Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 26, Laguna Beach to Mexico, 102 miles, final day

Today we reached our goal, after nearly 2000 miles of pedaling.  We ended the day at the US border with Mexico.  Most of the day we rode through wealthy California with manicured landscaped yards, tree lined streets, immaculate parks, and pretty beaches. Late in the day was a long ride through the labyrinth of the industrial sector of south San Diego. We had to wind our way through countless back roads, railroad tracks, and uneven broken asphalt sections to get there. On the way we passed loading docks with huge ships and cranes.  Some areas looked as though we were already in Mexico. Amy and Andy met us near the border.  We dismantled our loaded bikes, and secured them to the roof racks on the suburban.

Throughout the day as we passed the several beaches I found myself already becoming nostalgic about this trip. I tried to stamp the scenes before me into my permanent memory so that I would always be able to recall them with pleasure and immense satisfaction. I tried to memorize the fresh smell of the slightly salty ocean air, the sounds of the sea birds, and to internalize the unhurried freedom I felt moving through the world at 15 mph.

This evening at dinner I listened as Kristi regaled Amy with the tales of the hard days. She was especially intense as she recounted the mental toughness needed to get through them, and the indelible lessons she had learned. One in particular was especially poignant. Kristi recounted when she thought she had no more strength left and her limit had been reached, that she discovered her pre-set "limit" was naïve, and that she kept redefining her limit according to what was needed. She said her limit had to be whatever was needed, not some artificial end point of capacity. Whatever it takes was the only valid limit. A long arduous trip like this burns into your psyche several invaluable skills, adapted by each rider to their own set of personal weaknesses and strengths. Among these are how to pace yourself through a long-term goal by concentrating on the immediate task at hand, thereby refusing to allow the magnitude to crush you. Discovering the immediate positives in an adverse environment is another crucial skill, the mantra of which is "hate makes you weak and love makes you strong". Understanding how to tap into the support of family and Jesus is also pivotal. Humility, born of adversity, a realization of your own nothingness, and the towering landscape itself has to mix with all these revelations as a necessary catalyst.

This is very likely my last big bike trip. I have done 11 of these, 4 of which were over 2000 miles.  I will miss this part of my life, to have a front row seat as my children internalize some of life's greatest lessons. I will especially miss the deep love I feel as I have pedaled beside them while they struggled from fear, to doubt, to faith, and finally love. Through these experiences I believe I understand better how Heavenly Father feels as I work to conquer my own frailties.

This trip is over, but the memories will become the stuff of family legend, and in private moments when the lessons need to be taught to the next generation. We will never be able to forget the month of May in 2009, when we three pedaled from Canada to Mexico.

Richard, Matthew, and little Kristi.

Day 25, Oxnard to Laguna Beach, 102 miles

At 5:30AM Gordon and Bryant loaded up our bikes and returned us to Oxnard, so we could begin our trip where we left off. Very soon we started into the land of famous beaches, expensive real estate, and exotic cars. This is stereotypic California. First we passed Malibu, then Santa Monica. Since it is Memorial Day, there were loads of people out to play and relax, with lots of traffic. The fishermen were out first, casting from rocks into the surf. Close behind were the real surfers out early in their wet suits. Then came the sand volleyball groups. Next were the beach comers, the gawkers, the locals, the tourists and then finally the cruisers came, not interested in hanging out at the beach, just in showing off their cars and driving up and down the strip. We passed Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Rodondo, Manhattan, Sunset, Huntington, Newport, and finally Laguna. For lunch we stopped at a mobile taco truck and had some really good food. We saw a homeless man digging in the trash so we talked to him and bought him some tacos. We also gave him a bagel and an extra tube for his bike. He ate lunch with us. He was grateful and thanked us. We pedaled until 4PM. Kristi said she was still good for another 10 miles, but we called it anyway. Our spirits are high. We have an unspoken camaraderie by this time having come so far together. Everyone has helped each other mentally as well as physically. We have all been weak at times and all been strong at others.

Tomorrow may be our last day.


Day 24, rest

Sundays are divine (pun intended). This one was particularly good, since we ended Saturday's ride only 23 miles from my sister Shirley's house. She wasn't expecting us but came and picked us up, bikes and all, and took us to her house. Then she fed us, and fed us, and fed us some more. We went to church with her family, after bumming clothes from everyone. I had the deacon look going, with a white shirt, slacks, and tennis shoes. After 3 hours at church we just hung out and talked. Kristi commented that she wanted to become the kind of person Shirley is, always willing to help others. Matt got on their computer and found us a detailed route to the border. He printed out all the instructions so we can wind our way through LA tomorrow, and San Diego on Tuesday. This will be invaluable for us to be able to not have to navigate en route.

Our quest is nearly done.


Day 23 Lompoc to Oxnard 95 miles

DUDE. It felt good typing in that 95 miles. It is Saturday night. I AM SO HAPPY. I loved today. People, we saw our first San Diego mileage sign today: 198 miles. I squealed a little at the sight of it.
Today we are staying with Dad's sister Shirley's family. She lives in Thousand Oaks (about 15 miles out of Oxnard where we stopped) and they were all nice enough to pick us up! Tonight has been better then most Christmas's I've had. We got picked up in a CAR that goes FAST, got a shower in a REAL home and had a humongo meal. And I'm typing this on a real computer, not a tiny little blackberry phone with buttons designed for elvish-sized people that cramp my fingers (that, truly, has been the real hardship of the trip). I digress. Basically, it is really wonderful here and the Jones family is very kind. But let's talk about the day, shall we?
We biked! The terrain lately has been really boosting my self esteem. I think we hit so many hard climbs this trip that now we are finally getting to some flatter land we are able to really cruise. The only problem, at least for the first half of the day, is I actually just get bored. Just chilling on an uncomfy seat for hours is rough. So I've been making Dad tell me stories as we ride, to help with the boredom, as well as the inevitable morning stress I feel. I heard all about his childhood today. He sure was a nasty little brother sometimes. It was great, made the morning pass quick. Combining nicely with this little bit of nostalgia, we went past El Capitan Beach today--the beach that Dad's family vacationed at often when he was younger. It was touching, we took the exit to see it, and he told us a bit about the times they used to spend there. He got his classic smile that makes his vein in his forehead pop out and it warmed my heart. It made me wonder, in 35 years or so, where I will be when I show my kids where I vacationed as a kid. Probably some lonely road on the coast where we biked on this very trip.
When we got to Santa Barbara, we had our normal "we hate biking through cities" syndrome flair up again. We got lost several times trying to wind our way through, but Matt is a jedi master navigator so we prevailed victorious. Schooled, Santa Barbara. We traveled through Ventura- beautiful city, and spent the rest of the miles right on the beach. We are definitely in Southern Cali, it's getting hot and palm tree-ish. Another squeal-worthy detail of today.
Honestly, I woke up this morning not thinking I could do 95 miles. Now we are 50 miles from LA and 180 from San Di-freaking-ego. If I can do this, we can easily solve world hunger and cure cancer. In general, there is hope for humanity.
I love you!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 22, Cayucos to Lompoc, 82 miles

Today had no mishaps! No mechanical problems, relatively few navigation quandaries, nobody was overly tired. The result was 82 miles by 2PM. The sad part was that the next place with ANY services was 45miles away, so we had to call it enough for the day. Otherwise we would have had to go 125 miles for the day, which was actually do-able; However, we are on schedule and there was no point, as Kristi put it, in taking a fabulous day and making it crappy. So we relaxed a bit. I took the time to find an 11mm Allen wrench and tighten my free hub, which has come loose again, so now I can reconnect my back brake (tire wobble is gone).The scenery today was lots of farmland -huge strawberry fields with lines of migrant pickers systematically moving through the rows,fields of celery that smelled familiar as we passed, broccoli, onions,lettuce, and artichokes. At one point we stopped on top of a hill overlooking the patchwork fields and Kristi said it looked like a painting.
We also passed through old San Luis Obisbo downtown which has cool shops and large trees lining the downtown streets.We all have good legs, proper long term mind set, and sense to know how to cope with our weaknesses. Kristi, for instance, knows not to ask the time or miles as we ride. She doesn't want to risk early elation or discouragement so she can't know.Today was the first day we have ridden where we could not see our breath when we started, although it was still uncomfortably cool. Our jackets usually stay on at least until noon.
Until tomorrow, Richard

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 21- Big Sur to Cayucos 91 miles

I made the comment that today never felt like it got going. Every time we would set out to put down miles something got in our way. After about a mile from starting out we hit a steep 3-mile hill.  Big hills are ok once you are warmed up and ready. Since this one came so early with the thoughts of our recently abandoned beds fresh on our minds and a top that never seemed to materialize, we started out on a bad note. Nonetheless the scenery was so amazing none of us let the hill ruin the amazing ride through the area known as Big Sur. The next 35 miles were fantastic. The views are so unbelievable you hesitate to take pictures because you know that it won't do justice to what you are seeing. With all this come lots of hills, which makes the going slow. You climb up and down and in and out as the road hugs the costal cliffs. Every few miles or so the road goes exceptionally high and you get views that make you feel so insignificant. The ocean stretches out until it blends in with the sky in a light blue. To either side you see the inlets the ocean has cut creating what you can only imagine what the land would look like if it were dipping its feet in the water. 

Today truly was beautiful.  We made the mistake of stopping to often to take in the view. These trips are often difficult because of how many things you have to give up. For instance we rode through San Francisco the other day but did no sightseeing at all. We just rode in slept and left. These really are quests not trips. The whole goal is to get down the road. Same today, we had to give up taking too much time taking in the view. It takes some getting used too but it is all part of hat makes these trips what they are. In the middle of climbing up one of the hills this morning Dad broke a link in his chain. This cost us a half hour. There were so few well-marked towns we had no plans to stop for lunch. Then when we did stop it was just on the side of the road for bagel. Then just three miles later we found a mini mart and stocked up. All these little stops added up and we lost a few hours. Then just as we thought we had our ducks in a row so we could put down some good miles Kristi broke a spoke. After 30 minutes of that fix, and a look at all the sea lions at this one beach (there were hundreds!) we were on our way. By this time though it was 2:45 and we only had 65 mile. This was bad news because the only town that showed up on our map was 95 miles in. Luckily for us our afternoon tail wind kicked in.  We were all feeling lousy by this time though because of lack of a real lunch. On one hill I got really light headed and my body let me know it needed food right then. Before the top of said hill I had finished two granola bars and a Snickers. It is amazing how quickly your body goes through food on these trips. I felt the energy return to my body about 10 minutes after eating then 30 minutes later I could feel the hunger coming back so I had to eat again. The tailwind saved us once again and we pulled in to this amazing little town. I made a comment to Kristi today that might shed some light on why we do these rides. I was talking about how our only goal on these trips is to make it to the next town and cover the miles everyday. One simple, yet difficult, task. Therefore your only problems ever arise from not being able to accomplish your goal. Therefore the solution to all your problems is to get on the bike and pedal. How great a life when you have on solution to all your problems. That being said it is still incredibly difficult everyday but a simpler more concrete difficult. There is also a real satisfaction that comes from these trips. In normal life success is difficult if not impossible to measure. You don't have a yardstick to say today was this good. On the bike everyday has a number attached to it, a numerical representation that says you did this good, the miles you cover. I don't know if anyone can ever truly understand how we feel without going through the same but just know we are happy and hope you can feel a little bit of our highs and lows. Thanks for the support. We love you all.


-The Wilson's

Day 20 Santa Cruz to Big Sur 81 miles

Howdy howdy howdy. Today was...I hate starting blogs like that. Today was a thousand different things. From Santa Cruz we started immediately confused, the only road outta there is a freeway where we are discriminated against. So we asked some locals, and found our way out, eventually. Our confusion for a long time has been in part due to signs all along the Cali coast labeled "Pacific Bike Route" that always just confuse us more, as they are always lacking arrows or clear directions. I'd like to publicly reprimand whoever put them up.

We rode in a dense fog through strawberry and artichoke fields all morning. After that we rode into Monterey on a nice little designated bike trail. Monterey is beautiful! The beach alone is to die for, and all the little shops combined with the bike trail just makes for such a cool place. If anyone wants to go back, I'm in. We had to cut through the city, and although we swore he couldn't do it again, Dad took us up the steepest way possible. Up up and UP out of Monterey we went. The scenery after lunch was PHENOMENAL I think the darn prettiest part of the trip yet. This was the 25 miles into the famous Big Sur. The coastline was so so beautiful, (gosh beautiful is such an understatement) that even though it was crazy steep, I can for certain say it was worth it. At one particular part we rounded a corner, and there was this breathtaking view of a 300-foot bridge, connecting to a road tacked on the side of the mountain, trailing up into what looked like eternity, with the ocean 1000 feet below. Matt just said "Look" and I gasped. Usually I gasp out of dread, but this time it was just awe, and as cheesy as it sounds, respect. Dear Mr. Mountain and Mr. Ocean, I acknowledge your excellence, and I respect that. Matt mentioned after that when he saw that view it made him feel awed as well, but also proud of us.

This trip-this huge task before us- is so daunting, and like the mountain, so much bigger than we are. But here we are, chipping away at it one monster day at a time. On the other side the wind was blowing incredibly hard, at one point in our faces, which Dad admitted to dropping to 3 mph in? Finally it hit our backs, and we FLEW the last 5 miles. As long as days are, this trip is flying past and we're just trying to drink it all in. Until tomorrow.

Love, Kristi