Near Death Cycling With Giants and Ticks.

After saying goodbye to Diane. I decided to milk the creature comforts of a hotel for a bit longer and extend my checkout time until 1pm. In the meantime I needed to haul my 50lb dry bag to the post office to send it down to San Francisco where I would load it onto the sailboat. They laughed at me when I arrived at the post office with the giant oversized bag. It cost $120 to send it down the road. It literally and figuratively lifted a weight off my back.

It had been 5 years since I had biked the pacific coast on my first serious paved cycle-touring adventure. I say paved because a couple years before that my girlfriend and I had started to bike the Great divide trail. It goes from Banff along the Rocky Mountains all the way to Mexico, 90% of it off pavement. We made it halfway through Montana and through a snowstorm before she had a gnarly accident. A few weeks later she was recovered and keen to do a little tour through New Mexico. She was tough. I highly recommend the trail!


On the previous trip south along the coast I was intending to bike all the way to Acapulco to meet my family for Christmas. I decided to do it, then bought my bicycle off of craigslist, and planned the trip, all within the week before I left Vancouver. It was early November and I was hoping to bike 200 km a day for 40 days in order to be in time for Christmas.

The U.S. border patrol almost didn’t let me into the country as they thought I was a freeloading bum. They searched my bags and didn’t even question the pounds of green powder I had in ziploc bags. (Protein powder). My bike needed repairs on the first day. One of the rims had been bent. I was snowed on soon after and realized it would be very challenging to make 150 km/day without finding more hours of sunlight. I ended up biking 2200km as far as San Diego and flew the remaining 2000km to Acapulco. I loved every minute of the experience and hoped to return to do it at a much slower pace someday.

Unfortunately this time along the coast was not going to be any slower of a pace. Dave and Dolce were waiting for me in San Francisco. I needed to boogie and spin those wheels all day long. At this point of the trip I think I’ve become dangerously comfortable and confident in my ability to work hard all day long without much issue. I say this is dangerous because I should probably be more cautious and careful to ease into things like this in order to prevent injury. Thankfully the biking felt great.

I climbed into the foothills of the Olympic mountains and camped at a beautiful lake. It was early April and although the first few nights were quite chilly in my thin sleeping bag, there were record breaking warm temperatures coming my way for the rest of the journey. The beaches of the Washington state coast were quite spectacular. I camped amongst giant Seamounts and massive driftwood. The road was fairly quiet and I had very little interaction with the locals.

I discovered there is a movement towards creating a much larger protected area on the Olympic Peninsula. It seems some people are opposed because they believe they will lose their logging jobs and their livelihood. The protected area would still allow for sustainable forest practices but likely some people would indeed lose their jobs. As is the case with the fossil fuel industry many people will lose their jobs when we move to a sustainable economy. The good news is that we can adapt and many more new jobs will be created.

I came close to having a head on collision with a truck on the two-lane bridge across the Columbia River from Washington to Oregon. I’d like to think that they simply didn’t see me when they pulled out to pass someone but I find that hard to believe. It wouldn’t be the only time I would run into the thankfully rare species of agro pickup trucks.

I spent the night at the home of a very welcoming track coach. He was so welcoming that he invited me to his house to stay even though he was not present. I had found his contact on an online community of Cycling tourists. He told me how to get into his house and where to safely store my bicycle. He had another guest who would welcome me but she was not yet there. I made myself at home and an hour later was greeted by a very peaceful doctor with vietnamese roots. She had a very calming presence and we had an interesting conversation about fear and anxiety. When I said goodbye she hinted something about my passport which aroused suspicion in me. Shortly down the road I discovered that she had stashed a little folded up letter in my passport.

When I climbed into my sleeping bag that night I brought out the note and read it. She had very kind words to say and I had apparently had a big impact on her. It was somewhat surprising as I had felt like she was rather unimpressed and not very interested in what I was doing. In our conversation the previous night she had mentioned that she had met many people passing through that house with similar missions. She finished the note offering her services as a doctor, if I ever needed help I could give her a call at any hour. Amazing. I was in need of an expedition doctor.

Oregon was experiencing record hot temperatures for March as I biked down the coast. It was a much more pleasant ride than my frozen experience in November a few years prior. I was able to comfortably sleep outside on the beach with no bugs or rain. The miles flew by as I passed places that I would have loved to spend days, if not weeks, exploring and enjoying.

I think most Canadians would think that the U.S is a more car-centric culture. Most Canadians also live in cities that have pretty good bike infrastructure compared to most U.S. Cities. Unfortunately for cycling tourists in Canada, the moment you leave the city the cycle friendly infrastructure all but disappears. The west coast of the U.S puts Canada to shame when it comes to cycling. There is much better signage, lights, and information for the cyclist. The western states have realized that there is value in treating the cycling tourist with respect and this has become a popular destination for touring.

I made my way down the coast of “The Goonies” where beautiful stretches of white sand are broken up by ancient towers of rock. The contrast of what looks like mountains peaking out of the smooth and flat sand forces you to appreciate the power of the ocean and it’s ability to eat up land. All over the planet the ocean is slowly and surely munching into the seashore, destroying any feeble attempts by humans to keep it at bay. If we are successful at blocking the sea on one shore the ocean will be patient and wait for the moment when weakness shows itself. The ocean knows no time, it flows without conscience, dancing with the moon, it’s currents like blood veins for mother earth.

Heading south through Oregon the cliffs and seastacks are left behind and sand takes over the landscape. Lots of it. The sand dunes of Oregon were one of the more surprising things of the West Coast. The coast is wet and bordered by some of the largest trees on the planet. Somehow a desert has formed right in the middle of a temperate rainforest. Has it always been this way? Or is this the result of deforestation from an ancient culture. I’m only just having this thought many months later and wouldn’t argue on either side as I have so little knowledge of the area. I do, however, find it fascinating how we come to believe in theories of the past based on one persons best guesses. Sometimes they may be right and the science backs them up. Other times the science is manipulated to support their theories, or worse, their ideologies. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and love science, but as any good scientist will tell you, it is important to have a critical eye and question everything. It’s also important to understand that what science proves one day may be proven wrong the next. It’s changing and evolving just like everything in this spectacular universe.

After doing some research I would believe what the science says about the dunes. They have formed from sand being blown up the gentle sloping shore which is only found in that area of the Oregon coast. The sand is formed from rocks being slowly grinded down as they were transported in rivers over thousands of years from the Rocky mountains to the ocean. Pretty awesome.Some of the dunes are now being destroyed by human introduced invasive grasses. I’m a bit surprised that none of the local grasses and plants figured out how to survive and overtake the dunes. Or was it an ancient culture that destroyed their attempts! Haha

Further down the coast the dunes transition back to a rocky shoreline with more seastacks poking out of the ocean. The road climbs up the mtns that rise from the sea and falls back down into river valleys and bays filled with clammers and fishing boats seeking protection from the swells and storms that come howling down from the Aleutians. Most of the people I meet along the road are from elsewhere, friendly and curious. I’m happy that some people work up the courage to speak to a man in spandex.

As I danced across the border to California something changed. Something is always changing…;) I’m faced with the longest uphill climb of the bike ride, kept afloat by the destination at hand. San Francisco. Just down the road another 500 miles or so. My body feels fine but certainly not as well oiled as it did five years ago when I first spun the pedals up this hill. I’m older now. I think of what I’ve learned and question if I’m wiser. I feel as though I was makinghealthier decisions back then and have come full circle to realize where I went wrong. It’s often the case in Western society that the more common or normal social decisions conflict with your health or that of the planet. It’s tricky to maneuver and navigate those waters and I feel as though it will always be a challenge for me. I am always inspired by those who do it so successfully and live being labelled as a weirdo or a hippy.

I love California. The landscape, the climate, the culture. I could live there but would have serious troubles supporting the U.S. government and it’s corporations wars (ie. Paying taxes there). The industry of military has become out of control and it would pain me to directly support it. I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard to dodge taxes somewhere on the Lost Coast.

The road continues to climb and I’m quickly surrounded by massive redwood trees. They are everywhere. Although it’s a small percentage of what once existed it still makes Canada’s old growth parks look pathetic. Cathedral Grove comes to many peoples minds when they think of big trees in Canada. It’s a tiny few acres of protected trees surrounded by clear cuts on the road across Vancouver Island to Tofino. Almost all of the remaining 2% of Canada’s Old Growth Temperate Rainforest is still being logged. These forests will take many centuries to recover if they ever do. It’s pathetic that we aren't protecting them.

The California redwood parks are spectacular. I could easily spend months walking and exploring amongst these massive trees. The air is fresh and the trees exude a peaceful energy that is comforting to my soul. I feel at peace amongst the giants.

Apparently so do ticks! I don’t know the odds or likelihood of contracting Lime disease from a tick bite (and I don’t think anyone really does), but the burrowing presence of one these little guys in my skin is by far the worst bug experience for me. I quickly accepted it and was hopeful I would not contract Lime, but the mystery and the lack of knowledge around the disease still bothered me. Much more so than getting mosquito bites in areas where Malaria and Dengue Fever are present. I think that’s because mosquitos seem to be everywhere and hard to avoid whereas getting a tick seems a bit less likely and more unlucky.

There are several techniques for removing a tick from your skin and I suggest you do your research to see what may best suit you in the future. Often people recommend using a thread to gently wrap around it’s neck and then gently pull the head out of your skin. The tricky part is to avoid pulling their body apart from their head. Once they have burrowed inside your skin they don’t like to let go and will choose to let their body be ripped from their head before they loosen their blood sucking chompers. This is what can lead to an infection. I discovered the tick when I had come to a stop to chat with some kind looking folks. I think it was them who suggested I try cohersing it out by putting a flame near it’s body. This burnt my leg hair and toasted the tick but it didn’t make it retreat. It was too dead to do that. I was able to gently pull him out after. No circle or signs of infection appeared around the bite site. I was sure to keep an eye on it.

I only crossed paths with three other cyclists on the road down the coast. It was not the busy season. About four days out of San Francisco I stopped at a campsite and shared the hike/bike in site with several other cyclists. A German couple who were on a shorter tour south with heavy bags and bikes and an older man from Florida who was heading north with a set up as light as mine. It’s always good to touch base with the other crazy/more grounded/adventure type people on the planet.

A few hundred kilometers later I came to a bummer discovery. Either my little camera had been stolen while I was in a grocery store or it had fallen out of my bag when I had stopped to dance. At first I was positive that it had been stolen and was quite pissed. I then remembered the moment when it might have been possible for it to have fallen out. There was a nice viewpoint on the side of the road where I decided to film some silly dancing. I kept getting interrupted by passing cars and had continued down the road without scanning the grass for objects left behind. I wasn’t filming with that camera but it was in a green case and could have possibly rolled out of my handlebar bag when my bike was on it’s side. It was a bummer because I had put loads of energy towards making a video of the bike route on that camera. 

On my final day of cycling into San Francisco I was joined by another cyclist who was on a long day ride. He had some great alternate route ideas which made the approach to the city quite enjoyable. I was excited and relieved to make it to the Bay Area. I was about to hop on a small boat to sail across the Pacific Ocean.