Sunday, August 9, 2009

13'%, 7,000 feet, 22 miles, 60 degrees!

Day 67 - Aug 9, 10:44pm
87 miles. South Lake Tahoe, CA to Auburn, CA

Only 5 more days is what i thought this morning. Better make each one count. Today's numbers definitely made it a hard one to forget.

The day's rest definitely showed itself in my legs. However its too bad i couldn't even feel them given that it was all of 40 DEGREES! leaving Tahoe. Seriously, someone may as well have stuffed ice down my shorts this morning and it still would have been warmer. The day started off with a slight incline to get to the last peak of the Sierra Nevadas. Us being our crazy selves, we happened to locate an old road that ran parallel to the highway that was closed to cars and a mile shorter. Of course the only catch was that it was also a whopping 11% grade. About a third of the group including me ended up taking the detour and the attitude was pretty much "Why Not?" I mean we've done such crazy biking by now that nothing can stand in our way anymore and to be honest we totally beasted up that entire hill without stopping and man it got steep at points. The top was just glorious. Ironically, we all felt a million times better than when we were at the bottom. We finished it and were pretty much like "ok whats next." Man, i can't wait to burn out the cycling team back at school.

Oh yea, and guess who's bag with 5 rips at the corners has finally called it quits. Yea, this guy's. Super thanks to Kelly's mom for the new duffel bag im borrowning and for making me feel just a little bit less vagabondish than i really am.

We climbed a little more to the peak at 7,000 and change before THE DESCENT. This was not a typical dowhnill but our final approach towards sea level. What i mean by that is 22 miles of continuous downhill, descending 4,000 feet at about 6%, never dipping below 25mph with the most gorgeous mountain views around us. Shoulder was pretty much non existent and drivers here are noticeably less generous here so that sucked but it was still awesome. Definitely got into my superhero "i feel like im flying" mode. I got so excited to draft behind our van when it passed that i shifted super hard into third gear and ended up pushing my entire chain off the gears which was not so fun, or fast. The whole unbelievable 22 miles down i kept thinking of every damn miserable uphill we've ever had to climb on this trip and who its all been leading to this epic descent. Jenny's odometer we later found out reveals that cumulatively we've climbed about 150,000 feet of elevation on this trip. Can you even believe that?

Maybe you can, but you definitely won't believe Max finding legit the largest pine cone I've ever seen in my life!

The riding continued smoothly and into Ryan Ellis' hometown(which is kinda odd but cool) where we walked around the arts fair that was happening. I could hardly hide how much i enjoyed basking in the intrigued looks and stares from the people around me. Man its hard not to think of how cool we look rolling in somewhere together. And honestly, while power suits and tuxes are pretty empowering, its hard to beat the confidence boosting of fitting into a good pair of cycling spandex and strutting around with your bike.

By the middle of the day, we had crossed a full 60 degrees of temp into the triple digits. Literally went from freezing to baking in just hours as It got absurdly hot way too abruptly. Thankfully the heat still doesn't affect me too bad the way it does other riders but what was truly horrible was today's downhills in the second half of the day, all of which couldn't be steeper and curvier if they tried.

Apparently they might've done just that when we found the 13% downhill sign. WHAT!? In biker language, the words "thirteen percent downhill" really translates into "Squeeze your brakes and pray for your life". The acceleration on something like that is just terrifying. If you coast for even 3 seconds you'll easily be at 40mph about to hit a tight curve. Not where you want to be. By the time we got to the bottom the place literally reeked of burning rubber from our brake pads. Some chammies may or may not have also been a little moist. The end result of such descents was that by second lunch we were at 750 feet, a full 7,000 feet below where we started this morning!

Highlight was finding a fun yard sale today which we haven't done since pennsylvania, aka where there are regularly intervaled cities, which was a treat. Yes, i did find a women's leather jacket with leopard interior that fit, and yes i put it back against my better judgement.

Had our last town hall today and finalized our grant allocations, which im pretty happy with. We're gonna end up giving 24,000 to about 9 organizations and i was generally pretty impressed with our 32 annoying selves' ability to come to a decent consensus. But the highlight was really the by now tradition of my leading a post town hall activity. This being the last one i of course had to break out the big guns. After teaching "The Self Worth Song" to much acclaim we had a massive game of Birdie on a Wire, where Ryan Farr and Larry emerged victorious. All of these silly activities are a big part of my orientation program FOP, and really special to me. It's been so awesome to be able to share them with another group that is also very dear to me and to have them totally embrace it as our own.

Just remembered, forgot to stretch after riding today. Ugh. So much stuff to do all the time. Its odd when something so personal and important like that becomes just another chore on a trip like this that can get so easily neglected in the bustle of it all. But did do pushups! 100 straight may yet be within reach if Carlie can pester me enough to keep me on track.

Having Miranda back with us riding in the van is great and she's in such a great mood which is superbly contagious. Words cannot express the joy at being a full group again. Am already starting to think of my closing post for this journal which is kind of odd, but relevant i guess since now's as good of a time as any to start reflecting. Jeez, i can only hope it wont be too mushy...

Overall today had a ridiculous amount of climbs at steep grades that all felt like just another. Never in my life have i been more certain that i can literally do whatever I want. And the more i think about it, the more i realize that it doesn't have to be any different even when this trip finally comes to an end.

Shh... "Secret Beach"

Day 66 - Aug 8, 11:41pm
Day Off. South Lake Tahoe, CA

So you know something's off in your life when sleeping in and taking it easy means waking up at 10am. The past two day's off have been epic in their enjoyment and today was no different. It started with the prettiest morning sunshine greeting us as we stepped outside. Walked over to the softball field and watched a few innings to start the day. Man that was awesome. Nothing like seeing a bunch of adults get overexcited about sports.

A crew headed over to this local organic food joint to grab breakfast where i was assured that my breakfast burrito was prepared with only free range eggs. Yes, i could taste the cageless quality and tender loving care afforded these chickens, probably by a happily married overall wearing farmer named Henry MacIntyre, but ordering five of them was not too conducive to the price. As in having 3 extra eggs cost 4.50 when the entire burrito costs 7 was a little bit disconcerting.

One smoothie and several conversations with the locals later, Larry, Meryl, Kelly, Julie and I were on our way to Shhh.... "Secret Beach" which was coincidentally located on San Francisco St. Though don't tell anyone i told you that. It was super nice and sandy. Does anyone else love the feeling of grabbing a fistful of sand and having grains flow through slowly? Because its easily a several hours long activity for me whenever i beach it up. Just wanted to do a normality check. Hopefully i passed. Anyway, the water was a great temp and super shallow. You could walk in for half a mile and still not be over your head.

When i say that i did nothing today, i mean it in absolutely the best way. If you had rolled around in the sand for oh say six hours you might begin to understand the glory that was this afternoon. We brought down a New York Times to bask our worldly minds in and were later joined by Jenny, Noah, Kate, Marissa, Paige, and Ryan Farr which only added to the fun. Read an interesting article about how troubled the Post Office is at being expected to turn profit like a private business while still having the ridiculous constraints of a bureaucracy. Did you know... there are 2,000 out of 34,000 total post offices that serve less than 100 people each! (And im pretty sure that about half of those have been along our route)

Larry, Doug and I grabbed monstrous burgers at the Bear Beach Cafe, where the manager was kind enough to make one burger free of charge. The service was very hospitable and sincere and they definitely deserve the business of anyone visiting Tahoe in the future. Also, you once again know something's up when a half pound burger and fries fails to fill you up, let alone leaves you hungry.

We topped off the night with some milkshakes from a local joint served by an interesting girl. Guess what her name was. No really try. You wont even believe. You sure? Well it was "Honey". No joke. The two ids she showed us definitely confirmed it. And yes i do take pride in having resisted the temptation to make a lame joke about her name in front of her. She was very adamant in thinking that we wouldn't believe it which was kind of amusing. Though I'm still trying to understand my inordinate happiness at having simply met someone named "Honey".

Noah had made a big point of using tonight's calm to really allow us to reflect properly on what we've accomplished so far, and what we are seeking to get out of these last few days. The whole group walked out to Secret Beach, the last part of which was down with our eyes closed and our hands on our shoulders. As if we weren't cultish enough already.Yea, it gets mushy here. We laid down in a gorgeous field staring at the starry sky in silence and it was nice to have that moment to breathe in which everything was so still and the pressures of constant peddling were not upon us. Dan M, Lara, Coop and I each shared a short story or poem to the group that we found to be relevant to this journey which everyone unanimously enjoyed. The calm stillness was soothing, though i think that understanding the magnitude of what we've accomplished will for each of us take far longer than an hour in a field.

And SURPRISE! Guess who's back! None other than our marvelous Miranda. I had just stumbled outside in the morning when a car pulled up and she began walking towards us from it. It was one of the best feelings of shock on this whole trip and we all had a huge hug session which was great. She looked awesome and had the prettiest green dress on(oh to have a new wardrobe...). Her spirits were of course through the roof and she was her normal super cheery self. She only needs to wear her shoulder sling occasionally and otherwise looks totally normal. Even better news is that she'll be staying with us until San Francisco. She's been so strong to have gone these two weeks alone and its such a pleasure to be a whole group again and not have to keep saying "32, eh, 31 riders"

Lake Tahoe was gorgeous, but seeing Miranda walk towards us was by far the prettiest sight all day.

Milk and Honey

Day 65 - Aug 7, 1 day late
60 miles. Reno, NV to South Lake Tahoe, CA!

Definitely an epic day. Right up there with Trail Ridge and Stumpy Lane. Still can't believe we're actually in California. All the other states have been sorta understandable but to have actually made it into our 18th state is just incredible.

The day started out fittingly enough with a group pic in front of Steve's custom built flame spewing tractor. Who is this guy seriously? While giving me some fishing line yesterday he casually opens a random tool drawer and pulls out these sharp crescents. Yea, they were bald eagle talons. Just happened to be in some corner of his toolshed. For real. Oh and did i mention he routinely rides his motorcycle while standing on the seat? Yea, who else votes for making Steve a new adjective in the English language as in "Dude, that's so totally Steve!"

Within the first 5 pedal strokes today i knew it was going to be a great day. The build day was just what my sore butt and legs needed and i was feeling great back on the bike as Doug, Hillary, and I flew through our first 30 miles to lunch. Though the Hot August Nights car show was a little too appealing for our testosterone filled selves to turn down. We promised to just loop through and head out, but that obviously failed miserably. The cars were just so unbelievably cool, especially this crazy orange 41 Chevy converted ambulance that the dude Henry apparently drives his kids to school in. Talk about incentivizing your kids... The highlight was finding a beautiful electric yellow '72 Corvette Stingray, aka the coolest car in the world, on sale for only 29K. It was reassuring to know that i can possibly afford one AND still have money left over to feed and clothe myself.

Lunch's wonderful leftovers from the night before, the first non-pbj meal in about 300 miles, only confirmed the day's awesomeness. Now for some reason as we went to do our 2,000 foot climb into Lake Tahoe, Noah, Doug, Larry, Noah and I found ourselves wearing adult diapers over our chammies for the rest of the ride. To be totally honest, it's still unclear why, but everything seems rational in the moment, right?...

Oh and the top of the mountain was called "Spooner Summit". Could you ask for a better photo-op?

The climb was a decent 10ish miles, which doesn't even register since its basically our job by now. The descent down was fabulous and totally exhilirating. Having that massive, and i mean ginormous, lake come into view out of nowhere was one of those total "Whoa, how the hell did this get here!" moments. It was just pure, stunning, glistening liquid beauty.

As we saw more and more casinos clumped we could tell the nevada border was ending and then in the middle of a packed main street we saw the tiniest sign about 20 feet up proclaiming entrance to California. Basically, the most anticlimactic sign of the whole trip. Well, since we were going too fast to take a picture, we made sure to let the whole neighborhood know that we were entering. I don't think there was a single person in that packed downtown area who didn't turn their head when me and everyone else started letting out our yelps of euphoria at having crossed the border. It was just so intense and one of those "i clearly can't do anything BUT pump my fist in the air" moments. Glorious is perhaps the only word that fits. And that reminds me, I have yet to ingest any milk and honey since being here.

We're staying across the street from the school's baseball field, and at night i went over with Max and Larry to watch a co-ed softball community league play while eating dinner. It was pretty spectacular to just chill out like that see a fun casual game. Really brought me back to my fun days of little league. Totally affirmed my burning desire to be one of those cheery, wise, story-filled 70 year old little league umpires one day. Talk about thinking ahead...

Tomorrow's a day off, meaning sleep in, and can't think of a prettier place to do it. THey've been intensely awesome so far and i think this is what we need to get us through our last 5 awesome days of riding.