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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!