Soft Launch Good…I Met An Emu, Etc!

My soft launch in Mendocino County, California, proved to be a blessing in disguise! After loading my bike, I could not ride it up my friend’s drive, and I seriously struggled to even push it up. Yes, it’s a very steep 1/2 mile or so uphill drive, but still! Not only was it heavy, it wobbled and felt very unsteady (despite efforts to balance the load) as I went pretty much 5 miles down hill to my first new home.


Wow! What a home! It is the sort of spread that you would pass and wonder what kind of nifty people lived in such a cool looking place. Indeed, cool people! Actually, David, the son of the owners, is my host, and the only one around as everyone else was on vacation. His 87 year old father, some sort of explosive engineer, and his 85 year old mother, a Physicist, met at Stanford University long ago and together had 6 children and built their nifty solar home some 40 years ago. It’s still a working farm, and I have enjoyed the sheep and lambs, some born just 2 days before my arrival. My background sounds during the day are sheep laughter (bahahaha), and at night vast amount of frog sounds.  Also, I met my first Emu, not sure I knew what one looked like prior to meeting 15 year old Feathers. The opitome of an excellent host, David could not be more generous or hospitable -even after I inquired if I might stay a couple extra nights as I await the arrival or my cell phone battery.


The Gates family has been hosting cyclists for about 5 years now…and hundreds have come through, and David reports only positive experiences. “It’s a cool way of bringing interesting people to us.” Their yard, especially now in full spring bloom, is lovely for camping and offers plenty of room for tents. Plus, there is a toilet and shower outside that I am welcome to use – hot water and all! Picnic tables are strategically set so I can work and watch the very entertaining farm animals, or take a break and throw a ball to Clifford, the small black dog -affectionally picked out and named by David’s six year old daughter. They even set up a rig for fixing bikes in their barn. I am told that the two sisters are avid cyclists too.


Their home doubles as the volunteer fire department for the area. The fire chief, Harold, lives on the property too and David is the assistant chief. The 4 wheel drive fire truck is stored in their barn. My second day on the farm I got to see them in action due to a medical emergency. Very impressive to see the turn out of locals to help a fellow neighbor in need.


I found out my first night in my tent that it leaks…and it wasn’t even raining! Yikes! So much for my new-to-me  Big Agnes (double) tent from the REI sale, who the attend said he had personally and loved. I awoke to condensation coming through my rain fly and the netting above me, and dripping right onto my head and back. Fortunately, my older, but heavier Eureka Rainer tent was in my car just down the road. Also, I realized that the hard documents that I am carrying are just way too heavy. It dawned on my that I could take pictures of all the pages and organize the photos into folders per document. It took me about 5 hours to take all the pictures and another two to put them into folders, but I was able to shave off about five pounds. My fabulous cooking setup is going to have to go too…goodbye to my honey, cooking oil, balsamic vinegar, etc.


Since I have not really been on my bike in a month, I decided to go for a real ride today (day 2). I loaded it about 3/4 full and rode the items back to my car, and traded up my tent and few other items. I had no problem riding up the drive way this time and carried on for about 12 beautiful miles total through redwoods and along the coast with some rather major climbs and descents. The traffic along RTE 1 is downright frightening, especially considering how little brim most of it seems to have. Amazing what a difference 25-30 pounds makes though. I won’t be able to loose that much weight, but if I can add only another 15, I just might be able to do this. I really want to bring my guitar and art supplies!


Day three and my battery still did not come, but I used the opportunity to catch a ride to bigger town and get some more groceries and cash from my bank. I forgot how when you are in the middle of nowhere, a lot of places and people want cash –plus, I avoided an ATM fee. Also, I opted to get an extra set of break pads. I’m really not sure how old mine are. My host was super nice about stopping and showing me some picturesque costal vistas outside Mendocino…and go figure, it was another beautiful sunny day.


My major challenge (and it’s a biggie) has been technology. I think I’ll bore the average reader, but if you are serious about bike touring and want to understand the experience of trying to move your life to bike when you need to connect to do work, you can read about my experience with converting from a computer to an Ipad, plus other technical matters here (soon). It definitely has not been as easy or inexpensive as I had anticipated.

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