Putting on a brave face. Very much a put-on.
In 2010 I rode my bicycle 620 miles (1000 kms) from Arcata, CA, to Seattle, WA. The reason was that I had been living in San Francisco for the previous 8 months, and wanted to be the maker of my ticket home back to Vancouver in a big way. I really did not want to leave California at the time, though change was clearly 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, only 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, and the reason for this is simple: the prevailing winds blow north-southerly. So to illustrate, a good sally tail wind can easily make the difference of 20 kilometers travelled in a day, whereas a stiff head wind, conversely, can do the opposite or worse. So I was going decidedly against the grain, and I knew this going in. I knew that 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 of the precarious coastal highway will devour your legs and strip your hubs, bracket, chain. The open stretch of highway only facilitates the journey, and moreover may create the illusion of a smooth transition. No. The mechanical work involved in “getting there” is simply massive. Gravity rides you, the resistance grinds you. 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 rainfall. 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 fairly simple. One, I don’t often share and would like to change this, two, I recently reread the journal I kept and didn’t completely hate reading it. In fact, I found it rather entertaining. Indeed, 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.
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.