Gualalalala, 1 month on the road and San Francisco

After the holy campground we drove on along the Avenue of the giants, with even more huge sequoias. What shall I say, it was beautiful again! Beautiful times three, because we had forgotten to refuel. And the nearest gas station was a long way back again, past the campsite we just came from. So we drove the Avenue of the Giants three times. It was a super-hot day but in the shade of the trees it was a nice and cool. Picked up an iced coffee in Miranda and then continued on the 101 again. However, the heat was too much for us. So hot .. and with that heat you no longer benefit from the wind while driving, that wind is still there but it is more as if you are driving into a hot hair dryer. I love those silly gadgets from the outdoor sports store. So I have an emergency whistle / thermometer / magnifier / compass thing hanging on my jacket. It said it was 35 degrees Celsius. After fifteen minutes of blow-drying we gave up and stopped at the first shady campsite we came across. It was ugly and we were the only ones there .. but there were trees ..

The next day we exchanged the 101 for the much quieter 1 along the coast. Fantastic twisty road and very good for practicing your turns. If it says on your GPS that you are going to do 3.5 hours over 145km then you know what time it is, haha. After a lot of searching because of labor day, we found a campsite with a free place in Gualala, a village on the coast about 200 km from San Francisco. We were very lucky that we could find a place at that campsite, because everything from San Francisco to at least 300 km  up north was fully booked. It was actually a “hikers and bikers” place that could only be booked for 1 night, but we kindly looked at the receptionists with our big blue eyes and asked if we could stay until Monday. And I have large blue eyes, one larger than the other at the moment. I had and still have a thick blue left eye, oops! I was a bit stupid and briefly opened my visor while driving to smell the fresh sea breeze, and then it was PATS! A huge insect flew into my eye, I don’t know what it was but it was black, round and bigger than a bumblebee. Maybe it was a hummingbird. That would be ironic because Erik is the only one who always sees them and that made me feel jealous. That at about 75 km per hour was not a happy moment. I was just able to make a one-eyed emergency stop because it was rather painful. Fortunately I did close my eye so no further damage to my eye itself, and fortunately, I still see everything clearly. Otherwise it will be a little tricky driving though.

Gualala was not only a nice name, it was also a nice village. Lucky for us, because we had to spend 4 days there until Labor Day weekend was over. We went to the farmers market and bought al kind of nice goodies. On Saturday there are nice farmers markets everywhere around here, those nice farmers markets that are very reminiscent of the Rotterdam Harvest market. With all kinds of specialties from the region, life music and a “food square” The next day we took a small hike. Due to the lack of walking trails starting from the campsite we just walked a bit through the forest and walked back and through the river. We found a rock from which we could jump into the river. I didn’t have any swimsuits, but Erik had a good time in his shorts. We also perfected a recipe for freshly made pizza on the campfire. Pizza on the campfire? Yes you can, and it was really good. Cast-iron pan, layer of flat river stones in it. Pizza on aluminum foil on the stones. Everything on the hot coals. Cover it with the lit upside down and put a layer of coal in it. Really amazing how well that works as an oven. The receptionists also got a piece of course. “In the evening they had karaoke. What a feast, uhum. But it became even more fun, because in addition to the karaoke organized by the campsite, there was a whole family of Chinese people on the group field who brought their own karaoke set. Complete with huge screen and sound boxes. And they blended nicely together all night, hihi horrible!

After those days in Gualala we drove further along the coast. On the way we saw very strange, dark sea fog. The landscape is getting drier, all fields are yellow and when you drop water on the ground a dust cloud comes up. We also see more and more fire brigade on the road and everywhere are the signs that indicate the risk of fire hazard on High. We wanted to go to Reyes park to see the Andreas fault line and a cape with sea elephants before we entered San Francisco. So we spent another two days at another campsite in the Taylor National Park. Again a beautiful campsite in the woods. Only no shower again. Out of sheer desperation after not being able to shower for so many days, we just put on swimsuits and showered the old-fashioned way, throwing pans of hot water over each other.  It works haha. The village near the campsite, Point Reye was a bit of a hippie village. With a lot of older hippies in particular and a very pleasant atmosphere. The Andreas fault line was nice but not very spectacular. We  walked the earthquake-trail. You just don’t see much of it because it’s actually too big to get a good overview I guess. The only visible thing of the earthquakes was a fence that was broken in half, and the second part had been moved a few meters. But the accompanying information boards were interesting. The cape with the sea elephants was very cool. It was super foggy but at the same time very warm so you saw the vibrations of the heat and the fog above the road which looked very special. Furthermore, we saw three coyotes walking through the dry fields. How lucky! The sea elephants themselves were also very nice to see. They are ugly animals though, especially those males with that crazy trunk on their heads. And so fat haha, cute moving bumps of fat haha.

From the campsite we drove to San Francisco. Even more hippie villages on the way and I decided that it should be Neil Young in my ears today, or maybe The Mamas and the Papas?. We have found the settings that allow us to listen to music from our phone through the helmet communication system. We arrived in San Francisco early in the afternoon. We are here in a cozy hotel with, yes, a bath tub! And all luxury bottles with stuff, including conditioner. My now rope-like hair really likes that. Riding a motorcycle is not good for hair, it has become clear to me. This time the Buddha’s teaching is in the nightstand, but in the other nightstand we also came across the Bible, and next to the television was the Bagavat Gita. We have already seen the first tourist highlight. We entered the city over the Golden Gate Bridge. That was nice, but it would have been nicer if it wasn’t hanging completely in the fog so you could also see the view haha. Oh well you can’t have it all! Moreover, I only look straight forward anyway. To be honest, I don’t like the bridges here so much. They are very high and very long, but that is not the worst, they do not have an emergency lane. And I don’t like that at all, because what happens if I have to make a one-eyed emergency stop again? (no, I always have my visor closed now) But still .. After the bridge we stopped to take a nice picture of the bridge itself. Then we went to the hotel. We have just taken a walk through the neighborhood and had a nice meal. We’re in the Fishermans wharf neighborhood. San Francisco makes a very relaxed impression. We will go out tomorrow. Now we are listening to the rough version of the new CD from Trigg & Gusset. Of course I am incredibly biased since its Erik’s (and friends) CD but it sounds super good and some songs really give me goosebumps.

In the meantime, it has been over a month since we started our engines and drove out of Vancouver. (August 29) So I thought .. time for a little retrospect. We have driven over 3500km. That is an average of 100km per day. About what we expected to drive. We are therefore still on schedule, as far as we had a schedule. It can be much faster of course. For example, we left the same day as another overlander from the hostel. He first drove all the way to Anchorage Alaska on his motorcycle, then back all the way and now he has overtaken us and just past San Francisco. He has a different way of traveling though, more faster highways and more motels, and I believe he doesn’t make a lot of stops in the National Parks. Camping and cooking yourself takes quite a lot of time. We usually drive on 80/90km an hour roads, and sometimes we sneak out to do an off-road trail or a more scenic road along the coast. In addition to that, we often sleep nice and long and take it easy. “In the morning we have to have an extensive breakfast and then have a nice cup of coffee. That takes us about an hour, that is optimistic estimate. And then we start packing. Usually we take off at 10 am. Then it is soon time for a second coffee stop and a snack. Drive a bit, hey, it’s lunchtime again, and some grocery shopping needs to be done. And then someone spots our Dutch number plates and comes over to have a chat. Drive a bit. “Look there a nice view point” or ‘hey , a nice little walk to this or that”, “Am I seeing a seal there?” Drive a bit. Oh we have to refuel again and stop for a snack, and have a chat with those friendly motorcyclists at the gas station. Then we go looking for a campsite at the end of the afternoon because everything has to be set up again and then cooking is needed. In addition, we take 1 or 2 days of driving every 5 days. That is really necessary. And we also stay in all the National Parks for a nice long time, because they are so beautiful. In short, we turn out to be real slow-paced travelers haha. But that doesn’t bother us at all. We actually enjoy it a lot.

The bikes have also done very well so far. The kilometer counter of my motorcycle has not yet been repaired and it is still difficult to get it into neutral. It seems to get worse throughout the day. Ivo of fourstroke service in Heeze (NL), who also made the motorcycles ready for the trip, pointed out to us that it could be the chain tension. It could indeed have been tighter, so we tightened it a bit. But unfortunately the problem is not solved yet, so we have to look further. Very nice that we can ask him for advice from the far distance. Erik’s bike is not bothered by anything and drives like a charm. We are still happy with the choice of these bikes. Because they are nice and agile and they do well both on the road (if you don’t drive 140km) and off-road, even with luggage. We are also very satisfied with our camping set. And the choice to opt for something more comfortable instead of quickly set up and superduper small. Our spacious cotton tent is still a joy to wake up in. And the thick air mattresses too. The seats are ideal and we are super happy that we have taken our instruments with us because we really use them a lot. I think we take two times 45 minutes each day to put up and down our camp, but after doing that about 25 times we are not tired of it yet.

Actually we have nothing to complain about when it comes to all of our luggage. It’s often the little things that make it a just that little bit more comfortable that we’re happy about. For example, our coffee percolatortje, so that we can at least make really good coffee. What has been superfluous so far .. clothing, we both still have too much clothing. And in particular the interior of both our motorcycle pants and jackets we have not used at all and as we drive south I think it is unlikely that this will ever happen. Also superfluous. Helmet hats, balaclavas for under your helmet, so that your helmet will not stink if you use it so much, I do not believe that we still care whether that helmet will stink or not. With us, everything smells of campfire all day long and we smell nothing else anymore. I lovingly call that the “Parfum des sauvage” (perfume of the wild). We would prefer to send some stuff home, but that costs almost more than buying new liners. Something that is disappointing is how expensive it is here. Last month we spent three times as much as our budget allowed. We really can’t keep that up for long. Now that the high season is over, everything is getting a bit cheaper we hope.

We are also doing well ourselves. We feel fit and in a good mood. We really enjoy the nature and waking up every morning in a beautiful forest or on the beach, what a joy! All in all we are very grateful. Thankful for what we have already seen. All beautiful nature parks and the nice critters. It might be normal for the people here, to have such an abundance of wildlife. But we are still amazed every time we see a squirrel haha. At the same time, I realize that nature in the Netherlands represents little compared to here. We are also grateful for all the nice people we meet. And for the fact that we have managed to go on a journey at all. That we succeeded in renting out the house, collecting the money etc. etc. And that gratitude has only increased because we meet so many people who encourage us and say things like “oh, I would have wanted to do that so badly, but now it is no longer possible … (children, career, health, etc.)” And secretly I’m a little proud. Not because I think we are so cool, driving around on our bikes in the USA, or something like that. But because we had a plan and we went ahead with it. And all of this less than a year after Erik’s accident (he broke his neck on two places in a windsurf accident). Even if we decide tonight that we want to go home, I’m would still be proud of how far we’ve come.

To come back to that nature thing (yes again). We also hear all the news from the burning forests. First in the polar regions, now in the Amazon. That sometimes makes it extra distressing for us. Precisely because we have driven through so many beautiful forests this past month. Now I don’t want to be the annoying vegan .. (or maybe I do gnagna) But then I take a look on social media, full of messages about how bad that is and that we all want to do something about it so badly, but don’t know what. The Amazon fire is caused by farmers who mainly want to grow soy for cattle or want to farm cattle. For us western people. Can you blame those farmers? No, I don’t think so, if you live below the poverty line, you don’t care what happens to the environment, as long as your family has food on the table every night. What I’m trying to say is. I find food very interesting, not just because it is tasty and I love cooking a lot. But mainly because what you eat every day is actually your ballot every day. Do you opt for products with palm oil for which entire Orang-utan living areas are being demolished? Would you rather turn a blind eye because it is all so complicated and you don’t know what else to eat ? Fair trade or exploitation? Organic or even more insect species disappearing ? Vega or burnt-down Amazon? It remains fascinating. And yes, I know that it is more expensive and it is not reserved for everyone, so I also think that VAT should be reduced for this type of product group. But there is plenty you can do every day, when you’re  doing groceries, and at the same time that’s the beauty of it. If we all thought a little bit more about that .. We too wondered what we could do. Those forests have burned down, and now what? It has made us decide to contact WeForest. An international organization I’ve been supporting for a while. WeForest has various reforestation projects around the world. In addition, they use the food forest principle. The food forest principle originates from permaculture and is, very briefly explained, a forest with 7 layers of edible herbs, plants and trees that will eventually work as an independently functioning ecosystem. WeForest also designs wildlife corridors to increase the habitat of some wild animals,  and they are active in the Amazon, among many other countries. They provide employment for the local people and are clear in their results. So everyone literally and figuratively reaps the benefits of it, haha. In consultation with Louise from WeForest, we decided to draw attention to their organization during our trip. That is why you will soon see a link from them on our website. If you want to donate something or just want to read more, you can click on that link, or visit their website

Tomorrow we will be exploring San Francisco, looking forward to that. Then we go a little further south to Santa Cruz … the cradle of surfing culture.