Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thank You!

To our employers who believed in this crazy idea, and our sponsors who helped make it happen. To all the students who attended our presentations and the faculty who facilitated them. To those who housed, fed, and entertained us. To those who waited patiently for us to pull over so they could pass. To those who drove our shuttles and shared local knowledge. To those who loaned tools, expertise, houseboats, wives, etc. To all the Canadians and Americans who were so friendly every place we went.
But especially to:

Glyn, Terri, Alana and Isaac
Heather and Joe, and baby Pearl
Nigel and Kristin
One T and his Bellingham posse
The Makah Nation
National Park Service
Alex and her crew at Golden Fuel Systems
Sarah Amspacher
Claire Tenenbaum and Riley Dopler
Dee Custer
Bryan Miller, Sue Miller, Whitey, and CP
The Yurok Nation
Robin Barlow
Chicken Dave
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Dude Williard, Jessica, David Press, and Hez
Shirley, John, Lynne, Rhiannon, Michael, Eliza, and Dylan West
WK Stewart and Family
Justin and Janet in SF

We'll see you down the road............

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Piper's Index

17------------------# of schools visited
7, 053------------- Total miles driven
70 -----------------Total, in US Dollars, spent on diesel fuel
4------------------- Number of Raycor Filters changed, at $12/filter
0------------------- Tickets received for parking illegally or speeding
2 -------------------# of times pulled over in vehicles skateboard/bike
1 -------------------House fires we started while house guests
1--------------------Cases of homemade Alaska berry preserves eaten
2------------------- Cases of smoked salmon consumed
1.5 -----------------Amount, in Kg, of red lentils consumed on the trip
37-------------------# of raw oysters consumed
7--------------------# of Haines friends visited
2 -------------------# of Haines friends bumped into
2 -------------------Childhood friends visited
4 -------------------# of provinces/ states where we kayaked rivers
1 -------------------# of provinces states where we swam in the sea
2 -------------------Museums visited
1------------------- Number of churches attended

Winding Down

The fall 2007 portion of the university tour wrapped up with visits to San Jose State and UC-Santa Cruz. Dr. Gonzaga da Gama was our gregarious host at San Jose, and we soon found ourselves speaking and showing slides in a bunch of different classes, including a graduate seminar and an eco-tourism class. Santa Cruz was a slightly different story- a wetter, lonelier story. The tour ended huddled under the Kelty wing outside the rec center as a december storm blew through Santa Cruz.
To celebrate, we retired to the lovely village of Carmel-by-the -Sea and called on Haines friend Thad Stewart. Thad and his wife Martha own and run Mosey's, a fantastic southwestern restaurant up in Alaska. They had just made a chile run to New Mexico to procur the 1.5 tons needed for the next summer season and afterward Thad had returned to his childhood home, a beautiful old hacienda overlooking the sea between Carmel and Big Sur. Our host was his father, W.K. Stewart, Esq., a nonagenarian practicing lawyer, anti-war activist, WWII vet and general bon vivant. We had a great time sitting by the fire in the library hearing stories from Bill's half-century in Carmel, with cameos from Ansel Adams, Henry Miller, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan, as well as several unsuccessful Japanese kamikaze pilots. Thad took us to Big Creek, a 5,000 acre swath of land in the heart of Big Sur, once owned by Bill and some associates. They donated the entire parcel to UCSC in the seventies, but all the families retain access for a couple generations, and each have a small cabin on the land, surely some of the most incredible real estate on the west coast. We hiked to a beautiful little cabin nestled in the redwoods, built in the style of the Haida natives from our neck of the woods. Later, working our way to the top of the ridge, we came to Bill and Thad's place, a beautiful little post and beam cabin with lots of glass that looks out on sweeping views of hills and sea. Someday a wildfire will claim it and it won't be rebuilt. For now, it's a great little weekend getaway spot for the family and lucky friends.
We woke up early on Sunday and drove back to San Francisco for the 11 o'clock mass at Glide Memorial Church. On the way in, Matt ran into two folks from our little Alaskan town, coming out of the early mass. After the memorable service we walked around the Mission District in search of a cabeza-sized burrito, and, stuffed, stumbled upon the Radio Havana Social Club. A hole-in-the wall plastered in Cuban and American kitsch, it was spilling over with percussionists, two elderly salsa dancers and a handful of appreciative audience members. Another beautiful find on the roads of America.
At Vladimir's in Inverness a couple weeks before, a dining couple had brazenly offered their houseboat in Sausalito. Perhaps they pitied us sleeping cramped in the back of the Piper, perhaps it was the wine, but in any case we do not pass up such offers. Their beautiful floating home proved to be a great spot to launch a paddle trip under the GG bridge and for entertaining Chicken Dave and his friend Jen. We grilled fresh Monterey sardines, sang songs and carried on late into the night, until the carriage became a pumpkin, or a Piper, once again.............

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bad Vibes, Good Fun

"You gotta be kidding me," announced a heckler as Natcho and I carried our whitewater kayaks towards the stairs descending to Pleasure Point. We had arrived in Santa Cruz and, after a quick peek at the famed break Steamer's Lane, were headed for what I remembered as the mellow longboarding spot south of town.
"You guys aren't going out there?" asked a woman scouting the surf.
Well, yeah, we were thinking about it.
No. Don't go there. Kayakers are not welcomed here. No way. You'll get yelled at, your car might get messed with. (How would they know which vehicle we were in?) They might waterboard you, or tie your paddle around your neck. You might be alright just paddling past everyone and over to the inside break, but who knows, they may still mess with your vehicle.
Depressed, ostracized and feeling quite self-conscious, we slunk back to the Fried Piper and ignominiously left Pleasure Point, boats inside the van and still dressed in paddling gear.
But we couldn't just leave it at that. We've entered surf country, with nice waves and warm sun. Plus, town was abuzz with talk of the huge swell on its way. Forty foot waves 350 miles offshore, headed for town. The surf contest at Mavericks was just announced and big wave riders would soon be descending upon the area. We had to get in at least one surf session.
So we searched town and found a kayak shop and they directed us to Capitola, where we wouldn't get knifed or have the Fried Piper defaced by keys. We paddled out past the pier and played on waves on the inside for a bit, before venturing out to the better break alongside a few longboarders.
"You guys speak English?" asked an older dude.
Yeah, a little bit.
"Big waves are coming."
But aside from that snide comment, people were cool and accommodating and we enjoyed the best rides of the trip. Long, glassy breaking waves that weren't too steep for dropping into.
We've entered a different part California, according to both the road atlas and the vibe on the water.
But our perseverance continues and we are determined to find PLUs in all corners. This proved the case during our time in Inverness, as we were welcomed into a beautiful home at the top of a canyon above Tomales Bay. Nestled in the woods, it is surrounded by pine and madrones and a few prominent snags that are home to Osprey and woodpeckers.
My childhood friend Dude has been caretaking the home for several years and has built tiered garden beds and encouraged a small orchard of plums, olives, apples and more. Also an avid mushroom hunter and harvester, we enjoyed sharing tales of subsistence and comparing Southeast Alaska to coastal California.
During our time there, we also had the pleasure of spending time with Jessica as well as David and Hez. David grew up in the house and now works for the park service as a biologist. He was counting elephant seals the day we were there. His parents moved to the area in the 1970s and now live in DC, where his father, Bill Press, is a political commentator and writer who co-hosted (with Robert Novak) CNN's CrossFire.
Our final night was capped with a dinner of Hog Island oysters, raw and barbecued, and some music making. Dude plays the kora, and it was the most unique jam session of the trip since one with an accordion player at Evergreen State College.
For the next few days, we'll be staying with Natcho's family in San Jose, his sister Eliza, brother-in-law Mike and nephew Dylan, whose link is on the blog. We're off to San Jose State to speak to classes tonight and tomorrow.