Sunday, December 30, 2012
Last January I didn't start out with any riding goals for the year, but along the way these ideas (and obsessions) just sort of came to me... and the miles just kind of added up.
After about 28 years of riding my bike in San Francisco, sometime in February I developed the sudden urge to finally ride to the top of Mt. Tam.
And then down the back (northwest) side. It took weeks to work my way up & over, going a little further every Sunday, getting used to the climbs and figuring out how to pace myself...
Then of course I had to ride to the top of Mt. Diablo (when it wasn't 98 degrees out, which it often is over there on summer afternoons)...
During the spring I got addicted to camping in the hiker-biker site in Samuel P Taylor State Park (only $5/night! And shared with other people on bikes - on July 4th there were 10 of us!). I went there three or four different times - besides being crazy beautiful, full of redwoods, it's easy to get to and a great base camp for rides to Pt Reyes, and along country roads all around western Marin.
routes from Concord all the way to Livermore - and then headed east, over the Altamont Pass and then through the agricultural belt. The small county roads I followed were often literally in the middle of fields and orchards.
On the third day I hit the stretch of near-desert that's like a trench between the coast and the sierra - it was hot, dry, desolate, and
naturally that's the day I got three flat tires... It was so dusty my tire pump got clogged and wouldn't work. I was REALLY LUCKY that a couple of people came by on their fancy road bikes (seriously, it was the middle of nowhere, Sunday, the day before Labor Day...) and gave me a CO2 cartridge - it's a burst of air that fills your tube to near capacity. That got me to a campground, where I could focus on fixing the tire and recover from the hassles of the day...
And finally on Labor Day itself I arrived in Yosemite Valley, just as the crowds were mostly heading home.
I spent the rest of that day setting up camp and riding around the Valley - which was really fantastic. Besides a great, free shuttle system, there are miles of off-road, paved bike paths connecting the campgrounds, trailheads, and services (like the grocery store, visitors center - and hot showers!).
The next day I got in a long hike before the heat & crowds took over, and then took a bus ride up to Glacier Point. From there you can see amazing views of Yosemite Valley and many of the major peaks across the park - it's exciting to locate all the peaks on a map, but it's also one of my favorite places on the planet, in a serious way. When I'm up there I feel both wildly exhilarated and energized, but also humbled and grateful to be alive. It was doubly all of that to know I'd gotten there on my own two wheels, to have the time, good health, and ability to do that.
Then I headed back to San Francisco - by public transit! The Yosemite Area Rapid Transit System (YARTS) takes you to Merced, where you can catch Amtrak's San Joaquin train to Oakland; then I jumped on BART into San Francisco.
I'd been nervous about how all that would work, and whether I'd make all those connections OK. In fact, it was such a great, fun experience that I decided to go back to Yosemite on the train again as soon as I could.
So in late October, inspired by the thought of autumn in the mountains, and with Camilo at UW in Seattle, the reality that I could do whatever I wanted on the weekend, I headed back.
This time I took my city bike along to carry all my stuff - sort of like a luggage cart - going by train & bus all the way there & back.
It was a blast! I loved taking my new city bike on its first big adventure (besides taking me to work and bringing home groceries). I got a great campsite right by a meadow, with views of the fresh dusting of snow on the flanks of Half Dome (and frost on the bike paths in the morning!).
I also loved being in Yosemite in October - that's about to become my new fall tradition.
But this morning - the second-to-last day of 2012 - I did it!!
Now I find myself imaging the other places I want to ride my bike - starting the odometer over with the new year. Like, the third big peak of the SF Bay Area: Mt Hamilton, near San Jose, which is also has an observatory on it. And, riding to the northern part of Yosemite, to Tuolumne Meadows (a whole different route). And, to be really ambitious (maybe 2014...) I really do think it would be fun to ride home after visiting Camilo in Seattle...
Thursday, July 28, 2011
There's nothing like having nothing you have to do to make it hard to get a darn thing done - but (finally) here's a link to photos of the whole trip, Spokane to British Columbia to Missoula. Yay.
Next week I'm riding my bike around Lake Tahoe! Yay! That'll probably lend itself to some nice photos too. (I was supposed to be doing volunteer trail work in the John Muir Wilderness but my knees are not cooperating with that kind of thing...)
The week or so after that - yes, it's back to school and back to work. That's ok - it shouldn't start snowing up in the Sierra again for maybe a month, so I hope to get back up there before winter hits...
Friday, July 22, 2011
Like pretty much every place I went on this trip, a river flows through town - and there are bike & walking paths on both sides of it, along with bike/ped bridges across it.
What's more unusual is in the few blocks of real "downtown" Missoula, the bike lanes are
completely separated from the car traffic. There isn't much traffic even - but it was nice to have the space to ride so safely.
After going back and forth across town a few time, I eventually had to drop off my bike at a bike shop to be packed up and shipped back home. I've learned for most airlines in the US, this is easier and costs the same as taking it as checked baggage on the plane. It was kind of strange to leave it behind and I'm looking forward to getting it back in my, um, hands, next week.
And now I'm back in San Francisco, happy to be home again but already starting to think about when I get to go bike camping again. (Next week looks pretty good for riding over to Marin...)
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Part of it was needing an outlet for the raucous level of joy I felt - I found myself saying out loud, "THIS is what I came here for!" Ringing the bell was such a satisfying way to express that, though yelling out "Ding ding" was pretty fun too.
I feel like this riding in a lot of places closer to SF, but there's something truly special about riding along quiet roads with mountains on the horizon, all that sky, sudden patches of flowers and fields of mustard... The joy of being in that overcame the minor hassles of mountain-sized mosquito bites, the almost-daily thunderstorms (around 6pm) and having to be creative about where to store my food away from bears (usually in the campground bathhouse or laundry room).
I still don't like packing up a wet tent, but I kind of made my peace with it so I could get on the road at a decent time in the morning -and usually by lunchtime I'd find an open patch of hot, sunny ground to spread it out to dry.
Monday as I rode towards Missoula I kept wondering why I felt so wilted by the heat, though I was having a great ride. That whole day I was following different rivers: the Clearwater, Blackfoot, and Clark Fork. In the afternoon, about 25 miles out of Missoula I decided to pull off onto a little side road (marked as a "Fishermen's Access" point) and stick my feet in the river to cool off.
Once again I had amazing luck - I found a spot with a sandy patch, a log to sit on - and some really nice people, who even offered me a cold beer and took my picture.
Oh - and once I got to town I found bank signs showing the temperature being in the range of 97-102 degrees! It made me feel better about feeling the heat on the road (ie, I'm only kind of a wus, not a total one).
Now about this Stoney's cow (steer or bull maybe - it was anatomically vague) - I actually saw this last year, when I was riding w/the Cycle America group. This is at the junction of two highways and we were going in the opposite direction, so I was delighted to find it. Though honestly, he/it doesn't look very happy... and actually, the truck stop it's advertising was pretty unhappy too (grimy, slim selection of decent juice & snacks, and sort of cranky people). It was still worth a bell - or, well, you know.
Since it's so hard for me to do written justice to the amazing sense of Place I felt so much (and why I went to Montana in the first place) here's a little video I shot standing astride my bike, with the mountains all around... (They were the Bob Marshall Wilderness, at the beginning of the video, then panning over to the Mission Mountain range, from Hwy 83 that runs north/south down from the eastern side of Flathead Lake.)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I finally realized this when I saw a little placard at a scenic overlook along the road near Libby, Montana (which is also one of the country's biggest Superfund toxic cleanup sites). The Kootenai starts in the Canadian Rockies and (according to Wikipedia) runs 485 miles from there through northwestern Montana and the Idaho Panhandle, then back to Canada. It flows into and out of Kootenay Lake and then into the Columbia River - the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean.
I started south of Bonners Ferry, and rode up to the bottom of Kootenay Lake, then back down and over through Libby and near the top of Lake Koocanusa - which was created as a lake by the Libby Dam - more on that below. (Its name is a combination of KOOtenai, CANada and USA, get it?). Then my route cut east, just before the Canadian border - to head to Glacier National Park.
There's one bridge across the lake, called (of course) the Lake Koocanusa Bridge. It was built by the Army Corps of Engineers and while I think you should decide whether it deserves the award it won...
Friday, July 15, 2011
I'll just say: my birthday hike exceeded my wildest hopes. Not just in terms of being out in really wild, incredible landscape - rocks & snow & tumultuous melt - but with amazingly great company. I had hoped to sort of glom onto some hikers today, since hiking alone is discouraged (due to the grizzly bears, who it's unwise to surprise walking quietly along by yourself)... and wasn't sure how that would work, exactly... but at the shuttle stop I met a group of three women who were going to the same trail I was, and they immediately invited me to join them. They were such wonderful people, I was more than safe - it was a really delightful day. They have a standing Friday hike and had been chomping to get into the park - the road to the pass just opened a couple of days ago, historically late (about a month later than usual) due to the 400% of normal snow they got this year. (Yes, four times as much. Now it's melting - no wonder North Dakota is flooding...)
I don't know when I'll be able to really sort through all the photos and post them up - maybe not til Missoula, on Tuesday! - but here are a few teases. I know I need to catch up on several days of riding to get here, too - most of which were amazing.
I will say this: I planned this ride to be on roads that made sense to get to a couple of specific destinations, and I've been meandering a bit - but it turns out in a landform kind of way my route has made total sense: I've been following connecting watersheds. It was really exciting to realize that while reading a fairly random placard at a scenic area I stopped at - and I'll explain it better when I'm not so sleepy (and rather done in by the slab o' chocolate cake I treated myself to - or rather, shamelessly asked for, given it's my birthday - they gave it to me for free, with a candle on it even!).
Here's a short video I shot from the porch of the Glacier Park Chalet, an incredible stone building at the top of the trail we hiked to. You can stay there overnight - which I might just have to do sometime when I come back...
Sunday, July 10, 2011
I'll be riding in very remote Montana for the next few days and probably won't get an internet connection again until maybe Wednesday night, when I should get to Whitefish. That's my gateway to Glacier National Park so I am very excited. I'm also excited just to be in Montana - though yeah, I'm slightly intimidated by biking A) in the mountains, B) in bear country, while C) there's a chance of thunderstorms on most afternoons... but they tend to blow through pretty quickly.
I'm feeling fit and will be very careful about putting the food far away from my tent (in the bathrooms of the RV camps I'm staying at, is my general strategy) so I'm not letting it get to me.
Those car drivers, on the other hand, must be feeling kind of nervous...