Monday, July 25, 2016

Can't Quite Believe I Made It





I'm back. Let me tell you, slowly riding across the Bay Bridge when it's sunny, after a long absence, seeing the skyline, the glistening water of the Bay, the hills and the Golden Gate Bridge, while listening to Scott McKenzie's San Francisco, I haven't cried so much on a bike. It felt pretty great to have made it across the country and back. Alive, unhurt, and full of impressions and experiences I still have to process. 

I wish I could write some amazing epilogue now that would leave you in tears and inspired to change your lives for the better. Or pack your bags and leave on your own adventure. I would love to tell you that my life has changed for the better and that I had an epiphany and suddenly know what I want to do with my life. That the long ride through this beautiful country gave me all the insights I needed to make a decision, to start my own amazing business, or to go out and save the world. 

I have to disappoint you. That didn't happen. In fact, I might be even more clueless than before. And I don't think I have even begun to process the experience. It's such a daunting thing to do. At first I had to arrive and rest. I hadn't been that tired in a long time. Hours of riding every day, all the things I've seen, people I've met, the writing and a few hours every day spent with something I still need to write about publicly. But not yet. I did not get nearly enough sleep. And so I spent the last week like a sleepwalker. Only now I am beginning to feel that I'm back and rested enough to orient myself. 

So, if you expected an amazing post about all my learnings and my big plans for my future I'm sorry I have to disappoint you. That is still work in progress. Hang on and give me some more time. And look at some photos of Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra I took on the last day of the trip.






That said, there are a few things I have decided to do. I am going to leave San Francisco, write a book about the trip, and I am going to get a professional coaching license. While the latter might not be what I want to do in the end, it will certainly help me find my calling. I know, this sounds like a lot but I knew all of this even before I left. 





Monday, July 18, 2016

The Last Day

Tomorrow will be my last day on the road. From Hawthorne, Nevada I am going to ride through Yosemite back home to San Francisco. Tomorrow night I will sleep in my own bed. The first time after two and a half months. And probably not wake up for a week, given how tired and exhausted I am.

The last two days I rode through Nevada. While beautiful, it does get boring after while. Windy mountain roads up and down to numerous passes alternate with 10-20 mile long stretches of straight roads from mountain to mountain across high plains. Hostile, yet beautiful scenery. And hardly a car let alone a house to be seen for miles and miles.









Or a gas station. So for the first time this morning I had to change my planned route because I would have run out of gas before the next gas station. So I rode on the loneliest road in America, Highway 50. And I loved it. And the bike, too. Even though the detour added 60 miles to the daily miles. But I'm already tired and exhausted, so 60 more miles don't really make a huge difference anymore. Bike and I celebrated a big number today: 44,444 miles! A schnapps number as we call it in German. I even managed to stop and take a picture at the side of the highway.




Saturday, July 16, 2016

Oh Utah!

Yesterday was, hands down, the most beautiful day I've had on my trip. After the day in the mountains I thought it couldn't get any more beautiful. Boy, was I wrong.

I started relatively early because of the heat and headed west on I70 for a few miles before I turned on highway 24 towards southwest. Through the desert with mountains and the long stretched road straight ahead. The rocks had gotten more red and looked more than what I had seen in Arizona. Stunning.



Apart from the heat that was getting worse, I would have been okay if the rest of the trip had gone through the same scenery. But it got even better. I reached the Capitol Reef National Park. Windy roads through stunning red cliffs and rocks left and right. Sometimes I felt inclined to duck my head and pull the throttle to avoid one of them falling on me. 






After a while I thought I had ended up on Mars somehow. This area of the state might not be easy to live in but it's definitely breathtaking to visit and ride through on the bike. And it got better still.
After almost 100 miles traveled which was half of the day's leg I turned on Highway 12 towards Bryce Canyon. And found myself going uphill on an even prettier road through a forest and views over the area I had just driven through. I was craning my head and finally reached this overlook.






I couldn't believe that I had just been in that desert and now in the alps. Within less than two hours. And it got better still. After lunch, I reached the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The road went along a ridge with unbelievable views on both sides. 



No photo nor words can appropriately describe what I saw and felt. I pulled over, got off my bike, sat down and cried.  And then I had to focus on not dying. The windy road on the ridge with deep drops on either side and steep downgrades had those black slippery stripes all over the pavement. Every time I crossed one I felt my bike slip a little. That explained the speed limit of 30 miles. Which I was happy to stick to on that road. So I didn't die. And I was able to enjoy the views. The priceless views. Another ride that made any inconvenience of this trip so worth it. Like not seeing my friends for months, living out of a tiny bag, sweating like crazy, the stiffness in my body. Who cares! 




And it kept getting better. When I arrived at my hotel I dropped my bag and continued to Bryce Canyon. Just another 90 miles on top of the 200 of the day. And worth it:




And if that wasn't enough, I ended the day with a run at sunset.




There might be all kinds of things people don't like about Utah. But the nature can't be it. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mountains And Desert

Obviously, 10,000 feet weren't enough, so I started my trip yesterday by going uphill towards Independence Pass. The bike worked hard but also seemed to enjoy the beautiful road along lakes and a creek as well as trees and impressive mountains.

At 12,000 feet I was pretty proud of myself until I saw a girl with a bicycle taking a selfie in front of the sign that showed the name of the pass, the elevation and stated that you were standing on the Continental Divide. Such a badass. And I saw a bunch more women cyclists coming up that mountain.

But well, I still think that I can be pretty proud of my trip. But more than that I'm happy and grateful to have been able to do it and for all the things I've seen and experienced. And people I've met. And it continued. These beautiful mountains and the road along the Colorado River combined with the bluest sky and clouds. Eventually, after only 60 miles but what felt like hours I arrived in Aspen. I've never been a fan of posh ski resorts but I must admit Aspen is pretty lovely. When I sat down to eat something I got approached by the waiter who asked me where I came riding from. When I told him about my trip I once again heard what I've heard a few times before when he said "You are living my dream!" Well, I can only recommend to everyone to do it themselves. Every single day I'm awed by what this country has to offer. There are not enough days in my life to see all of it. But at least I took a stab at it and have seen quite a bit. And it's so worth it.

After lunch I rode from Aspen to the I70 and from there west towards Green River in Utah: another 200 miles. By the time I reached the interstate, it had gotten significantly warmer. And it continued to do so. I wanted to stop in Grand Junction to get a cold drink, give my butt some rest and allow the bike to cool down a little. After what happened in Lubbock, I kept a close eye on the oil and ear on how she sounded, maybe a little too paranoidly so. But then I didn't stop and I thought it was only 100 more miles anyway so I just kept going. The scenery couldn't have been any more different from the morning. Huge desert plains with those typical table mountains and cliffs left and right. And once again, you could see the road stretch all the way to the horizon.

A few miles after I had crossed the border into Utah, I saw a huge bird flying along the interstate. Really low. First, I thought it was a vulture that was waiting for a gap in traffic to continue its feast on some roadkill. But then I got closer and the bird looked even bigger. And then I saw the eyes and the yellow beak of this huge and beautiful creature. A golden eagle. For a scary moment I thought, he was going to pick me up and carry me to his nest to feed his babies. "Crunchy German meat today, kids. Om nom." But then he turned and I was left with a warm feeling to have seen another one of these majestic birds from so close.

Fifty miles before I got to Green River I had a brief scare when I thought my bike had lost power. But after a short stop and oil check I restarted her and she got me all the way to my motel. Such a brave girl. I thought, the trip couldn't get any more beautiful after this day. High mountains and desert and rocks. Turned out, I was wrong.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rocky Mountain High

My final home stretch started today. Five more days of riding. Today I spent a relaxed morning with Melissa, who I met in New Orleans and who had kindly offered me to stay with her while she was in Denver for work. This is one of my favorite parts about this trip. To make friends. Not just the brief encounters you have but actual friends. Because the people who can really  understand and appreciate what I am doing are usually people I would like to be friends with. By now, I have more than a handful of people who I am staying in contact with. And would love to meet again sometime. 


After 100 miles of riding westwards and upwards I arrived in Leadville, a small and old town at about 10,200 feet elevation (3.200m). The ride was beautiful. The Rocky Mountains, a deep blue sky and lots of bright white clouds. I remembered the road from last year when I drove to Copper Mountain for the Ragnar Relay Race. http://thirteenthousandfeet.blogspot.com/2015/08/run-rockies.html?m=1. Back then I had wanted to come back to ride it on my motorcycle. And here I was. And I'm only a few miles in. A lot more beautiful roads along gorgeous and majestic mountains are ahead of me. All this with beautiful weather. Anything that concerns me, any worries, anger or sadness that are currently in my life just fade away when I'm on my bike, riding through beauty like that.

Now I'm taking it slow in this elevation after I struggled to carry my heavy bags up two narrow and steep flights of stairs only to end up in one of the creepiest hotel corridors since The Shining. 


Outside, however, I found this beautiful little town surrounded by mountains still patched with snow. 








Monday, July 11, 2016

One More Week

I have only one more week to go before I get home. On the one hand I am looking forward to going home. And to how it will feel when I drive down the street and arrive at my house. The moment when I know I made it. I did cross the country twice. I rode 10,000 miles (16.000km) in two and a half months on my old Ducati Monster. Through 17 states. Through rain, dry and humid heat. Across mountains and deserts. Only to arrive where I started. 

On the other hand, I'm a little sad that it'll be over soon. This trip that I had been looking forward to for such a long time. And coming home will mean that I will have to start making plans for what to do next. Find a job or go to school. Write a book. Decide whether to stay in San Francisco or leave. And if I decide to leave, where to go to?

I still have a week and a few more days of rest when I get back before addressing any of these. And about 1,500 miles to go. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Bouldering

It's hot here, that's for sure. Nevertheless I do like Boulder a lot. I like how people walk and bike everywhere, which reminds me of home. And I'm glad that I never gave up looking over my shoulder before I make a right turn while riding my motorcycle. I like the hike and bike paths everywhere especially along the creek. And the creek itself. 100 degrees (40 Celsius) aren't as bad if you have some cold fresh water to jump into. Or just stick your feet or hands into. It's interesting that I don't even think of swimming anymore, every time I see a body of water or when it gets too hot outside. San Francisco hardly ever gets hot enough for you to have to cool down in a pool.


The city is small enough to walk everywhere and within minutes your in the mountains which makes it perfect for anyone who loves to be outdoors, run, hike, cycle, motorcycle, camp, etc. And in winter, all the skiing in the Rockies is right at your doorstep. I do have one complaint, though. Why do people here have to drown pasta in sauce?!?  


But of course, many people will want to live in a place like this. Especially people who love Drowned Pasta. And companies like Google and others have noticed this as well. So you can already see Teslas everywhere and the costs of living are on the rise. 





     Nederland. Just 20 minutes uphill.




Now I'm in Denver and about to check out for the weekend. I will continue my trip next Wednesday. And I've already planned each day until I get back to San Francisco. I have an estimated date of arrival! And I'm happy to know that I will be home in less than two weeks. But also a little scared because it means that I'll have to start figuring out what to do with my life next. Where to live and how to make a living. And I will have to adjust to normality again. Or do I? Who knows, maybe I'll be on the road again, soon. Or I'll enjoy a normal life. I will find out.