Thursday, September 8, 2011

San Francisco: No More Pedaling Required

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

I promise to post pictures as soon as possible; but I'm not sure my younger brother's computer will allow it.  So I may have to wait till I return home.

Still, I'm happy to report that after 4,615 miles, I completed my ride last night in the dark at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  It was too dark to take any good "celebratory"pictures so my two brothers, Tim and Ned, and I skipped carrying my bicycle down to the Pacific and dipping the tire (tradition for cross-country riders is to dip the back tire in the ocean where they begin and front tire in the ocean where they end) and headed for dinner instead.

As usual, I had worked up a healthy appetite, pedaling 82 miles, from Stockton to Oakland, then being carried across the Bay Bridge by brother Tim, and finishing my ride by heading down Market Street and up Haight (of Haight and Asbury fame) to the park and down to the shore.  It was foggy at 7:30 p.m. and got progressively thicker and the skies darker the last seven miles.  At one point, in the dark, with only a mile to go, I managed to ride close to the curb and get slapped in the face by a series of branches.

It would have been ironic to get unseated in the joust with victory nearly in view.

Tim helped at the end (as he did when I rode coast-to-coast in 2007) in various ways.  Coming out of Yosemite, four days ago, he met me at the western entrance and rode with me fifty miles for company.  (We agreed, as did Ned later, that our late mother would have loved to see us in action, since she infused us all with an adventurous spirit when we took western vacations when we were young.)  Again, I'll post pictures as soon as possible.  But trust me:  if you haven't seen Yosemite, you should.  I had to climb 3,100 feet over Tioga Pass to get into the park and another 2,600 feet out of the main valley to leave but the scenery made every pedal revolution worthwhile.  By September most of the snow in the mountains is gone and the waterfalls that give the park so much allure are slowed, some almost to vanishing.  That only allowed me to climb the lower half of Yosemite Falls and swim in a beautiful, icy pool at the base.

I'm proud to say that only three people, when I was there, were willing to brave the chill waters:  two boys, probably aged about 11 to 13, and one slightly older cyclist.

Namely me.

Or does that show lack of judgment?

The main campgrounds in Yosemite are jammed with tourists all summer long, but I was able to get a spot at "the famed Camp Four," as National Geographic describes it.  This is the place where serious rock climbers set up shop before challenging the sheer faces of El Capitan and other great walls in the valley and I was able to talk at length with two men from Boston who were going to climb the great stone barrier in the next few days.  They thought my bicycle ride was impressive.  One glance at that granite wall looming above us, 3,500 sheer feet, convinced me that their adventure was by far the greater.

It was interesting, too, if you've seen the park before but haven't visited recently, how the Park Service is clearing roads in the valley by limiting traffic to buses and shuttles or walkers and cyclers.  My apologies once more:  but this will be a more interesting entry once I post photos to illustrate various points.  In any case, I took a trail up to Mirror Lake, which I had never seen, and another to the top of Vernal Falls, which requires a truly healthy hike with a climb of more than a thousand vertical feet in a little more than a mile.

I left the park, as I mentioned, four days ago.  Tim and I reached his home in Stockton in two days and his wife Sue had a great dinner ready, as she always seems to do, and I was happy to see Ned, my two nieces Amy and Jenny,  Amy's children, Hunter, 11, and Jessica, 6, and Drew, Jenny's husband and their 1-year-old son, Jack.  Jack is perfecting the art of walking, is already adept at throwing toys, and has a shock of curly brown hair.  Drew tells me being a parent is "fantastic" and Jenny agrees.  Hunter is tall for his age, adept in math (let's hope like Uncle Ned), in advanced classes at school, but not at all sure he's going to like sixth grade.  Jessica is shy at first but charming and funny when you get her going, and my nieces are always a pleasure to see.

Yesterday, Tim was kind enough to trail me from Stockton to San Francisco in his Dodge Durango, lights flashing, a sign reading:  "Bicyclist on the Road" in the rear window.  It made even the narrow curves feel safer and I went up and over the incredibly steep Oakland Hills without mishap and the journey was soon ended.  (An additional note:  San Francisco is taking real steps toward making city streets bicycle-friendly, and Market, a main route through the center of town is dominated by riding lanes and two-wheeled transportation.)

That's my post for now.  I'll try to thank a few more people before I'm done, including all the kind people who helped me along the way, who donated or simply offered kinds and much-appreciated words of encouragement.

I'm pretty sure, when totals are in, that I reached my goal to raise $10,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

In any case, I spent my teaching career trying to convince teens they could do more with their talents than they probably realized.  I still say that's true today.  Biking across America, or trying rock-climbing, or hiking in the mountains, or developing our minds by sitting down with a good book, losing weight, even being a better parent or person.  It often comes down to setting our minds on doing it and foregoing all the usual excuses.

The hard part isn't really pedaling UP a pass like Tioga.  It's coming to understand that we can DO IT. It's just going to be HARD.

1 comment:

  1. John, I am incredibly impressed by your riding, your writing, and your spirit. I'm proud to have been a part of your trek for one small day. Heartiest congratulations for the whole thing, and especially for Tioga. I have cross-country skied up that road in the winter, and I can't imagine doing it on a bike. I hope to get together sometime and swap stories.