Sunday, July 24, 2011


Well, I was able to ship my gear home, catch my flight and get home safely.  It feels great to finally be home.  This trip still hasn't sunken in yet, but hopefully it will when I re-read this blog weeks or months from now.

inches from Mexico
I feel extremely grateful for having the chance to take off on this journey.  It was everything I wanted it to be.  Years of dreaming, months of research, countless hours of bike work all came together.  I met more great people than I ever thought possible.  Saw some of the richest parts of America, and some of the poorest.  All in all, it was a success.  My only regret would be that I wish I would've done it sooner.

This was, however, the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  By far.  I started with relatively no training, and ended up being able to easily do 60+ hilly miles a day.  This proves that literally anyone can do a trip like this, as long as you don't mind suffering for the first week or so.  But make no mistake, I wanted to quit numerous times.

a LONG way to go

I really enjoyed riding with the guys from Boston, Mark and Chip.  Just being able to visit with other people and share some of the suffering while climbing up hills helped me keep my sanity.  Traveling with others also splits the cost of things, like food, hotels or RV parks.  When I was riding with Mark and Chip we were able to make copious amounts of food since we could buy in bulk.  I was unable to eat like that when alone, which really sucked.  I'm not exactly a good cook, so practicing some one-pot meals before I left would have helped.  I literally got sick of canned chili and stew.

cooking up some tap-ramen type stuff, about the only thing I didn't get tired of

If I were to tour on the Pacific Coast again, I would probably start in Astoria and end in San Francisco.  The Oregon Coast is absolutely amazing, with (relatively) low traffic and good shoulders.  It had an endless amount of hills, but it was all worth it.  I felt much safer on the Oregon roads, and would recommend it to other first time tourers.  The camping in Oregon was amazing, too!  $5 hiker/biker sites with free showers, can't beat that.  The parks also where always clean and well staffed - one even had free coffee.  I did also luck out on the weather, I've heard stories of bikers getting rained on every day through Oregon.  Overall, I was sad to leave the state.

Some of my favorite photos from Oregon:

From Crescent City to San Francisco was my second favorite section, and was surprisingly almost all rural.  This was my first time seeing the majestic Redwoods, and it was an experience I'll never forget.  Maybe getting there by bike made it more special, who knows.

Eel River

Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge had to be the biggest highlight of the trip.  For so many weeks, it felt almost like I could have still been riding in Washington somewhere, a few minutes from home.  But when we rounded the corner in Sausalito and saw the Golden Gate, there is no mistaking where you are.  Making it there solidified the journey for me; at that point was the first time I really felt like I road my bike somewhere far away.  It was an amazing feeling, and was definitely worth all the effort.

The Big Sur coast was another favorite.  HWY 1 is literally carved right out of the cliffs, which made for some amazing views.  However, there was a lot of traffic, hardly any shoulders, lots of road construction and  intense climbing.  This might have been an area better explored by car, and with more time to explore.  I'll be back someday.

The route through Washington wasn't very enjoyable, and I had lots of headwinds and rain.  My muscles were also going through a brutal conditioning period, which made it 10x worse.  I also wished I did done more research before I left on the Olympic Discovery trail, from Port Townsend to Forks.  The old town of Elma was a surprise, though - I had a blast at the Grays Harbor Hostel playing disc golf all afternoon.

enjoying some of that Washington rain
My least favorite section of the trip was from Santa Barbara to the border, which passed through LA and the surrounding areas.  I was intent on getting this part of the trip done as quickly as possible.  Just too much urban riding, unfriendly people, traffic and sporadic camping.


distance traveled: 1991 miles
days from start to finish: 38 days, from June 10th to July 17th
days off: 3 (Hood Canal, Astoria, Gold Beach)
days with rain: 3 or 4
average daily mileage: 52.3 miles/day (with rest days included)
highest mileage day: 95 miles
lowest mileage day: 18 miles (a rainy day in WA)
flats: 2.5 (last one was a slow leak, that I just kept filling with air rather than changing)
injuries: none
mechanical problems:  Loose crank arm bolt, which took out crank arm (replaced in Astoria, OR).  Bent rear wheel (replaced with used wheel in Cambria, CA)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

day thirty eight

July 17th
San Diego to US/Mexican border, then back to San Diego
44 miles

Up at 6AM.  Walked down to take advantage of the continental breakfast.  Coffee, muffins and pastries.  Got nice myself nice and full.

Looked online and found ferry to Coronado doesn't start running until 9AM.  Sat around and relaxed for a while, since I was about 15 minutes away from the ferry dock.  Made some coffee in the room.  Can't believe this is the last day.  Still not excited like I thought I'd be, still a lot of miles to go I guess.  Tire almost flat again, added air.

Left around 8:30, hoping to make it to the dock around quarter to 9.  Ended up getting lost though, took a wrong turn off the bike path.  Eventually got on track.  Passed through the waterfront park, some sort of Jaguar car show starting.  Some beautiful E-types which are one of my favorite cars of all time, and you don't see them too often, at least back home anyway.  Hoping they'll still be there when I'm on my way back.

Saw a guy with a water-jet pack thingy messing around in marina.  Never seen one before, looks like fun.  Guy can't get very high though.

Hauled ass to ferry dock, almost 9.  Got to dock just in time to see it pulling away - 9:03AM.  Shit, next ferry at 10.  Got coffee at Bayside Cafe, stared at map forever.  Anxious.  18 miles to the border.  Tire low again, filled it up.

Ferry came in, we loaded on and headed to Coronado.  Passed aircraft carrier, which is a floating museum now (can't remember ship name).  Lots of other cool ships.  Going to be another nice day.

Got to Coronado, very nice park along the water.  Bike path all the way to last town before border, Imperial Beach.  Long ride, lots other bikers but nobody touring.  Arrived in Imperial Beach and starting riding through the city.  Stopped at a gas station to get a few Snickers since I didn't have any food on me.  Noticed a Carls Jr right across the street, a perfect place to stop for lunch on the way back.

As I neared the border, the town got sketchier.  Roads deteriorated, half covered with sand.  Kept riding out to "border monument", as my map calls it, but there are no signs for it.  Not sure what to expect.  Passed 4 or 5 border patrol agents with horses.  Passed one that was on a mountain bike.  Definitely feel their presence here.

Kept going down the dilapidated road that my map shows paralleling the border to the coast.  I see "The Fence" for the first time.  Stiff wind coming from the West.  Arrived at the border 'park' and looked around.  Everything is abandoned, rest area, visitor center.  Not a soul down here.  Eerie feeling.  Rode down to the beach and took some pictures of the ocean.

Headed up a small hill towards The Fence.  Video cameras, spotlights, and antennas everywhere.  Spotted a border patrol agent eying me a few hundred yards away.  Walked over to where he was and asked if it was okay if I take some pictures against the fence.  Told him I came from the Canadian border but he didn't seem too impressed.  Gave me a serious look like "what in the fuck are you doing here?" and then said it was fine to take a few pictures.

Walked over to my bike and road over to the fence.  I looked over to see where the border patrol guy was but I didn't see him anymore.  Took a few pictures and touched the fence.  Surreal.  Quiet.  Wish I could describe the feeling that I had but I didn't know how.  Was a mix of being sad, lonely, proud, isolated and anxious to get the hell out of there.  Wishing I could have high-fived some friends or something.

A few minutes later I heard something off in the distance.  Someone on an ATV, border patrol I assumed, was coming my way.  He drove up to me as I was getting my bike of the fence.  He lifted up his visor and said something like "so... what exactly are you doing here?" I told him, and also said that I'd asked permission from the other border patrol guy.  I pointed to him as he was back in view off in the distance.  The agent said taking pictures was fine but I wasn't allowed to be on the road along the fence.  Asked how I got there and I pointed to the small trail that came up from the rest area.  Looked at me funny and kept asking "what trail?"  I pointed again and he said I needed to get off the road.  I think he thought I had ridden the fence road, which I didn't, but I figured someone just saw me on the security cameras and had him check me out.  I literally was probably the only person that was non-border patrol in that 5 square miles.  They were probably just looking for something to do.  He rode over to the other agent and they started talking together while watching me leave.

I got going quickly, looking forward to getting as far away from the area as I could, and eating a big ass cheeseburger.  Hauled ass down the road, passed more border agents.  Helicopter in the air and watched a border patrol Jeep turn into the desert, hauling ass.  Wondered if they were busting someone.

Got back into Imperial Beach, stopped at Carls Jr and treated myself to their Western Bacon six dollar burger.  So good.  Headed back to Coronado, stiff headwind.  Added air to tire, seems to be loosing air quicker now.

Tried to make the 1:30 ferry, ended up missing it by a few minutes again.  Ended up laying on the beach and relaxing for a bit.  Lot more people here now, live music outside at a nearby cafe.  Not a bad place to take a vacation.  Wind has picked up, tons of sailboats in the bay.  Big race boat out, big carbon sails dwarfing everything in the bay.

Ferry finally came and we loaded on again.  PACKED this time.  Took off back to San Diego, had fun watching the sailboats tacking around us.  Arrived back at the pier and headed back to hotel.  Remembered that the bike shop I spoke to about shipping my bike closed at 5PM since it was Sunday, and didn't open until 10AM.  Flight leaves at 1:00PM so I have to get to the shop today.  Raced back to hotel, took more pictures of the Jaguar show, they where doing awards now.

Got to the hotel, stripped the bike of gear.  4:00PM.  Looked up directions online, 6 miles into downtown San Diego.  Hauled ass, eventually got there around 4:30.  Talked with the guy, did paperwork and that was it, 1991 miles all said and done.  Said goodbye to my two-wheeled companion and walked out.

6 miles back, didn't want to walk but didn't want to call a cab.  Just started walking, pretty tired from the day's events.  LONGGGGG walk.  Passed park again, for the fourth time today.  Jaguars gone.  Most people gone.  Guy with jet-pack is back again, getting much higher now.  Didn't have my camera, of course.

Got back to the hotel around 7PM.  TIRED.  Was going to walk to do laundry but too tired and lazy now.  Decided to just buy a shirt tomorrow.  Still need to get my gear shipped home, as the airline charges $25 a bag.  Found a Fedex down the road that opens at 8AM.  Perfect.  Ordered a pizza, hung out in room.  Still doesn't feel like I've done anything significant.  Maybe it will take a while to sink in.  VERY excited to get home, though.  Exhausted, but DONE!

dude with the water-jet pack thing

San Diego

really want to try that thing

Jaguar show

beautiful, sounded amazing!


another E-type, one of my favorite cars of all time

ferry I missed

waiting for the ferry.  Maritime museum to the left and right

on the ferry, headed to Coronado

San Diego, from Coronado

bike path towards Imperial Beach

looking towards Mexico

getting closer

Monument Rd

Monument RD

THE Fence

beach by the border, the fence in the background

shot from the abandoned 'park' at the border

Looking towards Mexico, large stadium is called 'Bullring By the Sea"

at the end of America

back in Coronado

tall ship part of the maritime museum

liveaboards in the harbor

more Jags again