06 September 2012

A New Direction - East

Greetings from Philadelphia, PA!

Our stay in Santa Barbara was brief, but unforgettable
My final responsibility as a Bike & Build leader this summer is to drive our lovely van and trailer (approximate length: 40 feet) from our ending destination in Santa Barbara to the organization’s headquarters back in Philadelphia.  Driving over 3,000 miles can be a real chore, but my co-leader Morgan and I decided to make an adventure of it, so we charted a highly indirect course to make the most out of the experience.  Two riders from our trip – Peter and Holland – are also hitching (some would say “free-loading”) a ride with us back east.  Here are some of the stops we’ve made so far:

L.A. – Leaving Santa Barbara my other co-leader Collin and I decided to bike the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway (“the 1”) south to L.A.  We biked by the rugged coastline of Ventura County and the swanky palaces of Malibu en route to the beach in Santa Monica.  We didn’t have much time to spend in the area, so all we really experienced after the ride was the Hollywood sign and lots of traffic. 

San Diego – Despite being the complete opposite direction from Philadelphia, we wanted to check out San Diego (nickname: “America’s Finest City”) and to drop off Collin, who was starting a job as a deckhand in the area.  The weather was unbelievable and the Mexican food sublime.  We even saw part of a Padres game before heading back to Collin’s cousin’s house in a suburban housing complex strictly for military families.  I hadn’t realized the extent of the military presence in San Diego, but it’s really obvious in the city.

Aspen – Two of my friends from high school live near Aspen, CO, where they work as river raft 
guides on the Colorado River.  I knew that I wanted to catch up with them and possibly go rafting on the trip back, but in order for the timing to work out we had to drive directly from San Diego to Colorado.  We thought this trip would be long, but manageable, but underestimated the length of the drive.  Ultimately we spent 22 hours driving the 1,006 miles from California to Aspen and ended up arriving around 2:30 a.m.  Part of the reason why were so late was a detour that we made to drive through Zion National Park, which was absolutely astounding and well worth the added time.  For one stretch of the drive, through a narrow, historic tunnel, the park rangers had to close it for us because our trailer was too wide for two-way traffic, which meant I got to drive down the middle of the road.  After finally hitting the hay around 3 in the morning, we were woken up at 7:30 by an angry neighbor who was livid that our trailer was partially blocking her driveway (it was not).  I groggily moved the trailer a few inches and then stayed up for the rest of the day and eventually went on our rafting adventure on 4 ½ hours of sleep – it was great.

Steamboat Springs, CO – After rafting, we drove a short ways north to Steamboat, where we stayed at Morgan’s uncle’s vacation home.  Along the way we picked up a hitchhiker named Don, who needed to be driven back to Steamboat to pick up his truck (no word on how or why he left Steamboat without his truck).  Still tired from our 22-hour haul from San Diego and our day on the river, we all went to sleep early.  Fortunately the house was a real pad and we all got to stay in private bedrooms with king-sized beds.  We even got to do laundry!

Night had fallen by the time we reached Mount
Black Hills, SD – From Steamboat we drove another 8 hours, through Wyoming (a new state for me!) into South Dakota (another new state for me!!).  Along the way we stopped in Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming, for lunch and to buy some used CDs at a thrift store, because we were really tired of listening to the same three albums we have in the van on repeat.  Once we reached the Black Hills National Forest we stopped to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is substantially larger than Mount Rushmore, but still decades away from completion. After setting up camp and cooking tin foil dinners, we continued onto Mount Rushmore for the evening ranger program, which was highly educational but something of a disappointment since we had heard there was going to be a fireworks/laser light show demonstration.  Back at the campground we had a few PBRs and went to bed early so we could get up at 5 a.m. in order to make it to our next stop by dinnertime. 

Playing in the Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN - After our early wake-up we made great time across South Dakota on I-90, stopping only once, to see the world-famous Wall Drug Store.  Part pharmacy and part amusement park, Wall Drug defies explanation.  After leaving SD, we drove most of the way across Minnesota before we hit the twin cities, where we had a great meal provided by Amy's (a rider on the trip) family.  Holland and I slept on the porch, where unfortunately I was woken up at 6 am by a newspaper thrown carelessly at my face by the paper boy. We spent the morning exploring the city and then headed to our next destination....

Madison, WI - In Madison we stayed with a college friend of Morgan's, who showed us around this very cool college town.  

Mayville, NY - Our trip to Mayville was the second longest drive of the trip, about 12 hours to Peter's mother's house on Lake Chautauqua in Western New York.  Although it was said to see our group of van riders break up, we were happy to be back east and more than happy to be staying in a luxurious lake house with beds, homemade cookies, and real towels.  We cleaned out our van and trailer for one last time in preparation for the final ride to Philadelphia the next day....

Philadelphia, PA - Yesterday Holland and I reached the Bike & Build headquarters here in Philly (Morgan left us along the way) and put some final miles on the van.  Our grand total mileage for the trip from Santa Barbara to Philadelphia was over 3,900, proving that we did not take the most direct route.  On the drive through the Alleghenies I got out of the van and did a few naked miles on my bike on a long descent, topping out at a naked 40 miles per hour.  It was scary and I got some serious double takes from passing motorists.  Here in Philly we are staying with another rider from the trip, Kelly, who took us to Independence Hall and other local sites, some more educational than others.

I feel proud of what our trip accomplished this summer and sad to see this final stage of our trip draw to a close, but grateful to have seen so much more of the country on the way back to have spent a few extra days with some truly remarkable people.  So long!