Washington, 08/27-08/30/2010

Having arrived from Victoria B.C. in Port Angeles late in the evening we had appetite for a pizza and found a nice restaurant in the town. The waitresses were kind and interested in what we were doing so that in the end even their boss showed up towards 11 p.m. and invited us to stay the night in his house. What big eyes we made when we heard this and were very pleased to be welcomed  this way in the United States.

The day after we broke up to go around the Olympic peninsula: Again nature was wild, a scenery  to which we were already used  from the North: Spruce trees, rivers and lakes and at the ocean fog showed up for the first time because of the cold stream of water coming from the North. The fog helps the lichens and moss to grow all over the trees along the coast which gives them a look like a rainforest.
In Washington we learned that lumbering for them is a kind of cultivation of their land: We saw whole areas of forests that were made flat to the ground. Then others with a sign indicating when the area was reaped the first and second time and reforested the last time.

Up here the population density is low. There are some houses and small villages in the woods. This made me think that peeing beside the road - as all cyclists do - would not be any cause of a problem. Unfortunately I did it too close to a backyard, but still with some distance to a house and this  made a woman scream from the balcony and provoked her husband to come out with a pump action shot gun. I was so frightened that I jumped on my bike and rode so far that they could see me no more. To my surprise my companion did not follow me. Why? - When we talked about the situation some minutes later it turned out that he, due to his shortsightedness, did not see clearly enough what happened. At least this made me laugh, but all I was longing for afterwards was to leave that state.

Oregon, 08/30-09/05/2010

Finally we caught sight of the amazing Columbia River with Astoria at the end of the long bridge. Yes, we reached a new chapter: Oregon opened up and with it a road that wound impressively go along awesome cliffs and beaches and led us from spot to spot with spectacular views over the ocean. Sometimes we could even watch out for whales just from the rim of 101.

The end of the first day brought us to Canon Beach, a rich spot where, being rather late, we were caught by the darkness. We decided to do stealth camping between some rich houses because our observation told us that most of these buildings were occupied only during the holidays. We lay down along a wall without setting up a tent so that we could hardly be seen. - Nights like these sometimes cost some nerves but after some time one calms down knowing that the probability to be discovered is very small.

The following days we met a number of other cyclists heading South. We were happy because this was an enriching change. We could talk with several persons while riding, hear from their experiences and backgrounds and in the evenings we often saw many of them on State Campgrounds on the famous hiker biker sites again where you pay only five dollars to camp. It became our habit to have a beer in the evening to calm down and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere under the stars sometimes sitting around a fire. Some even carried an emergency beer as they called it with them. :-)
Like this the way along the coast of Oregon towards California became a rolling party. In the mornings our espresso boiler became a main attraction and we enjoyed serving the others with fresh boiled coffee.

After some time we became a team with Julius, an American guy from Spokane, whom we liked a lot.
First the traffic along 101 was very busy and in addition some car drivers had no understanding for cyclists. But after the Labor Day it changed a lot so that only a small percentage of cars was left.

I like to remember Oregon’s 101 because it led us through a diversified countryside with dry grassland, sand dunes and dense dark green woods along a deep blue coast with several mighty rocks in the sea. Not to forget the strong tailwind we had all along this coastline that pushed us luckily to California.

California – “It’s all down hill :-) and like Christmas everyday.” - 09/05-10/22/2010

The North
The long ride along the famous coast of California started with the awesome impression of the majestic redwood trees: Some of them are even older than 2000 years and a number of them so immense that we could progress only slowly through that National Park having the head in the neck so that we could admire all these giants. At the end of this day when we approached Arcata we even had to ride in the dark because we spent so much time with the redwoods.

Arcata, 09/07-09/09/2010

In Arcata, a University town in Humbolt County, we spent two days of rest in a shared apartment of a girl, Caitlyn, we had already met up in Prudhoe Bay. In their apartment one person had just left, so we even got our own room which led to a funny situation when a cleaning lady entered our room who thought to find an empty room but instead met three guys resting there. We could almost read in her face that she thought we were a bunch of illegal immigrants which is common to find here.

Vitek, we also had met in Prudhoe Bay, invited us to attend a local reggae night: The party was not bad, it reminded me once more of a common situation you often meet as cyclist traveller: When we were about to enter the porter wanted us to pay  the fee. Our friend, Vitek, did not like that so he told him that we had been riding since Alaska and backed it up by saying: “Look they even wear their bicycle shoes!” – The porter was impressed and gave us the favour of free entrance. That is only one of many examples we are experiencing. I have been riding by bike for more than ten years exploring the world but I am impressed more than ever how much favour we have had with the local people what makes me thankful to you, American people.

By the way, Arcata has a special reputation: We were told how much money there is in the local economy by marijuana cultivation. The plants are said to be hidden in private houses and the county is said to close both eyes knowing about the important source of money.
Coming November the State of California is voting about legalisation of marijuana as the first state ever. You can understand that up here in the North some people are concerned about a legalisation because they could lose their strange monopoly although you might think they would be first to vote for it.
To conclude, when we left the county riding through wood lands suddenly a whole area smelt strongly after weed even though we could not see anything but a house. With a big smile we rode on remembering the rumours which might have a true touch indeed.

From Arcata to SanFrancisco, 09/09-09/16/2010

Riding on together with Julius we intended to go on till San Francisco but got stuck already two days after: When we approached Legget in the midst of a redwood forest there was a rock festival on a camp ground. The live music was thrilling and the Harley people were excited to ride our recumbents. Like this the decision was easy to stop by here and even more when we were invited to rest in one of the few apartments of the campsite for free. Joe and Becky gave us everything we needed: Shower, food, beds and we were allowed to even take our bikes into their bed room. The two days with the rockers were exciting. We met a lot of funny people and liked their easy mood as well as the good live music we could listen to for free within beautiful redwood trees.

The next three days, from Legget to San Francisco, we went off the 101 to ride the No 1 at the very coast line. Having crossed the little pass the temperature dropped strongly. Along the coast might be a beautiful ride if there was no fog. What a beautiful situation when the road takes you above the foggy layer to dry grass land with green trees and brush. We remember an hour when we climbed up and suddenly to the sun and to warm air where a lot of birds enjoyed the thermal air lifting them up. What a beauty although we had to go downhill soon again.

Luckily the fog got less when we came close to the last hill ahead of San Francisco: The sun was already setting, the light reddish and the sea deep blue when we climbed from Bolinas Bay.
On the other side I could not stop marvelling when the view to the bay opened riding through the streets of Sausalito: By night we caught the first time a clear sight of the huge bay with all the illuminated towns around giving a nice clothing to the skyline of San Francisco in the centre. I was amazed riding these minutes even more when we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Before, we had ridden in the bay area in warmer air without any wind from the sea. Now, we suddenly came out of the wind bloc of the hill: The wind coming from the ocean was strong and cold. It drove the fog around the huge bridge into the bay where it dissolved soon, a thrilling ambience beside a highway with six lines and full of rushing cars, even more since it was already late and we started to lack concentration.
Having crossed the bridge we thought we would arrive at Julius’ friends soon. Nevertheless, the ride went on, I even had the impression it would never come to an end. Finally we decided to catch the subway in downtown. In the end we arrived tired but happy. It was exciting to explore downtown at the end of a long day at night. Days with this variety and such contrasts are rare.

Our stopover in San Francisco, 09/17-09/28/2010

Julius’ friends, Olga and Amelia, provided us best till we went on to Heidi and Martin, our “warmshower” hosts in San Francisco. As Swiss guys we found it very interesting to hear that Martin’s ancestors were Swiss too even more when he tried :-) to pronounce the names Trubschachen and Küssnacht a. R.

From here we discovered San Francisco’s different areas with its characters together with Julius and Mike, another “warmshower” buddy.
Attending the critical mass with Martin was indeed the best way to explore the city although perhaps also the craziest. The critical mass was done the first time ’92: It is the gathering of cyclists taking charge of the streets in a chaotic way. Luckily we were here just when the event took place. With best weather as well as with a rising full moon the mass of about 3000 people meandered through the stopping cars with its sometimes blank sometimes angry looking drivers.
We enjoyed it a lot being in charge of the streets as you can see in our movie we made although we also observed some dangerous situations.
At the end of such an evening it would be better not to show up by bike in the city what we unluckily did and reaped some crappy comment of a driver who had seen us attending before.

Another day we had the sad chance to see a young dead blue whale. It had been hit by a ship and had run now ashore where its burial in the sand was being prepared.

From San Francisco to Simi Valley, 09/28-10/11/2010

Heading South again, I, Chris, was a bit worried since Mexico came closer and I still was without a companion for the time after. We stopped in front of a grocery store, had an extended lunch with meal and watch out: Another cyclist stopped. He already had heard about the two Swiss guys heading South on their recumbents. When we both found out that we had the same goal and were both without a companion later the two of us were overjoyed. The guy we met is Matt who rode his bicycle all the way since Wisconsin. Since then we have been going on together and like it a lot.

Coming day, we visited a bicycle manufacturer, Calfee and Bamboossero, South of Santa Cruz. Their special idea is to use bamboo to build the frame’s rods and assemble it with epoxy and hemp. You could even describe it as the art of building bikes. We liked this kind of frames a lot. Thanks Sue for guiding us.

Next morning, we had breakfast beside the road on a trial head to the agriculture. While we were eating a girl arrived. Telling her about our plans to go on all along the coast we were well encouraged: “It’s all downhill,” we were explained :-) we liked her good-natured kind and still quote her a lot.

Climbing No 1 to Big Sur we met a twenty year old guy from London, Alfie, who started his ride in San Francisco and intended to reach L.A. on a fix gear bike without brakes. He wore all of his stuff on his back which gave him a look as if he had a sail put on. His comments and statements sometimes made us laugh for half a minute. We liked his twenty years a lot and he became part of our group for a week.

On a campground near Kirk Creek we made our first experiences with racoons: First we laughed when we saw a fat racoon running beside our camp. It seemed to have eaten already a lot of tourist food so we thought the well nourished animal would never get to our food. Well, some minutes later we found our bag of tortillas in some distance again but pulled to pieces.
It happened by coincidence on the same campground that we all drank the local water not thinking anything bad. When a guy saw that we had a few bottles filled with water with us here out in the sticks he gave us a lot of respect thinking we had brought with us all of them. When Reto and Matt mentioned with an easy mood that they had all of it from the bathroom he got alarmed and told them that one could not drink this water. How funny, now Reto and Matt immediately felt their stomacks hurting.

What do you do when you see fences all over beside the road and see the sun already setting? Like this we departed from San Luis de Obisbo but suddenly came across the local fire station. When we knocked at the backdoor a gentle fire fighter, Al, welcomed us and allowed us to camp on their ground and even to eat indoor. The only thing we were warned of were the harmless scorpions all around the house. We were shown some dried ones the fire fighters had caught. How funny, our kid, Alfie, he looked at us as if he had just got stung. He was so scared to sleep out there in the sand we would not be amazed if he dreamt of them :-).

The day after, the road led us to the beautiful vineyards around Solvang where the movie “Sideways” was shot. In the midst of this valley that resembled one big garden we were invited to camp on the vineyard ranch of family Davidge. Afterwards we could eat with them and Mr. Davidge mentioned that we could have a shower next morning. When we heard this we all looked at each others faces and could not withhold our laughing because everybody needed an emergency shower at the very moment which we finally all got. Thanks family Davidge. It was at this place that Alfie initiated our saying “Every day is like Christmas” which we can confirm and we still quote him a lot.

After having ridden for eight days in succession since San Francisco we reached Carpinteria South of Santa Barbara where we were invited to rest at John and Lucie’s beautiful beach house which we enjoyed a lot. The dolphins are swimming here right in front of the house and nothing is hiding the view to the ocean. Thanks, John and Lucie, for your hospitality.

Side trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, 10/11-10/17/2010
Since Reto’s cousin with his family lives in Simi Valley we left the coast to visit them. The first time we could catch Oranges in a back yard and press juice. Thanks family Diriwächter we enjoyed the days.
From Simi Valley we made a side trip by car to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas:
The awesome canyon was absolutely worthwhile to be hiked in one day from top to bottom and up although we with our bike-hike combined shoes suffered some blisters in the end.
Las Vegas with its modern splendour may have an attraction at first sight. Indeed it is thrilling to walk the old and the new strip. The question is only how much this may cost in the time we are living. To keep all that luxury going Vegas has more than one coal power plant. Through what we have seen I can understand much more why the United States blocked the climate protocols: Like a fist on the eye so is Vegas for Kyoto and the two of them represent two totally different attitudes.
Luckily we had met Ingo, the helicopter pilot, in Prudhoe Bay now we could spend three exciting days with him in Vegas. Thank you, Ingo.

From L.A. to San Diego, 10/18-10/24/2010
Back to the coast we met up again with Matt and passed L.A. along the beaches.
One of Matt’s friends opened us the door to the Navy Base of Camp Pendleton. On the base we could bridge a day of rain and got an impression of how close the war in Afghanistan and the time after the war in Iraq can come. Just the very morning when we arrived a friend of hers got killed and there were even ten more marines who had lost their lives the week before. We had never felt so close and also sad for them and their families.

The visit to San Diego was again a time which amazed us because we saw doors opening we never would have imagined before:
We had met a girl, Emily, at Big Sur who had invited us to stay in her shared apartment. When we arrived she invited some of her friends for dinner. We spent two funny evenings in a row. One of Emily’s friends, Brennan, had another friend who is a Navy on the huge aircraft carrier “Carl Vinson” that is right now located in San Diego’s Navy harbour. The immense ship had been part of “Desert Storm” in 1991 and was involved in the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. We got the chance to visit this aircraft carrier through this Navy: Corry and his friend Andrew showed us all around the inside and led us up to the top onto the airstrip. Wow, what a perspective we got to downtown with even the full moon at the back. Of course, I took the chance to walk on my hands here where normally the jets are taking off and landing. I might have been the first Swiss walking on his hands on the Carl Vinson :-).
Thank you, guys, for opening us this great door.

Since Emily left we could move to her neighbours whom we liked a lot. With Kevin we almost spent half of the first night talking about every kind of topic.
 The following day we visited the retired aircraft carrier “Midway” that has become an interesting museum showing many different aircrafts since World War II. In the evening we could join our hosts for a family party. It was the last evening in the United States and a good chance to say goodbye.