Back Home in New Mexico

Along the highway in the land of the Navajo

Along the highway in the land of the Navajo

A second "tractor" at the same ranch gate. Look closely - neither is a real tractor.

A second “tractor” at the same ranch gate. Look closely – neither is a real tractor.

I bought a bus ticket to Albuquerque but got off the bus in Gallup. I want these final four or five days of riding to be the roads home across New Mexico, until I roll down the rough dirt road to my home. This will form a final closure to the trip, and help me return to the pace and consciousness of my home state. The route will be interesting, too. After three days of peaceful rural roads with little traffic, once I reach Grants I’ll be on old Route 66, paralleling I-40, and even riding on its shoulder for some miles where there’s simply no alternative route.

After stocking up on provisions at La Montanita Natural Foods Co-op in Gallup, I headed south on Highway 603. The road passes through a patchwork of state land, Navajo tribal land, and private land. I had that morning called former business partner Mark Drummond, and when I told him where I was he encouraged me to contact his sister Vicky and her husband, as hey live in this area. Knowing how little sleep I had gotten on the bus, I did. I had met them at each of the last three years’ “24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest” bicycle race, so they knew who I was and offered their hospitality.

New Mexico's open beauty is so welcome.

New Mexico’s open beauty is so welcome.

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I climbed about 1,000′ in elevation in the 27 miles I rode yesterday to their home, and 51 miles today. I was surprised when I realized that I hadn’t felt the effects of elevation at all. While I live at 6,600′, I had essentially been at sea level for the last two months. The bus took me from about 1,500′ in Las Vegas to 6,500′ in Gallup, and I climbed from there. I had expected to have lost my acclimation to the higher elevations and to be more easily winded while climbing, but it never occurred.

Yes, we have our own version of highway road kill.

Yes, we have our own version of highway road kill.

Tonight I’m camping at a small, fairly primitive (meaning no hookups, no lights, and pit toilets) campground at El Morro National Monument. El Morro means the headlands, and is a location where a deep pool of water has historically been an oasis on a historic east-west travel route across what’s now New Mexico. It had that oasis feel for me, too – on a bicycle, i’m traveling at a similar pace to early travelers before automobiles increased our range. Water is scarce in this country, and distances are greater than along the coast.

The climb to the 7,890' Divide was long and gentle, and allowed a fast 15-mile coast toward Grants on the other side.

The climb to the 7,890′ Divide was long and gentle, and allowed a fast 15-mile coast toward Grants on the other side.

The climb up to the Divide was long and gentle, and the reward was the best 15-mile fast descent with tailwind of the entire trip.

The climb up to the Divide was long and gentle, and the reward was the best 15-mile fast descent with tailwind of the entire trip.

I feel so good about being in my home state again. The energy is so different than where I just left. The land is more beautiful, the pace is slower, the people are friendlier.

They say "a man's home is his castle" but this is ridiculous. Seen in San Rafael, NM.

They say “a man’s home is his castle” but this is ridiculous. Seen in San Rafael, NM.

i rode over the Continental Divide at around 7,890′ and had a lovely long coast past El Malpais and toward Grants, NM, the deadest town I have yet encountered. The next two days will be along the old Route 66 into Albuquerque, where I’ll see my older kids Nathaniel and Emma, both students at UNM. Then one more day from UNM to home.

Leaving Las Vegas: Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas .

A close-up of the building. Brain Health, huh?

A close-up of the building. Brain Health, huh?

En route to Barstow I determined that I was more likely to be able to hitchhike out of Las Vegas than Barstow so an extra $20 to the driver landed me in Las Vegas at 9 pm. I found a cheap room, and headed out toward Boulder City and Hoover Dam, figuring that I could easily catch a good ride when traffic was moving slowly across the old dam. Right.

I rode up a long, gentle hill out of Las Vegas to Boulder City, the town created to build Hoover Dam in the 1930s. At a bike shop there where I stopped for guidance, I learned that a newish bridge bypassed the dam, bikes weren’t allowed on it, and the climb out of the canyon was 2,000 feet. I found a decent hitching spot and gave it my best, but after several hours it became increasingly clear that a ride was highly unlikely: all the traffic was local, or semis, or jacked-up macho pickups (often pulling jacked-up macho power boats) or little rental cars. I was pretty discouraged, and eventually gave up and headed back to Vegas. I figured my best (and last) hope was a bus from there to New Mexico, hitching be damned.

Fifty-six miles of riding this day and I ended up right where I started. I stopped at the Greyhound station, where I learned that indeed, any bike must be boxed to be carried on the bus, and yes, they sell bike boxes at the station, and no, they had run out and had none. I stayed the night at the Las Vegas Hostel, heading out in the morning to locate a bike box. Of course, the catch-22 is that the only way to carry a bike box is by bike, but I was able to strap the large box to the trailer and return it to the station, leaving it for later use and purchasing my $125 ticket. (I got the 5% senior discount only after showing my ID to the agent who didn’t think I was old enough to qualify as an Old Fart.)

The Bellagio fountain on the new strip

The Bellagio fountain on the new strip

A roughly 80 kW PV array in front of the new Las Vegas City Hall.

A roughly 80 kW PV array in front of the new Las Vegas City Hall.

Yes, everything is a bit askew, much like the city.

Yes, everything is a bit askew, much like the city.

I wandered the downtown and the strip for the afternoon, limited to riding, as Las Vegas isn’t a town in which to leave a fully-loaded bicycle locked up in public. To me, the highlight was Cleveland Clinic Event Center designed by architect Frank Gehry, known for his wacky and creative buildings. I’d like to know where he gets his acid.

Kiss, I giss, on the old-town "Fremont Street Experience"

Kiss, I giss, on the old-town “Fremont Street Experience”

Your intrepid blogger after three-plus months of riding

Your intrepid blogger after three-plus months of riding ready to return home.

I returned to the bus station at 6:30 pm, disassembled the bike and trailer and made two neat, heavy parcels. The bus left at 8:30, with a transfer in Flagstaff at 2:20 am and arrival in Gallup, New Mexico at 6 am. I’m now writing this in a wifi coffeehouse in Gallup, having had little sleep. But I’m in my home state, with about 200 miles left to ride. I could have ridden the Dog into Albuquerque, but wanted to complete this last stretch across Nuevo Mexico.

 

One Hundred Days on the Road

Wild turkeys strolled through our campsite.

Wild turkeys strolled through our campsite.

A closeup of a large, beautiful bird

A closeup of a large, beautiful bird

Sunset at Morro Rock

Sunset at Morro Rock

From San Simeon I continued down the coast through Cambria and Cayucos to Morro Bay State Park. This was another gold-standard park, well-maintained with showers, a large and quiet biker/hiker section and even a golf course. The showers were in operation, too: At Plaskett Creek campground the toilets worked but the sinks were shut off, and at San Simeon State Park all of the bathrooms were locked and rows of porta-potties brought in, all due to the sever drought and mandatory water restrictions. As the day’s ride to Morro Bay was short at 30 miles or so, I used a laundromat to wash everything, as I have done every few weeks or so; usually I hand-wash a few items as I go along.

Shane with his tent, touring setup and cat trailer. The cat was inside the tent.

Shane with his tent, touring setup and cat trailer. The cat was inside the tent.

I had mentioned meeting Shane, a bicycle tourer traveling with his cat, back somewhere around southwestern Washington. I was surprised to see him again in Morro Bay. It turns out that while he has been traveling up and down the coast for 18 months or so, it’s not his “home on the road” and he was returning to his home town of Grover Beach that day.

A low pass near San Luis Obispo. Check the elevation.

A low pass near San Luis Obispo. Check the elevation.

Riding into San Luis Obispo completed the main Pacific Coast part of the journey. I stayed the night at the collective home of ten twenty something’s, one of whom I had met in the food co-op on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. With the Monday morning dawn came my 100th day since leaving home, and the first day of the final stage of the trip, the return to New Mexico and home.

And so far this has proven to be quite difficult. I enjoy hitchhiking, especially with a bicycle for speed and efficiency. Add a trailer, though, and it’s a different story. Most vehicles can fit a bike, but few can fit bike, full bags and a trailer – it takes a pickup truck or similar and a driver willing to take the time to load and unload. By mid afternoon I had made only about 50 miles, and was on a lonely two-lane highway headed east. Most of the sparse traffic was semi trucks, who don’t stop for hitch hikers, even obviously friendly and interesting ones. I eventually just began riding, as that would for sure get me to my destination eventually. Climbing a long hill at sunset, I made camp near a hidden pond and trees, completely private with not a light in any direction, yet with the distant sound of the trucks climbing the grade all through the night.

Maria

Maria

I slept well, and was treated to a 15-mile downhill with a strong tailwind, a cyclist’s rare delight. I stopped to remove a jacket and casually stuck out my thumb. The car stopped, and I ended up with a ride into Bakersfield with Maria, a 50 year old saintly Mexican grandmother with an abiding faith in her God and a desire to help anyone as she could.

From Bakersfield I found my way to the far eastern outskirts of town, setting up my rig and thumb on the highway heading out across the desert. After two hours with no luck and little prospect of a ride, a California Highway Patrol officer stopped. He asked for my ID, assured me that hitchhiking is illegal in the entire state (I thought it to be so only on freeways) and pulled out his ticket book. Once he learned that I was functional, friendly, and not looking for trouble he softened and tried to help but had no ideas. I clearly was not going to follow my original plan, though.

I rode back the six miles or so into downtown Bakersfield, stopping first at the Amtrak station (buses only headed south to catch the Southwest Chief east out of LA; the next one leaving at 2 pm tomorrow). The difficulty with the train is that both bike and trailer must be boxed up and checked, and that’s very hard to do when the bike itself is my transportation. I then rode to the bus station, where a bus was just then loading for points east, to end in Las Vegas. The driver looked over my load and figured that yes, it would fit in the luggage bins beneath. So I quickly bought a $31 one-way ticket with senior discount to Barstow, out in the Mojave desert.

Riding Down the Big Sur Coast

Looking north on Highway One with the Bixby Creek Bridge in the distance

Looking north on Highway One with the Bixby Creek Bridge in the distance

And south from the same location

And south from the same location

My last entry was posted from a coffeehouse in Carmel before heading down the Coast Highway through Big Sur. This rugged coastal area has little or no cell service. Three evenings later I’m at San Simeon State Beach, another hiker/biker campground, having ridden through the rugged central California coast. Still no cell reception…

This image shows the steepness and ruggedness of this mostly undeveloped coast.

This image shows the steepness and ruggedness of this mostly undeveloped coast.

Another shot of the Coast Highway carved into the mountains.

Another shot of the Coast Highway carved into the mountains.

Today is Friday. On Wednesday I rode 35+ miles into Big Sur proper, camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur SP. With hot showers and receptacles nearby for recharging, it remains a gold standard among California state parks. The next morning began with an 1100′ climb out of Big Sur, and miles along steep, narrow Highway One down the coast. Thirty-five miles later I camped at a US Forest Service campground at Plaskett Creek, where I had camped decades previously, including once around 1970 when my dad met me there.

...touring on single speed, fixed-gear bikes...

…touring on single speed, fixed-gear bikes…

I shared the space with two impressive cyclists from San Jose, who were traveling with minimal but adequate camping gear on fixed-gear bikes. One was even a custom frame, built with touring geometry but without gear-changing capability. The two riders were traveling light but making much better time than I. The fixies were their preference, for their simplicity and for the challenge.

Today’s ride was also only about 35 miles, but the next campground was an additional 30 miles further, more than the day will provide. Tomorrow I will ride into San Luis Obispo, and my arrival represents a sort-of-official end to this main leg of the tour. I once (1969-1971) went to college here in Cal Poly’s Mechanical Engineering program. Touring up and back down the coast that June with a fellow student was my first-ever bike tour.

Caught by a German tourist at 32 mph

Caught by a German tourist at 32 mph

The friendly German tourist emailed me the photos he took.

The friendly German tourist emailed me the photos he took.

I don’t particularly want to ride through Southern California at all. Instead, it’s time to go home. Following a rest and restock (R&R) day in SLO, I plan to hitchhike across the Mojave Desert and Arizona to New Mexico, to complete my tour by riding home, probably from near the NM state line.

I spent a couple of evenings sharing campgrounds with a man of 69 who is touring down the coast on an “E-bike” – a touring bike with a substantial (48V 12 Ah) battery pack and an electric assist motor built into the front hub. He’s being sponsored by the manufacturer of the bike to blog his journey. Even with all of the climbing and dropping along the coast highway, he told me that with careful use of the electric assist he consumes only about half of the stored energy in a day’s riding. He plugs into receptacles in the bathrooms of most state parks at night.

I’m 63 and able to complete my tour under my own muscle power now. But I want to be able to continue to ride and tour well into my eighties and nineties. Through the natural physical decay that comes with aging, a bike with electric assist may well allow me to keep riding long after I’d have to hang up my shoes otherwise.

Shameless Request for Your Money: The Climate Leadership Challenge in Santa Fe

To all my blog readers: I have signed on to participate in the Northern New Mexico Climate Activists’ Climate Leadership Summit in Santa Fe on November 1 and 2. This group was formed out of the Keystone XL pipeline Pledge of Resistance supporters to address local and national climate change issues.

As a fundraiser, they are asking for each of us to ride our bikes a bunch. A donor will match contributions up to $100 for each rider between now and October 26th. I would like each of you, loyal readers, to make a cents-per-mile donation, either (your choice) limited to the 100 miles of the matching funds or for the miles I ride (and track on my bike’s speedometer from my current reading of 2,614 miles since beginning this tour) between today and October 26th. For instance, 25 cents per mile would be a $25 donation plus $25 matched by the unseen angel, or more if not limited to the 100 mile match. Please let me know of your pledge by either email to als@sindelarsolar.com or by text to 505 780-2738, rather than by commenting on this blog post.

To walk my talk, I’ll pledge fifty cents a mile for up to two hundred miles. As I’ll easily surpass 200 miles, that’s my $100 donation, to be matched by the same amount.

Thank you for considering this request. Below is an excerpt from the email I received with the details.

My challenge is to:
- Bike 100 miles from now to October 26th. [I'll obviously have done that...]
- Raise or donate $100 to CCLI’s local conservation, clean energy & climate action initiatives.
- Join the family/kids bike ride Sunday, October 26th 11:30am from Fort Marcy Park to Tesuque Market.
- Attend the CCLI Lunch at the Tesuque Village Market on October 26th at 1:00pm to tally results, celebrate community leadership and thank participants & sponsors.

A matching contribution will be made in the $ amount equal to all the miles biked up to 100 per participant. Let’s get the word out and get over 100 people to take the climate leadership challenge! Proceeds from the event support CCLI’s local climate leadership seed grants, paid student internships & annual direct action projects. CCLI’s 2015 project is to design, promote and implement a Santa Fe greenhouse gas emission fee & climate action/community empowerment fund.

To find out more visit Climate Change Leadership Institute at

http://takeresponsibility.us/leadershipweekend2013/leadershipweekend2013.html

or contact them directly at ccli@takeresponsibility.us //505-988-3364 // www.takeresponsibility.us.

Sponsors of the event include:

Bishops Lodge Resort
City of Santa Fe
Design Warehouse
Egolf, Ferlic & Day, Attorneys at Law
El Toro Landscape
Gordon & Hale, CPAs
Hutton Broadcasting
Mellow Velo
Metal Mogul Corporation
Palo Santo Designs
Reynolds Insurance
Santa Fe Green Building Council
Santa Fe Prep
Santa Fe Psychology
Steadman, Kehoe & Hirsch, Sotheby’s International Realty
Tesuque Village Market
VERVE Gallery of Photography

For information on how to become a sponsor, contact CCLI at 505-988-3364.

Monterey Bay and Cannery Row

Worth stopping for... a healthy, mature nopal rowing out of the top of an old Monterey Cypress stump

  Worth stopping for… a healthy, mature nopal rowing out of the top of an old Monterey Cypress stump

 

Brussels sprouts as far as the eye can see

Brussels sprouts as far as the eye can see

From Santa Cruz I rode slowly around Monterey Bay, remembering old haunts from four decades ago. So much remained familiar, just more developed, with more bike lanes but also many more homes and much more traffic. I was close to Watsonville before the homes turned to fields of strawberries, lettuce, artichokes and Brussels sprouts. I camped at Sunset State Beach, which borders a huge industrial farming operation, and the tractors were out well before first light.

The next day I continued to Monterey, but on a whim rode up the driveway of an old rural farmhouse outside of Watsonville where a woman friend of that time had lived. To my surprise she was still there and remembered our times together. Now 74, Berta had lived alone in that same lovely old rented farmhouse for 51 years. While sharing condensed versions of our life stories from a front porch that still looked out over miles of commercial strawberry fields, we watched a bobcat stroll by the garden and slip into the trees.

I rode on, taking the scenic route around Elkhorn Slough rather than the coast highway. I had seen the bird life in this estuary in July, when I came up the Pacific Coast on Amtrak’s well-maintained Coast Starlight route, and could now see it close up.

I spent two nights at the Veterans’ Park in Monterey. This is a city-run park, rather than a more common State Park, and is the published biker/hiker camp site in Monterey in the Pacific Coast route maps. I took an extra day specifically to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, considered one of the finest in the world.

Sea turtle, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea turtle, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Pacific tuna

Pacific tuna

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

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Until I reached Santa Cruz, I had been following the route of my first long tour of forty years ago. Indeed, “I’m repeating a bicycle tour I took half a lifetime ago” became part of my “where I’m coming from/where I’m headed” introduction when meeting and greeting other tourers. The Big Sur coast, south of Santa Cruz, however, is a repeat of my first-ever tour. In June of 1971 I had just dropped out of college. Scott, another Cal Poly student (who hadn’t dropped out) and I rode the coast and back.

I write this in part because of a strong memory of an evening on Cannery Row in Monterey, where the Aquarium is located. Today Cannery Row is heavily redeveloped as a tourist destination, with restaurants and shops and bike rentals. In 1971 it was far less developed: Steinbeck’s 1945 novel of the same name had made it famous, but many of the old canneries were still just empty shells.

Scott and I found our way into one of these abandoned canneries and made our camp for the evening. After dinner we walked down to a coffeehouse where a live folk duo was playing music. We enjoyed their music so much that when they finished playing at midnight we invited them to join us in our cannery to continue the evening. They came, and we together found our way to a crow’s nest on the roof of one huge old building – my guess is that this is where someone once watched for the fishing boats to come in with their catch. We spent the next couple of hours singing Cat Stevens songs, while the full moon played over the harbor, before they went home and we went to sleep.

As best I can recall, this is what's left of the cannery where we sang "ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world, it's hard to get by just upon a smile."

As best I can recall, this is what’s left of the cannery where we sang “ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world, it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.”

I appreciate having a completely flexible schedule. From the day I began planning for this bicycle tour, I haven’t set a date to be back home. When asked, I have spoken vaguely of “a few months”, and it has already turned out that way. I left home on July 5th, so I’m in my thirteenth week and not home yet. I was also deliberately vague about my planned route, as turned out to have been smart: I quickly learned that my planned ride of the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route was naively and dangerously unrealistic. Completely changing my planned route and itinerary, I ended up riding these paved roads down the Pacific Coast.

The Big Sur coast is next. I’m not sure when I’ll next have wifi or cell service to post here.

Can o’ Screws- er, Santa Cruz

The fresel lens, made in 1875, that shone for about 100 years at Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The fresnel lens, made in 1875, that shone for about 100 years at Pigeon Point Lighthouse

A second memorial o a cyclist killed by a car. This was a hit-and-run driver on 4/4/2012.

A second memorial o a cyclist killed by a car. This was a hit-and-run driver on 5/4/2012.

I lived in Santa Cruz in my early twenties, from 1972-1977. I was nowhere near ready to grow up and the town didn’t ask it of me. I was immature, self-absorbed, single, countercultural and quite sexually active. Indeed, as I look back on those years, it’s likely that my base of tongue cancer of thee years ago, which had the “marker” that indicated it was of the same type as develops into cervical cancer in women, was an STD that took 30+ years to develop, and thus may have been contracted in those heady days here.

So yesterday I simply rode about 35 miles from Pigeon Point into and then around the town, obserrving what had changed and what remained. The day was absurdly hot: the high here was 96 degrees (in the shade, for reggae fans), too hot for serious riding. The Loma Prieta Earthquake, which occurred 25 years ago today, fundamentally changed the nature of the downtown area, by destroying many of the old iconic buildings. Certainly there was more of what I recall: more people, more development, more cultural (and highly commercialized) hipness… and certainly I felt twinges of longing for that carefree, irresponsible stage of life. But I’m half a lifetime removed from that time, more reflective now than seeking experience, and my adventures are now of a very different nature.

Maryam (R) and her housemates Tyndall (L) and Joselyn

Maryam (R) and her housemates Tyndall (L) and Joselyn

I stayed with a houseful of wonderful Warmshowers hosts, Maryam, a UCSC college senior living with housemates. Maryam had ridden solo up the coast to Orcas Island this summer and was now looking through Warmshowers hosting to repay the generosity she was shown. She peppered me with questions about this town’s character when I lived here, which led to far-ranging talks about cancer, suicide, planetary survival, human kindness and motivation… a delightful evening.

A shared iPhone photo of last evening's fireworks...I forgot to bring my camera

A shared iPhone photo of last evening’s fireworks…I forgot to bring my camera

Then that evening my arrival in town was celebrated with a fireworks display! — not. Last evening was actually the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Santa Cruz wharf and pier. We walked a few blocks to the Boardwalk and sat on the beach as the fireworks began. This was most likely the best fireworks display I have ever seen: The launch point was only a couple of hundred feet away, so all of the pretty colors (!) were right over our heads, and just kept on and on for close to an hour.

On the Way to Santa Cruz: Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel

I expect to see water hauling signs in New Mexico, but not along the coast.

I expect to see water hauling signs in New Mexico, but not along the coast.

After riding only about twenty miles, I came to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and International Hostel. I have been curious about modern hosteling, so decided to stay for a night to see what it’s about. For $31, I had a bunk in a shared room. There were two other cyclists staying here, who were day travelers from the urban Bay Area; otherwise the travelers were in cars. In the evening, guests sat in the shared living room, mostly keeping to themselves.

The lodging was perfectly comfortable and functional, and would be a good respite during a rainstorm. Otherwise, camping at hiker/biker sites and with the occasional Warmshowers host is a more enjoyable option for my needs and tastes.

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It's the most iconic of all of the lighthouses I have seen on this trip, with its tall tower and shelter for the "wickies" who once kept the light burning.

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse. It’s the most iconic of all of the lighthouses I have seen on this trip, with its tall tower and shelter for the “wickies” who once kept the light burning.

Another perspective of the lighthouse

Another perspective of the lighthouse

A Few Rest Days in the SF Bay Area

 The bridge that I just crossed

The bridge that I just crossed

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A public exhibit of clean, renewable wind energy, installed circa 2001. Small wind captures the public's imagination, whether it works or not. The two top-rotor wind generators are both tied down, apparently permanently. Few vertical-axis wind turbines actually work, and fewer still last.

A public exhibit of clean, renewable wind energy, installed circa 2001. Small wind captures the public’s imagination, whether it works or not. The two top-rotor wind generators are both tied down, apparently permanently. Few vertical-axis wind turbines actually work, and fewer still last.

A close-up of one of the disabled units tied down.

A close-up of one of the disabled units tied down.

PV, on the other hand, ijust sits on the roof and producees energy - no muss, no fuss - for years. This array is on the top of a building at Fort Mason, near the GG Bridge.

PV, on the other hand, ijust sits on the roof and produces energy – no muss, no fuss – for years. This array is on the top of a building at Fort Mason, near the GG Bridge. During WWII this was the embarkation point for soldiers heading out across the Pacific.

This has nothing to do with solar at all! Rather, this organization helps street vendors navigate the city's permit bureaucracy.

This has nothing to do with solar at all!! Rather, this organization helps street vendors navigate the city’s permit bureaucracy.

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, I rode around Fort Mason in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Marina, the Fisherman’s Wharf tourist area, and the piers to the Embarcadero, where I caught the BART train to the East Bay. I then rode along a very well-traveled off-road bike trail to visit Johanna’s dad and his wife. They were the last to send me off around July 15th or so, so I wanted to “complete the circle” by topping in to share some stories. Over the next couple of days I stayed with Johanna’s mom in Rossmoor, the original (50 years old) “senior living” community near Walnut Creek. Jeez, I’m well past old enough to live there, play golf and go to ice cream socials – no thanks. Barbara and I had a good visit – the first time in years that just she and I had unstructured time together. I rode over the Oakland hills one afternoon to visit Stephen Willard, who I was in my first men’s group back in the early 1990s, and we have stayed in touch in the years since. He and his husband Keith are raising four adopted kids, so I had the chance to see them as older kids – Martin is now in middle school…

Old railroad beds and canals have become a network of bicycle routes among towns in the region.

Old railroad beds and canals have become a network of bicycle routes among towns in the region.

To return to touring, I took the BART train back to the Embarcadero and retraced my route back to the GG Bridge, continuing over the hills to the Ocean. The day was absurdly warm – something close to 90 in a city that rarely reaches 75 due to the maritime influence and fog. I found my way down the urban coast, dealing with heavy traffic, including the notorious Devil’s Slide section of Highway One: narrow, shoulderless, uphill two-lane madness. At one point I simp;y stopped along the road when I heard a semi truck approaching – simply a safer approach. I guess I made it through alive, but talking later with another cyclist over a beer in Half Moon Bay, I learned that after having done this same ride once years ago, he climbed an extra 600′ or so on a dirt trail just to avoid that section, having vowed never again to ride that stretch of highway.

A blessing atop the Devil's slide climb: one of two lanes turned into a bike path.

A blessing atop the Devil’s slide climb: one of two lanes in this mile-long tunnel has been turned into a bike path.

Further

Further

The court jester as hood ornament

The court jester as hood ornament

Leaving Half Moon Bay, I was surprised to see Further parked along Highway One. Further is the sort-of replica of the bus the Merry Pranksters drove around the U.S. fifty years ago, as documented in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The original bus, named Furthur, is rotting away at Ken Kesey’s farm in Oregon, and this one was built and painted several years ago to take its place in the annals of counterculture history.

I camped in the hiker-biker section of Half Moon Bay State Park, sipping beer, Irish whiskey, and moonshine with four other tourers sharing the site, all of whom were mid-forties or older. I very much enjoy the perspective of those of us with some years packed onto our old bodies. Today I continue toward Santa Cruz, where I once avoided adulthood for five years in the mid-1970s. I’ll check out some old haunts, the bike shops where I once worked as a mechanic and knew that community, and hopefully one or two of the free (clothing-optional) beaches I used to occasionally visit. I remember that I felt more natural and less titillated at a nude beach than a normal one, and long ago lost some of our culture’s inhibitions about our bodies in my early adult years, and free beaches around Santa Cruz contributed to this. We’ll see.

The trip is winding down. I intend to continue down the coast only about as far as San Luis Obispo, in order to ride the Big Sur section. Then I’ll make my way across the desert toward New Mexico by thumb. I’d like to also ride across western New Mexico to home, but for now, that’s yet to be planned.

Drought, Marin, and the Golden Gate Bridge

This area northwest of San Francisco has historically been dairy country, with an abundance of lush grasses.

This area northwest of San Francisco has historically been dairy country, with an abundance of lush grasses.

i have never seen these fields so brown  and shriveled. Farmers are trucking in hay.

i have never seen these fields so brown and shriveled. Farmers are trucking in hay.

California is in the midst of a three year drought, and it shows. The coast has always been lush and green when i have passed through in the past. Water levels in many of the state’s reservoirs are at record low levels, and forest fires an take out whole towns, as recently occurred in Weed, near the Oregon border.  Indeed, a huge fire last year west of Yosemite burned the family camp where I first met Meri when I was fourteen, about whom I wrote just a few posts back, and where I took my own family about ten years ago.

Last night I camped at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, near Point Reyes peninsula. The campground was open and full, but the showers in the restrooms have been shut off due to the lack of water.

The softness of the road from the campground at the Marin Headlands

The softness of the road from the campground at the Marin Headlands

Tonight, Sunday, I’m at the Haypress primitive campground in the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This means that I’m camping quite near to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, although I’m down in a small valley and can see neither. Being “primitive” means no plumbing, showers, or power to change my devices, but also no RVs, hook ups, no fires and no lights.

Tomorrow morning I’ll ride over the GG Bridge into the Big City, then take public transportation out to the suburbs to stay with Johanna’s mom for a few days, visit a bit, regroup and plan the latter stages of my travel. What changes I have felt as I have neared San Francisco! Much of it has been building, yet still quite sudden. Last night I share camp space with a dozen other cyclists in the “biker/hiker overflow site”, and tonight I’m the only cyclist; all the others continued into the city and their prearranged destinations. Riding through Marin County, I must have passed seven bike shops, as well as at least sixty road cyclists on their $5,000 carbon bikes.

As darkness fell fully at the campground, I talked with other campers there, Brits who were walking the coast. Where I am camping not a single artificial light is visible around me. Yet the city lights make a flashlight nearly unnecessary. We could fairly well see each others’ silhouettes due to the urban glow reflected off the atmosphere. Later in the night the ocean fog rolled in, and the darkness became much more complete.

After a still and silent night (save for one rustle in the bushes that turned out to be a skunk) I awoke to the fog and began my day, aware of how ice this quiet and private camp ws, so close to the urban bustle. i rode down to sea level and through Sausalito.

A beautifully crafted mermaid in Sausalito, incongruously perched between a car wash and a liquor store

A beautifully crafted mermaid in Sausalito, incongruously perched between a car wash and a liquor store

Sort of reminds me of when I was single, decades ago...

Sort of reminds me of when I was single, decades ago…

Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge from the north

Approaching the Golden Gate Bridge from the north

Beginning the bridge crossing

Beginning the bridge crossing

Reaching out to those who are contemplating suicide by jumping from the bridge

Reaching out to those who are contemplating suicide by jumping from the bridge