Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nevada

After finishing me last post in Pahrump, NV, I was outside the library snacking and messing around with my gear when an older man, Sonny, called over over to a bench and said "sit down, make yourself comfortable." He wanted to talk and we talked for a t least two hours. He's 73 and has lived all over the country, he continuously cracked me up with comments such as "I like it here, this is the first place where people have called me "good looking" or "cute," I'm not moving from here. Look around for yourself, it's true!" Sonny told me about his dream trips that he never got to take and I encouraged him that he still had time. He was quite flattering and a pleasure to talk with-he skipped his genealogy class he'd come for to talk with me. As I said goodbye he made me promise I'd give him a call somewhere down the road.


Sonny

This was just one of the encounters that I've had along my way that are a lot of what this trip is about. Although I've taken this journey for selfish reasons, one of my hopes is that along the way I can help inspire at least a few of the people I meet to go on an adventure of their own. It's important to be selfish at times and just go out and have fun, explore, and be free; I want to remind people of that and be an example that it is possible. I've already heard a few people say that I inspire them to get out on a trip, hopefully they follow through and I hope to keep spreading the vibe. This may seem like an unrealistic goal, especially for those that I only meet briefly; however, the one who really gave me the courage an inspiration to take this trip was someone I'd just met and talked with briefly about his adventure. I believe that it can be a very simple, brief encounter that jump starts your wanderlust!

Back to my trip, the next day was riding in familiar territory. Last November, for the fire assignment I was on we worked outside of Pahrump and drove everyday from Vegas, making me very familiar with the road and pass ahead-didn't think I'd be back there. I arrived in Las Vegas earlier then expected, so remembered a park outside the city that I'd driven by numerous times and always wanted to stop at. So, that's where I headed and spent a few relaxing hours cleaning the mud off my bike and reading.


The sea of cookie-cutter houses outside of Vegas

Kevin, my warmshowers host in Vegas, met me at the park with the gift of a cold pear (yum!) and then guided me an hours ride to his house. This was another great warmshowers experience as Kevin gave me loads of route information and fed me until I could barely move. He's also quite an interesting guy: parked his car eight years ago and hasn't driven since, he's hiked the PCT, AT (almost twice), and Continental Divide Trail, as well as touring around the west. I'm hoping to live like Kevin someday, taking a few months off each year for some big bike/trek sounds pretty darn good to me!


Kevin

From Vegas, I rode into Lake Mead National Rec. Area where I enjoyed every shade of red rock and decently quiet roads. I saw the "bathtub ring" showing how low the reservoir is these days. The next morning, I rode to Overton Beach on the north end of the lake. This is one of the boat launches that no longer leads to the lake, now it's only a small river there. It was strange to see this entire area with campgrounds and buildings abandoned.

Lake Mead, you can kind of see the old water level.

Nice sandstone


Overton Beach and the boat launch to nowwhere

More long, flat straightaways stood in front of me, around 30 miles in one stretch. Although I've continues to have a headwind, it's been much lighter, so doesn't hurt me too badly and cools me down. Even though I'm able to keep good speed on these flat sections, it never seems like I"m making any progress and I have to keep looking down at my speedometer to assure myself that I am.


LONG flat streches

In the boarder town of Mesquite, I met a quirky fellow outside the grocery store. After telling me I needed to be carrying a gun (or two) or at least huge knifes, he said I should write a book after my trip and call it "Back to the Dark Ages," or something with "Dark Ages" in the title. He said how he doesn't believe in global warming, but that we're going into another ice age--I didn't get the chance to try and clarify what global warming entails for him, though I don't think he would have listened anyway.

I then rode into Arizona for a short stretch and got into Utah this morning. I'll be exploring Zion tomorrow! From there it will depend on the weather whether I continue north (which I really hope to do), or if I begin me retreat south back to Arizona.


View of the Virgin River from the road in AZ

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coyotes, and Snakes, and Spiders, Oh My!

Alright, for anyone who attempted to decipher my last entry, I apologize. It was horribly scatterbrained and probably confusing, a poor account of a fabulous section. However, instead of dwelling on the past, I'm vowing to do better from here on out (or at least try)!

First off, I do have to backtrack a little to the last entry. After leaving Mammoth Lakes, I went to the most incredible hot springs I've ever been to (just didn't have the picture off my camera in time to add it to the past). I'd found it in the last minute of my library time, hurriedly jotted down directions and off I went. It wasn't far out of the way, an unmarked dirt road in the basin led to a parking lot and boardwalk down to the springs. It was located int he middle of the basin surrounded by wide open grass and brush with a spectacular view of the Sierras. i guess it's a popular spot, but one couple was leaving when I arrived and I had it all to myself. It felt great on my legs and took awhile to want to ride again afterward!


Best hot springs ever

From Bishop south to Lone Pine I took my time enjoying the towns, their parks, and stocking up for Death Valley. It was hot and I was still up around 4,000 ft! As I rode the road into Death Valley, I noticed I'd suddenly become quite popular; a number of vehicles passing began snapping my picture. The first car to do so came up from behind, slowed to my pace and a lady practically stuck a camera in my face without saying a word, even after I said hello! They just took their picture and drove off. Now, this happened a number of times while in the park, though some were a little more descrete; still, none of the usual thumbs up or waves I get from drives who acknowledge me. So, my two theories are that either I just look so darn good in my spandex that they have to take my pictures, or that they think I'm insane for riding into the 100 + degree weather with so much darn stuff on my bike--I"m leaning towards the latter.

Overall, Death Valley was quite an experience and I just barely made it out! My first night in the park I stayed at the most expensive place yet, $7.50! They hooked me up with a shower though which after a week and a half without was most welcome. At the camp in Panamint Springs, I met a group of guys riding from Badwater to Mt Whitney, then hiking up (lowest to highest points in continental US) and filming it for a show, Beyond Adventure (i think that's right). It made me kind of bummed that I didn't get to do Whitney on this trip, but another time! Anyway, the guys were all very nice and one even brought over homemade cookies! Homemade is such a treat nowadays, cooking on my MSR just isn't the same...

The next morning I met John and Laura who had camped next to me. Yet another wonderful couple who also gave me homemade cookies ( I was on a role!) With a long climb to start the day I was anxious to get chuggin uphill. Typically, I have a rule not to stop on uphills unless absolutely necessary, but I broke it what I saw a tarantula crossing in front of me. When I stopped, it turned and came straight for me! I waited as long as I could stand, then retreated--I was later told it's matting season and so they're out more and more aggressive.


Yikes he's close!

The pass topped out at just below 5000 ft and then descended all the way to sea level over 17 miles. Quite a downhill, not sure where else you can find something like that.


From here...


...all the way to here.

Now down at sea level it was getting really hot. I ran into a group doing a cancer fundraiser from Vancouver, BC to Austin, TX and another pair riding from San Fran to Las Vegas. I'll admit I was kind of proud to be the only non-supported rider in the crowd (though also the only one not riding for a bigger cause then myself).

In the heat of the day, John and Laura caught up with me, pulled on the shoulder and got out a complete picnic complete with ice cold water and a chair! They were incredibly kind and fun to talk with. The rest of the afternoon I escaped the heat int he air conditioned visitor's center and nice grass in the shade. I still can't believe they have a golf course and swimming pools at the bottom of Death Valley though. Although I know that the Forest Service is full of it's own problems, that right there is one big reason why Parks anger me.


John and Laura

Filling my water to full capacity (heavy!) with 75 miles to the next water source, I rode in the slightly cooler evening air. I don't think the night got down below 70 though. Right behind where I decided to set up my tent I noticed a sidewinder (i think) coiled up. Luckily he was just a small guy, but as the light faded and he totally disappeared he still made me a little nervous.

My little friend, only a little over a foot long.

Hoping to get a good distance before the heat of the day, I had my earliest start yet at 0700. Unfortunately, any allusion of making good time quickly died as I felt the headwind I would battle most of the day. A stretch that should have taken me less then three hours took nearly six. I did stop at Badwater and enjoyed walking around the salt flats, but otherwise suffered through the day.

Badwater-salty!

Wind is just supper hard to deal with for me. The only times I've been stressed, scared, of upset this whole trip was been because of wind. Other windy days I've found myself screaming but words of encouragement to help keep me upright and fighting; but this time I found myself just plain yelling at the wind, crusing it for causing me so much trouble. I guess being in the desert got to me, knowing that it would cause me up climb passes in the heat of the day and fully aware of who far it was to water.

During a break on the shoulder, two motorcyclists stopped to make sure I was OK, being cyclists themselves,m they know my suffering. They were great guys and even gave me an extra two liters of water ( I learned on day two of my trip never to refuse water, especially in the desert), this helped significantly knowing that I wouldn't have to ration my water. They also warned me about an aggressive coyote up a few miles ahead.


View of the road

I didn't think much about the coyote until I saw him pacing the road ahead of me. A car coming the other direction stopped to watch and he just circled their car! This made me nervous enough to get my bear spray at the ready (though the wind was blowing the opposite direction and would have made it useless, it still made me feel a little better). I approached slowly and rode in the wrong lane to both gain distance and keep the car there just in case. When I reached the car with the coyote on the other side of it, the people offered me a ride around. However, the coyote wasn't showing signs of aggression and I was already half way, so decided to keep going and look over my shoulder hoping he would follow.

Once I made it to where it started climbing, the wind must have felt sorry for me as it even gave a little tail wind at times (I proceeded to apologize for yelling at it). This climbed up top a pass of only 3300 ft, but was so gradual (and I was so beat by then) that it was a long, slow go. Finally down the other side I hit a record speed of 52 mph on a nice decent into a tiny town where water and cold juice awaited me! Mentally and physically, this was probably me toughest day yet. After 8.5 hours of riding, everything ached badly. Days like this remind me of how much I appreciate the easier days (which are luckily much more frequent).


Never-ending climb

This morning I awoke to more wind. These long, flat, straight stretches are killer in the wind as you feel like your never getting anywhere struggling along at 5 mph. However, I finally made it out of California and am now in Parhump, NV. It's a dust cloud here the winds are so bad, luckily it will be a tail wind of a ways as I head towards Las Vegas. I had planned on skirting Vegas since I"n not a fan, but with going to Utah, it made since. I also had a prompt reply for another warmshowers host there, so I'll be in Vegas tomorrow!


Hoping this wind dies down, or at least pushes me east.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yosemite and the Sierras

Darn, I always mess up the order in which I upload my pictures. Since there are so many this time and my time on the computer is running out fast, I'll go backwards in time, hopefully you don't mind.

Anyway, I’ve been on the road now for just over a month and I truly can’t think of how life could be much better! Life is simple, beautiful, physical, and just plain lovely. It’s exactly what I want and need right now. Each day is new and exciting as I constantly take in the wonders around me. I keep wondering if/how things can get any better and yet they do; I continue to be amazed on a daily basis. I know I still have a long way to go on my journey and things likely won’t always work out as well as they have thus far, but if the rest of this year even comes close to this first month I can’t wait!

I'm in Bishop, CA right now and have been in the Sierras the past week or so which has been incredible. Yesterday I got my new rear wheel in Mammoth Lakes and was lucky to find a bike shop that still had some tools laying around as the mountain was opening for skiing this weekend! I love riding through the snow (since the roads are dry and it's sunny), right along the mountain's edge.

View from the June Lake Loop, awesome road, fierce headwinds!

I've been stopping quite a bit and doing so good exploring which is just what I want to be doing. Got some great recommendations from Roman (hopefully i'm spelling you're name right) who also reminded me to slow down. I've had this in my head the last few weeks but sometimes I need a little help to bring it to the surface. Although Utah was in my original plans, I'd kind of thrown it out recently, but Roman encouraged (or maybe guilted?) me into reconsidering. So, unless I'm way to cold and miserable in AZ or NV, I'll be getting into Utah at least for a little while.

South Tufa, at Mono Lake. Neat stuff.

Into the land of crazy insects, this guy was around 2 in long.

After I left Yosemite, I headed north for a little detour. To wait out the big storm that was coming (2 ft of snow in the mtns and at least 3 in of rain lower), I went to a hot springs. The day it rained I pretty much stayed in my tent all day long until I got way too antsy in the evening and went for an run.

The pass I went over and back on to the hot springs. Lots of snow!

The rain made some god ruts in the dirt road I was on.

Morning after the storm, rainbow and all!

Storm ready.

It's a lot more difficult to write going back in time...

Yosemite. This was fabulous, so much more grand then any pictures have ever conveyed to me. I had two days of camping and hiking in Yosemite Valley, then took two days to ride out of the park.

Up at Tioga Pass at nearly 10,000 ft and boy was it cold! I was racing against the coming storm for sure.

Tulomune Grove of Giant Sequoias, very neat. This is where I met Roman and wasn't going to go down to the grove but he guilted me into it and it was definitely worth it!

Roman, thanks for all the great suggestions!

El Capitan. So impressed with all the climbers (dad included) who do this and Half Dome!

View up the Valley from Eagle Peak

View from El Capitan.

Oh yeah, so I got on two very long day hikes while I was there. The first day I got a late start and hiked up Half Dome which was incredible. To get up the last portion this have a cable pathway which was tons of fun and gorgeous views from the top. The next day my legs were in a lot of pain, but I managed to get up El Capitan and Eagle Peak (though much more slowly). The trail work int his area is crazy, everything is rock pathways. walls, and stairs.

Looking at the cables from the top of Half Dome.

On the top on Half Dome looking up valley


Looking up at the cable and lines of people slowly making their way up and down.

Falls, forget name.

Sorry to be so short, five minutes left. It's wonderful to be in the mountains again. As much as I enjoyed the ocean and coastline, my heart will always belong to the mountains and rivers. I was so happy getting back in to the mountains that I was singing aloud while riding! For much of this month actually I've had a silly smile plastered to my face mile after mile. This trip is just amazing.

Now in the desert and into Death Valley in a day or two.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Central CA

After leaving San Fran, I survived the nearly 50 miles of endless suburbs and strip malls to make it into the hills. As I asked for directions in San Jose the first person thought I was crazy and gave me bad directions. Luckily I found another nice gentleman to send me back in the right direction. I was headed to the highest point in the area, Mt Hamilton at above 4,000 ft. I rode late that night then started early the next morning ready for a long day of hills. Two coyotes ran out in front of me and stopped to stare first thing in the morning.

The climb up to the observatory atop Mt Hamilton was long, took nearly two hours, but was a good grade and I was still feeling strong after my rest days. The road was extremely quiet which made it all the better (only 3 cars passed me in 50 miles!). As I looked out from the summit I saw the continuous hills and ridges I thought I'd be in all day. To my surprise the rest of the ride to the Central valley stayed mainly along a dry stream bed and took me through the valley bottoms. It was a spectacular ride and I was thankful for less climbing as my legs were definitely tired out from the morning.

The view from Hwy 130.
My goal that evening was Modesto. A few weeks back, other cyclists told me about warmshowers.org (a couchsufering for cyclists), I'd signed up but without ready computer access hadn't yet used it. Deciding to give it a try I was delighted to hear back from Tom in Modesto and had a place to stay for the night. Tom and Anne hosted me and took me out to dinner with a group of friends and other cycling enthusiasts: Mark and Julie, and Trina and her two daughters. It was a lot of fun to visit with them and talk about the numerous tours they've done. Later, Mark, Tom and Anne, spent a good amount of time deciding on and mapping out the best route for me to take into Yosemite. This was an excellent first experience with Warmshowers, it's wonderful to meet such great local people who have a passion for cycling. Thank you so much for your generosity, kindness and knowledge!
Tom and Anne
The next morning, Tom escorted me out of town riding along a bike path and canals, great way to avoid the busy streets!


This area is known for its almonds and walnuts. The majority of the day was spent riding through thousands of acres of these trees along nice back roads.
Times running out on the computer! I'm in Mariposa, CA right now and headed into Yosemite today. Had some bike trouble-ran over thorns last night and punctured my tires in 2-5 places on each. Discovered cracks in my rear rim, luckily R & E Cycles is going to send me a new rear wheel-just have to figure out how far I think I can survive on this one. I think I'll be keeping my figures crossed to get me through Yosemite-a storm is coming mid-week that could trap me if I delay.
So long for now.



Sunday, October 4, 2009

San Francisco

It's been a wonderful four days off here in San Fran. I've had excellent company, incredible music, good food (and lots of it), and much needed rest.

The view of the city from a small park near Bre's house.

It was incredible luck to be visiting San Francisco on such a great weekend. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival was two days of amazing music. It's been a long time since I've been to a concert since I'm usually too cheap, but being free this was just perfect!



Erin and Bre at where we saw Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and Gillian Welch!




I haven't been around these types of crowds in a long time, a little overwhelming.

The second day we saw Doc Watson and David Holt, Amiee Mann, Neko Case, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Such a great time! The highlight was probably seeing Emmylou Harris and Old Crow Medicine Show play with Gillian Welch. The wind was horrible but definitely worth the misery.

Now it's back on the bike and off into the mountains! I'll be heading towards Yosemite and hope to do some hiking there. Temps are looking cold in the nights (20's yikes) but still really nice in the daytime! I'm looking forward to being back in the mountains and maybe seeing a little of fall. It's sad to be missing out on my favorite season. After that it's into Death Valley I go!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Northern California

Well, it's been much more difficult to find libraries on the California coast then I had envisioned. I've made it to San Fransisco and am having a wonderful time taking a few days off to rest up, explore with Breanna, and just enjoy this crazy city.

Northern California has been as wonderful as the rest of the trip. Of course, I started in Oregon on a cold, foggy morning and as soon as I crossed into CA the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. The Redwoods were just incredible. On a friends suggestion, I took a small detour to Jedediah Smith State Park (just south of the boarder) and rode Howland Hill Road. It's a small, one-lane dirt road that goes right through a gorgeous section of redwoods for 8 miles. The road was in great shape, traffic was very light and I was able to cruise at 6 mph just in awe of my surroundings. This was definitely the best road I've been on this trip! I stopped to go on a couple of short walks then a longer hike here and camped out in the woods.

One of the giants on Howland Hill Rd.

Once back out on Hwy 101, I met a few new cyclists and stopped with Scott for lunch. I love hearing about other people's trips and the adventures they've been having and though I wouldn't have chosen to eat at a cafe, I couldn't pass up the chance to talk to Scott. He started his journey seven or eight months ago in Florida, rode up to Alaska, is now on his way to the tip of Argentina, then is planning on getting on a plane and biking around other parts of the world. it amazes me what some others have planned and reminds me that my trip (though a perfect choice for me right now) is not that grand or adventurous in comparison, keeps me humble.

Riding through the rest of the redwoods State and National Parks continued to inspire. I camped at Elk Prairie, went for a late afternoon hike trying to get in a seven mile loop before the sun set and enjoyed seeing a few riders that caught back up to me. Though I'd planed on taking a day off in the Redwoods, it just didn't turn out that way for whatever reason. I rode a few shorter days 40-50 miles, and went on hikes instead.

Next I made to to Arcata, a small Hippie town, where I stayed with Nora. I had fun exploring the town which has a great Co-op, lots of little shops, and a center plaza with excellent people watching. It was great to see Nora, shower, go out to eat, and relax to watch movies. Though it was a short visit, it was a good break. Before riding off in the morning, we went to the farmers market and I picked up a bunch of yummy fresh veggies and apples. There was live music, tons of vendors and people and just a great environment.

Arcata Farmer's Market

Nora and me before hitting the road.

Next it was through the Avenue of the Giants, another amazing road with a nice quiet camp in the trees. Then came the day that everyone had been talking about for the past week: the Leggett climb. While guidebook recommended and most other rider were planning on taking two days, I decided to see if I could just get it all over with in one. This section climbs a lot, there are a bunch of big hills the ten or so miles leading up to Leggett, then a long continuous climb up to 2,000 ft before you start winding back down to the coast. This was definitely my hardest day so far but managed to make it all the way back to the ocean.


Back out on the ocean at the best campsite yet, on a bluff just above the ocean. I also had some friendly neighbors camping nearby who brought me a costco bag of dried apricots (I'd better learn to like them!) and a woman who brought fresh grapes in the morning!

Now on Hwy 1. I heard many warnings about this road, how there's lots of traffic, windy roads and no shoulder. While, it was all going fine until the day I rode from Manchester to Bodega Bay. The winds were horrible this day and it was the first time I've been scared biking on this trip. A fifteen mile section before reaching Jenner was particularly bad with high winds, sharp turns, traffic, steep drop-offs, no guard rails in most places, and no shoulder. Luckily it was mainly a tail wind, but with all the turns became a crosswind and headwind at times making me work extremely hard to just stay in my lane. At one point after coming down a steep hill, I turned the corner only to me stopped dead by the wind. I had to get off and walk up the hill a little before I could think about getting back on. The wind was taxing and nerve racking, I ended up stopping a few miles sooner then hoped as I took advantage of camping by the first trees I'd seen in miles.


Along Hwy 1

Next day was the long ride into San Francisco. My legs had been ready to stop riding for a few days now, but I was hoping the excitement of seeing Bre would get me through. The scenery was beautiful as usual, morning didn't have any huge climbs and went well. Around 15 miles north of the Golden Gae Bridge is when the climbing started. One long windy uphill after another continued to present itself as I struggled up. For the fist time on the trip day riders were all over, flying by me and reminding me how slow I'm actually going even though I'd thought I'd been doing pretty well. It was exciting to finally make it to the bridge and see the city, though strange to ride though heavy traffic, lights, and people again.


Golden Gate Bridge

After my highest mileage and longest time day to date (84 miles and 7 hours 45 mins of riding) I found my way through the city to Breanna's. We've been having fun exploring and relaxing and it's a great time to be in San Fran! The weather is perfect, we went to a bar to hear cellists one night, enjoyed Golden Gate Park yesterday and went to "Nightlife" at the Academy of Science last night. Today is catch up and movies, then there's a free three-day bluegrass festival this weekend with tons of great performers! It feels good to take a break from biking, my body was in dire need (18 straight days and 1080 miles is too much I've learned). Hopefully my muscles can mend here and be ready to move again in a few days.

Bre showing off a display in the four-story rainforest exhibit at the Academy of Science.