Subscribe to Harry's bike blog, from Alaska to UshuaiaNews FeedSubscribe to Harry's bike blog, from Alaska to UshuaiaComments

Day 212-215, 8-11 Feb 2009: From a mission to a pick-up, elephants & cyclists

February 15, 2009 by  
Filed under California, North America, Trip reports, USA

8 February 2009: Pacific Grove (Monterey) – Gorda. 45 + 60km…

After saying goodbye to Diego, we headed back down the ‘17 Mile Drive’ and ended up in Carmel by the Sea, a nice small town, with much better looking houses than the ‘Drive’. We spent some time exploring the old Mission, one of many that were placed here along the coast.

Carmel Mission Carmel Mission (2)

We had some lunch in the windy Point Lobos reserve. We had been told that this was one of most beautiful points along the coast, but for us it was ‘average’. I guess we have been spoilt rotten the past months 😉

Further South it was more interesting as we entered the Big Sur area. Unfortunately with the rougher coastline, came also more hills.. At least the coves and canyons were bridged here (as opposed to Northern California, where you just go all the way down and then back up again, my knee says thanks..).

California Coast California Coast (2)

Just after crossing a large bridge the road steepened up and did not stop for as far as we could see, so we started to push at least 100m up. Just when I reached the top of the hill, I approached a parked car, where a young man had been enjoying the views from the top.

Ivana on bridge‘Hi there. I am Eric. Do you need a ride?’

Hmm. We just pushed up this hill, so there should be a nice downhill ahead. Still, Ivana was on her way up, it would be dark in 20 minutes and Big Sur village was still 9km away, so we would probably be cycling in the dark. Also my knee had enough of the climbing.

As the road had barely any shoulder, but plenty of steep drop-offs, we accepted Eric’s proposal and put ourselves and our bikes in the back of his truck.

We told him to stop in Big Sur, but while we were expecting a larger village where we could ask for a place to camp, we passed some motels and before we realized it, we had passed Big Sur. Eric said he would continue South and asked if we wanted to join further. I checked the altitude profiles of the next section and saw 4 hills of 300m (1000ft) each with more in between. Ouch.

I was afraid that my knee would not survive. So far we had taken only one ride and that had been for going back on a stretch we had already cycled. We had skipped the major ferries, but now it felt unavoidable. I could be stubborn and cycle but maybe that would mean the end of the trip, just 50km ahead…

We stayed on the truck…

We ended up in a small village –just a roadhouse- called Gorda (‘fat’ in Spanish!) Eric was taking a room in the motel and after asking around we found a place to camp opposite the road on a nice grassy patch in a small forest. Eric, who is a musician on his way from the East coast to LA,  came over for dinner and played and sang some songs for us while we were making pasta in the dark. It was great & ‘gezellig’, but suddenly the rain washed our party away and we went back into our tent while the skies opened up all valves.

9 February 2009: South of Gorda – San Luis Obispo, 100km

Still we managed to stay dry and the next morning we joined Eric for another small ride over the last hill and then said goodbye. Fortunately the rain decided to stop, while we were organising our bikes.

California Coast South of Big Sur Kowalski at California Coast South of Big Sur

We stopped at a roadhouse for our peanut butter sandwiches and talked with Victor Antonio, who was walking around the US to promote peace through marijuana.

Elephant Seal weanerIvana going South againNot only the sun came out, but it brought its good friend the wind as well which pushed nicely in our back on our way South.

We passed more and more beaches filled with hundreds of elephant seals, some relaxing on the grass and sand, far from the ocean.

We also passed Hearst Castle, made famous in the movie ‘Citizen Kane’.

Though some of the rocks where interestingly white, we actually saw some fresh snow in the hills as well, a rarity in this area.

Elephant SealElephant Seals (2)

Thanks to the wind, we were making good speed and we decided to go all the way to San Luis Obispo. We arrived just before sunset after 100km of cycling and were welcomed by WarmShowers Hosts and fellow biketravellers Matt & Rita, who cooked up a great vegetarian Chilli.

10/11 February 2009: SL Obispo – Buellton via Santa Maria, 67km + 69km

Matt & Ivana on a tandemAfter Ivana has tested the recumbent tandem bike, we headed off. Matt & Rita joined us all the way to took us through some nice back roads to Pismo Beach, where we had lunch together before they headed back.

We continued through nice country roads before we entered the large busy city of Santa Maria. It took us a long time to pas the dozens of traffic lights, while dodging thousands of huge trucks…

It was dark before we made it to Bill Korn’s house, another welcoming host that was a rider himself. he cooked up an Argentinean asado and Ivana felt right at home.

The next morning Bill joined us and showed us some more back roads. It is so nice to stay with local cyclists as they always know the best routes to take and this was no exception. Following some steep hills we ended up the ‘Foxen Canyon Road’.

Ivana on the Foxen Canyon roadBill and Ivana

California fields (2) California fields (3)

Halfway up Bill said goodbye and turned back using another nice route, while continued our ascent. It was actually longer and higher than the route in our guidebook, but we still felt guilty about our ride with Eric the other day, so it was no problem doing the 30 extra km.

Besides, the slope was much more gentle, we hardly noticed that we went up to 400m altitude until the last steep climb. Then after a nice downhill and another steep climb, it was all the way down to the quaint town of Solvang, passing friendly Los Olivos on our way.

Solvang was the base of a Danish community and their Danish and Dutch ancestry is clearly visible in the buildings and local shops. We even found good cheese, dropjes & pepermunt!

Ivana in Solvang World Peace in Solvang

Solvang, Denmark, ehh California Solvang, Denmark, ehh California (2)

The latter we took as a gift to our hosts for the night: Joe and Carol had invited their best friends and cycling partners and together with their housemate we had a really nice dinner. Carol, who is a painter, had cooked for al 7 people and we had a great time.

It is such a pleasure to meet all the nice US citizens on this trip. Most people are very different in background, but they are all very friendly and hospitable.

The next morning we had a great incentive to leave early and arrive in Santa Barbara. Our hotel was waiting. ‘Hotel? How about that budget?’ I hear you say… the next report will clear all mysteries :)

Kowalski! Status report!

The knee works quite well. On the bike it feels good, off the bike it is painful. Guess I just have to keep on cycling!

Our bikes are indestructible as ever. Still we are stuck at a few flat tires for Ivana (I think 3) and only one for me, after a total of 7656km so far!

080209090209

100209110209

Day 152-160, 10-18 Dec 2008: Breaking a knee in steep California: from Red Woods to a Golden Gate…

December 20, 2008 by  
Filed under California, North America, Trip reports, USA

We had camped in the cold Redwoods & enjoyed the rest of the Avenue of the Giants leisurely. After no more than 35km we ended up in Redway, where we called Johnny, our host for the night for directions to his home and he picked us up and took us far into the curvy hills.

He told us how basically everybody in the entire county was somehow involved in the growing of marijuana, either for ‘medical’ or for business reasons, and that even the local radio had special announcements when ‘the helicopter’ would be on patrol.

This got confirmed by Todd, our host for the next night and was amazing to hear as we thought that with the ‘war on drugs’ and all, easy targets (like very citizen in a 50 mile radius) would be focused on first, but apparently it was just part of life here.

We had been told about Todd by our friend Kristen from Vancouver, who had cycled and met him here a few years ago. But before we could sit down at the fire and listen to his stories we had two encounters.

1000 Americans: Dakota & his horsesWhen going slowly uphill I noticed some fresh looking scat on the side of the road. It didn’t really look like Grizzly material and I thought we had left the wildest bear country by now.

Soon I saw more and with the sun in my face, I viewed a dark shape halfway up the hill. Even though I was only going about 8km/hr (5mph), it was the first thing I encountered on a hill that was slower than me and soon I caught up with a strange sight: A large wooden horse cart, pulled by 3 horses -with a 4th on the side- was slowly making its way up the hill, completely blocking one of the two lanes.

An old man with was standing proud. he was not too friendly and didn’t say much, but I found out that his name was Dakota and he had been travelling like this for 25 years, all west of the Mississippi…

Ivana summits Legget HillOur next encounter was with a dreaded place: the Leggett Hill. Actually it was much easier than feared beforehand, steep but constant, narrow, but zero traffic. We did not have to walk and Ivana arrived at the pass as well without much problem.

A Short downhill later we arrived at a level part, called Haley’s Grove, where we spent the night inside a trailer. Read about our chance meeting with Todd here on 1000 Americans.

12-14 Dec: Breaking a knee and viewing a lion between Hales Grove – Jenner, via Mendocino. 74km + 78km + 70km. Plus 3km  up and down..

A long downhill through the woods brought us back to the coast, but there was one more surprise, the Rockport Hill. When going up, my knee started hurting and we both pushed up several parts as it was too steep in places.

Steep roads on the hills of the california Coast. Phot by Ivana

Steep roads on the hills of the california Coast. Photo by Ivana

Back at the California coast, the road kept on oscillating between sea level and a few hundred meters above it for the next days. In 5 days we had climbed more than 5000m, so 1km vertical per day. My knee started hurting more, even on the flatter parts and at the end of the day I could barely walk as my knee would not bend.

Probably the best thing to do would be to rest or see a doctor, but we were on the ‘Lost Coast’, far away from any medical assistance. Besides, we were only a few days from San Francisco, se we decided to continue and seek help there. Also, not only my knee was bad, our multi-charger had broken down and I had no more batteries for my cameras, which made me feel even more handicapped than the fact that I stumbled more than I walked…

We had stayed with Barry in Mendocino, who was about to embark on his own bicycle trip. as happens often with our hosts, he called some friends, Chuck & Maria, to ask them if we could stay with them the next night. Some hours before we arrived, I was waiting on the side of the road for Ivana to catch up so I could point out a large group of deer, when a car pulled over.

Read more

Day 106–123, 25 Oct–12 Nov 2008: Hikes, Halloween & Hope in Seattle

November 13, 2008 by  
Filed under North America, Trip reports, USA, Washington

First of all: did you know that if you click on the images in the posts, that a larger version will appear on top of the page, all automagically? try it, it is quite cool (pictures need some time to load as they are now 1000pixels wide!).

We had planned to stay maybe a week in Seattle, but it turned out we would stay for 2.5 weeks… Seattle is mostly known for Grunge, Microsoft, Boeing & coffee and it generally considered a nice place to live. I hade been working for a small company in Bothell, close to Seattle, about 8 years ago and had been in the area a few times. The great thing is that the city is huge, but spread out over several peninsulas and islands and that the mountains and nature are never far away…

It was great to see Andy again, after meeting in Uganda and Amsterdam before. He was very busy filming a documentary, connected to the upcoming elections, but still he took us out to see some live music and we went for a great hike up Mt Pilchuk. Not a difficult climb -though it was quite icy & slippery near the top-, but very rewarding, with nice views over the  Cascade mountains. It is wonderful to live so close to the nature and especially snow-capped mountains, something I miss in Amsterdam.

On our way out we stopped for a beer in a typical loggers bar. Neither the beer, nor the people and especially the decoration wasn’t very tasteful :)

Time flies when you’re having pain..

The days went passed quickly. We had a lot of rain, but also some nicer days. We walked around the neighbourhoods and went for some short rides. Only once we went out for a real ride; even though there are some biketrails, you really have to look for them and most are not so scenic, mostly just designated parts of the road.

We had been travelling in fall colours since the Yukon, 3000km north, and Seattle was no different. The shots that make up this image were shot in just one street, close to Andy’s place.

My back was starting to hurt again and as my diclophenac pills were finished and I could not get more without a prescription, I switched to an Ibuprofen-rich diet… Read more

Day 75-84: 24 Sep-3 Oct 2008: Pain in Prince George, reflections, and rain in the desert.

“emmm, I have a problem”

“Que paso?”

“My back hurts so much now, I cannot get up…”

We had arrived at Richard & Maggee’s place the day before. The pain in my back had become slowly worse during the past days, but at this moment it was so bad, I could not move. We were sleeping in the Yoga room, on comfortable, but thin mats, so I could not ‘roll’ out of bed either. It took about 10 minutes of painful balancing and slow finger movements before I could leverage myself into a semi-upright position. Ouch.

Once up, the pain was a bit less, but a cough and especially a sneeze made me grimace in pain. It shot sharply in unexpected moments from my right shoulder, all around my chest. I needed pills, a doctor or both..

After trying different types of pills the next days, Richard called a doctor and I could see him the same day. First pay $60, then talk to the doc. Once I told him that I had been cycling from Alaska the past months, he was convinced it was muscle pain, even though I told him that I could not pinpoint any specific muscle that hurt. I tried to convince him, but all he said was, that if I thought it was something inside my chest, it might be my lungs, and that I maybe should get an X-ray in the hospital. Read more