Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Roadtrip Through California and Oregon

As you may recall, I became homeless starting in early June (see I'm Officially Homeless). My calendar had been booked back-to-back with busyness: a three-day guide training tour on the San Juan Islands for Bicycle Adventures, a tour around the Olympic Peninsula with Craig, and the Adventure Cycling tour along the Columbia River Gorge. I now had two and a half weeks to fill before my first guiding gig started with Bicycle Adventures.

There are many parts of Oregon that I have yet to explore by bicycle. As such, I had brought my bike to Oregon with me, fully anticipating that I would tour around the state during the two and a half weeks. However, by the time the Columbia River Gorge trip had ended, the Pacific Northwest had been overcome by an unusually wicked outbreak of record heat. Portland's forecast, for example, was seeing multiple days of 100+ temperatures. Yuck! Touring didn't exactly seem so appealing anymore.

So I came up with a brilliant alternative. I would drive to southern California (in the middle of the desert) to visit my friend, Ron. (Surprisingly, the temperatures in the Southern California desert were more favorable than those in Portland.) Ron had offered, numerous times, that I come hang out with him. This was the time to do so.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #1 ~~~~

Location: Portland, OR
Friend: Mechanic Dan

Do you remember this handsome chap?

Don't let the "I'm Tough Shit" pose intimidate you. Dan is a softy.

You may recall from Adventure Cycling Along the Columbia Gorge, that this is Mechanic Dan. Mechanic Dan and I were both staff on the Columbia River Gorge tour. During the trip, we quickly became friends.

Mechanic Dan and I are besties.
Mechanic Dan gave me a piggy back ride,
and so I gave Mechanic Dan a noogie.

Mechanic Dan, who lives in Portland, was kind enough to let me crash with him for a few days before I embarked on my long drive down south. We had fun chillin' together.

Mechanic Dan shows off a container of seasoning from a Thai restaurant.
The seasoning isn't important, but the label is.
The "thumbs up" was an inside joke amongst the staff on the previous week's bike trip.

Mechanic Dan and I spent a majority of our time hanging out on the front porch, shootin' the shit, and playing with Mechanic Dan's housemate's cats. Because that's what you do when you hang out with Mechanic Dan in Portland.

Black Sabbath (not pictured) was a not-so-very-friendly kitty.
But Cherry Vanilla (who I fondly call "Cherry Vee") was a rad kitty.

Bright and early on a Tuesday morning, Mechanic Dan and I shared our farewells. I loaded up Shirley on the back of my car, and off Shirley and I went, heading towards the direction of the equator, on Interstate 5.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #2 ~~~~

Location: Palmdale, CA
Friend: Ron

If there's one thing I have little patience for, it's driving in a car. I had briefly considered flying down to Southern California, but I opted for driving after considering the advantages that automobiles offer in terms of flexibility.

After one hellaciously long day of driving, I pulled into a camp outside of Sacramento and slept for the night. It was a sleazy RV campground. I wasn't sure I was going to survive the night as I lay in my tent, listening to the man in the RV next door scream at some woman. There were a lot of f-words flying around, and I even heard the n-word, too! The next morning, when I awoke, I was surprised to be alive. I packed up my tent and continued to drive for another day.

The advantages of the flexibility advantage became readily apparent on my second day of driving. Somewhere between Sacramento and Bakersfield, I decided that I should visit other friends on my drive back north the following week. Doing so would maximize the worthwhile-ness of the trip and help to break up the long hours of driving. I thought of three other friends who I could visit on my drive back north. As the additional visits would take me a bit out-of-the-way, I vowed to drive the extra miles only if all three friends were available for a visit. I texted the friends, and surprisingly, all three were available and willing to host a visitor the following week! Hip hip hooray!

So, anyway, back to my buddy, Ron, in Palmdale....

Ron and I met a year prior. He was a Warm Showers host on Day #10: Crazy Ass Winds on my Sierra-Cascades ride. Twenty four days later, I met up with Ron again in Mt Shasta (Day #34: Mt Shasta Explodes), and then the next day, Ron joined along on the adventure for 30 miles or so (Day #35: Oregon or Bust).

Since we met last summer, Ron and I have exchanged many an email about our common interests: learning spanish, climbing, biking, and many other since-discovered commonalities. In the last year, Ron has caught the touring bug, and so it's been fun to see him prepare for his first long-distance trip, along the Pacific Coast.

In fact, as I write this blog entry, Ron is in the middle of his Pacific Coast trip. You can read about his adventure on his blog: Rolling at My Own Pace. I'm really enjoying following along on Ron's trip. Partially because Ron is a great friend and a great blogger, but also because reading Ron's blog brings back fond memories of my bicycle trip down the Pacific Coast (which you can read about here: Biking the Pacific Coast).

I digress. Back to my visit with Ron...

Ron's chalkboard welcomed me to his home, where I would spend the next five days. I added the "Palabras del día" ("Words of the day") to the chalkboard, though, as I failed to updated the words, they ended up becoming the "Palabras de la semana" ("Words of the week").

Ron and I are both working on our Spanish.

Ron did everything in his power to convince me that Palmdale is the best place on earth and that I should therefore move to Palmdale. For example, Ron enticed me with some amazing food.

Ron is quite the grill master.

Ron made grilled toast and grilled romaine.
(I salivate everytime I look at this photo.)

I'm a little unclear whether Ron would cook for me every day if I were to move to Palmdale. I suppose I should ask for clarification. Because if that is the case, then I'll move to Palmdale in a heartbeat.

Ron wanted to show me the awesome Woodland Preserve, where we were instructed not to step on the Desert Harvester Ants (though it was okay, of course, to step on the other ants).

Don't step on the ants!
(Oddly printed on an old punchcard.)

Ron took me on a really nice bike ride along the aqueduct to the west of Palmdale. And over the weekend, we met up with some of Ron's friends for a camping trip in nearby Idyllwild. Ron and I biked around town and up to Humber Park, where Ron showed me his favorite climbing routes. Oh, how I wanted to climb the routes, too! We also attended the town's Fourth of July parade, though Ron and I had little patience for the parade.

Ron and me at Humber Park.

It was great fun to visit the darling town of Idyllwild, especially since I had biked through the town on last summer's epic bike ride (see Day #4: Popsicle Fantasies and Day #5: A Lovely Visit to Yucaipa). And it was great fun to drive along Highway 243, the exact route I had biked. Highway 243 is an amazingly steep and winding and scary road -- and that was my perception as a passenger in a vehicle. I can't believe I biked that damn thing last summer! Wowsers!

In case the food, the bike rides, and Woodland Preserve weren't enough to convince me of Palmdale's glory, Ron had planned a "surprise" for me. Oh, I like surprises! After driving a little ways out of town, Ron told me to cover my eyes, and then, all of the sudden, I heard music beneath the tires:

The surprise was a musical road! The musical road, the first in the United States, was installed for a Honda commercial a number of years ago. Due to safety and noise complaints, the road was paved over. But then due to complaints that the musical road was paved over, a new musical road was later installed in a different location, further away from residences.

While the musical road was pretty darn cool, it was actually the clothes lines in the backyard that made me appreciate Palmdale. There's nothing more wonderful than line-dried clothes, especially ones that dry so quickly! Yeah for desert heat! I tell you, it's the simple things in life that make me all giddy.

My clothes, drying in Ron's backyard.

And it was this glorious sunset that made me appreciate Palmdale as well.

Wow, what amazing colors!

I didn't do a very good job capturing photos during my visit to Palmdale. I should add that Ron has an awesome bike shop in his garage and a spectacular climbing wall that he built in his backyard. Plus, Ron has installed another climbing hold above the doorway leading into his kitchen. (Yes, I've had the privilege of seeing Ron hang like a monkey from his doorway.) Oh, and there is that cool Indian statute in Ron's entryway, too. Remember having a conversation through the Indian's legs, Ron? Ha! Good memories!

I'm sorry to say that I won't be moving to Palmdale, Ron...but that's because you'll be moving away after you retire next spring.

On a Monday morning, I said goodbye to Ron, and off I went to Santa Barbara.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #3 ~~~~

Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Friend: Jill

As I left Palmdale on my way west to Santa Barbara, I began listening to Serial. As Ron and I are both podcast fans, Ron suggested that I listen to the first season of the Serial podcast on my long drive back home.

For all you NPR fans, Serial is a podcast by the the same creators of This American Life. Serial tells a story, over twelve episodes, of Hae Min Lee, a popular high school student who disappeared one day after school, and her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of Hae's murder. Though the podcast could have been better edited and shortened by one or two episodes, I enjoyed listening to the podcast. It very much helped to pass the long hours in the car.

In Santa Barbara, I met up with Jill. Jill was my Warm Showers host when I biked down the Pacific Coast in 2012. I stayed with Jill for the final two nights of my trip. We had a great time sharing our life stories and kayaking out on the Pacific Ocean. I'm so glad we've kept in touch over the years.

Me and Jill, in May 2012.
One might think we were sisters.

When I first got to Santa Barbara, Jill was excited to show me her new bike touring setup. It looks like a great setup! I'm excited for Jill's upcoming adventures!

Jill and her new touring bike setup.

We then went for a walk along the ocean, where Jill shared her retirement and travel plans. Afterwards, we drove to Whole Foods to pick up some ingredients for dinner. For awhile, we were driving behind this car. I chuckled out loud.

Words in the window: "Aggressive drivers have little dicks."
License plate: YOGA ROX

We ate dinner in the yard and conversed more. During our chat, a horrific look came across Jill's face as she said, "Sarah, we need to go inside right now." Jill had spotted a skunk just a few feet away from where we were sitting. We grabbed our plates and tiptoed inside, where we spent the rest of the evening.

Jill asked if I wanted to bike with her to the train station the next morning, where she would board the train to finish her commute into work. I was a little hesitant at first, as Jill was leaving super early in the morning. But then I thought: "This is an opportunity to ride bikes with Jill!" I was glad I decided to do the ride. The streets of Santa Barbara were wonderfully quiet and perfectly peaceful. And I got to pedal alongside my dear friend, Jill!

Jill and me, on our early morning bike ride.

The ride to the train station with Jill reminded me of my ride to the train station three years prior. Santa Barbara was the end of the my three-week long solo ride down the Pacific Coast. I had ridden to the train station to pack up my bicycle, Shirley. I was sending Shirley home via Amtrak, and I would fly myself home the following day. I was surprised that I had shed a tear as I walked away from the train station after packing up my bike -- Shirley and I had been an amazing team during our journey, and we were now parting ways.

At the train station, Jill and I said our goodbyes. Jill boarded the train on her way to work, and I rode back to Jill's house, got in the car, and started driving north to San Francisco.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #4 ~~~~

Location: San Francisco, CA
Friends: Pablo & Scooter (and their humans, Jamie & Serge)

I would be spending the evening with Pablo and Scooter, and their two humans, Jamie and Serge. I housesat for Pablo and Scooter for three weeks, shortly after arriving back from Turkey last December. The night before my housesit began, I had spent the evening with Jamie and Serge. The conversation between Jamie and I, in particular, made it seem as though we had been friends since childhood.

Pablo relaxes on my lap during my housesit last December.

This is Scooter. He looks like a walrus in a kitty costume.

I arrived in San Francisco in mid-afternoon. As Jamie wouldn't get home from work until later in the evening, this gave me some time to ride my bike around town. When 8:30pm rolled around, I finally met up with Jamie. Though our visit was brief, we still managed to gab about everything under the sun. Later that night, I slept on the couch with Pablo and Scooter. I joked with Jamie, telling her that I sorta felt like a whore; I came to cuddle with the two kitties for the night, and then I snuck out early the next morning.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #5 ~~~~

Location: Corvallis, OR
Friend: Öcean

Another full day of driving brought me to Corvallis, where I visited with my friend, Öcean. Öcean and I are both bike tourists and we both have blogs. Öcean is a very talented writer and photographer. You should definitely visit his blog: Vintage Bicycle Odyssey. Though Öcean and I had shared emails a number of times, we had never met in person. Up until our visit, we were merely digital friends. Now was our time to become friends-in-the-flesh.

I arrived into Corvallis in mid-afternoon. As I wasn't to meet up with Öcean until later in the evening, I spent the afternoon relaxing at Central Park -- lounging in the grass, under the shade of a grandiose tree, reading "Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile" (by Sara Wheeler), which was a book that came highly recommend to me by Jill. It was my first visit to Corvallis, and I fell in love with the town. It's a college town, so it has that liberal, artsy, well-educated vibe.

Later in the evening, I rode my bike over to FireWorks Pub & Pizza. At the restaurant, which is owned by Öcean, we shared a tasty pizza and delicious conversation.

We shared a pizza at Öcean's restaurant, Fireworks.

We then headed back to Öcean's place for the night. I pitched my tent in Öcean's yard, a 25-acre wildlife paradise that backs up to Corvallis Watershed and Mary's Peak Botanical Preserve. I enjoyed a fantastic night of sleep listening to the sounds of nature.

The next morning, we had breakfast in Öcean's home.

Breakfast is served.

Öcean lives in a cob house that he hand-built a number of years ago. The home is made of subsoil, water, and straw. The home is very cozy, very environmental-friendly, and very one-with-nature. Though I've been in smaller cob structures, this was my first time exploring an entire home made of cob. It was marvelous! Here are a few photos of Öcean's home:

Öcean's front door, workspace, and kitchen.

The bedroom loft, which is reached via ladder.

The view from the loft. Notice the beautiful stained glass window.

After breakfast, Öcean took me on a long bike ride through the surrounding fields and forests. The ride was absolutely gorgeous and easily reminded me why I love cycling in Oregon.

I could cycle on this road for days!

A mosquito refuge! Cute!

After our ride, I put Shirley on the back of the car, and drove an hour and a half further north to Portland.

~~~~ ROADTRIP STOP #6 ~~~~

Location: Portland, OR (again)
Friend: Mechanic Dan (again)

Mechanic Dan was kind enough to host me again for a few days.

On Friday night, I attended Mechanic Dan's bike race (see Mechanic Dan's Bike Race).

Mechanic Dan and I had planned on doing an overnight bike ride on Saturday and Sunday, but we were just too damn lazy once Saturday rolled around. (Plus, Mechanic Dan had given his all at the bike race the night before.) So, instead, we did more porch sitting. I'll tell ya, I've never had so much fun passing the day away on a porch!

On Sunday, we both guilted ourselves into a ride. Mechanic Dan took me on the most amazing tour west of the city. Near the beginning of the ride, Mechanic Dan commented that I was a pretty strong rider. That was awfully kind of him. I was doing my best to keep up with Mechanic Dan's huge racing legs, as they propelled his lightweight bicycle. As for me, my skinny no-nothing chicken legs were pounding away on the pedals of my heavy steel beast.

Mechanic Dan poses against a field.
I love the painted clouds in the sky.

Near the end of our ride, I'm sure Mechanic Dan was thinking "this girl ain't got no stamina." Let's just say that Sarah had hit a lack-of-hydration and lack-of-calories wall many hilly miles earlier. I didn't have my cycle computer on my handlebars, but I swear that we must have ridden for at least 195 miles and gained at least 78,000 feet in elevation! Mechanic Dan was so sweet. He was literally pushing me up the hills. I tell you, ladies, Mechanic Dan is nothing but solid muscle (and a great big beard, too)! Near the end of our ride, we finally stopped for grub.

Our grub stopping location.

Although I was clearly suffering from a low-energy day, I loved riding around Portland. Mechanic Dan was a fantastic riding buddy. I wish I could ride with him every day (though perhaps on a lighter bike).

I had planned on staying in Portland a little longer, but I moved up my departure by a day so that I could give my buddy, Mike (mentioned in Stomping On My Old Grounds), and his bike a lift back to Seattle. Mike had just finished riding the famed "STP," a two-day ride from Seattle-to-Portland. Congrats, Mike! (And congrats to the 9,999 other riders who participated in the annual ride.)


What started out being a 350-mile roundtrip drive from Seattle to Portland ended up being a 2400-mile roundtrip drive from Seattle to Southern California and back. Yeah for the freedom to be flexible!

Even though I didn't bike as much as I had intended during the two and a half weeks, the roadtrip enabled me to relive many of my touring memories. As I drove south to California, I recalled memories from my 50-day ride through the Sierra-Cascade mountains last summer. And as I drove back north along the coast, I recalled memories from my 20-day ride down the Pacific Coast three summers ago. My, oh my, what wonderful memories I've collected over the last few years!

Thanks to my friends -- Mechanic Dan, Ron, Jill, Pablo, Scooter, Jamie, Serge, and Öcean -- for your wonderful hospitality. I'm so glad to have created new memories with you!


  1. WOW! I am not sure what to comment on first. So in no particular order.

    You do do NOT have chicken legs! They are pretty darn cute!

    Love Corvallis! Michelle went to school there and we go down as often as possible. It is a beautiful town, people are friendly, and its just relaxing. To me, only Pullman is a better college town.

    I will check out the Oregon coast riders blog, you KNOW I loves the coast And my Oregon coast ride is still my fav. (I need to check out your archives on that!)

    Cat Whore! (love it!)

    HELL yes you two look like sisters!

    And finally, When I hadn't seen a comment in a while, I KNEW you had to be out and about. Alas, yes, sometimes we need a car. (love the musical road!) and glad you survived the KOA!!

    1. Oh silly Tony! One can have cute chicken legs. ;)

      Yeah, Corvallis was great. Such an abundance of young, healthy, handsome (and presumably super intelligent) men. The eye candy was quite tasty. I'm sure it's the same for Pullman. :)

      Funny that you assume the campground was a KOA -- it wasn't. It was a strange place. It advertised itself as a campground, but it looked more like a permanent RV community -- of the trashy variety.

      Yup, I've definitely been out and about. I'm doing my best to catch up with the blog!

    2. YAY more new Sarah blogs!!! And no wonder you spent so much time at the park. Eye candy will do that!

      OH, the food looked damn good! YUM

  2. Oh, I'd cook for you every day..... and hang like a monkey if need be. Heck, I'd even move closer for a good conversation - of course we would miss the view through "Indian's Arch"! That visit seems like a long time ago doesn't it?

    1. You are awfully tempting, Ronaldo!

      In your downsizing efforts, I'm assuming the Indian will likely need to go--it is kind of a voluminous masterpiece. Perhaps you might consider carving out and keeping the Indian's Arch, as that sorta was a fun place to talk. :)

      Yes, that visit does seem like it was a long time ago. How about we arrange another one for sometime soon? ;)


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