On July 5th, the BIKING part of Bike Odyssey began!
Day 1: Berkele y Marina to Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. 39.9 miles. Mostly flat, except for a beastly climb around a very attractive (not) oil refinery just before the Carquinez Bridge. 'Twas a test of will.
Family and friends came to the marina, where we dipped our rear wheels in the Bay, gave hugs and rode away--it was a wonderful send-off. I had the most spectacular bike posse for day one: the ever excellent bike master Dan Iron Man Moberly, actor and adventurer extraordinaire Michael Kelly, and bike genius Daniel Lauzon, of Biketopia.
Day 2: Skyline Wilderness Park to Lake Solano Regional Park. 35 miles. DUE. UP.
Not wanting to leave my friends, I lingered at camp over breakfast and conversation until nearly 11am. While I was re-packing my panniers--seeking to eliminate weight--my buddy Eli began a game of pannier-pong, tossing walnuts from a nearby tree into my bags. Very helpful.
We finally set off, Neil 'Rabbi' Colin Satterlund shouting the Wayfarer's Prayer after us as we pedaled away. He also affixed the prayer to my top tube and fender, written in sharpie on theatrical spike tape. A Ganesh from Neil to sits on my prow--my handlebar bag--and I feel thoroughly blessed: bearing prayers from all corners, and in the language of the theatre tribe.
We pedaled though vineyards and farm land so idyllic, and so different from what we were about to encounter. About an hour later came THE MOUNTAIN that wouldn't stop giving. Really it was a hill, but to us it was a mondo mountain beast; an unrelenting climb, uber steep and viscious. Happy day two on the road, campers! Dan of course was happy as a clam, speeding up and up and pulling over at turn-outs to wait for me as I trudged upward and upward. I would approach the turn-out to see him standing there, smiling sunbeams at me, and he'd say, "how you doin sunshine?" The only possible response to Mr. Daniel Scott Moberly's enthusiasm is redoubled enthusiasm. "Fabulous!" I'd say. I don't know if I'd have made it up that mountain without Mr. Dan.
Day 3: Lake Solano Regional Park in Winters to Riverdog Farm, Guinda. 35 miles. Theoretically. We are champions and decided to make it 50. In other words we got lost.
The day was mostly flat through farmland and field. Hot and beautiful. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Esparto, where we met a hitchhiker named Jacob, a young army reservist traveling around the west taking pictures. He finished basic training last year, and works as a combat photographer when deployed. He can't be more than 20. We saw him get out of the car he was hitching with, and his travel solar panel flashed it he sun: he's one of us! I shouted, and waved him over. Such a sweet man.
After lunch we cycled onward up route 16. Now, if you're paying attention like a navigator should, you would notice that one needs must hang a left in Esparto if one wants to stay on route 16. Giddy on beauty and tired from heat and pedaling, I neglected to notice, and this navigator lead her team afield. But let me tell you: it was worth it. Sunflower fields as far as the eye can see. And the cutest roller coaster vineyards: up a bit and down a bit and up a bit and down a bit. Then came a dead end. A dirt road stretched to out left and right: this can't be right. We consulted the skies, and their satellite wizards told us that we were not where we had planned to be. We turned around and 17 or so miles later we were in Capay, where I collapsed in front of a diner. A nice man gave us free root beer, and we wandered into a convenience store where we saw a newspaper for the first time in days: plane crash at SFO. It was an odd feeling, being away from home and hearing scary news of San Francisco. For the first time I felt far away.
We pedaled on, and just a few miles down the road the bolts attaching Dan's front rack to his bike (The Blue Meanie) decided to make a dash for freedom, and ten pounds of gear were left to hang haphazardly from his front wheel. Dan went hunting down the road, looking for two shiny washers and their bolts. I went hunting through my pannier for the mondo zip tie Marvelous Marius had found at the campsite in Napa. We had wee zip ties, but my roomie Marius found one gorilla zip tie hanging out in the grass and bequeathed it to me in case of emergency. And lo! The next day it was needed. I found it in my pannier and used it to secure Dan's rack. A few wee zip ties later, and some duck tape for good measure, and The Blue Meanie was back in action.
We rode the last ten miles to the farm, and there waiting for us was Dan's dad David, and shortly there after Tim pulled up with Thunder and Qulio, Riverdogs 4 and 6. The most welcome welcome for two hot and hungry cyclists: Tim pointed us in the direction of a storehouse full of watermelon, plums, corn and summer squash and invited us to cook dinner in his kitchen a mile up the road. He went off to run an errand, and we felt like the Boxcar Children as we found our way up the dirt road at twilight, searching for the little farm house that would be our home for the night.
There are few places more beautiful than the Capay Valley at twilight, except perhaps the Capay Valley at sunrise. After bidding farewell to Dan and David, having a great conversation with Tim, and sleeping under the stars on the farm, I set off at dawn to meet Lorraine. She's the farm veterinarian who was to meet me at the junction of Highway 16 and road 44, to give Theo (my Surly Troll) and me a lift to Ashland. Thus began...
Day 4: A lift in a pick up to wonderful Ashland.
This day was hot and tired. I bade farewell to Lorraine and had a picnic lunch in Lithia Park. For the first time I felt my rootlessless: just me and Theo, out in the world. After lunch I cycled to the home of ML, my wonderful Warm Showers host for the next two days (couch surfing for cyclists.) There I showered (my new favorite activity) ate and slept. Lots.
Day 5: King Lear!
Day 6: Ashland to Klamath Falls KOA campground: 54 gorgeous miles.
There is a surprising kinship between bicyclists and motorcyclists. I wave and smile at them as they go past, and they wave and (sometimes) smile back. I imagine them grunting behind their helmets. Often they give me a thumbs up or a peace sign. My favorite motorcyclist wave was from a burly mustachioed guy on a Harley, sitting in that bizarrely badass and comical splay legged motorcycle recline: he put out his left hand as I passed him, as if to give me a low-five, and flashed a suave 'Peace' in my direction. So slick. I had just been invited to the badass club. Saweeet.
Day 7: Klamath Falls to Mizama Village, Crater Lake. 54 miles. Big ones.
I met up with Alsandair Miner in K Falls, a recently retired Army officer and pilot. Talk about badass. (He also sings a beautiful tenor: pulling into mile 60 on day 8 with Alex singing Bhoemian Rhapsody behind me: this will forever be my picture of victory.)
After a ten mile climb up to Crater Lake, we were ready for dinner. Fernch fries and ketchup, ladies and gentlemen, have never tasted so good.
Day 8: Mizama Village to Crescent, OR. 64 miles. Mostly downhill. And fast.
After another huge morning climb, we made it to the rim of Crater Lake. It is very blue and very beautiful. Then we had to go down. Now, losing nearly 1000 feet in elevation in 12 minutes on a fully loaded bicycle, this is an experience to remember. Terror and awe in equal parts. Thank the gods for disc brakes.
We stopped at a diner in Diamond Lake Junction for lunch; John Bates' doppelgänger runs the place! I told him about Downton Abbey and he was flattered and surprised. Kevin Moore is his real name, and he serves a mean burger. If you ever find yourself in Diamond Lake Junction, go have lunch with Mr. Bates.
Day 9: Big Pines RV Park, Crescent, OR, to Bend, OR. 44 miles for Alex, 15 for Caitlyn.
Big Pines Park is just off the 97 in Crescent. 'Tis a place of wonder: laundromat, shower house, and genuinely flat tent campsites. Also: friendly folk and heated restrooms, a boon on this morning, which dawned a crisp 34 degrees. We packed quickly and got on the road, but I was soon to realize that my right knee would Much rather have stayed in Crescent.
Thus began my first hitching adventure. We pulled into a gas station and Alex helped me to scope out the crowd for a good ride: we settled on a couple with a pick-up; what they must have thought when two fully loaded cyclists came zeroing in on them, I do not know. Ron and Jilly Anne were great: they argued most of the ride over who was the better fisherman. I'd put my money on Jilly Anne: she'll go out with just a line tied to her wrist and a hook in the water. Bad. Ass.
I arrived in Bend at the home of Fred Christiensen and his awesome family. I pulled into their driveway and shortly thereafter Fred pulled up on his bike, followed by his nine year old son, Jacob; both had just completed a quarter century ride for cancer research. Jeness, Fred's wife, appeared shortly, too: also wearing a number on her back. Their daughter Rebecca is fourteen and trains twenty hours a week with her Nordic ski team. But it's July, you say! Ah, but there are land skis on which to train during the off season. Rebecca is an impressive teen.
We went inside and Fred immediately handed me a tall iced glass of OJ. In the past I have not much cared for iced drinks; now I build shrines to them. He gave me an ice pack and a wrap for my knee and showed me where i was to sleep: the most lucious bed I have ever seen. Last night was the best night's sleep I can remember having in a long while.
Alex soon arrived and we chatted with nine year old Jacob over lunch: Jeness made us chicken skewers and quinoa salad: heaven! Jacob, too, is a wonder. When Alex asked him if girls have cooties, Jacob shouted, "that's sexist!" I like this kid, I thought.
Later, when having a discussion about the great beasts of the world, Alex asserted that Man is the top of the food chain; Jacob disagreed.
"Really?" said Alex, "what has dominion over Man?"
"The future," replied Jacob, simply.
Day 10: Play day in Bend!