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 Skirted Wordsmith said...

YES! What a cool end to your journey! I'm glad you had such a great time!

Gruntled said...

I take it Sidra was pretty that you instantly wanted to provide resources. :-)

Corcoran Crimmins said...

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! At last our adventurous son was home to us. What a joy it was to be together with you again.