Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Homestretch - Leaving San Fransisco

I was promised rain yesterday by the weather report. It never came. I jinxed it by putting my raingear on in the morning before the rain came. I know, I know. For those of you who know me well, its not like me to be prepared like this. So I just want to illustrate another reason why that sort of prep doesn't pay off. All I did was sweat soak the inside of my raingear and clothes. A drop of rain never fell on the outside.
About 25 miles from the Hotel in Hollister is a little city called Morgan Hill. This is where Specialized (the manufacturer of my bicycle) is based and I called to ask for a tour. I was fortunate on short notice to receive a call back from Nancy, the owner's assistant, who gave me a thorough and friendly solo tour of most of the company's operations. I wasn't allowed to enter the R&D areas even though I electronically signed a non-disclosure agreement. It was very professional and far more of a tour than I expected to receive. Thank you Nancy.






PLEASE BUY SPECIALIZED BICYCLES. http://www.specialized.com/. This company is employee friendly and green. I never saw a person without a smile on their face so you can be sure the product is made with care.






It turned out to be a pleasantly beautiful ride. There was a consisent hint of blue sky peaking through the haze of billowing clouds that eventually succeeded in convering the sun by the time I reached the busy streets of San Francisco's suburbs. I chose the challenge of El Camino Real. About 45 miles of tightly weaving my way through traffic as commuting cars speed by just feet aside me. It was a nice change from the last four days of solitude in the mountains. And the busy streets from Santa Clara to San Francisco welcomed me without a single vicious honk the entire way. San Francisco is definitely a cycle concious and friendly community.






I slept well in a very comfy bed after Jason and Ashley treated me to some sushi and sake. Thank you guys for the fun. Safe travel to AZ and happy Thanksgiving.






Today I cross the Golden Gate Bridge. I am technically further than 3/4 of the way home, but this feels like the kick off of the homestretch. I am a mix of homesick and sort of sad there is an end coming to this adventure. But, for certain, I can look back and be proud of what I have done.






Thank you all for your support and calls and emails. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING TOO!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time for Raingear

Today was a long day. I had a mountain ride in the dark for a couple of hours last night. And a 7PM when it dropped below 40 degrees, I stopped to camp. I had half a Subway and half a bag of nuts that I ate before I slept.

I woke early and was on the rode by 7:30 AM. It was 33 degrees and I'm pedalling. And yes, this is still fun to me. But I was desperately hoping to clear the mountains and give my weary legs a rest.

No luck. It took me 65 miles and 5 hours of climbing to reach anywhere to eat or replenish water. I did however start talking to the cows, even giving some of them names, as they were my only company during this grueling stretch. I started to repeat a lot things to myself and my legs no longer felt the pain of pedalling. I was reaching for ways to keep enduring the climbs, since each descent only followed another mountain to climb. At one point I was out of water as well and my cell phone was out of service the whole way. In the 65 mile stretch, only 20 or so cars passed me. To add to the allure of the day, my bike computer quit gauging my speed, and therefore the mileage I was travelling became an illusive indicator of exactly how much farther I had to go.

But I made it, of course. All the way to the Hollister Inn in Hollister California. The greatest little hotel in California. I am looking forward to the long rest in the clean room. They allowed me to do my laundry here and I am actually on the laptop of the family that owns the hotel to send you this blog. Thx Sam. Much appreciated. You run a great hotel!!!

Take care all... Be back soon... I hope

Arizona to LA.. ok skip LA. Welcome the mountains











Hi Everyone. I know it has been a while. I am in Hollister California. The last 4 days have been nothing but climbing and decending, climbing and decending. My legs are completely worthless and feel like jello. If I saw another hill right now I might get sick.



Let me take you back to Arizona and let you know how things have been going...



I absolutely loved the Arizona ride. It was my favorite. And since I have already seen California, Oregon and Washington, I am going to prounouce Arizone as my favorite part of this tour. I would like to move here.





After staying with Ray and Renee, I went to Surprise AZ and stayed with Mike and Laura Martell for a couple of days. We watched the UFC fights at their friends house, ate some sushi, watched some football and consumed a few glasses of wine. Laura and I are dangerous with a bottle of wine... (scratch that... several bottles). I've known Laura for a while and she married Mike a couple of years ago. They have a made a great happy home and I was sad to leave.










Mike did some good cooking and he sells some real estate too. Laura somehow escaped without a picture for me to post. You are welcome Laura!!!



















From Surprise, I rode my longest day to Quartzsite, Az. After 130 miles and some night riding, I gulped a footlong Subway and crashed in the tent.



The next day brought me quickly to California, which really put a big smile on my face. I should see the coast soon and the signs to Los Angeles began to appear. Wow, I started to feel the overwhelming emotions of actually bicycling coast to coast. I am so proud of myself.










And California couldn't have welcomed me better. After a long long long scenic downhill slope to the border, I ate a great buffet and, of course, then got pulled over. I wasn't even a mile into California when the officer stopped me and went over the cycling rules from the CHP. About 3 hours later I was back on the highway (legally) when another CHP pulled me over, just to let me know I needed to get off at the next exit. These cops are all over it... Except he put me on what he called a scenic frontage road that I should use for my safety. By that he must of meant, let me stick you on a road in 95 degree weather, with no services (including use of my cell phone) and challenge you with the worst road you have ever been on. And by the way, some stretched will be just gravel too. I cursed the CHP for 3 hours and only 30 miles as I gyrated my way through the scenic route. I still got in 95 miles for the day.



The following day I rode into Indio and started to feel the massive traffic invasions into Los Angeles. Palm Springs and Palm Desert couldn't be more rude to the bicyclist. Approaching San Bernardino the next day was no different. I have never liked LA anyway, so I decided to change my route and go north through the San Bernardino Mountains...

What an awesome challenge I would put myself through. And now that I have made it. Once again I am so proud of myself. The next 4 days would be nothing but climbing and climbing, over and over again. My mind, emotions and body would go through nostalgic memories of running the 2001 Chicago marathon and my college wrestling days. And now that I am through the climbs (mostly), I feel like Rocky Balboa. But more like the Rocky in Rocky 6. I can say I still have got it. The stuff in the basement.
This is looking back on some of the climb I just pedalled.








At 4700 feet and hidden on the crest of the San Bernardino Mountains is a little town called Crestline. It is a very cute mountain community with all the needs a family could want. Its a lot like Leavenworth for you Seattle folks. And full of the nicest people.
I stopped for a beer and then another. And then the beer stopped me. To the are some of the folks I met and hung out with for the evening. On Craig and Carolyn (the two on the left) offered me their couch for the evening. We ate and drank and then watched Jeopardy and Survivor. But I fell asleep before Survivor ended... Thanks for the fun and great rest Crestline. I hope to see you again...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Perfect timing in Casa Grande

I arrived at my Uncle Ray and Aunt Renee's house in Casa Grande around 9PM. Just one day before 20 tons of rocks were to arrive for their back yard. It was perfect timing. They needed some muscles and I needed some exercise that didn't include pedalling. It was perfect timing.










This is Pablo from Guatemala. He is working hard but 20 tons. Yikes!!!
















It might look like Ray is working on the yard, but don't be fooled. He just went over and picked up the shovel asking, "What do you call this tool?"














Pablo has the last of the 20 tons in his shovel and we are wrapping things up.
















Big rocks require big efforts... So here I am taking credit for moving this one.




And part of the finished product. It's looks great Ray and Renee... Thanks for good times. See you again soon.













Oh yeah! And this highlight of Casa Grande. Ray and I played 3 rounds of Wii Golf. I only won once as it came down to me blowing a 2 stroke lead on the final hole in the tiebreaker game.
Nice win Ray!!!










The learning curve improves...

So its about 50 miles between Tucson and Casa Grande and I am about 10 miles into this stretch when my next adventure began. The other bolt connecting the rack to the bike frame broke and I started wobbling all over the road again. But this time I knew what it was immediately, because I fixed the same problem on the other side in Abilene (by the way Mike. So far so good on our fix... NICE!)


When we fixed the bolt in Abilene, I had the foresight to buy duplicate parts in case the same thing happened on the other side of the rack. And it did, so I felt prepared. However, the bolt was broken in the housing and I had no tools to get it out. So I scratched my head and looked out over the landscape, realizing that I was on a service road and quite far from anything other than intermittently passing traffic. So I did something I have emotionally prepared myself for on this tour and I stuck my thumb out and starting hitchhiking for a ride.


I only thumbed at trucks that were heading in my direction and I would guess I was seeing one every couple of minutes. After about 15 minutes and no one stopping I started to wish I had boobs.



Then Dave and his son Dave Jr. stopped. Thanks guys. I told them an auto parts store would have what I needed and they drove me about 5 miles to Napa Auto Parts. Of course, it was 5 miles backwards towards Tucson.


Dave mentioned he felt a little weird just dropping me off. What a guy. I reminded him that I started in Tampa and that I did this to myself, so it was my own fault. He laughingly agreed.
It started out rough at the auto parts store. The men working were very nice, sympathetic and helpful but just didn't have the tools to get the broken bolt out of the housing.
Then Tom, one of their customers came in and everything started to come together. Here is Tom working away. Thanks a lot to everyone who helped me get back on the road.
It was sundown by the time that I biked back to the spot where I had broken down. But I was determined to make it to Casa Grande. 40 miles later through another 2 1/2 hours of night riding I made it to Casa Grande... SWEET!!!

Arriving in Arizona and the AHP



Arizona has become a special place for me. I arrived on a cool (but not cold) evening and rode a couple of hours in the dark. The sunrises and sunsets are amazing and they last much longer than the rare short sunsets we get infrequently in Seattle. I can see myself moving here.





The ride through Tucson was incredibly quick with a great shoulder and a smooth road.




But it caught up with me. I don't know when it happened but all of a sudden I realized I was in pedalling along with 4 lanes of traffic and I was moving 30+ mph. High rises were in the vicinity and I knew I was past the point where I shoul have exited the highway in downtown Tucson. Then the shoulder started to squeeze my lane as I approached a construction zone. And then I saw them a few hundred yards ahead. BUSTED!!! The Arizona Highway Patrol had me. To my credit, and the officers agreed, there were no signs warning me to get the bike off the highway. So they issued me a written warning letting me know that between Tucson and Phoenix is a no biking zone. Ugh... time to find a new route.

So I winded my way through Tucson. It's a nice town and also on my list of potential places to move to. There is a predominant biking community including the annual Tour de Tucson (www.tourdetucson.com).
But the pace was slow today. I now had a longer route that was less direct to Casa Grande, my expected destination. I also had another flat tire which has become a more common occurrence in the desert. I am not sure why, but I am guessing the changes in temperature from the freezing during the evening and the warmth during the day, are causing greater wear on the tires. I'll try to find an answer on the internet.

Leaving the Guadalupe Mountains




The Guadalupe Mountains and this peak are the highest in Texas. They provide a special environment that allowed more primitive civilization to exist due to availability of water and food within the range.

The famous El Capitan...

Photo Extravaganza 3 The Carlsbad Caverns

Meet Evelyn. She is the Greatest National Park Custodian Ever!!! She's not a bad wine drinking partner too.


I just like this cactus! It was on the park grounds.


This bathroom is 750 feet underground and built within the caverns. It's cool down here at just 56 degrees... You know what that means...eh?
This is the natural entrance to the caves. From March to October at dusk thousands of bats blackout the sky through this entrance as they head out to feed for the evening.
You can see the attractive amphiteatre in the picture that has been built for viewing the bat exodus.



Even nature has a sense of humor.








I took the weight of my luggage off the bike and enjoyed a nice 6 mile climb from the base camp to the cavern park center.


There isn't much color in the desert and this scence was beautiful with the water seeping down the rocks under the red's and greens of the tree leaves.

Photo Extravaganza 2


After some great directions from Bicycles Inc, I arrived at Fort Worth near sundown. Fort Worth has a really small and clean downtown area with some attractive buildings. I liked the ride through downtown and I nearly stopped to have a beer at a pub that was packed... maybe next time.











If you have ever wondered where I shower. Here is one of those places. This is a Love's Travel Center. They have Subway and showers available 24 hours. I Love's these places!!!

I arrived at this Love's after bicycling through Fort Worth around 11PM. I received a complimentary showever from my new friend Deanna and rested for a couple of hours. I rode until 3 AM this night.



















Well, it didn't take long for my bicycle to need some new TLC. A couple of blocks before my Gold's Gym destination the bolt connecting my rack and luggage to the frame of the bike snapped. I started wobbling all over the road from the dangling luggage. I walked to the Golds Gym and unloaded my gear from the bike and pedalled on to VT Bike Stuff (http://www.vtbikestuff.com/). Mike (on the right) drove me around town to Home Depot and an auto parts store to make shift a new rig that would hold the rack to the frame. Thank you Tom and Mike for the diligent work getting me back on the road. Muchas Gracias!




Abuelo's!!!!!!


So it was time to celebrate a good work out and freshly healed bike. So I pedalled to Abuelo's, sat at the bar and ordered a tasty dish of tenderloin and shrimp with spinach and a slice of tres leches. YUM!!!! The bar had just a few seat so the bartendress and some of the wait staff were a kick to hang out with. It was halloween night and I had a great time. Thx gals!!! I was invited to a halloween party but elected to ride into the night... HA!



Well, I didn't get too far. This is my camp just a few miles away. Too many complimentary Margaritas. The funny thing is there is another road just 30 feet to the right of this picture. I didn't see it when I set up camp.










The Photo Extravaganza... Catching up!





I have a lot of pictures to catch up on. So in order not to confuse the order of the trip, all pictures on this post will be from the time I entered Texas up to the post about the Texas Canyons (which by the way is not in Texas but in Arizona). I will post 5 or so pictures per blog and call them Photo Extravaganza 2, 3 and so forth...

After that the blog will be caught up with pictures and the typical chronological order will continue.

Let's have some picture fun.

So this picture wasn't included in the original blog. I actually thought the mis-spelled word "Firendly" was a corny way of expressing the local accent as if saying "furrr-rendly". But when I left Texas and looked back, the same exact sign on the other side of the freeway had the spelling correct. So now I just think it was a spelling error.














This was my buddy "Lil". He lives with Ryan and Bridgette in near Dallas. Apparently, Lil likes to growl at boys before getting comfy with their presence. But I never heard a growl from Lil, so I felt special. Ryan is my friend Ben's cousin and I stayed with them for a couple of days before leaving Dallas.
See you guys in December!









On the 26th of October, Cati and I ran in the Muddy Buddy run at Cedar Hills State Park. We had to run and bike and traverse some basic obstacles before running through the mud pit and crossing the finish line. We took 5th out of the 57 teams in our division. Way To Go Cati! The greatest muddy buddy ever.











This is my 2nd cousin Linda Devine. She is a massuese and lives in a cute little community in Arlington Texas. I got a belly full of dinner and then breakfast the next morning before heading toward Fort Worth.


Thx Linda!









This is John (in the middle) and another employee from Bicycles Inc. www.bicyclesinc.com . If you remember from the prior blog. In trying to find this store I had two flats, went several miles in the wrong direction and then finally arrived at their old location (I was using a navigator that didn't have the updated address). However the ride was worth it as I got a new set of tires, a new bike computer and some other needs. Thank for all the help guys!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Texas Canyons to Tuscon




The Texas Canyons were simply to tempting to ride for speed. I had just fixed a flat and traversed about a 900 foot elevation gain. The winds were uniquely calm and I want to make Arizona by sundown.




The cost was I didn't take any pictures through this gorgeous scene of rockery. It is Awesome! So here is a link to check out picture from what I biked through...
From here it was a smooth sailing night ride to the outskirts of Tucson. Today's ride was well over 100 miles and ended when I had a flat after dark. So I pitched my tent and decide to fix the flat in the morning... I slept great!

The desert is a lonely place...

I have had time to reflect on the lengthy ride through the desert in Texas and New Mexico. It is truly a lonely place. I can understand why people see UFO's here.

But the desert being lonely doesn't negate the beauty that is present here. Its not sexy or glamourous. It is natural and untouched. But the solitude is congruent with a feeling self reliance. There are few conveniences and even fewer luxuries. And the feelings of self worth, self motivation and pride arrive at the forefront of daydreaming. As I pedal on, I become more comfortable with myself and the loneliness of the desert. The further from convenience and luxury I travel, the more attached I become to the presence of these lands and my impact on them. I am just visiting, but feeling as if I am becoming a part of the scenery. As if I am no longer just a visitor. I like it here.

El Paso to New Mexico to Arizona

So the forthcoming days through El Paso and New Mexico to Arizona seemed like carbon copies of each other. Of course, they were not, but certain variables remained constant. The pace was slow from the wind in my face, trucks and truck stops were guaranteed familiarites, and pitching my tent on the highway while falling asleep to the sound of the passing semi's.

Here is one nights camp just about 50 feet from the highway. I am nestled just beyond a stickery bush hidden from the traffic going west.


I arrived in New Mexico again. Mile marker 162 assured me I was just two days to Arizona. And I felt like progress was being made.

Dairy Queen seems to be the dominant fast food in the region. I am not used to that being from Seattle. But I have grown to crave a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard... a habit I intend to get over before I get back home.
The windiest part of my ride came at the "continental divide". This is a divide in the US were all water west flows to the pacific and all water east flows to the Atlantic. I didn't care where the water went. To me this meant I would start riding downhill. Finally!!!



My arrival in Arizona came at sundown. The picture is bad from my phone but the Extravaganza from my camera will give you a better view. Arizona almost immediately, marked a new change in temperature once again. I was at a much lower elevation after today's ride and the night was warmer than the 33-45 degrees after dark I was getting used to.

The sunsets in Arizone are the most beautiful I have ever seen... including Belize.


A new trick

.... So I was out of water with potentially 50 miles of nothing to run into to replenish. It was never a serious issue because I could always hitchhike or flag down a vehicle. But I am trying to be as self sufficient as possible. I had ridden another 10 miles and took a break in the dry grass shoulder on the side of the road. I just laid my bike down and set my head back and closed my eyes. I was really tired and bordering frustration from the battering wind and the uphill grade. I might have even fell asleep for a minute.

Then a voice startled me and I sat up, turned around a saw a man in a truck yelling out his window. "Are you OK?" I stood up and waved and told him, "... just taking a siesta". His name was Sherman and he was actually concerned I was hit by a car and laying on the side of the road. He had was heading toward El Paso and actually turned around and backtracked to check on me.

I asked if he had any water and he had a cooler full of bottles in the back of his truck. He even asked me if I wanted a ride, which I considered, but kindly declined. I had moments of regret not taking his ride later on as wind continued to batter me the remainder of the daylight.

So if I need someone to stop, I guess the trick is to just lay on the side of the road and take a nap.

Leaving the Guadalupe Mountains

I'm back to the blog. I will have a lot for you to read over the next two day. Enjoy!!! I have.

So it was a sad moment to leave John, Evelyn and Kristen in Carlsbad. John and I got up early and had a "man to man" breakfast at a place called Happy's and then he drove me to the Guadalupe Park Museum near El Capitan (I'll have some pictures in the upcoming Picture Extravaganza). We watch a 12 minute educational video about the surrounding area an then said our goodbyes. John has got to be one of the nicest men I have ever met, and I could just tell that he was a little uncomfortable with something about the situation. So I asked him, "Is is weird that you are dropping me off to ride my bicycle west through the desert while you drive your car the opposite direction back home?" He just looked at me with a little chuckle and commented, "Yes... yes it is."
Beginning at over 5600 feet above sea level, the Guadalupe's westerly downgrade was a quick 2000 foot drop in under 10 miles. This was the 1st major temperature change for me riding. It was cold. I put on the gloves and wool hat and another layer and speed down the mountains as fast as I could. The wind chill caused my nose to freeze numb, but of course, that didn't stop me... I was CRUISING!!


It turns out this ride marked the beginning of a long stretch of cold days and nights. I have the gear to keep warm but no more short sleeve and shirtless riding to soak up the hot sun.





Near the top of the downgrade before my speeding ride down the mountain. I stopped here to put on the extra gear to keep warm.











Near the bottom of the moutains were these expansive salt flats near a town appropriately called Salt Flat. I assume these are much like the salt flats used to break the land speed records in Utah. I couldn't ride my bicycle on the salt but I did walk out about a quarter mile to take in the site. I was bright like the sun on snow and blinded me as I gazed over the landscape. I figured I would leave my mark so I pee'd my name in the salt... My penmanship was horrible.

Signs like this foretold my new enemy. I have spent much of my ride facing the wind, which slows me down. But now i am in the face of 20-30 mile winds and gusts that make riding difficult. Even frustrating. Fortunately, I never faced any dust storms (yet), but I can imagine there impact. The signs continued for about 100 miles and we often followed by another sign reading "Zero Visibility Possible".

I spent 85 miles on this road toward El Paso. There were two towns on the map, but they no longer existed. There were some buildings and crossroads but they were abandoned and empty. So this ride was a long and lonely, mostly uphill (after the 2000 foot drop, the grade was a slow incline toward El Paso back up to about 5100 feet) and into a mighty headwind.

So "Chester" the horse became my new friend. He was out in a huge fenced field, probably 100's of acres. When I pedalled by he was a few hundred yards away and galloped toward me. I was due a break so I met him at the corner of the barb fenced field and we had a little talk about how I was out of water and how I was planning on getting throught the rest of the day. I was still about 50 miles from El Paso.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Runs in the family...


I guess some of this adventure spirit is hereditary. I have a distant cousin I have not met who built a sailboat and literally lives for sailing... They work to fund there next sail and can be seen on at http://www.woodduck.info/


They are currently docked in Belize... go figure.


Jason - If you ever see this. I will be in Belize on Ambergris Caye from Jan. 20th to 30th of 09' if you are still there. I have a place you can stay and relax as well. The can be seen at www.ambergrisvacationrentals.com If you ever need a 2nd or 3rd mate let me know. All the best...
Travis

Family generosity

I have a 2nd cousin that lives in Carlsbad. John and his wife Evelyn (who works at the caverns) convinced me to stay for the night and it was entirely worth it. We feasted on okra and brats and toasted with some of John's homemade wine. Of course I slept long and hard in a bed that was hard to get out of. I also got my laundry done and used the computer to blog. Thank you so much John and Evelyn for the good time.


Here is John sporting a muzzle loader rifle. I picked this rifle up.. it is HEAVY! I couldn't hit anything with it I bet. Sorry for the sideways picture John. I can't figure out how to reformat the pictures from my phone.












Here is Evelyn and her grandson Nathan. This little giant is only 8 months old.