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A wonderful time in Watsonville

12/7/21

Wow, what a great day! I woke up to a leisurely morning with my hosts (human and canine) in the geodesic dome in Soquel, just outside of Santa Cruz. Then I loaded up my rig and headed out on that beautiful redwood-lined driveway and road into downtown Soquel, where one of the hosts met up with me for a burger meal at a cool vegetarian place called Pretty Good Advice. We were able to enjoy the meal in the sunshine, which felt great after hearing the rain on the roof last night.

Thus fortified, I set out toward Watsonville. On the way, I passed through the quaint town of Aptos, and stopped in at a cute natural foods store.

For the remaining two hours or so of my journey, I passed beautiful scenery, including a park overlooking the ocean, where I rested and marveled at the surroundings. (Today the surfers were out!)

Toward the end of the ride, I passed a field full of Brussels sprouts, as far as the eye could see. I had never seen them growing before; it was quite a sight!

Then after I pedaled just a few hundred more yards, I began to smell strawberry jam. It was delightful, but I wondered where it was coming from. Then I realized it was strawberry fields (forever!) with actual, ripe strawberries. In December. I am in California, y’all!! In Oregon we have to wait until June for local strawberries.

I was tempted to go pick myself some treats (I had already enjoyed some strawberry madrone berry treats a few miles back, from a tree right on the side of the road) but there were workers in the strawberry fields, and I thought they might not appreciate it. (Some of you may recall that I encountered a similar dilemma with plums, early on in my journey.)

So I reluctantly left the strawberries alone, but enjoyed the scent for the next half-mile or so.

Soon I arrived in Watsonville, a cute agricultural town. My Warmshowers hosts were just returning home on foot from an outing, so they greeted me and showed me the space, including their large tabby cat.

After that, the evening unfolded magically! These hosts had two of their bedrooms occupied by Airbnb guests, but they were gracious and enthusiastic enough about hosting me as a Warmshowers guest as well that they had encouraged me to come and stay on the sofabed in the front room.

I met these two other guests—both of whom were meeting each other as well—and then we all sat down to an incredible spread of a home-cooked meal, and talked for hours about all kinds of topics, from bicycling to tomato-plant grafting to urban planning in cities around the globe. (I now want to visit La Paz, Bolivia, to experience their cable cars!)

Also, it turned out that one of the guests is a fellow Northwesterner (from the greater Seattle area) and the other, while originally from Mexico, currently resides in the small suburb of Raleigh, NC where I will be visiting my aunt and uncle on my tour this coming spring. Such a small world. Meanwhile, our hosts were telling me about all the wonderful rail-trails they had experienced on their recent bicycle trip across the country. (Sounds like Wisconsin is going to be amazing!)

This trip is filled with internal and external ups and downs. Today was a resounding up!

Tomorrow, I’ll be pedaling 33 miles—apparently largely along a car-free trail—to Pacific Grove, just the other side of Monterey. I’m looking forward to that as well!

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More redwoods! Plus the ocean! And a geodesic dome!

12/6/21

I’m so pleased to be getting my fill of redwoods on this journey. I had been looking forward to hiking in more of them here in Santa Cruz, and that came true today.

My erstwhile Portland friend from yesterday picked me up again today from my Servas hosts, and we went out to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

Apologies for the possibly excessive redwood photos here, but can you blame me? Just look at all this majesty.

After the forest, we went to get some lunch at a longtime (since 1981) vegetarian restaurant, Dharma’s. On the way, we drove through the classic beachy parts of Santa Cruz: the places where the houses are cute, and where surfers have congregated for decades to ride the waves. The beaches were beautiful, but it was pretty cold today, and the waves were still, so we only saw one intrepid surfer.

After the meal, my friend helped me to pack up my rig, and we went over to meet my hosts for tonight, a decades-old friend of an Oregon vegan friend of mine, and his partner. They live at the end of a long, unpaved, winding road in a beautiful redwood forest as well. Coolest of all, their house is a geodesic dome!

My northern California experience is officially complete: off-grid houses, redwood forests, and now even a geodesic dome. Furthermore, they invited me to soak in their hot tub tonight, which makes two hot tub soaks in two days! The warm water was so inviting in the quiet darkness.

Tomorrow I’ll be pedaling south to Watsonville, on my way to Monterey. This is a wonderful resting place for the night.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Santa Cruz!

12/5/21

Today provided a variety of experiences in Santa Cruz. The day started out foggy (my weather app even showed a fog advisory) and chilly. It didn’t warm up as much as I had hoped—nor as much as the forecast had predicted—but by mid-late afternoon the sun had come out and I did get to bask in it a bit.

The first item on the agenda was a soak with a friend—actually a former Portland neighbor from a few doors down in my building, who now lives here—in a private hot tub in a beautiful wellness spa with a view of a Japanese garden!

My Servas host here happens to be the founder of this wellness spa, called Well Within, and was able to get us this appointment. He is also a Japanese garden enthusiast, so the garden had been incorporated into the design of the place, decades ago. So my friend and I actually got to see koi fish swimming, as we let the hot water soak away our troubles and sore muscles.

Afterward, we tried a local West African vegan restaurant, Veg on the Edge, and enjoyed some authentic peanut stew from the Nigerian owner’s home country.

Then my friend gave me and my bike a lift to the UC Santa Cruz botanical garden and arboretum. The sun was just beginning to peek out, so in addition to enjoying some of the Australian and succulent gardens, I also made a point to just rest on a bench and bask in the sun for a while.

When I felt it was time to move on, I began pedaling back home, but checked out two locally owned natural foods stores on the way: The Food Bin (what a delightful small old-school “health food” store!) and Staff of Life (which occupied a much larger and newer building, but was originally founded in 1969, vs. 1971 for The Food Bin. Santa Cruz has a long history of this sort of thing; it’s my kinda town!) Outside The Food Bin, I struck up a conversation with the woman who was painting a beautiful scene on the windows. (If you’re reading this, Melissa, hi! It was great to meet you.)

Then I returned to my home base here, and joined my hosts for a takeout meal from local Mediterranean restaurant Zameen.

I’ve got another day here in Santa Cruz tomorrow, and my two priorities are the beach and the redwoods!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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To Santa Cruz: Yay, but oof!

12/4/21

Oof. Today was a challenge! The ride was beautiful, and my Santa Cruz Servas hosts are wonderful, but physically arriving here was definitely something.

The journey was 34 miles, with nearly 2000 feet of elevation to climb. This is more than I’ve been typically doing on this trip so far, although it’s definitely within the scope of what I thought I would be doing, and I do expect to have more days like this as the year progresses. The distance and climbs were only part of the challenges, though.

The ride started out beautifully, on miles of off-road bike paths leaving Campbell.

Unfortunately, in the midst of one of these paths, through a local nature park, I encountered my first obstacle: a trail closure. It was not the last such closure I would find today. And it was rather difficult to figure out—from the maps on my phone—how to navigate the closure. I wasn’t sure how much of the park was included.

I asked a jogger, who did his best to help, but he wasn’t sure either. Over the course of the next 40 minutes or so, I ran into at least two more blocked-off paths. I had expected that the day’s ride would take me the full seven hours or so of daylight I had allotted, so each barricade filled me with dismay and anxiety about how this might affect the rest of the journey.

On the third such barricade, I nearly despaired as to how I would manage to backtrack and get out of the park. Luckily, a kind ranger unlocked the gate for me (after joking that he would do it “for five dollars!”) I thanked him profusely, and told him I was heading to Santa Cruz. He seemed impressed by this, so I told him about my whole trip. He said, “Wow, you’re inspiring me right now! What a cool trip.” I said I hoped he could do something like this soon. He replied that he was nearing retirement, so he just might.

I hope he does.

Thus freed, I continued along the beautiful path. Before too long, I hit a gravel section. As regular readers will know, I’m not a big fan of gravel riding. Mostly the surface wasn’t too bad, though. (And the jogger had forewarned me of it, and said it was the type of gravel that isn’t too hard to ride on.)

But soon… I hit a grade.

Up until then, the paths had been mostly flat. I knew that the hills were coming up, but I had assumed/trusted that they would be paved. But no, here was gravel on a hill… ugh!

You can see from the photo that the hill was no joke. After pedaling a short while—where I took the photo—I realized I would have to get off and walk.

And when I did… I got even more stuck. Similar to when I tried to push the rig up that steep hill where my San Francisco Servas host lived, I found that I quickly hit a point where I simply could not go forward anymore: when I tried to push the handlebars, the bike’s rear wheel would come up from the ground, leaving me stuck against gravity trying to hold the bike and trailer.

Argh.

A couple guys came by at this point—one passing me uphill on his bike, like a beast, and one walking down the hill—but neither offered any help, nor even a word of sympathy. I think the cyclist was annoyed that I was in his way, and the pedestrian’s smile contained a hint of a smirk, I thought.

OK, I was on my own here. How on earth was I going to get through this challenge?

Before too long, I found a trick that did it: I could turn the bike’s front wheel sideways, and thus lift both bike tires off the ground. I used the handlebars as a handle to thus pull the trailer up the gravel, with the bike’s wheels off the ground.

This allowed me to move forward, but as you can imagine, it was not easy, especially since my right thumb and wrist are still limited/painful from my fall in Golden Gate Park a couple of weeks ago. So I had to stop several times on the relatively short hill, resting and breathing.

Resting and breathing became quite a theme for the next ten miles or so. I got past the gravel shortly after that hill, which was quite a relief, but then I encountered a long steep paved hill soon afterward. I tried pedaling up it, but needed to rest after just 50 pedal strokes in the lowest gear. When I stopped to rest and breathe at that point, the grade was too steep to start pedaling again afterward. So, I ended up pushing the rig up that whole hill, stopping several more times.

It was humbling. But I eventually made it to the top.

I was then rewarded by a gorgeous view of a reservoir. I stopped and rested for a snack on the pictured bench.

After that, it was still probably eight or nine more miles of climbing. Lots of resting and breathing. The scenery was beautiful, but at times it was hard to appreciate, since there were almost no rest stops, benches, or even safe spaces to pull off the road.

When I finally reached the summit, I had run out of water. I tried to stop at a small grocery store I found up there, but it was packed with people, and seemed to have no restrooms. I pressed on.

Heading downhill for the next several miles was at times exhilarating, but I was getting thirstier and now also hungry, and wishing for a bench to rest. No such luck. And it got pretty chilly in the shade, especially with the air rushing past as I descended. I did my best to enjoy the lovely scenery, but my mental state was not optimal.

Eventually, I made it close to town. When I did, I found a local park with a restroom, a drinking fountain to fill my water, and a sunny picnic table to eat a snack, albeit surrounded by screaming kids on scooters.

After resting, I continued on to my new hosts’ place. They showed me to my accommodation, a detached garage made into a cool guest cottage. The bathroom is inside the cottage, but the shower is outdoors! It was 57 degrees when I arrived, and the mercury was set to drop, so I jumped on the chance for a shower while it was still warm-ish and light out. The hot water felt awfully good after all the sweating and exerting I had done today.

After that, we shared a wonderful home-cooked dinner and some good conversation about travels past, present, and future.

I’m excited about my next few days here in Santa Cruz. I’ll be seeing a Portland friend tomorrow, and a friend of a friend the next day. Possibly others as well.

This adventure is not always easy, but I’m still loving it!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose

12/3/21

I slept 11 hours last night! It was glorious, and must have been overdue. It felt good to just lounge around for about an hour after awakening, too, before my bladder finally compelled me to get up.

Unfortunately, after showering, I spent the following hour and a half on hold with the Oregon Health Plan. My health insurance renewal is coming due very soon, and since I have no substantial income this year, I’m wondering if I would qualify. Right now I’m paying $535 per month for a terrible private plan that doesn’t really cover anything outside of Oregon. (I don’t think the Oregon Health Plan would, either, but at least they’d charge me a lot less, I think.) But alas, I couldn’t find out if I would qualify, nor what it would cost or cover, because no one ever picked up after 90 minutes. I finally decided that at 1:30, it was time for me to give up and head out into the sunshine. Maybe I can try again in a couple days.

The last time I was here in Campbell, my Warmshowers hosts took me to visit the wonderful Hakone Japanese Gardens. But we didn’t have time during that stay to also visit the San Jose Japanese Friendship Garden, so I made a point to go there today. The air was chilly and crisp, but the sun was out, and the leaves were very pretty in the garden.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the relatively large scale of the garden, it is public and free to visit. I know how labor-intensive Japanese gardens are to maintain, so I’m impressed that the city apparently invests enough to do this without charging admission.

I was sad to discover, though, that most of the ponds had been drained (since 2017! And they are not planning to refill them until late next year, 2022. It was because of flooding that damaged the pump house and filter system.) These kinds of gardens look so different without the water. I was reminded of my visit to the Montreal Botanical Garden a few years ago; the classical Chinese garden there was missing the water in its ponds for maintenance at that time, too.

Nevertheless, this garden was lovely. I admired all the classical style elements such as Japanese maples, stone lanterns, a red bridge, and even a small koi pond (where all the fish have been temporarily relocated)… and then, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a strawberry madrone tree, complete with ripe berries! I proceeded to enjoy a few surreptitious fruit snacks from the surrounding sidewalk and ground. What a treat to find myself in California during the perfect season for these berries!

After the garden, I made my way to a wonderful all-vegan hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant, Tofoo Com Chay. I ordered green beans and basil eggplant with tofu and fried rice, and it was incredible. If you ever find yourself in San Jose, please treat yourself to this place!

After that, I pedaled over to the nearby Cinnaholic outpost, where I got a decadent cinnamon roll and an enormous chocolate chip cookie to go.

Then I headed back to my Warmshowers house. It was already getting dark, but that allowed me to enjoy some cool San Jose seasonal outdoor decorations and lights.

This evening I caught up with a friend by phone, which was great since we hadn’t talked since before I embarked on my adventure.

And tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early to make my way across the mountains to Santa Cruz. It will be more of a physical challenge than I’ve had in a while (35 miles and nearly 2,000 feet of elevation) but I’m looking forward to the challenge as well as the beauty of the route, and the wonderful destination. Santa Cruz is such a gorgeous combination of beaches and redwood forests. I’m looking forward to meeting my new Servas hosts there tomorrow evening.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Redwood City to Campbell

12/2/21

I’m back in Campbell, California, just outside of San Jose. Some of you may remember that I stayed here for two nights on my way to the Southwest on the train, back in early October. That time, I biked from Pleasanton, and I have to say that may have been my least favorite, least pleasant day of bicycling on this trip so far. Very industrial, busy roads, not much shade.

Today, though, coming on the west side of the bay from Redwood City, it was delightful! I went through the Stanford campus again first, on clearly marked bike boulevards through beautiful neighborhoods. Then I meandered through Cupertino (where I met an acquaintance for a snack and some tasty sugar-cane juice) and on the outskirts of Saratoga, before arriving here with light left in the sky. It was about a 25-mile day, and it felt good to be back in the saddle for that. I marveled, too, at how much of this route took me on car-free bicycle/pedestrian paths. Really lovely infrastructure, often alongside beautiful trees.

I saw a cool cocktail lounge in downtown Campbell, on my way here, so I may head back out to check it out.

Tomorrow, another Japanese garden!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Palo Alto and Stanford

12/1/21

Another beautiful sunny California day today! It was my first time in Palo Alto, and I enjoyed bicycling around the town and the university.

Because of the weather and the flat terrain, Palo Alto is wonderful for bicycling, and my host Rose had told me that their bicycle mode-share for children getting to school is among the best in the nation, close to 50 percent!

Although the sun was warm, the city was also full of beautiful autumn color in the trees, which I enjoyed while cycling the bike boulevards. And a lovely surprise was the cactus garden on the Stanford campus!

I also visited another old-time 1970s natural-foods store in Palo Alto, Country Sun Natural Foods. They had a beautiful mural on the side of the building.

This evening I’m staying with different hosts, in the suburb of Redwood City just north of Palo Alto. (A bit of a backtrack to accommodate everyone’s schedules.) We went for a nice evening stroll tonight, and then had some rich conversation on a variety of topics.

Tomorrow I’m heading south to Campbell, just outside of San Jose.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Bikes, boats, and trains from Oakland to Palo Alto

11/30/21

Today was a trip!

I left my cohousing guest room near Jack London Square in Oakland, and rode just a few blocks to the ferry dock. The ferry ride was nice, again, with lovely bay and bridge views.

Upon disembarking, I pedaled along the San Francisco waterfront over to the alterations shop, where I picked up my expertly mended nylon pants. (Yay!) Along the way, I passed some cool big silver mirrored orbs, so I took a brief detour to enjoy the funhouse effects.

After the tailor, I headed over to the Caltrain depot, since I realized my time was running too short to arrive in Palo Alto in daylight (which I prefer, for safety and ease) if I biked the whole way.

I had never ridden a Caltrain (commuter rail to the south bay) so this was a fun new experience. They have a dedicated bicycle car, with fewer stairs to board and places to secure bikes, so that was great. (My host tonight told me there had been a dedicated activist named Ellen Fletcher who was largely responsible for this particular piece of infrastructure. A local bike boulevard—which I rode tonight, enjoying the festive holiday lights along it—was also named for her; it was the first bike boulevard in the United States, and she was the one who pioneered it, in the 1970s and 1980s.)

I got off the train in Millbrae, and began bicycling along beautiful waterfront paths (well, after a bit of a harrowing mile or so getting over to the paths, via a busy, multilane road with multiple freeway on-ramps—yikes!) starting right at the San Francisco airport! I found a bench for a snack before starting along the pathway, and watched many planes arriving and departing.

Strangely, along the ride I seemed to enter a bizarre space-time warp of some kind. (Part “user error” [ahem], part extreme and poorly marked bike-path detour, and perhaps part supernatural vortex.) I somehow ended up traversing maybe four or five miles—as the crow flies, for whatever that may be worth—in the span of about an hour and a half. I’m still mystified, and a bit chagrined, as to how this might have happened, but suffice it to say it became very clear to me I would need to take the train for several more stops.

I ended up re-boarding just one stop past Millbrae, in Hillsdale. That platform was trickier to board from than San Francisco had been. It was hard to figure out how to get on the platform, and then when I did, I didn’t know where to stand to get on the bike car. I miscalculated it. And since it was a very brief stop for the train, I had to scramble to get both the bike and the heavy and bulky trailer up four or five stairs, and then stand awkwardly in the aisle with it, since there was no place to secure or even store a bike. I spent the next several stops fretting about how I was going to get them back off the train in Palo Alto, without having the train speed away!

Luckily an employee saw my predicament, and reassured me that someone would probably help me to disembark.

Sure enough, I made it off the train OK. However, darkness was nigh, and finding my way from the platform onto the paths and streets I needed to take proved very mysterious (and even unsafe at times) and therefore rather infuriating.

I made it eventually. And the darkness did show off those holiday lights along the bike boulevard very nicely. (There always seem to be silver linings for setbacks.)

I arrived at my hosts’ house (more of Mimi’s friends!) and was greeted warmly not only by the three human members of the family, but also by a fluffy cat who had joined their household only an hour prior to my arrival! She seemed to be settling into her new home very smoothly.

Rose, my host and Mimi’s friend, is a bicycle transportation advocate in Palo Alto, and their family likes to “live local” by not owning a car, getting around primarily on foot and by bike. (Including a Brompton!) She also runs a podcast, Rose Pedals, and tonight she interviewed me for it! I’ll share the link when the episode goes live.

There are so many people doing so much good in the world. I’m humbled and excited that I get to meet so many of them on this journey.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Lake Merritt, on my last day in the East Bay

11/29/21

Another beautiful sunny day here in California!

I packed up my rig this morning and bade farewell to Mimi and the two adorable cats, and headed south to Oakland, where I landed at my new spot for the night, a cohousing community near Jack London Square. After dropping off my trailer, I ventured out to meet a friend (someone I met a few years ago, on an Amtrak train trip!) at nearby vegan bakery Timeless Coffee. We had a good chat, and afterward I decided to spend the remaining couple of daylight hours just enjoying Lake Merritt.

It’s such a nice centerpiece to the city. There is a small Japanese garden on the north shore, which I had hoped to visit (along with the adjacent bonsai collection) but sadly both were closed today.

But I still enjoyed pedaling slowly around the lake, stopping on benches here and there to soak in the sunshine and the lake and tree views.

When it started to get dark, I got some takeout dinner at longstanding vegan Chinese place Nature Vegetarian Restaurant, and then headed back to my guest room.

After dinner, I hung out a bit with my Warmshowers host in the cohousing community, and her partner. They shared some of their dinner as well, and also showed me an intriguing new (to me) fruit phenomenon: hoshigaki! You can see in the photo that they are just beginning the process, but after several weeks they should have a bundle of dried, naturally sugared persimmon treats to enjoy and share with friends.

I’ve so enjoyed my time in the East Bay! Tomorrow I will board the ferry back to San Francisco, pick up my pants from the alterations place (where I trust they have been mended by now) and then head south toward Palo Alto on the west side of the bay.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)

Biking to Richmond on the Bay Trail

11/28/21

Today started out nice and lazy, just like I like it! We got up late and lounged around, eating toast and some of my leftovers from yesterday. Eventually I went to hang out in Strawberry Creek Park for a bit, which was lovely and vibrant with people in the sunshine.

Then Mimi and I met up with Thomas again, at the North Berkeley BART station, and biked the Bay Trail up to Richmond and back. We started in the late afternoon, and by the time we headed back, the sun was setting and the views were incredible.

On the way out, we stopped at a memorial sculpture for Rosie the Riveter, which was cool. (As you may know, there was no one historic “Rosie;” she was rather a sort of composite character of the many women who helped to build ships during the war.)

After we returned from the ride, I was hungry and ready to try another Bay Area vegan institution, Cha-Ya Japanese restaurant. I ordered the veggie tempura, and it was delicious!

Tomorrow I’ll head back to Oakland for one more night in the East Bay. I’ve loved Berkeley, and will be dreaming up ways to return.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? I am in the process of manifesting $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons and supporters!)