Day 6- Hurkey Creek

Route- Oak Grove Campground to Hurkey Creek Campground

Route Miles- 41 

Total Miles- 196

Evening hilltop, plus some cloud cover

Me after climbing the hill


Waking up in the early dawn with the Canadians, I realized I’m losing track of days in that delightful summer way. Each day just becomes about itself instead of what’s next. None of us were very talkative morning folk; I hope it wasn’t awkward that I didn’t say much. They left before the sun, and we squeezed in a picture. I haven’t asked them to send it to me yet. I did not leave before the sun, my morning routines are a little slower. Apparently 2 hours is just how it goes for me. And Andomeda required some minor tinkering to prevent my bags from rattling. Tim, one of the guys has been following them in a car and stayed to chat a bit. He’s been taking side trips to interesting places and then bringing his friends fresh veggies and beer in the evenings. They shared the beer with me, and I was able to contribute a lime! I’m glad I encountered the Canadians. 
All of the rural counties out here seem to run regular and cheap busses for commuting to the metro areas, and they have bike racks. I’m not loving the desert incredible much, and I’m a *bit* behind my expected pace, so I think I’ll be skipping ahead after Palmdale (I hear the head winds are brutal in one of the country’s largest wind farm areas). 

The hills today were long and hard, especially going up to Anza. There wasn’t really a shoulder, par for the course in CA, limited pull outs, and Saturday morning tourist traffic. I got buzzed by a billion douche trucks with dirt bikes in the back, many of whom seemed annoyed at my lack of engine. Most gave me room, but a couple honked. I choose to interpret that as encouragement. 😎 I’m sure it gets even harder later. But I made it up in one piece and stopped to watch the motocross event from the highway. The course was interesting, a small layered loop on a hillside, bikes leaping all around the place, following each other over jumps and tight corners. The strangest part was watching the water spraying truck out wetting the track, to lay down dust and add traction to keep it safe, I presume. But this is the freakin desert, ya’ll. There are signs everywhere asking people to conserve water, and instead they’re just dumping it out on gravel, making mud and adding to hillside erosion. Hmmm…

Motocross hill, look closely to see some flyers and find the water truck


In Anza, I found myself hit and grumpy and didn’t really find a place to nap. So I waited out the heat in the library and a Dairy Queen. I managed to push on up another steep climb. The traffic was much better, and I was able to gut it out up a hill I thought I might have to hitch up. I climbed so high that I found myself in a lovely cool ponderosa forest. T felt like home. Maybe that is one of my insights, which is not unexpected, that I love my home and my connection with the land in Montana. 

I ended the night in a noisy and boisterous campground. Instead of bothering me, I found myself happy. People are getting outside and taking their kids. Maybe they could bring less electricity, but hey, they’re sleeping in the dirt just like me. And all the cute little kiddos running around have me rocking a terrible baby fever. Note to self: an acceptable use for bear bells- attach to toddlers for easy location. 

Mountain Sunset, feels like home


Insights from today:

– Midday naps are amazing. I should keep a yoga mat in my classroom for some corpse pose at lunch to refresh and rejuvenate. 

-I don’t like not having a plan for food each day, and just waiting to see what I find. That’s what we did at home this year. It’s stressful and we end up eating less healthy than we could. So I’d like to plan meals, get home from a long day of work and just make what’s for dinner without it being an added trial.

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!

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. 

Dementors, Loss, and Adventure

The mountains are swathed in rainy, snowy mists and the clouds have settled low around our town. Even though the spring green is beginning to pop, that special grey-day green, the weather is getting people down. It seems that dementors are about.

img_1067Photo Credit: Lutz Braum @ Snapshots For Sore Eyes

Each time we’ve left home for a mini-adventure lately, something has happened to put a big damper on the fun. When on spring break (the last time I actually wrote a blog post) our car was broken into and almost all our camping gear was stolen. Turkey hunting with friends a week ago, our dog escaped their back yard and went on an adventure of his own that resulted in a steep vet bill and one sad dog who is trapped in a kennel while his dislocated hip heals. Remarking on the seeming bad luck to my friend, she pointed out it might not be such a great idea to be calling attention to the bad luck right before I go on a grand cycling adventure (probably) by myself.

But it’s hard not to feel like there’s a force of darkness trying to suck the spirit out of my plans. Losing so much of our outdoor gear was especially disheartening. Our tent, Mr. Bike’s backpack, hiking boots, sleeping bags and pads, bike helmets, rain jackets, and the list goes on. We hadn’t realized just how valuable all of that stuff was to us until we suddenly didn’t have it. It had taken years to set ourselves up. Typically, I think, when telling stories like this it would be expected to go on about how being robbed taught us an important lesson about not being attached to stuff. And normally I would agree. Except when you use the stuff regularly and in ways that has greatly enriched our lives. Mr. Bike gave me our tent for my 21st birthday; he set it up in the snow and cooked me french toast over a whisperlight stove. His backpack was his corresponding birthday present from me. Our adventures have shaped us. I tried to not be particularly upset, and managed well until an insurance payment and tax refund came in allowing us to replenish the missing items. Buying things that I’d already owned, and which had served perfectly well, put me in a funk. I’m sure that we’ll make new memories, and really each thing we had to replace is part of the “remember that time we tried to have an adventure and got totally robbed?” story.

I could have borne it better if just a week after replacing most of our gear we didn’t have to fork over another arm and leg for our dog. Mr. Kepler Ginger Dog had a day out chasing gophers across the interstate, where he encountered a car. He survived, unbelievably, only a little worse for the wear. His hip was dislocated, which was not so easy to put back. Currently he lives in a kennel and stares out at us very sad and unable to understand why we have locked him away. Our hypothetical conversations of the past wherein we laid down our limit, what we considered to be a reasonable amount for dog repair, were suddenly irrelevant. So, money. At that point, I started to consider that maybe I shouldn’t go on my trip. Maybe I should save the money and put it to more “responsible” purposes. But Mr. Bike won’t let me quit, and I don’t really want to either.

Even though the dementors are closing in, I am ready to go adventure. Perhaps dragging and lagging, feeling down, and feeling tired are the perfect reasons to go. Reset. Rest. Make my own luck. And as bad as getting robbed and having to find my damaged dog on the side of the interstate were, I know that there are darker things out there. Several of my friends have lost loved ones this spring. Several more are in the process of losing loved ones right now. Darkness comes everyday. In doing things that matter, spending time with family and friends, trusting ourselves, working through hard things we can add a little light to the picture.

Beginnings and Early Days

Welcome to Teach.Wander. Learn. This is a story about an English teacher going on a cycling journey this summer, hoping to gain a little something along the way. The Adventure Cycling Association‘s road route along the Sierra Cascades crosses some awe inspiring terrain and will push me to my limits. But I’m going. This is my commitment. And this is also the story of my experiences teaching, the classes I plan, the students that drive me and drive me up the wall. Welcome.

I woke up early this morning. On a weekend. Something Mr. Bike will tell you doesn’t happen ever. My mind was all over the place. I was thinking about what to say to the “world” regarding my upcoming cycling adventure. This post could tell you about the agony over naming my blog (there were various escapades into alliteration and a brief flash of disappointment that another teacher already named their bike blog “Pedalgogy”), or about how I’ve put off really committing, or about how I’ll miss Montana in the summertime, miss adventuring with my hubs and dogs and friends.

I could also tell you that I’m excited to do something big. I’m excited that I’ll be able to say “I remember when I biked from Mexico to Canada and home. It was awesome.”

Grit is my goal. Foster some real grit and be able to share it with other people. Over the next six months leading up to and through my trip, I would like to create the building blocks of a community for teachers who want to be refreshed in their ideas and their spirits. Long-term, I would love to see a program for teachers to create courses of self-study paired with adventures that challenge them, where they can get professional and educational credit for pushing their own boundaries.

On a related note, let me extend an invitation to you, teacher or not, wherever you are at in life, come with me if you can for all or part of my journey. I’ll be biking 3400 mi from San Diego, CA to Bozeman, MT over the course of ten weeks: June 13th to August 22nd, 2016. Along the way, in addition to planning my fall courses, I’ll be studying EcoLit, Photography, and Place-Based Writing to make me a better English teacher. I’d love to have some company.

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