Today I made it official – I’ve now ridden coast to coast. These wheels have seen the salt and sand of the Atlantic and the Pacific. We’ve crossed the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Adirondacks of New York, the Erie Canal, the Ohio River, the Mississippi, the Ozarks, the plains of Kansas and Colorado, up to the source of the Arkansas River, the Rockies, the Continental Divide, the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah, the Sierra Nevada and the Sacramento River. Feeling a little like Johnny Cash these days – I’ve been everywhere, man.
I was a little late to start and had a lot of mixed feelings about today’s ride. Since it’s such familiar territory I had a hard time stopping to take photos. It’s a challenge to bring fresh eyes to something you’ve seen a million times. But more importantly I’m kind of bummed about finishing the trip, among other things. It’s been such a wonderful experience, there’s part of me that doesn’t want it to end.
This integration thing – easing back into life at home – is going to be tougher than I thought. Already it’s harder to not be overwhelmed by the news cycle, the latest atrocity done in the name of America, the frenzy that is downtown traffic. I miss my basin’s and ranges.
My day was clouded literally and figuratively. I’ve heard over the last few days that my mom is not doing well, and the trend is not good. She’s almost 93 so this is not a surprise, but she’s my mom, so its hard to come to grips with. Her memory has been declining for many years so its been hard to have a good visit with her for some time, but her physical health has been good. Lately she has seemed like she’s not interested in continuing, she’s not eating well, and that’s just hard to hear.
I seem to have written myself into a corner here. I’m not looking for sympathy, but it just wouldn’t be honest to say that I’m in a better place right now than I am. The good thing is that I’m home with people that love, support, and need me, and that’s a wonderful place to be.
There’s so much whirling around in my head today I don’t know where to start. It’s wonderful to be at home and I’m so happy to see Megan, Jonah and all the friends and family that came by last night to celebrate my homecoming. What a great way to wrap up the trip! I feel so supported by the folks who could make it and all of you that have offered comments along the way. You have all really helped keep me going over these last two months.
Overwhelmed doesn’t quite catch it, really. I guess I spoke to people last night and I hope I was coherent but I kind of doubt it. I found myself grasping for words to describe the expereience, the different aspects, and to recall the people and the stories. I think I’m better off writing about it than speaking. When I go to describe what’s happened there’s just too many thoughts and I get a log jam in my brain with them all trying to come forward. Not to mention that, while I kind of like the attention, I don’t feel comfortable with it. Part of me likes the spotlight, but I squirm in it if I don’t have a script to work from. Considering I was running on 5 hours sleep and did 84 miles, I might also have been tired. I’ve been reminded to give myself a break, occasionally, usually by my wise partner.
The one impression that was unmistakable today is that I am really tired. Exhausted is probably the better word but I don’t like it because it sounds like I did too much and I’m not willing to admit that. I’m stubborn that way. But it was pretty great today to not try to do too much – read the Sunday paper with a great cup of coffee, have lunch with Megan and catch up with her, visit the Berkeley Art Museum and be inspired, and write this post without rushing. I’m probably tired today because I can be tired. I’ve probably been “sucking it up” longer than I know, but now that I’m home, in my bed, I can finally, really, crash.
Another first impression that I’ve had getting home is that I could easily get rid of a lot of things. Just look at this ridiculous closet and tell me if yours is much different:
OK so this is just shirts! Half of them are probably indistinguishable anyway – if I wore one, walked out of the room, and back in wearing another one, would you notice? For the last 2 1/2 months I’ve carried 5 shirts with me and frankly that was probably two too many – mostly I just wore the 2 short sleeve ones (I also had 2 T’s, and 1 long sleeve).
My impulse then is to pare down my things significantly. I’ve existed with 40 lbs of stuff for the whole trip, surely I could get by with less, incur less hassle, have more space, at less expense.
The other impression is that this integration thing – working back into my normal life without giving up any “progress” that I think I’ve made in terms of growth, awareness, relaxation, whatever; is going to be a lot tougher than I thought. Already I feel like I’ve slipped – that I spent way too much of last nights party talking about me than catching up with others about them. “But enough about me. What do YOU think about me?” 😉
Meanwhile, here’s a few photos from yesterday’s ride that I hadn’t gotten a chance to post yet.
Day 75 Late Additions
OK so here are some questions that came up last night that, about the trip that, if you’re still reading, you might be curious about.
Q: Are you going to ride to the coast to make it official?
A: Have we met? Yes, of course I will. In fact I feel kind of obligated to take my loaded bike out there to dip my tires in the Pacific. Likely point will be Baker Beach in SF because it’s amazingly photogenic.
Q: Are you going to keep posting to your blog? We’re curious about how this all comes out.
A: Yep. I’ll keep the posts coming for awhile although not everyday. At least for my trip to the coast, a pre/post fitness analysis from Coach Matt, and some updates on whether I’m actually able to sleep in my bed for more than 2 nights in a row.
Q: How many breakdowns did you have?
A: Zip, nada, narrry a single flat tire. I was super lucky and ready to endorse my Surly bike and my Schwalbe Marathon tires.
Q: Did you ever have a point where you didn’t want to continue? Or thought you might through in the towel?
A: Not really. I enjoyed every day in some way, even the day when it rained all 60 miles and it never got over 60F. I was numb and ready to get where we were going, but a warm shower never felt so good. The low point for me was probably the the coffee at the Cuppa Joe Restaurant (ironically named to emphasize its weakness). Sort of like coffee made with Folgers that had already been used twice, with a little hint of dog sh*t thrown in for good measure.
Q: Did you have any close calls with cars?
A: A couple trucks passed a lot closer than I would of liked but I used a mirror and got off the road if things got dicey. There were a couple of times that I actually had to ride into a gravel shoulder to make sure I was OK, and a couple times the air blast itself pushed me farther off than I would have gone. I might have been fine but who wants to gamble when semi’s are involved?
Q: What place suprised you the most? What did you like that you didn’t expect?
A: Probably Nevada. I had zero expectations for Nevada but I really enjoyed the quirky little mining towns and the isolation of those big valleys. Also at some point I’d like to go back and do a loop around Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. They were lovely and I spent way too little time there.
Let me know if there’s something I missed that you’re curious about. Tomorrow I head to Matt’s for my post-ride fitness test. I’m curious if I’m really much stronger or if all those biscuits and gravy on the road countered any real progress.
What a day! I’m home after 75 days to the warm embrace of my wife, son, our family and friends. It’s a little overwhelming and after all this introspection and time alone I find it harder to speak coherently about the experience than it has been writing about it.
It’s late, I’m tired and safely home. But the tank is kind of empty so I’ll postpone much description of the last day until tomorrow. So tonight after everyone has left the party, I’m doing a brief non-post post.
I’m very thankful that my energy geek buddies, David, Jeff and Steve joined me for the final ride into town. Thanks to you three for the great rolling escort. And thanks Megan, Jonah, Helen and Marv for the lovely welcome pizza and party. Thanks too to all our local friends who were able to come by and celebrate the homecoming with us all.
It’s fitting that I land tonight in Davis and take that as my starting point for the last leg home tomorrow. As I was pedaling into town this afternoon the route was completely familiar. In fact, I owe my introduction to California, and Davis in particular, to my sister Lynda, who moved here first back in the ’70s. While she was living here, and I was about 14, and took my first trip to California with my mom to visit her here. That was my first airplane flight too, first trip to San Francisco, first trip to the Sierras. How I’d like to go back and whisper in that kid’s ear, that kid that I was. There’s much advice I’d have for him and I doubt he’d believe that now this is home.
Today’s ride wasn’t exactly the blissful pedal through the foothills that I’d hoped. The countryside as I left Plymouth is lovely, but the route was pretty trafficky. The area between Plymouth and El Dorado Hills is kind of one big urban area, with people commuting back and forth. Being constantly passed by cars is just a drag and it’s tempting to just plow through it hoping that the next segment is better. And actually it was.
As I pulled into the Folsom area, I started to see something I’ve not seen a lot of – bikes! As I joined the system of trails by Lake Natoma and the American River, I was in the company of a lot of other riders – plenty of racing types and fitness seekers. Nice to see others cycling, though I have to admit that I’ve kind of enjoyed being the only one in town on a bike. Great also to see people doing something positive for their health. But many seem so damn serious about it, and I’ve got caught up in that too. Even today, after being passed a couple of times, my competitive dander got up and I wanted to try and keep up with, or beat, whoever was around.
Well whoa there. Here I am, not even home, and all the bliss and insight from the trip is already getting wear on it. I spoke to my wise wife last night and she warned me about this next stage and she’s absolutely right. See while I do “spinning meditations” she does actual meditation, for hours, days, sometimes that’s the focus of her days for a week at a time. And through that experience, she’s often experienced insight and moments of clarity that are not unlike what I’ve experienced on this trip. The hard part, according to Megan, is integrating that insight into your life when you return. In fact that’s probably the hardest part. I know she’s right about that. Damnit. Plenty of work still to do. The good news is its fun work.
It was great to be out of traffic and in Sacramento the trail across town is smooth, shaded, and keeps you off the streets almost the whole way. Mostly that was great but I don’t really feel like I saw any of Sac that way. I did get to see the American River, and for the first time I saw where it meets the Sacramento River, just near Old Sac. (Sorry but the pic didn’t make the cut).
Some of the trail was depressing or maybe I should say, heartbreaking. There are long sections that don’t seem to be used much except by homeless people. Just seeing these folks felt odd because I’ve seen few homeless the whole trip. To a visitor from another planet there’s little difference between me and them. There’s a great many homeless that I saw today, and have seen in San Jose, that use a bike as their main transportation, and carry all their possessions that way, which is exactly what I’m doing. Though obviously I have the means to make a choice to do that, and they likely don’t. Clearly it’s not the same and makes an uncomfortable (for me) contrast as we’re face to face on the trail.
The ride took me through Old Sacramento, which is nice and have visited before so I didn’t dwell there. Then the route goes through West Sacramento which is no garden spot either (cheap hotels, drugs, prostitution) and frankly I’m wondering about who picked this route anyway. Then as I passed West out of Sac, I’m into really familiar territory.
West of Sac is the causeway that separates Sacramento and Davis and I’ve ridden it many times. In fact I summered with my sis in Davis during college and it was one of my common training rides to go from Davis to Sac, touch the City Limits sign, and go back to Davis. I thought that was a pretty big ride then – all of a 20 mile round trip. So as I headed across the causeway today I had all the memories of that summer swimming in my head.
So here I am in Davis, the most bicycle-friendly town in America, and a perfect spot to launch my last day. Even when I visited here in the 70s, Davis had more bikes than people, and the first bike paths and bike lanes I’d ever seen. Today is has special bike signals, left-hand turn lanes for bikes, and an amazing network of trails and green-belts connecting different parts of town.
It looks like I’ll have some folks joining along the route for my last day too. My buddy David Gottfried is on his way here by train and will ride the whole day with me. And it sounds like Jeff G and Steve K may join for part of the ride too. I’m really glad to have the chance to round out the ride with good friends. If you’d like to join, just message me, or comment below, and we’ll figure out how to meet on the route.
It never ceases to amaze me how much the scenery can change in a day, and this day had more changes than just about any of them on the trip so far. I went from the West side of the Sierra, past Aspen meadows and the meandering Carson River, by huge pines twisted by the wind, up and over Carson pass, down again through pine forests, into the foothills, and stopped in the golden hills of the foothill wine country. All the while, the scenery getting more and more familiar, more like home.
Today’s ride started with serious climbing right off the bat. I found myself in my “grandpa gear” as soon as I got out of the parking lot. But I was in no hurry and it was great to just spin and drink in the scenery and the fresh mountain air.
Turns out I’m still on and off of the Pony Express Trail. It went right through Woodfords, as did the Emigrant Trail explored by Kit Carson, who was a scout for Fremont exploration of the northwest. So there’s a lot of history on this route. As I look out over all these steep granite slopes, I can’t even imagine crossing this country in a horse-drawn wagon. Those folks were tough.
In the first 5 miles I pedaled by an old favorite of Megan’s and mine, Sorensens. It’s been our base camp for seeing the October Aspen colors more than once and the nearby Hope Valley is about as ideal a Sierra Mountain meadow as you could imagine.
I didn’t move fast at all today. I found myself lingering in beautiful spots as long as I could while still leaving time make my destination tonight. But when it was time to move on, I had a new salve for the pain of letting go of a beautiful spot – “it’s OK, I can come back here next week if I want.” Literally, I’m about a 4 hour drive from home, and only a 2 day bike trip.
The Sierra are distinctly different from the mountains of Utah and Nevada. All of this granite! It’ shines bright in the daytime and the big round shapes are such a great contrast with the straight trunks and twisted limbs of the trees at high altitude. I found myself trying to photograph them and get it right and suddenly realized that I was trying to retake an Angel Adams photo I’d seen before – which is a pretty high bar to set. I was tempted to through in the towel on that note.
It took awhile to get over the pass but it really wan’t too bad – just takes patience and that’s easy when there’s so much to look at. When I reached the pass I pulled over at the visitor’s station at the top, I met “Rabbit and Squid” (their “trail names”) who are hiking the full 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I never thought of having a “tour name.” I kind of like that idea – let’s you maintain some privacy and assume a different identty of your own making.
They were having a great trip and felt they timed it pretty well. I think that’s been tough this year because we got so much snow many folks were too early and got bogged down by snow still on the trail.
After cresting the pass it was down, down, down. Well there’s the Carson spur that is up, then down some more. Down past Caples, Silver and Bear Lakes, past the vista over the American River Canyon, down into the the deep pine forests.
I stopped to have lunch in Cooks crossing and got there at 2:10 when they close at 2:00. But they were still full and let me in. Whew, I was counting on those calories. The women who worked there warned me that my next road, Shake Ridge Road, was closed due to a landslide. But they heard that other cyclists had made it through. That was good enough for me.
Following this road downhill, the country got drier, hotter and more like the foothills instead of the mountains. When I hit the manzanita I really started to feel close to home.
A little farther and we’re in the “golden hills” of CA, where the landscapes dominated by live oak. I’d forgotten what an odd combination of lush and dry they are. It rains a lot here in the winter, but in the summer it’s bone dry.
And a little farther down and I’m in California wine country, Plymouth. Most people know about Napa and Sonoma, but there are growing wine areas in the foothills, and down state too. The owners of the place I’m staying tonight said that when they moved here 11 years ago, there were 12 wineries nearby. Now there are 45.
"If I had my druthers, I'd ride a bike" Jim's low CO2 trans-am cycling trip