Surprised by the kindness of strangers, or acquaintances.
When planning this trip, I had used social media to contact a few old acquaintances to ask for advice as to renting a place in SF, bike shops, and bookstores. I say acquaintances, because they aren't people I see or talk to regularly but stay in touch with on social media. Shannon and I had both volunteered at Bluestockings Bookstore, a radical feminist space in Manhattan but hadn't seen each other in a decade. She had moved back to San Francisco after she finished school. An amazing and really chill person, Shannon suggested my partner and I stay on her couch rather than support the Airbnb industry. Airbnb may be convenient, but it is adding to the housing market crisis in cities and exacerbating homelessness in places like San Francisco. Shannon kindly put us up for four days in her place. We lucked out because she had a job the entire time we were there, which meant she housesat elsewhere and we stayed in her room with her sweet cat, Dolly. San Francisco had a more laid back vibe than NYC, and I loved getting around on my bike there. (Although carrying my bike up and down Shannon's apartment stairs made for unwanted cyclocross training.) I made it to my first California AA meeting in the Mission District. My zines are now bicoastal: Alley Cat Bookstore bought zines from me!
No, I did not think this bike ride would be easy peezy, but damn it was downright grueling in the beginning. I did not really train for the ride due to various reasons, but I would definitely recommend it. Just getting out of San Francisco proved a nightmare for us. Our touring bikes are Surly Disc Truckers, solid steel frames-heavy mothers. Add to that all of our gear packed neatly into panniers, weighing in at about 40 or 50lbs, and throw in good 'ol California topography... Dang. We faced many an uphill battle just to get out of the city and travel to our first stop for the night, the Montara Lighthouse Hostel. The road leading up to the Devil's Slide area just about killed us both. When my partner, Cristina, turned to me and informed me that she "wasn't having fun yet," I worried a bit because she is a way better cyclist than I am. One issue is that there is barely any shoulder on the road for cyclists, and the road switches back and forth like a snake whilst going up, up, up. This makes even walking your bike (and crap-ton of gear) difficult. The reward was a gorgeous view from Devil's Slide, with almost nobody else around. It was one of our shorter ride days, only about 21 miles or so, but our very first day on our bikes with all of our gear in action. We did it though, and enjoyed our stay at Montara.
The next morning we packed up and left for Pigeon Point Lighthouse, 29 miles, more hills and beautiful coastal scenery away.
I will be honest, I wasn't jazzed about checking out the touristy Alcatraz, but it turned out to be informative and interesting, (I am glad we purchased tickets months in advance, by the way). You are given a headset and move around at your own pace, the narrated audio is phenomenal- with clips from former prisoners and guards. I had not realized that Alcatraz was first a US Military prison before the place famous for housing the most infamous US criminals. I also learned about the Native American takeover which lasted about 18 months and succeeded in keeping the US Government from taking away all land grants from the Native American Indians.
Staying at Shannon's in the Mission District, it was an easy BART ride to the Oakland Amtrack Station to greet our bicycles. All in all, it went well, although we were a bit taken aback by the torn-up appearances of our bike boxes. It looked as if Amtrack rough handled our bikes, but all parts were in tact. All we had to do to get on the road, was put our pedals back on and turn our handlebars.
Asheville, NC has been on my radar for some years now, as a place I wanted to visit and possibly move to. The timing of the Asheville Zinefest ended up being perfect for a road trip. I convinced my sissy, Chris, to go on an adventure with me. We loaded up my Suburu and the two of us and my pooch, Billie headed to Virginia for the first leg of the trip.
We stayed at dog-friendly Orv's place in Linville, VA the first night. Orv is a really chill dude and he has a small shiitake farm on his property. He is growing shiitake on logs. We headed out early-ish for the 6-hour drive to Asheville. The sun wasn't beating down either of these days and made for a pleasant drive. Billie did find in the car and at the rest stops.
We happily unloaded at Cheryl and Corey's place around 4 in the afternoon. Billie trotted around the fenced in yard and we settled into the Cheryl and Corey's cozy Airbnb suite.
We got to sample just a little bit of Asheville-hiking, downtown, eateries, bookstores... Highlights were hiking Mount Pisgah, dipping into Catawba Falls and Skinny Dip Falls, bluegrass clogging at The Feed and Seed and the incredible amount of fireflies out everywhere. Lots of delicious farm to table food, the freshest baked goods and of course ice cream. The Asheville Zinefest was pretty cool and I met some rad zinesters.
Although I have only gotten into bicycling the last two years, I have traveled solo for over two decades. Before I dated my partner, I would ride my bike to the grocery or the library or to work occasionally. But with her, I started taking longer rides. Since traveling solo has been my thing for awhile, I thought why not add the bike to the mix? I started reading about bike adventures on blogs, in magazines and talking to people about the idea. I love the zero emissions factor that goes along with traveling via bicycle and the idea of being self-contained and transporting myself. Thus, a seed was planted about traveling with my partner on our bikes.
I joined some bike packing forums and really paid attention in the women's ones, and I started asking questions. Staying in the US was a no-brainer for several reasons: much easier to communicate and get help if anything goes wrong, less travel hassles, no language barriers. I found a book by Bill Thorness in which he not only gives cues for traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway 1, but he makes suggestions on daily mileage, where to spend the night and possible side trips. The route actually starts in Vancouver and ends in Tijuana, but we knew we had to break it up due to time constraints. I hope to travel the northern section next, from Vancouver down to SF.
We researched as much as possible: gear options, gear carrying options, bikes, accommodations, what people do for food... I read blogs on how much stuff to bring... (For example many people say, three sets of cycling clothes- one to wear, a clean/dry set, and one that has been washed and is lashed to the bike, drying as you ride). Food? Do people carry all their food? Buy as they go? In California, the options were many, farmsteads, groceries and plenty of restaurants. Though you could go hours in some areas without seeing a thing, not even a toilet. Hydration is vital. We each had two bike bottles of water, I think 24oz each, which is not enough to sustain the entire day. We depended on being able to refill our bottles at rest stops, restaurants, gas stations, etc.
One of my favorite events of the year is the NYC Dyke March. Now in its 26th, the March began as protest, in contest to the Pride parade which traditionally centered around gay white men.
Last year, my pal Elvis and I decided to step it and get trained to marshal the March. We had a blast and decided to do it again this year.
Dykes everywhere showed their solidarity against fascism, racism, deportation, nazis, prisons... it was incredible. It’s overwhelming to see all these radical people come together, be political and have a helluva time while doing it. Yup, queer as in Abolish ICE.
I will be performing a drag act at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn on Monday June 11. Come check it out!
On June 17th I will be reading from one of my zines at an LGBTQAI zinesters event at Quimby's Bookstore in Brooklyn.
Rainy weekends makes it hard to get out and train. For one thing, I’m a bit of a baby and I don’t want to ride in the rain if I don’t have to. I’m sure the time will come, probably in the nearer future that I will have to suck it up, but until that time...
So as to not lose a training day, we decided to check out Jalepeño Cycling in Bloomfield. I’ve never taken an indoor cycling class so I didn’t know what to expect. Kate and Andrew the joint owners and a dynamic couple welcomed us enthusiastically at 945 am. Kate and Andrew fitted our bikes on their fancy trainers.
Kate had already created and loaded a course into her system, and into a giant TV which was in front of the bikes. Six of us climbed onto our bikes and began warming up. Kate designed a course based on real life local streets and terrain and it was a doozy. A grueling hour and a half later, I had climbed several steep and low grade hills, practiced sprinting and learned some techniques to help from getting fatigued on longer rides. I’ll admit, before class I worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the hour and a half without a break. But I succeeded! I made it through the whole time, not the whole course. And then I carb-loaded a delicious careibean french toast and chicken apple sausage brunch.
May 9th is my sober anniversary, this year I am celebrating 14 years. This also happens to be my partner's born day. She asked me to take the day off with her, and being I still have "personal" days left at work, I obliged. (Personal days cannot roll over to the following year and can be used for anything).
At first we planned to head to the Jersey Shore for the day with the puppy. However, as time is running out for us to train for our Cali trip, we decided that a training day would be good for us. I let C do the planning, because she loves doing that sort of stuff. I knew she wanted to go to Harriman State Park. I have not been there in some time, and when I visited, it was only for hiking, never biking. We knew we were ready to bump up our milage, to the 30ish mile mark. C planned a route for us.
Wednesday morning, after coffee, we got ourselves out the door and arrived at Harriman ready to ride by 11 am (a little later than we wanted). With the sun shining bright and beating down on us, we began our ride. Not even half a mile into the ride and we approached our first hill. From there, we faced hill after goddamn grueling hill. On one hill, the climb lasted one bloody mile: my legs burned, my mind burned and I barely kept plugging along to the top.
We picnicked around the lake for lunch and a bit of respite. C hung her hammock and we chilled in it for too short a time. Back on the bikes for a little downhill action, only to head back uphill for some grueling climbs. This is seriously good training for Cali, but I am woefully unprepared for that right now. We will defiantly have to visit this trail again- but dear lawd, not for a few weeks, please!
Well, thank tha goddesses for progress not perfection. I am slow af on the bike right now. We've been out on our new bikes, and I am loving the feel of my Surly Disc Trucker. Did I mention that I named her Florence? She's named after my late great mama, because she is one mother trucker.
I ventured out on my own, two days in a row. On my second day, I decided to practice loading up my panniers... and I experienced a little dismounting mishap. As I slowed down and unclipped my right foot from my pedal, I pulled up next to the curb on my right side and leaned my right foot out. I started to reach the curb- then BLAM. All of a sudden, my bike lay on top of me, my left foot still clipped in. That really sucked, and dang, I felt like a loser. The handlebar really whacked my left boob and ribcage. Plus, my bruised ego something fierce.
I did manage to ride around 10 miles each day, so I thought that was better than nothing.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.