On the Road Again

I started this blog in the summer of 2010, when I rode my bike from Seattle to Boston to celebrate my Big Five-O and just generally have fun. I had so much fun with both the riding & the writing that from time to time I post more stories & photos of my adventures on the road (and trail).

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Back to the Sierra: June 2015

A few months ago I realized this summer's birthday has not one but two 5s in it, and naturally that calls for a long(ish), hot bike ride. In the Sierra, with a tent and way too many other things. Then I had one of those moments - you know, those moments when a kind of dreamy idea suddenly becomes a doable, if nutty, idea.  So here I am in a hotel in Truckee, sharing my room with my bike, two big and two small panniers, and a generous supply of other gear.  Tomorrow morning I hit the road for a five day ride, along Hwy 89 pretty much the whole way, over to Mineral - a very small townlet outside of Mt Lassen.  I've been imagining this ride for ages, very excited to be actually doing it.

In honor of my lazy summer dreams I'm taking it pretty easy, actually - doing short days, up early to beat the heat and getting to my next campsite around lunchtime. Then it's swimming holes and naps, so I can stay up late enough to enjoy the moon (and planets!).

I took Amtrak up here:  BART to Oakland to catch the train, then there's a connector bus from Sacramento to Truckee. All those transfers were kind of a pain but it's fun to start a bike adventure on a train.  Plus since today was the Gay Pride parade, BART was crowded with folks going to that - it was very jolly and festive.

The sort of ridiculous thing is that I will hardly ever have the Internet - Will just have to hunt access down in the little towns along the way. Woo hoo!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Way to end the year

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.
Somewhere in there I realized I actually could ride my bike to Yosemite Valley, a fantasy I'd had for a long time.  I started exploring route ideas (online, and on the actual road) - which took me on a trial run to Tracy and crossing Altamont Pass, on the old road.

I actually got reservations to stay in Yosemite Valley on Labor Day, so a few days before that I headed out.   The first couple of days were great - I took BART to the end of the line in Dublin, got on the Iron Horse Trail - an old railroad right-of-way that links up with other bike paths &
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.

Somewhere around that time I also realized it just might be possible to turn my odometer over at 10,000 miles!   (That's over the life of the gadget, which is going on three years - not just this year!)   Right around Thanksgiving that became a race against time,  since the battery had already outlived its projected lifespan, and replacing it would zero it out- not to mention the relentlessly rainy weather.
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

Photos finally

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

Hail Missoula

Ok, this really could be called "Dork on a Bike" (or dork on the porch?) - but I had such a great time in Missoula, and riding around was part of the fun.

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.

I found myself riding pretty aimlessly around, just exploring the paths and crossing the river. After two weeks of aiming pretty carefully for specific campgrounds and needing to cover a lot of miles, it was fun to just sort of ride around like I was, well, on vacation.

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.

Then I walked back to the hostel I was staying at - pretty much just in time to hang out on the porch with my fellow hostelers and enjoy the crazy storm we'd been expecting all afternoon.

It had been really hot for a couple of days - but
after the pounding rain and pounding hailstorm the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. I always enjoy a great storm but I was really happy I wasn't out on my bike in it...

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

O Montana

The little dinger part of my bicycle bell broke off when I was in Whitefish, which meant I couldn't just ring the bell when I wanted to - for example, at exciting landscapes, deer along the road, or fields of flowers. So instead I just sort of yelled out, "Ding ding!" Yeah, the subtitle of my blog could be, "Dork on a Bike," but those bell-ringing moments are sort of why I ride, so I just had to make do...

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

Following the River

I'm in Missoula now (yay!) but before I can say much more about getting here I have to get back to the thing about following the watershed. I made up my route by combining the eastern leg of what's called the "Selkirks Loop," that goes north out of Sandpoint, ID and circles around the Selkirks mountains and Kootenay Lake (though I didn't do the whole loop) and two sections of bike touring maps put together by the Adventure Cycling Association. It turns out I followed a good piece of the Kootenai River (called Kootenay in Canada).

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.

It rained a lot the night before I rode up along Lake Koocanusa and that morning there was mist over the water - it was really eerie and beautiful...

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...

I might mock its aesthetics, but I do appreciate being able to spread out my wet tent to dry in the parking lot there while I ate my peanut butter sandwich.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Making it to Glacier

Wow! - that's pretty much what I've been exclaiming for the past several days, generally with my mouth hanging open or a shit-eating grin on my face (which expression really makes no sense at all). I've been in Glacier National Park for a couple of days after a bunch of days riding to get here (I've kind of lost track...). It's truly awesome. I am so tired after a day of hiking, and it's so past my bedtime - since I'm riding about 60 miles out of here tomorrow - so I can't do any of this justice.

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...