Hills. Heat. I would climb 5000 hills. Bike to the hills. And more and more hills. Bakersfield to Bridgeport via Fresno and Yosemite to mono lake was tough. Weather over 100 degrees. Several flat tires. Exhausting. Exhilarating. Outrageous.
We pick up christian in fresno, he joins us for 10 days. And together the three of us climb lots and lots of hills. The landscape inspires, helps push you forward on the bike one leg push at a time, as how else would you see what lies around the corner? On the one hand too many cars, not enough elbow room. Wish that the US were built more bike friendly and where when you enter Yosemite you see a ‘caution! Bears and bikes!’ Where cars were not present marcus, christian and I sang songs heading up into the sierra mountains and over the Tioga pass which stands proud at 9947ft. We started at 200 ft. After the tioga pass we dropped about 4000 ft into mono lake with 6 miles at an 8% grade. Definitely a rush!
Along the way so far we met several other cyclists who were traversing not only the us but one couple, alle and irene from holland had started of in argentina. We bivouacked together in the dense forest of yosemite, shared a meal and local beers.Then there was david, who was a well versed cycle tourist doing the sierra cascades trip by himself. We run into him several times, eat a meal at rhinos in bridgeport and share a camping spot on the reservoir. We might see him again in austin. Axel from germany, and fritz and Genevieve from Boston. From all walks of life, we spent few moments together, already part of this fascinating community. Really, the only thing we all share is we move forward with pedal pushing bikes and the desire to explore in a slow way. Making 40 miles a day feels at the moment a grand achievement what with the hills. there is so much to talk about. It inspires us. There are also others who offer us water or snacks – we are delighted at their offer.
Now we are in Nevada, we bade farewell to our first companion Christian who had to return to the bay area for an interview. It was so sad, we had milkshakes, looked at in smith, nv and off christian the caped crusader went towards reno. We must now up the ante and make up miles.
As we get on with this trip the routine of daily cycling, setting up camp where we can, making food becomes habitual and it is a habit I wear gladly, very happily and comfortably. I cannot think of anywhere else I’d rather be or rather be doing. It is a huge challenge and at some climbs I did have to get off and bike hike… and question my sanity. But it is a question I most happily raise.
Right now we are sitting under a tree in yerington, nv and have another 62 miles we need to do today. marcus just played the ukulele, we are learning songs. Even though all we do is ride, eat, and set up home there seems not to be enough hours in the day for all the other activities we want to do. For now, we must get some groceries, water – we carry at least 6 liters each! And then we continue this journey onwards ho to fernley, NV.
Im sitting in the desert night around our PocketRocket stove system with rocks piled high and panniers huddling closely against the midnight breeze, protecting a lightsaber blue flame. Eggs are boiling. Christian hangs his clothes on a nearby tree to air dry, knowing full well that we will be gone before the morning sun kisses them. The white disk of a full moon starts her nightly journey, splashing shadows on a dulled landscape. This is our 9th night.
At a camp near Bridgeport, we were invited to share a space with Dave.
We met Dave at Bass lake when, after Christian pulled over to reseat a tire, he came charging up a small hill, his Specialized panniers looking sleek and wind cutting, bike shorts and jersey hugging his lean frame, confidence betraying his experience. He pulled up next to us with an anticipating smile, in spite of his lungs that pulled for air. He was the first cyclist we met and one we continued to cross paths with. Miles later, Yosemite complete, we met again in Lee Vinning, again the next day, and spent some miles and meals together. The scene depicted above was at his site, kindly offered where we enjoyed actual showers (SHOWERS!!). In the morning he helped fix a blown tube.
When he smiled it was ear to ear, when he laughed it came from his belly, and when he said something, it was with experience that goes beyond age.
These are the kind of people you meet on the road. Dave gave me a spare tire before we left. But I took much more.
We were flying. Wind buffeted us as we tore through the air, rending the sky on an 8% downhill grade. Hitting around 40 miles per hour, our tires hummed, brakes squeeked on straightaways as we anticipated a small bend. Christina, leading, lifted her right arm to signal to pull off at the next turn off. Brakes worked, wheels ceased. We all took a look at each other and our bikes. Christina checked the tripod jammed into her bar end shifter, a replacement when a bolt came loose about 10 miles back, never to be found. A quick helmet check, a thumbs up, and off we rolled, no need to pedal as the weight of our bikes and gravity started to dance once more.
To date, we have had some mechanical.. Adventures.
We are up to 9 flats. Most have been in the valley where tiny dried Russian Thistles stabbed through our tires to lance holes in our tubes. There is nothing more demoralizing than flatting out more than once a day. It took us about 30 minutes to patch or change one out depending on front or back. You get pretty quick about it after a time. After we moved into Yosemite, most tire issues ceased. Then we lost a screw.
While on a downgrade, Christina lost a screw in one of her shifters. We pulled over, had a lunch of peanut butter and honey on corn tortilla, a hardboiled egg, and a cut of apple, and puzzled a bit over our next move. Sorting through spare bolts, we moved onto the idea of shoving a stick into the opening.. Better judgment kept us thinking. Christian offered his 8 inch tripod. Gingerly, we screwed it in. It held with a little duct tape. We replaced it with a bolt we found in Lee Vinning, swapping them out and getting a spare. Just in case.
We got a ticket that night for camping on an unauthorized bit of land. I understand. Some folks just don’t clean up after themselves and abuse the land. We never leave a trace and anyways, it was worth the view.
I gathered the empty water bottles set on the picnic table for me and grab the water filter from its pannier. Bare feet sift the sand as I make my way through the thin treeline to the crisp water beyond. A rock is my seat and with pants rolled up my feet slip into the water. My left foot holds the buoyant tube under, pinched between my big toe and the unnamed one that resides next to it. Press… Pull. Press… Pull. Press… Water trickles into an open bottle methodically. There are 12 liters to be filled. I take the next two hours to look out over the lake and watch the mountains beyond. There are no thoughts. No ideas, no schemes no worries or ambitions. Its just the pump, the wind. The birds and the sun washing over the mountain, making a slow retreat as it sets ever lower to it’s sleeping place. I am.
I’m tired and my toes have pickled. I walk silently back to an even more quiet camp. Christian sketches silently as Christina prepares a meal. I’m home.
10 days in now, we have gotten our routine more or less down, though the ritual of setting up camp, packing, and breaking down still is a unique process every time. Some evenings we play music, with our ukes, others we fall into bed after a cold meal. We get up early, snoozing until we feel guilty and then snooze another 5 minutes. It nice out here. The road is a place of magic, of beauty untold. I can recount the memories, but cannot convey it’s soul. Stare deeply now, and look around. It only takes a curious eye to see her. Breathe her in. Live.