Southern Tier Bike Route – New Mexico

Rest Day – Lordsburg NM, March 31, 2021

After sleeping in and housing an entirely too large breakfast, we sat in a food coma before fixing up our bikes. I checked all my bags and tightened any loose screws. They should be good for a few more miles.

All this plus a head sized cinnamon roll was gone in 10 minutes, causing us to be full for 12 painful hours.

We ran some errands and were lazy for the rest of the day. It was just what we needed to rejuvenate our minds and bodies for the next several hundred miles.

Lordsburg – Silver City, NM (44 miles, 15 ridden);April 1, 2021

My alarm clock played a cruel April fools day joke on me by not going off, setting off the day on an anxious foot. Though because of the time change, it felt like we were right on time. After coffee, we left the motel at 8:30am. Gotta say, for a Motel 6, that was a great stay. The room was spacious and safe and a great spot for a lazy day of rest.

As soon as we walked out of the room, we felt it. The wind. It was blowing hard and strong, even making walking difficult. We knew going into today that wind was going to be a factor, we just had no idea how detrimental it was going to be.

Our first clue should have been the tumbleweed blowing right into me a mile into the ride. It came out of nowhere, terrorizing me. Luckily I was able to escape its grasp with a swift kick.

Once we made the turn out of Lordsburg, the crosswinds kicked up, but they were manageable. Not entirely pleasant, but we were making good time despite their nuisance. However, after another few miles they became fierce, blowing us left and right. With snot blowing all over our faces and eyes tearing up, it was starting to not only get very annoying, but it was getting to be a little dangerous. Sheena voiced concern about the potential for being blown into a passing car; however, with the infrequent traffic, I wasn’t too worried so we pressed on.

Then, wouldn’t you know, a sudden gust blew me left. I could not control ‘Ol Bessie and was blown from the shoulder into the lane right in the path of a speeding sedan who had quick enough reflexes to avoid hitting me. Alright. Sheena had a point. We decided at that point it might just be faster to push the bikes than ride in the whipping wind. Plus maybe some poor sap will see our suffering and offer a ride.

If only you could hear and see the wind in this picture. We had to shout to each other to communicate

Well, our strategy worked! After a mile of pushing, a pickup stopped and a man came out saying he saw us on his way to a quick job in Lordsburg and saw us again coming out and felt sorry for us. Because riding with 45MPH gusts proved to be dangerous, we accepted his offer of a ride into Silver City. Jubil (we called him Jubilee because he made us so happy) is a contractor who has lived in New Mexico all his life. He was on his way to his kid’s basketball game and had some extra time to take us to our camping spot for the night, Silver City RV Park. We were so thankful he stopped. Though we were mentally okay at that point, I could imagine another 30 miles of being blown around would have broken us.

All our junk piled up after meeting Jubil

With a whole bunch of time to kill, we figured we’d make the most of it. Sheena dropped off her bike at a bike shop for a new chain (and then some) and we got lunch and planned for the next 2 weeks. The bike shop we went to, Gila Hike and Bike is awesome. While Sheena was talking with the owner Martin about what was going on with her bike, I was able to talk to his fiancée, Alex. In 2015 she rode the southern tier with a group of women, one of whom was in her 70s. She met Martin at his shop and that’s where their romance started. They’re due to get married next year.

Silver City is a really cool little spot, one that I definitely want to explore more in the future. It’s a resupply town for CDT hikers (there are 2 in our camp tonight) with really interesting history that Alex discussed with me. Also in our camp is a guy who saw us struggling in the morning. Laughing, the guy said he would’ve stopped but his truck bed was full of junk. He was happy to hear someone did give us a ride. The bathrooms here are not only amazingly clean and spacious, but they also have a scale. We both have lost weight – now I’m back to my pre-moving back home weight. Without my mom’s tempting food to continuously chow down on and burning thousands of calories a day, I guess weight loss is to be expected.

Wish we could explore this town a little more, but we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. We’re gonna make it to the highest elevation of the trip! And with a better wind forecast, we’re both excited for it to be over.

Day 23: Silver City to Kingston, NM (49 miles), April 2, 2021

Today started out very chilly and dark. We got up before sunrise to break down camp, not wanting to leave the warmth of our sleeping bags. Knowing we had a long climb ahead of us, we wanted to get out early. But not before indulging in some coffee and donuts! We had to make sure our energy stores were in full swing before heading out, and what better way to do that than with caffeine and sugar.

What a delight.

The day started with rollers out of Lordsburg that were easy to navigate. We rode past Santa Rita’s Copper Mine and got to see the great pit of doom. Something about mining pits has always scared me – this one was of no exception. 

The pit of doom

Eventually we got to where we knew we were in for 16 miles of climbing. We had lunch and embarked on the journey upward. It was windy (not to be mistaken for windy – wind played no part in today’s ride!), steep at times, and sunny for the majority of it, but it was manageable with breaks. Sheena even got attacked by a hornet, willing to sacrifice her bike to it. But thankfully it flew off uninterested in her offer. 

Middle of the climb
Trees everywhere!

Then we made it! The highest point of the Southern Tier – Emory Pass (8228’)! And boy was it gorgeous. I wish I could say it’s all downhill from here, but I know for a fact that is completely irrational and false. We have temporarily escaped the desert. It feels like we’re in the alpines – interestingly enough, we’re in Sierra County, aptly named. Trees are everywhere and the smell takes me back to CO/WY/MT/CA. It’s a nice break from desert vastness. And there are even bear warnings! Who would’ve thought?! Just a few days ago we were in saguaro country, now bear country. 

Can we ever take a nice picture together?
That’s better!

Ready for a pretty epic downhill, we noticed a road cyclist coming up the pass and recognized her as Alex from the bike shop! We chatted a bit and all rode down to Kingston together. Sheena and I were debating about continuing on to Hillsboro, 9 additional downhill miles, but the free camping in Kingston was too good to pass up. We’ll have a longer day tomorrow, but it looks like relatively easy miles. 

Being so high up in elevation, we’re in for another cold night hopefully uninterrupted by bears. It’s very quiet here so fingers crossed we get some good sleep!

The site wasn’t nearly this ominous, I just forgot to capture it before the sun set.

Day 24: Kingston to Radium Springs (74.5 miles); April 3, 2021

Well the threat of bears did not make for a good night’s sleep, but it was better than nothing. Luckily we survived without encountering a single one, but I can assure you any sound was met with panic. We rolled out of bed late again cause it was very, very cold. As the sun rose and heated things up, I was met with a freight I can’t even describe. I was putting my bags together when something ran up behind me, grabbing my backside aggressively. Thinking that it was either a bear or worse, a human, I screamed in terror, causing Sheena to scream right after me. Turning around quickly, I was met by a cute little floofy dog out for a walk. It took a while to come down from that adrenaline rush.

We enjoyed 10 miles of downhill to Hillsboro and had coffee before setting out for a long day of riding. But luckily it was pretty much all downhill/flat. We blew into Arrey quickly and had a pre-lunch snack. A big thing in New Mexico is green hatch chile and everyone has been raving about the green hatch Chile burger at Sparky’s in the town of Hatch (who apparently is known not only for hatch chiles, but also pecans. Thanks to Random Facts Bob, also known as Bob the Weatherman). So I was pretty jazzed to check it out for myself. And with only 17 miles left to Hatch, I didn’t want to ruin my appetite.

Made a friend in Hatch – he’s out of this world!
Sheena found one too – sorry Steve!

And boy was it worth it. I’m not sure if it was cause we were so hungry, but the burgers, fries, and mango lemonade was worth the stomach ache that ensued during riding.

Might not look like much but this little burger was amazing. Gonna start putting green hatch Chile on everything.

Because it was so hot out, we stuck around Sparky’s for a while enjoying the live music and people watching. We also discovered that where we were planning on staying – Leasburg Dam State Park – requires reservations to camp (thanks covid) and they were fresh out of sites. We decided to roll the dice and see what happens when we show up.

We had 23 miles to worry about it, but arrived at 5:30 to a very nice camp host, Shane, who said we could stay in the group site since it wasn’t booked. Thank goodness he took pity on two very tired bikers.

The sun setting over the Rio Grande

Being so hot out and not wanting to break down tents in the morning, we decided to “cowboy” camp out in the open under the stars. Unfortunately the train is maybe 50’ away, so that’s sure to startle us awake a few times tonight. There are also plenty of dogs barking and roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing, but we’re used to that by now.

Sheena cooking a delightful rice/pea recipe. Yum!

Tonight is our last day in New Mexico! Tomorrow we arrive in Texas, where we’ll probably stay for at least 3 week. Can’t say we’re looking forward to the length of time we’ll be spending there, but at least it’s another state to cross off the list.

Day 25: Radium Springs, NM to El Paso, TX (56 miles); April 4, 2021

Apparently the whole animal kingdom was rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus this morning cause boy was it loud. There were dogs barking, coyotes howling, toads croaking, bats chirping, and a symphony of ducks, roosters, mourning doves, owls, and chickadees making the most awful screeching of a hymn. Don’t even get me started about that train, ha! But despite that, our last night in New Mexico was nice. Not too cold with a sky full of bright stars.

Trying to catch up on some sleep.

We got rolling and rode 19 miles through more pecan farms to our coffee destination – Mesilla. While enjoying our coffee at the only cafe open on Easter, about 20 road cyclists rolled in – our cue to roll out.

All the piled up road bikes.

We rode another un-noteworthy 18 miles to a shaded lunch spot all before 12pm. The flat roads made for easy and quick riding, but it is boring at times. But it is really fun slowly watching the landscape change. Yesterday we were in the mountains of New Mexico, today we’re in farmland, and tomorrow we’ll be right back in the desert.

A few miles after lunch we were in TEXAS! Should I be excited? I’m not sure. With a lot of miles between us and Louisiana, we are planning on being here just shy of a month. So we’re in it for the long haul. Just going to take it one day at a time. But it is exciting in that it’s another state. Plus I’ve split this trip into quarters – the first is the pacific coast, second is the southern tier to Texas, third is Texas, fourth is the gulf. So technically in my head we’re halfway there! Kinda close considering we’re 1230 miles in, only 2000 left to go!

There is no sign entering Texas, so Sheena made one for us!
We made it!

Texas welcomed Sheena with a flat, but after pumping it and nursing it, we made it to our warm showers home quickly. We are staying with Michael and Rebekah, empty nesters who were kind enough to take us in on Easter of all days. They had company over and together we had an Easter feast of epic proportions. With 4 different kinds of potatoes and 5 different pies, full is an understatement. Being away from family during a holiday is especially difficult, but Mike and Rebekah made us feel welcomed and part of the family. It was a joy to spend the evening with them. And Mike even fixed Sheena’s flat!

Wish I took a picture of the Easter feast, it gave Thanksgiving some competition!

Getting out of El Paso is going to be rough. Mike warned us that any way we take is going to be dangerous with traffic. So we’re going to just be careful and take it slowly. After we get outta El Paso, there’s not much of anything. It’s going to definitely be a mental and physical challenge getting through this state, especially with rising temperatures. But we’re up for the challenge!

Southern Tier Bike Route – Arizona

Day 13: Yuma to Dateland (67 miles) 21 March 2021

Today was my favorite day so far. Everything was perfect for a long day’s ride. From the wind to the temperature to the smooth pavement, everything was just what we needed for a relaxing and fun ride to Dateland.

We woke up early to get out early because we knew we had our longest day yet ahead of us. We were worried that we might get road fatigue from being on I-8 the whole time. And maybe even more worried that the shoulder wouldn’t be completely paved, making for a rocky ride. So we figured why not just get out early in case something goes wrong. We’ve noticed an ugly trend during this trip – any time we expect an “easy” ride, it becomes anything but. So it’s just easier to expect and prepare for the worst that way we’re not disappointed when things go horribly wrong. And if they don’t? Then hey, great!

Our hotel was right off 8, so hopping on was easy. And we couldn’t get lost – we were on the interstate the whole way. Yesterday I wrote off a cheat sheet to know what services were available at each exit (roughly 15 miles apart) so we knew what to expect at each. At Fortuna Hills we got donuts at the first Dunkin Donuts we could find. We’ve been sniffing them out because Stephen’s mom gave us gift cards for DD for coffee and donuts, so we’re hoping we find many more along the way. Thanks Carol!

The tailwinds (15mph) pushed us right through the 42 miles to Tacna, our lunch break, by 11:30am. We chowed down leftover burritos (so stinking good) and spent 2 hours just lounging. We only had 26 miles left and with those tailwinds we knew we’d be there in no time flat – flat being the operative word. There were no hills to worry about!

And that was true. We got to Dateland at 2:30pm, way before we planned for. We had plenty of time to get some souvenirs and indulged in a date shake. Yes, you read that right. A date milkshake. Now I’m sure by now you put together that Dateland is famous for dates. And everything in their gift shop is made out of… dates! Including milkshakes. We actually were told about these by Justin, the air bnb tenant we met at Ben’s Desert View Tower. After his dog almost murdered a chicken and the three of us bonded over our initial impressions of Ben’s little oasis, Justin put us on to a little known local delicacy – the date shake. “You’re going to pass through Dateland. You have to stop there. You HAVE TO get a date shake. Don’t pass it up, it’s amazing”. With a review like that, we just had to try it for ourselves. And unlike the hot springs, this suggestion was not obtuse. Those shakes were amazing. So if you ever find yourself in Dateland, AZ, do yourself a favor and grab one. Don’t pass it up – you won’t be disappointed.

The world renown Date Shake

Riding on 8 today was pretty great. After we got out of Yuma, the traffic died down. The shoulder was wide and newly paved so we were just sailing. Literally. The tailwinds were so strong it felt like the bike wasn’t even loaded. When semis would pass it would add an additional quick gust – acting like a speed boost from Mario Kart. And the temperature stayed below 80 degrees, so pretty comfortable. Though I didn’t take many pictures, the scenery was truly stunning. First sign of big saguaro cacti with gorgeous chocolate mountains in the distance. Does it get more desert than that?!

Saguaro cactus with really odd looking arms!

We are staying at a campground in Dateland. At $10 a night, it’s a steal. The showers leave a lot to be desired, but it was hot with a very aggressive water pressure. Can’t complain too much about that. The next few days will definitely be interesting. We have a pretty solid plan and having continued luck with tailwinds would be super helpful!

Oh! We met the mystery tourer! We saw someone come in late at Holtville Hot Springs a few nights ago, thinking maybe it was Christine. After seeing him zoom by yesterday near Yuma, we knew it obviously was not her. Guess who rolled in right after us tonight? Bill! Well we learned that Bill is riding the southern tier, following the ACA route loosely. From Reno, Bill started his tour in LA and has hopes of finishing in Florida, but didn’t sound too committed. He’s riding a mountain bike, which is probably a good idea considering suspension would’ve been very helpful for some of the roads we were riding on. Maybe our panniers would’ve been spared and still fully intact. He’s heading east to Tucson tomorrow while we’re headed more north. I’m sure we’ll see him in a week or two. But it’s good to have a name to the face.

Not a bad view, Dateland was full of fun surprises

Day 14: Dateland to Gila Bend (50 miles); March 22, 2021

Our campsite was maybe 100’ from the train tracks. A very well used set of train tracks, I might add. So well used, in fact, that every half an hour a mile long freight train would pass by. If the noise didn’t wake us up, the shaking ground sure did. It’s extremely frightening to be awoken at 2pm by what you think is a train plowing through your tent. Despite the minor inconvenience, I slept pretty well.

We woke up late and slept in. The morning desert is freezing. Once the sun peeked out and thawed things out, we set out for what we expected to be an easy day, relying on the hopes of good tailwinds.

Bill set out before us. Maybe we’ll see him down the road. We enjoyed coffee at the travel center before heading out for the ride.

The scenery of today’s ride was similar to yesterday’s. Still gorgeous but with more cacti. I didn’t take many pictures because it would all look the same. The winds were fair, but not as mighty as yesterday’s. It didn’t propel us with nearly the same gusto, but it did make pedaling easier.

We again spent all day on I-8 on well paved roads with extremely encouraging motorists. Every few minutes we had a car or two honk (kindly) at us cheering us on. We had lunch on the side of the road (a good 50’ from the actual road) and enjoyed some good car watching.

Our lunch spot view

We got into Gila Bend around 3:30pm where we were met with many questions at the travel center. One family was kind enough to buy us dinner after hearing about our trip. The generosity of strangers is again very humbling. We even had a woman say she’ll pray for our safety because, as she puts it, “everyone needs a grandmom to pray for them”. And I’ll take her prayers. Because although I don’t have any grandmothers on this earth to pray for me, I know I have two angels in Heaven praying even harder, and that gives me such confidence and strength.

When looking for places to stay in Gila Bend, we didn’t find many options. We decided initially to camp in a park in town. However, after reading reviews, we realized that might not be the safest option. So we took a page out of the ACA TransAm Playbook of 2016 and called every religious denomination in town to see if we could stay on their property. We had a friendly bet of who, if any, would respond to our request. Between Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, my guess was the Mormons. Sure enough, they responded happily within minutes saying they would love to have us stay with them. We were thrilled by their generosity. We met Alma at the community center and she showed us where we’d be staying. She was so kind, sweet, and accommodating. She made sure we felt comfortable and safe before leaving – placing emphasis on making sure the deadbolt was locked at all times. That tipped us off that maybe they were so eager to let us stay with them because they knew we’d be toast if we attempted to camp in the nearby park.

Our home for the night at the Gila Bend Church of Latter-day Saints. We are so thankful for their hospitality.

After catching up on the train wreck of a season finale of The Bachelor, we are off to sleep before a big day tomorrow. Hopefully being inside will shield us from the obnoxious train that is still right in our backyard. Fingers crossed!

Day 15: Gila Bend to Chandler (64.5 miles) March 23, 2021

Well the train did not keep us up at least. But there was a bunch of arguing right outside the church that got pretty heated and Sheena woke up to a few gunshots at 1am. So needless to say, we were happy to get rolling out of that town early in the morning, especially when we were informed by News Lady Lisa that Gila Bend was placed under State of Emergency that morning for everything happening at the border.

Is this not the most adorable picture to wake up to?! Gosh I miss my animals. And even Stella.

We were getting coffee at a SubWay when Bob the Weather Man forewarned us of the odd wind patterns coming our way. Some were in our favor, some were not. But either way, we had to face what was coming head on so off we went.

The first 40 miles of the ride were glorious for me. The scenery was amazing with huge cacti everywhere and mountains in the background. It took Sheena a few miles to wake up from the past few nights of no sleep, but eventually the tailwinds picked up and sailed us right into Maricopa where we had a nice lunch.

Such a beautiful ride
Selfie with the cactus!

After lunch was when the real trouble started. We had 26 miles and we knew we were in for some hardship because of cross/headwinds. We had to go almost directly North to get to Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. And as soon as we got going, we were met with head winds, crazy cross winds, heavy traffic, and rough roads. Within a mile, another pannier broke. Luckily Sheena is a pro at zip tying by now.

She’s also a pro at riding in the wind. She prevailed on as I struggled to make any headway. Between the crosswinds pushing me off the shoulder, the headwinds halting any forward progression, and the gusts from the semis zooming by, I must’ve looked drunk swerving from left to right to all over the place. While it was annoying, it wasn’t defeating. I just kept my head down, listened to a podcast, and would check every once in a while for how far ahead Sheena was.

During one of our wind rests, we were laughing at how comical it all was. This morning we were zooming at 14.5mph enjoying the winds. Now we’re battling them and seemingly losing. That’s when I heard it. My back was to traffic, but I knew something had fallen off a truck and was bouncing straight to us. My worst fear (besides getting hit by an actual car) was becoming a reality. Surely a huge tire was bouncing our way, hurling with enough force to kill us. Oh the poetic justice. I just looked at Sheena, not at the bouncing object flying my way. At least it’ll hit me first, and she’ll be safe. I braced for impact and the mystery object hit my bike, only centimeters from my leg. It was an empty bucket. Thank God. There was no damage and no fatalities. The truck it came from slowed down a little, but ultimately kept going. Hopefully that’s the only run in we’ll have with flying debris. In the end all we could do was laugh about it. Really, it was the cherry on top of a pretty rough day.

The runaway bucket

When we eventually got into Chandler, we went straight to a bar for a drink or two and an appetizer to calm down our frazzled nerves before heading to our warm showers host’s home. Kino is an electrical engineer who has done a few bike tours around the world with very interesting stories. He cooked us dinner and dessert and we all chatted pretty late. He has two dogs that helped me get over (or maybe made worse?) my yearning to hold and rub little Addie’s ears.

We have a very short day tomorrow and are taking advantage of it by sleeping in tomorrow and planning the next few days of riding. Again, services are limited for this stretch and we have to be pretty diligent with resources.

We each have our own bed!

Day 16: Chandler to Apache Junction (23 miles) March 24, 2021

We slept in late. Like super late. And it was great. We both slept so well, which was definitely needed after the last few sleepless nights. We woke up to dogs, coffee, and breakfast. Besides waking up to Addie and The Cat, is there really any better way to wake up?!

The pups, helping us plan for the upcoming week

Kino let us stay pretty late to plan. He made us breakfast and lunch, both of which were delicious. We got a good plan going, only for it to be crushed by the realization that one of the towns we were planning on staying in has high amount of crime, really not a place you want to be camping in. So we called a Lutheran church and have our fingers cross that they’ll let us stay with them or camp on the church grounds.

After saying goodbye to Kino and the pups, we left at 3:15pm (latest departure time ever) for Apache Junction, only 23 miles away. Not sure if it was because we left so late or the city riding, but it felt a lot longer than that. Either way, we got through it and landed at Rick’s house at 6pm.

Our home away from home

Rick is a retired NJ police officer who moved to AZ after living the beginning of retired life on the road in a van. He’s extremely active and either hikes or kayaks everyday. He showed us a ton of pictures of hikes around here and I couldn’t believe how beautiful this area is. May have planted a seed for my future home.

We met Rick on warm showers. He rode across country in 2012 via the Northern Tier and devotes a lot of time to Spokes Fighting Strokes, a charity that builds adaptive bikes for stroke victims. Rick said how rewarding it is seeing people’s reactions to riding a bike after such a devastating event. He has ridden with dozens of stroke victims, and even rode across country with a man who lost both his arms in a farming accident. It really struck a chord with me, pulling at my physical therapist heartstrings. They do exceptional work and if you’re interested in donating, their website is

Rick took us out to dinner (pizza – just what we were craving) because he’s sick of cooking. He apparently has been having a ton of cyclists coming through the past month, keeping him very busy. We’re staying in his guest house and he is even letting us stay an extra day to rest. He offered to take us kayaking or hiking – an offer we’re likely to take him up on! Again, we are astounded by the kindness and hospitality shown to us by warm showers hosts. We will definitely pay it forward.

Inside the guesthouse. Sheena’s bed has not been pulled out yet. If you look closely, you’ll see pictures of Rick’s friends who were the benefactors of Spokes Fighting Strokes charity.

Rest Day; Apache Junction, March 25, 2021

I don’t think we could’ve asked for a better off day if we tried. Having done a lot of planning yesterday, we felt comfortable spending the day hanging out with Rick.

After his PT appointment and breakfast, we set out along with Rick’s friend Holly for kayaking. We rode past Usery Mountain State Park and ended up in Tonto forest to start the paddle. Having very little kayaking experience, I was pretty nervous to give it a go, but Rick reassured me that I look “athletic” and could handle it. Looks are deceiving. But he pushed me out first and right into a rapid I went. Luckily I survived and built confidence quickly.

Rick pushing me out to what I was sure to be my death.

I am definitely a land mammal, but found my sea legs and felt more comfortable by the minute. We floated past wild horses, blue herons, bald eagles, and swallow mud nests. It was relaxing and a great way to get in an upper body workout.

Rick and Holly enjoying the wild horses.
Checking out the swallows mud nest
Sheena is a kayaking pro

After kayaking Rick took us to explore the Tonto Basin Wilderness with some short hiking to check out views and cacti. Rick talked about some interesting history (mainly Mormon history and its ties with AZ) and his previous hikes. It was awesome exploring and spending time with Rick.

Great views.
Superstition Mountains
Sheena has an eye for photography

After a day of exploring, we were hungry. Rick made a great steak dinner and we all got full from food and conversation. Since Rick is leaving before sunrise for a hike with Holly, we said our goodbyes after dinner. Rick is one of those special souls you rarely meet that you just click with. He took me and Sheena under his wing and was such a gracious host. It’s hard to put into words, but he made an impression on both of us. He’s the type of person who finds beauty in every landscape and just wants to share it with others. If we could stay longer and didn’t have a bike tour to worry about, we would!

The next couple of days are going to be interesting. We have a plan, but plans are likely to change. We’re doing a lot of climbing with potential for some cold nights coming our way. We are definitely going to take advantage of sleeping in a nice warm cozy guest house for tonight before braving the next few nights in the cold. The last 2 days of rest have rejuvenated us, hopefully it won’t be too hard to hop back on the bikes!

Day 17: Apache Junction to Sunflower (45 miles) March 26, 2021

We woke up today not wanting to leave. We had such a great time these last few days that we have gotten spoiled. But if we want to make it to Florida at a reasonable time, we gotta keep moving.

We headed out from Rick’s early. Being a couple miles off route, we back tracked a little to get back on. We headed up past Usery Regional park and where we launched the kayaks out from yesterday.

There was a saguaro forest that kept my mind off the climb. I love those cacti. No two are the same and each seems to have their own personality. According to Rick, each saguaro in AZ is protected and you can face a huge fine and punishment for defacing/stealing/messing with one. And if you want one in your yard for landscaping? Well you need permits and a ton of money, cause it can cost upwards of $10k for a healthy saguaro cactus.

We then found ourselves surrounded by gorgeous mountains. It reminded me so much of hiking under the rim at the Grand Canyon. It was a pleasure to ride in such a beautiful landscape.

Riding bliss

The rest of the day was still stunning scenery, but man did we work for it. It was nothing but climbing, reminiscent of the Pine Valley day last week. But today just felt longer and steeper and more taxing. Plus it was threatening rain all day. Not wanting a repeat of the ride into San Diego, I was paranoid and made sure a plan was established for if the rain really started to pour. Preparing for torrential rain in the desert. What’re the odds.

A particularly steep hill. That smile is masking a world of pain!

Where we are staying tonight is by no means ideal. We knew this coming into today. Without much in the way of town/services and with a hefty climb (3900’), we couldn’t make it much further than Sunflower, AZ. A town without any services at all. So where are we staying?! Well. The Arizona Trail (an 800 mile thru trail) crosses in Sunflower so we figured we’d find camping along there, just like the backpackers do. Well, after much searching, we did. It’s an established site, but it’s not ideal. So we waited until nightfall to set up tents. It’s not that we don’t feel safe – we wouldn’t be camping here if we didn’t. We are just very close to the highway and don’t want anyone seeing that we are here. We are also next to a towing company and don’t want them to know we’re here either. People might see two young women camping and get some bad ideas.

‘Ol Bessie basking in the sunset
Not the most ideal spot to spend the night, but you sure can’t complain about that sunset!

After the tough climbing day, we’re hopefully going to be too tired to worry about camping on the side of the road. It’s going to be a brisk 37 degrees tonight, so fingers crossed we’ll be toasty in our tents. And who knows – maybe the raindrops that are rapidly pouring down will lull us to sleep.

The campsite (in the morning – surprise, we survived!)

Day 18: Sunflower to Roosevelt Lake (45 miles); March 27, 2021

For being next to a highway, we slept fairly well. So well, in fact, I didn’t wake up until nearly 7:30am. Which was fine, because the tent was frozen. A pretty solid chunk of ice was lining the inside of the fly, dripping onto me as it melted in the sun, waking me up in the rudest of fashions. I didn’t feel like moving because it was so comfy and warm in my sleeping bag, but my warm and comfy sleeping bag was slowly getting drenched so I had to suck it up make moves. 

We were slow to get started today. Under the presumption that the majority of the day was downhill, we weren’t too worried about a later start. After drying out the tents we set out at 9:30am. 

The first three miles were all uphill and I was not having any of it. I was still tired and annoyed from yesterday afternoon’s endless climb that I was ready to just be done. I think the last few days of good tailwinds and easy riding really spoiled me. I was so ready to be done that I was ready to stick out my thumb and hitch a ride. But after over an hour, we made it to the top and had 4 miles of a 7% grade downhill. However, even Sheena agreed that the downhill was horrible. I clenched in fear the whole time because of a bad shoulder with a ton of debris and she felt the same. After another climb that nearly broke me, we sailed into Jacob’s Corner and got a very late coffee at the general store. 

Sheena preparing for the lousiest downhill yet!

There we met Becky, the sister of the general store’s owner. She was really interested in our trip and got us lunch. It’s experiences like that with strangers that can really change the entire mood of a ride. I went from being downtrodden and annoyed with the day to grateful and excited for the next few miles. We enjoyed our time at Jacob’s Corner so much that we spent over an hour there. I didn’t want to leave – I was enticed by the biker’s bar live music across the way. Music, a beer, and some wings would’ve really hit the spot. But time was ticking and the winds were finally in our favor. 

A mural at Jake’s Corner

So much in our favor, in fact, that we made record time to Lake Roosevelt. We stopped at Chollo Campgroud, one of the first campgrounds. Being a Saturday night without a reservation, we figured the largest campground would be our best bet for finding a spot. Which we did! But that does add a few miles to tomorrow’s ride – one that again involves a pretty significant climb. But at least we have a very pretty site with a good view of the lake. 

Roosevelt Lake
Our campsite

While the rest of the campground is still pretty lively, we’re going to bed early trying to catch up on lost sleep from last night. The moon is gorgeous and full, but pretty darn bright. But I think we’re so tired it won’t halt our sleep at all. 

The brightest night light

Day 19: Lake Roosevelt to San Carlos (61 miles, 26 ridden); March 28, 2021

The full moon did not foster good sleep. Shining right into my tent along with loud campers made for little rest. On the bright side, though, I didn’t need to mess around with my head lamp during a midnight bathroom run. The moon lit the whole way.

But it made rolling out of camp in the morning unpleasant. With little sleep and desperate for coffee, we traveled the 16 miles of rollers to Roosevelt where we quenched our caffeine thirst. But what awaited us was staring right back at us. A hill of mountainous proportions.

Lake Roosevelt basking in the morning sun

After a lengthy stop and staring at all the pickup trucks contemplating asking for a ride, we started the journey up the hill. We knew we were in for a climb, just had no idea how long it would be. After 5 miles (and many hours) and it only getting steeper with headwinds coming right at us; we were reaching our breaking points. Not even getting to the top and 4 miles of downhill made us feel better. We were exhausted both mentally and physically. It was nearly time to throw in the towel.

With the headwinds blowing at 20 mph and 30+ miles to go, we found ourselves at 1pm distraught and done. We had resigned ourselves to ride the remaining miles to Globe and grocery shop, seeing if we could possibly get a ride for the additional 15 miles to San Carlos. But first, we would stick our thumbs out just once at the next car that drives by to see what happens. Surely they wouldn’t stop and we’d be back to pedaling.

But surely wasn’t sure enough. With a lazy thumb, we were shocked when the pickup slowed and eventually stopped. An older non-intimidating gentleman came out. After asking a few questions, we felt safe loading up and getting a ride to Globe, where we bought Rick (we’ve been having great luck with Ricks this trip!) lunch. After some conversation, Rick said he’d be happy to take us all the way to San Carlos. We couldn’t believe it. Rick is a mechanic originally from Michigan who worked on really fast cars (he was featured on a reality TV show in 2014). Now in his older years he owns a mobile repair business. And considering the number of RVs there are here and the countless aftermath of burnt up cars on the highway, he’s never short on business. He dropped us off in San Carlos and gifted us with a crystal he’s had for years. It’s to give power to the owner. After he left I accidentally broke it – typical – and felt horrible about it. But it broke in such a way that Sheena and I can each have a piece. Again, we have been very fortunate with the kindness of strangers. However, we understand that we lucked out with Rick and will not be so quick to hitch a ride in the future.

All our junk in Rick’s truck

We got in early and used the time to do some more planning. While doing so, we spoke to a lot of curious town members. One of whom was Rose, the town’s PD dispatcher and retired wildfire fighter. An Apache Native American, she told us we missed out on a traditional coming of age celebration for her two great nieces. She said they would’ve loved to have our company and demonstrated what she hinted at was a dying tradition. We were bummed we missed out on it. She also informed us that the reservation was closed during COVID because the virus ravished their community, which apparently was dwindling even before the virus. They just recently opened it back up to non native people. Though sorrowful, Rose was a delight and wished us well on our journey.

Our original plan for tonight was to camp in Peridot, a small town in an Apache reservation. However, after reading about high crime and robbery, we realized that this was not an option. So we found the local church and after a few back and forth calls with the pastor, he agreed to let us stay with him and his family. We were so grateful and relieved they said yes. They are a wonderfully sweet family with a beautiful 2.5 year old and a lively 8 month old. They made us dinner and invited us to family movie night. They definitely made sure we feel safe, included, and welcomed.

With Rosie – she got her bike all on her own! Sheena is a natural born mother.

Day 20: San Carlos to Safford AZ (63 miles) 29 March 2021

After some much needed coffee, we were ready to head out for a long day to Safford. We said a grateful goodbye to Pastor Tim, Calista, Rosie, Mariah, and Emily (can’t forget Merlin!) and rode a few miles south to meet back up with the route. Because the reservation does not have leash laws, we were chased by a few dogs, but managed to get away before they could catch up.

Setting out for the day I knew we were in for some bad headwinds. Especially bad for the morning. The gusts were strong and forced us to pedal even downhill. Luckily the truck ride yesterday was enough to mentally put us back on track so we were spared a mental breakdown battling the winds. After nearly 30 miles with barely any breaks we made it to Bylas just before noon. We stayed there for a while and had lunch.

I made a friend with the local stray. He was such a sweet baby boy, but even all his kisses and sweetness couldn’t hold a candle to little Addie. Gosh I miss her!

Still on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, we talked with many tribe members who were curious about our trip. They wished us luck on our journey. Two men, in particular, really stood out. Elders of the tribe, they talked about Apache history and the struggles they face maintaining tradition with the younger generations. Apparently the tribe is dwindling (as hinted by Rose yesterday) and many people are shocked that Apache members even exist today. They spoke of the lands their ancestors had before being placed on the reservation and the way of life. They were not bloodthirsty savages as depicted by history and their tribe isn’t even actually called Apache – it was coined by settlers after hearing it used by the Apache’s enemies in Mexico. Apache is literally translated to “enemy”, placing a very negative connotation to their people. Their tribe is actually called Ndee. It was so interesting speaking with them and seeing their passion for their history and culture. It was very heartbreaking as well, however, seeing the hurt in their eyes as they expressed their distress that their culture is slowly being erased and forgotten. They were upset of the life they lost out on, the devastating effect of addiction in their community, and the lost sense of culture of the younger generation. It’s a conversation I won’t soon forget and I feel honored to have had such a raw experience with two members of a tribe so many forget about. It makes me appreciate what I have and realize that life isn’t about the material things. I was actually having a conversation with someone about how they were upset that not having their pool open for Memorial Day was causing them distress. After having this conversation with the Apache natives, my lack of sympathy for their first world problem was apparent. I hope when little inconveniences in my life pop up, I dwell on this conversation to humble and ground me.

A train at the base of snow covered Mt. Graham

After our extended lunch, the winds died down as did the rollers. We made good time and eventually hit Pima. We ended up getting ice cream at Taylor Freeze, a shop with such great marketing it roped us in. Think of a smaller scale “South of the Border” scheme with billboards strategically placed every so often. We enjoyed our ice cream and then sailed the tailwinds all the way to our warm showers host Hal’s home.

With the heat, this was a much deserved treat!

Hal is an 81 year old retired history/statistics professor and Arizona native. He has traveled and lived all over the world and enjoys backpacking. Not necessarily into biking, he found out about warm showers through a friend and just loves meeting new people and hearing their stories. He made us a huge whopping dinner complete with wine and we are going to bed bellies full. The next few days are short because of oddly spaced out towns, but we’re happy about it. We need some short days to make up for the killer last few. And we’re finally going to be out of Arizona soon!!

Day 21: Safford, AZ to Lordsburg, NM (76.5 miles); March 30, 2021

Today was a mix of emotions I hope to never experience ever again. It was a rough day, but ultimately ended as a great one. I’ll elaborate more later.

Neither of us slept super well. We both woke up frequently throughout the night and had issues falling back asleep. At one point we talked about taking advantage of the tailwinds and riding almost 80 miles to Lordsburg. But given it was 4am, we didn’t commit to anything. We were gonna wing it.

Hal made us a breakfast of mega proportions – I couldn’t even finish it all. After coffee and conversation, it was getting pretty late. Antsy to get on the road to at least attempt a long day, the chances were dwindling. The sun was settling up in the sky and it was starting to get hot. Before we set out, Hal showed us his project in downtown Safford. He and a group are restoring an open-air theater to bring a more social atmosphere to the town. He is so proud of it and it’s coming along beautifully. But alas, it was quickly approaching 10:30am and we had to get on the road.

Because of the massive breakfast and heat, Sheena stayed back as I took advantage of the tailwinds. During a break, we ran into Dave who was transporting pack mules – the same kind who delivered supplies to me on the JMT! He’s a rancher with great stories and even some not so great. In the past year he’s known of two kidnappings – one involving a 6 year old girl right from her home. Both were returned home safely, but it was scary hearing it none the less and he used these stories as a warning to be vigilant the next few days. He offered us water and was soon on his way to deliver the pack mules further West.

The vastness of this stretch was very humbling. The desert went on for miles with very little services and very little traffic. I went miles without seeing one car.

Nothing for miles. Not even a saguaro, who disappeared miles ago

Eventually the winds really picked up and getting into Duncan was a breeze – literally. Our original plan was to camp in a local park in Duncan, a short 40 mile day. We got in kind of late, and I was resigned on the fact that we were just going to stay there – the additional 36 miles to Lordsburg was out of the question. Given my mental state and high anxiety (likely from lack of sleep), I was really indifferent as to whether or not we continued on. Having a rough day herself, I was surprised when Sheena suggested going to Lordsburg so as to take advantage of the headwinds. Already 4:30pm, we’d get in after dark. We held counsel and debated pros and cons of both options. We decided our fate would come down to the flip of a coin. Heads, we stay. Tails, we go. We got heads. The coin gods have spoken, and I was glad to listen. However, Sheena voiced displeasure at the decision and we agreed to best 2 out of 3. Sure enough, it was heads again. Right then and there we decided the coin gods were wrong. We put our fate into our own hands and we made the choice to try and get to Lordsburg. If we make it, great – we’ll make it a rest day tomorrow. If we don’t, there’s plenty of wild camping options along the way. So after replenishing our water, we set out at 5pm.

The first few miles were a little rough. Not much in the way of winds to get us moving. But that all changed after we reached the New Mexico border! Arizona was great, we met awesome people, learned about the Apache culture, and saw some beautiful scenery. But it was also lengthy with some tough days. We were ready to put it behind us. So we were thrilled to pass the border to a new state. With only 30 miles left to our destination, we set out with gusto.

New Mexico!

Literally. The tailwinds picked up and we were cruising. Because I have nothing better to do, I’m constantly timing miles and calculating speed. At 3 min miles exactly, we were moving at 20 MPH for a lot of the stretch. It felt great to be moving that fast with a 90lb bike. Soon the sun went down and we were riding in darkness. The stars appeared and it was magical riding under them. Because the traffic wasn’t busy at all, we felt safe with our front/rear lights

Riding in twilight – Lordsburg in the distance

We rolled into Lordsburg at 9pm (really 8pm because AZ doesn’t observe daylight savings – we lost an hour crossing into NM) and checked into our hotel. For what we paid, we were pleasantly surprised by the space we have! We will definitely sleep long and hard these next two nights.

We both get our own queen bed!

Tomorrow we are looking forward to just relaxing. This is our second rest day in a week, though the first didn’t feel like one. We wouldn’t trade the day spent with Rick for the world, but given that it was full of kayaking and hiking, our bodies didn’t feel completely rested. Tomorrow we will achieve that goal. We plan on doing nothing but eat and plan. We already have breakfast lined up at a restaurant next to the hotel, courtesy of the Hanrahan family. They’re my childhood (well I guess now adulthood too since moving back home temporarily) neighbors who were kind enough to treat us to a meal! Thanks guys!! We already can’t wait to chow down on some good diner food after today’s extravaganza.

Southern Tier – California

Rest day: San Diego; March 16 2021

After a very delicious meal cooked by Sheena (margaritas and tortellini- who would’ve thought they would taste so good together?!), we went to bed and slept in to sleep off the past week. In the morning, while enjoying some local coffee, we planned out a few days in advance for the Southern Tier. After a couple hours, we had a plan A, B, C, and D. Tomorrow was the greatest challenge. Getting out of San Diego we knew was going to be a mega climb, the likes of which we haven’t seen since *maybe* the Transam. So we sent out some Warm Shower requests and waited to see what stuck. Based on the responses we received, we had a pretty good game plan for the following week.

So we celebrated with tacos! We ended up at a taco Tuesday hot spot and had our fill of tacos, chips and salsa, and sangria. Frankie’s family came into town and we got to meet them.

The sangria at this place was mind blowing.

Where we stayed in North Park was perfect. Everything was within walking distance and Frankie was so accommodating to our schedule and needs. He has both his studio and house on Air BNB, so if you ever find yourself in San Diego, look for his place. You’ll be super comfortable.

After our taco feast, we returned to Frankie’s and had a very low key night. Sheena hosted a poker night while I just took it easy. That rest day was beyond needed and we felt both physically and mentally prepared for the challenge ahead.

Day 9: San Diego – Pine Valley (43.8 miles) 17 March 2021

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What a way to celebrate – starting a transcontinental bike tour. Donning our St. Paddy’s day finest, we set out for what we knew would likely be our most physically challenging day of this whole trip.

Not one to miss out on a good celebration, ‘Lil Bessie just had to wear her St. Paddy’s day bow and milk all the attention she could get. And she even got her Santa hat sewed back on!

Frankie joined us for the first 12 miles to our coffee break. He almost convinced us to stay for what is apparently an infamous St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Evidently, San Diegoans take this holiday extremely seriously. Not wanting to get too far behind schedule, we begrudgingly passed on partaking. We said bye to Frankie, wishing him luck on his deployment to the Middle East next week.

Frankie had to actively work hard to be as slow as us.

After we left El Cajon (our coffee destination) we knew we were in for a heck of a day with endless climbs. We took it climb by climb until we got into Alpine in the early afternoon. During that leg, we ran into Christine. From Boise, she is also starting the Southern Tier today with her Surly Shirley. Planning on taking 8 weeks to complete, we no doubt will be running into her a few times this trip.

We had a long lunch break and did some shopping. During the course of our lunch, we spoke to a man who was curious about our trip. We didn’t think much of it – our bikes garnish a ton of attention. As we were heading into the store, he was walking out. He asked us where we were staying. When we said we weren’t entirely sure, but most likely camping, he responded, “Oh no. It’s entirely too cold to do that”. Knowing he wasn’t altogether wrong, we semi-agreed with him. Before we knew what was happening, he reached into his wallet and grabbed some cash, shoving it into Sheena’s hand. Sincerely grateful, Sheena gave it back promptly, thanking him for his generosity. But he gave it right back, he insisted we take it, “treat yourselves and stay safe. I’m a retired Sherrif Deputy in Pine Valley and want you to just enjoy it.” Dave was truly an generous man. That experience was extremely humbling and left us speechless for a decent amount of time.

After our lunch, we were in for another 15 miles of climbing. Only this time we were more anxious because we knew we had to hop on I-8. After accidentally getting on it 2 miles early, we were on the interstate for 6 grueling miles. We hated every minute of it and we were honestly surprised we didn’t get kicked off by a cop. Eventually, we made it off and were only 8 miles from Pine Valley.

After we got off the highway, we stopped to decompress for a few minutes. We discussed our options for the night. Our original plan was to wild camp at a trailhead in Pine Valley. Under normal circumstances, that would 100% be the plan. We love sleeping in our tents and it would save money on a hotel/private campground. However, with the nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 30s that night, we were extremely hesitant to execute that plan. After a brief discussion, we agreed that Dave’s gift was a sign that we should get a hotel room and stay warm. Because he is from Pine Valley and obviously has a lot of PV pride, we wanted to support the local economy. So it was decided. We were going to get a room and spend the remainder of the cash for breakfast at a local cafe.

Might not look like much, but those hills were killer

But in order to execute the plan, we had to get there first. Of course it was a hilly ride with mostly uphill climbs. However (!), we did get an amazing 1.5 mile downhill into town. Crazy how 1.5 miles goes so quickly cruising downhill while 1.5 miles slugging uphill can feel like an eternity.

But we made it! An extremely long day, we were so happy to roll into Pine Valley Inn and Motel. Riven, the guy who checked us in, was extremely accommodating and kind. Again, we have been truly humbled by the generosity and kindness we have received from total strangers this trip.

After almost certainly losing our minds during today’s nearly 5k’ worth of climbing, we had dinner and enjoyed a drink in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Can you tell we’re slowly losing it?

From the research I’ve done on this trip, most people stop in Alpine due to the severe climb. But given that we have a warm showers in Jacumba, we decided to have a long and sucky day today instead of having an even longer and suckier day tomorrow. Any benefit our knees received from a day’s rest has certainly gone to waste from today’s excessive climbing. My knee certainly isn’t happy and for the first time this trip, Sheena’s knee was crying out in pain. But she’s icing it now and I’m still convinced my will just sort itself out. I know exactly what’s wrong with it, but don’t have the patience to deal with it.


Obviously we’re pretty pooped and are very much looking forward to some sleep in our very own beds. Tomorrow has some climbs, but compared to today, it should be a piece of cake!

The patient icing her knee and resting.

Day 10: Pine Valley to Jacumba Hot Springs (36 miles) 18 March 2021

Based on where we ended tonight, riding the long and treacherous day yesterday was worth it. I’ll get back to that later.

We woke up this morning very happy with the decision to get a hotel last night. The morning walk to get coffee in the lobby was freezing and I’m not quite sure if we would’ve made the night had we camped.

The climb out of Pine Valley got us warmed up and woke us up for what was to come. We left later to enjoy the warmth of the hotel room. As we were climbing, another ex-sheriff we ran into yesterday (not Dave) wished us luck on our journey. Though a small town, the locals are extremely proud of their close-knit community.

The day was full of a lot more climbing than either of us were expecting. Sure there were plenty of downhills that lasted for miles (I hit a new record of 44mph), but they felt short lived compared to having to go back up.

The last climb before a 4 mile descent

During the morning half of our ride, we crossed paths with the PCT. Close to the southern terminus, I was pretty happy to see it. Maybe I’ll see it again soon if I ever get around to hiking the PCT.

When your two loves cross paths!

Soon we found ourselves in Live Oak Springs and had lunch with some good people watching. That’s the cool thing about being off the coast. The towns are smaller – much smaller – and we get to see a different way of life. Everyone we met have been super nice and caring, usually inspiring us or cheering us on.

What wasn’t so inspiring or cheerful was our first encounter with dogs. They came out of nowhere and chased us for a solid quarter mile. And I’m convinced they can smell fear and instinct drives them to go after it. They didn’t pay any attention to me, but were attracted to Sheena like a magnet. They would not give up the chase and Sheena was only saved by a motorist honking his horn at the dog. I imagine that encounter was just a taste of what’s to come.

Another tough climb

We have officially reached Mexico. As we approached from the North, we thought we spotted train tracks. As we got closer, we saw that it was actually the wall separating the US from Mexico. It was pretty expansive and went on for miles.

Mexico in the background

We saw plenty of border patrol agents this whole ride, which we expected, being so close to the border. What we didn’t expect was witnessing the detainment of 2 immigrants who entered past the wall. Sheena saw it firsthand and needless to say, it shook her a little.

Sheena found her ride back home to her mother planet

After a few climbs, we zoomed into our home for the night. Our inspiration for riding a crazy day yesterday was a very interesting warm showers host. With great reviews and a name like Desert Valley Tower, we just had to check it out. And thank God we did, not only is it gorgeous, but it’s very quirky. Every time you turn around there’s 5 different things to look at. The owner and host, Ben, owns it and sold tickets for tours pre-COVID. Having to close during COVID, it made Ben realize that at 62 years old, he’s ready for retirement. And that means selling the Tower. It has unique sandstone carvings, peacocks, chickens, and about a dozen dogs. So naturally I’m in paradise. Very charismatic and kind, Ben talked to us about detours to avoid unsafe roads as well as ways around “sketchier” towns we might not want to get caught in.

The views are unparalleled
He just put the RV in “bark”
The tower with one of the many sand carvings
Nothing like a desert sunset

The tower is actually an Air BNB and because it is currently rented, we’re staying in an RV. The renters are really awesome and they invited us to check out the tower, which we were gonna take them up on, but got too tired after dinner. The wind has picked up significantly and we are pretty thankful to be sheltered in the RV. We are definitely ready for bed and what is looking like a much needed and well deserved easy day with miles of downhill coasting tomorrow.

Gotta always climb the highest rock.

Day 11: Jacumba – Holtville Hot Springs (60 miles); 19 March 2021

As pretty as our spot was last night, boy was it windy. Starting around 8pm the winds began howling. So much so that the RV was moving and grooving all night. I laid awake wondering if it was going to sweep the bikes away, right off the cliff never to be seen again. But alas, after being able to catch a few hours of sleep, it was time to get up and get moving. And the bikes remained right where we left them.

I forgot to set an alarm, so we woke up late. No biggie though, cause it was pretty cold out still. So we mosied around until Ben got coffee ready. He took us up the tower and showed us around. We said our goodbyes and were on our way.

We started our day with a 14 mile 2000’ drop in elevation hill that I was pretty pumped about. Only problem is was that it was all on I-8. With high winds (we witnessed the aftermath of a pretty gruesome crash visible from the tower only half an hour before our departure) and steep grade, I was worried something bad could happen. But sure enough we made it down unscathed and it was blissful. Some high gusts here and there, but we were able to maintain good control and really admire the beauty. Which was truly breathtaking. We both wish we set up the Go Pro to capture it. Darn.

Taken on the on ramp of I-8
The tower from I-8 (picture so nice I posted it twice! Or I still can’t figure out how to edit properly)
The final stretch of the I-8 hill

Once we got off of 8, we knew we were in the desert. Not only was it hot, but there was sand and sage brush for as far as the eye could see. We set off through Ocotillo and Plaster City (both with a population of maybe 100) on the worst road in the world. It was barely paved and what was left was all potholes. It went on for miles causing fatigue and mental anguish. It was so rough that it broke my pannier (superglue fix), bounced off my rear light (retrieved) and bounced off ‘Lil Bessie’s hat bell (lost for good). Eventually the road leveled out to a more tolerable surface.

Riding in the desert

Soon we found ourselves in an oasis of 30 miles. We rode past tons of farms and enjoyed a nice flat few miles through El Centro to our home for the night, Holtville.

Ben had suggested we continue just a few miles east of Holtville and stay on BLM land by the “most amazing hot springs in the world”. Given our easy ride and wanting to take advantage of good riding conditions, the hot springs sounded like a great spot to stop. When we got to the site, we decided to eat dinner before going to the springs. When we were cooking, guess who rode by to make sure we got there? Ben! He was in the area and wanted to make sure we were safe before heading home. We were very excited to see him and appreciated the nice gesture.

The springs were pretty busy, but we got a good spot and enjoyed a nice soak after a tough few days. The water was warm and relaxing. A perfect way to decompress before going to sleep.

Our site at sunset
The hot springs

It’s our last night in California! Tomorrow we are headed into Arizona. We’re following a detour the ACA put out earlier this year avoiding narrow roads with heavy traffic. It even cuts out a few miles. We’ll take it! We also decided that because of wanting to spend more time in other places, we are going to cut out the Grand Canyon excursion. It would definitely be cool to ride to it, but we just don’t want to add on another week to do it.

Day 12: Holtville Hot Springs CA to Yuma AZ (45 miles) 20 March 2021

After another windy and sleepless night, it was time to do it all over again. The aftermath of yesterday’s trek over treacherous roads continued to add up. Sheena’s rack cracked and another pannier of mine broke. Luckily, it’s nothing a few zip ties can’t fix.

Desert sunrise

We set out over another bumpy road for a little over a mile then pure paved bliss. With tailwinds and smooth pavement, we were hauling those heavy bad boys at a 13 mph clip. We made it the 20 miles to I-8 in record time, and hopped on.

Enjoying the smooth roads!

As we rode on the interstate, the imperial sand dunes emerged and it was gorgeous. Something I was looking forward to on the southern tier were these dunes. Unfortunately the detour routes us away from riding in them, but we still got to see them from the freeway at least.

Challenging the motorcycles to a race. Vroom vroom!

Unfortunately admiring the dunes was short lived. I-8 turned into a nightmare with raised pavement every 10 feet in the shoulder, acting as jolting speedbumps. I was so frustrated. What use are tailwinds when you have to ride slowly over horrible roads?! Eventually we got off 8, I cooled down and we moved onto Center of the World Road.

Well let me tell you. This road was (shocker) horrible. But at least it was predictable. For a quarter mile it would be tolerable, a few bumps here or there. Then for another quarter mile it was treacherous. Then for another quarter mile it was just downright unbearable. But hey, at least it was predictable. And by my analysis, if the center of the world is molten lava and ungodly hot, then it stands to be compared to Hell. And so, Center of the Earth Road is within the same realm as Hell and I can thereby tell you with certainty that this road is very aptly named.

Not sure what exactly this place was, but our best guess was it had to do with a cult.

Eventually we got back on the 8 (newly paved woo!) only to get off it and enjoy some good riding into Winterhaven. The plan was to grab groceries there before riding up to Laguna (AZ), which had very little service in between. However, while eating lunch we realized that our planning was flawed and following the ACA Route might not be our best option. So we decided that we had some planning to do and wouldn’t be able to do it by riding 20 miles to a campsite.

I had put out a warm showers request earlier in the week to someone in Yuma. I was surprised when he didn’t respond, given the reviews noted a quick response. Sheena tried calling, however, the phone was disconnected. “Hmm, maybe he’s dead” we pondered. A quick google search revealed, unfortunately, that he passed away from a trike accident in June. At 83, Jim led a long life devoted to cycling and helping others. Though we didn’t get the chance to meet him, we know he would’ve been a delight to stay with. RIP Jim!

As we were eating lunch, another cyclist rode by. Sheena instantly recognized him as the mystery cyclist who rode by our tents the night before. Like the dead of night, kind of freaking me out. We were hoping it was Christine, however, it obviously wasn’t. He didn’t see us and went on his way. Who knows, maybe we’ll catch him soon enough.

It’s official, we have one state down! We said goodbye to California and entered into Arizona. May we have tailwinds, kind strangers, and smoother roads ahead.

We made it!

We got a hotel in Yuma and did some planning before devouring some pretty delicious Mexican Food. We have a pretty long day ahead of us tomorrow, so the food coma sure to ensue will hopefully give us some good sleep in preparation.

Our room at the Super 8

Tying up Loose Ends

*Of note: I will not be doing daily updates, instead I will be posting state by state, so mostly weekly updates 🙂 Thanks for stopping and taking the time to read!*

Well, tomorrow’s the big day – the start of another bike tour! We landed in San Luis Obispo yesterday (seriously one of the most beautiful flights I’ve been on, especially the landing) and have been spending our time here getting ready and tying up any loose ends. We’re staying with Oliver, a warm showers host who, along with his 10 other roommates, go to school at California Polytech. He wants to get more into touring and was gracious enough to let us camp in his backyard for two nights. Super awesome and fun house, but it does not make me miss the good old college days.

Colorado was simply amazing. It was great to catch up with Sheena for a few days before embarking on a cross country bike ride. She showed me all around Vail and made a compelling case for moving there. I mean I know Addie would be in absolute love it out there. She took me snow shoeing (as snow was falling!) and gondola rides. We didn’t partake in skiing or snowboarding so as to avoid any injury before the trip.

In the last week, two cyclists I was following who were riding the southern tier dropped out. One after only one day (a horrible day) on the road. Had I not already had thousands of miles of touring experience under my belt, I would find this greatly concerning. It speaks volumes to not the physical strain touring takes on a person, but more so the mental toll. Granted these two brave souls took on this challenge as solo riders. I couldn’t imagine riding thousands of miles alone with nothing to occupy my mind other than my own thoughts. I’m very aware how important it is to have someone you can trust to bounce ideas off of, to talk you through a tough day, to laugh with during a mechanical crisis, or just unwind with after a particularly grueling ride. I’m so grateful I found the perfect riding partner in Sheena.

Ol’ Bessie is greased up and rearing to go. Especially ready to go in that Sheena noticed that the handlebars were put on upside down and solved a 2 year long mystery. I was actually super worried coming into this trip that the handlebars had dropped and any time I rode, I would get bad back pain. Thank God for Sheena and her mechanical eye. I do have a new handlebar bag that hopefully won’t bend under pressure and a new tent. Still a marmot, this guy is ultralight and again, hopefully, will withstand the torture I put my gear through. I also have an additional riding companion! Meet Lil’ Bessie, the Christmas cow. She is to remind me of my grandmother who passed away late 2020. She grew up on a diary farm and Bessie was her favorite cow, hence the original name for Ol’ Bessie. Lil’ Bess is to commemorate her. Along with the rose pin that has accompanied me for the last 3 years, I am reminded that I have the two best guardian angels I could ask for.

‘Lil Bessie is hitchhiking a ride on ‘Ol Bessie

We took the bikes out for their inaugural ride today around SLO. We stopped at REI, the chamber of commerce (for bike stickers), and the grocery store to pick up necessities. We are already very in tune with the sun and have adjusted our bed and wake up times accordingly. We are definitely ready for life on the road and excited to start this journey.

Oliver and Co had to deal with our traditional “getting ready mess”.

Day 30: Ragged Point – San Luis Obispo; 60 miles

To me, today was a bit of a sad day. It’s our last day riding when I think both of us still have a lot of ride left in us. We finally got back into the swing of things and boom, trip is over because of time constraints. But with Big Sur behind us, we figure anything else isn’t going to live up to the hype or beauty of what we’ve already seen. That’s the word on the street, anyways. But not wanting to miss out on seeing SoCal, we’ll be taking the train down to San Diego this weekend!

We woke up without an alarm this morning and went to breakfast at the Inn. It was delicious, but big. So we waited until 10am to digest before getting back on the bikes. Latest start yet!

We left at the same time as the French boys with their contraption. We played cat and mouse with them for a few miles where we would pass them, they would pass us. The game got monotonous and came to a halt when they got a flat.

With a gentle tailwind, we rode past a beach of sunbathing sea lions and elephants. We just had to stop because it was overwhelming how many there were on the beach. Sheena exclaimed, “oh my God Emilie I think some of them are dead!” Likely scaring all the children in the surrounding area, we stuck around for a while to ensure that all of the creatures were alive and accounted for. We all can rest easy.

We rode on through some not so scenic scenery. We are definitely out of Big Sur territory. In fact, when off the coast, it feels and looks like we’ve been dropped right back into Wyoming. That is, until, we rode past a herd of Zebra by Hearst Castle. There were a ton of them just grazing along with the cows. If you squint real hard you can see them in the picture I took. They’re great camouflagers, likely hiding from those vicious California lions I’m sure are stalking about.

Because we were feeling good and knew San Luis Obispo (otherwise known as SLO) was our final stop, we decided to push on towards our goal despite the late time of day. But not before stopping for cookies! We were told the best cookies on the west coast were found in the cute coastal town of Cayucos. We made a stop at Brown Butter Cookie Company and had plenty of free samples before purchasing some delightful crumbly cookies that did not last long.

We got into SLO around 6pm and waited around to see if any of our warm shower requests would be answered. They were not – well besides a woman who lives in the community library….. – so we decided to celebrate the end of our riding journey with a hotel!

Tomorrow we have to run around town and ship back our bags and (very sadly) our bikes. Another tour done!

Day 29: June 7th; Big Sur – Ragged Point 53 miles

Hands down today was both of our favorite days. Big Sur is without doubt the most beautiful place I have ever ridden my bike. Mountains meet beach, what can be better than that?!

We of course encountered hills, but this time I was so excited to see what view was atop the hill or around the corner that I was happy to climb. There were so many “wow” moments that were stunning and mesmerizing. Pictures surely don’t do them justice, but I tried to capture the beauty as best I could!

Like yesterday, we took plenty of stops to take pictures and just enjoy being present in the moment.

Now for the real challenge of the day: Two years ago there was a massive mudslide that took out a bridge and a section of route 1 (the very road we’re taking down the coast). Obviously, these closures will put a bit of a bump in our plans to bike down to San Luis Obispo – only 60 miles away. Fortunately, the bridge is open and we rode across it yesterday! Awesome! Unfortunately, however, the road is still closed just past Gorda, right where we find ourselves now. So what do we do?! Well we’re for sure not biking all the way back to Monterey (as beautiful as that ride is) and we’re not taking a detour up a dangerous pass without a shoulder. So that leaves us two options – pick up a shuttle in the morning with a couple we met today to bypass the slide, or we cross it. Being fools for adventure and cheap ones at that, we are opting to cross.

Now we are not making this decision lightly or without doing a ton of research. With knowledge that the highway was still closed since the beginning of the trip, we’ve been asking all our warm shower hosts and other cyclists ahead of us for any information possible on crossing the slide. First and foremost – is it safe? The answer we got is “yes, but it is illegal”. Okay, great, what are the chances of getting caught? None – once the construction boss leaves at 5:30pm, the road is yours. Literally no one cares if you cross it. We heard rumors that there was a sheriff patrolling the slide issuing fines, but those were proven false. It’s a scare tactic to dissuade cyclists from crossing. And that tactic almost worked on us. After speaking with a couple who crossed 2 nights ago safely as well as the owner of the restaurant right before the slide where we’re eating dinner waiting for the foreman to leave, we feel confident with our decision to cross the 1/2 mile of slide safely. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it! I’m sure it doesn’t come without danger – sliding into the pacific is a true risk and rock slides are an ever present concern in this area. But without rain the last 2 weeks and no wind to speak of today, we feel nothing but confidence going forward. We even talked to some of the construction crew at dinner, who pretended they didn’t know what we’re about to do, but cheered us on anyway.

So the plan – ride to Gorda, eat dinner at the restaurant before the slide, wait for Mr. Foreman to leave ( we have a perfect view of his car, cross by pushing the bikes, ride 15 miles where we’ll reward ourselves with an expensive room at Ragged Point Inn.

And there goes the foreman, so here goes us!

Well, we made it across the mudslide… and that was the easy part! The worst of slide itself was pretty short, down a pretty steep slope but wide enough where we didn’t feel like we were going to slip into the ocean. We crossed it with three young French guys riding some sort of tandem contraption. Honestly I don’t know how they did it, but it was funny to watch regardless. They started April 4th in Seattle and have spent a lot of time in each city since then. That in addition to having to push their bikes up every hill has accounted for the time it has taken to get to this point.

At no time during the crossing did we feel in danger. For the most part the surface was very well packed down and we didn’t hit too many rocky spots. In fact, we rode our bike along most of the slide! Pretty cool to be pushing my bike over a slide I remember hearing about in the news, never thinking it would have any impact whatsoever on my life!

Before we left, we spent some time talking with the restaurant owner about how the mudslide affected her business. Prior to the slide they were busy nonstop and doing great business. Since the slide, business has dropped nightmarishly, the only patrons they get are those who missed the 4028482 signs leading to the road closure and didn’t realize the road was closed, or those who didn’t think the signs applied to them and thought they were above the law (AKA – us). Which led me to wonder if it was just her business affected or all those along the Big Sur stretch. All the markets and restaurants along the route are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. For example, a regular no fuss drip coffee this morning was $5. My burger and fries was $20. A loaf of bread was $6. Are the prices so high because it’s a tourist area and there’s nowhere else to go grocery shopping so they gouge prices, or because the mudslide has so greatly affected their business that they have to increase prices to just get by? Questions I’ll never have answers to.

But anyways, the road continued to be closed 8 miles past the slide, meaning we had the whole road to ourselves, woo! We didn’t really care cause the way to Ragged Inn was nothing but hills and pain. The only redeeming quality was that it was during sunset, lighting the entire landscape in an entirely different fashion than we’ve been used to.

We arrived at Ragged Inn around 8, unsure if they would have a room in our price range. Sure enough, they did! And it was way cheaper than we were expecting! We booked it immediately and we were completely shocked by how grandiose the room was. I have stayed in motels where I paid the same exact price but had to barricade shut the door lest someone try to break in and steal Addie! This place is a 5 star resort – literally. It’s a great way to end such a long day.

Because we’re staying in such a nice place, we’re going to sleep in and see what happens tomorrow. As long as we’re in San Diego by Sunday, we can afford to continue to take our time in Big Sur! Well afford time, not sure how long we’d last out here with it rapidly depleting our funds.

Day 28: June 6th; Monterey -Big Sur CA; 40 miles

Leaving Big Sur for last sure wasn’t a mistake. The short ride today proved that. We had a good ride out of Monterey fueled by an hour long coffee break 0.3 miles into the ride. We earned it!

With the sky darkening, we got spit on a little, but nothing substantial. We soon found ourselves along the coast with the most supportive drivers. Everyone was honking and waving at us, cheering us on! That helped brighten even more the gorgeous views we were riding by. But with good views comes…. wind! However, after paying our penance to the wind gods yesterday, we again were on the favorable side of the winds. They were violent at times but I won’t complain anymore lest they turn against us tomorrow. The wind gods must have very fragile egos.

Because we knew we had such a short day today, we took our time with breaks and pulled over a plentiful amount to take pictures. We stopped by the picturesque bridges I’ve seen a million times in photos so we spent a great deal of time there.

The sun came out and the clouds disappeared and totally changed the look of the environment. Bathed in sunshine, the blues of the sky, greens of the grass, and every color in between of the wildflowers shined brightly and danced in the wind.

We spent a long time in just about every general store along the way for WiFi to try and figure out exactly where the campground we planned on staying in was actually located. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle out here… nothing on a map is actually where it says it is, and if the ocean wasn’t always on our right, we’d be totally disoriented.

But alas we found ourselves at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It has a wonderful hiker/biker campground that we’re sharing with 6 other cyclists, none of whom we’ve met before.

One place that has been suggested we visit a number of times is Pfeiffer Beach, where apparently the sand is purple. Being partial to the color purple myself, I was really excited to see a beach full of purple sand. Having had a light day, we didn’t mind biking an extra 5 miles in total to see this famed Beach. Little did we know it meant going downhill a tiny one lane poorly paved road for 2 miles. And that which goes down must come up (or something like that) so we were not thrilled with that prospect and quickly questioned our excursion, but it was too late to turn around! Besides, we totally unloaded our bikes at the campground so we didn’t have any weight to haul back up! Although, riding an unloaded bike after 1000 miles of riding with it being weighted took some getting used to. We felt like baby giraffes learning how to walk for the first time – awkward and wobbly.

Normally a $10 admission fee to enter, we were thrilled when the ranger said bikes are free. “But you’ll have to pay on your way outta here going up that hill” was the next thing she said, laughing almost manically at her joke.

Pfeiffer Beach was gorgeous. Though not as purple as I had painted in my imagination, the hue and essence of the color was definitely very much present in the grains of sand. We got to know those grains of sand very well as they assaulted and sandblasted us. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe it. It felt like we were slowly being eaten alive as gusts rolled through! We soon understood why someone said, “good luck” to us as he walked by, seeing that we were wearing shorts. We just figured it was because we exuded a biker trash vibe and he was referencing the ride back up the hill.

After standing the abuse for only so long and snapping pictures (evidence of wind in exhibit A: the selfie), we had to get out of there. We stopped by the ranger station to see how much of a donation we would have to make to get a ride up the hill in their truck (answer: none; it’s illegal) as a last ditch effort, but we could only put off the climb for so long. And climbing that hill was the second time this trip I had a bad experience with a Volkswagen Vanagon (and considering there are a million out here, that’s pretty surprisingly low statistic). He passed us during the narrowest section of the road and was barely an inch away from us. It was so close I had to stop going up a steep part of the hill to prevent falling into a ditch. We eventually found him in the campground’s parking lot (not easy to hide around here) and gently/calmly let him know it is the law to provide 3 feet of room when passing a cyclist and that if he waited 10 seconds (let’s be honest- Vanagon that old aren’t going much faster than us up hills like that) there was a turn out we would’ve stopped and let him pass. He apologized and promised he would be more mindful. Hopefully we taught him better etiquette for the future!

Tomorrow is going to be one of the more interesting days of the trip… really excited to see what happens, and so should you!

Day 27: June 5th; Santa Cruz – Monterey CA; 42 miles

“We made our way to Monterey!”

A Sheena M. Sanchez original poem, 2018.

And it’s true! We made a short trek to our final destination but it was not without its memorable moments. We set out for what felt like the first day again – seriously, three days off really feels like forever. We had a short ride to a local coffee shop where we finally decided an end game plan and booked flights home. One week countdown until I get to see Addie again!!

It actually felt great to be back on the bike. Because we knew we only had a few miles to ride, we took our time. We have to stay in Monterey tonight due to services being too spread out. So it was either 40 to Monterey or 80 to Big Sur. Since we knew we had time to play with before our flight, we chose the shorter route. Either way it doesn’t matter because of a road closure just past Gorda down a few miles. I’ll elaborate on that debacle in an upcoming post I’m sure.

Along the ride we ran into Tina and Carl, a couple riding down the coast the right way – with a sag wagon. They stopped us and let us take our pick of their extensive and delightful snacks and sandwiches. We were in heaven. They said that since they’re not carrying any of their gear, other touring cyclists assume they’re just road cyclists and they don’t stop to talk, which bums them out cause they love sharing their snacks and food. We happened to catch them at the right moment! Not only does the trailer have food, but also an extra bike for each of them, which they actually had to use when Tina’s shifter broke. Talk about riding in luxury!

Shortly after leaving them, we came across fields and fields of strawberries. We smelled them before we saw them. They looked so delicious and it was so tempting to steal one, but we controlled ourselves. We saw plenty of pickers picking them and for once I didn’t envy someone who wasn’t on their bike. That is truly backbreaking work I could never handle.

In Moss Landing we passed by a produce store advertising fruits and vegetables for super ridiculously cheap – especially for California. We stopped to do some shopping and eat lunch. We spent a great deal of time there because we had so few miles left.

But that’s when we realized that all that smack talk about the wind last week turned those very winds against us, literally. We faced 15 mph headwinds the entire rest of the way into Monterey, a good 20 miles. Luckily we were on a bike path so we didn’t have to worry about the crosswinds pushing us into oncoming traffic, so that’s a plus! Eventually we made our way into town and the beauty distracted us from the winds.

Strangely enough, while taking a wrong turn, we came across a McDonalds that had literally just burned down not long before we got there. The firefighters put it out and it looked like everyone got out right, thank God. Random moment of the day!

When we got into town we literally stumbled upon a farmers market. It was full of people but we made our way through with the bikes in tow. We spent so much time talking with people about our trip and perusing around eating all the free samples (including the very strawberries we saw getting picked), it was delightful. Between that and all the free samples we ate at Costco (it was a strategic stop for snacks, and even a lady we met there offered us to stay with her!) we were all set for dinner we were so full.

Tonight we’re staying at Robert’s, someone we found on Warm Showers. He and his housemates have an awesome house here in Monterey and were kind enough to let us crash here for the night. Looks like another short day tomorrow, I’ll explain why in tomorrow’s post most likely! Fingers crossed we get back some tailwinds!!

Days 24, 25, 26; June 2-4; San Francisco > Campbell > Santa Cruz, CA; basically 0 miles riding

When we say we need some time off, apparently we mean it. After taking 3 days off in a row, we are both very anxious to get back on the bikes and get in some miles. I think we both feel a little guilty by taking some time off when there are miles to get in, but let me tell you – it was worth it. It truly feels like weeks since we rode the bikes.

On Saturday we indulged in a wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa Valley. With some of the best wine in the world coming from this area, we figured we may as well get a little dressed up, feel some semblance of being ladies, and learn why this wine is so sought after. Not knowing much about wine myself, I just enjoyed taking a bus and seeing the changing scenery during the drive. The beautiful day tasting wine (they all taste the same to me) was all an added bonus!

After the tour we got dropped off at Fisherman’s Wharf – a central gathering location for all the tourists who flock to San Francisco. So basically it was my worst nightmare. But we made our way through and had a good seafood dinner. Plus I got to reminisce about the last time I was in San Francisco- a mere 20 years ago when I insisted that we just HAD to visit Alcatraz despite all the tickets being sold out. In my bratty youth, I had a temper tantrum until my mother bargained with a shady scalper and got us tickets. Worth all the drama! Still one of my strongest memories – “if you’re not happy, I’m not happy! So be happy!!”

We made our way back to Mindy’s and decided to call it a night. All of the wine made us sleepy. But we did get a ride with Mindy’s daughter Alexis up to the tallest point in San Francisco- Twin Peaks. We were lucky enough to have a clear night and could see the entire city. Being dark, we weren’t able to get a good picture, but believe it when I tell you it was quite breathtaking. We were pretty lucky in San Fran – a city known to be shrouded in fog. We had clear warm days the entire time we were there, much different than my memory as an 8 year old.

On Sunday we departed Mindy’s after breakfast. We really and truly cannot put into works how grateful we are to be blessed with her generosity. She gave us anything we needed and asked for nothing in return. I don’t know what we did to be given an opportunity to meet her, but I’m pretty darn thankful! My cousin Megan picked us up, again our skills in Tetris and shoving our bikes and bags in cars came in handy. We spent the day and night at her and her husband Michael’s apartment in Campbell just relaxing. I’m sure the town of Campbell is great and has a lot of fun spots to check out, but we were perfectly content just hanging out with them and plain relaxing. Pretty sure we ate just about everything put in front of us, but Meg and Mike are such great hosts they kept the food coming! It was absolutely fantastic catching up with them and seeing their adorable little puppy Kona. We could not ask for a better way to spend our Sunday.

In the morning, Megan dropped us off in Santa Cruz. We made our way to Whitney’s house to unload the bikes. Whitney was one of our leaders on the trans am. Unfortunately she had to leave us after 2 weeks and she has been missed ever since. We met some of her awesome housemates before going out to do some surfing! Another one of Sheena’s bucket list items, we had an awesome time catching some rad waves and hanging ten in typical California fashion. Being pretty much our first time, we did kinda okay with it! Though we caught more laughs than waves, I think.

We have decided that since we only have about a week left to finish this journey before Sheena has to return to work and I have to really get my butt in gear for the JMT, there is no possible way for us to get all the way to San Diego without killing ourselves. Everyone told us that Big Sur is a must do and anything south of there is t worth checking out. We’re hoping they’re right because we are going to ride through Big Sur, then hop on a train in San Luis Obispo to head down to San Diego to spend a little time and eventually fly out of. It’s a little disappointing we’re not finishing the entire ride, but honestly this trip has been so vastly different from the Transam in such a positive way – being free from a group has opened us up to so many different possibilities and experiences we could’ve never had otherwise. Being more lenient with time and scheduling has made this trip feel less like a chore and more like a vacation. But with that being said, we have to go to bed in preparation for getting back on the bikes!!

Day 24: June 1st; Bodega Bay – San Francisco; 75 miles

Another totally unexpected, random, but truly spectacular day today! We made it to San Francisco, although not all by pedaling. Having gone since Astoria without a rest break (that’s over 2 weeks), we are truly burnt out. With the miles, hills, traffic, wind, and just general mental fatigue from being on the bike, we needed an off day more than anything in the world. Resorting to hitch hiking yesterday only solidified that which we already knew. We wanted to take a few days off in San Francisco but than meant not getting there until Saturday afternoon. We were not in any sort of shape to pedal those miles, so Sheena put out a craigslist ad for a ride to just before San Francisco. Now yes, we know all about craigslist and how there is questionable safety using that site (especially for rides to unfamiliar places. Craigslist killer, anyone?) but Sheena has used it before and never got murdered. Desperate times calls for desperate measures!

And we got a response! After talking on the phone for a while and passing our preliminary vetting process, we agreed on a price and time for Nick to pick us up this morning. Problem solved!

Because the pick up time wasn’t until 10:30am and the rendezvous destination was only a mile and a half a way, we took our time waking up and breaking down camp this morning. At the campground we stayed at, there were 7 other cyclists. Us taking our time, we left before all of them. I don’t know how they get out so late, we’re normally riding by 6:45 am! We had a big breakfast and too much coffee at the meeting place and waited for Nick.

He arrived right on time and we once again shoved all of our stuff into his truck. At this point in the game, we’re pretty much pros at getting our bikes and bags in/out of trucks. We enjoyed an hour long ride into Corte Madera talking with Nick. He had some interesting thoughts on life and some even more interesting stories. In his youth he hitchhiked all around the country and even spent a year living alone in a cabin in Alaska. Now he works with homeless trying to give back to the world in any way he can. When he dropped us off, he said that he didn’t want the agreed upon price but only gas money – he was inspired by our ride and wanted to make it as easy for us as possible. We were thrilled by his generous offer, but still paid the majority of the original price. And then we were off!

It was a hot day today with lots of bright sun. We only had 10 miles to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge – a major goal for us to ride our bikes over, which is why we got dropped off there. We rode the majority of the ride on a beautifully paved and scenic bike path. Soon we found ourselves in Sausalito where out from the buildings of the small town the San Francisco Bay opened up to us. It was completely beautiful and unexpected. It really was inspiring to see and honestly gave me chills.

After a short ride over some hills, we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge amongst a sea of tourists taking pictures. So we followed suit! With our bikes in tow. We have to commemorate our achievement (with the exception of a few rides).

Then the real adventure started. We had to part the sea of selfie sticks and oblivious tourists to get ourselves across the bridge. There was plenty of dodging and yelling so as to not get into an accident and we eventually made it across without any issues besides an elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

We got our bearings straight after the bridge to let things settle. We still weren’t sure where we were going to stay (warm shower requests went unanswered) so we decided to find a taco place to sit and figure things out. Upon trying to get to the taco shop, we found ourselves lost. Apparently it was obvious we were lost because another cyclist provided us with directions. After hearing about our journey, he asked where we were staying. We responded honestly – we had no idea! “Here, let me give someone a call. I’ll find you somewhere”. In an instant he was on the phone with his mom Mindy and without a second thought, she said we could stay with her the whole weekend! Jesse then was on his way to cross the bridge on his bike. Such a random encounter, but at least we had a place to stay!

We still went to the taco shop to plan our time here in San Fran – particularly figure out a wine tour for tomorrow. After calling around we found ourselves a good deal, booked it, and was on our way to Mindy’s.

What a trek to her house. San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful city, but with beauty comes pain. And that pain comes in the form of hills of mind boggling grade nearly impossible to climb on bikes. Needless to say, we arrived later than we thought to Mindy’s, but she didn’t mind at all! She welcomed us with open arms with a place to store our bikes, shower, bed, and appetizers. She offered to make us dinner, which we declined because we were full from Mexican food and appetizers she presented. I am still in disbelief that we somehow were fortunate enough to stumble upon Jesse and by default landed in his mother’s house. We have no words to describe how grateful we are to have met such giving and selfless people on this journey. I don’t know why people had warned us about California, it’s been nothing but an absolute pleasure!!

We are off to bed, we have an early bus to catch tomorrow to explore wine country!