Friday, January 9, 2015

Introduction / Navigating this blog

Thank you for checking out the blog of my biking-surfing-meditation-tai chi-dancing-'ukulele journey down the Pacific Coast of the US.

The general plan:
- Bicycle from lower Washington State to Santa Cruz
- Surfing when access and swell permit; meditating throughout
- 'Ukulele as musical accompaniment; camping and cooking
- Taking my time and enjoying the journey

(note - for the photos, click on them for a larger view)

This blog is arranged in reverse chronological order.  Scrolling down will start at the end (with post-trip thougths and wrap-up) then follow the trip backwards.

If you are interested to start at the beginning, then start here with the entry on gear (link).  At the bottom of each page there are links to the next 'Older Post' or 'Newer Post.'  The blog archive on the right hand pane allows you to navigate directly to any entry.

For highlight photos without text, they are here (link) - though the photos without text omit the people I met on the trip and they were the most interesting part of the journey to me.  For example, in this post (link).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Post-trip thoughts and wrap-up.

After bicycling/surfing/meditating/practicing tai chi/etc. for 40 days from Washington state back to Santa Cruz, reaching home was an abrupt change but the contrast helped me crystallize some of my thoughts on the trip and things I'd like to do differently in my life as result.

Post-trip photo - was shooting photos of a sunset session while my friends were surfing

I received a suggestion to continue to share online, so I plan to eventually add info on the environmental/ethical products I will be developing and the environmental/simple living ideas I have on my website:  

REFLECTIONS - A few thoughts on the trip and bicycle touring:

- Continual reminders on generosity.  This was one of the most striking aspects of the trip.  I was struck by how generous people are.  It was notable to me that I also was able to help others regularly.  I suppose this was due to the increased engagement with people when biking.

- Each day is vivid.  I usually journal every day, but I would get up to two weeks behind on my trip and then have no problem at all remembering the day very clearly.  I was amazed at how vividly I could remember each day.  Some days in my normal life, I have trouble remembering what I did two days prior.

- There is a precision to living simply.  I recently jotted down my equipment list to remember it for myself and it was quite easy to do off the top of my head.  This was due to the fact that I had carefully considered each item I brought on the trip and each item was put to good use (except the emergency items which I was glad to not put to use).  This was again in contrast to my normal life - even though folks often comment on my relative minimalism, I sometimes lose things in my house that I can’t find for weeks and also own things I have not used in a long time.

- Accumulation is difficult.  I found myself passing shops without any hesitation.  It didn’t matter if it was unique local art or CDs of local bands or anything - I just had no interest in buying things that I would then carry for hundreds of miles.  The sum total of sentimental items that I acquired on my own (vs. equipment which is outlined in the previous post and the few gifts I received - which consisted of two rocks and a wire heart) was a handful of pebbles.  No other mementos necessary and I feel a deep connection to this trip - so it suggests to me that sentimental items are of very limited value.

- Discipline is easy.  It was far easier to keep discipline on the bicycle trip.  In my daily life, I try to set rules to help keep discipline.  For example, on weekends, I have a rule to practice tai chi chuan and meditate before I have breakfast.  I set this rule after finding that if I set off on my day, I would never get around to practicing tai chi or meditating.  However, even with the rule, at home I find many distractions and often it will be several hours before I finally practice (usually hunger for breakfast is what prompts it).  When cycling, there are very few distractions - my main choices in the day were generally to either sit in the campsite or get on my bicycle.  So I found that I would just get my tai chi chuan and meditation practice done right away - little to no procrastination.  The distractions of life (internet being the worst of the worst) were exposed as major impediments to discipline.

- Emotions are more obvious.  I found myself feeling and noticing stronger emotions on the trip - both highs and lows.  I feel this may have been due to something similar in that there were fewer distractions to clutter my thoughts, so emotions were much more noticeable.

- Ego is more obvious.  With a simple life and simple choices (do I bike further or not?), the motivations for making choices became more obvious and clear.  After I hurt my back, I could see clearly that there were times I wanted to continue riding just because it would hurt my ego to ride less.  Taking the bus was a major concession and I realized that it was only major from an ego perspective.  It makes me wonder how many other choices I make throughout my life that are driven by ego.  With lots of things going on in my normal life, my motivations for specific decisions are not always as obvious (even to myself).  

I realize that getting hurt was a helpful learning experience in that it made me really assess my motivations for the trip or even for each day.

ACTIONS - Things that I plan to do differently as a result of these lessons:

1) Explorations in generosity.  I already had one in mind before the trip but the trip is motivating me to put it in motion: giving away bicycle lights.  It bothers me that folks ride around at night without lights so I have purchased a bunch of lights that I’ll just give to people when I see them cycling without bicycle lights.  I also discussed it with the local bicycle advocacy group and they thought it was a great idea so I'll post info about it at

2) Further reduce my time on the internet.  I already have my internet router connected to a timer which shut off my internet connection at 9:30pm.  I have decided to experiment with turning off my internet connection at ~ 7:30 PM).  I am also unsubscribing to sites that feed videos/articles that are interesting but not necessarily truly valuable (ex. surf videos).

3) Acquire and give things only which have lots of purpose and/or meaning (and make them when possible).  I have already been trying not to buy gifts just to buy gifts and also not to buy things for myself without lots of thought.  But buying so little over the course of a month made me realize that I can cut that down further.

4) Meditate and practice tai chi chuan outside.  Instead of doing my morning practice inside where distractions are readily available, I will be going straight outside to do tai chi chuan and meditation.  This will hopefully keep me from procrastinating until late in the morning.

5) Communicate more openly.  This is another area I have been working on and after realizing that I am often not that aware of my emotions, I will strive to pay more attention to them and express them when appropriate.  

6) Assess my motivations regularly.  Based on noticing how ego influences many decisions, I am going to work on assessing my motivations for my decisions on a great frequency.  I hope this will help me make better decisions (I can’t see how it would do anything but help).


7) Invest more in friendships.  Missing friends at home made me realize that I should invest more in my friendships.  Meeting lots of people is exciting, but it’s the long-term friendships that really are significant.

8) Bus travel.  It’s a funny outcome, but I was so appreciative of the bus rides I took (in helping me when injured) and the conversations on the bus were so interesting, that I intend to use the bus more.  

Surprisingly, the ride made me appreciate motorized vehicles more rather than less.  I still think bicycles are the best form of transportation, but at times it is pretty great to have a bus or car to help.  Examples would be when you are hurt or have to move something extremely heavy - though I did see someone in China cycling with a full-size refrigerator strapped to his bike (that has been an inspiration to me ever since and I’ve often challenged myself to take my bike even when carrying large/unwieldy items).  In any case, it was nice to have motorized vehicles come to the rescue for me rather than just viewing them as polluting, evil forms of transportation.

I think that the whole vehicle perception thing is aligned with how this trip has impacted me - it’s helped me to see a number of areas where I had blindspots.  It’s helpful for me to realize that I have lots to do to be more present, accepting, and open-minded.

Looking back:

It has been also interesting to see how the trip has evolved.  As I was planning the trip, I was really excited about surfing and bicycling.  The monastery visit was also something I was looking forward to.  I did not realize how great the trip would be for meditation and Tai Chi Chuan.  I did not foresee how amazing it would be to meet so many people (and so many interesting people) on the road.  And I do not think I expected the trip to provide this much insight to me and prompt so much introspection.  


Thank you for sharing the journey with me via this blog.  I have really appreciated the words of wisdom I have received, the great advice, and positive feedback that was due to the blog.  It has been a wonderful trip and I am going to try to use the lessons I learned from it in my daily life.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gear List, Map Updates, Gratitude

This post is a bit of a public service for bicyclists and also my expressions of gratitude for those who have helped me on the trip.

For anyone considering doing the ride, I have included my gear list plus my updates to the bike maps/book.

1) My full gear list with commentary.  

When I did an assessment of the gear (without food and water, but including things I bought on the road) was ~35 lb.  My surfing gear was 9 lb, which meant the rest of the gear was 26 lb.  

So, in my assessment and my levels of comfort, 26 lb. of bicycling gear allows for a very comfortable trip.  The 9 lb. of surfing gear is clearly a big indulgence, but I was happy to be able to surf along the way.

Baseball capSee entry for Yana:
Biking shorts x2I bought these just before the trip (used to tour with normal shorts), only suggestion is to try them ahead of time
Overshorts x2These are for vanity, I don't prefer to walk around in lycra shorts... could have gotten away with one pair though
Sleeve warmersI don't like these - bike shop guy convinced me to get them, I ended up buying a long sleeve shirt later
T shirt x2Doing over, I instead would have gone with two long sleeve shirts (for cycling) and one t shirt (non-cycling)
Lightweight pantsThe quick-drying kind
Wool thermal shirtWool is good as it keeps you warm even if wet
Light fleeceI'd wear this over a tshirt to cycle in the mornings when cold
Medium fleeceFor the coldest nights I'd wear a t-shirt + wool shirt + light fleece + medium fleece
Rain jacketMust have, I brought my commuting rain jacket which is bright yellow
Rain pantsVery nice to have, I put them on at camp with my rain jacket - mosquitoes were stymied by this!
Long underwearLightweight silk
Helmet cap/linerI liked this - kept me from getting burned on my scalp and was nice to be able to wash it easily
Cycling glovesVery helpful for vibration reduction (mine have some padding) and reducing sun exposure to hands
Socks x2Thin polypropylene socks (polypro dries quickly)
Underwear x2Thin polypropylene underwear
Reflective vestIt's good to be visible
Helmet (bright yellow)ditto
Sneakers (Vans)I cycle in my Vans, super-comfy, I put in some shoe liners in them to give a bit more support
Stuff sackFor the clothes, used a thin material dry sack
EyeglassesNecessity if you need them :)
SunglassesVery nice to have, brought ones I could also take in the water
FlipflopsFor using in the camp showers - some are a bit grimy
Mosquito nettingI had a bit from DownWorks, would wrap around my neck like a scarf when the mosquitoes were bad
BandanaGeneral purpose
On the bike
Rear panniers (2)For (1) tent, sleeping gear + pot filled with cooking stuff + toiletries (2) clothes + food + stove
Handlebar bagMaps, papers, sunglasses, sunscreen, knife, PLB, long-sleeves, phone/camera, bandana, mosquito netting, lighter
Top tube bagFor tools and the lock, it did get in the way of my water bottles a bit, I think behind the seat tube is a better location
Stem bagFor little snacks - I didn't find this as helpful as I thought it'd be
Compression stuff sackSurfing gear + sleeping pad + flipflops, on rear rack; doubled as clothes washing bag
Water bottles x2One large, one regular
Water bottle cages x3Two for water bottles, one for the fuel bottle(adjustable size as fuel bottles have a smaller diameter)
Robust lockI got a folding lock... in case I had to leave for extended period in a city
CableTo lock the front wheel
Small wire lockLike a luggage lock, used for my 'ukulele and panniers
Seat coverWaterproof (since my seat is leather)
'UkuleleStrapped on top of compression stuff sack
StoveMSR Whisperlite Int'l - great stove, takes many fuels (white gas, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid, unleaded gas)
Fuel Bottle11 oz., small capacity but it fit in the water bottle cage and I refilled it roughly every 1.5 weeks
PotEnough to cook dinner for two (in case someone needed some food)
Containers x3Screw top containers, could hold things like a tomato or onion or leftovers; used top for cutting board
SpicesImportant, and refilled along the way
Olive OilIn a small nalgene bottle
Soy Sauceditto
BouillonGreat for cooking, had some vegan bouillon
Swiss army knifeNecessity - used every day for cooking
Refillable butane lighterFor lighting the stove
MatchesBackup to the lighter
Stuff sackFor the food and also used to hang the food
Cord to hang foodLong length for hanging the food to keep from animals
Bivvy/TentI brought a bivvy sac which I found not great for damp conditions, eventually decided a tent is better
Sleeping BagRated for colder weather than is predicted - I find they are generous with themselves in the rating system
Sleeping PadOld thermarest 3/4 length pad
Sleeping bag linerVery nice to have - silk liner, can be washed easily, and nice when it's warmer at night
PillowLuxury, in past I used to roll up a fleece, but I liked having a little inflatable pillow
EarplugsImportant for when folks who snore pitch a tent right next to you (happened)
EyeshadeIf you want to sleep past sunrise (up north the sun rises early)
Mini-flashlightKept with the eyeshade/earplugs - earplugs + eyeshade + flashlight + extra chapstick in a small mesh pocket
Stuff sackDry sack - all of the above sleep gear went in the dry sack
PhoneKept on airplane mode most of the time to conserve battery
Phone chargerLong cord is helpful as the plug locations can be awkward
USB cord chargerTo connect to solar charger (could have been combined with charger but not the one I brought)
Mini water cameraFor surf photos, I brought a gopro that was temperamental so wasn't too happy about it
Personal locator beaconIn case I fell off a cliff and no one could see me, mainly since I was traveling solo, maybe a bit of overkill
Solar chargerHandy, I used a small, inexpensive solar charger that I ordered online and it worked well
Headlamp (flashlight)Very useful for camp at night
Tooth brush
Tooth paste
Chamois butterI ended up giving the big tube away, but had a little bit on hand
Lense clothFor cleaning glasses
SoapSmall bottle of Dr Bronner's
Hand sanitizerEnded up with one with toiletries and one in handlebar bag
Stuff sackToiletries above in stuff sack
Chamois towel(in clothing sack), I brought a small one (hand towel size) for drying off after showering
Mosquito repellentHandlebar bag
Wallet (ID, cards)Kept in pocket of overshorts
MapsAnnotated (see prep entry at start of blog)
Small notebookTo write down folks' addresses
Journal pagesI've kept a journal for many years. Cut out some pages rather than bringing the entire journal.
Local mapsOften given to me by rangers - they have county campsites which is helpful.
Tide tableVery useful up north - big tidal swings, important if hiking along beach or surfing.
Pen x2only one really needed but nice to have an extra
First few days' itineraryprinted on paper
Multi-toolVery helpful to have, much more compact than separate tools
PliersOnly thing I felt missing from the multi tool
Bike pumpNecessity. And nice to have one with a hose and pressure gauge
Patch kit x2Extra patches seem good to have
Inner tubes x2Some folks recommended three, but I felt pretty good about having two
Tire levers (2)Important
Extra spokes (2)On chainstay
FiberfixNeat thing to fix a spoke without removing wheel
Cassette removerGot a combo tool that allows you to use the frame to lever off the cassette
RagVery useful to have for doing any work
Chain lubeNeeded after getting through Oregon - chain needed lube
Zip tiesJust in case
CordExtra for lashing gear if needed
Hose clampsIn case something on rack broke
Nuts/boltsExtra, again just in case
Spare brake/shift cableIn case
Electrical tapeHelpful for handlebar tape issues
Tent tapeTo repair stuff sacks/bike bags
First Aid KitUltralight backpacking first aid kit
SurfmatFourth Gear Flyer, Standard mat
Wetsuit, 2mmWay too thin for the conditions (5mm would've been nice), but was trying to save weight
Swim fins + leashesKicks fins - quite lightweight
Fin socksPrevent blisters, also helps for warmth
Contact lensesSingle use
PonchoReally helpful - used for changing clothes (lighter than a big towel) and as a raincover for my bike at night
Swim googles (freediving)Didn't end up using (didn't go freediving) - probably not necessary
What I shipped home:
ParkaFelt I didn't need that much warmth - didn't except for one night
Camera accessoriesex. tripod, clamp mount, etc. - not worth the weight/trouble
Additional items bought on the road:
StrapTo better secure my baseball cap to seat after losing the first one
BowlLuxury, wanted a bit more aesthetically pleasing bowl than my storage container
ForkCould have made it without it, but made eating noodles easier
Scraper (for cleaning)Nice to have, earlier I was just dealing with not fully clean things (bowl, pot, etc.)
Bottle for tabascoLighter weight
MonocularI only had heavy binoculars and didn't think of it until later
Seat cushion, inflatableFor meditation, great as I was sitting on hard surfaces (logs, rocks)
Wool hatEarlier parka had a hood, but I shipped the parka back home
Long sleeve shirtLightweight, for cycling (sun protection)
Additional chargerOne charger for both the phone and water camera was not great, so bought one on the road
What I would have liked to have brought:
Down sweaterA lightweight one to add just a bit more warmth than I had
FunnelFor filling the fuel bottle
Wetsuit hoodThat water was super cold, would've been nice to have a hood

Detail of my cooking gear.  The green containers are really useful.  As mentioned, the lid of the larger one is what I used for a cutting board.  The semi-clear bowl is the one I bought instead of eating from the green storage container all the time.  The red thing in the bowl is the cleaning scraper.  The bottles are filled with olive oil, soy sauce, and tabasco.

2) Updates to the Bicycling the Pacific Coast and Adventure Cycling Maps (the standard book and maps that most people use along the route).  Both of them could use some updating.  Here are some items I thought would be worth highlighting:

- The fruit and vegetable checkpoint at the Oregon-California border is closed (and apparently has been closed for years).  So it is *not* necessary to eat or throw out all fruits and vegetables before entering CA as it lists in the book.

- Hidden Springs campground in CA does not have an official hiker biker site, but it seems that the rangers there are quite accommodating (CA website lists that they will accommodate as needed)

- Scotia, CA has a great market with a nice selection of food

- Klamath, CA and Orick, CA have a very limited selection of food at the markets there - so better to buy groceries in Crescent City, CA

- Redwood Lily hostel in Arcata, CA offers a 10% bicyclist discount (for example, rate at the time for a bed in a shared room would then be $36 v. $40 regular rate)

- There is no longer a full service bicycle shop in Garberville, CA.  However, if you ask for Robert at Allsports and Toy, he may be able to help

3) Gratitude

I have felt so, so fortunate to have had so many people help me along the way on this trip.  I'm not sure if I am capturing everyone but I wanted to call out the following:

- Housing (Zac, Sue, Katie/St Paul’s)

- Ride and journey help (Zac, Sue, Ted and Lina, Rosemary, Geri and Sandy)

- Looking after my place (Ana, Tim, Joey)

- Advice (Dad, Tina, Aunty Betty and Uncle Stanley, Alice, Bill, Jason, Omari, Rob, Rich, Yeh, Jeff, Geoff, Hemant, Pierre, Amy, Jonathan, Brandon, Zach, Bosco, Matthew, Adrien, Grant, Rob, Lexi, Giles, Oliver, Per, Jon)

- Food (Sue, Marie)

- Fuel, soap (the Hardys, Caroline)

- Gifts (Louise, Yana, Sue, Agate Beach couple, Ariel)

- Inspiration (everyone I met)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Final stretch. People: Tamarr. Claire and Adam.

Home sweet home.

I stayed at a hotel along the coast with only a day's bicycle ride left of the journey.  I had a quiet night and didn’t have to break out my stove and cook on the roof or anything here as the main restaurant in town had a nice vegetarian option on the menu (good thing as I was out of food and arrived after the market had already closed). :)  I was definitely feeling sad about it being my last night on the road, but also excited to be getting home.

The weather the next day was perfect - sunny but not too hot.  After my morning meditation and tai chi chuan practice, I rode slowly and was glad to get to appreciate the beauty of the scenery near home.  

Monocular-cam photo of turkey vultures by the coast.

I stopped by the Pigeon Point lighthouse.  

It was neat to see such an awesome Fresnel lens.  I was excited to see Fresnel lenses on display at lighthouses in Oregon, only to realize at Pigeon Point that there is a huge lens so close to home.

I stopped at two places which offer bicyclist discounts - Pie Ranch (tasty pies and fresh produce) and Swanton Farms (super sweet strawberries - much better than ones from the big berry company that begins with a 'D', I have heard concerns about 'D' company's business practices and treatment of workers... so I really like that we have local farms like Swanton).   A bicyclist discount is a nice positive incentive for folks to bike.

Tamarr at Pie Ranch is also a bicyclist - in fact, she cycled once to Pie Ranch and liked it so much that she decided to stay. This was a similar story to the bicyclist at the hotel in Point Arena.  I thought that was really cool and maybe it's good that I hurt my back so that it forced me to go home... otherwise, who knows where I might have just decided to stay (and there were so many incredible places along the trip).

I also met Claire and Adam who are cycling from Alaska to Argentina.  

That’s a pretty serious trip.  We had a fun discussion about cycling and gear.  We also figured out that we knew Marie and had camped one night apart at Cape Blanco.  Marie was the cool woman from Quebec who had offered me quinoa at Cape Blanco - it was neat to have a connection to Marie and to an earlier point in my trip via Claire and Adam.

Reaching Santa Cruz was quite exciting.  It was so nice to see familiar sights.  There was a small swell and it was incredibly tempting to go in for a celebratory 'back home' surf.  However, I was feeling it in my back and managing to fight the urge to help myself with recovery.

I reached home. After taking the bags off my bike and putting them in the house, the first thing I did was then bicycle to the grocery store.  I must admit, getting on a bicycle felt like the last thing I wanted to do just after getting home, but I thought I ought to stick with my bicycle life habits.  It’s my normal routine at home to cycle to the grocery store but I only bought about two days’ worth of food - guess I was still on the bicycle tour mindset.  I did however buy things that are hard to buy when bicycle touring (fruit that crushes easily, for example).

It was quite a weird feeling to realize that my life would suddenly be so different - being able to stay in the same place each night, no packing, no wondering about where to get food, etc.  It’s interesting that while on a bicycle tour, your identity becomes that of a bicyclist on a bicycle tour.  As soon as you step home, you are no longer a ‘bicyclist’ (in the bicycle tour sense of the word) and revert back to your normal self.  It’s a bit strange - almost like stepping out of one world in to another.

Additionally, I was struck by a feeling of appreciation for having just done something very special.  I examined that a bit more and realized that this trip has been indeed very special for me.  I feel that it has been incredibly meaningful from the people I met who helped and inspired me to the self-reflection the trip has prompted.  

Marin County. SF. Ferry, transit. People: Geri and Sandy.

In Marin County, I was initially cycling slowly.  I was feeling the heat of the day and also absorbing the scenery.

(click for full-size panoramas below)

However, I wanted to make the ferry to San Francisco and I began to get worried that I was moving too slowly to make the ferry I planned to catch.

Shortly after I was getting concerned about timing, two sleek women riding sleek road bikes zoomed past me. They politely said ‘hi’ as they rode by and quickly rode ahead.  I realized that this was my chance to make the earlier ferry.  I hustled to catch up to them (Geri and Sandy) and they kindly agreed to let me draft behind them.  Of course then I still had to work to keep up with them.    To give you an example of the difference:  with my ‘enjoy-the-scenery’ pace I rode ~ 7 miles in 55 minutes, Geri and Sandy passed me ~10 miles before town and we reached town in 30 min.  Riding with them was more than twice as fast.  Thank goodness for Geri and Sandy to get me motivated, cycling at a decent pace, and for the drafting help.  

Geri is a federal agent who investigates environmental crimes, among other things.  I overheard Sandy mention that she worked for the newspaper for many years.  In addition to helping me with my ride, they were so nice and interesting that it would have been great to talk more - but they had their road ride to do and I had a ferry to catch.

I caught the ferry from Larkspur and enjoyed the views of the Bay. 

I also was reminded of history passing by Angel Island which used to be the Ellis Island of the West.  It’s one of the sad things from US history when there was heavy discrimination against Chinese immigrants in California.  Upon arriving to the US, many Chinese immigrants were arbitrarily locked up in a facility on Angel Island, essentially imprisoned, for long periods of time (up to two years).  

The immigrants would have spent potentially their life savings to immigrate to the US (and were often family breadwinners) only to be locked up without a trial or due process.  It is a good reminder that discrimination can happen at a systemic level and that it’s important to look out to prevent this type of thing from happening again.

When I reached San Francisco, I decided to take public transit to get myself across the city and down the coast a bit (the ferry terminal is on the Bay side of the city).  When I lived in San Francisco, I rode across from one side of the the city to the other fairly regularly.  Many of the bicyclists in San Francisco ride fast and aggressively and they used to get annoyed with my leisurely pace.  Given that I was riding even slower with gear, I thought it might be better for everyone if I used transit rather than cycling through the city.  

The transit station was quite a contrast to the natural beauty that I’ve been in for the past several weeks.  I realize it’s an unfair comparison since it’s just a functional transit center and San Francisco is an exceptionally beautiful city - but it was a pretty noticeable difference from my recent surroundings. The blandness of the transit center helped keep me from being tempted to stay in SF to catch up with friends and stick to the plan to get home faster to rest/recover.