The end

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.
What else:

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.


Cycling SF

​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.

Fog or smoke, who can tell!

 All along Big Sur there were white clouds hanging over the coast. Traditional pacific summer fog mixed with traditional Calfornian wildfire smoke, hard to tell which was which most of the time. This fire has got out of hand. A California state ranger warned me about potentially heavy smoke ahead. I asked a cyclist coming up from the South an he said it wasn’t too bad. He was right. It was humid but there was a distinctly smokey smell to it. All in all I did not get more smoke than at an ordinary American campground where everybody needs his campfire at night and some even do in the morning.

The largest impact of the fire on me was the closure of all state parks in Big Sur. So instead of leisurely cycling through for two days covering 30 miles at a time, I had to do all the 60 miles in one day. Distancewise that is not such a great deal but I had started (too) late in Monterey not being able to make up my mind whether I should go on at all due to the fire. Nobody wants tourists in a heavy congested emergency zone. They had not closed highway 1 though and the traffic was so heavy  it seemed nobody except me had any thoughts of changing their travel plans. Most traffic were the usual vacationers jamming all vista points (made explicitly to admire the scenery) and every turnout (made explicitly to remain empty for slow traffic aka trucks, big RVs, bikes to pull aside and let faster cars pass), the rest was fire trucks, Calfire service vehicles, big trucks carrying bulldozers, I pulled aside for them, I did not for tourists.

Who is afraid of Yosemite?

Yosemite is one of the most visited National Parks of the US. Campsites and lodges fill up quickly after the they open for reservation. There are some first come first serve sites most prominently Camp 4. I have seen some of the sites along the road having free spots, they fill up by early aftrnoon. For Camp 4 you have to queue in the early morning around 5 to get a spot. Nothing of this sounds like a relaxed holiday and stressless cycling through. But…

There are the backpacker sites. I believe all campgrounds along the road have them, in the valley there is a site at North Pine. (It is difficult to find it, once inside campground cross the little arm of the river, it’sright behind there.)

They are for people carrying a wilderness permit. They can stay one night there before and after they go backcountry hiking. The sites correspond to what are the hiker/biker sites along the coast. As a cyclist you do not carry a wilderness permit and it is kind of unclear whether you are allowed on these sites. I was sent there by the rangers in Tuolumne Meadows, they said they did not require the permit for cyclists. The cyclists I met coming up from the valley got a different answer from the rangers there. I took the Tuolumne-habit for granted at all the other sites and stayed at the backpacker sites in White Wolf and North Pine. Anyhow, nobody checks the permits and they probabely would not send you away anyway. Safest bet is to just to pull in in the evening, when there are no rangers at the entrance anymore, fill in your envelope, it’s 6 $ / per person and night.

Hey you down there, Stilfserjoch

I really wanted that

I climbed Tioga pass

bike shirt. But of course all kind of Yosemite and save-our-bears-use bearproof-toilet-paper is on sale, nut no bike shirt. Down here in California people use their bikes only to show off, I see many bikes loaded on cars but no one ever cycles even on the most promising roads.  That was very different in the Pacific Northwest. There were many more local cyclists, I used to chat with them for a while when they overtook me on their road bikes. Anyhow, the climb was much easier than I thought, steady climbing over 12 miles. Then you are there, park entrance station, “welcome to Yosemite, it’s 15$, your ticket is good for 7 days, enjoy Yosemite… ” The nice summit post I expected and wanted to take a picture of  is somewhere tugged away on the entrance station. It ‘s 9943 feet aka 3031m. That is the highest pass I have ever done by bike so far.

Hot springs again

There are lots of hot springs around Bridgeport, at least two along my way: Travertine hot spring just off highway 395 and Buckeye hot spring which is a 10 miles detour over a dirt road. There is a NFS campground next to. There is no potable water, it is either bring your own or treat water from the creek. I had the options of doing a short day ride up to Buckeye hot spring, stay there overnight and do another short day to Mono Lake and into Lee Vining and maybe start climbing towards Tioga pass or rush down directly to Lee Vining in one single day (approx. 60 miles and two passes). I could not make up my mind, hence I did both. 

I went to Buckeye, did not find the official campground but an apparently very popular inofficial campground. There were several cars and RVs parked, tent pitched and entire outdoor living “rooms” set up. A young party that was about to leave lent me an empty 1 gallon water container and their filter to fill it from the creek. I was all set and ready to stay there for the night. 

No resort at this hot spring, it is just a hot spring that tumbles over a rock into a pool next to the creek. Nobody bans you from bringing your beer or smoke whatever marihuana you might like, medical and legal by states law or non medical and illegal. People were dressed and fairly normal: some young guys on a weekend trip and a family of PCT hikers on a day off (as normal as hiking the PCT is…). New age hippies, of course, are welcome too. The water in the creek happens to be really cold, colder than the ice water buckets at Sierra hot spring. You can do a proper Kneipp treatment. After bathing and a good lunch I felt ready to go on despite the heat. I refilled my bottles, spilled the rest of the gallon under some trees and went into Bridgeport. 

A cute little town with a very good service level (Decent store, bakery, restaurants, several hotels, a library, no campground). I still felt pretty fit, so I pushed on towards Conway summit. I knew there was not a lot to come but was confident to find a camping spot. It was the weekend and I had not taken into account the American fishing mania, apart from visiting hot springs pretty much the only thing you can do around here. All lodges along the way were full. I hesitated between camping out sommewhere and going all the way to Lee Vining which I did in the end. I knew it to be a bad idea because it was still the weekend and Lee Vining is only 12 miles from Yosemite NP.

Once you passed Convay summit there is no good possibility to camp out anymore unless you like camping in the desert. I asked in a lodge at Mono Lake for possible camping spots. There was a guy sitting at the bar and he said I could camp behind Mobil and that I should go there and ask Katie about it, she would explain everything to me. She turned out to be his sister.

Mobil is the last gas station before Yosemite. It is in Lee Vining right off highway 120. The place has a store and a deli and is really busy with people going to and fro the park. There is a little lookout behind it with a phenomenal view over Mono lake. It has water, for irrigation originaly I guess, because there is green lawn. And on this lawn I pitched my tent. It was my first non-dusty campsite for days. Lots of people sleep up there in their cars when they have no accommodation in the park. The gas station has convenient opening hours and provides restrooms, food, breakfast from 6.30am.

I went to sleep with a splendid sunset over Mono lake to get up with a splendid sunrise over Mono lake.