Things That Go Bump In The Night!

Leaving the Beaver state behind, I crossed into California in beautiful sunshine and arrived at Fort Dick 😉 (I swear I’m not making these names up.) It felt about 10 degrees warmer too. Shortly afterwards, I entered Redwood National and State Parks. The Pacific coast is often hilly and mountainous, so I had a climb ahead of me from sea level to well over 1000 ft. From my uphill perspective, the trunks of the redwood trees seemed massive. Even craning my neck, I could barely see their tops. Redwoods are the tallest living things on the planet. To give you an idea of the scale, look for my bicycle at the foot of the tree in the photo. That tree is actually a relative youngster. Redwoods can reach heights of over 350 ft, which is longer than a football pitch.

Despite the warm sunshine, the nights were chilly. I love camping in the redwood forests, so I broke out my camping gear all the same. Good job I didn’t bother packing my negligée, as the night was so cold that I ended up pulling on everything I had with me. Having finally got warm, I was woken a short time later by an insistent rustling. I lay half-awake listening to it for a while until I realized that the rustling was inside my tent! Switching on my flashlight, I saw a raccoon searching my front pannier for the walnut and cranberry scone that I had stashed there earlier that day. Clearly a discerning raccoon, nevertheless one that didn’t take “No” for an answer. It returned three times until it was convinced that there was nothing to be had. I had no intention of sharing my scone with him. As I always say, “A pleasure shared is a pleasure halved.”

As I headed south along the Pacific coast, cycling from one headland to the next, with climbs of near to 3000 ft followed by exhilarating descents, the spectacular vistas that unfolded around each bend helped to distract me from the increasing pain that had started in my mid-back as a small twinge a few days earlier. By the time I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, I was in such pain that I could barely sit down on the saddle. A doctor’s visit the following day, plus MRI and bone density scan, revealed a compression fracture in my spine. Not only that, it showed that I’d had three previous fractures — all likely caused by something else that the scan revealed — osteoporosis.

So injury stopped play. Sounds more butch that way. I’m going to take inspiration from that raccoon and try again — probably next spring. For the heck of it, I’ll start the remaining stretch from San Francisco to the Mexico border from the doctor’s office 🙂

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Climb Every Mountain

Battling a headwind up Market Street, I arrived back home in San Francisco on Sunday, July 3. It had taken me 2 months and 2 days to cycle across the United States. The following evening, the city of San Francisco threw a huge firework display in my honor 🙂

I had originally bought the maps to do this trip 21 years ago. Better late than never is definitely true in this case. I would have missed the kindness and hospitality of countless strangers across the United States, the friendship of the other cyclists I met along the way (special mention here to Don, Dan, and Bill, Paul and Lena, Tom and Jacy, and Marian and Lukas, all of whom defined this trip for me), and the spectacular landscapes. Mind, I would also have saved myself the frustrating headwinds, sauna-like temperatures, and seemingly interminable climbs. But I’d do it all again in a flash.

One of the reasons for finally undertaking this trip was to make sense of some things that have happened to me in recent years: In particular, the life-threatening injuries after a mentally ill homeless man attacked me with a hammer in San Francisco three years ago, and a diagnosis of leukemia last year. In the end, I’m not sure I made sense of anything. But it doesn’t matter; I learned something more important – to live day by day, and to believe that everything is possible.

Before signing off this blog, I want to thank you for reading and to let you know how much I appreciated your comments and well-wishes. Very especially, big thanks to my partner Paul for his support, understanding, and for the mother of all chocolate eclairs when I arrived back. Hopefully, the pictures of Colorado will inspire you to go cycle up a mountain too!