The long way home

16 08 2012

A while back, I embarked on an epic motorcycle trip from Salt Spring Island down the Pacific coast and then headed east just north of San Fran all the way back to Ontario, meeting up with pops and the boys in Wyoming. I was pretty good on the blogging front for the first few days, but eventually was unable to keep up with it. Anyway, here’s a bit of a general overview of the trip…

Day 1: Salt Spring Island, BC – Olympia, WA

Day 2: Olympia, WA – Newport, OR

Day 3: Newport, OR – Crescent City, CA

Day 4: Crescent City, CA – Orr Hot Springs near Ukiah, CA

Day 5: Orr Hot Springs – Nevada City, CA

Day 6: Day trip to Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley w/ Crissy & Gavin

Day 7: Nevada City, CA

Day 8: Nevada City, CA – Sand Mountain, NV = 315 km

Day 9: Sand Mountain, NV – Salt Lake City, UT = 807 km

Day 10: Salt Lake City, UT – Rawlins, WY = 476 km

Day 11: Rawlins, WY – Chardon, NE = 650 km

Day 12: Chadron, NE – Mitchell, SD

Day 13: Mitchell, SD – Oshkosh, WI = 858 km (Longest day of the trip!)

Day 14: Oshkosh, WI – Sault Ste. Marie, ON = 588

Day 15: Sault Ste. Marie – Lion’s Head, ON = 420 km

My total mileage for the trip was 6,619 km. Using the Conservation International‘s calculator, my 1982 Honda Sabre V45 produced 0.88 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Covering the same distance by plane would have been three times as much.

Here’s some photos from along the way…

After spending at least an hour driving over a steep and winding road, I was welcomed by this breathtaking vista on the other side

Best coffee of the trip! I did my best to avoid the “crack shacks” (selling espresso) that are especially abundant in the Pacific Northwest and hold out for the good stuff!

The Redwoods

Crissy and I at Sand Mountain in Nevada – the most amazing campsite that made for the most magical full moon experience

“I survived Highway 50 – The Loneliest Road in America”…and thanks to Crissy and Gavin, it wasn’t lonely at all!

Thank goodness for zap straps!

Mount Rushmore – a quintessential stop along any great American road trip

Getting my tourist fix

The boys are back in town

Dad in front of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota with murals and designs made from corn and other grains

The weathered, sun-kissed and wind-blown gang of six after about 3,700 miles, Tobermory bound at last


Hot, hot heat

1 06 2012

Yesterday I had a relaxing start to the day – woke up shortly after 8, packed up, had breakfast and went for another soak in the hot springs. I would have been quite content to stay there all day, but places to go and people to see. After 20 more minutes of that windy road, I arrived in Ukiah. I gassed up and called Trini from River Dog Farm about a possible visit when I passed through. Although we had never met, Trini had done some farm sitting at Foxglove in April while Michael was in Australia, and I’d heard remarkable things about her and her organic farm.

Another few hours of driving down the scenic 20 and increasingly unbearable heat, I finally arrived in Guinda. And what a farm! I had been told that she had 5000 chickens, so I thought maybe they just did poultry and eggs. To my surprise, I soon found out that they had 500 acres – which also included 450 pigs, tons of produce, a huge orchard and tons of nut trees (almond and walnut). Trini gave me a complete farm tour. The next day, Saturday, she was heading into Berkley (an hour and a half away) to sell at the farmers’ market there. I was blown away at the scale!  It was so interesting to compare and contrast between a home garden, a larger market garden like Foxglove and what I would call a large-scale organic farm like River Dog. After a delicious fruit smoothie and a bit of gas (compliments of Trini), I was on my way – with a jar of their own almond butter in hand! By now it was about 5:30.

My destination for the night was Nevada City to meet up with my friend Crissy. The heat was still strong and despite my long rest at the farm, I was still feeling it, so  I stopped in Colusa and had my first-ever energy drink – a mango passionfruit Rockstar. I continued on to Yuba City and called my friend from McDonald’s wi-fi. Then, I made the final stretch, but not without a quit roadside stop to put on my clear glasses since it was getting dark. Around 9:30, I finally met up with Crissy at Bitney Springs, just past Rough and Ready (yes, that’s a town!) I followed her to her place, up yet another windy, steep road. This time there was loose gravel too. Thank goodness I had unloaded my stuff in her truck which made the trek a bit easier. I made it! More good riding experience.

I got a night tour of the property. I couldn’t see much of the vista, but it felt beautiful. Then, we chatted a bit before hitting the hay in the VW Westfalia. What a dream van! I better start saving up!

I think I’ve arrived to some kind of heaven!

Clothing optional

31 05 2012

In an effort to commit fewer blogging faux pas than I have in the past (i.e. long posts, no photos), I have decided to try to post on most days of the trip. We’ll see how it goes.

After spending the night with Angie, my couchsurf host in Crescent City, I continued down Highway 101, pulling out about shortly after 8 this morning. Driving through the Redwoods was quite a magical way to start the day, as the sun peaked through the trees. However, there were more logging trucks than what would have been ideal, with just enough loose debris flying off to make me nervous.

My first stop of the day was the charming Arcata where at last I picked up a Rand McNally road atlas and I finally found a copy of Ecotopia (link), my next seminal reading. As recommended by Angie, I stopped at Los Bagels for a coffee and a rosemary parmesan bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese and grated carrot!

Then, back on the freeway for a bit until I was able to take the Avenue of Giants scenic alternate through more magical Redwoods. Along this stretch I stopped to take a peak inside the Eternal Treehouse, a 20-foot room inside the base of a living tree.

Around this time, it also started to get uncomfortably hot. I had already made the switch to my “summer” gloves in Arcata, but I took off a few more layers when I stopped for gas in Miranda.

Before long, I was off 101 again and on to a long winding road back out to the coast  that took me from about Leggett to Wesport. Boy, was I relieved to get out at the other end and see the stunning oceanside. Then, down to Fort Bragg, where I stopped at the tourist info centre, Headland’s Coffeehouse for some java and wi-fi and then checked out Glass Beach before heading out of town.

By this time, it was about 6 PM, so I considered just staying in Fort Bragg. However, Angie had told me about Orr Hot Springs, so I was determined to make my way across another long winding road. Along the road of rolling grassy hills, not only was their a jaw-dropping sunset, but I also saw about four deer and a wild boar!After travel in third and fourth gear for about two hours along this road, I came out at the other end in Ukiah! Ah! I had driven right past the hot springs! It was about 20 minutes back in. There was a moment of thinking, “Forget it! I’ll just find somewhere to camp in Ukiah.” But then, I thought about how far I had come across that road and headed back. This time paying attention to the street numbers! And alas, this is where I am now.

Here at Orr Hot Springs, I paid for accommodations for the first time on the trip, but I think it was worth it! Without wasting anytime, I dropped my stuff in my room and hopped into the tubs and pools, sauna and steam room. Most remarkable were the stargazing tubs, which sat under the twinkling night sky. It felt so so good after a long day of riding. Check out isn’t until noon, so I think I’ll spend a bit more time here before heading eastbound towards Sacramento.

On the road again

30 05 2012

My time on the farm has sadly come to an end. I definitely have more to say about my experience there, which will come at a later date. For now, I am going to practice being “present” and update you on my new adventure…my motorcycle trip down the coast to northern California, then east, all the way back to home sweet home in Ontario. The first leg of the journey is down the coast, camping and couchsurfing along the way. Then, I’ll head east around Sacramento, where I plan to

take a day or two and visit a friend. After that, a few longer days across the dessert (Nevada and Utah), then by mid-next week, I’ll meet my dad and a Wiarton gang in Colorado and we’ll make the rest of the journey together. Until then though, I’m more or less on my own. That’s alright though. As much as I love community and think life without people would be meaningless, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf at heart. Also, I find that I meet more people when traveling on my own too.

Waiting to board the early morning ferry in Fulford Harbour

I’ve just finished my third day on the road, and I’m now landed just across the California state line in Crescent City. Monday morning I left the farm on Salt Spring, first taking the ferry from Fulford to Swartz Bay, then going to Victoria and jumping on another boat across to Port Angeles, Washington. After a moderate degree of interrogation from the border patrol, I was welcomed into the great U.S. of A.! My first brief stop was the Olympic National Park visitor center, right in Port Angeles, then down the highway. I drove as far as Olympia, with a beautiful side trip off the highway to Port Townsend. I also stopped at a cool nursery in Brinnon for the free wi-fi. A combination I never would have predicted. Despite there being more clearcuts than what would be ideal, it was a lovely drive through some majestic forest and a bit of coast. I landed in Olympia around 5 pm and met up with my first couchsurfing host of the trip, Teddy. Even though I didn’t go that far, my first day of riding kinda kicked my butt and I was pretty tired.

I headed out of Olympia around 8:30, after a quick stop at McDonald’s for free wi-fi (to load directions on my phone until I find myself a good road atlas) and some milk for my raw oats. On a mission to get my Canadian cash exchanged, I stopped at several banks in hopes of success. It proved a lot more difficult than expected, but eventually found one that would accept my paper funny money and give me some of the cotton/linen variety. I crossed several bridges, but the most remarkable of which was the one between Washington to Oregon into Astoria, which spanned a whole 14 miles!

The Astoria–Megler Bridge, spanning 14 miles across the Columbia River

I also stopped at a beautiful beach at Seaside and had a heavenly nap in the warm sand. Cannon Beach was another highlight and I wish I could have stayed their longer!

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

A perfect spot of a siesta in Seaside, Oregon

I finally landed in Newport close to 8 PM, once again pretty tired from a long day. I maybe diddle daddled a bit too much in Seaside which made for a more exhausting final stretch. However, in this final stretch I did fit in a stop at the cheese factory in Tillamook and sampled some cheese, toured the factory and treated myself to some German Chocolate Cake ice cream. When I arrived in Newport, it was like arriving to a little piece of heaven, just a block from the beach. The warm shower was divine, then I chatted with my host for an hour or so over some nice wine and some delicious fritters she had made. Then off to bed (not couch!) in a room of my own! It felt like I was staying in a quaint little B & B, but for free!

Hitting the jackpot with a luxury “couch” in Newport

This morning I got a bit of an earlier start, or at least felt more organized when I left. I continued south on the beautiful Hwy 101. My first stop was for coffee about 25 miles down the road at a place called the Green Salmon. It was really good and was just the kind of start I needed. They also had a cute little used book exchange. What a great idea! You could buy a book for $4 or exchange one for $2. I was tempted, but restrained myself, after all I already have a handful of books loaded in my saddlebags. Aside from gas, my next memorable stop was at the farmers’ market in Coos Bay where I had my first strawberries (other than the handful I had at Foxglove before I left) and had a nice chat with a man at the master gardeners booth where they offer free gardening advice – another great idea! A few more miles down the road (with plenty of singing, and even making up a few songs of my own!) and I stopped at McDonald’s for wi-fi to check in with my host and a Reese McFlurry. While I was sitting outside on my phone, a man drove up next to me and called me over. I went over and he handed me a wad of bills. He said, “I don’t know why, but I feel I should give you something. I hope this gets you a few more miles down the road.” After he left, I counted it and the bills totaled $51. Wow! That’s over two days worth of gas! And now, here I am in Crescent City, California! It feels great to be in California, but I must admit that the Oregon Coast is absolutely stunning and doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves! I can’t believe I had contemplated skipping the coast and going through Portland instead. My only problem is trying to look to the beautiful scenery while also watching the road!

Despite my best efforts at regular sunscreen re-application, I can feel the warmth of my sunkissed cheeks. I can also feel the slight ache in my lower back that is calling out for more yoga. But more on the pains and pleasures of motorcycling later. For now, I’m just living the dream. So, please don’t wake me up!

O.U.R. Ecovillage for block break

6 03 2012

Today, it was back to the grind of another block…Ecological Economics this time around. But before I get to that, I’ll tell you about my block break.

Wednesday night offered the monthly end of block shakedown at the Shady Tree, complete with non-stop music from Quest musicians. Then, on Thursday, no sleep in for me. I happily woke up for a full 8-hour day of class, but I can at least say that I’m now first aid certified with OFA Level 1.

On Friday, block break actually begin and I suited up and loaded up my good ol’ Honda Sabre, bound for Shawnigan Lake on Photo of my room in the sanctuary at O.U.R. EcovillageVancouver Island, making a quick stop at the bike shop in Squamish to pick up some warmer gloves. It was a rainy ride down to Horseshoe Bay, and I say that I was the only bike on the road and the ferry. But the Frog Toggs, my Cowichan sweater, long johns, insulated rubber boots, and new leather gloves kept me fairly warm and dry. Thankfully, by the time I arrived in Nanimo, the rain had ceased and it was a dry ride to Shawnigan Lake. Aside from filling up my gas tank (only $12) and my tummy in Duncan, it was smooth sailing.

Why Shawnigan Lake, you may ask? My destination was O.U.R. Ecovillage, a permaculture learning centre and sustainable community, flooded with natural buildings, made from straw bale, cob and more. The 25-acre property started its on-site operations in 1999, but the O.U.R. (Our United Resource) movement years earlier in Victoria. Over 10,000 visitors came through the ecovillage this past summer. Wow! So, after hearing about this remarkable little community from friends who had visited as part of a Quest Permaculture class last November, I thought that I’d better check it out. In relation to my Question, I was particularly interested in how its pioneers had A photo of a sign in the outhouse at O.U.R.collaborated and continue to collaborate to create and sustain the community.  Although short (only 2 nights), I really enjoyed my visit and hope to return before too long. I had a go at trying to catch chickens (with one success), digging in the garden, learning about natural building, and meeting some inspiring people. The trip re-ignited my longing to develop some agricultural skills and experience. Further, the motorcycle adventure gave me a sample of the much, much longer journey that might be to come in May/June.

By the way, I’m just in the progress of making my own yogurt for the first time! I am very exciting! From what I’ve been told, it is quite easy. Just boil some milk (ironically, the milk boiled over as I was writing this), then, when it cools, add some yogurt as a starter. Then, leave it in the oven overnight, with just the oven light on. Morning will tell if it worked out or not…