Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To the sea

We woke up to cold temps yesterday and packed up our tents. We grabbed breakfast at a gas station and waited for the sun to warm things up a bit. Once the ride started I was quickly climbing a short hill, which got the blood pumping and warmed me up a bit. A big downhill made my body shiver as the winds chilled me to my core. Next was the last climb of the trip. It was not too steep or too long and Delaware and I rode together, side by side. The roads were great and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Spirits were high and we both randomly broke into laughter often throughout the day. If smiling could fuel spaceships, we would have made it to the moon. We stopped for really good tacos at lunch and we hit up two friends for a favor. Our buddies Matt and John, who live in hotels for work, were very generous and put us up in a really nice hotel in San Diego on marriot rewards points. With our bellies full and our sleeping situation covered we got back in the saddles. Most of the ride was downhill, but a headwind did slow us down. We got out of the mountains and rode through the hills for a bit. Eventually the streets flattened and the smell of salt water was in the air. A rough bike path led us to ocean beach park. We both stopped just short of the sand, to take it all in for a moment. I took off my cycling shoes and we walked our bikes into the pacific for a ceremonial dunking of the wheels and then ran into the sea. The water was cold, but the whole experience uber rewarding. The entire day was a bit surreal. Soon we were met by Sarah, a girl that we worked with in Yosemite many years ago. We threw our bikes in her car and she drove me to a pharmacy where I bought some footwear. The options were limited, the choices included aquasocks, faux leather slippers and huge or tiny flip flops. I went with the big flip flops and doritos. We met my buddy Xavier and his wife Michelle at the hotel. The hotel was super nice and we looked like homeless people, but once they realized we were the guests of such important customers, the velvet ropes parted, champagne fell from the heavens and we were quickly checked in. I put on my cleanest dirty shirt and we headed to dinner. A few margaritas and five years of catching up proved a great recipe for a good time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And then there was one

The winds were crazy yesterday and every time I looked outside and saw the trees about to break in half I felt better about taking a rest day. I ate continental breakfast for about three hours before hitting the hot tub for a bit. I was going stir crazy in the hotel so I walked to the mall and did some laps. Del met me at the theatre in the afternoon and we caught the last matinee. A quick dinner and I was fast asleep.
We woke up late today and spent an hour eating breakfast and another hour packing up and getting our bikes loaded again. Shortly after hitting the road I heard a clunk on the back of my bike. I looked back and saw I lost my crocs that were bungeed on. I turned around and realized there was only one on the street. So when a bit of back tracking didn't turn up the other shoe, I tossed the solo shoe in the trash. Bummer. In the last two years I have now lost three single shoes. I know it's crazy right? I think I am going to start buying several pairs of the same shoes in case I lose one, and then I will just treat them like socks. Now I only have my cycling shoes which are not really up to the task of walking, but as luck would have it this is a bicycling trip and not a walking trip. I will pick up some flip flops in San Diego. Today the roads got rough. I mean really rough. My old bike would have crumbled under these conditions but the long haul trucker was up to the challenge. We stopped for lunch at the only place we passed, a deserted bar with a nice old man behind the bar. He threw together a coupled pulled pork sandwiches and offered some conversation. After lunch Del had a flat, but we quickly patched it and hit the road. The next 18 miles gained 4000 feet of elevation, our biggest climb of the trip. Climbing is a personal experience, it is slow and you have to find a natural rhythm to succeed at it, nevermind enjoy it. Today we each found our rhythms and crushed the last big climb, the problem was we found different rhythms. Del had the map and I was out in front. I was so busy watching a chevy blazer burning with 10ft flames on the othr side of the road that I missed the bike exit and continued on I-8 for another 10 miles until one of California's finest kindly escorted me off the interstate and pointed me to an alternate route. I continued west on the new route and stopped at the top for an Arnold Palmer(half ice tea, half lemonade). As I gained elevation, it got cold and I put on my long sleeve shirt. I hit the town where we planned to stop and soaked up the warm sun while I waited for Delaware. I really love long climbs, you forget about speed and your body focuses on the task at hand and eventually your mind is free to drift in and out of daydreams all day long. This was the last real climb and I wanted to turn around and do it again. We grabbed some huge burgers and a beer at the only place in town and pitched our tents just before dark. The low is supossed to be 30 degrees tonight, which already chills me to the bone (remember we have ridden in 100degrees lately. Tomorrow we finish the ride to the pacific and I have mixed emotions. Part of me is glad we are about to complete a long and hard fought battle on the bikes, but I have been out riding for 45 days and this has become the norm. When we run out of land going west, I dont really know what I will feel. It is always like this with great adventures, in the beggining they are hard and the end is so far off you just want progress and you can't wait to be done. Toward the endyou grow accustomed to the struggle, you have adapted and want to extend the journey. I experieced this climbing El Capitan too and in the end we are creatures of habit and I know I will quickly adjust to normal life again, but I feel the urge to squeeze in a bit more...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sand Dunes, Headwinds, and Marriot Points

Alright where were we? Oh yes, back on the Colorado river...There were two other cyclist staying on the river that were our age, which is rare, most of the people we have seen touring are at least 50. The two guys were grad students at NYU and they were traveling by bike for the summer while visiting some alternative energy sources, which is what they both study. They came over to our site with cold beer and of course it would have been rude to refuse a beer, so we downed that beer and bought some more. Down on the river we all sat in the sand and swapped stories about our trips and drank a few cold ones. Del and I called it quits after a few beers and we hopped on our bikes and rode to Wendy's. The other two guys were going to come but another camper offered them "a scotch" and poured them a full glass of scotch. We ate our food and headed back to camp, full and ready for bed. On the way back we saw the two guys swerving all over on their bikes heading to Wendy's. I woke up around 2am to the sound of a drunk couple fighting. Apparently the girl got lost on the way to the restroom and couldn't find the group again, so of course she was mad that her boyfriend didn't come looking for her. The campsite was pretty small and there was a fence around the whole thing, so I'm not really sure how she got lost, but none the less they kept me up for an hour or so.
When I woke up for good Del was showering, so I ate breakfast and started packing up my tent. Soon we were on our way, but the other guys were still out cold. Let that be a lesson to future touring cyclist, alcohol and touring don't mix. I assume they took a rest day. We had a good start and passed two cyclist heading east, all in the first 20 miles. We grabbed some extra Gatorade to put in our bags for the 60 mile stretch of desert. We soon encountered brutal headwinds and slowly grinded our way west. If cycling cross country is a war, this day would be the key battle that will change the direction of the war. The day was long and the west winds proved to be a worthy adversary. We stopped just before the dunes where they filmed star wars. The Place was a crazy hot spot for motocross riders and four wheelers. We met some locals and swapped stories before they headed back into the sand. While enjoying the last shade for many many miles a solo female cyclist from Alaska stopped to chat. She had never ridden more than twelve miles before she started and she left San Diego a week before to ride for awhile with no real destination. She was lucky to be heading East. because by now she had a 30mph tailwind. We said goodbyes and good luck and headed our separate ways. Within minutes we were in the middle of crazy sand dunes with no vegetation. The dunes were so wild, but the headwinds made for a painful sandstorm. The sandstorm had an exfoliating effect and I felt like I had fresh skin by the time the dunes ended. After the dunes the winds became really strong and we struggled to maintain 7 mph. This battle was far from over. In my head I composed several open letters to the west winds. The first was something like: Dear west winds, You will not defeat us, we will pedal all day if need be. I don't even acknowledge your existence. I laugh at your wasted efforts that only delay the inevitable... After a few hours the letter read: Dear west winds, you annoy and amuse me... by the end it read: Dear west winds, lets make a deal.
We hit Brawley, California only to realize there was no tent camping. We checked out a cheap hotel, but it smelled pretty awful and I could tell Del was not into it so we rode away. Our buddy Alan came through and hit a home run by booking us a great room at the Marriott with some of his rewards points! Alan is the most generous guy I know, but this was a REALLY nice gift. We quickly grabbed a few double cheeseburgers and put on our headlamps. We had 16 miles to go and an hour and a half of light left at best, no big deal right? Wrong, it had just taken us over 4 hours to ride 27 miles, so do the math. The winds were so strong that we could barely stay on the road and we were both absolutely beat, but if you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough, so we rode on. We managed to make it just after sunset and checked into an amazing room. We showered, sat in the hot tub, and then walked to Chili's and grabbed some dinner. We had been in the saddle riding for ten hours and ten minutes and only covered 111 miles, if that gives you an idea of how strong the winds were. We checked the weather and realized that our route for the next day had 60 mph west winds predicted, so we booked the room for another night and are taking a rest day today. We are only 120 miles from our goal of San Diego. The whole way here, every TV we have passed has been on Fox News and we have joked the whole trip that instantly after crossing in to California they would all be tuned in to CNN. The funny thing is that it happened, the TVs here are all on CNN. It is crazy how many things change when you cross an imaginary line.


Friday, May 21, 2010

California sunshine

The weather was great when we woke up and we split some banana bread and bagels for breakfast, packed up camp and were riding west around 6:30. Del is feeling better and we rode really well as a team today. We swapped turns in the lead and in two hours we we 40 miles into the day. We eased it up a bit a cruised into a McDonalds for lunch. A few dollar menu items and a ton of refills of powerade from the sofa fountain and we were feeling good again. By this time the sun was scorching and the headwinds were picking up, which was nice because they cool things down a bit. We were burning alive when we hit the bridge over the colorado river and the water looked great. We had been riding on I-10 but we had to get off to cross the river because bikes are not allowed. Riding on the interstate is both nice and scary. The trucks are hauling, but the shoulders are huge. The profession truck drivers are not the ones to worry about, but the motorhome retirees are the guys to lookout for. There are way less rvs on the interstate, but this stretch had a dirty shoulder littered with glass and tires. I got a flat from a nail, but quickly patched it up and continued. After crossing the river we found a campground and chased the shade. The campground is right on the river and we are heading down to take a dip. Oh yeah, if you didn't know, the Colorado river is the border to California, so we are on our last state! That's all for now, I want to take this all in...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nearly there

I left Phoenix feeling rested and ready to ride. We moved a bit slow getting out of the suburbs and back onto a rural highway, but the riding felt easy and it was not too hot yet. We stopped in the last suburb to grab a few extra tubes, because everything is sharp out here and I have had a thorn and a shard of glass pop a tire in the last few days. I bought some thorn proof tubes that are ten times as thick as a regular tube and we were on our way. The riding was slightly uphill and the heat was around 100 degrees, but our bodies have become machines. Most of the time I don't even think of pedalling at all anymore and my legs never get tired, the only reason we stop is for cold fluids. Hills no longer matter and headwinds have no effect on a machine. Today we rode 86 miles and I would have easily signed on for another 86 but we found a campground with horse shoe pits and stopped for the day. We decided to cut another day out of our schedule and up our daily miles to the coast. My friend Xavier sent me an email that he lives near San Diego and I am really hoping to see him and meet his wife. Xman and I were good buddies in college and I haven't seen him for years, since he moved from Colorado. We also decided we are going to take a few surfing lessons in California, so that also motivates us to move a bit faster. I feel like my body wants more riding than it is getting and I think I want to try to ride 200 miles one day when I get back home. The desert is hot, but we are getting used to it and we only have one more hot day in the forcast. We are eating less food, so maybe our bodies have adapted or maybe it is the heat. Anyway life is good on the road and I am already filling my head with ideas for the next crazy adventure, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Climbing partners, beer, guns and the best slice in America

I felt rested after a good nights sleep and I had almost forgotten about the really scary ride the night before. Feeling great we did the last climb before Phoenix and cruised into Apache Junction. Getting through the suburbs was a bit slower with all the traffic. At what may have been the busiest intersection of our trip I didn't manage to get out of my pedals and took my first and only fall of the trip. A bruise on my hip, a few scrapes, but mostly just damaged pride. The sun was hot and we were really hungry so we hit up In and Out Burger for a double double animal style, man I love that place and my mouth waters for a week before any trip out west just thinking about it.
We hit Scottsdale and detoured to camelback road to see a condo project that our friend Alan built while working for the company Del works for. The project was awesome! There was soil on every balcony and the flowers, plant, and trees growing everwhere. This place was a real treat to visit. From there we headed to my amigo Justin's house in North Phoenix. Justin had cold beer waiting and we were quickly relaxing with a few cold ones. Justin and his wife Jena's house was great. It is really well decorated and just feels comfortable. I have been to Justin's four times in the last year but never even for a whole day, so it was great to stay for two days and just hang out. I tried to take them out to dinner, but it backfired and Jena picked up the tab before I could get my hands on the check. We came back and drank some beers and watched Slammin Salmon on tv.
We woke up early today and I made banana pancakes before Justin's brother came over and we headed out to the desert to shoot some guns. No really, Del and I shot some guns. To clarify, I am terrified of guns and get pretty uncomfortable around them, but we figured we should go anyway. Justin and Eric showed us the ropes and both Del and I fired a glock and a 38 special. Even with ear plugs they seemed really loud. We took a ton of shots at a can, but never really got close to hitting anything. Del did shoot a branch off of a tree, not on purpose but still impressive. I am glad I tried shooting and it was an adventure, but it was not something I want to try again.
We ate some sandwiches and enjoyed the rest day. Justin headed to work and we went to wait in line at Pizza Bianco at 3:30 to try to get in when they opened at 5:00. This place is known as the best pizza in America and regularly has 4 hour waits. We arrived an hour and a half before they opened and there were probably 30 people on line. The place is tiny and has about twelve tables, but we were lucky and got in right at 5:00. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was playing on the speakers and the atmoshphere was relaxed and comfortable. We had made friends in line and spirits were high. We ordered three pizza and got some strange looks. I butted in to another tables conversation about Neil Diamond and pretty some the whole resaurant was talking about how much we all love his music. The pizza was unreal and it lived up to the hype, every bite was a little taste of heaven. It probably ruined all other pizza for me but it was worth it. The hostess looked justvlike a girl in my class at dental school. The girl told me she was going to live In Phoenix for the summer with family, but I guessed it wasn't her because she didn't recognize me. As we were leaving I asked her if she had a sister and it turned out she was the twin of the girl in my class. What a small world. On the way out the people from Overland Park wished us luck and we headed back to Justinand Jena's to swim before bed. What a great stay, I love seeing those two and wish we lived closer. Good luck to Jena in the San Diego half marathon in a few weeks, I know you will do great! I had tried to meet up with another friend Nat, but just realized I missed both her calls, what a bummer. Back on the road in the morning and feeling refreshed and ready to ride.

Eureka, gatorade formula 1

With an early finish in Safford, we had plenty of time to eat a huge dinner at Golden Corral, which was not great but there was plenty of food. After eating dinner we bought some brakfast food for the morning, including gatorade formula 1. So the whole trip we have been drinking normal gatorade, which has the label formula 2 on it. The label advertises three formulas, one for before workout, two for during, and three for after workouts. Del and I had never seen anything other than formula 2 and I was sure that formulas 1 and 2 were actually just an inside joke from the marketing guys at gatorade. Finally we found all three in the same savers grocery store. The next morning we were up at 5am and one the bikes by 6am. The Gatorade formula 1 didn't seem to do anything, but at least we know it is out there. We rode a bunch of uphill and grinded our way through a few major climbs and then got really scared going down the other side. We were right around a hundred miles for the day and we were ripping down the steep grade at over 30mph. The shoulder was really small and the trucks were plentiful. The descent required full concentration and total confidence in our bicycles, thank goodness for my new bike. Constatly getting buzzed by semis was not fun and just as I was thinking that things could not possibly get any scarier, we saw a tunnel ahead. Oh sweet a tunnel without lights and I am wearing sunglasses, I guess i will just take them off right? Wrong, I was doing 35mph and the shoulder just ended. I could not see a thing in the tunnel and the winds were incredibly strong, but I could still hear the 18 wheeler behind me and I could see the lights of the cars whizzing past in the uncoming lane of the tunnel. Guided by the force, we both made it through alive. Then the descent got really steep and the shoulder came back, but was only 18inches wide. Air horns were the norm as out of control truck drivers nearly killed us while passing. With shattered nerves we exited into Superior, AZ and called it a day. We ate some cold pinto beans and tomatoes before heading to sleep.
Pictures from the trip.