USA West Coast International Bike Ride,
Canada to Mexico, September - October 2001

INTRODUCTION

Having completed a cycle ride coast to coast across the United States of America in 1995, a similar ride down the West coast of the USA had been on my rides "to do" ever since.

It was six years before a gap in my busy travel schedule enabled me to consider this ride. There were several factors, which convinced me that 2001 should be the year for the trip.

Having the advantage of a daily route sheet, accommodation assured every day, support vehicles to carry luggage, and a discount on the overall cost of the ride together with 14 companions all of which convinced me that this trip should not be postponed any longer bearing in mind that I would hit the big 70 next year.

The following is an edited version of the periodic email reports sent home to family, friends and my local dewspaper.

Part One

22nd September 2001

Dear Friends

It is 3 weeks since I left the UK and we are now 5 days into our 29 day ride from Canada to Mexico, and in view of recent tragic events here I felt that I should touch base with you all home.

Some of you will know I flew out on 2nd Sept, had it been 10 days later I would have had a problem as ALL international flights were cancelled.

My first 5 days were spent in the State of Missouri with cycling friends, and treating myself to a new set of wheels. The cost of which is so much less here (for the same bike) than the UK.

I arrived in Washington State and my first visit to Seattle on 7th September where we were hosted by Ex Odyssey couple and very good friends Len and Stell Beil who live on Bainbridge Island a 30 minute ferry ride from Seattle harbour.

On my first Sunday here, a reunion ride was organised with 30 local cyclists with whom I had spent the year on our Odyssey 2000 expedition.

I was a visiting friend on Vancouver Island on 10th. and 11th September when the news broke of the tragic events in the east. Within an hour all border crossings with the US were closed and many flights into North America were diverted to Canada. So having a return ferty ticket to Seattle for the evening of the 11th I was not sure where I would be spending the next 24 hours.

Luckily my crossing was reopened by mid afternoon and as we must expect in future all US immigration and customs are now extra vigilant.

I know that events here have been well reported around the world but I have never before experienced the emotional stress and grief by so many. On Friday after the event there was a National day of prayer and remembrance with floral tributes and candle light vigils being held Nationwide all of which I found very moving.

There is at home a photograph taken in May.of last year when Odyssey 2000 spent 2 days in New York City. The picture of four Odyssey companions and myself was taken at the top of the World Trade Centre Tower. We have heard many harrowing stories here of family or friends who have been affected by the tragic events in the east.

I am sure that this event will unite the free world against the evil of terrorism, and there have been many comments made to me by US citizens that they appreciated the fact that the US national anthem was played at the memorial service and the changing of the guard in London.

So back to our ride South and having spent the previous night in Vancouver Island we started in earnest at 1.15 pm on Mon 17th September from Port Angeles approx 100 miles N West of Seattle.it

There are just 13 in the group with a support staff of 4 which is a major luxury to last year. Today the 22nd is.. our first rest day after 5 very demanding (but wait rewarding) days riding over 385 miles along some. spectacular coastal scenery.

The first three days we were riding through the Olympic Peninsula, which holds the most North tai Westerly point on the US continent. We then covered some of North America's prolific rain forest area.

On day three we stopped at a small fishing town called South Bend, which is reported to be the Oyster Capital of the World.

The following day we left the state of Washington when we crossed the massive River Colombia into the State of Oregon. I say massive because it must be the longest road bridge that I have crossed by cycle it was approx four and half miles in length. This was followed by another bridge three miles long over a tributary of the River Colombia.

On day five into Lincoln City we hit some more spectacular coastal roads with demanding climbs and descents. It was just three miles before the day ended that a road sign that we had just crossed the 45th Parallel informed us. I have to admit that I was not aware that this is in fact the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator.

So from here on it should get warmer which is where I must close this report.

Part 2

It is 7 days ago that my last report was dispatched since when there have been some dramatic changes in scenery and climate.

Two days ago we crossed the state border from Oregon into California, and today 30th September (day 14) we passed the halfway stage (867 miles) between Canada and the American border with Mexico.

Thanks to those who responded to my first report and I trust you will understand if I am unable to reply to all of you, right now. It is great to have news from home.

If any of you would. care to have a different view of this ride together with some photos (of yours truly) then you may wish to look up the following website at www.tall-winds.com This site is updated daily by Patti one of my companions on this ride.

It is anticipated that this text and my pictures will in due course appear on my website at www.cycletheglobe.co.uk: (Many thanks Paul.)

My previous report ended at Lincoln City in the State of Oregon. So on Day 7 when we departed from Lincoln City I was reminded of the strong European influence there is throughout the USA when I noted that our destination that day was Florence.

There are many hazards to contend with when travelling down the West Coast of the USA on a bicycle. Some I expected such as logging trucks and RV's (recreational vehicles), which thanks to a wide shoulder one is able to keep clear of.

There is however another potential hazard, which visitors are frequently reminded of and need to be aware of.

This hazard is called a TSUNAMI (SOO-NAH-MEE) ? Which is Japanese for a series of waves, which can - travel up to 600 miles per hour sometimes crossing the entire Pacific.

These devastating waves are particularly prone to hit the coast of Oregon at any time of the day or night. They are caused by undersea earthquakes, which occur within 32 to 70 miles of the Oregon coast.

The giant waves can strike the coast within 5 to 30 minutes of an earthquake, leaving no time to warn the public. As the Tsunami enters shallow water near land they increase in height and have in the past caused great loss of life and property.

So in the event of a tsunami, the public are advised to head inland and uphill as quickly as possible and on foot as roads and bridges can be out of use. Sol now look forward to the remainder of our trek south where no doubt there will be some other hazard yet to be discovered.

I was pleased to note on our journey down the coast of Oregon that the first white man to set foot on this part of the West Coast was an Englishman. I refer to the explorer Capt James Cook who came ashore here in 1788 in his quest to find the North West Passage.

Another attraction, which brings thousands of visitors to the rocky headlands along the Oregon coast, is the migrating Gray Whales. Organised Whale watching along this coast was started in 1979 and the average adult whale is 14 metres long and 45 tons in weight. Unfortunately we were not privileged to see ANY of the migrating whales.

A cold damp mist blowing in off the Pacific could due to the poor visibility during our passage along the coast of Oregon cause this.

In response to some queries I have had over this ride it is known here as the annual West Coast International Bicycle Classic which has been running for nearly 10 years. This will be the last to be organised by the same company who staged the Odyssey 2000 tour as they intend to concentrate on an amended Odyssey World Tour every 2 years as from 2003.

I am running out of space so will have to continue this in my next report which will be in San Francisco in three days time.

Part 3

Hi Folks,

At 1.30 pm today (3rd October) yours truly crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (built the year I was born, gee is it that old?) into San Francisco.

We have just completed 7 days riding without a break, and now have 2 days off before the final 9 days and 740 miles to the border with Mexico.

So I felt that I should use this short break to review this trip to date and continue where I left off on my last report.

It has been for me a demanding but rewarding ride so far. From the Olympic Peninsula and rain forests of Washington State, which is one of the most productive commercial timberlands in the world, to the rocky and hilly coast of Oregon.

From ocean beaches, to alpine meadows, from lush river valleys, to rocky headlands, you get a mixture of all that when you travel on or near highway 101.

Then you have the world famous Avenue of the Giants and the Redwoods State Park, and finally the vineyards of Northern California. However before covering those latter points of interest in detail, I will conclude with the information some of you requested on the logistics etc of this ride.

There are 15 participants on this ride and yours truly is the only one (as quoted by my 14 US companions) as having a funny accent, i.e. English. Funny accent or not, there was a big plus for me being the only Odyssey 2000 veteran. I was given a generous discount on the cost of this trip. That includes 2 meals per day, accommodation and the support team.

We average 70 miles per day with just 4 rest days over the 28-day trip. There are 3 support vehicles including a Ryder Truck to carry luggage and spares the other vehicles act as a sag wagon in the event of illness / accident. The 4 staff includes a mechanic and a massage therapist.

Whilst the longest day at 97 miles and the shortest is 53, there is no advance warning of the severity of each days ride. On day 9 we had a 57-mile ride along the coast of Oregon and the first 10 miles we had rain with the next 47 miles into a strong headwind. We were later informed that there had been a hurricane off the coast of Baja California over 1000 miles away and that we had caught the edge of it.

Highway 101 was originally constructed to provide a road link from Canada to Mexico and for the most part our route takes us on or close to that highway.

There are sections of Highway 101, which is now a freeway (motorway) in those areas we are using the old original road or some of the many bike trails, and back roads.

There are many fresh water rivers, which run into the Pacific, and it is only in the last 50 to 80 years that road bridges have been built to cross these rivers. You may recall my previous report indicating the length of the road bridge over the river Colombia separating Washington State from Oregon. So any traveller going south or north before those bridges were built would have had a long and difficult journey.

One thing I had not appreciated was that the temperature of the water running into the Pacific from these rivers is much higher than the Ocean temperature the effect of which is carried for hundreds of miles.

Once again the limitation of the pocket mail will require this report to be carried forward. So I will close this report with the quote for today: -

Some folk live rich, while some folk die rich.

Part 4

Hi Folks

Just in case anyone is wondering if I am still riding my bicycle down the West coast of the USA, I thought I should let you know that particular ride ended 4 days ago at 2.30 pm on 14th October last.

Since when I have been consumed with relief and satisfaction over the prospect of not having to rise at 6 am (for a while) and jump on my bike for another 70 miles.

After 28 days and one hour, covering 1700 miles from Canada to the Mexico border yours truly has been taking a few days break to catch up on sleep, laundry, and now you good folks at home.

In 9 days time I hope to return to Blighty, so in the meantime I will have to cope with the sunshine of southern California, today it is Palm Springs at 94 F. So perhaps I should review events before and since we left San Francisco on 6th Oct.

One aspect, which I touched upon in the last report, which deserves a mention, is the World famous Redwoods in northern California. It was on day 13 that our route took us 76 miles from Eureka to Garberville. That particular day we had used the KOA campground at Eureka. This was my first experience of KOA and may not be the last. Whilst the facilities do vary many of them have the choice of log cabins, swimming pool, hot tub, and a good store on site.

Eureka is a historic old town with lots of nice coffee shops (always the way when you have a long day ahead) so I resisted the temptation. Within 37 miles we entered the Avenue of Giants and the Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

Having been to the Grand Canyon 6 years ago I think for me, the Redwoods represents the second most awesome, and indescribable creation of nature in the USA. The Redwoods have outlived dinosaurs, they have survived geological changes that sculpted mountains and moved continents. The Redwoods have been present in Northern California for about 20 million years, reaching over 350 feet into the sky they can live up to 2000 years in the mild climate of this area.

It was bright and sunny on day 13, but at the 37-mile point we were advised on our route sheet as we entered the Redwoods State Park that for the next 35 miles the road would be narrow and a rear light (blinker) was advisable.

I later learnt as we passed along the 35 miles of semi darkness with the sun trying to filter thru that this was the largest Redwood Park in California covering 53,000 acres of which 17,000 acres are preserved.

According to botanists the Redwoods represent a living museum of what was the greatest forest on Earth. There are many walks and trails leading from the road, which lack of time prevented us from exploring.

So I close this section by quoting the author, John Steinback who wrote

"That once seen the redwoods leave a mark and create a vision that remains with you always. From them come silence and awe, spend time in the forest and discover the magic yourself."

Day 14 was another pleasant but hilly 66 miles to Fort Bragg on the coast where I had supper with one of my ex Odyssey 2000 companions who lives near by.

This was another day that I would have liked time to explore some local history (maybe another day?). My reason here was that our route took us very close to a community and a lake by the name of Benbow ? Then I saw a large sign directing (the opposite way) to "The Historic Benbow Inn'. Looks like my ancestors were travellers too?

My pocket mail will not allow me to finish this report, so the final greeting will follow ASAP

PS Quote for today "Indecision is the key to flexibility"

Part 5

Hi again Folks,

time is running out and this IS MY FINAL report for this trip.

In the closing stages of this project I have been looking at some of the email from folks at home and two of them (who shall be nameless) give me a few words of advice / warning in the current situation.

It appears that my tanned and bearded appearance could pass me off as a holy man (or something) and may render me liable for a secret mission to Afghanistan.

Or (according to another wit) I could end up in the marines as a dispatch rider, cycling 90 miles a day. I am told I could hardly plead that I am aged senior citizen.

On a more serious note we continue to hear reports from the tragedy of Sept 11th. This one close to our party, an Italian born businessman from New York, had news a few days ago that a very close friend had been identified as one of the Twin Towers victims.

To conclude my West Coast report, we arrived in San Francisco on day 17 for a welcome 2-day break.

This was for me a nostalgic return to a truly international City where I had spent a very pleasant week in 1995 prior to my coast-to-coast ride.

I could never get bored with San Francisco, the City of many hills, with it's Japanese quarter, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 which is home to hundreds of seals who perform and sleep all day long for the passing tourists.

The route then went through Santa Cruz and Watsonville and on to the famous 90-mile stretch of coast known as Big Sur. Oysa yang sa

It was here that we met with some demanding switchback hills, which hug the rocky coast. Via the naval town of Monterey and Carmel where we took advantage of the many bike trails along the coast.

As we approached San Simeon the terrain levelled.

Then I thought I was back in Wales when we passed Newport and Cardiff almost the same distance apart. The final two days via the suburbs of San Diego were in fact a repeat of the first 2 days of Odyssey 2000.

So I will close this project for now and hope to catch up with most of you before Xmas.

Final quote for the day;

"Age enables us to recognise a Big Mistake when we make it Again."