Category Archives: Road Stories

October, 1974 by Laena Caprice Brown

(The following is a short story by Laena Caprice Brown, about her dad’s 1974 bike trip from the Kootenays South to Mexico)

October 1974

by Laena Caprice Brown

No tent, no water bottle, a slab of plastic, and next to no money. If anyone saw the amount of cash on Doug and Dennis, they would of thought these two were making a quick stop to the grocery store, and nothing more. The West Kootenay weather was quickly becoming frosty and bitter, and Doug and Dennis were heading South. Planning and goodbyes weren’t given much thought. They just got on their bikes and rode.

“You surprised we made it this far the first day?” Dennis asked through exhausted huffs as he placed his feet on the ground.

“I kind of figured we could make it to the border in a day,” Doug walked his bike beside him, ran his fingers through his long brown hair and scratched his Jesus beard, “but we’re going to be hooped crossing. There’s no way we should even try to get across tonight. They’ll think something’s up.”

“Yah, no doubt. Where you want to set up camp?”
“How about in those bushes over there? It’s still on the Canadian side, and no one can see us.”

“Sounds good. Shit it’s cold.” Dennis looked up at the sky, now covered with thick gray clouds. “I hope it doesn’t rain.”

“Don’t jinx it man.”

They sunk into the bushes, bikes and all. They spread out the plastic portion where there weren’t too many rocks and other jagged objects, and camp was made. Propping their backpacks under their heads, a few mumbles were exchanged, and then they dazed away into slumber.

Doug awoke at what he thought might be one in the morning to a gentle tap on his cheek. Through hazy eyes and blurred thoughts he couldn’t figure out what was going on. There was another cold tap on his forehead. Doug sat up on the plastic, it was wet. Through pine branches by distant moonlight he could barely make out what was going on.

“Shit Dennis.”

“Huh? What man? What’s going on?” He rubbed his eyes, then realizing what was happening, opened them wide. “No way. What should we do?”

“There’s not much we can do. Let’s just pull the plastic under this tree more.”

The guys rearranged camp, and laid back down, cold, and curled in the fetal positions. Neither of them got much sleep that night, just waited for morning to come. Neither of them spoke once they woke up. Camp was silently repacked into bags, and they wheeled their bikes out of the trees.

As they approached the U.S. border, two clean shaven, middle-aged border guards stood outside, arms crossed, and intimidating handguns at their sides, watching the two young hippies, long beards and unbrushed hair, ragged jeans, and ten-speeds approaching them.

Doug glanced over at Dennis. “Why do I have a feeling this is going to be a drag?”

“Good morning gentlemen, could I please see your ID.” Doug and Dennis handed over their macramé wallets.

“Where are you headed on this chilly day?” The guard holding Doug’s ID wasn’t as harsh as they thought he might be.

“Just planning on riding our bikes in the states for a few days sir.” Dennis sure knew how to talk out of his ass.

“Really?” The other guard raised his eyebrows until his forehead crinkled. Do you guys want to step into the building, please? He wasn’t quite so friendly.

The two pairs went in the side door of the border crossing building. Doug and Dennis instinctively handed over their backpacks. They had nothing to hide, so volunteering their possessions for a check might have proved something to their advantage.

So you guys are planning on visiting the states for how long? The kinder of the two guards asked.

“Yes sir. We’ll be back Tuesday of the latest.” Dennis replied confidently

“Shouldn’t you boys be in school?” The guard inquired towards Doug.

“We actually decided to take a year off. You know? See the world.”

“Well, I’m afraid that won’t be happening today. We’re going to have to ask you to turn your bikes around and head back home, boys. The weather is bad, and judging by your financial state, you won’t last very long. Sorry guys.” The guards handed the guys their things back in arm fulls, failing to put it back in order.

Doug and Dennis weren’t prepared to give-up that easy. After packing there stuff up, they finally convinced the guards that they were “good boys,” and would only be in the states for a couple days, three at the most. They continued their journey and peddle the rest of the day, only making one stop to piss. They didn’t drink much sense they started their ride, so there wasn’t much to get out of their systems.

By the time it got dark, they were both very thirsty. Very thirsty didn’t even begin to describe it. Although the water in Roosevelt Lake was in sight, they were a long way above it. It was simply a tease. Determined to get water, they rode through the night. By morning they snuck into a campground, and drank from a water fountain. Their throats were raw, and it was painful, but necessary to drink.

Everyday they rode non-stop from the time they woke-up in the morning, until dark. Then, they stopped riding and slept wherever they were. If they were lucky, they would find a campsite, and sneak into it to avoid paying. But there were nights like the one in Southern California when it rained, and never stopped. So they had to give into the rain, and stop instead. That night, they ended up sleeping standing up in an outhouse.

“Hey Dennis.” Doug whispered through the dark and stench.

“Yah?”

“I finally understand that song.”

“What song?”

“It Never Rains in Southern California… It Pours.”

They made checkout time an early one after that night. Stepping out of the outhouse and breathing fresh air, Doug reached inside the bag of dried figs he had bought at a convenience store. About to put one in his mouth he noticed a small, black bug on it…. “Ants.” Doug looked into the bag, and saw dozens of tiny ants feasting on their figs. He was hungry, and those figs were like a fortune at this point. He dumped the bag out on the back of his pack, and sifted through the figs until there weren’t any ants left. He never did tell Dennis about it.

By late morning they had made it onto Highway 101, along the Pacific Coast. Being avid hikers and true nature lovers, the guys were completely astounded by the splendor of the scenery. The foliage had already changed to the wondrous colours of fall. Vibrant reds, profound browns, and rich greens lined the highway. Through large trees, the sometimes-panoramic ocean view stretched to the end of the world. With the predominant Northwest wind generally at their back, they used garbage bags for sails by placing the bags over the handlebars and hanging on to the opening of the bags and the bars at the same time. It would have worked quite well; except for the difficulties they had controlling the movement of the bikes. They were quite the sites as cars, and semis drove along past them.

After that, it was easy riding for eighteen miles downhill through the Redwood Forest. Doug and Dennis were so occupied stretching their necks into the sky to gaze up at all the old growth trees that they almost collided with each other several times. They maneuvered their way through vehicles, passing rows of traffic lined up behind slow chip trucks. “Quite a change, eh?” Dennis laughed.

That evening they set up camp on a beach by the ocean. Dennis jumped in as soon as they got to the water and a huge wave knocked his glasses off.

“Hello?”

“Hi mom. It’s me, Dennis.” He was talking a payphone outside a gas station.

“Dennis. How are you? Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s great mom. We’re almost in Mexico. But, I umm…. broke my glasses. Do you think you could send my other pair ahead to the hotel we’ll be staying at in San Francisco? Great. Thanks. I love you too.”

For several days of riding Dennis, half blind, followed behind Doug, who yelled cautions like “bump ahead,” over his shoulder. They crawled off into the desert one night to sleep.

“Look out Dennis! A scorpion!”

“No way! Where?”

Doug laughed.

“Stop fucking doing that.”

That night, they both got little sleep worrying about scorpions, and snakes, and whatever else awaited in the desert for two boys from the boonies. A few times Doug scratch his long hair and itched is beard to ensure no creatures were making the beginnings of a home.
The guys peddled hard to reach the Mexican border. The tough part was finally over, and the guys were finally approaching their final destination. In the late evening Doug and Dennis felt utter exhilaration, laughing as the two Kootenay boys peddled into Mexico, no hands.

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Home Sweet Home

Sorry it’s been so long since the last update, I hope no one was nail-biting wondering if they’d made it.

The guys are home safe, and back into the swing of things. I’ve talked to my dad a few times since they’ve been back, and we’re planning a “book meeting” for some time in the near future.

What comes next is a bit of a treat. I met a guy named Dane Brown at an event called Barcamp, and again at Casecamp, where I talked about this site. He said that his dad had done the same route years ago, and his sister had written a short story about their ride.

Well, the author of that short story, Laena Brown, has given me permission to publish it here.  By the sounds of things, there’s quite a bit of contrast between the ride my dad took this year, and the ride their dad took all those years ago.  No support truck, no tent, and next to no money.

Laena’s story is in the next post.

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Touchdown.

The time right now is 2:39.

Photo by dmealiffe
At 1:07 this afternoon, my dad left me a message on my cell phone, saying they had touched down at the border.  At 1:31, I received this comment from Laura Craigen:

Allan called today and at 1:06 they hit the border, made it safe and sound,  photo shoot as proof they made it and then back to the motel.

And so there you have it.  Just a few minutes after one o’clock today, a dream that was over a year in planning and 28 long days of pedalling in the making, was finally realized.

I can’t wait to see the pictures.

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The End of the Road

Another call from Dad tonight, from a place called Lahoya, by the airport in San Diego. They’re a mere 20 miles from the Mexican border, and will ride there tomorrow for some photos before pedalling back to their motel.

They rode 105 km today, and then Dad and Al walked all over town in Lahoya, that he called a “surfer’s paradise,” all bikini shops, cruiser bike shops and of course, surf shops.

And last night I received two more pics from Real, and it seems they are from all the way back in Oregon. Here they are riding through a tree:

In Other News:

Calling All Artists and/or Graphic Designers!

If you would like to lend a hand to this project, we could use your help. We’d love it if someone would volunteer to help to make a few graphics, including a map of the route the guys took. Anybody know how to make an animated movie in Google Maps?? It’s beyond me…

If you think you can help, email Jordan: jordanbehan@gmail.com

Cheers!

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Rollin’ in the LBC

Not sure whether they ran into Snoop Dogg or not, but last night the guys were in Long Beach County, so you just never know.

(PJ orders a beer at Duke’s Suds Shack. Those calves are ridiculous)

My Dad called last night, and then I spoke to him again tonight. ast night they stayed in Long Beach, which he guessed was a mere two days of riding away from San Diego. The day before they had rolled through Venice Beach, and today they made it past Huntington and Newport Beaches, and arrived in Saun Juan Capistrano. As he explained, they ride through these beach towns on the beachside bike paths for miles and miles, where they can watch the girls, and one can see “more volleyball nets than you would find in all of Canada.” There’s a dozen of them and a lifeguard tower every 50 meteres or so, he says, and the beaches go for as much 5 miles each.


(Don Tataryn looks down a long beachpath stretched out ahead of them)

He said there was one stretch in Anaheim they pedalled through where if they were in a car, the windows would be up and the doors locked. Alas, they were on bikes though. I’m sure they felt quite safe.
Tonight they’re safe and sound just across in the street from Dana Beach in Capistrano, where dad says the palm trees are wrapped in rope lights and there’s a fire burning every few hundred feet on the beach in concrete fire pits. “This is just as good as it can get,” he said of the setting. He was at the BBQ monitoring chicken and pork chopes, while half the crew sat in the hot tub next to him. He said their hotel tonight was especially nice, as they’re taking advantage of off-season rates.

Close to the end of their voyage now, I thought maybe he’d say they were exhausted and looking forward to the end, but it sounds like they might just take it easy and enjoy their last few days. “We’re celebrating our accomplishment.”
“It’s been fun,” he said. “We’ve only got two days of pedalling to do at the most, and about four or five days to do them.”

Soon they will arrive at the end of their voyage, right at the Mexican border, where they will get some photographic evidence that they accomplished what they set out to do. They’re taking it easy now at the finish, and plan to get a hotel tomorrow night near the Mexican border, so they can get there for photos and return for their second night in the same room before they pack up to leave. Janine and Real will take the truck and trailer home, while the guys will fly home.

Their triumphant return is October 7.

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Stories and Kudos from Fellow Riders

This morning I received an email from Rob Pagani, who is one of the faithful crew who ride in the mornings with the guys in Powell River. He had a message for his riding partners:

Hi guys, sounds like everything is progressing as planned. I’m sure I will be hearing a lot of stories at coffee when you’re back. Are the daily destinations the same as always, a pub? Wish I were there in my usual spot with you all, pulling up the rear. 

Take care   Rob P.

And we also received a comment from Steve Dull, who set out on the road on the very same day as the guys, following the same course!  Except that Steve’s equipment made his ride a fair bit more leisurely. (More on that below)  Still, even though he was riding a single speed bike, he kept up an incredible pace that makes me sore just thinking about it.  Needless to say, he’s got some experience in the saddle.  Let Steve tell the tale:

I left Powell River with these guys on September 6th, just coincidentally beginning a bicycle ride to San Diego on the same day. My trusty single-speed, coaster-brake  Schwinn Cruiser carried me to Santa Barbara, where I concluded my ride due to time constraints. At the pace I had established, I would have reached the border in three more days, but needed to get back to Powell River. I arrived back home a few days ago via Amtrak and Pacific Coastal Airlines. The last time I saw these guys was in Qualicum Beach, where they had stopped for lunch the first day. As I rode down the Pacific Coast, I thought often of these guys, wondering where they were and how they were doing. When I reached Pacifica (just south  of San Francisco), I called Warren, who informed me that the group had reached Eureka, and were having a great time. Yesterday, Frank Chrinko told me that they had reached San Francisco, then I read in The Peak that they had reached Monterey. Now I know they have pedaled through Santa Barbara to Ventura. Even if it’s true that these guys are spending more time drinking beer than riding, I can readily attest to the fact that they have had a good workout.   Congratulations guys!

My ride? 2486 kilometers from Powell River to Santa Barbara, averaging 130 kilometers a day for 19 days. Longest day? 190 kilometers from Gualala to  San Francisco (riding across the GG Bridge at dusk). Shortest day? 50 kilometers from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay (due to needed bike maintenance in SF and the previous day’s grueling ride). Toughest day? 160 kilometers from Seaside, CA to San Simeon (the guys will know what I’m talking about). Best part of trip? Probably the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway between Klamath and Orick in CA (long downhill after a short climb, remarkably little traffic, and HUGE redwoods). Worst part? Clearcuts and traffic (enough said). Best meal? A bowl of Menudo at La Costa in Davenport, CA. Worst meal? More bad meals than I can count (the guys will probably agree with me that bad meals taste pretty good and are greedily consumed  when on the road). Biggest surprise? No flats (Michelin Town and Country tires). Actually, because of my one gear, I may have put as much wear on the soles of  my shoes as on my bicycle tires.

As I’ve twice bicycled solo across the United States, this Pacific Coast trek wasn’t the ride of a lifetime. It was, however, a ride I won’t soon forget. I’m sure these guys won’t forget their experiences anytime soon, either. Again, my congratulations!

Steve

I’ve asked Steve to forward photos from his trip. If I get some, I’ll add them to this post, and to the flickr site as well.

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Chili in Ventura, California

Laura’s comment from yesterday gives us our latest update:

Hi,

Heard from Allan and they are staying in Ventura, California, weather a bit cooler, absolutely beautiful beaches. The next few days are going to be beach days, not sure what that means, drive through, swim or just play. They think it will take about another 5 days to get to San Diego. Janine is spoiling them, making them great meals. Tonight is a chili night. You go Janine! Allan said the food is really good and Janine is looking after them. Thanks Janine, remember the black mail and the payments for all the stories that only you hear. I asked Allan if they had been on the site and he said they do not have internet in most of the places they stay. Told him to get his butt down to the library and pay for internet and be answering some questions, send some photos etc. He said hopefully within the next few days. Sort of think that won’t be happening, if it hasn’t happened yet. He said he is sore and tired but they are accomplishing what they set out to do and have had wonderful experiences in doing so. All is well with the guys and Janine, We miss you, stay safe and see you next week.

Love Laura

PS The kids give you a big hug and say they miss you and love you. Can hardly wait until you get home.

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