MIXING UP MY LOW CARBON COMMUTE OPTIONS THIS FALL

hudson-link-buslrMy goal is to eliminate fossil fuels from my daily life. I like to save my limited budget of carbon emissions for a few life enriching luxuries while making sure that my life would go on just fine if we banned fossil fuels tomorrow (as I think we should, given the #climatecrisis). And it was actually pretty easy to eliminate fossil fuels from my daily commute to work, through a combination of a bike and kayak commute (die-hards only), E-motorcycle (adventurous), and EV microcar (nearly anyone can do this!).

I was hoping to switch to a pure bicycle commute this Fall, without the kayaking part, since the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson was supposed to open its bike path during the Fall months of 2019. While I really get a kick out of paddling across the river on my way to work, it makes for a long commute – about two hours door to door for my 15 mile commute, including time spent uncovering and launching the kayak. The bridge bike path would cut 45 minutes off that commute time. So I didn’t even bother staging my kayak and east-of-the-river bike when paddling season came this year, hoping to have a one-saddle commute by Fall semester.

But a Fall opening of the bike path was not (and is not) to be, so  have been mixing my e-moto, EV,  bus, and paddle/pedal commute options this Fall.

I experimented with the bus for a week or so at the beginning of the semester. The advantage of the bus is that I can prepare for my nine o’clock class on the ride in, so the inevitable rush hour traffic delays don’t bother me.  The new Hudson Link bus service even has a dedicated lane on the new bridge eastbound, but not on the rest of the cross-Westchester expressway (where the worst morning traffic backups occur). And with my #OKboomer senior discount, the round trip on the bus is just $2.70 – less than the bridge toll alone for a car. But the diesel bus is not carbon emissions free – the thirty mile round trip adds about four pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere (assuming  150 passenger miles/gallon and approximately 20 pounds CO2 per gallon of diesel). It’s too bad the new cross-Hudson bus system had to invest in diesel buses, but the 12-year design life for heavy transit buses means that maybe they can be replaced with battery electric buses just in time for the 2030 carbon emissions goals of the IPCC SR15 report.

The disadvantage of the bus (besides its carbon footprint) is the time it takes to get to the bus stop a mile plus from my house, and the half mile from the bus stop in White Plains to my office. I usually end up walking both ends, for exercise, which adds about forty or fifty minutes to the trip each way. Add the thirty minutes on the bus, and five or ten minutes of margin for on-time buses (or late buses), and the one way commute is well over an hour – comparable to what I expect a bike-only commute would take.

The new buses have bike racks, so while I am waiting for the bike path to open, I have a bike-to-the-bus-across-the-river-bike-to-work option. I used this option to get one of my bikes east of the river to set up my paddle and pedal commute.  The $2.70 round trip cost is the same, but five miles each way on the bus is only one-third of the carbon impacts.

With one bike on the east side of the river and one on the west, I could start paddling my kayak across the river morning and evening in mid-September.  Nothing beats the zen of paddling across the Hudson at dawn and dusk and biking over the hills on either side – especially as the leaves turn to a glowing gold in the long rays of the sun. Zero carbon impact and also toll free! My Garmin app tells me that I burn an extra 2,000 calories each day I do this, but I don’t think I eat that much extra averaged over a week where I paddle/pedaling two days. I do tend to buy lunch instead of bagging lunch on paddle and pedal days, which probably costs me about $4 extra.

With the end of paddling season this month (too dark, no docks in the river anymore) I am back to the EV and the E-moto. Motorcycle on nice days, EV on not nice days or when my dog comes with me. They are still the quickest way to work, door to door. For some reason, the motorcycle is faster than the car. The toll for the E-moto is $2.50, but the electricity is about fifty cents, so the bus is still cheaper.  The toll for the car is $4.28 with the green vehicle discount, and the electricity is more like $1.20, so the EV is the most expensive way by far to get to work.

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Paradoxically, the bus adds to my marginal direct carbon footprint, but the EV and E-moto do not. I only count direct marginal emissions in my carbon diet – these are the emissions I am inescapably ethically responsible for. With renewable electricity contract, charging at home is zero carbon. And it’s nice to know that according to this MIT Calculator, the embedded emissions per mile of my little Smart ForTwo are far lower than any other motor vehicle on the road. Unfortunately, they are no longer being sold in the US, but used ones can be a great deal.

So, the bus is the cheapest but with a marginal carbon cost, and the electric motorcycle is the quickest. I am looking forward to being able to bike all the way to work on the Mario Cuomo Bridge soon – but until then,  I can still get to work without blowing my carbon budget.

 

 

 

Biking to the Strike: Signs of Change

I rode my bike 32 miles each way for Friday’s climate strike in downtown Manhattan. There was no way I was going to take fossil-fueled transport to get there, so that ruled out the Metro North trains, the Rockland Coaches bus, or (obviously) a gas powered car. I considered taking either the Smart EV or the Zero E-moto, but I figured I would be better off avoiding the combination of protest gridlock and Friday afternoon commuter traffic.

This was my first long ride since I rode from Grants Pass Oregon to Smith Creek, CA on my cross country trip last June. Actually, I have been avoiding long rides while my ulnar nerve recovers from that trip. I have been measuring my recovery in terms of guitar chords – I am up to a C and an F, but I have not gotten to an E-shaped bar chord yet.

I had my first flat before I got to the bottom of the hill on my street, so I went back and switched to my cross-country Trek bike. In under two hours I was crossing the GWB, fueled by anticipation for the climate protest and the crisp peri-autumnal September weather. I got downtown in plenty of time, and after some negotiations with building management, took the freight elevator and stashed my bike at the Waterkeeper offices on Maiden Lane.

A group of about six of us walked from the Waterkeeper office towards the Foley Square assembly place. We got as far as the Municipal Office Building at Chambers Street – the press of the crowds made it impossible to make the last block. The crowd was young, and excited. It helped that the New York City schools excuses students who were striking – as long as they had parental permission. We joined the march on Chambers Street when it began to move.

Many of the placards seemed formulaic – “System change not Climate Change” is getting worn to the point of being meaningless. But there were many really original signs – my favorite was a hand lettered sign with a picture of Earth, saying “I don’t want to live anywhere but here – At least until the Sun explodes.” There were two brave souls holding up “Carbon Tax Now” signs. I yelled “Neoliberal Shill at one of them, then went up to apologize and tell him I actually support a carbon tax, but he hadn’t heard me anyway.

Here are some pictures from the day.

By joining near the head of the march, I ended up fairly close to the stage at Battery Park – it would have been a great place to watch Greta speak. But I didn’t want to stand around for three hours waiting for the program, and I also wanted to bike home before dark. My Waterkeeper friends all headed back to the office. I wandered around in the crowd for a while, reading the signs and soaking up the energy. Then I recovered my bike and wheeled back to Battery Park to soak up a little more of the event, from the edge.

As I headed back up along the Hudson River park bike way, I was struck by how unaware most of he city seemed to be of the protest going on in its midst. The river’s edge was crowded with joggers and strollers on this beautiful September day, and a “Run for the Children” event was taking place completely unaware of the children’s movement organizing just a few blocks away. Friday afternoon traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway was backed up in the usual way, and I was happy to be on a bike.

I realized as I rode that I was a little disappointed with the climate strike. A strike is supposed to be disruptive, like a labor strike that stops production, or a general strike that brings government services to a halt. It is an act of defiance, done without permission – like Greta Thunberg’s original School Strike for Climate. When a colleague suggested last week that we coordinate the Environmental Law Faculty’s participation in the strike, I joked that the problem with law professors going on strike on a Friday is that no one would notice. As it turned out, our department formally closed in support of the strike. And at some level, I was disappointed that the NYC schools gave permission to students to strike, robbing them of the element of disruptive defiance.

In a movement that counts success by the number of people engaged, I was happy to be the 249,999th demonstrator at the NYC march. But the People’s Climate March of 2014 was a bigger event in NYC, and it still did not result in a measurable political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I want to see actual emissions reductions. Now. I know that riding a bike downtown measurably reduces my carbon footprint compared to any other form of transport.

Too many climate activists scoff at individual climate action because one individual’s reductions are vanishingly small in the context of global climate change. But my contribution to a 250,000 person march is also vanishingly small. I will continue to do both — reduce and demonstrate – and vote, and call my representatives, and walk door to door in a swing state in November 2020 (like I did in 2016) because despite the vanishingly small odds, the future of the children who demonstrated around the world on Friday demands every form of action. Individual and political.

If Money is the Oxygen That Keeps Fossil Fuel Burning, Stop Giving Money to Oil Companies

white and pink gasoline station near ocean
Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

In this week’s New Yorker, Bill McKibben ups the ante in his efforts to ostracize the oil industry to protect climate, now suggesting  pressure on banks that finance fossil fuel extraction projects. McKibben’s earlier appeals for fossil fuel divestment have been very successful politically in motivating climate activism. In the divestment campaign’s most recent victory, the University of California has determined to divest from fossil investments, citing investment risk. Whether the divestment campaign has had a perceptible effect of fossil fuel production or consumption is questionable, however – an economics working paper concludes that divestment has not appreciably affect fossil fuel stock prices or policies.

I have been skeptical of the effectiveness of fossil fuel divestment campaigns as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even a significant decline in fossil stock prices does not seem likely to slow the rate at which oil producers pump fossil fuels out of the ground as long as global demand for their products remains high.

McKibben’s implicit call for a consumer boycott of banks that finance fossil fuel exploration is a form of a secondary boycott – a boycott of those who continue to do business with the entity that is the subject of the primary boycott. Secondary boycotts have had a long and noble history in the Civil Rights Movement (though they are banned under US labor law). But a bank boycott seems to skip right over the primary boycott and go straight to the secondary boycott. Wouldn’t a consumer boycott of the offenders themselves, the fossil fuel companies and their products, be a more effective way to put an end to this harmful industry?

The title of McKibben’s New Yorker piece, “Money is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns” is certainly true. But big oil gets far more cash from sales of petroleum products – $1.7 trillion – than it does from any bank financing of its exploration efforts — $196 billion from Chase over three years according to McKibben. And the industry gets to keep the money from oil sales, unlike the loans from Chase, which have to be paid back.

The average retail customer might generate about $200 per year to a bank’s profits. If about 7% percent gets recycled by the bank into fossil fuel loans, that’s about $14 of the retail customer’s money going to fossil fuel development in the form of a loan. Compare that to the $1,000 or so the average American spends on gasoline each year, or the ten percent of each airline ticket that pays for fuel – funds that fuel oil industry activities directly and don’t have to be paid back. Wouldn’t consumers have a bigger impact if they just stopped buying oil, or at least sharply reduced their purchases? One less $500 airline ticket is three times better than closing out your accounts at Chase bank.

Like the divestment campaign, the campaign to boycott the banks doesn’t have a direct path to reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. But at least an indirect path can be discerned – 1) some banks stop lending for fossil fuel exploration and development because their interest in retail banking public relations and profits outweighs their interest in oil loans, 2) some oil exploration and development doesn’t happen that would have happened otherwise because there are no other sources of financing, 3) five to seven years later (when those projects might start producing) there is less oil on the global market, 4) gasoline prices go up and consumption of fossil fuels goes down incrementally. But this does nothing to slow the current flow of oil from existing wells and proven fields.

If all you want to do is raise the price of gasoline, why wait five years and let the oil companies collect the higher prices? Why not endorse a fee-and-dividend price on carbon, like Michael Mann did in his Time magazine essay, and get the benefits of the greenhouse gas reductions now? Fee and dividend has the added short term benefit of redistributing the higher price to those who can least afford the price increase, and since it has bipartisan support, has a much better chance of adoption in the next four years than the Green New Deal.

So if you really want to deprive the fossil fuel industry of oxygen, a primary boycott works better than a secondary boycott. Don’t buy it, don’t burn it, just keep it in the ground. And if that doesn’t work, then, yeah, by all means switch your checking account to another bank.

 

Summer of Low Carbon Travel Part Two: Sailing to the Southeast

Sunset over the Outer Banks on a calm day

In addition to my transcontinental bike trip early this summer, we made a vacation trip to Charleston,  South Carolina in mid-August. Actually, it was part sailing trip and part DIY yacht delivery, since we wanted to have the boat staged down south for some Caribbean island hopping next Spring.  As a vacation, sailing offshore is the ultimate escape for me – the one place you can completely unplug and enjoy this beautiful planet without any intrusions, just dolphins and whales, clouds, weather, and the occasional fresh fish dinner.. It’s nice to see Greta Thunberg popularizing ocean sailing as a low carbon  long distance travel solution!

We started our trip with a quick overnight from NY to beautiful Block Island, Rhode Island, which (despite its accessibility) still has some of the best ocean beaches I have seen anywhere. The nice thing about arriving by boat is that you are guaranteed a waterfront room without even making  reservation

After three days of biking and beachcombing,, we set a more or less direct offshore course for Charleston, about 700 sea miles away. I say more or less direct, because you have to get around Cape Hatteras (about 400 miles away) before you can lay a direct course from New England to Charleston. Hatteras is legendary for its monstrous seas, shifting shoals, and shipwrecks, and can be a formidable obstacle. Diamond Shoal extends out nearly ten miles from the beach at Hatteras, while the continental shelf and the Gulf Stream are just another five miles beyond. The proximity of the Gulf Stream means squally weather and an adverse current for southbound boats pretty much all the time. If the wind blows strong from the north (a fair wind for sailing south), the wind-against current seas will be too dangerous to round the Cape; if the wind blows from the south, it will be impossible to tack against the wind and current to make it through the narrow passage between Diamond Shoal and the impassable Gulf Stream currents.

Our forecast did not look great as we approached Hatteras – there was a low pressure system lurking off Hatteras that had the potential to develop into a northern fringe tropical storm, and the forecast for the offshore waters was for a near gale of 20-30 knots from the South. As Robin put it, the Hatteras door might be open for us . . .  and it might be closed. We approach the northern outer banks, with the backup plan of running to Norfolk in the Chesapeake if a rounding looked too uncomfortable.

After a night of fairly spectacular lightning in convection clouds, I now know what the inside of a proto-tropical storm looks like. But by the time we were off Nag’s Head, the wind had died, and we ran the motor for several hours to catch the favorable westerly winds forecast for Hatteras before they turned to the southwest and blocked our passage. We cleared the Diamond Shoals buoy and Cape Hatteras under sail at three am the next morning – my third rounding of Hatterass, and every one of them in the dark! To add to the challenge, the Diamond Shoal light tower is still out there – but it no longer has a light on it (just a dim red flasher).

Entering Charleston Harbor

Three days of mostly pleasant sailing later (and about two hours a day of motoring), we tied up at the Charleston Maritime Center and toured that beautiful city on our folding bikes, had a great southern dinner at Jestine’s Kitchen, and a restful sleep in a quiet harbor. Then we took our boat up the Wando River to have it hauled at the Safe Harbor City Boatyard in Wando, which (as it turns out) is a great hurricane hole. We rented a hybrid (Ford fusion) to drive back to New York, since we had our dog with us, and two people in a hybrid beats the carbon impacts of Amtrak.

So what did the round trip cost us in carbon emissions? We ran our motor more than usual, since I had a deadline to secure the boat and get back to New York for the start of classes at Pace Law School. I am not sure we could have done the trip this year without an engine  – the door at Hatteras is not open for sailing south for very long or very often, so you would probably need an engine to time your rounding just right, or to motor through against the wind and current if you timed it wrong. If we had no motor (and more time) we might have waited for a better window to cross the Gulf Stream out away from Hatteras, then cross back on the other side.

We burned 20 gallons of diesel on the trip south.  That works out to about 200 pounds of carbon emissions for each of us. The return road trip in a hybrid actually had a lower footprint than sailing there — about 15 gallons of gas for the 750 mile return trip, or 150 pounds of CO2 for each of us. So the round trip cost about 300 pounds of CO2 apiece.

Most sailors taking their boat south to Charleston take the intracoastal waterway  to avoid the challenges of Cape Hatteras and other ocean capes. That means several extra days of traveling and many many more hours of motoring, since the canals and the shallow sounds of the Intracoastal don’t allow for much sailing. Taking the ICW down south in a sailboat, I am sorry to say, would likely have the carbon footprint of driving there in a Winnebago. (Under power, our sailboat gets about 8 mpg). Far better (for the planet) to pack your family in a car and just drive there on the highway. But for crossing oceans, like Greta Thunberg’s trip from England to New York, you can’t beat the zero carbon emissions of sail power.

A Summer of Low Carbon Travel: Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Biking Across the Country

I’ve traveled quite a ways this summer with minimal fossil fuels and without leaving the ground – New York to California and Vancouver, BC and back, then, more recently, New York to Charleston South Carolina and back. I managed to hit three of the four corners of this country. So what’s the carbon tab for all this travel?

Followers of this blog know I rode a bike to Oregon an California in May and June. So did I really save on carbon emissions by biking the whole way there? You occasionally see articles like this one claiming that bicyclists emit more carbon replacing the calories they burn than driving a car would have emitted, but that makes the pretty bogus assumption that the bicyclist replaces all of those calories with red meat, and that the car is a fuel efficient hybrid.

For my own direct carbon emissions impacts, I can say pretty confidently that all of the energy I burned crossing the country came in the form of non-fossil solar generated biomass – also known as food. Since all the carbon dioxide I exhale converting this food into transportation energy is being recycled by crop production more or less contemporaneously, I don’t treat these extra calories as part of my direct footprint, except to the extent they are foods (like beef and lamb) which cannot be produced without substantial GHG emissions.

But what if I apply a life-cycle-analysis to the extra calories I burned crossing the country? Does riding a bike really beat taking a bus or train?

I rode about 3500 miles to get from New York to California, over about 45 full days of riding, My Runtastic biking app calculated calories at about 35 calories per mile (though some sites, like this one, suggest a higher figure) . That works out to about 122,500 calories for the trip. That’s a lot of calories. I am not sure I actually replaced them all (I lost twelve pounds on the trip and got very skinny), but let’s use that as a ballpark figure.

What did I actually eat to make up these calories? I did not keep track of everything I ate, but I know did not really increase the kinds of foods or portion sizes for my regular meals (except to the extent that healthy food and vegetables are really hard to find in small towns along the way). I continued mostly to avoid red meat, sticking to chicken, pork, fish and (where available) vegetarian options. Not many vegan options at the Range Cafe in Bassett, Nebraska, for example.

Instead of eating more of my regular food, I ate two extra things: trail mix and junk food. The trail mix was mostly a homemade mix of raisins, peanuts, and chocolate M&Ms in roughly equal proportions. I kept a 12 ounce cup full of it on my handlebars and ate it while riding all day. I went through about one of those cups each full day of riding. At 209 calories per quarter cup, 45 days of this diet supplement probably made up about 47,000 of the 122,000 calorie cost of the trip.

The other thing I ate was the worst possible junk food, since empty calories were exactly what I needed to burn. Also because junk food is the only food you can buy in most the small towns I passed through – if you could buy any food at all. I am talking full bags of Hostess Donettes and fruit pies, or anything else that was full of starch and sugar. Since starches and sugars are both about 4 calories per gram, this works out to about 19 kg of sugar and starch to make up the other 75,000 calories. That’s over 40 pounds of donuts. I find it hard to believe I actually ate 40 pounds of donuts in 45 days, but it is not out of the question.

So what is the carbon impact of this trail mix and donuts (and donut equivalents)? I found a handy food products to life-cycle GHG equivalent emissions here . Based on some calculations, it looks like the trail mix worked out to about 3 lbs of CO2e per day, or about 138 pounds for the whole 45 days/47,000 calories of trail mix. Chocolate was the outsized carbon cost in the trail mix. The junk food was much more carbon efficient – about 20 pounds of CO2e for 75,000 calories. That’s almost an order of magnitude better than the trail mix, though I may be understating the trail mix calorie contribution. In calculating the junk food carbon emissions, I assumed 70% of the junk food calories came from flour, 15% from sugar, and 15% from corn syrup.

So total carbon emissions for the bike trip were about 160 pounds, less than one tenth of a ton of carbon emissions. This is quite a bit less than the return train trip by Amtrak – which was about seven times more, or 1100 pounds. Driving the same 3500 miles in a Prius would have burned 70 gallons of gas for about 1400 pounds of CO2 emissions.

So a junk food powered bike trip across the country works about to about one tenth of the emissions of driving, or one seventh of the emissions of taking the train,

49th Leg – Slow Walking the Redwood Run to the Pacific, and the Journey Ends

6/29

I made the last 30 miles to the Pacific Ocean and Crescent City, California today. End of story.

Friday evening beers at the Patrick Creek Lodge yesterday felt like a homecoming to a place I had never been – it felt like happy hour at Garnet Hill Lodge. The patrons were local fishing guides and they all knew each other’s story. I was welcomed. The lodge even has the feel of GHL; it was built in the 1920s and has a similar added dining terrace. But the crowd was sparse, and the owner looked nervously at all the elegantly set but empty dining tables on a summer Friday evening.

This morning, I took my time breaking camp for the last time and hit the Redwood Highway traffic at around eight. It was a pretty run through the Smith River canyon, making frequent picture stops and pulling over to let traffic by on the narrow stretches. I don’t want any motorist to have to choose between a head on with a truck coming round a bend and a soft target like a cyclist.

Fifteen miles down the road, I left the Redwood Highway for the actual redwood trees on the Howland Hill Road through the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Unpacked, but hard packed and easy rolling, I was soon lost in the winding way through redwood trunks. For the trunks are all you can take in at once. Or the tops, but that makes you dizzy on a bike.

I stopped at Stout Grove for a slow stroll around the redwood path, among other travelers equally awestruck and silently reverential. The peaceful timelessness of that place will stick with me for a long time.

Back on Howland Hill Road, I went as slow as I could, coasting the flat stretches, braking down the hills, slow pedaling the rises. Unlike the cornfields of the Midwest, the mountain passes of the Rockies, and the sage deserts of the Great Basin, I did not really want to reach the other end of this forest.

But after one last rise, Howland Hill Road burst out of the redwoods onto pavement, and down the tight curves of the steep descent I caught my first glimpses of the blue rim of the Pacific Ocean. I stopped to take a picture, then as it sunk in that I had ridden ocean to ocean across a continent I laughed out loud and whooped, though there was no one to hear my solitary exultations.

At the bottom of the hill, a herd of elk grazed lazily near the intersection of Highway 101. I took my time getting to the beach, riding first to the Crescent Beach Overlook, before riding down to Crescent Beach itself, stripping off my bike shoes, and dipping my tires in the wash of the Pacific Ocean, where I sat contemplating the western horizon for an hour before the afternoon fog rolled in.

Leg 48 – One More Mountain Range, One More River, One More State: Down the Redwood Highway

Coast Range, Smith River, California. I made 75 miles today to the Patrick Creek Campground in the Smith River National Recreation Area, though 11 miles of that was backtracking to Merlin. I am only about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean now, though a bit farther by road.

I was only thirty road miles from the Pacific where we took out from our four day raft trip down the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, but I didn’t work out the logistics of having the bicycle delivered to the take out. Plus that would mean I didn’t actually bike all the way across the country. Plus, I decided that I really should go the extra thirty miles or so to see one more natural wonder of our wonderful continent – the redwoods of Northern California. Also, the weekend bus connections to Vancouver were better from Crescent City, CA than they were from Gold Beach, OR.

I got an early start, in part since I got to bed early in order to sleep off the four days of excess stimulation and alcohol running the captivating narrow canyons and difficult drops of the Rogue and camping with my friends. I was on the road by 6:15, watching the sunlight and morning mists on the high ridges around the Rogue.

On the way in last week I noticed a sign for Route 199, aka Redwood Highway, via a forest service road just two miles from Galice, but when I checked that road out on Google Maps, it showed a 4000’ climb, stretches of gravel, and just as many miles as the preferred Google route of backtracking to Merlin, then riding Oregon 260 to Rte 199.

So I stayed on the paved roads. I did not expect to see coffee before Wilderville at mile 25, but there was a little gas station and convenience store at mile 18, so I stopped for coffee and and an unexpectedly good blueberry muffin there. I was a little self conscious about locking my bike up in a small town, but the sign in the bathroom said “Drugs Are Illegal In Oregon Please Don’t Flush Your Needles Down the Toilet,” so maybe it was a good idea. More than one person has described this part of Oregon to me as being full of meth heads who will rob you blind, though I don’t think I have met any.

Several people have warned me about Rte 199 being one of the most dangerous roads in America, too. But when I reached it near Wilderville, it had nice wide shoulders, of a lot of traffic. I climbed one hill to get into the Illinois River Valley, and eventually reached Cave Junction, where I planned my lunch and groceries stop.

I was there a little early, so I rode the the west side of town then backtracked a few blocks to Taylor’s Sausages, which offered a lunch menu in addition to cases and cases of sausages and smoked meats. I sample their chicken-apple sausage in addition to a crispy chicken salad and fries. While I was eating, the Maitresse D’ slid into the bench by the upright piano near my table and began belting out ragtimes.

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After Cave Junction, the road climbed and climbed and eventually reached a sign saying “Welcome to California.” I biker on a motorcycle from Tennessee was standing by the sign and we chatted about cross country two wheeled travel. His butt gets sore, too, but he has only been riding about eight days to get here, plus some family stops along the way.

At the agricultural inspection station, the inspector waved me on, but warned me to “be careful in the canyon.” Then the road went through a tunnel and deposited me in the Smith River canyons, another ten miles of mostly descending curvy and narrow roadway that was not the worst road I have ridden on. I got to the campground at three thirty, and once again was glad I reserved ahead, because it looks like they are full.

I think I will take a walk up the Patrick Creek trail, which apparently leads to a lodge where they will have beer and they might even have WiFi.

Leg – 47 To the Rogue Camp Paella Among Friends

6/23 (Posted late)

This was a short day of riding, just 23 miles from Grants Pass to Almeda Park Campground at our Rogue River put in.

Bart stayed with the group in Eugene last night as it turned out, but showed up with his truck this morning at ten and we went to the Safeway to get paella provisions and other groceries for the raft trip. I also picked up some cheap river shoes at the Bi-Rite.

The road out of Grants Pass really is a pass, and the ride out started with a climb and a drop. Then I got to Merlin in no time and pulled into Morrison’s Wild Rogue outfitters, where my friend Donna greeted me, laughing that I had beaten the crew in cars on my bike. The rest of our rafting group arrived soon. It feels good to be among friends again. We had lunch and beers in Merlin.

I got a head start for the 15 miles to the campsite, and was soon treated to some splendid Rogue River vistas. There was plenty of cold beer at the campsite, and everyone agreed that the wood fired paella was the best ever

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I am going to spend the next four days on the river, then resume my ride for the last 100 miles to the Pacific on Friday

Leg 46 – Down the Rogue River Valley to Grants Pass

6/22

I made 79 miles today, down the Rogue River valley to Grants Pass, Oregon.

I got a reasonably early start this morning, around 8 am. It took forever for my breakfast water to heat up – 70% alcohol just doesn’t burn as well as 90%, especially on cold mornings.

I stopped close to the campground to visit the Rogue River Gorge, and then the Natural Bridge. Both are places where the Rogue rushes through lava tunnels – even disappearing underground in a rushing torrent at the natural bridge.

The next twelve miles slid by in a dream. With the cold morning air, long slanting rays of sunlight, slight downgrade, and the grandeur of improbably tall Douglas firs lining the road, I felt I could ride this road forever and never tire of it. I did not want it to end. I did not want this trip to end.

At mile twelve, I left the National Forest, and a sign for Prospect promised a cafe a half mile from the route. It was early to stop, but I had not had any connectivity for days, so I opted for second breakfast at 930 am. Thei blueberry pancake breakfast at the Prospect Trophy Room included eggs and bacon. And coffee. And good WiFi.

After Prospect, the landscape opened up again, to irrigated farms and dry looking orchards, and even some vineyards. There was more climbing than I expected. I happened on to a bike path that Google seemed unaware of, then got a little lost when I shut off the google voice telling me to get back on the shoulderless, heavily trafficked roadway. Then the bike path ended abruptly, leaving me on an unknown road generally headed in the right direction. But I made it into Grants Pass by 430, and checked into the Motel 6 because I could use a clean-up and campsites are likely to be scarce this beautiful Saturday evening, One of my raft trip friends will join me here later on.

Leg 45 – Crater Lake to the Rogue River, and Its All Downhill From There

6/21 (posted late)

I pedaled 41 miles today, but most of it was playing tourist at Crater Lake National Park. Still, I am sixteen road miles closer to the Pacific at the end of the day, so this counts as one more leg of my journey.

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The first night of summer was the coldest night of the trip – there was a heavy frost on the bear cache and picnic table by my tent this morning. I am traveling with a very light and compact fleece sleeping bag that is only good to fifty degrees. On cold nights like last night, I wear all my warm clothes and throw a space blanket over the top of the bag, and I slept comfortably enough. I woke up early out of habit, but took my time breaking camp. A Stellars Jay tried to fly off with my oatmeal package while a chatted about my trip with one of the other campers. Mazama Village is an enormous campground, but as far as I could tell I was the only person in an actual tent

My goal for the day was mostly to play national park tourist. I left my gear with the campground registration desk – no reason to drag it 2000 feet higher to the rim. The road climbed gracefully through the tall trees. I stopped often, including at the visitors center. Finally, after a series of hairpin curves with snow on the edge, the road crested the rim and I was absolutely awestruck by Crater Lake. I spent some time right away walking along the path and taking pictures. They were out of coffee at the cafeteria, so I had a hot cocoa and confirmed that the WiFi was no better up there than down at Mazama.

The East Rim road is still closed for snow. After my cocoa break, I rode along the west rim road as far as the Watchman lookout, about five miles along. I was hoping to climb the Watchman, which is listed as a “moderate” 1.6 mile hike, but the trail from the lookout was closed due to snow. Perhaps the other end of the trail, facing south, would be open, so after taking in the view, I headed back downhill a mile. There was no closure sign at the parking lot, so I walked along the trail about half a mile before coming to the trail closure sign. I considered pushing on, but reminded myself that this is a bike expedition, not a snow mountaineering expedition, for which I was ill equipped. I sat down on a crag and soaked up the deep blueness of Crater Lake, then enjoyed my solitary walk through the tall dark trees that framed the bright lake and snowy cliffs. On the way back I found an even more spectacularly crag to sit on and take in the whole sweep of the caldera.

I went back to Rim Village for lunch at Crater Lake Lodge. It was a long wait for lunch, but my lunch came very quickly once I was seated. I later learned that I was mistakenly given the neighboring table’s identical order – salmon over linguini, and clam chowder. Lunch is a great way to experience this great wilderness lodge on the cheap. There are no signs telling you there is a restaurant open to the public – you have to ask.

After lunch I put all my warm clothes back on for the descent to Mazama Village. It all went by in a spectacular blur as I took the hairpin curves as fast as I dared on my nice new tires. At Mazama I shopped for a bare bones dinner – spaghetti and bottled sauce, picked up my gear and a beer at the restaurant to drink later, then headed down Rt 62.

Or rather up, since I had just a little more climbing to reach the watershed divide between the Klamath and the Rogue. Another landmark at the height of land – the Pacific Crest Trail – so I have ridden from the AT to the PCT now.

After that, the road descended in a twelve mile winding delight of tall trees and dark woods. I reached the Farewell Bend campground on the Rogue River at five, and it is a good thing I reserved a site, as they were full up. I set my tent up on the bank of the Rogue, another goal achiieved