Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I've had nothing to live for
And look like nothin's gonna come my way

So I'm just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

Look like nothing's gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same, yes

Sittin' here resting my bones
And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I'm just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

-Otis Redding

Day 17: August 27th, 2008 – Redemption at The San Remo

Davis, CA --> San Francisco, CA

I woke with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. This morning was the one I had thought about more than any other. The night before I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t figure out if my squirming was due to the intense anticipation or the lumpy corn soil beneath me. The day would be short and consist mostly of gentile rides through orchards and vineyards followed buy a cruise by the bay to a ferry station in Vallejo, where I would board the big boat for a trip across the bay to Fisherman’s Warf.

So I rolled out of the corn field as inconspicuously as I could and hopped on the bike. It was a beautiful morning, mild enough to keep me warm but not so much as to even break a sweat. I spent most of the morning rolling through rows of fruit trees. It was as peaceful a thing as I had ever experienced in my life.

Soon I reached the outskirts of the bay area. The buildings of the city started closing in and before I ever got a chance to say goodbye, the vast fields of my journey had disappeared. I stopped at a grocery store, which was one of only a handful on my entire direct route, and grabbed a gross amount of chocolate chip cookies and a half gallon of Lucerne Milk. I ate as many cookies as I could and downed the entire half gallon, then headed out on my way to the bay.

With the milk sloshing around in my stomach I worked through the final few Napa hills outside Vallejo, for one of the most redeeming views of my life…..the Pacific Ocean!!! I nearly couldn’t believe my eyes. With less than ten miles left in my entire journey I took in every second with a type of photographic accuracy.

As I rode the last few miles on of all places, Georgia Street, my senses were alive. The end had almost surprised me. After toiling so long I had become insensitive to ideas of beginning and end. I was content with my toil and its sudden end was overwhelming. I rolled slowly through the town center of Vallejo and down a final hill to the bay. I pulled into the ferry station and clipped out. I leaned my bike against the terminal and stepped off….. I had finished! CLIPPED OUT!

It was noon so I walked in the terminal and bought my ferry ticket for 2:00 PM. The cashier read the smile on my face and asked me in a tone of curiosity where I had traveled from. I said it aloud, “ I rode from Pueblo.” I had traveled so far that she didn’t even know where I was talking about anymore so I just read her the numbers off my computer…. “1700 miles.” As the excitement started to sink in I thought I would celebrate by throwing on my casual shorts and putting my bike shorts away for good. I pulled my shorts out of my panniers and went inside to change in the restroom. It felt so good to get out of those bike shorts. I was so fed up with them that my loose gortex felt like silk. I walked back out of the terminal to bring my bike around to the docks where the ferry would arrive…….but no bike was to be seen, NO BIKE! That’s right, my wallet, my phone, my clothing, my food, my bike and everything in it and on it was gone! This was all that I owned in the world, a tool by which I had just learned to live by and survive by, that bike was a part of me! All that was left was my bike gloves and my helmet. I had only been gone about 90 seconds so it was near. I felt like I could smell the damn thing. I ran out into the street, looked in all three directions that met the bay. I grabbed a cyclist rolling by and yelled in his face, “Have you seen a red road bike with black saddlebags!?!” He began speaking slower than Christmas. “ Well …….lets see….I saw a ….a…a.. bike ….a….a…a few hours” I interjected, “Listen man I talking about now!” He was talking to slow I had to move on. I ran back into the terminal and told the cashier that my bike had been stolen and that she should call the cops. I was thinking to myself that the cops wouldn’t even care. This was California; most police could care less about the most recent murder let alone my little bike. By now a small crowd had gathered were my bike had been. A lady I had talked to earlier who was dropping her daughter off at college was screaming over and over “somebody stole this man’s bike, that’s awful! Awful! Who would do that!?!” As if I wasn’t hearing these things enough in my head I heard them from her again.
A little more than a minute had elapsed since I had seen my bike gone and no more than two since it was stolen. I was running out of options quickly and I was just about to take off in a full sprint down the street when a man in a small black Honda with a pair of bikes on the back pulled up and yelled franticly through the window,
“Yo buddy are you missing a bike!?!” AN ANGEL! Angel Gary to be exact. “ Yes !!!” He told me to get in the car and I wasted no time, jumping through the front passenger window. He had taken off through the red light of the intersection before I ever got my legs into the cab of the car. I had landed on a huge pile of thick rope but I didn’t have time to think about why it was there. I was ready to battle. The man began to explain his ordeal;
As he spoke I kept thinking that his story was going to end with, “so we’re going to beat the shit out of these guys that have your bike!” He said he had been driving down Tennessee street to the Ferry Terminal when he saw this “big fat white pasty bastard hauling ass on a red bike with black side bags” at the time he though it was an odd sight but his suspicions weren’t confirmed until he pulled in the lot and saw the matching gloves and helmet on the ground. So this wonderful man spun his Honda around in pursuit of our pasty fat friend. When he found him again he was riding for the entrance to an apartment complex at full steam. Gary, my new best friend, pulled up next to the thief and yells through his passenger window (pardon my French), “ HEY Mother Fucker GET-OFF-THAT-BIKE!!!” At that point the fat thief sprang off my bike and ran as fast as he could into the apartments. Gary said my bike crashed into the curb and into some bushes. Gary tried to through it on the back of his car but couldn’t get it on top so he drove back to look for the owner (me).

As Gary is telling me this story we have driven almost a mile down Tennessee Street and my bike is coming into view. The wheels were still spinning in the air and the saddlebags were still open from my search for my shorts. As I crawled back onto my bike I could hardly believe what had just happened. It was only a few minutes ago that I was basking in the glory of my completed journey, and here I was another mile down the street with the chance to finish my journey one last time…. redeemed. It reminds me of a story Eric Larsen, a professional expedition leader, told me once about his journey to the north pole. He arrived at the pole in the middle of the night and set up camp, he would rendezvous with a Russian icebreaker in a few days to be shipped home, but until then he would wait at the pole for their arrival. When he woke in the morning his GPS told him that he was a mile away from the North Pole. Confused and tired he walked north to the new location and made camp. This happened seven times on seven nights. Turns out that the ice was floating beneath him and he was simply a traveler on the large floating bricks of ice that surrounded him. I felt like the ice had shifted beneath my feet as well. As I rode back to the ferry station I counted my blessings and had a truly peaceful moment to thank God for the good fortune that I had experienced over the last 16 days. I rode the entire span without a flat, without a single drop of rain, and without a solitary detractor, besides this dude who tired to jack my bike whom I never met.

When I got back to the ferry station Gary and I had some coffee and talked it up for the next 2 hours until my ferry came. Gary was a Japanese American whose parents had been interned during the Second World War. He was a U of C Berkley graduate and claimed that it was this influence coupled with his family’s internment that brought him to see injustice and act upon it. He said just as a carpenter sees the world with a hand and a hammer a Berkley grad sees the world with justice and injustice. He said it like he was bearing a great burden like perhaps Superman or a Supreme Court Justice would, but my feelings told me that this might have been the first act of kindness that Gary had done in a while and that maybe it helped him as much as it had helped me. The interconnectivity of our lives is astounding; Gary had driven 2 hours that morning from Sacramento to cut palm leaves off some trees in downtown Vallejo (explains the rope in his car) but had forgotten his climbing spikes so he decided instead to get some coffee at the ferry station and thus three men intersect, one a victim, one a thief, and one a vigilante. Soon enough my Ferry arrived so I said goodbye to Gary, I got the check.

With my bike and myself safely on the ferry I was able to relax and enjoy my ride into Port. I watched the bay area float by; past Angel Island, Alcatraz, and underneath a bridge or two. Sail boats circled the ship riding the cool blasts of wind that drift through the Bay.

When San Francisco came into sight I could hardly hold back my emotions. I was so excited I wanted to jump over the railing and swim to shore. The ferry finally docked at Fisherman’s Warf, a few hundred yards from my hotel The San Remo.

I walked my bike down the market streets to the front of the old Victorian hotel, the oldest in San Francisco. The hotel sat atop the oldest Italian restaurant in America, Fior d’Italia. I walked the stairs to the lobby of the San Remo and checked it. The hotel had community bath with individual bedrooms. It operated like a tremendous household. In my opinion there is no better place in San Francisco. I washed up, put on my best, went out to walk the streets of San Francisco for the rest of the afternoon.

I took a nap in the park below the cannery at Ghirardelli Square, where my brother had asked his Fiancé Morgan to marry him only a few months before. I went to the Market on Pier 39 for a feast. I ate at the bar and had a great conversation with the bartender, Shannon. He was a cyclist himself and had nearly been killed a few years ago in the Bay when he was hit head on by a car at night. The driver fled the scene and Shannon had spent the better part of the decade paying off his near $100,000 medical bills. On a lighter note Shannon told the entire Market Bar about my Journey, which lead to a few free Anchor Steam Beers ( the father of the modern microbrew).

After dinner, I watched the Seals, hundreds of them, on Pier 39 for a few hours. At dust I strolled home to the San Remo to get to bed early so that I could have a full day in the Bay Area the next day. Outside the San Remo is a large market scale, very accurate as it had measured the exact weight of my bike earlier that day. I stepped on…. Even after all that brew and the feast I had that night, I weighted in at an astounding 155 pounds, Nearly 25 pounds lighter than when I started the trek. I looked thin in the face but the rest of my body was an image of strength and efficiency. I had cut what little excess there was, then spent weeks burning through about 15 pounds of muscle that apparently was not efficient. Maybe the best shape I have ever been in? I would have fun gaining it all back.
Day: 65.5 mi
Total: 1708.5 mi
Elev. Climbed: 400 ft
Elev. Difference: -400

Day 16: August 26th, 2008 – Conifer Cities to Metropolitan Muir

8 Miles East of Fairplay --> Davis, CA

The hound had shaken me enough to cause my sleep to be fairly light, so even before the first beam of daylight I was back on my bike paying my penance for the 8.2 mile mishap the night before. I had gone off track many times before on this trip but never without purpose or at lease the knowledge of doing so. The feeling of junk mileage was eating at me so badly that I made the 8.2 mile 4000 foot climb in a flash. When I arrived at my missed turn I realized why I hadn’t seen the turnoff, it was unmarked and looked far more like a backwoods driveway than an essential key to the route across the West. So after a night spent miles off track dangling over a demented dog, I had returned to my road less traveled. It was just as pleasant as I had imagined in my dreams the night before. The rolling terrain through towering pines was pleasant enough to make me loath my decent into the arid lowlands surrounding Sacramento, something I had looked forward to for many days. Wineries flanked my ride for many miles on the decent. I had hoped to buy a bottle to celebrate the end of my ride but I was still very weight conscience at this point, so I decided just to take care of any celebratory measures in San Francisco.
Before I could even so much as say goodbye to the mountains my tires were already greeting the pavement of Urbania. The perfect ratio of luxury vehicles and dueled out imports made one thing unmistakable, I was in California. Amongst this foreign city I was approaching something familiar, Folsom Prison. Made infamous by Johnny Cash’s song by the same name, Folsom was a place imagined by millions as the epitome of terrible prison life, so accordingly I was expecting a poor little prison town. Instead I found another California community with an over inflated sense of the worth of their real estate and most likely themselves. Folsom Prison is now surrounded with multimillion dollar homes and its lake is filled to the brim with water skiing with Yuppies. The Man in Black would be shamed!

Right as I was entering the part of the directions that included more than one turn every hundred miles, I ran in to Bill. He was just cycling to his wife’s elementary school to say hello and his path just so happened to correspond exactly with mine. So Bill showed me the town while guiding me through the dozens of turns that I would have had to navigate on my own. He was a very intelligent middle aged contractor who was also very interested in my journey. He repeated several times that it was a pleasure to take me though one of my last days of riding. Bill was not unaccustomed to the long distance tour, he and his friends did a 3 or 4 day tour once a year, but I got the feeling he wasn’t sleeping in bulldozer pales.

When he asked me how people had treated me along the way, I realized than my journey was nearly over and I hadn’t had one negative interaction with anyone except a laundry attendant in Westcliffe on my second day, and even with her I felt that she was a nice woman having a bad morning which I caught the raw end of. He was stunned by my good fortune but I explained to him that often while riding my transparency and vulnerability allowed people to let down their guards and be themselves with me. The simplicity of my goals were clear to everyone I ran into, like my very actions displayed honesty and worth. I was riding, that was it.

I rode with Bill for about 2 hours until he left me near West Sacramento. He gave me directions out of town and sent me out on my own again. I rode along the Great American Bike Trail to what the locals affectionately call, Old Sac. The western most part of Sacramento, Old Sac is the remnants of the original pioneer town of Sacramento. I took a ride over the golden bridge out of Old Sac and into West Sacramento where I stopped at the ole golden arches for a hamburger.

I parked my bike along the glass windows and walked inside, all the while enduring the stares of two young men about my age. I understood that I might have looked a little out of the ordinary but these guys were really cutting through me with the stares. I few minutes later we ran into each other at the soda fountains, they need only say two words to bring us much closer to understanding each other “ Western Express?”. It turns out these two young chaps where riding the same route as me, except they were going cross country and it had taken them most of the summer. They had left from Virginia Beach about 2 months prior. These two Boston College students moved at a relative snails pace. The day I had left from Pueblo they were half way through Utah and somehow I had managed to double their pace and catch them before the sea. They had stopped for the night in order to watch some of the DNC on television, one of them kept jabbering on about making it back to the hotel in time to watch Hillary Clinton speak. That couldn’t have been further from my mind.

They were nice guys and but you could tell that they were pretty fed up with eachother, and thus people in general. That was one of the great benefits of my ride, although I have no one to share the experience with (save those that read this blog of course), the interactions I had along the way were that much more intense. Think about it, if the whole day you have all these revolutionary ideas traipsing through your young exhausted mind and you don’t have anyone to spill them out upon, and then all of the sudden you have a short and seemingly meaningless conversation with a woman at a campsite, a man on a high mountain pass, or an old vagabond in a diner……you’re blow away, you’ll remember every word forever as if it were divine revelation. I’m not sure how to explain it but the best I can do is to say that most days I received all the love/human intimacy/social allowance (whatever you want to call it) I really needed out of a few very bizarre and brief interactions with total strangers.
These two did have some pretty good stories though. They had been on the road so long that they were inviting misfortune. Three days earlier on Carson Pass they were essentially attacked by Yogi Bear…. Turns out even if you don’t cook where you sleep you still smell just like the food you just ate. After finishing my two Big Macs, I bid those two jokers farewell and set off for the coast.

The terminus of the Great American Bike trail is in Davis. Davis, CA is a college town not at all unlike Athens, GA. I felt at home as I dined on Pita Pit and sat under the trees that lined the streets. Davis is also known as the biking capitol of the U.S. but apparently not as accommodating to vagabond bikers. It became apparent that I would have to be clever with my sleeping arrangements once again, so I picked a bridge out on the map a few miles out of town and decided to ride there when I felt tired. I strolled around town for a bit taking in the sights and sounds of college life while talking to friends and family back home. I had a particularly ridiculous conversation with miss Lauren Groblewski, whom is always good for a laugh or two.
Come to think of it I’d like to thank everyone who I talked to/ called / heard message from / whatever. You have no idea how much I enjoyed the ridiculous messages I received that reminded me of how little I had let anyone know what I was up to. I tried not to answer messages because I wanted to focus on the present but I did enjoy the games of telephone that were going on. ‘So and so told me you were biking to Colorado Springs, her sister told me that your riding you motorcycle to Canada, we heard your moving to San Francisco and your walking there.’ Or the messages of people that just sorta sounded afraid; “Hey man I’m not sure where you are or what you’re doing…… I’ve heard a lot of different stories… just hope your safe” or those few of you who knew exactly what I was up to and decided to boost my morale by telling me that your first week of classes were grueling.

Anyway, after finishing up a few victorious calls to folks that knew tomorrow would be my last day riding, I started out to the bridge I had picked out on the map. On my way out I passed an unending row of parallel fruit trees that divided a corn field in two. It was an irresistible sight to anyone on a bike, even in the dead of night. So as I rode between the trees I decided to forgo the bridge for the night and instead spend my evening as a child of the corn. I took a hard left between two rows of corn and never looked back. I was less than 70 miles from the coast.... tomorrow would be a good day!

Day: 124.79 mi
Total: 1643 mi
Elev. Climbed: 1600 ft
Elev. Difference: -3900 ft

Day 15: August 25th, 2008 – Sierra Shadow

Carson City --> 8 miles east of Fairplay

Very few days of my life have started with such simplicity but still held the promise of such raw challenge. My only goal for the day was to cross the Sierras. Carson City sits twenty miles from the Cal/Neva border and serves as the gateway to the final stretch of the ride. After the near fifty mile climb to 8,573 foot Carson Pass my path would lead me almost completely down slope, most of it in the course of only thirty miles, to the Bay of Frisco!

The wind had not relented over night so I pushed through the foothills in the Sierra’s shadow to find a place I am sure I will always remember as a sign of the times, Genoa. A nice little town with a worn out ole “Thirst Parlor” in the center, Genoa is a Mayberry on the decline. This sweet Nevada burg was suffering from California fever. The quaint and modestly built homes that made up the town center were quickly being encroached upon by large communities of California style condos. In a few years this place will look no different than the countless suburbs that sprawl out of Los Angeles like tentacles on some enormous urban sea beast. Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor was going on it’s 155th year, which was somewhat verified by the 100 year old original Jack labels that were used to insulate the walls, but I couldn’t help but wonder how long a place like that could last within the city limits of the newest designer community.

I moved on from Genoa and into the Sierras with some trepidation. I knew how badly the mountains could hurt and I was in no hurry to put myself in that kind of pain again, but so long as I moved along the right route, no matter how slowly, the mountains found me one way or another. A few miles out of Genoa I came to a point in my journey that I had dreamed about for days, the California border. There were times deep in the heart of Utah, that I had expected to meet many scantily clad Californian girls at this border, perhaps even Arnold himself would have come to welcome me into his domain. But all I found at the border was a salty looking lama and a stiff breeze.

I stopped to record the momentous occasion with a few photographs and some shouting at the lama. I thought about saddling up the hairy little beast and riding him into San Francisco, but decided against it when I realized that even the mighty lama might not make it over the Sierras. So I rode, under my own power, up those mountains, up , and up , and up. With every turn I promised myself that it was the last. I knew the end was near and that soon there would be a tremendous downhill unmatched by any I had done in the last two weeks. As I bound up to the crest of Carson Pass, thousand year old trees were scattered on either side of the road and the lakes that are known to fill the Sierras dotted the terrain like puddles on a city street. I stopped at a shop about midway through the climb to dine on some delicious high calorie treats and enjoy the scenery without toil. I had been wasting away in Nevada and now that I had entered the relative civilization of California I wanted to ensure I didn’t lose the calorie battle. The shop was the only one on the pass. In fact it was so remote that it was only open about 4 months out of the year due to snow. As I sat on the stoop in front of this humble store I though that maybe as an old man I could come back to a remote and beautiful place like this to work in the summer, perhaps between my adventures elsewhere or teaching the through the fall and spring. Just a thought, but none the less one on the odd things that filled my head as I rode.

When I made the pass summit I stopped to enjoy the scenery and talk to a middle aged hiker who recommended I take the Immigrant Trail, a small back road shortcutting my route in order to avoid some traffic later on. I had been fairly pleased with my route and saw no reason to shortcut so I began my downhill into the Great Valley. I rolled quickly through the classic alpine terrain. I passed many more lakes and mounted a few more spurs. Soon dusk began to fall and I found myself very far indeed from where I had expected to be. I though some of the burgs marked on my map would be the type I might be able to get a hot meal at but most simply consisted of a few lights off the side of the road. Dusk dragged on among the great timbers that flanked the road. I attached my head and rear lights on my bike and continued to follow the winding roads down slope. I was looking for my next turn on Omo Ranch Road but found no such marking on the many roads I passed in the night blur.

Eventually I reached a service station so I took the opportunity to stop and find my bearings. After a few minutes of fussing with my maps and moments before the station closed for the night, I went in and asked directions. The cashier confirmed my suspicions…… I had traveled 8.2 miles off route, usually this would be no problem but these particular miles concealed something that couldn’t be found on the maps, 4000 feet of climbing! In a matter of 15 minutes I had rolled down what would become hours of work in the morning. I sat outside the service station for quite a while contemplating my situation. On my way in I had seen a construction

site on the other side of the road. It was the type that was deep off the road and very expansive. They had cleared many trees to make way for whatever they had intended to build but tonight they had simply made me a bed. I hauled my bike over the barricades and rolled it back toward some equipment in the back of the site.

I looked for a smooth area to make camp but in finding little to work with I looked towards the sky. High in the air, a bulldozer scoop called to me. I climbed up one of the wheels and looked in. It was smooth and clean, far from animals, and in general seemed like the perfect place to set up camp, and on top of it all I was in a particularly playful mood. So I made some ramen, of which I ate little of, then climbed into my comfortable lofted scoop and went to bed.

........................( 3AM) I was roused to the horrifying sound of a rabid dog. Below the scoop was a dog barking so fiercely that each bark was stacked upon the next until it sounded like an angry mob of PETA protestors. These sounds were my only clues to what the animal was. It was so dark that I couldn’t see the animal ten feet away! Although I was horrified by these sounds I was far too tired to really care. I thanked myself for picking such an intelligent place to rest and went back to bed.

Day: 88.98 mi
Total: 1518.21 mi
Elev. Climbed: 4600ft
Elev. Difference: -800 ft

Day 14: August 24th, 2008 – Beam Me Up, Feed Me, and Drop Me in Frisco

Middlegate --> Carson City

In my mind Middlegate had become the edge of civilization but when I had arrived the night before I realized that it was yet another oasis. I still had quite a bit of riding before Fallon and even more to Carson City and into California. Looking back on my ride I realize now that Nevada was some of the most memorable and awesome riding, but at the time I was so ready to be rid of the state. I damned it every morning and every night. After the first few miles across the Utah/Neva border I felt that I had seen it all, but all the discomforts of the state continued to reappear; like that political ad that you’ve seen a million times after the first was too much to start with. Although, if it wasn’t for the difficulties of the trip I wouldn’t have anything to remember except for nice views and funny people, which I could have easily experienced in fifteen minutes at a coffee shop in the Springs rather than a 17 day interstate bike adventure. That being said, Nevada wasn’t planning on letting me leave without a fight.

After leaving Middlegate I rode through several military installations which made sense due to the amount of Naval Pilots that had frequented the bar I had slept outside the night before. I actually wasn’t too far from the infamous Area-51 either…. You better believe that the night before, sleeping beside a shed in nowhere Nevada, I kept my eyes on the sky and cheeks a little tighter than normal. In fact this area had so much air traffic, worldly or intergalactic, that the sandy embankments along the rode were covered in messages written in the small lava rocks that were scattered throughout the landscape. Mostly things like; “Hank loves Lauren” or “Rock and Betty forever” but occasionally you’d get a “take me with you” or “Beam me up”. It had become easy to understand how a person living in these conditions might feel inclined to say that an extraterrestrial plucked them up and probed places that even humans won’t go unless they have a M.D. Regardless, the writings continued for many miles and entertained me long enough to bring me much closer to Fallon.

There were other sights to see thought; Sand Mountain stood shining in the distance for miles. It was a solitary 600-700 foot hill of pure sugar like sand. It gleamed in the Nevada sun like a million mirrors, so much so that every few seconds I looked at it brought another drop of moisture to my eyes. I would have stopped to play upon its slopes but nearly a year before I had spent days exploring the Great Sand Dunes at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. So I pushed on towards Fallon only to be stopped by yet another natural wonder. The valley floor became increasingly white until the land around me looked to have been bleached. I slowed to examine the wonder and soon found myself with a handful of the strange earth contemplating consumption. My mind had a theory that my taste confirmed, I was riding through and enormous salt flat. Everyday table salt covered the ground like a soft winter snow. I had already partaken of this salt flat the day before but in a much more domestic environment, I had salted my fries at the Austin Diner with a shaker boasting their delicious desert resource outside Fallon.

Well, between the flats and Fallon I ran into very little than interested me besides a serious greening of the landscape and quite a few non shoe covered trees. I stopped at the first enormous gas station I could find to refuel; Mountain Dew, corndogs, and of course a half gallon of milk. I made some victorious calls back home to proclaim that I had nearly conquered my third and most brutal adversary…I mean state. In this conversation ‘nearly’ was the word that I overlooked. I had tremendous luck as I crossed the state, I had managed to somehow avoid the terrible western winds that dominated forecasts but had been absent in recent days…. until now. From Fallon to Carson City I faced a head wind so strong that should I have a hesitation in effort my bike would slow to a point that threatened tipping, which I almost welcomed because it would end the constant struggle.

Through pure effort and constant attrition I managed to reach Carson City, The largest city in my travels thus far. It was early in the day but the wind had destroyed me, and so I found myself in the comforting glow of a Dairy Queen sign. I ate a selection of the menu while I tried to decide what to do with myself for the night. I had ridden deep into Carson City and I didn’t favor the idea of riding back out into the country to camp, so I sent myself up at a hotel right off the main drag in Carson City, a rather sleazy area of town full of casinos and unsavory looking women on street corners.

After I settled into my room I thought about trying my luck at the blackjack table, but instead decided to sit down and watch some Olympics so I wasn’t completely out of the loop when I arrived at the Training Center in a few days. Of the three nights I stayed in hotels along the way I can say only that I felt rather uncomfortable with the ease of my surroundings, I even slept in my bag. I did enjoy the showers though, but I cringed at having to cover my clean skin immediately with sunscreen in the wee hours of the morning. The amenities of the hotel were nice but the thought of entering the Golden State in the morning was enough to send me to bed with a smile.
Day: 116.69 mi
Total: 1427.33 mi
Elev. Climbed: 1400 ft
Elev. Difference: 100 ft

Day 13: August 23rd, 2008 – The Burning Man with a Badass Tan

Eureka, NV --> Middlegate, NV

SO I set off from Eureka at the break of dawn in order to avoid being arrested for sleeping in Historical Site #22, also there was more vast nothingness in front of me that I wanted to span before nightfall. Roughly 150 miles of it. So after a gas station breakfast burrito and a half gallon of milk I rode.

I continued to dominate basin and range over and over again until at the top of one of these summits I met Burning Man Dan the AU fan. I was standing half naked in the scorching midday heat of the top of a climb when Dan’s truck and trailer stopped. He greeted me with, “Hello Stranger, would you like a Coke”.

Now, the best part about my journey was that I was never in the position to refuse a favor. People offered and I accepted. So very often in my life I have rejected favors and gifts out of no other reason than pride, but my need taught me the beauty of my self inflicted dependence. In the middle of my solo self sufficient adventure I had found, then more than ever, I was relying upon generosity and pure kindness of strangers. It was a beautiful thing and has changed my paradigm forever. When all that we have is gifted to us what is our not to give back…..?absolutely nothing!

Well Dan’s apple and Coke did much for me, but it was his character that really got me going. Dan had driven all the way from Birmingham for the Burning Man festival in a desert North of Reno, Nevada. The way Dan described it, Burning Man was an experience abounding in drugs, nudity, art, and expression of all types. He was fascinated with my ride and my story all together, which he insisted on hearing every detail of. In fact, I’m not sure I knew I had a story before talking to Dan, he just kept asking why until I ran out of answers and had come to my End and my Means all in one. After telling my story Dan promptly told me about his daughter who was attending Auburn University. Dan was trying to set up a date for the two of us until I reminded him of two things. 1. I had never met his daughter and was thousands of miles away from her, and 2. I was a Georgia Fan…….Dan took a few photos of me with my bike and then I headed down into another basin.

After making it over a few more summits I had arrived in Austin, Nevada, a small burg of no more than 500 residents. I stopped in Austin Dinner for a burger and a cold drink. It was so scorching outside that even the air flowing out of the kitchen felt blissfully cool to me. After the burger I talked shop with some touring motorcyclists outside. Not only did they treat me like one of the boys, I was nearly elected bike gang leader. I answered dozen’s of questions about my ‘rig’ and the details of my ride. I grabbed some soft serve to go and rode down the main strip while eating my ice cream until a young woman ran out in from of my bike with a camera and a smile. When I lurched to a stop she asked me how the descent into Austin was. (The incline of the area was grueling and she knew that I must have headed into town in on my horse). Annie kept touching my face, arms, and chest as she asked about my ride. Her dad Laurence even joined in on the fun. I already thought they were odd until they told me what they had been up to; Laurence had taken Annie to a brothel the night before in Ely to be serviced...... both of them! Talk about a close father daughter relationship. Like everyone else that day, they were on their way to Burning Man. They videotaped me for a few minutes as I road when they passed me later on in the day... Annie was on Acid... they were from Memphis….just another reason why MEMPHIS is not part of Tennessee.

I rode into the desert hoping to make it to civilization by nightfall. The desert around Austin was perhaps one of the most unwelcoming areas of the entire trip so I rode like hell continuing directly along the route of the ole Pony Express. I was in a great mood considering riding had become some what of a piece of cake in the recent days. I had trained myself into shape and was a lean and fit tourist who needed only a mechanically sound bike and lots of calories to make it anywhere in the country in grand style. I sang while I rode, realizing only later than I had made up more words than I remembered. I formed alternate versions of the hits of almost every genre. Wagon Wheel, by Old Crow Medicine Show, was a particular favorite. While singing I thought about friends back home and my family. I thought for hours about friends I hadn’t spoken to in years and some that I still see every day. Memory is an amazing thing; I recalled entire conversations of no real significance from ten years past as well as images dating back to the cradle. Some time to think can be a wonderful thing.

Maybe 25 miles out of Middlegate I ran upon a goat hunt in full swing. A man crossed the road with a rifle in his hand and the handlebars of a four wheeler in the other. He was firing at the goat as if he was Yosemite Sam. I had to slow down to stay behind the man and out of his ever-changing line of fire. He disappeared into the desert as quickly as he came right at the rubble that marked the last remaining remnants of an adobe Pony Express station changeover.

Pulling into Middlegate I saw one of the most ridiculous sights of the journey, a tree. This wasn’t just any tree though; it was the first tree along Highway 50 for 150 miles! It was large and beautiful and stood with a type of pride that echoed its situation of solitude, but none of these things made the tree what it was. They say you can tell the nature of a man by the type of shoes he wears, well what about a tree. This tree wore every type of shoe; sneakers, high tops, low tops, basketball shoes, track spikes, keds, flip flops, hiking boots, and even the occasional pair of black pumps. Hanging from its branches were thousands of pairs of shoes.

Legend has it that the first pair of shoes was thrown up by a pair of feuding newlyweds who returned upon the birth of their first child to throw another pair up in a gesture of good luck for their new family. I like that story but figure it just as likely that the tree is just as easily a marker for a large crack house nearby. Either way you tell it, the Shoe Tree, as it is so creatively named, is something to behold and the next time you are driving through Middlegate, NV (probably never) you should stop and take it in.

A few hundred yards from the notorious tree is the town of Middlegate, and by town I mean a bar/campground/hostel/restaurant/general store/gas station with a year round population of three. The bartender/shop keep/ mechanic is married to the waitress/cook/innkeeper and they run the entire town. A great and happy couple, they really made me feel at home with a warm meal and a few cold beers, they even let me pitch tent in clearing behind the bar. The third resident of the town was a funny ole dude who played a very amateur style method of guitar for free beer and the occasional round of applause from all the transient guests. I ran into the goat hunter I saw earlier, and was regaled with the stories of the hunt. I never knew goat hunting could be such an epic adventure….

The bar keep let me use his family computer in the back to check my email. I cannot describe how odd being in front of a computer feels after being on the road as long as I had been. After I finished up inside I headed out to the back to set up tent and get some sleep. It was a very interesting day and going to bed that night I had a feeling that I would never have another like it.

Day: 135.8 mi
Total: 1310.64 mi
Elev. Climbed: 3900 ft
Elev. Difference: -2300 ft