Month: November 2021

Cotati!

11/9/21

Today was wonderful. Wow. After a frankly challenging birthday yesterday (up at 5 am, lodging snafu, technical difficulties with data on my phone, heavy rainstorm—though luckily I was inside when it hit—and various other annoyances) I bounced back today with a beautiful place, wonderful host, delicious food, and even a rainbow!

After my hotel in Rohnert Park, just south of Santa Rosa (where I had arrived by bus yesterday from Fort Bragg) I tried to cycle to my new host’s place in Cotati, but I wanted to jog north first to hit up Amy’s Drive Thru, the vegetarian fast-food place I had hoped to visit, then thought I had missed, but then serendipitously passed on my way to the hotel last night. After last night’s vegan cheeseburger and chocolate bar, I thought I’d try the sweet potato fries and a cinnamon roll for breakfast.

Alas, however, I turned the wrong direction on the road outside the hotel, and found myself in “downtown” (which is tiny and cute and charming) Cotati instead! So I pivoted and had my breakfast at the Redwood Café, a local landmark. The tofu scramble was delicious and filling.

Then I made my way, in a light mist, to my new spot for the night, in a wonderful cohousing community. The place, which includes 30 dwellings, opened in the early 2000s, after several years of planning (including by my host) and it felt absolutely idyllic to tour. (If you’re curious, and find yourself in the area, tours are available, but must be set by appointment; click on the link to schedule.) There was a community kitchen/dining room/gathering space, of course, as well as a workshop, a dance space, indoor and outdoor kids’ play spaces, a library, guest quarters, a vegetable garden, electric-vehicle charging stations, and even a hot tub! (I indulged tonight, which felt so decadent.)

The place also had winding walkways filled with various fruit trees that are specifically planned to produce fruit at different times of the year, so that there is always something producing. (A concept like that has long been a secret dream of mine, which should come as no surprise to those of you who are aware of my love affair with fruit trees.) Many of the trees are private, for enjoyment by residents, but quite a few are planted outside the complex, along the street, with the fruits available to passersby. Today I was able to enjoy fresh figs, pineapple guava(!) and even madrone berries! I had been unaware that madrone trees (spelled and pronounced “madrona” in the Northwest, but apparently not in California) produced fruit—let alone edible fruit—until just the past week or so, when I tried a very small one at Kitty and Creek’s place in Willits. That one was small and not at peak ripeness (perhaps due to the elevation?) but this one today was large and soft and perfectly ripe, and tasted deliciously tropical-tasting!

After my tour of the community, I ventured out to explore the small town a bit, which included frog ponds, a commuter-train station, wooded pathways, and a shopping center with a cool locally owned grocery store, where I found a delicious house-made vegan chocolate cheesecake brownie.

Later, my host met up with some friends at the nearby bar, and I joined them for a sweet-tea cocktail and to hear their stories. One friend is a current resident of this community, and the other is a former resident. One had recently completed a motorcycle tour from Minnesota back to the Santa Rosa area, his own personal re-creation of the journey in the classic novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (How cool!)

And in another amazing small-world coincidence, both of these people turned out to have personal ties to Leesburg, Virginia, the small town outside which I grew up, and where we used to do our grocery shopping and other errands.

This journey’s magic continues, indeed. Tomorrow, I head to another new-to-me place: Sebastopol!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

My birthday: reprising a powerful post

11/8/21

Dear readers,

Today is my birthday! I’m almost exactly two months into this journey, and wow has it been amazing so far. Thanks to everyone who has been following along; I so appreciate your support.

Today, honestly, has been a long and challenging day, in too many ways to recount (although I can mention that I got up at 5 amsacrilege to this night owl!) to catch a 4-hour bus from Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa. I’m ensconced in a hotel now, just south of town, listening to the rain fall outside and appreciating this comfortable shelter from it.

There isn’t much to report from today, and honestly my brain feels kind of fried. But Facebook reminded me of my blog post from exactly a year ago today, when I was three months into dreaming up this trip. It feels poignant and powerful to revisit this state of mind and these epiphanies I was having, so if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me, I’m going to paste it here below:

What a day!

Today [November 8, 2020] is my 48th birthday, and it occurred to me with a chuckle how appropriate that is, given that within the year I hope to begin circumnavigating the “lower 48” under my own power.

More importantly, of course, as of yesterday our country has struck a blow against fascism, and although the amount of political, social, and cultural work remaining to be done feels nearly overwhelming, this is something monumental to celebrate. And I do.

Having acknowledged these two personal and collective milestones, I want to share a bit of an epiphany I had yesterday about my vision for my trip—and indeed, about life itself—after a wonderful phone conversation with someone I encountered recently on Facebook.

Sara Eden and I spoke about both of our career/life paths, and it was an enriching conversation.

At the very end, she said this about my goal to raise between $35,000 and $50,000 to fund my year-long trip:

“I hope the money that’s wanting to be spent finds you.”

Whoa.

What a profound statement.

What a mind shift.

“…the money that’s wanting to be spent…”

After we hung up the phone, I spent about 20 minutes allowing my mind and heart to marinate in, and free-associate with, that statement.

One of the first things that came to mind was a sense of abundance vs. scarcity. I thought about how money is something that I have traditionally thought of as scarce, and that “asking for money”—even in terms of marketing my genuinely valuable services to prospective clients—has felt scary and painful.

I further reflected that my “day job” of the past 17 years has involved accounts-receivable work, in which I have to “hunt down” unpaid and delinquent bills, using postal mail, email, and phone calls to recover the money our company is owed by customers. I have grown very accustomed to this work, but at first I found it so unpleasant and frustrating that I wrote a humorous, blowing-off-steam “template letter” to these various customers (which of course I never sent, but my coworkers and I got a needed laugh from it) and the one phrase that still sticks in my mind from that letter was, “It’s like frickin’ pulling teeth to get you to pay these bills!”

What a visual. It conjures how painful it feels to ask for money, or for me to imagine someone “giving up” their money, even to my employer from whom they did take merchandise with an agreement to pay for it within 30 days.

And then I found myself laughing out loud at that phrase: “pulling teeth.” I literally met with an oral surgeon this past week, to discuss doing exactly that in my own mouth. My own body. Physically removing all of my lower teeth—to replace them with hopefully more secure false ones—probably within the next few months.

Losing my teeth was a theme of recurring nightmares for most of my life. But now that it’s really happening… maybe it’s not so bad? It’s just a part of my life story. So, how funny to see this as a metaphor: maybe my asking for money—and maybe others’ giving or trading that money toward me—needn’t be painful or difficult.

What if it could be beautiful? Joyful?

“… the money that’s wanting to be spent…”

Next, I flashed back to my high school physics class, where I learned about potential vs. kinetic energy. Potential energy is that which is “stored up,” such as a book sitting on a high shelf. Kinetic energy is energy in motion, such as when gravity impels the book to fall to the floor.

What if money is a form of energy? (I believe it is.)

In that case, the money that is “wanting to be spent” is potential energy, existing within the hearts and minds of those whose money sits in their bank accounts, waiting to be transformed into the kinetic energy of a bike trip with a world-changing purpose.

This line of thinking spurred a visual. (I love visuals!)

I pictured myself standing in the middle of the continental US, or perhaps on an imaginary map of it. I stood with confidence and joy, which filled my body and began a dance. I extended my arms as if to receive, and looked joyfully around in all directions as I danced in a fluid expression of all that I wish for this bike tour to be.

As I did so, colorful dollar bills were magnetically drawn to me from all around the United States, like floating autumn leaves. (It brought an even bigger smile to my face to enjoy the fact that our bills do now come in various vibrant pastel shades, rather than the staid green they all wore in my youth.) The money was being drawn toward me by the beauty and resonance of my dance, my purposeful vision. Like November leaves, they floated effortlessly, joyfully toward me on the breeze, and joined me in the dance.

I flashed forward several months, and these vibrant “leaves” of financial abundance were now fluttering all around me as I piloted the picturesque Brompton along the roads and trails of this country, surrounded by ever-changing natural beauty.

Yeah.

Yes.

Yes!

I am now in this dance. I am trusting that the money that is wanting to be spent will indeed find me.

Sara Eden suggested a few nonprofits that might be interested in granting me some of this money. I will follow up on these leads. I’m also dreaming up ways to offer my empathy and coaching services in ways that will be a win-win for this trip. As time goes on, I will make more of a push to encourage people to sign up for my Patreon. (If you find yourself inspired to do so now, I welcome it!) I’m also open to the idea of meeting just the right individual benefactors/philanthropists who have this “potential energy” money in abundance, and would find it joyful to transform it into something kinetic by supporting my trip. Really, I would like to find a variety of sources of funding. I wish for this journey to be a wide-ranging, community effort, with community benefit. But rather than seeing “raising the money” as a painful, shameful, awkward, or insurmountable chore, I will now view it as a joyful dance from which everyone benefits.

Yeah.

2021 note: If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading! I have indeed found that some “money that is waiting to be spent” has found its way to me in the past year, and I’m tickled pink about that. (Special thanks to anyone reading who may have contributed some of that money!) I do, of course, continue to welcome one-time or ongoing/Patreon donations, so if you feel drawn to support my vision in that way, see the links below. I would also really love to identify some “fairy godfunders,” not just for myself but for others I encounter on this journey who might be doing wonderful things for this world if they weren’t chained to a “day job” to make ends meet. I’d love it if you could help me spread the idea of fairy godfunding by sharing this Medium piece I wrote in your networks.

Thanks again, and I hope this upcoming year will be magical for all of us.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

“Talk to me of Mendocino”

11/7/21

Disclaimer: I’m a bit buzzed as I write this, on the eve of my birthday, from a can(!) of pina colada I bought on the Skunk Train today and saved for this evening. Glad I did: this thing is strong, and no way should I have gotten back on my bike after that, had I indulged on the train!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of my fondest albums from childhood was Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s eponymous debut album. (Please check it out; you won’t regret it.) One of the tracks from that album that has always stuck with me is a short, lovely song called Talk to Me of Mendocino. All these years, since age 4, I have wondered about Mendocino, California.

The town lies just south of Fort Bragg, so I had hoped to visit there today. I did make it—just barely, before the new standard-time sunset arrived—so I wanted to share the above pic with you all. I really wish I had had time to actually explore the town. Perhaps another time.

But today was filled with other activities, so I’m satisfied now, at the end of the day.

This morning, I cycled a few blocks north of my Motel 6 on Hwy 1 (yay, the fabled Hwy 1!) to the Skunk Train. I had first heard of this excursion railroad some years ago, when my Oregon friend Rhonda told me about it. It felt like a bit of a splurge to buy the ticket, but this was my birthday weekend, after all, and how could I find myself in Fort Bragg without experiencing the Skunk Train?

I’m glad I did. The train took us from the coast into the redwoods, and then we disembarked for about 25 minutes to wander in wonder at the forest.

When the train returned us to downtown Fort Bragg, I visited the Edgewater Gallery, because I wanted to see some of my previous hosts’ Spencer’s and Esther’s artwork. It was cool to see their ingenious creations on the walls.

After that, I pedaled to just south of town, where the enchanting Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens lie. The gardens stretch all the way out to the ocean, and I was captivated once again by those rocky shores, with the surf crashing and lapping the rocks. To get there, I walked along beautiful wooded—both pine and deciduous—paths, and through a lovely small cactus and succulent garden.

After the garden, I made haste to Mendocino, to visit the Harvest Market natural foods store. When I arrived about 45 minutes later, I had a heck of a time finding bike parking, and ended up just locking the bike to itself in the parking lot, since it seemed a pretty safe location. When I emerged from the store with my tasty vegan treats, a man commented with a chuckle that the bike looked “short.” As per usual, I offered to demonstrate the full fold for him. He was duly impressed.

Daylight was fading fast, so I donned my front and rear lights and set out north for the hotel. I did stop a few times along the way to catch the gorgeous sunset over the shore. Wow.

I get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to head south and east to Santa Rosa on a bus. I’m so glad I took this excursion to Fort Bragg!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Fort Bragg, and some musings about safety

11/6/21

Today my Redwood Valley hosts Spencer and Esther were kind enough to allow me to load my rig into their fully electric car (so cool!) and hitch a ride with them out to Fort Bragg, where they serendipitously happened to be heading today for a social engagement.

Along the way, driving through beautiful redwood forests, we hit a delay: cars were stopped and backed up on the twisty road. It turned out that a redwood tree had fallen across the road, blocking traffic in both directions.

Fortunately, someone in a car ahead of us happened to have a chainsaw on hand, so they used it to quickly clear the blockade. We were probably stopped for only about ten minutes.

While we drove, the two shared some history of the area (the forests, the solar industry, the cannabis industry, and various economic and legislative aspects of all of the above) which added to the knowledge I’d been picking up first from Kitty and Creek, and then Henry. It’s cool to have connected here with three separate households of people who have decades’ worth of personal history and knowledge of this area.

One thing I learned yesterday, which saddened me, was that apparently the company of Real Goods is no more, as of the past year or two. The owner and founder had tried to sell the business, and ended up partially turning it over to another company, but the solar energy showroom and demonstration center no longer exists; the company operates only online now. I had really hoped to visit the center during my stay in Ukiah, so this was a disappointment. It also hit me like the end of an era: the end of a certain kind of promise, at least within my own mind. Of course, solar energy has come so far since those days in the late ‘80s when my wide teenaged eyes first discovered the Real Goods News catalog/magazine, so it’s fair to say that the company paved the way for bigger and better things. Of course we need a larger scale of solar and renewable energy than the pages of that catalog reflected. But there was a certain grassrootsy, idealistic promise that I felt from that publication which I think may be lost to the sands of time now. And I’m sad about that. When I spoke to my parents on the phone this evening, we reminisced about the solar shower and solar-powered hats my sister and I had purchased way back in those days. In fact, as I prepared to embark on this trip, I gave away a Real Goods-branded small solar-powered fan that is designed to clip onto the brim of an existing hat. A neighbor in my local Portland Buy Nothing Group said that her son would be thrilled to receive it. I was glad to hear this, although at the time I didn’t realize what a rare treasure that item had become.

Another thing has also been weighing on my mind these past few days. It’s kind of complex, and multifaceted, but I’ll do my best to condense it here:

I haven’t been on my bike much in the past month. I’ve taken many trains, a number of buses and shuttles, and many rides from friends (including newfound friends!) both in the Southwest and here in California. I have felt extremely grateful to have these options, and to accept people’s kindness. And, for me this journey has always been about traveling in the way that feels right in any given moment, rather than  sticking exclusively to pedal power.

At the same time, part of me worries that I’m “cheating,” both in terms of what people may expect of me on this trip since I dreamed it up as primarily a bicycle trip, and also just in terms of environmental impact, since that is that primary reason I’ve chosen not to own a car all these years.

It’s complicated, though.

I’m not particularly an athlete. Some of these stretches are way too hilly/mountainous for me to be comfortable using my own power to put in all the miles, especially since I’m pulling the trailer.

I’m also not a camper. I need lodging—preferably with people, rather than paying for hotels, since my budget is very limited for the trip—and in many of these long stretches (Flagstaff to Prescott, Prescott to Phoenix, Joshua Tree to the southern California coast, Mount Shasta to Arcata, Eureka to Willits, and most Oregon and California coastal areas I’ve looked at) there simply aren’t options for lodging—paid or not—within 40 or 50 miles of each other.

Perhaps most important, though, is the question of personal safety.

I know that bicycling is an inherently dangerous way to travel. I’ve written about that a few times here already. But just yesterday morning, my Warmshowers host from Oakland (herself an avid and car-free cyclist) messaged me, worried for my safety, because she’s home with family in Texas, and just saw this news story. It reminded me of this news story.

So tragic.

My Willits host, Kitty, absolutely insisted on driving me to and from their place, because of all the fatalities on the roads near them, even for people using motorized transport.

After 31 years of living in Portland, I’d always wanted to visit the redwoods, but somehow never had. Given the relative proximity, I had been wondering why that was. But now that I’m here, I get it: it’s nearly impossible to do without a car. I have relied heavily on people driving me to these wonderful places in the past couple of weeks.

Again, I am deeply grateful for this, and I’m doing my best not to criticize myself for not being totally hardcore, environmentally, athletically, and outdoorsy-wise.

But here on the ground, I feel the tension. I feel, plainly, that in many parts of this land, one must choose between environmental responsibility and life-or-death safety. And I’m sad about what this reflects about our individual and collective priorities, as a society.

Of course it’s not black and white. The car we took out here today is fully electric, and partially powered by solar panels. Kitty’s car is a gas-electric hybrid, as are the cars of several other people I’ve stayed with. And, being out in these rural areas, seeing and feeling how rugged the terrain is, I understand that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to pave a perfect smoothness onto remote roads, nor to run urban-style transit to rural areas or build urban-style bicycle infrastructure there. Heck, I grew up on a remote, potholed gravel road back in Virginia. I felt those tensions, and saw the complexity of the issues, back in my teenaged days as I perused that Real Goods catalog.

Having said all this, though… I want to see this nation become a place where people can choose to live lightly on the earth by choosing to bicycle as a primary means of transport, without worrying that at any moment someone will barrel by in a motor vehicle and kill them or injure them. I hate reading these stories about these idealistic cyclists taking trips like mine, whose lives are tragically cut short because people are driving unsafely.

I’m going to make another personal plea, here—two days before the start of my 50th year on Earth—and then get back to “the fun stuff”:

Please, when you get behind the wheel, think of vulnerable road users. Don’t look at your phone while you’re driving. I’ll say it again: Please don’t look at your phone while you’re driving. Look at the road, and be aware that a bicyclist or pedestrian could be around that next blind curve. Drive slowly enough that you can reasonably stop if you find that to be the case. I like to think that my, and my fellow cyclists’, lives are worth those efforts.

OK. Having said all that, I do expect to take some more transit to get back to 101 from here on Monday. But after that, I think as I near the Bay area—and hopefully some warmer and drier weather—I will be spending more time in the saddle.

Speaking of which, I did get out and ride today! Fort Bragg is beautiful, and since I arrived two hours before I could check into my hotel, I took Spencer’s suggestion to ride along the bike-and-pedestrian path that overlooks the ocean.

Wow! Incredible.

Then, I ventured south with the hope of seeing the Pygmy Forest Spencer also told me about, just south of Fort Bragg off of Hwy 1. However, as I started out there, later in the day than I had planned, I realized it would be too dark and chilly to really see it and get back before dark. So, instead I made a brief foray into a roadside hiking trail, then turned around and headed back toward the hotel.

Tomorrow, I plan to take an excursion railroad I’ve been curious about for years, as well as visit a highly recommended botanical garden.

What fun!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Redwoods!

11/5/21

Today I got to visit the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve: I finally made it into the redwoods! This has been one of the bucket-list items I’ve been most excited to experience on this journey.

My friend Henry picked me up after breakfast, and took me to visit the local co-op, of which he has been a member since 1999. I picked up a few provisions for today, as well as for my hotel time in the next couple of days in Fort Bragg.

And then, we headed out on more twisty mountain roads through gorgeous rolling hills until we reached the park.

Of course I have always known that redwoods are big. I was so looking forward to seeing them. Being among them felt magical, and they did indeed look huge. But it wasn’t until later, looking back at some of the photos Henry took of me with them, that I fully appreciated their scope. It’s truly staggering.

The forest was wet from recent rain, which looked and felt lovely. (I even found a newt under a fallen tree!) However, we could see evidence of fire on many of the giants; their trunks were blackened on the inside and/or out. It’s a testament to their hardiness that many of them have remained standing despite enduring the fires.

I hope to see a few more redwoods before my California time is up. I plan to stop by Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco, and possibly also in some stands around Santa Cruz and even a patch of them in southern California, just east of LA. But I’m so glad I got to see these today. What a dream come true.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Nearing Ukiah

11/4/21

I’ve written before about my teenaged years in rural northern Virginia, and my fascination with the Real Goods catalog at that time, which became known to me as I was undergoing my environmental awakening in the late 1980s. The company was headquartered in Ukiah, California, a place unknown and exotic to me at the time. The catalog at that time—paper only, of course, since websites and online shopping didn’t exist in my or the public’s consciousness yet—read a bit like a magazine, and often featured northern Californians living off the grid, in cool structures like geodesic domes, running their 12-volt DC refrigerators and washing machines off solar panels and using composting toilets. Wow.

So, Ukiah has always held a bit of a special place in my heart. I’m looking forward to visiting it for the first time tomorrow.

My first step on that journey was to accept a ride from Kitty down their treacherous-but-staggeringly-gorgeous road, and then a few miles farther on Hwy 101 South, to the small community of Redwood Valley, where I am staying in the Airbnb suite of a celebrated local musician and visual artist, Spencer Brewer, and his family and small community here.

One last view of Kitty and Creek’s Japanese garden yard, this time after the overnight rain

It is small-world territory in these parts, so although I had connected with Spencer as a friend of a friend of my McCloud friend and host Michael, it turns out that he and Kitty and Creek were acquainted as well. I bid a fond farewell to Kitty, and began to explore the beautiful setting of Spencer’s place, which includes a friendly elderly cat and two horses, as well as his amazing retired recording studio (in which I’ll be sleeping tonight!) and a converted barn filled with old musical instruments and other odds and ends to be turned into wonderful works of art.

In the barn, I met a tenant, who is a longtime forest activist, and as we played a game of 9-ball pool, he told me about some of the work he has done over the years, and about some of his friends who are actively protecting local forests through tree-sits. I hadn’t heard about tree-sits for probably a decade or two, back when I was doing environmental political work through OSPIRG, and people in Oregon (and undoubtedly California as well) were putting their bodies on the line to protect ancient forests. The conversation reminded me again of my reinvigorated purpose for this journey, and I’m hoping I might be able to see some of those forests, and/or connect with some of those people, when I visit Fort Bragg, on the coast, in a couple of days.

Both Chris and Spencer’s wife Esther have psychology backgrounds (Esther is a practicing therapist) so I feel right at home here on that level as well. We had a wonderful home-cooked dinner of tofu and vegetables. Esther makes her own savory crackers, as well as “Graham” crackers, which both played a part, and I also got to sample avocado ice cream for the first time! Yum.

Spencer and Esther had just finished reading a book about an extremely ambitious bicycle tourist, who biked all the way from Oregon to Patagonia. I plan to take a look at that book while I’m here.

But now, I should rest, because I’m meeting my Ukiah friend Henry tomorrow; he will take me to the local co-op, and also on a hike in the redwoods. I’m so happy to be here in this region right now!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Another (spectacular!) off-grid experience with amazing folks

11/3/21

Well, another day, more mind-blowing experiences.

Yesterday I took the Greyhound from Eureka to Willits. We went through some beautiful forest scenery; I was wishing the bus windows were clearer so that I could see better. But it dropped me in the Taco Bell parking lot in Willits, and my Servas host Kitty Norris picked me up there. She had insisted on driving me to her and her husband Creek’s place, saying the road there was too treacherous to cycle.

WOW, was she right. I have never in my life seen a road so twisty, steep, narrow, potholed, and all-around terrifying as this one! It was scary even to be in a car on it. But, after five roller-coasterish miles, we made it to their unbelievable mountain sanctuary. (They rent it out on Airbnb, too; take a look at these photos, in addition to mine.)

We arrived shortly before sunset, so I made a point to quickly snap the above photo.

The house itself—built in 1982, designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright—has been their home since 1992, and they have poured countless hours of sweat and heart into making it the amazing place it is today. It is solar powered (quite a theme here in northern California, as regular readers of this blog will notice) and surrounded by 180 acres of wooded mountains. The interior and exterior contain many Asian-inspired design elements, since the couple have enjoyed traveling extensively in several Asian countries, and learning about the various cultures. Of course the Japanese-garden-styled grounds caught my eye.

Last night, after it got dark, the sky was wonderfully clear and full of stars. Creek set up his telescope on the deck, and helped me to see Saturn, complete with its rings, and Jupiter and its four moons! It was a magical experience.

Today, Kitty took me on a hike in the woods. We didn’t spot any bears, mountain lions, bobcats, deer, or rattlesnakes (all of whom they have captured recently on their remote trail cameras along the path we took) but we did find many varieties of photogenic mushrooms, and some staggeringly beautiful mountain views—including one rocky peak (see the photo of me atop it) which is the highest point west of Hwy 101 between Oregon and Mexico!

The November trees and leaf-covered forest floor were wonderful, and the rain held off until tonight.

They have magical plum trees here, too—French prunes!—and I got to sample some wonderful preserves on my PB & J toast breakfast. We also had some fresh-that-day oyster mushrooms last night, which I genuinely enjoyed despite my general aversion to mushrooms.

This place has been a wonderful retreat for these past two nights.

Tomorrow, I will head down the road to Redwood Valley, just north of Ukiah, to stay with a friend of a friend (and someone Kitty and Creek know as well—small world!) and his wife, who both sound like very talented artists.

I’m loving northern California just as much as I had hoped I would.

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Arcata & Eureka: inspirational people & gorgeous scenery

11/2/21

OK, I’m slowly but surely getting caught up here!

Yesterday, the 1st, was a rainy day in Arcata, and I spent much of it in a hotel room, catching up on many “administrative” tasks, which helped me to feel more grounded. It’s nice to have some total solitude and privacy in hotels from time to time, since this is otherwise a very social trip, going from house to house every other day, or in some cases every day. I love meeting and connecting with such a variety of great people, but my introvert self does need some recharging from time to time.

I had spent the previous night in nearby Bayside, with an interesting Warmshowers couple. The wife, Wendy Ring, is a retired physician who is another perfect example of the kind of interesting people I’m excited to connect with on this trip. She told me how, years ago, she had founded a mobile health clinic for underserved populations in the Arcata area, such as undocumented immigrants and houseless people. She started very small, with a basic trailer behind a vehicle, and over the years built it up into a full-service clinic, with a well-equipped large RV. After 30 years of doing this work, she shifted her focus to another pressing social issue: climate change. She now hosts a podcast called Cool Solutions, interviewing people around the nation and the world who are actively working toward solutions for our climate-change crisis.

There are so many people doing great work in the world. It’s a privilege to meet them.

I arrived at their rural house (nestled in the trees, on a gravel driveway, with chickens outside) on Halloween evening, and the weather was very pleasant. (I took the opportunity to bike through an urban redwood park on the way over there from the co-op; see photos above.) As I expected, though, the rains came that night, and soaked the area for most of the next day. I biked only about seven miles to the hotel during that late morning, but arrived with thoroughly drenched feet since my “waterproof” shoes were 15 years old and had lost any semblance of water resistance years ago. (I swapped them out for a new pair today, in Eureka—fingers crossed that the new ones will indeed be waterproof, since I know I’ll need that functionality a lot this month, not to mention next spring on the East Coast.)

After a good night’s sleep at the hotel, I met up with a local Servas host for a brief hike around the Arcata marsh. She told me about some of the local indigenous history of the area (including the neighboring city of Eureka returning an island to tribal ownership two years ago) as well as some of the history of Servas, since she has been involved for many years. The US headquarters had moved from Manhattan to Arcata some years ago, so the local area has more Servas members than many other parts of the country.

After I returned to the hotel and checked out, I bicycled for about an hour and a half into Eureka. I was struck by how rural the trip was. Lots of agriculture and cattle farming, and beautiful views of the Humboldt Bay. It was another beautiful sunny day, which is unlikely to be reprised for the next week or so, so I wanted to take full advantage.

As soon as I arrived in Eureka, I headed straight for the outdoor store to trade in my soggy shoes, then biked over to the Eureka location of the co-op for provisions. Then it was time to head to the Greyhound stop, to catch my bus to Willits, just north of Ukiah, for a stay with another Servas couple. More details on that tomorrow. This journey is so rich and full of experiences!

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North of Arcata: Sumêg Village and Fern Canyon

11/2/21

The past couple of days were beautiful, with some rain and some sun. We set out from Michael’s place in late afternoon on the 30th, after a day of rain, and the views on the road out of town glistened. After dark, the roads turned very twisty and turny, but with some good tunes on the stereo, it was an enjoyable 4-5 hour trek westward.

The next morning we ventured out to a place Michael had wanted to show me: Patrick’s Point/Sumêg Village. The signage had just been updated within the past month or so, to better reflect/respect the native people’s heritage in the place. Sumêg Village is a recreation of what a typical Yurok village would have looked like, before colonization. (Michael also told me something I hadn’t known, but which seems obvious in hindsight: Christopher Columbus’ name in the Spanish language was Cristóbal Colón. Thus, the word “colonization” comes directly from his name.)

There were a variety of structures in this village, including houses (with those round openings—see pic—to keep in heat and keep out large animals such as bears) and a sweat lodge and a sort of amphitheater area. Dugout canoes as well. I was struck by the fact that these folks had no access to metal, so everything they did (felling trees, emptying out logs to make canoes, joining boards to build houses) had to be done via natural means, such as strategically using fire and coals, or tying things with natural vines.

After the village, we briefly stopped at the overlook of nearby Agate Beach, just to get a glimpse of the incredible ocean view.

Then we headed north to Fern Canyon, because someone earlier on my travels had raved to me about it. Our time there was short since Michael needed to get back home, so the hike was very brief, but the drive to get to the hike was breathtaking and, at times, rugged!

After Fern Canyon, we headed back down to Arcata, and Michael dropped me off at the local co-op, where I rested for a bit before continuing to my Warmshowers hosts for the night in nearby Bayside.

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McCloud Falls and Burney Falls

10/31/21

OK, catching up some more. I’m in Arcata now, but I can write about that later. First, I have to catch you up on two days ago, when we went to two different waterfalls near Mt. Shasta. These places were so spectacular! Northern California is everything I had hoped it would be, in terms of breathtaking natural beauty. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, once again.

First, the McCloud Falls park (the pic above is from there as well):

And then, just as daylight was waning, Burney Falls. (Plus a bonus pic of the sunset just after we left the park.)

I’ll be in a hotel most of tomorrow, waiting out a full-day rain storm in Arcata. (They need it! so I’m happy… but I don’t really want to be out in it, so I’ll be holing up inside, catching up on administrative tasks. And I’ll make a new post about the exploring we did around Arcata today.)

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)