"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
A preface before we begin.
I decided on a truly epic way to complete this task.
I almost didn't get the chance as I nearly completed this task a couple years ago when my friend Lank was doing a play in Santa Barbara, and that was almost exactly 100 miles from my house, but timing prevented me from making that ride. Then I thought of going to visit Piratey Monkey in San Diego, which is well over 100 miles, but I never found a really good reason to do that. But missing those opportunities was worth it in that it left this door open.
Then the planning for our trip to Burning Man came along. And I threw my idea out a couple of times as a possibility. But I was unsure. And then as all of the plans began to firm up, it became clear that one of the cars carrying a person from L.A. would not be able to return that person to L.A. and there wouldn't be any room for another bike going back. That was the moment my plan was cemented. I would ride my bike home from Burning Man.
Yes, I would ride my bike home to Los Angeles from Black Rock City, Nevada.
Go ahead, open up Google Maps and look for yourself what I was talking about. Or better yet, here, let me do it for you:
Yes, that is a 556 mile bike ride I set myself up for. I will have to ride over a 8,138 foot summit in the Sierras. As well as numerous miles of harsh desert.
Also, before you begin, I have composed this music for you to listen to that may help you to get into the feel of my journey. Play it and listen to it as you read.
Monday September 6, 2010
37 miles in eight hours
"See you later, man."
- Tac Haberdash
The day started beautifully. Mondays at Burning Man are great. The city has emptied itself out and it feels like a ghost town (again). I took down our yurt with Tac, and we began to load up and tie down his Veggiemobile with all of the remnants of camp. I packed my saddlebags with everything I think I'll need; a couple changes of clothes, tent, sleeping bag, two and a half gallons of water, a jar of peanut butter, a pound of beef jerky and about ten pounds of Clif bars.
I take one last photo of the last two members of Camp Super Friends, I say farewell to Tac as he goes to look for somebody who might need a ride to San Francisco and I take off homeward on my bike. I left our camp at about 11:00am on Monday the sixth of September. There was something really really satisfying about passing all of those cars waiting in that really long line. As I was riding alongside the very first line of cars, I swerved to avoid a sand dune in the road and at that very moment, a car moved into the lane I was moving into, so I shot a gap that was small, made smaller by the fact that there was a traffic cone in my way. I just missed the cone with my front tire, but the new baggage tied to my front tire bike rack didn't. My sleeping bag hit the cone, spun my tire around and I flew over my handlebars and landed on my left arm and head. When asked if I was alright, I did a spot check, saw no blood, and all of my joints worked properly, so I said I was fine, picked up m'bike and continued on with a slight headache. Also, my right handlebar was now bent in a new exciting angle. I rode a bit further and then noticed that the huge line of cars was turning right somewhere up ahead, and being on a bike and not bound by the rules set in place for autos, I cut the angle across the desert for the actual exit. The line of cars was truly spectacular in scope. And beating them all out was a great feeling. The rock road leading to the highway wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be, but hitting that blacktop was a great feeling. It was so smooth and reaffirming to have the graceful feeling of my sleek road bike behaving like a road bike again after a week of riding through sand. I had thought about bringing two bikes, one for my trip home and a beater for the Playa, but the room in the car issue was still there, so I decided to just ride my real bike on the Playa and then ride her home. And oh man, the feel of her tires on asphault felt so right. Again. That feeling of a perfect machine on a perfect surface was soon replaced by the realization that my legs would be pumping like they were pumping for the next week or more. And after just a few miles, I was already feeling tired and achey. I saw a road called Guru Road
very close to the exit from Black Rock City, and seeing that I was already plenty tired, I turned down Guru Road to see what there was to see there. Also, because one of my promises I made to myself when starting this road trip was to stop at every cool thing that I saw. And I decided that Guru Road was cool and worth checking out. Also there was a stack of rocks near the beginning of the road with a big flat rock nearby which had been engraved with the words: "No matter what you think of this road remember the price is right" And as I rode up the road there were more engraved rocks propped up along the side of the road like little Bhurma Shave signs. The first read: "The Wonder Road", the second: "A story with no begining [sic] and no end", the third: "Destination unknown." and the fourth: "Maybe something for you", and then: "Your life will never be the same" and I knew this was a portentous road to find at the start of my journey. at the end of the road there were these crazy complex rock formations. There were more inscriptions, but I'll let you look through those later. The point was I found those first few very fitting. And I continued on my way feeling right. But as soon as I got back on the road I was back to feeling the pain of riding. I felt kinda sick, so I kept drinking water. Knowing I was out in the desert, I would need lots. Pulled into Gerlach and took a little break to see if some rest in shade would make me feel better. I sat and watched a car wash in action doing brisk business washing the Playa off of cars. I met a guy who was trying to hitchhike out of Gerlach to Orange County. I asked why he came out of Black Rock City at all, wouldn't a ride be easier to find in the city? He explained that he came to Gerlach to get cell reception to call his friend so they could ride out together, but his friend was in Reno when he called, and wouldn't come back for him. So the thumb. Once I felt rested up and had more water and a Clif bar in me, I took off for more road. The next few hours were rough. Although I learned that 95% of cars leaving Burning Man on a two lane highway will merge into the opposing traffic lane when there is a bicyclist riding along the shoulder. I think of the remaining 5%, only half were just jerks, some likely didn't see me. Some of those were close calls. I actually felt a mirror graze my elbow once. Right after passing the road to U.S. Geothermal I found a bedroll on the side of the road. I should mention that the side of highway 447 is just littered with crap that has fallen off of the cars and trucks of Burners going home. I actually thought up a good idea for a theme camp for 2012: Camp 447. in 2011 we pick up all of the crap off of the side of the road and build a theme camp out of it, there is seriously enough stuff to do this with. from tents to chairs to bunches of bundled pipe for domes, so much stuff. Most I passed by because I couldn't carry it on my limited space bike, but a bedroll is both useful and I have space on my truck bag for it, so I snagged it. At some point I saw a kid riding his bike the other way North up the 447. I guess he was going to Gerlach, but from where? He didn't really acknowledge me when I said hello, so I just rode on. I was feeling really tired and full of uncomfortable dizziness. And it was getting pretty bad by about 3:30 when I saw a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road.
I was planning to stop and rest where the people were and as I got closer I saw that it was a quesedilla stand. And the woman who ran the stand ran out to the road to give me a water. I pulled in and sat in her shade and drank her water and learned of why she was running a stand instead of attending the Burn. She just couldn't get the time off, so she came down from Oregon and worked a quesedilla stand to contribute and a guy working the booth gave me an ice cream sandwich when he heard what I was doing. After feeling adequately rested up, I pushed on. I think I may have been feeling so bad because I was riding into a hot headwind all day. The wind was whisking all of the moisture away from me, especially my lips. But it was also hot, so I kept feeling the need to drink more. At about five, when the shadows were getting longer, I saw this big outcropping of rocks that always has graffiti all over it which is a very memorable landmark for everybody who's ever made the trek to Burning Man. I was feeling very weak by five, so I stopped in the shade of the rocks. I ate another Clif bar, but it was really tough. I didn't have much energy for chewing or eating. So I sat on the rocks in the shade, drank more, and rested. I don't know how much time I spent there, but the shadows were getting longer, and I knew I had to keep moving, as I didn't want to camp on that rock for the night. So I got back on the bike and trudged out a few more miles before getting so weak and tired and dizzy, that I couldn't stay upright on the bike anymore. Realizing that I needed to stop, and stop now, I pulled over and set up my tent. Which was very difficult, I was so weak, it was hard to get my limbs to do what I wanted them to do. I knew that what I needed was rest. So getting the tent up was very important. And I somehow managed it. I put my gear in the tent and crawled into my sleeping bag shaking from exhaustion. It was so hard to move or function in any way, I brought food into the tent with me, but I took one bite out of the Clif bar and didn't have the energy to chew it. So I just let it sit in my mouth and slowly break down. I remember the rest of the bar fell out of my hand because I couldn't grip it any more. I was feeling so bad and sick, and my head was spinning so much, that I decided to go to the road and hitch a ride to the nearest town with a hospital and say fuck it, leave my shit in the desert and just go get better. I made it out to the road, but literally the effort of holding my hand out with my thumb out was way too difficult. Plus I was swaying and my vision was doing weird things with the headlights coming at me. I feared I might fall over into the road, so I got my way back to the tent, only falling down a few times. I got in the tent, into my sleeping bag and tried to convince myself that sleep was all I needed. I drank more water too, thinking that might be the problem. But upon drinking I got even sicker and threw up all over the inside of my tent, it happened faster than I could find the zippers for the door. And my hands didn't quite work well enough to get a grip on the zippers. I thought I might be done for. All of the vomit was water, and I kinda managed to corral it all, by lifting the fabric tent floor to concentrate it all near the door, and then lift it out and spill it outside. I decided to try hitching out again at that point, but didn't have the energy to stand up much less walk to the road, so I tried to crawl, but fell in the sand, and it was getting cold, and I knew I needed to get back into the tent, so I did, and got into my sleeping bag and pretty quickly after that passed out.
Tuesday September 7, 2010
58 miles in eleven hours
"Keep the rubber side down and the metal side up."
- Burner on his way to jump into Pyramid Lake
I woke up with the sunrise and felt better, so much better that I felt like all of the sickness from the night before was just a dream. If the inside of the tent wasn't still damp from vomit I might've been able to believe it. It was a really good thing I picked up that foam sleeping pad I found on the side of the road, because it meant I didn't have to sleep in wetness. The foam protected me. I tried to think of what could have led me to get so sick, and I was a little upset with myself for not being able to understand my body. My body was screaming at me what it wanted all day yesterday, but it was like Lassie and I wasn't Timmy. I had no idea what all of the barking was about. I could have needed, either food, water, rest or shade. And I couldn't tell which. I desided that it likely wasn't water, and in fact after last night's regurgitation, I seem to remember reading somewhere that it was possible to drink too much water and get water poisoning. I calculated and realized I had drunk about four gallons of water yesterday. Probably not the best thing to do. But whatever the case, I was feeling much better, had a hearty breakfast of Clif bars dipped in peanut butter, packed up camp, and was on my way by 8:00am. Just a couple hours later I found an Indian Taco stand right near Pyramid Lake. I stopped, and relaxed in their shade for awhile. I met
a great guy from El Monte called Long. He gave me two gallons of water to fill up my depleted supply and even gave me a Gatoraide to help me get some electrolites back after he heard about my misfortune last night. He kept telling me how much he respected what I was doing, and he taught himself how to ride a unicycle so he would have a means of transportation on the Playa, he chose a unicycle because it took up less room that a bicycle and it cost less. And his goal at Burning Man was to ride every single street on his unicycle. That was a pretty big idea. I was impressed by him. He was impressed by me. We sat there at that taco stand for about an hour just shooting the shit, I also decided that I was going to take as many breaks as I felt I needed. And I felt I needed to sit there at that taco stand for an hour. So I did.
And the people that ran the stand were fun and good people. There was an old white guy who gave me pointers on things to see when riding over the Sierras. I also learned that that same guy had pulled his own tooth out with a Leatherman the day before. Right there at the same table he was sitting at the next day. Wow. I took a picture of Pyramid Lake and then rode off on my merry way after having a giant Indian Taco. The wind was still an issue even after eating delicious Indian Tacos. Man, that wind can just suck my balls. I hate wind so much now. I still stand by my campaign stance on down with hills, but I'm now an even bigger proponent of Down With Wind. Fuck wind. A couple of windy hours later I was passing through a town called Nixon and noticed a river running through town. I was still covered in Playa dust, and decided to go take a dip in that river, because another promise I made to myself was to jump into every lake and river that I could along my way. So I did that. I hid my bike in some bushes by the side of the road and then climbed down to the river and had myself a proper bath in the river there.
The Truckee River. That was a highlight of my day. When I left, I went and pulled into a gas station a few blocks further down the road to fill up my water, and I met four Burners who were on their way to go jump into Pyramid Lake. I wished them well, and told them I had just climbed out of a river just moments before. They wished me well on my travels and were off. As was I, I got in to Wadsworth, and checked my emails (kinda) and sent my first Twitter update to those who wanted to know about my trip. I pushed on into Fernley to get something to eat. I stopped at a cool looking restaurant that a lot of Burners were at already, and I stopped to talk to a lady who had a truck with DPW stickers on the doors, and she explained that she wasn't a part of the DPW, but they used her truck in their parade, so they put the sticker on there. She did mention that she had broken her rib at a DPW party though. "Those guys are crazy." Yeah. Yeah they are. So I went into the restaurant and got kicked out for not having shoes on. I explained to them why they were wrong for kicking me out, but I was too tired to fight about it, so I left knowing this is a big town, and literally one block further down, there was a taco shack,
and I ordered a burrito that was as big as my face. Which was much better than anything I could've gotten at the other place. What do people have against feet anyway? Well, I had my giant burrito so I was happy. I rode across town on my broken saddle, oh, did I mention that my saddle was broken? I have an awesome leather Brooks saddle, and when I was leaving Black Rock City on the rock road yesterday, I heard something clatter to the ground, I picked it up and only today realized it was the front of my saddle, it won't stay together as the leather has ripped. So I now sit way too far forward and I slope. It pretty much sucks. But I'm gonna push through even this. I got onto the 95 and rode until the sun was setting. I found a giant mound of dirt off to the side of the road at the Tiger Field airport, so I rolled over to the other side of it and set up camp back there. The wind was still going strong like it had been blowing all day. Not a big fan of the wind, have I mentioned that yet? Highway on one side, airport on the other, wind blowing between the two. No planes came in during the night while I was staying there. I was a little bit disappointed by that fact. I sat up and watched the sunset before going to bed.
Wednesday September 8, 2010
51 miles in ten hours
"I saw you this morning struggling uphill into a headwind and thought, oh man."
- Guy who stopped me on the 95
Day three started with the crazy wind again. I woke up to the sound of my tent being whipped around by wind. Which sucked because I woke up in the middle of the night and it was perfectly still. My tent has a mesh ceiling and I can look up and see the stars and it was perfect. Just a perfect night. I was looking forward to a perfect day. No such thing. I woke up a bit late, and got rolling a bit late, but felt pretty good. When I got on my bike and started pedaling, my legs screamed at me and were like "This shit again? Really?" But after a few minutes of the rhythm they acquiesced. I rode about ten miles up Highway 50 uphill against the wind, and it was brutal. I had to stop every five to ten minutes, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to endure. The fucking wind. I could have taken that hill, but when evil hills team up with even more evil, and malicious wind, that's when they stop playing fair. Getting to the summit was an awesome and beautiful thing, and the one mile ride down that hill into Silver Springs was fantastic. I won't say it was worth the pain of the ride up because it wasn't. Not even close, but it was really nice. Silver Springs is a tiny, depressing little town with not much more than two casinos and a gas station. There were other stores and shops around, but none open and none showing signs of ever having been open in the last decade. But the gas station had a bathroom outside, and an outdoor outlet where I could charge my phone and camera battery at the same time.
So I plugged all of my electronic shit in, and went and used the bathroom and washed up and shaved for the first time in a long time. I went into the gas station and asked if there was a place I could fill my water bottles, and the nice lady working there offered her the sink, but warned me to do it fast so that her boss didn't come out from the back and see me without any shoes on in the store. I did and managed to escape detection. I told her that and she giggled. Both of my batteries were all of the way empty, so the charging would take awhile. I used the time to clean out the trash from my saddle bags. I noticed I had eaten ten Clif bars. I ate two this morning, and I guess four each of the first two days. No wonder I got so sick the first day. Four Clif bars in a day is just not enough. Guh. I talked to her boss a little bit as he came out to clean the bathroom, he was impressed by the scope of what I was trying to do, and wished me luck. When my batteries were full, I asked the lady in the store if there were any good places around for breakfast, she said the Silver Strike had really good breakfast. So off to the Silver Strike I went. And I got a great giant breakfast as only casinos seem to do really well. During my breakfast I got an email from a friend I'd met at Burning Man who lived in Reno, when Dean found out what I was doing he insisted that I let him be my safety net for the Northern leg of my trip. His email said that I had a place to sleep tonight if I wanted it in Smith Valley. He gave me an address, and I looked it up, and it was 60 miles away and I finished breakfast at about noon. I had to get going if I was going to get sixty miles in six hours, although it seemed possible, I felt really good after that breakfast. As I was leaving, I saw a couple come in all decked out in the biker's fetish gimp wear, you know what I mean? All spandex and bright colors and race logos or mountains printed on them or whatever? Well, two of them came in, so I asked about their journey. They said they were going to San Francisco via the 50. That seemed like a pretty serious ride as well. I wished them luck and off I went. To tackle more wind and hills. I didn't know there would be quite so much wind or quite that many hills, but there was plenty of both. But I've bitched a lot about wind and hills already, now for a new subject, highway shoulders. I spent the last week riding on highway shoulders. There is a new invention that is really great for drivers that has been around for the last ten
years or so, that are called rumble strips. They're little bumps notched into the sides of roads, designed to make your car rumble when you drive over them to let you know you've drifted out of your lane. Awesome for keeping drivers awake and alert. No so great for bikers trying to use the shoulder to travel. This rumble strip shown here is typical. It is a bit wide and leaves about a foot and a half of room for a biker (me in this case) to navigate. There are many highways in Nevada that have far less room than this. There is one stretch of highway 50 that had the entire shoulder dominated by rumble strip. That was a poopy stretch to travel. This here? Not much better. And the windy uphills make me worried I might not make the sixty miles and get a place to sleep. Which makes me push harder. There was a particularly long straight stretch where I thought I could pop into a high gear and just fly at over twenty miles an hour or so, but the wind shatters those dreams as I can only get a couple gears above the lowest. Fuck you wind. It was along that straight long stretch that a man coming toward me pulled over and put on his hazzards, I stopped to see if he was OK or if he wanted something from me. He got out of his car and ran across the highway with stuff cradled in his hands. He said that he had seen me this morning pushing uphill against the wind and felt so bad for me, that he went and got me a bag of trail mix and a bottle of water in case he saw me later in the day. And he did, and he gave me some trail mix and water. How cool. And as he was leaving to go back to his car, a young couple stopped to see if I was alright. I assured them I was, and the driver saw I wasn't wearing shoes, and took his off and tried to give them to me.
He was so insistent that it took me a long time to get my point across that I prefer not wearing shoes and am unshod on purpose. He finally got it and they drove off. That was uplifting. But it was also 4:15 and I was still quite a ways from where I wanted to be. I guessed I had about 25 miles left. So I decided that I would just ride into the night for the first time to meet my goal. I kept pushing and at about 6:30 the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the wind persisted, and it was really cold, and I was in my cold gear already. And I was probably twelve miles from my destination. But it was so cold and I was so tired that I decided to just fuck it, the next good spot I saw to pull over, I would. I saw a low spot off to the side of the road, and when I investigated, I saw it was an intake for a drain that ran under the highway. I decided that I could dump my bike in the ditch and just pull off my sleeping bag and sleep in the drainage pipe. Which I did. But the wind that forced me to quit was now whipping through the drain, and I couldn't zip up my bag over my head, and I couldn't turn around because I'd be tilted upside down, so I had to abandon the drain idea and actually get out my tent. The other side of the highway was much much lower, so I set up camp over there. The problem was with these terrible little thorny plants that when you touch them, they leave spines like a cactus all over you, so I had to weed a section of earth big enough for what I remember my tent size to be. And in the dark, and with a rock. But I managed. And got everything into my tent that I needed, and spent the night pulling spines out of my fingers until I fell asleep listening to the wind whip my tent around.
Thursday September 9, 2010
57.5 miles in six hours
"I'm jealous. I wish I was on an epic bike ride."
I woke up with half of one wall of my tent resting on my face. The wind had ripped the stakes out and had undone the joints in the tent poles on one side, so the fabric just hung loosely. But it was much less windy this morning. Which was nice. So I ate a couple of Clif bars dipped in peanut butter and then struck camp, carefully trying to avoid those evil little spiney plants. I collected all of my stuff and carried it all across the road to the other side where my bike was, secured everything and without much fanfare, departed. About two or three miles later I entered a canyon. Wilson Canyon. Wilson Canyon has a river that runs through it. The Walker River. I jumped into the Walker River in Wilson Canyon. It was still very early and the sun hadn't
yet risen above the canyon walls, and it was cold, but oh so refreshing. It was so good, that it made me glad that I stopped early last night and hadn't ridden past this in the dark. This awesome canyon made the whole day and even yesterday better. I needed an uplift like this kind of beauty. So I rode on with renewed vigor. Soon I got an email from my friend Dean telling me that he was available to meet me for lunch at his favorite burger joint which was up on the 395 which I would be getting to today. He said he'd leave his place at about 11:00 and it'd take him two hours to get there, so he'd see me there at 1:ish. So I had another goal to shoot for. It was about forty miles away and it was just after 9:30. That seemed doable. But what I didn't realize was that the valley I was in was about 4760 feet, and the rise was slight at 4808 on the other side of the valley, but the climb out of the valley to get to the 395, was intense. The summit was at 5483. a 675 foot climb is no laughing matter. And that it only took me an hour I think is pretty impressive. And I got myself to the junction of the 208 and the 395 at about noon:45. I called Dean to tell him that I would be late to the burger joint as it was still about twenty miles away and the hill I was looking at was not going to be easy. Dean said he was close and I should hang tight and he'd come by and pick me up. Which he did. I was grateful and actually it was probably a good thing, because I was so focused on getting to Walker Burger in time, that I forgot to eat anything but my Clif bars in peanut butter that morning. So I was feeling a but dizzy and headachey. Dean pulled up in a Porsche with a bike rack on top and we took my front tire and front rack off so we could fit it on, but it was worth it for the ride.
And then he bought my lunch for me and we ate it in the back patio lawn as we talked about Burning Man and biking and future plans. And it was nice. We sat out there and talked for quite awhile. I also wanted to rest after the strenuous day of climbing and not much eating. At the burger joint we met a couple of bikers in their biking sex outfits having lunch. I learned one of them was going to be going to Palmdale after some windy mountain riding. Good for him. When we left, Dean drove me to the top of the next hill before letting me off to be on my way. He was a bit concerned about my headache and dizziness, so he brought me to a place where it was pretty much downhill to the next town, Bridgeport. He also gave me another gift. I had mentioned to him that my saddle had broken somewhere along the way, and so he went to his bike shop to see if they had any used saddles, which they did, and he got it and gave it to me. So I installed my new saddle and reattached my front rack and put all of my crap back on and took off. He watched to make sure I didn't fall over and then I was off. I got to Bridgeport rather quickly, it being mostly downhill. I got to Bridgeport at about 4:30, and decided to push on to see how far I could get before sunset. About an hour out of town, I found a little place I wanted to stop and eat at, well, mostly I wanted to charge m'phone, but I wouldn't have minded a little something to eat after starving myself earlier. But this restaurant kicked me out for not having shoes, so I sat out on their front lawn and charged my phone with an outdoor outlet they had. I ate a couple Clif bars and watched the scenery. When the phone was about half charged, I took off. A few miles later I saw a dirt road called Green Creek Road, and for some reason I decided that there might be a nice place to camp somewhere down this dirt road. And sure enough, there was a closed campground. I staked out a nice little spot and set up camp. There was no sign of human life as far as the eye could see, it was awesome. here, look how awesome I thought it was:
Also, I decided that I needed to whip out my beef jerky for the first time this trip, thinking I needed as much food in me as possible for the silly bit of not eating I did earlier. The reason I look so happy in this picture
is because there was a cow pasture just over one of the hills and all night I was hearing cows mooing, and I thought it was funny that I was eating beef jerky while listening to cows moo. Also I thought I needed protein so much that I was actually dipping my beef jerky into my peanut butter to put as much in me as was possible. It was cold this night. But the stars were amazing. And it was silent except for the occasional moo.
Friday September 10, 2010
30.5 miles in nine hours
"I really respect you for doing what you're doing."
- John from Alabama
I woke up at about nine and it was still really chilly. I went outside and noticed frost on my trunk bag. Also, my water bottle on my bike was frozen solid.
So I guess it was below freezing last night. I was amazed by how well tents and sleeping bags work, because although I knew it was cold, I was pretty cozy in my tent. And I hadn't even put the fly on, so the roof was open. I packed up once it warmed up a bit more. No need to rush out, I was in no real hurry and I like being warm. So I sat in bed until it warmed up and then I broke down m'camp and left. I only rode a couple miles up into the hills before finding a quaint little restaurant called Virginia Creek Settlement that was also a hotel with cabins scattered across the hills. Pretty cute. And I had myself a country breakfast. I have decided that food is a good thing and I will do my best to eat a lot of it every day from here on out. The ride up to the next summit was really beautiful. I passed signs and markers of where old gold mining camps were and others about the local wildlife. It was pleasant and because the hill was steep and the scenery so amazing, I stopped often. To admire or to read the markers. I got to the summit (8138 feet) by noon. And as I rode down the other side, I found an overlook that looked out over Mono Lake.
The guardrail there was just covered in stickers. It was pretty cool, I met a lot of people up there at that lookout. John from Alabama had been hiking in and around these mountains for the past ten days, he really loved all of the stickers and my adventure. He was sad to be going back home to Alabama where he will just be an engineer and not a free-wheeling backpacker in the high Sierras. I also met a couple of guys who were going to be doing a century ride tomorrow starting in Mammoth and swooping down to Mono Lake and way around and back to Mammoth. As impressed as I was at the thought of doing 100 miles in these mountains in one go, they were just as impressed with me riding alone across who-knows-what. I was up there for awhile before I decided enough was enough and it was time to see the lake. The ride down was pretty fun, I have to admit. The road was curvy and I got a lot of wheel shakes from the load I was carrying on my front tire, and I was riding my brakes most of the way down. The shoulder was small and had debris in it so I had to be careful. And some points I just rode out in the traffic lane to be safer. At any rate, I was down and to Mono Lake pretty quickly. I went out to the lake with the intention of jumping in, but the entire lake was covered in these little flies. Millions of little flies hugging the shore eating whatever was on the bottom on the lake before the water receded. And because of the billions of flies, there were thousands of seagulls.
And the mud around the lake was really thick and sticky and there were people everywhere. So whipping off my clothes and jumping in was unappealing in many many ways. But I had fun taking pictures of the lake and wildlife and talking to a guy who was going home to Nevada from San Francisco, but going through the mountains to see everything he could. I spent about half an hour checking out the lake before heading up the hill to Lee Vining where hopefully some lunch awaited me. As I was leaving the lake I noticed my hand was wet, it seemed that my water bottle sprung a leak. Maybe it was from freezing last night, or maybe from being put in and out of the water holder that was a bit too small for it. Oh well, I guess I'd have to get a new one in town. The ride up the hill was harder than I anticipated and I didn't want to put any more water into my leaky water bottle, so every time I wanted a drink I had to use one of my gallon jugs. But I made it into Lee Vining and found a friendly little restaurant called Friendly's. And I had myself a club sandwich that hit the spot. I bought a new water bottle and filled up all of my water at the gas station. I took off to cover more distance towards home. Somewhere along the way I saw two cool abandoned buildings and went to explore them. While exploring I noticed two bikers pull up to where I left my bike on the side of the road. I went to join them and they said they were just cruising around going wherever they wanted for the day, when I mentioned they were traveling light, they said they had a supply car following them around. I said that would be really nice, and they said just being alone would be nice. This mutual admiration thing is becoming a trend. They wondered where I slept every night, and I explained that I just found a stretch of land I liked the look of, and plopped down. I said I was thinking of setting up my tent in one of those abandoned houses, and they said I should, but it was only 4:30, and I thought I could put in a few more hours before sunset, so I declined the idea of sleeping in the cool old house. They went ahead of me, being lighter and faster, and on I went after them. At about 6:30 I came upon a pretty steep hill, and a road going up to the left just before it. And deciding not to risk another big hill that I might not get up before dark, I went up the little road on the left and found it was just a connection road between the two directions of the divided highway which were very far apart at this point. I just set up my tent right on the side of that road in the sand. I was pretty exhausted, I mounted the highest point of the 395 as well as several smaller summits. I earned this sleep tonight. Once again, no moon tonight. I haven't seen the moon once yet on this trip.
Saturday September 11, 2010
64 miles in eleven hours
"Wow, no shoes! I guess I needed to see it to believe it!"
- Kathy, riding past
Woke up fairly late, sun already streaming into the tent. I put the fly on last night because it froze the night before, but it didn't last night and I woke up a bit too warm, so I went out to strike camp straight away. And I realize the voices I thought I heard this morning which I thought woke me up, were real and not a dream, they were the first riders from the century ride heading North on the road above me. Interesting. I got myself all stowed away, and the climb up was uneventful except for all of the bikers heading North on the other side of the road.
Most that saw me acknowledged me by waving or nodding. On that first climb I noticed that my left knee really hurt. Like I had a bruise on it. Ow. I decided that it wasn't debilitating, so I just rode through it. I saw many many road bikes go speeding by, few with any panniers at all. I saw one mountain bike, one recumbent bike and one bicycle built for two. I stopped at the rest stop that Glenn stopped at two years earlier, even though it was closed for renovation. I met a couple out for a morning bike ride who came into the rest stop to see how the remodeling was progressing. They told me that once I passed Tom's Place it should be pretty smooth sailing all the way to Bishop. Which makes me happy to finally be seeing the other side of all of these hills I'd been climbing. So off I go to tackle more hill. As I was climbing out of there, two ladies passed me going up the hill and commented about me not having shoes. They asked how Burning Man was, and I wondered if I knew them, so I looked closely and didn't recognize them, and they explained that they and pretty much everybody doing the century ride heard about me from the guys I met at that overlook over Mono Lake yesterday. We talked a bit while riding, and they mentioned that I should get my chain cleaned, I agreed, they said that Bishop would have a place to do that. they were lighter and faster, so I let them go on ahead as I didn't want to slow them down. I arrived at the turnoff to Mammoth and I stopped and debated if it was worth another three mile ride to go into Mammoth proper. My friend Dean left me a phone number of a friend of his in Mammoth and said we should meet and I told him I'd love to, so I called Sigi then and got no response. I then decided to go into Mammoth and have lunch and maybe wait for a call back from this Sigi character. That three miles up was pretty tough. I considered turning around a couple times, but the promise of lunch drove me forward. Once I got into town, the hill seemed less tiring, I rode up to a place I thought had promise, called Base Camp Cafe. The food there was bland, small and really overpriced. Lesson learned. I rode out of there and to a store I'd passed called FootLoose Sports that maybe had bike stuff. I asked and the bike repair guy let me use his bike stand, chain cleaning tools and his chain lube. So I got to clean and lube my chain.
I also charged m'phone while doing all of this. Pretty great. And wow did my bike feel lighter and faster without hearing that constant grinding noise from the Playa dust. I wished I'd passed a bike shop earlier. Leaving Mammoth was way better than riding up there. Saw and passed a town called Tom's Place, I was considering getting something to eat there, because my Mammoth meal was so unsatisfactory, but it didn't look as charming or inviting as the name implied. So I rode past. I got to a section of road that had all kinds of warnings for truckers to be careful and to use low gears and there were brake check areas, and a sign said the next eight miles were going to be a 6% grade. I got a little concerned for my own brakes and road worthiness. I went into the truck brake check area and checked my brakes, and made sure my tires were full and even, well I knew my front wheel was bent, but I made sure it was as straight as it had been the whole trip up to this point. And then I just went for it. And oh my fucking balls, was it the best/scariest/most exhilarating/funnest/most dangerous/life-affirming thing I may have ever done. I was going so fast for the next ten minutes that squeezing the water out of my eyes was a problem, I was passing the big rigs going down the hill, the altitude markers were zipping by every couple minutes, 6,000, 5,000, so fast. I covered ten miles in just about ten minutes. You do the math but that's somewhere around sixty miles an hour I was flying down that thing at. Just holding onto my steering wheel and tucking low enough so that wind gusts wouldn't knock me over was exhausting. Every truck I passed, I wanted to look to see their faces, but I dared not take my bleary, tear-streaked eyes off of the road for even a second. Holy crapballs, here, I can't describe it any better than I did right after I rode it:
Man that was incredible. And with all of that adrenaline running through me, I decided to push out some more miles. I made it pretty quickly to Bishop, and at the first gas station I got to I played a funny joke that I continued to play on the people of Owens Valley, every time I needed to fill up with water I always asked if it was alright even though I know its free and of course its alright. I just think its polite to ask. But here in Owens Valley, I would say every time: "I'm from Los Angeles, can I have some water?" I'm not sure if anybody got my joke but it's funny to me. In a dick kinda way. But it made me laugh, and that's all that matters. I got into Bishop at about 5:30 and stopped at a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed myself a delicious chimichanga. Just them putting chips and salsa on the table before I ordered was amazing. Food is so good when you're using this much energy. As I was leaving Amigo's to get out of town to find a place to camp I saw two guys sitting at a corner with giant backpacking backpacks. I stopped to ask what kind of adventure they were on. They were hiking the John Muir trail, but had to come down because two of the three guys in their group busted their shoes. The guys were great, although I only remember one of the three guys' names, he was Sky. Hard to forget his name. Two of them were from Redding and the other guy from Santa Barbara I believe. They weren't carrying any water, but had tons of food, I wondered how they could pull that off, and they said the whole trail for ten more days would be right near rivers, streams or lakes. Oh, right. I was on a highway with very few natural outlets for water, which is why I carry two and a half gallons with me everywhere. I wound up talking to those three guys until after sunset, so we all made each other late, they needed to hitch a ride back up into the mountains, and I needed to find a place to camp. So we parted. And just a few miles out of town, I found a great place off in the desert to make camp. And I did. I wished I'd gotten a little further out of Bishop than I did, but I was happy where I was.
Sunday September 12, 2010
109 miles in twelve hours
"Where you headed to?"
- John from Santa Barbara
Woke up before the sun and was feeling great. I had a couple of Clif bars with peanut butter and struck camp and was off and rolling before 7:00am. And the roads here were mostly flat
and it felt like there was a tailwind behind me. I was in my highest gear for most of the morning. And it felt great. My left knee didn't hurt as much as yesterday, but my right one joined it in a dull aching throb. That kind of pain was easy to ride with. At least the grind of pushing against the wind down hills in the lowest gear were behind me. This is more like what I imagined the trip to be like. I put in fifteen miles before stopping for breakfast in Big Pine. And after breakfast I was on the road again by nine. And still feeling fantastic. The miles were zipping by. Before I knew it I was in Lone Pine before noon,
and I stopped there for lunch. I had gone over fifty miles before noon. I stopped at a little restaurant that seemed nice and calculated how far I'd come, and realized, this was my chance to get 100 miles in a day. See, I knew by doing this task in this way, I was going to bike well over 100 miles, but I really wanted to get in one 100 mile day so I could feel good about it. Because by not doing 100 in a day, I could have done this task at Burning Man, or going to my theater and back two days in a row, and that just didn't seem fair, so I really wanted to get at least one 100 mile day in on this trip. And by getting 50 by lunch, I knew this was the one. In the meantime, an hour had passed and my burger wasn't served to me yet. People had come in after me, eaten, paid and left, and still I got no food. I kept looking at the waitstaff indicating that I was still foodless, and they didn't seem concerned. Finally a guy that wasn't my waiter came over and asked if I'd been helped, I said I had but it was taking unusually long. My waitress came over to confirm my order, "You ordered a cheeseburger, right?" "No, hamburger." "With coleslaw?" "Fries." She turned and went to the kitchen. A few minutes later she returned with a cheeseburger and coleslaw. I politely asked if instead of what she brought me, I could please have what I ordered instead. The other waiter overheard and minutes later brought me out the correct order. The fries were cold and bad, and it looked like the cheese had just been scraped off of my patty. I decided to just suck it up and eat and get out of there as I wanted to waste no more time, I wanted fifty more miles. While eating, I saw a flag outside turn the opposite direction and stay that way. When I was done, I went out, got on my bike and continued into the worst headwind so far on my journey. Oh my fuck. I hate you wind. I hate you so much. I stopped at Diaz Lake and asked the people working there if this crazy wind was typical, and they said it was, but something about the way they talked made me not believe them, but either way, it was blowing against me. I stopped in a little town called Cartago that was 20 miles away and it took me three exhausting hours to get there. I found a motel that nobody was at with cool metal sculptures and a giant yellow lemon building.
I sat in the shade of their courtyard and relaxed until one of two things happened, either the wind stopped, or the sun went down, because I was overheating out there in that brutal wind. The sun went down first, so I rode on. Only three miles down the road there was another little town called Olancha, and Olancha seemed to be open. I recognized it as a place we stopped during my Odyssey and Jennifer ran out into the field of sheep to play with them. I stopped to get dinner at a cozy little restaurant there. I was hating the second part of this day. I had on several occasions thought about quitting. The wind was just that bad. Best morning ever, worst afternoon ever, both on the same day. A hot desert headwind can really demoralize like I didn't think possible. When I finished my dinner, the staff said there was a gas station about a mile down the road where I could fill up my water. While filling up, I met a guy and his girl who were gassing up who had just come from Death Valley. He was so impressed by what I was doing, that he reinspired me. I was going to ask if I could throw my bike in the back of his pickup and get a ride back to civilization with him, and I told him I thought about quitting, and he looked so disappointed, he chided me and told me I would feel unfulfilled if I got this close and then quit. And he was right. Plus I'd only gone 75 miles today. I had (at least) 25 to go. So thanks to that guy who loved so much what I was doing, I got back on and continued riding. I won't say it was a lot easier, because it wasn't. But the wind had died down a bit and now there was no sun. I liked riding at night more, because riding while overheating is no fun, so I decided to switch to nighttime riding from here on out. And I would start tonight. I hit my 100 mile mark at about 7:15, but continued riding.
And a few miles later, the end of trip happened. The cable that lets me switch the back gears snapped. And the spring on the gear lost tension and reverted to the highest gear, which was impossible to ride in on these low rolling hills. Especially with my knees feeling like they were feeling. I pulled over and took my headlight off, balanced it on my trunk bag pointing at me and I put my thumb out hoping for somebody with a truck or a bike rack. Within five minutes I heard the sound of a car crossing the rumble strip behind me. I looked over my shoulder and sure enough a pickup truck had pulled over and was backing its way back to me.In the truck was
John from Santa Barbara who gave me a ride out. When I told him I had a place to go in Lancaster, he said that would be no problem as it was right on his way and when he put the address in his Garmin it only added seven minutes to his trip. So he'd drop me off at my friend's door. I called to tell her I'd be arriving earlier than I had thought. And she said no problem. As soon as I got to her place, she took me out to dinner. And then I got back and took a bath, and then slept in a bed. And the next day I stayed in bed and relaxed, and took another long bath and just didn't ride my bike. It was awesome. And the next day, my father came and picked me up and took me home. And being home and not on my saddle was amazing.
So there ends my story.
Click this link here to see the route I took.
I rode 407 miles total. and 109 on that last day.
Check out all of the pictures below if you want to see the whole trip.