After much rest and relaxation (and bellies full of all sorts of goodness!) we are back on the road and heading towards New Mexico!  We spent a few days in Flagstaff organizing gear, picking up odds and ends and hanging out with my pal Shark.  HUGE THANKS to Shark for the sleep spots, fantastic meals and great, great company.  Can’t wait to see you on the road Shark!  We took off late Sunday night, just as the 3rd fire in 2 days started to spread down from the San Francisco Peaks.  Now we are back to our leisure days of riding from fantastic campsite to fantastic campsite, stopping as much as we’d like to eat our various sandwich combinations, dip our toes in the streams and answer the friendly questions that come from folks we pass by.  We’ll be crossing into New Mexico tomorrow, with our next big stop being PIE TOWN!

Shark kickin' it couchside with Buddrah and Riley. Missing from photo.. Ava, the other furry friend we got to spend some time with.

Just one of the many amazing meals we devoured thanks to Shark. Later in the day there were tongue tacos that couldn't be beat.

Shark juicing it up at the Flagstaff Farmer's Market...

Oh-my-goodness! Fresh squeezed cucumber lemonade and watermelon juice...

Kurt showing exactly how good those juices are...

The view of the fire that had broke out amidst the peaks just as we started to head out.

The view of the fire spreading from about 25 miles away. As far as I know, it is unfortunately not completely contained.

Morning breakfast (a nice break from the usual oatmeal I might add)...

A typical northern Arizona forest landscape, after much hard work by the forest service to weed out the under brush and complete controlled burns. Keeping the land like this is one major defense against forest fires.

After a good bit of climbing, we were rewarded with this epic descent into Strawberry, and then further into Pine.

Hurray for Highway 64, a 24 mile dirt road that connected two other major highways. This was my longest off-road experience and I am completely hooked. The scenery absolutely cannot be beat, and the no car thing really makes this way of travel a shoe in.

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The ride from Parker to Flagstaff was monumental for many reasons.  For one, it was the last bit of riding I will alone for awhile.  I soaked it all in for what it had to offer, which was a ton.  Specifically, the ride from Wilhoit to Prescott was unbelievable, another breathtaking climb that had me wishing at every turn that the end was nowhere near.  I encountered my first flat, enjoyed the company of the fairgrounds one night and descended out of the forest down through the old historic mining town of Jerome, and then onto Sedona.  It was here that I encountered a very special neighbor perched in some bushes, awaiting my arrivat with a nice cold drink.  Kurt and I met in Oakland some two years ago and it was his asking that got me interested in a trip like this in the first place.  For the last year while I have been planning and squirreling away gear and pennies, he has been out taking the southwest by storm.  You can read about his many many adventures here.  This ain’t his first rodeo.

As many of you may already know, I used to live in both Sedona and Flagstaff (as well as a short stint in a barn in Cornville, AZ) so I was excited to be back in the area.  We were able to hook up with my old friend Craig, old owner of the Bike and Bean, and he hooked us up with a place to stay for the night.  Most excitingly, I was able to connect with his daughter Delaney, who is now 8 and beautiful and smart as ever.  Delaney was my good buddy in Sedona a few years ago and it was so great to see her again.  We spent the next day casually riding up through Oak Creek Canyon, visiting Garland’s Indian Jewelry and some of my old co-workers before heading north to Flagstaff.

Every night there is a different and equally beautiful sunset I get to watch...

Sites in Hope, AZ.

Road humor...

Turning onto 89A, the road that would take me all the way up to Sedona to meet Kurt and then further on to Flagstaff.

A little off road riding at the end of the evening to find some good camping...

Taxidermist catching a red speckled rattler...

One of the many road side memorials I see along the way...

My attempt at capturing some headwinds to share with you...

Fantastic day of riding!!! 89A from Wilhoit to Prescott...

First puncture. I guess if you're going to get a flat, you might as well REALLY get a flat. As you can see, this screw pierced through at two seperate spots...

National forest on the way to Jerome and Sedona...

Heading towards Jerome...

I'm a sucker for barbeques. One in this spot would be exceptional.

I believe this is how the Bike and Bean got started.

Classic Sedona...

Gracie and the very special Delaney...

Heading into West Fork, an off shoot of Oak Creak Canyon...

West Fork...

After leaving Joshua Tree, the only other town you go through (about 15 miles down the road) is Twentynine Palms.  After that it is a 1oo mile stretch until any water or services are available.  I figured I’d load up with as much water as I could,  ride from 4 to 10pm and finish the other half in the morning.  As the night would have it, I was feeling super energetic after covering the first 60 miles.  I understood that the more I rode at night, the less I would have to do during the heat of the day.  Normally, I don’t like riding at night because I miss out on seeing too much, but this night I made an exception.  What is a girl supposed to do, all hopped up on Snickers on a Friday night? I decided to keep on it (at no point did I feel unsafe on the road, otherwise I would have stopped and bedded down for the evening) and ended up riding the 126 miles to Parker, AZ over the course of the next few hours.  It was really not my plan, and I have never in my life tried to ride that much.  I don’t want to take too much credit, as I had a fantastic tailwind and it was downhill if anything.  I was very happy to get that stretch over with.  It was quite awesome to pull up to the Colorado at 1:30 in the morning, knowing I could make a splash in it as soon as the sun came up.

These guys hooked me up with a sandwich and all the water I would need to get across the desert stretch...

There you have it...

Desertscape...

Capturing what it feels like catching a glorious tailwind...

Tom, another biker I ran into going the other way that evening right outside Vidal Junction. He had the same idea of escaping the heat and sun...

I need a Tshirt that reads "I rode 126 miles through the dark and all I got was this boring photo"...

Sweet, sweet Colorado river. I spent the morning catching up in the journal and taking dips in the water.

The bike and I sharing PBR's by the river. Unbelievably, I was feeling pretty good after one. The bike on the other hand, let hers get too warm and I had to pour it out. These long bike days sure seem to be having an effect on me...

Joshua Tree…

June 19, 2010

Joshua Tree proved to be as breath-taking as I had anticipated and I ended up hanging around for an extra day exploring.  While there I met up with Deb (who will be taking her own exciting world tour adventure in a month or so), who kindly wrote a very nice article on me.  Most of my time was spent exploring canyon washes, taking photos and conversing with the only other folks I ran into the whole time on the East side of the park, Robert and Maria.  They had come from the Netherlands, with Robert utilizing the desert for his vision quest trainings.  He guides them back in the Netherlands.  Here are some photos from the park…

After two weeks of riding, I made it to my first "official" destination...

Pencil cacti. Yowwwch.....

More cacti...

Bike track crossing a snake track. Clearly I was not the only one who thought my camp spot that night was the best one...

One of the many rock piles in Joshua Tree...

View from the campsite, complete with yucca yucca yuccas...

On the way to the hike...

Some of my favorites...

Winding up into the wash. This hike was incredible. I did not see anyone along the way, just me and the butterflies the whole day.

I had seen this cave earlier in the day and made sure I had my stuff together later in the day to go back and find it so I could sleep in it. Great night's sleep!

The oasis..

These desert wonders are caused by one or more springs that are located right under the sand. Vegetation will usually grow lush in this area and you may even see some amphibians...

 

...which I amazingly did here. If you look closely you can see what looks to be a gila monster/lizzard thing (UPDATE: thanks to Deb, I have been informed that this lizard is called a chuckwalla). He posed quickly, before scampering down underneath some rocks.

The days were getting hotter and hotter as I made my way through Palmdale.  It was here that I got my first sight of some Joshua Trees and a very encouraging “Joshua Tree? Well, you’re almost there” from the electrical man I stopped to asked directions from after getting turned around a bit.  Joshua Tree had been on my mind since day 1 of planning this adventure.  I had heard so much about it and had always wanted to visit it.  It was also meant the first “leg” of my journey (in my mind) would be accomplished.  I planned to take a few days off to explore the park once I had arrived.

On my way, as I was planning my attack on a midday dirt nap, I was stopped by a man waving me down in a Hawaiian shirt.  He introduced himself as a cyclist with a guest house set up for travellers down the way.  As I was pretty set on making it to Joshua Tree that night, I declined his offer to stay but thought it might be nice to take my rest in the shade there for a while.  Upon arriving, I decided Joshua Tree could definitely wait (I also learned it was only 8 miles away) until the next day.  The set up was fantastic!  I enjoyed a shower, bed and all sorts of reading material left specifically for cyclists.  There was a guest book too, filled with travellers who had stayed before, some whose blogs I had read over and over throughout the course of this year and my research.  It was nice to get in some long overdue yoga as well.

As I was perusing the cabin, I came across some articles written about my host, Rev. Craig Walker.  He is quite a miracle!  After months and months of radiation from cancer, he vowed to start cycle touring when he was better.  He has travelled all over the world and has been an inspiration to many, including myself.  Thank you so much again Craig for the wonderfully relaxing place to stay!

Getting closer...

Sometimes...

Tony, another gifter of some fresh produce to keep me going...

Just in case...

Happy in the middle of a hot stretch...

Craig

View from the bungalow...

So cozy...

As I unexpectedly took this afternoon off, it allowed me great time to walk around as the sun went down and photo things on Craig's property.

Inanimate object number one...

Inanimate object number two...

Self portrait...

Desert flower (currently unidentified by me)...

Day's end...

After some flat miles across the plains and some stops throughout a few towns for water, I was finally getting closer to the mountains I had eyed so curiously on my map.  I took a crucial midday hideout under a lone tree I found and started the afternoon late heading up into the hills of the Los Padres National Forest.  After consulting my map and Kurt, and with a big desire to avoid LA, I decided it would be best to head up into the forest and skirt around the backside of the entire LA area.  This proved to be the most rewarding decision of the trip so far!  Hills oh glorious hills!  The climb lasted more or less for about 3o miles, some mountain grade, just some steep, steep thigh burning forward motion.  Either way, it was great to be up in a bit of elevation (my guess was around 6000 ft) and amongst the pine trees again.  I camped towards the summit that evening (I really do love sleeping in high windy spots) and watched the tiny lights of nearby towns twinkle below me.  I have yet to feel unsafe at any point on the trip thus far, but this night I could say I really felt extra safe that not a single person was going to be passing through the area and I could really spread out and get cozy.  I shared my view with the many pinch bugs that were seemingly after my food and even had the opportunity to flip an ant over that was stuck on his back.  Can’t say I have done that before.  My sleeping bag is rated at 15 degrees (Women’s Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15..Thanks D5000!), which will be great in colder weather, but currently I am tossed in between either getting eaten alive as I sleep (I do not have a tent right now) or waking up covered in a sweat.  Sleeping in such elevation was a treat as it was much cooler that evening.  The morning even got to start as other Sundays do… scurrying out for a pee and then hustling back to my bed to get warm under the covers again.

The next day, the hills continued and I climbed up and up until finally being rewarded with a great descent that sent my through the towns of Lake of the Pines and New Frazier, dropping me right next to the 5.  I took my midday rest outside a gas station and then continued on frontage roads and the famous ridge line, heading towards Lake Elizabeth.  The roads and towns I passed through were cavity inducing in their sweetness.  I spent the night next to Lake Elizabeth, camping on a sandy cove and listening to the stray dogs whimper in the night.  The next morning I awoke to them rustling around in the bushes.  There was about 6 of them and man were they cute.  They kept their distance, as did I, and we both took care of our own morning routines before I headed back out to the road and towards Palmdale.

A stop along the way for supplies...

What once was...

Amber waves of grain...

Hitchhiker...

A midday stretch, from my perspective...

Heading up into the hills...

My buddy, the horizontal electrapenguin...

Spectacular continuous climbing in the Los Padres...

Marty, fresh from riding outside Bishop, who stopped to give me some Gatorade...

Just one of the amazing roads I got to ride on my way. Bay Area folk, put down that Lagunitas (you know who you are!) and get out here to ride these roads!!

Lake Elizabeth

Necessary fashion if you like camping next to water like I do...

So long Pacific!…

June 19, 2010

So the day finally came…so long pacific coast!  Heading inland we are.  It will be a long time before I see an ocean again.  Kinda strange, after having it be such a regular part of almost every single day for the last few years.  It was a quick shimmy down through Guadalupe, a town mostly arranged for industrial farming and the families that work there.  As my information provider Huoogle let me know, Guadalupe is the flower seed capital of the world.  I stopped in a market there for more citrus and beans, my regular diet on these days, and was chatted up by a man who was very surprised to know I would be riding my bike to Santa Maria next, being that it was a 10 minute car ride away.  Santa Maria proved to be a strip mall-ish town, acting as the last bit of commerce I would see for a while.  It also was the last bit of area I had on a map, until I reached the other side of the Los Padres.

I rode out on a frontage road and picked up 166.  There was no mistaking I had left the coast, as it grew more dusty and warm the more miles I headed east.  I stopped for water and loaded up not only my bottles, but also my MSR bladder, as water sources seemed to be getting more sparse.  These days I was getting used to riding until about 8:30 at night, or until it was just too dark to continue on.  I liked to know I had everything I needed so I would not have to worry about water to camp with or to head out with the next day.  166 was mainly just cow pastures and ranches.  The cows cracked me up!   They were really not the brightest.  Clearly not used to seeing cyclists, one would get a glimpse of me, get confused, and start running in the other direction.  All the other cows would then just take one look at that other cow and start running too.  Cows running is super hilarious, no matter how hot it is and how tired you may be.  Looked like I’d have to be extra sneaky if I wanted to capture any photos of these big bovines.

I camped not too far off the road that night, eager to rise early the next morning and get a jump on the day.  That night I saw the most amazing shooting star I had ever seen in my life.  It was as if someone had briefly dumped glitter all across the night sky.  Ever since this night, I have been making a habit of trying to keep my eyes open long enough to see at least one shooting star before falling asleep.  Indeed I was up early the next day and on the road by 7 am, taking advantage of the cooler air.

Heading east...

Along 166...

One of the many ranches along the road...

Sunny morning...

Big Sur to Guadalupe

June 19, 2010

After leaving my cozy spot next to the Big Sur Grange, I had a fantastic day cruising down highway 1.  Up down, up down, up down was the name of the game, with the right side of my body definitely getting considerably more sun colored than the left side.  Best buy stock in Skippy and Coppertone now kids!  I knew I had this one day to enjoy the coastal riding, because somewhere in the hours of the next day I knew I would take a turn east and head away from the ocean I had lived so happily next to for the last 3 plus years.  After dropping down out of Ragged Point, I head the familiar sound of a wheel whizzing behind me.  I looked once to see another cyclist, twice to notice it was another cyclist with panniers and a third time to recognize it as Bryan, a kid from Hayward I had met the day prior at a market.  “I have been thinking I’d catch up to you all day” he said.  I was most excited to have a buddy to ride with, and we continued on to San Simeon where he very nicely paid for my one and only camp in an organized campground and a beer.  After logging 70 miles that day, we were both quite tired and packed it in as early as possible.  The next day it was a mostly flat ride to San Luis Obispo were Bryan was catching the train back up to the East Bay.  Bryan…it was so great to meet you and get to ride with you!  When I tell people about you I say “If there were more people like Bryan in this world, it would be a better place.”  Keep enjoying the ride dude!

I spent the afternoon winding further down the coast, through Pismo Beach and Oceano, heading in the end to Guadalupe and finally, Santa Maria.  I camped again in a grove of Eucalyptus and was in no rush the next morning to leave as it just smelled so nice in there and the breezes were warm and soft.  I wish I could somehow attach all of the smells I get to experience to these posts.

After meeting up with fellow cyclist Bryan, we headed further down the 1, out of the windy hills that hugged the coast for so long.

Sections of the coast were just teaming with groups of elephant seals...

Bryan's tattoo...

The Garcia hermanos, in Oceano, who gave me quite an assortment of fruits and vegetables for $1.50. They were very excited to learn about the trip and helped me practice my spanish a bit while explaining to them what I was doing.

Thanks to the local produce options, dinner has been looking like this...

My mobile home parking spot for the evening...

Farm workers outside Guadalupe...

Tractor! Kelly: 78 Nobody: 0

Monterey to Big Sur

June 19, 2010

I made it to the outskirts of Monterey the evening I left the girls and nestled down under a big pine tree, only to awake to birds  sitting in branches less than a foot from my face, chirping away.  Quite a way to start!  I took off into Monterey, heading around the peninsula and back again down the 1.  Coastal riding at its finest from here on out!  Nothing but beautiful breezes and amazing sights as I made my way down to Big Sur.  I was later on invited to the Big Sur Grange for some dinner and prayer, where I met some great, great people.  Thanks you guys for the dinner and stories!  That night, I slept next to the grange and had my first showdown with a skunk.  Camping without a tent, I needed to make sure I was on guard with my surroundings.  Skunks however were not something I had really considered as a contender for my comfortable sleep space.  I was able to escape unsprayed and slept quite well.  I took my time the next morning, enjoying the wooded space to make tea and oatmeal and to do a little stretching before continuing on. 

The outstretch of Cannery Row in Monterey...

 

Snuggling seals...obviously a highlight of my day.

 

Scenery was okay....I guess. In the distance, the famous Bixby Bridge.

 

Another touring cyclist and self-proclaimed Renaissance Man, Ken.

 

Fellow camper...

 

The Big Sur Grange...where I ended up camping for the evening, after being invited to a Bible study (okay, I was roped in with the enticement of free food). Here I met such wonderful people, all Big Sur locals. We shared stories and I really had such a great time. I sang along and listen to their prayers, even offering up some of my own for my friends and family. I left feeling extra blessed, as my hands were held and I was prayed for over and over. This has been a reoccurring happening on the trip I may add.

 

Roadside signage...

 

Nope, I did not somehow capture a view from a dream I had that night. This was just one brief photo I stopped to take along the coast that day.

This is an updated/additional version of the post below, meant to include some extra stories and photos of the first leg of the trip with Jess down around the bay.  As you can see from the blue sky photo below, I left on an amazingly beautiful day.  My dear friend Liza escorted me up the very familiar Tunnel Rd. with my extremely heavy and oddly packed bike.  Of course, I had not really tried to actually put everything in its proper place in my panniers up until the moment I was leaving that morning, so my weight was all askew.  As heavy as my bags where, nothing could compare to the heaviness I felt in my heart leaving everyone behind.   The Bay Area has been AMAZING to me these last few years and I feel so deeply rooted with my life and friends there.  It is most certainly where I call home.  So….perfect time to leave and have an adventure!!

I met Jess out on the other side of Palomares, where she handed off a warm burrito fresh from International Blvd., and we continued on together to find an old campsite I had stayed at before just outside Sunol.  The next day we leisurely spent drinking tea in the morning and getting our girl talk on, before heading out through Sunol and up over Calaveras Rd, definitely a highlight of the Bay Area as far as roads go.  I was spoiled to the max with Jess’s muffin spouting bag and constant reminders to stop and eat and drink.  My nervous and excited energy just had me wanting to ride, ride, ride.  We snaked through San Jose and made a late stop at Mike’s Bikes in Los Gatos so Jess could swap some very well-loved and worn down cleats of hers.  From there we made our way to the outskirts of a reservoir and bedded down in a grove of Eucalyptus, set with an insect orchestra.  I don’t know what I get more excited for these days…to sleep or get up and ride the next morning!

The next day was oh so glorious, riding on new roads up and over to Capitola to stay with a friend.  Matty and his roommates were the most excellent hosts and after a (naturally) debaucherous evening of drinking and card games, sure as the sun, Jess and I were up and on the road heading down the coast on the 1…well, after we took many side detours up and around some strenuous Santa Cruz hills and neighborhoods, where we eventually had what would be my first of several bike escorts to get back on track.  I love the bike community!  Our plan was to ride down the coast and meet Lauren, where I would have to hand off Jess and give some final squeezes for a while to familiar bodies…that is if all of the strawberry, brussel sprout and other various produce fields would stop distracting us!

The day ended with Jess, Lauren and I on a beach, eating some traditional Greek food Lauren had learned to cook up down in Santa Barbara.  We lingered as the sun went down… swimming, laughing, smoking and tackling one another into the sand like 8 year olds who don’t know what to do with all of the strange energy and emotions coursing through, quite appropriately.  Eventually I had to make the break and use the last little bit of sunlight to head further down the coast.  I was followed by the black bug back to the 1, Jess out the sun roof, blasting tunes that we have sun along to together for years.  Yes indeed, I was choking back tears and singing at the top of my lungs AND riding at the same time.  There was a brief stop at the corner, where I grabbed an extra bungee from the trunk and they slipped some mase into my bag (I’ve never carried something like this before, but want for me to carry it), then I turned right heading south.  I rode on into the night, truly feeling for the first time no one hugging me, no one holding me, no one calling after me.  I felt ready and incredibly free, all of my preparation seemingly coming down to this very moment.  It felt perfect and right.  I knew right then and there, this was exactly where I wanted to be…on my bike, heading down a road unknown.

The very lovely Lizabean...

Santa Cruz

Strawberry patch...don't mind if I do!

Beach time...

We were heading in the same direction...

Jess and Lauren

There won't be a day that goes by that I won't think about you. I love you Lauren.

Soup: carrots, kale, onions, dried Mongolian goat. Yes...dehydrated Mongolian goat, a gift given to me by Lauren's student Ponga. The entire goat fit in one ziplock bag and weighed very little. Ponga says it is filled with all sorts of vitamins and protein and is easily boiled down into anything. It is....gamey. But delicious with hot sauce.