Archive for August, 2011

Thank you

Thank you so much for all your messages of support and best wishes. You have confirmed my decision to have you as friends! I hope you’re all happy with yourselves; you made me tearful.

When we’ve got ourselves settled a bit you’re all coming over to visit. Although we haven’t really decided on anything yet, so you never know, you might be coming over to, say, Venezuela. Or maybe Alaska. No, probably not Alaska. The bears have put a price on The Honker’s head. I can never return.

Once again thanks for all your lovely messages and support. Not just now, but all through the ride. The loneliness was the one thing I hated on this trip, and receiving messages from you was the highlight of any day.

I will keep blogging here for a bit until I set up kiwipete.com or bakingdownunder.com or maybe penniless-bum-on-the-street.com if things don’t work out!

All my love and pip pip!


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End of Chapter 1

I’m finishing the ride. 2700 miles is about enough on a bike for Pete Coombes, it seems.

The real reason is that I think I’ve grown up. Finally! I want to go home to Bridget. I want to set up home and family. And the more I thought about it on the road the more I realised how pointless the bike ride was. Especially on my own. Bridget and I will do South America eventually together (certainly on a motor bike and sidecar, maybe even with the kids), but now is not the time to do it solo.
When you’re consumed with love and excited by the future, you can’t wait. I want the rest of my life with Bridge to start right now. Not sure what I’ve been waiting for, to be honest.

So I’ve done most of North America.
I don’t think that’s bad for a kid from the wrong side of the spokes who’s only ever riden 150miles in two days before this trip.

If I’ve let you down, then I’m sorry. But if I’ve let you down, then you need to stop living vicariously through others and get off your arse and grab your own adventure! For example, it only takes two weeks to drive to Azerbaijan. You can fit that into your holiday plans. Allow money for bribes. Or be prepared to sell one of the kids.

I’m heading to New Zealand on Sunday and the rest of my life. I hope you enjoyed the ride so far. I did.

Pip pip


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Day 54 – Rest Day

Whilst I mooch around San Francisco, I thought you might like to see a Honking. Jim, this one’s for you.

As you can see, slightly underwhelming. General apathy seems to have broken out in this field. Lady on the right might be a little curious. She’s a Curious Cow from California, (Isn’t that a Beach Boys classic?)

Right, I’m off to the pub.


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Day 53 – Rest Day

San Francisco!


The cycle here from Bodega Bay was made far more enjoyable by being guided for a large part by landscape architect, John. He was cycling ahead of me around Point Reyes and was going home to San Francisco so pretty much led me all the way here. And he didn’t just show me the easier, safer cycle routes, but told me about the local areas and bits of history. So thanks John, I owe you a beer.


The Honking has been routine, if Honking can ever be said to be routine! Mostly Honking domesticated animals with varying degrees of ‘success’. For example, this is a photo of some Sonoma County sheep.


Not much from our friend in the middle of the shot, but I think the one on the right has been slightly startled. Still, it’s not a bear, is it? Or even a moose. I fear those good, old days are behind us now.

I’m a bit tired now, so I’m going to stay here for a few days. That’s if I can find a room! I hadn’t thought to book anywhere, so I had to go door to door asking for a room. Even though the weather has been unseasonably cool, it’s still the holiday season and hence everywhere is full. And the only campsite in town is $100 per night with no shower! So the one room that was available is in a motel at $119 per night. With shower. Seems like a bargain. Not the most salubrious place, but it’s clean and will do to re-charge.

Right, I’m off to sight-see San Francisco for a bit and maybe snooze in their library!


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Day 52

A much longer day today. I was trying to do at least 75 miles, but ended up doing about 85. I’d not taken into account my proximity with San Francisco and it being the weekend. This meant I was denied at the hoped for stop in Jenner with an almost derisory ‘no’ from the innkeeper. What was I thinking, trying to get a room on a Saturday night, in summer this close to San Fran without booking?! So that meant another ten miles in the fog and the rapidly fading light. And the only light I have is a small, flashing ‘hey-look-at-me’ city light. Not enough to grab anyone’s attention. Anyway, I made it to Bodega Bay, which for all you Hitchcock fans is where he filmed The Birds, and managed to look pathetic enough to get the last room in the most expensive hotel here. But by then I’d run out of options and would have sold a kidney for a comfy bed (ok I could have tried to wild camp behind a tree somewhere, but this is me we’re talking about

The scenery around here is similar to Cornish countryside, especially with this grey fog and it definitely reminds me of home. That in turn has made me feel a little homesick. Next time I’m doing this with someone!

Here’s a photo of some Californian/ Cornish countryside. You be the judge.




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Day 51

A short day that took me only 50 miles to Elk. But Elk had the comfiest bed of the whole trip. Apart, obviously, from the Spartan luxury of my Thermarest and sleeping bag. But this one was firm yet yielding with smooth cotton sheets that seemed to caress me to sleep! Ok, I know it’s not the outback adventure that you were all expecting, but hey, it’s the US and, more than that, it’s the Californian coast. (It’s cold and it’s damp. Haven’t seen any ladies; tramps or otherwise) What I mean is that because Arnie has spent all the cash, you can’t actually camp in most of the campsites along the coast. They’re just for day use now. So the map I have is next to useless. I have to trust in the Fates that when I’m tired and in need of an inn or travelers’ rest then one will be presented. A glowing beacon in the night offering simple comfort and a warm welcome. So far, so good, but it does mean the price of accommodation has gone up since I left Alaska and Canada. We won’t get into the sordid topic of money, but I need to get to Mexico fast!

I should also point out that I’m now on The 1. Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway. Route to the sun and all points south. Which, if I take it, should take me straight to San Diego. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s a nasty little road. There’s no shoulder to ride on and lots of traffic. Most of the traffic is considerate, but every now and then there’s one little fecker who gets just a little too close for comfort. Almost have to put my hands back on the handle-bars. It’s definitely built with cars in mind. So with that in mind, and also considering that I have driven the 1 before, I may head in land and take the 101.

Decisions, decisions.


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Day 50

Day 50? Blimey, that came round fast.

A long day of mostly uphillness. Finished with an even bigger hill and then the fun descent. I used to hate hills, but now I can just grind up them and know the top means a free-wheeling whizz to the bottom. Just don’t give me headwinds (sorry, went all Scottish for a minute there). So in total it was about 78 miles, but like I said, that was mostly uphill so I’m feeling a little knackered now. But I think I’ll push on tomorrow. At some point I’ll need a rest day, but I feel fine at the moment so may as well carry on.

A slight detour around Leggett, took me through a tree. This one, in fact.


As a concept, it’s pretty amazing, but they have to enhance it with a gift shop and piped music. No basking in the tranquil majesty of mother nature. No, let’s blast Britney to the plebs and try and sell ’em a burl carving of a hobbit. They go nuts for burls over here. That and glass blowing. Not sure why, but there are lots of opportunities to blow glass in northern California.

On a personal note, I was close to tears at several points today. No external reason, and I couldn’t identify any inner turmoil, so I think I was just happy to be alive. Either that or I’m going through the ‘change’. I was certainly hot and flushed at times today, but I thought that was down to lugging me and half a tonne of stuff up a bloody great hill. On reflection though, I think it was just about being happy. There are lots of things to think about, but not many to worry about, and I think I just appreciated that today.


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Day 49

Myers Flat. That’s not a description, it’s where I am now. A small little ‘town’ of 200 souls and a camp site by the river, deep in the heart of redwood country. Charming.

I’m on the long climb up to Leggett, which I’ll be tackling tomorrow. It’s at over 1700 ft elevation, but I think it’s quite a steep climb, so it might be a long, hard day in the saddle tomorrow. But if I make it in good time then it’s a free-wheeling, feet-up on the handlebars glide to Westport (pop. 238), and a beer and good times. Haven’t a clue what Westport is like, but it’s going to have beer and good times whether it likes it or not!

Today was pretty much more of the same; cloudy to start, sunny to finish with wind out of the north. The knee felt fine, but I only made about 65 miles. I also got my third flat. This caused by a small bit of roadside shrapnel that managed to penetrate the Batman-esque aramid layer in my tyres. There is so much junk on the side of the road out here; bolts, fishing lures, a piston con rod I saw today, wire of various sorts, shredded tyres and lots of bark. In fact it took me quite a while to figure out why there was so much bark everywhere. Fallen from the trees? No. Discarded by beavers? No.
You’re probably ahead of me here, but I only twigged when another huge logging truck roared past and actually dropped some bark… ahhh, I thought, that’ll be it then. It’s been by the side of the road since Anchorage. There is still an awful lot of logging going on up here.

Here’s me stood in a redwood tree. Before the loggers get to it.

Someone say, ‘hobbit’?

The cyclist’s tan is coming on beautifully. Arms are bronzed, as are the lower legs, but I’m especially proud of the fine patterning I’m achieving on my hands.

I think I’ve invented a new make-up for some sort of subtly different sci-fi human. Get me Spielberg, stat!


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Day 48

A day of two halves today. It started in fog and cold, and ended in glorious sunshine and a fair wind. Let me show you…

Lunch at Trinidad was made more interesting by sitting next to the palm-reading Mary at the diner bar. She reminded me of one of those elderly matrons beloved of Gary Larson’s Far Side – diamanté studded glasses and pink fingernails. She was in turns blithely rude and then flattering. She read my palm for free(!) and got some things right and some things wrong. There’s a surprise. And apparently I have some Japanese in my background!? Mother?

After lunch it was all sunshine and fair winds until I stopped in Eureka for the night. I wouldn’t bother with Eureka. Bit of a dump.

Here’s what the afternoon looked like.


Elk it would appear are bothered by The Honker.

That looks like a pretty interested elk, if you ask me.

And whilst you can’t see their expressions from this photo, the seals on this rock certainly answered back when I honked. They must have been thinking there’s the Chris Bonnington of the seal world at the top of that cliff and we must salute him.



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Day 47

Well, a mixed day. It’s cold and foggy over here at the moment, but if you get to the top of some of these hills then, for a brief moment, you get to see the sun before you dive back down into the gloom.
It looks a bit like this.


The beginning of California hasn’t filled me with confidence for the rest of my trip through it. The towns have been pretty nasty and the shoulders to the roads, so generous in Oregon, have all but disappeared here. It makes for some exhilarating downhills! I’ve driven through California before with Amanda, but it’s a different kettle of fish on a bike.

I think the lack of pedestrians makes it less human over here. Maybe it’s the same in all developed countries, but I’ve never ridden a long tour in them. So the only regular point of human contact I have is with shop and campsite/motel staff. And you don’t really get to strike up a decent conversation or make a lasting relationship with a conversation of only 89 seconds. I shall seek out bars and force people to talk to me! Although I did meet Hamish and John, two fellow Brits, who are kite-surfing the California coast. Good luck fellas. At least we’re used to the cold, eh?

Pip pip

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