Pedaling Across America in Two Giant Shoes – Day 89

Pedaling Across America in Two Giant Shoes

Day 89 – June 28, 2003 – Saturday

Fortuna, California to Coos Bay, Oregon today — traveling Highway 101 all the way through Oregon and into Washington.

Today was Redwoods Day! Since it got dark last night, I had to backtrack this morning to see the Avenue of the Giants — the best Redwoods drive there is. The Redwoods are spectacular, and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. It’s hard to photograph Redwoods. My photos do not begin to do justice to the beauty of the Avenue of the Giants — one of those things you just have to enjoy personally.

At the Visitors’ Center, I really enjoyed seeing cross-section of a 325 ton tree that was 839 years old when it fell in 1987. The rings were marked to show how big the tree was when Columbus discovered America, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, etc. Puts it in perspective!

In addition to the trees in the Avenue of the Giants, I also saw The Chimney Tree — a Redwood tree that had the center burned out of it in 1914, but it is still alive and kicking. I saw the “Immortal Tree” — a tree that is 950 to 1,000 years old and is thriving despite lightning, fire, flood, and more.

The highway is filled with one chainsaw wood carving place after another.

I detoured slightly to see the lovely little Victorian village of Ferndale. Cute town. It has to be a wonderful place to live; it just gave off great vibes.

In Eureka, I saw the World’s Largest Hammer and the fabulous Carson Mansion. Eureka has a very nice Old Town area.

Arcata was one of the towns I was really looking forward to seeing. I have read about the amazing Kinetic Sculpture Race, and I thought there would be a museum where I could see some of the sculptures.

Kinetic means motion. Kinetic art is sculpture that contains moving parts. The Kinetic Sculpture Race is a race of artwork that contains moving parts. If you think of a bicycle built for 12 engineered by NASA scientists that is covered with a multicolor exterior that looks like a giant fire-breathing dragon, that’s what one of the kinetic sculptures might look like. Now imagine as many as 100 different works of art, and that’s what the racers look like. Racers may include a giant frog, an erupting volcano, a pink elephant, a giant chicken, an albino rhinoceros, a giant fish, monsters, a submarine, and more.

The Kinetic Sculpture Race has been an annual event in Ferndale, California since 1969. It began when Ferndale sculptor Hobart Brown “improved” the appearance of his son’s tricycle, and was challenged to a race down Main Street by Jack Mays. Soon, another 12 machines entered the first race. Neither Hobart nor Jack won; the first winner of the Kinetic Sculpture Race was Bob Brown whose sculpture was a smoke-emitting turtle that laid eggs. The race course covers 42 miles over three days. The sculptures that compete in the Kinetic Sculpture Race today are designed to travel on land, sand, gravel, pavement, up and down steep hills, through mud and over deep harbor waters, and they are constructed of any imaginable material, including used bicycles, gears, feathers, tin foil and paper mache. Some of the machines are simple crafts piloted by only one person, while others might be as large as 50-feet long, highly sophisticated, and well-engineered vehicles powered by a team of people. The sculptures are fun to look at with a wide variety of artistic exteriors. Under the artistic exteriors, the kinetic sculptures have amazing engineering. The participants compete for prizes in “Art” and “Engineering” categories, as well as the coveted “Mediocre” and “Next to Last” awards. This is a serious race with a Quirky sense of humor, kind of like our trip. I have read news reports about the annual race over the years, and I was really looking forward to seeing some of the sculptures and learning more about the race.

When I reached Arcata, I was surprised to find the town square absolutely filled with hippies. I drove all around town several times, and I never saw even a funky bicycle. I met Deacon Rivers on the side of the road as I was about to leave town having failed to find anything about the Kinetic Sculpture Race. After he explained the system of “Community Currency” used by many in Arcata in place of American dollars, I asked Deacon what he felt was the most unusual thing in Arcata, and he said it was the sewage treatment plant. I asked if there was a kinetic sculpture museum, and he indicated there wasn’t, but there might be a kinetic lab on 8th Street. I also met a biker named Gary.

Deacon’s directions to the sewage treatment plant were excellent. It’s in a marsh and wildlife sanctuary, and it really is special. The water is cleaner than the water produced by conventional sewage treatment facilities. Martha showed me around.

Then it was off to 8th Street. I drove all the way until 8th Street ended, but I saw nothing at all about the Kinetic Sculpture Race. I was so very disappointed!

As I drove back down 8th Street back toward Highway 101, I thought I saw a giant chicken out of the corner of my eye. I slammed on the brakes and U-turned. I walked down the alley toward the chicken, and I spotted the motherlode — The Kinetic Lab!!! It was a big warehouse filled with kinetic sculptures that have been in the race. I met Ken Beidleman and June Moxon. Little did I know that they weren’t just anyone involved in the race, but they have been credited with really raising the bar for Kinetic art.

Ken and June showed me all around the Kinetic Lab and told me all about the race. Truly fascinating. The race is on land, sand, and water, so these people-powered machines have to be engineering marvels. And while the race is a serious race, it is done with a tremendous sense of style and a great sense of humor. Ken and June have been involved in the race for many years.

If my experience with Ken and June had ended at this point, it would have been a very special day and one of my favorite times on the whole trip. But I noticed two giant shoe sculpture racers in the middle of the room with a covered wagon hooked on behind. I then learned that Ken and June had been on a trip that makes our Round America trip seem like child’s play in comparison. Ken and June pedaled across America in the giant shoe kinetic sculptures. Can you imagine seeing two giant shoes going down the road pulling a covered wagon?! Their legs provided the only source of power. They slept in the covered wagon with their dog. They had $200 and no credit cards. They pedaled and worked their way across the country from Arcata, California to St. Augustine, Florida. They were on the road in their giant shoes for three years! Absolutely amazing!

Ken and June invited me over to their home, but a deadline down the road made it impossible for me to accept their kind invitation. I understand I really missed something special as June has an Imelda Marcos’ fetish, and she has a lot of shoes and some amazing art. June is an artist; she does beautiful brass sculptures. Ken is an engineer and a painter. Meeting them was one of the real highlights of the trip.

I hated to leave Arcata, but I did. June told me the World’s Tallest Totem Pole was just up the road in McKinleyville in a Safeway parking lot. I didn’t even have it on my list, but I found it easily thanks to June. I met Summer, Natasha, and Amelia in the parking lot.

I saw a lighthouse in Trinidad, and I had excellent Blackberry Pie at an RV Park near Orick — the Redwood Trails General Store. Orick is the home of the world’s tallest trees; I saw a sign that said it, so it must be true.

A few miles down the road I saw an area called Elk Meadow. I pulled in, parked, and a short while later, I saw my first elk. I’m still mooseless.

In the town of Smith River, I stopped at the Ship-A-Shore Gift Shop. Martha at the sewage treatment plant told me to be sure to see it.

I visited Trees of Mystery in Klamath, where I saw the first of what will be many Paul Bunyan statues. This Paul is 49′ 2″ tall and weighs 30,000 pounds. Babe the ox also weighs in at 30,000 pounds. I met Sarah and Josh there.

Oregon became State #24. The Oregon coastline is really beautiful. The views from the various overlooks in the Samuel H. Boardman State Park were especially stunning.

I met Cameron at two roadside photo stops. She was having boyfriend problems and was crying. She left the first roadside stop shortly after I pulled in. When I pulled in behind her at the next roadside stop just a few miles down the road, she confided that she thought I was a dirty old man with bad intentions. I gave her my card and beads, and I tried to cheer her up, but I wasn’t successful. I left her to be alone.

Oregon has by far the most beautiful bridges we have seen anywhere — one after another. Thompson Creek Bridge is the highest bridge in Oregon. I crossed it and many others.

I reached Bandon shortly after the sun had set, and it was extremely dark by the time I reached the Red Lion Inn in Coos Bay.

I met Jeb at the desk at the Red Lion. I asked him what he felt was the most unique thing about Coos Bay, and he said it has to be the dunes. He asked if I would like to see them, and then he called and arranged to have me join the Fire Department Rescue Team for a special ride around the dunes tomorrow morning at 8:30. The Oregon Dunes are really special, and some of the dunes are as high as 500-feet, so this was sure to be a special experience.

There are a lot of interesting people with interesting stories. But what are the odds that on our trip, we would meet two people who floated across the Atlantic Ocean on a raft and lived to tell about it…and two people who pedaled across America in two giant shoes?! I guess the lesson for the day is to always be alert (and keep your eyes peeled for a giant chicken) because you just never know when you will cross paths with amazing people.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Avenue of the Giants — The Chimney Tree — Immortal Tree — Ferndale California — Eureka California — Arcata California — Kinetic Sculpture Race — Ken Beidleman and June Moxon — Worlds Tallest Totem Pole — Trees of Mystery