Sunday, September 21, 2014

Northern Idaho Weekender Prep

Gonna be going on a 3 day tour up in Northern Idaho on a rails-to-trails/dirt road hybrid route. The above picture is basically the route except it's missing the connecting route from St. Mary's to the green arrow to form a loop. Should be a fun trip with my new friends, Paul & Lindsay, Eric, & Hope.

One of the rails-to-trails is the Route of the Hiawatha which consists of 11 tunnels and 9 high trestles in just 46 miles.

Paul did all the planning which was nice since I wanted to do a couple of the routes but didn't want to have to plan something. I'm excited to see the fall colors, go through the tunnels, and see what wild life will be visible. Planning on just doing a similar setup as the PCH trip with a rear rack with panniers, bungie my sleeping bag and sleeping pad, then having my front rack with a food bag, tarp, and tent. Haven't done much riding besides commuting so we'll see how my body fares. Might try and do a loaded ride around Lake Lowell this week if I have time. Will do a gear list and picture, as well as, a loaded bike pic. Until then.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How does one end a trip?

Our last two days of riding were a few of our longest days: 82 miles (Santa Monica to Dana Point, actually our most miles in one day for this tour) and then 67 miles (Dana Point to Point Loma). 

It's amazing to say that the whole tour we had maybe two moments in Washington were it sprinkled on us. Sunshine seemed to cruise right along with us all the way down the coast. I was super thankful for that since rain and me aren't the best of friends. 

The campground at Dana Point sat right on the beach, which was nice, but the traintrack actually sandwiched the campground with the ocean. I think Evan and I counted 21 times that trains came barreling through, literally right next to our tent. That evening thought it would throw another curveball at us by having the police harass the camper right next to us to the point where he had to pack his things and leave. Then 7am came quickly to have an army of campground cleaners come and tidy up the restrooms with a boisterous leader barking orders. Needless to say our quality of sleep was lacking. Thankfully we can laugh about it but I know we were both so tired and sore from the 82 mile ride that all we wanted to do was zonk out but we kept getting woken up.

Most of the ride these past days have been through cities and along developed beaches. It's more slow going with bike paths filled with pedestrians, stoplights, numerous stop signs, and many turns; all we wanted was to ride on a single road where we could get into a rhythm and sit back and enjoy the scenery but we were on alert; trying not to get doored by parked cars along the road, making sure we made eye contact with drivers trying to pull out onto roads, and such. Was a different style of riding, strange how many types of cycling there are when you sit down and think about it.

Our final day of riding from Point Loma to Border Field State Park took us along the banks of San Diego onto bike paths then through a sketchy agricultural area close to the border where 5 helicopters were patrolling and numerous border patrol SUV's were scurrying around on dirt roads. We arrived to the state park and we were the only ones there. It literally sits ontop of a small hill with the border fence extending into the ocean a fair amount. Looked like a nice beach but no one was out enjoying it on the US side, but the Mexico side looked quite nice with a bull fighting arena, lighthouse, really nice houses, and we could see many people and hear a band playing. 

It was a strange location that brought emotions I wasn't quite expecting. The whole ride to the park I kept asking myself, "How does one end a trip?" Something that you've been looking forward too, planning, then actually starting it, then as it comes to completion, how do you prepare to finish it? 

Obviously not cycling everyday helps end the trip, as well as, staying still in one location longer than a day or two, but usually we want some cathartic ending; like movies the protagonist is pushed to the point where it couldn't possibly get worse and they are able to find a way to achieve their goal. 

The state park didn't bring that extra 'umph' that I was hoping it would have. Getting to the border and it being completely empty was strange. No one to share the story with. No one there to witness the ending. 

Thankfully for the age of the internet and smartphones and gizmos and whizz-dee-doors we were able to share the entire journey (the greyhound rides, ferry boats, national parks, tough days, gorgeous days, possible murder, etc.) with our friends and family. 

Letting the last day simmer a bit in the back of my mind, I knew I didn't need a big fantastical finish, nor did I actually want one; I was honestly thankful for my nonchalant phone call to my father who was at the grocery store and him saying, "congratulations on finishing, I'm proud of you."

I didn't do this ride to accumulate accolades or Facebook likes or Instagram followers; I did it because I love the uniqueness of travel it brings, the new stories, new friends, how certain smells have become memories, and I'm glad I was able to share it with everyone that cared to follow. 

I still don't know what to think of how one finishes a trip, but I know there will be many more down the road for me to continue to ponder about.

Thank you all for sharing this experience with us and reading on about my dronings; I am not a writer, my blogging is mainly a source to help with my flawed memory. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Yammerings From La La Land

We are down to a week left for this tour, very crazy! I don't think that it has actually sunk in. 

The actual riding part is almost nonexistent, with seldom hills and mainly trying to manage our way through fickle city stop lights. It took us longer to bike through Santa Barbara and all it's lights than bike to Oxnard. Actually it's pretty crazy, but we did 68 miles that day in 4 hours and some change which is pretty nuts but the thing is, it really didn't feel that long or like we were riding very hard.

Santa Barbara is uber nice; Ventura is it's younger brother; then Oxnard is like an extended cousin, still nice, but definitely lacking in certain niceties and flash that SB and Ventura posses. We planned on staying in Oxnard for the evening, but after getting into town and eating the best fish tacos I've ever had, we still had no response from anyone willing to host us so we kept riding towards a state park.

Along the route, an Air Force base randomly has an exhibit showing off numerous types of missiles and projectiles that are means for death and destruction. Facts and figures fill the plaques with estimated aircrafts they've destroyed and tallies of wars they've been used in. I naturally found it to be utterly absurd and sickening that we were celebrating inanimate objects that were the means of ending so many peoples' lives. I kept muddering to myself, 'Lord, have mercy on us' as well as repeating the words from Holy weak, 'teach peace to the ones we salute.' One day there will be no more war, violence, hate, or missiles with absurd names. I cannot wait for that.

Unfortunately we rode in the darkness about 8 or 9 miles along highway 1 before getting to the campground where they were trying to charge us $20 for a hiker/biker site and the most we'd ever pay for was $12. Thankfully the ranger worked with is so it was just $10. The site was sandy and hard. Setting up a tent via headlamp isn't the easiest or the most fun, but thankfully I've set this tent up so many times that it wasn't too bad.

The next morning we had a shortish 40 miles to ride to Santa Monica with a stop at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu. Our tickets were for 1:30 and we thought we were gonna have so much time to kill in Malibu but in fact the Getty Villa is a lot closer to Santa Monica than Malibu so we were hauling it up and down the Santa Monoca hills to get to the Getty Villa to find out the time was irrelevant. 

We caught the shuttle and took in the gorgeous architecture, sculptures, and other ancient relics. Meandering around the museum in our spandex biker shorts and black tuxedo jerseys always draws the wandering eye so sometimes I felt like we were an art piece being studied and understood.

Been staying with my step-sister, Kim, in Santa Monica which has been wonderful, her, Jonathon (her bf), and Nina (her roommate) have been so kind and accomadating to us. We've enjoyed meals together, story telling, and much laughter watching tv shows.

Evan and I went and saw '12 Years A Slave' one afternoon which was great but very heavy and left you solemn, teary eyed, and full of moral questions. We walked back from the theater fighting tears and minimally speaking to each other. Was very impactfull and tense. 

The rest of that evening we went to a sports bar to watch our two hockey teams battle each other. 

The other day off here, we biked to the main Getty Museum. There were some exhibits of stain glass from a few English cathedrals, pages from the Psalter, other books and art pertaining to the saints and church, a piece of video art by Werner Herzog (one of my favorite documentarians), some wonderful Impressionism from Monet, tent camera obscura, and much much more. We spent several hours fascinated at the variety of art on display.

The rest of the day was spent finishing planning our last few days of the trip, finalizing housing arrangements in San Diego, reading, chatting with Kim, and catching up with the wildness of the internet. That evening we all enjoyed heckling a tv show then Evan and I watched a fren film, 'The Intouchables' before retiring to bed. 

Just a few more days of riding and this tour will be complete. Very exciting and crazy how fast life goes by. Live in the moment. Soak up your opportunities and surroundings whatever they might be.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Travel is glamorous, only in retrospect." - Paul Theroux

For some reason after we left the Big Sur area, it doesn't seem like we have been doing much. Yes, we are still biking but we are ahead of schedule so we are spreading out our days into smaller days so we don't get into San Diego too early and have all this extra time there before we head back to our respective homes.

San Luis Obispo was a nice time seeing some of Evan's friends and making new ones. While we were there we got to go to a concert one evening and the rest of the time we just sat around, read, are oranges, and walked around downtown, nothing too exciting.

Had a short day biking to Pismo Beach, a whopping 14 miles I think. I will say we spent most of our time on the pier mesmerized by the surfers and body borders. The waves seemed pretty nice (WARNING: I'm not a wave expert). 

The sunset was probably the best I have seen on the whole trip actually; out of all the places. It was super clear out and perhaps because I was literally sitting there watching it slowly droop under the horizon was why it left such a lasting impression. I loved the golden shimmer that spewed from the blown out sun and then golden turned to a pumpkin to a red tinge then finally bowing itself completely and leaving a painters pallet of colors to scatter in those final moments before the blues morphed themselves into blacks. 'Twas quite the transformation in a matter of minutes. Quite wonderful.

That evening we spent it eating food, playing cards, trying to do card tricks, and swapping stories at a friend of a friend's place. 

The next day we cruised through 44 miles in 3hrs and some change which was pretty crazy. Passing through more big ag land. Actually there was a part that I hollered to Evan saying that this section reminds me of the Nampa area. On our right were some desert mountains, copious amounts of farm land spread through a valley, and then off to the left were foothills like towards Boise. It was a nice nostalgic feeling. 

We arrived at our Couchsurfing host's house to a key under the mat; we cleaned up, read, then headed to the booming downtown of Lompoc. After eating some delicious Thai food, we nestled into a coffee shop (that has nothing on the Flying M) to read and watch hockey on our iPhones er, or iPod touch for Ev.

As I mentioned, nothing super exciting but something nonetheless.

"Travel is glamorous, only in retrospect." - Paul Theroux

Monday, October 14, 2013

The past three days

To catch up on our last three days, we were supposed to have a short day of riding to a campground 30 miles away from Big Sur; this didn't happen.

The day started off breezy and foggy, a typical coastal morning, then proceeded to clear up in patches revealing spots on the mountains on our left and the cliffs and beaches on our right. We encountered a handful of good hills to climb up then coast down. I would stop off at vista viewpoints to soak up the view, catch my breath, and watch the tourists take pictures with their iPads.

Looking at the mileage, we were getting close to the campground and saw a horde of cars and people around a campground. It was a Jade Festival. The park had signs saying 'closed' and I kept biking through because the park name didn't match with the one we were looking for plus I wanted to get away from the festivities.

I knew that if I got into Gorda, I had gone too far and indeed I did. Perplexed not seeing the campground, I turned my bike around and cycled back and ran into Evan and he kept saying 'This can't be good. This can't be good.' He stopped at the festival and it was indeed our campground but was under a different name. It's a federal campground so it was closed. We proceeded to ride to Gorda to ask about a place to camp and fill up our water bottles, but the water in town is not potable so we had to buy a water bottle each for cooking that evening. The attendant at the only store in town suggested that we camp at Salmon Creek Campground which he said was a mile down the road. 

We rode up several hills and stopped off at a couple areas that we thought might've been salmon creek but after going another 15 miles almost all climbing uphill in some form we saw a sign for it and pulled off where a trailhead and old ranger outpost stood. We decided to call it a day and camp on a patch of grass.

As we were making dinner a VW van drove up to make camp. They were an Aussie couple who were super rad! Sharing stories of Australia and about what they loved and found strange here in America. Then another van pulled up and it was an awesome Canadian couple! That evening we all stood around sharing stories from our travels, country laws, and how we really aren't that different. It was wonderful coming from different places and being able to relate on so many different levels.

The next morning we all huddled together drinking hot beverages as the morning fog sifted through the coastal mountains. As the aussie's were leaving, they gave us a small piece of paper with their contact info, opening up their home to us if so the future allows. I love the generosity and sincerity of that offer. I hope to reconnect with them some day; Australia is on my list.

We all parted ways; us heading south, the Canadians heading to big sur, and the aussie's going up to Carmel. There were a few climbs that day but quite enjoyable with the scenery changing from dramatic cliffs into more flat sand beaches where seals piled themselves on the shore to nap.

Hearst Castle was on our to do list so we took a tour of the 'Grand Rooms' which was quite impressive. Hearst Castle is an intertwining of several European and Spanish pieces of art and architecture. The outside of the house and pools were the most fantastical! My flowery words won't do it justice. 

After our tour we still had to ride a little to the next town south, Cambria. It was a little chilly getting back on the bikes but after a handful of minutes we warmed up. 

We were guests of the DiMaggio family in Cambria; Evan hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail with Marcus. Upon finding their beautifully simple haybale home they made us feel right at home showing us to the shower to get cleaned up and rehydrating us with water and cranberry juice. 

Marcus' dad has been riding the Trans American Trail (cross country) in sections since he's a teacher and this past summer he met a Portugese couple who are biking from Boston to Oregon then down the coast and eventually down to Patagonia. So a couple hours after we arrived, the Portugese couple got there.

There was a big feast of vegetarian chili, cornbread, salad, and ice cream. Stories about everyone's adventures were spilling out all evening. Marcus and Evan were reliving PCT stories and catching up on what other hikers are up to and the Portugese couple and Marcus were reliving their touring times on the East Coast. It was a wonderful time.

Evening approached and got late so we all retired to bed. The next morning we awoke to pancakes and orange juice. We were all having such a good time we didn't want to leave but we all have a schedule of some sorts to get back on so we slowly packed up our bikes.

Our ride from Cambria to San Luis Obispo was relatively flat but hot! It was a really warm day with the heat reflecting off the blacktop road. We were also cycling into a headwind that wasn't much fun. It was a short 30 miles where we rode through a couple of smaller beach towns.

Next thing I know we are in San Luis Obispo or SLO. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Monterey/Big Sur, yes sir

It wouldn't be a bike trip if Evan didn't have bike trouble. On our way from Santa Cruz to Monterey, somewhere amongst farms, Evans front tire stopped spinning. His front hub wasn't allowing it to spin properly so he took off the cap and it was working better. 

It is frustrating when anything happens especially since you think of your options and there really isn't anything viable and you're still far away from a town with a bike shop and even if you could call someone try wouldn't be there for hours. 

My favorite part was riding through countless strawberry fields which are part of Dole, the fruit and vegetable company. The air all around smelled of strawberries which was really nice and some of their fields butted up against the ocean but the sheer size of their farming operation is sickening. It was enormous and soley mono-agriculture which is not good for the soil. 

Another favorite was seeing how autumn's charm was affecting the local plants. There was a sand dune with its sunshined sand glimmering with speckles of orange, red, and yellow that I was just digging hard. We rode along a bike path through Marina, Sand City, Seaside, and into Monterey where the touch of fall was very prevelent. 

Once into Monterey we got Evan's hub fixed at a bike shop then came across an awesome Thai restaurant. Not only was it cheapish food for a touristy place, but the food was really really good. I love when that happens especially when traveling!

That evening we biked up a gnarly hill to the top where we were heading to Veterans Memorial Park where I joked that we were going to be staying the night with the homeless community. In fact the campground was quite full. At the registration center there was a 'wanted' looking poster warning about raccoons in the area and a picture of a repeat offender. Luckily we have the best weapon, Evan Chaney.

Feeling tired after our first day back on the bikes we retired early to our tents. That evening raccoons decided to go after our bags out of all the other campers and we had our food bags put in a safe place an we cover our bikes with a tarp. Evan had some fruit in one of his bags and we could hear them rustling the tarp so Evan got up and was yelling at them and kicking at them. He actually did kick one a little that was in a bag. They came back a couple of times throughout the night but Chaney was on patrol.

The next day we planned on going to the Monterey Aquarium but the tickets were nearly $40 and we still had 30 miles to bike that day so we sadly didn't go. 

The ride from Monterey to Big Sur is a beautiful ride with one of my favorite parts of the coast. It was a lesiurely day of riding up and down hills and I can't even remember how many times I stopped to take pictures and then had to pass two sets of other tourers. 

I've noticed the weather has been a little chillier at night and in the morning. It's a little difficult getting out of my sleeping bag and then once the sun goes down I'm wanting to get in the tent. Once we start biking we warm up and it's not bad. Today was just like that and tomorrow is supposed to get back into the 70s. So almost near perfect weather for today.

The colors of fall followed us down highway 1 adding more beauty to the steep bluffs, massive waves, and mountains butting along side of the ocean.

Staying in a nice campground tonight with food lock boxes. Evan setup his hammock so he's set. We then headed to a restaurant to watch baseball and hockey. Think we are gonna hike around Big Sur tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sunscreen Sponsors!

Well, finally at a computer. So better late than never.

This tour we got sponsored by Beyond Coastal/Chums and All Terrain. They were nice enough to provide us with some extra sunscreen to help keep those UV rays off the tender skin.


All Terrain Sunscreen
Beyond Coastal