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Tour without a goal – 1 September 2014

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

On Amtrak near Stellacoom

Bottle in hand,
I climb out on this great rock.
Since Heaven and Earth began
it’s stood a thousand feet above the water.
I raise my cup and smile at the sky,
and the Heavens whirl until the sun shines out of the West!
I could sit here on this rock forever! hanging my hook
    like the wise men of old.
At least I’ll send this to those who came before me here:
may the music I make, make harmony with yours.
 
-Li Po

Day 60
After a fairly fitful night sleeping on my coach seat on the train, I spent the rest of this day riding up to Tacoma. Sunrise was a bit past 6am and in the pre-dawn light we moved on the western side of Mt. Shasta. From this angle the mountain looked spare and barren as when I rode past it’s southern extents but there are a few more glaciers visible on this side. As the sun rose this was quite a striking scene. I ended up having breakfast and lunch in the dining car and there they fill every table with guests. On the border with Oregon the train takes one valley over than the one I rode down on and it was a lush wetland and lakes fed by Klamath Lake. Whereas the valley I’d ridden down was dry, barren and almost desert-like. Water, the staff of life. North of Klamath Falls was some really stunning scenery as the train rode high up on a valley wall over trestles and through tunnels. The valley was filled with trees and the far walls were craggy cliffs. Further on it went to the east of Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters – neat to see stuff from the tour from this perspective. However best part of the Coast Starlight IMO is from Olympia to Washington.

down from the mountains
only mountains of the mind remain
like dragonflies over water

From Olympia the train cuts across the Nisqually Valley and actually onto the coast. I don’t know if it does much travel on the Coast in CA before San Francisio but this is the only section actually along the open water, albeit the Puget Sound, from that point on. The sun is always setting in this section as the train comes up in the summer and as you pass Anderson, McNeil and Fox Islands the sun was sinking toward the water. Finally after 26 hours on the train it pulled into Tacoma Station right on time. I had to get off at Tacoma because as far as I can tell only three WA stops have baggage service: Vancouver, Tacoma and Seattle. Happily my bicycle came through all right and with no hassles (especially as I hadn’t taken off the pedals as they require) and I very quickly straightened the handlebars and minimally strapped things on to ride the couple blocks to the bus station. There I had a few minutes to re-combobulate the bicycle a bit more and catch the bus to Lakewood where I managed to catch the last bus to Olympia. I can’t say how happy I was to see that that bus didn’t have a full bicycle carrier! Finally just around 9pm I was back in Olympia, exactly 60 days after I left.

beyond the vast expanse
the fiery sun sets
behind jagged hills

This was been a great tour with achingly beautiful scenery the whole way. I’m so happy I did it and now as autumn approaches, my favorite season, I’m happy to be back in the Pacific NW. Over the next days and weeks I hope to write a post-mortem and get some pictures uploaded. Stay tuned for all of that. Thanks to all who’ve read my attempts to capture this trip. I know I couldn’t do it justice and I hope that I at least gave an impression of it.

walking alone in the darkness
light pouring out of windows
one foot after the other

Posted from Olympia, Washington, United States.

Tour without a goal – 7 August 2014

Friday, August 8th, 2014

California

The clouds come and go,
providing a rest for all
the moon viewers.
-Issa

California
It turns out that the next campsite from Ashland is 70 miles away. I hadn’t quite realized this and I spent far too much time this morning running some final errands. I hit the road after 11 and it was already pretty warm. After returning the main route the bulk of this mornings ride was riding up to Siskiyou summit. Initially this was in. Winding canyon among the trees, including Madrona trees which I thought were a coastal phenomenon. This was nice riding in the shade even with the miles of climbing. Once out of the valley I was right next to I-5 and mostly rode on frontage and side roads to the summit. I passed the PCT and ran into no less than three hikers retuning to the route.

Looking Southwest from Siskiyou Summit

The view from the summit was all of dry land with sparse green trees and ahead mountains shrouded in smoke. There are fires ahead and there had been closed roads and campground and a lot of the PCT hikers in Ashland had come in from furthers away routing around the fires. After a steep descent from the summit the route actually runs on I-5 for seven miles. I’ve ridden on the five before and probably will again but I never love it. Happily here it was short and downhill and only a couple on ramps which are the scary bit. A mile or so on the five and I entered California. The third and final state of this tour.

Sun in the valley

As the descent wound down and I left the five I was now in this hot dry valley. The trees were gone and there wasn’t even much in the way of shrubbery. Bleak and dry and all the tiny towns were drying up as well. There was enough gas stations open I could get water but let me tell you I was happy as I genre began to climb at the end of the valley and trees and greenery returned. Clouds also appeared and there was this lovely scene of the sun behind a cloud with rays of light steaming in the smokey air above the distant hills. At around 70 miles I bailed off the route and rode about five miles off route I into the town of Weed where I stayed at a commercial RV Park/Campground. Not my ideal ‘ground but I was just happy to have a place to sleep.

nearly full now,
the moon rises a blurry orange
this smokey summer night

Posted from Weed, California, United States.

Tour without a goal – 6 August 2014

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland

Now is the winter of our discontent.
 
-Richard III, William Shakespeare

another day, another play
On my second full day in Ashland I really just spent the day doing the last of my errands and recovering, so there is little to report. However the fine folks who run the Ashland Hostel offered to try and get me rush tickets to
Richard III which was playing this evening in the outdoor Elizebethan Theatre. Well not only did they manage to get me a ticket in a really prime seating location but they gifted it to me as well. They truly have been most kind to me hear but this was unprecedented generosity. So a huge amount of thanks to them for this as well as all they other assistance they’ve rendered me while I was here.

Richard III

Richard the III is one of Shakespeare’s historical dramas and is of course this hugely intertwined complex of characters and histories. See the Wikipedia entry for more info on that as I sure can’t do it justice. The Allen Elizabethan Theater in Ashland is a fantastic theater model on the Globe where Shakespeare put on the bulk of his plays. So just being in such a location adds a lot to the experience. They had very nice stage design with period appropriate props and costumes and the lighting and sound was perfect as well. But it is all about the acting and it was just top notch here. The actor who played Richard was just amazing. Cunning, witty, clever and filled with malice and guile. He could telegraph to the audience when he was deceiving people or being disingenuous for his own gain. All the rest of the cast was excellent as well but he really carried the show. So really an excellent way to cap my time in Ashland. I’m definitely ready to get back on the road, but I’m feeling refreshed in body and mind after my stay here.

what am I doing amidst these throngs of people
when my heart is in the trees?

Posted from Ashland, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 5 August 2014

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Dragonfly

Prospero
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
 
from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

the path to joy and unity leads to a brewpub
I split this first day in Ashland taking care of needed business and participating in the activities of the town. I had several this I needed to,do,and first and foremost was the bicycle needed some work. Nothing major but my left pedal had been acting up since Crater Lake. It creaked and squeaked and occasionally would seize up. It seemed to recover somewhat but I needed to get it rebuilt, or more likely replaced. So I kept my eyes open for a bicycle shop and as I was walking around town looking for a place for lunch I spotted Piccadilly Cycles which had a clean, sort of Apple Store-ish layout and sold high quality commuter bicycles. So I went in and talked to the wrench there and as is so often the case on tour he was super helpful and immediately able to work on it. So I retrieved my Atlantis and he replaced the pedals with some decent cheap flat ones (I’ll send the Grip Kings back to Seattle where the fine folks at Free Range can rebuild them). He also lubed and adjusted my front derailleur cable which had become really stiff and hard to shift to the large chainring. Riding back to the hostel everything felt really smooth again (though missed the Grip Kings).

We Are Here

The rest of the afternoon was wandering through town and as I encountered needed places – the library, the post office, an outdoor shop – I stopped in and took care of business. It had been overcast and hazy but by late afternoon it had mostly cleared up and and warmed up. I returned to the hostel to relax for a spell before heading into town for the main event: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of The Tempest.

A scene from OSF's production of the Tempest (not my picture)

OSF has an outdoor Elizabethan Theatre and two more modern indoor theaters. The Tempest was in the larger of the indoor theaters which whole not as impressive as the outdoor space was nice and cool on this hot day. The production design of the Tempest was fantastic, minimal, spare, abstract: right up my alley. The stage was basically a triangle with a raised point toward backstage and two angled ramps at the rear. The floor was surfaced with various coverings and there were two holes on the floor that stuff could be raised and lowered from. The props were minimal and were primary four butoh dancers. The four wore grey pants and the traditional white body paint. They were in “relaxed” poses on stage from before the play started and maintained those, occasionally changing them until it properly began. They would serve as props – for instance as a rock the king leaned on, or a table that the prince and Miranda played chess on – as extras at times, but most often they were the manifestation of Prospero’s magic. He would snap his fingers and someone would fall asleep and a dancer would gently lay them down. They also served in a way as kind of a Greek Chorus or commentary on the proceedings. The lighting and sound effects were used extremely well to reinforce the titular tempest, Prospero’s magic and to enhance the strangeness of the island. The actors as one would expect were all top notch with Prospero and his captive spirit Ariel particularly standing out.

I’m no theatre critic and while I do love the theater have only see so much, but I thought this was a great performance and really am glad I went. I did think though at one point how strange it was to be seated among 800 people at a lavish (and plenty pricey) theatre when the previous day I was alone in the woods.

walking back from town
the moon sails out of the clouds
– a distant chorus of frogs

Posted from Ashland, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 4 August 2014

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Looking down the valley toward Ashland

Before I arrived
who were the people living here?
Only violets remain
-Issa

riding the open range
I had made reservations for the Ashland Hostel for today and the problem with reservations is you are constrained to make them! From Crater Lake to Ashland it’s a good two day distance but of course the campground isn’t right in middle. This led to today being a long ride, the longest so far of the tour. I got up early and left by 8am which is almost unprecedented for me. The morning ride was really nice, cool and all in the woods. There were two decent climbs up to plateaus and then long sections on the plateaus.

amidst the endless wash of the river,
the piping of a bird

This whole area was “open range” which meant there was cattle roaming around and twice I encountered cows right on the edge of the road. Each time as I rode past they checked me out and started to follow me as if I was the farmer calling them home. Most of the day was in the woods with these larger open pastures but after a nice section along the Rogue River I entered this very arid region where there was this wonderful scent of sage and rosemary. It was dryer and mostly dry grasses and knotty shrubs like rosemary bushes. Reminded me of Winthrop more than anything else.

Rogue River

Under the sun though still in haze from the wildfires the last climb of the day began. As I’d already done the major ascent to is bluff, this last bit wasn’t epic but a pretty continuous 750 foot climb. It’s always a bummer when there is no sign marking a pass or summit, but especially so when you are at Dead Indian Memorial Summit. From that high point of 5200′ the road descended through this crazy canyon, with narrow twisting roads and on this day a viscous sidewind. That and the traffic meant one had to be pretty careful. But at the bottom I left the route and rode 3-4 miles west, over the I-5 and I was I Ashland OR where I’ll spend the next 3 days at the hostel.

following the mountain stream;
getting nowhere

Posted from Ashland, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 3 August 2014

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

peaceful in mind
getting up going to bed
in mountains
-Santoka

lightning fires
Today’s long climb was back up to a Crater Lake and the high point on the rim of over 7000 feet. Of course I did this yesterday unloaded and I didn’t it find it too tough in that condition. It was definitely more work with e full touring load but not overly rough. On reaching the rim I did once again,pull off at the overlooks to enjoy my remaining time with this fantastic natural wonder. The day was somewhat overcast and it was still smokey but it was a lot more clear than yesterday. I could see much better in the crater and make out details of Wizard Island and the craigy rim reflecting in the deep, blue water

Another Side of Wizard Island

It was only six miles from reaching the rim to Rim Village where my time with Crater Lake ended. It was almost entirely downhill from here to. Prospect – over thirty miles. It warmed up as I descended and the arid high altitude landscape became more filled in with green undergrowth. I also began to ride along the Rogue River which is a rapidly flowing stream cutting right though lava rock. At one scenic viewpoint I could look right down steep rock walls to the white water below.

like beams of light
through stained glass
butterflies dance on the wind

Just outside of the tiny burg of Prospect is one of the rare Cyclist Only Camping: Buck Mountain Ranch. Basically a farm with a nice wooded area down by a creek that couple who run the place let touring cyclists stay at. Petty nice, the only downside being a huge pump continuously running to provide irrigation in this hot, dry summer. But not so bad, they turned it off around dark. I always really appreciate these people that make space available for touring cyclists.

Sun setting over Buck Mountain Ranch

through the trees
the sun rises a wavery red
in the cold smoke filled air

Posted from Prospect, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 2 August 2014

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Atlantis at Crater Lake

Along the flow I walk and stop
-Hōsai Ozaki

Crater Lake
Through the thin trees at my campsite the sun rose reddish-orange through a haze. Not having to pack up and such I had a leisurely morning but there was still going to be a full day of riding so by late morning I set off. It was about five miles to the park entrance – uphill but seemed so simple without the load. After getting into the park (a US$5 fee for an individual) the next interesting thing you cross is the Pumice Desert. The ground all reddish brown with only a few widely dispersed trees. It was like a Martian landscape.

the Pumice Desert

The morning was still misty and over the layered green hills it seemed to be flowing upwards. In fact it looked more like smoke than fog, or perhaps a mixture. Fourteen miles latter I reached the north rim of the crater and had my first view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. The crater was filled with mists and while it was quite magical and one could see around the entire crater, it was as if I was looking through gauze. The legendarily penetrating blue of the lake was obscured in the mists. I figured it’d burn off in the now fairly high sun as I rode around the crater.

Wizard Island through the trees

I set off on the narrow winding road that at times the edge went right to a drop off. But the cars were all driving slow and I had no problems on the loop. I stopped at all the overlooks and the fog was indeed burning off, but a haze remained. When I looked down into the endless forests at one point I saw what looked like plums of smoke threading up. Later on I talked to a guy sitting on an overlook with a walky-talky and binoculars and there were indeed wildfires going on. So this haze was only going to clear so much.

Waterfall

The rim loop around Crater Lake dives down between the arms and climbs back up again over and over again. It was a hard ride even unloaded and occasionally my thoughts turned toward the fact that’d I’d be riding up to the east rim tomorrow. Not the hardest climbing on the loop, but plenty of steep especially fully loaded.

Phantom Ship

As the day wore on the sun began to set behind the crater and light up the water. It had cleared as much as it was going to and there were now some glimpses of the startlingly blue lake. On the north side of the crater is the one path down to the water where people swim and there are boat tours – if you are willing to do the two mile, very steep climb. Equivalent to 53 flights of stairs they noted and difficult for some in the altitude. This was the most crowded part of the loop but it was too late in the day for me to attempt the trail.

Pure Water

From that point I was behind the crater for a spell then one last longish climb, a short descent and I had closed the loop. It was then fourteen miles almost entirely downhill back to camp. This had been a wonderful ride and there was so much beauty and I testing sights. It was hard for sure but one of the highlights of the tour.

through the haze of wildfires,
the penetratingly blue lake

Posted from Crescent, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 1 August 2014

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Lake Crescent

dawn trees dampened by passing rain
-Hōsai Ozaki

perspective
Overnight there was another thunderstorm the first one at. It. Massive flashes of lightning would light up my tent as if a gas lamp was momentarily flipped on. The thunder would echo up from the lake and roll over the hill above me. It rained just a bit awhile latter, but everything was dry when I got up this morning.

flashes of lightning illuminate the night
– back to sleep

I haven’t run into a lot of other tourons of late but today I encountered three. The first was a pair from France who I ran into at a store as I made my way back to the main route. These guys were riding San Diego to Canada as much on off-road routes as possible. They had full suspension mountain bikes and kept their gear in backpacks so they could ride single-track. They said they’d managed to stay 95% off of paved roads. Hard core. Riding away from the store, not yet on the main route I ran into to yet another touron. He was riding a fully loaded Long Haul Trucker with a backpackers guitar (or a rifle) strapped to the back. He was riding Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. It all helps to throw ones own activities into sharp relief.

clouds!
hurry up and cover that sun

Back on route this was one of those point-to-point sort of days. It was almost all in thin trees, with dry arid land and the occasional trickling stream. The roads became increasingly busy and the section on US97 was easy riding but pretty uninspiring. When I turned off on the hwy to Crater Lake the traffic dropped a bit but the road is ruler straight and climbs nearly 1500 feet. It looked like it just curved up into the skies. Plenty hot now, there were a few fluffy clouds that would occasionally block the sun. Happily it wasn’t as tough as it looked and soon enough I reached Cascade Summit at 5925 feet.

CascDe summit - though I was going west, but there was no sign

Just past the summit you can turn south for Crater Lake but I went north and descended a few miles to Diamond Lake where there is a free Hiker/Biker site right on the water. There I met the third touron I’d meet that day, Aaron who was riding the Sierra-Cascade route south to north. We went to the nearby pizza parlor and over dinner discussed the route and out experiences. Plenty of trials ahead in California with crowds, heat and water it sounds like. Nothing one can do but just follow that stream to the ocean.

Sitting in my tent at Lake Crescent
 
quiet enough to hear the water lapping on the shore
bird calls; maybe half a dozen varieties
the whine of mosquitos trying to get in
a motorboat coughs to life and roars away
in the distance a train sounds its whistle
the rising sun rises strikes my tent,
    which glows all around me

Posted from Crescent, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 31 July 2014

Friday, August 1st, 2014

20140801-084713-31633175.jpg

quote

in the high lake country
After yesterday’s deluge and a damp morning I spent extra time hanging up everything wet in the sun and let them dry out a bit. Once I was on the road after only five or so miles of riding along Elk Lake and in the thin woods I came upon Lost Lake Campground and Resort where I’d planned on staying last night. The info sign indicated they had showers and so I pulled right off. Clean and refreshed I returned to the road at nearly noon. It was warm now though not yet truly hot and whole there were hills things generally trended downward. The terrain was all formed by volcanic eruptions a 15,000 years ago (and earlier eruptions) which has thin nutrient poor soil. So the trees are thin, the undergrowth minimal. But there are all these lakes and just to east is the real Oregon desert so you get a wide variety of birds and insects.

20140801-085628-32188231.jpg

Davis Lake is in this valley where there was not only poor volcanic soil but there had been a massive fire a few years ago. The trees were all burnt husks, the shrubbery gone and the lake down In the valley looking like a glass of water spilled into the dirt. This was about the last of the Cascade Lakes and only a few miles on I turned away. But at this point there is no camping on route until Crater Lake 50 miles away. As I’d already ridden near fifty miles already this was not an ideal situation. So I ended up riding five miles or so in the opposite direction to Crescent Lake where the USFS campground was only lightly occupied. As I set up thunder boomed and lightening flashed but there was not a return to the rain.

transparent lakes in ash
blackened sticks of trees
– dragonflies darting around

Posted from Crescent, Oregon, United States.

Tour without a goal – 30 July 2914

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

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a desolate mountain remains of the setting sun
-Hōsai Ozaki

the storm breaks
On coming down from Santiam Pass yesterday the character of the land had changed back to at dry scrubland with its sage, ponderosa pine and spares undergrowth. The ride from Sisters to Bend was all through land like that with, here and there, evidence of recent fires. It was pretty easy going even as it warmed up with excellent views of a least five major mountain peaks – the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington and way in the distance Mt. Hood. These mountains all receded in to the distance and as I climbed the valley walls above Bend all but disappeared. The route skirts Bend but I dropped in town to replenish supplies and go to the original Deschutes Pub – couldn’t skip that.

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While there isn’t a mountain pass proper on today’s travels the route climbs up to Mt. Bachelor and gains as much elevation as some of the passes I’ve crossed. It also was over 6000 feet at the top which is the highest I’ve climbed so far. The sun really beat down on me on the first half of is ascent but ahead I could see this band of black clouds and I began to hear the rumble of thunder. Once I passed into it things cooled down dramatically, especially as big drops of rain began to (occasionally) fall.

thunder surrounds me –
I keep climbing

Near the summit the rain picked up enough I stopped to but on my rain covers. The thunder was coming from both sides of the front each on a different side of the arm I was climbing up and it’d rumble and echo in these valleys. Mt Bachelor itself is just right off the road and on rounding a curve it suddenly is just there impressively towering right over everything. From the top of the climb where you turn off to the ski area you can see that the lifts run right to the summit which seems a little sacrilegious.

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It was a fast descent down from Mt. bachelor and once it flattened out I was now in the Cascade Lakes region which is all volcanic soil with sparse flora and myriad shallow lakes. There are campground all over this area but very few have water. I was making for one pretty far up the chain of lakes when I passed Elk Lake Campground. It had a sign out that it was full, but the camp host saw me and asked if I was looking to camp. He said I could stay in this open area next to his site and he’d only charge me the extra vehicle fee of $7. They had water so I went for it. Minutes later the storm broke.

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On this tour there have been several times I’ve heard thunder and expected the deluge of rain. Each time it only sprinkled and then blew away. Well not this time, the skies open up and it just poured for over an hour with hail even at times. I had no time to setup my tent so I put on my rain gear and wandered around. In my wandering I discovered that right next door was Elk Lake Resort with a restaurant: the ideal,place to wait out the rain. Alas it was packed, so I retuned to camp and set up my tent during a break in the rain. The rain did eventually stop, after the storm rolled right over ahead and it began to clear up. I put on dry clothes and retuned to the Lodge thinking that not cooking tonight would be okay. I got there at 7:10 and the kitchen closed at 7. Cooking it was.

alpine lakes reflecting the darkening sky
– lighting flash behind the mountain

Posted from Bend, Oregon, United States.