Washington to California

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August 4, 2010

In the morning I walked outside to prepare to leave and was greeted by a mostly flat rear tire. After airing it up, I said goodbye to Khanh and headed west to highway 101. This highway follows the west coast and has nice views of the Pacific Ocean.

I stopped at Boiler Bay, OR. It was a beautiful stop with a good view of the ocean crashing against the rocks.

While the occasional stop at the ocean was nice, the highway itself wasn't that great for the kind of riding I wanted. There was a fair amount of traffic on it, and the road was frequently interrupted by small towns with low speed limits. When I reached Newport, I turned east onto highway 20 towards the mountains, intending to follow them south into California.

The roads through the forests were nice and varied. Sometimes I'd spend a long time on mostly straight roads, other times I'd be winding up and down mountains. At Bend, OR, I took 97 south past Klamath Falls and across the border into California. It was getting dark so I started looking for a place to camp for the night, finally stopping where 97 met I-5 in Weed, CA.

This is where things took a turn for the worse. I started looking around for a camping spot, and settled on an empty field near the highway. I set up and settled in around midnight. Less than half an hour later as I was just getting to sleep, I was woken by a flashlight and a police officer asking me to come out of the tent. He told me I couldn't camp within city limits, and suggested I move on down the road. Annoyed, I hastily picked up camp, not bothering to pack everything into the luggage, just using bungees to hold the lid down.

I rode forward out of the field onto a sidestreet that turned out to be a dead end, so rather than go back the way I came, I decided to just ride through the field back to the street. Suddenly, the front wheel dropped. I stopped and looked ahead. All I could see were tall thick weeds. Figuring it was just a rough field, I continued on. Suddenly the bike dropped as I went down a steep bank. I put my foot down and it was immediately soaked in cold water. I then realized I had driven into a narrow ditch with cold water flowing through it. Even then, I could hardly see it from all the weeds growing there.

I was at least a foot down, with the very bottom of the ditch being even deeper, but I tried to drive out anyway. No chance though; the ditch was about as wide as the bike was long, and I couldn't even start to get the front wheel up the opposite bank. I got off the bike to get a better look, and the bike stayed upright, wedged between the opposite sides of the ditch. Or so I thought, until it fell over a little later, having settled into the mud a bit. My hastily packed things began to fall into the water since the top case was open.

After removing the top case, I picked the bike back up and started looking around to get a better idea of what I had got myself into. Heading further from the street, the weeds got thicker and the banks steeper. Towards the street, there were some shallower areas, so that seemed like the way to go. However, getting the bike there would take everything I had.

The first thing I needed to do was get the bike pointed down the ditch so I could get to the shallow end, but this proved to be a challenge. I couldn't even rock the bike back and forth, let alone maneuver it. After numerous attempts, I finally realized the only way I was going to get it moved was to lay the bike over, turn it while it was on its side, then pick it back up. Even this was quite difficult, and took several pick up/lay down cycles before it was turned enough. I slowly drove it a short distance down the ditch, then laid it down to figure out how I was going to get out of the ditch.

I found one spot where water could drain into the ditch. It was a shallower part of the bank, and was packed with large rocks, much better than the mud and grass everywhere else. Once again, I found myself unable to turn the bike sharp enough, so I had to lay the bike down, drag it, then pick it back up, and try again. Getting it turned enough pretty much meant turning it enough to wedge it between the two banks. By this time, I had been stuck in the ditch for an hour, and was considering setting up camp and waiting until I could get some help in the morning. The constant struggle with the bike, trying to turn it and picking it back up, was getting tiring.

After fighting it some more, a glimmer of hope: I finally had the front wheel on the rocky area of the bank. I started the bike up and was able to get the front wheel a little further out, but I was still stuck. The rear was in the slippery mud and grass, and the bank was a bit steep. But, I had room to move the bike back and forth. I started rocking the bike, jumping on the rear to increase traction as I let the clutch out. Each time it got a little further, and rolled back a little further. Sometimes I'd take it easy on the gas, other times I'd really let the rear wheel fly trying to power my way out. After about 15 minutes of this, I finally climbed out onto dry ground, rear wheel spinning. Free at last!

Finally out of the ditch, I loaded the bike back up and started looking for another spot to camp. After wandering around for a while, I finally found an empty lot near the highway, set up camp again, and finally got some sleep.

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