Decompressing

I am sorry to have left this hanging so suddenly. I really need to write a summary of my trip and how I feel about it. It seems pretty daunting. I haven’t really decided where to start.

I’m working on it. I promise it will happen or I can’t really say I feel complete.

Things are good at home. Not 100% changed and I still find myself lapsing. Overall though things are better.

We’re doing ok.

I’m finally burned out

I’ve hit that point. I want to be done. The more I think about it, the more I realize that’s a good thing. I’m no longer trying to get away from anything and I really want to go home.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m so close geographically to my home. I can feel it. I know I probably only have a few days left.

I am currently in Santa Maria California which is just south of San Luis Obispo.

Yes, yesterday I did not do a blog post, and I didn’t make up for it this morning. That’s a first. I thought about it but then I realized that once again I had nothing to report. I got my massage and then by the time I had lunch, it was close to 2pm. I didn’t really want to be on the road that late and so I went out to dinner with the in-laws and spent another night with them.

An easy morning this morning. Said my goodbyes, grabbed a coffee and jumped into late morning traffic heading into San Francisco. Traffic is so easy when you can split lanes. Like, life altering easy. If I ever lived in a city with a work commute, I’d get a little motorcycle just for that reason. Lane splitting on a big Harley is a very interesting experience. I am finding myself calm in traffic and even though I can still get upset at drivers, I’m able to keep it in check.

My whole day has essentially been spent on highway 1. It has been a beautiful ride, in places, but the joy of the road is gone. What I mean is the road isn’t fun or interesting. The swoops and curves are all but gone. Plus, it being a Friday in California, everyone is out driving the coast. It’s been nut to butt the whole way. A great exercise in patience that I’m close to failing.

I had no idea where in California the Hearst Castle was because I’d never really cared. All I knew is that my parents went there a year or so ago and I remember they did several tours. As I’m riding down the road I see a sign that says Hearst Castle 1/4 mile ahead. What?! Really? Well, I needed a break so I stopped. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. I meandered up to the ticket window and the guy frantically asked me if I wanted to do the tour. I said sure, why not. So he screams into a radio for them to hold the bus. Apparently the last bus leaves to go to the house at 4:30. It was 4:30. Lucky me. It was interesting. Very grandiose and gaudy. But hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Maybe when you die people will come tour your house someday. The architecture really was amazing. Especially the pools and the ceilings. I thought it was crazy that he’d acquired so many historical artifacts. Our tour guide was a robot who thought she was funny. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

And of course, what is a day without an adventure. I’ve found that being on a trip like mine where everything is up in the air until the last second is nearly impossible on the West coast and it’s getting harder the farther south I go. I tried, physically, to get a spot at 4 different campgrounds. I called 6 others. All full. I finally took one guys word for it that you could camp on the beach in a certain area. 6 miles out of my way later, I found the beach lined with signs saying that camping on the beach would incur a $250 fine. I decided that tonight would have to be a hotel night. Bad idea. Friday night, the coast, the beaches. That meant everything was booked solid. I did find a few rooms on an app, the cheapest was $400. Nope.

I got back on the bike and rode for another half an hour. I kept searching and finally found the place I’m in for half that. Still. Damn. The payoff though is that about 15 minutes out, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started raining. I guess it’s a good night for a hotel.

The deal is, that didn’t help me not feel burned out. I’m now in southern California, the ultimate in urban sprawl. And it’s the weekend. The likelihood of me getting anywhere to camp the next two nights is zilch. I also can’t spend two more nights in hotels.

It is starting to look like a really good call to just head 540 miles due east from here which will have me home by tomorrow night.

What do you all think?

I don’t feel like I’m missing any part of highway 1 that shouldn’t be missed.

I’ve done what I set out to do.

Not to let a day go by

I just relaxed yesterday. Spent the day doing easy things and helping my in-laws where I could. That included cutting out a piece of wall to extract a dead owl from an air conditioning duct.

Today I have a gift certificate for a massage and then I’ll take off at about 1pm. I plan to meet someone in San Jose and who knows how far I’ll get.

I broke my rules

I’ll explain.

Let me get there first.

I did not sleep well last night. I get serious constipation sometimes (too much info, I know). And inevitably it happens at night. So I woke up this morning at 5:30 in serious pain. I had to pull myself out of my warm sleeping bag, into the cold morning air, get dressed, and drag myself about 300 yards to a bathroom. Once that was done, I made my way back, laid down and tried to get warm. And the pain returned. I got to do it all over again.

Finally I was able to lay back down to try to sleep. Nightmares. A lot of them. I finally woke up exhausted and not feeling rested at all. It was 8:30. Geez.

What a great way to start the day.

I grabbed breakfast at a decent little cafe but they definitely put the grease in greasy spoon. I felt that one in my gut for awhile. Or maybe my guts were just torn up anyway.

Today was an amazing ride. I wound down 101, taking several back roads, including Avenue of the Giants.

Pictures never do them justice.

I really enjoyed the Redwoods. As I’ve said, trees are my favorite thing. After this loop, I feel like I’ve been through every type of forest in the US.

Now is where the fun began. I turned off onto highway 1. Wow. The twists and turns began immediately. All day I’d been fighting the weather. I was dressed for cold and as I climbed up and over the hills on 1, it hit 100 degrees. Off came the leathers and the wool undershirt. 30 minutes later I was back by the ocean and the fog and it was 57 degrees. I can’t win. After lunch I put it all back on again. And on it would stay. Highway 1 has got to be the most interesting road I’ve been on this entire. I can see why this is a bucket list ride for most people.

I was making good time until genius me decided any trip around the US isn’t complete without a stop at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Riding through downtown San Francisco, even at 8:30pm, is not a good idea.

I’m so tired right now as I’m trying to write this. I did make it to my in-laws and I’ll take tomorrow off the bike.

So here’s the part where I broke my rules.

Today I had an agenda. I wanted to get to my in-laws tonight. When I plugged all of the waypoints into my bike, and it said I’d arrive at 9pm, I should have known better. I even called my wife and told her I probably wouldn’t make it.

I pushed through today and made it.

And in doing so I broke another rule. I rode in the dark. I’ve ridden in the dark before but not going from A to B. Fortunately it was just highway which is pretty easy.

The other rule I broke today was lane splitting. I swore I’d never do it. Getting through the traffic in downtown San Francisco was insane. After sitting at an intersection for 7 cycles of a light and not moving an inch, I decided to go for it. Less than 30 minutes later, I was out of the city. It wasn’t so bad. I was worried about the width of my bike and it was definitely tight. I took it easy and surprisingly, most people actually moved over to make a wider path.

So I’m mentally and physically exhausted.

I’m out.

An interesting day.

I woke up this morning panicked. My friend had to be at work at 8am and I didn’t want to oversleep. It was 6:20.

I took a shower, packed and started loading my waypoints into Ox’s GPS. That’s always entertaining for some reason.

We had breakfast and said our goodbyes. It better not be for 20 years again.

I left through Bend and began my journey along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. It took me right past Mt. Bachelor. The last time I was here, my brother Joe and I came down with a youth group to snowboard. It is still one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had. Mostly because of epic powder and the sunburn on my face.

This shot was taken sitting next to Bachelor but looking north at the three sisters.

For the next 50 miles I proceeded to go on a murdering rampage of bugs. I could barely see through my windshield. I think about 1,000 hit me in the face. No joke. It was a beautiful ride but cold. The sun still hadn’t warmed up the canyons yet.

Eventually I worked my way down towards Crater Lake. As I got close, a thick smoke began to envelop the road. If cars didn’t have their headlights on, you couldn’t see them until the last second. Hotshots rigs were parked along all of the roads, along with forest service vehicles. I figured if they didn’t want me to go there, they would have closed the roads. Right before the turnoff to Crater lake, the smoke mostly cleared. Which is good because it was actually getting hard to breathe. I think my clothes smell like I was sitting around a campfire all night. I stopped at the first overlook of the crater because it was still smoky and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see very much. Unfortunately I was right.

The lake is down there somewhere.

I turned around and continued my journey down another scenic byway, this one along the Umpqua river. I even saw people rafting. It was freezing! They’re nuts.

In Roseburg I stopped at a self serve car wash and gave Ox a good once over. It was nasty.

I stopped again at another intersection for lunch and gas (speaking of which, I am so glad to be out of Oregon and having an attendant always there to “help” me) and then it was my final push to the coast and rejoining 101.

Turning south again I followed the amazing Oregon coastline all of the way into California. 440 miles after I started.

I reached Crescent City California and began looking for dinner and a campsite. Every single restaurant I went by was shut down. Out of business. And no camping.

I kept going south. Now I was into redwoods country. And guess what? Every state park campsite was full. On a Monday. Go figure. I finally broke down and stopped and a private campsite. $19. I’m sorry, what?! I haven’t had camping that cheap in forever. I’m surrounded by Redwoods. It’s amazing.

Unfortunately I had a lot of time to think today and my head really started messing with me.

I thought a lot about my transition back to home life. At the pace I’m going, that’ll be soon. I have high hopes and deep fears. What if I haven’t changed? What if this is all for nothing? If it does help, how long will it last?

And then I had a panic attack. It hit me hard and fast and I could barely breathe. I had to pull over asap and just sit to look at the view. I tried to call my wife and she didn’t answer. That didn’t help.

I finally calmed down and my wife called me back. I didn’t tell her but I just needed to talk.

Some days I think I’m doing ok and then it just resets to square 1.

Oh well. I’m in California. That’s crazy. My inlaws live outside of San Francisco and that’s less than 350 miles away. That’s about 100 miles less than I did today. Damn. I could be home pretty soon. I’m worried. I need to stop talking about it. I’m making it worse.

Just a short one today.

Today was spent having fun with an old friend.

We went mountain biking to a waterfall, ran underneath the water and pretty much got soaked.

Then we went and hiked through a lava flow cave. With the weakest headlamps ever made.

Next we inflated some river tubes and floated part of the Deschutes River, even going over some small rapids. They were fun enough that we hiked back up and hit them again.

All in all a good day. Tomorrow I’ll try to hit crater lake and then back to the coast.

Another wonderful day

I woke up this morning to the sounds of a large family already awake and cooking breakfast. It was just past 7am.

I was happy to get up and moving because it had been a little cold over night. As I began packing up, I heard a voice ask if I’d like some coffee. I realized she was talking to me and so I consented. Happily. I even tried to show it on my face. After I was presented the cup she asked if I’d also like to join them for breakfast. Rather than making an excuse as to why I couldn’t, I smiled and said yes, of course. I had an amazing, camp stove prepared breakfast of blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and banana bread. It was so good and the perfect way to start the day. I was also able to chat with about ten new friends as we ate. I am so grateful for their generosity. Thank you!

I rolled out close to 9am. For the first time in days, I saw blue skies in the morning. It was about 64 degrees and would stay that temperature for the whole time I was along the coast.

I will say this, the coast of Oregon is infinitely more amazing and stunningly beautiful than the coast of Washington. Hands down.

I made it to the town of Tillamook and stopped in for a self guided tour of the cheese factory. It was fascinating and I’m glad I took the time to do it. The only negative was that I couldn’t buy any cheese because I had no way to keep it.

I did get two pepperoni sticks and a bag of raspberry licorice. Yeah. It’s interesting at best.

After the creamery I went across town to the air museum. It was kind of a let down. Oh well. They can’t all be winners. Hope they enjoy my $7.75

The next few hours were spent winding along the coast enjoying the views and the traffic. It wasn’t so bad in between the cities but once I was in a city, stop and go traffic would materialize. Just my luck to be here on a weekend.

I left the coast in Florence and took a left heading towards Eugene. The traffic wouldn’t have been so bad except for the inevitable driver who just refuses to go the speed limit and gets everyone backed up behind them. When I could finally get around, the roads were great.

I grabbed a poker chip in Eugene and then took back highway 126 towards the mountains. Traffic had really thinned out and it was fun cruising along this road. I was having a great time.

Just after the town of McKenzie River, I left 126 and got onto 242, otherwise known as the McKenzie Pass Scenic Byway.

This road is now the best road I’ve ridden this entire trip. And I pretty much had it all to myself. I made my Harley pretend to be a sport bike. There were curves, tight and open. Banked and flat. Winding hills. Beautiful tall trees. Rock formations. Mountains. Volcanoes. Basalt formations. Views for days.

The pictures were taken after most of the winding road was over with, at least on the way up. I just hadn’t wanted to stop riding in order to take pictures. Don’t worry, I did stop to take these, and yes, right in the middle of the road. Like I said, all to myself.

The best part about today is that the whole reason I was going to Bend is that a good friend lives there who I haven’t seen in forever. Yep, me dropping the ball again. I’m trying to make up for that.

He looks exactly the same, hasn’t aged a bit. His wife and kids were great to meet as well. He is very happy and that makes me happy. He has a good life here. We sat out on his porch until 11pm chatting about everything. I get to stay here tonight and maybe even tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to catching as much as possible. Plus, I really want to check out Bend. It was on our list of possible places to live a couple of years ago and I want to see what I’m missing out on.

Another good day and I’m happy.

Is this really working?

Giving myself some credit

I’ve often said that I have a hard time initiating conversations, or even continuing a conversation with a stranger once they’ve started it.

Here I am at the end of the day and it dawned on me that not only today, but many days recently, I’ve been ok with talking to strangers. Maybe even friendly. I’m sure I still have my bitchy resting face (search YouTube for reference) and that doesn’t help.

Today I chatted with people on the ferry. I talked with different people at gas stations. I talked with someone over lunch, and once again over dinner. And now, when I pulled up to my campsite, the people next door were friendly and I didn’t shut that down like I usually do.

I’m not saying I’m over it and that part of me is fixed. I am saying that I feel more relaxed and not on edge. That maybe, people can be nice and worth talking to.

Maybe.

I’ve had a very picturesque day. Here’s leaving Seattle on the ferry:

Here’s a neat spot, for me anyway. It’s as far west as I can go before I was forced to turn south. That’s a good feeling.

The ocean and beaches have been beautiful. Once I passed Port Angeles Washington, the traffic cleared out and I began riding highway 101 in ernest. This part of my trip always seemed like it was so far off, almost abstract, so that I never really paid much thought to it. Now I’m here and it’s a surreal feeling. The road winds in and around the coast, sometimes close enough you can see the ocean and other times there is no sign of it. I have once again crossed paths with the Lewis and Clark expedition. They camped for a long while near present day Astoria on the Columbia river.

Speaking of camping. I stopped at the first State park in Oregon that advertised camping available but they were full. It is a Friday. Yes, but it’s not a holiday right? What gives? It seems everyone in the Pacific Northwest went camping this weekend. My neighbors are from Seattle. Across the way is a camper from Vancouver BC. So I couldn’t camp there and I presently refuse to patronize any KOA. I don’t know why. I just do. The next state park was an hour south. It was already just past 7pm. Oh well. I need to go south anyway. It ended up not being an hour but the sign at the entrance said the campground was full. Feeling defeated I sat there and pulled out my phone to do a search. Right then the Ranger leaned out of the booth and said that one spot had just opened up. Wow. Also $31 wow. When are these campsites going to get cheap again? I still remember when I was baffled at $20.

Regardless, I’m happy to have a campsite. It’s been chilly all day along the coast, about 64 degrees mostly. Now it is a bit breezy as well. I just need some sleep tonight. I’m tired. Apparently, according to my nephew, I snore. Only on my back. But I don’t sleep well when I do. One of these days I’ll be back in my own bed.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the journey.

Humbled

Let me get the easy stuff out of the way.

I’m still staying at my brothers in-laws. I am baffled by the kindness these folks have shown to me, essentially a stranger. I am trying to stay out from under foot as much as possible and so I leave early and get back late. Sitting here in their living room right now is the most time I’ve spent with all of them.

When I left this morning I went down to Issaquah and had breakfast at the 12th Avenue Cafe. 20 years ago I worked right around the corner from this restaurant and it was brand new. I’m glad to see it has hung on for so long.

Once I ate, I plugged Mt. Rainier National Park into my GPS and took off to follow back roads.

It was an overcast and chilly day (go figure…Seattle) but I was hoping it would clear up by the time I got there. Nope. I never once saw the mountain while I was there. It was also in the 40’s and got a bit chilly. Oh well. I’ve seen it a thousand times before. I rode awhile and then finally decided I wasn’t going to see anything and so I turned around.

I meandered my way back to a Harley dealer near Seattle to pick up a chip. On the way, the pain I’ve been having in my back became excruciating and I figured screw it. So I stopped and got a massage. It helped. But now I’m sore. I can’t win.

Now for the best part.

One of my good friends, who is absolutely about to pop (she’s due with twins next Friday) set up a dinner for old friends and new friends to come say hi.

Right as I arrived, Dan came over to introduce himself. He’s been following this blog from the beginning and has been kind enough to offer some thoughts when they are needed.

Soon after, my friend arrived and my heart missed a beat. We were such good friends for so long and she was such an important person in my life. I didn’t realize how much I missed her until this moment.

We all grabbed a table and had just sat down when Marcia arrived. She had driven for more than two hours just to meet me on behalf of her CVMA club. So big shout out to the 11-5.

We had a good long conversation over drinks and appetizers. Well, my appetizer was nachos and that’s always enough to feed 5 people.

I opened up a bit more to them than I have here on my blog but I felt comfortable with them.

Some big questions were asked that really made me think and I appreciated the candor.

I’m sorry I don’t write some of those things here but they are still immensely personal. They still hurt.

It was a wonderful evening spent with really good people. As always, the anxiety I feel leading up to any social gathering was unwarranted. I had a great time and wish the evening could have lasted forever. Regardless I met two wonderful people and rekindled a friendship that means the world to me.

No, she did not drink that beer. She’s just holding it to give all of you a heart attack. Relax.

I’m glad my story is resonating with so many people. Enough so that they drive hours just to say hi and to shake my hand. There are good people all over. I need to be more open and willing to meet them. And to listen to their story.

Tonight I feel loved.