~ The road grinds slowly, but it grinds exceeding small ~

Arcata

Putting on a brave face. Total put-on.

In 2010 I rode my bicycle 620 miles (1000 kms) from Arcata, CA, to Seattle, WA. I had been living in San Francisco for the previous 6 months, and wanted to be the maker of my ticket home back to Vancouver. I did not want to leave California at the time, though change was afoot, and I knew that my time there was somehow up. Like with the standpatter who digs in his heels only to sink himself deeper in the trough, to realize the world is passing him by, the winds of change blow hardest on those who resist. So without purchase nor much foresight, though large on concept, I resolved to make the bike trip a reality. Preparations, aside from the fun things like buying gear and pouring over maps of the legendary pacific coast line, I left almost entirely unattended. Overplanning is for the birds.

There is a basic understanding required, though, in undertaking a trip of this nature: You should know your road; you should know your means; you should know yourself. First of all, 98 percent of people who cycle tour along the pacific coast ride north-south. The reason for this is simple. The prevailing winds blow in that direction. So to illustrate: a good sally tail wind can easily make the difference of 20 kilometers travelled in a day. A stiff head wind, conversely, can do the opposite or worse. So I was going decidedly against the grain. I knew this going in. I knew I would be taking it on the chin. These are the choices we make.

Second, the Pacific Coast Highway is not a straight shot, nor is it flat. Hills are going to happen. Mountains may break you. The constant switchbacks, summits, swales, crags, basins will devour your legs and strip your hubs, bracket, chain. The open stretch of highway only facilitates the journey, and moreover can create the illusion of a smooth transition. No. The mechanical work involved in “getting there” is simply massive. Gravity rides, the resistance grinds. To the bone, to eventually the ground. This demands preparation. I was not, it turns out, prepared.

Third, the rain. Didn’t it rain. Coastal Northern California and Oregon – Humboldt, Coos, and Curry counties in particular – are not known as especially dry regions at their best. June 2010 was nowhere near their best. I crossed state line into Curry County, Southwest Oregon, on June 1 and in those first 4 days the June sky released its entire average monthly quota of rain. It was a Mother storm system. I had no way to prepare for it. I went in head first. These are the choices we make.

It may be that my philosophy deviates from normalcy, or that I was a fool going in, or maybe that I had it right all along. To me none of this matters. I was young and took advantage of it. I acquired a small debt for a larger payoff. I knew that I was going into, inevitably, a great unknown, and so any amount of planning and preparation would only ever have felt superficial. I poured my guts on the road. I had a massive sense of humor about it all. I was also very scared.

So on Memorial Day weekend, 2010, myself and 8 miraculous humans left San Francisco – they for the weekend, myself for good – for the Lost Coast, Humboldt County, Northern California. It was a big weekend. Sleeping outside, off-roading, testing limits, daring to dare. The choices we make. Come the end of the weekend, I bid farewell.

My reasons for doing this now are simple. One, I don’t share and would like to change this, two, I recently reread the journal I kept and didn’t completely hate it. In fact I found it rather entertaining, and I am of course my worst critic. Some time has passed and I am interested in reflecting on the experience. I am 5 years older if not wiser, and seek both candor and perspective. I also want to keep a record of account. This was really only my first attempt at record keeping, and I hope to do more of it. Lastly, I’ll just say that I know this is not a novel approach. I know its been done. But this one’s mine.

The following is an only lightly edited transcription, for concision and clarity, of my journal from May 31 – June 9, 2010. Thanks for reading! Peace.

Advertisements

~ Day 10 – The unbearable lightness of a ferry boat ride ~

06/09/2010 — 80.2 miles

Final entry. This one will be short. I am currently on a free commuter ferry from Bremerton, naval port town, to Seattle, megalopolis of the Puget Sound. America, the socialist transporter. America, the rhetorical question.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is badass. This is a rusted out swash bucket of a ship, but it gets the job done. BC ferries could take a lesson.

I am adrift on this big ship and I cannot get over the levity of it all. I am done, played out, free from dry land. After grinding myself to dust or paste — depending on how well-hydrated I was at the time — on the 600 miles of blacktop that I’ve left behind, it is a true wonder to be on this buoyant big ship and to feel the rocking of the gentle swells beneath the hull. Here I am. I hear Seattle’s a right-old-town.

Melodie is going to pick me up from the bus depot. I adore the thought of touching her face.

I defy to think that this has been a life changing experience. I more think it might, maybe, make for a good story one day. The kind that maybe no one will ever appreciate. That’s fine. But I don’t think I will ever do this again. We’re about to dock, its back to dry land and the promise of a summers night ‘neath city lights. Over and out.

IMG_2168

Ecstatic. Soaking in the ether. Seattle in the Distance.

~ Day 9 – Washington the Low country ~

06/08/2010 – 56.2 miles

After 8 straight days of 50+ miles travel and reaching the 500 mile plateau, my legs are becoming casualty to the lure of distance. I have become obsessed. Face this: the land is unforgiving. You try camping out, in the cold and wet, at the same camp for more than one consecutive sunset. You won’t like it. There is, instead, great comfort in grinding yourself to a paste on the road rather than sit there and shiver.

I awoke several times last night in horrid pain because I could not move my right leg but 2 inches for a more comfortable position. I very reasonably feared that I would not be able to rise this morning. But I suppose I constantly outperform my expectations (not really, but some humor here). After realizing where I was, the middle of nowhere, I read a bit before scratching my way out of bed. Weather looked fine, if slightly overcast.

Completely packed up before breakfasting on a yogurt, 2 bananas, dried fruit, and a bit of selectively picked at trail mix. Hit the road by 11:00, which was just fine by me. Setting out was a thing of beauty, as I coasted for literally the first 5 miles. Amazing. Rolled into Naselle, where purchased orange juice, hot/cold pads (for later) and some ice (for right then and there). Iced down for about 30 minutes by a pay phone and tried to call Melodie. Gone to Squamish with Tango for the day. Really wish I got her last night.

Eventually pressed on, through about 40 miles of Weyerhauser-owned “managed forest.” The reality is clear-cut hillside for just about as far as the eye can see. Its insane what they’ve done to their forests. Bugs were also awful today, was constantly pelted by dive-bombing kamikazes with clearly no will to live. Shame. Busted a spoke on my front wheel, which took me a few moments to realize exactly what had happened. Not sure exactly what to do now, but I believe I can carry on. I also biked past a road-killed deer that was being picked at by two buzzards. Picture this: riding through a clear-cut devastated landscape, constantly pelted by vile insects, limping due to a busted spoke, and having to slowly pass in real-time a rotting deer corpse and two giant buzzards having their take. Life is currently imitating the art of my demise. Southwest Washington is hideous so far. I am a long ways from the Oregon coast.

Settled on a campsite that I only intended to water at, but as the skies were darkening this was a good decision to stop. Moreover, next stop is Aberdeen, a place of which I’ve only heard unkind things. Ok, one thing total, and it was unkind. Still, point taken. Tomorrow, if I push, I can make it to Bremerton in order to hop on the ferry to downtown Seattle, the finish line. What a thought. This is my goal.

Set up tent, bedded down, began dinner (repeat of last night – chile and avocado, carrots, yogurt). Then it started to rain. Hallelujah, it’s the Northwest. What’s it been, 2 days? Had a good chat with dad on the phone, applied hot/cold pads with much success, reading, writing, killing strange little hopping bugs that seem to be falling from the sky. Still not crazy, I swear. Time for bed.

~ Day 8 – Astoria, the mighty Columbia, a bridge to nowhere ~

06/07/2010 – 59.8 miles

What peace there is in the bed of a decent establishment and the wonderful scents of perfumed sheets. Arose about 10:00, peacefully, and slowly set about morning tasks. Made coffee, showered, returned to prepared coffee, checked the weather, slowly repacked everything, leisurely. This was a good place I holed up in.

Out by noon, stopped for the first meal of the day at the first place I encountered. Had a hot turkey club w/ mashed potatoes and gravy. Mmmm. Trucked on along the coast, met two nice girls from Idaho on their way to Colorado (in a round about way). They were lovely. They asked about having a beer in Astoria, but said I didn’t have the wherewithal, and wished them well. Continued on through mountainous terrain and beautiful weather. My right leg, however, is in a very bad way. The knee is grinding and the lower shin is constantly aching. Consequently, I’ve been favoring my left knee and stopping often. It strikes me that Bill was so correct in warning that after 6-7 days of consecutive exertion, the body starts to break down. Yet I’m stubborn and can’t take a day off. Money is short and I’m finding it impossible to justify a day without travel. Its also addictive. Instead I’ve been going at about 75 percent. Went down to the beach today, all the way, for perhaps the first time since the Lost Coast. I believe that speaks to my will to keep moving.

Astoria has been on my mind for quite some time, for several reasons, not least of which because it’s the last stop out of Oregon. But it also has a mystique – the beautiful name, the incredible setting, and of course The Goonies. So I’d been excited to get here for some time. And today was the day. On the way I rolled over a truck weigh station, to discover that my cumulative load is 250 lbs. Not sure what than means.. 185 + 25(bike) + 40(load)? Something like that.

Astoria is olden, salty, sparkling, quaint. A jewel on the mouth of the mighty Columbia. One of the largest original Finnish settlements, it turns out. Cruised around town, through lovely neighborhoods, admittedly looking for Goonie clues. Not much doing. Eventually crossed the mammoth bridge that spans 4 miles across the Columbia River to bridge Oregon and Washington. The feat is stunning, especially when considering what it bridges – Astoria to absolutely nothing on the Washington side for miles and miles in any direction. What a capital project, what a rich nation. The cost-benefit would never be justified in Canada. Empires build bridges, I s’pose.

Once in Washington, rode some beautiful river shore stretch along the Columbia to eventually find a suitable side-of-the-road camp set up. Here it is, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell reception and a moaning forest. I am all alone, and feel OK. Veggie chile and avocado, coke, yogurt, and an orange for dinner. I feel very, very much alive.

~ Day 7 – Great notions and mild deliria deep in Oregon country ~

06/06/2010 – 69.8 miles 

Last night, at which time I cannot recall, I awoke to the peacefully dreadful pitter-patter of rain. Half asleep, I crawled out of my polyester cave to cover my saddle, pitch the fly, and have a quick piss. Cursing under my breath I slowly re-entered slumber with a dread of the following day so palpable that I dreamt very strangely (memory does not serve me at this time) and awoke often. In addition, aches and pains are beginning to accumulate and this is making for uncomfortable sleeps on this mattress. I should also mention at this point that my mattress was disfigured from putting it too close to the heater the other night, which melted a layer of insulation at a section. The result is a volleyball-sized balloon around the knee area when inflated that I somehow have to sleep around. I like to think that this is more funny than awful. I am not so sure.

Today was meant to be somewhat of a maintenance day, but I never could have guessed at how it was to turn out. I awoke often this morning, but finally and for good around 11:00 – an astonishing 13 hr slumber. This rain seems to have lulled me into a miniature hibernation, for I did not leave my tent until 14:00 this afternoon, an even more astonishing 16 hr interval. I lay in my tent half peaceful, have fearful and uncertain as to the direction of the day. I read several chapters of Great Expectations while listening to the rain wax and wane off the forest canopy above. Finally, by 14:30 I resolved to get back on the road.

Dejected at the thought of another cold rainy day of desperate cycling, I set out extremely slowly. This was, in very much seriousness, compounded by some awful pains in both my legs – my left achilles and my right knee. My right knee is in an especially bad way. I feel that gravity is riding me to the ground. Cursing and sincerely wondering how far I would be able to journey, I decided on the Old Scenic Highway rather than the 101 for a 10 mile section to start. This proved to be one of the most magnificent and revealing sections of my entire ride so far.

The beauty of the rainy, misty, winding road through intimate countryside was stunning. Cows and horses in pasture with adjacent country cottages, rivers and occasional waterfalls over sheer mountain face. The kind of scenes from which I imagine Ken Kesey might have drawn inspiration for his sometimes great notions. All part of the Siuslaw National Forest. I feel I could never leave here and be OK.

For I was going slow in order to warm-up and work out those kinks (with great success) when I realized that not a soul was on that road but my own. Absolute peace, absolute peace. And I realized that the greater portion of this entire trip has been defined by highways and the belligerence of constant vehicle traffic. And there’s just no peace in that. It struck me that this is what I need to be doing. And that my next adventure will no doubt be on foot, with backpack, for several days through forested wilderness. Cycle touring is great, but I too often feel a missing element of peace that can’t be got when sharing a roadway with The Beast.

Continued on, in the rain, through more (though less serene) beautiful countryside eventually to Tillamook. With persistent pain in my right knee, I thought I wouldn’t even make it this far. But I am a persistent bugger, for better and worse, and motored on beyond expectation. So much so that the search for reasonable motel accommodation (cannot camp while soaked as such) brought me all the way here, to Nehalem, about 25 miles north of Tillamook. I rode right up to 21:00, mile after tedious mile, searching for a place I could afford. Here now at the Bunkhouse, $46 is the best I could do. Currently icing down both legs. It is now 1:00 and time for bed. Tomorrow is Astoria and into Washington. Remember postcards!

~ Day 6 – Pay Day ~

06/05/2010 – 76.7 miles

As predicted, the day started out glorious. Despite a quite horrid sleep, awoke around 8:00 to the sun beating directly on the tent. Groggy as always, shuffled out to evaluate the day and morning surroundings. The tent was dew-soaked, but the day was perfect. Slowly (slowly) began packing up before having a quite awful breakfast (banana, bread, trail mix). I already loathe trail mix. Packed up, brushed teeth at NFS bathroom, and was on the road by 10:00. My best showing yet.

Starting out in shorts and t-shirt was a liberating experience, as all previous days consisted of at least long-johns and often bike jacket. Within 10 minutes on the road I realized that I had stopped at the perfect spot the night prior, because the most glorious stretch of coast that I have experienced so far was before me. This was the pay off. This was the legendary Oregon coast. The sweeping shores, the massive craggy outcroppings, clean ocean air, the continuous rolling boom of the littoral, the unmistakable pastiche of coastal Oregon’s soft light and colors. There were 3 American bald eagles patrolling overhead, and a beached colony of California sea lions jabbering and honking in the morning sun. Yesterday, I hadn’t seen the coast at all for more than 5 minutes. This was the day I had been waiting for.

Rode to Yachats by noon, stopping often, about 20-25 miles. Picked up some fruit, jerky, drink, chips, and a corn dog at the grocery and continued on to a suitable picnic area (the corndog was consumed immediately outside the store). Ate sardine sandwiches washed down with an Odwalla and potato chips, and lived to regret it. Not that the sardines were bad, just that I think I over ate in a time of sensitivity. I must be more careful of this, as I felt horrid the rest of the afternoon and even chucked some lunch up (forcefully). Be more careful.

The afternoon grew frustrating as winds picked up and the day cooled off. Worst head wind yet. Compounding this was the rough road and the onset of aches and pains. I am pushing myself extremely hard – I must remember that the past several weeks and months much consisted of loose mores and eating carelessly. Be more careful.

Rode a good distance, insisted on making it to Lincoln City, bought organic mac n’ cheese, salad, milk, and a coke (been craving sweet drinks like an animal). Continued on down the road in hopes of finding a (very) nearby campsite, but soon realized I was on my way to Tillamook (45 miles) with nothing in between. So after some dubious prospecting, settled on a patch atop a steep embankment with the highway on one side and a pasture on the other. I love free, impromptu camping, but this is pushing it. A sign of desperation. Though there is a waterfall just down the way which suits me well.

So tired, so janky, so ready to crash. I pray it does not rain tomorrow.

~ Day 5 – Dunes country; no quarter; still not crazy ~

06/04/2010 – 61.5 miles 

Admittedly, the past 2 days have been brutal and when I awoke this morning I was expecting nothing but a continuation of this. Grey and wet and cold. A night’s drying of gear entirely in vain. The Bayshore Motel is a strange 60s style relic within a more strange town. Coos Bay seems another of those sleepy, dusty Northwest towns founded on the promise of timber and fish and industry. Today, the mills appear listless rather then frantic, scrappy rather than robust. I constantly baffle myself at how the economies of these towns persist. And yet there are new cars and trucks, literally everywhere. How do people go out to the bar or for a meal, as witnessed last night? I think we are completely over-leveraged. I don’t know.

Awoke about 9:30, another 10 hr sleep, and hopped straight in the shower. Piddled around with drying stuff, re-ordering proximity to crazily fire-unsafe furnace in my underwear, and sweating like a madman. Basically avoided getting back on the road for as long as I could. The weather channel proved entirely unhelpful, excepting the tidbit about The Goonies celebrating its 25th anniversary in Astoria this weekend. Don’t know if I can make it there by Sunday, moreover don’t know that I care. Hmmm.

Turns out the piddling paid off, as by 11:30 (when I finally got out) the rain had drew quit. Amazing. Rode uptown to North Bend (continuation of Coos Bay), found a coffee shop where purchased a small latte, a chicken pita, and what turned out to be the worst brownie Ive ever had. How is that possible? It turned out to be a “brownie sandwich” with “caramel” in the middle, and moreover proved entirely indigestible. There were no real things in there. 5 hours later I could still feel it confusing the shit out of my stomach.

Rode fairly uneventfully until 18:00, excepting 2 major differences from previous days. Firstly, the bleeding sun came out! The difference is unbelievable. The second is that I feel myself getting stronger, particularly the thighs and hips. I can endure far more than I could just 2 days ago. Despite being a little disappointed in my mileage today there is solace in that I completely gutted myself yesterday and so had more reasonable expectations today.

Currently camped in the middle of some sand dunes, illegally, a short saunter from an NFS site that wanted $20. Like hell. The host was friendly though uninformed, and could not help me with my $5 hike/bike fantasy/yet-to-be-reality. So I took a quick hike up a day path, beat off a ways, hilariously dragged my gear up a steep embankment, and found a wonderfully flat and soft spot where I am at currently. Took a 2.5 mile hike after dinner down to the ocean, though never quite got there. The signs were misleading. But its a great relearning exercise to hike and walk after being on the bike all day. Hiked the 2.5 miles back, yadda yadda, time to crash. I have high expectations for tomorrow, should be awesome.

~ Day 4 – Coos County and where is that damn coast? ~

06/03/2010 – 80.2 miles

Busted. Woke up this morning at 9:30 after going to bed at midnight. Been averaging about 10 hrs sleep per night. My body needs it. Had the rest of left-over pizza for breakfast, showered, and began re-packing everything from the night before left out to dry. The cleaning lady at the motel warned of 40 mp/h winds up the coast, though this never materialized. A rambling motor-home dude from Texas gave me a jar full of motor oil that I used to oil my chain, which had been stripped completely dry from the previous day’s soaked riding. Checked out by 11:00, on the road by 11:30 (been slow getting going in the morning), and was completely soaked by 11:35.

Rolled into Port Orford by 14:00, dropped the jar of oil in the parking lot of the local grocery store in a rainbow-coloured iridescence (shit!). After cleaning up the glass, sheepishly went into the grocery store and bought 2 bananas, mango Snapple, original Lays potato chips, and a loaf of flax bread. Went across the street to the PL to eat sardine sandwiches under some shelter.

After a brief internet foray, was on the road again by 15:00, shivering violently. Warmed up soon enough, though completely drenched, and continued on to Bandon, about 26 miles. Upon arriving, despite initial intentions, decided that it was time to step it up a notch. Especially since this would be another motel night. Continued on to Coos Bay, for a massive days travel, especially when considering the brutal elements. 80 miles through the brunt of a healthy storm system. Found this Bayshore Motel, where currently stationed, for $42. Its gaudy as hell, but perfectly adequate. Turned the heat up full blast, 30 minute screaming hot shower, revisited the process of unpacking everything to dry. God damn I hope not to go through this again tomorrow, though in all likelihood that will be the case. Still haven’t seen a ray of sunshine since entering Oregon. Time to crash.

~ Day 3 – State line, angry skies, what have I done?, and the Oregon country ~

06/02/2010 – 56.5 miles 

Woke up this morning groggy and busted. And the rain. I thought not much of it at first, as I got up to brush teeth + stretch and such. It was not until returning to camp that I realized this was a seriously persistent downpour. Decided to pick up all contents of site, 3 trips total, and move to a nearby covered picnic area to dry things out, breakfast, and get effectively organized. I strung up the 3 sections of my tent (fly, tent, footprint) to the rafters of the sheltered area in hopes that they would dry sufficiently so as not to weigh down and be uncomfortable tonight. Of course the effort was useless. I got out onto the road by about 10:30 (after waking at 8:00) and was 100 percent entirely drenched, gear and all, within 5 short minutes. Holy jesus. This was a serious, serious torrential downpour.

Now I have been concerned with the weight on my back end since day one, so this extra carriage of rainwater was disconcerting. I estimate that the total effect of rain added 5-8 lbs to my already heavy load. I could immediately feel the additional drag. Just starting out the day, for how long could I maintain this? Cycled 15 miles to the state line, snapped a quick drenched picture, then immediately bolted for the Crissey Field Welcome Centre. There I found a beautiful new building with all sorts of free literature, maps, etc., and kind but not impressively knowledgeable folks. Said the storm was expected to last through the weekend (its Wednesday), had never seen anything like it before.

After spending about an hour there shivering and wondering (should have solicited that Spanish guy heading to Vancouver for a ride?), finally built the courage to head 8 miles north to Brookings. Found the PL (just past the DQ) and headed for the internet (5 days w/o seemed like a long time). Spent an hour and a half contemplating what to do next – no buses at all along the coast? Storm persisting for next several days? Really should have solicited the Spaniard. Hitchhike? At the end of my allotted time I resolved the only thing to do was find a cheap motel in town and reevaluate tomorrow.

So I set out again, shivering mercilessly at first but eventually got the groove. It was at this point that I made what I deem to be my proudest decision thus far. Just before peeling into any old motel parking lot – there were plenty of them – I decided, fuck this. Motel after 25 miles of cycling? Fuck that. Instead I stuck to the highway and gutted out the additional 26 miles to Gold Beach (it was 16:30 and pouring walls of rain at this point). Got into this town around 19:00 after a massive last push through a final mountain pass. Hills are gonna happen.

Found this glorious 4-bed room in Motel Chippy Cheeks for only $25. Keepers are incredibly nice, clearly native folks with humor and sensibility that makes me think of home. Poor man bust his head and broke his neck a few weeks ago wrestling a fridge, but still got up to get my Fanta out of the broken machine. Glorious shower (first in 1 week), immediately started drying everything, and did some much needed laundry while waiting for my splurge pizza. I fear the same weather situation for tomorrow. Tired and happy.

~ Day 1/Day 2 – Arcata to eternity ~

06/01/2010 – 29.8 miles/55.1 miles 

I more expected a faceplant out the starting gate. Like bringing a knife to a gun fight, proceeding to fall on said knife. The little soldier with his too-big helmet and too-big sword. A beginning an end, all in one fell swoop. But no such luck. I am still here.

Slept more than 12 hours last night, as the only sensible thing to do after dinner was crawl into the sleeping bag for warmth + comfort. It was about 19:30 at that point, and I had just finished the much anticipated day #1. I had been roving through my mind that very day for about the past 9 months, so to finally experience it let alone have it out of the way was a big hurdle passed. Wholly, the experience was actually quite limp – but not at all in a bad way. In a way so raw that it almost felt mundane. No break from reality. Just a roughshod continuity, from camping in Humboldt to disembarking from a Uni parking lot in Arcata and leaving my busted shoes behind.

Rode 29.8 miles before settling in Dry Lagoon picnic area (State) with no permissible camping and no running water. Pitched on the beach behind some brush so as not to be seen. All in all, a very doable and realistic first day (started cycling yesterday at 15:30 after a massive last meal of chicken-fried steak w/ hashbrowns, 3 eggs, biscuit, and sausage gravy. Followed by blackberry pie ‘a la mode’). As mentioned, woke up this morning at about 8:30 after nearly 13 hrs sleep. While rising this morning, a clanging raucous gathering was forming behind the bushes. I would have thought for sure a school trip, had the conversation and tone been different. Instead, the guttural clamor of grown men was coming from 4 paddy trucks reading “Department of Corrections” shuffling out a chain gang to work the beaches for fire safety. Some bully work crew. I snuck out and away as swiftly as possible.

Cycling today was a massive smack of reality. Within 20 minutes of leaving camp I was climbing continuously to a summit of approx. 2000 ft. (starting from sea level). Got quite delirious in the process, realizing I had not nearly enough water and far too much weight to haul. I can feel the gravity riding me. Eventually peaked after getting some cold + delicious water from a road crew, and began a glorious descent. Problem of course is that the downhill portion lasts a fraction of the uphill, only to have to face the latter once again. Hard time. Eventually made it to and past Crescent City, through towering redwoods, to a county campsite at a cost of $10. Had kidney beans + rehydrated steak jerky + avocado for dinner. Good but not great. After evading paying the site fee for as long as possible before finally forking it over, read a bit and now about to crash hard. Good first push.