Showing posts with label people. Show all posts
Showing posts with label people. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 12

Epilog: sitting on the dock of the bay

Few logistics issues as we spent our first none ridding day in San Francisco: Julia, the niece of my cousin Jean-Philippe, brought me the box with my bike bag, so I can take it back on the plane: very cool of her. Jon's place was transformed in a shop floor so Gerry could figure how to box it in an obviously too small a box; and there it is shipped now back to Connecticut.

It's time to sit back and enjoy the area, my favorite town in the US. If ever you feel like taking a long trip on a bicycle, thru the US or elsewhere, here are some of my after trip thoughts:

Long distance on a bicycle? Tips, my humble experience...

* Trailer or panniers?
Crossing my experience with Gerry's, the trailer seems a good option:
- although panniers seem to be lighter, they require a stronger bike frame; and Gerry (tall and strong himself) experienced quite a few problems with his rear wheel: he had to change 3 times the rear rim along his trip.
- trailer is lower, more aerodynamic, can be easily detached, faster to pack and you then do not need to get a special bike
- still handling a trailer implies to adapt your riding a little as mentioned.

* Tires, tubes and wheels
I had my tires wrong. Gerry managed to make it with just three flat tires through out his trip whereas I got 25! Kevlar, tube protectors (such as Mr Tuffy)... there's a better way. The front tire does not wear as much as the rear and it can therefore be different. Plan for a set of spare tires before leaving as it can be a hassle to find the right one on the way. Also my "home-made" hybrid bicycle (a mountain bike with road tires) is based on 26 inches wheel and the choice of road tires is more limited than if I had had 700 mm wheels. Also plan that tubes wear in the long run: some of the flats I had were just the tube getting to old.

* Behind the stage...
Getting an ergonomic saddle can be wise in the long run. Gerry would also use Bag Balm for his sensitive skin. I used Nivea creme (for my face as well!) and Tiger balm. But don't think that ridding is just a pain in the butts! It's also a pain in your legs, hands, arms... ;)

* Practicing, before, after?
I did not train before leaving: it's not a race. Yet practicing with the whole setup usually helps to minimize its weigh: the rule is "you always pack too much". Once done, it is very important to carry on riding a little (30 to 50 km, twice a week) to prevent blood circulation issues in your legs. And Marin county is just great for that!

* Safety
The flag behind my trailer makes the cyclist more visible. You can also get flags to put directly on a bicycle. Glowing colors of tee-shirts and jerseys are very useful as well. Eventually, 99% of drivers are careful and pay attention to cyclists: you still need to be very attentive to the 1% remaining.

'East to West' or 'West to East'?

One of the many comments that Gerry and I got on the way is that we should have ridden West to East; it would would have been easier. The dominant winds are blowing from the west and statistically we get more wind in the face riding towards the west.

First, if the point is to make it easier, I would not ride at all. The whole point of this trip is neither to make it hard for some kind of a pleasure. In my case, it was about taking a path that so much marked the history of this country. Traveling towards the west is meaningful and in those tough moments, battling against the wind on the way to Dubois I recall thinking that it must have a lot harder for these immigrants going after the frontier on trails, with wagons and horses, family and belongings.

Also as Gerry usually points it out, it good to train for a long while on the flat lands of the mid-west before getting to the Rockies. From his experience, he even had as much wind from the west as from the east. And you must feel twice betrayed when you get to ride into east wind!

Then, I enjoyed progressively riding into the wide open. You start from New York City and ride thru regular 'European' towns, a bit of countryside as well. Little by little as you get to the mid-west, you come across with these open fields of corn and wheat: your horizon already widens. And it really expands as you get to the west and far-west, riding in the desert: I guess I would have been thrilled to ride right away long distances into such wide open and deserted areas!

Eventually, it's great to end up in San Francisco and the bay area, especially Marin county.

"Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time"

Monday, August 10

Teaming up with Gerry

Riding this last week with Gerry has really been great. First as from a biking prospective, roads in California are rough and it felt safer riding them together. We also managed to alternate riding in front to get us going into the South wind that blew quite a bit along our way south in California.

But most importantly because I had a great time with Gerry, his friends and family: Donna & Dan in Sacramento, Julio & Tracy in Discovery Bay, John here in San Francisco. Many thanks to Gerry and all of his relatives.

And yesterday, we crossed the bridge we had been riding towards for exactly 9 weeks (63 days for me / 62 days for Gerry).

What a nice way for a bearded hermit to get back in touch with civilization!

Here is an overview on the map of this last week and overall trip:

In summary and few figures:
- 9 weeks exactly to go from New York City to San Francisco (e.g. 63 days including rest days)
- exactly 6,500 km ridden, e.g. 4,040 miles
- 334 hours and 29 minutes on the bike
- average day stage: 103 km
- 25 flat tires
- 3 new tires
- over than 2,300 pictures taken
- population of the smallest town in which I stayed: 2
- number of States in which I rode: 12
- countless memories

The bike, the trailer and the biker feel great and they will have to carry on riding a little in the next days or weeks as it is very important not to stop at once. That's a good opportunity to visit San Francisco and its surroundings.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along this trip and indirectly supported Theophile along his other path. He still has some steps to get through but we all wish 'beaucoup de courage'.

Gros bisous à ma mascotte, Théophile.

Sunday, August 9

Message for Theophile

Coucou mon Theophile!

Here is a little message for you and in French... I hope you will here most of it despite the poor quality of the sound.

Bon courage mon bonhomme, bisous et à bientot!

Our San Francisco welcome committee

We wanted to get to the bridge by noon. Marin county is quite bike friendly and, on a Sunday morning, it feels like a highway of bikes riding from Novato to Sausalito.

The area is hilly as well; we got slightly lost, bought a map and made it an hour late.

Our welcome committee was there, John with his camera, Julio with a sign and two bottles of Champagne. Good that we had our tuxedo-like gears on !

There we are, past the bridge, in San Francisco. We spend quite a long time enjoying the moment, drinking champagne, talking with Julio, John, even passers-by, and admiring the landscape of the Golden Gate as the fog clears away.


Thursday, August 6

Discovery detour

Gerry has planned a little detour for our ride to Discovery Bay where two friends of his live, Julio and Tracy: south to Stockton, then west to Discovery bay. Interestingly the wind blew from the south in the morning, calmed down around noon and then blew from the west.

Our ride got us into an amazing area of homes developed in the so called 'Sacramento - San Joaquin river delta'. This delta where both rivers meet into a maze of canals that can lead you down stream to the San Francisco bay; or up stream to Stockton or Sacramento.

Julio and Tracy live right on one of these canals. Her sister Amy is visiting as well with Stewart.

We had a great dinner on their terrace overlooking the canal. From time to time, a boat would cruise by. Of course we also told plenty details on our ride, especially to Stewart who has been thinking of a cross-country ride for quite some time now.

Cool place, nice people and great hospitality. 'Merci beaucoup!'.

More info
* Wetlands in California

Wednesday, August 5

Story telling

Breakfast is one of the best moment of the day: pancakes, sausage, eggs & coffee taste great before a good ride. We share our stories with the waitress and some retired old men that hang here every morning.

We had to head up early today as we wanted to be in Sacramento tonight, some 85 miles away from Chico. Some relatives of Gerry were to host us tonight and we had to make it in time. And we made it a little after 07:00pm, despite the heavy traffic on the second half of Hwy 99, the strong south wind during the whole day, the dust and drought... and two flat tires.

And our effort are rewarded by great hospitality at Donna & Dan's in South Sacramento! Great diner, great company and talks! Gerry loves to tell his stories, especially the hassle he had with Apple in Des Moines IA to tease Dan that has been working there since '92.

Showers, a bit of laundry, we should be in great shape to hit the road tomorrow again. Thanks a lot to Donna & Dan for hosting me, not to forget their dog Max.

Note: today I also breached 6,000 km ridden since I left NYC.

Tuesday, August 4

Riding amok

Old route 99 got us down from Red Bluff to Orland, thru some dry areas with yellow grass and a few trees, thru groves with irrigation, thru pines and eucaliptus, yet with a little south-east wind in the face (the wind you notice is always in the face).

As we get to Orland, we come across with another long distance bike rider. His equipement and bike seem unsofisticated though, as if he would be going for a week-end trip.

- "Where are you heading to?" he yields at me from the other side of the road.
- "San Francisco... and you?"

He started his trip in May from Washington state and rode down along the west coast till San Diego. He's now riding up north again and wants to head to Salt Lake City... and other cities like Denver, Saint Louis, and eventually ride back home to Michigan in October.

On the back of his bike, a sign reads "bike ride for life, help prevent teen suicide". He tells us about his wife who passed away after a cancer and Angela one of his daughter who decided to somewhat follow her. He hands me out a flyer that ends with these words: "Please be a sponsor for my cause or donate to any agency that deals with children. We can make a difference. Thank you for being part of my journey"

Wednesday, July 29

Wagontire café

Highway 395 is lonely and streches between Riley and Lakeview where I am heading. It's a long long ride in a deserted area; no town to cross, no house in the distance, nothing over 113 mi / 181 km. Not even birds singing; the wind or coyotees howling is the most you may hear.

28 mi / 46 km south from Riley, I hit Wagontire: a place with just a café, few rooms and even an air strip. Cherry has recently taken over the place and is running it. I decided that this would make a good place to stop for the night in the middle of the desert.

She offered that I use one of the empty rooms instead of my tent; which is especially nice as the weather seemed to be stormy and windy tonight. From time to time, I hear a car darting along the highway; and then nothing. Time slowes down.

It feels great spending this evening in the middle of the desert, like on a boat in the middle of the ocean and away from everything.

"A desert road from vegas to nowhere,
some place better than where you've been..."

More info:
* Wagontire Café

Tuesday, July 28

Word of mouth

Yesterday I stopped in the lonely gas station of Harper along hwy 20/26. As I talk with an old lady, Brian the owner of the gas station confirmed me that three girls on bicycles passed by few days ago. After Pennsylvania and Fairfield ID, we still seem to be on the same tracks.

Today after riding two passes, I 'find them' again in Buchanan. There's a little museum and gallery of art craft, right at the bottom of a downhill. As it is the only place to stop on the 58 mi / 93 km between Juntura and Burns to get a refill, I guess all bikers still brake (grrr...).

The museum looks more like an Antique shop but it's full of fun old staff. Here is my favorite, "a buffalo skull found in Malheur lake when it went dry in 1932" says the sticker.

The lady also has a guest book for people to sign and as I browse through the previous pages, I find 'Liza, Melissa and Freda: biking coast to coast'. So I investigate it and find out from another lady, a regular customer of the gas station, that she had talked to them and still had somewhere the link to their web site.

So they truly exist and that was not just a plot to get me to ride faster.

Btw info:
* By the way, I just made it to the Pacific time zone as well, that is 9 hours difference with Paris, France

Saturday, July 18

Be bear aware

Good opportunity for another day off: Grand Teton National Park is just south from the renown Yellowstone and offers a magnificent landscape of mountain range:

It also hosts plenty wild life other than the many tourists that visit it during the summer. Therefore the rangers teach you in handling this wild life, especially the bears at the campground. For instance, the brochure says poetically:

"A leaf fell in the woods,
The eagle saw it,
The deer heard it,
And the bear smelled it."

'Be bear aware' it says everywhere. On my campsite, I have a dedicated 'bear box'; a big iron box rooted to the ground in which I have to put away any smelly items like food, toiletries, water bottles, trash... To be on the safe side, I even included my dirty clothes.

With Sandy my neighbor in the hiker & biker section of the campground and two other bikers, we decided to be beer aware as well.

Saturday, July 11

Tips to find a 'cool place'

I mean 'my cool' type of a place. Sometimes you are just lucky and the place comes to you by some kind of a magic.

But in many American towns, it's difficult to find these places that have not yet been swallowed away from the downtown into the outskirts that you can only reach by car. Often, downtowns are almost dead and you will find most of the activity along one or two highways that get you in and out of the town.

Anyhow, to find a cool place to spend a little time around lunch and checking emails, one easy way is to google it by the name of the town + 'wifi' or 'coffee'; which I did yesterday morning.

Emporium Coffeehouse & café: I check the reviews and aside from the many praises, I read this "I guess they think this is France or something (you know little portions)". Sure, I've got to test it. And sometimes, the magic finds you again.

Ron and Sara own the place. He is finishing tiling the patio with Mike his son as I get there; yet he welcomes me as a French traveler, offers me coffee, introduces me to the Chef, the waitresses and his place. In the evening, they have a special event with a little band; as I decide to come, he invites me to join his family table.

Sure we had a very nice diner with Ron, Sara, her father, their daughters Alex and Jess, Mike and Emily his fiancée. And the table carried on growing as more friends came around... not to forget Louise the most affectionate artist I met so far ;-)

This morning, they invited me for breakfast at their home. We shared a good time chatting about food, websites, 'art de vivre'... until the beginning of the afternoon when it was time for me to take off towards Wyoming: "When (not 'if') you come to France, I will take you to good places I enjoy, like L'étoile du Berger or Monjul"

(Where are you Alex? Not on the picture... working at Emporium...)

More info:
* Emporium Coffeehouse and Café, 1818 1st Ave Scottsbluff, NE 69361 / T.(308)632 6222
* And by the way, the portions are normal. It's not about the quantity but the taste and enjoying a good time with friends. But that's just the opinion of a biker that currently burns more than 4,000 calories a day.

Thursday, July 9

Most unlikely?

Does getting two flat tires at the same time gives you good luck?

Anyhow when I started this morning from a campsite on the northern side of Lake Mc Conaughy (just north from Ogallala), a quite strong wind was blowing from the north, occasionally slightly against me.

After changing two tubes and one tire, I got to a small town, Lewellen, looking for a breakfast place. A lady tells me that I can go back to the gas station at the entrance of the town, "or there is this place just here that provides coffee and rolls". That will do it!

I don't know exactly when I arrived and how much time I spent there. It's an old barn, initially built to be a speechless movie theater, some one hundred years ago. It has been used for almost everything since, even a greasy body shop. Today, it combines an art gallery, a coffee place (with wifi!) where you can also have lunch. It's peaceful and as the place has been opened for just 5 weeks, mostly local people come here.

"It has something of a bike trip" told me Cindy, the lady that owns it with her brother Dennis. "I want it to be a slow place"... something of Nicolas Bouvier I presume.

More info:
* The Most Unlikely Place, 205 Main Street Lewellen, Nebraska 69147

Monday, July 6

Incredible Kearney !

I borrowed the slogan to the Indian Ministry of Tourism. I usually don't write about the nice and spontaneous welcome I get in some places; for instance when I was offered campsite and diner as it happened in South Whitley, Indiana. Yet here is another example of incredible hospitality as I got today to Kearney, in the middle of Nebraska.

Anytime I come across with a bike shop, I check if they have the tire I am looking for: Hutchinson 26 x 1.2 Top Slick. Although they seem to be referred in US type of sizes, they are difficult to find (by the way, European sizes are easier to find for road bikes). So once again I check at Kearney Cycling. He does not have it. But as he sees that I am riding cross country, he calls right away a shop in Scottsbluffs, NE where I should be at the end of the week; and manages with the other shop to have it ordered. Nice!

Then I get to a coffee place to have a drink and check my emails. The place is definitely cool, a mix of Indian yoga, artistic gallery, bio products, and self-development activities. As I am about to pay, the lady behind me overhears my conversation with the waitress about my cross-country trip and decides to pay for me. Although I am somewhat embarrassed, there is nothing to do. Thx very much to her!

I need to find a campsite and pay a visit to the visitors bureau: the campground is out of town, south-east and I have a long day tomorrow rather north-west. The better alternative is to take a motel in town and ensure a good night sleep. As I have booked a room at the Midtown Western Inn they directed me to, the phone rings at the reception: Paty from the visitors bureau offers to pay for my room!

Last the owner of the motel pays me beer as I am finishing my diner at the restaurant just next to the motel.

Waoo! Incredible hospitality!

More info:
* Kearney Cycling & Fitness 2216 Central Ave Kearney, NE 68847
* Elements 2100 Central Ave Kearney, NE 68847
* Kearney visitors bureau

Sunday, July 5

To the French American friendship

As I was searching for a campground in York, Nebraska, I came across with Tom in a gas station. Gas stations are like a second home to me and to plenty Americans who take their breakfast there.

However, Tom is working for the town of York; he mows the grass. He is also interested by History.
- "Thanks for helping us out during the Revolutionary war" he tells me as I explain that I am coming from France.
- "Thanks for helping us out of the second world war" I replied somewhat thinking "it always feels good the beat the English...".
- "We have close to here towns named after French, like Lafayette, Marquette..."
- "Yes and I have even seen Napoleon. But we have avenues named after Americans like Kennedy, Roosevelt..."
- "You are the first French guy I meet you know... good to meet you!"

Tom gave me a souvenir ticket from a Husker's football match at the Memorial Stadium, big stuff in Nebraska!

- "And you are travelling with just that all across the country?!" he said pointing at my little trailer. "You are some kind of a hero!"
- "Oh no, just a little crazy."

This is my gift to him and to the friendship between American and French people.

Thursday, June 25

Interstate 80

Another one that runs from New York (almost, it starts 4 miles away in New Jersey) to San Francisco. I have so far been traveling along I-80, yet not on it as "non motorized vehicles are not allowed".

Tonight, I was discussing with Tim my expected itinerary thru the next states and especially the Rockies. Tim is a former truck driver, with a good load of experience of the road. The "great salt flat" west of Salt Lake City is not a good idea to ride thru. Even with a truck, he would be especially careful in case in gets a flat tire. Tim is also projecting a long bike ride. It could have been this year; may be next year.

Though Interstate 80 runs thru the salt desert and I know that our routes will most probably split as we get further west. By the way, we met and crossed today for the first time.

More info:
* Interstate 80
* Great Salt Lake Desert

Wednesday, June 24

The Old Faithful

Am I suddenly pulling you 1,300 mi (2,000 km) ahead of this trip, to the Yellowstone National Park where the most renown geyser regularly throws its hot water and smoke into the air? Nope.

Here is a little diversion from my daily stories that takes us back in time, 23 years back: in the middle of Illinois, just North East from Peoria, Metamora is a little town where my American family leaves. With Greg, Cindy, Natalie, Monica and almost Valerie, I had then the chance to travel across the mid-west, from Utah, thru the Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, the Bad Lands, (Wall Drug as well!)... back to Illinois.

Today, we manage to re-unite again as they drove from Metamora to meet me in Ottawa. We talked about the good old time when we had been enjoying traveling across some of the country together.

And we manage to re-unite every 10 years or so; not as often as the eruptions of the Old Faithful though.

More info:
* The Old Faithful geyser
* Peoria IL is often referred as "mainstream America": a little more about it.

* By the way, I breached today 1 thousand miles ridden since I left New York City.

Sunday, June 21

Not just a park, an open church

In the center of Fort Wayne, Freiman square is both a square and a nice park, with a Calder sculpture on one end.

Yet on sunday morning, at around 10:30 am, it also becomes a church where Pastor Ron Bodendorf has been offering prayers, hot dogs and soda pops for 7 years. When I rode in, they were also putting away the equipment of a little band that had been playing.

Intriguing enough, I talked to Pastor Ron and some of his folks helping him. They offered me to share some food with them and, as he did it for this young man coming to him, Pastor Ron gave a word of prayer, wishing me a safe and sucessful trip to San Francisco.

Wednesday, June 17

Think positive

Rain is good for the green fields of Ohio.

Still it rained quite a bit today which gave me the opportunity to try some of the equipment I had plan to cope with rain. The outcome is
1. Wet,
2. Eventually, the solution remains the pancho, not techy but efficient.

This mmorning, the weather forecast was about rain for the coming days in Ohio. Just like sailing, you need to handle the weather as part of your trip. There is no storm that lasts forever; but half an hour is already long considering the quantity of water you can get here on your head.

At a local level, storms can be quite sudden. The sun may break thru the clouds but it may still be pouring with rain. It may stop suddenly for 20 seconds and start again. Weird!

When I arrived at Country Stage Campground, I was welcome and invited by a nice bunch of campers to have diner with them. Richard and his wife were giving their annual diner there: a Thanksgiving kind of diner in June with plenty carbohydrate to better ride in the rain tomorrow.

More info:
* Country Stage Campground, Rd. 1031, Nova OH

Tuesday, June 16

The enlighted rider

Road 224 crosses Ohio East to West in an almost straight line. As I was ridding, I noticed in the distance the silhouette of an unusual bike rider, on a "recumbent" as they call it. As I get closer, I can see his many bags on the rear of his recumbent. He must be a traveler:

- Hey! Where are you going?
- Colorado! And you?

We stopped and talked for a while. He was not only the first long distance rider I came across with, he is certainly the one who has ridden the longest distance I will ever come across with: he has crossed the US around 15 times so far!

His name is Hans, Reverend Hans Myors. He leaves in Georgia, 4 months a year and spends the other 8 months on the road, riding thru America, going from places to places, from churches to churches. He speaks enthusiastically of his life on the road.

Yet no time to get into the mystery of his ministry: he has to be in Colombus in two days, which is leading him south from road 224. Our roads split there. We carry on our trips at each other respective pace.

More info:
* His website:
* More specifically, his various trips
* And advices on bike touring

Monday, June 15

Cumming's candy shop in Butler

Time has stopped at Cumming's candy shop. Almost. Already from the outside, it looks slightly different from regular shops; attractive. Tom is the third generation owner; Jason helps me an expresso and a muffin.

That's a real expresso like it's usually difficult to find them in the US! The beans are roasted in Pittsburg, in the traditional american way; I mean slightly more than what we usually roast them back in France.

The candy has been established in 1903 and was last remodeled around the 40's. It's a little dark; you can seat in the second half of the shop on dark wooden benches facing each other apart from a table.

It originally started as a candy shop until after the war, you started to get soda and ice cream. For more than 10 years, you can also drink coffee.

Yet the most exciting piece is the huge mechanical cashier machine. It seats on the side of the candies and Jason told me that from time to time, Tom still runs it.

More info:
* Cummings Candy and Coffee, 146 N Main Street, Butler, PA 16001 T.(724) 287-3287