Here we go with some numbers.
Time gone from LA: 75 days
Miles on bike: 2150
Miles ridden while bike touring (fully loaded with gear): 1661 (500 in Alaska in 10 days, and 1161 Vancouver to San Francisco in 19 days)
Times paid to camp/sleep: 11
Total spent on camp/sleep: $45
Oddest place camped: A pumpkin patch in Garberville, Ca
Coldest nights: Denali National Park, (single digits) and Nora/Themba's house without heat in Olympia (low 30's)
Longest consecutive time in sleeping bag: 14 hours (On the Sunday night after two days of straight rain)
Time spent on internet while away: Unfathomable
Longest time alone straight: 13 days
Longest period w/o being inside a motor vehicle: 21 days
Estimated weight of bike plus trailer plus gear and food: 100 pounds
Packages of little debbie donuts and peanut chews consumed: Unconceivable
Top 3 camp stove meals: 1. Ramen noodles with tofu, broccoli and peanut sauce 2. Rehydrated beans and rice w/ tortillas 3. Pasta with olive oil and nutritional yeast
Flat tires: 1 (seriously, only one fucking flat tire in 2100 miles!)
Broken/worn out parts: 1 chain, 1 seat bag, 1 spoke, 1 gear (broke two teeth riding at a skate park in Alaska)
Major mechanical problems: Twice my rear axle came loose and separated from the frame.
Total money spent on transporting bicycle on 4 flights: 0
Money spent on mailing things to/from myself: $55
Total sets of non-riding clothing: 1 (1 shirt, 1 pants, 1 fleece)
Number of new warrantied frames waiting for me when I returned: 1 (!)
So that's it for this trip. Send me an email, leave a comment. Peace for now, see you in real life.
26 November 2003
Here we go with some numbers.
25 November 2003
It seems now, after this trip, that 'bike touring' has become more about the traveling then the traveling by bike. Seeing this part of the world was my priority, I just happen to do it by bicycle to add to the experience. And what an experience it has been; probably one of the most spectacularly scenic trips I have ever taken.
Getting to the coast from Portland was uneventful, but immediately the beauty of the Oregon coast was obvious. Coming from the east coast and living in so cal my idea of 'ocean views' involves boardwalks, sunbathers and surfers. Not in Oregon. Huge rocks line the coast where angry waves crash against what can hardly be described of as a beach. The road I was following rolled right along this coast most of the time, occasionally drawing inland, but soon retracting back to the coastal views and the undulating hills.
Traveling in the fall has definite advantages; the first and most obvious being decreased traffic. Campsites were at maybe 10% occupancy. An occasional RV passed me (but almost always too closely). 'Vista points' were deserted. The drawback was the short days (dark by 430-5pm) and the cold, sometimes rainy weather. I knew what to expect and was preparing myself for the rain. It's not the riding in the rain, it is the camping that is difficult. Previously, when it rained I was paranoid about any water in my tent or if any of my stuff was wet. Those days have been long gone since I have spent DAYS in the rain. Like when you set up your tent and there is already a puddle inside from packing it wet that morning. It is absolutely impossible to keep things dry. My (expensive) rain gear worked fantastic, but when you have to put it a garbage bag in your tent when you wake up and put it on the inside is wet; there is no way to avoid it. Sometimes you cannot find a covered place to cook dinner, so there you are, in a downpour, firing up your stove and measuring out rice. I left Portland on a Monday morning and it didn't rain hard until that Friday night, but it rained through the weekend and into the following Monday. News of a coming storm persisted through all of last week, but thankfully never came. It was not until the end of that week that all my stuff finally dried!
Another change about this trip was my use of state campgrounds. The Oregon and Cali coast are covered in state parks that offer hiker/biker tent sites for $2-4! This includes picnic table, water, restrooms, shower and (most importantly) a flat, level place to put your tent. If you are familiar with my previous trips I never paid to camp. 3300 miles cross country without spending a dime! Also it was worth the ambiance of the sites. I camped in forests 1/4 mile from the beach and in redwood groves. And of course I was the only person in that area. It added to the beauty of an already fantastic trip.
And this is the part I have the most trouble describing in here. How can I convey the beauty of riding through a forest of the largest trees in the world? Or riding on a narrow road 200 feet above the edge of the continent? In a car you see it as you pass by, on a bike it absorbs you for hours. In a car you could dose off and miss the environment it took me an entire day to ride through. So, I will leave the descriptions at that and maybe in person I can get into it more.
Meeting other travelers rules. Like the kid from Germany who confronted me at the golden gate bridge, my final destination, and said, 'Great time from Portland'. I looked at him perplexedly and he told me he saw me south of Portland and then two more times in the next 13 days while he hitchhiked down the coast. And the walking guy (who has a website, but I don't have the link). He left Florida in March and was heading to Canada. He had a trailer, the same one I had attached to my bike, but attached to his pack. He has done all the long distance trails in the USA. He was not as insane as he may seem, but was still a bit crazy. We shared our mutual disdain for RV's and the people who drive them and exchanged some stories. He told me a guy from Alaska was a couple days ahead of me! When you are bike touring it is really exciting to meet up with someone headed in the same direction.
As luck would have it, about a week later I ran into him at a small coffee shop in an extremely small town. He's 47, has lived in Alaska (the southeast) for over 40 years and had not spent anytime in the continental US. An avid cycle tourist, he took 4 months off of work, took a boat to Northern Washington and is heading down the coast and then across the southern US. We shared stories over coffee and then did 5 or so miles together before he pulled off and called it a day. He told of grizzly bears in Alaska and of the 38 miles of paved roads in his home town with one stoplight. I told him my parents were from NYC and that I hadn't slept in a tent till I was 19. So here we are, from completely different walks of life and we came together based on our mutual love of traveling by bike. As you can imagine he was extremely nervous about riding through SF and LA. He told me that he thought there were so many people in Northern Cali! The same place I went to to get away from people. I told him about how bike friendly SF is and how I can meet him in LA. We swapped info and I went on my way.
Now I am sitting in Los Angeles, it's sunny and warm, I am on a laptop eating vegan cupcakes and listening to muskabeatz. I have only been back 24 hours and already riding 60 miles a day in rural California and sleeping in a tent seems so far off. It is easy to feel like nothing has changed but I have so much to take with me from this 2.5 month trip. I will update with more quantitative info soon (like 1 flat tire in 2100 miles ridden!).
09 November 2003
Yeah it rules. Both of my indulgences in life can be fully satisfied here. There is even a vegan grocery store. I am spending the day exploring some more and preparing to leave for California tomorrow. About 750 miles to San Fransisco, I am going to try to do it in 13 days in order to meet my housemates (on tour) and possibly head back to LA with them in their van. We'll see. I am stoked on this leg of the trip, it will be absolutely beautiful. I head 80 or so miles to the coast and then it is a straight shot on the 101 south. I am especially excited to ride through the redwood forest park in northern Cali.
Cell phone (no where to charge battery) use and email access may be limited. I will most definitely be checking voice mail messages, so feel free to call. I'm looking forward to being back in LA! It's funny, often on this trip the people I have stayed with have provided me with better accommodations then I have at home (own room, laptop, DSL, car). Insane. That says a lot about my life and how I have organized it.
08 November 2003
Look at me, firing out journal updates the day after I arrive! DSL rules. Olympia = cold, Portland = not as cold. But, like the guy in the bike shop told me, 'What did you expect touring this late in the year?'. True indeed. I wasn’t expecting snow on the ground south of Olympia, thats for sure. My first day out was pretty perfect. Early start, sunny, no wind, flat, low traffic, some small roads that winded through farm communities. I put in 69 miles before doing my 'arrive in a small town' routine. It goes something like this: 1. Arrive in town, ask where the grocery store is. 2. Buy tofu, broccoli, ramen noodles (dinner), and bananas (breakfast). 3. Ask the cashier where there is a park with picnic tables. 4. Go to the park, cook dinner, set-up camp, ignore the bewilderment of passer-byers. 5. Go to sleep at some ridiculously early hour. The Thursday night town was Castle Rock and I settled in next to a monument dedicated to Harry Truman. Now if anyone ever asks what Harry Truman has done for me I can say that his monument in Castle Rock, Washington gave me a place to put my tent and sheltered me from passing cars.
My day into Portland was not quite as smooth. It started raining early in the morning; the clouds never lifted, but the rain stopped pretty soon there after. I had to decide where I was going to cross into Oregon, either on the freeway just north of Portland or on a small highway 50 miles to the north. I chose the small highway and I don't think I made the correct decision. Construction, no sidewalk, no shoulder. Shitty, to say the least. After that drama I had a straight shot on one highway the 50 miles into Portland. I've said it before: This is the type of riding people who have never bike toured imagine. 4 lane highway, very few towns, very little to look at. Just me pushing along slowly counting down the mile markers. So in two days I had both extremes of what you experience while touring. Funny. Oh, but to get into Portland I had to cross another bridge. Same circumstance. I just got behind a bus and hammered across. There was enough traffic that the car behind me really had no reason to pass.
Finally get to my friend's house and chill. We went out to see a skate video premiere and almost every road had a bike lane. This is the Portland I heard so much about. We stopped in a pizza shop and Ryan knew the kid = free vegan pizza. Loving it. By then, of course, it is raining, but we managed to ignore it and happily pedal home. It's Saturday morning, it's not raining, and I am stoked to get out and see all the bike and food related things I can do in this city that is well known for its abundance of.
After here it is a 12-day straight shot ride to San Francisco. After this weekend this hang out trip is going to quickly turn into a bike trip.
05 November 2003
I left the land of volvo wagons with 'no war' stickers on them and headed to the magical land of crimethinc and indy rock (also known as Olympia). I left Seattle super duper early cause I know the sun is down by 5pm these days and after that it is mighty cold. In PA I switched my 0 degree sleeping bag for my 32 degree '3-season' bag and my big hiking boots for some skate shoes to save some weight/space. I am estimating that my bike and trailer weigh at least 100 pounds (compared to the summer trip with road bike and panniers and a total of about 75 pounds) so every pound makes a difference in my mind. Will I be freezing at night? Probably. I had sunny, but cold weather and my route was outside of most traffic. I did have to do a stunt of 8 miles on the interstate which is never fun, but never as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
This is the end of my second day in Olympia. Its just like I had hoped; full of local co-ops, bookstores, coffee shops, etc. I bought a new chain at a worker-owned bike shop, hopefully in time to save my cassette from being worn out. Lots of chillin with some friends who I had the pleasure of putting up in LA a couple of months ago. This trip is so different from trips of the past where I camped almost every night and saw very little of anyone I knew. This trip is mainly just to hang out, but I am riding my bike in between cities. Even when I get to Portland I will not of ridden more than 3 days in a row!
That does make it more difficult to get into the rhythm of riding though. I am looking forward to that. Also I am looking forward to the time alone. This trip has been difficult for me in some ways. I feel as though, for the first time in my life, I am not content with just being somewhere new. I need more. What is that more? I am not sure. What am I going to do when I get back to LA? I am not sure. I am almost tired of that question. I hate these times when I have to pick a direction. Wait, thats not right, I do not hate them, I am very privileged to have the opportunity to decide the direction of my life. Politics, career, bikes, travel all pull in different directions. How am I suppose to commit to any one when they are all so important? Who knows. Enough diary shit for now, just know I have a lot to think about in the next 3-4 weeks before I arrive back in LA. I leave tomorrow for the two-day ride to Portland, where I will then spend the weekend. I hear it's some sort of bike mecca. We'll see. Email me about grammatical errors, I am being lazy about spell/grammar checking.
02 November 2003
Some oddities as well. Seth's roommate Tyson had a friend come visit from Vermont (where they are both from). Bill from Vermont ended up really being Bill from PA who I know from back in the day. So we all hung out. Had some dumpstered delights, read every bmx magazine issue published in the last year, did critical mass, went to the anarchist bookstore (left bank books at 95 pike), and I ate the largest chocolate chip cookie I have ever seen (I had two). Not much rain, but fuck it was cold. Like 38 during the day! What’s up with that? Mad chillin was in effect, friends were so so hospitable, I can’t wait to get back when its warm and I have my bmx. But then, since they have regular summer guests, I probably won’t have my own room with a bed.
01 November 2003
Yes, I will admit that sometimes I am ridiculous about saving a couple of dollars. You don't have to tell me. But, what many people don't understand is that the challenge of saving those couple of dollars in fun in itself.
So there I am in Seattle, in the rain, carrying two sketchy cardboard boxes I built and taped together, walking to my bus transfer. I could barely get the boxes onto the bus and once I did I took up more than my fair share of space. Some might say I was abusing public transportation. At the airport I was dropped off pretty far from my terminal and my boxes had already begun to fall apart from dragging them ( only occasionally!). I decided to get a push cart, but they were two dollars! Insane. I tried to talk a worker into just letting me have one when he was putting them back, but he wasn’t havin it. I searched for one as best I could without wondering too far from my boxes. Finally someone let me talk them into giving theirs to me when they were done. So many people wouldn’t let me have theirs! Why is that? I got to my terminal, gave the usual lie about what was in my boxes, then proceeded to the security gates. I had put on extra layers and filled my pockets with stuff in order to lighten up my boxes and the workers at the metal detectors insisted, to the dismay of everyone behind me, that I take off layers down to my t-shirt. Finally on the plane off to PA.
Pennsylvania ruled as usual, good friends, good eats; if I only had better weather and more time.....
If I type too much about non-bike trip stuff I will feel like I am some regular online diary kid and get made fun of more than I already do. At least I am not on friendster.
17 October 2003
Leaving Vancouver was hard. It was Canadian thanksgiving. Punk and pro-Indigenous kids can still make a festive atmosphere on a day that celebrates less than praise worthy events. It took me an hour to say good-bye to all 12 or so kids that were in the kitchen cooking. I made some good friends in the 10 days I was there; friends I hope to return the hospitality to if they can ever get over hating LA so much.
From Vancouver to the us border is a string of smaller towns/cities that make navigating especially time consuming. One town, whose name escapes me, was predominantly Sikh and Muslim populated. Indian/Middle East grocers lined the road and the smell of curry was fresh in the air. When I eventually return to Vancouver I will be sure to spend some time here. Some steep hills, in combination with not leaving till 2pm or so, put me at the border just before dark. I was not tired at all, probably due to my new sleep schedule, and road for a couple of hours in the dark! The small amounts of traffic made me feel comfortable doing this and I was able to hammer out the 65 or so miles I needed to do in order to get to Seattle in 3 days.
The route included a lot of time in beautiful forests early on, and then also some coastal roads/paths and some back roads through farm communities. I am following a lonely planet book that gives directions/maps for the coastal ride from Vancouver to San Diego and they have picked the scenic over the direct route. Before I got to Seattle I had taken two quick ferry rides and had ridden across numerous islands in the pungent sound. When I got to Seattle I called a bmx friend of friend, Seth Holten, who hooked me up. Ride from the ferry (it had poured on me all 60 miles I had pedaled), own room in his house, ride to his work in the morning to build boxes to get my bike on the plane. love it. BMX has produced some amazing kids. Approx 200 miles ridden from Vancouver, pulling about 70 pounds of gear in my trailer. nice.
12 October 2003
Today is my 10th day in Vancouver and I feel like I have done so much, yet at the same time feel that I have done so little. This is from an email I sent to someone earlier in the week--> 'I have fallen into such a routine. wake up around 11-12, eat some food, head to the library, check email, hang out at sweet cheribum (cafe, veg restaurant, Indian grocer all in one), and drink coffee and eat vegan sweets then mill around Commerical Ave (the Haight of Vancouver) till I run into someone I know. Then go to the Sikh temple for free dinner, hang out at the house afterwards doing various random things, read, discuss, etc, then go dumpster diving. In bed around 3am or so.'
It's definitely fun, but I am always thinking I should be doing something better. I guess thats the story of my life. Over the weekend we snuck into a movie and took a midnight bike ride through this huge park. Pulled an all-nighter at Kinko's helping with a zine. Oh, and on Friday there was a 'squeegee kid' protest. In Canada it is common for the poor and street kids to squeegee cars at intersections for change. In a time of increased unemployment and decreased social programs in Canada it is a way of survival. Anyway, police have been harassing the squeegee kids sometimes resorting to physical intimidation. Friday was a protest to draw attention to the situation. A bunch of us from the house cooked enough food for 75+ people and distributed to everyone in the area. It was so much fun. None of the participants in the protest would speak with the media due to the decision from the IWW squeegee council (yes, it exists) so I talked to them as a supporter. It was fun! I did 3 camera interviews and talked about the situation. I wonder if they knew I was not Canadian!?
Despite not mountain biking much, the main reason I came here, I have had a wonderful experience. Everyone at the house is so busy. There are always groups of people going off to do various things. Someone is always cooking (free) food. The dishes always get done. People are always playing music or reading. This is a house of 15 or so people, almost all of them under 21 and with very little money. It has motivated me considerably. Sure, there have been a couple shows at the house where destroyer punks came and were all drunk and obnoxious, but no one at the house is like that. I have spent individual time with almost everyone there and have learned from each of them. My stories pale in comparison to kids who have spent the last couple years of their lives traveling by train hopping, eating by dumpstering and living by squatting.
Tomorrow I am leaving for the 200-mile trip to Seattle. The route I am taking links together islands in the bay instead of just riding along the coast. I am looking forward to being on my bike again, but hopefully the weather improves. I have a lot to think about from this trip so far; the contrast between the doctor I stayed with in Alaska and the punks I am staying with in Vancouver pulls me in two opposite directions. But are they that different? At both places food was shared freely and bikes were a theme. In both places people are doing what they think is best to help the most people. I am lucky to sit in between the extreme of the two ways and have my life influenced by both.
Now I am going to go get some sweets. yum.
06 October 2003
Flew into Vancouver Friday. Since I had the BOB trailer I had no choice but to put my bike in a full size bike box-way oversized-and prepare to pay the $50. I get to the ticket counter and the people in front have bikes and shell out their cash. The women says to me when it’s my turn, 'That’s a bike, right?' Just to give it a go I say 'No, camping equipment'. She should of charged for an oversized box but she didn't. Love it! Batting a 1000 for not paying for my bike on airlines. So I land in Vancouver and get grilled by immigration and customs-apparently coming to BC just to mountain bike did not seem like a valid reason. I get through and set-up outside building my bike and packing my trailer. I set off to ride the 13 kilometers to east Vancouver and the unknown house I have directions for.
I make my way to 'The house formerly known as the ALF-house' and it is the way all punk houses should be- crowded with friendly kids. My connection was weak; I had a number of a friend of a friend of a friend, but it didn't matter. I was offered food and a place to put my stuff. Love it. The house is pretty big, but I counted last night and 16 people were sleeping there. I swear not a scrap of food goes wasted from any produce store or health food store in this city. It all ends up in the kitchen. Meals for a dozen people are cooked regularly of solely free food. Canadian Chocolate soymilk is killer as are Nanaimo bars-these vegan treats found at a little gem called sweet cherubum. I ran into a friend from Portland on the street and it turns out his friends know my new friends. Today I have already run into 2 people (free coffee!) whom I have just met yesterday. It's unbelievable.
My first full day I had to check out the 'North Shore' mountain biking. It is internationally known for its style of trails. I made my way to a few bike shops for some maps and new tires then started climbing up the local mountain to hit some trails. I picked an 'intro to north shore' trail. It was getting dark and I had a big pack on, but regardless I think I would of walked down most of the trail. I way overestimated my riding ability! The stuff here is sick-tons of ladders(old trees of various length that are placed horizontly as part of the trail-they have boards of various widths nailed to them to make sort of a bridge). These vary from two ft wide and 6 inches off the ground to half a foot wide and 3 feet off the ground. The trail was filled with berms, drops and obstacles all the way down. Maybe it was extra intimidating because no one was around, but it was so hard for me to do. This week I am going to hit up some 'regular' trails and then get back to the north shore stuff. Hopefully find some locals to ride with. Most of them have full suspension bikes with 7 inches of travel and full body armor. I would love to spend a summer and learn a completely new style of riding.
Plans from here? I have to be in Seattle next Wednesday the 15th to fly to PA on the 16th. I will probably spend most of that time in Vancouver, hopefully with a weekend trip to the mountain bike park in Whistler, 175 kilometers north. My cell phone is roaming, so I am not using it. Plus I would lose tons of punk points for using it here. I told everyone that most punks in LA have cell phones and they laughed at me! Ha. I should be able to check messages, so call if you need. Lastly, I have to say that I love my friends-new and old-so much when I travel. I receive so many love filled emails and have so many wonderful interactions with people who barely know me, but offer what they can to help me in my trip. If I could only offer back half as much it would take me years! This is one of my favorite things about traveling, something everyone should experience. Peace!
02 October 2003
My last week in Alaska has been productive, but not in Alaska sense. A lot of time just chillin in the apartment I am staying in and A LOT of time in the library. Its been good though, time to take care of things I didn’t do before I left and things I need to do for the next leg of my trip. Still, I have gone mountain biking almost every day this week, despite poor weather. Mountain biking is amazing in the city of Anchorage due to all of the parks and cross-country ski trails. There is even a small ski mountain within the city.
Tonight we are going to an 'extreme Thursday' at a local bar after we go riding. Tomorrow I fly to Vancouver, where I have finally secured a place to stay and I have a couple of leads on places to ride but no firm contacts. I think I'll work something out. I'm not sure if my cell phone will work, but I will be able to check messages on it either way. Email as well. Really looking fwd to riding the north shore stuff down there. Peace!
29 September 2003
Well, well, 2 seasons later and 1 year older (on paper!) and I am back in the Anchorage public library typing away the details of my previous week. I left on Wednesday the 17th and was away for 10 days with my mountain bike, bob trailer and plenty of warm clothing. I spent two days riding in some light snow showers and a day (my birthday!) riding in pouring rain, and two days pedaling at 6 miles an hour into strong head winds. When I left it was officially still summer, but I have to say that I experienced summer, fall and winter within a week.
I came here with the idea that I wanted to see the state and test out doing some cold weather riding/camping. I got what I was looking for. I was only at 2000-2300 ft, but I was also within 300 or so miles of the Arctic Circle. As I rode north each night got colder. First there was ice in my water bottle, then ice in my nalgene in my tent. At my furthest point north I had my nalgene freeze SOLID inside my tent. My sleeping bag kept me warm despite the layer of ice that formed on the top where the moisture in my breath had frozen. I paid to camp twice; despite every night sleeping at an established campground. Most were state run and completely empty. One nights I woke up in time to look out of my tent and see the northern lights. Another night I had a view of Mt. Denali (the LARGEST mountain in the world, it stands at only 20,000 ft, but is 18,000 ft above the range level. Everest, for example, is 29,000 ft high, but only 11,000 ft higher than the range it is in.) from my tent door. I didn’t do any long hikes, but had ample opportunity to hike around the trails at the campsites, if I wasn't too cold. My morning off in the national park I was eating cereal with water and powdered soymilk and the liquid was freezing as I ate it-I realized it when I was chewing on ice crystals. I decided to hang out in my tent for awhile until it warmed up a little. Vegan food was difficult to find outside of Anchorage, but I was able to make due because of all the food I had brought with me (mostly dehydrated refried beans, hummous, and curry lentil soup; chocolate; almonds; ramen noodles; and tvp).
I met some interesting locals, chatted with some rangers, and hung out with some other travelers. In the national park one night a French guy in his early 30's invited me for tea in his family's RV. Him, his wife and two kids (2.5 and 4 yrs old) had rented an RV in Montréal months ago and have just ended up in Alaska. Amazing. This is after them spending a couple months in southern Africa. They shared many travel stories from Africa and together we knocked Americans for their ignorance of US foreign policy. That night I thought a lot about where I might be when I am 33; will I be traveling in an RV with a wife and kids? Will I have been to Africa and lived all over the world as they have?
The next day I left to complete my round trip to Anchorage; I layered my miles so that I could stay at different campsites then on my way North. Why the same route? I had intended on taking the Denali Hwy East for its 135 gravel miles with no towns, and then looping back to Anchorage on different hwys. But after crossing a pass on my way North (in snow) I talked to a state trooper who made me decide otherwise. "All the hunters are getting out of there because of the weather. If it snows hard no one goes back there. Bring a lot of food and do not expect to see any other people. Prepare to be snowed in for a week, plus however long it will take to ride." A bit more than I was looking for this trip.
I have other stories, but I have to keep this at a readable length. Back in Anchorage we went hiking up to Exit Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula the day after I got back. Amazing. Today (Monday the 29th) it is raining and unfortunately it is suppose to rain all week. This gives me time to prepare for my trip to the Vancouver area. Apparently it is really a hot spot for Mnt biking. Anyone know anyone there? I still haven’t worked out a place to stay or an itinerary. I'll keep this posted. Thanks to everyone who sent me a b-day message.
One last thing: Everyone should check out this webpage for amazing pictures of an amazing bicycle journey from Alaska to the tip of South America: The Road South
16 September 2003
Okay. So I bought a BOB trailer (tax free- thank you Alaskan oil) and I love it. Am thinking about selling it before I leave or just taking it with me and using it. It is something I will definitely use in the future. We'll see.
I should be leaving tomorrow and heading north from Anchorage towards Denali National Park, stopping along the way at smaller state parks. From there I hope to take the 135 mile unpaved Denali Hwy East, and then circle down and back towards Anchorage. Weather will be cold with possible snow accumulation, tourists will be minimal, and scenery should be splendid. I will try to update from the road, but you never know if that is a possibility.
I've got plenty of vegan chocolate and dehydrated beans so don’t worry about my eating. ha. My time is up at the library, so this is it for this entry. I miss everyone!
15 September 2003
Leaving LA was drama, of course. Despite a guaranteed delivery day the BOB trailer I was borrowing did not arrive before I left. I (actually a 'we') were up until 3am packing my bike into 2 boxes in order to skirt the $80 bike charge. It ended up working, but sometimes, when you have had that little sleep, $80 seems like a small price to pay for a couple hours extra sleep.
Anyway, I finally arrive to Anchorage and am lucky to have my friend from Loma Linda picked me up at the airport. We had to kill time to wait for my luggage to arrive on the next flight and drove out past the water planes and saw a giant male moose! After an expensive meal I settled in for my first night of this long journey in the comfort of Marc's living room.
Without a BOB trailer my options are limited: I can buy one and continue as planned or I can take the expensive buses and just backpack around. But 5 days later I am still in Anchorage! Amazingly Marc and his friends have kept me super busy' I have been mountain biking and/or hiking every single day since I have been here.
The scenery has been superb. Within 45 minutes of the city is everything from beautiful mountains and glaciers to forests and lakes. All very accessible through parks and trails. One day we rode single track up through a ski resort and then hiked to a 4150 ft summit before blasting back down on our bikes. Saturday we did some of Johnson Pass Trail, a slightly technical trail with only moderate elevation gain that passes through spectacular scenery. Some parts were wooded with huge trees keeping out direct light and others parts were full of ferns and other plants that reminded me of central America. The trail was complete with wooded bridges and waterfalls. Yesterday we went to the hippy-ish town of Girdwood and rode some trails in search of a 'mountain bike park'. We never found it but had some fun times exploring.
Later in the day we met some kids on crazy downhill bikes (they look motorcycles with 7 inches of suspension on the front and back) who gave us the heads up on some trails. Turns out one kid is from Pennsylvania and used to ride BMX. We knew a bunch of the same kids. Finally we spent some time at the public sk8 park and I had a blast flying through it on my mountain bike, though being clipped in was kind of scary.
So what’s on my agenda now? Today is the first time I have been able to think about it. I heard that the only road into Denali is closed due to snow. That is surprising because the weather in Anchorage is at a comfortable 45-60 degrees everyday. If I want to get a BOB trailer I will have to buy one; which would not be a bad investment and there is no sales tax in Alaska. My options are limited because with only two weeks or so left I don’t have much time to cover a lot of miles (especially if I am riding through snow!). I might go backpacking for a week and then spend another week in Anchorage exploring on day trips or get a trailer and head south through the Kenia peninsula where the weather is warmer. Today I am going to get some better info on Denali.
Some quick bits: Food is expensive when eating out, but very reasonable at grocery stores. I got tofutti ice cream sandwiches 2 boxes for $5! Also organic broccoli and chocolate bars (the important things) are cheap.
Anchorage is a great city with all of the resources anyone needs for a trip at good prices. The REI here has the same prices as the online store.
Anchorage also has a system of parks with bike trails running through the city.
I have been making use of my zero degree sleeping bag by sleeping with the window open in the living room. bbbrrrrrr.
My cell phone works here and is not roaming!
I will try to update with what my plans are before I leave.
Thank you everyone for all the kind emails!
08 September 2003
Much time and energy went into this upcoming trip. It started as going to Ecuador for 3 months to work. Slowly the career/intellectual oriented trip motivation faded and the explore/adventure part of me took over. The original plan was to fly to Alaska and bike to Los Angeles-4000 miles solo-but time/weather were not permitting.
The rough, and I do mean rough, itinerary for this trip is 3.5 weeks in Alaska with my mountain bike and a BOB trailer with all my hiking gear. I will ride to national parks throughout the state and do some overnight hiking loops back to my bike. I will probably be sleeping outside 90% of the time I am in the state. Will it be cold? The weather is starting to cool this time of year; I am sure to have some below freezing nights. I have wisely upgraded some gear for this trip including a zero degree sleeping bag and an actual sleeping pad (as opposed to the 2ft x 2ft foam pad I have used for two previous trips).
What have not changed are my preparation methods. I leave in less than 48 hours and am still waiting to get the BOB trailer in the mail. I haven’t packed yet. My seatpost is bent and the local shop doesn't have the right size. Those who know me well would not expect anything better! ha. As usual though many of my friends have come through to help me out in many ways; I am extremely lucky to have the friends I have and am looking forward to reciprocating soon.
I don't know what else to say. I am so excited to explore new terrain with a different bike and a whole different mentality. This trip is less about the destination; I have no real schedule except to get back on the plane on October 3rd. Until then it is just my bike, some hiking gear, and me.