“You are supposed to be coming down from San Francisco!” – Going up the Pacific Coast

The last week was a big one! After almost 7000km, I got to San Diego where I reached the Pacific Ocean. But let me summarize the events of the past days.

After leaving Brawley, I had one more mountain range between me and the Pacific. It went up to 1400m (4000 feet) and it was challenging, since I was actually below sea-level in the valley I was in. The climb started just behind the little town of Ocotillo and I decided to camp there for the night in order to have all day for the mountain. The roads to Ocotillo were all terrible – sandy roads, broken roads with cracks and just no fun at all/not safe to ride on. So I decided to be illegal and take the interstate (comparable to the Autobahn) for about 25km, because it had not a lot of traffic and wide shoulders. All the locals had told me I should just take it and I was glad when I arrived in Ocotillo without any police-officers stopping me – but apparently they tolerate cyclists on that stretch since they know about the other road conditions.

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The “roads” to Ocotillo in great condition to ride your bike on

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Spent some time below sea-level in the valley

The climb out of Ocotillo was again one of the tougher ones with steep and long grades, but since I knew in advance what was coming up, it wasn’t too bad and I got to my campspot fairly early. At the campground, the cleaning lady, Donna, asked me about my route and was thinking that there was a better way to get to San Diego. Since she couldn’t think of it straight away, she decided to take me on a 30km test-ride in her car so I could decide which road I wanted to take the next day – and after all I stuck with the original plan which is always the best (according to my mom).

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I would love to have the struggles of car-drivers sometimes

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The climb from Ocotillo just went one way – UP!

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Spotted some UFOs

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Mexico is right behind the fence – a lot of border patrol to catch illegal immigrants

Although the next day was supposed to be a fairly easy descent into the outskirts of San Diego and it looked all downhill on my elevation profile, it was an exhausting day. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this phenomenon on here before, but it’s all about the expectations. If you know a tough day is coming up and you prepare for the “worst”, it usually isn’t that bad since your mind is set to take on whatever is coming up. If you, on the other hand, are too relaxed and think the next day will be a piece of cake, every hill, every rough road and any kind of wind will be demoralizing and hard to deal with. It wasn’t a bad day, but just not as easy as I had expected and therefore I was glad when I finally got to my hosts house in San Diego, about 25km from the beach. At Jeff’s and Ruth’s house, I got some needed rest and also met Patrice, a cyclist from Quebec. I had heard stories about him over the past 3 weeks from several people I had stayed with and never thought I would catch up with him. But there he was and it was funny to chat with him about our experiences in the morning.

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Descent towards the Pacific

The big day had arrived and the weather was not appropriate for it! It was cloudy, foggy and only about 20 degrees Celsius with a pretty cold wind. The weather is typical for the region and it usually clears up during the day, but sometimes it doesn’t. The fog and clouds mostly stay at the beach while the weather inland is pretty decent. After waiting at Jeff’s house until about lunchtime for the weather to get better, I decided to just take off. I made my way through the busy streets of San Diego and ended up on a bike-path which led me for 5km to the beach and the Pacific Ocean. It’s hard to describe what it felt like when I did see the Pacific for the first time. I was really happy, proud and couldn’t believe I had actually biked across the American continent. At the same time, I didn’t really know how to ‘celebrate’ the moment, since the weather wasn’t too inviting to go swimming. It actually looked like the north sea back in Europe with the grey skies, but I still went for a quick swim and traditionally dipped my front-tire in the Ocean – I took a better picture the next day though, when the sky was blue!

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The first picture I took of the Pacific – looks like the North Sea

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The view from the balcony of my host in San Diego – just a mile inland the weather was way better

The following days, I cycled up the coast and it was mostly a pleasent ride with nice views although the weather stayed strange for the most part with clouds at the beach and blue skies inland. On my first days up the coast, I also encountered my enemies for the last stretch of this trip – the wind and hills. Most cyclists choose to go down the coast since the prevailing winds are coming from the Northwest – most people I talked to on the way were therefore surprised that I was heading towards San Francisco and one of them said what probably all of them were thinking: “What the hell?! You are supposed to be coming down from San Francisco!”. But since I chose my route for a reason, I’m going to do it all the way!

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Those are the views I was looking forward to and now it was time for a better picture

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Went through a marine base and all the sudden had to watch out for tanks

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Halloween is coming up!

After going through famous beachtowns such as Laguna Beach and Newport Beach which weren’t always biker-friendly and had a lot of traffic, the next big challenge was to get into Los Angeles. I was staying with a friend from Barcelona, Emiri, who lives downtown which was another 25km from the beach and my route. There are more exciting tasks than going through the second biggest city in the US without a lot of bikelanes and awful traffic. I talked to several people on my way and they all told me to stay at the beach as long as possible and take a big avenue downtown in order to avoid the dangerous and sketchy neighborhoods where the gangs rule the streets. I tried my best to follow the advice and after all it wasn’t too bad – again it’s all about the expectations!

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Beautiful sunset in Newport Beach

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Trying to find the best way into LA

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Met Jim and John in Huntington Beach and they helped me with the routefinding to downtown LA

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San Francisco on a semi-official sign in the harbor of LA

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After a long day: downtown LA!

It was really nice to see a friend again after such a long time on the road and always meeting new people. I stayed with Emiri for two nights and somewhat explored LA. We went to Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, the University of Southern California where she goes to school and to a German restaurant – I think that’s all you can do in one day in LA ;).

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Bratwurst and German beer far away from home in the “Wurstküche”

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Impressions from the great time in LA with Emiri – what a huge city!

The way out of LA was not too bad, but with all the traffic I constantly had to focus and be alarmed in case a car got too close. After all, I made it and rode along the beach through Santa Monica and Malibu before getting to the place I’m staying at tonight in Oxnard. My host here, Chris, took me to a dinner with his friends which was really interesting since they have a rather unusual hobby: knitting. Turns out that I’m a natural and besides learning how to milk a goat, I now also know how to knit! Had a fun night and realize more and more how I will miss random evenings like this when I get back!

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It’s getting hillier again, but riding along the Ocean is amazing

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New hobby/skill: learning how to knit

I do want to talk about one encounter I had on the streets this week though, because I have thought about it a lot. When I was riding on the beach-path through Huntington Beach, I noticed another touring cyclists who was sitting on a bench close to me. I went over to him to talk about his ride and Ed told me about his problem: He broke his back a couple of years ago in a work accident and ever since has not been able to work and had to retire and lives off of the government’s social security system. He didn’t want to sit at home and do nothing and started cycling. Right now he is doing a big loop from his hometown Denver down the Pacific Coast and then back to Denver. Due to the government shutdown, he didn’t get his money this month and all he had left were 17 cents. He will get the money for last and the upcoming month on November 3rd which meant he still had 5 days to go on 17 cents. He had found a place to camp for free at the riverbed and was desperate because he didn’t know how to get food. I felt really bad and offered him a cookie and some fruit. He was so happy about it and before I left I gave him some money so he could at least get lunch that day. Why do I mention this? A lot of people ask me if this trip has changed me or if I have learned something. And although this situation was nothing major and I don’t want my trip to be philosophical, it did make me realize that I have a different view on certain things after 3 months on the road. While the initial questions in my head were: “Why can’t he work, but cycle?” or “Why didn’t he save more money before going on a trip?”, I after all decided to help him out a little bit, because so many people have helped me on this trip and given me money, food or a place to sleep. I just think I should be a little less sceptical and believe in the good in man – but of course this shouldn’t make me naive. Anyways, this was just a sidenote for the people who have asked me this question.

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Ed enjoying the cookie I gave him – hope he’ll be able to continue his ride

My arrival in San Francisco will most likely be next Thursday, November 7th and the days until then will be tough but I’m really excited for the last part of this incredible adventure. I will probably update the blog again after I get to SF which means next weekend.

One more note: I have reached my initial goal of 2000€ for Make a Wish Germany thanks to your donations, but you can still donate! I raised the goal to 2500€ because some people thought they couldn’t donate anymore, but it is still possible even beyond the goal :). So just go on my donare-page and if you need English instructions, you’ll find them there.

Take care and thanks for reading!

Freddy

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CALIFORNIA

I’m almost at the Westcoast. Since I usually post an update on here every week, I decided to do another one today, because I don’t know if I will have internet the next two days and when I get to San Diego, I want to enjoy the beach and not have to worry about writing a blog-entry right away. I also apologize that I didn’t get to update the blog last night and I have heard several people were disappointed that their sunday reading was not online ;). I do appreciate the fact that people obviously enjoy reading about my journey though!

The last week marked the end of my “wasting days”-strategy. I had been taking days off in order to not arrive at the coast too early. But since Wednesday I’m on the road again and it feels good to be moving.

The restday in Flagstaff was one of the tougher ones. My host Ray asked me if I wanted to go on a quick bike ride around Flagstaff after breakfast and I sure did. My definition of the word ‘quick’was just a different one and I was not expecting to ride 35km on my day off. It was really interesting though and we even ran across a tarantula. I have seen a lot of them on the road recently and apparently they are not really dangerous, but still somewhat scary looking.

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New pet in Flagstaff

From Flagstaff I rode to Cottonwood and passed the town of Sedona on my way. A lot of people had told me about this beautiful highway and town and I had high expectations. After all, it was really pretty, but I have been spoiled with all the great scenery I have seen on this trip and the stretch to Sedona therefore was ‘just another day’. The town itself is a very touristy spot and besides a quick lunch-break, I tried to keep going to my host in Cottonwood, Mike. He welcomed me with great food and home-made beer and I felt right at home. Mike just got back from his bicycle trip from Alaska to Arizona and talking to all the people about their adventures gives me inspiration for possible rides in the future. Since it was really comfortable and I had one more day to kill, I decided to take a final restday there.

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The way up to Sedona and the small downtown

On Wednesday morning I was excited to get on my bike again. A really tough climb was waiting for me right outside of Cottonwood to get to the little town of Jerome. It’s a small community of artists (tourists I talked to called them ‘hippies from the 60s’) and a pretty interesting place. Today only a few hundred people live there, but back in the days it was a mining town with up to 15.000 people – not quite sure how 15.000 people would live in that small place. Jerome was only the halfway-point of my climb. I still took a pretty long break there because I became a small tourist attraction and got asked a lot of questions. A couple of hours of climbing later, I had reached my last pass over 7000 feet and was ready for a descent into Prescott. Arizona has probably been the least bike-friendly state of all and the shoulders either didn’t exist, were covered with trash and glass or in really terrible condition. The last kilometers going through Prescott weren’t a lot of fun, but my warmshowers-hosts for the night, Mark, made up for it. His wife cooked a great meal for dinner and we had a nice evening (I feel like I’m repeating myself with these statements, but the truth is that it always is nice!).

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Looking up the hill to Jerome

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Looking down from Jerome on the street I came on

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Last time climbing up to 7000 feet

After a great breakfast with fresh fruit and cereal, it was time to get moving again. The destination for the day was Wickenburg. I was looking forward to get there, because from there I would stop going South and start heading West again. The day itself was another great day of riding with a couple of climbs, but also a major drop in elevation. For the first time in over a month I came down to below 1000m again! It was a fun descent and the outlook from the top into the valley was fascinating. I can’t stress enough how lucky I have been with the weather on my trip. I don’t remember the last rainy day and it’s just great – especially if you know what German weather is usually like during this time of the year. A sad sidenote to this day: I passed the small town of Yarnell. Some people might remember the story from the news: this June, 19 firefighters, so-called “hot-spots”, died in a bush-fire that destroyed half the town. Along the highway, there were signs reminding people of what had happened.

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Making my way through Prescott National Forrest

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The town of Yarnell is still shocked by the tragic events from June

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Enjoying the view at lunch

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Welcome to the wild west!

In Wickenburg, I was going to stay at a campground, but when I got there, the lady told me that the only grass-spot she had was being re-seeded and she could only offer me the driveway. Since my tent is not self-supported and therefore needs grass, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do for the night. But luckily, the owner came back outside and told me I could just pitch my tent in her frontyard – for free. It wasn’t the most peaceful night since I was camped just a few feet away from a busy 4-lane highway, but after a long day of biking, you can sleep wherever! The next day, my destination was Salome – my last night before getting into California. Salome is just a very small town and the day was pretty unspectacular – flat desert for miles and miles (and for some reason I do find that really spectacular nevertheless!). When I got to Salome, I again was expecting to spend the night at a local campground. I stopped at the small grocery store in the middle of nowhere to get my dinner for the night (pasta and baked beans) when two guys on their 4-wheelers came up to talk to me. They wanted to make sure everyone had been treating me well on the trip and were impressed by my journey and asked where I was staying for the night. When I told them about staying at a campground, they told me to just come to their RV and I could set up my tent at their site for free. It was another lucky coincidence and it’s just amazing to see how many nice people are out there. When I got to Mike’s and Martin’s huge RV, they told me to make myself at home, take a shower, use the computer and do what I needed to do. I really appreciated it since I was expecting to have a rather boring afternoon without people to talk to/internet. We had a campfire going later that night and enjoyed beer and food while talking about all kinds of stuff. After a while, the ‘neighbor’ came home and talked to us for a while. Dave is a pastor in Tuscon and was on a 2-week roundtrip with his wife and kids through Arizona. He was interested in my journey and asked if I needed anything – ‘unfortunately’ I couldn’t think of anything though. The next morning as I was sitting at the table to have my usual breakfast, Dave’s kids came over and asked if I wanted to have breakfast with them. Of course, I didn’t say ‘no’ as pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon sound/taste way better than my sandwiches! Before leaving, we took a group picture and I left well-rested and fed.

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According to the sign I’m getting closer

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Good company in Salome

The day was special since I was going to enter California. I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve and couldn’t wait for the state-line. Unfortunately, I had 100km to go before reaching it, but that just made me pedal a little bit faster. By 3PM, I was ready to cross the Colorado River to enter my final state on this trip. The toughest task of the day was to get decent pictures of the state-sign as it was on the nearby Interstate, but not on the road I was on. I did my best and I think it worked out well. I only had a couple of kilometers to go to my destination for the day, the city of Blythe. My first impression of California was not what I/people/Europeans/Germans think of when they hear “California”: A lot of trailer parks, sketchy people, bad roads. But I didn’t care at that moment and was just happy to be there. If it would have been Kentucky and not California, my mood would have probably been a different one. I spent the night at the local bait-shop. They were having a highschool-reunion from the Class of 1963 and there was a little party going on. For me that meant one beer before going to sleep since I had a really tough day ahead of me. Later that night Brad, another cyclist, showed up and it was nice to have some company. Brad is from Philadelphia and just started his journey in LA heading home. He is a 3-time state champion in time-trial racing and therefore well-trained for this!

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Desert life

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Crossing the Colorado River into California

The next morning, Brad and I headed out really early for a breakfast at McDonalds before we went on our separate ways. One thing cyclists have in common is the way of selecting food on the trip – most calories per dollar. Thankfully, McDonalds and all the other restaurants in the US write the amount of calories of each meal next to it on the selection-board. While the regular customer might try to find a meal with the least calories, the common cyclists seeks the opposite. We both struggled between getting the big breakfast plate for 5,99$ with 1340 calories or just 5 or 6 biscuits and burritos for a dollar each with a total of over 2000 calories. In the end, we both, surprisingly, picked the breakfast plate – the missing calories were added with tons of syrup and ketchup. This is one thing I’m not going to miss about the trip: Burning 5000-8000 calories a day also means taking in a huge amount and the best/cheapest/most convenient way to do it is with junk-food while on the road.

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Breakfast-Buddy Brad from Philadelphia

After the “good” breakfast, I was off for one of the longest days of my whole trip: 150km through the desert in 35 degrees heat. I was feeling good and drank lots of water so it turned out to be a really nice ride. After about 100km I got to the Imperial sand dunes which was a nice change to the usually rough, red desert here. I got to my destination for the day, Brawley, in the late afternoon and was welcomed by yet another great warmshowers-host. We had dinner and Mark gave me some tips for the route for the next couple of days.

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Making my way through the sand dunes – 35 degrees and the heat is affecting my brain

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Now that’s what I was expecting to see in California!

Tomorrow, I will try to sleep in since I only have 65km to go. The day after that will be the last big climb (and one of the toughest of the whole trip) before getting to the Ocean. Since I want to enjoy the ride and not rush through a big city like San Diego on a bike, I’m taking it a little bit slower and will stay the night on Wednesday a little bit away from the beach and should get to the Ocean on Thursday after a 25km-ride. I really cannot wait and am super-excited – just hope the weather will stay good for a dip in the ocean, but I’ll go anyways. Some people have asked me what I will do for the rest of the time since I’m in California already. Just a reminder: I’m still about 160km from San Diego and have another 1200km to San Francisco. Now you know what I will be doing 🙂

Take care and thanks a lot for reading my blog, donating and following/supporting my trip – it’s nice to see that people like what I’m doing! And just to let you know: my goal was to raise 2000€ for Make-a-Wish Deutschland e.V., but that doesn’t mean it can’t be more than that!

Freddy

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Just not meant to be: No national parks for me on this trip

I have made it to Arizona, my 14th state of this trip and only California is missing! But let me summarize the last couple of days on the road.

After two relaxing days at Pete’s and Tina’s house in Boulder, it was time to get on my bike again. Right after Boulder, I had to ride on the ‘Hogback’, which is a narrow road that has canyons on both sides of it. The day before I rode on it in Pete’s car and therefore knew what I was getting into. But it was way scarier in a car than on a bike since you don’t go as fast and there was some space on each sides before it went steep down. Apparently they have redone the road several times and it’s less dangerous now. I tried to take good pictures and capture the drop-off to both sides, but since I couldn’t just stop in the middle of the road, I’m not sure if it worked.

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The “Hogback” – maybe it’s hard to tell on the pictures, but it has steep drops to both sides

After a long descent with beautiful views into the canyons, I got to the Calf Creek Campground which is a popular spot for hikers. Since it is owned by the federal government it, and even its parking lot, were closed due to the government shutdown but there were still a lot of cars parked on the road. Pete and Tina had recommended to hike down to the waterfall. I left my bike at the entrance and started walking, but realized that it was a long hike (about 10km) and since I knew that I still had climbing on my bike ahead of me I decided to get back at my most important task on this trip: pedaling.

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Only picture from my short hike at the Calf Creek Campground

It was a good decision not to hike, since the climb before my destination in Escalante was a tough one. Long stretches with 8% and a couple of switchbacks. During the climb, I passed Dave and John who were on their racing bikes and taking a break. Their wives were driving the support vehicle and they didn’t have to carry anything, except for themselves, up the mountain. I talked to them for a while and at the top of the mountain, ran into the support vehicle and its ‘road angels’ again. They invited me for lunch and I had some fresh fruit, cheese and crackers and delicious homemade cookies! The four have been friends for almost 50 years and it’s the 8th year they do a trip like this. On the following downhill, they were faster with their racing bikes, but we caught up in the town of Escalante again where I was spending the night. The campground was really nice and thanks to a cyclist discount, I only had to pay 50%, meaning 8$.

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Looking down at the street I just came from – if you follow it, you can tell it’s steep

The next day meant the next day of climbing. I hadn’t decided on a destination for the day yet when I started in the morning which is unusual for me. I first wanted to see how well I would make it over the first two mountains and then decide if I’d also take on the hardest one into Bryce National Park on the same day. I was feeling great, the weather and landscape were once again beautiful and I was at the foot of the mountain leading to Bryce at 1PM. I chose to do the last climb aswell as that would make the next day easier. But first I had to wait until 2PM, because that was when the grocery store in Tropic, the little town I was in, opened. Just like the last couple of days, there was not a whole lot going on in the little towns I was passing in southern Utah and a guy infront of the supermarket told me the reason: the annual convention of the Mormons was taking place in Salt Lake City that weekend and everyone was either there or watching it at home. Most people in Utah are Mormons and I didn’t and still don’t really know a lot about their religion. One thing most people associate with them is the polygamist lifestlye, but that’s only happening in very few fundamentalist groups today. One thing I did notice and find pretty entertaining (but only because I didn’t have a flat tire) is the fact that Utah is the state where I have seen by far the most broken beer bottles on the shoulder or at the side of the road. Considering Mormons are not allowed to drink, that’s pretty impressive. (UPDATE: Arizona is even worse – there is more glass than pavement it seems like)

After getting my shopping done, it was yet another steep and exhausting climb with beautiful views. It’s a shame that all the national parks are closed, because I would have loved to see Bryce Canyon. I was spending the night just a couple of miles away from it but noone was allowed in. At the campground, I met another nice guy from Vancouver in his huge RV. He invited me to have a beer with him and gave me some cheese for the next day and helped me out with some milk and butter for my Mac&Cheese dinner. He had come all the way from Canada to see the national parks and now he was forced to just sit at the campground and find alternatives.

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Impressions from the climb up to Bryce Canyon

The night at Bryce was the coldest of my trip so far. Minus 5 degrees Celsius and I was glad to have good equipment and several layers of warm clothes. The good thing is that it warms up quickly as soon as the sun goes up. I made my way from the campground on a bike path (yes, they exist in the US sometimes) through the Red Canyon. Impressive views, but unfortunately also a lot of tourists, since it was one of the few attractions that isn’t a national park.

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Waking up after a coooold night in my tent

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Lucky number?!

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Bike path leading to Red Canyon

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Red Canyon – amazing how the landscape completely changes with a “clear cut” as seen in the last picture!

After leaving the Red Canyon, I saw two cyclists behind me and waited for them – it was Dave and John again and they invited me to lunch a second time. We stopped in the little town of Hatch where the support vehicle was and grabbed some snacks. When we were about to leave, we saw another touring cyclist in the distance – Tim, the guy from Seattle who I had stayed with at two different hosts on my trip already. We talked for a while and then left Tim who was getting a coffee in town. The three of us climbed up to the last pass of the day and were struggling in the wind. I was lucky and got to ride behind them the whole time which made it a lot easier – I felt like I was wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France and my teammates were supporting me. In Glendale, they stayed at a bed and breakfast place and unfortunately I won’t run into them again on the road as they are flying back home soon and taking a different route. I’m going to miss the company and the lunch provided by the road angels -Thanks for that!

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Looking back at where I came from

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Enjoying lunch and company on the road

I spent the night at Gary’s place in Orderville. He is another warmshowers-host and a different one. He is 58 and lives in a trailer on the local campground. He hasn’t lived in the same place for more than a year in 40 years and loves nature and travelling. Tim, who also stayed there with me, described him as a modern mountain man. Right now, Gary works as a cook in a nearby restaurant, but just to save up some money and travel the next 5 years again. It is a fascinating lifestyle and he really only has the things he needs on the road. Cooking dinner therefore became a challenge since he also only owns a small camping cooking pot. So we each used our own pot to cook up some pasta. With three people, it did get pretty crowded in the trailer, but it was fun listening to all of the crazy stories Gary had to share and the night was warmer than the last nights in my tent.

The next morning, we all biked down to Gary’s restaurant at 7AM. Gary was meeting a friend there to go hiking for a couple of days. Tim was going west to St. George to fly home – his knee is still hurting and he decided to stop before it got worse. And I was going south towards Arizona and the Grand Canyon. The bikeride to the restaurant was one of the toughest of the whole trip. It was 8km in -3degrees. The wind was icecold and my hands were about to fall off. I couldn’t feel them anymore when I got to the restaurant and it took 30 minutes and 2 hot chocolates to feel alive again. The breakfast was really good and I only had about 30km to go that day. On my climb over the mountain to Kanab, I met a lady from Australia on her bike. She had come all the way from down under for a weeklong biketrip through all the national parks in southern Utah – and they are all closed. I felt so bad for her!

I got to Kanab at 11.30 in the morning and was excited to have a full day ahead of me in such a huge city (3500 people and several restaurants). I got to the campground, pitched my tent and saw an all-you-can-eat Pizza place nextdoor for 5$. I was in heaven! The whole trip I have been dreaming about all you can eat buffets and now it was next door. I stayed there for about 2 hours – the only downside was that I was feeling pretty full and sick afterwards, but I just had to take advantage of this opportunity. Besides eating, I also did my laundry and went grocery shopping for the next couple of days.

My plan was to leave Kanab really early as there were another two or three windy days coming up. Every time the weather changes from hot to cold or vice versa, this area gets really bad winds and it’s not a good idea to be biking. I left at 7.45AM and the day turned out to be not bad at all. Had one really long and tough climb up to Jacobs Lake, but then it was all downhill and the wind was not as bad as I had expected and coming from the side. The only disappointing event of the day was the crossing of the Arizona state line. There was no colorful sign, but jut a little green one stating that I was in Arizona now. Since I figured there would be a bigger one coming up, I passed it without taking a picture. Besides that, the day was great. Had impressive views over the wide-open valleys and it’s just fascinating to be cycling through such country – no people or even signs of people for miles and miles.

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Long stretches of nothing, wild horses and crazy clouds welcoming me in Arizona

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The little straight line you can (or can’t) see down there is the road I took through the desert

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I was tempted to find out where this would lead to…

Funny that I did find a couchsurfer in one of the three settlements here (settlements in this case means: a restaurant/lodge and a couple of trailers where the employees live). Eran is 31 and from Portland, Oregon. She moved down here to work in the office of the lodge and loves hiking in the area. She took me on a little hike and it was cool to explore the non-touristy stuff. I’m actually writing this part of the blog here and will just add a few notes the next two days and upload the entry when I get to Flagstaff.

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Impressions from the hike with Eran

Unfortunately, I had to change my route due to the government shutdown. Cedar Breaks, Zion and the Grand Canyon are all closed since they are national parks and the politicians are still playing their stupid games. I already cut out Cedar Breaks and Zion and instead of going by the Grand Canyon, I will have to go via Flagstaff since they even closed the highway towards the Grand Canyon and don’t allow people in. Of course, it would have been nice to see these attractions, but I’m not too sad about it. Like I said before: I have seen so much stuff, met so many people and experienced a lot on this trip – I would have never done that on a normal vacation. And I can always go back to the national parks…they won’t run away. I thought about it a lot and have come to the conclusion that my trip has been amazing so far without any major problems. If the government shutdown is going to be the main negative issue of this journey, I’m more than happy.

———————–Update from Flagstaff——————-
Ok, this is the second and shorter part of this blog-entry. From Cliff Dwellings where I had stayed at Eran’s house, I had a long day ahead of me with a lot of climbing again. I left pretty early and after a few miles crossed the Colorado River on the old Navajo-Bridge. It’s only one of 7 bridges on a 700 mile stretch of the Colorado River. It also marked my entry into the Indian Reservation. I had heard different things about the reservation. Some people sayed it would be scary or sketchy, but I didn’t have any bad encounters – mostly because I barely had any encounters, I guess. There weren’t a lot of people/buildings and it is probably true that the Native Americans got the land noone else wanted – desert. I wouldn’t want to live out there, but riding through it was amazing – I just really enjoy the color of the desert here.

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Crossing the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon

There was one little town/trading post around where you can actually buy some basic groceries. When I got to town, I saw another touring bicycle outside of the store and after a short while Pascal, a Swiss cyclist, came outside. We were both happy to see another crazy guy on a bike in the desert and sat down infront of the store and talked for a long time and had lunch. Pascal is coming down from Vancouver and going all over the place. Eventually he will fly to Zanzibar and drive home to Switzerland with a friend in a van from Oman. He has done a bicycle trip from Switzerland to Tansania before and it was really interesting to listen to his stories! After lunch, I had to leave him though, because I still had 55km ahead of me and I didn’t even know what time it was (the state of Arizona doesn’t recognize Daylight Savings Time but part of the Indian reservation does – confusing!).

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Lunchbreak with Pascal from Zurich in Navajo Country

After a long day, I finally got to Cameron. The last part of the day was not much fun with a lot of traffic on the highway, no shoulder and lots of broken beer bottles on the road. I was glad when I arrived at the Trading Post in Cameron and actually got to camp there for free – I invested the money I had saved in a delicious burger for dinner and went to bed in a good mood.

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View from my campspot in Cameron – Little Colorado River

The next morning, I got up at 6, packed everything, had breakfast and talked to some people at the trading post about the National Park Closure. The road to the Grand Canyon was just one mile from there and they said there still wasn’t a sign of any updates. I therefore went south towards Flagstaff over another high pass and shortly before Flagstaff I had service on my phone again and saw 2 missed calls and a text from my parents saying that the Grand Canyon was open again. They must have opened the road right after I passed it, because the “Closed”-sign was still standing when I passed the road in the morning. Of course, it’s annoying that they re-opened it after I passed the road and of course I could do a detour of 200km and still go see it. But the past 2 weeks I have been planning a great alternative route, got people to stay with for the next couple of days and rather come back some day to actually explore the Grand Canyon instead of rushing up there for one day just so I can say that I have seen it on this trip.

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From the desert into another mountain range – San Francisco Peaks

Now, I’m at Ray’s place in Flagstaff. He used to be a professional bike mechanic and therefore my bike got a perfect tune-up and maintenance check and is now ready for the final part of the trip! I’m really excited that I have made it this far and looking forward to reach California, San Diego and then San Francisco.

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Ray working on my bike in his garage – the chain really needed some cleaning!

Only about 9 days of riding until San Diego!!!

Have a nice Sunday and hope you enjoyed the blog – realized it’s a lot of text, but I’ll try to add good pictures aswell. And thanks to all the people who have donated already for the good cause – but there’s still room for more!

Take care,

Freddy

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Federal government shutdown – you can’t escape politics, not even in the desert!

It has only been a couple of days since my last entry, but I have had some of my favorite cycling-days of the whole trip and also want to take the opportunity to update my blog, since I don’t have internet most of the time.

After my 2 days in Monticello, I just had a short 35km-ride to the town of Blanding. I stopped there because it was the last town for 200km. I stocked up on food and water and left the next morning to hit the desert. It was an amazing ride! The street was in good condition, there was almost no traffic, the weather was great and the scenery breathtaking. I just really like the red of the sand in this area and there were some really cool rock-formations all around me. It reminded me of the pictures of Monument Valley, but the big difference was that I was able to enjoy all the views completeley alone. No other tourists and whenever I stopped to take pictures or just enjoy the view, the quiet and calmness was relaxing. I looked around and there was not a sign of anything human – except for the street I was riding on obviously.

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Fry Canyon doesn’t exist anymore, so 120 miles to the next town

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The way to Natural Bridges

I made it to the Natural Bridges National Monument and set up my tent at the campground. A German couple from Heidelberg that arrived in a RV invited me not only to stay at their site so I didn’t have to pay, but also for dinner and breakfast the next morning – what a treat!

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Thanks for food and company!

This area of Utah is known as the one with the least amount of light-pollution in the US. When I first heard about that, I didn’t really know what to think about it but I soon found out: I have never seen clearer and more beautiful night-skies in my life. When I got out of my tent at night, it felt like I could reach out for the stars. There were so many of them and the milkyway was running right over my head – one of the most impressive views on this trip and also one I unfortunately cannot share with anyone since the pictures I took turned out to be just black. So you’ll just have to believe my description and go there yourself to be able to enjoy it.

When I was getting ready to leave the next morning, I filled up my water-bottes at the visitor center and talked to the park ranger for a while. I told him my plans for the next weeks and he goes: “you do know that all national parks might close tomorrow at midnight, right!?”. Of course I didn’t know, because I hadn’t had internet for a while and can’t really follow the news on my trip anyways. So I thought some of the parks might close because the season ends October 1st. But then he used the words that I had never heard before and should be hearing and reading a lot in the future: “federal shutdown”. I still didn’t really know what to think of it and just kept going, because the ranger station in Hite was the only place to get water for the next 150km – so there was no alternative. The ride to Hite was as beautiful as the one the day before and I could say the same things about it, but I won’t. I will try to select the best pictures to give you an idea what it was like. When I got to Hite, the rangers were really friendly and let me pitch my tent wherever I wanted. Besides the ranger-station and a small shop that was closed there was nothing. Hite used to be a marina and a popular spot for tourists with boats that went on Lake Powell. But the lake is not there anymore and therefore the town isn’t either. All that is left is a really cool dry landscape where the lake used to be and the marina facilities – one of them was perfect to take a shower.

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Impressions from the ride to Hite

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Remnants of better days – one of them was my shower

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Cool ground structure where the lake used to be

Later that day, two Canadian couples showed up with their RVs and camped “in” the old lake. I talked to them for a while and they invited me for dinner – it was an amazing meal and good company! I ended up having some of the best meals in the desert. The night was a really quiet one again and the next morning as I was leaving the ranger station, the rangers were barricading the entrance – the shutdown was actually happening. I talked to them for a while and they didn’t know what was going on, if you could still take the highways through the parks or for how long this might last. I was really worried for a moment, because my next days and weeks consist of several national parks and I was afraid that they wouldn’t let me go through them. I didn’t really see any alternative. Luckily it turned out that the state highways crossing the parks would remain open. Only the scenic loops, restrooms, visitor centers etc would be closed. For me, that worked out perfectly, because I was still able to camp at those spots for 2 nights and fill up my water. If I would have been there 2 days later, I would have had no water for 200km. That shows that it’s not only a stupid political game, but also very dangerous!

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Another big thank you!

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They are putting up the roadblock behind me

The night after the ghosttown Hite, I stayed at a farm once again – in Caineville. Randy, the farmer and Emily and Jesse, the seasonal workers, let me pitch my tent on the property and I even got to pick some fresh apples to take with me. That’s one thing I really miss: a big supermarket with a good selection of fresh fruit. I haven’t passed one of those since Pueblo, which has almost been 3 weeks now. And probably won’t see one of them for another 2 weeks or so. All they have in the little towns are general stores with no selection, no fruit and high prices. But I’ll get over it.

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Sunset at Randy’s farm

From Caineville, I made my way to Torrey and had to go through Capitol Reef National Park. The scenery was really cool with again red rocks, cliffs and canyons. As expected, everything but the highway was closed – I even got kicked out by a ranger for sitting on the wall of the visitor center to get off the road and take a break. After a heated argument, she let me finish my drink. That was one of the only bad experienes on this trip so far. It’s one thing to lock up restrooms and not let cyclists fill up their waterbottles on their way through, but to tell them they can’t sit on a wall is just ridiculous. I talked to the Sheriff a little bit later and he told me: “Well, the good news is: once you get out of the park, everything is open!”. I guess that’s a good way to look at it. I’m actually not too worried about the national parks being closed. I find that they are not really fun with a bike anyways. I see so much stuff on the way, canyons, mountains, rivers, forests, etc. It is pretty much the same just with less tourists and I can always go back to the parks with a car.

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Impressions from Capitol Reef National Park

The night I stayed at Lyman’s place in Torrey. It’s another amazing warmshowers-host and when I got there, Tim, the 63 year old guy from Seattle was actually there aswell. He is taking a couple of days off to rest his knee. We cooked dinner and planned the rest of our routes. I considered staying another night aswell since some strong winds were coming up, but a day later, there was a chance of snow so I left the next morning. I had to cross another high pass (9600 ft – 2962m) and it was the toughest one of my cycling history. It was 40km long and had long steep stretches with up to 13% – again, these numbers are hard to understand if you are not a cyclist, but it’s tough. When I was about 5km from the summit, it started to snow and hail and my hands were freezing. The wind was really strong and I was just really happy when I got to my destination in Boulder. And although the climb was tough, I did have some really great views. Especially the colors of the trees were impressive and the yellow, orange and red leaves are – besides the dropping temperatures – another sign for the upcoming fall.

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The climb to Boulder Mountain – struggling with the wind at the summit

In Boulder, I’m staying with Pete and his wife Tina. I had contacted their daughter Hannah via couchsurfing and while she is travelling herself, she helped me out and gave me the contact information of her parents. It’s really nice to have a place to stay inside when it’s cold and windy outside! They took me to a poetry reading at night and even let me stay another night to wait for the weather to get warmer and to write my blog. Today, I got to take their car to a nearby canyon and just got back from a hike up the mountain with Pete and their dog Pi. So even on my restday I wasn’t lazy ;).

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Pete and Pi taking a break on our hike

Ok, that’s the main things I wanted to mention. At first I thought, I would only upload a lot of pictures, but it ended up being a long text aswell. As you can see, there is always something going on. I have actually been struggling to select pictures. I took about 300 in the last couple of days and would love to upload all of them, but I tried to find a good mix for you.

So, the agenda for the next week:
In about 9-10 days I will be at the Grand Canyon. I will stay a couple of nights there and then make my way through Arizona to California. I only have 18 days of biking left until the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. But I might take a restday here and there, because otherwise I would get to San Francisco to early considering my flight back is on November 14th.

Hope you enjoyed the blog and the pictures and don’t forget the donations on my donation page for Make-a-Wish Germany!

Take care,

Freddy

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