Tuesday, April 17, 2012

That last week........

First of all, we apologize for taking 6 months in between posts on this blog. A lot has happened between October 2nd and today. I am typing this while sitting at the table in our kitchen in Denver, looking out the window at a cacophony of flowering plants and sunshine in the sky.

Yes, we have moved to Denver. Brent has been working with Greenpeace, but is now starting a job with Thorne Nature Experience teaching environmental education in Boulder. I am working at the Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE) with people who are on Welfare benefits, preparing them for  the next chapter in their lives. We have been out here for roughly five months, and live in a cozy apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, very close to downtown. Although there isn't much left in our saving's accounts after our bike touring, we are very happy out here. :)

So since I know you have been on the edge of your seats(!) waiting to hear about the last week of our bicycling trip, here goes:

On October 3rd, after a hearty breakfast of pizza, ice cream, oatmeal, and toast (plus one more shower each) we conquered the hills of downtown San Francisco and were on our way to Half Moon Bay State Park, roughly 32 miles south. It was a rainy day, always tougher on curvy, steep roads without a shoulder. We experienced some pretty strong wind gusts cruising on the downhills, so there was never really a time when we could fully relax. Katie's thunder thighs finally proved too much for her chain, and it broke on one of the climbs. Luckily we were only 10 miles from camp and Katie is the master of jerry-rigging. Rolling into the hiker-biker site, we were relieved to find a site right beneath a large tree protecting us from the rain. After a much-needed but chilly barefoot stroll along the beach, we settled into the tent early and remained there for the rest of the night, enjoying a sandwich buffet for dinner protected from the rain and cold.

The next morning we rode straight to the bike shop in Half Moon Bay. And $268 later (oops!) our bikes were in good enough shape to make the final push. We did not get a single flat tire on our entire trip, a pretty fantastic feat. Our bikes were old to begin with, and probably never thought they would see almost the entire Pacific Coast of the United States. Considering our decision to fix up what we had, what we had did pretty well and got us through some crazy biking. (That's Duke, the bike shop owner's very friendly pup.)

Since our bike shop trip was a bit lengthier than anticipated, we didn't get back on the road until 1pm. The rest of the day we battled a headwind. Again. At this point it has become laughable that the wind keeps trying to push us north. We try to maintain a sense of humor about it. When faced with laughing or crying, always choose laughing. :)

We made a stop at Swanton's Berry Farm (upon a tip from another cyclist) just north of Santa Cruz. We enjoyed free samples of jam spread on animal crackers, a strawberry rhubarb cobbler, two pieces of pumpkin pie topped with homemade whipped cream (YUM!!), and Mexican hot chocolate to wash it all down (have I mentioned that we ate a ridiculous amount of food on this trip?). BTW: Swanton's Berry Farm is a must-stop along the Cali coast. They're a bunch o' hippies too :) Even to the point of making your own change - yeah, an open cash drawer. That is true small business.

We rolled into Santa Cruz in the dark and arrived at Molly and Jared's place (friend's of friends who were nice enough to let us crash with them having never met us before) to the smell of homemade pizza in the oven, shelter from the rain, and great company.

The next day was eye-opening, as we rode through seemingly endless farms of big agriculture. Think Driscoll and Dole. Most of the people who were working in the fields did not speak English and were out spraying pesticides without protective gear. When one sees the whole process, where miles of plastic tarps are laid over the land to kill everything (including the soil's nutrients) before the next harvest, and where large trucks haul all sorts of products to be distributed in mass quantity nation-wide, one cannot help but understand why people are talking more and more about our agricultural practices. I am not saying I've never enjoyed a Driscol strawberry or a Dole banana, but riding through those fields really does force me to question the industry and business of agriculture, not only as far as where our food is coming from and how it's been prepared and processed, but who bares the burden of it all.

We arrived in Monterey that evening, of course finding the county park at the top of a very large hill. We said good night to the moon and good night to the coons as we fell asleep to the sound of raining softly splashing the roof of our tent. At this point in the trip, having taking only a few days of rest and still a few days from our destination, our bodies are feeling physical exhaustion more prominently. We are having difficulty keeping our bodies warm at night, and our bedtime is getting earlier and earlier. Of course, we are still enjoying ourselves and feeling bittersweet about the looming end of our trip, but our bodies are trying to tell us it's about time for a break...just like these Sea Lions! :)

The next morning, roughly 15 minutes into our cycling, the sky turns black and we are being dumped on by sheets of rain. This was another time when one is faced with the choice of either laughing or crying... guess which one we chose. :)   Ok, so maybe we weren't exactly laughing, but we were forcing smiles and trying to have fun in the rain. As we entered Big Sur, we were battling rushing rivers of water draining out to the sea on uphills, and riding our breaks completely on downhills to keep from hydro-planing. We arrived in the small town of Big Sur at noon soaked to the bone. We went into a small grocery store for some lunch items, returning outside to pristine blue skies and sunshine. We enjoyed a picnic lunch while warming up and drying off under the California sun, then embarked on the next 30 miles to Kirk Creek, on the southern edge of Big Sur.

It was as if we experienced two completely separate days. Our afternoon cycling through Big Sur stood in sharp contrast to our stormy morning. Big Sur is fantastic, and no picture can do justice to the 'Lord of the Rings' type scenery you find yourself in. At this point in the trip, the steep hills and cliffs were manageable and fun, our bodies and spirits strong. We rolled into Kirk Creek campground, set into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean, just in time to experience a beautiful californian sunset. Mac&Cheese dinner, tea, journal, asleep by 8:30pm.

The next day we experienced a dramatic shift in landscape, transitioning from steep cliffs to gentle, rolling hills just south of Big Sur (which of course bid us farewell with 2 huge climbs). And we flew. :) We rode for a while with two guys, Nick and Desmond, who we had met at Kirk Creek. They were on a shorter trip of a few days and were quite impressed with our ability to keep up a good pace with all our gear. We said we owe it all to our thunder thighs, of course. :)

We cycled to San Simeon State Park, stopping at the Hearst Castle (but not paying the extortionist price for a tour-and yes, those are zebras and steer in the same field), and then at a local market for beer and salty chips, to be enjoyed on the beach of course. We were happy to run into Wayne, a cycling friend of ours from Canada, at San Simeon. The next morning we all stopped at a ma and pa diner for a large breakfast in the small, quaint town of Cambria. From there we stayed together to Morro Bay, where Brent and I had plans to meet up with Rachel and Toby (friends from Minneapolis who recently moved to Los Angeles) and Wayne decided to push through to San Luis Obispo.

We arrived in Morro Bay early in the afternoon, and sat on the beach watching a surfing competition until Rachel and Toby arrived. Rachel nannies for a family in LA who own a beach house in Morro Bay, and we were all lucky that they invited us to stay at their place! We watched the sunset on the beach before heading downtown for a delicious seafood dinner. We told our waiter how much money we had and told him to surprise us with whatever he thought we should eat for dinner. With a smile on his face, he ordered us a delicious, huge seafood dinner including fish tacos, burritos filled with shrimp, scallops, and tuna, sashimi, shrimp cocktail, and a pitcher of Firestone Double Barrel Ale. Our stomachs full and our spirits high, we headed back to the beach house for a night of margaritas, ice cream sundaes, Farkle, card games, and Shrek.

We only had roughly 20 miles to go the next day to reach San Luis Obispo, where we would hop on a train that would take us back north to Seattle. We took in the final scenery of California and the coast, heading inland to beautiful rolling hills, fields, and perfect biking country. It was a sunny, warm day and we arrived in San Luis Obispo with enough time to tour the Catholic Mission before heading to the train station. We loaded our bikes into bike boxes, and finally were able to relax into our seats with a 34-hour train ride through beautiful inland California and Oregon ahead of us.

The train ride was fantastic. We brought on all our own food to save money, and a bottle of wine to up our classy factor. :) The Amtrak staff were all very nice, we enjoyed the sights of Oregon, caught up on some sleep, and it began to sink in that our trip was coming to an end. Call us crazy, but we missed our bikes and the routine of intense extended exercise every day. It was all very freeing and we already felt restless. We started brainstorming our next adventure...

We made it to Seattle a bit of ahead of schedule, and biked the final hill to Jeana and Melissa's apartment. We are so grateful for the hospitality shown us by many different people on this trip. You all have stored up some luvly karma. :)

We loaded up the Kia and headed east toward Boise the next morning. We drove into the night, stopping in a random suburbia to sleep in our car for a few hours before pushing through to Colorado the next day. We hit Salt Lake around 9 in the morning and decided to stop at the Mormon Temple and see the Tabernacle. Interesting place. It's almost too perfect and the people too nice.

We pushed through to Colorado and arrived in Golden that evening in time to share some dinner with Lis and Jon (Lis is a friend of Katie's from college). We caught up with friends, did some rock-climbing and hiking, drank some fantastically hoppy beer, and after a few days drove further east to St. Louis. We stayed with Brent's parents in St. Louis for three weeks while searching for jobs and figuring out the next step. We had been homeless, wandering gypsies for awhile and decided it was time to have our feet in one spot for awhile. When Brent got an interview in Denver at the beginning of November, we loaded up the Kia again and drove west filled with excitement, hope, and faith. We stayed with Ted and Dani (Peace Corps friends of Katie's) for one week while searching for an apartment to finally settle down.... for now at least. :)

So hear we are, enjoying Denver, friends, mountains, and all this area has to offer. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking back to the bike trip and finding it hard to believe it even happened. We were so lucky to have such an adventure and stay safe and healthy through it all. Thanks for reading this blog and following our adventures. There will definitely be more to come. :)

peace & luv.

brent & katie