Tue May 20, 2003
We will get here soonThis post is a placeholder for future journal entries and photos from our journey across America.
We wanted to use cartographe to show our tentative route across America this summer. The easiest way to do that is just to plot some points and let cartographe connect the dots.
In case it isn't clear that the maps are interactive, here is how you use them:
- click on the USA map in an area along our route, this will take you to a more detailed map
- click on a "bike" or "photo" icon in the detailed map, this will take you to the linked item, normally a weblog or photolog post
- to move between maps, click on the arrows
That is it!
For now, these tentative points all link to this entry. We will be replacing these links with links to photos and journal entries as we progress across the country.
Fri May 23, 2003
First day's route to San FranciscoWe were not exactly sure of the best way to get from our house near Woodside to San Francisco.
We thought that the best way would be to take one of our normal routes toward Crystal Springs and just keep going. It turns out that is just the thing to do. A little googling turned up The San Mateo County Scenic Bicycle Route.
Piece of cake. So come next Saturday, we load up, hit the road and follow this route right to Ocean Beach where we will do the ceremonial Pacific Coast tire dip. Maybe. Or maybe we will do it at Crissey field which is a place near and dear to us.
Fri Jun 06, 2003
Off we go! San Francisco to NYC.
5/31/2003 10:14 PM
Presidio Inn San Francisco
Yeah! We are on the road. After months of planning and training we are finally on the road. And what a great day to start! The weather was perfect cycling weather, mid 70s and sunny. Sunny in San Francisco on May 31! We’ll take that as a sign.
It is funny and very cool to be leaving on such an adventure right from our front door and spending the night in a city that is so familiar to us. One the one hand, we left the house today on a “normal” ride and ended up eating in one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the city, La Marimba on Chestnut Street, just a few blocks from where I lived when Gabi and I got together.
But on the other hand, we know that tomorrow morning we will be heading East on a ferry to Vallejo and spending tomorrow night in Davis. Still familiar territory but every day we go further East, and pretty soon we will be in very unfamiliar territory indeed.
Today’s ride was great. Canada Rd. to Crystal Springs Trail to Skyline into San Francisco. Once into the city, along the Great Highway along Ocean Beach, then through Golden Gate park and the Presidio to Crissey field and the Marina. I wonder why we never have done this ride in the past?
We met a very nice couple by the bridge while we were getting a photo. The guy says “New York or bust!” as he walks past us. Gabi says, “well as a matter of fact, we are leaving for New York today”! Turns out they were from NYC and quite typically very outgoing and friendly folks.
Had a very nice send off from Ian, Beth and the girls too. They sent us off with homemade cookies and a bon voyage!
Update from Sacramento
Left San Francisco on the early ferry to Vallejo. At the dock we met a group of 25 people riding from SF to DC to raise awareness of poverty in America. We rode with them for a couple days. Getting off the ferry, we promptly made a wrong turn and ended up going about three miles and one large hill out of our way. It was unseasonably hot, over 100 degrees. Pleasant’s Valley road was the highlight of the day. That night we ended up in Davis, the first place where we wanted to move (we will find more J. Davis is extremely bike friendly and liberal, especially for a valley town. Lots of young people everywhere, great farmer’s market… Had a great pasta dinner at a place called Fuzio’s and we were set. We were drained from riding 70 miles in 100 degrees but happy.
Day 3: Davis to Folsom
The ride from Davis to Folsom was very nice. Davis to Sacramento isn't such a nice ride but the route from Sacramento to Folsom follows the American river bicycle trail. This was my favorite ride when I used to live in Auburn and still is quite familiar. It was a good thing we started early because it was 104 degrees by the time we hit Folsom at 12:30. I guzzeled two huge glasses of ice cold lemonaide before lunch to feel normal again.
Mon Jun 09, 2003
Into the Volcano
Day 4: Folsom to Volcano
50 miles, 3000-???? ft
The original plan was to head up over the Mormon Emigrant trail from Pollock Pines to Kirkwood. This is supposed to be one gorgeous climb (as described on http://www.chainreaction.com). However due to late snows in the Sierras, the forest service had not opened the road yet. Bummer. Time to self route.
After considering the options, we decided to go up highway 88 but rather than going all the way up from Jackson, we wanted to keep to back roads as far as Pioneer.
We knew it would be another very hot day so we got up early and were on the road by 7AM. The morning ride was a warm and pleasant meander though perfect California foothill country (“I love this kind of landscape” yells Gabi as we ride).
But after lunch things got bad. The route we chose from Fiddletown to Volcano follows a road called Hale Rd. After about 2 miles we renamed it “Hell Rd”. Up to 3500 ft, down to 1000 ft, then up, then down and up and down again. All this on roads that felt like they were 18 percent gradient and all the while the temperature is climbing to 100 degrees for the third day in a row.
Finally, around 4:30, we roar down a steep descent into Volcano (population 85). We almost rode all the way through town because the town is only two blocks long and that is just what we needed to come to a complete stop.
Well, right in front of us is this beautiful Inn called the St. George Hotel (http://www.stgeorgehotel.com). It is absolutely perfect. The only problem is there didn’t seem to be anyone there. It turns out that Elsa, the Innkeeper was about to head home because it was so quiet. We were so beat, and the place was so nice, we decided it was time for a rest day and checked in for two nights. Elsa put some yoghurt, berries, pastries and granola in the fridge in the Hotel’s industrial kitchen, left the door open and the whole place was ours for the night.
Day 5: Rest day in Volcano
We spent a well deserved rest day just hanging around downtown Volcano. Though we were only four days into our trip, we were tired. Partly from Hell Road and the heat but also from all of the work we had been doing over the past few months just to get ready. We’ve hardly slowed down since February.
There isn’t much to do in a town so small. We met most of the town locals at the general store and café and told them about our trip. We napped and read. And I went swimming in just about the best swimming hole I’ve ever seen on Sutter Creek about 300 yards from the St. George.
It was prep day at the Hotel Restaurant (no meals, sorry) but Elsa said they could probably put together a box dinner for us. A box dinner! It started out with fresh baked bread with home made chick pea humus. Then came a salad with fresh roasted red peppers and onions. For the entrée we had grilled filet, fresh green beans and pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, all cold. We popped open an chilled bottle of Bonney Doon Pacific Rim Riesling and it was perfect. Yum!
6/6/2003 7:00 AM
Wow. Six days later, here we are at 7800 feet elevation high in the high sierras looking out at a crystal blue morning sky. The sky feels so close here. Yesterday afternoon, the afternoon clouds were building is huge twisting pure white cauliflower bulbs that were swelling and expanding just above the sheer red-brown cliffs that surround Kirkwood valley.
Day 6: Volcano to Kirkwood
47 miles, 6000 ft
This is one long climb. About 6000 feet total elevation gain. So we started early (7:00) and managed to climb ahead of the heat all day. We had an early lunch at a gross biker bar where the proprietor was drinking whisky up at 10:30 AM. Fortunately we didn’t get sick or catch anything.
Riding up highway 88 was much better than we thought it would be. Not too steep and not too much traffic. And once you pull out of the trees at around 6000 ft, the views are amazing.
That night we stayed at our friends home in Kirkwood. We stopped at a grocery on the way up the hill so we were able to have a nice home cooked meal too. It was mighty nice of them to offer their place to us for the night.
It weighs how much?
Day 7: Kirkwood to Carson City
What a great ride this is! Carson Pass, to Hope Valley is an amazing ride, Green, verdant, panoramic, and all downhill. Once into the Carson Valley at Woolford Station the landscape completely changes. It is desert country, dry and spotted with sage and pinions.
From Woolford to Carson City, we crossed into Nevada (YEAH!!!) and followed Foothills Blvd through Genoa (great tri-tip sandwich for lunch). It was beautiful. Until we hit the suburbs of Carson City. Yuk. Strip mall city. The entire city seems to consist of strip malls laid out along the two main highways that intersect there, 395 and 50.
Somehow we managed to find the post office and pick up all of our camping gear, which we had mailed ahead to ourselves care of general delivery. After picking it up, we found a hotel, took a swim, had a nice Mexican dinner and went to sleep early so we could be on the road by 6:30 AM to beat the heat.
Day 8: Carson City to Fallon
We hit the road early and by 7:00 AM were already out of strip mall hell and into the open desert heading east. Yee-haa!!!
We had a big tailwind but even with the tailwind, it wasn’t long before we were trying to figure out ways to cut out weight again. Riding with the extra 17 lbs of camping gear just was not fun. It was work and I could feel the bike straining. Plus, the campground we were planning to stay at was skanky with hardly any shade (it was 12:00 and already 98 degrees) and four miles from the nearest food.
We quickly changed plans and checked into a hotel in town, took a shower, had a great lunch and reconnoitered.
An hour later we were searching the Fallon yellow pages for some place where we could ship our gear back home. There turned out to be a place called Jeff’s Copy Service about two blocks away that was also a UPS shipping agent. By 3:30 that afternoon, all 20 lbs of our camping gear was heading home and were now traveling even lighter than before.
What a crack up, we planned for months to camp half time. For months we shopped for gear with a fish scale because weight was our foremost concern. Yet once we had it all loaded up, we decided that it just was not fun riding with that much weight and cut our losses quick.
Pony Express to the Middle of nowhere
Day 9: Fallon to Middlegate
With our now regular 6AM departure, our lightened loads and mild desert tailwinds, we reached our destination before 11AM today.
Middlegate should be called “Middle-of-nowhere”. Between Fallon and Middlegate is 40 miles of desert salt flats. It looks like the moon. The next town is 64 miles.
Middlegate consists of:
- a bar/restaurant/mini-market/gas station
- one pool table
- a Motel created from portable units
- four maybe five dogs
- an assortment of mobile homes where the owner and some others live
- a very nice patch of shady trees (quite rare around here)
It is actually a pretty decent place to stay. The beer is cold and the burgers are OK too.
We got a treat while we were there, a sunset summer rainstorm complete with lightening and rainbows. We have photos.
Day 10: Middlegate to Austin
The rainstorm from the night before brought the desert colors out. The sage, creosote, desert grasses and other plants that I can’t name all looked brighter, greener and more alive this morning. The ride was beautiful.
The space here is so vast and the visibility is so great that the distances are deceiving. Riding, you will see a pass off in the distance that appears to be 2 maybe 3 miles away. But you notice that the road, which is straight as an arrow just seems to disappear somewhere before the pass. Which way does the road take through the pass? Who knows? Ten or fifteen miles later, you are finally close enough to tell. The pass follows a canyon and begins to climb in two miles.
The highway (ha) follows the old Pony Express route most of the way. People seem to be quite proud of this and it gives you pause to think of horsemen riding across such wide-open country. Along the way today we saw a very large group of horsemen riding along a section of the old trail. There must have been over 100 horses and riders spread out over a five-mile section of the trail. You could see the dust from riders in the distance way before you could make out the shape of the horse and rider.
Just like in the Westerns.
Mon Jun 16, 2003
Desert riding on the Loneliest Highway
Day 11: Austin to Eureka
Austin itself doesn’t offer much. We ate, we slept, we moved on. But Austin does mark the western end of what I think is the most beautiful part of highway 50 through Nevada. Austin is half way up a steep pass that marks a dramatic change in the landscape. As you ascend there are more trees (pinion, and bristlecone at the higher elevations), creeks and flowers still in bloom.
This part of Highway takes you over a series of mountain ranges. We didn’t realize it but Nevada is the most mountainous state in the continental USA. There are literally hundreds of small ranges running North and South throughout the entire state. Today we crossed three before rolling into Eureka.
So, we are settling into our normal pattern for desert bicycling.
- Up at 5AM
- Shower, yoga and cereal in the room
- On the road by 6-6:15
- Second breakfast of peanut butter and banana sandwiches around 9AM on some mountain pass
- Pre-lunch of PB or Salami sandwich around 11AM
- Roll into a new town between 12-1
- Check in, shower and have a real lunch
- Relax, enjoy, sightsee or nap till dinner time
It is rough.
Eureka is a pretty friendly town. There is a real grocery-general store / Big Game museum, a couple of decent restaurants (the Owl Casino and another that was closed that day) and even a local theatre company. There is a also historical self guided walking tour you can take of the town, which we kinda-sorta did in typical coastal turbo fashion.
Day 12 Eureka to Ely
78 miles and four passes
Yet another beautiful cycling day. Where else can you cycle all day in perfect 80 degree weather down a well paved, smooth surfaced interstate and run into only 2-3 cars and trucks an hour. On descents, from time to time we just take the road for a few miles, like 8 to 10 miles!
Ely itself was kind of a disappointment. It is a major crossroads with a larger population than most places we had been recently. So we figured that there would be more to do there, better restaurants and grocery stores etc. We decided to take a rest day here.
Day 13 Ely, NV
Hmm. What can I say about Ely. Not too much.
The best place in Nevada
Silver Jack Motel
6/13/2003 5:38 PM
I can’t believe we are almost in Utah. Baker is just six miles from the border, so just a few minutes after we start tomorrow, we will be entering Rocky Mountain time and red rock country. Well not quite. The western part of Utah looks pretty much like eastern Nevada. We won’t be in red rock country for a few more days.
Day 14 Ely to Baker
Baker is where we should have taken the rest day. It sits at the main entrance to Big Basin National Park. The park itself is five miles and 2000 ft above town and after riding all morning and knowing that the next days ride might just be the most strenuous of the trip, we didn’t make it up to the park. An extra day to explore the park would have been great. The park itself isn’t really in the basin but high in the mountains. It is kind of an island in the desert that was created at the end of the last ice age as the climate changed and the glaciers receded and the huge inland sea that stretched from here to Idaho receded (what is left is the Great Salt Lake).
Baker is tiny but seems to be the home of the friendliest people in Nevada. We went over to TD’s to eat and watch the NBA finals and hung out with the locals, told stories, listened to stories, drank beers, ate great food and had an all around great time.
The owners of TD’s are corporate refugees who bought the place 15 years ago and have done wonders. It is easily the best food we had since California, and out in the middle of nowhere. It isn’t easy though. To stock up, and keep in fresh food they go to great lengths. Some things are delivered but they also make twice monthly provisioning trips to Salt Lake City. That is about 500 miles round trip.
We took a walk later through town at around 9PM. It was still around 80 degrees with birds chirping and the creek burbling and the full moon rising over the mountains in the east side of the very fertile valley.
We thought of moving there for a second. Nope, too small and too isolated for us.
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