Bill and I said our goodbyes to Tim and Mark and his family, left San Francisco, and we are now on our way to Cameron Park where Bill lives. We go through the Golden Gate Bridge once again to catch I-80 to Sacramento.
It is a pleasant ride. We have the opportunity to get to know more about one another, our lives and our families.
When we get to Cameron Park, Bill shows me something very interesting that I have never seen before: a residential development where people bring their airplanes to their homes.
The streets connect directly to the airstrip and they are wide enough for the small airplanes to taxi to and from the homes. Pilots can commute from home to destination without ever leaving the plane.
Bill brought to my attention the height of the mailboxes explaining that they are kept low so they do not interfere with the wings of the planes. Amazing!
I read that some of the folks who live there commute to work each day by plane. Living in the airpark provides them the opportunity to work in the big cities while enjoying the peace and serenity of the country setting of Cameron Park.
We are in San Francisco now, heading to Mark’s home. He chooses the sightseeing route as a gift for me, and I am able to see a lot of beautiful places along the way. But the best is reserved for last. When we get to his place, Mark takes me to the rooftop.
I am in awe!
Once again I realize how lucky I am.
These are the best views of San Francisco and I wouldn’t have seen them if I had not relinquished control and believed, as Max Ehrmann told us in the Desiderata that “the universe is unfolding as it should.”
DESIDERATA by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
The Golden Gate, the gateway to San Francisco… The Forces of the Universe brought me here… I made it!
Am I happy?
Am I ecstatic?
Am I elated?
I made it! From the northernmost city on the Oregon Coast all the way down to San Francisco… I made it, without obsessing with schedules or performance, but paying attention to life and remaining open to the winds of fate. Great lessons learned.
Well, this is a line from the song “Beautiful Boy,” written by John Lennon… “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
I met Bill, Tim and Mark in Myers Flat, as planned. I tell them about the broken spokes, how timely our reunion is, and how happy I am to see them.
They ask me about my travel plans. I tell them that I would appreciate if they can drop me closer to San Francisco, maybe in Santa Rosa, and that from there I will resume the biking. They want to know more… “Well, I have a wedding to attend in Lake Tahoe and I want to be there on the 24th,” I tell them.
“I live close to Lake Tahoe,” Bill tells me. “That’s where I am heading to today. Why don’t you come with me? You can stay at my place for as long as you want before heading to Tahoe. Actually, this would work out perfectly because instead of Tim having to come with me, he can stay in San Francisco with Mark. He was coming with me basically to help me with the driving, but if you come with me there’s no need for him to come.”
I think about my plan of staying for one or two days in San Francisco before heading to the wedding. I think about repaying a big favor with a small one. I think about the saying, “what goes around comes around.” I think about remaining open to whatever the Forces of the Universe throw at me. I think about guardian angels.
“Is there a bike shop were you live? ” I ask Bill, thinking about the need to pack and ship the bike back to Florida.
“Yes, there is a huge bike shop in Folsom, a few miles from Cameron Park where I live.”
“OK. We have a deal. Let’s go! I’ll go with you. This is actually great. Thank you, so much!”
I seal the deal giving Bill one of my hugs. Everyone smiles.
I have learned to say “Yes.”
Maybe I am being protected…
Maybe I am not meant to spend time in San Francisco during this trip…
Maybe I have to spend time with Bill and his family…
Maybe I have lessons to learn…
Maybe I have lessons to teach…
Again, I reflect on how fortunate I am, and I am reminded that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Tim asked me to meet him in Myers Flat which is only 4 miles south of the campground where I spent the night. They will be leaving Eureka this morning and Myers Flat is a convenient location along their way for them to pick me up.
It is a beautiful morning. I am happy that I will see Tim, Bill and Mark again, and grateful that they have agreed to take me with them. I say goodbye to Jane and Adam — after helping them decide what part of India they will visit after the wedding 🙂 — hop on the bike, and off I go.
When I am about to arrive in Myers Flat two rear wheel spokes break, one right after the other. The wheel loses its alignment and is now rubbing against the break pads, making it very hard to proceed. I have no way of fixing that; I am not carrying any extra spokes with me. I’ll have to stop at a bike shop.
I stop for a moment to reflect how fortunate I am. This is the perfect time for a mechanical problem. Not only I am miles away from the nearest bike shop — and it would be troublesome to get there — but the spokes broke right before I am getting a lift. I think to myself, “Isn’t that great? How lucky I am!”
Yes, call me Pollyanna. I am an optimist and I like that. I believe that there is always an upside in every situation. We can always find good in the bad.
Let me sit here in this park, relax, enjoy this beautiful blue sky and the warmth of the morning sun on my face while I wait for them to arrive.
My plans? Well, Meg and Aaron’s wedding is scheduled for the 25th in Lake Tahoe. That’s where I have to be.
Ideally I would like to get to San Francisco on the 22nd, ship the bike back to Florida on the 23rd, and catch a bus to Lake Tahoe on the 24th.
Looking at the distance between where I am now and San Francisco, I realize that I will never get there on time if I keep on biking. I have to find a way of getting somewhere closer to San Francisco using faster transportation. Maybe I can go by bus to Santa Rosa, and bike from there to San Francisco, but I am not sure where to get the bus, how to ship the bike in the bus, or the bus schedule.
Tim, Bill and Mark will be leaving Eureka and heading to San Francisco tomorrow, and they are riding Bill’s pickup truck. I’m going to ask Tim if it would be possible for them to give me a ride to Santa Rosa. I’m quite sure that the bike will fit in the back of the truck. I send Tim a text and a few texts later he lets me know the good news: they have agreed to pick me up tomorrow morning and give me a ride south.
I met a lovely couple this evening at the campground in the Avenue of the Giants. Jane and Adam, currently living in New York City, are riding their tandem bike from Crescent City, in Northern California, all the way south to the border of Mexico, then back north again to Los Angeles.
After that, they are shipping their bike back to NYC, and heading to India for a wedding and some sightseeing, before returning to New York or Cambridge.
Quite a trip!
Jane and Adam are both actors and they perform on the streets… Shakespeare in the Park…ing Lot, they told me.
Besides being an actor, Adam is also a photographer and a visual artist. Check these sites to learn more about him
Jane, who has a graduate degree from Harvard, teaches actors how to properly speak with different regional accents, and also how to train and properly use their voices.
They invited me and we sat down by the campfire.
We talked about our lives and our bike journeys. We shared how people reacted when we announced what we were going to do. The reactions were kind of similar, except that, in their case, many people expressed a concern that, because they were going to ride tandem, they would be spending ‘too much time together.” They smiled and expressed how much they enjoy each other’s company and the wonderful conversations they are having along the way.
We had smores! Yeah! My camping experience is now complete!
The following morning, after packing, I went over to say goodbye and they asked me, “North or South?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Just choose one of the two… North or South?”
“South,” I said.
“OK, South it will be. Let us explain… We had to decide where we were going to go after the wedding… to the North or to the South of India. Both trips are interesting and we didn’t know how to choose. You just helped us with the decision. South it will be!”
We wished each other luck. We hugged each other, and I left.
6:48 AM – I am leaving Eureka hoping to get to the Avenue of the Giants this afternoon.
Steve – 6:51 AM – It’s supposed to be a beautiful place. They run a marathon thru the Avenue of the Giants. Pace yourself and take in the beauty. Remember you have all day to get to your destination.
6:55 AM – Thanks. I need to pace. The campground is 50 miles away.
Steve – 7:03 AM – That’s a good doable ride. It’s always easy when you are looking forward to the destination.
8:17 AM – 10 miles gone. 40 to go.
Steve – 8:20 AM – Excellent! The first are always the hardest. Good weather, I hope. I ran 10 miserable miles with your wife and Bob this morning. Much rather be with you, minus the singing and hugs. 🙂
9:41 AM – 20 miles done. 30 more to go. Stopped for croissant and hot chocolate.
Steve – 9:46 AM – You’re the man!
11:33 AM – 30 miles completed. 20 miles to go.
Steve – 11:37 AM – Great job! Not even noon yet! Grab a good lunch and finish strong. Tally Ho.
12:01 PM – Stopped for burger, fries, and blueberry milk shake at Rio Dell
12:09 PM – Actually it is a blackberry milkshake
Steve – 2:56 PM – How is it going?
3:49 PM – Beautiful road. Mostly flat for the last 4 miles. 6 miles to campground. Not sure about cell service in the middle of these woods.
Steve – 3:51 PM – Great. 50 miles. Personal best. Enjoy.
4:23 PM – Got to the Burlington Campground in the Avenue of the Giants. 52.8 Miles.
We give ourselves too much importance. We are not that important. Few human beings live for more than a century. These trees have been around for millennia.
John Steinbeck wrote, “The redwoods once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always… from them comes silence and awe. The most irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.”
It’s around 9:30 AM and I am stopping at the Cream City Cafe in Ferndale for a warm beverage.
I park my bicycle outside and as I walk to the counter located in the back of the restaurant to place my order, I pass by a large table full of older folks in an animated conversation. I remind myself of the old advice, “Be the first one to say Hello,” and so I open up a smile and say “Good morning.” We immediately engage in a conversation. They want to know where I am from and where I am heading to.
When I mention that I am Brazilian, Anna tells me of her Portuguese origins. Her family came from the Azores Islands and she tells me that there was quite a large number of Portuguese immigrants coming to the area. I tell her that I lived in a city in Brazil that was originally populated by immigrants from the Azores Islands. We exchange some words in Portuguese and she tells me about family members that she lost contact with but that she would like to see again.
We have a lovely conversation about Portugal, Brazil, the US, and how life puts us on different paths… how we get to know new people and lose contact with other folks.
As I leave, I reflect about the quote that some people are in our lives just for a season, but everyone is in our lives for a reason.
We are all students and teachers for one another, and we all are put in situations where we can learn and teach. We just need to Pay Attention and Be Alert. So I remind myself, “Piero… Pay attention! Be alert!”
I ask myself, “Why did I have this encounter? What lesson did I have to learn, or be reminded of? What lesson did I have to teach?”
Well, my plan today is to bike from Eureka to the Burlington Campground in the Avenue of the Giants. Maps indicate that this will be a 50 mile ride with some hills. An early-morning start should give me more than enough time to get there before sunset.
As I leave the Motel 6 where I spent the night, I begin to look for a place down the road for breakfast… this old body of mine needs some fuel. Fifteen minutes later I spot a McD, not usually my choice for any meal, but I don’t have the luxury of being picky. Today, time takes priority over healthy nutrition. Fast food, here I go!
I park my bike against the glass window, and while I am removing my helmet and gloves, I see these two guys — who I guess are in their early thirties — inside. They look at me, my outfit, my bike, the load I am carrying, and I imagine that they may be thinking, “Here’s another guy biking down the coast.” They smile and nod their heads in approval, and I, too, smile and nod back at them.
I get my breakfast tray and choose to sit close to them. We exchange smiles and I start a conversation. “Hi guys. How are you this morning? Do you guys bike?” They smile back at me, but don’t say anything.
“Well, that’s strange,” I think to myself.
“Where are you heading to this morning?” I make a second attempt. One of them looks at me, and raises his finger. I interpret his sign as if he is saying, “Wait a second. Just give me some time and I’ll answer you.” He then looks up, as if he is searching for words up in the ceiling, and tells me, slowly and with difficulty, “We are heading to a swimming competition.” He is clearly making a huge effort to communicate… “We compete in the Special Olympics,” he continues.
“Now I get it!” I say to myself.
Through broken words and phrases they tell me that they are waiting for a van that will be picking them up to take them to where the meet will take place. We talk some more. They tell me that they bike as well, and I tell them a little bit about my biking adventure. I am not in a hurry anymore. One of them shows me his calves and pointing at them says, “See? I am a biker too.”
We exchange goodbyes. I wish them good luck in the competition, and they continue to smile as I leave… pure smiles that stay with me.
I pedal just enough to get out of their sight and then I start crying. Tears run down my face. I just cry. I can’t control my emotions. I am bawling.
I reflect that eating, speaking, walking… all the most ordinary things, those that come so easy to me, and that I can do without thinking, are so difficult to them.
How grateful I am that I have met them, the greatest teachers. They bring out the best in me: compassion, understanding, generosity, patience and gratitude. They remind me how fortunate I am, how much I have, and my responsibility to not waste, but put to good use the gifts that were given to me.
God puts individuals in our lives and calls us to help them. I believe that when we accept this calling we grow and become better human beings. I don’t believe, as the loud voice in our culture tries to make us believe, that I am here to do only what is best for me, and that if everyone does only what is best for them without concern for others, then everyone will be better off. The experience of the years has given me some knowledge now, and I came to believe that I am here to do what is best for those of us who need the most. I am not proud when I catch myself practicing the ‘it’s each man for himself’ ideology. I am definitely a better man when I choose to be my brother’s and my sister’s keeper.
I stop and think about my friend Karen Bossert to whom we — One Planet United — awarded the first OPU Humanitarian of the Year award. I think about how she dedicated herself to take care of others and the many individuals with disabilities that she introduced to us, and how these encounters have made our lives richer and better.
I think about Anne McGlone Burke, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and all the other many men and women who, through the Special Olympics, created opportunities not only for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, but also for those who care for them, to become better human beings.
I think about my intellectual and physical health, and my journey on this bike, and this fantastic opportunity I am blessed with to learn more about life and myself. How grateful I am! Thank you, my teachers! Life is good… and became better after meeting you.
Text # 1 – from Steve – “Just got done watching show on TV about wine and cheese, filmed in Arcata, CA.”
Text # 2 – from Steve – “Not wine, beer and cheese.”
Text # 3 – from Steve – “They were at a restaurant called Avalon.”
Steve sent me these messages about the TV program he saw. Before leaving Arcata that morning I asked several people where the Avalon was and they told me that it wasn’t in Arcata, but in Eureka. So, when I arrived in Eureka, I located the Avalon.
Tim came to have dinner with me and I told him the story. He agreed to check the Avalon out.
We ordered wine and cheese and it was a pleasure again to spend time with Tim.
It was early evening and we were the only ones in the restaurant. There was very little noise. We could talk without having to raise our voices, and we also were able to clearly listen to the music coming from the piano. It was very enjoyable.
Tim was very kind and insisted to pay for everything. I thanked him for his kindness.
My text to Steve – “Just enjoyed some wine and cheese at the Avalon in Eureka with my friend Tim listening to good piano playing. Life is good!”
Reply from Steve – “Enjoy, because regular life SUCKS.”
I am planning to meet Tim in Eureka today. That’s the only plan I have.
I really don’t have plans for the rest of this trip. The only thing I know is that I have to be in Lake Tahoe on the 24th for the wedding. I also know that some day between today and the 24th I will have to ship the bike back to Florida. That’s it. I am open to whatever may come.
I leave Arcata and soon a much younger and stronger guy is biking by my side. He slows down to match my speed, and asks, “Are you touring?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You are the man!” he tells me with a smile of admiration.
Josh is riding a super light road bike. He tells me that he commutes daily by bike from Arcata where he lives to Eureka where he works. “12 miles each way,” he says.
We talk for a few minutes about his desire to do some bike touring and then Josh says, “Sorry, I need to go. I have to get to work,” and he takes off. It amazes me, over and over again, how some people can make bikes go that fast. In a few minutes he is out of my sight. Amazing.
I get to Eureka, stop at AAA to ask some questions. They give me good advice and a bunch of maps. I make some calls, and finally I bike to the Motel 6 where I’m gonna spend the night.
Later I meet Francois and Max from Paris who are biking from San Diego to Vancouver. I ask them where they are coming from and they tell me that they are coming from the campground on the Avenue of the Giants. I ask them how far is it and Max looks at the odometer and tells me, with his French accent, “77 kilometers.” I tell them that maybe I’ll go to that campground tomorrow.
Taylor told me to follow her and she took me to her house. She lives with Mackenzie and Jenny, two beautiful young women.
Jenny offered me a slice of a delicious banana bread and a refreshing glass of water, and I told them about my journey. I showed them my blog and we watched together the trailer of the movie The Way .
They told me that they are considering biking down the Oregon Coast in the future, so I showed them the maps I have been using, and told them to check the Adventure Cycling website.
I told them about my son’s birthday and a few moments later Mateus was receiving his Happy B-day picture card… directly from Arcata, OR to Cambridge, MA, in a few seconds, thanks to the marvel of wireless telecommunications.
I told the girls that it was time for me to continue my journey to Eureka, where I was planning to spend the night, and the girls said, “No, don’t go there. Stay in Arcata. It is better and much safer.”
“OK, if the girls are telling me to stay in Arcata, that’s what I am going to do,” I said to myself. I have been paying attention to what people have been telling me. These have been my guardian angels, and when they speak, I listen and obey.
They told me where the hotels were located and suggested the APD – Arcata Pizza and Deli as the place to eat.
We hugged, wished each other a happy life, and said goodbye.
Later that evening I went to APD. Alone at my table, I raised a glass of the legendary Boonville Beer and, with gratitude in my heart, silently renewed my wishes of happy lives for the girls.
Yes… Connecting. Making friends. Being generous. Having fun… this is what makes life meaningful.
I left Trinidad and I am on my way to Eureka. The suggested route takes me to a bike path, and that’s where I meet Taylor, who is out there biking to get some exercise. She lives nearby, in Arcata, where she goes to college.
We start talking and she tells me that she will double major in Marine Biology and Zoology, and that she is applying for a program with NOOA in which she will spend 3 years on a ship doing research. She also tells me that she has been cycling now but that until recently she dedicated herself to synchronized swimming. She was a top athlete, competing and winning national meets, but she is not into it anymore. I just listen with admiration. There are so many good kids in this world!!!
I ask her about the meaning of life. She hesitates, so I add… “Well, I should not ask what the meaning of life is. I should ask, ‘what makes life meaningful?'” She responds, “Life is good when I am with my friends, and when we have fun together… when we play, and we dance, and we sing together.” I reflect that we are here to connect, make friends, and have fun together in this playground. Period. This is the meaning of life. Puzzle solved. Taylor, the Great Philosopher, just unveiled the greatest mystery of life. Now everyone knows that the meaning of life really is.
She tells me that she is 20 years old, and I tell her that Mateus is turning 20 today. We talk about him and I tell her the great sense of accomplishment my boys have given me. “I feel that there is no better way to make the world a better place than to leave human beings who are better than you behind. Bringing up people that are better than you is the greatest contribution anyone can give to the world,” I said with unrestrained pride, sincerity, joy, and humility.
She took me to bike paths and streets that weren’t in my map. We passed McKinleyville through the Clam Beach County Park and the Hammond Trail.
She showed me the California Poppy, the official flower of California, and taught me that it is against the law to pick them up.
I can’t describe how pleasurable that bike ride into Arcata was and what a radiant human being Taylor is.
She invited me to come to her house, and that’s where we are heading to. I have a big smile on my face.
Today is the 20th birthday of Mateus, my youngest son. In this short period of time, he has already touched many lives in profound ways. He has certainly made the world a better place and me a better man. I am in awe with his journey. I admire him and owe him a lot.
I ate a nice breakfast this morning in Trinidad.
Trinidad is a little and beautiful town on the Northern Coast of California. It’s a place full or artists and, for what I could see, old and young hippies. It was interesting for me that I — this old surfer, who had his hippie days, and who still loves peace and unity, and the music of the ’60s — felt like a fish out of the water; a stranger in a strange land. I looked around and I didn’t immediately identify myself with what I was seeing. I guess that a transition from South Florida to Northern California is not automatic; it must take some time. Well…
There is a scenic way south of Trinidad, and it is beautiful.
I caught a cold and this weather is not helping me at all.
I still have good 20 miles to get to Trinidad and I am feeling weak this afternoon, without energy.
I am going to stop at the next Information Center to see what alternatives I have for the night.
Well, bad luck. The Information Center is closed.
I go around the building to see if I can find someone. There’s a lady in the grass area behind the building. “Maybe she works here,” I thought, “and maybe she can tell me if there is a place nearby where I could stay.”
Well, good luck. Laurie didn’t work there but, after listening to my story, she offers to give me a ride. “I know how it is. I am a biker myself. Just put your bike on the back of my truck, and I’ll be happy to take you to Trinidad.”
Laurie was born in Northern California but she now lives in L.A. She told me about her husband and kids and the work she does. We talked about fitness, running, biking, and workouts.
Every time we drove up a hill, I smiled and said out loud, “Here’s one that I will not have to pedal up… And here’s another one that I will not have to climb using my legs.” We laughed.
Laurie took me to Trinidad and I thanked her for the break.
I am having lunch and I engage in a conversation with an older fellow who is sitting at a table right in front of me. He tells me his name, asks where I am going, and shares what I may encounter in the places I am heading to. He wants to know about my life and I ask him about his.
He shows me the book that he has been reading… Stillness Speaks, by Eckhart Tolle.
He then gets a nice piece of paper from the pocket of his shirt.
It is a carefully handwritten note, prepared beforehand, with something that he clearly cherishes and wants to share with others.
I feel that he has been waiting for the right person and the right moment to give it to.
He hands it to me.
I remember that I also have something to give him, that piece of green paper that my good friend Jack gave me before my departure, the one with Tolle’s quote that reminds us that we will find peace when we remember that all things and situations are impermanent and when we learn to accept what comes our way and offer no resistance to what is.
When I am about to leave, we look deeply in each other’s eyes, and wish one another, as if we had a godly power to shape the future, a joyful and peaceful life.
I left Klamath this morning and after climbing, climbing, and climbing some more, I got to the top. From there on it was all downhill for miles and miles, in the middle of a beautiful forest!
Finally I am experiencing the joy of bike riding again, after two days of hard climbs.
I am in the Redwood National and State Parks. These parks have served as filming locations for numerous films. The Endor scenes for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed in the Tall Trees Redwood Grove in the northern part of Humboldt County. Scenes for The Lost World: Jurassic Park as well as the movie Outbreak were filmed at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and at Patrick’s Point State Park.
I met Tex in the campground early this morning while he was walking his dog. “Her name is Sheila,” he told me, “and my wife’s name is Shirley. Sometimes this creates some confusion,” he laughed, repeating an old joke that, I’m sure, he tells all the time.
“We travel a lot. We go to different places. We have a real good time,” he said.
He told me that he is 67 years old and that he retired when he was 54 after working for 25 years. He has been enjoying life since. “We have it good in Canada,” he said, expressing his belief that Canadians have created a society that takes better care of its people than we do down here.
Well, food for thought… I will think about that while I pedal.
I am following the recommendation given by Jim, the guy who works at the Visitor Information Center in Crescent City where I stopped to ask some questions. He told me about this campground, and he was right. It is very nice indeed… green grass along the margin of the Klamath River.
It is getting cold again. This week the Northwest is registering the coldest temperatures of the entire continental US. There’s always a cold wind blowing and I am going to put the tent up and get a hot shower before it gets too cold.
I met Mel who is 67 and Dee who is 65, from Gardena, near Los Angeles.
They are on their way to Alaska. Dee told me, “You know, we are healthy now, but there are no guarantees in life. We can’t wait. We have to do it now.” Mel told me that he will be posting pictures of his trip on www.melodeephoto.com pretty soon. I encourage you to check and send them words of encouragement. They were nice with me.
I was warned not leave any food out because there were sights of coyotes and bears around the campground. I put my body inside the sleeping bag as soon as the sun starts to disappear in the horizon because the outside temperature begins to drop sharply.
I wake up in the middle of the night. There are some animals outside, around my tent. I turn my headlamp on and prepare my Air Horn. If they get any closer they will be hearing a sound that they have never heard before… well, only if they are sports fans and attend sports events. Anyway, a few moments later, peace reigns again and I go back to sleep.
I have been communicating with Blair since yesterday, trying to coordinate a meeting. Blair is Steve’s son, and Steve, as you may know, is my good friend and mentor, the one who inspired and facilitated this entire adventure.
Blair is coming from the south and he plans to go all the way to Banff, Canada, before turning around and coming back to California for his sister’s wedding in Lake Tahoe.
We finally met in Crescent City.
I invited him and the Professor to have lunch with me.
Clam Chowder, Fish, Chips, and Beers in the Chart Room Restaurant on the dock, with sea lions around us.
Blair told me about things to see on my way south and I told him about some neat things he should pay attention to on his way north.
I particularly liked my exchange with the Professor about Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. who he probably likes more than I do. He told me that he is putting together a presentation on how Vonnegut must have read papers about the time continuum and how these ideas influenced the structure of his writings. We talked about Slaughterhouse-Five, that I have read, and he mentioned Sirens of Titan, that I now plan to read.
I told him about Cold Turkey (http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/733/), a manifesto that Vonnegut wrote in 2004, that I consider a very patriotic writing.
It was a great lunch.
We said goodbye and they left. I wished them well and they did the same.
I don’t know how the beer I just drank will affect my ride. I have a huge hill ahead of me. Let’s see.
I am arriving in Crescent City through the scenic route that runs along the ocean. Again, it is a very beautiful place. I feel I’m highly blessed.
This is Pebble Beach, just north of Crescent City.
This planet is a rare jewel in the Universe. As far as we know, there isn’t another planet like this one. We should stop the bickering and focus on having fun and enjoying this beautiful playground that was given to us.
He left before I did this morning. He has to be in Eureka in two days for a family reunion so he is speeding up. I don’t feel like I have the energy to follow along, so we are saying goodbye for now.
I was sad to see him leave, because we got along so well, but hopefully we will get together again in a couple of days.
The ride from Smith River to Crescent City was, shall I say, full of tranquility. I left the highway and rode on the country roads along Lake Earl and Fort Dick… Farms, cows, pastures, and a strong and penetrating countryside smell, if you know what I mean. 🙂
Tranquility… Even the cows were resting… taking it easy. No rush.
No traffic. I have the roads all for myself.
It was good to slow down. A good morning considering what expects me in the afternoon; the big mountain pass between Crescent City and Klamath. I am saving energy and building strength for the afternoon challenge.
I met Paul, Kyle and Liane this morning, just a few moments after getting on the road. They are from Vancouver.
Kyle is 38 years old, a lawyer. He told me, “Well, I took 6 months off. I guess I am going through my mid-life crisis.”
I told Liane that she has the same name as my Auntie.
Liane was coming out of an accident. She lost control of her bike while she was going down Humbug Mountain. There was sand in the shoulder and she could not control the bike. She fell and hit the pavement hard. She left some skin there, but she is alright.
I asked her if she gave me permission to write about her accident. “Yes, go ahead… as long as my mother doesn’t read about it.”
DISCLAIMER: Liane’s mother, if you are reading this, please know that your daughter is a lovely and very strong woman. You should be proud of her. Liane, if your mother is reading this, I wasn’t the one who gave her the blog address.
Tim took me to Diary Queen in Gold Beach. He had a kid’s smile all over his face, His eyes were shining with anticipation. “You have to have one of these.”
He came back with the largest ice cream cones I’ve seen in my life.
Later that evening, when the sun was setting down, we went for pizza and beer at the Panther’s Den Pizza and Deli. Tim and I carried out deep philosophical conversations. We shared our current beliefs about life. At the end, Tim said, “I came to conclude that I don’t have a monopoly on truth… and that is the truth.”
Breanna was our attentive server. She was very sweet.
“Life is good! Why do we create so much drama?” I asked Tim.
“Because we can,” he answered.
Later that day, I commented, “I am a surfer. Some surfers don’t want to share the waves, and become aggressive. During this week I have seen thousands of wonderful surfable waves go by with no one riding them. There’s such an abundance. There’s so much available for everyone. Why do we fight?”
He looked at me and said, with a half smile, “Because we can!”
Well, I passed Langlois and went to a campground in Denmark (Oregon… not Europe!)
I was going with the tent, but the site they assigned to me was cold and humid… a shaded area where the sun never shines. I guess these campgrounds are fantastic during the hot summer months, but they are not funny when it’s 40 degrees outside, at least not for this thin-blooded Brazilian-Floridian. So, I went back and I upgraded to a cabin, which, by the way, has a little electrical heater inside..
Tim is staying in the cabin next to me. He cooked dinner and invited me to eat with him. He’s a nice guy… interesting, intelligent and funny. He reminds me of Bira, who is married to my wife’s sister, and of Ire, a friend from the time I lived in the house by lake on the Brazilian coast.
He rides an old 10-speed Peugeot. Actually he rides a complete new bike that he created based on a 1978 Peugeot frame.
He was a social worker for more than 20 years. He was taking care of the old disabled fellows and also in the child protective services. Then, 3 years ago, his brother died of cancer in New Mexico, and this was a life-changing event for him. “It was nasty, man… lung cancer… and it spread to other parts of his body. His death really hit me. It changed my life. I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m done with work. I’d better do something with my life. I don’t think I need to work anymore.’ So I went back to Hawaii and I quit my job. I still work, but in part time jobs.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I push the broom around. I am a janitor, and I love it. I have no responsibilities, and I can work around the schedule. It works for me.”
He is going to Eureka where he will meet some relatives. Maybe I’ll hook up and ride with him for a while. Let’s see.
It was a beautiful day to ride. Some steep hills but I feel that I am getting tougher.
I met Linda today.
Linda is from Central California. “I’m 50. I work for the police. It’s been 23 years now. It was time to take some time off.” Her journey will take her from the border of Canada back home. She is riding a light road bike and not carrying any load. Her mother is driving and carrying all the stuff.
We met on the side of the road. She pointed at my panniers and said, “I admire you guys, but this is not for me. I don’t want to carry anything. I just want to ride as fast and as far as I can.”
She rides close to 100 miles a day. “I thought I was going to cover 1,500 miles in 15 days, but I will not be able to make it. This road is humbling me. I am in pretty good shape, at least I thought I was, but I developed a tendinitis and I am just pushing through it.”
“Well, we have some tough hills ahead of us.”
“Yeah, and we will just have to keep on plugging along.”
I woke up at 5:30 AM. Still very cold. I can’t feel the tips of my fingers. I decided to pack and leave. Maybe moving my body will warm it up.
Where’s the sun?
Imagine a forest of very tall trees. Imagine a road in the middle of the forest. Imagine the sun coming up but still low on the horizon. Imagine that there isn’t a sunny spot anywhere. Imagine that you are cold and dreaming about finding a spot where the sun can warm your bones up… and then, finally, a break. No trees. There it is… The Sun King!
I am so happy. I am feeling its warmth. I have to take a picture to forever remember how happy I am.
Crossing the huge bridge and arriving in North Bend.
It’s noon time and I am not going any further. I have no energy after that cold night. I want to check in a warm room, take a hot shower, eat a hot meal, and sleep in a warm bed.
I am staying in Coos Bay, of Steve Prefontaine fame.
I stopped at the information center in Reedsport and when I got out I noticed that the rear tire was flat. Well, first one of the journey, and I have to be happy that it happened on a safe place with plenty of room to work.
I did a good job changing the tube and fixing the tire. I was proud of my accomplishment. By the time I was ready to put the wheel back the wind was blowing so hard that I had to ask someone to hold the bike for me. The temperature dropped and the wind increased. A cold front moving in.
I stopped to eat in Reedsport, and kept on going. I could feel the cold. I battled the wind, the cold, and some hills and finally got to the Umpqua Lighthouse.
It was mid afternoon and I realized that I could not go any further. It was too cold.
I pitched the tent on the grounds of the Umpqua Lighthouse State Park.
Got inside the sleeping bag wearing all the clothes and went through one of the coldest nights in my life. At least, that’s how I felt. Face mask, gloves, all the clothes, sleeping bag, and frigid air all around me.
Here are some of the thoughts that went through my head… I thought about the Florida weather, and realized how lucky I am, that I can turn the heater on when it is cold. I imagined donating all the blankets I have at home to the homeless shelter. Maybe I’ll do a “blanket for the homeless drive” when I get back. I realized how proud I am of my son and their friends, and the work they do providing shelter to the Harvard Square homeless during the winter nights.
Lack of comfort is a good reminder of how rich I am.
“Sure. I am a writer. I write and I speak. That’s how I make a living,” answering with a higher dose of hope than reality.
“How cool is that?,” he said.
“And what about you? What’s your story?”
Conley told me that he started driving trucks when he was 18 years old, and how he did that most of his life, until the accident four years ago. The cargo escaped untouched, but he didn’t… fractured and compressed vertebras, plus problems with the shoulder pressed by the seat belt that saved his life.
He was lucky. He could be dead.
The saddest part of the story is how people reacted, he told me. The cleanest of records, the many awards, the frequent praises by the bosses as an exemplary employee did not go far.
“I was soon dismissed and forgotten. I wasn’t useful anymore. I used to go to their houses. They treated me as their friend. And when I needed their help, they pushed me away as if I had an infectious disease. They could have found another place for me. They could have recommended me… I was out of work, not making any money, and, for a while, I could not pay my bills. It ruined my credit. Now I am on disability. I work the front desk of this motel part-time. My wife cleans the rooms, and the income helps us with the bills… The sad part is how people avoided me.”
“I know how you feel,” I said. And this time I was being completely truthful because, actually, I knew exactly how he felt.
“But I am OK. Life goes on. I have my character. I am an honest man, and no one will ever take this away from me.”
Again, I knew how he felt.
“Can I take your picture?” I asked.
“Sure… and write about me!”
I got up on my bike and when I was leaving, he shouted, “You were brought here for a reason.”
I guess the reason was to sit down and listen with undivided attention while he told his story. I guess I was brought there simply to show Conley a little bit of kindness.
When I got to the campsite I was greeted by Tom… sort of… “Another damn biker!” he shouted out loud in his rough voice.
He wasn’t what you’d expect a regular cyclist on a bike tour to be. His appearance was more that of a homeless. In fact, there were three older guys already on site, and none of them fit the image of a tourist. I had an eerie feeling… “Maybe I should go somewhere else,” I thought, allowing apprehension to kick in. The internal dialogue continued… “Slow down, Piero. Don’t rush to judge. Here you are… profiling. You, the expert in diversity and inclusion! You teach that stuff. C’mon. Give the guy a chance.”
“Where are you heading to?” he asked. His appearance wasn’t the best. He was smoking, and I suspected that his water bottle, from where he kept drinking, contained a stronger kind of liquid.
“I’m going south, to California,” I responded.
“Well, pay attention. There are a bunch of campgrounds that are closed. Those damn budget cuts, you know? So as soon as you get to the border, stop and ask which ones are open. It is not funny to go up a hill, thinking that you will have a place to sleep right on the other side, only to find out that the next open campground is 40 miles away.”
“Why don’t you unload and come back here? I’ll show you my map.”
While I was assembling the tent and getting organized, I kept thinking, “Should I go there or ignore him?”
“Here I am. Tell me about the closed campsites, will you?”
“Sure, let me find the map.” It took him a while. He went through the bags and finally exclaimed, “Found it! Here it is!” He opened the map on top of the table… “Wait. Let me get my glasses. I can’t see a thing without them.” And with a lot of generosity he shared what he knew.
I learned that Tom was going north. This was the third time he was ‘circumnavigating’ the US. “I am going to the East Coast through the north part of the country during the summertime, and I will cross back to the west through the southern states during the winter.”
I thanked him and went to sleep.
Tom coughed all night long. A bad cough. The following morning, we both got ready to leave. I saw him when he came out of his tent to roll a cigarette and light up the first one of the day. I offered him a Biscoff cookie but he didn’t take it. “No, thanks.”
We talked a little more.
“Where is home for you?” I asked, expecting to hear that he didn’t have one, and that his tent was the only shelter he had. “Wisconsin. I have two houses there,” he responded, as if already knowing that he would surprise me with his answer. “My son takes care of them for me.”
“And how long do you stay when you are up there?” I asked.
“Maybe one week a year,” he answered. “I am 62 years old, a disabled veteran, and 4 years ago I started to ride the bike around the country, and I am still doing it.”
“What is your destination today?” I asked.
“It depends. Everyday is different. it depends on how I feel. What I know is that I am going north. Don’t know how far I’m going. Can’t tell where I’m gonna stop… You know, I have met guys who are obsessed with doing 100, 120 miles a day… this is no fun. I just take it easy and let each day tell me what I’m gonna do.”
I nodded, letting him know that I understood. I’m pretty much the same way, I thought to myself.
“Well, time to go,” he announced. “Be safe. Beware of those damn RVers and be careful with the homeless. They wait for you to go inside the store to snatch things out of the bags in your bicycle. They are known for doing this.” he said.
And I had a moment of clarity, when the inner voice whispered, “Another teacher, another lesson. Here’s the guy you profiled yesterday as a homeless, giving you advice about the homeless. What goes around, comes around… sometimes quickly. Time to learn, Piero!”
Can I take a picture?” I asked.
“Sure, go ahead!”
“Smile,” I asked.
“I never smile,” he said.
“OK,” I said, and took the picture.
“Besides, I have no teeth,” he added… and then he smiled.
He left, and I smiled as well. Now I understand why he didn’t accept the cookie. Biscoffs are pretty hard even for those with perfect teeth!
I leave the hotel and stop at the Public Library to update my blog. The allowance is for one hour per day. That’s OK. 12:45 PM I leave the library.
Another perfect day with beautiful weather. And the sights are incredible! Too much beauty! I stop my bike every five minutes to take pictures. I imagine Steve would be pulling his hair off if he were here with me.
In retrospect this is the most beautiful coastline I have seen so far.
“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us.
Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, all are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters.
The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers.
Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.
The rivers are our brothers. They carry our canoes and feed our children.
If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? The end of living and the beginning of survival.
When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?
We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.
One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We are all brothers after all.”
I am leaving Pacific City and I am on my way to Lincoln City.
I was warned by a fellow cyclist that there is another big hill on my way, but the weather is beautiful, and it is a scenic way, the old 101 between Neskowin and Otis.
I’m ready! Bring it on!
“Not so fast!” says the hill! Yes, I had to stop several times. Yes, I had to walk the bike for some segments. But I had the entire road pretty much for myself. I enjoyed the silence, and the sounds of nature… the wind going through the leaves, and the water sliding through the rocks. It all helped me get to the top.
And now it’s downhill time again!
As they say, “If you want to have pleasure, you have to pay the price!”
Fun! Fun! Fun! As Jameson said, “This is what we live for!”
Lincoln City… here I go!
Checked in the Ashley Inn, for a good night of sleep. Sara and Stacy at the front desk took good care of me with a low “tired biker” rate and fresh baked cookies. Nice people. Time to wash the clothes and clean the bike.
Oops… I hurt my left foot while taking a shower. Slipped and hit the wall. I am hoping for the better, but it is swollen. Crossing my fingers.
In retrospect, today was a great day with great challenges. The weather was beautiful, the scenery was superb, and I am extremely happy.