Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Del Rio to Bracketville to Camp Wood

I forgot to mention a couple of things in the last post... when we were in Comstock we noticed that there was a big Border Patrol compound. Apparently there are more than 100 officers assigned to the BP station that regularly patrol the area. The store owner whom we chatted with for a while told us that the BP offices have done a good job of stopping the illegal immigrants and drug 'mules' from coming through the Comstock area and that the traffic has moved north to Sanderson (the place we stayed the night before). Unbeknownst to us, Sanderson is one of the busiest traffic spots along this section of the border...

A few days prior to reaching Del Rio, I had contacted a friend of mine (Rainey) who lives in Fredericksburg. He generously and graciously offered to pick us up in Camp Wood, 100 + miles from his house and host us for a couple of days. We just needed to reach Camp Wood which was 80 miles from Del Rio.

When we were going through Del Rio we stopped at the Bike Shop to pick up a spare tube for Taran's bike. We had run out of tubes 4 days ago and had our fingers crossed the whole time. We were not afraid of punctures cause we could repair them, but for some reason the valve stems had a tendency to break and those can't be fixed. We had tried in Alpine to buy a tube, but they did not stock the right kind. We were told that Del Rio would have them...guess what... they did not. There was nothing we could do but cross our fingers and head out.


The wind was very stiff and the road was very poor. It was very bumpy and somewhat hilly. It felt like a much longer ride then only 35 miles. We stayed at a former historical army base that is now a gated community for "leisure living". I was hoping it would have lots of cool amenities, but as it turns out because we were 'tenting' we were not entitled to use the rec room nor the bathrooms in the main building. We were sent to the tenting site that had cold showers only... With the nights getting warm, we debated whether to put up the fly. We were glad we did cause it rained during the night. As we knew we were being picked up by Rainey, we did not stock up on our regular fare of oatmeal, raisins and apples. Rather, we had purchased Mini-Wheats and went to the local store and bought milk and sat in the cafeteria type place at the store and ate breakfast...

Camp Wood 60 miles

We stocked up on lots of water for the trip to Camp Wood because there were no services in between. It was a hot 97 degrees cause the humidity was way up too. We were sweating bullets. About 30 miles into the trip, Taran got a flat... his rear valve stem had broken. We spent 30 minutes trying to fix and patch the stem to no avail. Traffic was very light...maybe one car per 30 minutes. I flagged down a passing truck...and they stopped. It turned out to be a lovely couple from near Camp Wood that were willing to help us out. We loaded up our gear and off we went to the Cooksey RV site. They told us many horror stories about people dying out in the heat. The nearest Bike Shop that 'may' have the proper tube was another 120 miles away! We had arranged for Rainey to pick us up at the RV site the next morning.

The Cooksey RV park was very nice. They had a river running right beside the park and it had reasonable amenities. Taran was able to trade a couple of books in the Rec Room. While I was chatting with the camp host he told me that it was possible a thunderstorm might roll in. This area had not seen any rain in 8 months and were desperate for it. He said that it was unlikely that it would reach the camp, but we could camp out in the shower room if we wanted to avoid the storm. We were lucky that we did. It rained 2 and a half inches and the lightening was less than a mile away. The only issue was that the cockroaches came out to play at night!

The next morning Rainey and his Dad came and picked us up. We drove back to his place. And what a place it is!! It's a house that was built in 1906 with 11.6 foot ceilings, hardwood floors and a lot of TLC sitting on 8 acres in the middle of the city. It's an amazing home/property. He's got 5 or 6 projects on the go, but the place is incredible...

The adventure continues!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sanderson to Langtry to Del Rio

The ride from Sanderson to Langtry was tough. The temperature hit 107 degrees and the terrain was fairly hilly. There was only one place along the way to fill up water and it was during the first part of the trip. When we were about 20 miles from Langtry we had to start rationing the water cause we didn't want to run out. When we stopped at a picnic stop an 18 wheeler pulled in. We asked the driver if he could spare any water and he gave us a gallon of cold filtered water!! What a treat that turned out to be!

When we arrived in Langtry, a town of about 40 people, we immediately went to the visitors center. It was Air Conditioned and very very nice. We didn't realize how hot it was outside until we went inside this place. We hung out watching the news in the visitors center for about an hour before heading over to the community center. The town allows cyclists (and others i suppose) to camp out beside the center. However, the toilets are only available while the CC is open. Luckily for us there was an election going on and the hall was open until 7pm. In fact, the people in the hall gave us soda pop and cookies and Taran was able to trade for a new book. However, the gal running the election was also a worker in the local store. The owner was away so the store was closed...

Langtry is the place that made Judge Roy Bean famous... For most of the last two decades of the nineteenth century Roy Bean was the only judge operating across several hundred miles of south Texas, a position he was appointed to after several months earning a living selling beer and whisky to workers building the trans Texas railroad between San Antonio and El Paso. He was the 'Law West of the Pecos', and mixed dispensing justice with selling liquor - the courtroom was also the local saloon and billiard hall. His reputation for colorful behaviour grew on account of his rough, arbitrary justice methods and particularly after the staging of a heavyweight boxing championship on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande in 1898, at which time fighting was illegal in many US states including Texas. Both village and saloon (the original 'Jersey Lilly') were supposedly named in tribute to the English actress Lillie Langtry with whom the judge was infatuated. They never met but she was to visit, in 1904 shortly after the judge died aged about 79 following a drinking spree.

Here's a picture of his place:

Langtry to Del Rio

The terrain is mostly hilly with a slight downhill grade. It was not as hot as the day before, only 95 degrees. We made sure to carry lots of water!! There was only one town between Langtry and Del Rio, a place called Comstock. The gal that owned the local store/gas station was very friendly and helpful.

We chose to stay at an RV park located a couple miles before Del Rio. It was a great deal!! It had a pool, a full kitchen with TV, a rec room with pool table and another TV, laundry facilities and a wonderful grassy secluded, protected, treed, quiet area to put our tent. All for 12 dollars. We paid 16 dollars for a place once that had absolutely nothing.... What a difference. We cooked in the kitchen and watched Hidalgo the movie. We both got a great nights sleep. However, the birds woke us up in the morning. There must have been 5000 birds of all sorts making a big racket at 6:30am!!

I knew Taran liked the place because he got up before me...which is an extreme rarity. The reason being...he could go and watch TV.

We're in Del Rio at the moment heading to Bracketville. There is a fairly stiff head wind, but we do not have to go too far today.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fort Davis to Marathon to Sanderson

As it turns out, Fort Davis is the highest 'town' in all of texas at an elevation of 5200 feet. I guess it's all downhill from here?? (not quite by a long shot!). The RV park was fairly cheesy but they did give us some camp stove fuel and bleach (to clean the water bottles) which was nice.

In the middle of the night, I thought I heard raccoons so I got up to rearrange the food bags so they would be a little less accessible by nocturnal creatures. Other than that, we both got a fairly good nights sleep.


The trip from Fort Davis to Marathon went really quickly. It was a gentle downhill grade most of the way and we made very good time...almost 15 miles per hour for the whole 60 miles trip. We went to the Library when we arrived and I quickly researched airline tickets for our ride home. We've decided that Houston (actually Katy Texas) is our final destination. My brother, Alan lives in Katy and he has graciously agreed to host us for a few days. After that, it's homeward bound!

We picked up some burritos at the only store in town and headed to the RV Park for the night. We heated up the burritos in the Microwave, put in some laundry and watched a movie on the 'outdoor' TV that they had beside the washrooms/laundry. That was a real treat.

When we went back to our campsite, we were unsure where to put our tent. They had these raised 'beds' that contained hard clay/dirt that looked like they could be for tents, but we weren't sure. When we asked at the front desk, we were informed that they were indeed for tents. We were warned that if it rained, it would all turn to mud! Rain was not really an issue, but the dirt/clay was so hard and the lumps so big that we decided to set up our tent elsewhere. Other than the occasional train that would blow it's horn when it went by, we both had a good nights sleep.

Marathon had a very cool Hotel in the middle of town. It was mostly a tourist town and it was very neatly laid out.


The first part of the trip was quasi uphill, but the second half turned out to be a gentle grade downhill. There was a bit of a cross wind, but not much. We arrived in Sanderson after a very quick 55 miles at around 2:30pm and headed straight for the Library.

Well, it's quinoa and spaghetti tonight with raw carrots and bananas. I think we may splurge on some chocolate milk....

Taran is absolutely sick of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I didn't think it possible, but it's true. We need to find something else that travels well in high heat that he will eat. Any suggestions???

We're off to Langtry tomorrow, the town that Judge Roy Bean is famous for...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kent to Fort Davis

Started off with a really strong cross wind turning into a head wind and finally a tail wind later on in the day. The terrain was very very hilly for most of the day. We struggled to make headway much of the day. We were rewarded with a significant downhill/tail wind section for the last hour and a half of riding. In fact, I set a new speed record...48.2 miles per hour!!!

We saw maybe 5 houses and 15 cars the entire journey. We did pass the McDonald Observatory (actually a collection of observatories). It was up on a big hill so we chose not to see it up close.

We're staying at an RV Park tonight and hoping that the wind will die down a bit. If we're lucky, they'll let us stay in the Rec Room!

Van Horn to Kent

The trip to Kent was marred by heavy cross winds and two flat tires. One of the flats was on the trailer and one was on Taran's bike. When we went to repair Taran's tube, we found that the valve stem was broken and therefore useless. We reached in to get a new one and promptly broke the stem on that one as well. We now do not have any tubes for Taran's bike and the next bike shop that has his tube size is 4 days away.... We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Kent turned out to be a one store town. Camping is allowed behind the store, with no washrooms, shower, water, picnic table...nothing. The water that was available came out of a tap in the store with a sign above it that said "non-potable water". The store clerk said it was well water and he drank it all the time. He also said we could use the abandoned house across the street from his house. (there are only 3 houses in the whole place). The house was in fairly good shape but did not have electricity or any furniture. The plumbing worked fine. There were only two problems with this place... It was 40 yards from a major train crossing and once it got dark, the mice came out to play. They made a lot of noise, but did not bother us directly.

It was not my favourite fact I think it was probably the worst.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sierra Blanca to Van Horn TX

There are 3 or 4 posts previous to this one that are brand new... I've finally caught up!

It was our plan to go 71 miles to a place called Kent but events conspired to foil these plans!

As we were leaving Sierra Blanca Taran mentioned that he had a sore ankle. He said that it had hurt a bit yesterday as well. We had gone about 10 miles when Taran again said his ankle very sore. We got off and took a look at it. It had a slight swelling and a small bruise. We wrapped it up in a tensor bandage and kept going. Although the tensor bandage helped, it was still bothering him quite a bit. We decided to stop in Van Horn (35 miles) instead of going to Kent.

There were a number of choices in Van Horn to stay at, but we chose the Eagles Nest RV park. It had a rec room, laundary and nice bathrooms (with showers). I got some ice and placed it around Taran's ankle. We were there fairly early, so we just read our books and generally just hung out. At around 7:30pm it started to rain...and rain. Luckily I hadn't put up the tent yet. It stopped raining a while later. At about 8:30 just as I was about to go out and put up the tent, it started to rain again. I went over to the owner and asked if it would be okay if we bunked down in the Rec room. He agreed. Thank goodness, because it was quite the thunderstorm, complete with lightning.

The next morning Taran's ankle was not any better so we decided to stay an extra day. I spent a couple of hours cleaning the Rec Room in order to 'repay' the owner (Bill) for the use of the Rec Room for our stay. He was very appreciative. In fact, he offered to cook us dinner and kept giving us soda pop.

He also offered to let me use the office computer. I went in to use it and it was at this time that I learned that Bill really liked to talk. He told me a lot about himself and his life experiences. He also drank a lot of beer and smoked non-stop. He was a really nice guy. During dinner, we met his kids Bill jr, Megan and Cassie. They were very cute. They brought some of their toys out and Taran played with them for about an hour and a half.

Around 9pm, the kids went home and Taran and I again bunked down in the Rec Room. I stayed on the couch and Taran got the floor! We're currently at the Van Horn Library and we're heading to Kent very soon.

Tournillo to Sierra Blanca TX

It's approximately 65 miles from Tournillo to Sierra Blanca. We struggled in the wind, but finally arrived at about 5:30pm. The cycling map listed the "Town Camp" on Main Street as the place for us to pitch our tent. The "town camp" is located right beside the local high school with one picnic table and two fire pits. (not anywhere near Main Street) The bathrooms (no showers) were under construction and therefore not available for use. We followed a hose that was on the ground to see if there was going to be any water...luckily there was.

The site was grassy with good tree cover which was nice. We prepared dinner and just as we were finishing the groundkeeper showed up to water the grass. I talked to him about the bathrooms and after a bit of cajoling he agreed to leave the womens washroom open all night for us to use (it had one functional toilet). There was also a drain in the washroom so I took a spongebath in the washroom. Taran again did not wash.

At around 8pm, some kids showed up to play basketball (the court being right beside the camping area). I went to make a quick phone call and Taran ended up playing basketball with the kids. At around 9pm, extremely bright lights came on to light up the basketball court (and our tent). The lights went off around 10pm and the kids left shortly after that.

We were happy it was a Sunday morning because there wouldn't be a bunch of kids hanging around the schoolgrounds watching us pack up. ..

El Paso to Tournillo TX

Following the downhill run out of El Paso, we thought we were a lot closer to the road we were to take East. Unfortunately we had read the map incorrectly and learned that we had an additional 10 miles to go...more than what we bargained for! We again experienced a cross wind and struggled to make good time.

We arrived at "Hidden Lakes" Campground at 5pm and were sorely disappointed with the situation. There were no showers, no potable water and the campsites were mostly sand. You could however purchase water from the 'office'. The Lakes turned out to be tiny manmade "fishing" holes, no swimming allowed. Also, when we drove up a fellow came out to meet us and said "that will be 8 dollars per vehicle". I suggested to him that this seemed a bit odd. I begrudgingly paid the 16 dollars.

The camp was dusty and noisy. I struggled to have a spongebath...Taran chose not to wash. We had purchased some ground beef at a store prior to our arrival, so our spaghetti was very good that night. The next morning the campstove would not work so we could not make any oatmeal. We ate apples, oranges and granola bars for breakfast and got out of there as fast as possible. The wind was unfortunately against us which made it very difficult!

Las Cruces NM to El Paso TX

We typically get away be 8:30 or 9am, regardless of how hard we try to move faster. Unfortunately, the wind was pushing across our path most of the way to El Paso. A cross wind is not as bad as into the wind...but it's still makes it difficult. We experienced lots of dust, but the roads were really quite good. Unfortunately we did not see any sign saying we had passed into Texas. I was hoping to take a picture of it.

We had arranged for a warmshower in El Paso with one of the people from the bicycle tour we met at the Black Range Lodge. Patty and her husband Roy live on the West Side of El Paso. El Paso has built up around a mountain...kind of in a horseshoe shape. We had to climb a few hills to get to there place. Roy met us there and was extremely generous is helping us prepare for the next 'leg' of our trip. He drove me down to the local supermarket and bicycle store to get supplies. He also lent us some of his tools to tune up our bikes. When Patty got home from work we all sat down to an excellent lasagna dinner!. We again got to sleep in separate rooms that night...what a treat....Taran typically hogs the bed or tent.

The next morning Roy and a friend of his George accompanied us up a long steep hill out of town. We could have gone through downtown El Paso which was flat, but the route Roy took us on avoided all the traffic and stop lights. When we got to the top of the hill, we bid adieu to George and Roy and enjoyed a 6 mile downhill run!

Arrey to Las Cruces NM

The trip from Arrey to Las Cruces was uneventful. We were heading into a lower elevation and flatter land so there were many more farms. The typical crops in the area are: Green Chile, onions, alfalfa, and Pecan trees.

We arrived in Las Cruces at 3:30pm. We had arranged to meet Kathleen at the warmshower host in Las Cruces (Matt) at 6pm (Matt wouldn't be there to receive us until then). We decided to head over to the local indoor swimming pool to have a shower. The staff at the pool were more than happy to let us use their showers. Although Las Cruces is billed as a tourist town, it was not bicycle friendly. We had to be careful during our ride to Matt's house.

Kathleen picked us up at 6pm as promised and took us to a very nice Italian Restaurant. They told us we could order whatever we wanted. They were so very kind. We had a terrific meal and Taran even got to take some of the pizza he ordered with him. Afterwards, on our way back to Matt's, Kathleen and Eric offered to take us to a local healthfood store to pick up some Quinoa and anything else we might need.

When we got back to Matt's place, we sat and chatted for a while before heading to bed (in separate bedrooms!!). Matt is a graduate student in Geology. He is also an avid cyclist competing in Team events. His fiance was actually out on a stage race out near Kingston and Hillsboro.

Kingston to Arrey NM (continued)

I was abrubtly sidetracked writing the last post... I'll continue it here.

Dick worked in California and was known as the "dumb farmer". He was assigned projects that no other construction worker/engineer could handle. He even worked on the fixing part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As Dick told us stories and his personal history, he would would offer new things to Taran and I. Here's how it progressed:

- The Tenting area is behind the Gazebo.
- Feel free to use the barbecue to cook up your dinner.
- You can sleep in the Gazebo if you's off the ground and has a roof.
- You can sleep in the rec room - there's a mattress in there.
- Do you like cake? There's some cake in the fridge in the Rec Room
- How about Ice Cream.? There's some in the freezer in the Rec yourself.

It turned out to be a great deal at 7 dollars.

The most amazing story he shared with us involved GOLD. Legend has it that many years ago the Spanish mined the mountains in the region for gold. They used local Indian labour (slaves) to extract it. Once it was ready for shipment out of the region, they released the Indians. Apparently many of the Indians decided to "get even" and attacked many of the mines that held the gold. According to Dick, "there's gold in them thar hills". He and a group of his friends purchased 'mining claims' and are aggressively looking for gold. The average age of the group of friends is 70. One guy was getting ready to weld new parts onto the back hoe. The other fellow we met had just come from the "site" and had been dynamiting holes in the rock.

According to Dick, President Johnson (if I recall properly) had secretly extracted tons of this type of gold to finance the Vietnam War. Also according to Dick, JFK was killed because of this gold (not sure what the whole story is there though).

An interesting experience to say the least!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kingston to Arrey NM

We knew that it would not take long to get to Arrey (35 miles) so we did not rush to leave the Lodge. We slowly got all of our stuff together and prepared our bikes for travel. When I went to negotiate what I should pay, Catherine quoted me the original discount price that she quoted me the day I walked in - basically one night's fee for 7 nights. We didn't work THAT much so I quoted a price that I thought was more reasonable...She wouldn't take my money!! We settled on a number that will suffice for now, but I intend to make equitable in a different way!!
The Mitguards were also leaving Tuesday morning, before us, so we got to see them off. They gave Taran and I one of their CD's. It was very special moment. I sure hope to see or hear from them...
It must be a New Mexico tradition or something, but Catherine gave me a T-shirt (she gave Taran one the day we arrived), Pete gave me a light that you attach to your baseball hat and he gave Taran a disc and Tom gave each of us a pair of socks. We didn't have anything to give in return but our thanks and our promise to stay in touch.

Kingston to Arrey

The weirdest thing happened on the way to Arrey. We had originally planned and told Catherine that we would be staying at the Percha Dam State Park but halfway to Arrey we decided to call the other camping location (an RV park) listed on the map. They quoted us 7 dollars per night AND they had a REC room where we could hang out. There was no number for the State Park. We decided to go to the RV park directly. When we got close to Arrey there was another park called Caballo State Park and I wanted to find out how much they would charge (I was quite certain they would know how much the Percha Dam State Park would be). As we pulled into the office, the window opened up and a fellow stuck his head out and said "you wouldn't be from Canada would you?". I was very surprised and responded "As a matter of fact, yes, we're from Canada. How did you know". He said "we have a message for you" and proceeded to hand me a sticky note. It was from Kathleen and Eric, the couple we met in Kingston who gave us Rootbeer. The note said "we want to take you out to dinner when you get to Las Cruces". Well, that was a pretty cool message!! The State Park turned out to be 10 dollars so we decided to ride on to the RV Park.

When we arrived at the RV Park, we rode up to the office and were greeted by Dick and Rick, a father son team who were seated at a table. Dick invited us to take a load off and sit down with them. We were then treated to a 2 hour 'chatting session' with Dick. He is a 73 year old fellow with lots of stories. He used to be in construction

Kingston continued

It's been so long between posts I am going to have to just share some of the interesting things that happened in Kingston and not worry about chronology...

All of the days started at around 7:30am. Taran and I would go down and help prepare breakfast for the guests that were staying at the lodge. We would typically eat the leftovers once the guests were finished. Pete is the cook and he made these awesome eggs with green chiles and other cool ingredients. He would also make fried potatoes and once he made this german "dessert" type concoction that was very tasty. It was basically a baked "pancake" but with lots and lots of eggs. The day would usually start around 11am once all of the guests had left.

We met a heck of a lot of interesting people during this period. To name a few:

John Fortunado - He works for the government and manages a group of councilors that deal with soldiers returning from Iraq.

The cyclists group - A group out of El Paso came to ride the area. Patty, an engineer who lives in El Paso but works in Mexico, became our warmshower host...

The Baltimore couple - A retired couple from Baltimore had cycled on their Tandem pulling a "BOB" trailer. It was from them that I learned that "BOB" stands for Beast of Burden. They were intent on circumnavigating the United States.

Kathleen and Eric: An incredibly generous and kind couple from Los Cruces. They asked Taran what he missed most and he said Rootbeer. Later that day they brought back two bottles of rootbeer!! Kathleen has an interesting business that I don't fully understand, but she makes her living at it. She's in the fashion industry at the wholesale level, dealing with designers and fabric manufacturers.

The motorcycle group: This group came by that are a part of They fed us spaghetti with meatballs. This particular group travels across the country on dirt roads only.

Ray: Ray is a neighbour of Pete and Catherines. He makes his living by selling 'discs' on Ebay. Frisbee is actually a brand name like Kleenex. The appropriate term is discs. We played disc golf with Ray as well.

Satomi: She's another neighbour. She works part time helping at the Lodge. She's from Japan and has been in the US for about 10 years. I was able to speak Japanese with her, but I was very rusty! I could understand everything she said, but it was hard to 'converse' back to her.

On Thursday around noon we decided to head out and play Disc Golf. Pete and some of his friends have their own personal Disc Golf course set up in the forest that is quite amazing. Most of the time you cannot even see the "hole" from the tee box. Taran nor I have ever played before, but it was quite an interesting experience. We spent a lot of time 'looking' for our disc because we found it difficult to throw the discs straight. (We each used two, one for long distance and one for 'putting'). I should have mentioned that Pete is actually an accomplished disc golfer. He's in the Guiness Record book and has won the world disc championship "ultimate" category. He provided some very good instructions!!

On Saturday, we went to the 'big' garage sale in Hillsboro (9 miles down the road). Pete said he wasn't going to buy anything, but he ended up with a trunk and backseat full of treasures. I did meet an author that was selling cookbooks. We also went to the local museum. It is a privately run set-up that was very quaint. There was lots and lots of stuff in the building (an old house) but nothing was labelled. The attendant, an elderly ladt of 75 knew stories about all the artifacts, but we didn't have much time. I would have liked to have stayed longer. Most of the items were from the old mining days.

On Sunday, Pete took us back to Hillsboro to attend a concert being put on by some folk singers from Colorado Springs called The Mitguards. From their Website: The Mitguards bring a unique and non-traditional perspective to folk music, combining sharp, insightful lyrics with haunting melodies and flawless harmonies. Roots-based Americana takes on a new, Southwestern air in the talented hands and voices of Deb and Chris Mitguard.
Deb and Chris were extraordinarily cool people. Before each song, they would explain where the inspiration for the song came from which made the music that much more enjoyable. They were also staying at the Lodge - at the invitation of Pete and Catherine.

Deb and Chris were supposed to leave early Monday morning but Pete convinced them to stay another day and do some Cob. They decided to stay, but it turned out to be a long day for everyone... Before doing the Cob, Pete wanted to pour the concrete roof on the water tower which he believe would take a couple of hours. I got the pleasure of standing inside the tank for 5 hours as wet cement dripped down on me. It was cool (no pun intended) to be learning about the cement, but it took a bit longer then anyone imagined.

After a quick break and snack at around 5pm, Pete rallied the troops and we went out to experience Cob. Pete mixed the dirt/clay with straw with his back hoe. He convinced Taran to stand beside the pit of dirt while he lifted the bucket full of wet dirt 15 feet in the air. He instructed Taran to get close and spray the hole with water. Taran complied with pete's instructions but was surprised when Pete tilted the bucket and deposited the load back in the hole. Needless to say, when the load hit the hole, it sprayed copious amounts of dirt on Taran! We all laughed and laughed...including Taran.

We took this mixture to an old cob fence that Pete was repairing/adding to. He spent 30 minutes explaining and showing us how to apply the mixture. We then proceeded to work for another couple of hours doing cob building! Near the end of this, Taran decided he should apply the mud mixture to his face. He made a horn and stuck it to his forehead. He also made a mustache and goatee! Deb has some pictures that I hope she'll send. Taran felt very comfortable around Pete, Deb and Chris and it was a pleasure seeing him interact with them and 'ham it up' on many occasions.

After the cob experience, we went for a short hike to an old abandoned mine shaft. The mine goes in about 700 feet, but it is filled with water now. The miners hit a spring and had to abandon it.

Both Taran and I believe that our week in Kingston was the "greatest adventure" of the trip. We learned a ton of cool stuff and made some very good friends. We fell in love with the Black Range Lodge and with New Mexico. The people are so kind and generous and the weather couldn't have been better. We certainly hope to go back some day.

PS: On Thursday May 1st, Catherine will be heading to Washington DC to erect a straw bale home on the "Mall" (area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, with the Washington Monument providing a division slightly west of the center.) It is a 'show home' of sorts that will be viewed during a special exhibition in early June. Catherine helped coordinate the whole thing and will be in Washington for a month.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Greatest Adventure of The Trip - Kingston NM

Before reading any further, you must visit: It has a terrific picture of the region we are in and if you look off to the left, you will see part of the road that Taran and I rode down to get to Kingston. Also, if you read about the history of the area, you will believe that the room we are staying in was built in the 1880's and that we've walked on "Virtue Avenue" where the brothels used to be!!

After we got settled in our room, we came down to cook our dinner (as usual: spaghetti with Quinoa and sauce) and were given permission to use the stove. While we were waiting for the water to boil, Catherine says..."You know, we have some leftovers you might be interested in". Well, those are some of the best words I like to hear! She brought out a dish that I will call vegetable stew, but it was laced with chili peppers and was quite tasty. She also brought out some beef strips that had a special spice on them (New Mexico cooking maybe?). I loved it...It was not Taran's favorite unfortunately. It was at this time that we met Catherine's husband Pete. He sat down to join us while we were eating. We just started yakking and around 10pm he brought out his guitar and sang us a few Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot. It was during our discussion with Pete that we learned that both Pete and Catherine are heavily involved in Alternative Building Methods...things like Straw Bale Construction, Cob, Bamboo and other environmentally friendly ways to create sustainable human habitats. Catherine actually published a book a few years ago called "The New Straw Bale Home". Both Pete and Catherine have consulted on the building of many, many construction projects around the United States and Canada. Catherine is working on her second book which is going to be about a broader range of building techniques and has traveled the world to view various projects.

Also while we were chatting with Pete, I learned that he had a few projects going on around the property. I casually mentioned that Taran and I could be put to work if he could use the help. He thought something could be "worked out", but no specifics were discussed. Also, Pete prepared his famous Chili Popcorn. He cuts up some chili peppers and fries these in the oil before adding the popcorn. He then adds a bit of secret seasonings to make a very great tasting popcorn creation.

The next morning Pete cooked us up a fabulous breakfast. Cereal, Toast, Waffles and Pete's eggs! He adds green chilis and other spices to the eggs and they are down right awesome. In fact, Pete's had 5 marriage proposals from people that loved his eggs so much...two of them from women. It was at this time that we met Tom who works on the property. He and Taran seemed to hit it off really well.

After Breakfast, Pete took us on a long hike around the area and gave us a thorough lesson on identifying the plants and animals in the region as well as a history lesson about Kingston. He pointed out a particular cactus that was surrounded by debris. He said that this is where a rat lives. The rat (called a pack rat) collects stuff and places it around the cactus to create a more secure 'home' for itself. Predators are less likely willing to poke around a cactus... The rats even pull off cactus spines and place them around the entrance to their 'homes' to ward of unwelcome guests. After lunch we got to work on the "water tank". Pete was in the middle of constructing a 12 foot high 8.5 foot diameter concrete rainwater holding tank. He had recently finished applying concrete on the reebar and wire frame and it was our job to apply the straw/clay/sand outer layer. The clay outer layer is meant to allow the concrete to cure slower (which will make it harder and leak resistant), keep the tank cooler and make it more aesthetically pleasing. There is plenty of clay in this region so we went out to a section of his property and loaded up the front end loader with clay. It was then that he got Taran to drive the vehicle back to the water tank. Taran was thrilled...Did I mention that Pete is a consumate funny person... He told Taran there were no brakes! Funny thing is that Pete has his foot on the brake the whole time!.

The process to prepare the "Mud Mixture" was to add clay water and sand in the cement mixer and when it's all mixed up add some straw. It was this mud mixture that we applied to the exterior of the water tank using our hands. It was a lot of fun. Taran didn't apply the mud mixture until a couple days later and was content to screen the clay and use the cement mixture to mix up the Mud. We worked until 8:30ish and then went in to get some dinner ready. During dinner, Pete told us about this great hike that we should go on. He suggested that Tom could take us to the top of Emory Pass 8,200 ft (the place where we rode our bikes through the mountain pass) and we would hike to the highest peak in the region - Hillsboro Peak at 10,000 feet - and then hike down the mountain to Kingston and back to the Lodge 5,800 ft. Both Taran and I were excited to give this a try. The hike from Emory Pass to Hillsboro Peak was very pleasant. We had a snowball fight with some snow we found. There is a Lookout Tower on top of Hillsboro Peak complete with a Lookout Ranger. We went up into the tower and were treated to a 360 view of the entire region. It was very cool! The trip down the mountain to Kingston was very hard on Taran. He is not used to that kind of hiking and was physically drained by the time we returned to the Lodge. His feet hurt quite a bit and I think the altitude may have played a role in his fatigue. Also, the trail was not well maintained and in places you could hardly tell that it existed. Not too many people used this particular route down the mountain. We were both happy to get onto the trail that we were familiar with and know that the Lodge was not too far away. We got back, had a bite to eat and watched a movie before going to bed.

We were both sore the next morning. We got up a bit late, had a bite to eat and then went out to apply mud on the water tank. A friend of Pete and Catherine's, Greg, came up to help apply mud. He is an author who wrote a book on the trails and day hikes available in the region. (We had used it when we went up to Emory Pass). We spent a few hours mixing and applying mud on the tank. Later in the afternoon Greg and I went on a hike up some trails behind the Lodge. Greg is a botanist and identified many of the flora.

More later...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Silver City to Kingston NM

We had an interesting time in Silver City on Sunday. We got into town around 3:30pm but we had not connected with the warmshower host regarding when we could come by. We knew it would be later in the day so we tried the Library but it was closed and then we went to the local college campus where we were able to use their computer for about half an hour. I called the warmshower host at 5 and was told he wouldn't be back until 8 or 9pm. This is a bit later than what we were used to so we just hung out on the main street. I also called Phaedra and she told me about a warmshower host that was 18 miles outside of town that offered cookies to cyclists passing through. After I got off the phone with Phaedra, I called this host (Pat) and was happily surprised to find that indeed she would be willing to bake some cookies and have them ready for us when we drove by the next day.
To pass the time, we tuned up our bikes and while doing so noticed that Taran's rear tire needed replacing. We changed his tire but our pump broke while we were inflating it. The only place open that would have a pump for sale was Walmart...but it was on the other side of town...up a big hill which was under construction. We were famished by the time we got there so we decided to buy 1.5 pounds of chicken nuggets from the deli and some broccoli and ate in the Blimpys restaurant. Taran really enjoyed this meal (except for the broccoli part). We then went to the warmshower host and met this really cool fellow named Tsama (pronounced Chama). He was very friendly and helpful. He worked in the local bike shop.

We got off fairly early the next day (despite Taran having a flat - broken valve) and set off for Kingston NM. We passed the largest Open Pit Copper Mine in the US and Vista where you could see part (it's huge) of the operation. Exactly 18 miles from the center of Silver City we pulled into Pat's place and were greeted with two bags of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. We chatted with Pat for a while and met her donkey, her mule and her horse. She has a lovely property that she recently purchased to retire on. I'm not positive, but I think we were the only cyclists to take her up on the "cookies on the go offer". They were terrific!

Although Kingston was only 45 miles from Silver City, we were going to climb the biggest hill we had encountered: 8,288 feet above sea level (Silver City is at 4000 feet). Lucky for us it was a fairly gradual grade with quite a few switchbacks. Most of it went through what is called the "National Wilderness Preserve" which meant there were no services. There's quite a story about this particular Wilderness Preserve. It's the first one ever established in the US and is approximately 3 million acres in size. There is only one road that goes through the preserve. We saw very few vehicles along the way which was good because there was no shoulder. When we got to the top of the mountain pass (not the peak) we walked up to the Vista Point and were treated with an incredible view. We could see for 75 miles in three directions. It was breathtaking!. We could see the tree covered mountains, the deserts, the valleys and the small communities in the distance. I'm hoping my pictures will turn out! From the Vista point to Kingston is 8 miles...all down hill. It was a very windy road so there was no way I could attempt to break the previous high speed mark, but it was still fun!

Kingston: 30 full time residents, no stores or anything commercial except for Black Range Lodge

When we arrived at the Black Range Lodge, we went in to find out where we could pitch our tent. The adventure cycling map states that this place allows camping. Catherine came out to greet us and informed us that the map was misleading. There are camping sites in Kingston but they were a half mile up the road with no water, bathrooms or anything (it's called primitive camping sites). Catherine generously offered to provide water and the use of their toilet. I got to talking with her about this and that and she must have felt sorry for us because she offered to let us use her computer and then a little while later she suggested we could have showers. I was very taken (heartfelt) with Catherine, the ambiance and the sense of wellbeing that seemed to emanate from the Lodge. Catherine must have noticed this because it was at this point she said that she would offer a room at a discount price. Well, I jumped at the opportunity. Thus begins the tale of "The Greatest Adventure of The Trip".

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Hold in Kingston NM

The latest word from the boys is that they are staying on for an extra couple of days in Kingston NM. They have found a couple of kindred spirits in Catherine and Pete at The Black Range Lodge.
I'm sure they will get on and update as soon as they can find the time. (Likely sometime between driving a backhoe (Taran) and applying clay to a concrete water tower (Ian).)
They are both sounding excited and happy although Taran is definately looking forward to getting to Texas. He said he wants to finish what he started but he is definately ready to come home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Safford to Three Way to Buckhorn to Silver City

It's late so I need to be brief here... Safford to Three Way was fairly short (38 miles) and Taran struggled a bit due to his illness. three way is just a junction of three highways that converge. Very few services... We camped on Ranger Station lawn. It was free, but had no showers. In fact, it didn't have a washroom after 4:30pm. the next morning a fellow let us in to use the washrooms.

The ride to Buckhorn was very very hilly. We climbed 3000 feet in 5 miles. Very lovely scenic views but quite difficult. Taran was still not feeling 100 percent and I give him tremendous credit for how he persevered. It was 50 miles to Buckhorn and luckily the last 10 miles were downhill. We crossed into New Mexico midway between Three Way and Buckhorn. In Buckhorn, we met a fellow cyclist from San Diego who was on a 2 week jaunt around the territory. He was nice but did not seem interested in chatting. While at the RV park we were staying at, they held a "hoe down" in the "shop". the local band got together and played primarily country music until 9:30. It was very entertaining.

WE got off to a slow start in BUckhorn cause we knew it was going to be a short day (35 miles). I think Taran has fully recovered because he took off like a shot, jumping ahead of me which is fairly rate. He kept up a pace of about 18 miles an hour for a good hour. The terrain was rolling hills but the last little bit was all uphill.

More to tell...ask about Mule Creek Post Office.. Eating chicken in Walmart....and the warmshower host in Silver City and the chocolate chip cookies we're supposed to get tomorrow in Hanover. Gotta get some sleep

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Globe to Thatcher

We got off to an early start from our warmshower host in Globe. Unfortunately, there was a very strong headwind...somewhere between 15 and 20 miles an hour. Riding into the wind sucks! The first part of the route was very hilly (not mountainous) so it made going somewhat difficult. On a bright note, we met up with Stacy and Konrad, the couple that we met in Palo Verde. We cycled with them for quite a ways before Taran got another flat and we had to stop. We caught up with them later when they had stopped for lunch. We rode on and made it to Thatcher first and set up camp. They rode in a little later and we had a good chat with them before going to bed. Taran really liked them. They are both starting their residencies at a hospital in Rochester Minnesota.

Later that night, Taran started throwing up. I think he either got a bug or heat exhaustion. He threw up 3 or 4 times during the night and was not feeling well the next morning. He was very tired the next day and was running a fever. He slept most of the day (part of the time in the campground laundry room because it was the coolest place around). I read a book called "The Kite Runner" which was a very sad but well written book. That evening he was feeling better and actually had something to eat. Unfortunately, it did not stay down. The next morning we went and got a room at a local motel. He slowly ate food, drank gatorade and watched TV for the most of the day. I worked on the bikes and went shopping.

The next was still not feeling 100% so we decided to stay one more day in the motel. I doubt it was entirely necessary, but the next couple of campsites we are going to are very primitive so it's probably best that he be in good health.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Superior to Globe


We woke up a little later than usual to compensate for the lack of sleep from the night before. We were a bit sluggish getting our gear packed and when we were finally ready, Taran had a flat ... arrgh. Luckily we had a short day ahead of us - 25 miles. However, it was mostly uphill. I don't think Taran was feeling particularly well, cause he found it difficult to climb the hills. Usually he is keen to do hills, but today he suffered. We passed through a long tunnel today that was a bit scary. It was loud and dark, it did not have a shoulder to ride in and it was uphill. Luckily there were two lanes because traffic was somewhat heavy.

This part of Arizona has a few copper mines. We saw an open pit mine that was very large. Apparently they had been closed for many years but now that the price of copper is so high, they have been reopened.

Warmshower Host: Larry and Susan

We're currently at a wonderful warmshower host's place. They are extremely friendly and fed us an amazing dinner - pork chops, corn, stuffing, a fabulous salad complete with mini red and yellow peppers and avocado. This was my kind of meal! Susan even made dessert - a chocolate brownie type thing with frozen yogurt. Taran went beserk over the dessert. He finished the frozen yogurt container. He kept eating and eating...
Both Larry and Susan (and their 8 children) are avid cyclists. About 10 years ago they took four of their kids on a cycling trip from Globe to Canada! The youngest child was 11 at the time. That sounds so cool! I certainly hope I continue cycling when I get back. I've lost 15 pounds so far and I'm hoping cycling will keep it off. Also, I will be able to see more of the Cowichan Valley!!

Taran is watching a movie - Men in Black. I'm hoping to go to bed early because we have a long day tomorrow. We're heading to Thatcher which is about 80 miles away.

Tempe To Tempe to Superior

From Chris's place, we went approximately 1 mile to Terry and Heather's place. It was our plan to drop our stuff off and head to a place called Rawhide Western Park.

Warmshower Host: Terry and Heather.

We arrived at Terry's place around 9:00am. He greeted us with a big smile and showed us all the amenities: Garage to park the bikes, kitchen, bathroom laundry facilities etc. As it turns out, Terry had recently done the northern tier bicycle trip and is an avid cyclist. Also, he and his wife spent a number of months traversing the country in a car looking for mountains to climb. The attempted to reach the highest point in every state. Some of them they couldn't because of weather and other circumstances, but they did amazingly well. Terry does Geocaching, but not as much as Jack in Imperial Beach.

We hung around for a while before heading to Rawhide. I had checked on Google for interesting things to do in Phoenix and Rawhide popped up as one of the top 10 ( We rode about 10 miles to the site. It was somewhat interesting but also somewhat lame. I think it was geared to a much younger crowd or for groups. They did have a mechanical bull (neither of went on though) and two live shows that we attended. We learned the history of the Lone Ranger and got a healthy dose of "Do good to your fellow man". We spent about 4 hours at Rawhide before heading back to Terry and Heather's place.

We did a bit of shopping on the way back arriving at around 5pm. Terry had already started dinner...spaghetti...and he invited us to join them. It was very good. Heather had thought she had burned the Garlic Toast, but it was exactly how I like it...I'm guessing most people like it slightly warmed but I like it toasted.

That evening Terry and Heather took us out to see the sights of Phoenix. Unfortunately South Mountain Park had changed their hours of operation and closed at 9pm...apparently it has the best views of the city. They then took us to another viewpoint near a restaurant called Rustler's Roost. This place was very interesting. It had a very large and live Bull (horns and all) in a cage outside its front door.

The next morning we took our sweet time getting ready to go cause it was fun just yakking with Terry and Heather. When we were finally ready to go, Terry volunteered to ride with us for a ways. I always like it when a host takes the lead and shows us the way to go. I quite enjoyed his company for the time he rode with us...about 25 miles I would guess. It was our plan to make it to Superior for the night which was 60+ miles from Terry's place.

From about the time Terry left us to Superior, the ride became more difficult. It was mostly uphill and the wind no longer is our friend. We fought a headwind most of the way. We did have a brand new highway that we had all to ourselves for about 10 miles. It had now been opened yet and being the weekend, they were not working on it. It was very nice to have the whole road to ourselves. We did not arrive in Superior until 5:30pm. The RV Park was right on the highway and we were allowed to camp on the lawn out front (beside the highway of course). The facilities were good, but no rec room. We ate dinner, showered and went to bed. At around 12:30 the wind started blowing...and I mean blow! After half an hour of wondering whether the tent was going to be ripped to shreds, we took it down and slept under the stars. Not the greatest sleep I've ever had, but it was better than being in the tent.

We're now in the "High Desert". There is actually more plants and greenery than in the "low Desert". The hills are quite interesting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Wickenburg to Tempe

Flat Tires Galore

Taran had 2 flats and the trailer got two more flats leading into Wickenburg. What a pain!!! The number 60 highway did not treat us well. Because we only had one patch left, we attempted to purchase more patches in Wickenburg. We finally found some at a hardware store, but they didn't look like the right kind. We stayed at a place called Horsepatality RV park. They had a ranch out the back that you could keep your horse at. There were not many in the park when we got there. There was also a lot of Canadians in the park. Most of them were from the Okanagan or Alberta. Our campsite was right beside the Rec Room, bathroom and laundromat. The Rec Room had a TV and Microwave that we put to good use. We had purchased frozen burritos in the hopes a Microwave would be available and quite literally lucked out! Otherwise, we were going to have to Toast them on the stove.

We decided to NOT put up tent and sleep under the stars. Our campsite was a level grassy spot that was fairly secure. It got chilly, but we both slept really well. No bugs, no animals, not too much noise. Very enjoyable.

When we were just about ready to leave, we both noticed that our bikes had flats. I fixed my bike and we tried the new patches on Taran's bike. They did not work...wrong kind. We put a new tube in Taran's bike and headed out with the hope we would not get a flat on the way into Phoenix. We made it to within one mile of a bike shop before Taran got another flat. We walked the last mile. The bike shop had been recommended by our warmshower host and turned out to be very good. They fixed Taran's rear wheel and front derailleur right away. Usually there is a 3 hour waiting period.

Driving to our warmshower location took longer than expected. It was a 25 mile ride through the city at rush hour without many bike lanes. We did get a few honks here and there, but overall we were safe. It felt like it was taking forever! Also, the directions we had did not have distances, so we had to keep stopping and asking people where the next street was because we did not want to go past it.

Warmshower Host in Tempe: Chris and his dogs: Jake, Dobey and Frankie

We arrived at Chris's house around 5:30 buy no one was home except three dogs. They started "singing" as soon as we rang the bell. It was quite the performance. If they practiced a bit and perhaps harmonized, they would sound pretty good. We got out our books and sat down to read and wait. When Chris arrived he said we could have gone in...cause the dogs turned out to be very friendly. We showered, ate more burritos that we purchased and I spent some time yakking with Chris. He turned out to be a very active and eclectic fellow. He has raced road bikes, cyclecross and mountain bikes. He does mountain climbing and is preparing for a Mount Everest Climb, he's part of the avalanche rescue squad, he builds custom bicycle frames, he currently works for a performance car shop building turbo chargers for high performance cars, etc, etc. He was also working on another project creating his own kitchen countertops. He had taken a one day course that showed him how to mix concrete, glass fibers and other chemicals and pour it onto a mold. Apparently the result is a very light (compared to concrete) but very sturdy counter surface. I was very intriqued.

When I was on the phone with Phaedra, Chris and Taran took our bikes into his workshop and Chris started tuning up our bikes. He replaced a rear derailleur on Taran's bike and tuned up the brakes. He replaced a brake cable and rear brakes pads on my bike and low and behold they work now. They had never worked this well. I always thought that the trailer made the brakes not work well...nope, it was the pads and the cable... He also tuned up the derailleurs. We were amazed at how quickly and effeciently he worked. He was a machine. We really appreciated his work cause we're heading into some remote and very hilly territory.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Quartzsite to Harcuvar to Wickenburg

We've found a new favourite restaurant...Carl Jr.s. We both had a burger for the first time in quite a while. Eating Quinoa and Spaghetti all the time game us a craving for burgers. After dinner we went to the RV Park (one of probably 20 in the town) campsite. It turned out to be all rock and no grass or "soft spots". We spent half an hour digging ourselves a comfortable spot. Luckily it only cost 3.50 dollars. The showers were great and it had a kitchen that we used to cook breakfast.

The next morning we had planned to go to Wickenburg (90 miles) to a couch surfer location. However, the couch surfer location did not pan out and we had a couple of flats on the trailer wheel. We decided to hang out in Quartzsite doing laundary and reading our books before heading to Harcuvar (35 miles) for the night. The RV Park in Harcuvar was satisfactory, but it cost 10 bucks and was quite windy. We were able to swap a couple of books in their library though. While we were finishing dinner, a elderly lady came out of her RV and yelled Help, would you please help. Taran and I went over to see what the problem was and found out her husband had fallen down and couldn't get up. We helped him up and reset his chair in place. The women had a big gash on her arm that I suspect she got when he went tumbling over. They declined any further assistance. I sure hope they are okay.

We're currently in Aquila which is about 30 miles from Wickenburg. This library was not on our map but Eagle Eye Taran caught it very quickly. He can spot them a mile or two away.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Brawley to Palo Verde to Quartzsite

Brawley Campsite

I was truly excited about staying at the Brawley Campsite because it was situated beside a lake. When we arrived, we saw lots of boats pulling tubes and waterskiers. However, when we checked in, the ranger told us that we could not swim because there was no life guard. I think he would have let us swim if no one else was around, but he didn't want to get into trouble. Later, when I spoke to him, he apologized and actually gave me a couple of books that were in the office. One for Taran and one for me. Also, when he was leaving to go home, he came over and offered to let us stay in the "supervisors trailer". He said that if no one shows up by 8pm, that we could move in. He said the supervisor brought his girlfriend to the trailer occasionally. We were quite excited at first, but after we took a look inside the trailer, we changed our minds. It was a bit grungy and I had a bad feeling about it. Someone showed up at around 9pm and went into the trailer.....

We left Brawley at around 9am and had stocked up on water. - approximately 11 litres. As it turned out, we probably didn't need to carry quite that much as we were able to refill once or twice along the way. We did go through the desert, complete with sand dunes, dune buggies, quads, motorcycles and huge motorhomes with "garages" (to house all the toys). The motorhomes would congregate in certain areas in the desert and make a mini-town. It was quite amazing.

While Taran and I stopped to take a break, a fellow in a truck pulled over and started talking to us (me). Once he found out we were from Canada, he pointed across the road to a huge mountain of dirt and said, do you know who owns that? I said I had no clue. He said "Canadians". It was a gold mine. He then proceeded to explain how the operation works:

1) They pour a mixture of cyanide and water down the slope of the mountain (not sure if it was a pre-dug mountain of ore or just the mountain). (cyanide in the amount of 1 grain of rice can kill a person)
2) The run off is captured in a big basin at the bottom
3) This run off is then filtered through coconut charcoal. The coconut charcoal becomes "pregnant" (his word) with the gold.
4) The charcoal is then washed again and gold, in a flour consistency, is filtered off
5) The gold flour is heated and bars are about 98 to 99 percent.

Once we left the desert, we rode into the Chocolate Mountains (not the edible kind Joisan). The grade was not too difficult, but the they had what they called Dips. These were small hills, one after the other, over and over again...up and down, up and down. Taran thought it was great, but I prefer flat terrain.

Near Glamis, we met a father and son combo that were traveling from San Diego to Florida. They had an RV supporting them along the way, so it wasn't quite the same experience that Taran and I are on. I believe they might have been on a "charity" ride in support of children at risk. The fellow was not too clear on the details.

We arrived at the Palo Verde campground at around 4pm and we averaged about 13 miles an hour. The campground was just on the side of the road beside the river. Unfortunately, there was no swimming allowed (and no reason given) but it was free so that helped. We found a cool campsite amongst the trees and decided to read our books for about an hour before setting up camp.

The next morning, just as we were getting to leave, two fellow cyclists who had ridden in late the night before came over to introduce themselves. Konrad and Stacy were from Seattle Washington but had started their trek East to Florida in San Diego. They were pulling two single wheel "Bob" trailers and were travelling a lot lighter than Taran and I. Also, their daily mileage was probably 25 to 35 miles more than what we do. They both looked in great shape. What amazed me most was that Stacy was a very petite person and didn't seem bothered pulling a trailer for over 100 miles. Taran and I haven't even done a 100 mile day!!! It certainly was an eye opener! I think part of it has to do with the equipment we're using and part of it that we still are "newbies"... I looking forward to meeting up with Stacy and Konrad along the way!

We're in Blythe at the moment heading to Quartsite to camp tonight.

Message from Taran...
Hello Everybody This is Taran, I'm just leaving you all with a puzzle to figure out. In the following paragraph is a message I have put in code. It is your job to figure it out and send what you think the secret message is to me at Luck.... . -.-- .- .-.. .-.. .-- .... .- - ... ..- .--. ..--.. .... --- .-- .-.. --- -. --. -.. .. -.. .. - - .- -.- . -.-- --- ..- - --- -.. . -.-. --- -.. . - .... .. ... ..--.. .. - - --- --- -.- -- . ..-. --- .-. . ...- . .-. - --- .-- .-. .. - . - .... .. ... ..- .--. .-.-.- .... .- ...- . -.-- --- ..- ... . . -. - .... . .--. .. -.-. ... --- ..-. -- -.-- .... .- -. -.. ... ..--.. - .... . -.-- .-.. --- --- -.- ..-. ..- -. -. -.-- -.. --- -. - - .... . -.-- .-.-.- -- -.-- .- -. -.- .-.. . ... .- .-. . - .... . ... .- -- . .-.-.- .. .- -- --. --- .. -. --. - --- -... . .-. . .- .-.. .-.. -.-- ... ..- .-. .--. .-. .. ... . -.. .. ..-. -.-- --- ..- - --- --- -.- .- .-.. .-.. - .... . - .. -- . - --- -.. . -.-. --- -.. . - .... .. ... --..-- -... ..- - .. ..-. -.-- --- ..- .--- ..- ... - -.-. --- .--. .. . -.. .- -. -.. .--. .- ... - . -.. .. - .. -. .- - .-. .- -. ... .-.. .- - --- .-. .. -- --. --- -. -. .- -... . - .. -.-. -.- . -.. .. - - --- --- -.- .- .-.. --- -. --. - .. -- . - --- .-- .-. .. - . - .... .. ... .-.-.-Dreaming in ditches, you orange underwear, green enchiladas taste terrible, hi iguana snakes. men's essence smells salty, a greedy elephantor if you are up to the challenge.... . .-.. .-.. --- . ...- . .-. -.-- -... --- -.. -.-- - .... .. ... .. ... - .- .-. .- -. --..-- .. -- .--- ..- ... - .-.. . .- ...- .. -. --. -.-- --- ..- .- .-.. .-.. .-- .. - .... .- .--. ..- --.. --.. .-.. . - --- ..-. .. --. ..- .-. . --- ..- - .-.-.- .. -. - .... . ..-. --- .-.. .-.. --- .-- .. -. --. .--. .- .-. .- --. .-. .- .--. .... .. ... .- -- . ... ... .- --. . .. .... .- ...- . .--. ..- - .. -. -.-. --- -.. . .-.-.- .. - .. ... -.-- --- ..- .-. .--- --- -... - --- ..-. .. --. ..- .-. . .. - --- ..- - .- -. -.. ... . -. -.. .-- .... .- - -.-- --- ..- - .... .. -. -.- - .... . ... . -.-. .-. . - -- . ... ... .- --. . .. ... - --- -- . .- - - .- .-. .- -. .- ... --- ..- .-. --. -- .- .. .-.. .-.-.- -.-. --- -- .-.-.- --. --- --- -.. .-.. ..- -.-. -.-.-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- .-.-.- -.. .-. . .- -- .. -. --. .. -. -.. .. - -.-. .... . ... --..-- -.-- --- ..- --- .-. .- -. --. . ..- -. -.. . .-. .-- . .- .-. --..-- --. .-. . . -. . -. -.-. .... .. .-.. .- -.. .- ... - .- ... - . - . .-. .-. .. -... .-.. . --..-- .... .. .. --. ..- .- -. .- ... -. .- -.- . ... .-.-.- -- . -. ... . ... ... . -. -.-. . ... -- . .-.. .-.. ... ... .- .-.. - -.-- --..-- .- --. .-. . . -.. -.-- . .-.. . .--. .... .- -. -

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Jacumba to Ocotillo to Brawley

From the library in Jacumba to Ocotillo contains an incredible downhill experience. It was both exillerating and scary at the same time. It was basically a 6 mile downhill run at between 4 and 7 % grade. The road had recently been repaved, so the conditions were perfect. However, all along the way there were signs saying "Strong Winds". Neither Taran nor I did any pedalling the entire ride down. In fact, Taran had his brakes on most of the time. I could have probably broken the previous record of 45.8 mph, but I was too nervous. I averaged 38 mpg the whole way down. Keep in mind that we typically ride somewhere between 8 and 14 mpg most of the time.

Ocotillo and the Desert

Ocotillo is in desert country. The town itself is not much. Add to that incredibly bad roads and Taran and I were a bit nervous about staying here. We spent 20 minutes cycling 1 mile into the wind to find the RV park we intended to stay but the instructions on the Map turned out to be wrong. We had to spend another 45 minutes heading out into the desert to find the park. When we arrived at the park, we rode up to a fellow sitting in a bench rocker and introduced ourselves. He turned out to be the owner and he told us we could either set up our tent or sleep in the recreation (rec) room. We took a look at the rec room and quickly decided to sleep there. It had a big TV, Cable, tons of DVD's, tons of books, a stove, a fridge, and ice machine. There were laundry facilites and a great shower. When I asked how much, he said "it's by donation".
We were in heaven! It was like an Oasis in the desert. On top of it all, there was three different types of free ice cream in the freezer.

We spent a lot of time reading and watching TV. There was not much else in the town or surrounding area to see or do. I did spend a lot of time 'chewing the fat' with John. He's a 76 year old ex-marine who spent time on an Aircraft Carrier. He had lots of stories and things to say about his life and about life in Ocotillo.

Taran had not been feeling well the last couple of days so we decided to spend an extra day in the Ocotillo Oasis (actually called Jackson's ADULT RV Park). It felt like a holiday!

We left Ocotillo fairly early this morning anticipating a fairly long day. However, we soon discovered that we had a 25 mph wind behind us. It only took us one and a half hours to go 25 miles to El Centro. We're now at the El Centro and only 20 miles from the campsite in Brawley. We averaged 19 mph! Taran was a machine today. He kept the pace pretty high.

We're in Brawley now and our campsite is 5 miles north of a lake. It's 30 degrees and a bit windy. We had to travel into the wind from El Centro to Brawley. I'm hoping the lake is cool!

From Brawley there are very few services for 117 miles. We are going to try and make it to the nearest campground which is 75 miles away. If the wind is behind us, I think we'll be fine. If not, we'll be camping in the desert along the way.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jacumba (pronounced Hacumba)

Clarification from the last post...Dennis provided a more accurate description of the feast he kindly provided in El Cahon:

pollo asado - marinated chicken mini tacos
carnitas - pork mini tacos
carne asada - marinated beef mini tacos
shredded beef burrito and spicy carrots with jalapenos.

Makes me hungry just reading it...

Note: We just exceeded our Maximum Speed on our bikes: We breached the 45 mph mark gaining 45.8 mph somewhere between Boulevard and Jacumba... (45.8 mph = 73.7 kmh) WAHOO!!

El Cahon to a campground near Alpine (on an Indian Reservation)

Dennis was kind enough to help us out in the fact he provided our lunch material - peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Very kind. He also gave me a supply of ear plugs for which I will most definitely use.

As we were leaving town a fellow from a vehicle asked Taran where we were headed. Taran told him Texas...he asked us to pull over to chat. He was a nice fellow, but turned out to be a bit strange. Shortly after that we started getting into the hills. We made it to Alpine fairly early, but we were pleasantly surpised to learn that we had climbed 2000 feet or halfway to the top of the mountain. We had planned to continue up the mountain another 20 miles and camp at a "Forest Service Campground". However, we wanted to find out about the services available (i.e. shower/ potable water) so we stopped at the Alpine Ranger Station to find out. As it turns out, the camp was closed due to procreating bullfrogs. I guess they like their privacy. There was a closer campground, but it was still early in the day. Taran suggested we go to the library before heading to camp...which we did. When we finally arrived at the camp we were suprised to learn it had a pool, a jaccuzzi, and a billiards room. They had a sign on the check-in counter that stated "Baby rattlesnakes have been spotted nearby - Stay on the trails and make sure your dogs are on a leash".

Alpine to Live Oak Springs

Climbing Climbing Climbing. That's what we did all day long. We went up to 4000 feet, down to 2000 feet and then back up to 4100 feet. We were very tired when we arrived at the Live Oak Springs Resort and Campground. We had been forewarned that it might rain and I had tried to find an inexpensive motel or something to ride out the storm, but to no avail. The cheapest accomodation I could find was 65 dollars. The lady who checked us in did give us some hope we wouldn't get wet. She said that Live Oak Springs get about half the amount of rain that any of the towns within 5 miles get.
We set up camp under a tree, strung a line over the tent to hold the tarp in place and put everything else in garbage bags to weather the storm. That evening we went to the Resort Restaurant and hung out by the fireplace playing chess and checkers. We also played some pool. It's fairly cold at night at this elevation at this time of year. We have warm sleeping bags, so we are always warm!

Well, it didn't rain...thank goodness. It was a bit windy, but no rain spoiled the night or day!

Phaedra had researched another accomodation program called "couch surfing". She informed us that there was a person in El Centro (60 miles away) that would be willing to host us for Thursday night. I spoke to the fellow and made arrangements. However, I will need to phone him shortly and change the plans. There are too many hills and we will not make it to El Centro before dark...and we don't ride in the dark.

We're currently in Jacumba and will likely find a campground in Octillo which is about 20 miles away. Taran desperately wanted to visit a library so that's where we are right now.

Discussion Item: Prior to leaving San Diego, I purchased a bunch of Quinoa as a protein source instead of trying to find and carry meat. We have been cooking it and mixing it with our spaghetti. We tried adding a powdered spaghetti sauce, but to limited success. Does anybody have any suggestions on what to add to Quinoa that would make it better suited to mix with spaghetti? Would curry be a good thing to add? Thanks for any ideas...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tijuana and Imperial Beach to El Cajon

Note: El Cajon is pronounced "El Cahone"...not El Cayjun as I first thought. Many of the street names and communities have spanish names. I've misprounced many...for instance I was asking someone for directions and told them I just got off a street called Jamacha pronouncing it phonetically Jam-a-cha. The lady laughed and said: "You're not from around here, are you?" It's actually prounced hamashaw


Jack and Sally's place in Imperial Beach is fairly close to the Mexican Border so Taran and I planned to spend some time in Tijuana before heading to our next warmshower location. It was our plan to leave our gear at Jack and Sally's and return for it in the afternoon. Probably to Sally's chagrin, she said we could come back and stay for another night if necessary. We got up and out the door fairly early. We were going to take the bus and trolley to the border, but Jack kindly gave us a ride instead. It probably saved an hour or more. Consequently, we made it to Tijuana around 9:30...Daylight Savings Time. Unfortunately, Tijuana does not recognize DST so it was only 8:30am and nothing much was open. Also, I had forgotten my walking tour paperwork so all we had to do was wander around. We saw a tortilla making shop, a few ladies of the evening/morning, a cool restaurant serving food we did not recognize, the friendship "half-ring" that is very visible in downtown Tijuana, lots of pharmacies and lots and lots of signs in a foreign language. Taran got bored which I could understand, so we headed back to San Diego. We had some shopping and running around to do and we stopped at the Library. When we were done all that, it was too late to head to the next warmshower so I called everyone and made arrangements to return to Jack and Sally's for another night.

Upon our return at 6:45pm, Jack suggested we head out to the "Most Southwestern Point of the United States". Taran was too tired, but I was up for the adventure so Jack and I took off. When we got to the parking lot the sun was getting fairly low in the sky. The trek to the MSP was approximately 1 miles and would take 1/2 hr to get there. As we started walking a border patrol vehicle drove by and said "you realize you are not supposed to be in the park after dark". We just nodded and the fellow drove off. It kept getting darker and darker and the next US Customs officer said we shouldn't be in the park after dark. Jack demonstrated an amazing ability to assuage their concerns because they did not ask us to turn around and go home. We finally made it to the MSP which has a monument installed by Nixon many years ago. Unfortunately, after his 'retirement', funding for the the monument and facilities were cut and the site was heavily vandalized. Although it is not open yet, it is in the process of being restored. The site is right beside a 20 foot steel fence that marks the border between Mexico and the US. The border patrol have numerous gas powered lights strung up all along the fence line. Jack said that there were many monitoring devices in the bushes and hills. I took a couple of pictures, but I'm not sure they turned out because it was very dark. It was quite an adventure.

Jack and Sally - Warmshower - Imperial Beach

We really enjoyed our stay with Jack and Sally. They shared some of their experiences with us such as their canoe trip in Bowrin Canada - a 10 day portage trip and some of their experiences in the desert. Jack was intimately familiar with the topography of the area we were heading into which helped in planning the next phase of our trip. On top of it all, Jack got up early this morning and went and got egg burritos from a local shop that turned out to be super delicious.

Dennis and Karen - Warmshower - El Cahon

We got off to a good start from Imperial Beach but we did not have too far to go...maybe 30 miles. We stopped at many places along the way to pick up things we needed. It was a bit hilly, but not too bad. Taran got pooped out a bit...partly cause he's been staying up too late recently and partly cause he didn't eat enough breakfast. We got to Dennis and Karen's place a bit early so we were waiting down the road a ways when Dennis drove up and said "you look like Canadians!". He showed us to his house and as we proceeded into his garage, I noticed he had a recumbant. Dennis provided another testimony to the comfort and ease of using a recumbant. I gotta look into one for Phaedra. Dennis had hurt his back and finds the recumbant does not bother his back. He also handed over the TV remote controls to Taran who, I am sure, thought he was in heaven. Later, Dennis took Taran, Brian (his son) and I out to an authentic Mexican restaurant where he bought us Mini tacos Aspago, Polloaspago, and something else. They were very good, but I think I liked the beef one best.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

San Diego

We had a great nights sleep in Carlsbad at Steve and Melissa's.  Melissa kindly prepared pancakes for us which were quite yummy.  We also found out that Carlsbad is where the Legoland theme park is.  We should have ridden by at least, but we chose to forge on.

Our next destination was only 30 miles away, so we had a bit of time to kill along the way.  We chose to stop at the "Gliderport" just as we entered San Diego.  It is on a high cliff overlooking the ocean.  There were probably 15 or 20 paragliders in the air.  We saw them land and take off numerous times.  We also saw remote control model gliders flying amongst the paragliders.  

We then headed to our next warmshowers location:  Jerry and Barbara's

Jerry turned out to be a world traveling cyclist who has had many european cycling experiences.  I was particularly impressed with his mode of transportation.  He owns a "Bike Friday" which actually folds up and fits inside a suitcase.   The manufacturer actually makes the bike to fit your body shape.  Apparently they are made in Oregon.  I can now say that I have had my first experience on a Murphy Bed.  Jerry and Barbara have on in what is now Barbara's office.  It was really cool...and comfortable!  We quite enjoyed our stay at their home.  

The next morning, Jerry kindly gave us a scenic tour of San Diego as he guided us to the Coranado Ferry dock.  We went by some incredible beaches and parks.   San Diego is a very pretty city. 

After Jerry showed us the place to buy our ferry tickets he took us over to the "Midway Museum".  The Midway Museum is actually a decommissioned air craft carrier.  We needed a place to park our bikes so before Jerry left he got the attention of someone who looked like he was part of the museum staff.  The fellow helped us park our bikes and as we got to chatting, he told us he was actually a "docent" and a retired Naval Aviator (fighter pilot).  He said he was allowed to bring up to 3 guests into the Museum and offered to take Taran and I aboard.  We proceeded to follow him into the ship.  The tickets would have cost 25 dollars.  We felt very lucky.  The admission included an audio tour which we proceed to go through.  It was very interesting.  The docent fellow also gave us a presentation on how the planes our "catapulted" off the ship, including all the hand signals that are used.

Imperial Beach - Jack and Sally - warmshower host

I learned about a new worldwide "game" called geocaching.  Some of you may already know about it, but I was fascinated by the things Jack and Sally shared with me.  You'll have to read about it yourself at:  Jack is actually ranked very high in the world as a geocacher.  He has collected and traded many many coins, travel bugs and other things from around the world.  I am most definitely going to take a look at it when I get home.  If I had the dough now, I would buy a GPS and start collecting on this trip!!  Sally was kind enough to offer us loquat pie.  They actually have a loquat tree in their backyard where the pie contents came from.  Sally spiced the pie similar to that of an apple pie.  It was very very good.  I tried one of the loquats off the tree and although it wasn't quite ready, it was still tasty.  

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Onward Ho

After a three day holiday at the Cistaro Mansion, we returned to the task of heading south.

Santa Monica to Huntington Beach

This part of the trip had us going through many of the beaches along the Los Angeles Coast:
Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Redondo Beach, Long Beach, Sunset Beach, and Huntington Beach to mention a few. It was amazing to see so many beaches and so much sand. There weren't that many people out but we did see surfers and kite surfers along the way. It was pretty much a blur as it was a long ride and we didn't have much time to stop along the way. In fact, when we did pass the first marker for the Huntington Beach city limits we were unprepared for how far we would have to go to find our warmshower host. They live on the South side of Huntington we mistakenly thought that it would not take that long. I think we were both tired and a little rusty after three days of not riding. We were both soo thankful to finally arrive at Brandy and George's place.

Brandy and George's place

What an incredible couple. Both Brandy and George are "ultra-cyclists". That means that they routinely ride 100 and 200 mile bike rides for practice and for races. George also rides these super long rides up to 500 miles long (without getting off the bike). Also, George is a veritable walking encylopedia on almost everything related to road race cycling. I was so amazed at their knowledge and dedication to the sport of cycling. Brandy prepared an amazing dinner for Taran and I. It had been a while since I had had fish, and low and behold this is what she served us. It was very good. Taran even had two pieces, which says a lot cause it's not his favorite. Because George has acquired sponsors to support his riding, Brandy kindly offered us a couple of water bottles, two containers full of powered food supplements and a whole bag of gel packs (quick energy food in liquidy format). Brandy and George also provided us with a wealth of information regarding the route we were heading on and some helpful tips on how to "get along" in the desert. They certainly made us feel at home. We wish them the best in all of their cycling adventures...particularly this weekend!!

Huntington Beach to Carlsbad - Steve and Melissa - warmshower

We again traversed many many beaches traveling from Huntington Beach to Carlsbad namely: Newport Beach, Laguna Beach Capistrano Beach and Oceanside. We also went through Camp Pendelton with is part of the Marine Corp Reservation. We had to show ID at the gate to an armed guard... we also heard gunnery practice in the distance. This part of the trip was a bit more hilly than yesterday's. However, we rode almost 65 miles in 6 hours which is pretty good for us. Steve and Melissa have a lovely home and we were made to feel very welcome. Unfortunately Taran and I ate our dinner before we met up with the Stuart Clan because they offered us part of their Pizza. (I stuffed one piece down cause I just couldn't resist!!) Taran found a book to read and he also got to watch TV - two of his favourite pastimes! Steve and Melissa have some really cool kids that we sort of hung out with. Akeela (5) was sooooo cute. I would have liked to have spent more time chatting with her.

I am amazed at the exteme hospitality and kindness people have shown us. It is really heartening to know that there are people out there that have warm hearts as well as warm showers!

Tomorrow - San Diego!

Thank you to the Cistaro Clan

Taran and I had an awesome time hanging with the Cistaros. Taran said he would like to go back and visit on our return trip. Our final day at the Cistaros found us going to a local swimming pool. Taran had been hankering for a swim for a couple weeks. Melissa indulged this wish by taking Taran, Dominic, Bella, and two of their friends to the pool. I spent a considerable amount of time investigating our next adventure and finding warmshowers along the way.

Anthony, Melissa, Dominic and Bella - Thank you so much. You showed us a great time! Thank you Anthony for taking us as far as you did. I don't know if we would have made it otherwise. We arrived at our destination in Huntington at 6pm. We did stop along the way more than we should have cause we thought we had more it turns out, we probably shouldn't have...

We can't wait til you guys come and visit us on Vancouver Island!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sand and Surf

Following the Easter Egg Hunt and other activities yesterday the Cistaro clan took Taran and I to Topanga Beach. Anthony and I went jogging along the beach. He's training to become a lifeguard (the baywatch type) and needs to be able to "run in the sand". I mistakenly thought that after 1500 miles on a bike I would be in fairly good condition. Obviously I was wrong because after about a mile, I was ready to be done. Anthony went on to run another mile AND swim 1/2 a mile in the ocean.
Taran, Dominic and Bella had a great time playing in the surf. Taran and Bella lasted the longest as Dominic and I had to de-numbify our bodies! It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, but it was still pretty cold.

Today Melissa took us to Hollywood to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Ripleys Believe it Not, Guiness Book of World Records Museum, and other sights along the way. It was very very hot, even for the locals! We then went to a place called Mashti Malones Ice Cream T his was an inauspicous Ice Cream store that is truly one of those hidden treasures. We were actually served by Mashti Malone. He has made himself famous by creating healthy and unique ice cream creations. Local Food chains now stock his product in their stores. He has had Canadian stores approach him for distribution rights. You may see his ice cream in a store near you!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Carpenteria to LA

Greetings honourable readers,


We arrived in Carpenteria somewhat late and did not feel like going swimming. It was a very nice beach, but we were content to set up camp, play chess and go to bed. We've been playing a lot of chess lately. Taran usually lets me win, but he has occasionally asserted his superiority and won the odd game to keep me in check. The railway track has been very close to many of the coastal campgrounds. I didn't quite realize how loud a train whistle can be when it's right beside 11 oclock at night. One positive note in Carpenteria, I did earn a bit of money fixing the shower machine. It had become jammed with quarters (and a few mexican coins) and I spent 20 minutes pulling 4 quarters out of the machine.

Mcgrath State Beach

Mcgrath State Beach is located just outside of Ventura. We met a fellow Hiker/biker who had come from Tuscon AZ and was heading north. He seemed to be a "transient" in the sense that he had most of his possessions with him and was going to look for work somewhere north of San Francisco. We chatted for quite a while on survival techniques for crossing the desert from San Diego to Texas. When I mentioned to him that Taran was going to sleep "under the stars" he informed us that there was likely going to be a lot of dew in the morning and that Taran would likely get very wet. Luckily Taran decided to move into the tent because we even got wet in the tent...the dew was so heavy. We also met this woman who works in Ventura but lives on a boat 30 miles north. It was late when she left work and decided to stay at the campground for a change. She was a surfboard/sail boat/boogie board instructor. She invited us to come stay on her boat but unfortunately it was in the wrong direction.
When we arrived at Mcgrath SB we were the only campers in an entire section of the campground. A few hours later a huge...and I mean huge Fifth Wheel Camper parked beside our tent (a two man tent). This thing was the tallest (probably 14 feet high) and one of the longest campers we have seen. It had it's own garage...the rear wall of the unit would come down and become the ramp to remove the 7 Quads that they had. Once the 7 Quads had been removed, a Master Bed would descend from the ceiling along with a large flat screen TV. The unit would sleep 10 easily, more if you didn't mind sleeping on the floor. I can't imagine how much this thing was worth, but it sure was nice. In the morning, they offered us coffee and hot chocolate which was a nice treat.

Sycamore near Point Mugu

On the way to Sycamore State Park, we stopped at the US Naval Air Station which had an outdoor museum of Fighter Jets and missiles. I was surprised at how much Taran knew about the missiles...a veritable walking missile encyclopedia. Also near this area we spotted people on a huge sand dune using crazy carpets and rubbermaid bin lids to slide down on. It didn't work all that well, but it did look fun. Sycamore SP is located in a canyon up from the Ocean hidden amongst some trees. We did not have any dew issues at Sycamore. As it turns out, Sycamore had the hottest showers of any campground that we have experienced thus far. We actually had to turn the cold on to moderate the heat!! We also spent considerable time building a slingshot which is now part of our permanent luggage.

Sycamore to LA

Phaedra had previously arranged accommodation with some friends of ours in LA - Anthony and Melissa. We hadn't seen them in almost 15 years, but they graciously agreed to allow us to invade their home for a few days. Anthony was concerned that the roads from the coast to their home in Woodland Hills would be too treacherous and hilly for us to use. We agreed to meet at the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier at 5pm and we would pack up our stuff in their vehicle and drive to their home. So, Taran and I set out early in the day to ensure we would make it to the Pier on time. On the way, Taran had his first accident. A car pulled in front of him and stopped suddenly, presumably to swing into a parking spot. Taran ran into the back end of the vehicle. I didn't notice what had transpired and continued on. Taran flew over his bike, hit the vehicle and landed on the ground. Taran was not physically hurt, but it sure rattled him. It took a few hours for him to get over the experience. Luckily there was no damage to the bicycle.
We made extremely good time and arrived at the Pier by 1 pm. We spent the afternoon hanging around the Pier in near perfect weather (around 25 degrees and no wind). There was probably 5 or 6 thousand people on the Pier and on the beaches. If you are not familiar with the Pier, it has a carnival on it. Rides, Games, Buskers, restaurants, arcades, shops, etc. We played mini-golf, we tried to win a basketball at the basket shoot, we played video games we ate ice cream (and our PB Sandwiches) and we watched many many people fail at all of the games!! A most enjoyable afternoon.
With all the people and congestion, it took a while to meet up with Anthony and Melissa and their children Dominic (12) and Bella (10) and their dog Crystal (1.5) at the appointed hour. We loaded up the stuff and headed towards their home. Anthony took us on the route that we would have taken had we ridden our bikes. The road turned out to be quite "bike-unfriendly" (no shoulder, lots of blind corners and mostly up-hill). Taran and I were very thankful that we didn't have to tackle this road and we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon at Santa Monica Pier.
Anthony and Melissa have been extremely generous in opening their home to us and letting us hang out. This morning (Easter) they allowed us to join them in going to Mass. It's been a while since I've been in church and it was actually a neat experience. The Pastor/Father gave a very simple but effective sermon. I also enjoyed the childrens choir. This afternoon, they allowed Taran to join the children (some other kids came over as well) in the easter egg hunt in the back yard. Taran was quite happy to have some candy for a change. Dominic and Taran seem to have hit it off quite well. I'm sure the Wii and the computer games have helped the relationship!
This evening Taran and I will have to decide what we're going to do for the next two days. I'm sure something will come up!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ian Got His Mojo Back in Lompoc

We decided to take a day off in Lompoc and just hang out. The campground we were staying at was very close to the town so it was easy to do laundary, visit the bicycle shop and hang out at the Library. I think the rest was all I need to get my mojo back.

When we returned to the campground at the end of our day off in Lompoc we were surprised to find that Colter (the fellow we shared the raccoon issue with and the fellow that sleeps in a hammock) had set up camp. As it turns out he was heading home to Santa Barbara. He invited us to come visit his house when we were passing through on our way south.

From Lompoc we went to El Capitan State Beach. From a scenic view perspective, the campsite we had could not have been better. We were situated on a high bluff overlooking the ocean. However, a major train artery was probably 60 meters away and the highways was maybe 100 meters away. This morning we were covered in Fog... The sun did not show up until around 11am. We had to pack some of our stuff wet.

We currently at Colter's house in Santa Barbara (actually it might be Goleta, but it's unclear). He's kindly preparing us lunch. He's a professional Saxaphone player. A very cool individual.

After lunch we'll be heading to Carpenteria State Beach which claims to have the warmest beaches in Southern California. Taran and I have agreed that we would go swimming in the ocean in Carpenteria!! Wish us luck.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lompoc (pronounced lawmpoke)

Something I forgot to mention yesterday...just as we arrived at Don and Lucy's house it started to rain!!! It rained very hard at times and the wind was fairly nasty. Thanks again to Don, Lucy and Willie for their incredible hospitality. Also, I got the very best sleep I have had this entire trip. Don rode with us for about 25 miles on our way to Lompoc this morning. It was nice to have a real person to talk to along the way (no offense Taran).

We've holed up at the Library waiting for our turn on the computer. I read the Wall Street Journal today and was bombarded with bad economic news. Sounds like things are not well in the financial world.

Even though I got my best sleep last night, I think I may have 'hit the wall' as far as this trip is concerned. At the moment, I am totally wiped and no longer look forward to exerting any physical energy. Might be getting a cold I guess. Perhaps we'll spend some time in Santa Barbara just hanging out.

Today and yesterday we spent a lot of time in the farmland (non-coastal) areas. We'll be heading back to the coast tomorrow and then probably arrive in Santa Barbara a couple days from now.