Land of the Giants
New Plymouth man Vince Moores recently returned home to New Plymouth after cycling down the Pacific Coast Highway from north of Vancouver to the Mexican border, 3420km on push bike. He detailed his journey in five emails, this being the third.
From Portland I continued my journey back to the coast via Cannon Beach negotiating my way through more tunnels and trying to evade large logging trucks
Stayed with Warm Shower hosts in Bay City and had a meal of Braised Elk, very tasty, not unlike Mousse Aka? the beast weighed over 600lb and was shot by host Mark, certainly quite a freezer full giving an endless supply of meat for Bambie Burgers !
I continued down the 3 Capes Scenic Route incorporating Cape Mears, Cape Lookout and Cascade Head, some killer hills but stunning views and a variety of different lighthouses along the coast
The topography then changed into huge rolling sand dunes stretching for miles, a mecca for dune buggies and horse riding, as I rode into the town of Florence, sadly without the machine, or by contrast anything even remotely Tuscan
More Capes (Read lots of hills! ) followed: Kiwanda, Foul Weather, Yaquina and Umpqua, a popular whale watching region, more spectacular scenery which left me running out of superlatives, simply breathtaking, as was the relentless climbing that also took my breath away...
I encountered a lot of large Recreational Vehicles (RV's) and 5th wheel trailers along this part of the coast as people enjoyed the school holidays with family and friends
Some of these beasts are absolutely enormous, bristling with technology, extending lounge sections, microwaves, espresso machines, gas BBQ's and the essential satellite TV aerials to hook into 100 + different channels
In addition they tow trailers with lots of noisy petrol guzzling toys: quad bikes, dune buggies, jet skis, motor bikes, boats and many even tow a separate 4WD
They then all park up alongside each other, cheek in jowl, start up their generators, turn on the ghetto blasters, light a fire, unleash the pets, quaff excessive amounts of beer and bourbon and get louder by the hour...
Oh the joys of getting away from it all and experiencing life in the great outdoors...
Having said that the people along my route have been very hospitable and friendly
In fact just outside Charleston I had an interesting conversation whilst visiting a rest room
I was standing at the urinal doing what you do, without anyone else in sight, quietly minding my own business
However the cacophony of sound being emitted from one of the booths certainly broke the silence and alerted me to the fact that I was not alone!
Obviously conscience of the noise being made the cubicle guy (CG) started up a conversation with me!
CG: Hi there buddy, how's your day going?
Vince: ( A little taken aback with such a proactive and unusual interface) tentatively replies:
Err, Good thanks, having a great day ....
CG: Continues: So what are your plans for today?
Vince: Well, I am cycling down the coast towards Port Orford
CG: Continues: Hang on a minute John I can't hear a word you are saying some idiot in the urinal next door keeps talking to me!
WTF ! who the hell initiates a conversation on their cell phone whilst sitting on the dunnie? Yours truly quickly finishes washes his hands and makes a hasty exit!
For the first time on my journey the sun didn't come out to play and I had a torrid day battling gusty winds, driving rain and a really scary bridge crossing at Coos Bay easing my way across a tight roadway, buffeted by high winds and passing trucks and RV's. I only managed to cover 50km after 5 hrs of hard riding before finding sanctuary in the little fishing town of Charleston
The stench of wet fish processing facilities, oyster shell middens and soggy fishing gear would have stopped a Rhino at 50 paces but I was wet, cold and hungry and certainly not in the mood to do the town dance or venture any further down the line
so Captain Johns Motel was a welcome port in this particular storm
The rain eased the next morning as I rode down to Port Orford, another small fishing town, and in an earlier era, a centre for Cedar Logging, with a disproportionate number of Art galleries, 12 in total in a population of just over 1200 people
In some of the smaller towns and unsavory back streets I have experienced a large number of piss artists along the way, druggies, dropouts and beggars but here this was the real deal and such a pleasant surprise!
As I rode into town however a thick fog rolled in reducing visibility to less than 50 meters, quite a surreal experience with the sun trying to break through
I had a wonderful meal of freshly caught salmon in a small café down by the dock, with fresh fish being landed off the boats as I arrived
As I finished my meal the fog eerily stared to clear revealing the port area with all the fishing boats sitting on huge trailers (Dollies) all neatly lined up on the dock with the magnificent bay and surrounding hills as a resplendent backdrop and the sun setting across the water, bathing the coast in a warm glow
The port is an open-water dock, the only one of it's kind on the entire west coast, with no natural protection so the fishing boats on their "Dollies" are lifted in and out of the water by 2 large cranes thus giving it the nickname of being a "Dolly - Dock" By default, the crane workers could no doubt be called "Dolly -Dockers", however for personal safety reasons I did not explore this theory any further ...
The next morning the fog had cleared completely revealing the impressive Hawthorne Art Gallery overlooking the bay and a small archipelago of islands along the coast. More superlatives required.....
My journey then continued via Gold Beach where I stayed with 2 USA / Kiwi Warm Shower hosts outside Gold Beach who are living off the grid in a small wooden cabin on 80 acres of land that commands the highest peak in the region with stunning views over the Rogue River back down to the coast with elk, black tailed deer, cougars, bears, wolves, bob cats, lynx, ospreys and eagles in the surrounding hills, a real wilderness experience...Thankfully I was picked up in town in a 4WD and did not have to negotiate the 8 km rough uphill track through the forest and all the wildlife...
The route south then climbed over Cape Sebastian and Arch Rock exposing some stunning rock outcrops along the coast, before heading inland as I crossed the border into California where the topography changed into more lowland dairy and agriculture country
Crescent City was memorable for being kept awake at night by barking sea lions in the nearby Aquatic Park! and for the 2 hour climb out of town over Triple Peaks, heading south, blanketed in thick fog amid major road works, not good for the nerves, even when bristling with an assortment of flashing lights and high viz fluro gear
However the route then led into Redwood National Park with magnificent Redwood trees, some specimens up to 2000 years old, 370 feet high and up to 20 feet in diameter, quite awe inspiring and another surreal experience riding through these ancient forests with the dappled sunlight filtering through the mighty branches
In between the forests I encountered the towns of Arcata and Eureka with its charming Victorian houses and the stately homes of early lumber barons
I took at rest day off in Eureka and indulged in a long hot bath and had an Archimedes moment.....
Sadly the towns are both deeply entrenched in the drug growing culture that pervades the region with some really seedy characters around and certainly not the place to be wandering the streets after dark, however really nice to be in a hotel with a sprung mattress and the facilities of a Starbucks, a sad state of affairs but a godsend whilst on the road to have access to free wifi
Thankfully the culture improved as I headed out of town along the
"Avenue of the Giants" cycling through more impressive ancient redwood forests
I then made a side trip to the old town of Ferndale nestled amidst rich dairy farming countryside with showpiece Victorian homes in the main street, old shops and a charming town centre with a wonderful nostalgic atmosphere
I had the good fortune to meet with veteran artisan blacksmith Ken, 75 years young and still creating...and so willing to share his work and methodology
A delightful loop ride through rolling farmlands took me back onto main road, sun shining and even a small tail wind J
The route continued through the old lumber town of Scotia which boasts the largest redwood factory in world and a fascinating historical museum of the timber industry in the region
Sadly more druggies and dope growing around Garberville as the underbelly of the drug world descend on the region for the harvest of the marijuana crop which grows so readily and abundantly in the area
Humboldt County has a lower socio economic group and is the centre of cannabis growing in the USA and an emerging region for the production of Crystal Meth "P"
There are strong views and petitions in California for the legalization of cannabis, which is prevalent throughout the state
Ironically you can obtain a medical ticket which allows you to grow up to 25 plants for "Personal Use" and if this amount is insufficient you may apply for a "Sheriffs Permit" that legally allows you to grow up to 100 plants which is one hellavalot of dope!
With outdoor weed fetching up to $2000 a Llb on the street, and cultivated indoor varietals fetching up to $4000, it is a very lucrative cash crop and one of the main economies of the region attracting people from all over the country. Sadly even the Mexican drug cartels are even in the region cultivating large plantations in some of the more remote interiors regions with sophisticated alarm systems, booby traps and their plots being guarded by armed guards
Hikers and mountain bikers are discouraged from wandering into the hills during this time of year as fatalities are not uncommon
Understandably I did not choose to hang around these parts for too long!
Now heading on further down the coast to Fort Bragg with San Francisco in my sights..
Love to all ... and yeah Peace Man and all that... if you are so inclined...and have to fly...
For more photos, further information and other travel journals Vince can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taranaki Daily News