Sunday, July 28, 2013


Jenny looks up from her milkshake with a look of alarm,
It can't be noon already.

No joke Love, ten till mid-day and we've got about seven miles in so far, I respond with a smile as I grab the styrofoam container from my ice-cream loving wife before I lose the chance.

Where the hell did the day go?!?   Are we in a time warp?  Did we get abducted by aliens? Jenny's line of questioning seems reasonable given our best intentions for an early start and arriving at camp before dusk today.

The thick blankets of heavy coastal fog that envelope the morning air make it easy to justify the comfort of the sleeping bag for another half an hour or so.  The daily routine of a third, and often fourth round of strong black coffee over conversations with interesting travelers from around the world derail the best intentions of early morning departures.   Our delayed embarkations have a way of leading to belated finishes, and I am rarely denied my birth right to a couple of beers at the end of a hard days' work; many of my fellow bicycle touring companions seem to embrace a similar ethos and I am seldom left to celebrate around the camp fire alone.  The sunset setting over the ocean on the West Coast beats the heck out of the sunrise sneaking through the trees here anyhow.

And so the pace of the West Coast Tour unwinds as the Highway 101 carries us ever south.  Miles of riding on amazing coastal bluffs in the cool marine air are suddenly juxtaposed by turning just a few miles inland and sweating in the hot sun surrounded by hundreds of acres of dry farmland filled with robust grazing bovines.  Oregon saves the best for last and in our final day of riding along the sheer cliffs, inlet beaches and jagged sea stacks of the coast I catch the spout of Gray Whale out of the corner of my eye.  Jen and I pull over along the highway and watch mesmerized by the sight of a mother and calf dancing in the ocean a quarter mile away.  RV's bigger than our house scream past at 60 miles per hour oblivious to our private viewing of some of the most majestic animals on earth.

California greets us rudely with strong headwinds and sudden cool temperatures.  We escape the fog of Crescent City and climb steeply over 1200 feet into the coastal mountains of Redwood National Park.  Two thousand year old Sequoia trees towering over 300 feet into the air bring a sense of humility and insignificance to my existence; I am comforted by these thoughts.  A screaming and bone chilling descent through a waning evening light in this ancient forest leaves a smile on my face and etches deep a memory not soon to be erased from my mind.  We arrive in Elk Prairie and are greeted by many familiar faces from the road and a warm glowing campfire.

The world is a small place and shrinks with every new friend you make.  I am reminded of this again when I run into Brookside students and their parents at the Redwoods National Park visitor center.  After a short conversation Jen and I are invited to join them for dinner in Eureka.  We enjoy an evening of laughter over the best of meals and sleep fast  camped on the lawn of their vacation rental home.  Grateful does not adequately describe my feelings towards the Gallagher Family for their graciousness.  

A rest day in Arcata finds us strolling through the farmers market amidst dreadlocked youth in haze of of cannabis smoke.  A large portion of California's 13 billion dollar underground marijuana economy is centered here in Humbolt County.  Jen and I stick to sampling the best of Northern Californian micro-brews over an intense game of UNO with our new friends Sam and Marcelle.  A $35 camping fee at the KOA or a $60 dollar motel finds Jenny and me at the Travel Lodge in Eureka.  Thin walls have us second guessing our decision, but the smoke clears and  noise subsides by midnight; stuffing our food bag with butter and cream cheese from the "continental breakfast" in the am helps ease blowing our daily budget on accommodations.

The morning dawns thick gray and cold as Jen and I prepare for the last leg of the Coast Route.  We should be in San Francisco by next week and I look forward to spending time with family and exploring the city for a couple days before our journey takes us eastward towards the steep climbs of the Sierra and the land of the rising sun.

Kloshe Konaway
Kloshe Nanitch



Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Coast

The mid-day temperatures creeped into the nineties as Jen and I crest the west hills of Portland and make a fast decent into the sprawling metropolis of Beaverton and Hilllsboro beyond. Sprinklers splashing uselessly on baking asphalt during the peak heat of the day begged for a run through.  Strange stares from drivers of air-conditioned cars fell upon us with little concern as we basked in the fountains of their manicured lawns.  At least I left my pants on.

The Yamhill Valley runs north and south along the eastern flanks of the Oregon Coast Range.  The hot days and cool nights of this region make it an ideal place to grow Oregon's famed Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wine grapes, hazelnuts, and raspberries.  Million dollar houses towering on the steep hills surrounded by hundreds of acres of vines overlooking crumbling barns and abandoned milk parlors in the valley below tell a story of a what used to happen here and a changing agriculture industry in Oregon.  Shadows grow long and the evening light paints fields of wheat grass golden yellow as Jenny and I climb the hills just outside of Carlton.  

You are way cuter than me, I respond to Jenny when she asks if she or I should knock on the door of the farm house to ask if we may pitch our tents among the towering fir trees in the corner of their field.  I can hear the conversation from the road where I wait.

Oh, sure no problem,  the young woman responds to Jen's polite plea.  One time this really creepy and dirty guy came by here asking the same thing.  I called my Dad at work and asked him.   He said it was fine, but told me to lock all the doors.  
I looked down at my outfit and took note of my questionable personal hygiene;  good thing I sent Jen to the door.

The Nestucca River National Backcountry Highway cuts across Oregon's Coast Mountains and provides the cyclist a serene and low traffic route from Oregon's interior to the coast.  The 2000 foot climb passes easily under our strengthening legs and beautiful campsites tucked along the headwaters of the clear Nestucca River lure Jen and me into a day of short miles and a long afternoon spent swimming and drinking cold beers by the river.   Small salmon fry dance around my feet in the cold water as Jenny draws pictures of the landscape in her journal.  A two hour game of scrabble as I nurse my emergency rations of whiskey.  The pace of the tour has definitely set in.

Morning dawns cold and cloudy and the air has a familiar heavy moisture that forewarns of the approaching coast.  The Nestucca picks up tributaries from the surrounding hills and grows steeper and wider as we descend into clearing skies.  Beaver Oregon arrives and we stop for a snack at the small town grocery.  Adjacent to the cooler where I choose between chocolate or strawberry milk, boxes of ammunition, Glock handguns and AR-15 assault rifles line the walls.  I can only imagine what a traveler foreign to our strange cultural icons must think when he stops in a roadside market for potato chips and a coke and encounters the armory of weapons available to average citizen of this country.  I somehow doubt this was the intention of our forefathers. 


Highway 101 into Cloverdale  and a rural bypass road follows the twisting Nestucca River west ever closer to ocean.  The heavy smell of the Pacific greets my nose before my eyes fix on the white sand beaches of Pacific City and the vast emptiness of blue stretching beyond into the horizon.  Jenny and I celebrate our ocean arrival with a beer and nap on the beach.

We turn south and the wind blows hard on our backs; we sail into the town Neskowin.  We cruise the vast miles of beach houses and push our bikes through a quarter mile of sand to perch our tent hidden among thick junipers overlooking the ocean and are rewarded for the effort with a magical sunset and the report of crashing waves lulling us to deep sleep.

Marine clouds swallow the morning and the strong north wind blows sand through every recess of our gear and bodies alike. A morning routine of several cups of strong coffee motivate us to the road and the wind carries us further south through dried up coastal towns filled motels and diners that must have seen better days.   The traffic along 101 remains steady and the shoulders reasonable as we pedal into the clearing afternoon sun.  We camp hidden among the tall seaside grass of Beaver Creek.  

In the morning we wake early under grey skies and a cold wind.  We roll south a few miles to Waldport and stop for more hot caffeinated motivation.  We meet a young touring cyclist from Port Townsend and team up with Ryann for a spectacular stretch of coast riding into Florence and Honeyman State Park.  Meeting folks on the road fired up about their journey renews my own enthusiasm for the the adventure that Jen and I are on.  Cyclist share isolated biker/hiker sites in Oregon State Parks and a sense of comradaderie permeates the atmosphere.  The common link of bicycles puts everyone on the same team and it is hard to imagine folks in SUV's get to know fellow traveler well enough to exchange hugs and contact information upon departure.  Despite the inherent difficulties and dangers of travel by bicycle, there is something special about it that defies explanation.   Bikes are a great equalizer and create fast friends out of people from vastly divergent walks of life. 

I celebrate my 36th birthday today and feel privileged to share it in the company of my wonderful wife living life as simply as I am able and fulfilling a longtime dream.  Wednesday will mark three weeks on the road for Jen and I.  Spirits are high and our not-so-young bodies are holding up reasonably well.  Tomorrow we head south into the great coastal sand dunes of Oregon with our eyes towards California and the rhythm of the road drumming steadily on our hearts.

Kloshe Konaway,
Kloshe Nanitch,