Pan America 2011 - 2012

American writers like Kerouac and Miller influenced me a lot when I was in my Twenties. And I heard lots about the West Coast from American travellers, recommending great national parks and the Route 101 that is sort of famous thing to do for cyclists. So I decided to postpone other planned adventures and flew to Vancouver BC, equipped with my good old pushbike, a tent and a  (warm!) sleeping bag.

After fantastic landscapes and forests down South to San Diego I teamed up with Kathrin, a great cycling mate. When we reached the Southern tip of Baja California, we decided to move on together, crossed Mexico into Guatemala and Belize. After living in a rented house on the Lake Atitlan we ventured out for snow capped mountains of South America, crossing the Andes from Santiago to Mendoza and moved up North again, to Machu Picchu. After 11 months and 11000 kilometres I arrived back in Germany, with Kathrin...

Arrived in Vancouver, Canada in the morning of September, 7th where I quickly reassembled the bike and took off, straight down towards the Canadian-American border. There's a long tunnel where the Interstate Highway crosses Frazer River, where bicycles are not allowed. Therefore, the Canadians installed a free-of-charge Carry-On service. Using that, and listening to the advice of the young Indian who just run the service instead of his father, I ended up on a big detour, eventually even reaching the giant Frazer Bridge way East. Yet on that occasion, I ended up riding some really nice bicycle trails rather than riding on the noisy highway. Blue skies, perfect outlook to the far-away snow caped Mt. Baker. In the afternoon, I reached the border and convinced the very friendly border staff about my good intentions traveling the States. Eventually I got my 90 days permit, and went on on side roads, just following the compass direction. Passed through Bellingham, a nice town with some historical buildings, and reached the Larabee State Park by dusk, being welcomed with warm diner and a place to pitch the tent by a group of American cyclists. Welcome to America – and what a first day – going to bed by 10PM, a long day looking at 9 hours time difference from Germany.

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Next day after a quick Yoga set, the tour goes on towards Whidbey Island, on my on, but not for long before I run into a nice cyclist from Seattle who joins me for two hours. Crossing over the picturesque bridge to Whidbey Island, moving on on a rather busy small highway again. On the ferry to Port Townsend on the Northeast of the Olympic Peninsula, I met Ken, a retired cyclist on his way back from a day trip on Whidbey. He invites me to visit Port Townsend, a formerly important harbor with lots of Victorian buildings. He shows me around the Wooden-Boat-Regatta, and later even invites to stay a night in his place. Incredible friendly and helpful, that's my first impression about the Americans.

On the next days, I cycle around the Olympic Peninsula on the Western route on Hwy 101 and trails. Mossy evergreen conifer and broad-leaf rain forests between the rugged coastline and the snow caped mountains, rivers from the very mountains carving deep valleys into the landscape. Small towns every once in a while, just enough not to run out of food and the “trail mix” bags. Camping at small sites that not always have city water and showers, yet very clear and cold rivers. At lake Quinault, I take a break from pedaling and hike this area featuring a number of record conifer trees for two days. Awesome wilderness out here, and delicious blueberries up in the mountains, to supplement my cereal bar diet...

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The next day, I decide to take a little detour to meet my friend in Seattle. Two more days on the saddle and a one-hour ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, with its great skyline... A first glimpse of American multicultural cities for a hillbilly like me. Four nights in a real bed, a daytrip to the Snoqualmie falls and some time and inspiration to fine tune my further route.

CIMG2440Detour Part II from the Pacific Coastal Route. It takes me roughly half a day to get out of Seattle on small highways paralleling the Interstate 5 (which is no fun nor legal to cycle). Eatonville, a neat town, after which the road gets less and less busy. Into the wild. Endless woods along the hilly road, and beautiful lakes and dams on the way. The overcast prevents any sights of Mt. Rainier, the biggest mountain of Washington. Passing through Elbe, a small logging village with German roots, a neat historic railway and the smallest church in the United States, dating back some 100 years ago. Mt. Rainier would be visible from here if there was no overcast, says a Restaurant lady. A few more miles in a neat valley towards Morton. A local at the supermarket recommends free camping on Riffe Lake nearby Glenoma. Getting there, have a blackberry diner and a good swim at sunset. A few hang gliders and a young guy that recovered from cancer but got homeless after hang out here.

CIMG2438Perfect weather on the next day. Big breakfast in Randle - last chance of shopping for the next 100 kilometers. I take off to the pass behind Mt. St. Helens, the volcano which blew back in  1980. After the first few miles of climbing, an exiting view towards the snow caped Mt. Rainier opens up - majestic! After about 30 kilometers of climbing, I expect to reach the summit of the pass soon, and take a scenic side route towards Mt. St. Helens base camp. Just for half an hour, I convince my self. Just to see the volcano that blew. Centimeter thick light grey ash grains between the conifers and shrubs and ferns tell a story of its  own. Crazy climbing up, I hide the panniers and the tent bag on the side of the road. Eventually, I reach Bear Meadow and enjoy a splendid outlook on Mt. St. Helens!

Its a few more miles than expected until I reach the summit of the pass at Milestone 35. Running out of water and out of granola bars. Still, it's an uneasy up and down for another 10 kilometers before the long downhill. The miles written in my map don't match the miles on the road signs. Finally a spring on the side of the road. 5PM - I reach the very junction and have to make a decision - go 20 miles to Cougar and probably find a shop and a campground until dusk, or go South towards Carson, another 40 miles through the next mountain range. I went on to Cougar, and skipped the opportunity to see the famous Columbia river gorge. On the next day, I cycle East  to the Woodland, and then up North on the Interstate 5 along the Columbia river to Longview, speeding in the slipstream of the roaring trucks, without any small side road... More relaxed for the rest of the day until Cathlamet. Free camping and a swim in the river. In the East, the snow on Mt. St. Helens glows red in the light of a marvelous sunset. The campground hosts spoil me with potato salad and bread and home made cookies. God bless you!

CIMG2622After a marvelous sunrise with a last view of Mt. St. Helens I cross the Washington-Oregon border, the Columbia river - by ferry from Cathlamet to Westport. Next major town is Astoria, where a big arch bridge spans over the Columbia delta. Port Stevens was a good campground I get the advice in a friendly bicycle shop. In an Oregon Tourist Information I receive a free great Cycling map for the entire Coastal train, including height profile and a listing of the cheap hiker/biker camps. Misty grey day that is, however I'd roll on until I reach Seaside. No hiker/biker campground here, but I get a discount. And a funny belly after two cold beers at diner.

A few misty days on the sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy shore. Uphill, downhill, day by day. The Haystack at the lovely Cannon Beach town, great bridges crossing the rivers and marshlands. Route 101 is a famous cycling spot, everyday I meet American and European cyclists with tents and panniers on their bikes. The Hiker/biker campgrounds are CIMG2582an inexpensive opportunity to get a warm shower on a regular state park campground. Since everyone roughly moves at a similar daily mileage, there's a good likelihood to catch up again. So I meet Reed with his Ukulele from Santa Cruz three times, as well as Markus from Austria, who's been cycling from Fairbanks, Alaska already. A storm coming in with strong headwind, perfect time to take a day off at South Beach State Park in Newport. The strong winds pretty much blew me from the long high brigde anyway. South Beach with its dunes and small conifer trees in the back was created by the seas current leaving sand on the jetty over more than a 100 years. Jamming with Reed on the campfire, enjoying a dry and wind protected spot with a free coffee in the hospitality center of the campground.

The Oregon Cycling Trail follows not only Route 101 but take a number of really nice detours on less crowded country roads. One more day of big head wind and big waves on the shore, and a rainy night that made my tent float in a pond - then the storm is over. Blue skies and sunshine on the way down along the great dunes south of Florence. Watch pretty close Sea Lions on Cape Arago, and enjoy a marvelous sunset on the nearby Sunset Bay. Cruising down the shore, taking pictures and not rushing at all anymore. Spotting whales at the jetty of Gold Beach on the last day on the Oregon coast. Last station: Brookings. What a ride! Big thanks to all the people who established this fantastic route!

CIMG2769The weather forecast does not contribute to my idea of spending a recovery day on the beaches of Brookings/Oregon. Time to leave. Califonia welcomes me with little sunshine but a free map of State Parks. Landscape changes right away - more fields and gras lands and scattered farms in the flat open area, compared to the hilly and forested scenery that dominated the route in Oregon. Giant tree stumps in the gardens serve as tall flowerpots, or have smaller trees growing on them. Right, that must be long ago cut down redwoods! The Redwood National Park Tourist Information Centre hands me a map of the part of the Redwood National Park that I'm about to enter today, explains which route to take and where to stock up with food. Great - a day hiking the Redwoods with its 100 metres tall trees that I heard so much  about! Already the first stretch of Highway 101 into the national Park is stunning a climb between the giants. The scale of these woods is certainly different. The small, hardly used highway leads through a few smaller tourist places and privately owned campgrounds. It starts to drizzle. And there's the byway for the Prairie Creek State Park, that's where I'm headed for. One more climb, and a long downhill through an old-growth Redwood forest. Giants, between which cars look like toys. Memorial groves every now and then, indicating who has contributed to safe some of these old-growth forests. Shivering in my rain and sweat soaked cycling dress. Anyhow... The usual suspects are already on the campground - Reed and Markus.

CIMG2740Next day is hiking day in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The mist hangs in the forested hills, thick enough to hide the canopies of the Redwoods. On the trails around the campground, a bit of trivia on the Redwoods is written on small displays, how they distribute by sprouts and seeds, how they create their own foggy micro climate etc. Eventually I find my 6 hours circuit track to the coast and back, through the magic, mystic forest that has never been touched by chainsaws. Long ago fallen trees are base for ferns and new trees, slowly decaying into the Earth. Their washed out roots rise up four meters up. Directly on the coast are no Redwoods since they can't take the salty winds. Yet they are very close, where it is still wet and foggy enough to supply them with enough water. Once, back then when giant dinosaurs walked the Earth some 65 million years ago, Redwoods have covered wide areas of the entire Northern Hemisphere. They survived all catastrophes and Ice Ages here in Northern California, until White Man started to cut then in the 1850ies, and within less than a century, eliminated 95% of the old-growth Redwoods for the long lasting timber . It is said that the wealth of San Francisco is based on the Redwood business. Luckily, a few bright minds started the "Save the Redwoods" league in 1918, and prevented at least a bit of the primary forests.

After Prairie Creek Highway 101 goes along the Humboldt lagunas and some open land. I bypass Eureka and reach Fortuna, where I spend a rainy day in a privately owned RV-Park with public living room and free WiFi. For the second night, I even get an upgrade for a wooden cabin for the price of my small tent site. Very nice indeed. I receive some warning not to do Stealth Camping in the woods now, since it is Marihuana harvest season, and the woods may as well be home to some illegal fields. Alright, I already smelled that every once in a while on the road...

Next highlight is the Avenue of Giants, a byway to Highway 101 through more of the old growth Redwoods. Little towns with tourist attractions like the still-alive "Drive Through Tree" or the "One Log House" every few miles, and lots of hiking opportunities, such as a short hike to one of the Worlds tallest trees with more than 120 metres. Walking here, I don't even bother for such numbers anymore. be it 100 or 120 meters, what is the difference, compared to those industrial spruce tree forests back home? I did not see Pepperwood, where that girl lived in the canopy of a Redwood tree for almost two years to save it from cutting. Bad information management... Pooring rain for the entire afternoon.

Luckily I can share a Motel room in Garberville with Alex from Canada, another cyclist. Garberville is a rather small town that has some reputation as the hemp capital of California or so. With all the young and old homeless on the sidewalk, I make a funny picture walking there in Thai fisherpants and flipflop in the pooring rain to the Laundromat.

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CIMG2822Another cloudy day and another rainy night in the forests and hills along the winding Eel river, then the cycling path leaves Highway 101 to the coastal Route 1. A few long ups and downs, then I reach the coast again. Warm sunshine dries the damp clothes and lifts up the spirit. Eagles high up in the blue sky. Marvelous sunset and seals in tide pools nearby Fort Bragg. Down to Mendocino, and further to Point Arena. A bit of American cliche fotographs in the costal towns.

Lots of ups and downs along the rugged coast line. The landscape alternates between flat dry dairy farm lands and Pine and well smelling Eucalyptus trees patches (that don't originally belong to this part of the world).  In a County Park just South of Gualala I camp between the Redwoods again, and have lots of fun with barely shy racoons sitting next to me on the benches, invading my mates food bag.

Another big climb to get into Bodega Bay area, followed by the long stretch of the Tomales Bay, which is part of the San Andreas fault. Last stopover is the Samuel P. Taylor State Park between Point Rey and Fairfax - one more time camping in the shadow of Redwood trees. Few old-growth samples remain here, but heaps of racoons :-)

CIMG2897The rear wheel of my bike blocks badly when I use the brakes. A big pothole on the road that I did not see apparently ruined it, as Miguel from Krakatoa Bikes in Fairfax decides after one hour of wheel tuning. He does not have replacement wheels in stock, yet recommends some other shops on the road to San Francisco. So I'm on my way again, looking for a 9-speed MTB wheel for V-brakes, nowadays where everyone seems to use disc brakes for MTBs... It starts to drizzle. In the seventh shop, 30 kilometers later, I get what I need. And a new chain and new tubes. Apperently I catched two punctures on the bicycle tracks to get there, even with my bullet proof Schwalbe Marathon Extreme...

Still drizzling. I'm soaked. The long awaited crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito into San Francisco is clouded by thick fog and mist. I can't see the top of the bridge towers nor opposite side of the coast. For two nights, I stay in a Youth hostel in Fort Mason rather than in my tent. Ronni, my room mate is taxi driver, and during our diner on the first evening, he gives me ideas what to visit in town, and heaps of stories and historical background of San Francisco. After two coffees I excessively use the internet and the illumination at night time while Ronni snores peacefully in the dormitory.

CIMG3002Having slept just 3 hours, I criss cross the city on my bike the next day. The colorful and touristy Fishermans Wharf, next up to Telegraph Hill and Colt Tower to marvel upon the sunny view over the skyline of the financial district and San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz, Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge in hide behind clouds. The Italian quarter, the skyscrapers, further on into the colorful Chinatown. Riding down Market street to the grandious City Hall and Theater buildings next to each other. Down to the Mission district with some small backstreets with outstanding graffities. I climb up 23th Street and marvel upon the neat and colorfull painted victorian houses on the steep ascend, eventually make it to the twin towers, San Franciscos highest hills with splendid CIMG3026view over the city. A few tourist hippie shops and graffities are left in Haight Ashbury, the hip quarter back in the 1970ies. A brief visit to the Golden Gate Park with a fairly authentic Japanese garden. Japan town, and back to Fort Mason for a nap. What a ride! Set out for an outdoor shop to finally buy me a gas stove, I get a replacement for my leaking Thermarest sleeping pad. Great, very very cool, saves me some 90 bucks and restless nights. Getting out of the store, the clouds that covered the Golden Gate Bridge all day have cleared up, and allow a marvelous sunset view of the great bridge. What a lucky day! Back in the hostel, I have dines with Kevin from France. Brigitte joins us, and eventually Ronni shows up too. Brigitte persuades Ronni to take a Chinese Fortune Cookie, which makes him taking us out in his car. Spledid view of the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island, and a few beers in a cozy bar with live music. San Francisco Nights...


Where do I begin, to tell the story how I got into the Yosemite Valley...
Shall I start explaining that crazy morning at the hostel in San Francisco, where the fire alarm went on just after I managed to get myself a rather delayed breakfast. Or talk about the missing power supply for the laptop, that made me ride back to the hostel and find my forgotten mobile phone CIMG3134between the blanket? How I made a decision to go to visit Reed again in Santa Cruz, and how I got squeezed between two merging high speed highways, and got lost again on the wrong site of the peninsula? It was all strange that day. When I arrived in Santa Cruz, Reed took me out for some great Asian lunch, explained me the term "Indian Summer". The very Doors song has long been a favorite of mine, without knowing that Indian Summer means that kind of last few days of warm climate in Autumn before if finally gets cold. Had a dip in the Pacific, the first since weeks, and decided that I need Indian Summer now. Dream of a sunny beach weekend in Santa Cruz. Until the staff of the New Brighton Campground explained their "One Night Only" rule, according to which I have had to leave the next day. It has been more than a week without a real break from pedaling.
That night I sat long in a Cafe and wondered what to do. A weekend of best weather ahead, and my motivation to keep cycling is literally in the basement. A good deal for a rental car for three days, and it's all set. Tomorrow I'm gonna go to Yosemite!
By lunchtime I roll on the highway with a pair for 10 Dollar hiking boots from the Thrift Store and whistle California Dreamin'. Cross the coastal mountain range, buy heaps of food for the weekend (what a luxury not to think about weight!) The streets out here in the endless valley are with out shoulders. Roll into the Sierra Nevada and eventually reach Mariposa, about an hour away from Yosemite Valley. There's no camp sites available in the valley, the ladies in the tourist information tell me. Yet I could stay on a campground a little outside. Eventually I end up on a very basic 21 Dollar spot on the river, without shower nor fresh water nor electricity. Nice enough, barely anyone is here. No need to chatter whatsoever. Enough space, finally!
Entering Yosemite Valley on the next morning. Glowing tips of the surrounding rocks from the rising sun. There's the Yosemite Falls, one of the worlds tallest falls. There's El Capitan, the worlds biggest single rock(?). Park the car and cycle through the valley into Curry Village. Already on the way there I can't resist to take dozens of photos of the bright white rock walls towering above the conifer woods and meadows of the valley. I take the recommended hike to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls into Little Yosemite. Lots of hikers are out here, at least on the first section. Every bend on the trail, every breech between the trees reveals a new great view, seems to be a new epiphany. Everyone seems to have sparks in the eyes, all the Americans and French and Swiss and German hikers are smiling with drops of sweat on the forehead. The higher the steep trail goes up, the less people. The greater the views. Time to air the feet, time to meditate in some of the most stunning scenarios I've ever seen... Just a single thought sticks in my brain: It is infinitely beautiful here! Back in the valley I visit the Mirror lake, watch a video on Yosemite's history and walk the lower Yosemite trail. I'm all taken away by this divine scenery...

Little time I have if I want to return the rental car in time. Hard decision, hike up Glacier point, or cycle?  In the end, I drive all the way. Watching the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the three giant falls from above is a scenery beyond imagination. No words nor photos can truly express this. A Hippie girl traveling North with her three friends hands me an apple and tells me about their travels through America and playing guitar and sitar music.
Instead of driving back the same way, I take another detour to see the giant Sequoyah trees in the Mariposa Grove on the Southern entrance of the Yosemite National Park. They are Redwoods, similar to the Coastal Redwoods, not quite as tall but with much bigger trunks and canopies. A free shuttle bus brings visitors from Wawona into the 10 miles distant Grove. It is just 3PM, and still I can get a decent three hours hike. A number of loop trails are available there, leading through the forests with a number of really old tree giants like the Grizzly Tree or Clarks Tree in the upper grove. Around the little wooden Mariposa Grove Museum, the Sequoyah wood is most magnificent. The one storey house looks like a toy between those Redwood giants. Once again, I am taken away by the spirit of Redwood forests...
Stop by in the next real town at Mc Donalds for diner. A few hours of emails and internet, a few refills on the coffee and I am prepared for a few more hours night ride on the highways leading West. Eventually I stop the car by 1 AM at a restaurants parking lot on top of a mountain pass. Marveling upon the bright stars, a shooting star and the lights of the cities below me. In the morning, they would hide under thick fog. What a weekend!


10_bigsur_treeAfter one more night on the campground near Capitola, Reed joins me for a ride half-way to Monterey. I am very happy about this, since there are very few road signs indicating the bicycle trails beside the busy Highway 1. We ride along endless strawberry fields with small teams of bend down Mexicans working on them. 60 percent of the American strawberries are produced here, says Reed, and briefly mentiones the work conditions and pesticides used on the fields.
We share a great lunch in Moss Landing - fried Squid and Fish Tacos before we say Farewell, and I make my way to Monterey under the grey sky. Vegetation changes a lot, shrubs and small plants with meaty leaves and flowers grow along the road. No more big trees at all, no more oaks nor gum trees. Even if it is neither sunny nor hot it feels almost like desert.
The following day is sunny again. A pleasant ride along the 17-Mile-Drive on the scenic shore. Seals on "Birds Rock". And a young German Jewelery Sales Manager lady on a day-off from her business trip admires my freedom she says. She'd love to just sit down here at the bench, yet has to drive back to LA still today. Five minutes later she overtakes me in a red Ford Mustang Cabriolet. Now I'm a kind of envious. :-)

Wind shaped cypresses and pines on the rocky shore, golf courts and million-dollar houses in the nice and touristy Carmel. Stuff where movies are made from, California dreamin' - live and real. A few more decent climbs along the rugged and dry coast line on the way to the Big Sur valley. Big bridges span over the valleys of some creeks and save a bicyclist from worse clims. In Big Sur I stay the between the Redwoods of the Pfeiffer State Park campground for two nights and explore the area. The rather narrow and lush green valley is seperated from the Pacific Shore by a range of vivid green hills, and limited to the East by some desert dry mountain rigdes. With the Big Sur river, and the fog from the ocean, it has its own microclimate, that supports the most Southern occurence of the Coastal Redwoods. As well as Big Sur is an area for artists since decades - Henry Miller used to live here among other famous writers (which is the reason why I knew about Big Sur at all). Condors on the blue sky. Timy, an Australian Rasta and Ryan, his Candian cycling mate arrive at the campground. We met before in Santa Cruz and Monterey, and now spend a good time exploring a gorge and sharing a camp fire.
10_bigsur_waterfallThe next day turns into a long ride above the fog over the ocean and the steep cliffs umderneath the road. A waterfall drops from a cliff directly on a small beach, and disappears in the thick fog again a few seconds after my camera fetched the foto. There are only a few opportunities to stock up with supplies out here, which I skip for their prices (2 Dollar for a banana). So I have to keep riding rather than to spend another night on a campground along the way. Some long climbs take its time and price in the evening. Gurgling sea elephants roll on a beach before San Simeon at sunset. It is pitch black already when I arrive in town. A pole of my tent broke this morning, I 10_bigsur_sealsremember, and decide to stay a night in a motel. Gladly, I can fix the tent pole with a piece of brass pipe on the next day. Heavy face wind in the morning from Cambria to Ayucos, two beautiful Western style towns. Decaying animal cadavers (mostly Racoons) on the side of the road in the burning sun emit an intense smell. Great scenery at Morrow beach with the giant rock in the sea. I keep pedaling, manage to get as far as Grover Beach and spend a noisy night right beside the noisy highway on a County campground for 22 Dollars. Timy and Ryan show up later that day, and we share the space. Earplugs to sleep because of the roaring trucks on the highway. Following a bliss and an advice from a  local cyclist, I leave the bicycle path and turn inland to Lake Cachuma, the scenic man made water reservoir of Santa Barbara. Another day rest there before cycling to Ojai, where I'd love to learn about organic farming for a while. Back on the coast, in a twon called Summerland, I stop at a corner with Buddha scultures and Thi like shrines and a pretty Asian style garden. Talking to some branic healing lady in there, she knows the people of the farm where I'm going to, says she'll phone them and tell them about my coming. The way up to Ojai is a scenic ride through orange and avocado tree plantations between steep dry hills and a nice lake in between. Ojai town itself is charming with its Mexican style buildings. Sunset, and still 5 miles to go. Uphill again. Reaching that farm fairly exhausted, I have to learn that certain things - even pitching my tent on their campground - requires telephone confirmation. Om shanti. Eventually, I get back to a vacated State Park to pitch up my tent in utter darkness. Stealth camping instead of hospitality...


After the WWOOFING attempt failed, I went on to Los Angeles. Easy ride along the coast, Malibu, then Santa Monica with a bicycle trail on the wide Muscle Beach and Venice Beach. The waterfront promenade is a colorful assembly of artists, jewellery and snack stalls, cafes and musicans, tourists and transients. A bit of that hippie spirit seems still to be here. Barry, a retired musician and cyclist whom I bumped into a few weeks ago in Astoria and who introduced me to the Warmshowers network, hosts me for two nights in his girlsfriends house a mile away from the glamorous cinemas and glitter of Hollywood Boulevard. A splendid time, I'm spoiled with great diners and wine and chocolade. Spend a day cruising the vast city. In LA downtown a big financial building is surrounded by small tents and protesters against the financial system and the misery of the past economic crashes. Drums and chorals everywhere. Little Tokyo - a district with Japanese restaurants, shops and even a real temple. A big Chinatown nearby. I visit Jim Morrisons former residence on a hill nearby Hollywood, where many singers back then resided. This is Love Street, or rather was.

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Quick decision - getting me a car for a week on the next day, and head East. It takes hours to get out of the suburbs of LA, and eventually I arrive in Joshua Tree, close to the National Park of the same name. The Joshua tree is actually a successor of Lillies rather then real trees. A cute shop assistant and singer tells me about an Artists party the next day, and that she will play there. Spend a great day cycling around the National Park with its giant boulders, lookouts and the dimensionless desert that seems to merge with the horizon. The desert is actually living. Lizards and chipmunks rush over the red brown dry soil between the shrubs and cacteen and the Joshua trees. Climbers must like it out here, where the selection on high balls or towers and walls is almost infinite. Itchy hands, yet no climbing shoes. And a foulish big tour to cycle for today in my mind.
I arrive at the artists party by 7PM. Robby Furst is living close to the National Park. The building on his ground looks like a barn, half like a hangar. A big Airstream trailer is parked beside, and a few extensions to all asides accomodate the creative chaos this guy lives in. It is often hard to distinguish what is rubbish and what is art. On a big screen in the hangar a blur 1970ies like color movie is displayed, showing a car trip to the Mexican Hat near Monument Valley in Arizona. A band is playing rather psychedelic rock music on a stage outside. At least half of the many dozen guests wears fancy Halloween dresses. Most of them are somewhat local, some are artists. It is very easy to get in contact, every one smiles and easily chatters. Inspiring stoned and drunk talks with bright minded people.

Spent a long day driving up and down through the desert on endless straight roads. The pale green of the dry shrubs nearby, the pink shine between the nearby green and the distant red brown naked hills reminds me much to that psychedelic Seventies movie last night. And the cockpit light of my car switches off whenever I switch on the light. Sedona was the nearest Hertz office on the way to Flagstaff and the Gand Canyon. When I get there in the late afternoon, I'm completely blown away by the scenery of the white and red layered rock formations around. I find the Car Rental, yet the staff can't fix that stupid light issue. Instead, she swaps my car for a Chevrolet Traverse, a tank of an SUV compared to the small Nissan. Marvelous sunset with the scenery of the neighboring giant rocks on the crowded viewpoint on the airport hill. Nice chat with a cute Hippie girl from Phoenix with some hints what places I should visit while I'm here. I just had no clue what Sedona was like a few hours ago, and now I'm all taken away by its beauty and the set of events that just happend to me. A little later Pamela, the kind lady of the Tourist office tells me about the famous energy vortexes here in Sedona, hands me maps etc. And my new cars right front tire is flat, ripped by metal pole of a broken park barrier on the parking lot. Luckily, I took the full insurance package... An hour later a mechanic of Hertz shows up and mounts the Donut, the emergency wheel. As well, he knows the solution of the cockpit illumination in the Nissan. Happy Halloween! It is 10 PM, and the "cheaper" 70 Dollar motels are full. So I decide to spend the night in the Tank on the parking lot behind the Hetz office. Next day, I swap cars again in the early morning, and get my Nissan back. I leave the car and rather cycle and hike out to Boyton Canyon. What a landscape - ruled by those giant white and red layered rocks behind the lush green of the pines and oak trees on dark red soil - it seems impossible not to stop every minute and take pictures. Talk with some Japanese on the way to one of the vortexes, which apperantly made Sedona famous in Japan. Whether or not energy spot - I just like it.

10_roadtrip1_gc1After two nights sleeping in cars I'm happy to check into a hostel in Flagstaff, have a descent shower and cook Tofu and vegetables with an Indian travelling lady. What a difference to these Chilli Con Carne cans that I usually have for Diner! The Ashtanga Yoga session I joined the next morning was a great opportunity to learn about new postures and mistakes in the ones I usually do on my own since half a year. Despite all those ideas of having Chai and mode-made cookies with Burda at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I am cycling and walking on my own, on that freezing cold day. It is really hard to mentally cope with the vast bewildering scenery of the Grand Canyon. Am I saturated by scenic beauty? Half fainted I look into that crazy rocky and hilly dry valley carved by the Colorado river, up to 1800 meters deep and up to 30 kilometers wide. Eventually I escape the flocks of tourists on the bike, find some peace and sunshine and a pinnacle rock to calm down, play a few songs on the Jews harp and tune in. Dust in the Wind, all we are is dust in the Wind. As sun sets, I'm clsoe to the Desert View park entrance, and really enjoy the colors of the Grand Canyon on another lonely pinnacle. Back in Flagstaff, I get lost completely, roam the streets for an hour before I find back to the hostel. Burda presents me her tasty hand-made cookies. And I'm more than happy to stay in a heated building rather than in the freezing desert.


A big reservation of the Navajo Native Americans is a few hours East from Flagstaff. As well, there is Monument Valley. The next destination is set. Vast high desert, after a big climb outside of Flagstaff. Visiting the Navajo Tribe Museum in Tuba City, I finally get in touch with a little part of Native American culture and history. What a great futuristic vision it seems that the Navajo did not know the concept of money nor land ownership. Religion and art were no distinguishable concepts, they were integral part of everydays life. Cradles with lots of lovely details were used to project the future of the newborn. The somewhat Asian looking staff answers a lot of freaky questions about Shamans, psychedilc plants and the likes. Driving through the desert to Monument Valley. Cycling the dusty gravel road, a 20+ kilometer round trip through the giant red rocks. Talks with some jewellery selling Navajo. Sunset turns the sky to a spectacular colorful caleidoscope. No reason to spent 15 Dollras for a campground without facilities I decide, and go on. Biting time in a Mc Donalds in Cayenta I meet Rene, a German traveller that recommmends me to visit the nearby Zion National Park, for being a beautiful as Yosemite. A venturing statement, I find, yet two or three of his photos plus his still valid entrance ticket (worth 25 Dollars) convince me to go there. I drive through the night to gain a few hours of daylight in the National Park, and as well spare me a few hours of uncomfortable and cold sleep squezzed into the small Nissan.

Dramatic landscape already on the way to Zion - straight road along hundrets of meters tall red and white layered bluffs for miles in the desert. Crazy canyons without famous names. Mobile homes scattered in the desert every now and then indicate sort of civilization out here. If I haven't been to Sedona or Grand Canyon or Monument Valley before, I would have no reason to go there after having seen this. Yet still, entering the Zion National Park from Zion-Mnt. Carmel Highway, watching the towering giant white sandstone rocks over the lush green pine and yellow leaved oak trees scattered on sand stone flats is beyond expectations. I leave the car at the visitor center and engage the bicycle to get to the Sinawava Temple at the end of the North Fort Virgin River canyon. Cycling provides just enough flexibility to take way to many photos of that autumn colored flat valley between the steep and hundrets of meters high towering rocks. Indeed, this is as incredible as Yosemite!

10_roadtrip2_zion_angelThe river is way too cold to challenge a bare feet adventure into the famous Narrows. Wise man invented special gear for this expedition - wetsuits... Angels Landing is a great rocky pinnacle in the middle of the canyon, elevating almost 500 meters over the valleys ground. Up there, that's where angels land - no question. Definitely...

Weather forecast predicts snow for tonight and a major temperature drop. Rather then staying in a zero facility campground in the park, I rather hide in a motel a few miles away in Hurricane. The next day I drive up 30 kilometers to Lava Point at the end of Kolob Terrace, some 2400 meters above sea level. What a great viewpoint. Walking on snow...

On the way to Las Vegas I almost run out of gas and stop randomly at a gas station near the Interstate. Ancient drums are calling, a Powwow of the Moapa is taking place here. Dancing young and old Native Americans in the traditional clothes. Few spectators, this is real Native American culture! I talk to some of the people and learn that there are Powwows gatherings of Native American war veterans everywhere in the country. And that I could just camp here tonight, and join them. Sunset, and a stupid decision to go to Las Vegas because of a cheap hostel reservation. Both tires of the bicycle are flat, so I cruise the Las Vegas Boulevard by car, and later walk to Fremont Ave with its tourist attractions. Steppenwolf in Sin City. I leave on the next day. Tired, exhausted from enormous visual input in the past week. It has been incredible! Back in LA Barry provides a shelter one more time, and the car rental company gives me an unexpected 100 Dollar discount. Which I invest right away in a new fork for the bicycle.

CIMG4200Barry, my warmshowers host in Hollywood helps me to get some more unexpected maintenance done on my beloved bicycle - the fork started leaking badly. Quick service being rather impossible, I get a good over for a replacement and even a reasonable price for my old fork. Good news - the Morning Star Ranch, not too far away from LA, accepted my application for a WWOOFing experience (that is volunteer working on organic farms). It takes me almost a day to get out of LA and its sometimes rough and filthy suburbs. That is where most of the small churches are, the least cars on the wide streets and the people in rags push shopping carts far away from any super market. I reach Dana Point after sunset at 4:30PM.  The recent time change to Winter time really shortens the time available for cycling if one doesn't take off at 6:30AM. However, a cyclist approaches me in the dark, asking where I was coming from and where I was headed. And if I wasn't in the mood to join him and his family for diner and some Bible reading. I could as well stay with them, and if not, the camp ground was not far away. Having not much in common with the Church I'm puzzled, yet nod and follow this guy up another hill to his home. Apparently Bob has spotted me from a bus on the way, and decided to invite me. I receive a hearty Welcome from his wife Jenny and his son David, who is being educated by Jenny at home. A nice diner, long talks about their faith and my journey and the sons back problem. The bible reading is cancelled, and instead I can give David some Reiki. On the following morning, the two of us attend a free Yoga session in the park. I believe some good Yoga instructions and practice could help David a lot.

CIMG4203Another small bicycle repair in San Clemente, a neat surfer town just a few miles South of Dana Point: the wire of the front shift system teared to pieces. However, because of that stop I learn about a nearby camp ground, and decide to stay here for a night. The camp ground does not have a hiker/biker camp, yet I am really lucky and get a ocean view place for 6 dollars instead of 35. Meet Nate playing some great guitar songs in his car, and join him in the bar where he's playing at night, just after a marvelous sunset. Beers and fun and big talks and a dull feeling in my head the morning after.

The Morning Star Ranch was just some 40 miles away I belived and took it easy. Left the campground late, enjoyed a long rest and great food on a farmers market in Carlsbad and a visit to an old mission museum. Great ascends on the remaining 20 miles, and again it is getting late without seeing a trace of the farm. I stop at a small Deli in sparcely settled area, ready to pay for a taxi to bring me to the ranch. I'm welcomed by bearded young man with long hair and women in kind of old fashioned clothes and headscarf. Quickly I learn that the Deli belongs to the Morning Star Ranch, and receive an energizing green pulpy juice as well as a free lift to the farm. The community consists of roughly 100 people, man, women, children of all ages it seems at a first glance. Every member has a Hebrew name which is hard for me to memorize at first.

There is no private property any more among the members, just the shared community property. Everyone works really hard for their savour Yashua, and to repay the mortgage they bought the farm with. Thousands of Avocado trees on a hill, thousands of Grapefruit and Persimmon trees full of ripe fruits surround the nice red and white painted wooden main house with the dining room, the kitchen and some laundry facilities. I get a bed in one of the yurts for the single male members and visitors, and are asked to join the daily evening gathering right after a shower. Members of all ages talk in the wood fire heated training hall about their day, express their gratitude for their master Yashua. Then they sing and dance in a big turning circle. Two guys play guitar, a boy plays on an African drum. Good vibes. The next day is Sabbath – no work is done but lot of spiritual ceremonies and talks. Two newer female community members get baptised under an almost full moon in the pond near the ceremony house. What a biblical scenery! There are two more WWOOFers like me on the farm. We are assigned fruit picking or collecting firewood or any other farm work under the supervision of some brothers on the following days. Work is hard but pleasant, and I can learn a few things about the local fruits and vegetables as well as the foundation principles and the 40 years history of the international Twelve Tribes communities. These guys strongly believe in the bible and in Yashua who laid down his live for the sake of man. Yet they don't belong to any Church. With the daily morning and evening gatherings they encourage and motivate themselves to stay on the path, and give their best. I'm amazed to see a really functional and loving commune on the one hand, and bewildered by the omnipresent talks about Yashua and a few other aspects. Reiki – well, Yashua will cure the ones in need. Nor is there any way for beers or tobacco or free love outside marriage.

Eventually I get a chance to play Harmonica with Zach, the other WWOOFer the night before he leaves. And two nights before I re-enter the normal live. Ravach brings me and my bike to Vista for a brief visit to the Yellow Deli, an amazing restaurant made of recycled old barn wood. The restaurant belongs to the Twelve Tribes too, and attracts everyday many customers that care for organic good food. I ride down to San Diego, where I can stay for four nights in the home a very nice cyclists.