Bike tour 2013, day one

We got up about 7:30, had some bagel sandwiches and coffee, and set out on our adventure. Kaitlyn was taking care of a few final details so we went her this one:

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We had to go to Target to get Rebecca outfitted with a complete weekend worth of clothing, then we had to stop at a bike shop for a map since I lost my Adventure Cycling map in my move, and we didnt make it to Half Moon Bay until it was time for a late lunch. We didn’t get our tires on the ground until about 3 in the afternoon, and before we made it even a block I had a flat tire. Boo!

Bike tour 2013, day zero!

So we’ve put together a summer bike tour with friends! It’s not just me this time. My girlfriend Kaitlyn, my friend Andrew from college, and his girlfriend Rebecca have rented a van and to head south down the coast from Half Moon Bay.

This trip was the result of about nine months of emails and people backing out, or trying to get in at the last minute, but Andy and Rebecca came out on Friday afternoon. I picked up some rental bikes for them, and we all met at Umami burger for dinner.

Food was good, but then about ten minutes into our meal we got a phone call that our van had been broken into. Somebody had broken the passenger side window and grabbed Rebecca’s backpack. She lost her phone, all her clothes, and two pairs of glasses. Obviously this was a bad start to the trip.

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We called Enterprise, and traded the van for the only thing they had left (an extended cab pickup) and brought all of the bikes and gear into my tiny studio apartment for the night. Fortunately, everyone stayed fairly calm and spirits were not crushed.

Keep biking! (and beat internet addiction?)

After my bike tour I spent the first couple of weeks off of my bike, and was slow to get back on. First I was trying to let me hand heal (trying to regain 100% sensation in the fingertips of my left hand!), and then I caught a nasty summer cold. I set up my desktop PC to begin my job search in earnest, since there’s only so much you can do from a cell phone. As I set up my PC and regained full connection to the world wide web, I noticed something was going on: I was spending too much time surfing the internet! This absolutely wasn’t something I had been interested in while I was riding 60 miles per day. I kept up with my blog and checked my email, but not much beyond that.

Just by chance (Or not? I was looking at a lot of websites as I recovered) I came across an article about internet addiction and brain chemistry. I don’t remember the exact article, but if you google for “internet dopamine” then you’ll see that there are a lot of articles on the subject. It boils down to the idea that there are a few psychological things going on that trigger a little hit of dopamine on a very regular basis while you surf the web.

The first mechanism that I find interesting is the way we’re wired to want to know our surroundings, and constantly scan for danger or changes. I think it’s one of the reasons that when we live in the suburbs we like to have wide flat featureless yards of trimmed grass around our homes, and why games like Farmville take off. This is a pointless way to trigger your reward center because the internet is always changing, and by and large those changes you discover are not relevant to your life in any way. You just see something that wasn’t there before, “Someone just posted a picture of a cat!” and you get a tiny hit of dopamine.

The second part that I feel more ambivalent about is the way we are rewarded when we learn something new. It’s satisfying to learn something new, right? Even if it’s some stupid little random factoid that doesn’t apply to our lives, and may not even be adequately supported- it feels good to learn. The internet is also a great source for learning, not just a constantly shifting sea of ‘new things’ to spot. The internet is an incredibly powerful tool for gaining useful knowledge, but it also lets you go and click on the random wikipedia article, and spend half an hour learning about things that have no relation to anything, at a superficial depth, and in such an undisciplined way that you’ll only retain a tiny fraction of that knowledge.

Social media also triggers this small (meaningless?) release of dopamine. Seeing a loved one’s face, or hearing of a friend, or thinking of somebody you have a crush on are all things that give this rush of brain chemicals (great TED talk on that, by the way), so by flipping all over the internet and revisiting facebook/etc, it’s possible to sustain a lot of little hits of dopamine, and something like an addiction develops.

I didn’t set out to write this post about internet addiction, although that’s how it seems to have turned out, I began on the subject because of what I noticed while I was riding 50+ miles per day. I had a constant ‘high’ going, and my level of interest in all things ‘trivial internet’ went down a great deal. I definitely had days where I’d take a break and surf on my phone, but I didn’t feel the same ease of losing an hour to it that I do when I don’t have a baseline level of exercise going on.

During my regular routine before the trip I had about five miles per day of biking, plus some walking. It was enough with a reasonable diet to not feel like a total slob, but I realize now that I wasn’t getting nearly the level of exercise that my body craves. Since the trip I start getting an itch to go for a ride. I guess that developing an addiction to real exercise is a great outcome from all of this. Hopefully it will allow me to remain more focused and relaxed, and maybe get down to a really healthy weight.

That’s all for now, I’m going for a ride!

Another story from the road

I’ve kept in touch with a couple of new friends from the road, and I just heard from my Dutch friend, Ferdinand, and he told me another story that I’m happy didn’t happen to me (but easily could have).

If you recall, I had a hard time finding my way to the proper route across the Golden Gate bridge. In Sausalito people were less friendly than they had been for the rest of the trip, and I had trouble getting directions. It’s not that the people are different, it’s just a different environment. It was a transition from a rural countryside to the halo of a bustling city of a million people. There were signs, and advertisements, separate bike paths and bike lanes, and numbered streets going in every direction. If you were paying close attention, you’d notice that my picture in front of the golden gate was at least a hundred feet above the bridge. Did I really chose to climb a huge hill at the end of my journey for a photo? No I did not! I followed what I thought was the route, and ended up on top of the Marin Headlands looking down at the bridge I wanted to cross. It’s OK though, it was a nice view.

What happened to Ferdinand was worse. He continued on highway 101, and missed the sign that said “no bicycles!”. The traffic became very dense, and the shoulder disappeared completely. There was no safe way to continue across the bridge, so he called 911 from his cell phone. The police shut down traffic across that section of the bridge and a motorcycle cop came and towed him off of the bridge! If anybody reading this has a picture or video, please email me! He didn’t get one because he was holding onto a police motorcycle and a touring bike.

Done riding??

It’s strange being back!

For the last month I have experienced things differently. Whether these count as leaving my comfort zone, or they are just a symptom of changing scenery, some changes from the norm include:

  • Maintaining an average velocity of 1.8 mph for 27 days.
  • Consuming over 3,000 calories daily (including bacon, beer, donuts, and pasta) and losing ten pounds
  • Blogging two and a half times daily.
  • Taking an average of 35 pictures per day without days off.
  • Talking to strangers every day.
  • Making new friends. (Should this be on the list? Why is it harder to make new friends at 30 than at 20?)
  • Flirting.
  • Receiving unsolicited hot food from strangers.
  • Reading food containers trying to maximize calories per dollar and per pound.
  • Finding fruit by the road and eating it.

So what do I do now? I had to mentally shift gears as I walked into the grocery store tonight. I was able to buy things that require refrigeration, and I had to think about meals that are appropriate to my reduced level of activity. I lost some weight on this trip, and although that wasn’t the point of any of this it would be cool to keep it off or continue to lose a few more pounds. If I go back to how I’ve been eating for the last month, I’ll outgrow my pants in no time! I also found that it didn’t feel right to just sit around all day, and I needed to go climb the Lake Chabot hill on my bike just to get the blood moving. If this trip turned me on to regular exercise, how weird is that?!?

The “plan” now is to find a job as an engineer, and to move into my own apartment. In the meanwhile, I am aiming to get rid of some of my physical possessions and to work on a couple of projects that will get their own pages here. Keep an eye out, and I’ll have more here soon.

 

Day 27 (2)

I’m sitting in Sausalito having a sandwich, drinking a coke, and looking at the bay bridge. I made it!

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It was such a culture shock when I made it into Marin/Saualito. I was suddenly surrounded by traffic, and had a choice of bike paths, bike lanes, and signs, and I needed to know which way to ride to make it to the bridge. I was at an intersection and tried to stop about ten cyclists to ask this simple thing, but they were all headphones and heart rate monitors, and I couldn’t get a glint of recognition through their silvered wraparound sunglasses. It’s totally different from the way people were just 30 miles ago.

Day 27 (1)

I’m almost done!! You can expect one “I am really done!” post when I get there, then a couple days of silence as I get situated, washed, computer reassembled, and pictures off my camera. Probably some hanging out with local friends and huge stretches of sleep in my own bed, too.

Last night I was told that the Samuel P Taylor campground was way over capacity, and I’d have to share a regular sized campground with four other bikers. No big deal, right? Anyway, I walked into the site and said “Hi, neighbors!”, and they all smiled back (what looked like a family of four) and said “Hi! Are you familiar with the Book of Mormon?”

A few seconds of awkward smiling occurred, then they offered me a beer and we hit it off. I have heard rumors of a proselytizing Mormon family out on the touring circuit, but these folks weren’t them. We had a nice campfire, ate marshmallows, and talked for a while. That’s always a good time on these trips.

As they went off to bed I stayed up for meteors, but unfortunately a fog rolled in over the trees about 9, so I couldn’t see any stars at all. I sat by the coals of the fire and read for a while, and a raccoon snuck up on me. I guess I had been sitting very still, because I never saw it- I just heard it skittering away when I reached for my flashlight. It sounded terrified.

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This is the kind of road I spent most of yesterday riding.

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Also this.

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And I thought this was especially cool looking, at least in person. Yesterday afternoon I spent about three and a half hours in Pt Reyes Station eating burritos, drinking beer, reading, and listening to a band warm up. I’d have loved to stay and listen to them, they sounded quite good, but you can see from this picture that I was running out of daylight.

This morning I saw a fish viewing area:

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Ok…. A designated spot to look at fish.

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Apparently the Lagunitas Creek is one of the last and best places for central Californian coho salmon to spawn. I didn’t see any fish.

What may be the last food picture of my trip-

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That is a generous helping of cream cheese!

Day 26 (2)

I made it to Point Reyes Station by 3:00, and I seriously considered pushing onward for the last 30 miles to San Francisco to sleep in my own bed, but I think it will be nicer to stay up here where I will have a dark sky for the meteor shower, and not end this trip with two grueling days in a row. I’m aiming for the Samuel P Taylor state park tonight, about 10 miles from here and well under 30 from the golden gate.

This town is full of people who sent the day doing a ‘century’- 100 miles on some lightweight expensive bike with tight clothes and no camping gear. It’s interesting to see all of the carbon fiber and titanium, but it’s a different world from where I’ve been traveling for the last month.