Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I’ve been purposely delaying writing the final post about the last day of my bike tour for a few reasons.

First, I haven’t quite felt an “aha!” moment of clarity that maybe I’ve been waiting for, and it feels like I should have some profound thoughts to garnish my last-day-on-the-tour recap. Originally, I set out to clear my head and get back in touch with the strong and confident Sara that’s been hiding under a pile of anxiety, worry, and stress from work. I also sort of thought I would return from the trip with “the” answers and “the” solutions to the nauseatingly overused question every unmarried American girl in her mid/late-twenties has: “What should I do with my life?”  While my trip was incredible for so many reasons, I wouldn’t say I’ve exactly had a revelation of any kind. I’ve felt tougher, yet more vulnerable; independent, yet more trusting. But beyond that, there has been no poignant moment of bestowed wisdom, no clouds parting and angels singing, no ass-kicking-girl-power-infused confrontations to my nemeses. Life has gone on around me and within me. It was, after all, just a trip. A trip that was meaningful to me and for others who did it for different reasons… but ultimately not something that makes me better than anyone else and something that has been and will be repeated by many others. Still, I’m waiting on that Hollywood “aha” moment!

Second, I’m just not quite ready to admit it’s over! My legs and mind are antsy. I think I got to a point where my mind would only relax if I was pushing myself physically. As a result, my body became sore, particularly the tush and a deep quad-ache. Now, however, things have reversed. I’ve managed to rest my legs, much to their chagrin, and my mind is going crazy (reminiscent of a taper-tantrum to all you marathoners). So much to do before the start of the school year, so many things to think about in the future, so much to prepare for, where is our next climbing trip going to be, when will I plan a trip to see this person again, what’s my next athletic event to train for, etc. I miss being on the bike when the stress of “what’s next” wasn’t dominating my thoughts. On the road, it was “10 more miles till I get to pee,” or “Gee, I’m thirsty. Time to take a drink.” I see my Swedes continuing on their journey, and I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy that I am not with them and experiencing the simple complexities of road life. Maybe I’ll have that “aha” moment when I learn to infuse this utter simplicity and choice to live worry-free in my life off the road.

Anyway, you likely came here to read about my trip, not my feelings. I’ll regale you with a couple of tales about my last day.

The night of the 18th, Tobias, Annika, and I camped at Samuel P Taylor park- about 20 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. We cooked dinner together, enjoyed each other’s company, and dreamed of a big brunch the next morning (Saturday). We looked briefly at our maps just to find the cross streets. The maps’ elevation profiles have seemed decidedly inaccurate—big hills seem smaller and flat areas seem impossibly in real life. Could be totally psychological.

One the road one last time!

Everything was going well, until I entered Olema. I blindly began following bike route arrows, only to realize –oops- every street has a bike route. I somehow started an epic climb up Fairfax-Bolinas hill without thinking anything of it, despite the throngs of weekend warriors on their titanium frames, perfectly shaven man legs, and pressed Castelli cycling attire. At last, someone finally asked me where I was going. “San Francisco!” I proudly declared. “Um…I hate to tell you this, but you are definitely going the wrong way,” this nice woman told me. Shucks. In retrospect, this was clearly not a touring route, and it’s funny to think how out of place I looked in my dirty fluorescent vest and bulging panniers. Silver lining: I got to ride down the 1,000-ft climb I just needlessly completed.

Profile of my totally-unnecessary-wrong-turn climb.

As I rode back into Fairfax, I ran into a group ride. The banter between bike tourists and cyclists is always a bit odd as there’s a subtle seizing up of one another but luckily these guys were super nice. I told them I was headed to San Fran, that I had lost my people (I had become rather attached to the Swedes by this point, and the thought of not crossing The Bridge with them was a bit sad), and that I wasn’t entirely sure of the route. Two of them told me to hang with them and they’d show me the local route. Famous last words, as “local route” usually is code for “hill.”

They took me away from the traffic of Sir Francis Drake Blvd (yay!) and up a steep climb they claimed was only 200 feet (impossible). “One last little bump before Sausalito!” they said. Our definition of “bump” seemed to have some fundamental differences. They were equally impressed by my speed uphill as they were sympathetic to my anything-but-aerodynamic descents and tried to convince me to come out to do the Death Climb next year- a tour of the California Alps they had both completed the weekend prior. I didn’t want to mention that I felt like I was already in a death climb of my own as I panted to keep up with their sveltely-spandexed selves. They dropped me off on the bike path just outside of Sausalito, at which point I was able to connect with the Swedes by phone and make a plan to meet in Sausalito. By now it was already 12:30pm. We decided to eat in the small town before embarking in the madness of a big city. Soon, we were again on our way south bound for the bridge. I somehow managed to take yet another wrong turn up a hill and found myself pushing it to the summit of a scenic overlook. The bridge was below me. How do I keep doing this?

Despite some wrong turns, the Bay was looking darn good!

Eventually, Tobias, Annika, and I were ready to bike across The Bridge! It was incredibly crowded, as it was a Saturday. We fought our way through the tourists riding tandem bicycles with GoPros on their helmets (for real). We came to a clearing and took some victory pics on the other side.

Tobias and Annika! They will continue to San Diego. Annika is 4 1/2 months pregnant! Crusher.

We then stumbled our way into Golden Gate Park where our fuzzy warmth of achievement was quickly brought down by the angry SF weekend cyclists chastising us for our panniers that were taking up too much room, which precluded their passing around us. Ahhh, city life; we have arrived!
We secured a map and left the madness and found Tobias and Annika a hotel. We said our goodbyes and I was off to meet up with my dear friends Dedi and Vani at the climbing gym (sadly, I did not climb) and start the recovery process! 

The fog kindly waited to roll in until after we crossed

I’ve been staying with D and V for the past few days working on settling my mind and body to a sustainable state that doesn’t require 8 hours of constant activity to make it feel happy. Vani has been the best coach for this with her calming, unrushed, and easy personality. I’m so grateful for wonderful friends who can take me in and treat me with love.


My life coaches for the week 

Thank you again for following me on this trip! It meant a great deal to see people I had never met and people I’ve known all my life equally invested, and I’m glad I could share it! I’m undecided if I’ll keep the blog going, but we shall see. Thank you, thank you, and I can’t wait to see your adventures.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Paying it Forward in Pt Arena

Some reflections, photos, and thoughts on Thursday and Friday! I'll write my reflective, San Francisco entry after I've reflected :) Enjoy!

July 17:
Can't beat that Mendocino view, am I right?

The day started off foggy and drippy but warm. We were just 2 miles from Mendocino, and I was in need of some coffee. The coffee was more expensive than my campsite. Impressive. Luckily it was delicious :)

Annika and Tobias and our decidedly not vegan dinner in Ft Bragg

I took off with Annika and Tobias, and they were bound for Albion, the next town. I spent most of the day riding alone, which was an excellent time to reflect on my trip thus far. I’ve gotten along really well with Annika and Tobias, and it’s been great to have some familiar faces along the way. I wanted to have a bit of time to myself to think about the start and end of my journey.

Prior to leaving, I confided to Steve that I didn’t know if I’d really be able to do the trip and was afraid to do longer rides in Colorado because I was afraid I’d find out I wasn’t in shape and could cop out. I thought of this during the ride and was shocked. I couldn’t believe I was nervous about the physical aspect of the trip and was surprised to remember how insecure I was and how little confidence I had in myself. Never did I plan a day and fall short of my plan, and everyday I surpassed my plan in mileage. I’ll get to the stats later.

Anyway, the morning was mushy and full of girl power and self love, which abruptly ended just past the town of Elk just in time to see the clouds part and take a little pit stop.

Town o' Elk

Just after my relaxing stop in Elk, I would find that I had rubbed what remained of my cleats down to the very last nubbins and could no longer clip in. Hmmm… what to do? Looking at the map, I had Manchester and Gualala to look forward to, which seemed rather small and unlikely to have a bike shop. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best. Without clipping in, I lose a considerable amount of efficiency (I would venture to say at least 30%). Hills upon hills were on the menu for the day’s ride, and I was in my tennis shoes with my clipless (which are really clip-in) pedals. Things were not going well. Hills were harder, downhills felt less controlled, and I started to wonder if it was even possible to make it to my campsite for the night (35 miles by that point).

Spoiler alert: I managed to find new cleats. (L): Old cleat on top; (R): Old cleat on bottom.
Worn to the absolute nubbins!

I made it to a small town called Point Arena and noticed they had a sign that said “Parts Unlimited.” Worth a try, right? They were attached to a motorcycle shop. Two-wheeled locomotion? A marginal chance they sold bike cleats. I asked the woman running the shop (Kelley) if by any off-chance they sold bike parts. She was so kind in saying they did not but told me to hold on a second and that she knew a guy just down the road! I chatted with the guy, Brian, on the phone who said sadly he was out of town, otherwise he would try to help. He gave me a number of his friend in town, Eman. I called this person I’d never met, because I was given his number by someone I’d never met, because he was called by a woman I had just met. Worth a shot, right?!

Eman immediately said, “Sure, I’ve got some spare cleats in my garage. See you in a minute!” Unbelievable! I had never met this person and without a second thought, he was leaving work to get me a part in his garage. He was the nicest person ever. Kelley was as happy and encouraging as I was and she told me repeatedly how amazing my journey was and that after I make it to San Fran, I can do anything. Such a motivational community! Eman wouldn’t accept money, but would accept cookies. I was so inspired by everyone who has paid it forward on this trip and went so far out of their way just to help me. I gave the Kelley money and asked her to give it to any fundraiser that would support their special community. She was grateful.

Kelley from the Zen Motorcycle Shop in Pt Arena. My angel!

From here, I was on my own and made up some time. The ride in total was about 72 miles. It was a hilly but scenic ride, and I was bound for Stillwater. I had a 20-mile stretch before camp where my quads got tired and I was facing hilly terrain and a headwind. I decided to dedicate each mile to a person who had helped me on my journey. Some people I had met, some I had not (Insta-friends!). So, thank you to my family (Mom, Dad, Matt); my boyfriend (Steven) and his climbing partner (Ryan); my InstaTurnedRealFriends (Rani, Jess, Rachel Layer, Tracy, Hailey, Bri); my Boulder community (Monte, Connor, Rachel and Phil, Rachel and Amir, the Michel family) and my home friends (Rachel and Adam; Anika/Jenna/Jenna) for the motivation to continue and crush those last few miles!

That night, the hiker-biker site had some new folks to meet: Ella from Santa Cruz doing a short tour and a Canadian father-daughter duo. I was excited to see Annika and Tobias roll into camp about an hour later. I found myself missing their company, and had a little Christopher McCandless moment thinking that “happiness: only real when shared.” It was great to ride alone and reflect, but I enjoyed the company and community. I made a plan to stick with them throughout the next day-- more or less.

July 18
Friday, Friday! Gotta get down on Friday.
I left Stillwater Park and headed south again bound for Jenner for breakfast (vegan options! Praise Seitan). 

Vegetables served here!

The road ahead was my kind of riding and unbeatable. Lots of climbing and lots of fun descents. I had a great day and rode mostly by myself and waited for Annika and Tobias at small towns to regroup. The morning started foggy, but soon the sun made its way through and the scenery was incredible and easily my favorite stretch of the road. The fog lifted early revealing some great views.



Some thoughts from Fridays' ride:
Tomorrow I head over the bridge into San Francisco and will end my journey. I am excited for what’s next, but I am sad to leave the road and touring. I’ll miss the community, I’ll miss the miles, I’ll miss the scenery, I’ll miss the climbing, I’ll miss the screaming descents, and I’ll miss the semis. Well… not the semis. I’ll write a reflective post tomorrow when it’s truly done. But for now… the stats.

Total miles travelled: 800
Total days travelled: 12
Average miles/day: 66.6
Biggest day: 90
Shortest day: 30
Best Coffee: Portland/Stumptown
Best side trip: Crater Lake, OR
Best food: Jenner
Best Bike Scenery: Northern CA south of Bodega Bay and before SF Bay
Most bike-friendly: Washington or just outside of CA
Nicest cars: Subarus, shortly followed by Priuses (Prii?)
Favorite campsite: Beverly Beach (OR)
Best bakery: Point Arena, CA
Kindest people: Basically everywhere

Riding into my last camp, Samuel P Taylor, on the Marin bike path w/ the Swedes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

Hi all! Here's an update from the past few days!

July 14
Sunday evening, I made it to the family campsite just north of Klamath. It was a quirky little site with a wonderfully kind host who gave me the best site on the lot. The site was great and the weather moist. The previous evening, I met a few campers at the site. I love staying at family campsites. They’re safe, alive with excitement, and it’s also nice to see families getting away and spending time with one another.  

Pesky redwoods clogging your yard? Turn them into Godzilla for a sightly alternative!

I did a bit of work and fell asleep right away for about an hour. I wouldn’t say I’ve been sleeping well overall, likely due to my worst-purchase-and-decision-I’ve-ever-made Thermarest from the REI garage sale that I decided to bring on this trip. This golden pad of terror weighs a whole five ounces less than my trusty usual Thermarest and was a measly $40 for a $150 pad. The catch? Two of the central air pillars in this new pad have somehow fused together, creating a large bubble precisely where one’s (my) spine would go. Blown up halfway, it’s not terrible if you never move. Unfortunately I move a lot in my sleep, which leads to a scenario not unlike a drunk bachelorette on a mechanical bull at midnight. I’m sliding everywhere, trying to hold on to any comfortable position and any slight movement causes me to pitch to the ground. If only I could have had the foresight to understand that perhaps I could have traded a few mere ounces for an outrageous amount of more comfort. Live and learn!

Need some fun in your life? Invest in a crappy Thermarest!

Too much info? Back to the ride. On Monday, I awoke early {thankful to once again have some space away from the Thermarest}, packed up, and shipped out. Well…biked out. I was out of camp by 8:20! Perhaps some of my motivation to get moving lied in knowing that that night, I wouldn’t be setting up a tent or awaking to damp clothes. Instead, I would be sleeping on a comfy couch and enjoying good food and a brew with new friends (Andrea and Wade) my wonderful friend Ben connected me with.

The day’s ride started off moist as I was still in the eerie fog wonderland of the redwoods. Have you ever seen a redwood cone? They are itty-bits! Redwoods rely less on their seeds and more on their ability to grow trees off of their own root systems. The scenery was beautiful, although pretty cold. With a fair amount of climbing, I would sweat to the top… and then freeze on the way down. Oh, evapotranspiration- you fickle beast.

The view is well worth the cold.

I rode on out of the Jedediah Forest and continued south into more and more fog and past a wild elk population. I was craving a cup of hot coffee (which I never did get…) and a warm blanket. Eventually, however, I was able to out-ride the fog. The bike route took me on a cool scenic road that led to the town of Trinidad, a funky coastal village that had great vegan food and scenery. I would be meeting Andrea and Wade later and ended up spending about two hours lunching, hydrating, obsessing over the map, and chatting with other riders.

Arcata was just 15 miles away, and I easily made it there. Andrea and Wade were so kind and welcoming, despite the fact that I had never met them and was really at their mercy for food, drink, and amazing comforts such as laundry and showers. They were easily some of the most fun people I’ve ever met. Such cool lives! They also have an adorable dog.

Wade made the most delicious curry!

July 15
Tuesday started with some intense highway miles from Arcata to Eureka. It was one of those rides where it didn’t really seem like bikes were/should be allowed, and I kept waiting to get pulled over by a police officer who would tell me, “Duh- the bike route is over there!” That never happened. There were tons of exits and entrances to dodge, and a lot of construction. As a shoulder-dweller, bikes have to cross over every exit and every entrance, whereas vehicles can bypass these. When orange cones are added to the mix, things get more confusing. Nothing too exciting to report, thankfully! A few annoyed cars would honk at me as I crossed the exit to get back to the shoulder, letting me know they were annoyed they had to slow down (isn’t that what you do at an exit anyway…?) to wait and exit. Meh.

The wind around the bay between Arcata and Eureka was INTENSE! It was a bit of a foggy morning, but as soon as I got a few miles out of Eureka, the weather turned very hot very fast. It was crazy muggy! I stopped to refill water about 10 times today (not an exagg). The route thankfully left the craziness of Highway 101 to the Avenue of the Giants for some of the most scenic, relaxed, and joyful riding of the trip thus far. This was a redwood forest without the fog—somewhat of an anomaly. Apparently the weather patterns were unusual for the area.

The traffic was minimal and no one seemed to be in a hurry. This route also didn’t allow semis (a critical element to the day’s enjoyment factor). The redwoods are truly unbelievable, even up close. This road allowed for me to see them up close and a chance to snap a few pictures (while in the saddle). The road passed through several small towns advertising unusual things, such as carvings of Shrek out of old redwood stumps. I was uncomfortably warm and dreaming of a variety of things, including a pool and margarita. I also started thinking about the things I was carrying that I hadn’t yet used. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, did a Post Office appear! I bought a box and packed everything that was not essential and mentally was psyched. I can’t say my legs really noticed, but it felt nice to be proactive.

As I was biking, I saw a man and woman flag me down from a truck that was pulled over. I at first thought it was someone who broke down and needed a cell phone but it was actually some campers from Monday night who recognized me. The Rodericks were so kind and were the best pit crew ever! What a treat to be cruising and sweating and telling yourself that in just 9 miles you could stop for water… and out of nowhere, you’re handed an ice cold drink! I was so touched that they stopped after recognizing me, and I was also grateful for the water! I am continually impressed and amazed at the kindness of people in this world. Some of my happiest and most surprising moments on this trip have come from special interactions just like this one.

The Roderick Family! My saving grace for the day :)

I sadly had to get back on the 101 after the Avenue of the Giants where the shoulder oscillates from a comfortable 5 feet to about 3 inches. Every time the shoulder narrows, it’s almost comical. “What is this- the shoulder for ANTS?! It needs to be at least…3 times this big,” I say to myself to make light of a slightly terrifying phenomena. Points if you get the reference! J

Today, I had a few possible campsites picked out (all in the Avenue of the Giants area) and two “reach” campsites about 20 miles past the Avenue. I easily reached the Avenue sites by 1:45pm and didn’t give it a second thought. I pressed on and made it to Richardson State Park, who, surprise!, only takes cash for reservations. With a 2-mile round-trip side stop to get cash from an ATM, the day’s total was 88 miles. Tomorrow will be my intense day climbing the infamous 2,000-ft Leggett Hill. Hopefully it won’t be terrible. There’s a great deal of downhill following, and I’ll be setting my sites on Mendocino, or wherever.

July 16
Last night, I camped at Richardson State Park with two other bike tourists, Annika and Tobias, both from Sweden. They are incredibly nice!

They got an early start and I was behind them by about 20 minutes. I knew today would be our biggest climb: THE Leggett Hill. I started off having read very little about the route (rare for me), and was surprised to read that the town of Leggett (at the base of The Hill) was 12 miles away. Oops. Maybe a Clif bar was too small of a breakfast. My plan was to bike, then refuel in Leggett before tackling the hill. Silly me totally missed the town of Leggett altogether and after climbing for about 10 minutes, I thought to myself, “Is this The Hill?”

I didn’t want to get my hopes up and recalled some hills before The Hill on the map. I wasn’t going to stop and look, as I’m all momentum on hills. After about another 15 minutes, I saw Tobias and Annika. Cars were cheering us on, and for the first time, it was actually helpful and not terrifying! Luckily, the road is now Highway 1 (or the PCH, if you’re into the California lingo), not the 101, so there is considerably less commercial traffic (ie: semis, logging trucks, half-semis that resemble Optimus Prime’s latest configuration, etc.).

Can't say I'll miss ya, 101! :)

Overall, Leggett was not that bad, and I’d venture to say, enjoyable. It was reminiscent of long, sustained rides in Colorado, ala Lee Hill Rd. The descent was… absolutely freezing! It was a misty, foggy morning. I was numb by the time I got to the bottom. Following that hill was just an itty-bitty 500-ft climb- about ¼ of what I just tackled. The 500-footer felt about 500 times harder on cold legs that had been on coast mode for 5 miles!

Hills for breakfast, folks!

At this point, I was absolutely starving. With only a Clif bar to sustain me for 30 miles and 3,000ft of climbing, I was getting hunger pains and the hangries. Luckily, I was solo. The town of Westport came into view, and I stumbled in and purchased and consumed half the store. From here, the road was my ideal kind of riding! Climbing and descents over and over and over until Fort Bragg. The views are only getting better! I’m currently in Fort Bragg drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee and taking advantage of the WiFi and power outlets that seem to be a bit hard to come by in these parts. I have about 8 miles left of my journey today and will be camping just north of Mendocino for a total of just over 70 miles today.

Thanks for following along!
Anything you'd like to hear about that I'm not mentioning? Let me know! :)