Day one of my tour turned out have many of the problems I was afraid it might have. But a defining trait of an adventurer is how you deal with the problems that will inevitably happen. If you react by wishing you had luxury accommodations, panicking or giving up, you are probably not an adventurer. But if you keep your wits about you, fix the problems with whatever duct tape and baling wire you have available, and proceed as best you can with a good attitude, then you show the traits of a true adventurous spirit. At least according to my not so humble opinion.
So where and when did the journey actually begin? It could have been when I stopped riding my touring bike as a commuter and started packing. It could have been before that, when I decided to do the ride. But for the sake of telling the story, let’s say it started in Long Beach, CA. My wife dropped me off at Long Beach Airport, a tiny international airport in the Los Angeles metro area. I had already shipped my bike: it was waiting for me in a box at a FedEx location close to my flight destination in San Jose, hopefully not damaged or lost in spite of what the tracking information told me. I was carrying a piece of bike luggage, a plastic bag of supplies, and I was wearing my travel/riding clothes and bike shoes. I did not want to deal with luggage, and my bike shoes with cleats were the only footwear I was bringing.
One item in my carry on luggage was a CPAP machine. Without it I don’t get deep sleep and eventually end up feeling like I have not been sleeping at all. I had hoped to use a substitute called Provent, which are fancy bandages to cover your nostrils. Carrying them instead of a big CPAP machine would have been a big win. But I tried the Provents again and they did not work for me like they used to. I was disappointed to have to carry the bulky machine and battery, but I had done it before on a bike tour. And I brought the Provents anyway.
But the problems that swirled around the CPAP machine had just started. After boarding the plane and getting comfortable, I mentally went over my checklist of what I had packed for the umpteenth time. I realized that I had forgotten one of the cables needed to run the CPAP machine. It was a small disaster. The pile of hardware I had packed to run the CPAP was useless without that cable. I began to break down the situation. There was no way to buy the cable I needed. Maybe I could make a replacement cable myself. I looked for electronics supply stores along my route. There were lots of permanently closed Radio Shack locations to choose from. I found a Fry’s Electronics, but there was no guarantee they would have the parts I needed to fabricate a replacement cable even after shopping them on-line.
I tried to relax and take things one step at a time so I would not get myself into such a terrible mood that I would not think clearly or enjoy whatever the trip turned into. The next point on the trip where I could do anything about this would be at the electronics store. I had done all I could for now. I managed to stop obsessing on the problem and enjoy the flight.
On the ground I call in a Lyft ride that turned out to be free after I applied the discount the airline gave me on it. My driver deposited me at the FedEx location which actually did have my undamaged bike in its possession. The small victory was good for my attitude.
I used the packing area as a bike assembly area. While there, a fellow rider introduced himself. He told me he was planning to bicycle tour across Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. He noticed my CPAP and told me he had a friend who rode and needed to use one. Seeing me travel with a CPAP meant that he would not accept his friend’s excuse about not traveling with him because of his CPAP. I did not go into detail about the issue I was having with my machine for both our sakes. It took me a while but I was ready to go.
Another small issue cropped up as I pushed the bike across the store. I had decided at the last minute to fit a water bottle cage and bottle on the bottom of my down tube. The problem is that there is only room for the smallest of water bottles that spot. The bottle I brought rubbed my front tire. After some consideration I decided to just throw the water bottle out. It was frustrating but I was already dealing with enough issues and the idea of trying to pack a water bottle in my luggage mostly just to keep from throwing it out was just too much to wrestle with at the moment.
But the problems just kept coming. I stood over my bike to get started and turned on the GPS to load my route for the day. I scrolled through the list of routes I had carefully crafted for each day. They were all there, except for my route for that day. I had made some small last minute changes to it, I must have deleted it in my GPS without loading its replacement. And the day’s route was a tangle of interconnecting urban roads and paths, not a simple “ride down Highway 1”. But I had a backup plan: I used my phone as my GPS. The phone used a lot of battery power when in navigation mode so I might have to charge it mid day, but I could deal with that.
The electronics store was only a few blocks away. It took a while to find and select the odd parts. I decided to wait until I was in the campground with everything unpacked to make the cable.
The weather was beautiful: sunny and cool. I was excited by the first part of the ride because it was on a network of dedicated urban bike paths: Guadalupe River Trail and Los Gatos Creek Trail.
Navigating by phone was a bit of a pain. I did not have a good way to mount it where I could see it. I would look at it to get the next few turns, ride that far then look at it again. I made a few wrong turns that way but nothing terrible. And while I was on the main bike paths I just followed the signed route.
While riding the bike paths, especially through San Jose, I was completely amazed at the pedestrian traffic. There was a lot of it, but the crazy part was phone usage. Being as rational as possible about it, I estimate that out of hundreds of pedestrians I saw in the congested sections of San Jose, 95% of them were walking with their eyes down, locked on their phones, and that includes individuals, groups, people with dogs on leashes, etc. They were completely unaware of my presence on a trail where bikes were legal, I had to swerve all over the place to avoid them, often off of the trail and on the grass. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I suspect most were probably annoyed by the sun causing glare on their screens. We need to identify a thing called “distracted walking” on multi use trails. It is dangerous and rude. If forces other trail users to deal with whatever random things a distracted walker is doing. It is hard to deal with because the they don’t know what they are doing themselves. I was happy to get out of the crowded section of San Jose.
My route took me along a dirt section of Las Gatos Creek Trail. I later realized I could have been avoided much of it by riding the long way around a reservoir, but even my narrow 28c tires were OK there.
My failure to follow my GPS directions eventually led to a disastrous error. While riding a frontage road along highway 17, I decided the directions said to enter Highway 17 south at Bear Creek road. This was an error of epic proportions. Highway 17 is a freeway that has no shoulder on much of it, is extremely narrow, has high-speed traffic and has a concrete wall divider between the oncoming lanes. I entered on a section where I would be climbing and moving slow. I have ridden freeways before, even not so legal sections, but nothing like this. After riding for about a mile and a half with cars honking at me like crazy I pulled into a turn out and looked at my GPS. In a word I was screwed. I could not cross the road and go back the way I came due to the concrete wall and sheer amount of traffic. I could not go back the way I came because I would be riding head on into oncoming traffic with no shoulder. There was no way out of the turn out I was in: no roads or trails led away from it. And the route I wanted was back the way I came. Going forward would take me a long way off my route, even if I did want to brave it, which I did not.
As I was looking around the edges of the turn out for dirt paths and not finding one, I saw a highway patrol drive by. I slowly realized that they would be my only way out. I waited a while for another one to show up, but no luck. I finally gave in and called for rescue. I described my predicament to 911 and In relatively short order I met Office Booker (that is her real name, I am honestly not making that up) who showed up in a large SUV that had room for my bike in it just as I had requested. After telling her how happy I was to see her and thanking her profusely I told her that I just wanted off of that road, anywhere would do. I also told her I really just wanted back on the other side of the road to pick up where I left off. We left the turn out and I expected her to just get off the next exit and wish me luck. But she made a pretty difficult U-turn on the road where the concrete wall had a gap and returned me to right where I said I wanted. I got no ticket for riding a bicycle on the freeway (they may have actually been legal there, the sign only said no pedestrians), no lectures about bicycle safety, none of that. She even posed for a picture. I pulled my bike out, unable to thank her enough, and continued on the correct route. Mostly anyway.
My route continued on Old Santa Cruz Highway, Summit Road and Soquel Santa Cruz Road which included a nice climb through coastal redwoods and a descent to the coast and my urban coastal campground destination, New Brighton State Beach. The few small wrong turns I made paled in comparison to my Highway 17 debacle. Due to my shenanigans I had to cut the ride short. I had planned a loop around Santa Cruz. Maybe next time.
Once at the campground I unpacked as little as I needed to allow me to work on the CPAP cable with as much daylight as possible. But it wasn’t to be. The cheesy battery-powered soldering iron I bought could not generate enough heat to melt butter let alone solder. So as a test I touched the battery wires to the plug I got to fit the CPAP to see if it would power it up anyway. But no luck. The plug I bought fit the CPAP but it was still not the right connector, which was not surprising given the nature of medical equipment. I gave up on the idea of fixing the CPAP and decided to try the Provents one more night. If they didn’t work, I would ride back to Salinas, cut the trip short and catch a train home from there. I did not want ride for days with effectively no sleep, that would be too dangerous.
When I finally looked up from my CPAP project, Johan from Belgium greeted me and offered me some of his strawberries which I happily accepted. I later offered Johan some sliced cucumber. I think I got the better end of the trade but it was all I had to offer. Johan had flown into Los Angeles and was on his way to San Francisco, then on to Yosemite, the eastern Sierras and many other great California destinations before returning to L.A. to fly home. I tried to talk him into adding Death Valley to his route, it would have been a good time of year, but the idea seemed to make him pretty uncomfortable, and he didn’t want to give up anything else on his already full schedule.
John was also at the Hike or Bike site. I did not see him until the next morning, but I should have gotten up to see him in the middle of the night. That night I tried sleeping with the Provents. I woke up with one not attached anymore. Rather than give up and go back to “sleep” without it, I forced myself to get up and replace the one that fell off. That improved things a lot for me. I slept so well that I barely woke up when the campsite was overrun by bright vehicle headlights and guys walking around talking and using what sounded like police radios.
The next morning, feeling well rested, I met John. He had a bloody gauze wrap on his knee. He had an accident with a car the night before that was his own fault. The police had come by the campground in the middle of the night to return his bike to him. John worked at Specialized bike company in nearby Morgan Hill so naturally we talked his accident, riding and bikes for a long time.
New Brighton, like many urban campgrounds, has strict limits on Hike or Bike sites. You can only stay one night and you have to leave by 9:00 am. This helps control the homeless problem. I support such measures, it allows the park to keep offering Hike or Bike sites. A homeless shelter is very different from a campground.
Due to all of my carousing with the locals I pushed a little past the 9:00 departure time. And sure enough I got a visit from the very friendly camp host who was watching our schedules. But as I said, I support such efforts. And thankfully I had the route for day 2 in my GPS as expected and a good night’s sleep behind me. Maybe this trip would work out OK after all.
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Please note that my route above includes all the wrong turns and my ride with the Officer Booker. I was too busy being rescued to think to pause my Garmin.