You've Been Riding that Thing for How Long?

Daisypath Vacation tickers

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I love to Travel (Part II)

by Mark

Greetings friends! I'm writing from rainy Los Angeles, where we've been visiting Katie's second cousin Laura and her husband Chris. They've got two great kiddos and it's been a fun place to wait out the unseasonable weather. Here are the small ones.

Okay, so it's been a while, so I'll try to catch you up on the happenings. In Bellingham, Washington, Katie's rear tire needed to be refreshed, so I called around a found a great shop to help with a whole slew of little things. It is hard to describe how comforting (and necessary) it is for me to talk with a qualified mechanic (who doesn't try to charge you money). Tim is the owner/operator of Cycle Therapy, and is in it for the love of riding. He recognized the extra layers of grit on Katie and I and showed great mercy. We rolled out of Bellingham all tuned up. He specializes in tires and suspension tuning--he's your guy in NW Washington, fellow riders!

We put our bikes on the ferry in Anacortes, Washington, and headed out to Orcas Island. It was great fun, and felt like we were on a real trip (our first boat ride of our journey). Katie was REALLY excited, and thus, my favorite photo of our entire ride. Look into her eyes. This was serious fun.

While on Orcas, we spent a few nights at Doe Bay resort, and had a great time.

We climbed Mt. Constitution, and met more interesting people than I will write about here-- but I do want to highlight one gentleman who was particularly inspiring to us-- We think his name is Richard, (I know, we really need to start writing this stuff down), and we met him after having just swam a bit in a nice, cold mountain lake. I was stretching, and he started up a conversation. He mentioned that he was planning to ride up the paved road to the summit of Mt. Constitution the next day.

What's uncanny about this story however, is that Richard could barely walk. He was quite forthright about having had a bicycle accident 30 years ago (before helmets were common), and a resulting brain injury limited the use of his legs. It hadn't slowed him down however, and as an engineer, found the hand-crank bicycles available to be wanting. He naturally set out to build his own-- which he was happy to show me. And I can tell you that the pictures don't do it justice. As tidy-minded as the Swiss and Germans are known for, Richard had designed his three wheeled machine with an awareness of all aspects imaginable-- weight, aesthetics, handling, ergonomics, and even the practical detail of overall size (so that it fit into the back of his truck without room to roll around!) We hit it off, and I had to pry myself out of conversation with him-- and intriguing man with an overflow of stories, wisdom, and spirit.

We continued south down the coast (getting rained on a bit), and I kept a lookout for Sasquatches. I didn't see any, but definitely had the feeling that I was being watched a few times.... Anyway, I settled for a hug from this redwood replica.

So I don't have a nice accompanying photo for this nugget of recently-discovered infomation, but I'll share nonetheless. Northern California (particularly Humboldt county) wins the prize for the highest number of gizzled older men (complete with long white beards and hair) preparing or smoking marijuana in public. Small groups of dirty Earnest Hemmingways on every public bench or picnic table, rolling joints and displaying a lack of intelligence and couth. Unconcerned about the law I'm sure, as it was clear these men were medicating themselves. A special place.

As I followed Katie along the coast, I began to notice that the taillight on her bike was dimming whenever her turn signal would illuminate. Too much use of the heated jackets (which use the motorcycle's electricity to create warmth) along the cold and damp coast! Bad sign for the battery, so I tried something I'd never done before. I put a post on a motorcycling website called, asking for help. To our amazement, our guardian angel came through AGAIN, and a gentleman named Mike called us the next morning as we packed up camp. We arranged for a meeting in Garberville at his home, and he set us up nicely. Batteries charged on both bikes all night, and Mike provided beer in the evening, coffee in the morning, and gave us some local's insight into a way to navigate around Los Angeles. We slept in the white van in the photo-- he has outfitted it for road trips. He even gave us a map, which Katie made some repairs to, and served us well. Thanks again Mike!

Our route took us over the Carrizo Plain, which is a high, flat desert area North of Los Angeles. This place was hot, dry, and deserted. The local attraction, Painted rock, had the brightest (best preserved) pictographs I've ever seen.

Ok, last story. Again, about a great encounter with a stranger, who became a friend quite easily. Katie and I pulled into San Louis Obisbo, CA tired, cold, hungry, out of gas, and clueless about where to camp (while the sun was going down, Katie guided us through downtown just to make sure the street market had ALL the parking spots taken-- ha! So we found gasoline, which was fairly easy, and then Taco Roca (across the street) provided the food and a warm place to sit. Ok, doing well-- that's 3 out of 5. How 4 and 5 got taken care of is the fun part: A guy comes in, orders some food, and while waiting, is at the salsa bar filling up little plastic containers with bright red and green sauces. He spills some lively red salsa onto the bar and the floor. Normal behavior up to this point. But being in a greasy little Mexican food joint, I didn't expect him to do anything about it. But in one of those tiny acts of good that go unnoticed every day, all over the world, said guy finds some napkins and does a fine job of cleaning up after himself. Mothers of the world rejoice!

I can't help myself, so I thank him on behalf of whoever mops the floors. We start a conversation, which leads to our daily "where to sleep" predicament. He makes a phone call, we follow his dirty Toyota tacoma across town, and are shown to "the barn," where registered guests are instructed to sign the wall with a sharpie under the title, BARN RATS. Once again, beers were promptly delivered (a cultural greeting ritual, apparently), and the fold-out couch folded-out. I tightened my chain, fixed a clutch lever rattle, and made some tweaks to our clutch cable adjustments (under the ubiquitous back-porch christmas lights of their post-college rental). I love California. I didn't think to take any photos of these guys, just a couple from the morning we left.

So satisfying to ride across this bridge. We were graciously hosted by Barb and Jay Lewellen in San Francisco, (not pictured--our fault). They provided a great place for us to rest and recharge once again.

After having locked their doors (they had both left for work), I noticed that Katie's clutch lever pulled really softly. I looked, and it turned out that her cable was fraying, and was dangerously close to breaking. Mine was near the end as well! We called around and discovered that there was a replacement available 30 miles south of us-- right near Camille's pumpkin-and-play-patch. Another call, and it was set. Pictured here is Camille and Katie being spat out of the mouth of a shark. That's right, folks. Shark.

So a funny thing happened on the way back from picking up the cables. Mine broke. I had been on the highway, about 25 miles from where we were going to stay for the night. I was stopped at a red light in a turning lane. There were people behind me. I had no choice but to climb off the bike, manually get the bike out of gear (harder than it sounds), and push it through an intersection. Best part of this situation? I was 50 feet from Camille's trailer, Katie, and all my tools when it happened. Yep, that's right. The clutch cable hung on until I was (pretty much) home for the night. I can't get away from the feeling: we're in good hands.

Which brings us full circle back to L.A., where we got to see old friends Robby and Miles Rasmussen. Even got to crash a service at their church! They seem to be thriving in the madness of this town.

That's it except for the commentary. Lessons learned? Katie and I have figured out that meaningful interactions with real live people have made our trip so fun. Sure, there are lots of great places to go and things to see. But that gets boring. In his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig suggests that the lives of the retirees he observes are "depressing". This monument. Photo. This national park. Photo. Drive around for better weather. Eat out. Boring. We've done it too. But we took some risks, (which mostly involved talking to strangers), and now our hearts are bigger, and our world has fewer strangers and more friends. Good deal, eh?

1 comment:

  1. I love this post --your words are spreading the joy! Hooray for the adventure of people!