A Former BMX Pro Struggles to Gain His Stride on a Tour Down the Pacific Northwest Coast
By Taj Mihelich | Photography by Sandy Carson
Coos Bay To Gold Beach
The next morning I felt strangely at ease stretching spandex over my body. The cold, wet Chamois Butt’r now felt soothing, and putting a leg over my bike felt like home. I even smiled and joked. Our route closely followed the coast and we were welcomed by an incredibly strong tailwind. We were flying, and I marveled at how happy the usually unappreciated rhythm of breathing was making me. Every deep breath of the clean Pacific Northwest air made me feel almost high.
I took the lead, pulling our three-man paceline. The harder I worked, the simpler life got—just breathing, spinning and following the white line. I was sure Nick and Sandy were feeling it, too. No matter how fast I pushed, I could hear them right behind me. I locked in on my tempo and zoned out. After a lost amount of time—during which I found a glimmer of Master Seth’s mystic ‘stoke’—I glanced behind me and saw no one. I was on a long, straight road that afforded me a view several miles behind, and Nick and Sandy were nowhere to be seen.
They had stopped off at one of the coastal overlooks and would be about 45 minutes behind me. I slowed down, but the strong tailwind didn’t want me to stop. I spent most of the day alone, far ahead of the boys, happily finding my own pace. In Gold Beach, I stopped off at a pizza shop and ended up having a beer with an elderly couple who had lived in town for 40 years. I can’t explain the connection, but somehow listening to these sweet folks talk about the old days combined with my newfound stoke to make me feel extremely happy. When our hotel for the night ended up having a hot tub, I was as content as I ever remember feeling.
Gold Beach to Klamath, CA
With the wind at our backs, we rocketed out of Gold Beach. The road took us inland a bit through increasingly taller trees, then spit us back out on the beach into amazing rock-filled coves. When we started seeing signs for Crescent City, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. We’d been warned about the climb out of that town.
As the ascent began, I switched into my flat-pedal, BMX, stand-up riding style. With rumors about a massive climb, there was no telling when the hill might end. We crested the top and my confidence soared. The climb had been surprisingly easy. I was still feeling strong and riding out of the saddle. If this was the big climb of the trip, then I was sure I could handle anything.
Klamath To Arcata
Our buddy Rob, from Arcata, met us in Klamath to escort us through the Redwoods. The day started with a mild but fairly long climb into Redwood National Park. From there, we had a fun 40-mile-per-hour descent through the tall trees. I expected the steep downhill to be the end of our coasting, but the road tapered off to a very mellow downward slope, allowing us to effortlessly drift through the redwoods. We rode with our hands off the bars, taking photos, awestruck by the majesty of these monster trees. Nick named the road the ‘Redwood Conveyer Belt,’ and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe it. Nor could I imagine a better way to have seen such an impressive forest.
Rob led us on back roads into Arcata and then to his farm-share, where he picked some veggies for dinner and taught us all how to milk his goat. It was a surreal day, from the awe of redwood trees to the oddness of milking an animal for the first time. We dined on Rob’s freshly grown food that night and crashed at his house.
Finding the Stoke first appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of Paved. We’ll deliver the remainder of this feature article over the course of the next few days right here on pavedmag.com, but should you wish to see this story in its original format—or simply want gratification of a more immediate kind—the entire issue is available for download on the Apple Newsstand.