Florence OR to Trinidad, CA: Suns, Seas, Cedars & Scale

16 May


I arrived in Trinidad after 5 miles of weak-legged bicycling from Patricks Point state park. I immediately head to the first food stop I find and buy meat and starch; Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, coffee, donut, and potato salad. On these long biking days I no longer eat, I feed. I take my bag of food and as NPR plays classical music on the radio of a bait, tackle and surf shop I tear meat off bone with my teeth in my bicyling gear. I don’t think there’s one stereotype this morning fits into. Molly, an east coaster from DC with green eyes and wavy brown hair sweeps the shop with her baby hanging from a bjorn on her chest.
It’s been days of long rides from Florence. Long, steep ups through the forest and fast downs beside the ocean. The seas swarm around 20 foot tall stones, digesting the sands on the shore. The shoreline is rocky and irregular, sometimes the waves crash as one solid line, others it sounds as though a hundred separate surfs are cresting. The climbs are difficult and regular as the declines, into one tsunami danger zone and out of another as I follow the parabolic landscape. When I reach Coos Bay I’m past the solid mountain of Sand Dunes lining the Oregon Coast. ATV tracks curve around the trees growing from the mounds like vertical Zen Gardens. It’s a low tide as I cross the bridge, Herons stalking the muddy tide pools as a slim current runs beneath the bridge, then more ups as I bike up 7 Devils road, then down, then up. Scrub brush and bleached tree trunks at the top, the sun shining as I break through the cloud cover, then back down through it. It’s been overcast lately, the sky blending with the ocean to turn the world beyond into a flat canvas waiting for that first brush of hue.
I sleep mostly in Campgrounds. An empty row of picnic benches beside Edson Creek, wood still smoldering from the last residents. The mouth of the Smith River (or that’s the name it gives when it checks into a seedy motel with a young estuary (h/t Eli)), the only undammed river in CA, Patrick’s Point state park. I prefer the camp grounds as they give me time to look up at the stars. Light pollution dims the milky way from view, but Mars glows red and Venus shines white. I use my Pocket Universe App (Buy this app, it’s totally worth the price) to identify the constellations around me, the invisible lines drawn between distant, lonely suns to resemble animals (Leo I can kind of see, but I’m never going to think of the big dipper as a bear). Birds surround me constantly. They chitter, caw, hoot and screech. Herons stalk the shoreline and Pelicans fly in a V, migrating through Oregon. I startle a hawk from his telephone pole perch and he takes off, one talon wrapped around a fish still flapping like hell in one last ditch effort to return to the ocean. As I look at their black eyes, their prehistoric necks and sharp beaks I think “Yeah, so not all the dinosaurs disappeared”
The landscape has not really changed since I left Oregon for California. The same rolling hills, the same ocean, the same sheep, cows and horses chowing down on the same grass, the same Ron Paul signs (Have never seen a sign for poor Mitt). I’ve only seen two pro-Obama signs since I left Seattle. A small one outside an Indian reservation and another large one a block away from a hand-painted sign reading “DEFEAT OBAMA. PROTECT LIBERTY AND THE US CONSTITUTION!” The only real difference I’ve seen is Indian Casinos started to appear regularly. My favorite sign, outside the redwood forests, read “Come Explore the Great Indoors!”
Yesterday I reached the Redwoods, one of my favorite spots in the world, because they give me a sense of scale. Looking out at the stars at night past our local planets I can’t see the vastness of it all. I’ll never feel their warmth, never see them as anything but distant glimmers in inky black. The ocean is the same. When I descend to the beach from the hills, stare from a mountain viewpoint, or walk along the black granite sand I can’t see it as anything but isolated pockets leading to a uniform horizon. I don’t see it as the same sea that  stretches back home to Seattle, and across to Japan and Asia. But the steep climb up to the redwoods I begin to see the scale, the cars and trucks trundling towards me shrink in view of the vast wooden columns surrounding me, and I wonder what I must look like to them. I only see scale when I’m next to something I can touch and the redwoods make me feel Lilliputian as I stare up at living beings impossibly tall, with entire ecosystems supported on their shoulders. Carbon, water, sun and soil are all it takes for a seed the size of a grain of sand to reach hundreds of feet over hundreds of years. And this is why I love the redwoods. They’re the last remnants of a gigantic world that humans have been tearing down for 10,000 years. Gone are Mammoths, Giant Sloths, hornless Rhinos 15 feet tall, and gone are most of the Redwoods that once streched from California all the way back to the Taiga. With my neck craned up I try to see the tops as I climb the Newton Drury parkway, unable to speak, just making sounds of shock as I see yet another impossible diameter of truck, another sky scraping peak. Finally, I reach the top and race down through bracing mists past the feet of giants and unlike the sea and the sky, I feel awe.
I’ll reach San Francisco (if all goes according to plan) by the 19th. I’ll have the majority of a week to visit friends and family, then return to Seattle for a moment before the real challenge begins. The training ride will be over, I know some of the challenges I’ll face after 1000 miles and my lungs and my legs are confident in the morning as they begin pedalling 100 miles by sunset. I’ve reminded myself of why I’m doing this as well. Beyond the views, beyond the people I’ve met, it’s those times when I’m on a steep incline, with more up to go, breathing hard, when I know that I feel the most alive when I can feel my heart beating.

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