Jumping into the deep end is the best way to figure stuff out, so I didn’t think too much about it. Just knew to have enough 1) water and 2) food. Everything else should fall into place. I’d decided to bike north instead of south as I remembered how hot LA was when I visited.
I live above a bike shop where I bought all the things (shout out to Paul who owns the place and was also my landlord, super relaxed guy). Before I set off someone working in the bike shop asked where I was going and I said I wasn’t sure, and he mentioned Samuel P. Tayler park had a hiking / biking camping site so I could roll up and be sure to get a spot, so that was my destination.
Getting out of SF was pretty hellish as I’d never ridden a loaded up bike before and was getting used to steering with all the weight around a bunch of inpatient traffic. I get over the bridge and everything changed to serene life. Every time I’m hit with the beauty of California’s nature I think, how did I forget about this.
That continues for a couple hours, I run into some guy and we bike together for a long while and he shows me some sweet bike paths to take towards Samuel P. He see’s a fire station off to the side giving away free hot dogs and he’s like ‘dude! free hot dogs!’ and I was like yeah i’m gonna keep going, and he peaces out (I’d gotten pizza a bit earlier).
Cut to about an hour later and holy hell, didn’t factor in terrain. This hill kicks my ass. I’m loaded up with way too much gear as everyone probably does on their first bike tour, and it hurt.
As i’m climbing up at a snails pace my left leg starts to cramp up which hasn’t really happened to me before. Cramp hurts like fuck. I was like how do people hate on LeBron James for this, shits real. I get off my bike and do a shakey leg thing that I guess helped and started pushing my bike for a while. I was still about an hour away at this point according to google’s bike stuff, but walking that was more like 4 hours or so, and pushing a fully loaded bike with a crampy leg who knows.
I started to look for spots to put up my tent as I was like ‘well good effort Alex, maybe 36 miles with a bunch of hills with loaded up heavy ass bike on the first day wasn’t in the cards after all’ (I hadn’t really trained or anything and am a bit out of shape).
The hill gets less steep and so I get back on my bike. I noticed a car a little bit up ahead had pulled over to the side of the road in a little turn off (there wasn’t much of a shoulder but turn-offs every now and then). When I got back on my bike they immediately took off so not sure if they were like ‘we should wait for this guy to see if he’s fucked’ or if it was just chance but it made me feel better either way.
A while later, when it was flat again and I was blasting Kanye and loving my life again, it started to get dark so I stopped and put on my lights. I realized there wasn’t really good spots for them but tried to make them secure. I got on and started going and one of them fell off and bounced a bit behind me. I lay my bike down and ran back to grab it, and as I got back to my bike a car pulled over and asked if I was alright and if I needed anything. I was like ‘nah thanks i’m totally chill’ and they took off, but I wasn’t off my bike for more than 60 seconds and someone had my back, so again felt pretty reassured that people are friendly.
Cut to like an hour later and I roll into the campsite without really knowing where to go. I bike around for a bit and go back to the entrance and see a park ranger person. I ask her where about’s the hike and bike campsite is and she gives me very specific directions.
It was a little bit down the road so I leave this campsite, head down the road, and pull into this bit with a bunch of cabins. In my head i’m like ‘ok so I have to go down this trail for a bit and i’ll see these campsites’ — not sure what made me think that. I get on this trail and its small and winding and i’m thinking ‘damn they seriously make people push their bike down this to camp’.
Cut to 30 mins later and I think ‘damn I really should have listened to her directions better because this is wrong as hell’. I come to a sign that has two different trail markings, one going left called Devils (something i forget) and another one (I also forget the name of) going right. I chose the one with Devil in the name because why not, and continue pushing my bike into this blind darkness. I had a headlamp on and kept seeing flashes of animals eyes in the distance. I start singing random shit to myself to keep my spirits up, my legs were jelly at this point and I the trail was steep and shitty.
I guess someone heard me singing something like ‘please be tents oh god please be human beings’ over and over again (or something to that effect) and flashed a flashlight at me, they were about 30 feet or so to my left so pretty damn close. I manage to make it to them and exclaim ‘i’ve been lost as hell for a while! so good to see people!’. They say there is a Horse campground thats empty less than 400 yards from there so I jump on my bike and head there.
It’s totally empty except for some raccoons that wouldn’t leave me the hell alone. I read you should put a lamp up to make them go away and so put a lamp out and a raccoon immediately crawls on top of it to inspect it.
There’s fire wood so I start a fire, put up my tent, eat some bread (too tired to cook anything) and then eventually put out the fire and lay down. I can’t sleep until 4am-ish for some reason, I think my brain was just like ‘dude wtf are you doing why are you not laying on the couch playing Persona 5 like the last month or whatever’, but eventually passed out.
Woke up and re-packed all my stuff so it would make more sense, threw away a couple clothes I realized were superfluous, and got back on my bike.
Ended up stopping and making some food and giving my mum a ring to let her know I was fine after the first day.