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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 56 (July 23rd 2016) West Yellowstone – Ennis MT; 73 miles

Today was the easiest day we’ve had in a while. The terrain was mostly flat and we had a good dose of tail winds towards the end of the ride. The ride itself was beautiful, we spent half of the miles riding alongside Hebgen Lake. It is an interesting lake because on Sheena’s birthday in 1959, an earthquake caused the Madison River to dam, creating the lake and taking out everything in its path, including campgrounds. It was interesting to witness such a new geological creation.


We got into Ennis early and explored some of the town, including Willie’s distillery, in which we sampled a flight of their home distilled moonshine and bourbon. Sheena had more of a taste for it than I did.


With only 17 days left of this journey, it is palpable the sense of homesickness within the group. Although we’re all excited to see what the next few days have in store, we are all also excited to get back to home and our normal routines, which involve friends, family, and (arguably the top of everyone’s list) sleep. I know I miss my apartment complete with little Addie!


Day 38 (July 5th 2016) Sheridan Lake – Ordway CO; 88 miles

Colorado is more like Kansas than Kansas. Well, it’s more how I imagined Kansas to be. We can see miles and miles ahead, more so than we were able to in KS, and the sun is so much more intense and hot. There also are no trees in sight to provide valuable shade. Trees, in fact, are very sought after and ones close to the road not surrounded by shrubbery are very valuable. We did, however, encounter some rolling hills towards the end of today’s ride. After going up one such hill, we looked out at the horizon, and lo and behold, we had our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains! Though faint, we were able to see the behemoths from miles away. Can’t wait to get to them soon!


It was another long day, just shy of 90 miles. It was made longer by a continuation of flat tires. Molly was the latest victim and encountered a few issues changing the tire. We stopped to help (I wasn’t of much assistance) and with a few people, we were able to figure it out. In addition to mastering the art of snot rockets, Sheena has also perfected changing tires quickly and efficiently.


New Jersey was poorly represented today after an irate driver with NJ tags cut off Helena and Catherine (nearly hitting them). He jumped out of his car and ranted an incoherent slew of curses and vulgarity at them before driving off. People can be the worst.

5 miles out of our destination we stopped in a cafe in Sugar City for a much needed break from the sun. We got a few treats, including cinnamon buns. They were fresh from the oven and delicious. So delicious, in fact, we got a few to go for breakfast tomorrow.

Today we’re staying in Ordway in a hotel to celebrate the official half way point (wow that flew by!). The owner, Carol, is extremely friendly and welcoming. She made us a delicious and plentiful 3 course dinner. She must’ve known that we were hungry, cause the portions were heaping. And we didn’t let one crumb go to waste.


As a side note, today is a very special day for me because one year ago today I took home Addie! I miss my little honey bear and wish I could celebrate our adoptaversary together, but I’ll have to wait 3 short days for that.


Day 16 (June 13th 2016) Hindman – Booneville KY; 67 miles

Today was the worst day I’ve had this entire journey. As much as I tried to be positive during the ride, the hills, heat, and fatigue got to me. It was so hot I could feel myself baking, between the sun bearing down and the hot road roasting up. There were multiple times during the climbs where I thought, “I must’ve gotten hit by a car, died, and St. Peter did not rule in my favor.” It is absolute torture when you think you finally finished a climb, because there is literally no physical way for the mountain to continue, only to turn the corner and realize that indeed it can. The hills, though shorter than yesterday’s, felt twice as difficult. It was just plain rough. The dogs, however, were not nearly as ferocious today. So that’s a good thing.


Today was also a day of mechanical issues. Sheena’s handle bars became misaligned after going over a nasty pothole and my gear shifter became so lose it almost fell off. Because I am not mechanically inclined, this sent me into a panic. But we figured it out and fixed it. Genuine geniuses. Jake’s pedal crank also apparently fell apart. No clue what that means, but from what I’m told, it’s not good.

We got dinner from a diner tonight and have plans for going there for breakfast in the morning. Much shorter day tomorrow, we’re all excited about that!

Total miles today ~67

Day 10 (June 7th 2016) Christiansburg -Wythville VA; 34 miles

Not a very good day. Hilly, hot, and windy. This was our first main encounter with wind this trip. It started in the afternoon and was relentless. It was blowing so badly that it was even challenging going down hill. We had to pedal just as hard as we were going up! It was also scary in that it pushed us all over the road, into oncoming traffic. Which, during certain hills, would have been a much welcome gift (joking!). But we persevered and made it to another church camp in Wythville. After tomorrow we have an off day, which everyone is in of dire need!


Sheena’s corner: today was a tough day, but I made it. So that’s nice.

Total miles: 57.5
Time on bike: 5:13
Avg MPH: 10.8
Max MPH: 33.8 MPH

Final countdown (May 25, 2016)


In less than 4 days I’ll be on my bike, pedaling for the first day, probably questioning why the heck am I going to be putting myself through this misery for 80 more days?! And I can’t wait. I have been preparing for this ride since last year, gathering equipment and trying to get in rides when I can. Though it has been a long journey from then until now, the time flew by. Now that the ride is a mere couple of days away, I feel unprepared and nervous. Hopefully that goes away soon enough!

I decided to do this ride to push myself to the ultimate limit, mentally and physically. Plus, I want to see the country from the saddle of a bike. I want to experience the sights, sounds, and smells as well as the culture of this country in the most intimate of ways – on a bike. Sure I’m gonna have to rough it for a few weeks, but it builds character!

I am doing this trip with a group of around 14 people, of whom I only know one. Sheena is a close friend I was fortunate enough to have met in college. She is just as crazy as me for agreeing to do this trip, ha! I left my job as a physical therapist early May to prepare, though I have mainly used the extra time as an excuse to hang out with my dog, Addie. She is the love of my life and I have no doubt I will cry multiple times throughout this trip from missing her so much.

My parents have been a huge support system in this whole process. My dad has helped tremendously through the whole process, providing me with advice and encouragement. I am truly blessed to have such supportive people in my life.