To Russian Gulch SP 96km
To Gualala SP 88km
The other day we arranged to stay with Kate, a Warmshowers host. Turned out that we were sleeping in a church hall, and on the one night a month that the church fed the "needy" of the town. We got to help prepare, serve and clean up, as well as share the meal. No talk of religion, just a ring of people singing the "Johnny Appleseed Song" before eating. Perhaps thirty or forty people turned up for the meal.
Some used the church hall shower to clean up before eating. Most were very polite. All ate at least two helpings. There were "street people", families, a few Native Americans, several teenagers, a couple of handicapped, and five of us cycle tourers. We were told that sometimes there can be up to 80 people queuing for the meal. In Portland we saw many "homeless" and "street people". We were told that many have been bused up to Portland from California, "because Portland look after their needy." But the Portland people are not happy. Public parks, footpaths and reserves are all being swamped by tents, tarpaulins and shelters. "Regular" residents are being hassled by these "transients".
As we cycle through the amazingly scenic "Avenue of the Giants", every so often we pass through a small town. It seems these towns are rife with transients. Scruffy, unwashed, smelly, beggars, with all their belongings in dirty backpacks, or in supermarket trolleys, and many smoking pot. As we cycle south, into warmer areas, we see more and more of these people, living under bushes on the beaches, and sleeping in parks. But how can this be? Isn't the USA one of the wealthiest nations in the world? I've asked several people, and the most common replies are..... "they've just slipped through the gaps", or "they've decided it's easier to live like this, than struggle to pay mortgages, power and utility bills, insurance, and taxes. They've opted out of "normal" society, and are living in a world where they've only got two problems. Where is my next feed coming from, and where will I sleep tonight?"
Now I can relate to those two "problems", having asked the same question myself everyday for the last two years, but I certainly do not believe I'm in the same category as these folk. Many seem to have either given up all hope, or are beyond caring about the future, what they look like, how they appear to others, how they smell, or their living conditions. For me the two scariest things are that there are so many of these people, and that my country is following this trend.
That's not to say that the countryside isn't amazingly beautiful. We climbed out of the Redwoods and over the highest hill on this route. We had heard of exhausted cyclists, and piles of discarded panniers. We saw neither. Instead we climbed up a beautiful road , through luscious forest, and descended through glorious windy smooth corners, where I had to brake for 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30mph corners. Oh what amazing fun. And, to top it off, when we descended from the second, lower pass, we found clear blue skies, over an amazingly clear ocean, with whales breaching, and seals barking. Glorious. The only hazard of the whole climb and descent was having enough luck to be able to dodge the logging trucks, racing each other up and down the slopes.
A guy introduced himself. He seemed to be in his early 50s. He was a retired Fire Commander. He had honeymoon in NZ, but was now homeschooling his two boys, about 8 to 10 years old. He had loved NZ, and was keen to take his boys to visit.
We met another guy. He had just been diving, trying to spear fish. He hadn't been too successful, but he had scored himself some abalone (paua). This abalone was huge. As big as a rugby ball. Apparently they are allowed a maximum of three a day, but I'm unsure how you'd eat that much.
I spoke to a guy from Hawaii. He was travelling with his family south, having just competed in a SUP (stand up paddle board) race, on the Columbia River. He told me he was friends with the fastest female SUP rider in the world, Annabel Anderson, from Wanaka. Who knew? Well maybe some of my Wanaka friends did?
Another guy told us he had lived on his bike, travelling up and down this coast for ten years. Instead of front panniers, he had a large white bucket strapped to one side, and a guitar strapped to the other. He has friends everywhere, and stops with them, helping with odd jobs, before he moves on. He had lots of helpful hints about the weather, places to stay, and places to eat.
Then we camped with Eileen and David, a young couple of first time cycle tourers, from out East, who now live in Seattle. This coastal route is not only spectacularly scenic, it's also the most social cycling and camping I've experienced in over two years. And when the store at Elk has fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, and ice cold Bundeburg Ginger Beers....... you've gotta love it.