She Said: The Simple Life

I guess it’s been over a month now, that Dean and I have been living a mostly car-free life. He asked me the other day if we had hit the 30-day mark, and I ambivalently responded with an “I’m not sure, I think so?”.

Reaching for the bike has become what reaching for the car keys used to be; routine. Being in a car feels suffocating, stifling, and stressful. When I was a teen, I remember LOVING driving. There was a feeling of freedom so attached to the act of driving, you couldn’t help but feel like you could go anywhere and do anything behind the wheel. Driving now, has an opposite effect on me. It is on the seat of the bike that I feel free from the stressful confines of the daily commute; it is when I’m coming down a hill on my bicycle and my eyes start to tear that I feel like I am living, partaking in life; it is when my heart pumps furiously to get me up a hill that I am aware of my own physicality. As the young’uns would say: the car is sooo last month.

I have quite enjoyed the last 30 days, so much so that the end point to our commitment was no longer important. I wasn’t waiting for it to end, and I plan to continue this lifestyle as much as I can. Perhaps someday we will be living somewhere that is even a little more bicycle-friendly and that would certainly smooth a few things out. I can’t wait until we get dog trailers to tow our doggies with us on rides. And if and when we have kids, I can’t wait until the day I introduce them to the bicycle.

I did learn a few things about living a car-light life and I hope to learn more as time goes on. Having two dogs, I don’t think we could ever get rid of the car completely. I noticed that the times we did have to use the car, it was for the dogs. We managed our own chores quite well on the bicycle, and perhaps in the future a cargo bike will make it that much easier.

The bicycle has helped slow down the pace of life for us, and I am quite liking it. Perhaps I will be singing a different tune once winter rolls around? Guess we will have to wait and see
:-)

Day 3: Marina to Big Sur; I heart Granny

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After a complimentary breakfast and eavesdropping on a group of blue-haired cyclists, we left marina in high spirits.  We were recharged and the weather was looking good.  The bike path that would lead us into monterey was a nice treat.

We encountered the blue hair group on the path.  A couple was on a tandem and I thought to myself ” I guess they’re going good if they’re still married!” And seconds after, while stopped at a light, the wife got off in obvious frustration and left her husband to deal with the situation.  Perhaps I had misjudged, lol.

We got to talking to one of the riders for a bit as he asked about the bikes and gear.  The rest pedaled off with the bike nazi, leaving the chatty one behind; he didn’t look concerned so we chatted on for a bit.

The nice easy ride into monterey set a very misleading tone of what was to come. After going on a bit of a wild goose chase to find a bike shop, we were back en route towards carmel.  There were some long climbs out of monterey and it felt like it was taking forever.  There was a short hill with a steep grade (I think it measured in at 13%?) that led up to a bike path we had to get to so there was no avoiding it.   That was the first time I had to bust out granny.  Granny performed well and saved me and my legs. 

When we got to the  end of the bike path we stopped to regroup because our route seemed to just end.  As we were buried in our map I noticed a road biker ride by and he pointed in the direction of the freeway on ramp.  I thought to myself “you gotta be kidding me”.  But I kept watching him and he himself was headed in that direction.  I grabbed dean and told him w needed to hurry and follow the guy.  Sure enough, seconds later, we were biking along the shoulder of the highway.  Luckily it didn’t last long, and the hwy became a city street as we edged into Carmel.

Carmel came and went and soon we were climbing big hills into Big Sur.  They were long, foggy, and unanticipated.  Of course no trip along the coast is complete without a trip to a ripoff restaurant.  So we stopped in at one, where we ate the worst tamales we’ve ever had, all at the low cost of $18.  Nevertheless, it was nice to get out of our saddles for a bit and relax with a cup of coffee.

The ride from Carmel through Big sur will forever be etched in my mind: dramatic vistas, narrow shoulders and “taking” the road on windy downhills at 30 mph with a wobbly mirror, a herd of cattle grazing amongst washed up kelp on the beach as if it were their natural habitat, incredulous looks from drivers as we pedaled up steep hills, talking to locals,  most delicious eggs benedict we’ve ever had, waterfalls dissolving into the Pacific ocean, getting passed by a man who looked to be 60, Enjoying solitude amidst great company and the beautiful, towering redwoods,  going downhill and  realizing we weren’t coasting as expected, one millionstops to put on and take off layers, and realizing that duplicating the experience was impossible.  I guess we will just have to pick a completely different place to go for our next tour.

Day 2: she said: he said’s version got lost so you’re stuck with mine

Waddell creek to Marina:

After a night of sleeping on the hard ground (what little sleep I got with dean’s snores waking me up), the stinky port-o-potties, and no coffee, you could say I wasn’t a cheery camper. Literally.

We rode 8 mi to davenport for coffee and breakfast, and after consuming both, I began to act human again. After using the restroom, I was that much more human.  With our spirits high, we set sail for the long day ahead of us.

Cruising along hwy 1 with the fog just breaking was peaceful and calming, despite the cars on the road.  We hit a bike path when we reached wilder park that took us all the way to natural bridges in santa cruz.

The route took us through the less scenic part of santa cruz, mainly residential and commercial areas.  Coming out of a downhill, with my wheels spinning, I shifted too soon, causing my chain to come off and my pedal to spin, racking me in the shin and drawing blood.  Minor owie for the day.

We cruised through aptos, but due to the high sunday traffic, we didn’t stop except to get coffee at a starbucks.   It’s too bad cause it had a cute downtown with some neat covered bridges.

We biked past manresa state beach through rolling farmland past sunset state beach, where dean and I went on our first date/camping trip. 

Next town south was watsonville.  I never cared for watsonville when we would drive through it on the way to santa maria, and that impression only slightly improved on a bike.  I did enjoy the flat farmland, even with the headwinds.  But there was a narrow stretch of country road where we encountered a drunk driver (luckily without incident) and as we left, our route took us onto hwy 1, where the speed limit was at around 50 or 60 so it was a little sketchy biking on the shoulder as the cars whizzed by.

After watsonville was a bike path that took us into marina.  The fog had  already started to creep in and 5 pm looked and felt later than it was.  It had been a long day of riding, about 56 mi, so a comfy bed and hot shower were just what we were looking for.  We checked into a comfort inn, showered, and biked our hungry and tired asses to the english brewery.  With some good food and good beer in us, we were ready to call it a day.

Day 1: she said: we popped our cherries!

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Our bike touring cherries that is! Verbs are a great thing;  because when the right thing to say occurs to you at a later time, verbs make it possible to still say it. All you have to do is speak in the past tense.

While in the shower this am, I thought to myself that I should have titled a post “we are about to pop our cherries!” Well, thanks to verbs, I was able to work it in after the fact. I heart verbs.

Ok, down to business.  We left belmont two hours later than planned. What else is new with us.  So we drove out to half moon bay, parked the van at my cousins, and we were on our bikes by 11. 

We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was in the 60s pretty much all day, with some decent spells of sunshine.  It was a beautiful sight from the seats of our bikes, as we watched the coastline creep by, mile after mile.  There were a lot of day riders out and about, especially in pescadero where we stopped to grab some items for dinner.  Tonight’s menu consisted of baked beans for me, turkey chili for dean, local baked artichoke bread, a medallion of harley farms goat cheese, and a couple of coors lights.  And some ice for deans knees. 

The ride from pescadero to waddell had less hills, and I day dreamed as I stared at the ocean, feet pedaling in auto-pilot.  We stopped  at the Pie Ranch for some fresh baked pie and a cup of coffee to boost my sugar levels.  So glad we stopped in cause it was delicious and just what I needed!

One thing about me and endurance sports: I get very hungry and my blood sugar levels drop quickly.  So you will probably see a lot of photos of me stuffing my face on this bike tour, lol. 

We rolled into camp, and had to wait around for the ranger to come by.  The campsites here are all by reservation only, and we had none.  She came along, and I asked if we could pitch a tent in the horse camping area.  She said to go ahead after she deliberated a bit. CA has a  state park policy to not turn away bicyclists, and I think she was weighing it against whatever else was going on in her head.  Her companion driving the truck said that it looked like I had won the lotto.  After seeing my confused look, he added that she never lets anyone do what we had asked.  She corrected him by saying that she had allowed someone to camp once before.  I thanked her graciously and quickly; I didn’t want to give her time to change her mind.  I was perfectly happy wining the lotto.

So we washed up, and ate, walked to the beach and back, and crawled into our tent.  We biked a short leg today at 34 mi, but despite that I am officially pooped.  Tomorrow we have almost double today’s ride in store.  Here’s to hoping I make it and am still able to smile at the end of the day.

ThirtyDays is Going on Vacation, and We’re Taking You With Us!

Dean had taken next week off a while back, and at the time the plan had been to simply get away and unwind. I will be back in school in a couple of weeks and won’t have much time to get away till Christmas break. I was supposed to just be getting back from climbing Mt. Adams with a friend, but given the slow healing process and muscle development in my right calf, I decided to forego the climb and not potentially jeopardize a successful summit. Had I gone, we might have spent the week traipsing around Portland, our old stomping grounds and highly favored city. Then the plan changed to driving out to Utah and camping with the dogs. After looking at the current temperatures out there, and embarking on this car-free/car-light lifestyle, Utah was a no-go on both accounts. At the end, we were left with one fun alternative: bike tour!!!

The current plan is to head south down the Pacific Coast Highway from Half Moon Bay, CA to San Luis Obispo. “Current” is key in that sentence. We will embark with that in mind, but given a lot of variables, who knows where we will end up. We have allotted six days for our bike tour, and hopefully that is long enough to make it down there with Dean’s bad knees and my recovering leg. We are going to take it nice and easy, and right now we are looking at a daily max of 50-60 mi. We have never done a loaded tour before, so we have a limited understanding of what we are capable of and what would drive us to throw our bikes off the cliffs of California.

If we average 40 mi. a day we should make it to SLO in the alloted time. We are going to be camping along the way, but completely open to staying at a B&B or motel if it works out; hard to turn down a bed and a warm shower after a long day of riding. We are trying to keep our bikes as light as possible, and as far as I can tell it is proving to be challenging. We will be buying our meals along the way so at least that is one less heavy item to pack; the Pacific Coast has enough small towns along the way to make that possible.

Now to the part about taking you with us. We’ll be documenting our trip as best we can, and depending on cell service, the updates could be real-time or could be not-so-real-time. Twitter is by far the easiest account to keep current, so watch for photos and blurbs there. Facebook and WordPress are next on the list. If we get good reception at the camp sites, I can easily update WP with an entry on my phone; I have a great simple app for that :-) FB can be finicky, so no promises there.

So, dear readers, keep reading on, cause things are about to get interesting.

She Said: IF the dogs can survive the heat, so can I

Yesterday it was in the high 90s and today temps reached over a hundred. In Belmont, that is supposedly unheard of. We only moved here in February, but thus far it has been a really mild and relatively cool summer. The highs had rarely risen beyond the mid-80s and by far more days hovered in the mid to high 60s. So a jump to the high 90s was dramatic to say the least.

Today was take-Rudy-to-the-Vet day for a routine physical and an update on his vaccines. When we made the appointment last week, I had planned to walk to the vet and back, a 7 mi. trip altogether. Completely doable. But when the temps skyrocketed, I knew it would be cruel to make Rudy walk in that heat. Dogs are a lot more sensitive to heat than humans and dehydrate quickly because their bodies’ cooling mechanisms are not as sophisticated. Once again our car-free initiative was in conflict with practicality.

These are times when I wish we had a dog trailer, or that public transit in America was friendlier to pets (though kudos to Portland, OR where we witnessed them turning a blind eye to a vagabond with his dog seeking shelter aboard the MAX during a snowy winter afternoon). But neither are a reality right now for us and for CA, so today was an exception day, and I loaded Rudy into our vanagon.

(This is an older photo of Rudy, not taken today.)

Later in the afternoon I ventured out on my bike for a short trip to the pet shop to buy more bones for the dogs. It was still about a hundred degrees outside, and the heat radiated off the pavement in waves that hit me square in the face. Mind you, I was mostly coasting downhill without a helmet on; so keeping cool should have been in my favor. I had a wicking shirt on, and if it helped I hardly noticed. My face felt flush as though I had a fever, perhaps rightfully so as it did feel like it was on fire. It was then that I decided to bail on my friends and our plans to meet up for an evening climb. I just couldn’t imagine subjecting myself to the heat any longer, and I knew that there would be more opportunities to climb on milder days (provided they are kind enough to forgive me for flaking :-) ).

So in a way, yes, being out in the element can be limiting whether on bike or foot. But there are still choices. I made mine, and I could have chosen otherwise, I guess. And yes, I was acutely aware of people enjoying the air conditioning their cars afforded as they drove past. And yes, if I wasn’t car free I probably would have been on my way to meet my friends for a climbing session, enjoying the AC and listening to my favorite music. But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that envious that I would give up being car-free. This heat wave will pass, and I will be back to enjoying the cool breeze in my hair, having more fun on my bike than those stuck in rush-hour grid lock behind the wheels of their cars.

She Said: Creature Comfort

So I remembered something I was thinking about (or talking to myself about) while riding my bike the other day to the laundromat.  I was thinking about how nice it felt to actually have to work for something.  Here in the states, it being a first world country, there are many privileges we are afforded that we don’t even stop to think about and appreciate:  running water, electricity, air conditioning, etc. As a result, I think sometimes we end up expecting most things to just “happen” or “come to us” while investing little effort in obtaining them.  When you have to sweat a little to get the laundry done, or pack wisely when buying groceries, it kinda makes you enjoy the accomplishment of “getting things done” a little more.

I grew up in the philippines and I used to spend summers at my grandparents’ house in Cebu.  I remember in the afternoons, I would accompany the maid while she ran errands like go to the bank for my grandma, pick up some bread at the bakery, make a trip to the grocery store, or return some VHS tapes (yup, back in the day).  We used to walk a lot and take public transportation, in the heat.  And this is 80-90 degree heat, mind you, with about the same in % humidity.  It wasn’t a walk in the park for sure.  Not to mention how polluted the air was compared to say, CA.  But somehow, I used to enjoy tagging along.  I enjoyed riding in jeepneys and people watching, feeling like I was part of the everyday community that was out in the world, living; I enjoyed the different smells on the street (well, some anyway) as we walked by bakeries and shops;  I enjoyed seeing the street vendors close-up and surveying what they were peddling.  There was so much more “life” to life, when you were on foot.

Perhaps biking brings the life back into life.