A catchup: Some random thoughts from the road

It’s hard to keep up to date with everything that’s going on when on the road, such is the get up/pack/eat/ride/unpack/eat/sleep routine when cycling almost every day, and random thoughts occur as I ride that I don’t get the chance to post. So for a quick catch up, here’s a few recent thoughts from the road:

Smells – I haven’t really noticed the traffic pollution on the road – nothing more than the usual. It’s the roadside smells that have been the most intoxicating – eucalyptus has been a companion for a couple of weeks now and is life-enhancing when I catch it; fennel is also another common one – delicious, though I only once tried to dig some up to see if it’d make for good cooking…; fields of strawberries and raspberries. Strawberries. Mmm, strawberries.

Cloud computing vs cloud cycling – Cloud computing is the in-thing now but luckily no one has put their money on cloud cycling. No matter where you are, you have access to the cloud. Magic! But for a long time cloud cycling was a little too omnipresent and I wished it would feck off. No matter where I was, there’s the clouds…

US Post Office – US Post Office is impressive in the sense there are little post offices in the smallest places. Great if you need them. But try sending a parcel back to Canada when you don’t live in the great US of A. They needed a US address when I shipped my tent back to Canada. And being a traveller I can barely remember where I stayed the previous night, never mind have an actual address. Luckily a friend’s address came in handy. Bureaocracy at it’s worst.

Random roadside questions I – i) is it quicker if I cycle up this hill rather than walk? ii) where’s the nearest big town? (Big Sur wasn’t big enough, apparently) iii) how much you carrying? (shouted at me from a cyclist as I was doing 35 km/h downhill in the other direction)

LA I – Can’t see the smog for the fog (see cloud cycling above)

LA II – friendly drivers. Believe it or not, on my ride through the megacity that is LA I did not encounter a single bad comment from the road. Plenty of drivers could have been more courteous in giving me a little more space, but no angry shouts. Very unusual..

Random roadside questions II – I was surprised and increasingly annoyed when people (pedestrians, cyclists) who I pass throw out random questions about my bike weight, where I’m coming from, going to or just a ‘how you doin’?’ as I’m riding by. Most of the time I or they are well out of range before I can even respond. The more annoying part is just the shout of the question itself – no preamble, no ‘hello’ or any kind of greeting. Just shout my question, time is short! seems to be the attitude. I think most of these people aren’t even interested in my reply even if they could hear it. It’s all very upsetting to my British sensibilities…


Some good companions

Not everyone I’ve camped with has been a bunch of idiots. Through all the crap there’s usually some good to be found and my friend Nicholas and I enjoyed the company for a few days of Aaron and Jojo.

We departed paths in northern California as Aaron and Jojo decided to tackle the “Lost Coast”; essentially a roam into the wilderness of sorts. The two of them couldn’t pass up the chance to see what the unexplored might bring. Me, I had an apporintment to keep in Fort Bragg so I declined this one.

I figured that would be the last time we’d see them so imagine my surprise last week when I’m riding back to camp on my rest day north of San Francisco and who should roll by but the two of them, safely out of the wilds and looking pretty good for the experience. Meeting them again the following morning in Sausalito I got to find out of random meetings with the few people who live around there, camping in someone’s garden, exhaustion, many long hill climbs…but all of it a worthwhile experience. Aaron had geared himself up with incense, a Tibetan prayer flag and sage in order to make the experience a little more ‘authentic’.

So when I received part of the prayer flag as a parting gift I was very touched. I will keep it for my own exploration of “La Costa Perdida”

Gemini snaps under the strain of my open relationship with Edna

Edna and I are getting along very well which is just as well considering how much time we spend together. When I’m not with Edna I’m with Gemini, and we’ve been cosy as well for the last month, spending every night together. I thought she was very tolerant but alas the strain of life on the road was too much for her and she snapped, literally. In the space of a couple of days she broke two of her poles leaving me with little faith in our ongoing relationship. I tried to fix things up but really our long-term future was finished.

As callous as it sounds, with some sharp talking I quickly managed to find a new companion (Agnes) who I feel will be much more suited to a long-term deal. So far she’s making me feel pretty happy.

Edna really doesn’t mind, she knows we’re in an open relationship and there will always be another one; she knows she’s unique and will be with me for a long time to come..

Gemini during the good times: helping me in the Oregon rain

I’ll beat your ass!

More fun with Caifornian drivers the other day…

I was turning left out of a marine parking area so not really a busy area and had to immediately get some momentum on a short steep stretch leading to a slightly awkward junction. So as I’m trying to figure out which is the best lane and also get up the hill I’m meandering across the lane, which upset the poor bloke in the pickup behind me, who clearly had no idea what I’m up to. At the red light, he yells from his window “if I’d have hit you, I’d have got out and beat your ass!”.

Nice to know how caring the drivers are and are willing to go out of their way to ensure a safer world for cyclists. What an eejit.

Fair Trade: Alter Eco

As I was in San Francisco for the day, I decided to drop in (unannounced) on Alter Eco, a Fair Trade company that originated in France and now sells Fair Trade products in North America. I was warmly received by Antoine Ambert who gave me the lowdown on Alter Eco, some of their history and their product selection.

They started out around 12 years ago in France and only in the last five years have branched out into the US and Canada. Whilst they have an extensive range of products available in France, their North American selection is more limited, concentrating on chocolate bars, quinoa (white, black and red – how cool is that?!), rice and now sugar.

Their North American product range is typically sourced from Bolivia and Peru for chocolate and quinoa, and SE Asia for the rice and sugar. Although a relatively small company, they have a big impact and make excellent products (I’m not just saying that – I buy their chocolate and quinoa when in Vancouver…)

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Oh, and Antoine – thanks for the vegan chocolate. Much appreciated for a hungry cyclist…delicious!

For more information on Alter Eco, visit their website at:


Fair Trade: Fair Trade USA

Yesterday I made it over the Golden Gate bridge to San Francisco (despite the wind!) and took Edna on the BART to the office of Fairtrade USA in Oakland. Fairtrade USA is the organisation that coordinates the certification of Fair Trade products in the USA, much as Fair Trade (Transfair) Canada does in Canada.

So if you see the Fair Trade logo on a product from the US, Fair Trade USA oversaw that certification process independently and was able to verify that product adheres to the principles of Fair Trade. By purchasing such a product, you know that it has been through this process, unlike some products that claim to be ‘fairly traded’ or similar but have no way of reliably being able to prove such claims.

I met with Courtney Lang who showed me around the office, allowed me to meet some of the other staff and give me an insight into how Fair Trade USA operates.

For more information about Fair Trade (Transfair) USA, visit:


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Fair Trade: Thanksgiving Coffee Company

Last Friday I had a great opportunity to visit a company that is a pioneer in the way it conducts its business. Thanksgiving Coffee Company, based in Fort Bragg, California has been in operation for around 40 years and has effectively been “fair trade” since its inception. It’s business model is built around the concept of treating its producers fairly and doing business with both an ethical and social conscience. The founder, Paul Katzeff, started up in Fort Bragg (approx 150 miles north of San Francisco) and over the years has helped many families and communities. Two of particular interest are in Rwanda, where efforts are being made to help farmers adapt to climate change, and in Nicaragua where women from the coffee mill cooperative have set up their own side business grocery store cooperative with help from Thanksgiving Coffee.

I met with Jenais Zarlin and she showed me around the roasting and production facility. I got to smell the fantastic coffee (and taste it of course!), learn about differences between washed and naturally dried coffee, check out the coffee roasting and learn more about the philosophy of this company.

Showing, not spilling the Fair Trade green coffee, ready for roasting
Ready to go: A bag of Thanksgiving Coffee
Jenais Zarlin from Thanksgiving Coffee with Kieran

To learn more about Thanksgiving Coffee Company, visit www.thanksgivingcoffee.com