Sunday, September 16, 2012

West Coastin

 Sept. 4 -11

Heading from Bend, Oregon to the Oregon coast line was an easy feat. Oregon is just stunning and I had the pleasure of cutting across the Deschutes National Forest in order to catch the coast and head south.  On the way I stopped to observe Crecent Lake National Park.  An ancient lava crater that has since become a popular tourist attraction. Quite stunning.  Then my bike fell over.  No other way of putting it. I was parking in the tourist scenic view lot, and made a sharp turn while paddling the bike and boom the weight took over and the bike dropped. My bike is heavy without all the luggage, let alone packed to the gils. While lying on it's side I gingerly took off all luggage and then proceeded to lift the bike upright.  Before I left for the trip I watched several videos showing the proper way of doing this as it requires a specific teqnique. Amongst the clammer and finger pointing my direction by foreign onlookers, I am happy to report that I was able to lift the bike upright, load my stuff back on and off I went.

my studio
The Oregon coast looks like the location from the movie Goonies. By the time I arrived on the coast it was getting dark so I made camp in Bandon, OR at Bullards Beach State Park. First thing the next morning I walked along the nature trail and photographed their coastal natives. I then began my descent towards the redwoods.

I arrived at Jedidihah State Park, the Northern tip of the redwood forest well before sunset and took a leisurely and secluded walk through the giant Sequoia trees.  Aww inspiring. This was a moment long overdue. The fact that the park was practically empty made the visit all that more special and I felt isolated, yet not alone.
chester copperpot

The next morning would begin the ride of rides. I traveled south from the northern border of California to San Fransisco by way of several redwood forest passes and then through back country wine valley roads. I didn't stop all the much to shoot pictures as I was having too much fun riding the bike through hills, valleys and giant trees of northern California.  8 hours later I arrived in San Fransisco only to realized I had to climb and descend the steepest of streets to get to my friend Jon's house. My bike is carrying a lot of top weight and is loaded beyond suggested capacity on the back so I was sure this was going to be an adventure in balance. The bike and I held true and I made sure not to stop accelerating until I reach a level part of the cross street. I arrived at Jon's safe and sound and let my bike rest for 3 days while I enjoyed the company of an old friend and a new to me city.

Jon has some amazing people in his life, in and out of san fran, and I can't thank him and all the wonderful people  I met while visiting for showing me such a wonderful time. But, the journey must continue. Monday morning I was off again, my destination: Santa Barbara Botanical Garden by way of Big Sur.

A few people told me it was a must that I camp in Limekiln State Park located in the upper middle portion of the coastal route 1 of of Big Sur.  When I arrived to the northern portion I stopped to watch the sunset. This portion of the coast resembles much of the northern coastal geography with winding roads that hug the coastline set atop high cliffs with magnificent vistas of the rocky coast line.  Quite amazing, especially on a bike.

Once the sun had set it was only but a few miles to Limkiln State Park. However, when I arrived at the gate, it was locked and there was sign that said closed after sunset. Oooof. Bummed, I shrugged it off as there were several campground further south along the road.

It was quickly getting dark and visibility was getting tough as the fog rolls thick in some areas of the Sur. Even worse, the last two remaining campgrounds were full.  Here I was, traveling the most sought after scenic road on the west coast in the dark. Just a note: you are allowed to primitive camp for free inside of national forests. Though according to my map  there were no dirt roads or fire paths that led into the San Padres National Forest that encompasses Big Sur.

Frustrated, and with spotty cell service, I pulled off at the next gas / lodging area to figure out my what I was going to do. I had plenty of energy and could easily keep driving south all night, but the whole point of taking this route is to see the coast while riding in Big Sur. I called the fancy lodge whose parking lot I was now resting in and asked for the cheapest room.  The woman told me the "cliff suite" was the only thing available and that it was $360.00.  I sorta laughed and choked on the phone upon hearing that and said, no thanks.

The nearest town was 45 minutes away according to the map. The fog was thick, the road is treacherous in the day, let alone in the dark and I was frustrated. Not a good combination for riding a motorcycle. I decided to gas up while I was there. The price of gas was  ridiculous, almost $6 a gallon but best to be safe and not stranded.

Something I have come to do on this trip is ask the locals; where to eat, where to drink, best road to take etc. It usually ends with a good recommendation, and what was about to happened would be case and point. The gas station was small with only 2 pumps, and there was an older, wiry gentleman working.  He came out to meet me and while taking my card told me they were about to close. I quickly told him my situation and asked him if he knew a good spot to camp nearby. He scratched his chin in thought, looked over the chaos that is my bike, and proceeded to give me directions to a local primitive, unmarked camp site.  Drive a mile down the road, he said.  You will see a pull off with an emergency phone box.  Park your bike there and walk into the woods about 100 yards and you will see a bunch of areas to camp. In California you are legally allowed to leave your vehicle on the side of road for up to 72 hours. This was a fortuitous moment.

I did as he said, found the pull off, gabbed my head lamp, tent and duffel from the bike, threw the cover over the bike and proceeded to walk into the coastal abyss of trees, shrubs and California coastal native fauna. About 75 yards in, I found a flat of ground, set up the tent and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up in Big Sur paradise. Though I couldn't see a thing the night before, I quickly realized that I was in a secluded natural area that had both small forest and coastal cliffs all around me. In fact, I ended up taking a 3 hour hike in and around this place that I renegade camped the night before.

This highlight came when I approached the cliffs which had a very treacherous narrow path that extended out beyond the coastline about 50 yards, with an elevation of around 150 feet. Honestly, I was nervous to walk out on it.  But this was one of those moments where I would have regretted not taking the risk. So off I went. Slowly, step by step, inch by inch,  I walked across the edge of a coastal rock structure in order to get to the far end where I could turn around and look at the coastline from the oceans perspective.  The only sketchy moment was when I was startled by two huge Hawks that were perching beyond a rock that I approached.  They didn't hear me coming as the ocean has sound of a lions roar, and were just as surprised to see me as I them.  For the next 15 minutes they circled very close above me as to say, what the hell are you doing on our rock.

I successfully reached the end peak.  I raised my hands up like many do when they climb the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum in order to re-create the infamous Rocky scene.  I always thought that was pretty lame, but here I was, arms raised and yelling at the Pacific ocean as though I just conquered the coast. And as far as I'm concerned, I did.

Back on the bike I would ride the rest of the Big Sur south towards Santa Barbara where yet another serendipitous moment would occur.