"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Monday, June 30, 2008

6/30/08: Crescent City, CA

I got up quite early after getting so much sleep the night before, and proceeded to pack up before Eric and Marine awoke, so as not to delay the now daily late departure! I was quite refreshed after spending a full day to recover, and decided that if I could, I would use every Sunday as an 'off day' to just kick back and chill out. We'll see...

As we got closer to Oregon, I'm began to think I'd try to ride with these guys to Pelican Beach, then continue on into Oregon alone from there. Oregon's always been the focal point of the trip and it seems a shame to get there and only see it from the car. But, the further north we get, the colder it gets and I HATE the cold! In the end, I'll probably just stay with these guys to Portland if all works out.

We left the Elk Prairie Campground, without seeing any elk, and headed north again toward Crescent City. Eric wanted to stay one more night in the Redwoods so we decided to check out Mill Creek Campground; another State Park, but never actually went in. I had noticed on our handy little brochure that there was a "primitive" campsite listed near Crescent City called Nickel Creek. It looked like it was a short hike from the trail head to get to it, but it was also FREE and apparently isolated, which was no small thing after dealing with kids on a regular basis.

*Commentary Alert*

Parents: Harness your damn kids or leave them at home. Send them to summer camp... SOMETHING! People like to relax to peace & quiet when they camp rather than having the pleasure of hearing, "You suck! Nuh- Uh! YOU suck! You suck MORE!!" for an entire evening while they ride their damn bikes through their campsite! Why the HELL are you bringing BIKES to a campground anyhow? HIKE! And about that damn inflatable furniture you lug along... CAMPING... in that battleship you call a 'camper'... I digress...

*You are now leaving the Commentary Hazard Zone*

Along the way, I managed to finally get a cell signal and talked to Laina for the first time in a couple of days. We found the parking area and did the quick half- mile hike to Nickel Creek finding it COMPLETELY abandoned! YES!! We loved it instantly, although there was no water available, save Nickel Creek itself. I also discovered that I'd been reunited with an old pal: the Coastal Trail. Nickel Creek was just off the "Last Chance" section of the CCT. I had to laugh, and was staggered when I thought how long it would have taken me to get here taking just the trail!

I asked Eric if we could go into Crescent City, 7 miles up the road so I could get some real food, and the possibly charge my cell phone which was now completely dead. He obliged, and we wound up the Safeway from where I emerged proudly with 2 HUGE pork chops that were to be ecstatically cooked over a blazing fire we we'd make out of driftwood from the nearby beach. I never did get the cell phone charged however... that was getting annoying- trying to figure out why I never bought a car charger made it worse.

We headed back toward Nickel Creek after taking a quick look around Crescent City and finding the library which was CLOSED. Monday, of course! We also stopped at the little harbor and snooped around a bit.

When we returned to Nickel Creek, we loaded ourselves down like pack animals and headed down to set up. I immediately began the now familiar task of collecting firewood, which here included a HUGE log someone had tried to burn before. There were piles of driftwood already gathered at various places around the campground, so I consolidated these and began our pile.

We had neglected to get water in Crescent City, so it was finally time to use Friar Chris's MSR filter. I had no clue what I was doing, so thankfully it was pretty self- explanatory! We traipsed down to the creek, and proceed to gather about 5 liters of fresh, clean, cold, & CLEAR stream water. God, that tasted good in the fact that it had NO taste! Mmmmmmm.....

Then it was off to the beach to check it out. We had finally begun to get a little sun after almost NONE since I'd met up with them on Friday. The beach was very cool. Tidal pools, and the fresh water pool where Nickel Creek drained onto the beach. There was a memorial set up there as well; a tribute to someone. We hiked over the rocks all the way to the other end, enjoyed the vibe, then gathered more driftwood for the fire on the way back to camp.

With the fire going, I proceeded to cook the best piece of meat I've ever eaten! It was even better because I'd eaten nothing but cold food forever. I REALLY enjoyed that meal... both HUGE pieces!

The rest of the night was spent building and tending the fire, chatting, and enjoying the lack of children. I listened to some music, and slept like a baby in my tent on the thick grass.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

6/29/08: Humboldt S.P.-Redwoods N.P., CA


The Lord hath proclaimed Sunday the Day of Rest. So hath Todd.

We got up and around a bit later than we'd have liked due to the beer consumption, and my energy level was... no so good! We didn't have far to go though, so we hopped back on the 101 and proceeded toward Eureka, Trinidad, and eventually Orick, which is the town that's essentially within Redwood Natl. and State Parks.

Eureka's always been a landmark for me as the last real 'city' in California before Oregon. Kind of a depressing little place. We stopped for coffee, which now was becoming a necessary theme, and sort of tooled around there before stopping in Trinidad for Eric to use the ATM. There was a little Artisans Market going on, and a few interesting characters milling about.

Also one embarrassing one.

I ran across the road to the gas station to reload on coffee, and while I was inside was this redneck straight out of 1965 who must be a member of the Lou Dobbs Fan Club. He was LITERALLY standing RIGHT next to a sign that read "Please take ALL alcohol purchases to the next counter!" While standing there he was berating the Mexican girl behind the counter complaining that he should be able to buy his PBR at any counter he "goddamn well pleased!" When the girl tried to explain to him that she wasn't old enough to sell to him, AND POINTED TO THE SIGN!, he went off on her perceived inability to speak English going into the now generic and tired tirade about "if yer cummin to 'Merica, ya aughts ta be able tuh speeks the Inglish!". Admirably, there was a little woman about half as tall as this endangered specimen of Redneck standing in line behind him who essentially told him to shut the hell up, learn to read, and quick being an asshole. I laughed quite loudly at this, as did a few others.

He didn't take to kindly to that, but the only thing he could say was, "Do you live here?", as if being a proud resident of Trinidad, California gave you some mythical license to be an elite breed of Xenophobic Prick.

I got in line behind my new hero and tipped the girl $2 for my $1.19 coffee.

We got back on the road after this little nugget of Americana, and eventually to the Redwoods NP Visitor Center where we got information on camping and a few other things. Eric and Marine decided on Elk Prairie Campground, so off we went to set up camp again. Another $20 site for them, but per our conversations the night before they let me slide on this because they were going to be getting these campsites anyway, and it didn't matter if there were two or three people. I had made it clear that there was NO way I could continue paying for camping on a daily basis, and beer, etc. They were wildly cool about that, as long as I wasn't costing them anything.

This campground, while beautiful, was another episode of Romper Room. SOOO many damn kids! LOUD kids this time!

I was still pretty wiped out from drinking the night before, so I wrote in my journal for a bit and then collapsed for a couple of hours while Eric and Marine went on a long hike. As with Florian, I tried to stay conscious of giving them time to enjoy themselves alone... without me tagging along all the time. Plus, I was exhausted. The nap did wonders for me.

I woke up, and since we had dead wood lying all around I decided to flaunt the park's Wood Nazi policy that you MUST purchase THEIR shitty $8 wood bundles, and began to collect dead Redwood pieces/ parts from around the area. It was quite abundant, and soon I had a nice little fire going. When Eric and Marine got back from their hike, they had gone to the store and Eric returned with wood, but we ended up not even needing it. At least I contributed something to the day, and Redwood smells GOOD- almost like the Pinon I've become addicted to in New Mexico!

I was sort of off in my own little world the rest of the night, listening to music and pretty much keeping to myself. The evening was uneventful, except for the beginning of the nagging feelings of annoyance at myself for tagging along with these guys for so long. It's nothing to do with them, and may have had to do with the fact that I was tired, and that the cloudy, smokey, cold- ish weather may have been affecting my mood. It's typically what happens after I'm with people for more than 2 days though... remember the Two Day Rule?!?!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

6/28/08: Olema-Humboldt State Park, CA

It didn't take long to figure out what was going on when we awoke. We got showered after having to complain to the owners about the lack of hot water in the showers... Eric was pissed! $37 and there's no hot water in the morning?!?! I also began getting my clothes cleaned, and while they were drying they eventually offered to let me ride along for the day... to wherever... and camp with them again. I was quite happy of course. I had been in California for 15-days now, and though it was still quite beautiful, I was ready to get to Oregon- which has always been of more curious fascination to me than California.

We loaded up and proceeded to cruise north, stopping periodically at particularly interesting places to take pictures, or just mill around. The landscape was ever- changing. Farm land, cliffs, and the ever- thickening forests. Just amazing.

We stopped for lunch and HOT coffee in Gualala where I called Laina and finally got some good news money- wise. I decided that I'd take advantage of the opportunity to buy some cheaper, thicker socks at the little outdoor store/ gift shop. We were probably there for an hour and a half, just chilling out. I was enjoying this day, and making some real geographic progress.

That's pretty much how the day went from there. Cruising along, stopping now and then to eat or just enjoy the coast. Eric had decided that he wanted to spend two days in the Redwoods of northern California, so he wanted to stop somewhere just short of there, camp, then hit the parks the following day.

Eventually we came to Legget, which was a significant point in that this was where my friend Hwy. 1 ended and rejoined 101. We stopped and I got a self portrait with the sign, and we headed onto 101. The terrain was by now drastically different than earlier in the day. THICK forest land, with larger hills and HUGE trees. We figured this area would be a wonderful place to camp, so so loaded up on beer, hot dogs, and firewood in Garberville then got off 101 to follow a parallel- running road into Humboldt- Redwoods Natl. Park in search of suitable camping.

We found a $20 spot this time, and it was PERFECT. No neighbors, and more importantly NO KIDS! We were essentially isolated from the rest of the camp sites in a depression surrounded by redwoods. We all three LOVED this spot. We set up, built the fire and drank our 18 Budweisers, ate our hot dogs, and talked about philosophy, politics, sociology...the perfect night for me! It was interesting to hear a European perspective about the US, and I was happy that we had both similar and differing views on a lot of things. I love exchanging ideas much more than mentally masturbating with people who wholly agree with me...

Of course we got to bed pretty late, but it was worth it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

6/27/08: Muir Beach-Olema, CA, Eric & Marine

One of the more significant days of the trip. One that would determine the time frame of the entire West Coast.

I woke up beneath by bushes rather early to the sounds of hikers chatting as they passed by me, not realizing that I was nestled in there. It's funny what people say when they think no one's there. Reminds me of that philosophy that 'no one's normal'; we all have goofy quirks we try to hide when people are around!

I had a couple cups of cold instant coffee-- the usual-- packed up and decided today I'd get on down Hwy. 1. Part of the reason I crossed the Marin Headlands via the trail was that it deposited me at Muir Beach, which is where my now favorite road comes close to shore after separating from the 101.

I was still short on water after accidentally dumping the Camelback the day before, so my first mission was stocking up on water, then #2 was getting to the next town for FOOD! I was running a bit low, not really getting any since Cambria, before Florian picked me up, and Muir Beach isn't a town as much as a place rich people build palaces overlooking the coast. No stores. I found a neat little Inn just as I picked up the 1, went in to fill up the water and was off... back on the road.

The first thing I noticed was how narrow the shoulders were, and how many curves this stretch had... and more hills. There were times where I'd have to cross the road to get wider shoulder space and to be able to see as traffic was coming. The smoke from the wildfires that had been raging in California still held overhead too... I wouldn't see much sun for DAYS from here on out... and it mixed with fog coming off the Pacific. It's hard to tell the difference in the two, except for the faint smell of smoke and the BLAZING red sunsets. The effect of the smoke- fog and the terrain gave everything an almost creepy beauty! As though I were walking thru a Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock movie...

And so it went... Walking, resting, hitchhiking. My feet were much better with the new inserts, but I began to develop a blister in the worst place for me: my right heel. That bugged me because these are always a big problem for me, and they never seem to callous. It was obviously from all the hills, but something that needed to be kept on top of.

I'd decided to hitch it to Stinson Beach because of that and my food shortage, and resolved to completely prepare there for the upcoming 300+ miles to Oregon. Eventually I got a ride with Richard, a 40- something guy on his way to Stinson. He told me a disturbing story about a beating/ stabbing that had just taken place in the next town up from Stinson. Apparently some kids beat a guy to the brink of death on the beach. The part that creeped me out was that he was a drifter- type... homeless by choice... vagabond.... whatever. I could be seen that way too. I quickly figured on getting thru that area ASAP.

I got to Stinson Beach and Richard dropped me at the "shitty expensive" grocery store (his words; they rang true). I went in and loaded up on tortillas, Raman, instant Oatmeal, and even bought some Tillamook cheese: my new favorite. With the lithium batteries and Clif Bars, the bill came to an ungodly $38! Are yo u kidding me?!?!

When I came out, a middle age guy spied the backpack and struck up a conversation. I wasn't exactly in the mood to socialize because of the image of the beaten/ stabbed guy floating in my paranoid imagination. He said he was camping in the hills above Stinson, and that I was welcome to join him up there if I liked. Perhaps I should have been more open to that, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't interested in staying there. It was still relatively early... 3:30 or so, and I wanted to get out of town, and past the now infamous Bolinas. He did however point me toward the library, and I was thrilled to find out it was open until 6!

I figured I'd go in and upload a few pictures and update the now lagging Trip Diary, but when I got in there I discovered that this library had the FASTEST upload speeds I believe I'd ever seen. So, I did a mass upload of pictures covering the time between Santa Cruz and there, and delayed the update. I also got a few free maps from the very friendly librarian, and more details on the beating, which seemed to be on the tips of everyone's tongue. That settled me a bit because since it was obviously BIG news, it wasn't something that happened very often. Plus, I learned that the people who did it... which included a 16 year- old, were in jail.

I uploaded until 6:00, then made my way out of Stinson Beach catching a ride with a 40- something woman in a VW Bug to the road that leads to Bolinas. I continued on up the road toward dusk, thru Dogtown and into Pt. Reyes Natl. Seashore where I began to hunt places to bed down for the night. Again, I almost stopped but figured I'd continue on a bit to see if I could either find better spots or catch a ride.

Did I ever!

Out of nowhere a burgundy Mazda 6 pulled over, and inside were a young couple in their 20's who spoke with THICK accents. I laughed out loud... much to their surprise I'm sure. I asked them, in my fatigue, if they were German by any chance and the said no... French. They said they were on holiday heading up the coast and could at least get me to the next town or maybe State Park. I liked them immediately.

I hopped in and we started chatting as we drove toward Olema. When it became apparent we would get along nicely, and they said they were looking to camp I suggested we just split a site and hang out for the night. They were cool with that, so we asked an elderly couple in Olema about the nearest campground. They said there was one a couple of blocks further up Hwy. 1, and that they were staying there, REALLY liked it, and more importantly there were vacancies. Good enough for us ...

The campsite was privately operated and thus expensive. $37 for three of us! Remember the scene in Vacation when the Griswold's get to the camp in Colorado? I did:

"$37 for THREE tents?"

Plus, a little bundle of firewood was $9!

So, yeah... almost half of my weekly budget on a campsite. I looked at it as an investment though. I thought it was likely that we'd get along very well, and since we were going the same way, I may have found the perfect ride, so I didn't stress about the money too much. Plus the place had showers and a laundromat... woohoo!! Needed both... badly.

We set up camp, and began chatting. The place was overcrowded and had entirely too many kids. I wondered if there was such thing as an adult- only campground that didn't involve nudists or swingers. I still wonder that...

Through the course of conversation I learned that Eric and Marine were traveling with much the same philosophy as I. No concrete plans or time frame. I loved that. PLUS... they were Couchsurfing it!! YES!!! It was about then that I realized how big Couchsurfing is becoming. They told me that they too had problems finding a host in San Francisco, but had already found one in Portland.

We chatted around the fire for quite awhile and got to bed pretty late. I still wasn't sure how things were going to go the next day, but figured either way was fine with me. I could continue on my own, or ride with these guys if they liked. I figured I'd get up, shower, do some laundry, and take it from there. Again though, I thought, the solution may have presented itself.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

6/26/08: Marin Headlands, CA-Day 2, Muir Beach

One of the more strenuous, challenging, frustrating, and rewarding days.

I got up, packed up, and took a quick hike down to the shoreline to get some pictures and realized how far I HADN'T gone! That damn bridge was still right there! As though my 5 mile hike had taken me 3/4 of a mile. Grr...

I packed up rather quickly... relatively speaking... and headed toward the visitors center in hopes of getting water and the cell phone recharged. They were beyond helpful, I think more or less because they had some company. I chatted up the volunteer while the phone charged, filled up the water and headed toward Rodeo Beach and the 2nd half of my off- road voyage to Muir Beach. I had lingered around quite a long time, and by the time I got on the trail it was 3:30. It seemed to get dark out here at about 8:30 or so, so I figured a mile an hour was enough time. I was completely full on water, so quite heavy. Maybe close to 55 or 60 #, and I'd assumed the 2nd day of hiking would resemble the first. I was wrong.

The first leg of the hike was again the worst part. It was about a 2 mile climb to the top of "Hill 88", some old WWII military instillation. Along the way there were old military bunkers to protect the coast from a supposed Japanese invasion.

My right lower calf down toward my Achilles had begun to bother me the day before, and now due to the steeper incline and full load, was starting to really bug me. I kept envisioning my Achilles popping and being stuck out there! Yeah, yeah... paranoid.

The first climb took quite a while, and was quite tiring, and I just couldn't get away from that damn bridge!. Like biking though, where there's a climb, there's a descent. I was quite proud of myself when I got to the top after getting 2nd and 3rd winds, so I squatted down in the dirt, rested, grubbed, enjoyed the view, and said goodbye to the Golden Gate Bridge... finally.

When I got ready to leave, the pack felt VERY light. I also noticed that my ass was wet. It quickly became obvious that I had set the pack down on top on the Camelback's nozzle, without closing it, thus draining all 3 liters all over the ground! That left me with about a liter and a half in Friar Chris's boca bag, the rest of my 1- liter Gatorade bottle of water, and my 1- liter Nalgene bottle. So, 3 1/2 liters. It actually pleased me a bit, because I had consumed very little water thus far, and was now about 7# lighter. The thought of seeing how little water I could get away with carrying had been decided for me, and that was strangely just fine with me!

I got going down the other side of hill #1 along a narrow and steep decline. I ran into another guy, and older Scottish gentleman who was quite interested in what I was up to. Money being a constant problem, I was crushed when he told me that he usually carried $20 in his trousers in case he ran into a respectable backpacker, but that day he had forgotten to bring it! He may have been full of shit, but I chose to believe him. He compensated the $20 with a small bottle of water, and I was on my way.

Hill #2 was actually a road. MUCH shorter than the first, but steeper. This one was almost as exhausting, but I got to the top with no real problems thinking Muir Beach would be visible from the other side.



There was yet ANOTHER descent & climb ahead of me! This one creeped me out a bit because after the decline to Pirates Cove, the climb seemed to follow the hill along a path of switchbacks with a pretty steady incline... less so than the other two hills, but pretty long.

About here I'd begun to seriously wonder rather or not I'd finish this leg today. I started to concentrate on my Mp3's, and enjoying the scenery... one step at a time... then remarkably my energy level skyrocketed. I got to the top with no real problem AGAIN thinking I'd see Muir Beach greeting me with open arms.



Ahead of me was a mesa. No sign of Muir Beach. I knew it was close from the signs, so I just kept going. About 3/4 of a mile later I began to see signs of a settlement. Big houses on a hill. Signs of civilization. Todd was happy.

Eventually I got to the end of the mesa overlooking Muir Beach. There was a steep descent directly down to the beach and when I got there I took the first place to sit I could find, on a log and exhaled dramatically. Probably too much so. The sight of a a solitary person stumbling out of the bush carrying the backpack was quite a sight, as the endless stares attested to.

There were 3 or 4 people setting up tents right there on the beach, so I asked one of them if we could do that. To my utter joy he said, "They don't say we can't!"... This was perfect!! I set up the tent, unpacked most of my stuff, snuggled into the sleeping bag, and called Laina and Chris... getting ready for a beautiful night's sleep. Perfect!!

Too perfect.

My night wasn't quite over.

At about 10:00, while I was on the phone with Friar, on popped a flashlight accompanied by a voice announcing "Park Ranger! Park Ranger!!"


He asked, stupidly, if I was camping. I mean, I had the rain fly up and everything and was wrapped up in a sleeping bag. He quickly informed me I'd be relocating. So, I started packing my stuff wondering where I was going to sleep.

The Ranger actually turned out to be pretty cool. Once he figured out I wasn't going to treat him like a fascist pig, he made it clear he was just doing his job, and actually tried to be helpful in suggesting options. Eventually he said that the mesa I'd crossed wasn't day-use, and that I'd be legal if I went back up there to 'rest', I'd be fine. We wound up having a nice little chat.

I let my fatigue convince me to try to find something that was a bit closer that didn't involve climbing, but it became obvious that was not going to be suitable. So, back up the mesa I went, via a fire- road until I found familiar ground. I scoped out a set of bushes that I could climb beneath, laid out the pad/ bag and sacked out for the night. I'm getting used to this sleeping outside stuff! MUCH easier to set up and tear down, as my experience at Muir had proved wasn't such a bad thing!

It was a foggy, damp night and my nest was situated on slanted ground and on top of an exposed root... but considering how tired I was it didn't matter much! I slept pretty well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

6/25/08: Marin Headlands, CA-Day 1

Got up at 8:30 again. Slept reasonably well, but San Francisco's marine layer mad things a bit moist. Plus, I was sleeping on a slight incline so the sleeping bag would slip n' slide down the Thermarest. I had some cold coffee and oatmeal, packed up and started toward the visitor center across the highway when I ran into a cyclist who told me that Rodeo beach, about 5-6 miles down the Coastal Trail, had water etc. That did it. I was going into the woods. An 11-mile hike toward Muir Beach. No hitching. That raised my spirits a bit. My cell phone needed charging though, and I needed water.

I found a Mobile Satellite truck, of all things, at the visitor center. Good thing too, because there is not one power outlet at that 'rest stop'. Luckily the truck had power and the technician (who was literally sleeping (pic)) let me plug in and I proceeded to write in the journal and let the phone charge as long as I could.

Turns out the satellite truck was contracted by the Fox Business Channel to do some stellar, I'm sure, report about tourism from the Golden Gate Bridge. The meat puppet was a woman who reminded me of Jack Nicholson's deformed girlfriend in the original Batman. Probably my own jaded perspective. I'm sure most guys would think she was
smokin'. I kept my opinions to myself, of course.

Eventually the truck packed up and left. I had my water and was ready to hike off. That's just what I did. Over the big hill that separates the Marin Headlands from 101. As the views improved so did my attitude. Felt good to be out of San Francisco and back into nature.

The initial part of the hike was the hardest, and I was carrying
alot of water making me heavy. I was ecstatic at how my body held up, and the new inserts seemed to help the blister problem.

Rodeo Beach was my goal for the day, but I got started late, about 1:30, and was unsure of the terrain or ANYTHING about the hike. Turns out, it was great. Once to the top of that first hill, it had the accompanying decline on the other side. Life was good. Along the way, I began to ponder the idea of how things seem to present themselves along the way, and how they seem to accompany the effort I put forth, and the openness of my mind to finding them. A bit of foreshadowing.

I was making good time, so when I saw three cyclists sitting by the side of the path, I just said hi and continued on, but seeing my Canadian flag, they asked where I was from, saying they were from Montreal. I told them that was my ultimate destination, and that led to a short, but restful chat.

The trail markings then became less clear; just few vague signs. One advertised a "hostel" near Rodeo beach, so figured I'd aim myself that way. About the time the confusion set in was also the time I stumbled into some stables where a very nice, and attractive, woman offered directions. Apparently the fact that I was spinning around like a top with a 50# pack indicated that I was a a bit..."confused". I like that term.

I snacked on a
Clif Bar then realized that was probably half of my problem and continued on toward the well-placed hostel, envisioning cheap accommodations and even a shower!


When I finally arrived, the Lisa
Loeb look alike manning the counter informed me that it would be $21 to stay there. I believe she was slightly offended when I inadvertently laughed at her. She then told me about a free campground that was right around the corner. I laughed again, much to her chagrin. I thought the whole idea of a hostel was to be affordable to travelers rather than paying $21 to immerse yourself in some pseudo-hippie culture.

Am I cynical?

I found the visitor center, registered to stay, for free, at the Bicentennial Campground and proceeded to hoof it past the Nike Missile Cold War era nuclear weapon site. It reeked of death. I can't explain it, but it was creepy. I got to the campsite, which was already occupied by two tents with no people. I set up the tent figuring I'd have some company that night. Nope. I collapsed at about 7:30 after my day of hiking the hills! I woke up briefly at about 10 when I heard them, but never did see anyone!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

6/24/08: Escape From San Francisco

Got up rather early and sent out MORE Couchsurfing requests to see if I could indeed extend my time in SF, got a shower, packed, and hit the streets. I decided to go check out the Castro District and Haight/ Ashbury: two of the things I missed on out last trip in '03.

The Castro was pretty neat; VERY gay! Haight- Ashbury: a disappointment. Commercial. I managed to chat up a panhandler while I was there, for about an hour, then took some pics of the houses of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.

From there it was pretty obvious from my repeated checking of emails that I was NOT going to find a Couchsurf... in San Francisco! How lame. I decided to start walking toward the Golden Gate Bridge and sniff out bus routes. When I got to Golden Gate Park, I stopped in to the Visitors Center to get some info, then continued thru the park to Fulton, then intended to catch a bus at Park- Presidio to get to the bridge and hoof across.

It was about then that I discovered I no longer had my wallet! I began to think all sorts of evil thoughts and realized that I must've left it at that Visitor Center, so I turned around and double timed it to the best of my ability with Mr. Hefty on my back, and got back there 2 miles later to find my ugly wallet safe and sound.

This was about the time I really began to seriously consider ending this little adventure. I believe, no, I KNOW, that if that wallet hadn't been found, that would have been it. San Francisco, rather than being enjoyable turned out to be a drain, and completely took me out of my element. I dislike cities, with the exception of Denver, intensely. People refuse to look you in the eye! Ugh!

I started back toward the bridge with my wallet safely tucked in my pocket, and this time went down Balboa St. thru what I believe were the Russian and Korean parts of San Fran. I do like that aspect of the city; distinct neighborhoods.

Eventually I re- found Park Presidio and caught my bus, feeling exhausted. Thankfully it took me directly to the Golden Gate Bridge, and I prepared to get across.

Walking the bridge should have been more enjoyable- I remember thinking this, although it was nice. I took a ton of pictures and felt a sense of accomplishment as I crossed into Northern California. It's just under a mile across, and must have taken me a good hour with all the stops for pics. When I got across, I stopped into the same Vista Point Laina and I had visited in 2003, and just hung out-- half hoping I'd find inspiration or a ride... or both!

Eventually it became time to find a place to sleep and as I was hunting around I spotted a woods on the other side of the 101; the beginning of what I learned was the Marin Headlands. I hiked over there and discovered something called the California Coast Trail; something I'd never heard of. I also found a place to throw down the pad & sleeping bag with a full view of the SF skyline as the sun went down. I plopped down, the wind began to howl so I bundled up, ate my pathetic excuse for a supper and chatted with Laina about what I should do. Turns out, finding that trail was just what I needed. Plus, I asked myself if I would turn down the opportunity to meet Florian and his family if I had known they were going to come along. I answered of course not! And it made me remember that there were more experiences lying ahead if I pushed on. Sometimes my mind is the hardest battle to fight, and this particular lesson would pay dividends down the road.

***Not only in the short term, but THIS specific decision to persevere and continue on would reverberate and serve as a personal reminder of why I should push forward for years to come. In fact, it still does to this day. As you read on and the events further down this road continue to play out, and do they ever,  periodically imagine me ending this trip here. I did! There's one event in particular that, had I quit, never happens and completely changes the scope of the following summer in general and eliminates Andre in particular: one of the most profound experiences of any trip I've ever taken. Anywhere.  ***

I bedded down in another spot a bit more shielded from the wind and got to bed pretty late.

Monday, June 23, 2008

6/23/08: San Francisco, CA

Really not a lot to talk about. Got up late, had some coffee and sent off Couchsurf requests to see if I could find other places in the city to stay this week. I then found out where the REI is, only 10-12 blocks from here, so I walked up there to see if I could find a way to solve, or at least help, the blister and tendinitis problems. I was thinking I'd use their killer return policy to exchange the shoes if I needed to, but after chatting with the guy there it became apparent that my problem may have been the inserts I had, so I got some new ones. They had a deal on Cliff bars, so I loaded up on them for $1 a piece, then came back to Greg & Chloe's and joined them downtown while they had pizza. The weather here's been exactly what you'd think about San Francisco. Cold by comparison to where I came from, and windy. Nice to be out of the blazing sun, although I'm sure I'll get over enjoying the cold VERY soon!

I also chatted with Chris about ideas to make some money while I'm here, but that seems rather hard without a place to land. I'm digging thru Craigslist hoping to find temporary general labor type stuff. If I can work it out, I'd work for a week or so to try to recoup some of the money lost on the secy. deposit, but I'm not optimistic. We'll see.

The rest of the evening was spent watching Stewart/Colbert and sending out Couchsurfing requests for Tuesday. No luck so far, so if I don't find anything by mid- afternoon I believe I'll head into Marin County over the Golden Gate Bridge and start the second half of the California trip. I read that there are some lightning- induced wildfires up that way, so hopefully that wont be an issue.

Pretty funny when I think about how long it's taken to get here. I figured before I left it would take a couple of weeks at minimum, rather than 8 days. I wonder if the northern half of the state will be the same!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

6/22/08: San Francisco


I'm not sure when I'll be able to update again, but we're headed toward San Francisco later this afternoon. My plan is to Couchsurf, but that seems unlikely because of the short notice so I'll probably just try to get across the Golden Gate Bridge toward Marin County/Sausalito and wing it from there continuing up Highway 1.

I'll update when I can, just a reminder that all of last week's stuff has been added to/expanded. Worth re-reading if you haven't yet!

EDIT 11:30 pm: Well, that was quick. Hello from San Francisco!

We all left the KOA at about noon and headed to Rio Del Mar State Beach in Santa Cruz for a day of relaxation before the 90 mile drive to San Francisco. For whatever reason, I chose to simply hang out in the RV for the day out of the sun, and just chill. I wound up checking my email for responses to my Couchsurf requests and talking to Laina at length about possibly cutting this leg of the trip short to return home to work for a few weeks to compensate for the loss of my security deposit money, that was of course unwisely counted on!

We decided that it just doesn't make sense to stop just yet. This has thrown a major kink in the plan, but more by way of removing a nice little safety net for things like purchasing pants when the crotch seam splits in one pair, and the other gets covered in tar...which happened, of course. I guess I'd better learn to sew.

So, I'm pressing onward. I had never even considered heading back before all this came up, but in reality the main problem is that I'm coming in over budget every week. If that weren't the case, this would really make no difference. Obviously I know what to address.

The drive from Santa Cruz to San Francisco was spent repacking the backpack and re-configuring my brain to road-mode after RV surfing for 3 days. I didn't really pay that close attention to the landscape between the repacking and playing with Paul.

 Just before we got into San Francisco I got an email from Couchsurfers Chloe and Greg that I had a place to stay for tonight AND Monday night. Happy times! That would mean no sleeping beneath trees in Sausalito AND I could see a bit of the city AND possibly surf long enough to stick around for THE Gay Pride Parade in San Fran next weekend! I mean, come on...when will I ever get a chance to see THAT again?!?!?

Florian made a stop to finally get his currency exchanged...at a hefty price...and spent another half hour trying to just find a parking place. In the meantime I connected with my surfer hosts and got directions to their place. I disembarked my new favorite RV and my first RV surfing experience came to a close. Florian, Veronika, and Paul were all hungry so Florian invited me in to Mel's Diner for a goodbye meal. I felt bad about taking more from them, but quickly realized how hungry I was and figured it would be too late (and I was too poor) to get anything anywhere else in this expensive city. So I ordered a big ol' burger and prepared to take my leave of my new friends.

We walked up the street a bit further together until he found a Starbucks where he could get Internet to check their plane reservations and that was it. We had exchanged information earlier, so we shook hands, hugged, they invited me to see them in Munich whenever I get there and we parted ways. I'm going to miss them. These are truly the type of people who enhance any experience, and like Pat, I felt lucky to have been able to spend time with them, let alone 3 days and a ride from near Hearst Castle all the way to San Francisco. Hopefully I'll be able to see them again.

I continued walking up Geary street and eventually asked some firemen directions to my surfers street. I crossed Market Street, seeing familiar sights all around from our trip here in 2003. I found 5th St., and eventually their loft with little trouble. Greg had given me solid directions, which always helps!

I am Chloe and Greg's first Couchsurfer although they have another coming in Tuesday from Brazil and staying for a WEEK! They're jumping in head first, eh? Nine straight days of CSers. Wow. We got acquainted over some beers and a fruit/Vodka concoction as I doted on their cats (of course). They are really nice people, with a very comfortable place. They also have a 2 1/2 year-old son. Lotsa cats and kids on this trip!

Tomorrow we may go to Chinatown, then REI right around the corner to see about exchanging my shoes to alleviate the blister problem. No REAL plans though. Also send off a couple CS requests for the rest of the week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

6/21/08: Highway 1-Santa Cruz

A rather lazy day. Not alot done other than laundry, updating & expanding the trip diary, and uploading pictures. It takes a long time! I downloaded the Picasa program onto Florian's laptop and that made all the difference...when I got stable Internet from the KOA laundry room.

I tried to let them have as much space as I could, feeling a little guilty that I've been tagging along with them so long. The all took the RV to have dinner at a seafood place in town and I was glad when they came back and said they had a great time.

Florian and Veronika also gave me one last piece of great news. They said they'd not only take me to San Francisco tomorrow, but across the Golden Gate Bridge if I couldn't find a Couchsurfer to stay with in the city. This was my biggest concern about this trip: dealing with the Bay Area Sprawl. San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco... no avoiding it except by means of public transportation...the BART. I sent off 10 Couchsurf requests but I'm not optimistic because of the short notice. Either way I'm covered, but it seems like a waste to just jet through San Francisco. I've been there before, but only as a tourist. It would be nice to see it through the eyes of someone living there.

Mentally I was a bit agitated today, mostly from the landlord folly, watching this particular KOA extort money from the guests in every way they can, and updating the story about Pat from last week.

On TOP of charging $90+ dollars a night for an RV hook up, and the tiny cabins running something like $100, this KOA has this little train that drives me batshit every time I see it because they charge $1 for every passenger. I believe it runs on electricity and holds 20 people, and is full of kids most of the time. Pure profit, and you KNOW that the kids go bananas when they see it! Reminds me of this sign near Canon City, CO for this little out-of-the-way fun park that puts up signs about a mile apart saying: 'Scream 'till Daddy Stops!' The signs are funny though!

I spent alot of the day thinking about the economic predators, and those that use law and policy as weapons to separate you from your money. I thought alot about Pat. And the Parking Lot Nazi...I'm really disgusted with this culture and it's definitions of worth and success. More so now. We're all defined on a scale and it's called the dollar. 'The Landlord' is a very successful, sold-out, bourgeois liberal, 60's hippie who told me once that he believes strongly in changing things, but only within the system. Thus the sold-out part, eh? It occurred to me that he told me this inside of his very opulent home, and perhaps he was so beholden to the system because it's rewarded HIM handsomely. His 'system' bought and paid for him.

It goes back to Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. Stay within the boundaries and don't upset the establishment and you'll prosper. But look too deeply beneath the surface and question the tilted game, and you'll be punished.

Rush's 'Subdivisions': '... In the high school halls; in the shopping malls...conform or be cast out'

I prefer Thoreau's idea that the only place for an honorable man within corrupted society is 'cast out'. When that system provides the powerful with the means to use the law as a bludgeon to extort from the poor, that system is illegitimate and as Thoreau said '... but I will still make what use of her I can...'

The good part of all of this is that it was a stark reminder of why I set out in the first place. The honeymoon period is ending and I believe now I'm starting to focus more on the bigger picture; playing the part of the observer rather than adapting survivor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

6/20/08: Highway 1-Big Sur to Santa Cruz

We all got up at about the same time and just relaxed, taking it easy. I was feeling like a lame horse because of my feet as was beyond grateful that I was with these folks and not walking today! We eventually got on the road and headed toward Monterey and Santa Cruz where Florian had made a reservation at the KOA for the weekend. After Big Sur and Carmel, the landscape gets drastically worse. Urban. Rather ugly, but of course after seeing the mountains falling into the sea the night before, it may have been relative.

It had occurred to me along the way how lucky I had been in getting this ride. The elevation gains, winding roads with no shoulders to speak of, and traffic would have made that a treacherous walk! Better for the many bike tourists I'd seen. I saw a couple of hikers from the comfort of the RV, but none seemed to be going as long as me. Small packs. I now understand why.

After Monterey we were driving toward Santa Cruz when suddenly I noticed smoke off in the distance. The closer we got the more apparent it was that it was a wildfire. Turns out, it was right off of Hwy 1; literally right next to it...and rather large and threatening some homes. Florian had lived in Greece for a time during some of their fires and noticed that it had three distinct burning points that were far enough apart that it appeared obvious it had been intentionally set.

We were one of the last cars to get through before they shut the highway down and it was VERY close to the exit to get to the KOA. As we were driving by, Veronika and I were both snapping pictures and as we drove down San Andreas Rd., we realized that the fire was VERY close to the campground! Right over a rather large ridge as a matter of fact, so we had a great view of all the smoke. The wind was blowing off the ocean pushing it away from us, so we were obviously in no danger but people were thrown into a frenzy by all the news coverage from San Francisco. In addition to the many water planes, there were news helicopters hovering overhead.

Florian and I decided to try to climb the ridge to see if we could get a better view, but didn't find a way. Shortly thereafter the winds died and they got the fire put out remarkably fast.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, although I did have another clairvoyant experience. I had a dream that the landlord whose house we had just vacated was going to try to screw us out of our security deposit. Sure enough, I get a call saying exactly that. Ever hear of charging someone $350 for HALF of a paint job? Are you KIDDING me? A $700 paint job??? When the place wasn't painted, or CLEANED before WE moved it? It's pretty obvious they're not renting the place and using our money to compensate for the fact they need to cover the second half of June's rent, since we moved out on the 15th.

I wouldn't mention it, but it's something I was planning on having, since we took VERY good care of that place. Losing that money could threaten the rest the trip if things don't go VERY well from here on out. Just another example of people taking advantage of others, figuring out a way to separate you from the money that's rightfully yours, all while hiding beneath a faux ideological umbrella and fake ethics & morality. Horseshit. These are the people to watch out for.

There's a phrase that says the dishonest man who wraps himself in the cloak of morality does more harm than the one who's naked in his immorality. Amen.

We pretty much just relaxed all day, and I spent much of the evening on the phone and unsuccessfully trying to upload a ton of pictures to my Picasa page. Hopefully soon!

We got to bed around 1am after chatting over a few more beers.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

6/19/08: San Simeon-Big Sur, CA: Florian

A day of contradictions. Maybe the most intense day of the trip as far as the extremes go.

I was up and sadly leaving my little piece of $2 camping Nirvana at about 11:30, loaded up with water and tea and back on Hwy. 1. I had learned from my neighbors the night before there would be a place in the next town, San Simeon, to get water etc., so I didn't fully top off and felt remarkably light as I left.

What a great walk the first few miles were! I stopped off at a Vista Point to rest my feet, and tend to the re-developing blisters. Such a beautiful place! The squirrels and birds are quite bold here. They'll literally climb on top of you to get peanuts. I got a picture of a squirrel doing exactly that, and actually reaching his front paws up to take the nut from my fingers. I dig squirrels. Sue me.

 I sat there for a good hour (not in a hurry, remember?) and got back at it. William Randolph Hearst's Castle was a few more miles further up the road, and is right across from W.R. Hearst State Beach, complete with a sign proclaiming him a 'Great Patriot'. I plopped down in the shade up against a fence, smoked, chugged water, and gazed from a distance upon the most extreme, blatant, and disgustingly obvious self-congratulatory display of Capitalism and the pursuit of wealth I could ever imagine. Hearst Castle. I really loved the irony of looking at this thing while sitting in the dirt beneath a tree next to my backpack, and called Karim to let him know.

For those that don't know, Citizen Kane was based not-so-loosely on WR Hearst. He was a newspaper giant in the early 20th Century. I couln't help but think how this man had built this Tribute to Greed by collecting five or ten cents at a time, mostly from working class people. I could envision someone locking themselves up in this cage and while dying crying 'Rosebud'...to no one.

I sat there for 45-minutes or so, then went inside the park and filled my water. Everything this time. I knew I was heading into the middle of nothingness, this would be my last chance to fill up and it was obvious that eventually the thumb would need to come out.

Onward I went, my feet feeling worse by the step under the increased weight of another full boca bottle combined with the heat of the asphalt beneath the afternoon sun. I went another couple of miles and began fizzling out. I plopped down on the side of the road in a section that was coming out of a curve. I quickly realized the ignorance of this and moved on. Shortly thereafter I felt something in my left foot...the same place I was feeling discomfort earlier in the week before I had removed the inserts. I had re-inserted them before I'd left but this was different. It felt like something was stinging or biting me inside the boot! I stopped, found nothing and realized the tendinitis had returned. Grrr!!!

I began looking for places to bed down for the night, found a good spot that seemingly had been used before for either sleeping or hiking and resolved to keep trying to catch a ride until dark. If I got nothing, I'd sleep there.

I sat down back on the road, put on my Mp3 player, and sat in virtual isolation. Highway 1 traffic is pretty steady early in the day, but I'd noticed that it quickly and steadily fades around 6 or 7 pm;  trickling down to next to nothing on the northbound side... since most people (except for me) travel it going south. Oddly enough though, with my feet blazing with blisters and other various pains and next to no hope of a ride, I felt oddly at ease. An intense calm came over me. I realized that I'd seen and expected this simple vision for a few years. Here it was. I had plenty of water and food, and was learning to just 'trust it'. Things work out. A nice moment of clarity.

After an hour or so with no ride, I decided to walk a bit further to see if there were better spots to camp, ignoring the lesson I thought I'd learned in Cambria. I was just compelled to keep going. The sun was much lower, so the heat from the road had diminished making things a bit easier. I got back into a nice rhythm, and spied a lone pine tree wayyyy up the road where the coast cut north. I thought that would be a wonderful place to catch the sunset so I thought I'd do my best to get there racing the sun.

Walking was notably easier at this point than I expected it to be, and made pretty good time. I got to my lone pine tree which turned out to be another Vista Point and, since I had gotten no rides with my thumb out the whole way there, I resigned myself to crawling beneath this lone pine and sleeping, despite the 'no camping' signs that were posted all over the place.

I wasn't 'camping' I told myself; I was 'resting'. Prophetic and a bit of unknown foreshadowing for later in the trip!

Turns out it didn't matter.

I had walked 30 ft. into the Vista when I spied an RV on the horizon. Against all logic, I had a split second vision of this being significant. No one ever believes me when I talk about these things, but they're real! I told myself, I'll try ONE MORE time to get a ride, and if it doesn't work, screw it. I'll sleep beneath the tree.


They stopped.

Inside was a German couple from Munich along with their 4 year- old son. Florian asked me where I was going, and I said as far north as I could. He said they were just going to the next campground, but I could ride if I wanted to. I figured at worst I'd have a decent place to sleep, so I eagerly took it.

His wife, Veronika, let me in and we headed up the coast as the sun was dropping beneath the Pacific horizon. Their son, Paul, just stared at what he must have thought was a strange road-creature that just climbed aboard! He was funny.

Florian offered me a Miller, which may have been the best tasting beer I've ever had after being in the unusually hot sun all day! We continued on, enjoyed the increasingly intense landscape, and got to know each other.

What a nice family. So happy and they just seem to enjoy each other! They had rented the RV in San Francisco and driven down to Death Valley and were now heading up Hwy 1 back to San Francisco to catch a flight to Seattle on Tuesday.

It turned out that, fortunately (for me anyhow), all the campgrounds were full. Florian kept driving and driving until he finally found Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. It said the only openings were for 'self contained' campers and he needed to 'dump' the RV.

That was one of the funniest things ever, especially if you've seen the movie RV! They had used the wrong paper in the toilet and he had to unclog the septic system. When he did, all hell broke loose! He was doused in the chemical that disintegrates the...'waste'. I speak a little German, and caught him saying 'I have shit on my face!' I hated to laugh at him. I couldn't help it! He was good natured about the whole thing and able to see the humor in wearing 'liquid shit'! I'll never forget that!

He found an open campsite, pulled in and settled down for the night. Veronika and Paul went to bed rather quickly, and he offered me the RV's couch to sleep on. Florian and I sat by the fire talking while he tried to BBQ chicken and a pepper steak for me to eat. He's not the most experienced of BBQers so it took forever, and in the meantime he put 'Snatch' on his laptop for us to watch while I fought to stay awake. Funny little movie, and when the food finally finished I gorged myself!

Warm food: Gooooood!

We had a few more beers a a couple glasses of champagne, and I went to sleep contemplating how things just seem to work themselves out. They invited me along to ride toward Santa Cruz on Friday, and, since my feet were shredded, I gladly accepted. Quite an eventful day, and I had made some new friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

6/18/08: Highway 1-San Simeon State Park Day 2


At $2 a day? Hell yeah I'll stay another! Nick got up at about the same time the sun turned my tent into a sauna and pushed me out. We exchanged info, I got a picture, and he was off on the 50 mile ride home. A good guy; glad he was there.

Nothing much else to mention other than the fact I took my first shower since the day I left Santa Fe. To me anyhow, that was a MAJOR development. Another bike tourist came thru and stayed, an older guy who I tried to chat up but seemed to me to be an old paranoid hippie. The rest of the day was spent tending to my feet, collecting firewood from the unused campsites and the beach, rather than paying the Wood Nazi $or a bundle! I charged my cell phone at his little setup, and he went on and on telling me how the wood was brought in by a contractor and that's why it was so expensive. Typical. I wanted to laugh at him and ask why exactly I should be expected to pay for something I can just walk around and pick up. I let it go.

The full moon rose at about 10:00 while I was tending my fire, and it was AMAZING! I even got my little point- and- click to get some photos of it.

I chatted briefly with the neighbors about the abundance of law enforcement driving thru the campground (Well, 2 cars- I needed a conversation starter) and went to sleep.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6/17/08: Highway 1-San Simeon Beach, Cambria CA

I woke up at what appears to be my new usual time: 8:30. I slept well but woke up still pissed off at myself for my field-folly and losing SOG. I made a cup of nasty coffee then got up to answer nature’s call. I took about 4 steps to the other side of the bush, and guess what I saw…


I had slept literally just 10 feet from it! There was NO way I should have found that thing. Considering where it could have been lost AND my aimless wanderings and inability to find my original trails, it should have been gone. I know some people think life is full of silly coincidences. I’m not one of them. Remember when I said that when I met Pat, I wasn’t making a conscious decision? The same thing happened with my meandering path back to the SOG reunion...and would recur later in the week.

A great start to the day.

I got out of Cambria pretty much as expected, after charging my cell phone and taking my time getting out of town. My feet were bugging me quite a bit with blisters after wandering around in the fields the night before with feet soaked by the river the night before, so I set the modest goal of getting to the Hike & Bike supposedly a couple miles up the road. I wasn't really sure rather to trust the info and some people had said that many of these handy little outposts were shut down, so I packed extra water making the pack heavier and bugging the blisters even more. Just a nuisance really, but a constant one!

It occurred to me as I started out that I was FINALLY getting on to Hwy 1. I wasn't going to hitch; just walk no matter how long it took. The scenery and sounds/smells of the ocean right off the road was hypnotic. I stopped several times to take pictures and just enjoy it. The weather on the California Coast is surprisingly cool. Low-mid 70's for the most part because of the north-to-south currents bringing colder water from Alaska as cooling things. This is especially true in the evening and at night. It's as though there's a natural air conditioner!

Eventually, I had gotten far enough that when I 'crossed the bridge' the guy had told me about, the right turn was into a State Park. I initially thought the guy was an idiot for not simply saying there's a park up there and sure that there would indeed be NO Hike & Bike, but to my pleasant surprise there WAS one there. For $2 a night! Two fricking dollars! Plus there were showers and access to the ocean. I was quite pleased.

I set up camp enjoying the fact that I wasn't stumbling thru a field to do it nor was I hiding from anyone!

Shortly after I was settled in, a bike tourist came in and began setting up his camp. We got to chatting and I learned that he was from Arroyo Grande, which is 50 miles south, a bit past San Luis Obispo. His name is Nick, and it turned out we had a lot in common. He had recently decided to quit his job with a map company because he simply hated the 9-5 life. When he tried to resign, the owner asked him if he just wanted to do it 6-months out of the year- giving him spring/summer off. Good for him! So, he's off until October and was at San Simeon on an overnight bike trip. I built a nice fire from the extra wood people had left lying around, and we just chatted and watched the nearly full moon until midnight or so. A VERY enjoyable night.

Monday, June 16, 2008

6/16/08: Highway 1-San Luis Obispo to Cambria

Pat woke up at about 4:30 to relocate the RV from the Distribution Center back to the parking lot where we originally met. We slept a few more hours then got up, had some coffee and chatted a bit more before I started packing up my stuff to hike toward the library to upload pictures and update this.

While I was packing my things up outside Pat saw his ‘boss’ spying on us from the bank parking lot. He came over and told Pat that I ‘couldn’t be there’. After the conversations we had the night before about ‘throw- away people, this pissed me off royally! You’re worth nothing in this country unless you’re lining someone’s pockets with your cash. I kept my mouth shut for Pat’s sake, and for that reason alone, but it would have been nice to ask that Fascist exactly what I was hurting!

Pat gave me general directions to the library, we exchanged information, and I hiked toward downtown feeling grateful I had had the chance to spend some time with someone so real who had so much to offer.

After about an hour I came upon the library only to find it was CLOSED! On a MONDAY! Not just this Monday; every Monday. And not just this branch, EVERY damn library in the state thanks to what one guy called Arnie’s Budget Cuts. Apparently California’s not so fiscally sound. This set the tone for my short time in San Luis Obispo, henceforth called SLO so I seem hip.

I figured since I was downtown I’d try to find a used bookstore to get a map of SLO County, and a Laundromat to cleanse my dirty self. The map I found, but when I went into the Visitor Center to ask about the Laundromat, I was informed that Laundromats aren’t ‘Chamber Members’ and, since they don’t let the Chamber of Commerce extort money from them, no information was to be had about their locale. Let’s see if I have this straight…

Visitors Centers aren’t centers to provide information for tourists about attractions and services to be found in these towns. Their places to funnel clueless visitors into ONLY the places that pay them to refer those who don’t know any better. Sound about right? The Chamber of Commerce can kiss Todd’s ass. I’ve dealt with these sweaty, slimy people for years when they came into the radio stations to use the airwaves to prostitute themselves. Never have I had much good to say about them and now I know my instincts were right. If I see a ‘Chamber Member’ sign in the door, I’m walking on by-Fascists!

One good thing that came from that visit is that I became aware of the best part of SLO: mass transit. I found that I could take a bus from SLO to Morro Bay, a good 15 miles, for $1.25- NICE! So, I did. Funny thing happened too: they dropped me off a block from the Laundromat! HAHA!! Clean clothes for me!

I did my laundry and tried unsuccessfully to find Internet access for less than $7 an hour. I began to walk to the north along Main St., which ran parallel to Hwy 1 and realized the bus continued to go further north. I called, got the schedule and pickup point, and plopped down on the bench for about 2 hours waiting. A long time yes, but worth it because it would take me all the way to Hearst Castle if I wanted it too and I wasn’t encouraged by how far the Morro Bay Sprawl seemed to go.

I eventually got on the shuttle and asked the people on the bus for information about where to get food and water, They all said Cambria was my best bet, and one guy told me there was a Hike N Bike a couple miles north of Cambria where I could camp for like $3 a night. All about that! I took their advice and got off at the grocery store, taking a bag of cherries that were given to me by my new info-giving friend. God they were good!

I went into the store and loaded up on tortillas, peanut butter and Cliff bars and was off, I thought, toward the campground. But somewhere along the way I thought it a good idea to stay close to town so I could get the Internet access the next day not knowing when my next chance would be. Fateful decision.

I started looking for a place to camp, first on a bike path then through a nature preserve. I followed a creek as far As I could until I either had to cross it or turn around. I should have turned around. But… it didn’t look so deep so in I went…and out I came with soaked feet.

I wasn’t too worried about it because in front of me was a HUGE field that looked promising (see pics) and I was sure I’d find a place there. I did. I found about 200 of them, but for whatever reason I kept looking and looking for something better. Just couldn’t choose. It was getting steadily darker and as it was I traversed the WHOLE field, and I mean to tell you it was HUGE!

Eventually I found myself back on the other side of the creek (uselessly wet feet!) near a church. I must have walked another 3 ½ miles needlessly and the wet shoes were causing my feet to blister much more quickly than normal.

I stopped right next to the church, pissed off at myself and decided that I’d just find a suitable place to throw down the Thermarest and sleeping bag. When I found it I looked down and noticed my SOG multi-tool was gone!! Now, this made me sick! Not only was it expensive, but useful as hell! I called myself everything in the world but a white male, and hoofed it back toward the church with my head lamp hoping against hope I’d find it…across another smaller field this time!

Of course there was nothing and I lamented my lost friend, and lost money. While I was next to the church I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask God, whatever He is, to help me find it. Still nothing. At this point…and here it is again…I just went numb in my mind and began walking; just as I had the night before when I'd met Pat. I walked all the way back across that field… again… not really following a set route; just walking. I was just compelled to do it and was thinking that if I went with it I’d find my little friend.

It turns out I didn’t, but I found my nesting spot for the night and went to sleep really mad at myself…

Sunday, June 15, 2008

6/14 & 6/15/08: San Luis Obispo, CA-Pat

In a rush again! These library policies can kiss my butt!

I did indeed leave Santa Barbara on Saturday. I decided to try to walk the beaches as far as they take me, but neglected to take TIDES into account! Almost got pinned in against a cliff after sitting on the rocks enjoying the views for about an hour.

I find out later that the off- shore oil wells pump 'tar' into the water that winds up on the beaches. Guess what I was sitting in while on the rocks! My pants are hosed...

It was an enjoyable day though. After I left the beach, I took some trails along the cliff edges and around a golf course and found where Hwy. 101 meets up with the main drag. I didn't feel like hitching, or hopping on the freeway so I crossed some train tracks, and followed an unknown road until I saw a sign for a public beach that was adjacent to the Bacara Resort. Quite an upscale place, so I got some funny looks from some of the very few people I did see, but they were nice.

Eventually, as dusk came along, and I finally did something I've always wanted to do. Build a campfire on the Pacific Coast. Not really sure why, but I was ecstatic! I called everyone I knew to make sure they understood how happy I was.

I was going to camp on the beach, but following the advice of some other bonfireists I climbed a hill at about 12:30am, and simply climbed under a pine tree with just the Thermarest. I eventually dug out the sleeping bag and slept quite nicely!

Sunday was spent sitting on the beach for the first 4-5 hours of the day enjoying the day. That's the nice part about having no schedules to keep, or places to get to. You can look around at where you are. I laid out the socks and shoes to dry, and eventually decided to try my luck on Hwy. 101 and get a bit further north. I had been fighting tendinitis on the top of my left foot that was triggered I came to discover by my inserts. I decided to take it easy for a day or two and give it a chance to recover.

I got to 101 and walked for a couple miles until the freeway designation ended, then thumbed it. After about 30 minutes a woman turned around and offered to take me as far as San Jose. She was nice enough, but annoying. There was no way was staying in that car to the San Fran sprawl! So, I asked her to let me off in San Luis Obispo and she did after buying me Burger King.

Meet Pat

I went into the gas station, and loaded up on water thinking I'd be walking and camping, but as it turns out I went about 2 blocks until I ran into a Goodwill Donation Center that was staffed by a guy in an RV. I didn't really make a rational or conscious decision, but I just turned left and crossed the road to chat with the guy and maybe get some information on what lie ahead, and where to camp for the night.

Pat was a bit leery of me at first, but warmed up quickly when he figured out that I wasn't in search of money, booze, or cigarettes. I told him what I was up to, and as it turned out he had done his share of hitchhiking and used to ride Harley's all over the place with his late wife.

After maybe 5 minutes of chatting he wound up inviting me to stay with him in his little RV for the night. I was a bit apprehensive at first; hearing Surplus Supply Dennis' warnings about how crazy the 'homos' in California are and how they like hitchhikers.

Dennis is an idiot.

Eventually, Friar Chris and Walkingman Gary's voices won out, and I took him up on it.

Pat wasn't living in his RV. He had a place in North San Luis Obispo County, but 60 miles away. With gas quickly approaching $5/ gal., he simply could not afford to make the commute so he slept in his RV parked between 2 trailers at the Goodwill Distribution Center, and went to his regular job from there. He is 60 now, and had a hard time finding work after having to go on disability for his knees because no one wanted to take on the liability when they could just hire a younger person to drive trucks. He had even a harder time getting help from the state. As he put it, if you're between 55 and 65, and haven't 'made it', you're expendable and thrown away.

That may sound melodramatic to those who thrive on exploiting the poor for profit, or believe in the predatory capitalist system, but I've seen other examples first hand, including my own mother. Pat lost his wife in the early 90's, and ever since and by his own admission has been lost. He has children who are quite successful, but he refuses to burden them with his troubles, because as he said they'd go ballistic to know their father's living in an RV with no bathroom.

I'm really developing a great disdain for you 'economic predators' who thrive at the expense of the poor while hiding beneath the shade tree of law, policy, and worse yet 'The American Way'.

These are the things we talked about all night. I loved it. Along the way I realized I'd neglected to tighten Chris' Boca bag lid all the way, and as a result soaked all my clothes, among other things, in my pack. Pat offered to take me to the laundromat, and while we were there we ran into a guy who was about my age and absolutely blindly proud of his ignorance.

He walked into the laundromat strutting proudly and saying 'Whuddup Dogg' to everyone. I wanted to grab him by the throat and punch him in the eye, but didn't. I just said 'woof' and glared at him, trying to make it VERY obvious I wanted him to stay away from me. I REALLY wasn't in the mood to deal with a 40 year old guy with the mental capacity and maturity of a 13 year old, and my testosterone level had risen to the point that I would have hurt him if he provoked me.

That sort of surprised me! Pat was sitting in the RV it turns out watching the whole thing. When the guy decided to smoke his blunt at the front door and start prancing around like he thought he was Snoop Dogg, I had just about had enough of him. Fortunately, the clothes were dry and I was ready to go. When I got in the RV Pat said, 'it looked like you were about to kick that little fucker's ass, and I was about to join you!'

We got on very well before this, but after Pat really seemed to warm up to me. He has the same, as Bruno defines it, 'thirst for authenticity' as I do. I can tolerate almost anyone who's who they are, to a point, but have next to no tolerance for fronts and displays. Our conversations were fantastic as we half-watched SNL on his 4'' TV and finally got to sleep at about 1am.

Pat has had an interesting life, and is madly proud of the fact that all he wants to do is work and 'find his place in old age'. I respect the hell out of that. It's hard to do though when your body fails and no one within your vocation will hire you and get no state support as a thank you for paying taxes for 40+ years.

I really felt grateful that I had crossed that road because the perspective he offered me was priceless. There'd be more of that to come later in the week...guidance from somewhere; seeming coincidences that defy logic.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

6/14/08: Santa Barbara, CA

In a bit of a hurry again! Yesterday was incredible. I met up with my Couchsurfing host, Chris, at the library when she got out of work and she brought me along on an INCREDIBLE Sierra Club hike that she was taking into the Santa Barbara foothills. It was a pretty steep hike, but the conversation with Chris and her friends coupled with the vistas were terrific! I wish the pics of the coast has come out better, but I was thrilled to be up there!

We then came to her house in Isla Vista, near UCSB, where she was hosting a potluck and I got caught up on my phone calls. Chris and her family were excellent hosts, and her friends, including the couple we went to hang out with after the potluck, made me feel like I have been in Santa Barbara for years.

I managed to take the 2-minute walk down to the seaside last night, and with the moon reflecting off the water realized that I had gotten "there". It was awesome!

Not sure what's happening today. I connected with another Couchsurfer who's taking a hike near Ojai overnight and invited me to come and camp out with him. if I can get around in time, I think I'll take him up on it!

Santa Barbara's been great, and has become one of my favorite places in the short time I've been here. Good choice!!


Friday, June 13, 2008

6/13/08: Friday the 13th on the California Coast

Day 11
Santa Barbara, CA

Arrived in Santa Barbara this afternoon after about 25 hours on the Amtrak. Funny how this decision came about, but glad it did! The ride here via the Southwest Chief and the Surfliner was fine; relaxing. Gave me time to think a bit and would have helped me to get prepared, but I'm already there. Weird.

I did spend 3 hours at Union Station in LA, and about an hour chatting up a guy who claimed he used to be Alice Cooper's guitarist. It appeared to me that everyone near Alameda St. downtown was a musician, at least in their own minds if not reality. He was a decent guy though, and actually enjoyed the chat.

This part of California is amazing! Definitely not disappointed with the scenery, and there are state beaches everywhere from what I could see on the train. Better than Florida in the respect that both the temps and humidity are lower. Santa Barbara is clean beyond imagination, and reminds me a bit of St. Augustine, without the 600 year old buildings. Probably better comparisons to be made, but I'm in a hurry. Only 30 minutes at the library.

I'm staying with a Couchsurfer tonight who happened to work here at the library, so no drama meeting up with her. She and her husband have 2 boys, 17 & 21. She's taking me on a hike w/ some Sierra Club friends into the foothills when she gets out, then I was invited to take part in a potluck she happens to be hosting tonight. Free Food!! yay!!

I'll try to get out of town early tomorrow, unless I can find another host. Santa Barbara is worth seeing more than just a quick walk thru. Interesting people it would seem also. I was just "exposed" to the most in-depth conspiracy theory I've ever heard while waiting for the computer!

I'll let ya know...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

6/12/08: Changing Santas

I'm back at it... finally. Stay tuned for where, but here's a lyrical hint:

"... all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray...."

I'll update again Friday or Saturday. Hope you're well!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

6/5/08: Santa Fe-Metaphorical Whirlpool

Ever get that feeling as though something is bound to your leg dragging you to the bottom of a lake? Santa Fe feels that way, much the same way home did 11 years ago. It's a very difficult place to escape from once it has you in it's grip.

I really intended to leave yesterday, and was packed to do so, but circumstances here are a bit--tense. Laina is moving on the 15th, and she's had a harder time than imagined finding a place to move TO, and even getting some of the idiots that live here to even return phone calls...on their own rentals! I essentially didn't know what I was returning to. So I've gotten involved in helping her find a place, pack, and dealing with others complacency. Not how I pictured my week going.

Something I've never been able to grasp: the "Land of Manana" thing; procrastination on steroids. It's initially quaint. Then infuriating. Especially when you're actually trying to get something done. That's why it took 3 weeks to get phone service in Taos, 5 weeks for (crappy) Internet, why our land-line went out every time it rained and no one from Qwest would bother to do anything about it until it began making phantom 911 calls (we canceled service), and on and on.

But it looks as though I'll be setting off soon. By Sunday. Every thing's still packed and waiting, and the positive aspect of this little sojourn is that I've reinforced my attitudes and my motivation is higher than ever, although of course I'm fighting the 'comfortability' of familiar surroundings.

Time to vent.

I've gotten emails from a few people who have chastised me for coming back here so soon. Remember, however, how easy it is to judge some one else's actions wile sitting in your own comfy chair! It's obvious that to some people this is reality TV, and I get that. However, this isn't fabricated drama written to increase viewership or solely provide entertainment. If I wanted to keep producing that shit, I'd have stayed in radio and be eating much better!

The tricky thing about publicly documenting this is that you have to be careful whose insight you value and learn to take the opinions of the others with a smile. I always ask myself how much the 'Reality Show Couch Critics' are putting out there, and rather they'd welcome the same type of critique in their own lives if their ideas were laid open for the world to see.

No. Of course not! They be indignant! It's easy to criticize someone else's work when you're doing none of your own, eh?

I saw this coming because Chris went through similar stuff on his trip. It's the problem with the anonymity of email and the illusion that you're reading some fictitious travel novel, or watching some fluff piece on the Travel Channel. I welcome opinions, don't get me wrong. But, I'd encourage you to offer something personal from your own life up for critique if you presume to dissect mine. Or at least be constructive and offer some original insight as a companion to 'opinion'.

Feeling a bit defensive today, ain't I?

On that note, I REALLY should have left early Monday morning!

I've had a chance to contemplate a lot of things over the past few days through the "Sweet Perspective of Melancholy". (How dramatic!) It's pretty apparent to me that, despite what YOU may think about my Interlude, this trip is going to define much more than I even realized--and this is a big part of it.

The prospects of returning to Santa Fe after this is 'done' seem smaller than before. Laina's adapting to and preparing herself for that; something I sensed even before I left Denver the first time. No one can blame her for that, and I'm GLAD she is! She's growing roots into the High Desert, and it seems as though mine are slowly being pulled from among the sage. She says that she noticed the 'feeling alive' part (previous post) of my short little adventure so far, and she expects this to last much longer than we'd discussed, or I even expected.

This coming from the woman who saw my Epic Bike Tour last 3 days! And most of the other plans I've made over the past 4 years fall to oblivion.

She also seems to think that in the end I'll return to Denver, while she has NO intention of leaving here. I want to argue, and I rightly point out, that nothings been decided but my contradictory arguments are prefaced with: 'You may be right--I've thought about that'.

Sometimes people just grow apart, and the realization that you want different things is tough to digest, especially after seven years. I'm afraid that this may be exactly what's happening, and this is the crescendo of our personal overture that's been building since August, 2004.

"I told you!!"

Shut the hell up. Or I'm coming to live with you and I'll offer uninformed commentary on what YOU should do!

But, things can change. I've been a testament to that gospel many times since 5/20.

If this does happen, and we go our separate ways, I'm glad it was done in the right way. Not out of anger which is usually the case, but out of a mutual respect for what each other wants out of life and what we believe their lives should mean. We both want what's best for the other person AND ourselves. For that I'm glad. Now we'll see how this plays out indefinitely...

As for the next chapter on the road, I've begun to consider going east again...WAY East. Florida. US 17 is a great road in E. Georgia and S. Carolina that's runs closely to US 1, which takes you all the way through Maine. Then there's New Hampshire/Vermont and a road that runs along the Hudson River into Mass. Then maybe Chris's friend Gus could be added to my ever-growing yet nonexistent list. I believe I'll probably figure out a way to get to I-40, and take stock and follow my Indian name I was given while, of all things, I was working as a carnie: Runs With the Wind.

What a great story that was...maybe I'll pass it along sometime. I mean really, how many of you have had a spiritual experience as a traveling carnival worker in New Orleans?

Anyone? Anyone? Dyson? Anyone?