Southern Tier Bike Route: Texas Part I

Day 26: El Paso to Fort Hancock, TX (63 miles); April 5, 2021

Not sure if it was the massive amount of food or the super comfortable bed, but boy did we sleep well last night. Getting up was a chore, but we knew that we had to roll out early to avoid El Paso rush hour and the heat. We had breakfast with Rebekah (Mike left for a 6am bike ride) and she gave us tons of Easter leftovers. Spending the holiday with them was such a blessing.

Getting out of east El Paso is dicey no matter how you slice it. Even Mike couldn’t come up with a safe route. But with his help, we came up with the safest possible route, because the one ACA suggests is apparently a death trap. After 8 miles, the treachery ended and we were safely on our way. We’ve ridden on worse roads before, but the hype of almost anyone we talked to caused a lot of stress about getting out of town. Luckily we did just fine.

Again, not much to report on with scenery. We skirted the Mexican border for a while out of El Paso and returned to farms (mainly pecans) for most of the ride.

After lunch we ran into 3 retired guys who we knew were catching up to us. We rode with them for a good 15 miles just chatting. They know each other from meeting on the Appalachian Trail in 2016. They kept in touch and one of them suggested doing the southern tier and they all jumped aboard. Jim even hiked the John Muir Trial in 2019, so it was great to relive some memories chatting about that. They’re a fun group of guys that I’m sure we’ll see plenty in Texas.

We got into Fort Hancock around 3pm. In spite of the 93 degree heat and temperamental winds, we made good time. We got cold ice cream and drinks and just relaxed before leaving for where we were staying for the night. Because the motel in town looks sketchy (to put it lightly), we called a local church to see if we could stay with them. Unfortunately because of Holy Week, Sister Silvia said no one was around to let us in, but we were welcome to camp in the backyard. Great!

Well, what wasn’t so great was rolling in and seeing that the backyard was home to a feral cat colony. So, definitely not ideal. I love a good cat (I have dreams of mine almost nightly), but 11 feral cats roaming around with the potential for marking our stuff is not what I would consider fostering of a good night’s sleep. But, it was free and we felt safe. After an hour, two women showed up. It was Sister Silvia and her friend Sister Darlene! They stopped by to try and catch a sick cat. After 2 hours and much coaxing, little Blanca proved to be too agile and got away.

The cat wranglers!


Voicing our concern about staying outside with a bunch of roaming feral cats, Sister Silvia invited us to stay inside. We were so thankful to just be indoors, so imagine our surprise when they gave us Gatorade and all the food we could need. They were so giving and willing to help.

The guys we met are staying at the motel. Hopefully we run into them tomorrow to get their review of the place!


Day 27: Fort Hancock to Van Horn, TX (68 miles); April 5, 2021

As I said before, finding places to stay in Texas is difficult. Towns are small with limited services. So when faced with the option of staying in a sleazy motel, a yard full of feral cats, behind a restaurant at a truck stop, or inside a haunted church, the haunted church was by far the most appealing choice. Not to say we weren’t grateful for the hospitality of the Santa Teresa Parish, but neither of us slept particularly well. There was a terrifying latch floor door to the basement that made both imagine something crawling up from the depths in the middle of the night. Between that and the 5 noisy refrigerators going off all night, I woke up every hour terrified. But after hearing all the roosters and cats making another unharmonic symphony in the morning, I knew we made the right choice.

The ride into Sierra Blanca wasn’t really noteworthy, shockingly enough. We hopped on I-10 for some of it, keeping an eye out for the retired men crew. They said they were leaving their motel early and having a half day to avoid the afternoon winds, which confused us because according to what we saw, we were in for some epic tailwinds. But to each their own – bike your own bike.

We got into Sierra Blanca at really who knows what time. Our phones and ourselves were confused by the time change or if there really was even a time change. Either way, we got there at 11am MST or 12pm CST and had an early lunch. As we were leaving, we ran into the retired guys! We chatted a little and figured we’d see them down the road. They were cutting it short and we were sailing on. Depending on what we end up doing the rest of this week, that may have been our last run in with them. Wish I got a selfie with them!

The winds were in full force this afternoon, all to our back. We rode 18 miles in one hour and were having a great time. That is until, however, we got on I-10 and had a small climb. Now I enjoy climbs, they’re usually my strong point. But dangit if this little climb wasn’t the most difficult hill I have ever encountered. It felt like I was hauling a 300lb bike up Mt. Everest with 50mph headwinds. I was struggling and could not figure out why. So when Sheena said “wow, these winds are awesome, I’m barely pedaling!” you could imagine my intense confusion and exhausted death glare I casted in her direction. “What’re you talking about?!”, I could barely get it out I was panting so hard from pure exertion, “I’m dying!” That’s when the lightbulb went off in Sheena’s head. She looked at my back tire and saw I had a flat. I wasn’t crazy or going through heat stroke – I had my first flat in nearly 8,000 miles of touring.

Is there a better spot to fix a flat than an interstate?

I’ve only ever had to change a flat on my road bike, so I’m a little out of practice with Ol’ Bessie. I found the culprit of the flat, a wire from tire beading, and after seeing that the tire wasn’t holding any air at all, I knew I had to fix it right there. With Sheena’s vast tire fixing knowledge, she guided me along and we patched the tube. After only about 15 mildly frustrating minutes, we were back on the road.

AND IT WAS EPIC! Seriously. The winds were in full gear and we rode the last 10 miles to Van Horn in less than 20 minutes. It was amazing. We barely had to pedal, the winds were pushing us so hard. It was thrilling and I hope to relive it someday soon. It was the perfect way to make up for getting a flat.

We rolled into Oasis RV Park in Van Horn at 4:30pm (we are officially in CST). As we pulled into our camping spot, we encountered more feral cats. Two nights in a row sleeping in a cat colony, fabulous! I have been craving grilled cheese and tomato soup for a while, and since the supermarket is right down the street and we can grab fresh ingredients, we satisfied my craving. It was so darn good. And on a 93 degree day, what’s more refreshing than soup?! Exactly. It was the perfect meal.

This is definitely a “repeat” meal.

The forecast is looking like more tailwinds for tomorrow, though not as mighty as today’s. But after our experience coming out of Lordsburg, we will take any tailwinds we can get, lest they turn to headwinds.

What an interesting campground

Day 28: Van Horn to Marfa, TX (75 miles); April 7, 2021

Not sure if it was cause we were so exhausted, but we both slept so well. The temperature was perfect for a good night’s sleep and there were no dogs or roosters to keep up awake. We woke up refreshed and ready to go.

Because we crossed into a new time zone yesterday, we’re all mixed up with the time. Now the sun doesn’t rise until 7:30am and it really makes getting out early to ride difficult. But we’re getting the hang of it.

The ride into Valentine for lunch was (per usual) what we’re used to. More desert landscape. The only thing new is pretty severe lower back pain that affects my ability to ride more than 15 miles without stopping to stretch. I have a feeling it’s from overused and tired legs affecting the mechanics of my pedaling, ultimately manifesting in poor posture affecting my back. I’m going to start adding core exercises to my routine in an effort to correct it. Cause it is really no fun.

On our way to Valentine, we stopped at a Southern Tier staple – the Marfa Prada! A tiny little store, someone built it in 2006 (maybe – I forget) as an art piece. It’s weird to see a designer store in the middle of nowhere, but hey, all in the name of art. It truly baffled an older gentleman who was dragged there by his wife. To be honest, I don’t get it either but it was cool to just see. There used to be a tiny Target, but that was torn down a few months ago. What a shame, I could’ve really gone for a good shopping spree.

Shopping spree!

At lunch, we noticed the winds were picking up. Still riding the high from the end of yesterday’s ride, Sheena thought to put a makeshift sail on her bike to propel her forward. Great idea, but unfortunately the first flight lacked the needed results and the idea was scrapped. But can’t deny her contraption made for some good laughs.

So proud of her creation!

As we left Valentine, a dust storm was rolling in. We just narrowly escaped it. Along the way to Marfa we saw countless dirt devils off in the distance. They are pretty neat to look at, but I would not want to be caught in one.

This was actually a small dirt devil in comparison to others we saw

We rolled into Marfa around 5pm, perfect for happy hour. We ordered a bottle of champagne and hatch chili burgers and just enjoyed being off the bike and people watching. It was a short ride to El Cosmico, the campground we’re staying at. It has a definitely hippie/vaguely cultish vibe that makes for an interesting atmosphere. But overall, it’s really awesome and beautiful, though the showers leave you pretty exposed. I would love to stay longer and explore the town more, it seems like a hidden gem out here.

Jonestown – I mean El Cosmico

Day 29: Marfa to Marathon TX (56 miles); April 8, 2021

One month on the road! It’s kind of mind blowing to me how quickly, but also how slowly, this past month went. A lot of it has been a blur and we have trouble remembering where we were this time last week. The days blend together, but the strong memories that made impressions (good and bad) stick out. Who can forget the disaster of a day in California or trying to catch a sickly feral cat with a bunch of nuns? Really, of all the tours, this one probably has the best stories so far.

We woke up late because it was freezing in Marfa. Eventually we convinced ourselves it was time to get moving and got coffee along with all the other cult members in their matching robes. As we were getting our bikes together, we spoke with three different people about our tour. Two of the couples rode often and the third has his bike all set up to do his first tour soon. One couple even invited us to stay with them down the road in Fredricksburg, an offer we’re likely going to take them up on.

As we were leaving, one of the couples wished us bon voyage by filming us as we went. We have a fan club! Unfortunately, not 3 minutes later, I incurred another flat in my rear tire. Upon inspection, it was noted the patch failed from the other day. Instead of messing around with it, we put in a fresh tube and were on our way in 15 minutes. Sheena is a pro at changing flats. But we gotta stop talking about flats with strangers – it puts a jinx on us.

With strong tailwinds, we made it to Alpine, TX in no time flat – without anymore flats. We had plenty of time to eat a huge food truck lunch, go grocery shopping, and visit the visitor center. For such a small town in the middle of nowhere, Alpine seems to have a lot of culture. Like Marfa, it’s unique and artsy. Near Big Bend National Park, I hope to revisit Alpine and spend some more time there.

After an extended break, we were on our way. Our original plan was to take a half day to Alpine to recover from the long week. However, because of the awesome tailwinds, we decided to take advantage of the optimal conditions and continue to Marathon. The wind was lackluster for the first half of the ride and Sheena wasn’t feeling great from such a big lunch. It served as a lesson to take lighter lunches, especially with the heat. Eventually the winds kicked up in our favor and pushed us the rest of the way to Marathon. We’re staying in an RV park. Marathon is known for its dark sky and optimal star gazing. It might be a little overcast tonight, but hopefully I’ll be able to see a few shining stars.

This is a bad angle of our campsite. The RV park is actually really scenic.

In Alpine, some girls suggested we go to Brick Vault for some quality BBQ. Craving good Texas BBQ since we got here, I was all on board with that. And their suggestion was perfect. Great food (BBQ sauce was one of the best I’ve had) with an amazing sour beer. While enjoying the food, we planned out the next week. We’ll be at our half way point in a couple days and Austin by last next week! It’s unbelievable how quickly we’ll be flying through Texas.

If you ever find yourself in Marathon, do yourself a favor and go to Brick Vault BBQ. Mm mm good.

I’ve noticed I’ve stopped taking scenic pictures. Call it scenic overload or what I consider unphoto worthy scenes, but regardless I’ll try to fix that an add more scenery to the posts. I’ll let you be the judge if it’s worthy.

Day 30: Marathon to Sanderson, TX (55 miles); April 9, 2021

This morning wasn’t nearly as cold so we got up and zipped out of camp early for a 1 mile ride to coffee. So imagine my surprise when we’re sipping coffee and we see the guys rolling in! Already 30 miles under their belt, they were planning on continuing to Sanderson, an 84 mile day. And with predicted tailwinds, they were well on their way to achieving that goal.

Desert sunrise

We rode 21 miles without a problem (we saw javalinas!) and had a quick snack. The guys caught up and we went off. The next 25 miles were glorious. The tailwinds pushed us all the way to a lunch spot in a little over an hour. The guys again caught up and we talked for a while. Only noon with only 10 miles left of a ride, we didn’t mind chatting it up. Plus, the 10 miles into town only took us half an hour. The wind gods surely have been nice to us in Texas, but I fear our luck may soon change.

The ride today was gorgeous. Maybe cruising with tailwinds made me able to sit back and appreciate it more, but I really enjoyed the scenery of the day. I had no problem taking pictures of our surroundings without exerting too much effort.


Sanderson is another small Texas town, but not nearly as artsy. We hung out at the convenience store for a while before heading to Canyons RV park, which is the cheapest we stayed with the nicest amenities. Unfortunately the wind caused our tents to sail away (I was in the shower and sprinted out mid rinse to help Sheena), a deeply frustrating experience.

Campsite sans tents. We’re on un-stakeable turf, causing our tents to turn into kites.

We had dinner at the only restaurant in town (would not recommend) and met up with the guys. We’re riding the next 2 days with them, which is reassuring because we’re not super confident with where we’re staying tomorrow. Having safety in numbers will surely put our minds at ease.

Day 31: Sanderson to Langtry TX (60 Miles); April 10, 2021

Today started out as great as we could hope for. Yesterday we ran into a couple in the RV park who asked us a bunch of questions about our trip. They offered us help in any way they could, and we took them up on in by asking for coffee in the morning. They were happy to oblige! Not only did they make us coffee, but Joyce gave us cereal and home made coffee cake. It was a real pleasure talking with Joyce and Steve, a retired couple who bought a luxury RV to travel the US in. They were lovely and we were pretty thankful to have a caffeine fix while getting to know them.

I slept very poorly last night, so I knew the ride today was going to. be anything but pleasurable. But we persevered and rode slow and steadily the easy 30 miles to a good lunch spot where we caught up with the guys. As they were leaving, David promised us that the next 30 miles to Langtry were “all downhill”.

Well, David was wrong. In the afternoon heat we not only had the temperatures and headwinds to contend with, but obnoxious rollers as well. They were steep at times, but manageable. The rest day in Del Rio on Monday was what motivated me to not have a mental breakdown.

The rollers today reminded me of the Ozarks. From an outsiders perspective it looks flat, but it’s full of rolling, steep hills.

Eventually we made it to Langtry, where David promptly apologized for giving us bad intel. Not on the map, there was a tiny convenience store we treated ourselves at to cold drinks and ice cream. The owner, Jerry, even gave us free water and Reese’s cups. He also warned us to keep an eye out for illegal border crossers, saying that though we’ll be safe in Langtry, this area of Texas has the most crossings of the country, with up to 850 apprehensions a day.

We used the restrooms at Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center before they closed and learned a little about the history of the area. Though, not much of it sank in considering how tired we were from the day’s ride.

Celebrating those Jersey roots!

We’re camping at the community center, only a quarter mile from the border. There’s an RV here as well as the 3 guys. I don’t feel like setting up my tent, so I’m cowboy camping under the stars. Since the last 2 nights were horrible for sleeping, I’m really hoping to catch up tonight! Fingers crossed.

Home for the night


Day 32: Langtry to Del Rio TX (60 miles) April 11, 2021

I slept surprisingly well last night, must’ve been from just pure exhaustion. We got up before sunrise and hit up the visitor center for the restrooms before setting out for the day. The winds started kicking at 4am and I knew they would not be in our favor. 60 miles over rollers in headwinds. I knew what I was in for so I put in a podcast and just rolled.

Because the winds knock me around wickedly, Sheena rode ahead and I started straying back, probably a good half mile. We kept leap frogging with the guys, who were also getting their butts kicked by the wind.

Crossing the Pecos River


Still in good spirits, we reached Comstock (our halfway point) for lunch. I was pretty famished so I grabbed a really good slice of gas station pizza. Anyone out there want to pay me to bicycle tour and write reviews of small town food joints?! That’s a niche I would love to fall into.

After putting off the inevitable for long enough, we set out for our final 30 miles. Only now we had pretty intense heat to deal with. Luckily, the bumpy road turned into freshly paved asphalt that made riding directly into wind less taxing.

Today was probably a record for the amount of roadkill I’ve ever ridden by. Able to smell it before seeing it, I must’ve rode past close to 100 carcasses ranging from deer to javalinas, to cows, to hawks, and even tons of salamanders. Pretty grotesque and entirely unpleasant to smell.

The scenery is a lot greener. It no longer feels like we’re in a vast desert, but more like a grassland. It’s more humid too, which feels more like home to me. There are farms along the highway and in the confusion of the heat, wind, and difficulty of the day, Sheena swore a bleating goat was me screaming at her in distress. Luckily I know that should trouble befall me, Sheena will stop on a dime to ensure my safety.

With the rest day in Del Rio motivating us and preventing a mental breakdown, the last 13 miles were still pretty brutal. We rode past and over the 1 mile bridge over the Armistead Reservoir. After that we knew we were in the home stretch!

Racing a train over the bridge
First sign of water in a while!

After some shopping at Walmart, we checked into the hotel. Extremely hungry and relatively late, we were happy that a Del Rio staple BBQ (Rudy’s) was still open. So we took a shower and headed over. We must clean up well because David (part of the Retired Guys) didn’t even recognize us! We scarfed down that BBQ (maybe a little too quickly) and were ready for bed. Today was an exhausting day, my body is so ready for a rest day tomorrow.

look at those comfy beds!!


Rest day: April 12, 2021

What a great night’s sleep! Wow, it feels so great to sleep in air conditioning in an actual bed. Woke up without a blaring alarm and enjoyed a pretty substantial breakfast at the hotel – complete with a Texas waffle!

Everything is bigger in Texas – including their waffles!

After laundry and shipping stuff home at the post office, we did a little food tour of Del Rio. We got a plate of nachos and had BBQ with the guys for dinner. Any weight I lost in the beginning of this trip is certainly going to be back soon if I continue eating like this – the food down here is so good and we haven’t even hit Cajun country yet!

Great Texas BBQ!


We have a long haul tomorrow, so we’re going to go to bed early to get up early. I’ll probably have another Texas waffle to really get charged up for the ride.

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.

Oof.

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

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!

Day 23: May 31st; Gualala – Bodega Bay CA; 50 days

Today was such a whirlwind – in more ways than one! We both stayed in our tents a little longer than usual. We’re both pretty road weary and ready for a day off. We rode the 11 miles into Stewart’s Point pretty quickly with a gentle (emphasis on gentle) tailwind that we both thoroughly enjoyed. Since we finally had cell service, we spent a good deal of time in a coffee shop planning out our time in San Francisco since we’ll be there before we know it!

After we left the coffee shop, the winds with deathly intentions started again… so much for yesterday being the last day of gale force winds! While they mostly were tailwinds, they were still forceful and violent. As we made our way into Fort Ross, we decided to stop for a break from the winds at a convenience store that was marked on the map. We went through the town with no sign of the store, so we decided to keep going a little further to see if it was up the road a bit more. The only thing we found was more road construction with flaggers holding up traffic. We walked our bikes up to the beginning of the line and debated what our next move was. Not sure if it was the sun or the wind getting to me, but something moved me to stick my thumb out in search for a ride. Sure enough, after 10 seconds, a pickup truck stopped. “I’ll drop you off at Jenner if you’re sure you want to go” was all we needed to hear.

Within 10 seconds all of our panniers were off our bikes and loaded into the bed of the truck with the bikes following suit. Now this is our second time hitching a ride, not something I’ve ever really considered doing mainly because of the questionable safety of hopping into the car of a complete stranger. But both times we’ve done it I’m convinced it was some sort of divine intervention. Nothing could’ve prepared us for the hill we would’ve had to have climbed otherwise. It was well trafficked, steep, windy, no shoulder, and steep drop offs with most sections having no guardrail. With the wind as violent as it was today (30 mph gusts) I would’ve had a full blown panic attack and would have not made it down the hill. One unfortunate gust of wind, one mistimed squeeze of the brake, or one car coming a little too close could’ve resulted in a fall down hundreds of feet into the Pacific. I was terrified just riding in the car I could not imagine navigating that road on bicycle.

The man who took us, Scott, works for (or owns) a lumbar business and rides from Santa Rosa to Mendocino quite frequently. He said that he sees hitchhiking cyclists along that stretch all the time, but we were the first he picked up because we “looked like nice people”. I think that’s code for we looked ravaged by wind, sun, and fatigue. He has 3 grandkids he dotes upon and is in the process of buying real estate in Thailand to retire on. Considering he saved us from a harrowing journey, he’s a super awesome guy!

Although terrifying, the hill we got a ride over was breathtaking. Sheena and I were both disappointed we didn’t get to experience it from behind handlebars, but we both believe we made the right call.

After a brief stop in Jenner, we rode on. The wind again whipped us all over the road, including into oncoming traffic. It was complete ridiculousness. We met a gentleman from France coming from Mexico going north to Vancouver. Quite the hardened old man, he didn’t look a bit phased by the enormous headwinds he was facing. Bet he doesn’t hitch any rides!

After snapping a few scenic pictures, we made it to camp in Bodega Dunes Campground relatively early and just relaxed and ate. We are looking so forward to spending some time off the bikes and out of the wind in San Francisco soon!

Day 22: May 30th; Mendocino- Gualala; 53 miles

Today we slept in a little after being assaulted by wind and raccoons all night. We shared coffee and conversation with Jesse for a decent while, he has some pretty interesting stories. We departed Mendocino, but not before stopping by the most expensive gas station in America! Jesse says he’s witnessed a lot of people fill up, not realizing the absurd cost until paying – there’s no refunding or returning gasoline!

We stopped for coffee number two (I seriously have some work ahead of me if I want to ween myself off of it before John Muir!) in Elk. We had a few conversations with some locals all of whom said we had an extremely steep but short hill coming our way. They were not exaggerating… it’s the first time I had to use the granniest gear the entire ride. What a great leg workout! When we made it to the top, a man offered to take a picture of us to mark our accomplishment!

The entire ride was mostly along the coast, with gorgeous views of the ocean displaying the entire spectrum of blues. Together with a cloudless sky, it was hard to tell when the ocean ended and the sky began! It was a lovely distraction from the rolling hills. We even passed a ton of farms full of cows. I wonder if those cows realize they have one of the most beautiful views in the world?

Despite having rolling hills all day, it wasn’t too bad. We had a very decent tail wind (22 MPH!!) that pushed us along the entire ride. In fact, at some points it was just downright violent. After having an extended lunch in Point Arena, we set off to Gualala (pronounced much like “Ooh-la-la) and got blown quite a few times into the opposite lane of traffic. No matter how hard we tried to combat it, the crosswinds coming from the west were too aggressive. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic coming our way. But let me tell you, when you’re going 40 mph down a hill and a crosswind tries to take you out, you see your life flash right before your eyes. We saw a few unfortunate souls going northbound combatting the fierce winds. I could not feel more sorry for them. Apparently the magnitude of this wind is out of the ordinary according to the locals and is likely to subdue tomorrow. Although it pushed us today, it did a great amount of tiring us out as well, so I am definitely looking forward to being whipped around the road a little less in the upcoming days.

With the wind’s help, we made it the 16 miles to Gualala pretty quickly. We are once again back in the redwoods in Gualala River Redwood Park. It’s a gorgeous campground tucked away in the woods, but the trip to the bathroom is a hike. I got lost for a good 20 minutes coming back from it, but along the way discovered a cute little swimming hole. Luckily it’s super quiet here and the wind is nonexistent, so just as long as the raccoons stay at bay, we should be in good shape for a good night’s sleep!