Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Home Again

Full Moon

I escaped from Sacramento this morning just in time to miss the 105 degree afternoon. Whew! Even though the train was an hour late, I was happy to board, score some coffee, and enjoy the ride. The sunrise was pretty cool at the station.

I was preoccupied with people watching, dozing off in my seat, and catching up on news, etc. on my phone until we hit the Carquinez Strait near Benicia. The Coast Starlight is famous for its beautiful scenery, but this stretch is an industrial funk zone giving way to tidal flats. The flats can be pretty in the right light, especially when there are lots of birds, but today they were kinda blah.

The obligatory Jack London Square stop at the Oakland Harbor doesn't quite capture the essence of Oaktown. The Square is basically bourgeoisie yuppie safe tourist stuff. Oaktown is a seriously messed up, beautiful sociological experiment. It's a collection of intelligent oddballs like you rarely see elsewhere. They are way ahead of the apocalyptic curve here. Jack London Square does not prepare you for any of that.

Once you get away from the big city, east bay, railroad-graffiti ghetto, you start to see farmland - beautiful, productive farmland not yet cemented over with malls and McMansions. Why turn this productive, carbon-trapping food bank into a heat island? We know it is dumb, but we keep on doing it.

Where is the cement coming from, you ask? One place is the Granite Rock A.R. Wilson Quarry near Aromas, CA. We passed right by it on the train. Business is booming for these guys as Silicon Valley marches inexorably south toward San Juan Bautista, Manifest Destiny on steroids.

People still have good ideas and act on them, though, like the establishment of a wildlife sanctuary and learning center at Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing. Once upon a time, the San Benito River emptied out into Monterey Bay through this slough, before movement along the San Andreas Fault altered the river's path toward the north.

Soon after this, I was de-training in Salinas and pedaling the Dream Machine toward the San Juan Grade to go home. It's a 17-mile ride with one long, curving climb up to the Monterey/San Benito County line and the Vergeles fault and down the other side to San Juan Bautista. The grade is 4 or 5 miles long each way and pretty steep. The temperature was 92 degrees F and there was very little shade on the narrow asphalt road. I was really struggling to make it with about a mile to go to the top, sweating "profusely" and feeling pretty wobbly. I had resigned myself to pushing that loaded bike for a while when one last trail angel showed himself.

A sturdy young dude in a white pickup passed me, continued most of the way up toward the pass, then slowed and turned around. He came back down to where I was panting on the side of the road and asked if he could take me and my bike up to the top. He also handed me a fresh bottle of water, no doubt because I looked and sounded like I was about a quart or three low. That decision was a no brainer, in more ways than one. In a jiffy, I was barreling down the other side of the pass, dodging potholes, and burning up my brake pads toward The Farm.

Man, I am so lucky. There is something pure in trying, even when you know you will never be as tough or as strong as you once were. I saw this plaque up on the Tahoe East Shore Trail the other day. Good message, Nancy, whoever you are. I am sharing all these places and happenings with whoever wants to read them. Never doubt for a minute that you are loved.

Peace, Love, and Home Sweet Home,

Monday, August 12, 2019

Hurrah for Harrah

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I forgot to mention the butterfly migration at Tahoe. The whole time I was riding yesterday I was passing through swarms of California tortoise shell butterflies. They were beautiful!

(Photo from the internet)

Despite a crabby, customer-service-challenged bus driver, I made it to Reno this morning a-okay. I had found a super-cheap deal on a room at Harrah's right across the street from the Amtrak station. PLUS they let me check in at 10 a.m. So Hurrah for Harrah! You are alright in my book.

Tomorrow morning I will board the California Zephyr bound for Sacramento, the first leg of my train ride home. Meanwhile, I took a couple of little walks around downtown Reno to see some sights.

I like the Truckee River Walk and the public art display. These features show a lot of pride and a fun, happy attitude about the town.

The weather extremes are too radical here, but I like Reno (and Carson City,  too) as places to visit and from which to learn. The casinos are unnatural and possibly unsustainable, but they serve dual purposes by employing lots of people and by giving quasi-insane, addictive personalities places to chain smoke and to incinerate their paychecks

Peace, Love, and No More Bus Rides for A While,

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Nice Ride

Waxing Gibbous Moon

The Redlight Hostel was too weird for me. My assigned bunk, 5B, was like one of those train berths in an old time movie, with a mattress big enough for one bod, a tiny light, a shelf for some stuff, a sheet and comforter, and a pillow.

I slept okay, it was very dark with the curtain closed, but each time I woke up, there were never-heard-before snore sounds. Not really loud. Just very original. One sounded like a cow. You try sounding like a cow while inhaling. It's not easy, is it?

Eventually, it was time to rise and shine. I collected my panniers and crept outta there like a cat burglar. Oh yeah, there were cat snore sounds, too.

The first order of business was a cheap omelet at Jack's Diner down the street. Good enough, and very friendly California girls on staff. Are California girls making a comeback? Hope so.

Then I had a really productive phone conversation with Tayeesha the Amtrak representative. I learned that I could NOT get my bike on the train at Truckee under any circumstances. I could, however, roll it on the train if I went to Reno and left from there. And I would not have to dissemble it and pack it into a bike box.

Soooo, Tayeesha helped me, with great courtesy and professionalism, to make all the right reservationary decisions to deliver me back to Salinas on the 14th. Most excellent. All I have to do is get to Reno by 8:00 a.m. Tuesday.

There were obstacles, of course. Mt. Rose, a 10,000 feet mountain  was in the way between Truckee and Reno, so I was not going to ride there. That meant hitching or busing. Hitching with a bike and panniers is awful. Scratch that.

Is there such a thing as a bus that would do the trick? The first few results were gloomy. As in $100 gloomy airport shuttle buses. Surely there were local or regional buses that the food service and hospitality staff use to come to work, right?

I decided to ride the TART bus from Truckee to King's Beach (85 cents!), then ride around the Nevada part of Lake Tahoe to Stateline, where all the major casinos are. That would give me some beauty and some exercise for my last day. Then I would hunt for a cheap bus east from there - a gamble, but one in which I felt confident.

Nice ride! The lake was gorgeous, the weather perfect, and even though the traffic was horrendous, I was okay with it most of the time. The highlight was definitely the new bike path between Incline Village and Sand Harbor. It's only a few miles, but what a view what a view what a view!

After Sand Harbor, the path ended and the uphill, shoulderless road was jampacked with Sunstruck beach goers. The tension of the crowds made the tough climbs that much harder. Truthfully, this part was not that much fun.

At Stateline, the flow worked in my favor almost immediately. I asked and I was answered. A local bus would connect with another local bus in Gardnerville to take me to Carson City ($2.00!). So I am staying at my old standby Carson Rodeside Inn and I'll take a regional bus to Reno tomorrow ($2.25!). I guess you could say it's working out pretty good. Or at least pretty cheap.

This trip was very educational. I learned that I have new limitations to the amount of pain I will trade for the realization of a goal. I learned that my mind and body work closely to prevent me from further injury. And I can confirm that I am indeed completely, thoroughly, definitively over the hill.

When I get home, I will re-assess The List, the things I had silently sworn to do by seventy. I won't say at this point that they won't get done. But some of them don't sound that fun any more. I might just re-write The List.

Peace, Love, and Self Improvement,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Flow

Waxing Gibbous Moon

Today I just went with the flow. I was not, and may never again be, in charge. I accepted an early morning ride from Chris to Graeagle to save my knee a steep climb. I took a few photos.

Then I tried to ride but couldn't. So I waited until Dave presented himself, just as the rain began. He took me to Truckee in his rainproof truck. I got wet when I got out in Truckee and ducked into the hostel behind the train station.

 Like every hostel in the whole wide world, it is weird to say the least. I am in a bunk, becurtained from other bunksters, with a bathroom in the hallway and a bike rack in a locked toy hauler for the Dream Machine.

Every going-home option so far considered is Cal-Tech complicated. By tomorrow, it will either work itself out in my favor or I will be unmercifully pummeled by rogue waves of fate. I have no clue. Right now I am going to attempt to sleep.

Peace, Love, and Hostelry,

Friday, August 9, 2019

Pangaea About To Split

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I walked inside Pangaea this morning, expecting to see some bulk bins full of healthy snacks, hear the Rolling Stones playing in the background, and buy a yummy egg salad sammie on a roll. But nope, Quincy's finest, oddest eatery has changed. It's kinda still nice, kinda still quirky, but not the fun hippie holdover I recall from ten or fifteen years ago. In fact, it is so different from my memory of the place that I am starting to think I may be mistaken. Am I experiencing decade displacement syndrome (I don't even know if that's a real thing - I just sort of made it up right here and now)???

More importantly, though, Pangaea Cafe & Pub is about to split. It's moving to a new location down the street and it's probably just as well. The whole exterior is starting to look tired and worn. And I don't even recognize the inside. I'm guessing that the change will be good.

Anyway, their chief town rival for good, fresh, healthy food is directly across the street. Grandma Jane's Bakery is a flat-out assault on your taste buds. I had a personal size pizza for lunch there today that was out of this world. And the folks who run the place are as down to Earth and kind as the day is long.

I also spent time in the Quincy Public Library and at the Museum across Jackson Street. These places get my pick for the best use of public funds I have seen on this trip, especially the Museum.

There is a good chance I will be heading home from Truckee next week. It all depends on whether I can put my bike on the train there. I have tried to find out online, but so far every attempt to contact an actual human has failed. Artificial intelligence is freakin' dumb sometimes. I may not know for sure about the bike until I get to the station.

Meanwhile, there are at least two mama bear climbs between me and Truckee. I broke down and swallowed a couple of ibuprofen last night because I couldn't get my knee to stop complaining (that was the first time all summer for Vitamin I, but probably not the last). At the end of the past few days, the whole joint has felt like it was going to split wide open. Prognosis: continental drift of the knee.

Peace and Love from Pangaea,

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Recovery Ride

Waxing Gibbous Moon

Lassen and Plumas counties really have it together in the people moving business. I have been able to bounce around in between rides at a half-price senior rate with my bike and gear, right on time, where I've wanted to go - like to the Susanville Library, for instance. Kudos to the planners.

All I wanted out of the rest of the day was to ride for an hour or so to stretch my legs and get a little burn going. The hot temps faded a little, so it was a perfect day for a recovery spin. I took a West Lassen County bus to Lake Almanor and slowly made my way along the east shore down to Canyondam at the south end of the lake. What a gorgeous ride!

Then I waited by the store and the hamburger stand (Canyondam is small, but mighty) for the Plumas County bus to take me to Quincy. This is the section I may have mentioned previously - the section where the Adventure Cycling Association strongly suggests you take the bus so as to avoid getting runned over by logging trucks. You don't have to tell me stuff like that more than once. And hey, the store has weird stuff to look at while you are waiting, so bonus points.

Quincy is a cool place where I have zeroed a few times before. I'm pretty sure I will do it again. My bike shorts and jersey reek, really, really reek. The Quincy laundromat will fix that to the great joy of Plumas Counteans, both living and dead.

I will report on the status of the world famous  Pangaea Health Food Store in the next installment.

I have basically decided to crawl my way at least to Truckee, then re-assess from there.

Peace, Love, and Mass Transit,

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Down to Chester

First Quarter Moon

There really isn't such a thing as an easy 30-mile ride for me any more, but today's trip to Chester from Lassen Park was almost all downhill, so how can I complain? So what if I had to slam on the breaks and pull off the road twenty times. @#^* it!

At approximately mile twenty-two, I once again crossed the Pacific Crest Trail, stopping to ceremoniously water the bushes and stare longingly at the familiar path. There was a pretty good sized water cache on the north side and a tumped over "halfway" sign on the ground.

I pulled into Chester in the 91-degree sunshine just after noon and headed straight for the Holiday Market. This place has served two important purposes for me over the years. First, I think it's the best resupply grocery reasonably close to the PCT. And second, it is where local/regional buses stop on the way to Susanville (east) and Quincy (south).

I employed my Smartyphone to look up bus schedules. I non-decided to let the bus determine my next move. I would get on the next bus arriving at the Holiday Market, no matter which direction it was going, Susanville or Quincy. I wanted a shower and a bed and everything is cheaper in either of those places than it is in Chester.

Susanville won. So here I am at the Diamond View Motel in the heart of town. I can either hop the bus back to Chester and continue to Quincy tomorrow. Or I can catch the Sage Stop bus to Alturas and start the process of going back to the Klamath Falls Amtrak station. Or I can explore the Bizz Johnson Rail Trail. Or I can just park my bike under a shade tree and wait for divine guidance. I'm not really ready to go home. Dunno yet.

Peace, Love, and What To Do?

Quality Time

Waxing Crescent Moon

Just as I was entering my tiny tent early Monday evening, I heard my name called. What? Looking up, I saw the big holy face of Cody Gartner beaming right at me. Cody, for those of you who don't know, is a poet, a guitarist, a joy beacon, an ex-student in my old Earth Science class circa 2005, and one of the founding members of the San Benito High School Outdoor Club. Plus, he is a current resident of Old Station, CA, my next scheduled stop.

I was expecting to meet Cody for lunch on Tuesday at JJ's Cafe in Old Station, but he decided to surprise me at the Cassel Campground just for fun. Awesome! We jabbered about past, present, and future at the picnic table for an hour or so and agreed to continue the discussion the next noon.

All I had to do was get some sleep and complete the all uphill but beautiful ride between Cassell and JJ's Cafe. An early departure from Hat Creek would help me manage the heat.

The ride went well until the last 30 minutes or so when I repeatedly had to ditch the Dream Machine onto the soft shoulder to avoid getting crunched by caravans of cars and trucks. Why do people drive in packs?

Despite the rude roadsters, I was able to arrive on time to have a terrific late breakfast and enjoy some more conversation with my old friend. There were several of this year's PCT hikers in town. Cody frequently talks to them as they wander through, getting some grub and taking advantage of the town's public shower facilities. When we finished eating, Cody made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

"Why don't you put your bike in my car and take the rest of the day off? I can drive you way up to 8,000 feet in Lassen Park and we can stop along the way to take pictures - do the tourist thing."

I really did not know if I was capable of pedaling up there or not with a load on my bike and a screaming hot knee. I still don't know, because of course I said yes! The rest of the day was just chillin' in the Cody-mobile and soaking in the full majesty of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Late in the afternoon, Cody dropped me off at the Southwest Campground, saving me untold grief on really gnarly, no-shoulder climbs in a typically busy summertime park. Thanks, bro!

Peace, Love, and Lava Bombs,

Monday, August 5, 2019

Hat Creek Bound

Waxing Crescent Moon

Another great ride in the State of Jefferson (Google that if you don't know about it!). I slipped out of Renee and Kevin's hideaway compound early to try to beat the heat and made my way to Catherine's Cafe - a GREAT breakfast diner in McArthur, CA. My meal was cooked to perfection by Catherine herself!

Then I got some additional supplies at Ray's Market in Fall River Mills before peeling off from Hwy 289 onto Cassell-Fall River Road toward Cassell. More climbing, more sweating, but thank goodness, more sweet views and no traffic.

I crossed the Pacific Crest Trail a couple of miles before the end of my ride...just had to snap a shot to memorialize hiking through this section in 2006. That's starting to be a long time ago.

I am really enjoying this hopscotch bike tour, getting into a rhythm of riding for a few hours, resting, getting clean, eating well, and walking for an hour or so. And resting, did I mention resting? I pulled into a clean, affordable PG&E campground right across the road from the Cassell Post Office, which is the only building in Cassell, and right next to Hat Creek.

Peace, Love, and Tiny Tent Time,