"Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there". "Where we going man?" "I don't know but we gotta go" - Jack Kerouac, On the Road -

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 33: Highway 1, Part II

Fort Bragg, Ca - Point Reyes, Ca : 146 miles. Total: 4064 miles

33 days and counting and the hunger is still in my belly, I know it the moment I wake up. I move the bed sheets and my eyes fall on the bike resting against the wall. In the darkness of the early morning hours I can make out the white frame. I could eat a horse. Every day I start riding with the expectation that I'll finally reach the point where I get too tired or completely frustrated or too sleep-deprived or bored even and then inevitably I see something beautiful, or find a great road or an insignificant detail that captures my imagination or a little pride bursting at the seams, or I smell a inebriating fragrance that makes me fall even more deeply in love with this trip. I also made a pledge, which has been made good on. We have surpassed by over 1000 dollars the initial target and I'm so proud of that. In addition to that, I also hoped that I could ride 5000 miles, the amount of miles that would match the money raised and now I need to find out if I'm good for that. So, while my mind often bugs me with the same perturbing question: "what the hell are you doing?", my instincts push me on. I am too curious to find out I can make it. I need to know. The game is not over and the primary goal of the game is to win the game, right Joshua? (War Games).

I turn on the bedside lamp and the world outside is asleep, silent, dead, nonexistent. Again and again I wake up when it is still dark outside, I move in slow motion as I prepare for another long day on my bicycle. I am putting my clothes on and thinking about riding on the Golden Gate Bridge. Before I get there I have the Mendocino and the Sonoma counties to deal with. Still a long way to go before I enter the Bay area. This overpriced motel serves a few greasy muffins for breakfast, I grab five and I am not even full. I look out of the window as I quickly munch on the poppy seeds and banana muffin and the whole world is shrouded in a thick fog. It looks cold and damp and nobody is vernturing out in the streets, no vehicles, let alone bicycles. I put on sunscreen and again as it has been for the past few days, I am wearing everything I have.

I pluck my courage and I am off. I can hardly see the yellow line in the middle of the road, I see it clsoeto me but a few yards in front I see the line fading off and disappearing into the fog. The yellow lights from the street lamps appear through the mist like a lighthouse on a foggy day with the sea roaring. It is surreal. Yesterday's world seems so far away and yet here it was, clear and sunny. It is all gone.

The road is almost empty, a few cars pass by but I have most of Hwy 1 for myself. Well, the little I can see that is because the fog engulfs everything. The road loses itself a few feet in front of me and I barely make out the jagged lines of the rocks that pop up from the shoreline. As I proceed south the fog thickens even more and I can only hear the ocean, I can only smell its salty fragrance from below but I can't see it. The mist makes everything moist, my skin, my hair, my helmet, my clothes. It is not easy to ride in these conditions, I stick my arm out when I hear a vehicle approaching hoping they will see me and grant me the gift of life. Most passing drivers have good intentions. When they round a corner or come over a rise and see me slowly crawling my way up a hill, I hear them let off the gas and start to slow down. But as soon as their right foot leaves the pedal, impatience starts to build inside. I can almost feel it radiating out from behind the windshield as they hover fifty feet in back of me. The good will almost always wears out within two seconds—even if we're bunched up in a blind corner, or with a car coming from the opposite direction, or in the grayish haze of thick morning fog. I hope the fog will evaporate sooner or later; one hour, two hours, three. Nope, nothing changes, the beauty of the ocean is a mystery to me today; it hides behind this white screen, behind this wall of fog which separates me from the blue water. Today the ocean is only an image in my head which sticks around even when I try to push it out to confront the traffic. The whole highway stays shrouded in this thick mist which hangs on the shoreline like a hand in a glove. I am riding on broad coastal terraces with nothing to my right but a thick white and gray fog which hovers around me like a swarm of bees. Luckily for me I enjoy the several charming coastal towns I ride through such as Elk, Mendocino, Albion. It is quite evident that these places attract high-end or cultural type of tourism; several wineries or simple but elegant B&Bs dot the coast. The lady at the hotel in Fort Bragg told me that these Inns can charge up to 300 bucks a night; some of them look very pretty I must say.

I am dealing with short but steep climbs. Today is tough on my knees. The road seems to be either going up or down, over and over and over again. And the scenery would be great if I could see it but I don't see anything at all. When the road hangs to the left and drops near the shoreline I can just about see the water and the white foam of the waves as they crash on the shore but that's it. I stay focused on the ride because visibility is seriously impaired and it does not seem to improve. I ride almost non-stop for the first 60 miles then I stop for a quick bite and a sugar fix at a small grocery store and then I continue to Fort Ross where I decide to take a quick tour around. This was a Russian-American Company settlement between 1812 and 1841, established as an agricultural colony to support the company's settlements in Alaska and as a base from which to hunt California sea mammals. The employees of the company worked at tanning, blacksmithing, brick making and boat building.

It is quite striking that, unlike last year, I haven't bumped into a single cyclist going cross-country. Today I passed a few cyclists riding along the coast. I counted 5. One guy from Quebec I met in Fort Ross, two girls from Spain who could not even speak a word of English and a couple that I just said hi to.

After about 90 miles I enter Bodega Bay and by this time traffic is just crazy. Even the fog seems to make way for the many vehicles. It is a continuous flow of cars that join the highway from the many restaurants or public beaches. I am annoyed by the vehicles that do their best to pass me without collusion some of them cause me a second of total panic when I hear them approaching without letting off and there is no space between me and the side mirror. One truck almost grazed my left hand, this was the closest call ever!!

Despite the traffic and the never-ending gear shifting required to climb and descend the constant hills I am riding well and I feel healthy. My morning knee pain has miracolously disappeared and I can ride fast hoping to get as close as possible to the big city. At Bodega I stop because here Hitch filmed The Birds and the school building is still standing. After that it is much better riding as highway 1 goes inland and the bulk of the traffic takes 116. I am alone again on hwy 1 into the Tomales Bay which is a scenic, quiet and tourists-free part of the Bay Area. While the scenery is not as dramatic as along the coast, the bay is really something special. I really enjoy this final part of the day, the road is still making me work but I simply take pleasure in the scenery and the fishing villages that I ride through. many offer tiny oyster and fresh fish restaurants and I would love to stop and eat for hours sampling the fresh catch. Tomales is probably the most attractive one, with a definite Victorian character. The local coffee shop is full of people and more people mill about at the bakery. I debate whether to stop here but my ride/race against time beckons and I decide to go on to the next town, which I reach in a short time.

At Point Reyes I check the time and the map. It is 6pm, maybe another hour and half of daylight. The green hills standing tall over the Tomales Bay are about to take the sun prisoner and I must either hurry or just chill. I only am 25 miles from San Francisco. I could make it. However, the lovely restaurant and the local B&B seem so invitng that I don't to ride into urban traffic at sunset and to ride around town looking for a hotel. This place is perfect. Point Reyes is a colection of houses along the road nestled into a tiny corner of the Tomales Bay, it is a little jem and it is going to be my home for the night. I decide that I want to ride the Bridge in full daylight to fully enjoy the moment. A charming Inn which offers me a discount seems like the place and they are not going to beg me to stay here the night. Fresh salmon for dinner is a real treat and after I write the journal all I have to do is sleep well and tomorrow morning cycle for about 30 miles and hope that the clouds won't be in the way. I want to see the Bridge and the Bay.

I am in San Francisco. Over 4000 miles. Not too shabby.
Oh and by the way, I have changed my mind. I am going for broke: I am going to try to make it to LA. I have 5 days left.



  1. What an epic ride not just this last posting but the entire ride. It's good to hear in your writing that you are still energetic and ready to continue. Hope that you get a clear day to ride the Bay Bridge as they have opened a cyclist path across the bridge which is a great chance to stop and enjoy the view. Look forward to the next installment.

    On a side note I went for a ride with my son yesterday and looked for the week and I only covered 116 miles and you have been doing that plus many more for the last 32 days. Day in and Day out, this really shows what a fantastic ride you have been on. Well done.

  2. Luigi,
    What a completely fantastic saga!! And Young Jo and I are so happy for you that you will get to ride that beautiful coast highway going south out of Carmel!! It is truly, truly spectacular - less morning fog than northern CA. The weather looks great, and you will have a nice tailwind!! Life will be beyond good!!

    Monterey/ Pacific Grove in about 140 miles or so for you today (Monday). I would think that that distance is beyond an ordinary biker, but, then again, you haven’t been an ordinary biker at all on your journey.

    Take good care, go in safety, and we are anxious to read the next installment!!!

    Bill and Young Jo

  3. ahi ahi, aver citato Joshua ti espone all'ovvia, solita citazione che ti risparmio perché tanto hai già capito.
    BTW, per l'estate prossima, how about a nice game of chess?

  4. I see you have added salt encrusted to your list of experiences. Dirt flecked, salt encrusted cyclist. I like it! Makes you sound like a warrior with battle scars. But come to think of it you are a warrior. Every morning you suit up and go wage war on the road, the elements and traffic. Your battle is a personal one, but you have graciously shared the spoils with the Charity Water. Impressive amount of donations rolling in. So cool that you have blown by your initial goal.

    Hard to believe that you only have 5 days left. Going for LA is no surprise to any of us following you. When you are south of Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, pick up some artichokes for me. On highway 1 just north of Monterey the road is flanked by fields of these really odd looking plants. They make you say what the hell are those as you ride by. Roadside stands sell fresh picked chokes the size of softballs. Since you don't have room in your backpack for my artichokes, do the next best thing for me. Eat your weight in fresh artichokes and then tell me about it.