Day 5- Oak Grove

Route: Julian CA to Oak Grove Campground
Miles: 41
Total Miles: 155

The sign reads : 97 pleasant people, 2 or 3 grouches

Longest day yet! That will be most days for me, as I am so new to this. I felt pretty good, and it helped that the route was mostly downhill. The best part of the day was meeting some fellow riders who were headed south towards the end of their trip! They saw me wandering around the campground and invited me over for dinner. I ended up crashing at their campsite and waking up early with them in the morning. The group of 4 Canadian guys have been doing the Sierra Cascades in two week sections for the last 4 years. Holy cow, they really have set a pace to meet that timeline! I am intimidated by the people who manage to gut it out and just rock 70-80 mile days without any build up phase. Maybe I’ll get to that point.

It was a great way to end my day, which had started out late and a little rough. On the flight over, one of my mistakes was sort of breaking, sort of misplacing parts for my rear view mirror. My handlebar set up is a little unique and needs a special kind of mirror that I found online. I ordered a new one from Amazon to meet me via general delivery at the Julian post office. Alas, it did not arrive. And wouldn’t. The particular carrier was totally stymied by the perfectly legitimate option of just delivering it to the post office. This made me a little grumpy, which is not a good way to start riding. So I tried listening to music for a bit today when it got hot. One earbud in, light music. It worked pretty well! Until I got to a song from my 80s mix with a “around the world” repeated a million times with a sound that was probably supposed to be a plane taking off, but was just a loogie type noise. I’ll try to find a you tube of it.  Urgh. Less inspiring, and will be deleted.

Also not inspiring was the heat in the desert. I think I only like the desert at sunrise and sunset. Have I mentioned that already? I ended up parking my bike and setting up my chair for a nap and lunch at yet another fire station in Warner Springs. Lo and behold just down the road was a PCT support center that the community has, and which allowed me to wet my shirt and hair for the heat after I got going again. It was dry in like 5 minutes, but it helped. As the sun started to set, things cooled off, and turned golden beautiful. I found it interesting to pass a large tract of land owned by the Navy for their survival school. Navy? Desert? I guess they were borrowing from the boy scouts to “be prepared.” Also, I’ll bet that is an awful training.

Thanks to Dwayne, Everrett, Fabian, and Tim for an evening of rejuvenating conversation!

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Thoughts- Riding in Cars with Bison

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Photo Credit: KPAX

As I’m getting into the groove (I think?) of things, I’m starting to direct my thoughts towards more serious things. Usually as I ride, I’m chatting to myself about traffic, route plans, and songs that are stuck in my head. But I want to occasionally delve deeper. Today’s subject: being a tourist amidst all the stupid tourist incidents back home in Yellowstone.

I think for the most part that people know when they are being foolish or taking undue risks. For the most part. Yes, ignorance does play a role, but most humans are perceptive enough to know when they shouldn’t act on a thought. However, I think Americans as a whole are lacking in some key mental components that help prevent danger. We have developed a secular disinterest in the concept of “fate.” Now this isn’t a criticism of the general rise of a secular humanist attitude, and I think we do a great job analyzing risk in terms of probability (1 in 100, etc). But fate, in a religious sense, was a more personal concept. Because we as a society tend to look at risk in terms of numbers, this allows folks to believe that they are (or are not) that 1 in 100 event. You see this in all sorts of places- parents belief for instance that their child will become a professional athlete, or that belief that of a brewery goer that they would be okay driving a little tipsy, “I am ooookay,” nothing bad will happen. Fate, or karma, however has to do with the individual.

Most religious perceptions of action and reaction portray consequence of the acts of an individual or group. It is a cause and effect relationship that arises directly from specific action or inaction. If I walk onto sacred ground, I will be responsible for the negative consequences, such as falling through delicate terrain. If our society is not going to develop this train of thinking through religion, then we need a replacement strategy for helping people to actualize the personal impacts of our behaviors and decisions. This would also be important when facing larger world issues like climate change, poverty, or displacement due to conflict.

That said, part of the stupidity, people putting bison in cars or taking selfies with wild animals, comes from a sense of wonder. I can’t blame anyone for that. It is one of the driving forces of my journey, to develop my sense of awe to carry over into my “regular” life. We have a deep need as a society I think to reconnect our mental/spiritual/existential selves to the natural world, against which we have constructed an imaginary barrier.

So the question becomes, how can we interact honestly with places that are outside our experience? Part of my answer is that we need to go more slowly. I’m loving the pace (and my very slow one at that) of bike travel. It allows me to stop and take a breath and find something beautiful around me. I can ask a question about something, and ponder it. Another part of my answer comes from putting ourselves in a place of ownership over our experiences. When I know where my food comes from, I can understand the life cycle better. When I learn how to make a simple mechanical fix, that I could have paid someone else to do faster and better, I learn my relationship to that thing and my responsibility to care for it. When I pause and listen to that inner voice that is connecting to something real, I can understand my role better. I want us all to view ourselves as a part of every thing we do and interact with. Action and reaction.

Day 4-Julian

Route: Wooded Hills on Mt. Laguna to Julian CA
Route Miles: 27
Total Trip Miles: 114

Wahoo! I crossed the 100 miles pedaled mark this morning! I was ridiculously excited, even though it feels relatively slow going. However, the views of Anza Borrego Desert State Park were pretty incredible in the morning light. I also found the PCT and hiked about 100 yards along it. You can see it going for miles across the desert, up and down and up and down again with very little shade.

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The PCT is in the bottom left corner. Out beyond is Anza Borrego Desert.

Today was a “rest” day, but I still biked a healthy distance. Most of it was downhill (remember, what goes down must go up again). In town, I took advantage of the local library and took a nap in a cushy chair, and spent several hours reading. My mirror had not arrived at the post office, and I’m worried this will be due to Amazon maybe not doing general delivery. But they said it’ll be here tomorrow when I called. So I wait. In the mean time, today’s adventure was finding a place to stay. The San Diego county parks are awfully expensive compared to my budget expectations, so it’s time to get creative. When I was asking the ranger if they offered hiker/biker prices, which they don’t, he had a thought and said he’d call me back in a few. So I waited some more. He called a friend who owns a winery, and who is graciously letting me crash there. It was a couple miles out of town on a very hilly road, but it was beautiful in the vineyard. There is a group setting up for a blues music festival that starts tomorrow. At first they were confused and were refusing to let me stay. I think my eyes watered up a little, and the guy slowed down enough for me to say that I wasn’t there for the festival and wasn’t trying to scam his operation. No real tears yet, though 😉

I managed to cook real food for the first time tonight. Mostly I’ve been eating deli sandwiches. So I made spanish rice with tomatoes, coconut milk, lime, and avocado. But the portion turned out HUGE. Travelling solo, the food gets a little complicated. So full. And leftovers in a ziplock for tomorrow.

There is a cat here to keep me company, and he reminds me a little of Alanna’s (only my nerd friends will understand), with soft black fur and purple-grey eyes. He is my protector for the evening, the vineyard guardian.

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Vineyard Sunset

Day 3- Mt. Laguna

Route: Potrero, CA to Wooded Hills Campground, Mt. Laguna, CA
Route Miles: 27
Total Miles: 87

I started the day off with a shower!! Usually they cost money, but the money thing was broken and the ranger said to just go for it. Boom. I’m not that dirty yet, but a shower always feels good after some travels. I managed to be up earlier and out 2 hours sooner than yesterday. It’s still a little later than I’d like, but I’ll figure it out. I headed up the hill and got my first “Right on!! yell from the side of the road, which was awesome until they followed it up with a “That’s a big a** hill!” And it was, but the cheering helped. In Campo, I looked for the Pacific Crest Trail, as that is the official start, but I didn’t see it. I’ll cross it several times though. And I know I’m about 4 weeks behind the hikers. They’ll be seeing me soon 🙂

I found a Subway!! $5 Footlong!! Lunch and Dinner on a budget. Yum. After that the road started to climb again, not a bad grade, just up and up and up on a mostly straight highway. The heat also started to crank up, and the hill got steeper and steeper. Finally I ended up walking a bit as I was tired and the road was covered in broken blue glass bottles. One thing I’ve noticed is that even though there are always Adopt-a-Highway signs every two miles, the roads in California have been pretty trashy. Perhaps this is a side-effect of going by bike, that I notice garbage more than I would in a car. However, it’s a little disheartening. The people more than make up for it though.

I ended up stopping at a border patrol check point and asking to re-fill my water. I wasn’t out, but was uncertain if I wanted to go off-route down hill to a nearby town. The agent lady not only refilled my bottles with cold cold water, but she also gave me some of the border patrol’s concentrated electrolytes called “Sqwuincher” (sp?). I continued on another 1/4 mile, and voila, a fire station with big shady trees. Nap time and lunch. I really like stopping in the heat of the day, it’s a very refreshing habit that has kept my mood up. Inside the fire station restroom there was even a sign from Missoula fire researchers, a little tidbit from home that cheered me. And a firefighter left me with another water bottle and a powerade. People rock. Further up the road (and the hill), a fellow named Sam stopped to chat and ended up giving me 2 nectarines and 3 oranges. Their sweet, juicy freshness was completely worth the extra weight.

I ended the night wild camping on National Forest at Wooded Hills, where it is much cooler and about 6000 feet. I pulled out my leg warmers, only to find some dog hair had come along for the ride, like a little love note from home. I miss my little family! But day 3 ended well under the moonlight.

Day 2- Potrero

Route: Sweetwater Summit Campground, Bonita CA to Potrero, CA via Tecate Mexico
Route Miles- 35 mi
Total Trip Miles- 60

And that was that. Mostly. I found a convenience store in the much smaller American Tecate (the Mexican side was huge and had lots of awesome music and smells of evening dinner), got an Ice Cream sandwich, and biked back up the road to Potrero. (Tecate is out of the way) It was interesting to notice an immediate decline in traffic in the new direction. I guess people (legally! trust me, there’s several check points) commute from Tecate to San Diego for work every day, and back again. I was now going opposite the commuter traffic. Nice. Potrero took another huge climb, but I made it. Day 2 on the books.

Day 1- San Diego

Route: REI San Diego to Sweetwater Summit Campground, Bonita Ca
Route Miles- 25 mi
Total Trip Miles- 25

Today was a long day, starting in Bozeman at 5:00 am and coming to a close at about 9:00 pm in San Diego. But I’m feeling good about the start to the trip! Arriving at the air port, I realized that although I’d looked up some beaches in San Diego, I hadn’t really planned out my day, how to get to REI, and then how to get to my planned camping location. I was hoping to use public transit, and ended up on a bus going into downtown, which completely turned me around. I got off at a train station, called REI and asked which train to take up there. Alas, no trains would get me close. Further, I realized that in my earlier planning, I had mentally switched REI with another bike shop, the other one being on the side of town closer to my route. I didn’t really ponder this error until later.

I found the ocean, enjoyed a waterside snack, and then succumbed to using UBER to get up to my bicycle. And at last! I was reunited with Andromeda. They were still putting her together for me, so I gathered bits of needed gear that I had not been able to fly with (ie. Bear Spray). The folks there graciously let me unpack my suitcases on the floor in a corner by the bike shop. The repacking into panniers was successful excepting the demise of my special mirror 😦  This mirror works well with my butterfly handlebars, and the standard ones at most bike shops do not. That’s okay, I ordered another one from Amazon to meet me in Julian.

The fellow who put my bike back together also very helpfully gave me a San Diego bike map and pointed out the best route to get to my camping. It would take me by the ocean, nice and flat, easy-peasy way to get started. And so it began.

At this point, several things conspired to create a rather stressful ride. First, I found myself riding through an unfamiliar city. And though San Diego has wonderful bike lanes that kept me out of traffic, I was super uncomfortable not really knowing where I was at, even with a map. Second, my bike computer wasn’t working due to sheer laziness on my part, which wouldn’t normally be a problem except that my concept of how far I had to go was completely skewed, thus leaving me feeling lost. Third, I actually had pretty far to go. In my mind before getting on the plane, I thought I’d have a 6 mile ride. But it actually was 25. Oh, and the sun sets at 8 here in SoCal, which limited my time.

Eventually I found my way, with the help of some great people. I saw a huge navy ship on the ocean, found a sweet bike highway with Louis’ help. He was headed home to Tiajuana, Mex. where he bikes to work from every day. Finally, I found my camp ground, and even made it up a steep little climb. Peace and quiet (except for the family watching movies next door. Yes, movies. On a giant tv. Until 2 am. With some in-fighting. But I slept great.)

Day 1 accomplished!

 

 

On The Way


Farewell, Bridger mountains! 

I’ve made it successfully to San Diego, and am awaiting reunion with my bike. Tonight I’ll camp and get my gear in order. Tomorrow I head off, officially in the saddle. 

Thanks to all the amazing people around me who have offered their support, especially my hupsband (spelled how I want it). 

More to come when I get my wheels under me and get out of the city. 

One Week Out

Yup. I leave in one week! Many thoughts are running through my head, as I am sure happens to anyone before they take on something big. The reality is sinking in…

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The completed cockpit. 

Things I am nervous for:

  1. Riding a route that has been referred to by Outside Magazine as “leg pulverizing” and “the most difficult border-to-border road ride ever designed.” Those aren’t exactly encouraging words. BUT lots of folks do this route. If they can do it, I can do it. It’ll just hurt a bit.
  2. Riding through the desert in SoCal. I’ve never spent much time in the desert. How hot will it really get? (Weather.com says 80 ish) How much water should I carry? Can I wake up early enough in the morning to beat the heat?
  3. Underestimating my budget. I’m planning on doing lots of wild camping, asking for hospitality at churches and fire/police stations, and using a site called WarmShowers where cyclists host other cyclists. What if I end up in campgrounds more than I am thinking? That would be okay, but I’d rather spend less on lodging if possible.
  4. Relying purely on my own problem solving faculties. I trust myself and my abilities, but part of my motivation for this trip is that I’ve realized how much I rely on others. I think having people to lean on is important, but so is being able to look to myself. I’m nervous that it’ll be a learning curve.
  5. Feeling homesick. Out walking in the woods with Mr. Bike this evening, I was recognizing how very much I love Montana, the people and places that are my home. What if I spend my whole trip just longing to be at home? Would that waste the experience, or would it just teach me more about myself? I will miss my husband. SO MUCH. I’m not even sure how to describe the feeling. He is my companion.

There are also lots of things I’m excited for:

  1. Challenging myself with a task that is mentally and physically difficult, that I am choosing to face intentionally. I want to craft resilience and grit in myself (edu jargon!). It’s what my friend calls “Challenge by Choice.” Another friend from college is traveling the world with her husband, and he put it nicely on their blog P&E World Tour: this is an adventure that “is not fun while you’re doing it, but it is fun to talk about later.”
  2. Seeing beautiful places that I have never seen. I get to ride through Yosemite and Sequoia and King’s Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Olympic, Northern Cascades. I get to see giant trees, and climb giant mountain passes, and examine strange desert plants. I hope the stars are amazing.
  3. Connecting with people in a meaningful way. Often during my “real” life, I feel that I fly by people without really engaging with them. The old “Hey, how’s it going?” “Good, how ’bout you?” conversation. But I’m hoping that doing something interesting will allow me to meet interesting people and hear their stories. There should be more storytelling with each other.
  4. Meditating through movement. I am a quiet soul, a body at rest. I do yoga, and can spend hours on a Sunday morning gazing at the ceiling above my bed and journeying through my imagination. I like that about myself. But, I think my life needs more movement in order to stay healthy and to relieve stress. I’m excited to practice moving.
  5. Facing the unknown. There is a lot about this trip that I have no idea or plan for. Timing? Meh, could be spot on, could be way off. Route? Yikes, maybe I’ll abandon the mountains for the coast. So much of life feels regimented and planned: go to college, get degree, get job, marriage, house, kids. My teaching life follows the same schedule and habits most days. I am excited to relax in not having a totally figured out plan. That’s what makes it an adventure, is I don’t know what to expect.
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Bluebird day for the final shakedown ride.

Get Out of Town, Shake it Down

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As the date for my trip approaches, I’m trying to iron out all the kinks and pretend like I’m preparing effectively for this massive undertaking. While fewer miles have been put on my Skye than I would have liked, we have managed some adventures. For Mr. Bike’s and my 7th anniversary, I made a three-day weekend, and we went bike camping for a shakedown tour. The goal was to drive outside of town, and park the car with “just in case” gear while I rode 50 miles to a campsite and Mr. Bike would ride half out and back to grab the car and drive down. We decided that camping outside Yellowstone would be ideal, with a stop for a soak at the magic waters of Chico. So away we went, on what was indeed an adventure. Here is what I learned:

  1. Headwinds are hard! All the way from Livingston to Emigrant, the wind was blowing hard. I maintained a 3-5 mph average, which is not fast at all. The diamond reflector things make good pullouts for a brief rest, and I learned that there are 17 of them in a mile. With the wind, I stopped short, even though I’d planned to go 15 mi further. Lessons learned? Start early in the day to accommodate conditions out of my control. Oh, and when the weather report says  “S” in regards to wind, it doesn’t mean blowing to the South. So be cool with low gears.
  2. Have plenty of food on hand. In our eagerness to get going, combined with a late start, we didn’t really contemplate the timing and necessity of carrying a meal in addition to snacks. We were both very, very, very hungry at the end of our rides, and it made the physical work that much more difficult.
  3. This is weird to say on the internet, but underwear isn’t as necessary for daily life as I thought. However, they do seem to keep my bum warm. Cycle shorts are made to be worn without the pantaloons, but with the wind, my tush was cold.
  4. A highway with more traffic and more shoulder space is better than a road with lighter traffic and no shoulder. Taking the scenic East River Road for a “quieter” ride, we discovered that blind corners and no shoulder is a nervous-making combination. So I’ll take a little more traffic if it means a more developed road.
  5. Did I mention food? Touring and other long distance activities, according to the internet, are good excuses to eat such nutritious food as pop-tarts. But pop-tarts don’t get one very far…
  6. Did I mention wind? Tailwinds are incredible. You can hear everything around you for miles. You’re zooming on with barely a stroke of the pedals. My return trip back towards Livingston two days later made me feel like a Goddess of speed and athleticism. This time, I had way more food in my panniers and hardly ate a quarter of my snacks that had previously been insufficient against the headwind. Lesson learned? Take advantage of the good days.
  7. My gear worked out pretty well, with only a few more adjustments to make. I’m excited to add front panniers to balance the weight and offer more organizational opportunities, as this shakedown I only had my rear rack set up. I’ve heard varying opinions on which way the 60-40 weight balance should go: front or back? That bears further testing.
    1. Wool mittens are warm, but lack mobility and control.
    2. My tent will be huge with just me, so I’ll be able to have all my gear inside at night.
    3. I’m uncertain what my plan of action is for bears (aside from bear spray, duh). Will a bear bag suffice? Or do I need to get one of those awful, bulky bucket things?
    4. Small adjustments to the seat and handlebars have drastic impacts on comfort.
  8. People are amazing!!!!!! Let me add some more exclamation points!!!! I stopped for food at the Emigrant market on the way out (and really to await rescue from the wind by Mr. Bike), amazing things happened, aside from animal cookies and chocolate. Within the first fifteen minutes I had awe from the ladies at the register that made me feel amazing, a kiss on the hand from a gentleman named Louis, and a free room at Chico from a guy named Colin (coh-lin) who told me he works there. He noticed my bike while I was in the lobby stuffing my face with the aforementioned animal crackers and struck up a conversation with me. We chatted about his bike tours (plural) across the country, and my plans. He was very encouraging and excited about meeting a new cyclist. When he asked where I was staying and discovered that I was planning on camping, he offered to see if Chico had any unused rooms that I could use. Unbeknownst to me, Colin is the owner of Chico Hot Springs and worked it out for me to have a free room. Deep thanks to my road angel. I’m not even a hundred miles from home, and already people are helping me out and pushing me forward.
  9. I love my husband. He likes bicycles. He encourages me, he trusts me to go on this adventure and make the most of it. He is a badass that goes over mountains with me. This shakedown was the perfect anniversary. We have such fun together, trying to roast marshmallows with barbecue tongs and camping among huge boulders. We had a fancy dinner at Chico, which we shared it, partly because holy $$ batman, but also because we like each other. I never see people really sharing with those they love that often. And we do. Cool beans.
  10. This is going to be hard. Really hard. And I’ll want to quit. And I’ll doubt my ability to be successful. And I’ll miss my hubs/dogs/home/Montana. But I think that I can do this. I think I’ll even have fun, and get strong, and learn all kinds of new things. I think I’m excited.
  1. Resting from the wind. 2) Back in the wind. 3) Andromeda rides with camels. 4) I skunked him at cribbage. Mr. Bike is on a bad losing streak. 5) Beautiful Paradise Valley.