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Day 60


Ride Stats:
Distance: 68.27 miles
Average Speed: 12.5 mph
Max Speed: 36.0 mph
Time: 5:25’17

I awoke to a spider the size of a Labrador in the tent. Ok, it was actually the size of a quarter but it was fast and frightening. I made quick work of it with a 1 liter bottle of water. Mikey called me up to join the campers for breakfast. We would part ways today. His vivid storytelling and upbeat attitude will be missed. He had planned to spend a few days rafting. I thanked him for his excellent company during the last few days and said farewell to him, Dennis, and Mary.

The first half of the day was spent climbing and dropping through the foothills. I made it out of the rural area just after noon time. The driver of a pickup truck, Rick, handed me two bottles of water while I sat at Safeway’s fuelstation. He was eager to help me interpret the notes I had written down from Mikey’s map (since mine was drifting in the cold air currents of the Sierras). Rick sent me down the road to the bicycle trail I was looking for. It’s curious to think that I had written down the direction on the only piece of paper I had left, a Christian pamphlet that was given to me by Paul from Houston Missouri many days ago. I’m sure he gave it to me for some sort of guidance but there’s no way he knew it would be used to physically guide me.

The first rounds of zigzags in the maze of bicycle trails through Folsom, CA were impossible to navigate without a map. All of the intersecting paths were unmarked and I had nothing but names listed on my list. I had made it through a few turns when I decided it was time to confirm my direction with a local that was familiar to the area. I caught Jack on a bench chatting away on his cell phone. I asked him if the way I was headed went to Sacramento and he sprung to life. Jack ended his call and leaped onto his bike. This retired school teacher gave me a swift pace to follow whilst showing me the way. He eventually sent me down a long stretch to downtown.

Californians love their bikes. The more I rode through the bikeways the more I rode through bikes. Scores of riders, joggers, and skaters filled the paths. A cyclist by the name of Rick (not the Rick from the gas station) rolled up next to me and asked about all the cargo. I told him about the trip and he offered to show me the way to Capitol Street which would send me to West Sacramento.

I stopped in the center of Sacramento for a sandwich and break. My mileage for the day wasn’t where I wanted it to be so I decided to press on. Jack had suggested to make my way to Davis so that’s what I did.

The bridge over the Sacramento River went into an immediate construction detour so I was sent off of my paper route. I managed to find the bike route that followed the highway to Davis. California was clever enough to make a bike route along a major highway so that people can sincerely commute from city to city. I rode the last few miles in the shadow of a rider who I eventually caught up with. Patrick was a local commuter who was sporting cages instead of panniers. He is a steady commuter and told me where my exit was.

Being in a big city now, camping is regretfully not an option. I’ve reached the final night outside of San Francisco and the end of the trip. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to camp for just one last time until I sat comfortably in the motel room. This whole thing, this ride, journey, trip, whatever it’s called, has just punched me in the chest. I don’t think there is any way I would have been ready for it to end. Had California been an extra thousand miles, I still would have been caught off guard at the end.

There were so many days in the hot sun that I wanted nothing more than a square foot of shade. The freezing mornings and nights where I could not function because I had not packed sufficient insulation. It feels like a dream. I’ve woken up from the night terrors. They felt like forever then and now feel like they flashed by in the last few hours of sleep. I no longer remember exactly how I felt those days on the East coast riding through the lovebugs. I only know they were real because it is written. It is memory. The urge to futilely flick a pair of those insects off just to have another take it’s place is more real to me now than the bugs ever were.

I’ve heard the line countless times. “I wish I could be doing what you are doing”. I don’t know if everyone should. Aside from the physical and mental challenges, the hardest part is the end. The feeling of living a lifetime within a lifetime. From birth to death. And the death is real. It has to be accepted and not fought. If you fight it then you will miss the final seconds of the life. The life is independent of your own. All of the people that were part of this whole thing were part of that life. The strangers who became friends, those that welcomed someone they did not know into their homes, the ones that didn’t hesitate to help or give a word of advice, readers of the blog that kept their thoughts to themselves and the ones that shared, the supporters who were near and far, the critics that buckled and those that remain adamant, the people that wanted to be a part of this because they knew what they were getting into and those that had no clue, the ones that still don’t know, and even those that offered a mere glimpse at a wave or thumbs up as they flew by the highway in the opposite direction.

There are no answers on the road. Doing something like this leads only to more questions. This isn’t for those who are satisfied and like the rhythm of their lives. It is for those that want more. You don’t need to know what you want, you just need to know that you want it. The road delivers what it must and what is necessary.

I think everything happened the way it was supposed to, even the things that were strange and unexpected. Maybe, especially those things.

Bicycle touring is not a sport. It is not traveling nor is it exercise. It is so much more.

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Day 59


Ride Stats:
Distance: 55.48 miles
Average Speed: 12.2 mph
Max Speed: 45.3 mph
Time: 4:31’28

Black Station was a diamond in the rough. The owner was the bartender, the host, the chef, the waiter, and the clerk. We enjoyed a freshly prepared meal in the tiny restaurant that looked as if it had not changed in the last 22 years of business. The oddest part was trying to figure out why Adventure Cycling decided to omit this place from the map.

The next morning, while prepping the bikes, we took a glance at the GPS to see how far we were from town. It said we had to go 4 miles back up the mountain and make a left. We had just discovered why Black Station wasn’t listed on the map; we weren’t on the route. We had missed a subtle turn during the descent in the evening that meant we’d have to start the morning with a climb.

Mikey and I left Black Station and the Sierra Nevadas. The road to Placerville, CA took us through the foothills of wine country. We stopped at In-N-Out Burger for lunch once we made it to town.

Our destination for the day was Whitewater Excitement in Coloma, CA. Mikey had been a river guide there for the past 3 summers, running boats down the whitewater American River. Camphosts Mary and Dennis welcomed us both while Mikey greeted the rest of his old friends and coworkers. Mary and Dennis cooked up burgers (I’m sure you see a trend by now) with potato salad and veggies. The rest of the night was spent sharing stories in a big circle next to their RV with all of the staff.

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Day 58


Ride Stats:
Distance: 74.27 miles
Average Speed: 11.1 mph
Max Speed: 44.0 mph
Time: 6:41’26

Riding out from Genoa through the rural valley homes was completely different than the last couple of desert mornings. Deer ran through yards, ground squirrels chased each other on driveways, and nervous quail waited for awkward moments to sprint across the street.

Just a few miles down the road there was fresh black asphalt and a white line cutting the path. A small post read “CALIFORNIA”. The final stretch had been reached. Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada had been conquered. No flashy imagery, no motto, no greetings or welcomes, the subtle and excessively simple California sign was probably the best way to greet the unknown.

Today’s ride was to be the final mountain passes. The Sierra Nevadas would put an end to the mountains on my journey. Kit Carson pass was a climb full of steep sections with little shoulder. Heavy truck traffic made most of the way extremely treacherous. I felt like I was in the Rockies again.

There was a ranger station with tourist information at the summit. This would be the last time I’d see my Western Express Section 1 map. I later noticed it missing and would be forced to go on without it. Just like the day that ended in Fallon where I lost the upper part of my flag pole with the flag I had rescued from that wooded road in north Florida. Backtracking just a few feet I like going against nature in a ride like this, especially when it’s back up a mountain that has taken a whole day to climb.

Carson Pass had a smaller summit after it called Carson Spur and a third and final summit that remained unnamed. I was tired going up the third summit, stopping frequently for water. This is where I noticed I no longer was in possession of the map. A motorist named Dan stopped ahead and offered me some Clif bars and blocks. He had been riding earlier and knew what it felt like to face these climbs without energy.

When I finally made it to the summit, I found Mikey changing his rear tire which had worn out down to the carcass. The upcoming downhill made riding a worn tire very dangerous. I chose to stick it out with mine and took pictures of his map while he changed the tire.

It was late in the day and what was supposed to be all downhill turned out to be a series up fast downs with a speed killing climb. The west side of the mountain was not cooperating. Cook’s Station was on the map as a restaurant and possible campsite along the decent but we found that business hours ended at 3 pm during the week. It was getting dark and town was still over 30 miles away. We kept riding down and found Black Station Inn and Restaurant. This old place was not listed by Adventure cycling but had exactly what we needed: a place to stay and food.

Thanks to Judith R. for donating to the ride.

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Day 57


Ride Stats:
Distance: 77.43 miles
Average Speed: 11.7 mph
Max Speed: 29.7 mph
Time: 6:34’20

The nightride was a catastrophe. We woke up with sun. On a brighter note, it was early enough for a normal day’s ride. We made our way out of Fallon and continued on Highway 50. The final portion of the desert started to get a bit more green. The stretch to Dayton, NV opened up 4 lanes and city traffic.

Dayton became our lunch stop. Mikey grabbed a deli sandwich in a Smith’s grocery store and I opted for a grilled onion cheeseburger at Jack In The Box.

Nevada’s capital city, Carson City, would be the next stop. There were lots of government building to photograph. I noticed the Nevada Commission on Tourism. This was the office that had created the Highway 50 Survival Guide that I was trying to fill out. I had gotten all of the required cities (and even some others in between) except for Fernley which was off the route on the Highway 50 Alternate. I asked the receptionist if she would accept it like that seeing as how I had even made it to the office (instead of mailing it) and she said yes. Jeff, the local who I had met back in Ely and Eureka gave me a call and said he’d meet us for a ride trough the area.

My odometer rolled to the 4000 mile mark and induced a required smoothie stop. Jeff caught us just at the outside of Carson City and rode with us through the rolling hills to the town of Genoa. The market was closed and it was unclear where we’d spend the night. After some phone calls to the Sheriff’s office, we determined that camping was not allowed in either of the two parks in town. Jeff spoke to the fire department and Firechief Bill said it would be fine for us to pitch tents next to the firehouse.

Jeff took us in his Dodge truck to a deli up over the mountains. He treated us to sandwiches and took them to go. We ate them at his home next to beautiful Lake Tahoe. California lined the opposite coast of the lake. We met his wonderful family and playful dog while the sun set behind the mountains. Jeff drove us back town the road to Genoa where we were reunited with the bikes and prepared for tenting.

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Day 56


Ride Stats:
Distance: 67.57 miles
Average Speed: 12.6 mph
Max Speed: 29.6 mph
Time: 5:21’35

Breakfast at Cold Springs hit the spot. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, and cranberry juice. The difficult farewell to the cozy campsite became harder with an overnight flat. Upon close inspection, I discovered that after only 1000 miles, the Specialized All Condition tire is shredded. I would never recommend this tire. It costs around $45, it’s heavy, and it does not last. It did handle well when new but it is way too expensive for having such a short service life.

Once I was back on the road I rolled up to a man walking down the lonely road by himself. Coincidently his name was also Mikey. Mikey left San Francisco and is walking across America. His wife was waiting for him back at Cold Springs for the end of his day. Walkin’ Mikey’s blog is: http://www.mikeywalks.com

I caught up to (biking) Mikey 11 miles down the road. The winds were manageable today so we road steady for most of the day. The only stop along the way was at Middlegate. Images of the famed Shoe Tree lined the inside of the bar there. This tree wore the shoes of many travelers who would make their way down America’s Loneliest Road. A disgruntled husband had cut it down when he discovered his wife was meeting her lover by it’s shade.

We rode past a large dry lakebed. The landscape was similar to that of Groom Lake in Nevada’s Area 51. The surface was dry and supported our weight as we casually moved across the barren surface alongside the barbwire barrier.

The following valley was home to Sand Mountain. This unique oddity was a mountain-sized pile of sand. Cricket from Cold Springs told us that it has been creeping eastbound over the years. It was once on the west side of the road and, because of it’s slow eastbound migration, the road was rebuilt west of the mound.

Fallon, NV was the end of the line for today. Didi had recommended we eat at the Depot Restaurant and Casino which was owned by her family.

At the local Value Inn, we met Tom. He is a senior on a mission. Tom had already gone from Florida to California on his bicycle and is now on his way back east. He shared his blog with us: http://www.thepedalpushsenior.com

Mikey and I have planed to wake up extra early for an attempt at a nightride through the dessert. We felt that it would only be safe to do if there were two of us.

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Day 55


Ride Stats:
Distance: 50.27 miles
Average Speed: 10.7 mph
Max Speed: 34.4 mph
Time: 4:40’47

A friendly couple at a gas station made a donation for a cold drink before leaving town. I left Austin, NV late in the morning. I didn’t have much drive as I went down the hill into the wind. Frequent stops made the afternoon come quick. While I was milking the last bit of cell phone reception out of town, another rider came up behind me. His name is Mikey and was also headed to San Francisco. We rode through the wind together, distracted by the usual rider to rider conversation.

I was really glad to have company in what would have been an extremely agonizing day full of steady headwinds. Mikey is from California and is headed home. He left Massachusetts in late May after graduating.

The scenery was mostly repetitive except for a distant dry lake bed that appeared much closer than it was.

Midway between Austin and Fallon we rode up to what can only be described as an oasis in the desert. Cold Springs Station was an RV campsite with a brand new restaurant and bar. The new building was a result of the old one catching fire just a few years ago. Didi and Cricket welcomed us and charged half of an already low rate to pitch our tents. The restrooms were clean as a whistle and the plot of grass felt like a pillowtop. My dinner was the recommended “Cactus Burger” and Mikey had fish tacos.

Cool desert air came by as soon as the sun went down. A nearby RVer blasted their television at full volume for most of the night while we had dinner and did laundry. Our similar pace and destination made us discuss the possibility of trying something new in the upcoming days.

Mikey’s blog: http://bikeamerica.tumblr.com/

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Day 54


Ride Stats:
Distance: 75.09 miles
Average Speed: 10.1 mph
Max Speed: 37.9 mph
Time: 7:23’09

I awoke to a tent covered in dew. Joe suggested that I join his group for breakfast. We met up at a small deli operated by Mennonites where I was treated to a delicious breakfast burrito. The filling meal with good company was a great start to the day.

We headed back to the campsite to pack our now dry tents. From left to right in the picture below: Mike, Joe, Joe Sr., and Paul.

Today’s clear skies and flat elevation map along with an early start mislead me into thinking I was off easy. Instead of climbing up and down mountains in the morning, I instead had to row through a ferocious headwind for over 40 miles.

To make matters worse, I had to end the day climbing a double 7000+ ft pass. The windy straightaway slowed me so much that the sun set before I could finish the climb.

Austin, NV was on the other side of the Austin Pass. I made it into town just 20 minutes before the last restaurant closed in order to get dinner. This town is small but is at least recognized as a city. Tomorrow’s ride will be to Middlegate which is hardly recognized by any of the weather or hotel review search engines that I used.

I will post the pictures the next time I have access to wifi.

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