inner suburb of Tenderloin where your correspondent is now ensconced. But this is all part of SF’s charm and coming over the Golden Gate Bridge (see video) I’m elated just to arrive here and very much looking forward to spending time here exploring the place.
Downtown in The ‘Loin’ there are loads of people talking to themselves – gibbering away in a meth-induced haze. A cop car is chasing some guy who is riding a bicycle and my money is on the cyclist escaping as he has some clever cut-back maneuvers that are frustrating his pursuer who needs to reverse and start after him again as he darts up another side street. The veterans Day (Armistice Day) parade is on with people dropping their wooden twirling rifles and batons with under-practiced aplomb to great hilarity. Its all happening. China Town, Alcatraz, North Beach and The Loin – have done some serious tourist work this week.
Tucking into huge fry up hash brown and sausage breakfasts each morning and exploring the entertainment districts each night. I tried grits but am disappointed in the sloppy (not very ‘gritty’ at all!) nature of the stuff. My hotel here (The Abigail) is regrettably falling to pieces. At one point the receptionist chap has the temerity to knock on my door and announce that, “No bicycles are allowed in the hotel rooms after 9pm”. I’ve heard some truly idiotic things in my time but this ranks right up there. Was compelled to politely request he go and get knotted: (and pen the below in honour of this hotel):
‘Ohhhh Theee… Abigail Hotel is a load of shit
Be very thankful if you’re not in it,
Heating doesn’t work so get a blankit
Toilet’s stuffed and its not fixed yit…’
It’s amazing but the word-smithing just seems to reach new heights with every mile I pedal. So much so that Buff3ysbicyclingblog has been approached to provide an entry in the ‘Song for San Francisco Competition for 2011′. We have therefore toiled for some hours to come up with an ‘Ode to Tenderloin’, the downtown slumish area of central San Francisco in which my (monumentally average and rapidly disintegrating) hotel is located. Tenderloin’s odd name reportedly is due to the high quality of steak that the police who had this lucrative beat could afford because of rampant corruption here (I didn’t make this one up). It’s now a pretty shoddy example of urban decay and a haven for drug dealers, drunks, addicts, the disenfranchised and people who just mumble to themselves a lot; a place to score or just while away the afternoon gibbering incomprehensibly to ones self. In amongst all of the human tragedy there is, however, something here that’s got real soul (The Maltese Falcon was set and filmed here!) and which is an oozing, throbbing part of San Francisco. We’ve set the words here with a bit of a jazz feel, free style spewin’ the words onto the page, which seems somehow appropriate to the setting (jazz the Ricky May way – forget about that beat yeah!):
[Blues: piano, bass, guitar, harmonica, kazoo]
You’re tough but you engender….
in me such feelings of delight,…
The boys trans-gendering,
Its very lovely in the Spring
In good ol’ Tenderloin.
Despite the odor of urine
It’s back to you that I do pine…..
to beee, if only fleetinglyyy….
and mumble incessantly
in good ol’ Tenderloin.
Your lollies metholated
stir feelings constipated…
of psychosis, schitzophenia
in me,… or him,
in good ol’ Tenderloin.
Ideas rarely sensible
to me,…it’s great to be
so very very fleetingly,
in good ol’ Tenderloin.
12th November (25 Miles) (San Francisco – Montara) .
It wasn’t easy to leave San Francisco. The Irish and Welsh contingent have been great pub surfing companions in the past few days and I miss The Loin already. I did, however, manage to get through the city streets and west to the beach then turn left for LA cruising south along the coastal road for a few miles today. It was good to clear the city limits and get back int the cycling after a week of beer and hashbrowns.
The equipment feels good and the bike is now proudly sporting a new set of lovely mud guards and it is even more of a touring weapon.
Dramatic vision of Buff3y’s entry to San Francisco. The first time in recorded history that a hardcore touring cyclist has completed the journey from Deadhorse to San Francisco [*with a belt drive and Rohloff Speed Hub bike] – [maybe].
(Will provide the San Francisco posting in all of its glory, exaggerated tales of daring-do including those rare insights into the human condition that visitors to buff3ysbicyclingblog have come to expect when I could be arsed writing it.)
There has been an overwhelming response to my song writing efforts of the last posting. all requests for a recording of same will be addressed as soon as we can find a banjo player. No further comments on my poetry will be entertained.
23rd October (40 miles) (Corvallis – Eugene)
24th October (Eugene)
The good people at Co-Motion Cycles have been looking after me very nicely. The bike has had some serious love and attention from Teryk and an overhaul including a new rear pulley and carbon belt. I’ve been instructed in the art of belt tension checking and adjustment as the previous pulley and belt had suffered from my neglect and both had worn prematurely. It is, however, worth noting that the new rear pulley is steel rather than aluminum, so it should last the distance. With drive train, brakes and other minor adjustments, the bike now feels like a new beast. It is actually the first time that both the bike and I have been in good condition at the same time (as on the Dalton Highway in Alaska I was in anything but good condition). Man and beast are therefore now morphing into the one being capable of astounding feats of mile devouring daring-do (see man-and-bike photos).
25th October (61 miles) (Eugene – Florence)
The cities of Washington State and Oregon have been very cool places and it has lead to some speculation on this blog as to where the not-so-cool places are – as some there surely had to be. Alas in one or two of the little towns along the coastal strip of southern Oregon into northern California it has become apparent where the Oregonians dump a lot of their somewhat-less-than-cool people, some of whom appear to have developed very enthusiastic affection for their siblings. On-on.
26th October (58 miles) (Florence – Sunset Beach Bay)
Did the wheel dipping in the Pacific here (Ocean to Ocean – Arctic to Pacific). Camping can be a chore on occasion and when you have the combination of overly officious camp rangers and raccoons fighting and trying to get into the packs, it is just a complete pain in the arse. I had to move my tent to be in the ‘hiker/biker’ section even though this section was closed. I’ll write them nasty letter: that’ll show ‘em. A raccoon managed to make off with the salami!
27th October (55 miles) (Sunset Beach – Port Orford)
At Port Orford the road at the end of the main street leads up to a magical panorama across the bay. I decided to take a room at the motel at the top of the ridge and stroll down to the wharf for a seafood dinner and was very glad I did. Other oysters around the world will hold their oyster-hoods cheap for not being on my plate in Port Orford this night. After a few bad experiences with piddling little grotty oysters up the coast, ‘Griffs on the Bay’ out on the wharf came through with six huge pump jobbies.
Earlier that day I again met John and Kate who are cycling across USA and down the west coast for FarmAID (foodcyclists.org) visiting farms along the way. We shared the Seven Devils coastal road out of Sunset Bay beach. At lunch we also met a couple of guys doing the speed biking trip heading down the coast of USA in 11 days which is 150 miles per day! (see photo).
28th October (50 miles) (Port Orford – Brookings)
29th October (58 miles) (Brookings – Orick)
There are a number of statues around the USA of Paul Bunyan the giant woodsman and his side-kick ‘Babe’ the blue bull. The Wiki entry casts some doubt on the origin of the tales of Mr Bunyan and Babe and doesn’t really tell you what they did so here I will fill in the blanks. Paul was a popular chap because he was very large. Just why he befriended a bull and called it Babe is not clear but suffice to say that life on the frontier could be pretty lonely. This bull ‘Babe’ had rather large testicles whereas Paul, despite his large size, had small testicles. This infuriated Paul for people would come from far and wide to marvel at the size of Babe’s testicles. They were less and less interested in a giant man who cut down trees – who had meager testicles. Paul was, of course, very jealous of both the attention that Babe and his large testicles were getting and that he too did not have big testicles. He locked Babe away from sight. Being locked up, Babe was not able to date any cows and he became sexually frustrated. Having only hooves he was not able to masturbate (bulls not having thumbs of course). After a while of being without sex, Babe began to turn blue. This is where we get the term, ‘to have blue balls’ i.e. a male being deprived of sex. One version of the tale has it that Paul chopped Babe’s huge balls off in a jealous rage and some statues around the country reflect this in that Babe appears sackless.
30th October (55 miles) (Orick – Eureka):
31st October (45 miles) (Eureka – Weott):
The ‘Avenue of the Giants’ south of Eureka is a wonderful stretch of road running alongside the main 101 Highway that takes you through some breathtaking forest with majestic tree trunks on either side of the road in many sections (see photos). Chance had it that a good bunch of cyclists congregated at the camp site near Weott and being Halloween we had a campfire and your correspondent took the opportunity to get completely ratted on cheap whiskey. In the campsite there were a good few of us who are doing the pan-American ride (see photo).
1st November (10 miles) (Weott – Miranda):
Left camp with Rob the Welsh biker (twatonabike) who is traveling south from Alaska alone after his colleague abandoned the trip very early on (after 30 miles!). After the excessive drinking of last night it was a minor miracle that we made it even the 10 miles we somehow managed, sweating whiskey all the way. Best call this one a rest day.
2nd November (64 miles) (Miranda – Westport):
A hard but lovely climb and plummet over the Coastal Range west to the coast and onto Route 1 which hugs the coastline for the 200 mile run south into San Francisco. Legs pumped along like over-sized steam powered pistons mercilessly battering the hills into submission. A long climb through the woods in the afternoon and then swoop to the coast and a magnificent view up and down the rugged coast line. Rob managed to get himself bitten by a spider by the road side so he repaired to the hospital for a patch up.
“Hey hey Woody Guthrie….. The very last thing that I’d like to do,. is to sa’ayy I’ve been hittin’ some hard travelin’ too” (Dylan)
Hard travelin’ indeed, I thought you “knowed”. Woody and Bob never pedaled it! I’ve been taking some time to get lost on some quiet back-roads headin’ south parallel to the Interstate 5. All very quiet roads running through by-passed little towns. Have been rolling through the heartland in Washington and Oregon where the election of local officials is well under way (Mayors, Fire Chiefs, School Officials). The Jefferson County Wooden Object Sculptor is not seeking re-election after that ‘Mr-Turd-gate’ scandal. Half way between Olympia and Portland I got stuck out in the wilds and had to camp by the road somewhere. Its getting a bit chilly in the early mornings for this sort of caper so again the coming winter is driving your correspondent ever southwards.
Portland is a truly great city oozing charm and (biking) credibility. In Portland the thing to do is drink loads of great coffee and micro-brews at Rouges and the Deschutes Brewery Public House and go to some ‘improv’ theatre. The other thing to do is to enjoy the great food from the food carts in the centre of town. Today was treated to a magnificent lamb kebab with a Brazilian/Russian twist which was just wonderful. Definitely 5 out of 5 stars. Olga is the prettiest food-cart girl in all Portland, if not the whole of Oregon. I must admit that I got the distinct impression that she took a shining to your humble correspondent. If she plays her cards right she might get to ride my bike.
Your intrepid correspondent has reported in previous entries that the love handles were diminishing with every pedal stoke and the Adonis–like visage of his youth was miraculously reappearing. Am now sad to report that the unexpected quality and profusion of superb ales in Washington and Oregon have put paid to that little process for the time being.
The local ‘Occupy Wall Street” park protest is a lot more militant here than up in Olympia. There is, however, some descent in the ranks as no one wants to do the washing up and the hippies want to turn it into a bongo powered trance party while the hard-core anarchists want to keep it a gas-mask totin’ protest. A few people are a bit miffed that their tents and back-packs have gone missing so the solidarity is slipping in places. The campers here did have the latest innovation in bike design, where one bike frame is mounted in another with an intricate chain mechanism. Groovy.
Riding your bicycle here is a treat as the streets and traffic are bike friendly. Regrettably the Portlandian talent for inept reverse parking took another victim last night with a parked motorbike knocked over and a damsel in distress. Fear not for luckily your knight in shining Gore-tex was on hand to swiftly remedy the situation and right the bike increasing yet again the gross international happiness.
On the subject of bicycles, Oregon is USA custom bike building central. I went over to Renovo which is a firm here in Portland that makes wooden bicycles and had a tour of the factory These are things of rare and wondrous beauty and I had a test ride (see photo). Very smooth ride and loads of cafe credibility. (update – Have put in the order for an R4 with Shimano Alfine 11 speed internal hub with Gates belt drive. Will take 7 months to build).
By chance at the hostel I ran into Ian from Ireland who is one half of the two-man 350south.org team who are also cycling south from Deadhorse (having left there in mid July). We took in The Hub Brewery which has a cycling theme and took full toll of the lashings of quality local brews on tap. It was there that I discovered the Bicycle seat urinal snooze cushion [see photos below]. We at Buff3ysbicyclingblog are always on the look out for cutting edge design and innovation and in the gents at The Hub Brewery Bar we found it. Should you find yourself with a gut full of IPA and in need of a bit of a mid-urination snooze, then this is just the thing. Ever passed out in the middle of a wee and slammed your head against the wall? I think honestly we gents all have at one time or another. The snooze seat is the answer.
Below is an example of the fantastic array of the micro-brews (these in McMinnville, Oregon.)
20th October (still in Portland)
The good people of Portland are a very welcoming and laid back bunch; the ones that I met anyway. Very comfortable in their skins generally so free of pretense and generally happy to chat. On my last night in town was lucky enough to hook up with some affable Portlanders who took your correspondent off to a “strip bar”. Of course I thought this meant a strip-mall bar so you can imagine my surprise when the dancers started to actually disrobe right there on the stage! Most revealed all manner of ornate skin decorations. The kind lady dancers performed quite suggestive contortions and gyrations on a pole which would not be recommended by any knee surgeon and the patrons then provided them with dollar bills which resulted in more and more contortions and gyrations. The more dollar bills produced, the more enthusiastic the gyrations became and the happier everyone became! The more grog consumed, the more dollar bills produced and gyrations generated, and the more everyone became ever so happy. All really good wholesome family fun. I fear I imbibed a great deal of grog and blew the budget in one dollar bills. Have to get out of this town sometime soon.
21st October (45 miles) (Portland – McMinnville)
McMinnville south-west of Portland is yet another very cool little town and the Oregon Hotel is a lovely old place. Perhaps for the time being it might be easier to just assume that the towns are cool places here in the North-West until advised otherwise. Given the beer and whiskey consumption of the previous night, it was nothing short of a minor miracle that I was able to get my sorry arse out of bed, packed and on the road. The going was predictably slow but happily the road is mostly flat now running south along the valley past the farms and vineyards. The wine country now should give me a break from the myriad brews of Portland.n,
McMinnville Pizza Theatre is an indication of a truly civilized society. This is a place where you can order pizza and pints of local IPA which is then served to you on a bench table in the movie theatre. What the hell have I been doing with my life up until now, snoozing at the urinal of life while others have been getting served top quality pizzas and quality micro-beers while they watched movies? Pity that the only movie on tonight was ‘Bad Bosses’, which while funny in places was obviously done for a dare, and is something both Kevin Spacey will not doubt regret having had anything to do with.
22nd October (45 miles) (McMinnville – Corvallis)
After the huge response to my poetry from the Dalton Highway (my sister wrote, “not too sure about the poetry” – resounding praise indeed), I’ve now turned my talents to song writing to wile away the long miles on the road. Today a traveling song (which will become pretty evident) inspired by the last Guthrie/Dylan entry so you get the idea.
[Musically a cross between and Irish Reel and ‘Granma’s Feather Bed’ – Tempo is to a Rohloff speed hub in 9th gear at 13 miles an hour – therefore equivalent to Allegro Moderato. Full score available for Kazoo, Jaw Harp, Banjo, Jug and Bush bass]
I done wrote me a travelin’ song
I’m gonna sing it while I pedal along
The tune is simple and the words they all fit…
So while I’m a pedalin’ I’m gonna sing it.
Oh, I done wrote me a travelin’ song
I’m gonna sing it while I pedal along
You may not like it; or think that it’s shit
But it’s a travelin’ song and it can’t be unwrit….
Bobby and Woody they jump on a train
Sit on their arses and jump off again
If that’s what’s meant by hard travelaiin…
I’ll jump on board and out of the rain.
Now I’ve dodged moose and cariboo
Half-blind truckers and a bear or too
We come from Deadhorse and South we go
All on down to Tierra del Fuego
[Jaw-harp Solo – tattooed girls dancing Strip-the-willow]
Oh, I done wrote me a travelin’ song.
I’m gonna sing it while I pedal along.
You may not like it, or think it’s shit
But it’s a travelin’ song and it can’t be unwrit….
[Kazoo Solo – more girls doing strip the willow]
Well this bicycle travelin’ has certainly loosened up the creative juices. It took only 60km to write that song! I don’t use an i-pod as I pedal thankfully as I would surely have missed the pivotal moment of inspiration that struck somewhere between McMinnville and here.
23nd October (40 miles) (Corvallis – Eugene)
The cycling pilgrimage for my Co-Motion bike is complete and we are back in the city of the Co-Motion. Therefore a pit stop before heading across to the Oregon Coast. Teryk there has been kind enough to undo some of the abuse I’ve handed out to the beast so I will be riding a revitalised machine tomorrow.
Part One: The Dalton Highway (Deadhorse to Fairbanks)
The Dalton highway gets a day-by-day description given that it is the first challenge of the trip (and I am full of the zeal of a new blogger) and secondly because it was an event of a highway. Deadhorse on the Arctic Sea coast is where this journey begins and its all southwards from here on. The last few days of the below were on the Richardson Highway between the end of the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks.
Deadhorse: I delayed the departure in order to pick up a few things (bear repelling horn etc) and organise the pack a bit. I also wanted to get myself in ‘the zone’ for cycling after such a long hiatus (14 years no less) and having everything just right will help. It has been a while since I attempted anything this foolhardy so really needed to be in the right frame of mind at the outset. Yesterday turned out sunny with a following breeze so would have been a good day to start as it turns out and with the prospect for the next five days being cloudy with showers, I might regret the decision to dally. Had a little ride of approximately 5km over to the general store and can feel that new leather saddle will need some working in. The Prudhoe Bay Hotel has ‘all you can eat’ all day long in the cafeteria to cater for the oil rig workers so I take full toll.
Day 1: (50 Miles): So it begins. I circle around the Deadhorse Airport and then turn south and head down the Dalton Highway, and on towards the great beyond. I set out early and feeling very nervous. Am not sure what I am doing and why. After a few miles every muscle, joint and bone is aching. By mile 20 am stunned by the sudden and belated realisation that I am old. Quite a revelation. A steady one degree gradient throughout the day on straight road. There is a carpet of tundra as far as the eye can see on either side of the road and the ever present oil pipeline accompanies me for each mile. This pipeline feeds the USA with crude and runs from Deadhorse straight to the south coast of Alaska. Am gradually getting used to the bike and she me. Camped short of Pump Station #2. Camping for the first time in ages so am relearning how to put the tent up and thankfully it proved very easy. My mother doubted if I would be capable of camping out at all so I guess I really showed her. There is, essentially, nothing at all between Deadhorse and Wiseman/Coldfoot (225 miles south) in terms of services such as food, shelter etc so until I get there I will be on my own (apart from the company of the odd passing truck doing the long haul up to Deadhorse).
Day 2: (50 miles): The flat has given way to rolling hills which are a not-so subtle form of torture. Over one crest and down into a small dip then back up another – repeat ad infinitum – heartbreaking stuff. Loose muddy gravel road surface into the bargain. The Rohloff gear twist grip changer came loose and sure enough it was the 20mm ‘torx’ that is required while I, of course, have the 25mm torx. Better to rig up a wire to the handlebars to keep the shifter from moving so that I can at least change gears. I may have misjudged the food requirements, or my pace, or both – or more precisely not really judged either of them very well at all. At my current pace I will be running short on noodles and spam; not good. It will then be a race to get to Wiseman/Cold Foot (at 225 and 239 mile marker respectively) before the food supply runs out. Am equipped with the bear repelling kit of knife and hooter and am camping with them at the ready. Andre at the ‘Happy Valley’ Camp (an airstrip) informs that the hooters don’t work. Thanks Andre.
Day 3: (36 miles): Met biker Robert by the roadside with the small trailer behind his Cannondale mountain bike. Reassuringly he is only getting 30 miles a day so at least there is one person on the planet traveling more slowly than I. Mark the cyclist I met in Deadhorse is long gone and will probably be in Anchorage by now. Today the road just went up and up for 25 miles rolling through the morning. Not good at my level of unfitness. Camped just in time to get half soaked putting the tent up. [Note to self: Must get better at weather watching.] It appears I am going into a canyon before the pass tomorrow.
Day 4: (31 miles): An examination of character. Awoke to find a strong wind blowing directly from the south which just happens to be the direction in which I wished to travel so had a hellish ride into the teeth of it all day long. It blows up through the canyon into which I am heading so there was simply no respite all day long. Even on those brief down hill sections the bike refused to budge as the headwind was simply holding it still. Majestic scenery though as the continental divide rises out of the rolling hills that have been my companions between miles 50 to 100. The pass is turning out to be a very long rise (of which 500 metres elevation was achieved today over the 30 miles on the road). Camped just short of the pass and had the last of the noodles – a calculated gamble to get as many carbs in as possible so that I can get over the mountain pass tomorrow morning and then hope that the going is easier into Wiseman/Cold Foot.
Day 5: (64 miles): Awoke to light rain and a decision to make as to whether to ride over the top of he pass. Hunger and the theory that rain falls on one side of mountains and maybe not on the other prevailed so up I cycled up the hill. Some truly ugly grades near the top so really there was more pushing than cycling for an hour or so. The guidebook says something about stunning views from the top: I saw nothing but cloud, rain and more wind in the face. The weather theory turned out to be rubbish as well so got a gentle soaking for most of the day. Plummeting down the other side and eventually out of the mist I encountered the first trees since the start of the trip as the road finally broke away into a gentle down hill and level glide for 50 miles into Wiseman and most importantly, a cabin and some food.
Brand new bike
New leather saddle
Undulating ride across
Day 8 (60 miles) Wiseman to ‘Gobbler’s Knob’: Refreshed and rolling after recuperation in Wiseman at the lovely Borreal Lodge. Headed down to Coldfoot and a truly magic hamburger (with Tots!) [refer photo ‘Best Hamburger’], quite possibly the best hamburger in the history of the world. The weather was a vast improvement with patches of blue sky in the afternoon so had the opportunity to take in the scenery of rolling hills. The wind persists from the south (directly in the face as normal). The nastiest rise all day was up to the oddly named ‘Gobblers Knob’ at the end of the day’s ride (make up own story as to how it got this name). Gobblers Knob lookout had great views back down the valley with the charming ‘Pump Station Number 5’ shimmering in the distance. The look out at the summit was the venue for the night’s camp where I met a guy and his girlfriend who offered beer and marshmallows! All good until a trucker pulled up and idled the truck for the next 10 hours. Just why they do this is difficult to say; its not that cold. to create more demand for oil thereby ensuring continued trucking employment on the haul road or just run the heater for the cabin? I fear so. Either way the bastard ran his engine all through the night and woke even a very tired cyclist.
Day 9 (72 miles) (Gobbler’s Knob – 5 mile north of Yukon River [Hot Spot Café]): Hard hard hard ride. Up and down and up and down until your heart bleeds, your soul shatters, dreams crush, guts tear out and you cry for your mummy like a babe lost in the woods with big nasty wolves poised to attack and nibble on those very same torn out guts. At last there was no wind in my face but as the wind took a breather, the topography took over in its quest to defeat your humble correspondent. Monstrous dips and rises all day that take your will and give it a good kicking. One mile rolling down then One mile pushing up silly unridable 12-14 degree gradients. In the afternoon made it back across the Arctic Circle line [refer obligatory snap shot next to the sign]. I imagine that makes me a reverse ‘Blue Noser’, a ‘Red Noser’ perhaps? The plan was to camp and ride to Yukon River the next day but as the camping terrain looked uninviting (bear paw marks along the road’s edge) and the road finally leveled out offering some encouragement, I decided to press on. As it turned out the ‘roller-coaster’ ride resumed so up and down I went for the next 15 miles over more ugly gradients, each just for ½ mile but more and more of the roll down and repeat scenario until you lose the will to live. The nearer your destination the more you’re slip-slidin’ away (Simon and Garfunkel), and today I did some sliding. Suffered through the last 10 miles and felt that if the up and down, roll/push combinations persisted much longer then there was a possibility of my just running out of energy bikkies entirely and sitting down for a good cry. 9pm eventually found me at the ‘Hot Spot Café’ (4 miles short of The Yukon River crossing) with a ‘gift shop’ container full of stickers cautioning not to dare give a difficult time to the proprietors, (“Happy Everything – now leave me alone until next year” sort of thing). The camp accommodation, however, was very very welcome. Had the second best and undoubtedly the largest hamburger in the history of the world and a heated room (converted part of a shipping container) with a bed and a hot shower nearby! Am amazed again at the recuperative power of just one shower and a super-sized hamburger. I really pushed it out way too hard to get here today and might be in need of a day’s recuperation. 132 miles over that ridiculously undulating terrain in two days was just too much for an old bugger like me who is just trying to get his cycling legs back.
Day 10 (62 miles) (Hot Spot to end of The Dalton Highway): Over the Yukon River bridge first thing in the morning and then up a long gentle rise from Yukon River up and up 8 miles. A few nasty climbs but generally the cranking legs are getting back in shape a tad. Up until close to the end of the highway everything was in order and again decided to push it out beyond the original plan in order to get the Dalton Highway done. The Highway, however, really didn’t want to give up without a fight. The last 20 miles turned into a nasty roller-coaster and the surface deteriorated to ugly dirt and then into a thick gluey clay-like gloop that encased the wheels and jammed up everything. Over the last 2km the highway threw everything at me. Horrid horrid grades, more gloopy mud and with 1.5 miles to go the gears clogged (odd for an internally geared rear hub I’ll grant). Had to push the bike up the last grade and then coast out the end of the Highway with no gears and no energy. Its not clear, to me at least, as to what the cause of the gear jam actually is but the glue/mud might have jammed the external mesh (cable connection to the hub) up or something might have come loose: or both. Whatever the problem it will need fixing if I am to continue the red cycling line. At the first intersection for 414 miles since Deadhorse I can see the sign facing the opposite direction reading ‘Dalton Highway’. A huge moose replete with a splendid rack of antlers, pokes its head out from the road-side trees, sees me and then deciding that the better part of valor is discretion, disappears. It is done. I am the master of the Dalton Highway! What a road! Oh life! No welcoming committee – so I camp by the road.
Day 11 (33 miles): A lesson in actually taking the time to get things right. I had attempted some on-the-roll repairs yet to all intents and purposes the bike remains dysfunctional. The drive wouldn’t take a load on the drive without the gears slipping – making hill climbs impossible. There is also a risk of doing some sort of permanent damage to the gear edges. 15 miles down the road and a caravan drink stop I ran into an odd French man who was riding up ½ of the Dalton (Why half?). I gave him my map which he, blissfully unaware of the way it had been loved and studied over the past two weeks, promptly placed on a wet table soaking the thing, bloody ingrate. Went on to the Arctic Circle Gift shop (more ‘don’t mess with me’ stickers) that was closed for a lunch three hours. This turned out to be a blessing in that I decided to wait there and actually clean the bike and (belatedly) consult the Rohloff hub gear manual. I also inspected the twist shift and within an hour and the assistance of a handy drill bit handle, I had the gear mesh’ cleaned and tightened and the twist shift re-installed properly. All good to go. Had one long long climb through the afternoon but called it quits at 8pm on a ‘turn-out’ road with a fire just enough to heat the noodles.
Day 12: (42 miles): Cycled up the remainder of the only pass between the end of the Dalton and Fairbanks and had a decent day of ‘normal’ highway ride. 15 miles out had a stop at the Hilltop Truck stop and a huge plate of stuff called ‘Hilltop demolition’ (a ‘fry up’ plate of assorted bits of animal and potatoes). Then it was down into Fairbanks and splurged on a room with a jacuzzi! Two days here soaking in the tub and reassess the situation.