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    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    This, too, shall end...

    The Avenue of the Redwoods--one of my favorite sections of the trip
    Writing that phrase "this, too, shall end," it's beginning to sink in how close I am to finishing this epic adventure. Currently in LA, I am just three biking days from the Mexican border. Sadly, I even purchased my plane ticket back to Boston, meaning the previously open-ended adventure is, well, no longer so open-ended. Jess and I parted ways in San Francisco, as we both had different aims for the Southern California part of the trip (Jess--surfing for free, Mel--finishing the trip before the money runs out). So while it's been interesting traveling alone, we've certainly met enough interesting people in our travels so we're never actually lonely. After visiting my aunt and uncle in Menlo Park and getting a ride further south around some forest fires, I ran into a band touring by bicycle and was immediately promoted to band manager. I've unfortunately missed all of their shows since I met them and haven't booked them any gigs, but hopefully I'll be able to help sell CDs at their LA show tonight. Check out their personal myspace pages: and (sorry Chaz I don't know your website). I also biked with Warm Showers host Saul from Seattle, who flew down to meet the Jess/Mel Bike Touring Attempt 2009 Tour but ended up getting only Mel. Touring with Saul was a blast. As Jess put it just a few moments ago on the phone, "So, what was it like getting up before noon and actually knowing where you're going?"

    A few other things I've learned on the road:
    Hit the Road, Jack
    It takes a minimum of 1.5 hours for me to get on the road in the morning--pack up camp, fit it all neatly into two bags and a stuffsack, load up my bike, cook breakfast, and haul myself over the saddle. Shortest time getting ready: 55 minutes. Longest time: 4.5 hours. We were staying in Fort Bragg with some Warm Showers hosts who have a "Bicyclists' Cottage" where they host friends, relatives, and itinerant bikers. I got ready, took another look at the bed, and went back to sleep for two hours.
    Even once I'm on the road, it takes a while to get moving. No matter how hard I try, the first 20 miles of every day usually take me about 3-4 hours because I stop to eat and hike so many times. I'm using a comprehensive book called "Bicycling the Pacific Coast," which I refer to as "The Bible." I take about 95% of the side trips they recommend, which makes it pretty slow going. After all, who knows when I'll be back here?

    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bike Nutrition
    "Eat like a fat person." That is the best advice I've gotten for nutrition on a bike tour. Anything you want, any tkime you want, in any amount you want. During a normal biking day (aiming for 60+ miles, usually doing about 55 miles) I'll eat about 4,500 calories. In real life, we're always inunadated with eating schedules and trying to overcome our eating urges. So it takes a little while to start paying attention to what your body is telling you. Your body is built to tell you exactly what it needs: craving for Lays potato chips means I'm low in sodium, salivating for a juicy hamburger means I'm hurting for protein (or we just passed a McDonald's billboard), or itching for a beer means I need more carbs (ok, maybe that one's a stretch). I often feel like a gas tank, partly because I buy food at so many gas stations, but also because I have to eat before my stomache hits empty. After one day of biking 45 miles without eating anything and totally crashing, energy-wise, the next day, I stop myself and remind myself to eat and drink every hour.
    When biking, you develop a taste for strange things. My absolute favorite biking food: buying frozen perogies and eating them throughout the day as they thaw. A piping hot Cup 'O Noodles, laden with preservatives and sodium as it is, can't be beat. But even better than that is my B Vitamin Break.
    B Vitamins consist of: beef jerky, berries, beer, and lately, iBuprofen. Around 4:00-6:00 pm, my prime biking hours (perhaps due to 4 years of frisbee practice during that time), I like to have some combination of those B vitamins to push those last 30 miles before dark.

    I Saw the Signs
    In addition to the massive amounts of roadkill witnessed on America's highways and byways, aside from my terrible singing and tribal war whoops on the downhills there's not a whole lot to keep me occupied. Which is perhaps why I've been paying so much attention to the roadside signs...

    "Passing lane ahead" means a big climb is coming up. This makes me sad.

    Means the climb is ending! Hooray!

    This is my favorite sign of all--yahoo!!!!

    There are some strange roadside attractions, like this giant Paul Bunyon at the Trees of Mystery in the Redwoods (yes, Jess and I successfully sneaked into here also).

    Our first night in California was the first time we had seen the sun since entering the Oregon coast--and what a beautiful sunset it was!

    Here's a picture of our loaded bikes from the Oregon Coast just south of Yachatz.

    Some random facts:
    - My gear weighs 42 pounds, of which approximately 8 percent are made up of PBJ supplies
    - In Portland, you can buy rhinocerous tranquilizer as a recreation drug (who knew?)
    - Despite popular belief, my legs look awful: covered in bike grease that Dr. Bronner's just can't tackle, speckled with bruises from my heavy bike banging around, and a giant bruise on the back of my thigh from jumping into a river in northern California from a 30 foot cliff and executing it poorly
    We've raised about $1,600 from our generous friends and family. I'll probably be focusing more on the fundraising when I get home, but we'd love to reach $2,000 before I get to Mexico. You can donate by clicking here. Or, if you know of somewhere where I can do a presentation about the trip, please e-mail me!
    Thanks again for all of your support and help. I can't believe the end is actually in sight!

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    If you're going to San Francisco, wear some flowers in your bike spokes

    Jess and Mel in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

    So we're two thirds of the way done, and just 11 biking days from Mexico... It's kind of hard to believe that this all might be over soon. After a sweet weekend in San Francisco with incredibly sunny weather, we're finally heading out of the mist and into Southern California. Estimated time to Mexico: two weeks, or less.

    We're averaging about 50 miles a day (less in the area directly north of San Francisco, with super steep small hills that wind around the coast and never let you build up speed). We've had some crazy adventures, met some amazing people, sneaked into a few hot tubs and cable cars over the redwood forest, and generally are having a blast.

    Some photos from our journey to Mt. Hood:
    Jess all geared up as the sun starts to rise (we hiked from 11:30 pm to 2:30 pm the next day, then of course snuck into the hot tub at the lodge for a few hours. I told Jess and Brendan, I hope there's a hot tub like this at the bottom of every mountain I climb!)

    The mist on the Oregon Coast was a little unsettling... and quite cold!

    The California coast, on the other hand, has been super sunny and beautiful. On this downhill I set a new max speed--42 mph!

    Learning to swing dance with David in Coos Bay

    The shower with three heads!

    San Francisco was great and I had a chance to see my aunt and uncle in Menlo Park. Now after two days off the bike it's back on the saddle for the final push to the border... can't wait!

    Stay tuned for the next update, including my favorite signs and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bike Nutrition."

    Total miles: 1,310 (total miles for last update: 842)
    Max speed: 42 mph
    Boxes of perogies consumed: 6

    Sunday, August 2, 2009

    Latest AthletesGiving Post

    Here's my latest post from

    Update from the road: We’re 500 miles into our bike journey from Vancouver, Canada to San Diego, and about a third of the way to our fundraising goal for World Bicycle Relief. We’ve had some crazy adventures along the way and met some amazing people. I’ve definitely learned a few things about planning a charity adventure that will be beneficial the next time around. First, here are a few helpful fundraising ideas that put us well on our way to our goal.

    ...Continue reading on

    Almost to California

    Hard to believe, but Jess and I should be in California on Tuesday, August 4th. We've had some strong biking days, including biking up and over the Coastal Range (elevation: 2800 feet) during Oregon's hottest heat wave of the summer. And of course, we did it during the hottest part of the day and ran out of water 3 miles into the 8 mile climb (yikes!). Thanks to whatever random logger I flagged down who gave me some water. Our guest rider, Justin from Portland, was a champ on what was definitely our hardest day--we only hope we didn't totally turn you off from bike touring!
    So yes, we're a little behind schedule, but hopefully we'll still make it to the Mexican border by September 1. We're about 150 miles from the halfway point of the trip, and have really started rolling. Pictures of our incredible side adventures (exploring the Olympic Peninsula, summiting Mount Hood, BrewFest in Portland, and general mayhem and merriment) will come as soon as I can figure out what's wrong with my flash drive. Brendan's currently heading towards San Francisco to fly back to the east coast for a wedding and work, so Jess and I are on our own for the rest of the trip. We took an extra off day in Coos Bay with a professional swing dancer named David who taught us to Lindyhop, Colegiate Shag, Balboa, and East Coast Swing our way through the rest of our trip. David also builds houses--how could we complain about spending an extra day in his gorgeous bayside house with a shower larger than my bedroom that has three, count them THREE showerheads? After 8 nights of camping, this luxury was absolutely unfathomable. This trip certainly wouldn't be possible without Couch Surfing and Warm Showers, and the overwhelming generosity of strangers. When you're on a bike, you're more dependent on other people than any other method of travel (except, perhaps, hitchhiking). It's been both an amazing and humbling experience, as there's absolutely no way to repay people for their kindness except for a heartfelt "thank you."
    So thanks again to both strangers and family and friends for your support as we roll towards the border!
    Happy Trails,
    Jess and Mel