Riding High through Big Sur

Pacific Ocean Highs
Wednesday morning we left David and Sasha Sheridan's house ready to have the icing-on-the-cake ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, although with fresh squeezed orange juice in our bellies and a box of their very own oranges to take for the road, we would have loved to stay at their orchard retreat longer. Winding our way back through San Luis Obispo (great bike lanes!), we had a deja-vu experience as we once again found ourselves on Route 1. None of us can believe that it has been almost 3 months since we took pictures with the Mile Zero Heroes of the southernmost point in the United States: Key West and the beginning of Route 1. As we left SLO and the houses got farther and farther apart and the traffic thinned, we were all in agreement that the PCH was a wonderful ride for the last week. We passed the Hearst Castle and stopped to gawk at the piles of Elephant Seals that line the coast south of Big Sur. They are molting now, so they just lie on the beach all day, snuggled up against each other in big groups. The noises they make were the most amusing to us: burping, farting(!!), barking, and growling at each other.

Fighting or love dance?
Elephant Seals along the Pacific Coast Highway. Rough life lying around all day.
Ahhh, the beauty.
Crazy time, RASR style.
Off and on throughout the day we had rain, which forced us to get the rain and warmer gear back out of our bins for the first time in awhile. Spirits stayed high despite the intermittent weather, and as we rode through the true Big Sur country we were amazed around every turn by the spectacular scenery. As the sun was setting, we were glad the campsite seemed to be farther and farther away than we thought so that we could keep taking in the beautiful sights, enhanced with the changing natural light. After a relaxing 85 mile day along the coast, we pulled into Kirk Creek Campground in Los Padres National Forest, where every site has a view of the ocean and in good weather you can see for miles along the coast in each direction. We toasted to the wonderful luck we've had on this trip, from the people we've met to the places we've ridden through and stayed at, to the pure fact that we have been able to be a part of this eye-opening experience (and, of course, only being 12 miles from our 5,000 mile mark for the trip!).
Warming up!
The sunset of a lifetime.
Who needs to stop riding when it's this beautiful?
We had an early start Thursday morning, and were disappointed to awake to drizzles and dense fog. Trying to look on the bright side, we realized this was probably Big Sur at its best, and donned our bright clothes and lights to make sure the 2 other vehicles on the road could see us. The Pacific Coast Highway is a bit of a roller-coaster through Big Sur territory, so we had to traverse around hairpin turns as well as climb and descend constantly. Chilled and wet to start, and then meeting more elevation than we expected, we didn't quite make as good of time as we had hoped. Our captain Jeanie decided about halfway through the morning that the weather wasn't going to get better and our appointments after lunch were too important to risk being late for, so all 6 of us piled like Elephant Seals into the van and headed towards Soledad, a town about 35 miles south of Monterey. In Soledad we gave 2 presentations at Jack Franscioni Elementary School, a very energetic crowd of kids who had spent all week in state testing. Thanks to Arlene Sanchez and Michele Archuleta for organizing our visit and chats with the kids.  Some of the same kids heard our presentation the second time we did it (at the after school program), and they we're just about ready to take over for us- they remembered all the facts and cues perfectly!

Big Sur showing us all the elements.
Jack Franscioni Elementary
Middlebury? In California? Hi Monterey Institute.
Dry, please!
Impressed by yet another group of kids, we left Soledad to head back to Monterey for the night. After a bit of a wild-goose-chase to find a good campground, we were finally very pleased with the result: Veterans' Memorial Park on the top of the hill overlooking Monterey and the ocean. We had enough time in the afternoon to pull out all our wet gear and give it plenty of time to dry in the now-sunny weather. Able to connect with Mari Lynch from BikeMonterey.org, we were advised that we were in town for Her Helmet Thursday, where you can bike (or bring your helmet) to a selection of local restaurants and stores for a discount on your meal or purchase. We picked Krua Thai, which we had been craving forever, and biked back down the hill to fill our bellies with delicious food and check out Monterey. Over dinner we reviewed the very specific plans for the next two days, and made sure everything was lined up perfectly. Even the weather seems to be finally cooperating with us! 


Finale Day Itinerary

We are two short days away from our very last day of riding across this great country! We're making big plans for our finale day and hoping that lots of local folks will come out and join us.  If you're in the SF Bay area - please join us and invite your friends!

We have a full day's ride planned from Pescadero, following this route: http://g.co/maps/bpp5y

We will gather at 8.45am at Pescadero State Beach for a 9am departure, stop for lunch at 12pm at the Starbucks on Linda Mar Blvd in Pacifica and hopefully pick up some local cyclists for the second half of the day.  We'll wind up the coast until we get to Golden Gate Park, where we'll turn in towards downtown and ride past some of San Francisco's famous sites!  At 3pm we'll arrive along the bay at the head of the Marina Blvd bike path, adjacent to Fort Mason, to meet any families that would like to join us for the final 2.5 mile spin along the Bay to the Crissy Field Picnic Area.  We'll take photos in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and have a short concluding celebration on Crissy Field at 4pm and then move to Pier 23 Cafe on the Embarcadero for a casual dinner with lots of celebratory toasting! 



The Promised Land: SLO and the PACIFIC coast

After a little Reiki energy and indulgent massages by James (Compassionate Dragon Healing) followed by scrumptious sub sandwiches courtesy of Bike Bakersfield, RASR was back on the road!  Many thanks again to Bike Bakersfield for their warm hospitality, cozy Bike Kitchen abode, dinner at Far East Cafe, and unwavering dedication and enthusiasm for bicycling as a safe and viable mode of transportation!  Our stop in Bakersfield, albeit brief, will not soon be forgotten!

RASR and Bike Bakersfield
James the Compassionate Dragon - thanks so much!

Entertaining ourselves at the Bike Kitchen

As we peddled out of town under the steamy 95 degree midday heat, Bakersfield surprised us with a generous two-lane bike path!  Although the oil rigs were a little hard on the eyes after scenic Death Valley and Kern County, the Bakersfield bike path was not only an unforeseen luxury, but made our first 15 miles out of town more than doable.  After pedaling through solitary cropland for [what seemed like] miles after miles on the outskirts of Bakersfield, the thick city stench finally gave way to crisp air as we began the infamous ascent of the Temblor Range.  As we climbed and climbed, Bakersfield's blazing sun quickly faded into yet another photographed sunset.  Used to this sort of climbing by now, we grabbed our fluorescent, night lights, and an extra granola bar and hoped back on the saddle to enjoy another night ride :).  This time sharing the road with only our friendly owl friend, he matched us curve for curve through the arduous switchbacks.  After a short but impressively chilly descent into the valley, we set up camp for the night at Soda Lake in Carrizo Plain National Monument.
Riding out of Bakersfield

A detour

Darlene in the hills

Follow the blinkies

Ooo aahh

Geared up for the chilly descent
It is always a morning treat to wake up to a pristine landscape, known previously by shallow bicycle headlight of the previous night's ride.  This morning's treat_ lonely primitive grassland extending for miles amid ephemeral fog.  In addition to a second breakfast of delectable oranges and "Chaco Tacos", today's ride was fueled by thoughts of upcoming San Luis Obispo and the idealized Pacific Coast Highway!  With longtime family ranches, vineyards and wild purple lupines dotting the landscape, the bucolic scenery made the ride almost effortless as we "rolled" along State Hwy 58.

Soda Lake "campsite"

Green and spring flowers again!

Lovely California

Our brief stint on the 101

After re-sugaring with ice cream and iced coffee in Santa Margarita, we conquered the Cuesta Grand before letting out a "Wah WHOOO!"(echoed times 5) at first glimpse of the Pacific.  As we pedaled the final 8 miles of the day through SLO (San Luis Obispo), it was refreshing to see so many commuting cyclists as well as young kids out biking with their parents, not to mention the ubiquity of the bike lane.  Well done SLO!  We had heard great things from our friends in Bakersfield, and you did not fail to impress!  Greeted by another generous host, David, daughter, Sasha, new friends Nancy, Tom, their blind dachshund Rosie, Jim, and the sweet scent of flourishing oranges and lemons, we were spoiled with freshly squeezed OJ and homemade macaroni and cheese!  Cheers to a wonderful host, an evening of new friends, oranges, bicycle friendly SLO, and reaching the prized Pacific coast!  After 80 days on the road, RASR has arrived!

Home for the night in SLO

Our new friend Sasha
A selfy by new friends Nancy and Tom

Jane, David, and Jim


view from the porch

Top notch sleeping quarters

Posted by Kaitlynn


A Whole New World

We made it out of the desert...finally!! Twas a great relief to see trees, have shade, and hear running water. Its like a whole new world out here. But before I get ahead of myself I have to back track to our morning in Ridgecrest. At 8 a.m. on Saturday morning the team had a booth set up at the Ridgecrest Hospital Community Health Fair. There were lots of local residents donating blood, getting heath screenings, and of course talking to us about biking and various health and fitness options in the community.  It was a successful event if I do say so myself. Chelsea almost adopted the cutest female puppy but in the end was advised against it (Kappy might get jealous). However, we did meet a very nice lady named Christine who offered us a place to stay and a shower in Kernville that evening. We jumped on that offer, put our bike shorts on, loaded on the sunscreen, and headed over the mountains to Kernville where 5 different biomes meet in one region.

Looking healthy

The last week has been hot hot hot. Blazing temperatures in the upper 90's has made for smoldering afternoons in the sun with no shade until we crossed over Walker pass and down toward Lake Isabella. Darlene is still getting used to using all of her gears with all of the climbing we have done in the past 2 days. Apparently she doesn't even use half of them while she is riding is southern Georgia, and she is still one of the strongest climbers. Riding through Kern County has been one of the most scenic and memorable rides we have had in a while. It was a relief to see green again and everyone's spirits seemed high as we are in the last leg of the journey and we have Kaitlynn and Darlene with us. Even the attitude of the drivers seems to be more respectful and encouraging the further we travel into California. We have had three times as many cars wave, cheer out the window, and honk at us (the friendly kind of honk. There are many types of honks and we are all pretty much experts at interpreting them by now). Needless to say it was a wonderful way to spend Earth DAY!

Joshua Trees outside of Ridgecrest

Water...we see water

The beautiful Lake Isabella at sunset

White Water Festival

The road leading us into town was very picturesque with Lake Isabella in the background while we weaved along the edge of the hills. After a short 57 mile day we made it to Kernville right before the sun went down to catch the end of the bluegrass band and talk to some folks at the White Water Festival and competition on the Kern River.  We met up with our hosts Christine, her husband Pat, and her son Ian and headed over to their place to eat some pizza and crash for the night. Thank you thank you for letting 6 wacky women stay at your home. We love more than ice cream spending time with local people and getting to know their families. 

Our hosts Christine and Ian

OOOO Ahhhhhh

 178 in the Sequoia National Forest
 In the morning we said our goodbyes and rode through the Sequoia National Forest towards Bakersfield. We had another short day of riding (around 50 miles), but wanted to start early to beat the heat and make it to the Bakersfield health fair by noon. Jeanie rode ahead in the Manatee to set the team up while the rest of the us weaved through the narrow roads in the national forest until we reached the sweet smelling orange groves that marked the beginning of the Bakersfield city limits. Every few hours the scenery changes in this state, and like I mentioned before this is a unique area in the country because it is where 5 different biomes meet in one region. As Darlene would say, "If you don't like the scenery here just wait a few miles and it will change." And it does.

Happy Earth Day

Feeling Free on the Freeway
Italian Ice to chill our brains

It was a hot and sunny afternoon, but there were still a lot of families that braved the heat to enjoy the fair. Ride America for Safe Routes was set up next to the Bike Bakersfield and Safe Routes to School tent. Bike Bakersfield has given us such a warm welcome and taken us under their wing while we were in their city. Tina, the executive director of Bike Bakersfield even set us up at their bike co-op for the evening. It was the perfect place to spread out, use the big screen, and rest our bones for the night. For dinner we ate out with Patrick and John, Bike Bakersfield Safe Routes to School Coordinators, at John's family's restaurant called the Far East Cafe. Soooo good! Hit the spot. We have been eating so much Mexican food on this trip its always good to switch it up a bit. Thank you for the recommendation and treating us hungry women to dinner. Bike Bakersfield has given RASR the VIP treatment. You folks are amazing and doing awesome things for this community. You are the ones who are impressing us and inspiring us to ride our bikes across the country to do what we do everyday. Thank you.

posted by Stephanie


Glory Days

The RASR team pulled out of Steve and Joan's aircraft hanger to a beautiful morning with just enough cloud cover to keep the heat down. As soon as we were out of Pahrump the roads were once again quiet and the vegetation sparse. We didn't get to another town until after we passed the LAST STATE BORDER of the trip!

Thanks again Joan and Steve (and AJ and Max and Dave!)!
(enter) CALIFORNIA: We had lunch at Death Valley Junction, where we took a mini-siesta to avoid the midday heat. Before heading off again we replenished ourselves with some ice cream sundaes and milk shakes at the only place in town. Back on the road, we quickly found ourselves dropping down into Death Valley itself; a descent that lasted at least 10 miles and over 3000 ft until we were below sea level! Due to our early afternoon break, the team had to continue riding through and after a beautiful sunset that dazzled us with fantastic lighting on the spectacular exposed rocks all around us. Although we normally do everything possible to avoid riding in the dark, in the middle of the National Park mid-week the roads were pretty empty, and we were able to cruise into the Stovepipe Wells campground with our bright headlights. Thankfully our new recruit Kaitlynn already had a campsite staked out and our tents up and ready for us. Jane was so impressed by the wonderful light show the moonless night was providing she slept out of the van and tents and saw at least 7 shooting stars (meteors) before falling asleep.
Death Valley!

Death Valley sights. Oh, and the rocks...
Yes, that's our crazy trip leader on top of the Manatee.
Yoga at sunset
Night ridin'
Our trek through the lowest place in the country continued the next morning, proving more difficult than the way in as we had to climb almost 5000 ft to leave the main valley of the National Park. After Towne Pass, however, we got rewarded for our hard work by a decent of almost the same elevation change, but over only half the distance. A well paved road and super wide turns and shoulders, we flew down to the next valley, beating the van and recording the fastest speed we had ever gone on the trip! After lunch we continued through the longitudinal valley, almost overheating on the long, straight, flat road. We were entertained by pilots practicing in their fighter-jets up and down the valley, but otherwise it was hard to keep our minds off the heat and monotony. Ready to get out of the desert, we had one more climb and decent into the small mining town of Trona, CA, where we revived with snow cones (some with special 'fruit' such as kidney beans and seaweed in them!) from a Thai place and enchiladas from the local Mexican restaurant. Literally burned out from the desert riding, we hitched a ride in the good ol' Manatee to meet our hosts Earl and Sun Ferguson in Ridgecrest. As we followed them up the dirt road to their house, 1000 ft above the town, we realized we had once again lucked out on the best place to stay in the area.

3 hour, 21 mile, 3000 ft climb out of Death Valley
Descending the back side - you can see the road where we're headed way down in the valley and the snow-capped Sierras in the distance (we topped 50 mph on this descent!)

Looong, straight desert road
The only way to recover form heat exhaustion: Snickers Ice Cream bar.
Not so sure about that 'fruit' addition...
Treated to a guest apartment where we have plenty of space to spread out, we all slept fabulously last night. Day off today meant we each got to sleep in as long as we so desired, and lounging today was equally as pleasant. Bikes got some work, laundry got cleaned, and the last few connections were made for the end of the trip. Sun and Earl treated us to a delicious dinner tonight with more flavors of ice cream than we could have possibly hoped for with a peach pie for dessert- perfect for us ice cream junkies! Thank you Earl, Sun, and your great crew of animals (dogs, burros, and tortoises!).
Off the grid house.
More Burros.
Earl and Sun even have their own train with elevated tracks.
What a view
Jeanie and Steph are off now to pick up Darlene, our great honorary team member who is back returning to the group after her stint in Georgia went so well. We're so glad you're back!!!