Monday, September 13, 2010

Home! A short update.

Home! After a 10 hour day of traveling, we made it home. Selena picked us up at the airport and we were back at our house by 4:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday, September 7th.

Waiting in the airport. It was so strange to only have two bags with us.

Beautiful flowers waiting for us at home.

It's amazing that it took us three months to bike out to the West coast and only a day of travel to come back. It is very surreal to be home. There is so much room in our house, and our bed is so BIG! It's a beautiful time of year to be in New England. Our garden and yard was very overgrown when we first got back, but we have slowly tamed it back. And in the garden we still have broccoli and kale to eat! Also, Selena sweetly picked and hung our garlic to dry, so we have lots of garlic to eat.

Look how much food we can cook at once! Also, notice how we can just have fresh fruit around to eat whenever, that won't get squished in the bags and make a mess? Ah, the stuff we take for granted at home...

Picking peaches.

Cleaning up the back yard.

Our very overgrown front yard.

Lovely sunflowers!

Selena helps (okay, she did most of it) prune the river birch tree in our front yard.

We are still waiting on the return of our bike. It should be here any day. It's been strange to not ride for a whole week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 91

San Francisco, CA→ San Francisco, CA
Net Elevation gain: 66 ft. (95 ft. to 161 ft.)
Average Speed: 7.8 mph
Top Speed: 20.7 mph
Time spent biking: 21 minutes
Miles biked today: 2.8
Total for trip: 4437.5 miles

Unfortunately, we didn't have the best sleep last night. The room we stayed in was too hot and the people on the bottom bunk snored. One of them also got a phone call in the middle of the night, which she answered and proceeded to talk loudly on, in Dutch, for what seemed to Jenny like an hour. The bed was comfortable though.

We got up early and breakfasted on watermelon, last night's chicken leftovers, an omelet with Laughing Cow soft cheese, onion, and garlic, plus toast. It was fun to cook food in the huge kitchen at the hostel. We made sure to wash all the dishes we dirtied afterward.

After breakfast, we were both excited and overwhelmed at plans for the rest of the day. We needed to finish sorting through what we were taking home with us and what was getting shipped with the bike, then we had to pack everything up and find our way to the bike shop. Once there, we would start the process of dismantling the bike. After that, we'd have to pack it all up securely, and get it ready for shipping. Finally, we'd have to find our way to the home of the person who offered to host us tonight.

Brett works to free our bike from the little courthouse room where we kept it last night. Up and over the other bikes was the only way out.

After finalizing our plans and printing out the shipping forms at the hostel, we carried everything downstairs (it took quite a few trips), loaded up the bike one last time, and set off down the hills of San Fransisco toward the docks on the eastern edge of the city.

Down the stairs!

A picture outside the hostel before we set off down the hill. In the background you can see the tower of the Bay Bridge to Oakland.

Once we were riding a sense of calm came over us. This was our last day of our bike trip. And it was BEAUTIFUL. The sun was shinning, the water sparkled in the distance and we were pros at navigating traffic and finding our way around. We took our time riding the short three miles to the bike shop and stopped several times to take photos.

A pier down by the water. It was such a beautiful, clear day.

An artsy shot.

Arriving at Mike's Bikes about 15 minutes before 11 am, the shop was not yet open. We unloaded our bags and set to work taking the bike apart. Halfway apart, the bike looks really silly. Once the employees arrived for the day, we were able to get the two bike boxes that they had saved for us and they also kindly let us borrow a few tools to finish dismantling the bike. Jenny cut the boxes so that we could fit them together as one “box” with lots of packing tape she bought nearby. We were having fun, but it was a bittersweet feeling at the same time.

What we accomplished before the bike shop opened.


The two boxes taped together. Long enough to fit Jenny!

In goes the bike!

About an hour later, we were still in the midst of packing up the bike. The bike went in fairly easily once apart, but we had to figure out how to stow all our other gear in there safely. We were starting to get really hungry so Brett went to get some food while Jenny continued to pack the boxes. Getting to the very end of a trip can be pretty emotional and even stressful, so it was good to take a break from each other. Brett made some good choices at the food store just a block away, and brought back some yummy food. When he got back, we sat down together and ate until we were full. Things are always better after food, and Jenny had brought us close to the end of the packing, so we finished up pretty easily after that.

Tape. Lots of tape.

Lots and lots and lots of tape.

With one final picture of us next to the box that now held the bike that took us all the way across the country, we set off into the city on foot. After a short stop at the health food store/Internet cafe near Mike's Bikes, where we called Mama and Papa and looked up directions to our Warm Shower host for the evening, we set out again. Lindsey's house was only a few miles from where we were and though we were tired and feeling sick of traveling, it was a nice change to walk there. Now that our bike was packed and left behind, we mostly just wanted to be home and not be so tired.

On foot is much slower than by bike.

A huge mess of cable car lines.

Well, it turned out that Lindsey is one of the nicest people ever. Once we got to her apartment, she showed us right in, let us take showers and even took us on a short walk to see the famous houses called the Painted Ladies which are just up a steep hill from her apartment. In the evening, she cooked us a delicious dinner and it was so much fun to share stories about our trips. She and her husband biked across the country last year, so she had some GREAT stories. To top it all off she even offered to drive us to the airport in the morning, instead of having to hire a van/shuttle to get us.

The Painted Ladies.

As we drifted off to sleep tonight, Jenny on the couch and Brett on a sleeping pad on the floor just below (we could still hold hands), we talked about how fitting it seemed to start and end our trip with a Warm Showers host.

Our cozy spot for night.

An amazing thought: Tomorrow, we will be HOME!

The last photo of us with our bike.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 90

Marshall, CA→ San Francisco, CA
Net Elevation gain: 82 ft. (13 ft. to 95 ft.)
Average Speed: 8.4 mph
Top Speed: 35.9 mph
Time spent biking: 6 hours 15 minutes
Total time for the day's travels: 11 hours 25 minutes
Miles biked today: 53.1
Total for trip: 4434.7 miles

We woke up early, a little tired, but having both gotten a decent amount of sleep. It wasn't quite light as we emerged from our cozy blankets and started to take down our tent, one last time. As the sun began to brighten the world, our tucked-away spot didn't seem so secluded as it did last night. A couple cars passed without much notice and a lady out for a morning walk with her dog came near, but by that point we were packed up and ready to set out. It's amazing how quickly we put everything away and were ready to go!

Our "stealth" camping spot.

We made our way through Marshall, and up over some capes before stopping for a breakfast of pecan pie. YUM! The sun was poking out, and we were looking out over Tomales Bay, where there were lots of birds. Most of the birds were wading around, probably looking for fish to spear. They were so pretty.

Nothing like pie for breakfast!

Big white birds in Tomales Bay.
A closer shot of a bird in the shallows.

One problem with not staying the night at a campground? No bathrooms to use in the morning. We did find a porta-potty at a kayak rental place before leaving Marshall, which was good.

All in all, it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning, with clear sunny skies, but still a bit cool. The further south we went, the more bicyclists we saw and the warmer it got. There were LOTS of bikers out for morning rides on this holiday weekend. We stopped for a more complete breakfast on the side of the road, sitting on a cement bridge. Brett counted at least a dozen bikers go by while we ate.

Second breakfast.

Our view from our second breakfast spot.

Before long we made it to the turn for the beautiful wooded bike path. We had been looking forward to this path the closer we got to it on our map. It was just as good as we imagined, and maybe better. It's always a treat, after riding on busy roads for a long time, to find a nice, quiet, well-designed, smooth bike path. This path made its way through old growth forest, eventually winding its way into Samuel P. Taylor State Park.

Once in the park, we decided it was a good opportunity to use the restrooms, as well as possibly our last chance for photos of the redwood trees. Finding a hollowed-out tree, we set up the camera and did a few timed shots together. Goodbye redwoods, we have loved riding below your magnificence!

These trees are so great: both immense and amazing!

A couple from San Fransisco stopped us and asked some questions about our bike and our trip just as we were setting out again. They looked at our maps with us and we talked about directions. Our way into the city seemed good enough to them, though they did warn us that the next bit of road wasn't going to have much of a shoulder. They were right about that. There were also lots of cars on the road, but a large majority of them were heading away from the city on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, which we were thankful for. People went around us, and before long we were within mere miles of San Fransisco!

As we pedaled into Lagunitas, we stopped for smoothies and a bagel sandwich at the general store. It was still early and after this third breakfast of the day, we felt more relaxed and well-fed. Before leaving town we took some time to poke around a tag sale. We didn't find anything, but it's always fun to look.

Lagunitas is a small town, even though it's fairly close to San Francisco.

Our route into the city was a lot hillier then we had imagined it would be. We had some very large hills to climb up and over. Because of this, it took us longer than we had thought to get into San Fransisco. Also, with so many other cyclists out for rides today, at times it was frustrating to see them whiz past us, clad in their lycra biking clothes, sprinting up the hills we were inching our way up. It made us feel tired and slow. Oh well, it's not a race! And we have biked ALL THE WAY across the country AND down the coast!! So take that, you fast out-for-a-day-ride bikers.

Jenny really enjoyed looking at all the trees and plants that we passed today. She feels thankful that Brett does the steering so that she can look around. The plants here are so different than in the Northeast. It's a lot like South Florida. When we made it to Sausalito, we stopped to take some pictures of the bridges off in the distance. It was almost as touristy here as it was at Niagara Falls! We noticed that lots and lots of people had rented bikes for the weekend. Many looked to be tourists from other countries, and some didn't look too comfortable on a bicycle.

Beautiful flowers we wouldn't see at home!

The bridge in the distance is the one between San Francisco and Oakland.

We had one last steep hill to climb before coasting down to the Golden Gate Bridge! It was so busy on the roads and as we pulled into the parking area/lookout for the bridge, we felt thankful that we weren't in a car because of all the traffic backed up. As for crossing the Golden Gate, there was one sidewalk lane open for biking across. Without too much hesitation, but after a few last pictures, we decided to go for it!

This sign was a bit overwhelming, but it shows that this side of the bridge is not open to pedestrians, only to bicyclists.

Here we are getting on the bridge!

The views from the bridge were beautiful! We were on the west side of the bridge, looking out toward the ocean. There wasn't too much wind, which was a relief, and not too much traffic for us. The walkway was for bicyclists only! Still, as we had noticed before, there were LOTS of tourists on bicycles today for the holiday weekend. Some people looked quite scared. We stopped for pictures a couple times, but Brett wasn't exactly the picture of relaxation either, so we didn't dally. It was REALLY neat to stop and touch the enormous cords from which this suspension bridge is hung!

Jenny, holding up the bridge!

It was hard to figure out where to go after we arrived on the other side. We hadn't planned this part so well, and we had expected to get here earlier in the day, but still, we were in SAN FRANCISCO!!! We took a couple looks at very basic map, and Brett navigated us along the northern shore of the city until he saw the street he thought he remembered was the best way to the bike shop.

Looking back at what we just crossed, and down at the bay where people were parasailing in the crazy wind under the bridge.
A shot from a different perspective a little later.

As we turned right onto Hyde Street, we almost panicked. Ahead of us was one of the steepest streets in the city known for its hills. Without stopping we double-checked with each other, and then went for it. We just hoped we wouldn't drop the chain. We climbed slowly but steadily, working hard, but still able to keep going. It reminded us of the very steep hill in Albany, way back when, but this was MUCH longer. About two thirds of the way up, because we were going so slowly, Brett's foot clipped the front wheel, and we stopped abruptly. It was a little embarrassing, as there were some curious pedestrians watching, and it took us a couple tries to get started on such a steep hill, but then we got going again, and made it the rest of the way up, eliciting a few cheers from our “audience.”

At the top of Hyde Street we took a break and dared to look back.

Once at the top of the hill, we surveyed our surroundings. There were tall buildings in every direction, tons of people, and narrow streets. We were certainly in the city now, but still several miles away from the bike shop, and the shop was closing soon. Our first priority was to find a bathroom (easier said that done in the city, we found out), and then get our bearings and have a snack. After a few tires, we found a public bathroom in a sports store, then a cafe to sit down in to use the Internet.

It was getting to be late afternoon now and we new that we wouldn't have enough time to find the bike shop and also pack up the bike tonight. What should we do now? It was hard to think about what was best and we were bummed that we didn't arrive in time to back up the bike today. Also, the stress of navigating and biking in the city had taken a lot out of both of us already, especially Jenny, who, from the very beginning didn't want to bike in the city. After some food and weighing a lot of different options, Jenny starting calling hotels and hostels to find a place to spend the night. The Green Tortoise Hostel had one bed left! Yay! Plus it was only about two miles away from where we were (and NOT down the very large hill we had just climbed up!).

Relieved to be done with decisions, we quickly got back on the bike. The route was fairly simple, but no one told us there would be a tunnel. Yes, that's right: a tunnel. There didn't seem to be much traffic at all, so Brett made the decision to go for it, despite the worries we both had. As soon as the traffic light changed to green, we pushed off and into the tunnel. Luckily, it was downhill, so we were moving right along. And then the traffic started entering the tunnel behind us. We were already about a quarter of a mile in, but there was still quarter of a mile to go, and the noise was deafening! The cars were gaining on us, but we zipped out into the dwindling daylight just as the cars started passing us in the other lane! Whew! Jenny promptly proclaimed that was the scariest thing she'd ever done.

A few blocks later we were at our final destination for the night. We rang the bell, carried our gear and our bike up the stairs into the hostel, and checked in. We were exhausted, but also hungry. Brett volunteered to go back out on foot and bring back some food, while Jenny rested. In a little while, Brett returned with a large hamburger, as well as some Vietnamese food. We ate in the little indoor courtyard where our bike was stored. It was open to the sky, and our bedroom window also looked out on it.

The delicious food restored our spirits, and gave us enough energy to shower, and straighten up our stuff before falling into bed. Actually, we literally climbed into bed, as we were on the top bunk. We were so tired that all we wanted to do was sleep, and we knew we didn't even have to get up early to bike a long way. Ah! A bed...

A picture from our morning, before we left Marshall.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 89

Gualala, CA→Marshall, CA
Net Elevation gain: -23 ft. (36 ft. to 13 ft.)
Average Speed: 9.3 mph
Top Speed: 42.8 mph
Time spent biking: 7 hours 55 minutes
Total time for the day's travels: 13 hours
Miles biked today: 73.4
Total for trip: 4381.6 miles

Good morning! Two tandem bicycles in the hiker/biker area!

After breakfast this morning, before we hit the road, we offered Nadia and Dieter a chance to try our tandem in exchange for us trying theirs. They were excited to try the switch for a ride around the campground loop, and we were thrilled with our chance to try their bike. We should explain that on the Hase Pino, the front person is in a recumbent position while the rear person is in an upright position. Brett took the rear position, which is also the captain's seat on this bike, while Jenny got to be up front.

Nadia and Dieter and their very cool bike!

It was hard to tell if we liked it more than our own RANS Screamer, but we certainly enjoyed the chance to try it! Getting going was a little different, and it had been a while since Brett had swung his leg over an upright seat. Funny the things you get used to. We are so used to our bike now that probably any other bike will feel strange. We're going to miss getting on this bike every morning when we get home in less than a week, even though we are fairly well ready for the trip to be over.

Jenny cooks up some breakfast to get us ready for a long day.

Who's paw print is that?? Pesky raccoons! (Also, someone nibbled their way into our food bag last night, even though it was locked in the wooden cabinet. Oh well, it's just a small hole and the trip is almost over.)

We pedaled out of the campground on our own bike only a few minutes before our fellow tandem riders left on theirs. By the time we'd made it back up the hill and back on the main road, Nadia and Dieter were close behind us, and it stayed that way for most of the morning ride. Having bikers behind us kept us pushing and it was a fun challenge to stay ahead. The four of us played leap frog a couple of times, always smiling, or ringing the bell playfully when we passed each other.

We had planned for a long day today. We wanted to get as far as we were able, so that we would have as few miles into San Fransisco tomorrow as possible. We still hadn't arranged the exact details of shipping our bike, though we were pretty sure it would work out. That was on our list of things to do today.

The terrain was still up and down, and the foggy morning made for some pretty sights, but not of the ocean, though we knew it was nearby. There were hawks in the sky again this morning, too. After one downhill, we stopped at a small store in a small town and ended up choosing to buy some hot dogs after not seeing too much else we wanted in there. Nadia and Dieter were there, too, as well as several other bicyclists, some touring and some not. All the bikers were really nice, and people were impressed with our distance covered this summer. The bikers out for the day had purchased water, and after they filled their bottles as much as possible, they gave us what was left, which was really kind of them.

Again we were impressed with the hawks, both flying and perching on these rocks.

A happy snack on a foggy morning.

Sometimes the Adventure Cycling maps are great, giving us phone numbers of campgrounds or listing where there will be stores, and sometimes they have mistakes or imperfections. We were looking at the elevation profile and thought we were done with the big hills, based on the towns we'd reached and passed, but were extremely disgruntled to find ourselves climbing one last big hill, misplaced on the elevation profile. Grrr! It was really foggy on the hill, but eventually we got to go down the other side. Nadia and Dieter passed us one more time just after that, and stopped for the night at a campground where several other touring bicyclists were staying.

A switchback on the way down the misplaced hill.

Soaking up all the views of the Pacific Ocean we can, as we'll only see it for one more day.

We were hungry, and a bit tired, but it was still only late afternoon, and we really wanted to get to San Francisco early in the day tomorrow, so we pushed on. It was very tempting to stop with everyone else just north of Bodega Bay at a state campground, but once the choice had been made, and we had passed the campground by, there was no turning back (at least in our minds).

When we made it into Bodega Bay, we wanted very much to find a bathroom. The town was touristy, with mostly upscale shops, and not one seemed to have a bathroom for us to use. Finally, we realized we were hungry too, as it was about time for an early dinner (5pm). We picked a tourist dive, a fish 'n chips place, and they had a bathroom. It took a long time to get our food, but that was okay because it took us a while to find a table free, too.

Before the food came, Brett called Mike's Bikes in San Francisco to see if they had bike boxes that we could use to ship our bike. We figured we could cobble two cardboard bike boxes together to make one large package to fit the Screamer. He came back to the table so proud that he'd called and found secured two boxes, but Jenny reminded him that we needed more than just boxes. We need a business to say they will be the pick-up point for the shipping company. After much tired and hungry grumbling, Brett called back and spoke to another person at Mike's Bikes and found out that, yes, they are okay with being the pick-up point, and figured out their hours for the Labor Day weekend we are in. Whew!

Our food was decent, and it filled us up, but we were almost buoyed as much by taking care of the shipping logistics. It was as if a weight had been lifted from our shoulders and a dark cloud passed away, allowing us to enjoy our trip again. We were adventurers with miles to ride, and though we'd passed the last camping spot (or accommodations of any kind) for about 35 miles, we were excited and optimistic about our chances for making it to the next state park, or the private place a few miles closer.

A mile or two south of Bodega Bay, we turned East, away from the ocean...and uphill. It was only a gradual climb, and the scenery was interesting and different. We saw sheep fields, and eucalyptus trees lined the roadsides. Eight miles out from Bodega Bay we reached Valley Ford (pop. 126), which had a great general store that we stopped into. We bought the rest of a homemade pecan pie, plus some strawberries and some juice. Mostly we were excited about the pie, though!

Sheep field.

Eucalyptus tree.

Shortly after that, we turned back south and crossed our last county line short of the Golden Gate Bridge, entering Marin County. It was getting dusky, but there was nothing to do but pedal onwards. On the first uphill in Marin County, our spirits deflated some with the realization that our rear tire had just deflated as well. Darn! A nasty little tack like the kind used for furniture was the culprit, but now we were forced to unload the bike, flip it over, take off the rear wheel, and find out that we had no extra tubes for that wheel besides the ones that already had holes. So, we had to patch this tube as well.

All of that took so long, even working quickly, that it was actually dark by the time we finished. We had to put the wheel back on with our headlamps shining. It was getting chilly, too, so we layered up. We still had some good energy left for pedaling, and we had no choices no but to push on, so we kept going. Brett was afraid that the bike's headlight battery would die if we used it all the time, so we kept it on the lowest setting and even turned it off when we could avoid using it. But still, we were making progress.

After the flat tire, we started thinking about stealth camping. Although neither of us was ready to stop, we both began scanning the sides of the road for possible spots. We descended back to ocean level and passed by a single building all lit up. It must have been a restaurant or something, and even though it was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it was bursting with activity. Luckily for us, there weren't many cars at all on the roads, though. We were under twenty miles to the next campground.

At this point, it became clear that we probably weren't going to make it to a campground. Riding in the dark is slower, and we were getting tired, so we were actively looking for a place to pitch the tent without drawing attention or complaint. Even though we were only about fifteen miles from the nearest campground when we made it to Marshall, we had had enough, and figured we had cut enough miles from tomorrow's ride to San Francisco to make it there in time to pack the bike up for shipping before the bike shop closed.

The Adventure Cycling map lists the population of Marshall as fifty people. We didn't see any of them as we picked a spot between a tall hedge protecting us from the road and an abandoned building. Our tent sat mostly level on the thick growth of ivy on the ground and we were mighty proud of our little spot! We were tired and it felt relieving to have picked a spot to stop. We were a little nervous about camping so close to the road, but we figured we'd get up early enough in the morning before anyone noticed us. We wanted to make sure we got a good start tomorrow anyway, because we still had a bunch of miles to go to get to the city.

We saw a few of these really pretty flowers today before we headed inland.