Thursday, October 28, 2010

First Entry From North Lake Tahoe

The above photo is of San Francisco's Chinatown District, the below photos are of Lake Tahoe.

The whirlwind of the last few days has subsided a bit, and I've been awarded some time to write. It's almost uncomfortable to just be sitting here writing in a coffeehouse after all of the work I've been doing this past week checking boxes. Almost.... an espresso and granola are tough to make "uncomfortable".

I've arrived in my new home (at least until April) in Tahoe City, and it seems to be everything it has been hyped to be. The views are magnificent, the people are welcoming and refreshing, and the snowsports community seems to be on the leading edge. I've met more elite athletes in my 4 days here than I did all summer in Seattle. The gym I'll be working for this winter, A Sante Lakeside Fitness, is a great facility. They have everything I could want (except a pool) for the winter season, and an unbelievable training staff. US Ski Team trainers, an Olympic record holder, and a combined 50+ years of experience is a lot to walk into, and I hope to learn a lot from them.

I'm aching for snow to start falling not only to snowboard, but to get back to a steady work schedule. All of this serial vagabonding has taken a toll on my bank account, and I'm looking forward to seeing the numbers go another direction for a change ("up" would be nice). A hilarious sidenote of my employment-hunting travails - I scored a gig working the polls on election day (this upcoming Tuesday), only to recall that one of my 2 hours of scheduled work next week is on Tuesday, thus making working the polls impossible. At least my work involves riding a bike indoors.

Snow has fallen enough at high elevations to bring about opening day for a local park-oriented resort, and there's a good chance that I go riding on Saturday. (That was fun to type) I'm currently weighing the pros and cons of buying a season's night pass for that hill at the fair price of $129. If I go that route, I'm not at all worried about value - I'll probably ride 3-5 days a week until December. My worries are centered around the hit that my productivity will take at the gym (both my own training regimen and my efforts to build myself into a trainer there). Decisions, decisions.

I feel like I've been doing a lot of questioning lately, of my lifestyle and of my aspirations. I have an undeniable sense that I need to be doing more effective work toward my long-term goals. I feel like I need to more acutely identify my long-term goals. I'm enjoying myself thoroughly, but I can't deny that I feel like I should be more productive with my pursuits. I know I have the work ethic, but I feel as though I lack direction. Perhaps I'm spreading myself too thin; perhaps I just need to think about smarter ways to attack the roadblocks to my success. I can't help thinking that I'm contributing to my own lack of progress. I feel like I need to center my focus.
The jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none hat is getting old.

I plan on spending a lot of time in the next few months identifying what I want to do in the next few years of my life, and determining just what investment (time, money, resources) those goals will require. I'm very fortunate to be in a position to invest in myself, but I need to be absolutely certain that I can see that investment through to success, and that the end result is truly what I want. Purpose is a weighty topic.

I remind myself: life is good. I'm in a great place, with great people. These thoughts will find resolution. I'll identify what I want, and I'll find a way to get there.

A high note for the day: By signing up for Safeway's "Just for U" program, I was awarded a dozen free eggs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some downtime in CA... closer to winter

Writing this from my friend Shane's couch in San Francisco, I feel fortunate to have friends like him (and his lovely girlfriend, Danielle) in my life. Consistent vagabonding has many pros and cons, and even more truisms. One of the most pervasive truisms inherent to my lifestyle is this: you are incredibly dependent upon the hospitality and generosity of friends and family, and you must be willing to accept that it won't be there at all times. Today I'm in the comfort of my friends' home - tomorrow I may not have a roof over my head. Beyond that follows a week of uncertainty before I move into my winter home in Tahoe City. I don't have an aversion to this situation, but I do admit that it takes a bit of will and a lot of willingness to accept the situation should it come to it (i.e. I have to be comfortable with camping in near-freezing temperatures in order to be comfortable with that possibility). Fortunately, I have the equipment to handle that possibility, along with the mindset to be comfortable with it. Who knows - maybe I'll be warm and comfortable in a new friend's home tomorrow night; maybe I'll be warm and comfortable (optimism) in my sleeping bag and tent.

The paramount point to take from all of this is that I am comfortable with my situation. It's an interesting one, I'll concede that - but I look forward to a little excitement and a little solitude. I have more food and survival comforts/necessities than some billion plus people in this world live with on a daily basis.

Tomorrow I head to Berkeley to meet my friend Katie for a morning coffee, then I'm off to Tahoe to meet with my future employer. Therein lies my motivation for heading up to my new home a week before I have one there - I'm anxious to get back to work. I'm anxious to insert some structure in my life. I'm anxious to apply some discipline. If I'm serious about maintaining a lifestyle that involves long-term travel, I need to be serious about getting to work when it's time to get to work. I know that if I spend the amount of time necessary to build my brand as a trainer in Tahoe City, I can be successful there this winter. I know that I can outwork everyone there, and I know what I can bring to the table. If I have to camp for a week to get my foot in the door and prove that I'm driven and capable, then that's what I'll do. Steve Martin has been quoted as saying, "To be the best at something, you must do so at the exclusion of everything else in your life." Words for thought.

Extrapolating on that sentiment, I am starting to get the very sincere urge to apply myself to something great. Something grand in scale. And no, I don't mean the Ironman this upcoming June (although that is indeed great and grand in scale, it's not what I'm referring to). Next July I intend on pursuing something big. In no specific order, my intrigue is focused on:

- international travel

- career building in the fitness industry/developing my brand

- recommitting myself to the music industry

I can't place my motivation yet, but it's there. I thoroughly enjoy the concept of aimlessly floating from resort winter to resort winter, but I want to keep it fresh and exciting. I want to attach value to it. And, right now, I feel that that dictates a different application of my time. Perhaps next winter I'm in a winter resort again, but I feel like I'm going to make it different. I may end up in (gasp!) a warm weather climate somewhere in the southern hemisphere. I have a lot of ambition in my heart, but I don't know where I want to apply it just yet. Some introspection is required. I need to invest in myself - and although the financial risk isn't as great as many other opportunities in this world, I need to be sure of how to go about it. I need to invest in myself knowing that I'm committed. My time and energy are worth more than my dollars and cents, and I don't intend on wasting either.

Pray for snow - I am.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Final Lap! Newport Beach, Encinitas, San Diego, and Tecate

::Touting my own literary prowess::
The long-awaited, much-discussed pinnacle of writing set to signify the climax of the Border2Border event is upon us! Feast upon my following piece de resistance!

Okay, that may have been a bit excessive, but I'm in the zone. Something about biking a few thousand miles through 3 countries caters well to some enthusiasm. I'm going to try and focus here for a minute, though, and recount the last few days events in unabashed detail. Put your seatbelt on.

Picking up where we left off - we rolled out of Santa Monica with sightseeing in LA on our mind, and headed straight for the Sunset Strip and the famous Hollywood Sign. Sunset Strip was exciting to see - we rode right past the Whiskey A Go Go and the Viper Room (as rock and roll as it gets). We cruised along Hollywood Blvd. and saw a lot of the famous "stars" in the pavement, which was cool. Eric may or may not have posed for a picture with Chuck Norris' star. At the end of our ride down Hollywood, we were able to see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hills. Pretty quintessential LA sightseeing.

We headed south out of LA around the Peninsula, following Highway 1 past Venice Beach and through Palos Verdes. Venice is truly the ghetto-by-the-sea, complete with a prison-style beachfront showcased a rusted skeleton of the famous "Muscle Beach" and luxurious cast-iron public restrooms. Pleasant. The attitude gradually shifts from that to euphoric as you get into Palos Verdes. Pretty high end living around those parts, and it contributed to an enjoyable riding day. We hammered along 1 all the way through Long Beach and Huntington Beach, breathing in coastline riding for one of the last times this trip.

We made great time on the day (even with the sightseeing), and made it all the way to Newport Beach before the sun started flirting with the horizon. If you've never been to Newport Beach, it's fancy. There's a Bentley dealership across the street from the Porsche dealership. It's like that. Fortunately, the town isn't without its down-to-earth people. While refueling at a local supermarket we met a lovely local girl named Lindsey, who is a bit of a traveler herself. She's lived in Europe and Egypt - two places I personally have on my list as well. It was very cool to talk travel with her, and she seemed pretty excited about the whole TakeYourBike project. I think she empathized with our plight as homeless travelers, as she offered us a place to stay for the night. She and her roommates were very gracious hosts, and we ended up leaving Newport Beach the next morning with a very positive impression of the place.

With only 63 miles between us and our destination the following day in Encinitas, we took it easy and enjoyed the beachfront ride all day. We leisurely stopped in Oceanside and Carlsbad, and arrived in Encinitas just before sundown. We spent a few hours touring the town and enjoyed a coffee at a local shop; I'd venture to say that the town won us over even before we met our hostesses. Kelsey, Jerah, and Karene are some of the nicest and most life-loving girls we've met on this tour yet. Meeting them is another positive credit to Couchsurfing, a great non-profit organization that we've worked with on this trip. We spent our evening there skating around the neighborhood with Kelsey, and enjoying a bottle of wine and some pleasant conversation.

Rising in the morning, we realized that we only had 20 miles to ride to our San Diego destination, and decided to spend much of the day in Encinitas. We had a leisurely breakfast, skating some more, played beach volleyball (Chelsea and I won, and are retiring undefeated), and had an unbelievable lunch thanks to Kelsey's cooking skills. We left Encinitas reluctantly around 3 PM, but we still had an adventure to complete. Heading south to San Diego....

We arrived in San Diego after dark due to Eric and I's inability to ride in a straight line, and were greeted by our friends Jeanne and Kevin, who agreed to host us for the night. Kevin had to work, so we only had his company for a bit, but we enjoyed going out for a drink with both he and Jeanne. The bar of choice had a rooftop seating area, and you could see the waves crashing on the beach from our table. Pretty cool.

Rising the next morning, we woke with only one thing on our mind - Mexico! (note: we were so focused on our finish line, we forgot to wash our dishes from dinner the night before... sorry Jeanne and Kevin - we'll make it up to you!). We started riding in overcast weather, and it progressively worsened throughout the day, unfortunately. We started the ride in Canada in the rain, and it seemed fated to end in Mexico in the rain. We recommitted ourselves and pressed on - only 50 miles separated us from sweet victory! We rode through the eastern county in the rain all day, up and down, up and down. Our cyclometers told us that we were getting closer..... as we hit about 10 miles to go, a peculiar thing happened. I'm not sure what the technical term is, but I started to become overly anxious that we were so close. Thoughts of "What am I supposed to do now?" and "What if we can't cross the border?" and "What's next? Do I want to finish this?" started to enter my head. I've heard of a similar condition whereby marathoners suffer from depression and lackluster energy levels after completing their goal - after all, after you've accomplished what you set out to do, what's next? Where's the challenge? It was a very interesting ordeal to experience. I wrestled with the situation for what seemed to be an eternity, then: there it was. "Welcome to Tecate". I almost fell off my bike. Eric and I stopped for a victorious photo opportunity (above), and couldn't stop laughing. Something about finishing was absolutely hilarious. We had made it, but there was still one more box to check.

We rode down the hill into the town of Tecate to meet with Amy and Dyland and victoriously cross the border. Suspense was high, and we were all pretty interested to see what the hype was all about crossing into Mexico. After all, pretty much everyone we've met on this tour has cautioned us that it was pretty dangerous right now. We'd been unswayed by any of this the whole trip - plenty of things in the world are dangerous, and many of them are worth the risk. Moreover, we weren't going deep into Mexico - our destination was just over the border. How bad could it be?

Mom, you've got two options here:
a.) read all about the lovely sights Mexico has to offer here.
b.) don't read anything at all, and just pretend that Mexico is lovely, and that we had a great time there.

But, since you're going to keep reading anyway, just remember that we're all okay, and everything is alright.

Guess what? Mexico IS really as sketchy as everyone has told us. In California, they even sell Mexico insurance at the convenience store at the border. I'm just going out on a limb here, but usually insurance is for when you put yourself in a dangerous situation. As in "car insurance" for when you drive a vehicle that kills millions upon millions every year. As in "health insurance" for when you do stupid things like actionsports and jump off of cliffs for fun. As in "Mexico insurance", for when you (for some stupid reason) have to go into Mexico. Intense. But let's get to the story, shall we? First off, you can actually walk into the country. There's an undeniable feeling of lawlessness when you can casually stroll across a border with no one saying anything to you at all. Compared to the background check and 20 questions routine coming into the States, it was a little unnerving. We couldn't stop laughing about how easy it was to walk into Mexico. Absolutely ridiculous. Our laughter stopped, however, when a few local flew past us on the street riding fourwheelers. Weird enough on its own (the whole fourwheeler in traffic thing), we were put to even more unrest by the fact that they were wearing Kevlar bulletproof vests. That's the sort of thing that you don't really see that often. After they rode past, the whole situation didn't feel right. It became incredibly apparent that we weren't somewhere that we were supposed to be, and that the "rules" that applied just a few feet north of us had exactly zero bearing where we stood then. We decided as a group that walking the Tecate Brewery (just a few blocks away) was probably not the best idea, and settled on picking up our victory beers at a local corner store. Walking in, we felt a bit better (they had more Tecate than any store I've ever been in in my life - see above), but a general feeling of hostility was pervasive. We took the time to salute our trip with a cold Tecate in Tecate, but that was about it. After nearly catching the attention of local police (who, by all accounts, don't really adhere to much of the law), we decided that a mainline back stateside was in order. We met some fellow Americans who were headed back as well, and we all made our way to the border en masse. Getting back into the States was easy (in comparison to crossing back in from Canada), and we were glad to close the Mexican chapter of our story.

We all loaded up into the truck (yes, all four of us - Eric and I are allowed to ride in a vehicle now!) and headed back north to Encinitas. Our ride back was fairly non-conversant; I was trying my hardest to process what we had accomplished in the last few weeks. If and when I do sort all of that out, I'll let you know. It's pretty weighty stuff.

Our hostesses in Encinitas offered their home to us for the next few days, and we're recharging our batteries. A lot of tea, relaxing, and recovery is in order.

I'm pretty proud to have accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and I can't wait for the next big adventure. Does wintering in Tahoe count? We'll see....

I'm off to the Bay area for a few days to tie up a few things and secure our home for the winter, then it's off to Tahoe City to start work. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to that. That, and snowboarding. Every day. Fall, snow, fall.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Santa Monica + Camarillo

Our time in Morro Bay was very pleasant. Our host Ben and his (as he himself put it) "5 or 6 roommates" were all very nice people, and made us feel very welcome in their home. Ben is a fisherman, and even treated us to samples of his very own fresh-caught fish. A roof over our heads and showers rejuvenated the group, and we set out for the road once again feeling great.

Our destination was a stretch of coastline designated "Gaviota", which resides right where Highway 1 reacquaints itself with the Pacific. We rode through the day on some undulating California roads, and I will fondly remember the riding of this day as one of my favorite stretches of this tour. We arrived in "Gaviota" with about 30 minutes of sunlight to spare, and felt great. I use quotes to designate "Gaviota" because it would seem to me that it isn't really a town. Or a township. Or a neighborhood. There isn't even an exit off of the highway in the area, which (to me) would indicate an area not really worthy of being a named town on a map. Being a bit isolated with no real options for a place to stay the night, we got creative. We noticed a dirt feeder road that stretched away from the highway that appeared to be a sort of access road, and took our chances. With dwindling sunlight, what did we have to lose? Our longshot road snaked its way up the adjacent hillside to our salvation: a fire station. The firefighter community has been very hospitable to us, and we were quite relieved to find them here. They were as welcoming as we've grown accustomed to them being, and they offered us a place to camp for the night. They warned us, however, that we'd be competing with wind and rattlesnakes. We found a flat(ish) swath of land that was already home to a few short cacti (read:pillows), and set up our tent, all the while laughing about invading rattlesnakes' home territory. We arranged ourselves "comfortably" around the bulges in the floor of our homestead created by the resident cacti, and embraced the situation wholeheartedly. Then the wind picked up.... We all laid awake laughing hysterically as 20-30 mile per hour winds whipped at our tent and threatened to take our home to the sea for a few hours, then grew tired at about the same time as the wind. By 11 or so the winds had subsided, and we drifted off to sleep.

Fortunately for us, our home in "Gaviota" was south-facing, so we were treated to a magnificent sunrise over the mountains to the east. For almost our entire trip we've been witnessing magnificent sunsets but haven't been able to enjoy the sunrises due to the inherent directions of our travels. The singularity of our sunrise experience made this morning one to remember, and we got underway shortly thereafter.

Our destination for the day was Ventura, but we took some time to explore Santa Barbara, and I'm glad we did. We saw some great sights and met some great people. I couldn't take my eyes off of the mountains rising to the sky to the east, and my head was filled with thoughts of great training rides up the local hills. Eric would've killed me if I so much as suggested climbing any of them, so I'll have to go back to test my mettle another day. Two of the gentlemen we met in town were some fellow biketourers named Symon and Martyn from England. They're doing Vancouver to San Diego in an effort to raise money to aid the fight against Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. You can follow there journey here. We also stopped into Hazard's Cyclesport, a local bike shop of great reputation, and met Sergio, the man behind the legend. He's a very outgoing guy that lives his biking passion, and was a thrill to spend some time with. He even offered us some locally-made enchiladas. He and the rest of Hazard's has earned my business whenever I'm in Santa Barbara.

We rode the rest of the day on the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Ventura, and arrived with some time to tour the downtown area. Ventura is one of those "hush-hush" surfing towns in southern California, and the energy there is very positive. We got so caught up in it that we lost track of time, and before we knew it the sun was setting. That being the case, we were forced to get resourceful and find a place to camp for the night.

I pride myself on being creative and extroverted, and this was a perfect opportunity to put those character traits to the test. I did the only thing I could think of, and for humor's sake I think I'll narrate in third person:

Chris walks into local coffeehouse.
Chris approaches table of 3 girls sipping coffee and opens with the line, "Hi, I'm on a 3-country bike tour, and we've run out of sunlight for the day. That being the case, I'd like to find a place to camp nearby. Could you recommend your favorite place to camp with 12 feet of this coffeehouse?"
The girls seemed casually amused, but collectively could only recommend campgrounds some 1200 feet away. When Chris suggested that we prefer to avoid real "campgrounds" (and such a ridiculous distance), they recommended that he approach their friends that lived exactly 27 feet from the coffeehouse and ask about camping in their lawn.
Chris sauntered over to the "Chateaux" (the girls had a name for their friends' home), and walked up to the front door to find it ajar. Brazenly, Chris entered the "Chateaux" and introduced himself with the line, "Hi, I'm on a 3-country bike tour, and we've run out of sunlight for the day. That being the case, I asked a few random girls drinking coffee across the street if they could recommend a campground, and they pointed me to your lawn. I felt it might be prudent to introduce myself before casually pitching a tent in your lawn."
Our new friends (and guardians of the Chateaux) replied, "You've got some guts to go about casually asking strangers for a home. That's cool. We've even got a tree fort in our lawn you guys can use. I'll turn off the sprinklers. You want to watch the Monday night game with us?"

Welcome to the wonderful world of vagabonding.

Chris x2 and David (who actually had a Tecate cape! - perhaps I can get one when I bike to the Brewery from Canada next week) turned out to be great people, and we had a blast staying with them (and watching the Monday night game). The world is a great place if you put yourself in a position to enjoy it.

We rose with the sun in Ventura and set out for Santa Monica. Before arriving at our final destination for the day, however, a detour was necessary.

It's been a focal point of my trip since I started planning this adventure, and today was the day to return to place of my birth. Camarillo, CA was a place on my birth certificate and nothing more until this visit, but now I know what it's like there. Returning felt great, and I feel as though I've accomplished something. We rode through the town in perfect weather, and I felt a real kinship to the area. I was a bit disappointed to not see a "Birthplace of Chris Cloyd" sign underneath the "Welcome to Camarillo" sign, but I've already emailed the mayor in an effort to correct this. We pedaled our way all the way to Pleasant Valley Hospital, where I was born. I took a minute to stroll inside and see if the doctor who delivered me was still there, but unfortunately he retired some time ago. The kindhearted lady at the reception counter said I looked good, and that I should come back after another 25 years so they can rest assured that I'm still in good shape. It was a neat feeling in the hospital and thinking, "This is the first place I was. EVER." It was also the only hospital I've ever been in that didn't feel suffocating and sterile. They even had murals on the walls inside. That's the way it should be.

We rode from Camarillo to Santa Monica, and stopped in Malibu for a quick lunch. Not a bad day.

I am writing this post from the comforts of our host and hostesses' home here now. Linda and Jeremy have contributed more than they know to the positivity of our experience here, and we look forward to exploring the area today. On the list are stops at Venice Beach, the world-famous Hollywood sign, and the Santa Monica Pier. After we arrived last night, we all enjoyed dinner together, and the TYB crew explored the 3rd Street Promenade afterwards. I could do that again for one reason alone: the Bellagio Sipping Chocolate. I can't even begin to describe this drink, but you could come close by using the words "liquid chocolate utopian pinnacle of modern culinary prowess". If that doesn't cut it, you can read about it here.

I'm off to rest my legs and read a bit before exploring the town, then it's back to the bikes tomorrow. On to Huntington Beach!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Catching Up From San Francisco ALL THE WAY to Morro Bay, CA

I know it's been 4 days since my last update, but that's what happens when you're biking through a state park - no internet connection means no blog. Fortunately, the ride through Big Sur was worth the delay (for us, at least).

The last few days have been wonderful - to attempt to catalogue every emotion with words isn't within my realm of ability as writer. However, I'm a bit of an overachiever, and I'll try.

All my life, I feel as though I've been very blessed. Blessed to have a full, loving family. Blessed to know great friends. Blessed to have met a great many inspirational people. I express this without religious overtone - merely a sentiment toward the positive experiences that are the cornerstones of my lust for life. In the last few weeks, I feel as though all of the things that make my life so fulfilling have been magnified tenfold. I am thrilled to know that my family is excelling in their lives, and enjoying the new experiences before them. I am comforted to be exploring a new part of the world (for me) with some of my dearest friends. And I have met so many inspirational people.

Life is a complicated thing, and meeting people who have found their place in it is inspiring to me. Great or small - all of these people have found their spot. They are comfortable with their role in their work, their community, and their family. They're comfortable with their income, with where they choose to live, and who they choose to live with. These comforts cannot be overstated; they cannot be bought. And those truisms are what make them great (and elusive). I am filled with an unabated resolve to seek out these comforts in my life, and to find my place.

We left San Francisco optimistic - we had spent time with our good friends in town, and escaped with little damage done. The roads we would take to the south would take us to new friends, new sights, and the latter half of our tour.

We rode through the south of San Francisco in the morning - city riding at it's finest. Our route spilled us out into the countryside (if one can call it that), and we followed scenic rolling highways all the way to Santa Cruz. There, we stayed with some friends that we made at the Hardly Strictly festival in San Francisco. Molly and the rest of the housemates are all UCSC Banana Slugs, which is awesome. It was one of my goals this trip to meet a real life Banana Slug, and I met several. To clarify: the school's mascot is actually a banana slug. Awesome.

We left Santa Cruz refreshed, and headed toward Carmel with a passion. We rode hard, had our efforts were rewarded with the best farmer's market I've ever seen. They had a RIDICULOUS assortment of fresh fruit, including fresh avocados for 7 for $1. 7 for $1. Seriously. And they were so ripe that you could cut them with a plastic spork (we did). We loaded up on avocados, grapes, bananas, mangos, raisins, and strawberries - enough to last us a whole 2 days. From there we rode happily to Carmel, with a brief stop in Monterey. We had a great time in Monterey, and saw a lot of encouraging, bike friendly roads. Additionally, the view of the sunset from Sunset Avenue in Monterey, CA was everything it was cracked up to be.

Our stay in Carmel was highlighted by a number of things, but the first was the company. We met up with my friend Charlie (who, funnily enough, I had never actually met), who introduced us to our host while we were in town, Peterson. Both showed us a great time while we were visiting, and Peterson hosted us in his gorgeous home. When I say gorgeous, I mean it. His taste for eclectic furnishings and access to some of the best in the world (he's an importer by profession) made the house a real one-of-a-kind experience. Much of it was modeled after a Buddhist monastery, complete with an outdoor flame-fueled sauna and bath, prayer wheels, and all sorts of fantastic original art. We enjoyed his company immensely, and I thank him very sincerely for his hospitality.

We left Carmel with full bellies (Peterson knows his was around a kitchen), calm minds, and rested legs, which was a good thing. Ahead lay Big Sur, one of the most challenging (albeit beautiful) sections of riding on our trip. We tackled the first 40 miles or so after a scenic tour around Monterey and Carmel, including all of 17 Mile Drive and the Pebble Beach complex. Seeing that place with my own eyes was a real treat - I hope to come back and play the course sooner than later. Halfway through our day, it was the general consensus that an espresso was in order, so we stopped at the River Inn, which was recommended by our friends in Carmel. There we sat and enjoyed our espresso with our feet submerged in the river - they put lawn chairs out in the 4 inch deep river, which was quite the experience. To say it was serene is an understatement.

We knocked out the next 30 miles of our day without much difficulty, although the rolling climbs definitely took their toll. We reached Lucia around 5, which left me enough time to test my legs with a local rider's challenge. AJ, one of our new friends from Carmel, suggested that I try this climb if I really liked hills (I do, weirdly enough). He said it was a real test, and I agree. Nacimiento-Ferguson Road rises 7.2 miles up from Highway 1 at fluctuating grades from 6 to 15 (!) with a total of over 2,900 feet of elevation gain. Relentless. He said a sub 50 minute time was his best, and I was determined to see what I could do. After 70 miles and a good 3,000 feet of climbing already under my legs on that day, though, I wasn't sure of what I had in me. Regardless, I had Eric smack me in the face, and I was off. I attacked that thing from the start, then reasserted myself about 5 miles in and challenged the summit with everything I had. 42:09. Viva la victory. That night we camped just off of that deliciously evil road, and enjoyed some of the best starwatching in the world. Big Sur is a truly special place.

We rose early to a gorgeous view of the Pacific, and assaulted the rest of Big Sur with little trouble. We even enjoyed some flat roads (our first in what seems like weeks) on our way into Morro Bay, and are now resting at our friend Ben's here in town. Ahead lies the push to Los Angeles, and what can unavoidably be described as the twilight of our trip. We plan on soaking it all up, and enjoying every second of it. As a barista at a seaside cafe pointed out today, "With an oceanfront view all day, how can you not?"

Monday, October 4, 2010

San Francisco

If you've grown tired of hearing different versions of the "So today I rode my bike for hours and enjoyed views of the Pacific" story, this blog entry is for you.

We've enjoyed 3 consecutive days in San Francisco thanks to the hospitality of our hosts Shane and Danielle. They're some of our favorite people in the world, and we're very fortunate to have them in our lives. I met Shane this past winter in Crested Butte, and we became fast friends. His lady takes good care of him, and I'm a big fan of her as well. You tend to meet good people when you travel, I've learned.

Our first day in the city was highlighted by riding bikes with some SFPD cops (who were clad in pink tutus and blasting "Get Back" by Ludacris on a portable stereo on their rack in support of a breast cancer walk going on), riding across the Golden Gate Bridge with borderline nonexistent visibility, and meeting up with our friends in the city. Although we didn't get the best view of the city coming into town, the ride in was undeniably a highlight. Moreover, we enjoyed a near-perfect day of weather today, and got in plenty of sightseeing.

San Francisco is a very eclectic town, and there's a lot of personality. I wanted to get a street-level perspective while I was here. I'm a big fan of social experiments, and on our second day here I reverted to one of my old personal favorites. When I was in Denver last year, I set out to find 6 places of interest in the city with no use of maps, cell phones, or GPS systems. The only tool I permitted myself was asking people for directions. It was astounding to me how much I learned about the city that I couldn't have from a map, and how many nice locals I met. I made new friends, enjoyed a Rockies game, and was even bought a beer. No map has even hooked it up with a beer before, I can assure you of that. Do yourself a favor sometime and try this exercise - it's fun to actually reach out to strangers. So I did the same thing in San Francisco yesterday. I left the apartment by myself at 7:30 to go get an espresso, and I started my asking the first person I came across where their favorite coffeehouse was. I was rewarded with a great americano at a shop I wouldn't have otherwise found. I then set out to wander the city with an ultimate destination of a bluegrass festival over 5 miles across town. I found all sorts of eccentric little shops, an art museum, famous urban art, fellow bike lovers, and some personal satisfaction. Well worth the detour. I ultimately arrived at the festival with about 32 seconds to spare until the first band I set out to see started. I enjoyed their (Austin, TX's Lucero) show reclining on a blanket in the back of the audience with the company of a very lovely lady. Not a bad morning.

The festival was an anomaly in the US - a free, city-supported festival devoted to music and not a lifestyle or a sect of music culture. It was a breath of fresh air to enjoy so many bands of similar yet discordant genres celebrating the music community in such an unbiased and genuine way. For my money (that I didn't spend on the free festival), Emmylou Harris stole the show.

Afterwards I meandered about the city for a bit and caught pretty cool world/jazz show, then met some friends fora few beers at Torondao, a beer-only bar in the Haigh-Ashbury District. I enjoyed a Bear Republic Racer 5, which was recommended by a new friend. Good stuff from a local CA brewery.

Unfortunately, our trip hit a speedbump overnight. A heroin junkie smashed one of the windows of our support vehicle and attempted to rob me of my life possessions (already down to 3 boards, 2 bikes, a few wheels, 2 suitcases, some records, 2 backpacks, and a sleeping bag). Pretty lame. Fortunately, the SFPD caught the guy before he could actually make off with anything, and impounded my car for safe keeping. The kicker: when the cops showed up the guy had taken a break from stealing to indulge in some of our Nutella. I've said it before in jest, and I'll state it with sincerity now: Nutella is the shit. It fuels my cycling ridiculousness, and protects my life possessions like a guardian angel. A hazelnut-cocoa angel that goes well with blueberry pancakes. In the end, all the failed theft cost me was some piece of mind, $211 for a new window, and a morning in San Francisco (I still had the morning, but most of it was spent at the SF central police station). I want to sincerely thank the SFPD for their work - it means the world. I'd like to also thank the would-be thief for being an amateur and failing miserably to steal anything other than our Nutella, and thank Nutella for being fantastic. Even the junkie that tried to rob me agrees.

The rest of my day was spent seeing San Francisco, enjoying a basil-pesto crepe, and listening to the new Jimmy Eat World record. It's quite good (so was the crepe). It's back to the road tomorrow, and my restless legs are excited. 80+ miles along the coast await, including a stop at Half Moon Bay and some great sightseeing in Santa Cruz and Opal Cliffs.

I need a shower, so I'm going to go do that. Then I'm going outside to play guitar. I've got it rough these days.

Above are the San Francisco photo additions, along with some overdue Napa/Sonoma shots. Enjoy.