Thursday 16 July 2009

Day Seventy-Five - Grand Finale.

Sorry for the delay in writing this, by the time I arrived last night I wasn't really feeling up to writing. Also, if you've messaged me and I havn't responsed, I promise it's on my to-do list, I've not had Internet access for very long here.

I woke up early today, obviously full of excitement. I'd heard the weather was going to be hot, but I'd heard that the whole way accross the western part of the trip so it didn't phase me too much. I went accross for my continental breakfast, and got on the road by 8:30.

The first part of the day was spent along cycle paths leaving Davis, including roundabouts dedicated solely to bicycles. This lead me out of town, and onto back country roads. I encountered an eastbound cyclist who was actually cycling round the world, dwarfing the trip I've done. He'd been on the road for 12 months, which is a LONG time. I continued onwards, through back country roads and grape fields, eventually arriving at somewhere that I cannot remember the name of for a break. Because the weater was baking hot by this point, I was feeling a bit lethargic and not great. Even on the last day, I'm learning new things about how to ride better, this lesson being "don't eat complimentary continental breakfasts because they don't fill you up enough." I bought a half gallon of apple juice (safeway apparently doesn't sell refrigerated soft drinks), and drank it down probably way too fast, and felt grim with stomach ache for the next bit. I wasn't sure if it was hunger (I didn't feel like eating) or what, but I didn't feel good. It was weird too, because I needed to stop not too further up for another drink in the shade, being both completely bloated with liquid and feeling dehydrated..

Anyway, after this drink I took a detour from my route, probably saving me a good few miles. The route took me two sides of a triangle, when there was an abandoned road that 'everyone knows about', which is just about good enough to cycle down. I did have to take my panniers off to get under the gate, but I encountered a cop down there who only asked if I got through okay. I decende into Valejo, and managed to follow my nose to the ferry port. I must stress at this point that it was around 4:30pm. I knew I had a full day ahead of me, but with all this talk of 'nearly there', I forgot how 60 miles is still a long way. I boarded the ferry, and despite it going seemingly ridiculously fast for a boat, it took an hour to get to San Francisco.

On arrival, I didn't need my map, and just turned right and found my way round the bay and up to the bridge. This took ages too, I never apreciated how far out of town it was. I reached the far side by at 7pm, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My story doesn't end there though, as I had to get to a place called Danville on the outskirts of town. To do this I had to head back into town and catch a BART train out. This was a challenge in itself, as I was relying on google maps to take me there. I eventually arrived there, to discover that it was like a tube station with no lifts, meaning I had to get my bike down stairs. I don't know if you've felt/lifted a packed bike, but it's heavy. They also have a tendency to want to roll down the stairs, meaning you're holding the brakes with every ounce of strength you have in your fingers. After negotiating the stairs, the next obstacle was the ticket barrier. The barrier system here is a lot like two spanish fans opening and closing, with the edges meeting in the middle. I must not have been thinking straight, as I pushed my bike through slowly, meaning the gate shut with me and half my bike still on the outside. I went up to a desk with a guy who didn't want to hear it, so I figured that if I jump over I would either get away with it, or he would hear me out. I had a perfectly valid ticket just so you know, I was well within my rights. Upon reaching the other side, I had an escalator to go down, which was harder than the stairs and I ended up clutching onto the bike for dear life, not letting go for fear of mauling the people further down.

I eventually made it to the platform, and got my train with relative ease. I had a slight scare that I was going the wrong way on it, but made it to my stop fine. By this point it was gone 10 and I was exhausted, so I took a cab to the house that I'm staying at. Taxi Drivers are very good queuers, and despite the fact that there were people carriers further back, I had to get in a 'normal' car. It all just about fitted, though my chainring (I think that's what it's called..?) made a bit of a mess of the back seat. Hey, if you make me go in this car, you can't complain when...

So that's the end of my story, or just about. I've now got a week off doing a cross between touristy things, sorting my bike out and just generally resting. I slept like a baby last night so I think this rest is a bit overdue. I will probably do a couple of summary posts in a few days, but I won't keep a day to day one (as it's become a bit of a chore of late). Other than that, I thankyou very much for your loyal readership, and that if you havn't done so already, could you please sponsor me through my website. It's an amazing charity who do great work, I'm sure you'll agree. The address is:

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Day Seventy-Four - Penultimacy.

After yesterday, I was very much hoping for an easy, stress free day. No such luck.

After going out to eat breakfast around 9, I was ready to go about half an hour later. I rolled out of the car park, over to the other side of the road, and got a flat. I couldn't believe it. It wasn't just a puncture either, the whole valve had sheered completely leaving a gaping hole. I had no choice to change it. Some time later, and I was on my way.

No more than 200m further up the line, I felt the rumbling of metal on concrete, to find it had punctured AGAIN. It was a 'normal' puncture this time, fixable with a repair kit. Because of all this, I was running low on spare tubes, so I had to pedal back uphill to the placerville bike shop. It was around 11 before I left Placerville.

The first part of the ride was down quiet backroads through lots of winery's and grape fields. I arrived at Folsom 20 miles later, where I was to pick up a bike trail. Not before another puncture though, with the valve sheering off again. I'm not really sure how it happened, I was stationary when I heard it fall on the floor next to me. Yesterday was only the second time that I'd put a presta valve tube on, and thought O might have been doing something fundamentally wrong. The tube has a little nut that comes screwed on, which I put between the inner tube and the rim rather than on the outside. Shout if you have no idea what I'm talking about. With the benefit of hindsight, this seemed to have done the trick. I didn't know this at the time though, and spent the rest of the day being overcautious to the extent of paranoia that I'd get another one.

After picking up the bike trail, I rode for about 30 miles, mostly along a river. It took me 'through' Sacremento, but it seemed as though I was in wilderness most of the time. The path was well used though, so I couldn't be too far from anywhere. Not a whole lot to report, except that I chatted to a guy wearing the Team GB Jersey/Short combo (I'm assuming he bought it rather than earnt it, but I could be wrong), on a very serious looking bike. By serious, I mean that the handlebars were so low that they bent over the front wheel, meaning the rider needs to duck down to hold this / aero bars, or ride with no hands the whole time like he did.

At around 55 miles, I stopped for a break after leaving the trail. I wasn't feeling great, the trail wasn't how I imagined at all, and there wasn't much oppertunity to buy anything. Before stopping, I went down a road that I later decided was the wrong way, and so after resting set off in the other direction. I later found this to be the complete wrong direction, and I was right the first time. I'm sorry, but it's near impossible to navigate somewhere like Sacremento with some roads and all road names left off. I resorted to turning on Google Maps and got that to take me.

I found my way a good while later, and went through Old Sacrememto to Davis. Old Sac. isn't as nice as you might assume, it was just a street full of motel after motel. I was glad I wasn't staying there, as it'd have been a nightmare to compare prices. I took another cycle path parallel to a freeway to Davis, this one being nowhere near as well maintained as the other. I was glad to just make it through without getting a flat or catching anything.

And so I arrived in Davis. It is a very green place I've found, meaning there is no room / need for big tall signs in the air. I didn't realise how much I relied upon these, but after finding that there was less a 'main street' and more a 'downtown', I had no idea where I was going. It was probably by chance that I found the Best Western there, and decided that I'd pay the price for a bit of luxury. To be honest, it's not a huge amount better than yesterday, but at 6:40pm I was in no mood to continue looking.

Tonight I ate at a little Chinese restaurant, which was just okay. I was the only person in there for a while, something I didn't realise from outside, meaning it was hugely lacking in atmosphere. That, and my food came in about 4 minutes flat, which I hate. At least pretend like you didn't have it ready... The reason I didn't go to somewhere in the heart of downtown was because there was a bike race on, a circular track round about 3 blocks up and one block wide, meaning the bordering restaurants were rammed. They had lots of races on, I saw some singlespeeds bombing round on the walk to, and racing bikes on the way back. Seeing how fast they can go so effortlessly makes me want one a lot.

There isn't really much point in saying where I'm heading to tomorrow, I've been counting down to it for weeks. It's not a short ride though, probably into the 60 mile mark by the time I arrive. I therefore expect to be there mid afternoon, but from today I'm sure you can see how that can all change. Fingers and toes crossed it all goes smoothly, literally.

Monday 13 July 2009

Day Seventy-Three - Final Decent.

Despite the fact that I had no TV to distract me, a phonecall to home and slow service in the only place open for breakfast (it was full of cyclists from the day before. It was probably closer to 10 by the time I eventually left. I didn't mind too much though, as my map told me that I was defending from 8000ft to almost sea level.

I started out with an uphill, which I knew about, which lasted about 15 miles or so before I came down. I had some support from passing cars with racing bikes on roof racks in the form of waves, honks and the ocasional 'woop!'. Soon enough, I was on the far side of this, and began the downwards run. The downhill wasn't as I expected. Instead of being one long road that was continually downwards to the bottom, it was downwards for a bit, then had a steep uphill for about a quarter/half mile. This wasn't so bad to begin with, but it got a bit of a drag after a while. After 30 miles, I decided it was time for a rest.

After about an hour, I headed back out and onto the back roads down to Placerville. I knew they were the back roads because there was a big sign telling me how snow ploughs didn't go down there, and it could be icy. I decided to take my chances, and headed off. This was quite uncomfortable down here, as the road was very bumpy.

Not a lot else happened until I reached somewhere called 'Fair Play'. This was where the mostly downhill turned to mostly uphill in the foothills. They weren't particularly long, but were nearly vertical in incline. I've also discovered how it being so much lower has made a significant difference to how hot it is.

About 3 miles outside of Placerville, disaster struck, and I got a flat. I couldn't believe my luck. I wasn't sure how close Placerville was from my current location, so I was forced to stop and fix it. After this, I had a small roll down thehbill into town and got a room for $48, less than half price to what I had yesterday, and the TV works. shocking.

Tomorrow is my penultimate ride, and so it would seem fitting that I go to somewhere called Davis, the so called bicycle capital of the world. I'm not quite sure how this is the case, but I know they have roundabouts just for bikes. I also go through Sacremento, the hometown of a whole load of massive computer organisations amongst other things that I'm not too sure of.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Day Seventy-Two - Final Ascent.

My alarm went off the same time as usual, but somehow I managed to fritter away three hours before finally getting on the road. I was pleased to see that my puncture repair hadn't gone down overnight, though I was paranoid that it was going down. When me and all my stuff are on it, the tire can look a bit flat at a glance, even though it isn't.

The first part of my ride went fairly quickly. I made it to a town called Genoa in the length of one album, and then the Nevada/California border in the length of the next one. It was all either flat or very slightly upill, which made it easy going. The wind hadn't picked up yet either. Once I'd crossed the border, no sooner than about 300m had passed before I was in my lowest gear on the side of a mountain. That was to be the way the rest of the day would be, though I didn't know this yet.

I stopped at Woodfords for a break, where I had planned to stop at before plans changed. It had an extortionate sandwich bar attached to it, leaving me little choice but to have a liquid/Hersheys based lunch. The owner of the shop was a bit of a busybody too. She asked me literally a couple of minutes after I bought my first round of drinks if I'd paid for them, and also told this mother and son (a son aged about 5 I might add) that he could have no part in the scratching process of a scratchcard. Please, it wasn't as if he was going to try and claim it if it won..

Anyway, I set back off again and discovered that there was a bike event going on up the same route I was going. I felt very conspicuous amongst all these riders in their sponsored jerseys and carbon fibre bikes, with me and my fully loaded bike. I felt a lot like those people that run the marathon dressed as something ridiculous. I'm pleased to say I held my own though, even overtaking a couple of people. Of course, the majority overtook me, but I didn't mind that after the first 100. It was 15 miles to the top of Carson Pass, and it took me about 2 hours 45 to do. It may well have taken me longer, but the other cyclists around and people supporting at the side provided a welcome distraction. By the time I'd reached the top, it was around 4pm, and I had planned to to a further 25 miles. The weather was closing in very fast though, and I was grateful to make it to Kirkwood before the heavens opened. I decided that it would be better to stay here since tomorrow would have been short anyway, and because of the rain. I chatted to a guy called Forest for a bit, and to cut a long story short, is enquiring about me staying at his Parents house in Sacremento, apparently it backs on to the bike route I'm going on. It would make for a long day tomorrow, but i've got loads of down so it might not be too bad. I'm waiting to hear back though.

I went to the only hotel here, which I knew would be expensive. Even after my 20% discount it came to $108. For that I get an apartment/condo type thing. They told me up front that the Cable didn't work, and that I could have a go at fixing it if I wanted. I think this place has been bought by someone, and they lease it put through the hotel. I opted for the DVD option, but still gave fixing it a go. I spent hours trying to fix it, so much so that I didn't leave myself enough time to watch one of the DVD's I got. I eventually went out for a meal, and now I'm back.

A I said, not sure where I'm going tomorrow, but it's definitely downhill. :)

Saturday 11 July 2009

Day Seventy-One - Carson City.

After another early start, I was just about set to hit the road around 8:30, before finding out that the complimentary breakfast was cereal. I like cereal, but I'd have to have eaten so much of it that I didn't have the time or the patience. I therefore went to Sonic, before heading out by around 9.

The ride was fairly boring today, with the ground being mainy flat with a few small uphills. It was still through the desert, but there were much more service stops along the way. I stopped for a drink at somewhere called Stagecoach. I was quite lucky with the wind too, but it kicked up with 15 miles to go to be fairly strong, meaning I could only go about 10 or 11mph. For 95% of today, I had a lane/hard shoulder to myself, which was great because I didn't have to watch out for traffic. I did however have to watch out for tiny stones to avoid a puncture. I did so well at this until about 3 miles out, where I picked up a puncture at the back. I managed to pump it up to limp the next mile, but I was having to stop to re-pump that I decided to just push, as I was only about 2 miles away from where I wanted to be.

I eventually arrived at my hotel in Carson City, checked in, and fixed the puncture. I ordered a pizza to the room because I couldn't be bothered to go out (the pizza guy tried to take my $20 for a $16 order.. the cheek), and I'm now watching the first Harry Potter, to which I listened to a lot of the audiobook today.

Tomorrow I'm heading to something creek reservoir resort park, I can't remember what. It'll be the last significant uphill of the trip, with the following day being a return to almost sea level.

Friday 10 July 2009

Day Seventy - Hold Up.

I woke up this morning at 5:30 to the sound of shooting, but only coming from someone watching a spaghetti western next door. I didn't get up until 6:20, and went over to the bar to eat. I didn't fully have my appetite back from last nights shennanigans, so it was a bit of a case of eating because I ought to. I eventually got on the road at 9 or so.

The first 15-20 miles or so were the last of this part of the mountains, leaving only the Sierra-Nevadas to go in a couple of days time. I decended into the desert plains. This is a lot more how you or I might expect the desert to be, rather than the dry, sandy mountains that I've been going through this far. The road was painfully straight and boring along here too. The scenery is amazing, but it's kind of like staring at the same postcard for hours on end.

So really, not a lot happened for the next 30 miles to Fallon. I stopped for lunch, which was quite a novelty as it was the first time I'd reached civilisation during the day. I ate lunch, and took my maps inside to change them over. It was here I noticed a typo on the map. I'll try my best to explain it. My map has panels of about 22-40 miles roughly, and when you get to one 'matchline', you go up to the next matchline above it. Silver Springs is exactly on the matchline, which means it is shown on both map panels. After the name 'Silver Springs', there are a list of symbols of facilities that there are there, and when there is a star, it basically means it's a good place to stop, and has somewhere to stay, a grocery, a restaurant, and a couple of other things. The Silver Springs that was written on the lower map panel had a star, but the Silver Springs above had everything but somewhere to stay. I looked on the back, and sure enough, there was nowhere to stay. I think the most likely explanation was that there used to be somewhere there, but not anymore, and the crude people at the Adventure Cycling Association havnt updated the map properly.

As a result, I've been forced to stay in Fallon tonight. I'll try and head to Woodfords still tomorrow, but that's 90 miles from here, so I'll have to see how it goes. If I don't make it that far, it means i'll have a longer day the day after, hopefully still ending up in Placerville on schedule. It doesn't matter too much now for timing because I'm so close.

Thursday 9 July 2009

Day Sixty-Nine - Relief.

I set my alarm for 6:20 this morning, which felt like a long lie in compared to my 5:45 starts of recent. I packed everything up, and was out by 7:30, set off at 8:30. I did speak to a couple of eastbound cyclists though, one of whom was 18, and other who was significantly older. We chatted for a bit, before setting out on our seperate ways.

The first few miles were an easy downhill, before reaching the first summit of the day. Compared to yesterday, this summit was easy, and K was up and over it in not too much time. There was a second one about 6 miles on, but again that didn't take too long. I was 26 miles in by this point, and had a mainly downhill stretch to the finish. I was also surprised that the wind wasn't blowing strongly at all, and the sun wasn't too feirce. To be honest this stretch was quite boring, because the road was straight, and the scenery only changed once every 20 miles or so. The only company I had (other than traffic) were some fighter jets way up high playing about. I only realised they were there from a sonic boom from one, making me jump out my skin. I guess it must have been too high to see.

I was hoping to stop for a break at a place called cold springs. I arrived there 5 miles after the wind had picked up, looking everywhere for the cafe in the 'cafe and RV park'. I stopped to ponder, and noticed a flat area of tiled flooring, and a tree that was scorched on one side. It had obviously burnt down. Reluctantly I went off to my finishing point. It was only 15 miles away, but I was in the mood for a sit down break.

I arrived at 2:30 or so, and went into one of two buildings that are in this place. Middlegate used to be a stop over place for people on the pony express, but became redundant after the invention of the telegraph. As a result, it's fairly tired looking, and most things that are here are old. By that, I mean there is a rusted Ford Model-T parked outside from goodness knows when, next to a horse cart that's been there even longer. I went into the bar and got my usual massive drink, and discovered that they somehow have wireless there. I guess the telephone box in the middle of the car park outside is also redundant now. I caught up on business, before deciding that I wanted to get a room rather than slum it in a car park. It only cost $30, which frankly is a bargain. Everything here is 'adequate' rather than 'nice', but it's a darn sight better than my sleeping bag. I don't get any TV channels, so the bar has a load of DVD's you can watch, which was cool.

After settling in and watching 'Not Another Teen Movie', I went back to eat. I noticed this on the menu earlier, but couldn't manage it rgwb, but felt very up for it now. It was called a monster burger, and was basically a big mac on steroids. By that, I mean it was well over 6" tall and had 1lb of beef in it. The deal was that you get that and a portion of French fries, and if you eat it all you get a t-shirt. It needed to be done, so I got it. I don't know if you've ever seem a pound of meat in front of you on a plate, but it's a lot. The knife they give you to eat it with is more of an offensive weapon than a utencil. I am pleased to report that I was successful, and have my T-shirt. It has a typo on it and is a tiny bit moth eaten, but I wasn't going to wear it anyway so it just adds to the sentimentality.

I'm off to Silver Springs tomorrow, which is on my last map! I spoke to an eastbounder who is staying here too, who told me about how awful a stretch is coming up, the day I'm doing 84 miles to Placerville. Apparently the hills are hugely rolling. As much as I want to believe him, I do go from 8000ft to sea level, and he did the opposite, so I think the odds are in my favour.