Day one : Half Moon Bay

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Crossing the bridge again, heading south, was easier than the other way round : the game was on. I was also riding close to the road and not close to the 20-floors drop to the ocean πŸ˜‰

And then, I switched from the SF city map, to the first panel of the first map from the adventure cyclist association. That made the moment even more formal πŸ™‚

The route sent me through Presidio and then the Golden Gate parks. Both are really nice and impressive. I just love American parks, like Central Park in Manhattan. They feel natural, are generally huge, and feature various areas, for sports, picnic, museums…

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I keep on being impressed by how much drivers respect everyone. They wait for a bike at a stop, they don’t honk when you block their way through a right turn on red… And they wait all day long, far behind you, to have enough space to take over, and then do so with twice the distance. It feels like a different planet.

The route goes west through the park up until the Pacific Ocean. I had finished my first panel ! Ok it was a zoom in on small areas for the next panel, but making the switch felt like a first victory. Only 200 more to go ! Plus, the route was now following the ocean due south, and that was a great feeling.

After I left the city environment, the landscape looked more and more like the French Riviera. It even smelt like it, with sand and pine trees. But the slopes also started to appear. And I had to use the highway 1, which looked worrying but was really ok as the shoulder is very wide.

Two other cyclists popped up just before a long slope after Daly City. I passed the first one (who quickly went on foot) and kept behind the other one, who dragged me all the way up ! I would never have done it without him πŸ™‚ At the top of the slope, I went to salute him and strike a conversation – which was the real challenge for me. Although it had been made easier as, one hour before at the Subway, I was approached by a very nice blonde who complimented my beautiful setup (the bike setup, of course). Anyway, he told me about them going south to Mexico, and also about not using the tunnel that was looming ahead, but rather the secondary road that was embracing the ocean. It was the former road, totally refurbished for bikes and pedestrians. The view was breathtaking.

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After a few more kilometers of flat terrain, I reached my objective of a Comfort Inn just before Half Moon Bay city, after a reasonable first day of 60 kms. I treated myself with a bath and pizza πŸ™‚ I also went on the beach to make the traditional picture of the bike in the sea, getting run over by a wave in the process πŸ™‚

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Riding in San Francisco !

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So the first day, or rather first afternoon in SF had been pretty rough, with the realization that I had just jumped into the unknown. Still, I managed to open a bank account and get a mobile phone deal. These were the most pressing objectives I wanted to reach before leaving the city. I also met a former colleague and we discussed the ups and downs of Ubisoft. And by sundown, I found a Burger King to wash it all out.

On saturday morning, I decided it was time to put my bike back together. It was a stressing moment, hoping nothing was broken, and that I wouldn’t make a mistake – the kind were the front wheel suddenly gets free on a steep downhill.
But bike mechanics are not overly complex, and everything seemed to be ok. I was especially happy that I had all necessary tools between an army knife, an allen kit, and a monkey wrench. I had bought a complete tool set that was way too heavy, and decided not to keep it, and these three seem to fit all uses.

And so I got to ride in San Francisco ! It was exhilarating, going up and down, in a different city, a different country. The streets are wide, the drivers are courteous, the weather was perfect. There is a lot of wind though – I thought it was Chicago which was called the windy city. Anyway, I was on my bike, exploring the city, much faster and much easier than on foot.

I did a complete circle all around th city, going along Market street, the whole Embarcadero, up until the foot of the Golden Gate, then south to the golden gate park, then back into the city. It was a fantastic experience.

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Getting to see the bridge was both exciting and intimidating. It’s the starting point of the journey, and the final, real jump into the adventure. Right now, I’m still cosy into a downtown motel and I have a bed, a shower and a lot of space. It’s tempting to stick into the warm shower each morning rather than go outside and start the day. Still, I felt I should not wait too long, and get moving earlier than planned.

While I was going around the city, I had a few objectives in mind. I was looking for a printing shop, to try and get a smaller version of the flag to be mounted behind the trailer. The one I have is too big, too heavy. But they couldn’t do one print on both sides. What I just did is use the larger stickers on top the of original flag provided with the trailer. It’s not perfect but it should do the trick.

I was a lot more successful in solving a big issue : battery life. I got a new iphone to avoid the dying battery of the old one. But after a couple of days, it’s clear the totally new iphone 5 has a battery life on par with the very old iphone 3. It’s really a shame. The phone is supposed to double as a camera, but if doesn’t last more than a day, I won’t get to take pictures.

But I found a bike shop that fitted the bike with a dynamo plug providing a usb charger ! I can get any electronics charging while moving. The short test I did today proved that it was working, and I charged 5% in about 5-10 minutes. That should be well enough to keep me up in desertic areas :p Now I just need to find a way to store, or upload the videos I’m making… I can transfer from the video camera to the iphone, and then upload them on the cloud, but it takes one hour for a 4 minutes video. I have to find something more efficient πŸ˜‰

Down the rabbit-hole

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I arrived yesterday in San Francisco !

The whole trip was a blur, to be honest. I was pretty tired after the last day in the apartment, making the final boxes and closing down everything. With the excitment I barely slept before going to the airport… at about 5 am the next day.

There it was a rush to register, find a bike box, fit the bike inside and register it, and then waiting for the plane. It was a connection through Amsterdam : 3 more hours total, but 500 euros less, with the direct flight ticket going up 200 euros a day (thanks, air france). The final flight itself was long but uneventful, which is how I like them. I might have slept one hour somewhere over Canada. I also got to watch “the wolf of Wall Street” on a screen smaller than an ipad.

Retrieving the bags was easier than I thought, although moving everything at the same time (with the bike box at about 2x1m) was complex. Going through the customs was also pretty easy, I simply explained I was going to travel the US, and I got a six months stay ! Finally it was just a matter of finding a taxi that would be large enough for the folded bike – the box had to be discarded at this stage.

And here I was, a couple hours after the landing, in downtown San Francisco, with about 3 hours of sleep over the last two days. I was in a motel room, and my whole life was fitting in two bags, one box, plus a bike.

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This is when it started to dawn on me : I was going to be away from home, away from any friend, jumping from one unknown place to another, for the next 5 or 6 months. On top of that, I had no more family to speak of, or home, or job, to go back to.

At this moment, I felt very, very alone. It wasn’t to the point of panicking and booking a flight back – I was way too tired for that. But this is when the “jumping off a cliff” part really started to feel real. There was no more ground under my feet, and the air was accelerating pretty fast.

It also didn’t help that the last I’ve been in SF, which was probably 13 or 14 years ago, I remember feeling very alone, for completely different reasons.

But between these two dates, something unbelievable happened : the internet exploded πŸ˜‰ Now I can connect with people through a smartphone with the mail, facebook, skype… That helped a lot. It was a good idea not to start in the middle of Kansas.

And today, I’ve put my bike back up and started biking around, but that will be another story πŸ˜‰ …

Adventure Cycling Maps !

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I received this morning the 14 route maps I ordered from the Adventure Cycling Association πŸ™‚ They were warning about a 60-days overseas delivery delay, but they made the trip in less than two weeks.

These maps plot very well the trip I will do through the US :

  1. San Francisco – Santa Barbara, CA
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Here I’m missing the bit between LA – Las Vegas, NV – Flagstaff, AZ
  4. Flagstaff, AZ – Cedar City, UT
  5. Dolores, CO (maybe a detour to Denver ?)
  6. Pueblo, CO
  7. Alexander, KS
  8. Girard, KS
  9. Murphysboro, IL
  10. Berea, KY
  11. Christiansburg, VA
  12. Richmond, VA (then of course Washington, Baltimore)
  13. Conshohocken, VA (then Philadelphia, New York)
  14. Windsor Locks, CT
  15. Boston, MA πŸ™‚

That makes a total of 12 states, perhaps a bit more with the small states on the east coast (small but beautiful ! πŸ˜‰ ).

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The maps are really nice and detailed with all sorts of useful informations for cyclists, including elevation, weather reports, directories, etc. They are supposed to be untearable and waterproof. I’ll see that on the field πŸ™‚

Only default I see, apart from the price (12$ each, member price), is that there is a one page addendum for each map :p This print is less than two years old though. Well, things change fast I suppose.

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I wanted to do a pic with all maps open on the ground, but I don’t think I have enough space around πŸ™‚

Journey path

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Ok so I’ll be riding from west to east. But on what path ?

It seemed obvious to me that I would be going from California to New York, more or less. I would start either from San Francisco or Los Angeles. The distance between both cities is already quite noticeable, 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, if I ask google maps. But the ocean route is supposed to be a view in itself, so I’ll probably do that as a first leg. With some time in each city and along the way, that’ll be 3-4 weeks already

From LA, the next stop is Las Vegas, of course ! I’ve never been there. That’s another 300 miles or 500 kms. Probably a couple of weeks.

Then I’ll try to hug the south of the Grand Canyon as much as possible, aiming for Flagstaff, and after that, north-east to Denver. This part is not very clear yet, but all in all that’s about 900 miles or 1400 kms. The Rockies are supposed to be easier than the Appalachians on a bike, still it’ll be a month ride.

At this point it’s quite simple πŸ™‚ I’ll catch the TransAm bike road, which links New York to Seattle, and rides south of Kansas City, St Louis, Louisville, and north of Oklahoma City and Nashville. That’s 1600 miles or 2500 kms through the Middle West. I’ll certainly make a few turns here and there and use 1 and 1/2 months to cross three time zones. Hopefully this part will be flat !

From here on I’ll be in sight of the first colonies. I’ll reach Washington in 400 miles or 600 kms, a bit more than a week, maybe two. I will spend some time in the capital of course πŸ™‚ The final stretch will include Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. That’s 500 miles or 800 kms, a couple of weeks and at least as much visiting, so a month.

That’s my draft route, to be detailed until and after starting up. Right now I count 4200 miles or 6600 kms, and at least 5 months, more reasonably 6. If I start on early may that would lead to end october. I may have to cut some parts :p Or not, depending on how everything goes πŸ™‚