The easiest way to get to the Olympic National Park peninsula in the north of Washington was via Victoria on Vancouver Island. So we took the same ferry again that brought us to Vancouver. From Victoria a small car ferry brought us over to Port Angeles in the US.
After a day of ferry riding and speed cycling to reach these ferries we arrived at a state park in Port Angeles which, unfortunately, isn’t a campground anymore. Luckily we met a nice guy who offered to bring us to “a place you will like”. And how much we did! The most beautiful campground we have ever seen, overlooking the ocean. Our timing was perfect too as we were welcomed by a terrific sunset (see pictures).
We loved the Olympic National Park from the first day. The weather was perfect, there was no traffic on the roads and there he was, the legendary northwest wind of the US west coast. How we have been looking forward to meet this guy!
The following days made our eyes go wide, our voices go “uhh, ahh, wow, incredible”. The beaches were lined up like pearls on a string, ready for us to go from one to the other. There was always a beach at the right spot so we could have our lunch break overlooking the sand as far as the eye reached.
The bike books and all the people we met on our way were always talking about the famous, marvelous coast of Oregon rather than about the one in Washington. In our case things were different in the beginning. As much as we liked our time in Washington as hard were the first days in Oregon. Already entering Oregon had been a hazardous trip: the bridge over the Columbia River was six kilometers long, there was hardly any space for bicycles and the wind – headwind! – was trying to blow us off the bridge. Yes, headwind! The famous wind from the north was coming from the south now… For several days the summer weather took a break and left us there in the headwind. Large parts of the bicycling route were on the US 101 with hard traffic – a thing we weren’t used to anymore.
One evening when our mood was not so nice and we were buying some food there came a young guy talking to us about our trip. He has cycled a lot too, one of his trip also going through Switzerland (can you believe it, he was robbed in Switzerland! ???). As we were looking for a place to go to the internet he offered us to do so at his place. When he proposed to go to a friends place for a BBQ we – of course – did not say no. We spent a wonderful evening with a couple of young people from Oregon. My good, these people are not happy with how things are going in their country. It was very interesting to talk with them about how we and how they look at the America of these days.
A little later than trying of the banana bread they baked Pius realized that there was not only bananas in that bread! It was a long time ago that his thoughts were so full of color and jumping around and around and around… Thank you Chad for the invitation and for the great evening!
There was one thing that kept our motivation high all the time: although it was cloudy and windy there never was any rain. Once the weather forecast predicted a change of weather, back to how things should be here, we decided to take a day off and wait for the wind to turn. This turned out to be a very good decision: it was raining the whole day and we only left our tents for cooking and going to the restroom. It was great to have a whole day do nothing, read a lot, listen to music. Like a vacation from vacations.
So we still don’t know how it feels to cycle for a day in the rain. The day after our brake the weather became good and our good old friend, the northwest wind was with us again.
On time with the good weather there were more and more parts where the bike route left the 101 highway into beautiful spots of the Oregon coast. Additional to the beautiful beaches we now cycled over capes, around rock formations, back to beaches… There is always the next breathtaking spot waiting for us.
Soon after we crossed the boarder to California, we had a chance to learn to know the Californian style of living. Jess from the Beachcomber Cafe invited us to stay at her place and of course we did not say no to such an offer!
Jess, a former member of the Burton Snowboard team (wow, this is cool, even for mountain goats from Switzerland), lives in a nice old Victorian house in Arcata together with two other students. During shopping in the all-organic supermarket we see she was right when she told us we are in the “weed smoking capital” of the USA. Half of the people here have rastas, the others look very hippie-like in another way. Peace – welcome to California.
After dinner together and a movie before bedtime we enjoy sleeping on the coach, a welcome change to our air mattresses. In the morning everybody leaves for studying and rock climbing on the beach. We enjoy the rest of the time in the house with loud music for breakfast. Thank you for the invitation and the great evening!
After Eureka the 101 highway goes inland and one of the highlights we have been looking forward to for a long time waits for us: the avenue of the giants. On both sides of the streets gigantic trees, up to 100 meters high, stand right by the road. We feel like dwarfs in this forest. Amazing.
The longer we ride along the coast the more we start loving it. Once we had to
drive inland for two days and soon we realized how good it was on the coast.
Only a day ride inland the temperatures rose up to 100°F which is close to
38°C! For the first time we had to make a long siesta and stop cycling
because the sun was burning so hot. Returning back to the coast was like coming
home after these two days. The temperatures were moderate again, ideal for
cycling. The vegetation had changed from lots of woods to grassy hills over
This area is known for the fog which covers large parts of the coast during
summer. But as you may have noticed we do not care about bad weather forecast:
we always have nice weather. We only once rode in the fog for half an hour
which we even liked as the scenery was beautiful.
The coast is most beautiful in the early morning. One day we got up at six in
the morning to avoid the traffic in the afternoon of a public holiday. We were
riding over these beautiful hills, the sun was rising and the last morning fog
was still around the cliffs. This was maybe the most beautiful moment on our
tour so far. We were so happy we could enjoy this for hours.
For the last days before San Francisco the slight hills became serious hills.
The road never was flat anymore; it was a never ending up and down.
Nevertheless we wanted to do two 115 km days to reach the big city earlier. We
were preparing for the hardest days of our tour. Soon after we started our
first “hardcore day”, we were joined again by our old friend who made our days
easier: the tailwind was blowing so strong it was just a pleasure to ride all these
After cycling through the nice suburbs of San Francisco we finally turned around
one last hill and there it was, the one thing we were looking forward to so much
since we started cycling: the Golden Gate Bridge stretched over the bay under a
perfectly blue sky. We first cycled up the Marine Headlands to see the bridge
and the city of our dreams from a birds view. We felt as if we reached the end
of our trip already.
After the exciting ride across the bridge we had to challenge SF and its famous
hills. Our plan was to ride along the shore for a bit and then turn right into
the street that led to the tourist information. The plan was soon cancelled:
the street looked like a wall – no way to get up there for us! After passing
several of these “walls” the terrain became a little friendlier and we could
reach our goal by going around this hill. Sissies!
We took the metro to cross the bay to Oakland. Mark, a guy who we met one
evening on the Washington coast explained us on the phone where to go to find
the place he lived and where we were invited to stay. A part of the directions
was: “you may not want to stay for too long at the metro station, this is not
the nicest area”! Wow, and it was a little bit creepy to come here. Not much
light on the streets, scary creatures wondering around…
But then we reached the place, the safe and beautiful island in the dangerous
sea: the LoBot. LoBot is an old factory building that was turned into an art
gallery and a home for twelve young artists (www.lobotgallery.com). We were
very warmly welcomed by Mark and his friends. Thank you very much! Graham, one
of the guys living here, soon left for a promo tour with his (great, they are
really good!) band (www.roguewavemusic.com) and we can stay in his room for a
while now. Thank you Graham!
So we kind of became a part of the Oakland art scene. We soon turned into art
critics ;-), went to gallery openings, concerts and parties. We go for a
beer in the park or we do the tourist thing and ride the cable cars up and down
the incredibly steep hills of San Francisco. The people here are awesome, we
felt like at home from the first moment we were here and we are having a great
SF to LA
We chose Saturday evening as our last evening in Oakland. For good luck we did as this was the best evening we had there. First we cycled up the hills behind Oakland to watch the sunset with a breathtaking view over the whole bay area. After a thrilling downhill ride in the dark down we were ready for party. We were invited to a birthday party with BBQ and then went to a crazy open-house party. Bands were playing in the living room and the water was dripping from the ceiling because there were as many in there as could go in… Even outside the house there were people everywhere. A party of Oakland size!
After a slow start (our legs were sooo weak after the long break in Oakland) we finally got into our cycling rhythm again. The coast was as beautiful as it has always been. Between San Francisco and Los Angeles there was not one evening where we did not learn to know new people. There were Hap & Diane, the experienced tandem drivers (www.outbikin.blogspot.com) and Grant & Jenny who document their trip on Youtube every week (www.youtube.com/slowcoast) -> an interview with us is in episode 8). We saw both couples several times and in Monterey we went for dinner together in a nice restaurant (we could hardly remember the last time we were in a restaurant for dinner while riding the bikes…). After dinner the ladies went to bed and the boys went to the pub for a funny karaoke night :-) One evening we met the bench building guys. Their hobby is to set up wood benches on nice spots for everybody to use. They let us stay on their beautiful campsite (the nicest we ever saw!) and we were sitting on the cliffs together, talking for hours and watching the sunset. What an evening! Then we saw something we thought does not exist here: girls on bikes (doing a bike trip without having been convinced to by their boyfriends), Amanda & Cristina from Seattle. These girls look so cute when you see them first BUT they are machines! One evening they drank too much so they did not want to cycle the following day. To keep up with their time plan they then cycled 180 km in one day, including some nasty hills, wow! We already met them a second time for breakfast in Santa Barbara and we will see them again in Huntington Beach. We are looking forward to the fun time we will surely have!
About half way between San Francisco and LA is Hearst Castle, the “house” of William R. Hearst. This castle is one things tourists “must see” and even though these musts often don’t apply to us, this time we spent the money to see this piece of art. The tour was worth every penny we paid. We were deeply impressed by this demonstration of Capitalism!
To get to the tour was not so easy though: we had to book and pay the tour in advance. We booked in the morning and then realized that we could make it there on time if we cycle without taking long brakes during this day. No problem. When we were approaching the first of the two big hills of this day Dudli heard Pius saying: “this would be a real bad time for a flat tire”. An unbelievable ten minutes later Pius realized he had a flat tire! No problem, we have a mechanical engineer with us, so the tire was fixed after ten minutes. Once we had the pump out Dudli checked his tire pressure too and – why now – he had a flat tire too! Unfortunately we managed to put in the new tube wrong the first time so in the end we ‘kind of changed a tube three times… After this repairing session the facts were: one and a half more big hills in front of us, then smaller hills but with a heavy headwind, 30 km and one hour and twenty minutes left. What to do? – Race! So we were racing up these hills and then flying against the wind. After the big hills we were riding an average of 28 km/h against the wind. For good luck we have recumbents! With our last power we cycled up to the visitor center of Hearst Castle and could hardly walk to the bus. One minute later and we would have missed the tour. It was so much fun :-)
Many people told us already how nice Santa Barbara is. We were looking forward to see this place and we were still surprised a lot how nice it is once we were there. We could stay at Eric’s home, a guy we learned to know at one of the Oakland parties. Wow, wow, wow – the beaches, the old town and this kind of mood everywhere. The old town was built up in a Spanish style after a big earthquake. Beautiful buildings, cafes, shops, side streets, malls and everywhere this famous easy going southern Californian way of life. The hills in the back of the city (ideal for paragliding), many beautiful beaches (with many beach volleyball courts) and always nice weather make this city a perfect place to live!
One day closer to LA we had a place to stay at a private place again. Rainer Diriwächter, son of a friend of Stefans father, is a psychology professor at the California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. We could set up our tents in the garden of Steven C. Kissinger, another psychology professor. This way we can see one of these famous American university campuses from inside: aquatic center, baseball- and football field, sports stadium, tennis courts and all the students living together on the campus – maybe we should have come here to study…
From here cycling will first be beautiful (from Santa Monica along Venice Beach) and then terrible (through the city of LA, famous for being bikeUNfriendly). The extremes of the LA region!
LA to San Diego
[17. October 2007]
We were expecting the worst and we received the best. After cycling along the
beautiful bike path from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach we installed our bikes
on the bike rack of bus Nr. 232 and enjoyed the ride on the busy and dirty
streets of LA to Long Beach. In Long Beach the bike path along the beautiful beaches
continued and we finished our LA day by gently rolling to Huntington Beach.
In Huntington Beach we met the machine-girls for a third time. Seeing them was a
fun-only-time as it always has been. Christina’s sister lives in Huntington Beach and
we were invited to stay at her place. Thank you! In the evening we went to a
punk rock concert with her boyfriend and some of his friends. It was once more
interesting to see the different way of living of people in California compared
to Switzerland. There were some bands playing that we would call “quite bad
boys” and the crowd was therefore full of “guys with tattoos and iron in the
face”. In Switzerland we would expect a “watch your step boy” or an angry look
after walking into someone or cutting his way in front of the bar. Here
everybody takes it way easier. People are friendlier and much more patient. The
positive impression we had from the streets (slow driving, patient people) was
confirmed in a crowd of drunken punks.
The day after the party in Huntington Beach we spent getting our heads back to
normal on the beach. We were watching the surfers and beach volleyball players,
talking, hanging around – California style…
The ride to San Diego would have been perfect for a two day ride. As we cycled
only a short distance in the evening of the day on the beach we finished our
trip along the US west coast with a 145km ride through downtown San Diego to
Chula Vista. In Chula Vista we were invited to stay at the house of Gabriel and
Marie-Sol, a newly married couple we met during their honeymoon on a campground
in the redwoods. For one week we stayed at their beautiful house with a nice
patio and a view on the ocean, San Diego and Tijuana! We enjoyed cooking,
sitting on the veranda and talking with Gabriel and Marie-Sol. A wonderfully
relaxed feeling was around us during the stay with these lovely people. We also used
the time to fix our bikes and organize the following two weeks – our trip to
Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon with the first visitors from Switzerland.
One day we met Roger & Grant, two bikers who we learned to know during our ride on
the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. They live in San Diego and showed us the area
with a bike ride along Coronado peninsula and the ferry ride back to downtown.
There was a never ending stream of biker stories we could tell each other and
we could have been talking for days and days...
The last day in San Diego became a family day for Pius: his cousin Joana was
visiting San Diego where she lived for half a year to learn English. Together
with her and her boyfriend we visited the aircraft carrier museum “USS Midway”.
This amazing piece of iron was the first aircraft carrier built. It was
interesting to see how already sixty years ago a ship of such complexity could
be built. A floating city with airport included.
The train ride from San Diego back to LA showed us one of the bad parts of the
California we learned to love so much: a train going from a 1.5 million city to
a 10 million city ten times a day consists of only six coaches. There were about ten
persons in every coach per average so sixty people were using the train. America is the car country. Whatever distance, whatever time or traffic, people
go by car, of course.
In LA we picked up the sister of Stefan with her boyfriend who came to visit us
from Switzerland. Together we walked along the walk of fame in Hollywood and
then took a bus tour to the homes of the stars. Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, George
Clooney and who ever has a big name, they all live in the hills of Hollywood.
For two hours we were bombed with more and more glory, one house bigger and
more beautiful than the other. In the end we were happy to get out of the bus
and return into our world. We were getting sick of all this “glory and
Back on earth we picked up Beat, a friend of Pius also visiting from
Switzerland. Together we drove inland to visit famous Las Vegas. An old dream
of Pius was coming true: playing Black Jack in Las Vegas! After a long walk
through the wonder world of the Las Vegas main street with thousands of amazing
impressions (see pictures) the time was come to gamble! The difference between
the old gambling cracks and the greenhorns was soon proven: Pius doubled his
50$ to leave with 100$, the others lost between 40$ and 100$. At least the
money won by Pius was enough to pay the drinks in the VIP
lounge of the Stratosphere Tower. How to get up there? Just act as if you were important and tell them you won some money… Drinks just taste better when they are paid
with the earnings of a Black Jack game :-)
The next car ride took us from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. We enjoyed riding
in a vehicle very much after thousands of miles on the bikes. “Oh, there is a
big hill in front of us, oh look, it’s sooo hot outside…” We got up at five in the morning to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. What an amazing view! After the sunset we walked along the rim of the canyon and saw the landscape changing the further we walked towards the end of the canyon. OK, a river just needs time to create a 1500m deep canyon but how can this canyon be at least 18km wide?
After the return from the Grand Canyon we went to pick up Claudia, the
girlfriend of Stefan, in LA. Together we picked up our bikes in San Diego and
managed to stow them both into one of our rented cars. Lazy, yes, but it was
only about a dozen of kilometres we did not cycle of the US west coast.
At the boarder in Tijuana it was time to say good bye to the US west coast. We
loved being here, we were very positively surprised and we hope we can come back here one day.
Saying good bye was hard but we soon forgot about the worries as we were looking forward to the time in our apartment in Rosarito. To be continued…