From The Golden Gate To The Nevada Desert

Okay Five-O fans, prepare your tiny violins, and cry me a river while you’re at it, because I’m sorry, but this week was tough. The toughest so far by a country mile. Still, the great sage that is Kelly Clarkson tells us what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and she’s not wrong…

SAN FRANCISCO

Just to prove that I don’t think everything is wonderful all the time… for me, the jury’s still out on San Fran. There’s no doubt it’s a unique city. It’s a total assault on the senses. The colourful steep suburbs and traditional trams are just as they appear on the silver screen (I do love it when movie ideals are actualised). It’s loud, busting with character and watching the skyline emerge from the fog is a sight that should be on everyone’s big city bucket list. But something about it just didn’t sit right with me.

It could have been that our hostel was skirting the dodgy part of town and I felt uneasy walking home, or that going into a crowded city when you’ve spent the best part of 7 weeks in wide open spaces, is just a bit too much of a shell shock. It could be the ‘Finding Nemo effect’. When everyone keeps telling you just how amazing Finding Nemo is, and that you simply must watch it. I mean, it’s good, but poor Nemo could never live up to that kind of hype. So I’ve concluded that San Fran is a city you need to get under the skin of. Just like New York, or London come to think of it. Once you know where to go and what to see, avoiding the mass throngs of tourists and frequent stranger-harassment, then it becomes an altogether different place. And a magical one at that, I’m sure. I’ll go back one day, but until then…. We busted out of San Fran rather sharpish, via ferry to Vallejo…

CALIFORNIAN SURPRISE

Now, I’m a marketing bird by trade (or so I tell myself), and everyone in the marketing world loves a bit of ‘suprise and delight’ (did you just sick up a bit in your mouth? Me too). But that’s just what California does. Two hours out of the city and we were riding through beautiful vineyards, in scorching dry heat. No fog, no noise, and no tourists. We then landed ourselves on a 50 mile bike path, all the way from the town of Davis, through Sacramento and onto Folsom (Johnny Cash Fans – take note). I’ll repeat that one – a 50 mile bike path. A real one. Perfectly smooth, separated from the city and towns, with a speed limit and even mini bike roundabouts. I have glimpsed the future, and it is this path.

CARSON PASS (and other small bumps)

Carson had been hanging out quietly on the map in my front pannier for the past 7 weeks. We both knew it was there. I’d glanced at the profile once and seen an ascent from sea level to 8,573 ft on the agenda. So I did what you should always do – not worry about it until absolutely necessary. We decided to split the climb up over 2 days, camping at 5000 feet on the first night. We also started our days pre-dawn to try and beat the sun, because quite frankly when you sweat as much as I do (ney as all ‘real’ ladies do) staying hydrated in 38 degree C s is a nightmare.

I shan’t bang on about the particulars of the day and half we spent going up hill, I’ll just mention that it was a tad brutal, and that there were times when I couldn’t quite decide if I wanted to throw up, or lie at the side of the road and go to sleep (at least I had options). Sure, it’s only the equivalent of a high Alpine pass, but it was first real mountain we’d faced, and being that high, hauling 38kg of bike and bags, does shorten your breath, just a wee bit.

THE ROAD TO RENO

Once we’d conquered Carson’s it was in for a penny, in for a pound – we decided to take a more scenic route to Reno. We hop-skipped over two more passes and along the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. Definiately the right call, the lake is beyond spectacular and worth every effort to get there. By the time we made the final ascent of Mount Rose, at 8,900 ft, we were actually loving going in a general upwards direction (for the record, I still hate going down. An over-active imagination and fast speeds don’t mix).

LESSONS FROM THE ASCENT SCHOOL OF LIFE

So, What have I learnt this week? A lot actually, here’s the top 3:

1) Things will always feel different in a mile’s time.
Granted, quite often you feel worse, but sometimes, just sometimes, you feel a whole lot better. Either way, its different. And if you’re not sure which ways its going to go, it’s really a rather fun game, don’t you think?

2) Everything is better after a little sit down.
Man I wish I did more of this in life up until now. I think it applies to everything, cycling up hills and beyond. In around 3 minutes you can go from the brink of despair and frustration back into, well, perspective. For one segement in the heat of the midday sun, we were stopping every 5 miles to ‘Take stock of the situation’. NB – you can only take stock with a can of Dr Pepper and a packet of Cheetos. All other stock-taking is pointless.

3) If stopping isn’t an option, then carrying on is really no big deal.
By the 2nd day of climbing, we were going steady. There were no dramas, and sorry to get all psycho-analytical on you here, but I honestly felt like my mind was trying to tell my body to stop. The body on the other hand, well it was just grand. So I told my mind to sod off. And it worked.

WE, THE HUMAN BEAST

I’ve always said that I don’t want to leave this teeny planet without knowing what my bod and brain are capable of. I had an inkling it was more than I’d done already, but honestly – I’m amazed how adaptable both are. And I think we underestimate ourselves most of the time. We used to chase wild beasts to death and eat them for goodness sake. We didn’t use speed, or guns, we just used to run until the four legged wimps got tired, and gave up. The ability to keep going beyond all else is rooted in our genes. Fact.

Okay, that’s enough of my Dawkins esc crusade….

I’m hanging out in Reno for the next 2 days, doing my first school talk and connecting with a wonderful group of people from a company called Natures Bakery. Lydia leaves tomorrow and I truck on alone, into one of the two sections of the trip I’m most apprehensive about. It’ll be desert, mountainous, with up to 85 miles between services and water. My slap dash approach to life won’t cut it in temperatures that can get up to 54c so I’ve got my game face on (it’s not pretty, but it is… gamey).

Wish me luck and see you on the other side….!

For this week’s photos –
Flickr is up to date here

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