Friday, November 30, 2007

Czeching out NoCal

On the tour of the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico, we had heard about the company's commitment to renewable energy, which includes a large solar array and what they touted as one of the country's biggest hydrogen fuel cell installations. The carbon dioxide produced through fermentation is captured and used around the brewery, and their waste water is captured to power the fuel cells. So, it seemed like a good place to ask for a sample of the other amber liquid they produce: waste vegetable oil from their adjoining restaurant. Our request was passed up the chain through a few people, and soon Michael Ilse, the executive chef, came out to meet us. He was really enthusiastic about what we're doing and personally let us in to the dumpster where we found a jackpot of used rice oil, the first on this trip. It's high quality and produced locally in California, so it fits into the company commitment to local agriculture. Michael told us that the beef served in the restaurant is raised naturally nearby at CSU-Chico , the animals munching on the spent barley and hops from the brewing process. We took several keg's worth of grease off their hands and left Chico with our 100 gallon tank full to brimming....
A week into the California portion of our journey, we find ourselves in the little town of Inverness, squeezed between Tomales Bay and the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, a little piece of bucolic nirvana just a stone's throw from San Francisco. We came here for some sea kayaking and to look up a childhood friend of Matt's, David "Dude" Willard, a sustainable energy consultant who, among other projects, works with local wineries to help them lower their carbon footprint. Matt is picking the mandolin as the morning light filters through the trees and fills the beautiful post and beam house tucked into the hillside, and well designed to suck up every bit of this late-November sunlight.
We had great visits to UCDavis, where the Fried Piper was welcomed into the bicycle-only campus, and CSU-Chico where we gave a presentation to the monthly meeting of their outdoor club. Multi-tasking in Chico, we visited Haines friend Robin Barlow and dropped off two cases of canned sockeye salmon, an Alaskan-style care package from her mother in Haines. We also got to see the only three-story covered bridge in the nation. Filled with brewery grease, we braved the crazy freeways and made our way to the Bay Area for a Thursday visit at the Bay School, a fairly new prep school nestled in the Presidio. We rolled into Berkeley late on Wednesday and hooked up with Chicken Dave, and old Vermont friend and classic character. A fondue plan was hatched late night, including a slideshow of the trip with Matt playing the mandolin and improvising lyrics. After dinner and tunes we slept on the roof of Chicken's apartment building, with me perched at the edge closest to the van, figuring I could throw stones at any potential thieves.
We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, Matt in van , me on bicycle, in the bright California sunshine and made our way to Marin Headlands to scout the surf. Instead we found a contracting crew dressed in haz-mat suits, cleaning balls of fuel oil off the beach. The oil had ridden tides out of the bay and north up the coast after the spill of a few weeks ago. No surfing here, bru.
North again through a beautiful grove of redwoods and the rolling pasture land of Pt. Reyes. The wind was howling on the beach, so we hunkered down at Vladimir's, a restaurant run by a Czech man who has been in business since 1960. Stumbling on little places like this is one of the sublime pleasures of the American road trip. We enjoyed some Pilsner Urquell and played some backgammon while we listened to three locals opine on current politics ( "I hate commies as much as anyone, I fought them in Africa..."). Vlad runs the place by himself, at one point we saw him in the back, hunched over the next roll of apple strudel. The locals left and were replaced by a couple from the city on an overnight getaway. We chatted with them and before long they were offering use of their houseboat in Sausalito. It's that kind of place. The bread was reminiscent of shoe leather and the prices were somewhat shocking, but the pickled red cabbage was delicious and the experience was priceless.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Surf and Turf

We’re at the square in Arcata after an incredible day on the north coast. Sitting at a cozy cafĂ© with the first Christmas carols the stereo and a large tree being raised in the square, eating a delicious sandwich.
For the second day in a row we awoke in the redwood grove and set out for mad adventure. It was sunny and beautiful and the surf was kicking at South Beach, so we started the morning catching the first ocean waves of the trip. In the parking lot the Fried Piper continued to be something of a magnet for old guys with a lot to say.
Our efforts pounding our way out through the surf were rewarded with lots of sweet rides on overhead waves. It was sunny and warm, perfect for drying out whitewater gear in between two leisurely surf sessions. Matt fixed the surfboard and switched from the kayak to shred some waves standing up, his first rides since nearly a year ago in Nicaragua (he still doesn’t have a cutback). Then it was back on the road, heading south past a broken coast sparkling below the bluffs. We dropped down to the Klamath River and climbed again, pulling over at a vista 600 feet above the sea. Scrambling down a slippery path, we landed at a beach with amazing rock spires and huge surf bucking up right at the beach and pounding down with a fury.
We walked the beach towards the mouth of the Klamath, past a massive redwood rootball submerged in the sand, a dead sea lion and beautiful succulent plants clinging to giant boulders. The river makes a lazy bend at the end and forms a beautiful little cove where a raft of surf scoters were hanging out near a lone fly fisherman. These birds apparently fared the worst in the SF Bay fuel spill.
At the river mouth we passed through the ceremonial site for the Urok natives. It’s a little fish camp with perfect shake buildings and a cedar sweat lodge. We walked back to the road and back to the van for sunset. Matt rode his skateboard down the mountain to complete the multi-sport weekend. Now it’s on to Chico for an IWLS presentation at Chico State tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Going to California, Back on the Blog

With bellies full and the Fried Piper brimming with Thanksgiving leftovers and some strange grease from behind a super market in Talent, Ore., we crossed the state line into California. Shortly thereafter, we saw a Hummer, a dangerously fast driver and were panhandled by a grifter. We were also stunned by the beauty of the redwood forest of Northern California and the coastline surrounding Crescent City. California: the best and worst of America.

Our time in Oregon was eventful, and we apologize to readers about the lack of writing or photos. Trips to the coast, city time in Portland, and Thanksgiving in Ashland with several Haines friends were big highlights. Bryan “Millagio” Miller hosted us for the holiday, and made great rosemary mashed potatoes for the feast. Natcho contributed filo dough stuffed with ricotta/chantrelle stuffing and homemade jalapeno poppers, and Matt added sweet potato pie and cherry pie made with pie cherries from Paradise Cove, Alaska, canned this past summer. Sue Miller hosted fourteen people, including Bryan “Y.T.” White and Chris “C.P.” Pintozzi. Thanks Sue.

We arrived in Crescent City, a town devastated by a tsunami in 1964, to find flat surf and grey whales offshore. We paddled out at sunset and were sandwiched between a huge moon and the setting sun. The whales kept their distance, but their breathing punctuated an otherwise silent dusk.

We slept in an enchanted grove of redwoods, sans tent, with moonlight filtering through the giant evergreen trees and making for a most memorable night.

We awoke to the hammering of a pileated woodpecker and sipped tea (forgot the coffee at Miller’s) and ate some power-packed hot gruel cereal before embarking on our biggest stretch of whitewater yet: the gorge of the Middle Fork of the Smith River.

Incredibly clear and beautiful, the river meandered through forested hillsides and rocky bluffs for several miles before dropping into a gorge of polished rock. We picked our way through rapids, scouting every one, and running safety on several (where one of us stands downstream of the rapid with a throw bag in case of a swim). Oregon Hole was the biggest rapid of the run and we both managed to avoid the big hole and get propelled through a chute of turbulent water. Several more good-sized rapids kept us sharp and we finished our paddle as dusk neared.

Postcard from California

The sun was shining as we made for the coast. Sun Kil Moon covering Modest Mouse on the stereo:

start at the northwest corner, go down through California....

We stopped for Matt to use the facilities, an outhouse with a gigantic fly on the roof. The door was locked. Key at the counter, attached to a flyswatter.

got yourself a trucker's atlas.....

Billboard in field : "US out of the United Nations."

Now Manu Chao sings:

El viento viene,
El viento se va......
Por la frontera

Por la frontera we go, out of Oregon and into California, the Golden State, land of dreams.

Por la carretera....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good Morning from Our Portland Headquarters

Gorge Us

The Fried Piper has entered Oregon, a new state and new fates. Gone are the days of covertly sleeping in unzoned areas, for we are now enjoying a comfortable life in Eliot Tower. An 18-story high rise condominium in downtown Portland, we rub elbows with professionals on our daily commute around the city.
Overlooking the Portland art museum, a place in the Tower was loaned to us by Delores Custer. A professional chef and food stylist in New York, “Dee” has kindly provided proper digs for our time in the city at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
Our first weekend in Oregon was spent on the banks of the Columbia, upstream in the Hood River/White Salmon area. A land rich with whitewater rivers, fruit orchards, kite boarders and old friends, we enjoyed catching up with many of the latter and staged a bit of a Misty Fjords sea kayak ranger reunion. Our friend Jonathan Graca, who runs a nonprofit overseeing land use in the area, joined us for breakfast and a run down the Big White Salmon. Will Cole, who worked with Matt as an outdoor educator and is now a firefighter in Redmond, OR, also joined up for the run. River levels were low, but we managed to run the river and had fun in the numerous rapids. The photo here is Jonathan’s textbook run down Husum Falls.
Our hosts in White Salmon were Riley Dopler and Claire Tenenbaum. Riley was out in the mountains doggedly stalking elk during the brief hunt opening, but he came back briefly and we caught up over Claire’s wonderful green chile chili. Recently engaged, the “Doplbaumers” are friends of Natcho’s from his time in Misty Fjords and they were great hosts. We enjoyed the last of the garden’s bounty, eating grape tomatoes and cucumbers on salads, and Claire worked her seamstress magic, hemming pants and repairing torn elbows on our clothing. Thank you so much Claire! We’ve noticed the residents of Eliot casting furtive, admiring glances at our newly mended duds. We also visited the Skamania Lodge, where Claire and Riley will be married in the spring, and scored grease from the stylish lodge. Heading into Portland, land of grease wars, according to a report on NPR’s Splendid Table, we had full tanks. The one dumpster we have scouted, at the Rogue brewpub, backed up the NPR report. It was padlocked and affixed with a sticker threatening would-be grease thieves with a year in jail and a $5000 fine.
Yesterday we kicked off our first four-university week with a visit to Reed College on Veteran’s Day. It was a stormy Monday with high winds and rain buffeting Oregon. A storm from the coast, where 82 mph winds were recorded, whipped up into the Willamette Valley leaving much of Portland without power. Reed was also impacted and the line in the dining hall was slowed to a crawl, with students waiting patiently for an $0.85 bowl of beans and rice. Power returned just in time for our slideshow and we glided back to the Eliot feeling alright.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day 21: Tacoma- the World's 6th Largest Port

Tacoma, WA 6:25 Pm-
Justin Canny, the Outdoor Program leader at University of Puget Sound is an IWLS supporter and true FOP (Friend of the Piper). He greased the wheels for the greasy travelers by arranging, through security, a special parking permit that allowed us to put the van right in the middle of campus. We set up our little scene and Matt began an impromptu workshop in camp cookery (breakfast). Soon the smells of Ethiopian coffee, salmon scrambled eggs, and dandelion greens with zucchini and ginger were wafting throughout the campus and drawing curious students and faculty. The van was the perfect billboard and people were excited to check out the grease system and our info table. We're giving our presentation to the Outdoor Club's meeting in a few minutes and should have a huge turnout. After the show, the autograph session, and the after-party, we'll be diving headlong into the campus grease vat, which was pre-scouted and found to be full of at least 50 gallons (!) of liquid gold.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gear and Gears

For those interested in the adventures we take and the various risks involved, we've decided to post gear lists for some of these trips. The recent paddle on the outer coast of the Pacific and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca was not taken lightly. We undertook the paddle only after checking swell, wind, current, weather and tide charts and were prepared to turn around at any point. In addition to knowing the forecasts, we carried: a hypothermia kit in each boat (fleece top/bottom/hat/socks/lighter, enclosed in a dry bag); one tent and one sleeping bag and pad; two flashlights; flares on each person and a cell phone. We wore helmets, life jackets and were dressed to swim (drysuit or paddle tops and bottoms) and carried a waist-mounted tow rope.

Also, the Fried Piper is about to roll again. Here is a list of schools for the duration of the trip. We'll be seeing many old friends along the way and hope to meet many more, so let us know of PLUs (people like us) in the areas we're heading to.

Nov. 6--University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA
Nov. 7--Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
Nov. 8--Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR

Nov. 12--Reed College, Portland, OR
Nov. 13--University of Portland
Nov. 14--Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR
Nov. 15--Mt. Hood Community College, Portland

Nov. 19--University of Oregon, Eugene
Nov. 20--Southern Oregon University, Ashland

Nov. 26--California State University- Chico
Nov. 27--University of California Davis
Nov. 28--California State University Sacramento
Nov. 29--Bay School, San Francisco

Dec. 3--San Francisco State
Dec. 4/5--San Jose State
Dec. 6--University of California Santa Cruz

Friday, November 02, 2007

Day 17-Olympic Peninsula

We are spending a few days here, waiting for a part to be shipped from Golden Fuel in Missouri to General Delivery, Port Angeles, WA. But we're managing to keep ourselves occupied........

Corner of the Continental US

After various hijinx in the city and the outlying area, we skipped out on urban Halloween celebrations and headed for the Olympic Peninsula. A late night, curvy drive to Port Angeles found us in a town larger than we had expected with nowhere to sleep. After scouting dark side streets and contemplating some campgrounds in the vicinity, we settled for the Wal-Mart parking lot. Joining fifth wheels, trailers and RVs, we bedded down in America’s free campground, living the dream vacation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who apparently travels the United States staying in the smiley-faced lots.
Errands in the city and a great breakfast of toasted bagels with smoked salmon scrambled eggs and a French press of coffee cooked in the Safeway parking lot left us fed and ready to run whitewater. But the dam-controlled Elwah River wasn’t flowing high enough, so we burned grease out to the very tip of America: Neah Bay, Makah Native American lands. We bathed in the Pacific at Shi Shi beach after a hike through large red cedars and towering Sitka Spruce, the ground covered with all manner of fungus, even bright purple mushrooms. A fine meal cooked overlooking the breakers of the Pacific and early to bed for the eagerly anticipated paddle around Cape Flattery and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a trip recommended Nigel and Kristin a couple nights ago. To check out our route, click here.
It is a famed coastline, renown for its remoteness, wild storms, rich waters and huge rain forest trees. It is also home of the Makah, one of the few whale hunting tribes in the Pacific Northwest, traditionally hunting from long canoes. It is also home to my first big open water paddle, we set out at the Waatch River and wove our way through breakers, finding a smooth route past the swell. The forecast called for 11 foot swell at 12 second intervals and I was nervous, but the seas were fairly calm once we got out a bit. We worked our way north, towards the Cape and Tatoosh Island. Boomers exploded on rocks inshore from us and large cliffs and rocky beaches, littered with driftwood logs, lay behind the monoliths of the ocean. The entrance to Juan De Fuca, on the inside of Tatoosh, was a bit tricky with the incoming tide pushing in. We lunched on bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon in a sheltered cove on Tatoosh, dubbed Seal Cove, since we came upon a colony of seals hauled out on the rocks. They all dashed and flopped into the water and studied us with their canine-like eyes as we ate, with one fat , lazy white and grey stippled seal ignoring us from its rock perch.
We paddled back into the sea and safely passed into the Strait, where the water turned smooth, dark black with big, slow rollers turning aqua when washing up on rocks or into caves. A beautiful stretch, with lichen draped alders and huge evergreens hanging over cliff walls that tumbled into the sea, the rock forming arches and caves and little sandy coves. In the water, we paddled with seals and sea lions and were surprised by a whale’s spout as it worked the kelp beds for food. A V-shaped spray came from its blowhole, grey or minke perhaps. We also came upon a group of sea otters hauled out, floating on kelp. And all around us birds: huge clouds of them out at sea or over the trees, auklets and murres floating beside us and ducks, murrelets and more diving and flying. We both agreed it was one of the finer paddles we’ve ever done and got back to Neah Bay just before the rains started. A quick dinner under the shelter of a red cedar plank house made as a tribute to Veterans, opening kick-off of the Neah Bay football game Go Red Devils!) and we are back on the road, running on grease down to Forks where One T will join us for hiking up the Hoh River.