Southern Tier Bike Route: Florida

Day 53: Milton to Fort Walton Beach, FL (42 miles); May 6, 2021

We woke up to coffee and the most delicious eggs cooked by Dave. We gobbled them up and enjoyed a nice morning conversation with Dave and Stacey. When we were set to leave, Stacey gave us about 15 pounds of snacks each. She has an eBay business where she sells bulk items for cheap. Since she literally just graduated nursing school (at 63 years old – so inspiring!) she hasn’t been getting rid of inventory, so she’s pawning them off on bike tourers. Which we were happy about because now we don’t have to go shopping for a few more days!

With fully loaded bikes, we pedaled off. We lucked out with tailwinds today and our short day was even easier with the encouraging push. Though the uphills were few, they felt gargantuan to the point where I thought I had a flat. I did not, I just had a really heavy bike loaded with snacky goodness.

We got into Fort Walton Beach early and decided to do some planning before heading to our warm showers. With only 300 some odd miles left, we’ll be in St. Augustine in a week! That’s unbelievable to me. The end of this trip really snuck up on me. But at least I’ll see Addie soon!

We met Christina and Tyler, a young couple who are awesome property investors. We talked with them, had dinner, played cards, and saw firsthand the troubles of being a short-term landlord. Apparently frogs sound just like a dying generator liable to blow up the surrounding area, requiring a cop to tell the tenant, “no ma’am, they are amphibians”. Cannot wait to read that review.

So beautiful



Day 54: Fort Walton Beach to Panama City Beach (54 miles) May 8, 2021

We left Christina and Tyler’s home early, excited to have a rest day in Panama City Beach with my longtime friend Ryan. We rode through many beach towns, including the gorgeous Destin, Seaside, and Rosemary Beach. We rode about 15 miles on the well known 30A, a scenic highway I rode on a few times last year during my month hiatus to PCB. With a busy bike path, I would definitely recommend riding it if you find yourself in the area and in search of a leisurely bike ride. There are a ton of restaurants, shoppes, and beaches along the way to discover. But we were not in search of a leisurely ride. We were on a mission. So the Northeast came out of us a few times to get around some folks, startling them in the process I’m sure.

Riding 30A brought back so many memories! But not as many as when when we rolled onto Front Beach Rd in PCB. Given I spent a month there running and biking that street daily, it felt like I never left! Plus the aqua colored water and white sand felt like home. This is truly the Emerald Coast.

With tailwinds pushing us strongly, we made it to Ryan’s with gusto! And there she was waiting. I’ve known Ryan since 2004 and because she travels for work, I am only able to see her a few times a year. So I’m really excited I get to see her on this trip, if only briefly, and stay in her gorgeous condo. She’s even starting a new job the end of this month and will be traveling less. I’m so happy for her and excited I’ll be able to see her more.

Reunited!

After catching up and some beach time, we got dinner and came home. We’re all pretty sleepy. We have off tomorrow, so we’re going to enjoy the beach and food before powering off towards our last day!

Rest Day: Panama City Beach (May 8, 2021)

Spending the day in PCB was great. Got to see some old friends I met last year, eat some good food, and of course spend some time at the beautiful white sand beach with the gals. People were staring either in awe or confusion at our tan lines. One outspoken little girl exclaimed, “Mom! Look at her tan lines…. no wait look at HER tan lines!” Leave it to kids to be brutally honest.


While I still love the beauty of the beaches and the great nostalgia I experienced at PCB, there were huge crowds and horrible traffic. Getting a table at a restaurant was nearly impossible and forget getting a taxi – so was everyone else. I missed the days of last year where COVID kept the crowds at bay. But that’s selfish – the restaurants and businesses are finally back on track after a year of loss, no doubt. I just don’t see myself coming back during the busy season anytime soon.

Day 55: Panama City Beach to Bristol, FL (67 miles) May 9, 2021

We said our goodbyes to Ryan and Amy early (Ryan even got out of bed to send us off!) and were on the road by 8am. I’ve noticed getting started after a day off is really difficult physically and mentally. Today was the first day where I actually felt ready to be done and go back home. After over 2 months riding, I’m feeling a little burnt out. While it’s been an amazing trip, I’m ready to see Addie again and hold The Cat. Which is great cause we only have 4 days left until I can do just that!

We’re following google maps to get to St. Augustine, which provided a bit of a hiccup. It directed us to make a turn to get off the highway, which is fine. But after a few miles that paved road turned into sand. Deep sand. For 3 miles we pushed those darn bikes through that sand, cursing the dumb Lady in the phone. After we succeeded in pushing our steeds through the fickle sand, she directed us to another sandy road that was fenced off. I was beyond irritated and frustrated by why google thinks these roads are rideable on a bike. After doing our own navigating with an old fashioned map, we came up with a new route that would add 6 miles to today’s ride. At this point, what’s another 6 miles? We’re in the homestretch and the light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly. As long as we don’t get hit by a car, we’ll take all the hiccups the universe will throw at us and try to embrace them.

This was actually the good part of the sand road – the other part was about ankle deep.

Luckily the winds were on our side and to our backs. We breezed through the miles today which is great because the views weren’t exactly breathtaking, but nor were they ugly. Just feels like the pine barrens of Jersey.


Right before our destination, we crossed into the Eastern Time Zone! I’m in the same time zone as little Addie, finally! It’s the last major milestone before ending in a couple days.

Bristol is a small town and we’re staying in a motel. Unfortunately, we didn’t make a reservation and the only room left was the “honeymoon suite”, making it the most expensive room here. But it’s roomy and has a nice kitchen, so there are worse places to spend the night.

In order to make the Thursday deadline for St Augustine, we have a long day tomorrow. So we’re going to relax and turn in early in preparation. I also inspected all the roads we’re taking tomorrow – so at least we won’t have any surprise sandy roads in our future!

Worth the price? Maybe not, but it’s a place to sleep!


Day 56: Bristol to Hampton Springs, FL (88 miles) May 10, 2021

We rolled out of the motel an hour earlier than usual in preparation for our longest day yet. It was foggy and dreary with high humidity. I really and truly don’t remember much from the morning. It was overcast and flat with very little to look at. Knowing a very boring day was forecasted, I listened intently to a podcast (Dirty John – fascinating true crime story) to help the miles go by. And it helped immensely. I listened to all the episodes and before I knew it, we were halfway done!

The view for 88 miles

At around 1:30pm, Sheena’s stomach started rumbling so we stopped for second lunch at the only gas station for 20 miles. Sheena’s stomach must’ve felt something in the air, cause barely 5 minutes into our stop a severe thunder storm rolled in. Had we not stopped, I’m not sure where we would have went to to get out of harm’s way. It would have been way too dangerous to ride in. We sought shelter in a nice roofed porch the gas station’s neighbor offered us. We made friends with the chickens and roosters inhabiting it and soon found ourselves drifting to sleep from the lull of the pouring rain and booming thunder. The storm lasted for 2.5 hours. Thankfully we were making really good time, so we weren’t too worried to still have 20 miles to go at 4pm. And the roads were smooth and freshly paved – no sand to be found!

1/4 of our thunder buddies! Made me feel a little guilty that we ate an entire rotisserie chicken last night.

The next 20 miles were fast and monotonous. We got into Rocky’s campground at 5:30pm and ate a delicious pizza with chips. We are the picture of health. It’s supposed to rain the next 3 days, so our plans are a little up in the air as to whether or not we’re going to stick to the original plan of camping or splurge on motels. The weather has been unpredictable, so really who knows. We’ll wing it!


Day 57: Hampton Springs to Newberry, FL (83 miles) May 11, 2021

We have not had luck camping. From raccoons to storms to what happened last night, I think we’ve had our fill of sleeping in a tent. Allow me to explain. It’s 12:30am and Sheena goes to the bathroom, waking me up from a light sleep. As she returns to her tent, she calmly claps. Why the heck is she doing that? Wait – WHAT THE HECK JUST RAN INTO THE WOODS?! Huge creatures fled from near Sheena’s tent, scared of her ginger claps. They were too big to be raccoons, too awkward to be dogs. Whatever they were they looked straight up demonic.

“Sheena. What were those..?” I asked, uncertain if I wanted to know the answer. “Pigs,” she answered quickly, the annoyance obvious in her tone, “they’ve been snorting around my tent for the last hour.” Well, shoot. I was not prepared for feral pigs. Raccoons and bears, sure I can handle that. But what do you do if a feral pig attacks you?! Knowing they can be aggressive and some of the most dangerous animals a human can encounter, my pulse quickened and I was prepared for not having a good night sleep.

I kept a lookout and sure enough, 10 minutes after the initial encounter, they were back. I was astounded. There were close to 30 wild pigs, half of which were piglets. Double shoot. Those mamas are going to be super protective over their youngins, and no tent will protect me from their wrath should they feel threatened. Based on my observation, they were benign and just digging for grubs. They weren’t actively seeking our food or showing even the least bit interest in us. So I decided to just let them be. Every half hour I was wakened by snorting or squealing, but they were still very amicable. Sheena must have set her tent over the best grubs, cause they were not moving from her tent. So just imagine the sleep Sheena got. Hint – she didn’t. But the sun came up and they went back to their nests, or is it dens? Either way they left and we broke down camp, a little disoriented- did that really happen?! Pigs?!?

If you zoom in, you can see about ~1/3 of the feral pig herd.

We decided at breakfast that after last night, we are done with camping. We were going to ride another long day and get a motel. Pigs can’t possibly break into a motel room, right?

The ride again was unremarkable and boring. We found good timing by getting a sheltered lunch right as a thunderstorm rolled in. We talked to a guy who knew about Rocky’s Campground. “Well do you know they have a feral pig problem?!” I inquired. He just so happened to know all about their problem, as with all of Florida’s problem. He’s a pig hunter and trapper and he’s not short on business. Where was he last night?! Well, that’s not his jurisdiction. He told us the pigs are a real nuisance and he’s been mauled/slashed by many a ruthless pig. Thank God the ones last night were “friendly”.

The bike path


The storm rolled out as did we. We spent a decent amount of time on a great bike path as the rain poured down briefly. We were surrounded by gorgeous trees tinseled with Spanish moss. The last 11 miles into Newberry annoyed me for some reason, so I put on my angry music and cranked out those miles at a fast pace. We got into town at 5pm and checked into Sunny South Motel. I won’t even put in a picture because it is horrifying. It has a hot shower, clean bed, is pig free, and four walls with a roof, so it gets the job done, but wow it needs a deep cleaning and upgraded furniture. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The pizza in town is amazing, though. We decided on Villaggios pizza right next door. Of the four pizza options we had in a block radius, we chose correctly. They were so nice and the service was not lacking. Plus the food was so tasty! We got salad, garlic knots, meatball parm, and a slice. Needless to say, we were more than full and satisfied.

Apparently there is a gas shortage from a Russian hack. Colored me surprised and caught unawares. I was wondering why there was a huge line for gas yesterday, why a cop was asking a gas clerk if people were “panicking”, and why the clerk tonight answered the phone with, “we are out of gas”. When I asked, she explained everything to me. A lot of stations around here, as with the whole eastern seaboard, are out of gas. Well nuts. I had just reassured my dad that stations around here were fine. I may have been wrong. I really hope this doesn’t affect my parent’s ability to come down here with Addie! It would be such a disappointment to not see them in St. Augustine.

Day 57: Newberry to Palatka, FL (67 miles); May 12, 2021

Despite being a filthy room, we slept soundly in a comfortable bed. We woke up late and rolled out late, getting breakfast in Gainesville. Unfortunately the clouds retreated today and we were subject to a humid, hot, sunny day. The sweat was just pouring out. Towards the end of the day, I was feeling sluggish and ready to be done. I think the heat had a lot to do with it. It zapped my energy – but got through it, even if just barely.

Most of the ride today was on a bike trail lined with beautiful trees draped with Spanish moss. We have been attacked by kanikazzee bugs left and right all during Florida, provoking odd sounds of terror from us multiple times an hour. I’m sure motorists find it humorous. Speaking of motorists, we had the most aggressive encounters today in Gainesville. We experienced rolling coal 3x within a 5 minute period with close passes. Luckily it didn’t last long and we were out of the city in no time.

On the bike path!
That gorgeous Spanish moss

We got into the hotel around 5pm. It’s our last night of this trip and it’s definitely bittersweet. I’m ready to be done physically and mentally, but I’ll definitely miss the unpredictability of everyday and the general sense of adventure. But I’m ready to see Addie and the cat. In fact, I’ll see her tomorrow! Even though a lot of the stations we passed today were out of gas (even saw a few hoarders), my parents lucked out and were able to find enough gas on their way from Jersey to make it to Florida! I’ll see them tomorrow!! Makes the last day of this trip all the more exciting!

Day 58: Palatka to St. Augustine, FL (30 miles) May 13, 2021

Well, we did it! We rode our bikes across the country, again. And little Addie (as well as my parents) were there to greet us, making it all the sweeter! The 30 miles into St. Augustine were more of the normal boring roads we’ve been encountering, only today it was rainy and cold, a stark difference from yesterday’s ride. But a difference I honestly preferred. Yesterday was way too hot and muggy for even me.

While riding, one car in particular was really happy to see us. Beeping the horn and cheering, I thought it was odd that someone out there knew what we were doing. Sheena thought they were angry honks and nearly flipped them off. Then a few minutes later they were back right next to us cheering and holding out a sign. “Wow, that’s even weirder,” I thought, “they have a ‘you made it’ sign and they’re filming us!” I thought they were either with The Guys (who also finished today) or just bike tour hunters/cheerers. I turned to Sheena to see if she was just as confused. She wasn’t. It was Steve (her boyfriend) and his parents! It all made sense!

We met everyone at Crescent Beach Park and dipped our front wheels into the Atlantic Ocean, officially signaling the end of another tour. And what a tour it has been, which you know if you’ve been following along.

Re-enacting the 2016 high five picture!
Even unloaded, it’s a pretty heavy bike


There are way too many people to thank for making this trip possible. First and foremost, Sheena is the best touring partner I could ask for. She helped make all this possible by just agreeing to do these crazy adventures and being the ying to my yang when things get tough. We make a great team – hear that Amazing Race?! Huge thanks to my parents for not only being the best pet sitters to my furry babies, but also for making the trip even more special by driving down during a gas crisis to see us roll in. We met so many kind people on this trip, particularly through Warm Showers, who made this trip truly stand out. The kindness of strangers was humbling and overwhelming. Thank you to everyone who contributed to support us be it with a meal or just encouraging messages. It helped get through some of the tough days knowing people were cheering us on.

We are going to explore St. Augustine and make it home this weekend. It will be tough to adjust to life off a bike, but I have a feeling I might be living out of a backpack in the not too distant future…

Southern Tier Bike Route: Texas Part III

Day 38: Austin to La Grange, TX (72 miles); April 20, 2021

After two and a half rest days, I was more than ready to hit the pavement, even if my legs weren’t. After saying goodbye to the Alvarez family, we said goodbye to Austin. The first 12 miles were a total drag. My legs felt tired, weak, and out of practice. How was I supposed to ride another 60?! But with some time and the help of tailwinds, we made it 38 miles to Bastrop before noon.

If there were blueberry farms instead of cattle ranches, I would’ve sworn I was back home.

The scenery to Bastrop was like it was plucked out of South Jersey. Flat and farmy with green everywhere. I felt like I was riding down to the shore. It felt just like home, only with longhorns dotting the roads.

I believe he is a big reason why you “don’t mess with Texas”.

We were going to have lunch a little east of Bastrop, but stopped in our tracks when we saw Buc-ees off in the distance (and from being totally frazzled from being on a really horrible road with really busy traffic). I have heard rumors of Buc-ees for a year now, ever since visiting Florida. A Jersey girl through and through, I never thought anything could beat Wawa, not even this rumored mega gas station/convenience store found only in Texas. Well I was proven wrong today. I couldn’t believe my eyes. With 50 gas pumps and a store bigger than a football field, I was overwhelmed walking in, littered with the beady eyes of a thousand cartoon beavers, smiling a little too happily. They had everything and I found myself lost – in the hunting/fishing section of all places. From fresh hot sandwiches to fudge to lawnmowers to groceries, Buc-ees has it all. And their brisket sandwiches are pretty tasty too, if I do say so myself.

“This place is so magical!” -Sheena


With 32 miles left and great tailwinds, we made it to La Grange in great time. We stocked up at Walmart which is where I noticed we’ve been receiving the most attention today from strangers about our trip. I spoke to close to 10 people about what we were doing. They were all flabbergasted by our journey, most never even heard of anyone embarking on such a quest. 50% thought it was “badass”, 30% thought it was brave, and only 20% thought we were out of our minds. After talking to a gentleman at Walmart about the Pacific Coast, we went on our way to our home for the night, Colorado Landing RV park, which so far has taken the cake as my favorite RV park. Cheap, quiet, and clean with extremely friendly owners, I couldn’t be happier to be staying here. We made dinner in their kitchen and lounged in their community center until finally setting up our tents before sunset. It’s already feeling like it’s going to be a pretty chilly night. Wish I had little Addie here to snuggle up with.

Missed sleeping in the tent!


Day 39: La Grange to Navasota, TX (67.2 miles) April 21, 2021

For as cold as it was forecasted, I was pretty warm and cozy waking up. So warm and cozy, in fact, that I overslept half an hour. Realizing the time and that Sheena was already practically ready to go, I got up in a tizzy to break down camp and get moving. Not the most ideal wake up.

I calmed my nerves by stopping for coffee in town at a cute little coffee shop. Like a lot of these East Texas towns, La Grange seems to have seen better days, but is trying really hard to make itself available and attractive to tourists.

With the coffee barely making a dent in my fatigued state, we set off at 9am for a long day on the road. Headwinds were in full force, so I just kept my head down and pedaled. It was also freezing. I’m not exaggerating, a cold front moved in last night and it’s unseasonably cold here. Plus the sun wasn’t out to thaw us out. So I just shivered through the miles.

The towns we went through (Warrenton and Burton) seem to be super active during antique season (surely there’s gotta be a season for antiques?). The road was dotted with antique stands and the home’s lawns were covered in what an untrained eye might deem “trash”. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

“Why are these towns so trashy?!”

On our way, we ran into Justin, a tourer going west. He’s from Philly so it was nice being able to talk about home. He’s moving to California and decided why not ride there? A thirty something year old, he might even stop somewhere along the way he likes and work for a month or two for some cash. He was fun to talk to and offered some tips on navigating LA and FL.

Though he was fun to talk to, we spent a lot of time chatting with Justin and found ourselves only 16 miles in at 11:30am. With 50 more to go, I already felt a little defeated. Someone at a convenience store offered to let us stay at the community center in Gay Hill, shaving decent mileage from the day. Though tempting, we ultimately decided to trek on and stick to the original plan. Plus the sun was out and the headwinds were winding down, so we really had no excuse not to keep on schedule.

We’re definitely close to Louisiana. I didn’t get a picture in time, but I saw the first sign of Spanish Moss and we passed the first Cajun restaurant. Can’t wait to eat it soon! Scenery wasn’t anything special, more farms that look surprisingly like Medford, NJ (Lil Bessie’s hometown. Unfortunately the humidity ruined her hold on the outside of the bag so she’s been hanging out inside of it for safe keeping since Austin).

After some grocery shopping, we arrived at our motel around 6:30pm. Named “Vanguard $45 and Up!” – literally – we weren’t sure what to expect. Luckily it was safe, had 4 walls, 2 beds (sans bed bugs), was $45, and didn’t stink. So it was great to me. And considering I’m wiped out, I’ll be happy to just pass out quickly in clean sheets.

$45 and Up? Sold!

Day 40: Navasota to Coldsprings, TX (67 miles); April 22, 2021

And slept hard I did. Probably could’ve gone for another 10 hours easily cause I did not want to get up and moving. But time was ticking and I had to get moving.

After coffee in the room, we set out for the day. The first 20 miles were more farms, nothing fancy or picture worthy. We stopped for a break in Richards (no donuts :() and rode into Sam Houston National Forest, a really pretty area that was oddly reminiscent of the Pine Barrens. Crazy how so much of East Texas reminds me of Jersey.



Right before our lunch stop in New Waverly, Sheena’s rack broke yet again. We had some bumpy roads yesterday and after cruising over a pot hole today, the rack officially had enough. Unable to completely fix it, Sheena was able to jerry rig it with zip ties. Unfortunately, the fender was rubbing against the tire, creating resistance. Because we were on the side of a road with limited shoulder and tons of logging trucks (first sighting this trip), we decided to ride into New Waverly and fix it more properly there. So we did.

New Waverly is definitely as close to a living ghost town I’ve seen. With lots of old abandoned storefronts but a bustling population, it was a weird juxtaposition. We hung out at the extremely busy grocery store for 2 hours as Sheena fixed her bike. We talked to a number of residents curious about our trip. One of whom was Tristan, a 21 year old originally from Tennessee. He was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles shirt and is an avid fan, despite being in Cowboy country. “Yeah I went to a Cowboys game once, it was during a tornado warning and I didn’t even see one touchdown” Ba-da-ching! He just graduated high school in 2020 and was proud that he was the only one in his class who was old enough to drink alcohol at graduation. He walked 5 miles to work everyday and was very proud of his physique and tan. He got out of Tennessee because there were too many exploding meth labs in his neighborhood (one of which nearly killed him), and he unfortunately ran with a bad crowd in TX. He was incarcerated for 34 weeks for attempting to blow up the Post Office, an offense he claims he was framed for. Quite the character, Tristan had a little too much energy and could’ve gone on for hours talking to us, but it was getting late and we had to pry ourselves away.

Westmont! A little taste of home.

We arrived at our campsite in Coldsprings (Double Lake Recreation Are) around 5:30pm and quickly set up camp/ate. We’re both exhausted from the last few days and ready to be lulled to sleep by the frogs. It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow, something I’m very much dreading. Keeping my fingers crossed the 50% prediction goes in my favor.

Wildflowers everywhere!
We’re camping right on the lake.

Day 41: Coldspring to Kountze, TX (70 miles, 40 ridden) April 23, 2021

There are very few nights, if any, that have terrorized me like last night. Nights spent solo deep in bear country can’t hold a candle to the insanity that ensued next to that quaint little lake in innocent little East Texas. Only that fateful night in Benedict, Kansas in 2016 beats what happened last night.

Let me explain. I had trouble getting to sleep last night for no reason besides just not being able to find it. So when I finally did fall asleep, I didn’t want to wake up when I heard rustling in the woods right by my tent. Having seen tons of deer earlier, I just assumed it was one of them poking around. No biggie. Only it was poking around way too close and making scratching noises. It ripped me right out of sleep. What kind of deer scratches?! “Sheena?” I asked out into the dark night interrupted by the terrifying noise, “is that you? Do you hear that?” No answer. Assuming she was asleep, I whipped out my light and sure enough, two beady eyes were staring right at me from under the tent fly. It was an enormously fat raccoon. I screamed. It ran. Sheena yelled.

I ran out of that tent so fast ready to fight that thing, totally ignorant to the fact it might have rabies. I was so amped up on adrenaline I grabbed my flip flop (first thing I could find), and slapped the picnic table, keeping the creature at bay. But he had his beady eyes on the prize – my food pannier. Which I was using to tie my tent fly taunt. I couldn’t untie it without turning my back to the demon trash panda, which I was not ready to do considering he was holding his ground. I explained to Sheena the situation poorly because I was half asleep but also so frightened I couldn’t get words out. He saw his opportunity and charged at me, which made me let out the most primal, guttural sound that scared even me. It came from the depths of my soul. It would make my mom proud that I inherited her ability to make animals terrified by the bizarre noises made to scare them away. And it worked. With a look of what I can only interpret as confusion, that fat rodent ran right up a tree with a perfect aerial view of me and my tent. Whatever. That’s fine, it bought me time to untie the bag and remove temptation from the beast. The last thing I needed was a ruined pannier from sharp greedy claws and teeth.

Nasty little thing. Only slightly cute.


With him nestled in the tree, I returned to the safe haven of the tent. I got everything in order thinking I successfully scared him off. That is until I saw his little dexterous foot under the fly of my tent, enraging me to scream and grab my pepper spray. Again he retreated and a few minutes later Sheena thought she heard him rustling with a trash bag on her bike. I thought it was wind. Until I heard scratching again. My tent was rocking back and forth like it was in a windstorm and it struck me – he was attacking from the back!! I thrashed around within the tent yelling like a madman, infuriated by the tenacity and brazenness of this creature. At this point it was close to 2 hours of him employing fear tactics to antagonize and terrorize me. Shaking, I grabbed my Keen sandal ready to strike him when he attacked again. I was so done with being scared of a stupid raccoon. The possibility of getting food was too tempting for him. Sure enough I saw his wretched hand reach under the fly. I wound up patiently ready to strike. Soon I saw his little nose poke up followed by his shining eye. We locked eyes and I swung with such force I was surprised by my strength. And so was he. I made contact and he ran off, retreating quickly – this was not a battle worth fighting for him. Sorry PETA, but I can’t afford rabies treatment. I was hopeful that he finally realized that I meant business and threw in the towel. I kept watch for another half hour and Sheena would temporarily sound off her air horn app, which hilariously sounded like she was getting a rave amped up. Without any sign of him, I tried to catch some sleep. But that was hard to get when every rustle caused a panic. I kept replaying seeing his head poke out under the fly, him shaking the tent (ripping it in a couple places), and him charging me. What a nasty little critter. Luckily I proved my dominance and he kept his distance.

Had there been any warning of aggressive raccoons in the area, we definitely would’ve secured and hung our food bag out of reach of nimble little hands. These raccoons without a doubt have been fed before and have lost all fear of humans. But this human has a new found fear of raccoons. When talking to the camp host the next morning, he brushed off the experience saying, “yeah they can get pretty aggressive when food is involved”Huh, is that so? Enlightening. Where are the ferral cats when you need them?!

With barely any sleep for either of us, we got up unscathed and happy to see the bleak morning light, surely causing the rabid beasts to retreat back into their dens. We got coffee at a gas station and went on our way to Kountze, where a hotel was waiting for us. Bad weather was predicted for this afternoon and after the night we had, we didn’t want to be caught in a raccoon ravaged tent during a tornado.

Could’ve been the extreme fatigue or lack of any signage, we missed a turn and ended up miles off route. Ah, sounds about right for the couple days we’ve been having. According to google maps, it was an easy fix and we’d soon be back on track. Great! Until it wanted us to go down someone’s driveway and on a dirt path for miles. Not wanting to get shot for trespassing or break our bikes even more than they already are, we were forced to add miles onto an already long ride. And it was just starting to rain. Appropriate! We have been chased by a ton of unleashed dogs, but luckily they all seem to be not only cute, but also friendly. We have a system in place where I act as bait so Sheena can get away. It’s a foolproof system.

“Turn left!” Down the path that surely leads to death

We stopped for lunch defeated and 40 miles in. Of course where we stopped were infested with fire ants and boy they loved my feet. So we fled and just collapsed in a driveway. 5 minutes later a man pulls up in his pickup asking if we were okay. He passed us earlier (to which I nearly replied “well why didn’t you hit us?”) and was worried that we might get caught in bad weather. He offered to let us stay in his guest house 2 miles down the road, a really gracious offer. But we were on a schedule and had to make it to Kountze. So Sheena asked if he was willing to give us a ride. You never know if you don’t ask! He said of course and soon we were on our way to Kountze in a truck.

Michael is a 78 year old retired vet from Wisconsin who moved to Texas by request of his second wife. Unhappy with the move, he’s looking to return up north. And I don’t blame him. The eastern Texans we’ve encountered the last few days have been standoffish and there seems to be pretty heavy meth use. The interactions we have had with people the last 2 days have been unnerving. We felt a lot safer in the border towns of Texas than we do here.

Michael dropped us off and we went grocery shopping and got some pizza. Yum! We checked into a motel and waited for the weather to roll in. We definitely lucked out with getting a ride into town. After the last few days, a break was exactly what we needed to boost our spirits. Plus it’s great to be under a roof. There’s a severe thunderstorm watch as well as a tornado warning for most of the night. The only thing worse than fighting off a raccoon is a tornado.

I realized I haven’t mentioned The Retired Guys recently. They took their time out of Austin and are a day behind us. We’re keeping in contact hoping that we’ll cross paths again in Louisiana. I hope so, I miss their jokes and company!

https://www.bicycling.com/news/a20045103/i-rode-by-myself-across-the-country-and-things-got-weird/

^^a really great read about another tourer’s experience with raccoons. As I was battling him in the tent, Sheena was reading this to herself, fearing that the raccoon was gonna be in it for the long haul and she was going to have to intervene. Thank God my encounter was only half as terrifying as this girl’s.

Day 42: Kountze to Merryville, LA (65 miles); April 24, 2021

Believe it or not, the raccoon incident actually worked in our favor. Our original plan for yesterday was to ride to Silsbee and camp, however, we decided after the incident to treat ourselves to a motel room. Which was a great idea considering the weather we had last night. Lots of rain, wind, and tornado warnings for where we were, we were glad we were safe and dry inside.

A celebratory last day in Texas donut!

The day started out great. We got donuts and set out early. 4 miles in, Sheena’s rack broke again, requiring a lengthy fix. Because we’re nearly out of zip ties, we headed over to O’Reilly to pick up some more. 

The ride into Kirbyville was  31 miles of nothing. But flat nothing. So I was happy despite the headwinds. We stopped for lunch where unfortunately Sheena noticed a problem with her front derailer. Unable to fix it completely, she was able to get it to work so that it was rideable on flat land. It’s extremely frustrating for her, but luckily we’re done all the big climbs, so it should get her to Baton Rouge where it can be seen in a bike shop. 

We have an interesting theory. Our luck all went south when I put ‘Lil Bessie away for safe keeping. Living a dark and uneventful life in my handlebar bag, we think she’s been acting out for attention. From the bike issues to beckoning the raccoon attack, ‘Lil Bess is putting some major Voo-Moo black magic on us for missing out on seeing the hunky Longhorns. Wanting to stop the bad juju in its tracks, I brought ‘Lil Bessie out from her prison and pinned her safely back where she belongs in hopes that she stops her temper tantrum and frees us from this bad luck spell.

She’s back! Little dirty, but let the bad Voo-Moo cease to be a thing.

Well, I think it worked! After 20 fast and smooth miles, we were out of Texas!! I’m shocked about how quickly we got through this gargantuan state and how fun it was, with the exception of the last couple of days, of course. Initially dreading the dull long rides, I think having the guys to ride with and Aaron around for a little bit distracted us from the length of time we spent here. We had a lot of fun! It was 20 days well spent, but we’re happy to move on. Unfortunately, Louisiana does not have a welcome sign, a mega disappointment. However, we finally found a Texas sign! Only took 1,100 miles.

Of course I had to climb it.


Not even a mile into LA, guess what greeted us? A very large snake was in the shoulder just hanging out. As we passed it lunged with an open mouth, causing some minor panic. I hope that’s not a bad omen…. We arrived in Merryville a couple miles later famished. We went right for a hamburger shop because there’s nothing better to drown out your sorrows with than a delicious cheeseburger. Besides a cold beer. Which the restaurant had none. After that we went over to the museum where we are staying the night. Elaine from warm showers is a museum curator and is letting us stay the night in a cabin on its campus. It has everything we could want and will be a cozy home for our first night in LA. Sad to say bye to Texas, but excited to explore more of the south!

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

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!!