Friday, October 27, 2017

End of my Summer in Portland and Beginning a New Adventure in Mexico

In this blog post, I discuss all my plans taking shape including some very complicated winter travels coming up! 

Video about my winter plans

My summer in Portland finished with 2 of my most favorite cycling events of the year; the Kirke Johnson Memorial Ride on the Banks/Vernonia rail trail and my 12th year riding to the Recumbent Retreat on the Oregon Coast. Kirke Johnson was a wonderful man and this was a ride he lead every Labor Day weekend. He was hit and killed by a delivery truck a few years ago while riding his beloved Fold Rush Easy Racer in Portland. I miss him very much and love that we all get to continue his ride to remember our friend. 

At the start of the Kirke Johnson Memorial Ride
Barbara climbing at Stubb Stewart State Park
Kathi on the trail
Video from the Kirke Johnson Memorial Ride with lots of recumbent buddies

The Recumbent Retreat is actually an annual tour for me, and whoever wants to come along. This year a new trike rider, Brandon, joined me. From my house, to ride west towards the coast requires a tough 1000 ft climb and more than an hour's ride. Luckily, my friend Kathi offered to give me a ride over the hill. She has done this for many years now and 'the lift over the hill' makes the 1st day of this coastal tour very manageable. We also picked up Brandon who lives on the way but still far from Banks and the start of the Banks/Vernonia rail trail. This is where I typically start this ride. The ride to the retreat is only a few days after the Kirke Memorial ride and so I get to ride the fabulous Banks/Vernonia rail trail twice in a week's time. The Banks/Vernonia trail is 20 miles long and makes for a delightful start for the ride to the Recumbent Retreat. 

Just a small obstacle in our path
Passing deer

This was Brandon's 1st tour and we had a blast riding together. As usual, we camped at Big Eddy State Park after a very nice 35 mile ride stopping in Vernonia for lunch and picking up anything we needed for dinner and the next day. There are some logging trucks on this route but it seems every year there are less and less. After camping at Big Eddy, there aren't any businesses until we reach the coast so we needed to be prepared with snacks and whatever food we wanted for lunch the next day. The 2nd day's ride is incredibly beautiful but is 73 miles and much more demanding than the 1st day. There are a few places to stop for water and bathroom breaks but there are no stores or restaurants along the way. My 1st stop is always the firehouse in Mist to use their bathroom. Even though I only stop in once a year they remember me and are always very nice. From there it's another 20 miles to the Jewell Elk Preserve. There are tons of elk in this area but the only time I've seen them is when the weather is bad. Today's weather was very nice which meant no elk were to be seen. The Jewell Elk Preserve is a sweet place to stop. It has everything a touring cyclist needs. There are picnic tables to make and eat lunch as well as bathrooms to get cleaned up and wash our dirty dishes after making lunch. It's in a perfect place for a break because just a few miles further starts the climb over the coastal range. I'm a really slow climber and this isn't too bad. I think it's about 6 miles and 700 ft to the summit. From there we had a fabulous twisting turning downhill on a freshly paved road through lush forest. Cycle touring doesn't get much better than this. Almost at the bottom of the hill is an active fish hatchery with another perfectly placed bathroom stop. I've never taken the tour but hear it is worth the time. (Unfortunately, I need the whole day to complete the 73 miles to the Recumbent Retreat.) Leaving the fish hatchery begins the hardest part of the ride for me. From here, the next 20 miles have lots of short and steep hills along the Young's Bay River that really slow me down. The views are amazing though. Once we got passed the Warrenton airport it is a simple ride to Ft. Stevens State Park where we met up with everyone already camped. I found my site (many thanks to Greg and Lori for letting me camp) and got set up just as rains started to fall. I had a good time riding with Brandon and expect we will be riding together again next year to the retreat.

Camping at Big Eddy Country park

Just before the Lewis and Clark Bridge into Warrenton

Sasquatch lives at Ft. Stevens!!
The 4 day Recumbent Retreat weekend is put on by OHPV (Oregon Human Powered Vehicle) and they do a fabulous job. The weekend is filled with lots of riding, good food, hanging out and looking for stamps for the treasure hunt. The busiest day of the retreat is Saturday and it is jam packed with activities. The day starts with the photoshoot where over 90 recumbents gathered. This is far from the record but, I think, being the 19th year, lots of riders are over it. Then we all break out for many riding options. Some rides are on the bike paths in Ft. Stevens State Park and other longer rides are out of the park. There was the lunch ride that had over 40 trikers and the sunset ride, both led by Lonnie, out to the Peter Iredale shipwreck. Super fun! The day was colder and there was some rain in the afternoon but it all passed in time for the pot luck. People really put effort into the dishes they serve and we, again, had fabulous food. Then, we all light up our bikes and trikes in preparation of the lighted bikes parade where we ride through all the loops of the campground.  Ft Stevens State Park is huge and there are many, many loops. The parade probably lasts about an hour and it is a hoot.  Some of the lighted designs are super clever. The lighted bikes parade is legendary and one of my very favorite events of the entire year.  It is simply good clean honest fun and this year was no exception. Next year will be the 20th annual Recumbent Retreat and I expect it to be an extra special event. If you are interested in attending, click this link for more info

Video of the wonderful Recumbent Retreat weekend.

Lunch stop
Official photoshoot photo
Lots of different kinds of recumbents
Peter Iredale shipwreck at sunset
Pic from the trikes ride with 40 trikes!!

Super Duper Fun Lighted Bikes Parade

Fun shot of the lighted bikes

Beautiful Portland
Every year, when I get home from the retreat, it is time to buckle down and get serious about planning my next trike tour. This year I've put together winter plans that are super complicated. Without a doubt, this will be my most complicated winter travels to date. I've already decided I'm going to spend the next few years riding through Central and South America. With this in mind, I've also decided having stronger Spanish language skills will not only be very helpful but actually necessary. So, my plans, at the moment, are to fly with my trike from Portland to Los Angeles. I'll be leaving my trike at my aunt's house while I spend 4 months in Guanajuato, Mexico studying Spanish. Learning Spanish is something I've talked about doing for many, many years. I'm getting to an age where 'if not now, when?'. Throughout the many years I've spent touring, I've been to many countries where I don't speak the language and it, certainly, can be done. Somehow, I always manage to get what I need - no matter what it is. I even found an amazing bike mechanic in Agadir, Morocco! But, that said, not being able to speak to locals is a lonely way to travel.  Over the years, I've met a lot of cyclists who say they pick up languages as they go but that doesn't seem to happen with me, at all. I spent 6 months traveling through Mexico on my 1st tour and I wasn't able to speak much more Spanish at the end of the trip than I did at the beginning. I'm not expecting to be fluent, after studying for 4 months, but I think being able to speak somewhat comfortably will make for a much richer experience on my future tours.  I also think being able to speak another language will make my life richer. 

Another view of Portland
Escuela Falcon in Guanajuato
I'll be returning to the same school, Escuela Falcon, that I went to last January. I had a good time and learned a lot. Even though I'm still very shy to speak and feel like a deer in the headlights whenever I want to say anything, I noticed while walking the Camino de Santiago that the 2 months I spend studying really helped. I was able to have small conversations (very slowly) with other pilgrims and also talk to shopkeepers. It was fun to see the improvement. The teachers at Escuela Falcon are very sweet and incredibly patient with me. And Guanajuato is a fabulous city. The school offers many options for housing and I'll be renting a room in a house they own across the street. The last time I was here, my language skills were next to none.  I wasn't able to understand much of what people said to me and, if I did understand, I had no clue how to respond. Speaking Spanish was nerve-wracking enough that I really didn't feel comfortable taking part in a lot of the school excursions. This time I want to be more social to, hopefully, break out of my shyness.  I've signed up for 2 group classes and 1 private lesson every day, 5 days a week. Since I've been to this town before I know where everything is. One thing I really liked about my last stay in Guanajuato is I ate really well. There are fantastic, inexpensive restaurants and the house where I'm renting a room has a full kitchen so I can cook and eat how I want. All the time taken to study Spanish this winter means my trike tour will be shorter this year  but, over time, I think this investment in learning more Spanish will pay off big dividends and I'm excited to start my classes. 


Another thing recently occurred to me. I have been touring on a trike all over the world for 10 years now and feel like I have a lot of knowledge I could be sharing. With that in mind, I decided to start a new Travels By Trike YouTube channel where I want to make short videos about trike stuff, updates while I'm touring, reviews of gear I use and any other information I think could be of interest. Matt Galat, of the Jayoe Nation, made me a new logo and intro for my videos. The logo is super cute and I love the snappy intro! This was a very thoughtful gift and the new intro is making my videos look much more polished. Aside from learning Spanish, another goal I've set for myself while I'm in Guanajuato is to get more comfortable shooting and editing video. I'll be making short videos about the town, culture and my experiences.   I've upgraded to Final Cut Pro for editing and making videos will help me learn that software as well. My idea is to make videos that are less than 5 minutes long giving a taste of my experiences. 

Another thing I have been thinking about for a long time is buying a drone to take on my tours.  After reading a ton of articles and reviews as well as watching countless hours of YouTube videos, I decided to buy a small DJI Spark to bring with me to Mexico. By buying the drone months before my tour, I can take my time learning how to use it and, hopefully, I'll be comfortable using the drone for my trip through Central America. Guanajuato is delightfully colorful with lots of very beautiful buildings. I think it will be a great town to learn drone video and photography in. Excursions with the language school to visit ruins and historic sights should be very interesting to see from a drone perspective as well. I'm excited!

The Spark drone is so small it fits in my handlebar bag using the case, 3 batteries, an extra set of propellors and the protected RC controller. Nice!

Tentative Trike Tour through Central America

After studying Spanish, I'll return to Los Angeles in February. Then I'll be taking a quick trip to Las Vegas for a college reunion before returning, again, to Los Angeles after a long weekend. From there, I'll fly with Myrtle the Turtle to Cancun Mexico to, finally, start my trike tour of Central America. I don't have an exact route yet but I want to ride from Cancun through Belize, across the southernmost part of Guatemala to El Salvador to ride along the Pacific Coast. From there, I'll ride through a corner of Honduras into Nicaragua and then through Costa Rica before ending in Panama City, Panama.  Because I'm spending so much time in Guanajuato this winter studying Spanish, this will be my shortest tour so far. It will cover 2,000 miles in 3 months. If anyone has any 'must see' spots along the way to recommend I'd love to hear from you.

A fun photo I found on Facebook

Aside from regular video updates on my
Travels By Trike YouTube channel, I probably won't be updating the blog often until I'm ready to start my tour. As always, thanks for following along the continuing adventures of Myrtle the Turtle! Hasta Luego!!