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.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.