Jul 2008

Redwoods, heat and vegan fairies

If I were actually - going - camping, I'd never go to a KOA. But being solo on the road and needing a place to set up my tent at night, the KOA is perfect. They tucked me in tonight at the one in Eureka, California, between three bikers from Michigan and a couple from The Netherlands, all on Harleys. The families across the "street" probably think this is Rebel Row. Fact is, it's 10:20 and I'm the only one still awake.

The guys from Michigan are all in their 50's or better. Sounds like they've had some good long days coming across the top of America, and they're smoking weed and cigars and drinking beer, which put them all out half an hour ago. Before they passed out, though, they had a chance to discuss and solve my mysterious electrical problem.

Henk's been running like a dream since leaving Venice five minutes after the earthquake on Tuesday that's in all the papers today. But this very odd thing has been happening where occasionally when I turn the key to start the engine after filling up, I get nothing. No power, no battery, it's as though Henk just decided to die. I try again and still nothing. I wait, take a deep breath, pray, and voila! The lights go on and I quickly pull the throttle before he decides to die again.

This actually went on the last couple of days on the road at the end of my last trip, but it didn't seem dire enough to do anything about it because I was always able, after three or four tries, to get Henk started. I described my problem to one of the dudes next tent over, a tall redhead with a thick mustache, a fat cigar and a blue bandana. Of course, when I tried to show him the problem, Henk started right up and I was made to look like a crazy person. He got down on the ground on his back and peered into Henk's rusted belly looking for a clue. He fiddled with some greasy wires with his filthy fingers, puffed on his cigar with a puzzled expression and offered up all sorts of possible explanations, none of which rang true to me.

When I came back from a walk, the three bikers called me over to their fire claiming they had the solution. A guy with white hair and glasses and a long white beard, who looked like Doc from Snow White if Doc were a biker, said the wires in my starter switch were overheated and just needed to cool off for a few minutes before they'd make the connection. It made sense because each time it failed it was after a long stretch of riding, when the bike was good and hot, and if I prayed - ie "waited for the wires to cool" it would go again. Well, halleluja! This was not a problem after all, but a blessing. It would force me to slow down and stretch, drink some water, breathe before getting back on the road after fillups.

I camped last night just south of Half Moon Bay on Highway 1. The KOA was high-season packed and smelled like sewage. But I was barely there 12 hours. Tonight's much more comfortable.
I stopped in on my way through San Fran to see my friends at VegNews and before I knew it, lunch was served. Every day at 12:30, one of the staff makes a beautiful vegan meal and they all sit down to share. I was the honored guest today and fully enjoyed Lisa's black bean and corn burrito with a lovely fresh salad and a killer dressing made with coconut milk yogurt, balsamic vinaigre and tamari. When I hopped back on my bike 3 hours later, I felt like I'd been in the company of vegan fairies. They're all so lovely and made me feel so welcome.

It's getting chilly here in Eureka outside my sleepingbag. So I will be the last to turn in on Rebel Row, but not the last to turn in at KOA. There are still some screeching kids playing in the Kamp. Tomorrow I'll take in some more giant redwoods on the 1 to Crescent City, then inland through Oregon's beautiful southwestern forests.


Great Spirits, love and well wishes

I'm 20 hours from departure with many things left to do. My warm clothes are getting fluffed in the dryer, my electronics are charging, I'm taping up maps that have been shredded by overuse and I'm cleaning the house.

But mostly, I'm getting mentally and spiritually prepared. I slept til 10:30 this morning, knowing it was my last deep sleep in a cozy bed with duvet and pillows for a month. It was blissful. I dreamed of cats, not my own, coming into the house and getting chased out by my fat, territorial Willow Green Eyes. Around noon, a skinny male cat I'd never seen before came into the house! Luckily Willow didn't notice and he ran back out into the garden at the first sight of a human. Strangely, no neighbour cats have ever entered our house before. It's good to know my spider sense is activated. Intuition is my best defence on the road.

People love to warn me of all the things that can go wrong. I wonder what that is. Fear, I suppose. But I find it odd, because to fear for someone else, I think, is merely transferral of one's own fears. I'd rather one not think of me at all if they're going to be creating fearful thoughts.

I'm glad my parents weren't that way. My mom tells a story of doing the dishes one lazy summer afternoon when I was two years old and looking out the kitchen window to see me hanging upside down from a tree. She knew there and then that she could decide to worry sick about me, or trust that everything would be ok. Thankfully for me, she chose the latter. We're all born with wings. The greatest gift a parent (or friend, or spouse) can give is to allow us to keep them in a world that constantly wants to clip them.

Along with all the warnings, I'm also receiving some beautiful love and well wishes for the trip - even from people I've never met. I just read over my blog from last year in anticipation of what lies ahead. My favourite blessing is still Johnny McPhee's from Williams Lake, "May the Great Spirits bring you guidance and a safe journey."

If you're following along, please send me this blessing. And to you also -

May the great spirits bring you guidance and a safe journey!

Here we go again!

It's that time of year again when I feel the spell of the Yukon working its magic from afar, luring me from southern comforts with promises of long days of solitude and midnight blue sunsets.

Jim from
Harley House Calls came by a couple of weeks ago to give Henk some good tlc. He spent three hours draining water and sediment from pipes, cleaning carbs, changing fluids and tuning the engine, then took him for a spin and assured me Henk's good to go - again!

After spending 800 bucks twice at the local Harley shop and not getting anything beyond mediocre service at best, I knew there had to be something better out there in L.A. I called around and googled around and finally found Jim. He runs Harley House Calls on his own, has been working on bikes since the age of 15 and knows his way around a V-twin. He's legit and he's a sweetheart. At $90/hr you won't find anyone better.

So Henk and I are preparing for another northern sojourn. We leave in a couple of weeks, north to Dawson City, legendary gold rush town, home to 20-30 thousand stampeders at the turn of last century, subject of many a Robert Service poem, and adventure town every summer four years running to Henk and me. I'm already looking forward to the bath house at the River Hostel. I may not shower between now and then.

I haven't planned my route yet. North through San Fran so I can visit my pals at
VegNews and perhaps take a day right off the top to soak off the past in the naked pools of Harbin - or soak in the past depending on my mood. I'm not sure if I'll head east from there, then north, or up the coast and in at Portland or Vancouver.

No doubt, I'll be taking the road less travelled, making movies along the way, humming to myself, singing inside my helmet, loving being in my element.

I never expect a perfect ride - something unanticipated always happens. Though a rescue is always dramatic, I hope not to need one this time.

As always, I'm looking forward to actual weather - with an asterisk. I don't exactly look forward to cats and dogs downpours while riding, or as I had last September on the Alaska Highway, snow, but I delight in the thought of a warm summer sprinkle and seeing my breath in the cool of the morning in my tent in Whitehorse.

Don't think I'm complaining, but the sunshine is relentless down here in Venice. It's a bit like groundhog day - sunny day after day, barely a cloud to break the bright blue sky's perfect California shine.

I also look forward to the real people of the north. People whose teeth are not veneered and aligned in perfect Hollywood white picket fence smiles; people whose breasts don't defy gravity like helium balloons; people who haven't had their knees tucked and their chins pinched and their skin lasered and their guts sucked.

Yes, the road beckons again.