Friday, August 14, 2009
The ride took about an hour and soon we stepped off onto the Embarcadero. It was unreal. To have finished it. To be in San Francisco. The bustle in the streets in front of us. The buildings towering above in indifference. I knew we had made it across the country but it was more of a cerebral understanding than a gut feeling. Straddled the bikes and started riding north around the waterfront to the Golden Gate Bridge. The shops were buzzing, the sidewalks choked with people – it was something else after being out in nothing for so long. We were passing one of the forts when we ran into a guy Jordan knew from SDSU and who I had met on a critical mass ride. Unreal. We traded a few words but were momentarily interrupted when a French tourist fell over on her rented bicycle. The slope was quite steep there and I guess she was in the wrong gear. I didn't see her go down but the crunch of the fall was awful. Metal on asphalt in a violent, grating smack. She was fine but some old curmudgeon yelled at her to get out of the way as he was ascending the hill. I yelled back to mellow out.
We pressed on and to the bridge. Stopped at Fort Point underneath the Southern gate and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the span stretching toward Marin County on our left. Two days shy of two months. Rain. Dust. Burning lungs. Aching legs. Mechanical breakdown disaster. There had been obstacles aplenty but we had done it all the same. Made some phone calls and packed it up, heading toward Golden Gate Park. We ended up picking Broderick Street and encountered the steepest hills of the entire tour. Ascent. Plateau. Ascent. Plateau. Insanely steep. Jordan went at it full bore but Jeremy and I would climb one stretch, circle on the flat for a few seconds to catch our breath, and then summit another. Our gearing was wildly inadequate for this hill. Pushing our feet desperately down, just hoping to finish the current revolution of the pedals before the next. And this was with fully loaded wooly mammoth, beluga whale, rhinoceros excuses for a bicycle. We made it to the top, tired. A moving truck was bottomed out over the crest of the hill and the driver was yelling obscenities at everyone and car drivers were beeping their horn as if that would solve the problem. I actually thought it was pretty damn humorous.
Tore down the other side of the hill and found the park and a number of bike shops all around the perimeter. I know, we're awfully predictable. We eat a lot and browse bike shops as tourist attractions. But we'll change for no man! Anyway, we asked for food suggestions and rode to Haight Street and the Bluefront cafe. Food was magnificent. We sat right next to the window so we could keep a sharp eye on the bikes when three girls walked by and asked us about them. “Hey, are you guys touring?” “Yep.” “We are too.” “Really, where to?” “Down the Pacific Coast.” “Yeah, that's where we're going too.” “What are you doing now?” “Going over to Golden Gate Park.” “Yeah, us too.” We all rode over to the Botanical Gardens and hung out with Helen, Minnie, and Tallulah. We traded stories for a couple of hours and had a really good time meeting another crew of tourists. Soon enough it was time to split, but we traded phone numbers and thought we'd probably meet again. Haney picked us up in his truck and we loaded the bikes in the back with no problem. Loading ourselves into the cab was another story. The truck is intended for two people but we pushed the boundaries of conventional existence and shoved the four of us all in. We now have an especially intimate understanding of each other. No cops stopped us and we drove over to Berkeley and spilled out of the clown car. Michael (Haney) lives in the Davis Co-Op and gave us the grand tour.
But wait, there's more. We went to a small party a few BART stations away later that evening. Haney's friend Bobby brews his own beer and was previewing a new batch for a close circle of friends. We met a girl named Heather who had ridden cross country the summer before. It was awesome to know all the places and get excited when we both remembered some small store or small town. Meeting a fellow tourist is a cool experience. You get to cut all the crap. You understand each other on an immediate level because of the shared adventure. You remember your suffering, and triumphs, and know they've been through exactly the same. You can skip the chit chat about the weather and just be on the level with a brother in arms. It was really, really cool. The party simmered to a close and we said goodbye to Heather, and then to Bobby, and took the train back to Haney's house.
We made it.
Plenty to see.
We cooked some oatmeal and pushed off from Sacramento. We took a brief visit at the Capitol building before riding on to Davis. Met two cyclists out for a day trip and let them break the wind for us. Excellent. We paralleled the freeway and rode over an estuary and made it to Davis early in the morning. Sitting behind the riders had really been a pleasure cruise. Started with a tour of the bike shops but it was too early so we had to be satisfied peering through the windows, smudging up the glass. We pedaled over to the school and moseyed down the different paths, taking in the buildings. It was time to eat so we found a bagel place in the middle of downtown. That place was a vortex, a black hole of line waiting and bagel selection. Jordan, however, got an egg sandwich bagel meal and was very pleased. We put down the dough and continued on.
We took another path out of the city and into the farmland and the orchards. There were all kinds of cyclists out day, it was recreation season, undoubtedly. We pushed hard from Davis and were soon rewarded for the energy expenditure with a town called Winters. You take a right off the main road, cross over a bridge, and enter into a beautiful downtown with a historic charm. Etched, masonry buildings house shops and restaurants, but best of all is the park right in the heart of it all. Better still is arriving on a Sunday morning when the farmer's market is in full swing. There were grapes and peaches and Arnold Palmer and an old-timey band with a stand up bass, banjo, guitar, and mandolin. The music was good and the atmosphere was better. Kids rambled off to be chased by their parents and people sat underneath the shade of trees to enjoy whatever purchase they had just made at the booths nearby. Everyone was attractive, and smiling, and the sun beat down a warm hello. It was spectacular. We indulged in some cookies at the bakery and bread stand and the girl working there was one of the most beautiful in existence. Not in falsehood, totally genuine.
The band started to lay into some mean solos and the musicians were trading back and forth, reaching a fever pitch. Pushing the tempo, up to crescendo, fingers flying furiously and then a final note. People applauded and the song marked the unofficial end of the market as vendors began to take down their canopies and put away their wares. We didn't want to leave. I wish I was there now. It was more than you could have asked for. But relocation seemed implausible so we got back on the bikes with heavy hearts. More rural riding, more stiff winds, and some ups and downs to a bedroom community called Fairfield. We arrived in a suburban area and clamored for a shopping center. “Financial services? Boo! Where is the food?” We rode down a hill and saw a Safeway. “Hooray!” We took the turn and our momentum dropped us right at the front door of a Round Table Pizza. Good coincidence. Jeremy and I had both scored free stuff from a scratchers game at the previous Round Table. I collected my pan pizza and Jeremy his cheese sticks. We arrived right around two o'clock for the close of the buffet but in another instance of creating our own reality we inquired about the remaining buffet items and proceeded to eat them all. Here's to embracing bold desire.
Originally we had planned to reach the ferry in two days but we discussed riding all the way to the terminal and taking an early boat over to San Francisco the next morning. We pressed on through more atrocious wind and stopped at a bike shop in a place called Rockville. The owner gave us the word on a shortcut that could slice as many as ten miles off the remainder of the ride. He drew us a map, we said let's do it, and continued on. The wind was awful. It was blowing so hard it pushed suspended street signs nearly parallel to the ground. It was stupid windy. Absurd windy. We managed to keep a smile on though. We got to a gate and the key to the shortcut. A frontage road runs right alongside the 80 but is closed and in disrepair. We shoved our bikes underneath the gate and it became clear that my bike is the heaviest by far. The road is heavily cracked and rough, bushes grow in wide gashes in the blacktop, and Jordan and Jeremy were all over the place with their bikes. Crazies. The road connected to a bike path and we climbed a hill and we could see Vallejo below and the Pacific Ocean beyond. We were here. Take that America. Jubilation. Triumph. Victory. The end was in sight.
We rode to the ferry terminal and saw the very boat that would carry us across the bay and to the Golden Gate bridge. Awesome. Then it became less awesome. Jordan left his cell phone in the bathroom and went back to get it, it was gone. The list of possible suspects was one: a tall guy with a hat, carrying a dog. Jordan hopped on the bike and tried to look for him but with no luck. We sat back down on some grass near a bench and a few minutes later the guy showed up and sat down right in front of us. He was a crackhead with gold teeth and we overheard him making a drug deal on his cell phone. Jordan pressed him a bit about his missing phone but the guy wouldn't budge and we didn't really want to get into it with a junkie. Jordan had his parents cancel his service plan and we rode off looking for somewhere to sleep. It was getting late at this point and unfortunately the park we had picked on the map was a lot smaller in person and didn't offer much cover. Lots of visibility. It was one thing to sleep in a park in small town Nevada but it felt a hell of a lot of different in a bigger city.
We went to City Hall which was right next door and found an entrance to one of the buildings that was out of view of the street and most prying eyes. Confidence was already low when the exact same scumbag walked by a few hundred yards off. Not a cop, not a city worker, not a custodian, not a jogger. Of all the people to stroll through it was the human stain that stole Jordan's phone. We did not want to go sleep around that dude. Cities may have symphonies but they also have residents worthy of a clean sweep down the gutter. We went back to the terminal, I got on the internet, and we found a motel to stay at instead.
Vallejo is a foul place, at least in my brief experience. Rode over to the Traveler's Inn, got inside the room, watched some TV, felt infinitely more comfortable, and went to sleep.
Windy as all get out.
The ferry terminal below.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Day: Saturday August 15th
Time: Late Afternoon, maybe around 4:00
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Nate and Kevin had gone to a diner called Mel's so we went a few blocks further on and found them finished with breakfast. We began riding again, exited Placerville, and Jordan, Jeremy, and I stopped at another bike shop. Nate and Kevin didn't, and in a fairly anti-climactic fashion, that was the last we saw of them. Good things to you both gentleman. Kept riding and arrived in Folsom. The culture shock was on. You expect me to pee inside? Preposterous. We saw more cars in the span of a few minutes than we probably witnessed the entire trip. Started riding a bike path and met a kind fellow cyclist who tried to find us a place to stay for the evening. He was on the phone for a few minutes with no results. His friends seemed to be out riding and his wife wasn't having any of it, so we said thank you and parted ways. Bike path was cool, followed the American River all the way to Sacramento. There were tons of people floating down on tubes, or kayaks, or other watercraft. I had a feeling we might encounter some other generosity and we pressed on into stiff wind toward our fine state's capitol.
Bike paths, while separated from cars, can be a dangerous proposition. There were a number of yahoos and rented cruisers but we kept the bikes upright. Took a food break at a picnic table and watched all the people we passed show up and continue on. We spoke to a gentleman about the tour and of him doing something similar with his sons. He was an older guy but we suggested a supported ride. Maybe he's on his way to living the dream.
Still on the path with the miles ticking away, we met Joey and Rich. We traded a few words and they mentioned something about finding a place to stay. At first we were unsure about where the scenario was headed, but at the very least somebody else was breaking the wind, and that was just fine. It turns out they're a pair of awesome dudes. We followed for the remainder of the path, then rode through Sacramento State, and then to Rich's backyard where we were offered a place to stay. The generosity never ceases. Joey's wife Diane brought over pizzas from a place called Zelda's and we had a couple of beers and splashed around in the pool. Rich builds pools for a living and his specialty is the saline variety. Apparently they produce their own chlorine and I can personally vouch for the softer sensation on the skin. We talked about all kinds of stuff and had a grand time in a couple of deck chairs. Bicycling has been the catalyst to meeting a lot of different people outside our usual fish bowl. This was another instance of meeting older guys who still ride hard. Inspiring.
Diane gave Jordan the skinny on all manner of downtown establishments and Joey hopped on the saddle and gave us a personal tour of the bars and eateries that might be worth stopping by. He also showed us the city's bike kitchen, a place where people can learn about bike maintenance and perform repairs themselves. A few blocks back track and we chose the Rubicon Brewery as our first stop. Took a picture and Joey rode off. I never hear much about Sacramento, probably overshadowed by San Francisco, but it was pretty cool. Restored Victorians on the periphery, all kinds of bustling restaurants in the downtown, trees lining the streets and incredible hospitality. Not bad. We agreed it was time for dessert and found a frozen yogurt joint. Sat outside and watched a bunch of dressed up girls strutting their stuff in heels and party clothes. Even after being on the road, it wasn't enticing. Seemed false. Then a non-bum bum showed up and asked us for some money. The guy was wearing sandals, shorts, a tee shirt and appeared well-groomed.
“You're asking me for money? Why don't you give us some money?” “I'm just looking to get something to eat man.” “What are you talking about? Look at that watch.” “Yeah, well look at those bikes and you just bought yogurt.” “Yeah, we rode from Virginia. We need this yogurt. We're hungry.” “Your bikes from Virginia?” “We're the ones who're homeless. We don't have any extra money.” “Yeah, that's aways.” “Damn straight.”
It felt good to turn the tables and he wandered off to try his scam on somebody else. The guy honestly looked like a laid-off attorney dressing down. We rode back to Rich's backyard, laid out the sleeping bags and pads, conked out. Goodnight Sacramento.
Bike shop, Placerville.
Thanks to Joey and Rich. Sorry we forgot to get a picture with you Rich. You do a fine pool.
Started the day traveling south and exited Carson City. We were only a mountain range away from Lake Tahoe but never saw it. We passed a Trader Joe's in a shopping center just outside of town but pressed on. A morning of almosts. Our first stop was in a town called Genoa, site of Nevada's first gold strike. Tree-lined streets and dare I say, charming, small shops and eateries. A few minutes there and the climbing began. We thought we might get a break because of the altitude, but it was hot, real hot.
We took a stop at the entry sign for our final state, California. Strangely enough, it was the least impressive yet but we retained high spirits anyway. It's good to be back. A couple of photos and dancing back and forth between states and we were off again. The climbing continued. Slow, melodious dancing with our bicycle and the hill, trading punches and taking blows up the slope until our next break in Woodfords. Our intention was to refill the water bottles but their water was rank and they were a bit grouchy about it. We had had enough of their nonsense and began climbing again. Up. Wait, down? No. Just up. There was a lot of travel traffic now but the scenery became striking – the crisp Carson river ran alongside the road. Rays glinting off glimmering rocks as the water ran quickly down the mountain. We climbed into the pines and to our next stop, a cafe with decidedly more positive results. There were two cute girls working the counter and the kitchen and there were discount pastries among the other delectable treats. Coconut macaroons were a popular choice. Their water was good and so was the company, but soon it was time to inch up the mountain again.
More up, more slog. A stunning view of Red Lake near the end of the ascent but our legs had no fire. No passion or punch but we did make it to the top eventually. There's a small visitor's center at the top and both of the docents had ridden cross country years prior. It seems we're going to have to step up our game. They gave us bananas and oranges originally intended for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, but they deemed us worthy as well. They offered us water as well and I think we went through all of their Culligan supply. There was some hesitation about when we would split with Kevin and Nate,as Nate had to get to San Francisco a day head of us.
We rode down the other side aways to Silver Lake and the Silver Lake Lodge. The post office I chose to mail the charger to is actually a resort but the replacement cord was there and all was well. Jordan, Jeremy, and I thought we might camp near the lodge but both campgrounds were full so we took in some calories and rode on. Had our next break at a place called Cooks Station where we ate real meals, ordered from a menu, and felt all the better for it. The place was a wooden building set into the trees, quite nice for a stop. I took out the laptop to test the new charger and got electrocuted plugging it in. Don't worry, I'm fine. We got the word from our waitress about camping at Cooks Station, ten dollars. She also suggested a school farther along the road and we decided that was the spot. More downhill and a departure from the 88 to Omo Ranch Road. Perhaps the best riding of the entire trip. The sun was drifing to sleep and we chased it down deep, twisting downhills and thrilling curves. There were no marker signs for the tight turns and it made it all the better. The road was rough, bumpy – but not with potholes, more like roots underneath the road surging up through the asphalt. Shaking the fillings. Nate's trailer was jumping all over the place, might have been up on a single wheel at some points. This was narrow mountain road too, it slipped to one lane as we descended.
We arrived at the school with wide grins from the descent and a fine place to stay. Passed through a gate and set up our stuff next to some tables and the playground. The neighbor next door, Larry, came over and told us he had called the principal and it was fine for us to stay there. Some of us ate Indian food and we did the usual business and then conked out.
Check this warmer!
Outside the Hampton.
Heading toward Carson Pass.
Good to be back.
On the way to Silver Lake.
Friday, August 7, 2009
On the final afternoon, of the final day, on the final leg of our cross country trek we are having a barbecue and picnic - and you are invited. Current indications lead to the following details:
Place: La Jolla Shores
Day: Saturday August 15th
Time: Late Afternoon
Apologies for the non-real time nature of this blog. We're actually in Santa Cruz, CA. We'll keep you updated on picnic developments. There will be food but we'll also tell you to go home if you don't contribute as well. Just kidding. But we might. But in all seriousness, it would be nice if you brought something. Something that looks nice. And not too expensive. Or we will say Ni at you.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We made our exit from the Methodist Church and started toward Carson City. Scenery tilted a bit more to the conventional, barren desert this morning. Had our first serious break after riding past the Lahontan Reservoir, about 25 miles in. The other dudes pushed off while I waited ten or fifteen minutes for a draft opportunity. Nothing good showed up so I began riding conventionally, sans wind break. Rode hard to catch up and Jeremy was kind enough to have stopped and waited for me. We pressed to rejoin the group and caught up with Nate and Jordan who had stopped at a shopping center. They were intrigued by a lunch buffet special at Round Table Pizza, advertized by a sign spinner on the outskirts of the parking lot. $6.99 for unlimited pizza, breadsticks, and salad. At first I was unsure, while they were passionate about the deal. Then by the time I became convinced, they had changed their minds. Thankfully we came to the proper conclusion and gorged ourselves at Round Table. Some had suggested that a buffet was the wrong idea with more riding to do, but since we were only ten or fifteen miles out, it became the right idea.
Started bicycling once more with severly distended bellies and bikes that felt like they had flat tires. It was only a few miles on until we saw signs for places like the “Love Ranch.” We saw a street sign for Bunny Ranch Boulevard and stopped at the corner. Another sign up the road boldly declared: “Free Tour. No Sex Required.” When outside of Carson City, Nevada... Consensus was that the situation required a visit in the name of cultural exploration and we rode up the hill. There was a van in the parking lot with a graphic siding that advertised the HBO reality series that's shot at the ranch. We were buzzed through the front gates, had our ID's checked, and gathered in the foyer. Red velvet, gleaming gold metal, mirrors, the works. A group of eight to ten women strolled out and told us their names. They were not wearing much. The interior of the ranch is decorated with fairly explicit photographs of their star employees. We were told to select a tour guide for a browse around the facilities.
I chose Barbie to show me the place and we saw the bar, and some of the outdoor facilities, before the tour ended at her private room. I was shown a menu of the potential services offered at the ranch and the prices to be serviced. We made small talk for a bit before I went back to the bar and rejoined the crew. We enjoyed the atmosphere for a few minutes longer before departure. None of us indulged, so far as I know. Back to the bikes and onward to Carson City.
Jeremy and I found the post office first and he picked up a package from his mom that had successfully been forwarded from Austin. We had our doubts that anything would arrive. Jeremy had called the woman at the post office and asked for any mail to be forwarded, but she didn't ask for names. “Do you need my name?” “Won't your name be on your package?” “Right, but how will you know who I am and to send it to Carson City?” “It'll be fine.” I guess she worked her voodoo and the Clif Bars did make it. I looked for a letter that I was half expecting, but no luck. Visited a few bike shops and got directions to the Hampton. My Uncle John was kind enough to put us up in another fine establishment for the evening. Thanks Uncle John. We checked in with a couple of Brits, or maybe Aussies, and got the lay of the land. This Hampton was even nicer than the Cedar City one. Cookies were ready on the counter and later there was a wine reception. Red, white, cheeses, some sort of trail mix. Excellent.
We fit all five of us in the room, three bikes inside the room and two in the hallway. Took a shower, did some laundry for the final stretch to San Francisco, and enjoyed plush beds. I conked out early and the rest of the crew went down to the pool. We've slept in the dirt but also at the Hampton. A broad swath of experiences on this trip.
In the name of cultural exploration, strictly.