Wednesday, September 2

Returning Home

Somewhere in San Francisco my sandal broke. Truth be told, it actually snapped in Telluride, CO. See when I left New York, I carried a pair of Shimano cycling shoes, a pair of running shoes, and my Chaco sandals. Wearing three shoes in rotation meant each got a fair share of wear and tear. And of course, when just west of Pueblo, CO when I sent the running shoes home (along with another 8lbs of stuff), I was down to a two pair rotation - cycle shoes when cycling and sandals when, well, every moment opposite. Anyway, by Telluride, they were shot. The strap dislodged from both the toe and the side of the foot, leaving it impossible to walk without fixing. What turned into a glue and duct-tape remedy, I made it to the Pacific without further trouble. But then, there was trouble.

Well, I was about to attempt to summon the picture, but my mother beat me to it. Looking back to what I had already posted, as to avoid repeating myself, I noticed that my mother (within the last 20 minutes) shared the image of my return home:

I think one of my favorite images was of you coming off the airplane after your journey. You had on black sweat pants, a green T-shirt, and a green plaid raggedy flannel shirt over that. Your luggage was a brown paper bag, which held your sleeping bag and dopp kit. You had a great big smile on your face that your full beard didn't cover. And then we couldn't help but notice you only had one shoe on, but they had let you on the plane anyway!
Indeed, my shoe problem left me no choice but to walk shoeless (though I suppose it was really 'sandal-less') around San Francisco, the Airport, and the plane. The brown bag she refers to was something I picked up from the Hostel my friend Kevin was staying at for the night - walking downtown carrying nothing but a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a broken sandal, and wallet was not as inviting as I thought so the bag served to consolidate the few pieces of gear I couldn't send home with the bike. In either case, with or without the brown bag, no one made eye contact with me on the street. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Nate, SF is a big city, of course no one made..." Shut up. I live in New York and know how much eye contact is normal. This was abnormal and I, like my folks, attribute it to the bare foot, flannel (which was not raggedy by the way) and beard.
After sleeping in backyards, parks, under overpasses, and dugouts, comparatively my first night of sleep after the trip wasn't far off. That is, by then I was used to sleeping in uncomfortable places. In fact, it had been since perhaps Kentucky that I had had a bed, so the ground of the San Francisco airport wasn't too bad. However, after flying to Michigan and waking up in a bed in my Aunts house, I was a little thrown off. Literally, the first thought that went through my head the morning of the 4th was a confused "WHERE AM I!?" The next couple of days were full of family, friends, and yes, more traveling. In fact, I calculated later that starting May 27th and not ending until August 30th, I was never in the same place longer than 5 days - despite finishing the bike ride August 2nd. Talk about a summer of movement. But I'm back in the city now.
Since being back many folks have inquired about my trip and what I'm finding is that its difficult to think about what to share as there's just so much (as those who have been following have seen). Regardless, here are some talking points I start with before I just ask them to ask questions, as specific questions are easier for me to respond to:
It took me 2 months (June 3rd - August 2nd).
4073 miles of riding.
I rode solo until mid-Missouri.
Missouri was my least favorite state.
Colorado and Utah were favorite states (scenicly speaking - is that even a word?).
Kansas and Nevada were also my most favorite states (due to great company).
I would never do it alone again. Not because I regret that I did. I just did, so I don't need to again.
I would do it again with friends in a heartbeat.
I don't have my bike in NYC. I was fine with this up until a week ago when I started to really have withdraw.
One thing I discovered that I didn't expect was America's incredibly generous spirit.
I learned how to whistle by attempting to whistle every time I saw a dog. (Yes, I admit, I couldn't before the trip.)
The Hub and BGI are amazing! They, along with many other private donors, made this possible. Check them out!
I enjoyed blogging so much that I will try to continue to blog about my time in New York: (real original, no?)

Sunday, August 23

Regarding Sojourners and Detainment

As many of you know, one of the ways in which I justified taking two months to myself, riding from coast to coast, was by speaking on behalf of Sojourners, a non-profit I work with in the city. I've put up links to information about Sojourners but fear not everyone who reads the blog has followed the trail to learn more, so allow me to tell you about Sojourners as well as share with you my conclusions regarding what was referred to as the mission, or what I call the justification of my journey.
Sojourners is a ministry that was started 10 years ago out of the Riverside Church. We recruit, train, transport, and mentor volunteers to visit and befriend asylum seekers and other non-criminal non-citizens held at Elizabeth Detention Center, a windowless converted warehouse near Newark Airport in New Jersey run by a private corporation, Corrections Corporation of America. Though out of the Riverside Church, only 30% of our volunteers are connected with Riverside.  The purpose for the visit is to help break the isolation and boost the morale of detainees, who may be held for months, even years before a final determination on their request for asylum is made and they are released or deported.
Why boost morale?  What do we mean by isolation?  Well, truth be told, the time before the final decision is made is often quiet dehumanizing - detainees fight detainment for long periods of time, predatory lawyers, lack of access to healthcare, separation from family, language barriers, not being allowed any time in fresh air (again, despite being non-criminals i.e. they've done nothing wrong).  We meet to combat this, to acknowledge that they are human and that they are not forgotten.
Though we have partnerships with many organizations and networks working to reform this process (Detention Watch NetworkFirst Friends/IRATE, etc.), Sojourners primarily focuses on meeting the immediate needs of detainees while also working to provide post-release relief as well - everything from helping former detainees acclimate to the city to finding housing opportunities. For example, I got to escort my friend Donzo, who was involved in a Democracy movement in an African country, to a pro bono legal clinic in Brooklyn put on by the Justice for Our Neighbors program (a non-profit run by the United Methodist Church). He had been detained 6 months longer than he should have been (often detainees are unaware of the few legal rights they do have) and since he wasn't familiar with the subway system or the english language, he needed someone to come along. Lucky me (seriously, we had a ball on the subway!).
So my intention with the ride was to talk about the issues Sojourners seeks to address, sharing with folks ways in which they can get involved. I thought this would best happen before congregations, but as I rode and realized I never knew where I was going to be in advance, "congregations" proper went out the window. Instead, it turned into talking one on one with people the whole way, face to face interactions over coffee, dinner, whatever.
When anyone finds out that you are riding your bicycle from New York City to San Francisco, one of the first things they ask you is Why? - obviously opening the door to conversation about detention each time.  This occurred with News Persons in Virginia, Pastors in Missouri, Sustainable farmers in Utah, and fellow Cyclists in Nevada.
One of the more memorable moments of sharing - or, I suppose attempting to share - the circumstances of detainment, I was in a restaurant in Eminence Missouri on the 4th of July.  Enjoying an all-you-can-eat-buffet, a great ally in my journey, I was approached by a waitress who had pieced together that I was riding to the coast (maybe it was the 6 plates she cleared from my table, maybe.)
"Are you riding for a cause?"
"Well sort of... Are you familiar with the term Asylum Seeker?"
"No," she responded with in an inquisitive tell-me-more tone.
"Well, I work with an organization called Sojourners..." Within 2.2 seconds of starting, I had lost her.  Somewhere between a full restaurant and mention of the word immigrant, she interrupted with an "Oh, sounds interesting" before turning to another table.
Was it the topic of immigration? Did she ask only seeking a quick reply? Did I fail to read that the full restaurant needed her attention before beginning with the details?  Who knows. One thing was clear though - she wasn't having it. Thankfully however, this was one of the only disinterested responses, as many people listened intently and engaged in honest dialogue. 
The funraising campaign I ran was also a great opportunity for folks to learn about Sojourners and the work we do.  Letters and emails were sent out to individuals, schools, and business opening the door to the opportunity for them to become involved in advocacy for Sojourners.  Whether they participated or not, and many did, folks heard about it and conversation about detention was generated.
Looking back, I would say most people were surprised at the plight of the asylum seeker, finding it difficult to believe that a country composed of immigrants would participate in an often dehumanizing system of detainment.  They voiced concern regarding our policies and practices despite the country's claim to be committed to those seeking asylum - it just didn't seem consistent to them.  The bottom line: it isn't consistent.
I often pointed the folks I spoke with in the direction of both my blog and the Sojourners blog. There they could find more information, links, stories, and an assortment of ways to get involved with similar work. Did they make it that far? I don't know. I hope. All I could do was tell them about my friends in detention and trust that their voiced concern was genuine, as I believe it was.  Here's for hoping things change.
Upon returning, I found I was not the only one talking about detention this summer. Apparently all summer there were several New York Times and Washington Post articles discussing the issue of detention.  Then, in early August the Obama administration released plans to revamp the way we do detention. Hoping to increase oversight, the plans give the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, a federal overseer to each of the 23 largest detention centers, setting up an oversight unit within the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility.  In a Washington Post article, Morton states, "We need a system that is open, transparent, and accountable... With these reforms, ICE will move away from our present decentralized jail approach to a system that is wholly designed for and based on civil detention needs and the needs of the people we detain."
This is a great first step, however I agree with the many who claim the proposed reform does not go far enough.  Detention Watch Network, a coalition of community, faith-based, immigrant and human rights service and advocacy organizations, of which Sojourners is a part of, claims the overhaul falls short in its failure to address "the lack of alternative to detention and the lack of legally enforceable minimum standards for detention centers."

Find out more by following the links below.

Friday, August 21

Then it happened: The Ocean

I really don't remember a whole lot about the last day's ride, as the events which followed after arriving to the Pacific are more memorable. One thing I do remember however, is that everything seemed to be against us. Well, that and the fact that I didn't care. I had one thing on my mind: San Franfreakincisco.
Kevin and I had planned to head out from Winters early in the morning, but were sidelined after we found Kevin had apparently acquired a flat. The evening before, Kevin and I changed his back tire after he road over some goathead, but his front was good, all signs pointed to still inflated. However, apparently the front had gotten a puncture as well and spent the night leaking, leaving us to find a completely empty tire in the morning. First delay.
After breakfast, we got on our way with just 60 miles to do for the day. Every pedal we neared the coast, the wind picked up. We had checked the weather the night before and saw that the days wind was supposed to be a south wind. Good thing we were going West, right? Well yes, the whole trip was a westward movement, however our final day's ride was primarily south. That's right - straight into the wind. Did I mention we were out of the mountains yet? So then there was that. But I could not be stopped.
30 miles out, I popped a spoke. Being the first since Colorado or Utah, I was a little weary to see what I would find when I stopped to check it out. It was a drive side spoke (on the side of the wheel with the gears) which meant I would have to take not only the wheel off the bike, but the gears off the wheel. Not something I wanted to spend the next 30 minutes of my time doing. And besides, I had never done it before. Instead, I unscrewed the spoke from the wheel, returned to my saddle, and kept riding. I thought about the time I rode from Lancaster, PA to DC with a broken spoke. That was a good three days. I had no doubt about making it 30 miles. Again, I laugh at the cycling gods that try to impede the journey - nothing could stop me. I pedaled.
Vallejo, CA was the site of the ferry. Yes, a ferry. Not the ideal way I would have liked to end the journey, but there really aren't any other ways into San Francisco that don't involve interstates (illegal to non-motorized vehicles anyway). We pulled up to the terminal, paid for our transit tickets, and waited for the next ferry. Sitting, looking out over the bay, I noticed another bike with panniers (basically saddle bags on the front and back wheels) indicating that someone else was touring. Not but a few seconds later, Sidra turned the corner. I could see she had seen our bikes as well and was in search of the two others touring when we made eye contact.
"Are you touring? Where to? Where'd you start?" my questions came out in a flood.
"I started today. Riding to New York City," she said excitedly.
I froze. Here I was on my last day, and she, on her first. I couldn't believe it. I had so much I wanted to say, but she had so much before her I didn't want to overwhelm her. I learned she too was going solo, though meeting up with some friends for a bit in Kansas, as I had done as well when Grace and Ashley joined me. I offered her my speakers, but after not being able to find a way for her to attach it to her bike, and learning that she had an iPod mini, which don't fit in the speaker well, causing the music to stop at every bump (trust me, tried it with Jordan's mini in Nevada and it was painfully annoying), she shrugged her shoulders and I wished her well regardless. And then she was gone. All the experiences I had just accumulated between NYC and San Fran, they were right before her in the opposite direction. It was so surreal.
The ferry arrived and Kevin and I loaded our bikes on board. The ferry in the Bay was much larger than the one which traversed the Ohio on the Kentucky-Illinois boarder, which was good because the ride itself was about an hour. Next thing we knew, we were in San Francisco, with just seven miles of riding left, from the pier to the Golden Gate.
Those seven miles... Well, I suppose they just seemed like a recreational ride. Nothing too difficult really, we wrapped around the edge of the city to Fort Point, soaking in the views of Fort Mason, Alcatraz, the Marina, Crissy Field, Hippy Hill, and finally the Bridge. The route ends at the top of Fort Point, not in the Pacific. Well, the Adventure Cycling Association route that is, not ours. After snapping some pictures of the Golden Gate, we headed down Lincoln Boulevard to Baker Beach. That part was all downhill and like my time on Omo Road, I think I was flying, this time from shear amazement.
Once at the sand, I ripped my clothes off and ran into the sea. Reveling in the moment, we documented the feat and stared into the water for some time before I realized it was nearing 5:00pm. My stress rose - hella fast, in fact. If any a time to be rushed on this trip, it was now. The one bike shop that was open on Sundays was closing at 6:00pm, and seeing that I had a flight to catch the next morning at 6:00am, I had to get there in order to ship my bike back east. Oh, and did I mention I didn't know where the shop was?
In a sick combination between pedaling 8 blocks and calling the bike shop to readjust directions, I arrived there at 5:52pm. The shop was large and many more folks were still in there, each renting, returning, and buying bikes. My stress lessened as it became clear that others, not just myself, were going to keep the employees here beyond 6:00pm. I began piecing the bike apart on the shop floor, explaining to the guy who was looking at me that I needed them to box it up and ship it out at their convenience but that I had to catch an early flight the next morning and couldn't come back. A bit stressed out that so many people were still there, the guy told me he'd be back.
When he returned, it was around 6:15pm and I had made all my belongings into two piles, one to take to Michigan for the wedding and the other to send back with the bike, if it fit in the box. I heard the front door close and lock when I noticed it was just me and the bike shop employees inside. The guy who had been helping me approached again, this time with two beers in hand. "Welcome to San Francisco!" he said as he passed one over to me. I reached out and took it, instantly stress free.
I got out of there by 6:30pm, carrying just a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and my wallet. Everything else was to be stuffed in the bike box and shipped to Indianapolis, IN, where it would arrive well after my departure from New York. Good riddance. Great Ride.

The Lasts: Our Final Days (or was it Daze?)

Did I mention Kevin caught up midway through Nevada? Kevin and I had rode together from the end of Missouri to the east edge of the Rockies, before I broke away to try to make a wedding and he ran into bike difficulties. So there we were, three San Diegans and two Indiana...ians... in Carson City, Nevada. Fresh out of the desert, and on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. California was a mere 25 miles away, and according to our map, we had one final pass to ascend, before a long 100 mile downhill, taking us from 10,000ft to sea level (not super steep of course, though it had it's parts). We weren't sure when we would part ways, though we knew it would be soon as the San Diegans were shooting for an August 3rd arrival and I an August 2nd.
After a breezy 25 miles, we made it to the California boarder. A little less than significant, we broke to take pictures and cherish the moment of our arrival to the final state.
That last climb was killer. Though we had climbs through Nevada (those elusive mountain ranges always on the horizon), our final climb seemed to never end. Usually, when we were making our ascent, the distance between each rider seemed to widen. Different riders would prefer to take each climb differently - sometimes you really want to go after it; others, you've got other things to focus on than racing up a mountain. This particular climb, I was in an I'm going to beat you Mountain kind of mood, attacking it mildly hard. Jordan was in a similar mindset as well, ahead of me by a number of turns in fact. Mike and Jeremy were riding behind a couple turns, probably in dialogue, and Kevin was in his own place behind all of us.
I remember seeing the final summit, seeing Jordan off his bike eating his prized Wheat Thins and Honey combination. He flexed and I pedaled harder towards the top, shaking my head with a serious look on my face, grinning all the while. The trip wasn't over, but dammit the mountains were about to be. And then I was there, silently standing next to Jordan, treating myself to his snacks.
Triumph at the final summit.
Cars whizzed past, their drivers unaware of what was happening, while we encouraged the others to the summit. After a few minutes of hootin' and hollarin', we returned to our saddles and began the descent. On the way down the views from the Sierra Nevadas were not as spectacular as the Colorado and Utah views. It seemed a low visibility had been caused by a smog which had come east from the furthest West Coast cities. Still, it was nonetheless spectacular.

One of my favorite roads on the entire ride was on this downhill out of the Sierras - Omo Ranch Road. Carless, curvy, downhill, heaven. To the sides, the road was lined with Cedar trees, tall and skinny allowing one to see far into the woods before the trunks formed a wall blocking the view. We practically flew, we were going so fast. Taking the turns at top speeds, someone behind me began to laugh and shout for my attention loudly. Apparently when I turned at higher speeds, my trailer would slide out and was pretty humorous to see from behind. I then perfected the stunt, whipping my handlebar quickly causing the trailer to Tokyo drift, as we called it, side to side, warning the others not to make me mad as I now had a weapon. That night, we camped in Omo Ranch, beside an elementary school of which the PrinciPAL frequently allowed cyclists to stay.
The next morning, August 1st, we rode out of Omo Ranch and into Placerville. We stopped there for a bit of food, and when Mike, Jordan, and Jeremy all stopped for a visit of the local bike shop, Kevin and I kept riding. It was pretty uneventful, our goodbyes, as we figured we'd run into each other further down the road, as had always happened when someone wanted to stop for one reason or another. However this time, the San Diegans never caught up. We knew we couldn't finish together beforehand, but I think we all thought we'd at least share a ceremonial goodbye. Instead, it turned into a phone call later that evening, us explaining we had to keep riding, them that they had stumbled upon a BBQ back in Sacramento and were going out for beers. Lucky bastards.
Kevin and I got into Winters, CA that night, our last night on the road. As we searched for a place to grab dinner, we ran into a couple, Pierre and Marsha, who not only pointed out a great Mexican Tienda, but also invited us to spend our last night in their backyard. Taking them up on both, we met them on the street again after dinner to follow them back to their house. Along the walk back, we learned Pierre and Marsha were avid cyclists, having toured a number of times themselves, which translated to Kevin and I having incredible hosts who understood the ups and downs of touring. Once at their place, Pierre and Marsha whipped up some fresh peaches and Ice Cream, allowed us to shower, do laundry, check e-mails, and told us stories from their touring days.
We retired in their back garden, and though it took a while for me to fall asleep, it wasn't long before I was waking to the sight of sun above my head. The Last Day was upon us.

Thursday, August 13

Nevada's Terrain and the Difficulties Therein: That is, How Not to Die

As I think I have said, Nevada's riding terrain was mountain range, followed by valley, followed by mountain range followed by valley. Like the back of my shampoo bottle: Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Ok, so maybe there wasn't much lathering or rinsing, but the idea is that it was a cycle. Long stretches of road were placed between mountain ranges that reached into the 9000s. The air was clean and visibility allowed for great views. From the top of the ranges, you could easily see the next range, and the distance between seemed small enough, though when a car passed, you could still see it on the flat stretch 20 minutes later. Basically, desolation.
So I get a lot of questions about my time in Nevada, specifically questions regarding how I survived the desert. Now, since I had never biked a desert before, I really didn't know what I was doing. But, like all things, I pieced together what I did know about both riding and deserts to come up with my plan.
Using the knowledge that I had gained in the 3000 miles I had just traveled and my grade school knowledge of deserts (thanks Mrs. Callahan!) I'd say the two issues that concerned me most were high temperatures and lack of water due to lack of services. So in order to plan for my time on US 50 then, the Loneliest Road in America, I decided I would carry more water than usual.
Now, I had found that I could get 20 miles on each water bottle that I carried so I used that to determine how much water I needed to haul. I could have just loaded the water nonchalantly, but who wants to carry more water than they need? So in my gallon jug I had bought for the long ride into Hanksville, UT, I planned to use the little math skills I possessed and measure 140 miles worth of water for my first day in the desert.
Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't far off; but like most things, nothing goes as expected. And I think there's a proper word for the experience, in fact, synergy comes to mind, but I could still be wrong.
Basically, filling my bottles, I counted my milage into the gallon jug - 20, 40, 60, 80, 100 miles in the gallon jug with another 40 miles in the water bottles. On paper, I could make it the 140 miles. However, in my experience, I suppose I didn't realize that higher temperatures would probably equate into a larger need for water. Further, I also forgot to calculate the water I usually drink in between the 20 miles, while stopped at the gas stations or restaurants. So too make a long story short, I ran out of water about 20 miles outside of the day's final destination.
Thankfully, I was also riding with Jordan, Mike, and Jeremy (from San Diego, CA) who didn't mind to carrying more water than they needed, I suppose because they knew it didn't really matter what one thought they needed. Moral of the story - When in a desert, carry lots of water; more than you think you need even. That and ride in packs. Four minds are better than one.
Truly, this was hot.

Wednesday, August 12

Memories from Middlegate, NV

There's this little place in Nevada called Middlegate. At the time, I was riding with Kevin (Indianapolis), Mike, Jordan, and Jeremy (the three from San Diego) and had left Austin, NV that morning. 60 miles later, before coming into Middlegate, we found a tree with TONS of shoes thrown up into its branches. Below the tree was the remnants of a rather large creek that had dug into the dirt, carving out its deep path before drying up. There too in the path of the creek were thousands of shoes - some matching, others by their lonesome.
Several cars had pulled over as well, their drivers walking about the piles, trying to make sense of the phenomenon. In the small crowd were two girls who had just started a trip back to the midwest from San Francisco. They were rummaging through the assortment of footwear, looking for "shit kickers," as they described it. Listing off a dozen places they had lived briefly before, we learned that having grown up in Missouri, they moved to New Orleans after Katrina had come through. They contemptuously explained that because "we don't have a liberal arts degree," they don't live in a specific district, but instead battle being shot at while walking home from work - apparently trying to make a value statement about their lifestyle and the lifestyle of former liberal arts students. A little unsure of what to make of the experience and after snapping a few pictures of the shoe laden tree, we pedaled on towards Middlegate.
Once in Middlegate, we settled at a place called Bar. It's not that we had much choice in the matter, Bar was the only establishment there in Middlegate serving as the local bar, grocery, restaurant, and gas station while also offering several cabins for rent and RV hookups for guests who bring their home. Once inside and at the bar, we learned of the local special: The Monster Burger - a 1lb beef patty on a hoagie-bun, loaded with all the goodies, and a heavy side of fries. By car, Middlegate isn't far from the Navy base further west in Fallon and over the years has become a popular place for many of the soldiers. Bar built the Monster Burger as the local eat-it-all-and-get-a-reward to entice hungry soldiers to come out for a drink and challenge. The server said 1 in 3 finish the plate, "usually Navy boys," upon which one receives a free T-shirt. The burger is $16 so finishing it all means an $8 burger and an $8 shirt. Enticed by the challenge and with hungry stomachs, Jordan and I tried it out.
Notice the monster face?
17-minutes later.
Sweet rags, no?
Middlegate, like most of US 50 through Nevada, is situated along the Pony Express Trail. This was a mail route from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA that ran from 1860 to 1861, before the telegraph was invented. It was an elaborate system of mail stations, horses, and riders in which Atlantic mail could make it to the Pacific in just ten days. Individual riders would ride for 75 to 100 miles each, switching horses every 10 miles (apparently the distance a horse can gallup all out before needing rest), carrying mail from the east to the west despite the dangers of weather, wildlife, Native Americans, and thieves. Their logo was adopted by Wells Fargo, though the system did not involve carriages when it ran. I remember reading a note about the ideal Pony Express rider on the back of my Adventure Cycling map (histories of the areas I was riding were usually on the backside of the maps). It said something about because of the inherent dangers, orphans under 150 lbs were preferred with a promising $25/week as pay. I'll get the word for word description when my maps return from the mail.

Monday, August 3


Well, it's been a long two months, but I've finally completed the ride! Got into San Fransisco mid-afternoon today (8/2). More to come (WITH PICTURES!) soon.

Thursday, July 30

New Friends and Another State Under the Belt

About 30 miles outside Cedar City, Utah I ran into three compadres headed west - Mike, Jordan, and Jeremy. They are all from San Diego, California and left Yorktown, Virginia around the same time I got my start. We crossed paths in a small town called Minersville, and the three had planned to stop for the day another 20 miles or so in Milford, UT. I told them that I was pushing on beyond Milford, hoping to make Baker, NV by the end of the night, totaling the day's ride at 140 miles. Intrigued by the distance, the three pondered the option of continuing on with me as we made it to Milford. After 20 or so miles of sharing stories from our trips, the three decided to join me for the ride, quoting something about only living once.

Literally Milford is the last town before Baker, leaving a wide gap of mountains and valleys to get through before crossing the Nevada boarder into Baker. Before heading out to make the distance, we stopped at the local grocery, where we stocked up on food and water to beat the heat. I bought a chicken. For real. Not alive, of course, but one of those pre-cooked chickens in a bag you sometimes see in groceries.

We headed out into the desert heat, not sure what to expect and as Milford got further and further away, the clouds became darker and darker. Not quite what we had expected when plannign for desert weather, but the rain that quickly followed was preferred over the extreme temperatures we had thought we'd face. Then again, the lightning was a bit much (we even saw it hit a mountain and start a fire).

By Baker, it was quite dark (though we had gained an hour moving into the Pacific time zone) and we were very hungry. The chicken satisfied our needs at the time (we all picked it apart), but by 140, one's stomach is ready for more. Thankfully, in Baker, NV there was a baker. He ran the Silver Jack, and despite being closed, he was quite friendly to accomodate our hunger and fatigue.

Nevada has been like that the whole way pretty much - long stretches with little between. If you know your US highways, we've been riding US 50, which has long been called "The Lonliest Road in America." Though we've not had the milage up to 140 since, each day we've had to pack plenty of water and food, riding stretches of at least 60 miles before the next anything.

I've stuck with the three San Diegans and enjoyed their company. We've hit up a number of pools, libraries, and other fun spots along the way. At one library, I began to blog but was interrupted as Mike had his laptop charger stolen! After watching the library security tapes and identifying the kid, we jumped on our bikes to confront him at his usual hangout spot - the city park - but were not able to locate him. Mike was pretty upset about the whole thing, so I mostly trailed to make sure if the kid was confronted it would be done in a reasonable fashion, but like I said, no dice.

Tonight, we're staying in a Hampton Inn, curteousy of Mike's Uncle, who apparently flies a lot and has racked up some mad hotel points. Also, my friend Kevin has caught back up - we rode the end of Missouri and all of Kansas together (with Trevor and Will) before splitting up in Pueblo, CO when I had to start pushing hard for the coast. As I've gotten closer to the coast, I've been able to ease up a bit, which allowed Kevin to catch up, as to avoid an early arrival in San Fransisco (it's easier to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere than in San Fran). Riding with company has again been quite the blessing and though I value the solitary, I prefer the company.

Whether you believe it or not, I'll be arriving to the Pacific Ocean in just three days! That's right - 3 more days. As we ride, it's insane to think how far we've come and how close we are. So much of me wants to recognize that it's already in the bag and consider it over, yet I know much can happen in just three days. As I ride these last days, I will try diligently to put myself before a computer and continue writing and plan a couple of follow-up posts once finished (to flesh thoughts out, give a more thorough account of my work with Sojourners, and other odds and ends stuff). Though the journey is not finished yet, I thank all of you for your support, encouragement, thoughts, and prayers while on the road. It's been such a blessing to read, hear, and learn of all the things you folks have been doing as I pedal. Know that I consider you just as much a part of this journey as the Mikes, Jordans, Wills, and Kevins I have run into along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, July 26


Utah was so beautiful! We're talking scenery of which I had seen nothing like before. Canyons and canyons, mountains and mountains, reds, yellows, purples, oranges, and a whole slew of shades of each. Frankly, gorgeous.

If you were following on Twitter, one of the most memorable days there in Utah was when I had to travel from a town called Blanding to Hanksville. It was 132 miles between the two and 74 miles west of Blanding, at the Hite Recreation Center at the North tip of Lake Powell, was the first and only gas station or service of any kind that I would find before arriving in Hanksville. What a day that was! But again, completely worth it as the scenery was breathtaking (so was the heat). I cannot wait to post pictures, its one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it things. But perhaps the pictures wont even capture the beauty,

The next morning I rode to Boulder, UT, but not without first climbing Boulder Mountain. I'd have to say this was one of the hardest climbs as I thought I reached the summit what seemed like 14 times. I would climb, climb, and climb, and then see the road begin to level off, indicating the summit, and sometimes it would even begin to drop down, but it always seemed to go up again, and again, and again. And finally, when I did reach the summit, I had cows to worry about.

Utah was notorious for "Open Range" signs and cattle guards - which basically means the road goes through ranches and cattle pastures. There are no fences along the road. In fact, the road is just as much of the pasture as the pasture is the pasture. The only thing keeping the cows from getting into the small 50 person villages I traveled through were cattle guards, which are big metal bars across the street. The cows don't walk on them because the bars are spaced out too far for the cows to walk on without falling through (empty space below) and cars traveling have wide enough tires they don't affect them either. Now bikes on the other hand, that's a different story (lots of slowing down, sometimes even at the most inconvenient times, and careful crossings).
So back to the top of Boulder Mountain. I finally got to the summit but instead of just bombing the downhill, I had to dodge the occasional cow chilling in the middle of the road. And then, when I went over the last cattle guard (again, in an inconvenient place as no one likes to slow down when going downhill), I had deer to worry about. Apparently Boulder Mountain is quite the deer and elk habitat, as I saw the most deer I have ever seen in my life. Now if you're a driver, you know how deer on the side of the road have the option to turn towards the grass/woods/etc that they are already closest to, or that sometimes they can choose to cross the road completely and come in front of your car. This same scenario happened to me while on the bike.

I was cruising, getting comfortable with most of the deer hearing me in the distance and getting out of the way, when all of a sudden a buck decided to cross the road in front of me. I can still hear the hoofs scratching on the pavement, trying to grip, and I can still see the look on the deers face and the texture of its fur as it crossed but 5 feet before me, as I pressed the breaks fearing the worst. Had I hit it, I would have probably flung from the bike for who knows how long. I mean, think about how much damage a deer does to a car. Imagine a bike hitting one between 30 and 40 miles an hour. Could have been bad.

Once down the mountain I had the loveliest stay with a couple on a farm. Recovering from the near deer incident, I pulled into a gas station where I met Josh, a long haired and bearded mid 20 something man, much like myself. After a brief questions and answer session regarding my trailer, he asked me where I was staying for the night. After explaining that I wasn't sure, he invited me down to his farm. I quickly agreed and followed him a mile down the road to a beautiful red farmhouse with a green tin roof.

I met Jill, his love, Jill's sister Carly, and another friend (opps). Before dinner, Josh gave me a tour of the farm where I found they had 1/2 acre of veggies, 1 1/2 acres of oats, and another acre or so of root veggies (potatoes, squash, beets, you name it). Josh and Jill had moved onto the farm a year ago, working to help Boulder gain food independence along with other local farmers there, and were quite anxious and excited about their first year's yield. After the tour, Josh cooked up a chicken on an open flame outside and threw in some veggies that had been prepared by Jill and Carly, for a fabulous stir fry dinner of sorts in which everything except the chicken had come from the farm. We ate by candle light, sharing with one another about our life, dreams, and even theology (they hadn't been familiar with Liberation Theology and I learned a bit about Mormanism). After dinner, I retired to a hammock in the backyard.

Before falling asleep I noticed Josh and Jill had stepped outside and were approaching my sleeping quarters. I watched, not saying a word, as they passed me walking to the edge of the field where they grabbed hands and then began to run into the field. Their headlamps were lit and from my perspective it wasn't long before I could no longer see their bodies but only the shake of the light from their forehead as they got further and further across the field. The light grew dim and I assume they made it to the woods which housed a creek they drew their water from for the farm. So picturesque. Though I'm sure the two probably have their share of difficulties, whether the difficulties that come with laboring on a farm all day or the difficulties that arise in any relationship, it was nonetheless a beautiful sight to see, that at the end of the day, the two could run with such passion into the dark to be together. The only word that came to mind was pure.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of several roosters. The sun lit the valley where the farm lay, bringing those colors I mentioned at the start to life on the canyon walls. Thankful for a wonderful stay I made my breakfast and headed out, challenged to spend the day thinking about what food independence looks like and the ways in which movements like that are important to places like Boulder.

Leaving Colorado

My final full day in Colorado was quite an event. I spent the morning going up over Lizzard Head Pass, from Telluride (where I left off on this journey), and after a long downhill (we're talking miles here!) I made it into Dolores, CO. Before arriving, I was told Dolores had an excellent brewery that I had to check out, if anything for their Calzones, and seeing that I had a long day ahead of me the next day, I didn't mind calling it an early day in Dolores.

Once at the brewery, I got to talking with people about the ride ahead, how wonderful Utah was going to be, and of course, how hot highway 50 was going to be once in Nevada. After a Calzone and a live concert on their patio (some cover band that primarily played old 90s music), I was feeling it was time to find a place to lay my head, Talking with the bartender inside and a few other fellow bar sitters, I found that the local community center was the place for me - everyone kept commenting about how wonderful the grass was and how close the center was to the brewery.

I rode over, found the grass in the back, and set up camp for the night. That is, I blew up my sleeping pad, rolled out my sleeping bag, and crawled into bed - the evening was nice so no tent was needed. It wasn't long, I'm sure, before I was fast asleep, dreaming about the next day's ride of course.

Now, I didn't know it then, but afterwards what I found to be around 2am, I awoke to what seemed to be a glass of water being flung into my face. Not sure what had just happened, I pulled my sleeping bag tighter around my face. Again a glass of water. Completely confused I came out of my tunnel of sleeping bag and began to come to my senses when yet again, more water in the face. It was a pattern, slightly rythmic. And it was then that I realized why their grass was so lush - apparently at 2am the Dolores Community Center's automatic sprinklers come on.

I quickly gathered my things and relocated to a part of the yard that did not seem to be getting the rinse I had just received. I sat there a while, not sure what I was going to do before I decided that that part of the yard, though more visible to passing cars, would still be safe and I could continue my dreaming. Listening to the sprinklers, I began to fall asleep again. Within just a few minutes however, I re-awoke to find that the second half of the yard's sprinkler system came on around 2:30am, while the 2am set turned off.

Moving yet again, I re-located this time down by the river that ran behind the center, off of the luxury that was the green grass and onto what I'm sure housed spiders and insects of all sorts (loose decaying leaves from who knows how long). Oh well, you can't win them all.