Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Boxing Day!

It's been two months since we last posted; Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone and we are finally semi-settled in with our friend from college in a rustic (with hot water, internet and heat!) cabin in Northern California. Apparently, finding a free place to live and work takes a little longer than we expected.
We have been setting up an editing suite and are happy to report that all the hard drives still contain the 250+ hours of footage that we shot over two months traveling with Blind Pilot, a feat considering the many miles that the drives traveled in the car through changing weather conditions.

Emily is pleased to have a real kitchen to cook in after four months of camping and staying in other people's houses. We hosted a small Christmas eve dinner with meatballs that would have made her Swedish great-grandmother proud. Buzz has claimed a chair in the house and spends a lot of time sleeping. She deserves it after being in the car for so long. It's been snowing here, like most areas throughout the country, and we have been enjoying long walks in the mountains, getting ourselves back into pre-sitting-in-the-car-all-the-time shape. Max found a 1976 Moto Guzzi police cruiser motorcycle and finally can fully enjoy the windy roads of California.

We hope that this holiday season was merry and bright - keep an eye out for more posts and updates as we work.

And! If you haven't heard already, congratulations to Blind Pilot for being Starbucks' "Pick of the Week" for the week of January 3. Pick up a code that week for a free song download from any Starbucks locations throughout Canada and the US.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The End?

The Band traveled the final 20 miles to San Diego without much difficulty and then started on the logistics of getting everyone back up to Portland. Israel's friend Kate welcomed us into her home and everybody became very tired. Kati and Luke mustered the energy to ride to the train station and see if they could bribe a baggage handler to put his bass trailer on the train the next day. Amtrak wouldn't take it, and Luke ended up having to send his trailer via Greyhound, who had no problem taking the beautiful monstrosity back to Portland for only $32. They returned later that night and after some Big Kahuna burgers, it became clear that the band was not going to play a show on their last night of bike tour, and they began to feel like they needed a "finish line." Israel proposed (maintains he was joking) that they should either sit outside and meditate- "speak without speaking"- or ride naked to the bay and jump in. Maybe it was a reluctance to meditate, but Ryan jumped at the latter idea. So they celebrated by skinny dipping in the bay and then relaxing in Kate's apartment complex hot tub (clothed.) After only 3 hours of sleep, we all got up and headed to the train station for the 30 hour long ride back up to Portland.

Max boarded the train with the band in order to do interviews while Emily drove to the Bay Area to visit Jamie again and wait for him. The train ride, with the pacific coast on fast rewind through the windows, was a very compelling backdrop and the interviews were going really well, but the train ended up being a bit noisier and bumpier than the romantic notion we had in our heads. Despite the less than ideal shooting conditions, within the first 16 hours, Max had filled up the hard drive on his laptop with about eight hours of interview, and with only a USB1.0 portable hard drive to offload footage to very slowly (if given eight to ten hours to transfer what was already shot, it would have yielded space enough for another hour or so of footage,) he hastily disembarked in Oakland, where Emily could easily pick him up.

We are off for a little time off to relax with a friend here and then will be back up to Portland to do final interviews and figure out where we are going to edit the 250+ hours of footage that we now have stored in hard drives throughout the car. We will keep posting with updates about the film and our whereabouts over the next few months. Thank you Blind Pilot for a great ride.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodbye LA and Hello San Diego!

After playing an awesome set at KCRW in Santa Monica, the band rode the 15 miles back to Los Angeles to make it in time for their sound check at Molly Malone's. After having a relatively easy time with the folks at Spaceland allowing us to film in their venue, we figured that an Irish bar would be a cinch. This was not the case. After many phone calls and Max being as persuasive as he could be, they allowed us to film and gave us a copy of the board recording, for only $20, instead of the $125 they wanted to charge us for being there. Ah, L.A. Blind Pilot was the second on a bill of four bands- the other three were local Los Angeles bands- but they definately drew the biggest crowd. Pumped with the energy from the afternoon at KCRW, set list ready, they put on the tightest show so far. Israel even told a story that was funny AND audible. Ryan looked so proud. Our biking friends from Venice (Josh, Steve and Bennett) came out and Brooke flew in from Florida to visit again. Josh also generously offered to bring and shoot with a second camera for us, which was awesome.

After the show at Molly Malone's the band decided to take it easy for a few days. They didn't have any more shows scheduled and only needed to make the train back to Portland Thursday morning, so could instead take the time to sit in cafes, work on some new music and relax in general. Late Sunday, they made their way to Venice Beach, stopping to play along the Santa Monica pier with the sun setting behind them. After the band had some dinner and we hung out with Ian for a few hours in LA beore he took the train back to Portland, we met up with Bennett and Steve in Venice Beach. They both put us up in their apartments, and Buzz looked happier than she's been in a while and seemed to really warm up to Steve. It was hard to pull her out of his place.

Monday morning we all headed out of the Los Angeles area to begin the trek to San Diego. It's not as easy to have late starts when the sun sets by 6:30, so after 50 miles we all packed into a small motel in Laguna Beach. We were all looking forward to having one last night of camping, so instead of making the final push to San Diego on Tuesday, we spent the night at San Elijo State Beach with plans to do the last 25 miles on Wednesday. We and Kati spent a long time body surfing on the waves, once our bodies had adjusted to the temperature of the water. It was beautiful, and astounding that we hadn't gone swimming since the lake in Bellingham, WA, where we started this tour.

Friday, October 10, 2008

TV and Radio in Los Angeles

After a relaxing morning at Emily's cousin Owen's house in W. Hollywood (who is awesome and letting us stay with him during our time in LA), we met up with the band at the studios of the internet television station, ManiaTV. They have a great studio space, with a performance stage and a talk show set, on which Kati and Israel couldn't resist posing for a snapshot.

After consuming most of the snacks provided for them in the green room, they recorded two tracks (One Red Thread and Three Rounds and a Sound), with their bikes displayed in front of the stage. They also recorded a short interview and did some "IDs" for the station. Then we shot an ID for the documentary. Hopefully the zoomed-in shot of Ryan goofing around and then stopping to say "We're Blind Pilot, and you're watching Blind Pilot documentary" directly into the camera will be featured somewhere prominantly.

They biked back to the Silverlake neighborhood to spend the night, while we went out to dinner at Garden's of Taxco with Emily's cousin Owen, a delicious five course meal and a fantastic show. The waiter informed us that there were no menus and that he would describe each dish for us with an amazing Hollywood/Mexican accent. Emily could not resist ordering the chicken mole - "the best mole in TOWN." After the five courses and some fruity margaritas, we walked back to Owen's house and checked in on Buzz, who is staying in the den and as far away from Owen's two dogs as possible.

The band had discussed the possibility of renting a van while in the Los Angeles area to get around to all the interviews and gigs they had, but have continued to bike through the streets and seem to be getting pretty good at it. Today they rode out to the KCRW studios in Santa Monica to record a segment for Chris Douridas' Saturday show. The station has been playing the album quite a bit over the past few months, and it is pretty special that they get to do an in-studio interview and performance there. The bicycles also provide a lot of conversation starters for the interviews.

They are off to their last show in Los Angeles at Molly Malone's tonight (Friday). Then we head to San Diego, where they still do not have a confirmed gig. It's hard to believe that we are this close to the end of this part of our adventure with them, and that Molly's may be the last show (in a proper venue) we film. Time flies when you're bike touring.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sunny Southern California and not-so-scary Los Angeles

Southern California has been a big unknown for us and the band since the beginning of the tour. Not only is Los Angeles the largest city that the band will visit on their tour, but none of us have really any first hand experience with navigating its streets and inhabitants.

Rolling into Santa Barbara Monday night, it definitely felt like we had arrived in SoCal. The night air was warmer, the architecture more Spanish and palm trees lined the streets. We went straight to Ryan's cousin Bridget's house where we spent the evening eating good food and relaxing. The band sleepily played a few songs for her and her roommates and we all went to bed early. It was lovely to not have to rush to play a show and instead be able to simply relax and enjoy good company.

The next day's ride was a short 30 miles to Ventura, CA, where they were playing the lovely Zoey's Cafe and Entertainment Loft and meeting up with Kati, who had taken a 25 hour train ride from Portland to rejoin the tour for the last week. After a giant breakfast at the original Sambo's on the Beach in Santa Barbara, we headed down the coastline to Ventura. Kati arrived on her bike moments after we did at Zoey's with lots of energy to spare. Apparently it is quite boring when one is not bicycling 40 miles everyday. The audience consisted of many of Kati's relatives as well as locals who were intrigued by the few songs that they played on the street in front of the venue before the show, a great way to bring in a crowd on a Tuesday night.

After spending the a fun night at Kati's aunt Ginny's house with her cousin John, we all awoke at 7am to start the 75 mile trek to Los Angeles. While hanging out in LA for the week, Ian had hooked up a show opening for some local bands at the Spaceland Theater in Silverlake for Wednesday night, which was great but put some strain on the schedule. Figuring out how to get out of Ventura and back onto the Pacific Coast Highway took much longer than expected, and by the time they reached Malibu for a late lunch it was 2pm. After lingering over burritos and fixing Israel's brake cable, they hit the road again at 4pm to finish the final 30 miles and arrive before 8pm. They had a vague route to get from the PCH in Santa Monica up to Spaceland, and we immediately lost them as soon as they left the beach bicycle path. Although it would have been interesting to film their first trip through the streets of LA, it was all we could do make it through the rush hour traffic and make it to the venue in time. The set was short, but it allowed more time to hang out with the three bicyclists that we met in Big Sur (Josh, Steve and Bennett), who rode their bikes out to the show from Venice.

So far, being in Los Angeles has not been as intimidating as we had feared - driving took Emily a little while to get used to, especially in contrast to the tiny towns that we have been traversing as of late - but in general it seems like a fairly laid-back, albeit expansive city. What were we worried about again?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chance encounters of the close kind along the Central Coast

Ryan and Amber got an early start leaving Kirk Creek campground on Friday morning and Israel and Luke stayed behind to cook some food and hang out around the scenic hiker biker site and watch the fog and smoke intermingle above the mountains.

We had a bit of a hard time keeping up with Ryan whilst still getting shots of Luke and Israel bringing up the rear. After the last of the mountains were behind us, and the terrain began to level out we decided to push on ahead to San Simeon and stop driving back and forth between the two pairs. We were distracted by a beach full of elephant seals, though, and spent a while watching them belch and roll around on the sand.

We met up with Ryan at the visitor center for the Hearst Castle - an astounding building perched up about San Simeon built for the wealthy William Hearst at the turn of the last century. Emily began to panic about finding a spot to camp in so late in the afternoon on a Friday and left Max on the side of the road for about an hour as he talked to Ryan, met up with the rest of the band, and then watched them bike away. Two friendly girls also on adventure, April and Vicki stopped to see if Max would take their picture in front of the sign. They had seen the band up the road and were interested in the project and what we were up to. Emily found a beautiful spot in the more primitive part of San Simeon State Park, but forgot completely that a storm was coming and managed to choose the only site without two trees to hang a tarp from. This required Max to climb the only tree and use the car as the other "tree." Our distance from the main campsite also thwarted us from hanging out with the band and a new group of touring bicyclists down at the hiker/biker site. We did manage to stay dry, though.

After stopping in Cambria for some breakfast, the band easily made the 30 mile push to San Luis Obispo, where randomly, April and Vicki drove past us at a burrito stand and yelled hello. Jayson in Big Sur had given the band the phone number of his friend Abbey who runs the Spirits of Africa gallery in the Creamery building in San Luis Obsipo. Once the foursome had arrived, we headed over to meet him. Abbey was awesome and provided a needed burst of energy for the afternoon. He didn't know that they were touring by bicycle and hoped that they would make it for a drum rally for Obama that he held at his gallery the night before. The gallery walls were adorned with brightly colored paintings of African vistas and many portraits of Barack Obama. His friend played a bit of hand drums for us before Abbey began trying to figure out where they might be able to play that night. San Luis is a pretty big town and trying to find an opening on a Saturday night proved to be quite difficult. The band stored their bikes behind the gallery and began to walk around for a few hours trying to find a show, and when that seemed to not be a possibility, tried to figure out a plan for lodging. Israel decided to take a walk around town, while we hung out at the Frog and Peach trying to find a close enough campsite for them to ride to, and talking to some friendly locals. Emily met one who had also attended the tiny Pinewood School in Thessaloniki Greece, that she had also attended 12 years ago. Small world.

Israel returned from his walk feeling ready to busk on the street before riding to the campsite. They set up in front of a little archway up the street from the Frog and Peach and almost immediately had a small crowd watching them play. It was a great, diverse group of traveling 'street' kids, college students from Cal Poly and people heading home after a dinner out on the town. Vicki and April (who began to see Blind Pilot as a theme in their road trip adventure) also happened by and were really excited to see them play. After Emily chatted with them for a while, April mentioned she was from Eugene, and Emily helped her make the connection that she went to school with Ryan's older brother Paul. Once again, this world is small.

One couple, Barry and Joanie, stayed for the entire set and when Israel asked if anyone would take them home, they offered their place a few miles away. We continued on to the campsite to set up camp and took advantage of the hot spring pool the next morning before driving back into town to find them.

Amber called the next morning to let us know that Barry had invited a few friends over to hear the band, so we hopped over to catch it. They were really kind couple and it was great to see another example how good music can move people to open their hearts and their homes.

After getting a bit of a late start, the band set their sights on Lompoc. Almost immediately, we began having logistical troubles including: one of the hard drives almost crashed and needed to do a full backup, Max realized that he didn't have his debit card anymore and Emily sat on the modem, breaking it. It took us many hours to visit Verizon and Best Buy, find out that it would cost about $200 to replace the modem, then have Max use his wizard skills to fix the modem using tape and a screwdriver, and then park the car in Pismo Beach and tear it apart and put it back together again in an attempt to find the debit card. By 5pm, we realized that we weren't going to be able to track the band and that we really needed some time off from shooting. We headed to Lompoc, did laundry and searched for a good restaurant with steaks. By the time we tried to go eat, though, everything in Lompoc was closed, so we chose the nicest looking steaks from Albertson's and headed to River Community Park for the night. We were able to stay in an RV site with power, complete the backup of the data and enjoy Max's famous steaks cooked over a fire. The band came by around 9:30 to wish us goodnight.

We woke up this morning and made pancakes with the band and have been having fun today trying out various ways to attach the camera to Ryan's B.O.B. trailer to get some in motion shots. It's a beautiful sunny day and it's hard to believe that we will be in Santa Barbara tonight and in L.A. on Wednesday.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sur, Yes, Sur: Out of the Spirit Garden and into the Fire

Luke and Amber spent the day in Big Sur waiting for Israel and Ryan to arrive, and looked for a show for them to play Wednesday night. They found the Big Sur Spirit Garden - a beautiful garden and performing space run by Jayson, an extremely friendly guy. What sold Luke on the space was the two giant "nests" that Jayson had constructed and said we could all sleep in that night.

The ride to Big Sur was spectacular - Highway 1 hugs the coastline for most of the ride, featuring giant cliffs with pounding surf. It was hard not to stop almost every mile as it seemed that every curve led us to an even more beautiful location. The three bicyclists that we met along the way didn't believe that we don't always stop that frequently. We arrived before dark to find Luke relaxing in one of the nests and Amber exploring the garden area. A few people arrived who saw the posters that Luke had hung up around town, and some even drove down from Monterey to see them too. It was still a small show and after a short set, they asked if Jayson would come up and accompany them on the hand drum for "We are the Tide." He's an excellent percussionist and they had so much fun they all played a few more songs for the audience.

After an interesting but not the most comfortable night sleep in the smaller of the two nests (Buzz was not so pleased to be that high up in the air and we couldn't really stretch out), we woke up to start the relatively short day down to Kirk Creek Campground near the Los Padres National Forest.

We had heard that there were fires south of Big Sur, and rumors were flying that Highway 1 was closed and that we couldn't leave. Luke and Ryan rode down to the Forest Service Station to get accurate information, and were told that the road wasn't closed but some campsites were on evacuation watch. We made it to the small town of Lucia at 3pm, right as the fire update meeting was being conducted by local fire fighting officials. The fire was still blazing up in the hills, but they all seemed pretty sure it wouldn't spread and cross the road. We did camp at Kirk Creek (where the ranger told us that the only campfires that night were the ones up on the hill) and settled in to watch a forest fire about 2 miles away. The noise of the helicopters that were gathering ocean water and dropping it on the fires died down around six, but the fire raged on. We ate dinner and talked while splitting our attention between a fairy tale moon setting over the vast Pacific and the inferno crawling down the mountains. Travelling down the coast has been a constant reminder of the intense beauty and power that this planet is made of. Travelling with cyclists has made us stop and reflect in places like this that we might have otherwise passed through because it was the "smart thing to do." Although the fire did spread down to Highway 1 a bit further north of us, we were able to sleep well and not get woken up by firemen, but it was a bit surreal to fall asleep worrying about the possibility of evacuation and wake up to find bits of ash on our tent.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Monterey: Rock Salt and Broken Spokes

The ride to Monterey from Santa Cruz was described in The Book (Bicycling the Pacific Coast: A Complete Route, Canada to Mexico - our best friend when following bicyclists) as "completely lacking in scenic interest."

This wasn't completely true; we drove through fields upon fields of strawberry and lettuce farms, and drove through Castroville, CA - Artichoke Capital of the World. Although the coastline we have been traveling on has been spectacular, it was actually nice to see a different type of landscape. The three band members still bicycling (Israel, Ryan and Luke) made the relatively flat 40 mile trip in under four hours, and met up with the van traveling with them containing Kati and Ian as well as Sarah, Fen and Olaf. Amber, another touring bicyclist who we met along the way, also joined up with us again in Monterey and plans to ride along to San Diego. All eleven of us made our way over to Monterey Live, a great venue in Central California with really friendly ownership and staff. They sounded great, and the crowd was surprisingly large for a late September Monday night. Ryan's awesome cousin David shuttled us all up to his house in Salinas and generously put all eleven of us up for the night. Thanks David and Nina!

The next morning, the band returned to Monterey to get some errands taken care of before they headed off for a 30 mile ride to Big Sur. After some deliberation, Ian decided to take the train to Los Angeles and visit with his friend for the next ten days before the show at Molly Malone's on October 10. It was sad to see him go, but we really admire his drive to keep going on the tour. Ryan had a broken spoke, and was told by the bike mechanic that more looked like they were going to break soon. Wanting to push on and not wait, they decided to ride to Big Sur anyway. A half mile down the road, another spoke broke and Ryan and Israel headed back to Monterey to get the wheel fixed. Luke and Amber had already biked ahead about eight miles when we caught up with them. They were happy to be back on bicycles and decided to push ahead and camp by themselves in Big Sur. We drove back to Monterey to find Israel and Ryan looking for a place to busk. Not having a permit to play made this a bit more difficult, but on the advice of a nice volunteer police officer they headed down to Fisherman's Wharf to play (sans donation bucket as to not appear to be panhandlers). It was nice to see the two of them exploring the city and playing together - we got a glimpse of what it was like on their last bike tour. The sound was stripped down, but they got the attention of many passerbys and were not harrassed by the police.

Ryan and Israel headed off to spend the night with Amanda, a friendly local who is planning her own biking adventure for next summer, and we camped amongst many raccoons again in Veteren's Memorial Park in the center of Monterey. Ryan was able to fix his spokes this morning, have a leasurely time in Monterey and then begin a stunning ride to Big Sur, where Luke found them a show at the Big Sur Spirit Garden, which not only hosts a lovely looking garden and stage but also giant nests for them to sleep in tonight. Hold tight for pictures tomorrow...

Monday, September 29, 2008

If you're going to San Francisco...

We spent three days in the Bay Area, which was a blast - and busy, which is why we are posting from our campsite in Santa Cruz.

Their only show in San Francisco was at the Mojo Bicycle Cafe, a wonderfully accommodating venue, although very, very small. You never know how packed a Blind Pilot show is going to be. San Francisco turned out to be a city where they have quite a fan base. Andrew, the manager at Mojo, said that people had been calling all day asking about the show, and the turnout was amazing. People were overflowing out of the small cafe into the street, as the band played tucked away in the small area leading into the bike shop area of the cafe.

Kati and Ryan's friend Sarah drove down to the show and picked Ian up in Fort Bragg, where the rest seemed to have done him a lot of good. He had been riding everyday and the head cold seemed to be clearing up. Unfortunately, they ran out of gas along Highway 1 south of Mendocino, and showed up about an hour late. That didn't discourage the crowd, though, who hung out and actually seemed to get larger as we waited for the van to show up. Also, all of the biking buddies that we had met along the route since Brookings, OR, came out to see the band. The sidewalk bench was host to a little reunion, with bikers sharing stories about the past couple of weeks and lamenting that they had to return to their own lives and jobs so soon.

The band was unable to book any other shows in San Francisco, but they were able to jump on Point Juncture WA's bill (featuring Skylar Norwood of Team Evil, and the producer of Blind Pilot's album) at Sofia's Thai Kitchen in Davis, CA and play a few songs on KDVS before the show. They broke from the bike tour a bit and took the van up to Davis, which seemed ironic, considering that Davis and the UC campus there have some of the most bike-friendly streets in the country. The time in the studio was fun. They played a few songs and answered a few questions, and the Micheal, the DJ there and the booking agent for Sofia's, promoted their concert that night.

The band ended up staying in Davis on Saturday for a lot longer than they expected, and arrived back in San Francisco at 5pm. A stop at Mojo for a new tire for Luke's trailer and then over to where their gear was stashed whiled away another hour and a half. They decided to try to ride at least a little bit in order to break up the mileage, but weren't counting on the sun setting at 7:30 (yup, it is Fall now) and an intense, thick fog to roll in as they reached Daly City, about 10 miles south of San Francisco. Ryan decided that the best option was to get a cheap motel room and cram all eight of us in (Buzz was able to come in too). This threw them off of their course a bit the next day, adding an extra 10 miles to their route back to Highway 1. Ian decided to catch a ride with Kati and Sarah after reaching Half Moon Bay (and Olaf and Fen, who we picked up in San Francisco) as Israel, Ryan and Luke made an incredible 50 mile push down to Santa Cruz. Ian is not riding today, and he's not quite sure what he's going to do after their show at Monterey Live tonight, and Kati, Sarah, Olaf and Fen head back up to Oregon tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recipes from the Road

Emily has been creating some yummy meals around our campsite, using her Sigg camp pots, a miniature cast iron pan and one tiny camping stove. Here are two recipes that have worked pretty well, don't cost too much and are easy to make. They also don't require much prep, or access to a real kitchen. We also like acronyms, if you can't tell.

Campstove recipes by Emily.

STP (Sausage, Tomatoes and Potatoes) for two.

Buy two tomatoes and two potatoes from a farm stand, or a local market. Pick up two links or more of sausage - whatever kind you like. We've made STP from Italian sausage, Feta and Spinach Sausage and "Brown and Serve" frozen precooked sausage patties. They each add a different flavor, but still taste good.
  1. Boil salted water in a pot and cook the potatoes until almost done.
  2. Chop up the tomatoes into wedges, salt and pepper and place to the side.
  3. Drain and remove potatoes and keep to the side in the lid.
  4. Brown sausage in oil or butter.
  5. Add potatoes and salted/peppered tomatoes to browned sausage.
  6. Stir and let simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft.
  7. Remove cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  8. Serve in bowls with some bread and enjoy!
Variation - you can also precook some rice and add to the mixture for a heartier meal.

Soviet Simmer - CCCP (Chicken, Corn, Couscous and Peppers) for two.

Note: This meal was simplified by purchasing smoked chicken (from Roundman's Smokehouse in Fort Bragg, CA), which added a nice smokey flavor and eliminated the need to keep and cook raw meat, a plus when your cooler is not always guaranteed to be food-safe cold.

  • 1 small can of corn
  • 3/4 cup Israeli Couscous
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 lb. smoked chicken, cut into strips
  • (I also added 6 chopped mushrooms and 2 cloves of garlic, but adding those letters in would make a really long acronym, and not be as clever)
  1. Bring 3/4 cup water to boil and add couscous. Stir and remove from heat.
  2. In a second pot, saute garlic, mushrooms, corn and pepper in oil or butter for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, cover and finish cooking the couscous.
  4. Return the vegetable mixture to the stove, add couscous and chicken.
  5. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, then serve.
  6. Add pepper to taste.
Feel free to share recipes with friends, hopefully there will be more to come!

Next stop - San Francisco (pausing in Gualala and Bodega Dunes)

Ryan and Israel rode all the way to San Francisco on their last bike tour two years ago, so it is understandable that they have been trying a bit to recreate some of their last adventure, but it hasn't been easy to do. The Peg House show the last tour was packed, and although the venue had built a new outdoor stage, the crowd was much smaller. In Gualala on the last tour, they weren't planning on playing a show, just getting groceries, when the cashier asked them if they were playing at the hotel across the street. They went over and ended up with free rooms (for them and the two German bike tourers they had befriended) in exchange for a set at the Gualala Hotel. Things have changed in Gualala, CA and the manager wasn't too keen on giving them too much in exchange for playing to a very small Monday night crowd.

Not discouraged, the band went across the street to Bone's Roadhouse restaurant to try to rustle up a crowd to come to their show. Ryan had contacted the owner of Bone's Roadhouse before the trip to try to set up a show, but it was never confirmed, so when they walked in they suggested they just play there for the late dinner crowd. They were all miked up, which was great for Israel, as he was on the verge of losing his voice after straining it a bit in Mendocino.

We camped that night amongst beautifully smelling eucalyptus trees and some very aggressive raccoons. They luckily left us alone and Buzz is slowly regaining her feeling of well being while in the tent.

The next day's ride was beautiful. Highway 1 hugs the rugged coastine, offering breathtaking views of the ocean. We spent some time along a turnout feeling like we were on top of the world. We ended the day in Bodega Dunes and for the first time it was obvious that we have left the more renegade counties in Northern California and had reached the weekend hangouts for rich Bay Area folk. Campsites at the state park were $25 a night, the priciest so far, but we were treated to a walk by visit by a badger. Ah, wildlife.

The band today made the 65-mile push into San Francisco look like a walk in the park. They did the first 30 miles without stopping, passing the other touring bicyclers that we have met along the way.

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and our two month anniversary of being on the road. Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy some down time/alone time in the Bay Area to go out to dinner and celebrate and reflect on what a wild ride it's been.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Beautiful days in Mendocino, CA

Saturday morning the band biked into Fort Bragg to look for a show and use the library's wifi. The two miles into town made Ian dizzy. It was about time he listened to his body, and when the band couldn't get a show in Fort Bragg, and decided to go 13 more miles to Mendocino, Ian checked into a motel for some much needed bed rest and healing time. They did find a last minute show at Patterson's Pub in Mendocino. It was a great time - an intimate set by the three-piece to a very friendly crowd, all done under a stuffed moose head. Mendocino is beautiful, and Emily has spent time here in the past visiting her friend Imil from college, so it was nice to be able to be in a semi-familiar place for a while.

It was so beautiful, and sunny for the first time in a while, that the band decided to take a rest day and explore the headlands and sit on sunny rocks looking at the ocean. They also had a brilliant idea to play on the sidewalk for the visiting tourists until they had enough money to get a sauna and soak in a hot tub. Not surprisingly, they did pretty well fairly quickly and took the time for some luxury. We decided to visit Ian and see how he was doing and talk to him on camera about the trip so far. We found him at the Colombi Motel in Fort Bragg, looking better, but still feeling pretty rough. He ended up getting a fever the night before, which had broke by the time we arrived, and was trying to rehydrate and recouperate. Still determined, he decided to wait in Fort Bragg at the campsite and warm up his muscles again until Kati and Ryan's friend Sarah drive down to San Francisco on Thursday and pick him up on the way.

We drove quickly back to Mendocino to catch the band's second impromptu show at Dick's Place, a great divey bar right next to the headlands. It was a smaller, more local crowd than the night before, and the band was pretty relaxed from their saunas. It was one of the more mellow shows on the tour. The band does have a quartet of bikers traveling with them now - Olaf, Luke's brother, his friend Fen and two lovely girls they met up with on the road in Oregon, Brooke and Amber. You can get their perspective on the trip at their blog as well. They have been coming to every show for the past week and do add liveliness to even mellow shows. Brooke showed off some of her dance moves at the show at Dick's Place.

We returned to our campsite after the show at Van Damme State Park, where the friendly ranger there set us up with a site right across from the hiker/biker site and let the other bikers stay in our site and gave them their payment back. The band met some nice women at the show at Dick's Place and offered them a place to say indoors, which they readily accepted.It's been nice that although we aren't on bikes, we've met a lot of touring bicyclists through our affiliation with the band. There is such a variety of people who are tackling the coast and it's fun to have the camradarie around the campsite that you don't find in the car/RV areas.

We are heading out of Mendocino today (Monday) and aren't quite sure where everyone will end up tonight - probably somewhere between Gualala and Jenner, CA. The next few days are up in the air, they may try to play a show in Santa Rosa, and have to end up in San Francisco for a show at Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Thursday night. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Avenue of the Giants and Confusion Hill, from Humboldt to Mendocino

Once again, we are recapping the week for our fine readers at home. We are relaxing this afternoon in the lovely Fort Bragg library, and enjoying some free wifi.

Tuesday night's house party in Arcata, CA was quite a blow-out. It was the last show that Kati played with the group before she had to head back up to Portland to be a part of a wedding. She promises to be back by the time they reach San Francisco, though. The young crowd dug the group and declared that the band keep playing until the cops showed up. And the cops did show up. After they left, they told the band to keep on playing and so they did. Once the cops came back a second time to quiet down the party, the band ended their two hour set and called it a night.

Wednesday morning, Kati headed back up to Portland, catching a ride with Ian's dad who had driven him down two days before. There were lots of hugs goodbye, and Kati wondered what she was going to do all day if she weren't biking 50 miles. The band got off to a very early start to make it out to Ferndale, CA, where they were interviewed and played a set for KSLG and KHUM, very cool independent radio stations in Humboldt county. After the first 25 miles of the day, they pushed on to make it to their campsite in the redwoods that evening. Ian plowed through the difficult day of riding, and although he was a bit slower than the rest of the group, still made it the whole ride. We stayed with the group most of the first day, arriving much after dark to a beautiful campsite nestled in the redwoods off of the Avenue of the Giants. It was quite magical and very quiet. Buzz the traveling cat frolicked for awhile amongst them.

Thursday's ride began fairly early as well, as they were on their way to The Peg House, across the street from the Standish-Hickey Campground, for a show that evening. It was a long, hilly ride with lots of small shoulders. We hung out with Ian for a while in Garberville as he had arrived after the others had already come, had lunch and left again. The second day with all the hills was really wearing on him, but he was determined to finish the ride. We decided to drive ahead to the campground and see how the rest of the group was fairing up ahead. Toward the end of the ride, we rode over Confusion Hill - one of only 8 vortexes in the world, we learned when we stopped to check it out and use the restroom. Apparently, the "vortex" refers to strange magnetic fields that affect gravity, and our hard drives. As we drove over the hill, the external drive that Max had been offloading to was mysterously disconnected and then disappeared from his finder. Although scary, it soon came back after we left the Hill. We are now believers. Max dropped Emily off at the campsite to set up and cook some pasta while he went back to find Ian along the road and tell him to find a place to stay as the road was far too dangerous to ride at night. As Max pulled out of the campsite, the ancient G4 laptop that he uses to offload footage from the camera fell off the handmade passenger seat table, onto the camera, and broke the internal hard drive. We had just enough time on the card to catch Ian arriving by pick up truck (the rest of the band had sent a kind stranger to rescue him) and play a small, but cool show at the very friendly Peg House. We sat out under the stars with Gary, the owner, and saw a few falling from the sky. We headed to bed early to be able to make it out to Santa Rosa, 130 miles south, the next day to find a place to repair the hard drive so we could continue this project.

The next day we woke up and packed up camp before it started to pour and made it to Santa Rosa and Mac Advantage (a great Apple repair store, friendly and helpful) by noon. They replaced the hard drive and disc drive and we killed five hours by hanging out at coffee shops and Costco, where we ate lots of free samples and got massages from display massage chairs, while the band tackled some of the largest hills (including the infamous Leggett Hill) so far on this journey. We found them at a campsite north of Fort Bragg and caught them playing for a group of girls from a seventh day adventist boarding school on a field trip. Ian made it through the day again, showing up after dark, more tired and sore than the day before and developing a head cold.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coasting on the coast and when animals attack... us

Once again, although Verizon has the best coverage out west, it doesn't cover all the places we go, which makes it more difficult to post everyday.

We left Coos Bay on Thursday morning heading for Port Orford. Lia from the Broadway Theater in Coos Bay helped to arrange a show at Paula's Bistro in Port Orford that evening. It was a beautiful ride, and we took a side trip to the pose with Buzz the traveling cat in front of the westernmost point in the US at Cape Blanco lighthouse. Unfortunately it was very very foggy, and we could not see the lighthouse that afternoon, but we were told it is quite lovely. We also partook in a famous Langois Hot Dog at the Langois Market, which was so delicious Emily bought some of the homemade mustard to make sandwiches with. They played to a friendly dinner crowd at Paula's that night, and joined us at our foggy spot at the nearby Evergreen RV park for the night.

Friday morning, we explored around Port Orford, which is a great small town that seems to still have a healthy fishing industry. We ate some of the most delicious fish and chips we've ever had at the Crazy Norweigans restaurant and then Emily posed with a boat appropriately named "Miss Emily." We had also learned the day before that all the towns along the coast were settled 25 miles apart because that was as far as a horse and buggy could travel. Fun facts. On the way down to our last destination in Oregon, we visited Prehistoric Gardens, an awesome garden built in the 1950's with full size statues of dinosaurs amidst Oregon's rain forest setting. Kati and Luke spent most of their money that day on fun things from the gift shop.

We arrived at Harris Beach State Park almost at dark, as Israel had biked a bit further ahead of the rest of the band without them realizing it. They spent a few hours waiting for him, and then had to pedal fast to make it to the hiker-biker site at the park before Highway 101 became too dangerous. We, sadly, were not allowed to camp with them at the hiker-biker site and proceeded to have two pretty awful nights camping at the overpopulated park. The first night we were somehow unaware that Highway 101 was right next to our campsite until we tried to fall asleep and felt like the cars were actually driving through our tent. The second night, we are pretty sure that a raccoon that must have looked like the one in the picture to the right, circled our tent three times throughout the night. This caused Buzz to growl, hiss and then throw herself at the tent. The tent would then strike back. This was terrifying and made for a very poor night of sleep. Max thought it was a cougar, but the woman at the Forest Service seemed to think that the behavior fit a raccoon better.
On Saturday, Blind Pilot played an outdoor concert with Cameron McVay at Azalea Park in Brookings as part of the American Music Festival. Emily was reminded of her old job working with the parks department and putting on concerts in a park. It was a bit cold and foggy, so the crowd was not as large as one would hope, but they received a warm reception.

After two nights in Brookings, we crossed the border into California and drove through some absolutely beautiful, fog-filled redwood stands and ended up at Elk Prairie campground. Emily had found another campsite, Gold Bluffs Beach, right on the ocean from a map that she picked up at the National Park Service in Crescent City. We drove down a dark and winding dirt road for six miles until we reached a gorgeous, semi empty campground and realized we wouldn't be able to make it back up to the camp where the band would be that night. We made a yummy supper of STP (sausage, tomatoes and potatoes) and a beautiful fire, fell asleep listening to the waves crashing and remembered that we did like camping after all.

The next day the band set their sights on Arcata, where Ian was to meet up with them and start bike touring. What they thought would be an easy flat forty miles turned out to be an exhausting push. The fog is weighing heavily on all of us. Upon arriving, thoroughly fatigued and with no show planned until the next day, the band found a bar with an open mic and signed up for a twenty minute slot at 10:30. Ian arrived at 10:25 and was able to play his first show on the bike tour immediately. Somehow they all found the energy to play a great, but short set, culminating in an especially raucous version of "We are the Tide" that belied their weary state.

We are still in Arcata, CA waiting with the band to head over to a house party where they are scheduled to play. We are writing from a house where Derek, a local bike mechanic, and his roommates, Chris and Ted, live and generously offered to put the band up in last night. So far the people in California have been very friendly, and we are looking forward to meeting more travelers and locals along the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smith River Road is a must and Coos Bay is amazing

We are writing from beautiful Coos Bay, back in the verizon coverage area and ready to lay down a long post. We left Eugene Monday afternoon, after a long morning of packing and eating carrot cake that Emily's dad bought. The band pushed even their standards of a late start, leaving Ryan's parents house in Springfield to hit Trader Joe's and an REI on the way out of town at around 2:30. While we prepared to meet up with them at Trader Joe's, Max got a call from Ian, who plays vibes with Blind Pilot (and Team Evil) in Portland. It seems he got laid off from his job and was planning on making a trailer for the vibes- an instrument that weighs about as much as a person- and joining the bike tour in a week or so.

We left the house to bring the news to the band at Trader Joe's. Once there, we spotted the band and Max jumped out with the camera to film their reaction to the news. Emily parked the car, cracked the windows, and went in to stock up on cheap organic foodstuffs for our night in the Oregon wilderness.

Twenty minutes later the band had called Ian to make sure Max was not playing a joke on them, reacted to the news and gone on their way. When we returned to the car, the cat was not there. One of Emily's biggest fears is that some 'good samaritan' will see Buzz in the car on a hot day and decide to liberate her. With that fear in mind Max found the number for the nearest humane society and gave a description in case anyone managed to wrangle her away. Apparently the Buzzer managed to squeeze through the 4" openings in the windows and walk across a very busy parking lot to take a nap behind the Bed, Bath and Beyond's shopping cart area. We spent about an hour searching, Emily cried, and Max called every animal hospital in town before Randy, the really nice security guard, found her there. It was pretty terrifying and we didn't hit the road to start following them until about 5pm.

Ryan and Israel had taken a route to Reedsport on their last bike tour that we found again, not using Google maps as we usually do, but instead on a 1973 map of Oregon parks that Emily had bought in a Clatskanie, OR antique shop (to which Max jeered "did you also get a flux capacitor," and hadn't really stopped making fun of Emily for until that day when it proved its timelessness.) A Bureau of Land Management map that Emily's dad tracked down at the Eugene headquarters helped give a name to the road and it's context. The road was amazing. Connecting Eugene and Reedsport, it is a deserted stretch of county road and BLM road referred to as Wolf Creek Road and Smith River Road respectively. They follow their namesakes' twists and turns through beautiful forests and stream valleys and over some serious hills, while carrying almost no traffic. Max missed his motorcycle deeply.

As night began to fall we passed the Lane county Inmate Forest Work Camp, and with visions of Johnny Cash, the band decided to double back and see if they could play there. Unfortunately, the camp had closed down, but the one guy who was there was very friendly. The luckiest band ever pushed on and we soon arrived at the edge of the BLM land and found a great area to dispersed camp, made dinner, and then enjoyed a Blind Pilot practice session in the woods. In the morning, we (us and Luke and Kati) discovered that apparently the area is popular with hunters, and used the empty shotgun shells and bullet casings to create a beautiful display of found object art on top of our car.

The road continued to be beautiful, as we made our way to Reedsport and onto Umpqua Lighthouse State Park where we were to stay the night. Although the road was windy and pretty narrow, we had it pretty much all to ourselves, which made stopping to get shots of the band so much easier than on busy highways. Although they had a another leisurely start, they were able to make it to the campsite just after dark and prepare for the short ride to Coos Bay the next day.

As the title of this post declares: Coos Bay is amazing. It's a pretty town, on the Bay, with lots of logging trucks and a great downtown area that feels like it is quickly becoming an arts area. But, it's the people that really blew us away. We and the band were welcomed with open arms from the start. Brian and Lia, the owners of the Broadway Theater (and the rest of the building, including Waxers Surf & Skate Shop and Shark Bites restaurant) had worked hard to get publicity for the show prior to their arrival, offered us dinner and along with Sam, the manager, a place to stay upstairs. The travel and tourism bureau had the welcome to Coos Bay sign flash "Welcome Blind Pilots" and then footed the bill for a room at the Red Lion up the street for the band to stay in after the show. The audience, while smaller than the shows in Portland, warmed up to the band immediately, especially when the band decided to go acoustic and come down to the main area. We met a lovely couple from Reedsport that has been following the tour and came down to watch the band because they love the music and the idea of the tour.

All in all, it felt like the shows that we first saw when we visited in May- an intimate setting with a small crowd feeding off and returning the energy of the band's songs. Watching this band share their love of music with others who respond like this is the immersive feeling we hoped to convey with a documentary. Their music moves people - almost regardless of what genre or style they call their own and not because of anything but the sounds and energy that fill the room. It remains elusive, but we have to believe that the more shows like this there are the closer we will be to getting that feeling on film.