This piece of beauty lies within the city limits of a sprawling mecca. San Diego to be exact, the last big American city before Mexico (there are a few smaller places before California ends and Mexico begins….unexpected, smaller places that you only find out when you think you’ve made it to Mexico by bicycle once you’ve hit San Diego only to realize you have four more cities, a least, to pedal through before your victory dance commences). Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve only is what it is because a few nature enthusiasts saw the importance of maintaining the rugged, natural landscape that existed before it was dipped in concrete, sprinkled with bits of steel and sold to aimless suits and ties and skirts, who meant to make it by building skyscrapers with windows facing other viewless windows on even bigger skyscrapers.
Don’t read into the description wrong, I love those big skyscrapers and their histories. I love hearing of the odd personalities that once sat behind the old oak desks and spewed out decisions to their underlings or the shoe shop owner who lost it all by investing in two million pairs of the shoes that didn’t make the fall fashion. The millions of continuous stories and people watching, make these buildings as vitally interesting to me as the “landmarks”, the religious centres, the “must see before you die”s. History is not too much different from gossip, with our interests lying in the unabashed, the more display filled and unbelievable epics, but also in the minutia of day to day life. I find the functional and dysfunctional, the awe of the past and how the present came to be, the rust and the sheen, as equally as enticing and question riddled.
Anyways, I’ll get into that when I am not as zonked out as I am right now. Nature was something I had little to no desire seeking out before traveling. I liked history and nature to me was just untapped land that would look way better with, I dunno, a temple to Zeus to engage your imagination or an aqueduct running through it’s tundra or mountain scape. That’s before I travelled a realized that the shapes that I had associated with nature were as varied as the building styles of all cultures and that they too had their stories. In fact, much of what I respected in the man made monoliths, the variance, the impossibilities of balance, were stolen from their larger, and more natural predecessors.
Torrey Pine Sate Natural Reserve was one of those places where it was as if nature took offense to my attitude toward it and and flung open it’s insides to reveal the dramatic curves of it’s jutting rock edges, where these rare pines cling desperately perched over thousand foot drops into the banging percussion of the emotionally churned blue sea’s clambering waves. Such a fool I was to doubt the thousands and thousands of whispering words that nature’s picture drenched my soul in. And yet with all the words merry go rounding in my innards, I stood silent, letting the my surroundings piously brag to me.
The edge and bottom of California - Torrey Pines Nature Reservation
Hell on Earth. I am a man of little faith, admittedly so. But man am I happy that hell exists for me to use it as for the descriptive purpose of summing up the worst day I have ever been on a bike. No sugar coating it, no looking on the bright side, so thinking of the starving kids in some less fortunate setting, no. All I could think about was how am I going to make it out of this endless climb and rain and speed demon logger trucks.
There is very little footage of that day. In fact, after I left Port Angeles with an unexpected amount of miles to cover, the next time I turned on the camera was late in the evening, standing half nude, eyes ablaze, red, body swollen, staring at a reflection of myself in a mirror, as if I was a cat or bird who had no concept of self.
It was all in the poor planning, which something I will note in my tips section of this site. Long story short, I ended up on a weaving loggers road, where big ass trucks whizzed by, drivers on triple overtime shifts, beeping at this pea sized biker (me) and almost several times knocking me off the side of the cliff lipped coastal switchbacks. In the back of my mind the voiceover for the monster truck infomercials kept playing as each barreling, multi wheel bullet shot by. I mapped 100 km, which turned into 140km. Rain made the roads slicks, and me a lot slower. My legs pleaded with me to throw in the towel, but my freeze corpse whinnied my chariot onwards. For some reason, I don’t recollect eating a thing. I remembering using a nameless pub as a rest stop, so I could stand in front of air dryer for a few moments to thaw.
All bike signs lead to the papermill, Port Angeles
A paper mill, a hill, more houses, road, another town, another hill, 45 more trucks. Then, the mile markers ended. The mile markers, small stubby white sticks at the side of the road, with black numbers etched into them that count the miles til the end of the road and in this case to the place I was trying to get to, Neah Bay. I looked, I searched, but no more were to be found. Where was Neah Bay? Maybe a mirage on a map, an ancient city that the forest has reclaimed. Curse you Google Earth. I turned 180 to stare at my load. My blue tarp, drenched and shining, would provide me with ample cover. I stopped at a well, thicketed turnpike. There was barely enough room, but I think I could do it. My eyes welled with tears and the salt from the sea burnt my face, into my brain. This would be a terrible sleep or more specifically a bit of shelter until the rain and trucks let off. If they ever let off. A sudden veto, pushed me a few more miles and thankfully a town emerged, twinkling lights of a waning day welcomed me in.
Neah Bay, The Most Northwest Tip of the US of A
I had no address, but found a pay phone at the one, the only, the Tye Motel. Hiding under the lip of the small bent out of recognition, rain gutter, I shoved my scummy last quarter into the well used rotary time relic and slowly dialled the numbers. Couchsurfer Vicki answered. She asked where I was. Tye Motel. Well let me lead your vehicle to my place. I don’t have a vehicle. How did you get here? bicycle. Hang up. She gave up her bed so that I would have a warm sleep. She fed me elk soup. She said I was to never bike on that road again. Not even her grandfather, who would walk everywhere would set foot on that road. Sleep.
The next day, bright and early ,I was up. Vicki said….no, ordered that I was to stay the day in town and learn about the Makah Tribe, of which she was part of and who were the people of this land. With a past that extends back to the dawn of time, She told me many stories about the goats of Wada Island, the lighthouse operator and many other tales of peril and survival of living on the most Northwest tip of America. Before I left, I meekly asked her son to help me figure out my tent. He didn’t need to figure it out, he knew. With a smirk on his face, he showed me the paint by numbers version of how to set it up. Then I was off.
Many Ships - Neah Bay
I explored the art of the people at someone’s private home gallery. A sign read please ring the bell. I did and I was let into a single room, full of brightly colored oil paintings of fishing and hunting, hats of earth tones made of bark from local trees. The Makah museum informed of a town near by Ozete, that had had a mudslide and had resurfaced and had excavated in the 70s. 100 of relics painted a beautiful picture of a very distinct and proud nation of hunters and whalers. I sat inside of a reconstructed log house and stared out the window at a fake ocean scene. If someone was teleported here from the past of anytime that had lived in this area, the only thing that stays somewhat constant in character is the sea. Interesting how much cosmetic work we have put into our cities and landmasses. To what avail? To make it our own? Nature seems more individualistic than anything else could be, from humans to drops of water. Too many surgeries, our planet looks fake, over prothesised and all the same.
I purchased a bumper sticker to put on the Klalita. She looked so pretty with it on, I blushed for her. Evening was slowly making it’s lumbering way in. I returned to Vicki’s home to say my goodbyes to her and her family. She was my mother for a mere two days, but her impact and kindness and big heart will be something I will never forget. One of those wonderful people that description does no justice describing. She alone is worth a trip, by car or bus, the mythical shores of that enchanting other realm.
Forks at Night. Go Spartans Go!
Onto the bus…vrooooom! I was in Forks. It was the dead of a cold night when I arrived. I emphasize dead and will continue to make vampire references throughout this paragraph, much to most people who read this’s chagrin. I bet not a person with braces reads my posts. Anyways, why vampires? Well if you love the Lights (the solo artist) and have just acquired a low voice (still with occasional pitch problems) and/or have a Chris Brown moustache, then you know that Forks is where the Twilight Series takes place. Art here, does not imitate life, but the other way around. That movie MADE Forks. Vampire pizzas. Vampire road signs. Even a guy selling wet kindle, saying it will “ward off the dark forces”. Wow. The kindling was tempting to buy, but I restrained myself, as I needed to find a place to sleep.
Fork's Past - Lumberjacks for days
Picking up some vampire pizza, which tasted as bland as Robert Patteson’s character, I got a lead that the Forks visitor centre is left open at night and was heated. So to the visitor centre I went and made my bed on a bench, across from a snoring burly road worker, who smelled of a couple rounds to many to get back to his wife. The next day it was up with the sun again and off down the road to Amanda Park.
Ever changing plant life on the road
Stopped in Klalaloch for food. Curiosity of the odd had be follow a sign a few kilometers off course. The sign said “Big Tree” and I was curious as to what makes this tree worthy of a sign. Unfortunately the only way I could tell THE tree from all the other trees in the Hoh Rainforest was a placard below with a very distinct arrow pointing to it. The arrow almost seemed to expect that you were looking for Waldo in a forest full of waldos. So, saw the uninspiring tree. Thought positively about deforestation for a second and then I was on my way. Amanda Park was a trust exercise. A leap of truck faith and thank goodness trucks aren’t that sketchy looking thief at the beginning of the Aladdin movie or this story would have never been told (probably would have cut off my ear, cuz they didn’t like my face…it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home). Check it out:
Even when everything seems miserable, you are reinvigorated by this.