The trip ended as it began with me arriving by plane in a rainy city in the dark. This time at least I knew my way home and didn’t get lost like in Vancouver. And after all the dust of California the smell of humid air and soil was so pleasant.
The entire trip was 3570 km plus those I did not record when cycling through the cities, of the elevation I have no record.
There are two maps (google does not allow enough layers to have everything on one)
one for the Canada/Washingtion loop
and one for the Oregon/California part
Red flags are the places where I stayed overnight.
My bike never let me down. The only thing I had to do once in a while was fasten the screw of the kick stand, put some oil on the chain, top off the air and do some cleaning. And somewhere I lost the screw of the Shimano clickies in my shoes. Otherwise zero zero punctures or other misfortunes.
I kind of liked the Pacific North-West more than California. It’s hard to tell why. Maybe because it was less dry, maybe also because it was at the beginning of the trip, when everything truly felt new and different. Maybe they simply are nicer up there. Who knows? Also there is not much tourism that is there are many American road travellers but almost no international tourism compared to CA.
And I put Canada on my places to-go list.
When you carry a Trangia stove it is quite easy to find fuel once you know what to look for. In the States there is an antifreeze called HEET which comes in reasonable sized bottles (ca 400ml) and works very well. Also it is really cheap maybe $1.50. You find that in Hardware stores and even in some small gas stations. Other burning alcohol they sell per gallons which is not a real option…
The other possibility is rubbing alcohol which is sold in farmacies in 500ml bottles there is isopropyl and ethanol type. The isopropyl variance is more common but you should try to avoid it. It produces lots of soot.
Food is a big issue. You get everything and real top quality food in bigger places. There are food coops and farmers markets with lots of fresh organic produce. But once you leave the areas frequented by hippies and hipsters the problem starts: There is nothing fresh. Expect to find too much sugar in everything you buy and certainly don’t expect to find anything which deserves the name of bread. I have been living on a diet of Beef Jerky (tastes good, needs no cooling and you get it everywhere) and banana chips for days. I will never forget that British cyclist who pulled over in Yosemite to my side such that I could not pass by him. His first question was: “do you also find food to be a problem?” And he was British mind you.
You could start your personal American Dream here and now. In Valencia street, SF California. Not the worst place to do so.
The engineers that built this city were idiots.
When they came to this place and decided to build a city they pulled out their plans for the countless cities they have been building along the way in the great planes. What has worked once will work again. It has proven its value. They laid out their rectangular street plans. Construction works were hard, there were all these hills they had to work their way up. But in the end they did it, the new city was beautiful. It had all these steep roads reaching for the skies and falling down again into the abyss. From the hilltops you could look down straight alleys extending over hill after hill like an ocean wave. Was it the engineers fault that those bloody horses were not strong enough to pull wagons up there? Later they found out why in other parts of the world they would not build straight roads in hilly places but roads climb along the ridge and have switchbacks. So they decided to do that as well, they had hills here, right? They did Lombard street.
Then some smart guy came along and replaced the horses by cables. That works better than Lombard street. But as with all public transport systems around here they build it, then they stop evolving it and it becomes impractical, old and inefficient.This one, because it’s special and beautiful it became even more useless because it has been taken over by tourists. If on my way home after I have to queue at the stop and wait in line after thousands of Europeans and Asians I would switch to… cycling because it’s me, Uber if it’s any other person.
This city has the worst streets I have been cycling on in my life. Not because of the hills. Some streets are just too steep to cycle up (or down!), so just don’t do it. No, the quality of the pavement is horrid. There are no real roadholes, all of them have been fixed but they were fixed so badly to leave a desert of cracks and bumps behind which makes you feel like sitting in a Malagasy speedboat on its way over the bay to Masoala on a windy afternoon. And that is really bad, believe me. Or to put it in a more American way: like sitting on a young rodeo horse. How hard can it be to fix roads? They do it in other places as well, and they leave a smooth surface.
Otherwise cycling in San Fran feels like home. Red lights are for others as they are in Zurich, and motorists don’t know why their car were equipped with these things sticking out at the side of their car. Those with the mirror in it. No wait it’s to check your make-up or whether something is sticking in your teeth.
I changed into non-cycling clothes today. There will only be some city cycling henceforth.
And I was so fed up with the two shirts I have been wearing for two months now, that I had to buy me some new ones…
No, wait, it is Hearst’s castle. There are few things that are so much American than that. Think of a very (very!) rich businessman who builds a very (very!) large mansion up in a hill on his family ranch in Central California. He is well educated so he knows about history and arts and its value and collects it. Did I mention he is rich? He can essentially buy everything. He builds all kinds of ancient Greek, Egyptian statues and sarcophagi into his mansion. He is in good company, the Greeks reused ancient stones to build their modern times housesvas well… He buys wooden Renaissance ceilings to hang in his house and gothic choirs for his ballroom. All pieces are very exquisit but are not ment to be on a ranch house in California, but in Egypt, Turkey or Italy. The entire ensemble looks in part ouf of place and who would want to live in a dark, over decorated 16th century like palace in 1920, when he could have built a fine Bauhaus mansion to go with the time.
Today the Palace is a California state park. You can visit it on guided tours. Those are quite an an experience. They bake a lot of Hollywood into it, it’s all dramatic and full of grandeur from the bus ride up to the castle to the stories the guides tell you along the way, to the dinner tables set with finest china and vintage 1920 Ketchup bottles. America has a big talent in exageration, dramaturgy and story telling. Thag makes Hollywood so successful and many of their museums more enjoyable and fun to visit as their European counterparts. No wonder trends like gamification come from over here.
The Big Sur coast is beautiful, not as much as the Oregon coast though. In a sense they are similar, rugged and hilly bug the prevailing colors are very different. Big Sur is darker, the dark rocks and mediteranean type dryland plants making a sharp contrast to the white fog. The Ocean itself also reflects the darker colors.
The reason I wanted to sea this coast is literary. Strangely, in Monterey they make a big fuss about Steinbeck and Cannery Row indicating buildings featured in the novel, etc. At Bixby bridge there is no sign
hinting to Kerouac’s Big Sur. Cars stop because of the views and the high bridge, not because of the donkey and the spring and the drunk struggling machista poet in the cabin down there.