Stories From the Pacific Coast Highway, My Favorite Scenic Places, and a Very Creepy Warm Showers Encounter.

Hi! I’m writing to you from home. I am still planning to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail but it’s been a high snow year and the passes in Montana are currently full of snow. So rather than trudging through it with ice-axe and microspikes and fording raging snow-melt rivers I’m spending a few weeks at home resting and wait for the snow to melt before heading back out on trail.

My Mexico to Canada bike trip took 73 days in total. 33 of that was on the Arizona Trail then roughly another 10 days to get out to the Pacific Coast Highway and a month riding up the coast. Once I got on the coast the riding was smooth, fast, and easy. I’ll share stories from that in this post and also share with you the CREEPIEST encounter I’ve had in all of my adventures yet.

A Thank You

Before I start with the stories I want to thank all of you for following along and reading these posts and also give a special thank you to Nancy Jones, Nelson Claudia, Marc Helfer, Andrzej Proczka, Dave Martin, and Brad Poynor for supporting the trip via Patreon. If you enjoy these posts and videos and wish to support my trip please visit my Patreon page at: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5796017

Every little bit helps and having your support makes trail life immensely more enjoyable as I have more freedom in the budget to get more town meals and showers.

Stories from the Pacific Coast Highway

What I remember most when I first got out to the west coast was a profound sense of relief. FINALLY I’m out of that scorching desert. Finally I’m off single-track. Finally maybe I can actually ride my bike instead of pushing it all day(or carrying it through the damn Grand Canyon!!).

My first night out I camped in a state park north of Santa Barbara. Most of the state parks in California have hiker/biker camp spots so you can experience the amenities of a campsite while paying only $5 rather than $25-35/night. This might sound odd but picnic tables are my favorite luxury. Give me the choice of a picnic table or a shower and I’ll pick the picnic table every time. I’d just spent a month hunched over my cook pot sitting on rocks/stumps/roots. Simply having a table to lay out my gear and cook on was luxurious.

The campsite on that first night was situated on a small rise overlooking the ocean. I fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing into the shore and the traffic of Highway 1.

Hostel on Pigeon Point

The PCH route follows Highway 1 through California and then Highway 101 up to Vancouver. There are a series of Hosteling International hostels along the PCH and I stayed at one on Pigeon Point, about 40 miles south of San Francisco. The hostel here sits next to an old abandoned lighthouse. I arrived just in time to catch the last pink glow of the setting sun.

Whales regularly migrate up and down the coast from the point and I was able to catch a couple whale plumes off in the distance the next morning. However the cold and wind drove me out and back on the road. The cold is something I was not expecting along the PCH. The days were consistently cold and windy, mid 50’s in the day and night. Cold enough that it drove me into my sleeping bag as soon as I finished my meals in camp.

Big Sur Mudslide

Sunset over the closed section of Big Sur.

In winter of 2017 big storms caused massive mudslides in the Big Sur area in California which washed away bridges and sections of road along Highway 1. This poses a minor inconvenience to vehicles but a massive headache for cyclists. The cycling detour route adds 200 miles to your trip and takes you off some the most scenic sections of Highway 1.

Prior to reaching Big Sur I’d met cyclists coming south who had passed through the landslide area. One girl had hitched a ride. Another man had ridden the detour. But the option that I liked the most was told to me by the guy who sneaked through the road closing. He just waited until dark when the construction crews left then biked through the ~7 miles of closed highway.

I arrived at the road closure early in the afternoon on a Sunday. There was a construction worker sitting in a car at the closure making sure no one went around the barricades. Since I had time I decided to try my luck pushing my bike up a hiking trail. This section of the coast highway has loads of trails and trailheads that are right off of Highway 1. It’s supposed to be spectacular hiking. According to the map at the trailhead I could follow this trail for approximately 8 miles. It paralleled the PCH and there were several paths branching off this trail to reconnect to the highway.

Half a mile was all I needed to say “screw this I’m sneaking through.” The trail was steep and overgrown. It was as hard as any pushing on the AZT and reminded me of the Mongollon rim. I found a connector trail and hiked my bike down to the highway where I sat hidden in the trees watching construction vehicles drive by.

Around 8pm I was fairly certain that the crews had gone home for the evening and pushed my bike out onto the deserted highway.

It was a glorious ride! The Pacific ocean to my left, towering cliffs to my right, the golden glow of a setting sun and not a car in sight. I arrived at the northern barricades just as the sun fully set and saw what looked like possible security vehicles along with a guard shack and big flood lights illuminating the area around the barricades. I’d heard stories from others that if law enforcement caught you crossing the closed highway you’d get a fat ticket. Well, I didn’t want a ticket so I quickly hid my bike in the foliage off the highway and took up an overlook position.

My spot was far enough away that it was hard to tell what was going on but I could definitely see what appeared to be a little trailer or shack and people moving in and out. It also looked like a car would come and go every 10-15 minutes as if it was a security patrol. This looked like some serious security!

I spent two hours sitting there in the dark. Watching and waiting. I used my DSLR’s digital zoom feature to get a better view of what was happening. It looked like there was one guard who sat in the shack and another roving one that drove down in a vehicle from time to time.

After two hours it appeared the person in the guard shack had left, and I was frankly too tired to care about a ticket anymore so I made my break for it.

I put my bike in low gear and slowly peddled toward the barricade. I kept my crankshaft moving because I didn’t want my bike to make that loud clicking. As I approached the barricades my body was full of adrenaline and I was prepared to make a run for it into the night. I rounded the barriers with full-on tunnel vision, ready to ignore the shouts of a security guard and blast through… only to discover that what I took to be a security shack was the door of a gas station and that the patrol vehicles I’d seen coming and going were people getting gas and turning around because the highway was closed.

Yep I felt pretty silly. Oh well. I didn’t get a ticket and have a fun story from the experience! I rode on about 10 more miles in the cold dark before finding a state campground to camp in. That’s one downside of the PCH is that camping can be few and far between. You can’t just camp off the side of the road as it’s all private property or just inaccessible cliff faces and ocean.

Total Creep in Vancouver

Posing on the Canadian border.

This story is from the very end of my trip staying with a Warm Showers host in Vancouver. Much of this is copy/pasted from a post I wrote on a cycling Facebook group to get opinions and advice.

The first night

I get to his house as he gets off work. Seems like a normal guy, mid 50’s, clean cut. Shows me around his house gets my bike stowed in his garage and sets me up in a spare room.

Offers me a beer. We drink it, then takes me out to dinner and gets us a pitcher of beer. I’m thinking wow this guy is very generous.

During dinner the conversation gets a bit weird. He tells me he had worked as a professor at a university and studied assisted suicides. I ask, “like medical?” Nope, assisted suicides performed by underground organizations.

He went on to describe these different groups that helped people kill themselves. One in the US called The Final Exit which gave people all the info they needed to suffocate themselves by putting bags full of helium over their heads and would even go to houses with the whole setup – helium tanks, bags, etc, and assist the person in killing themselves.

Weird, but interesting research.

Then he drops the bombshell. He actually was present and witnessed and video taped over a dozen suicides.

I’ll spare you the details but he then went on to talk about some of the cases he’d witnessed and the trouble he ran into with the law. He even video taped some of these suicides.

Then he talked about all the legal trouble he’d been in. He sued his university and won like 20k as a grad student because of some way they handled things wrongly. Then when he was getting his doctorate in England he sued that school and won 150k because of their mishandling of something or other. THEN he talks about how his university forced him to quit, because they didn’t like his research, and how he forced them to give him 7 years of wages and benefits or essentially $1m.

All of this will become relevant later. But you can start to see a pattern of this him vs. them, holding a chip, grudge holding pattern.

Oh he also went on and on about how he was the only researcher to ever be present at these suicides. He seemed to take a lot of pride in that. There’s probably very good reasons to not be present from moral to ethical to legal not to mention the fact that you’ve gotta be kinda screwed up to watch someone kill themselves, and to do it over a dozen times. It seems that only someone with an already disturbed psyche would be drawn to this line of work and the research would only cause further damage.

He also seemed very proud that he had bested the police and bragged about his confrontations with the police where he would cite their own codes back to them and thumb his nose at the fact that he hadn’t technically broken any laws so they couldn’t ever land any charges that stuck.

Then we go back to his house. He pulls out a bottle of vodka. I decline. I’ve never had a host offer me more than a beer. This guy’s now offered me alcohol on three different occasions. It’s a Monday night. Why all this alcohol? He drinks several shots and we play a game of chess.

During chess I start to get a really strange vibe from him and I’m not sure if he’s hitting on me or what. He asked me if “I had any safety issues on the trip.” Something like that, it was worded really strangely and raised my hackles.

I told him about the random guy who flagged me down near Seattle. That was the guy who said, “looks like you’re on a long journey, I have a motel room close by if you want to take a shower.” Of course I declined that offer as it was super weird offer. So now my host’s response was “hah I probably wouldn’t even be able to get a full erection after biking because of the way the seat rubs your frenulum(sp?).” Wtf. Why is that his response to my story. Why was that even on his mind at all when he heard my story?

Day Two

I get up rather late because I was up in the night talking to Jillian. I want to see some of the city so by the time I get out of bed I want to get out the door. I’d considered leaving but after sleeping I started to second-guess myself. Maybe I was making it up. Maybe I misread the guy. Plus it was just easier to stay there then find somewhere else in the city.

I go upstairs, he’s working from home, I greet him and fill up my water and put on my shoes. He comes over and asks if I want to eat any lunch or dinner and I decline. Said I’m good I’ll eat in the city and probably see you tonight. Very reasonable right? Just because he’s hosting me doesn’t mean I have to spend all day with him… right?

At this point I don’t sense that anything is amiss.

I spend the day in the city and get some buffet for dinner. Come home. He is sitting IN THE DARK at his computer. All the lights off in his house. Weird.

I make some small convo with him and go to my room because at this point I don’t have much interest in hanging out with him more. The night before was strange and he’s just not that interesting of a person.

Went to bed. Nothing further.

The Next Morning

I get up, pack my stuff, and head upstairs. When I get upstairs he says “have a seat and let’s talk.”

Okay, weird, but whatever maybe he just wants to chat about the trip before I head out.

Then he starts interrogating me:

  • “Have you ever hosted?”
  • “Tell me, why do you think that I host?”
  • “Do you think I’ve had a good hosting experience?”

Wtf. Obviously at this point I sense that the answer he expects to the last question is not a yes.

I say something like “I don’t know.”

Then he goes on with more interrogation style weird Socratic questions:

  • “Have you read the warmshowers website or forums? Do you know what the purpose of the site is?”
  • “Do you understand that its purpose is for cultural exchange?”
  • “Do you think I got much out of these two days?”

On and on like this.

He then finally gets to his point: “Yesterday you blew out of here. Just filled your water bottle and was gone and I had to chase you down to talk to you(he didn’t, I was just putting on my shoes, it’s not like I was going to leave the house without telling him where I was going or what my plans were, but he did literally follow me into the room as soon as I came upstairs). I didn’t know what to think. Did I do something to offend you? But no I knew I didn’t say anything to offend you.”

He went on to say that essentially I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain as a guest. That he expected me to have spent more time with him the day before. That my actions wasn’t what warmshowers was about.

Cycling Community Response

The response from the cycling community was unanimous. They agreed that this guy was a total creep and staying with a person on Warm Showers in no way obligates me to spend loads of time with a host outside of the general niceties when you meet a stranger and those niceties were more than covered because I spent my first evening in Vancouver with him.

Does he have a big freezer in the garage?

Seriously though, he’s deranged. Don’t feel bad about it. I’ve had WS guests who barely said more than “what’s the wifi password?” You had a whole date with him. If he’s that lonely he should consider joining a Meetup.

Leave an accurate review. -Mr_Wasabi on Reddit

My experience is that some cultural exchange is possible, and great if it happens, but absolutely not required from either party. In fact, my impression of WS was that you can accept whatever hospitality is offered, but don’t expect more than a roof to sleep under.

The host in the story sounds like he may be more emotionally damaged (possibly caused by his research, possibly the damage caused him to get into that field) than he realizes, and has justified his sadness and lonliness as “everyone else is JERKS.”
Or he might have been looking for a hookup as OP thought – which I believe to be 100% against the spirit of WS. -RinkyDinkRinkBink on Reddit

Yikes. OK. Firstly, by using Warm Showers, there’s no expectation that you should in any way shape or form entertain your host. He is completely out of line. It’s simple. He’s providing a bed and a shower. No more. He can have no expectations from you other than you behaving like a decent human being and not steal his stuff.

I’d report this creep to Warm Showers. – Oddstuff on Reddit

That is one creepy story my friend. I have both hosted and been a guest several times. Usually I spent some time with the people hosting on the day I arrive — after spending a day cycling alone it’s nice to talk with someone, and the people I’ve met have been genuinely interesting. Maybe we have dinner together, or a drink at the end of the day, but I never felt obligated to spend a lot of time with my hosts, and as a hosts myself I always cook something for when my guests arrive and expect to talk with them for a while (I do want to hear their stories), but then I give them space and privacy.

TL;DR: I don’t think you did anything wrong, and I too would be be very creeped out. I’ve stayed with the weirdest people, and our interactions always followed the same concept of eating/drinking and getting-to-know-you conversation, and then giving me space. Warmshowers is not a dating website. -themariarchi on Reddit

 

I even went as far as to sleep with a 10lb dumbbell to use as a weapon if I needed to(he had some dumbbells in his basement where I was staying) and put obstacles in front of my door so that he couldn’t open the door without making noise.

I left him a honest negative review highlighting all of the things he did to make me feel uncomfortable. He then left me a negative review detailing essentially that I hadn’t spent enough time with him(big deal right, warmshowers isn’t a dating website) and sent me a text saying that “he would delete his review if I deleted mine.” I told him “not a chance, don’t contact me anymore.” Again I think this text shows his true colors. He didn’t text to apologize or to try to bury the hatchet. He tried to hold a negative review over my head as leverage so that I would do what he wanted. Just as he tried argue that I owed him more time together because he was hosting me. What a manipulative freak. He has since deleted his profile. I hope this means he will no longer be hosting cyclists because I truly feel that if I were not a large man capable of defending myself this situation could have gone from creepy to terrifying and I hope no other cyclist has to experience this creep’s “hospitality.”

I should have left after getting creeped out the first night. This is what happens when I don’t listen to my gut! But the next morning I’d started to second guess myself. Maybe I’d made it up in my head, maybe I was overreacting, plus this was a free place to stay and much easier than finding somewhere else so I just stayed. But his confrontation with me the next morning cemented all of my gut reads. This guy is a total creep and unbalanced. But it’s when things don’t go smoothly on these trips that gives you the best stories.

CDT Plan

I’ll catch a flight to Kalispell on the 7th of July and from there hitch or uber up to Whitefish then ride the Amtrak to East Glacier. From East Glacier I’ll need to secure permits for backcountry camping in the National Park which could delay my start an additional several days. This first leg is the most challenging from a logistics standpoint. After I get through Glacier I should be able to make big miles.

I was somewhat burnt out and tired after finishing the Mexico to Canada ride but feel recovered already. I think the emphasis on better nutrition on trail has helped a lot. Plus riding a bike is just easier on the body. With each passing day I’m more excited to get on the CDT and back out into the wild. Road touring just isn’t the same as thru-hiking. Too much traffic and too much civilization.

Keep an eye out for the PCH video. I’m putting that together this week and hope to have it out by next Monday. Hope everyone is having a good summer and thanks for reading!

Jack Jones

Jack Jones

Chief Explorer at Couch to Trail
Jack is on a quest to explore the world and find adventure. He is passionate about using his adventures to inspire others to follow their heart and step out of their comfort zone. He is a meditator, CrossFitter, and thru-hiker.
Jack Jones

Comments 5

  1. Rebecca Powell

    Oh my, Jack. How does your mom handle the stress of your life? I must admit it’s exciting and challenging, but could have some unexpected less-than-desirable outcomes. However, I’m so very proud of you and what you’ve accomplished already; the whole world is waiting patiently at your doorstep. May God continue to protect you as you enjoy His amazing creation. Love and blessings from your childhood friend’s mom.

    1. Post
      Author
      Jack Jones

      Thanks Rebecca! I think after all these years and after I joined the Army Nancy has just learned to deal with the fact that I’m going to do dangerous things haha.

  2. Rebecca Powell

    Just viewed your Zion video!!! Absolutely breathtaking. I can see why love what you’re doing, Jack. Thank you for sharing your awesome experiences. Rebecca

  3. Nelson Claudia

    I so enjoy your posts, so different from anything I would ever do. Have you ever thought about giving a talk, about your adventures, at the library in Columbia? I’m sure I’m not the only person, who would like to meet the person with all the great stories. Claudia

    1. Post
      Author
      Jack Jones

      When I return from the CDT I will put serious effort into talks and schedule one at the library in Columbia for sure! I’ll update here when I set something down in the schedule.

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