Food glorious food

October 16th, 2011

Travel along behind James and I for more than a few minutes and you are guaranteed to hear some kind of food-related discussion. We’re burning on average 3,000 calories a day (in addition to the 2-2,500 calories we burn just breathing, existing), and so keeping ourselves topped up and satisfied sometimes feels like a full-time job. For the first time ever, we’re able to eat pretty much what we like without having to guiltily consider the fat content or calorie count; we’re burning it off all the time and we’re constantly hungry.

So, many of our days revolve around acquiring food, or fantasizing about what kind of food we’d like or (and this is the best one) gratefully receiving donated food from fantastically generous people along the road! In honour of those people and the amount of time devoted to thinking about and feasting on various delicious American snacks, this entry tells of our continuing journey south, leaving Seattle and heading down the stunning and deserted Oregon coast, with a foodie’s ravenous eye…


Throughout September, the blackberry bushes of Oregon provided us with delicious after-lunch nibbles. Gorging on the fat ripe berries whilst checking the map to see where to head to next soon became a favourite pastime and it was hard to get back on the bikes again and motivate ourselves to cover the afternoon miles.

Our first rest day out of Seattle having made good progress, was at Ike Kinswa park and although the rains came that didn’t stop us from enjoying blackberry pancakes. Carrying a good stove and a decent selection of pans has been critical to our enjoyment of the trip so far; we both crave a hot meal and hot drinks at the beginning and end of the day. The fact that we can knock up blackberry pancakes in the middle of nowhere makes carrying that extra weight in the panniers so worthwhile! 

Our tent and surrounding campgrounds seem to be host to a wide variety of bugs and creatures, most of whom seem to be after our food. This slug seemed to take a liking to our porridge but was far too slow to beat two hungry cyclists to their big breakfast. 

This fella made his way into our tent and we rescued him before we packed up for the morning. No doubt starving, as we know all caterpillars are, we couldn’t offer him anything from our supplies that would satisfy his appetite and so we transferred him to a tasty looking fern and moved on towards Portland. 

Unable to find a campground around Castle Rock in Oregon, we stopped to ask a local resident for advice. Instead of directing us to the nearest field or motel, Nancy offered her beautiful garden for us to camp in and then stocked us up with delicious organic veggies from her garden before we left the next day. Thank you Nancy, a true food legend! 

Next stop on the way to Portland was the uninspiring Columbia City where we ended up camped in an uncomfortable strip of land at the city park. Things improved however when the local Parks’ Committee stopped by with extra cup-cakes left over from their evening meeting, and fed them to us hungry looking cyclists. We were cooking up pasta at one of their picnic tables but once the obligatory pasta was consumed, the cup-cakes were launched upon with a frenzy that others might consider embarrassing. 

Our ‘rest days’ mostly consist of sleeping and eating; twice a week we try and stop for a while and let our legs recover and take on board more calories. It was no different in Portland. Having been wonderfully hosted through Warm Showers by Julia and Bob and fed on local salmon and delicious corn on the cob, we ventured into downtown Portland and just happened to stumble across an ice cream shop, crying out for our custom. We happily indulged, and this sundae lasted all of about 90 seconds between us… 

Having left Portland, we headed towards the coast and our first sight of the Pacific Ocean ‘proper’. On the way, we stopped at Gales Creek to ask for water and the owner of a tree nursery said we could camp by their creek at the bottom of the property. Our own private dinner spot, complete with babbling water, wading birds and a little beach for our tent to nestle in….delicious. 

Dragging ourselves away from Gales Creek, we did a gruelling 4 mile climb over the Coastal Range and sped 30 miles downhill to Tillamook. Known locally for its thriving dairy industry, we checked out the ice cream to make sure all the hype was true. Sure enough, the mint-choc-chip was a hit! 

Rare activity on a rest day saw us take a walk along the Three Capes to Cape Lookout. On the windiest day for months, we braved the cliff tops to see the stunning ocean and walked about five miles…burning more calories than we could afford and perfecting the windswept hairdo look we’ve kept all along the Oregon coast, we headed back to the campground for yet another pasta feast. 

Generosity on the roadside is a wonderful thing. Mark & Peggy had recently just finished cycling the same route that we were pedalling and were headed home to California but every time they saw cyclists like us, they stopped their car to donate leftover bananas and cookies. Free cookies by the side of the road taste so very delicious. 

We carry supplies to make our own sandwiches at lunchtime which means we can wait until we see the perfect spot before stopping to eat. It doesn’t always work and sometimes we end up stopping in the forecourt of garages or by the side of the road as the hunger takes over, but on this particular day it was a deserted beach with beautiful sunshine and crashing waves. The humble cheese and tomato sandwich tasted better with a view like this one. 

Many of the campgrounds we have stayed at along the coast are just a stone’s throw from the beach so we’ve loved packing the stove and food into a bag and taking it right onto the sand to cook and enjoy the sunset, like this one at the aptly named Beachside Campground just outside Yachats in Oregon. 

Making it to church in Bandon proved to be a worthwhile experience. Meeting Catholics from another community was great and then over coffee afterwards, Ernie and his family got chatting to us about our trip. Insisting to add something to our cycling experience, Ernie, who runs a store locally, wrote us a coupon for a 6 pack of beer which we duly went to collect. The sign as you leave the car park at church seemed fitting especially when fuelled by free alcohol! 

We’ve shared many a meal, can of lager, dash of Sailor Jerry rum with this man, Mike. Hiking down the west coast towards San Francisco and hopefully passage on a boat to Argentina to see his wife Agustina, our paths with Mike have crossed a few times. We’ve been enjoying his company, talking around fires and eating and drinking together. Here, he and James compare their epic beards whilst I can only witness in despair. 

We aren’t usually capable of achieving much before the morning dose of porridge and peanut butter sandwiches and the ever essential cup of strong black coffee, but on this particular morning we went to the stunning beach at Humbug Mountain to see the sun rise over black sand and driftwood before breakfast. Seen through sleepy eyes but awesome nevertheless. 

Never under-estimate the hungry animals of the woods! At Humbug Mountain we were two very distressed cyclists when we found that overnight a raccoon had nibbled his way right through the pannier we keep our lunch things in. The bag was actually empty at the time but the hungry little critter could obviously smell the bananas, crisps and other goodies we usually keep in there and thought he’d try his luck. Needless to say, we’ve learned our lesson about where we store our bags at night and the pannier’s been fixed with duct tape… 

We reach the end of the Oregon coast at Brookings where one of many supermarkets proudly displays their pumpkin stock outside. Mountains of these beautiful orange squash look so tempting and we’ve been told unequivocally by locals that we must try pumpkin pie at this time of year. You don’t need to tell us twice to eat something delicious and now it’s at the top of the list of foods to try before the end of the month. These pumpkins will probably end up just being carved out to hold candles at Halloween, but for two cyclists obsessed with filling their stomachs, they represent the mouth-watering endless choice of ways to top up those burned calories…so it’s on into California and amongst other things, we’ve heard the burgers are really very good…. 


Riding the Redwood Coast

October 22nd, 2011


Crossing into California, we turned briefly inland to visit Jedediah Smith State Park, a stunning area of old growth Redwood forest.

The size of these trees, up to 370 feet is incredible, but for me it was their age that was the most awe inspiring – some of them have been standing in the same spot for the last 2,200 years.

Straight out of Crescent City California, we present Mike Redbeard and the Redwoods. Inspired by the location, our new hitcher friend Mike finally overcame his nerves to serenade us with his mandolin. Buen viaje y hasta Patagonia che…

Unfortunately we couldn’t fit Mike in a pannier (the beard was just too big), but this little guy got a free ride down the road – in stark contrast to Bedders’ nemesis…

…the banana slug – a killer combination of overipe banana and super size slug rolled into one. The Redwoods were literally crawling with them. Sensing Bedders’ fear, they targeted her mercilessly – crawling across the tent, onto clothes and best of all, into her shoe one night while she was asleep. Rather the slug than me…

The US and Americans continue to both delight and bemuse me, often at the same time. Why waste time visiting some of the last surviving Redwood forest in the world when 300 slot machines await at “Elk Valley”? (apparently it’s where all the Elk go for their poker fix)

At Prairie Creek we took a welcome detour off the 101 onto a great network of abandoned roads which ran along the clifftops with waves crashing below…

..before turning onto some great singletrack which cut down through giant stands of Redwoods, over fallen trees and across streams…

…before finally emerging onto deserted dunes at Carruthers Cove. We pitched our tent for the night in the dunes and in the morning had breakfast on the beach, watching seals just offshore and a flock of pelicans diving for their morning fish. An amazing spot.

“This county used to thrive on fishing and logging…now it’s all gone to pot”. Cannabis production is now the mainstay of the economy in northern California, and we hit the so called ‘Emerald Triangle’ at harvest time. Sleepy Arcata was definitely the first place I’ve ever been to where the smell of weed hangs over the town like a haze. We had a great stay thanks to Robert, Marissa and Sean, who cooked us up a feast and gave good tips for the road ahead – thanks guys!

Back into the Redwoods, we rode the 32 mile Avenue of the Giants, stunning in the early morning light. However, this preserved ‘beauty strip’ of forest for tourists, just a few hundred metres wide in places, highlighted for me how little actually remains. Only 4% of the North Coast’s original two million acres of Redwoods is left today.

Finally we left the logging trucks and RVs of Highway 101 behind, and emerged into the sunshine and mist of beautiful Highway 1, which would lead us all the way down to San Francisco.

Another great camping spot at Mackerricher State Park and yet another stunning Pacific sunset.

Lunch stop at the lighthouse at Point Cabrillo, just north of Mendocino

Highway 1 is a rollercoaster of a road: tiptoe your way along the cliff tops, plunge down into steep gorges, keep your speed through the tight switchbacks, and sweat your way back up to the cliff tops – then repeat all day. Awesome fun…

…but all very calorie consuming of course – cue a milkshake stop (note very serious milkshake face)…

…to celebrate 2,500 miles pedalled from Anchorage – spelled out in our daily lunch regime.

San Francisco didn’t disappoint with an eerily foggy crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge and an amazing welcome from Liz, our hostess with the mostest. We’re here for a while and looking forward to the arrival of our London Support Crew for a low mileage week of ‘R&R ’ and social re-integration. The vineyards of the Sonoma Valley and the Santa Cruz coast are beckoning – time for some drinking, cycling, wineries and… err did I mention drinking?