it's a very dangerous business, Frodo, stepping out of your door....
Thursday, September 5, 2013
what a start.
Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise. Baker Beach where we dipped our tires in the great Pacific (and kick up a LOT
of sand into our bikes). Sunlight shining down on us as we rolled back across the Embarcadero. John (our fearless and tireless guide
to the Bay Area) lead us up and out of the steep winding streets of Oakland/Piedmont, saying farewell just outside the town of
Danville. Mark and I were finally on our own, and by providence or divine intervention, our first turn was onto Camino.
("the way/path/journey" in Spanish, if I remember correctly from a Black Keys interview)
Cannot even begin to describe the scenery. You'll have to come over to our place when we get back and bug me
to show you some photos. Huge rolling hills covered in tall grasses patched yellow from the western winds and heat. Impossibly green
trees dotting the hill crests. Hundreds of cattle grazing right up to the side of the road.
The last four miles proved the most difficult of the day. Without a well-earned and much-needed bananas / peanut butter break
(tip to bikers: mailboxes are fantastic tables & bike stands) I don't think we would've made it. First two miles started with what looked to be a pretty difficult climb.
Seeing a "KOM START" spray-painted onto the road a few minutes later confirmed our fears. (Scott, Andy, other Strava users, you know what I'm talking about)
The climb was worth it, without a doubt. Cruising down to the lake & campsite, we were blessed with a spectacular sunset
bathing the valleys and hills in husky yellows and golds. Camp setup was same 'ol same 'ol, and I'll do my best not to bore
you with the details because it's going to be a very similar story each night, regardless of whether we roll in before or
after dark. (camper tip: headlamps for every camper, you won't regret it, I recommend Petzyl).
Also, the stars are somewhat incredible.
We've been blessed since day one of planning this trek, and our first day on the road was no different.
God is good, and he provides for us in so many ways.
the west, orange juice & our new/old route into Yosemite
Friday, September 6, 2013
day two of riding brought us in and out of Tracy, CA in a way that we couldn't have planned if we tried: a great
leg workout in the AM (getting up out of the valley) followed by our easiest stretch yet in the PM (long gentle downhills as Mark mentioned).
God knows our strengths and weaknesses, and it's certainly a LOT easier to start strong and finish easy than vice versa (as we saw on day one).
just a few quick notes on our ride from Del Valle to Caswell.
the west lives on ... we rode through miles of dusty fields, each one anchored at one of its corners by a ramshackle house built piecemeal from metal
scraps/siding/roofing with even more metal scraps, wheels, tractors, swingsets and rusty old trucks strewn about the front yard. life's different
out here, and I'm itching to get some local perspectives.
orange juice overdose = cramps ... drank half a gallon of that stuff at lunch and my hands were cramping up two hours later like you wouldn't believe.
legs followed shortly after, but weren't as bad as the hands, and by then, I'd discovered my mistake and got plenty of good 'ole water in me instead.
the LORD opens roads as well as doors ... in a completely unanticipated turn of events, 120 (our original route into Yosemite, closed because of its proximity to the
wildfires) is now OPEN! we couldn't be happier :) continuing to pray for Tioga Pass as well, which would allow us to bike over the Sierra Nevada
mountains on what is arguably the most beautiful pass through to Nevada. even a few days ago we were sure a trip to Yosemite would mean backtracking
and going up and around the forest fires. we're hoping that's no longer the case.
thank you all for your support and prayers, may the wind be always at your back
Saturday, September 7, 2013
a few highlights of the day.
dirt roads ... yep. believe it or not, walking out bikes across a few miles of sprawling californian ranches & fields put our country's size and scale in a
whole new perspective. glad we will have a few wheels under us as we make out way across.
rivers ... ice cold. refreshing. renewing. right off the side of the road. right when we needed it. Jehovah Jireh.
bridges ... the last one we went over in particular, soaring several hundred feet over the Don Pedro Lake surrounded by Yosemite's foothills lit with a
fierce red/orange sunset. plus, downhill at day's end always makes for happy bikers.
until next time, may the sun shine warm upon your face
better late than never.... our detour round Yosemite
Monday, September 9, 2013
up. up. up. up.
and over Yosemite.
well, there's always our next bike trip to see yosemite. this morning we listened one more time to the park's recording (as to which roads
were open). after hearing Tioga was still closed, we headed north on 108 to take Sonora Pass over the Sierra Nevadas instead. it wasn't an
easy choice, skipping out on Yosemite, but after two mornings of smoke in the air 'til 2pm and knowing we'd have to backtrack our way out
of Yosemite once we reached where the fires had closed the road, we headed for higher ground. within the first four hours north, God provided
several clear signs that we'd made the right call.
first, not twenty minutes into the ride, we passed our first bike tourer (Brian) who was coming down from sonora pass (our new route).
in his words, "it's clear and beautiful up there, no smoke and pretty cool temperatures."
second, on a provisions stop in sonora we ran into Neil, his wife Amy, and John. Neil and John were pastors on their way out to a conference
near Big Oaks, and we were able to pray healing over Mark's hand and for safety throughout the remainder of our journey. was incredible to
catch some of the fire they had for the Lord in our brief conversation.
third, round about 4000' up route 108 (the road through sonora pass) we heard it from a chap running an Irish bed & breakfast that the forest
fires have now jumped both sides of tioga pass. we knew then there was no way tioga would've been open in time for us, and felt even better
about our decision to go north.
finally, God put plenty of beauty outside Yosemite. we climbed to an incredible
vista this afternoon, and finished the day with an ice cold (but oh so refreshing) plunge into lake pinecrest, nestled between the soaring mountains and tall pines
of the stanislaus national forest.
brian was right. the air has been clean, clear and definitely cooler as the sun has now set. we're psyched for even more climbing tomorrow,
and so blessed to have the time and energy and support from all of you to take a trek like this. thank you.
until next time, may the rains fall softly on your fields
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
aka sonora pass.
I know we are only a week in, but sonora's climb might end up as the most singular experience of the trip for me.
mentally, physically, spiritually - it was a moment in my life I will never forget.
the morning started out with yet another unanticipated (for lack of a better word) "problem" (these things can, and almost always will,
happen on a bike adventure of this length, and so there not really "problems" per se, but just another part of the trek). the o-ring on
my bike pump started to go, and wouldn't hold pressure into the tire. perhaps we just happened to be in pinecrest where there just happened
to be a general store that just happened to have the right size o-rings (picture a 3/4" diameter rubber ring about the width of a wedding band).
I don't think all of that just "happened", but I'll leave the decision up to the readers.
our first few hours were a glorious roller coaster of Sierra Nevada vistas and climbs. top speeds were around 40mph. the air was clear,
getting cooler with each foot of elevation gain, and we saw our first clouds (non-forest-fire clouds, that is) in more than a week, which
provided a luxurious shade when the giant redwoods and pines alongside of the road weren't as thick.
a quick stop in Kennedy Meadows brought Laura, Heidi & Carter into our life, who
recommended we look up Laura's sister in Lee Vining the next day on our way down from sonora (more on this encounter later, and how the Lord used it
to spark a chain of events that lead to an unforgettable night just outside Nevada). Kennedy Meadows was that sleepy, old wooden town you'd always
imagined would be nestled somewhere in a range like the Nevadas, and wouldn't mind being snowed in for a week or two if a storm so happened to roll
through the pass. good company and good food.
right outta Kennedy we hit sonora's first ascent. casual and serious bikers listen up: you probably have ridden a bike before with gears that
shift so low you wonder why in the world someone would ever want to ride that slow. at the start (and finish) of sonora, I learned just how
pivotal the difference between 1-2 and 1-1 on my gear set could be.
the ascent was nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime surreal journey, through breathtaking
mountain passes (pun goes out to my bro Dave). no one makes it up that pass without prayers, songs of praise at every slightly-less-steep segment, and a
full-on mental and physical determination that transcends what I thought I was capable of.
you start to hit "zones". times when you can't believe your legs and heart are still going but they are. you can't stop, so you start singing
and making up songs as you slog up the winding pass.
your head stays up. sonora is chocked full of views you'll get nowhere else. even when a mountain thunderstorm takes you at 8000ft up, you are
in awe of your surroundings (and grateful for the natural "cool down") and it becomes a catalyst to reach the pinnacle.
can't say whether the start or the finish was the most challenging. both were around 27% grade (I think, mark will know for sure). if that's tough
to imagine, picture your car. now tie a rope to your car and put it around your waist. find a hill you'd enjoy sledding on in the winter. now climb
up to the top of that hill with your car in tow. twice.
goodness, I almost think another blog is in order just for the descent. well, we made it to the top, donned some warmer gear and gloves, and bombed
our way back down the backside at (often times) just as steep a grade as we climbed. a car brakes worst nightmare, and we gave out bikes' a few as well.
hairpin turns, huge dips in and out of the rocky face of the mountain, long rolling stretches before we coasted to the plains below - was the
climb worth it? I'm not telling (unless you ask me nicely), you'll just have to try it yourself someday.
we'd hope to make it to Bridgeport on the other side of the pass by nightfall,
but adrenaline and energy levels were starting to run low. we stealthed our first campsite just off the road behind some bushes, and after a quick
dinner, slept beneath a sea of shimmering stars, the Milky Way in full swing doing its thing across the sky.
another day, but a day unlike any other. thanks for your continued prayers - we've felt (and continue to feel) God leading us across this great
nation, one pedal at a time.
until next time, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
stealth camp success.
we rode an easy 14 miles into Bridgeport, a town surrounded by pastureland, and those pastures surrounded by mountains on
every side. so glad we didn't try and ride in the night before when it was dark!
met up with a pair of cyclists from Melbourne (Shawn and Malcolm) that we'd seen in the pass yesterday, and swapped stories over some Mexican food
in Bridgeport (two days in a row eating out, by the way, mark is already rubbing off on me) before going our separate ways.
first two climbs were tough. it wasn't until Conway Summit that my body was starting to get back into gear after dueling with Sonora yesterday.
from then on out, however, we cruised through a most spectacular day of riding.
watch how this goes down. remember how I mentioned earlier that Laura at Kennedy Meadows
told us to get in touch with her sister in Lee Vining? she runs a motel there that Laura assured us we'd be able to stay in for free.just before we get there,
we stop into a visitor center outside of Lee Vining (Mono Lake's, for those of you keeping track back at home). we get to talking with the staff there,
asking about campgrounds in the area, and the first one they mention is Benton Springs, a posh B&B with campsites and mineral water springs hot tubs.
chyah, ok, i said, that's a little out of our price range and definitely not what we'd been used to on the road thus far.
our minds still set on the free motel, we head over to the place Laura's sister owns. turns out she's not in, and the motel looks wicked expensive.
as we charge up phones and make a few social network updates, mark gives the Benton Springs place a call.
here's the deal. Benton Springs is still 46 miles out from Lee Vining, and we'd already done 42 that day. our initial plan was to just find a site
a little ways down the road, but that was starting to leave us with some extremely long days across Nevada. Benton had HOT TUBS, though, and if
we made it there, the next few days in Nevada would break down a lot easier.
so Mark, being the awesome guy that he is, calls up Benton Springs. turns out the owners, Diane and Bill, are touring cyclists themselves, and would
love to put us up for free. what the what?
we were loaded up and ready to go in an instant, and the next 3 1/2 hours were the most enjoyable ride of the trip so far ('ride' not 'experience',
that title still belongs to sonora).
we caught tailwinds right off the bat, had some amazing long downhill runs, rocked the climbs, and soared down into Benton Springs just as the sky
was turning a deliciously pink and purple behind the hills.
oh, and we broke 50mph.
Diane and Bill treated us to an outstanding salmon, rice, macaroni & salad dinner RIGHT AT OUR CAMPSITE RIGHT NEAR OUR MINERAL SPRING HOT TUB.
does this sound like bike touring to you? it isn't I don't know what we did to deserve it, but thanks be to God, who in His abundance of blessings,
has poured down on us today like we could never imagine it even hope for. had we never talked to Laura, we would have never stopped in Lee Vining
and heard about Benton Springs. had Laura's sister been at the hotel, we might have stayed there instead. had we felt tired, or hit extreme uphills,
or hit a flat tire (or four), we would have never made it to Benton Springs in the time that we did. This is the day that The Lord has made. we
will rejoice and be glad in it.
I'm in the tub now, stars are out, the valley's quiet, and think I'll slip all the way back in to the hot, rejuvenating waters one more time
before I call it a night.
until next time, may the road rise up to meet you