It’s been an interesting week. Monday (March 2) was to be the first day of my tour, but due to some last minute issues I ended up staying in Lompoc an extra night. Sunday, I took all the goods from my old bike and put them onto my “new” bike. For the most part, everything switched out well; unfortunately, the bike rack did not. The brakes on the new bike were in the way of the mounts. After a little frustration and some ingenuity on my roommate’s part, we managed to secure it (at least for the first day’s ride). Took my old bike to be sold, bbq’d with friends for the last time, and then started packing my bags.
Issue #2 was that not everything fit. I ended up having to take a bunch of stuff out to send home so that I could get what I “needed” into the bags. Since the post office doesn’t open until 10am, I estimated my start time would probably be around 11am. Given that I had to go 56 miles, at an estimated 10mph, I figured it should take me about 6.5 hours to reach SLO including breaks. For some reason, at the time I thought that would be plenty of time. Once satisfied, I took it easy and relaxed with my roommates till it was time to say goodbye and go to bed.
The next morning did not go exactly as planned. First of all, it was raining. I live on the central coast of California where we’ve been in a drought forever and when does it rain? Day 1 of my tour of course! So I biked the extra stuff over to the post office and shipped them out, stopped by a bike shop for some tubes, then rushed home to load up. Getting everything on the bike turned out to be a much bigger challenge than I expected. Balancing the bike with trailer and gear while strapping things down was not easy, add to that figuring out how to tie my tent to the rack and the fact that it was raining, and you got a frustrated and disheartened Christina. How can I do a bike tour on my own if I can’t even get everything on my bike by myself?! After a few minutes of frustrated tears, I went back at it and finally got everything on.
At 1pm, with a break in the rain, I said goodbye to the house and took off. I was not able to get my pump in my pack, so I decided to stop by another bike shop in town to pick one up. I asked the guy to look at my rack setup, and he supposed it would hold at least the ride to SLO where I could figure something else out, but he was concerned I had too much stuff with me, that it might be too late in the day, and that I would have a hard time in the rain. He suggested I wait until the next day, and when I realized I had forgotten my multi-tool, I knew there was no way I was getting to SLO that day. By the time I got back to the house it was 2:30pm.
I began going through my stuff again, trying to figure out what I didn’t need, fine tuning things on my bike, trying not to feel like I wasn’t ready or think about the things I should’ve done sooner. By the time my roommate got home around 5:30, I was really freaking out. He helped me calm down, made me take a break, and later helped me cut out another box worth of stuff I didn’t need. Finally, everything fit in the two panniers and the trailer bag! It was an amazing relief. My roommate also offered to mail the last package for me so that I could get an early start in the morning which was yet another wonderful relief. After saying goodbye/goodnight again, I went to bed feeling a little calmer about starting my big adventure.
Tuesday March 3, I woke up around 7am, made some breakfast, geared up my bike (significantly easier with the lighter load), and said goodbye to the house again. About 8:15 I reset the odometer and set off. There were no tears that day, and there was no rain either; it was a good sign. 2 miles from the house, my chain fell off switching gears. No problem, easy fix, I thought. I got off and checked it out expecting to be able to just pop it back on, but it was caught between the chainring and the fork. Ugh, I guess I have to take everything off and figure this out! Only two miles from the house and already a problem. So I took all my bags off and laid them out in the grass, pulled out my simple bicycle repair book and started flipping through it to see if there was anything that might fix my problem. Thinking I might have to take something apart, I took another look and what did I find? The chain was free! I guess taking the weight off must have released it. Regardless, I was grateful to have gotten past the first hurdle, and soon got on my way again. It was about 8:45 by that time, so I was still feeling good about my “6.5 hour” day.
The first 5 miles out of Lompoc I figured would be the hardest of the day. Harris Grade is about a 900ft climb, and I took it nice and slow. At the top I took a moment to take in the view and get a couple pictures; I was feeling good. The downhill was a learning experience. I had practiced with the loaded trailer down a steep hill, but I forgot about the curves. I had to keep my speed down so I could take the turns wide and maintain control. In no time I was at the bottom and feeling on top of the world; the rest of the day would be a piece of cake!
Along the way, I was passed by a few day riding cyclists. Their comments were, “looks like a heavy load!” and “oh you’re going the hardest way!” I knew my load was heavier than I wanted, and I knew the ideal direction to do the coast was North to South, but I would be leaving more stuff at home, and I thought I had kept the mileage low enough to be feasible even with the opposing winds. However, as the day wore on, I noticed that I was not maintaining the average speed of 10mph that I had expected. My average was staying around 7mph even though I was on relatively flat ground. I began to get frustrated and worry I would get to SLO much later than expected.
At about 1pm, I took a lunch break in Guadalupe. I learned that the bottom of the bear barrel in the trailer bag is the worst place to put the food. But I unpacked, spread out some stuff and had a tasty lunch. Another (solo female) tourer stopped and asked directions while I was eating and I told her the best way to get to Harris Grade. We chatted a bit about gear and routes, and I started to feel like a real tourer! After eating, I checked my paper maps and Google Maps on my phone and decided it should only take another 3.5 hours to get to SLO including breaks, making it a 7.5 hour day.
Over the next couple hours, I admired the scenery, thought about whether or not I would need to modify my trip, and tried to keep my speed at least at 8mph. Unfortunately, by 5pm I was still 10 miles from SLO and due to winds, weight, and exhaustion, I was only moving about 4-6mph. I did not want to be riding in the dark if I could help it, so I called a friend to pick me up. I kept riding, and around 6, right as the sun was setting I saw my friend’s van pull up. I rode about 50 miles on Tuesday, and though I didn’t make it the last 6 miles, I was proud of myself. The next day my muscles were sore, but the good kind!
I decided to forego the ride through Big Sur because I was worried that with the winds and the weight I would just be miserable (besides, I’ve done that section twice in the right direction). Wednesday I booked a train for Sunday to Salinas, and spent the next couple of days re-evaluating my route (updates will be posted on route page), getting some last minute bike gear from the local shop, fixing the rack problem, installing some fenders (much more complicated than I anticipated), visiting with friends, and of course, dancing.
The coming week will be last minute preps for the next month, and hanging out with family and friends. Can’t wait to get back on the bike!