Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.
Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.
One of the worst, most depressing experiences I have ever had on a bike, or for that matter off a bike, was hitting the wall on my first day climbing in the Colorado Rockies. The day started with 30 miles from Pueblo to Wetmore. In the process I climbed about 1,400 feet. It was a bit challenging but not too bad.
Between Wetmore and Westcliffe, however, was a 3,000 foot climb over what I learned today is something called Hardscrabble Pass. The Google says the distance is 15 miles but other accounts have it at 12 miles. Either way it is a relentless grade of between 6 and 8 percent for most of the way up.
Today I read an account of a bike tourist who did this ride in 2009. He describes having to stop every 1/10 of a mile to avoid going anaerobic. His legs kept tying up as he rode. With no experience at this sort of thing, I didn’t stop until I was completely unable to get a breath. At around 7,500 feet, I leaned over my bike gasping. (My asthma didn’t help a whole lot.)
Another rider broke the Pueblo to Westcliffe ride into two days. He referred to the pass as “the wall.” He took five hours to ride 15 miles over the top. And he walked three times.
After starting and stopping several times, I ended up walking the steepest part about half way between Wetmore and the pass. I felt humiliated, but these two journals assure me that my failure to ride nonstop over the pass had nothing to do with my fitness or age.
My ego feels better now.
Even before I finished my ride this summer, people were asking me, “What was the best part?” It may seem strange to say this but until I reviewed my blog posts last week, I had forgotten much of the ride! I suppose this was because I was so focused on the present that the past was of little importance.
And now that I have reviewed the posts, I still don’t have an answer. There were plenty of highlights.
Friday night Jessie and Mike took me to the neighborhood Puerto Rican restaurant In Haight Ashbury and we stuffed ourselves. How do you say gut bomb in Spanish?
Yesterday we took The Mule to Bespoke, a bike shop across town. The owner used to work at my local bike shop in Mt. Vernon. He’ll ship my baby home later this week.
I rode a Jump bike back from the bike shop. It was my first time on an electric assist bike. It’s two-wheeled crack.
We had breakfast al fresco at a restaurant on the Wiggle, a bike route that weaves through the streets of this section of the city, avoiding big hills. It’s painted green and includes a counterflow section.
I bought a massive duffle bag Friday. It had straps on it so I can wear it like a backpack. I could wipe out every passenger on a BART train with this baby. Bwa ha ha.
Last night we had phenomenal tacos at a Mexican place before imbibing a huge bowl of punch at a bar. Not much of an improvement on my bike touring diet I must say but it felt considerably less painful.
I’m staying with Jessie and Mike until Monday morning when the duffle and I will relocate to a hotel near the Oakland airport for Tuesday’s flight home. I’ve already scheduled two happy hours for next week. Unfortunately they are for the same evening.
I looked up some descriptive statistics on the Western Express yesterday. Between Pueblo CO and San Francisco I did more than 98,000 feet of climbing.
And today to prove that this tour has traumatized me, I signed up for my 11th 50 States Ride on Sept 7. Nigel Tufnel would be pleased.
Team Rootchopper assemble!
I hand washed my clothes in the hotel last night. It must not be as dry here because it was all slightly damp this morning.
After breakfast I improvised a route back to the Western Express at Rockville. The wind was howling in my face. The American flags still flying from Independence Day we’re flying horizontally. Don’t go back to Rockville and waste another gear.
Then it got seriously hilly. I couldn’t believe I was using my granny gear. The map said I had a bike trail ahead. When I got there I saw that it had an 8% grade.
It’s a good thing I threw some stuff out at the hotel.
I arrived at the ferry terminal just as the 10:30 boat was leaving for San Francisco. Killing time I had Friday Coffee Club solo with a pretty awesome chocolate chip cookie.
I sat in the sun with my back to the pier. When I turned around after 20 minutes I saw that a line had formed with well over 100 people in it. No worries; it’s a big boat. The Mule went in a bike rack in the rear and I took a seat inside. The ride was as smooth as a bus until we approached San Francisco. Thankfully the swells were short lived.
Jessie and Mike were waiting for me. After a short chat we followed a trolley bus up Market Street, dodged a dozen misbehaving pedestrians, rode the Wiggle to The Panhandle, and ended at their place in the Haight.
After Mike moved The Mule and all my stuff upstairs to the apartment, we walked around the block so I could buy a duffle bag for the trip home.
Later they treated me to dinner at a Puerto Rican restaurant, beers at home, and ice cream at a shop up the street.
Tomorrow I’ll ship The Mule home.
Miles today: 28
Tour miles: 2,976
Way back in Missouri I met Rob and Fay on their way from Santa Monica to Chicago on Route 66z we hit it off and they invited me to stay at their place if I’d decided to finish my ride in Sacramento or San Francisco.
As things worked out, I ended up riding through Sacramento. Despite the fact that I arrived a day early and that they had plans for the night, they opened their home to me. Before they left for a night out at the football (soccer) pitch, they left me with a warm pasta casserole, instructions to eat or drink anything else to my liking, a huge TV, and a swimming pool.
I never made it to the pool because one of their comfy chairs knocked me out. I woke up 90 minutes later totally disoriented. Before and after my slumber I drank about six pints of cold, cold water from the fridge. (94 miles of riding makes for a powerful thirst.
We chatted a bit after they came home and again over the breakfast they made me. Then thru gave me a rolling escort back up to the Western Express Route. We then rode the fantastic bike trail along the American River into Old Town Sacramento, and ultimately over the Tower Bridge into West Sacramento. It was about 27 miles in all. What terrific hosts!
I continued heading west on the causeway over farm fields along I-80.
Then after a few miles of suburban roads I entered Davis. I remember coming to Davis in 1979 and marveling at how the community embraced cycling. Today, as I was taking a left turn a white SUV pulled up along my right hand side. I had missed the fact that the left turn had two lanes. The driver Roth window open started yammering at me to learn the rules of the road. She could have said something constructive like “You need to be in the right lane”, but she chose to be an asshole.
So I chose to tell her to fuck off.
This happened as we were moving in traffic.
After she passed me, I signaled and moved over. Oddly the driver behind Miss Bossypants had no trouble comprehending my maneuver.
There was a criterium going on in town. I saw it as an impediment between me and lunch.
A couple of passers by chatted with me, apologized for the driver’s rudeness, and explained how to get to a good restaurant along the race course. This being a holiday the placed was packed. Many of the tables had whiny kids. The line go order food was out the door. I left.
After another five miles I spotted a Subway and hoovered a foot long.
The trail west of Davis was designed for me; it was riddled with bumps from tree roots. Where’s my axe when I need it?
Soon I was back on two lane country roads they actually went up and down a bit. Show me what you got, Yolo County.
I rolled through orchards if fruit trees, past farm fields, and along a Putah Creek.
Near Winters the creek was filled with families having fun with tubes and other water toys.
I stopped in Winters for GatorAde and an Its It, which is the closest food you can get to Meth.
From Winters I did more easy climbing and rode past Vacaville, known mostly for its hospital for the criminally insane. I didn’t have to deal with any loonies running loose but I did see a wild turkey run across the road in front of me.
Could it be that the turkey was a human escapee and that something in god water is making me go mad?
From Vacaville it was a short spin to Fairfield. The afternoon heat and 75 miles of riding convinced me to find a motel. And do I did.
I pulled a Joe Walsh and washed everything I own except my shoes in the bathroom sink. Tomorrow’s 2-hour ride to the ferry terminal in Vallejo could be a tad moist.
Total miles: 75.5
Tour miles: 2,948
Top speed: 26.1 mph
More pix on Instagram
Last night’s improvised lodging worked out great. Dan, Spencer, and I went our for burgers and beers then I hit the hay. I awoke at 1:30 and looked out the window. Not a cloud in the sky just so many stars that Carl Sagan would be pleased.
The early morning view of the lake was nearly as amazing.
The lodge unexpectedly provided motel breakfast. The lodge owner told me to expect a few more climbs before the road tips toward California’s Central Valley.
He was right, of course. The first hill was rudely a mile into the ride. How dare they?
A few miles later was a 1,000 foot climb back up to 7,900 feet. Sleeping at 8,000 feet seemed to help me get over this hump. There was a third climb of a few hundred feet after they then The Mule could take off.
I stopped a few times to admire the view.
At Hams Station I considered eating second breakfast. The restaurant has both open and closed signs displayed. If they couldn’t decide I wasn’t going to give them my business. I rode past Cooks Station a few miles later but by then I was looking to break 60 miles by noon, so no dice.
After about ten miles of descending the route at 25 to 40 mph, I turned off the main highway. No more rumble strips. No more direct sunlight. The narrow, two-lane, shaded country road now had patches and small potholes all over the place. The shade made it hard to tell where they were. I had to slow my roll down into the teens. So not fair!
Every so often I’d get rambunctious and let The Mule loose… until I hit a rough section. My back took the worst of the bumps.
At Omo Ranch I started seeing farms. Soon thereafter I saw miles and miles of vineyards, each with a tasting room. I didn’t give into temptation.
At Ono Ranch an elevation sign said I was at 3,612 feet. This was the first time since Kansas that I’d been below 4,000 feet.
In Mt Aukum I stopped for lunch at noon at a cafe. It was just shy of 50 miles for the day. Still not a bad morning’s work.
Back on the bike I was passed through a few gigantic vineyards then found myself passing fields of tall, golden grass. The occasional field had some cattle in it but they wanted nothing to do with entertaining me. Instead they looked up, momentarily stopped chewing, then returned to their mastication.
I stopped again at tony Rancho Murieta where I saw a text from my Warmshowers hosts. It suggested a route to their house that completely bypassed Folsom to the north, saving me at least 15 miles.
They were leaving the house at four do I decided to see if I could get there before they left. It was then that I realized that i was now about 60 feet above sea level and my legs seemed supercharged. Hemoglobin is a wonderful thing.
I arrived at Fay and Robs place just as they were leaving. They left me food, beer, and a swimming pool. So far I’ve taken what was behind door number 1.
Tomorrow will be my approach to San Francisco. I plan on riding through Sacramento, Davis, Vacaville, and Fairfield. If my legs will agree I’ll ride all the way to Vallejo, the point of departure for the ferry to the City. Then, on Friday morning I’ll set sail for the Ferry Terminal and a reunion with my bikeDC friends Jessie and Mike.
Today’s miles: 94.5
Tour miles: 2,875.3
Top speed: 40.1 mph
My stay with Warmshowers hosts Joan and Greg could not have been more relaxing or not enjoyable.
They both assured me that the big climb from Carson City to Lake Tahoe was something I could handle easily. Thx fully they were right.
I kept plugging along, thinking this climb is going to get tougher but it never did. I came over the top and, at Greg’s suggestion, stopped before getting to close to the lake for an amazing view. Seeing the snow covered mountains reflected in the deep blue water was a Wow moment.
Once I arrived at the lakeshore things got much busier. Car traffic was terrible and a real shock to me. Also the road undulated up and down so much that I had a hard time finding a pedaling rhythm.
There was no sign indicating I had left Nevada and entered California. I could tell by the fact that the big casino hotels were replaced by casual eateries.
I had second breakfast at IHOP, a mediocre meal but necessary to gurl my engine over the mountain.
After leaving the lake the route followed the Upper Truckee River. It left the highway and followed a windy, bumpy parallel road that became very steep. I walked the steepest bits then got on the bike and powered my way back to the highway. Climbing over my second summit was hard but I got it done.
A fun descent took me to an intersection where I had considered camping but I was feeling strong so I decided to tackle 8,500+ foot Carson Pass.
This went fine for about six miles then the shoulder of the road disappeared. It was about this time that I started feeling lightheaded. It was unsafe to wobble all over the road so I walked the last half mile.
At the summit I talked with a woman who had passed me on the way up in her Trek Domane. Then a father and son came walking out of the woods carrying skiing gear. They confirmed for me that people ski year round on this mountain. At the summit, the road crossed the Pacific Coast Trail. A through hiker was lying on a bench. His tales of hiking the trail blew me away. I thought my trip was hard but his included using an ice axe to get over Mt. Whitney!
After chatting I rolled down the western side of the pass thinking of food and lodging. I passed up a lodge at Caples Lake and continued down hill to Kirkwood. There I met Dan and Spencer, two guys who install road signs all over California. The lodge was closed so Spencer called a number on the front door. They wanted $180 for a room in a town that was practically deserted. No thanks.
In short order we found out that Caples Lake was the only place around at a moderate price. Dan and Spencer hoisted The Mule into the bed of their big pick up truck and gave me a lift back up to Caples.
After getting cleaned up we headed out for dinner and beers at the Kirkwood Inn. Everything seemed overpriced but the portions turned out to be huge.
We ate and drank until sated then headed back to the lodge where Spenser started a fire in a pit next to the lake. I went to bed tired but satisfied with having completed the last big climbs of the trip.
Lots more pix on Instagram
Miles today: 64.5
Tour miles: 2,779
Top speed: 35.1 mph
After a late motel breakfast I was back on US 50 heading west. Where have I heard that before?
From Fallon to Carson City the road has increasing traffic. For the first third of the day it had paved shoulders that were entirely consumed by rather deep rumble strips. I’d me riding along and hear or see in my mirror a large vehicle about to turn me into road kill. I’d bail onto the rumble strips hoping not to dislodge and dental work. I suppose if you had kidney stones this kind of road sledding could be useful but for me it was literally a headache.
During this portion of the ride the headwind gods were still asleep. And the road trended slightly downhill. I missed a blatantly obvious turn and had to backtrack a mile. But I didn’t care.
I had emptied my two water bladders so The Mule was just cruising along. It was noticeably easier to handle too.
Another wonderful feature of the day was the existence of gas station convenience stores and restaurants along the way. I stopped at 28 miles for Gatorade and a Klondike bar. And to use the rest room. Gas station convenience stores make America great.
Sadly, my late morning snack must have woken the headwind gods and the rest of day featured an invisible hand on my chest.
A few more miles after the break I met Anna, an eastbound rider bound for Virginia. She’s from New Zealand. She’s going about 40 miles per day and didn’t seem the least bit fazed by the first tenth of her journey. We agreed on one thing: Nevada has mastered the mushroom cheeseburger.
I had to climb three hills, all gradual and well under 5,000 feet. No worries.
A casino had a deal on a cheeseburger basket. This made for a convenient lunch stop, my first lunch not on the shoulder of the road in ages. Be thankful for the little things, people!
Into busy Carson City, the state capital. Excitement! Thrills! Not! Just more commercial sprawl.
Anna told me where to find a bike shop. The Bike Smith folks replaced my brake pads and only charged me for parts. It’s their way of supporting bike tourists. Sadly the brake pads cost $95 per pair.
Now that my bike can stop like a champ, I went to the grocery store where I didn’t hit a single parked car or shopping cart. I did manage to buy food for tomorrow and wine for my Warmshowers hosts tonight.
I am staying with Joan and Greg in their guest cottage. Their house and cottage are cute beyond compare. They love hosting bike tourists.
I am off to help with dinner. Help meaning I drink some wine while Joan cooks.
Tomorrow I climb over a rather intimidating 7,000 foot mountain to South Lake Tahoe. How far I go depends on my legs and the availability of camping. It’s also my last day in Nevada.
And before I forget, there’s big news. Last night I decided not to continue to Portland. I am climbed out. Instead I will go over Carson Pass to Sacramento and finish this crazy tour in San Francisco. Many thanks to Jessie and Mike for offering to put me up in The City and to Marie who suggested flying home out of Oakland next week.
Miles today: 66.5
Tour miles: 2,714.5
Top speed: 25.1 mph
My decision to stay in Cold Springs yesterday turned out to be a good one. Had I continued I might have ridden over 100 miles. It would have been the end of me.
I ate dinner at the store/bar/restaurant in Cold Springs last night. They make one serious mushroom and Swiss burger. I hung out and talked with the regulars. Despite our political differences, we got along like old pals. The conversation was much better than watching TV in my room.
The restaurant didn’t re-open until 8 a.m., which is too late for bike tourists trying to make miles before the winds picked up. So I had two tortillas for an in-room “meal”. One with peanut butter, the other with bean dip. This would hold me until real breakfast 14 miles away at Middlegate Station.
It was a good decision. The road slopes downward and a light breeze helped me along. I made Middlegate in well under an hour. Along the way I passed the sites of telegraph, stage coach, and Pony Express stations as well as ghost mining towns. No ruins were evident just signs telling the story of what once was.
Middlegate Station itself is an old Pony Express and stage coach outpost. It looks it. It’s a bunch of run down buildings and cabins surrounded by RVs. As I said, I’m glad I stayed in Cold Springs.
The main building had a bar/restaurant and the cook made a decent breakfast. Coffee was self service. My only problem was that it took an hour. When I went back outside, the wind had changed direction and picked up. For the next 45 miles I’d be dealing with 10 mph head and cross winds.
After Middlegate came two 4,000+ foot summits which confirmed that the two 7,000+ footers near Austin were the last of the big ranges in my ride across the Great Basin.
The valleys between the ridges were much sandier and saltier than anything I’d seen so far.
After the second summit I rode past Sand Mountain. It was created by the wind blowing sand across the valley. I could hear motors revving in the distance; it’s a very popular place for ATV riders.
About 45 miles into the day I became very tired and bored. Even with the salt flats and the humongous sand dune I’d had enough of these wide, windy valleys. I had no appetite. I didn’t stop to eat which is a big mistake.
I felt like I was in a stationary bike just grinding away and going nowhere. When the road turned toward the north I caught a tailwind. Seeing double digits in my speedometer lifted my mood for a few minutes but all I could think of was the convenience store five miles from Fallon, my destination for today.
The closer I got to Fallon the more traffic there was. And it included drivers who didn’t much care how close they were when they passed me. At one point, an oncoming car passed the car in front of it at about 80 miles per hour. My head was down from all the grinding away. When the passer went by me it scared the crap out of me.
Time to get off this road! I pushed my speed up to 15 mph and looked for the convenience store five miles before Fallon.
When I dismounted I realized it was quite hot outside. Inside there was Gatorade and a Klondike bar. As soon as I downed them I felt much better.
In the last five miles I saw creeks and irrigation ditches and small farms and green that wasn’t sagebrush. When I saw a CVS store I knew I was back in civilization.
It’s been weeks since I’ve seen fast food and pharmacies and, would you believe, a Safeway.
I took a brief tour of historic Fallon. Sadly it looked like it’s better days are passed. The biggest building in town is a Nugget casino.
I checked into a Super 8. The lobby is a casino. But bed and breakfast for under $70 suits me just fine. (I learned from the desk clerk that I can go online and get at least one free night now.)
I checked in and showered. I could see in the bathroom mirror that my time crossing Utah and Nevada had stripped at least ten pounds off my frame. I had dinner at Subway and hit a gas station convenience store for junk food.
Tomorrow is another 63 mile day with minimal climbing as I ride to Carson City, the state capital. I will be staying with a Warmshowers host. I also need to visit a bike shop to get some new brake pads.
On Tuesday I need to decide where I’m going. Do I push on for 2 1/2 weeks through the Sierras and Cascades to Portland or do I head west over the Sierras and finish this adventure in San Francisco?
Either way getting home is a logistical puzzle because of a lack of nonstop flights. (I actually looked into taking a train back to Pittsburgh and riding home from there but it’s crazy expensive and would take 2 1/2 days!)
Total miles: 63.5
Tour miles: 2,648
Top speed: 25.7 mph
More pix on Instagram