After arriving at my hostel, I treated myself to a trip to the cinema. I took in a film, had some popcorn and enjoyed the show. I rarely go as it is, so this really was a treat and I have to say I enjoyed immersing myself.
I never did get that sleep that I was ever-so to look forward to. Amongst the many great things about staying in a hostel, there are a couple of not so good things. One of them is having to put up with snoring room mate. Tired and hungry, all I wanted was sleep. The harder I tried, the louder he got. The earbuds didn’t work. I tried to sleep in the living until 6am. I finally slept at 7am.
Over breakfast however I saw a familiar face. Gerald! He was back. We got in on the same day. It was great to see a rider again – even if it had been only a day.
Overall, I didn’t really enjoy my stay in San Francisco. In fact I paid $200 to bring my flight forward a couple of days just to get out. My experience was tainted by the fact that I had been living in a tent and camping in the forest for nearly a month. I had space, I had quiet and I had nature. Now I am in Downtown San Fran, which certainly isn’t the most desirable part of town to be. It was noisy, smelly, busy. There was a real conflict of worlds in too short a time and I just wasn’t ready.
The main thing that struck me was the homelessness that was ever so present in the area. Not just that, but a lot of them were mentally ill. It was extremely sad and really unpleasant place to be.
I did have my coffees, and I did pay far too much for a copy of The Guardian and Economist; catch-up on what was going on back home. I ate well and I very much chilled out as much as I could. I even managed to catch a gig at the DNA Lounge (Ni Obliviscaris)
I did have THE best massage I’ve ever had. 90 minutes of pure bliss. I made a conscious decision to get one of these full body sports massages done. Hell, I needed. Go and check out The Mindful Body – they were really awesome. That really sorted me out.
I met up with Jace a few days in. We had lunch, coffee and hung out. It was really great seeing him again. We tried to fix his bike again as he was selling it on Craigslist. He got another flat . . . and then it got stolen over night. Classic Jace.
I did some damage to my hand whilst packing my bike away. With the bike upside down I was taking the second pedal off. Turning it the wrong way, it was understandably difficult. I slipped and ended up punching the front cog set. I had a nice puncture hole on my hand. It was beautifully swollen and from this point on I couldn’t move my fingers. It took me 5 days before I could make a full fist. Day 5 was the day I left for my canoe tour. Lucky.
Suggestion – clean your hands properly afterwards and don’t tape together your panniers together with duct tape. It took me longer than usual to get through passport control (Why are your hands dirty – why didn’t you wash them – are you cycling back to town?”) and then I had a nice chat with police who asked for my passport. I am sure I didn’t look so desirable – filthy, bike panniers taped together, beardy, tired looking and a lame hand. All the same questions. No one was impressed about the ride. I happened to bump into some friends from London randomly in baggage collection – they thought it was hilarious.
I was left with a lot of time to think and reflect. And this I did in copious amounts. This was by far the best thing I have done. I learnt many things on many levels – I couldn’t have predicted even if I’d sat down and thought about it.
- I became comfortable with camping in areas of ‘dangerous’ wildlife
- Remembered how to change a tire, and fix a puncture
- Actually Cycle Toured
- How to grind through an 85 mile day
- How short days can be far harder than long days (How powerful / weak a mind can make you)
- Relax and go with the flow
- Enjoy a journey without a destination
- America is one beautiful part of the world
- I’m probably more determined than I realised
- I’m not as patient as I’d like to be under duress!
- I’m OK going into the deep-end
- Oh, and I love cycling
On that last point – it’s a perfect way to travel. It’s fast enough to make decent ground (and to get yourself out of ‘trouble’) yet it’s slow enough to properly take in your surroundings. And with this you have freedom. You have freedom to go to the next town, or to 10 towns down. And you are doing this all with leg power and a bit of gravity.
You become more in touch with the land you are going through. You remember every hill. You celebrate the flats. This is because you are far more sensitive to what’s going on around you. The wind, the condition of the road, the sun. It all impacts your performance and how you get to the next stop. I have more of a connection with that coast line having done it on a bicycle because it’s not a passive way of travel.
Powered with only your legs and gravity, I’ve taken myself c.18,000 km in 23 days; Cycle touring is humbling. It was for me anyway. With that, there is a profound sense of achievement, and a feeling that you can do anything. You have a lot of time to think and feel. All of the above is conducive to an emotional experience.
It made me smile, laugh and cry.
Thanks to the People
This experience wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for the people. Some I have spoken to since, some I haven’t. But you know what that’s OK, it all made the experience that much more special. Thank you for your endless kindness, teaching me about your State and Country, being patient, pushing me, making me laugh, company and friendship. And if Scott and Andy can do it 25 years on, Jace. . . what do you say?
And for the rest whom I don’t have any photos of:
Becca – Portland, Oregon
Corbin – Washington
Jeremy – Portland, Oregon
Helen & Mark – Bristol, UK
Cameron – LA, California
The Dutch Couple – Dutchland
Would I do it again?
Canadian Rockies A Bike Tour – Coming to you in Summer 2017