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April 14, 2016

By meriwether, Apr 17 2016 03:04AM

I woke up in a panic early last Saturday morning in my motel room in Berkeley. I had a reservation on the California Zephyr, Amtrak’s cross country passenger train that would bring me home to Toledo. In a few hours I was to be at the station in Emeryville (near Berkeley) to box up my bike and trailer and commence my journey home. I had decided to bring my journey to an end in the San Francisco Bay area in the shadow of the Golden Gate.

The ride into San Francisco had been good . . . until . . . I hit Skyline Drive. The name itself implies why it’s called that. To get up to Skyline drive I was confronted with the hill of hills - it had to be a 12 to 15 percent grade. There was no riding it . . . so I pushed . . . and pushed . . . and pushed my rig upward, cutting traverses across the roadway to cut the angle of ascent, much like a skier on a steep downhill. Except . . . this was no downhill. A couple of guys in pickups wanted to know if I needed a ride to the top. Pride . . . or stupidity . . . would not let me.

Once up, it was a fine glide downward into the City By The Bay, with a few more hills thrown in. Once in The City, I made my way to the Downtown International Youth Hostel where I would stay for a couple of nights and make decisions.

If you have ever stayed in a Hosteling International Youth Hostel (formerly AYH), you know that it is a great way to travel for young people; hosteling affords them the opportunity to meet fellow travelers from all over the world. I have used them on many of my bicycle tours in Europe and the U.S., and they are not just for the younger types - you’ll find lots of oldsters - like me - using them. Although there are private rooms, most accommodations are dorm style with bunk beds for 4 to 8 souls. Although most my experiences with hosteling have been positive, every now and then you share a room with The Hosteler From Hell. This one happened to be an older gentleman - I think from India or Pakistan - who checked in at 2:00 am while I and another younger hosteler were trying to sleep. Rather than trying to keep a low profile, the bright overhead light stayed on for the next 45 minutes - magnified since I was in the top bunk - while our new roommate prepared himself for slumber. Hostel etiquette requires some consideration for your fellow bunk mates - use a small flashlight or forehead light to do what you have to do. Finally the glaring overhead light went out, but within 10 minutes, thunder from down under began. Snoring of varying and extreme decibels and tones assaulted me from underneath. Sleep eventually won out, but most of the night was gone by then, and at 6:00 am, this fellow’s cell phone rang and announced the start of a new day. Rather than step out into the hall, a full voice conversation ensued, only to be followed by another phone call soon thereafter. After the second phone call, the overhead light again shone forth, and the Hosteler From Hell’s preparation for the day began.

I should add that most of my hostel experiences have been positive - like my two recent stays at Pigeon Point and Point Montara Lighthouses which you may have seen in my last Update. And the price - $26 per night - would be more like $300 per night for the same view from a hotel at such a location. But with the hosteling experience, you just never know what kind of roommates you’ll be blessed . . . or cursed with.

I spent two days in San Francisco - truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world - even in the gloom of clouds and mist that enveloped it. And I came to a decision that this should be the end of the journey after 7,600 miles. On the morning of my 3rd day in The City, I boarded the ferry to Oakland and made my reservation for the Amtrak’s California Zephyr. But something just didn’t feel right - I didn’t have that feeling that I had 10 years ago as I arrived at the Pacific at the end of my Lewis and Clark ride . . . or certainly 30 years ago at the conclusion of my world bicycle tour.

Hence . . . the panic at 3:00 in the morning of my scheduled Amtrak departure. I bolted from the bed, grabbed my phone, and cancelled my Amtrak reservation . . . and I decided to Proceed On, at least for a time. Instead of heading to the train station, I pointed my wheels in the direction of Northern California.

I passed through Bodega Bay. Those of you who remember Alfred Hictchcock's The Birds will recognize that name. On the lookout for irate sea gulls and all manner of blood thirsty shore birds that might want to peck my eyes out, I passed through without avian incident. But was that Tippe Hedren and Rod Taylor I saw at the Bodega Bay coffee shop? (Those of you too young probably are in the dark here.)

My ride north from San Francisco has been every bit as challenging as that of Big Sur - the relentless north winds and the unending ups and downs of this rugged California coastline, with river and creek drainages every few miles it seems that drop you down to sea level and then require you to peddle back up to the top of the coastal headlands and cliffs. The only word I can think of to describe cycling north along the California coastline in the spring is . . . brutal!

But yet, cycling yesterday from Point Arena to Russian Gulch State Park Campground was probably one of the best days, with minimal headwinds (more westerly) and welcome sunshine which has been in short supply of late. And . . . after 8 months of constant pedal pumping, even the extreme hills seemed manageable.

At Russian Gulch Campground, I shared the Hiker/Biker campsite (only $5 for us self propelled types) with Mollie, a mid 20’s young gal who is cycling on her own from Portland down to San Diego. We shared a campfire that I had built, as well as some of our experiences of the road. Mollie said she enjoys the solitude of cycling on her own at her own pace. She was rethinking a projected career in Occupational Therapy, and was using this trip to reconsider what the future may hold for her. As I climbed into my tent, the heavens opened forth, and heavy rains commenced.

I want 8,000 miles . . . and I will have that in a day or two as I approach 7,900. Tomorrow’s route from Fort Bragg (where I am now) looks to be another ungodly day of climbing. Beyond that is the heart of California’s redwood forests and The Avenue Of The Giants, cycling through which is akin to a religious experience. After that, I think I will be ready. Would like one more volunteer day with Habitat For Humanity to make my 15th city. It could be Portland, which would be appropriate since that is where I ended my Lewis and Clark ride 10 years ago . . . and my 4th corner.

Looking forward to my summer in Toledo. In the words of Dorothy from Kansas, “There’s No Place Like Home!”

Proceeding On . . .

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