The BlandsMobile rental car and I are making good progress north. Further south, the scenery was hillsides of sun-scorched grass dotted with oak - the kind of scenery that requires place names involving 'creek' and 'gulch' - things we don't have in England. Now I am winding through thicky-wooded hills of magnificent redwood trees. I took the 'scenic alternate' route along the Avenue of the Giants, and as I drove through along the shady road between majestic tree trunks, flakes of bark fluttered down like a tickertape parade.
Last night I stayed in Tom and Sveta's vacation rental in Russian River. Now I am heading up Highway 101 towards Eureka, or maybe even Grant's Pass if I feel like it. i'm enjoying the freedom of the open road.
I got this email from a friend who is following my adventures closely. Maybe a bit too closely - I keep looking up, wondering why I feel like someone's peering over my shoulder...
'Today I flew with you from Woodside to Guerneville. Well at least I did courtesy of GoogleEarth, and it was amazing. I was flying at a height of 1500 feet and going a bit faster than you can drive, but it still took me 20 minutes.
I followed every twist and turn in the road, even going all the way round the intersections where there was a loop. The final approach into Guerneville made me a bit dizzy as the road twists and turns down the valley, but I finally arrived without feeling sick. The only disconcerting thing was that I remained hovering in the air at 1500 feet!
It is really easy to do with GoogleEarth, just select "Directions", enter Start: Woodside, CA, End: Guerneville, CA, and click on the find button. At the end of the list of directions, there is an item marked "Route". Click on that and then on the "Play Tour" button below, and you are off.
I shall follow all you journeys like this from now on, especially when you start your Road Trip from Miami to San Francisco with Sedna Solo in November.'
Virtual journeys at 1500 feet are fine if you have no alternative, but I'm very lucky to be seeing the real thing, from a height of about 4 feet...
The real thing
Last night I joined Tom Lynch and a cacophony of Russians for dinner in Guerneville by (appropriately enough) Russian River to celebrate Ivan Rezvoy's 50th birthday. Tom warned me that novices at Russian get-togethers are often misled by the din of raised voices into expecting a full-scale fight to break out at any moment. He assured me that this decibel level is quite normal and nothing to worry about.
There was a silent guest at the table too, in spirit if not in body. There was much talk about ocean rowing legend Peter Bird. Very few ocean rowers are lost at sea. Peter was one of the unlucky ones. He disappeared on the Pacific in June 1996, 69 days after he set out from Russia. (Info courtesy of the ORS.)
Last night I met two of his staunchest supporters and guardians of his legacy. Tom Lynch and Ivan Rezvoy were both great friends of Peter's, and for the last 20 years have continued to take an active interest in ocean rowing. The ORS website, the definitive source of all ocean rowing statistics, is sponsored by Tom.
Ivan is the younger brother of another ocean rowing legend, Pavel Rezvoy, and uncle to another ocean rower, Teddy Rezvoy. The connections go deeper than that - Tom met his Russian wife, Sveta, through ocean rowing - they were introduced by the wife of Kenneth Crutchlow of the ORS.
'It will never work out,' Ken said of the blind date, in one of his characteristic voice-of-doom pronouncements. Thankfully for all concerned, they are proving him wrong, and gorgeous three-year-old Katya is the happy result.
Peter Bird will be remembered mostly for his persistence: he took 294 days to row from San Francisco to Australia, and had made 4 attempts on the north Pacific before his last ever row. But Tom and Sveta remember him as Peter the eccentric and charismatic man who indirectly brought them together.
Back row L to R: Tom Lynch, Ivan, Eve, Layma
Front row L to R: me, Sveta, Masha, Katya
Photo taken by Tom's wife, Sveta
I am in a state of shock. I am typing this sitting in the doctor's consulting room, and he has just dashed in to give me the result of my hip scan. 'It' looks like you have a stress fracture.'
I have never had a broken bone in my life, and this is not good timing.
And a broken hip, of all things. I thought only old ladies got those. It didn't help when he offered to lend me a walking stick to take some of the weight off my hip.
'Oh, it's really not that bad. Hardly hurts at all, in fact,' I hastily reassured him.
So the New Jersey Marathon is now looking extremely unlikely. I envy Mojo. At least he knows he's going to be better again in a week. I have no idea when I'll be up and running again.
'I met with someone today that I think you should also meet, her name is Roz Savage. She's recently rowed across the Atlantic (single-handed) and is in the process of making plans to do the same thing from San Francisco across the Pacific. (Yes, I know, we told her that she's crazy...but now having met her...she actually appears to be quite sane)'
A back-handed compliment in an email of introduction. And this from the man who employs a woman who swims with sharks.
The KKMI boatyard in Richmond Point (about 45 minutes from my home in Woodside) has kindly offered free berthing to Sedna, and a discount on their boatyard services. Paul proudly showed me around when I visited them there yesterday.
'And this is the engines workshop - we can lift out this skylight and crane the engine straight in. And over here we have the masts area, where we have plenty of space to unstep the mast, repair it, restep it...'
'Not that you need any of that stuff', his daughter Erica (on the left in the photo) chipped in. Exactly.
Paul also introduced me to his staff, including Ginger (on the right in the photo) and Debbie the shark lady (centre). 'But not white-tips', she assured me, as if this made it all OK.