Hi! I do apologize that I am now writing the first post about the bike trip six days into the trip. Things have been great, but busy, but I am glad to now have some time to write an update about the bike trip. I have been keeping a notebook journal as well, but this is the first time I have been able to sit down in front of a computer.
I arrived in San Francisco on July 8, and departed on a bicycle on July 10. In between those days I enjoyed visiting the city, its different neighborhood districts and area parks. I got to spend some time with a great group of people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in San Francisco. I would like to especially thank Kristen for housing me the first two nights, and for being so helpful with different details and advice about public transportation, places to check out, roads to use and all of those other things strangers in a new city often struggle with. I was also fortunate enough to watch a dance performance put on by a dance company that she is involved with, and that was a real fun way to end my last night in the city.
On July 10 I departed with Nick, a good Michigan friend of mine who recently just moved to Palo Alto. Kristen and her roommate Boo were there for the early morning send-off, and after that Nick and I headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. The hilly streets in San Francisco are no joke, but we made it there alright, and the ride across the bridge was great. Having never been to the west coast I was so impressed with the views of the Pacific, and cluster of houses within the city miles behind us. Nick returned home after crossing the bridge, but it really meant a lot to me to have him there at the start. I’m learning more and more how fortunate I am to have such a great and supportive group of friends.
Napa fire station 4 was my home for the first night, and the crew there was terrific. As soon as I arrived they got to work on a giant meal, and they did everything they could to make me feel welcome. I enjoyed talking about different fire and EMS topics with them, and as usual there was of course some fire service joking. When I accidentally said the word “mountains” to describe my trip through Marin County, there were quick to point out – “kid, you haven’t seen any mountains yet!” Not only did they take care of me in Napa, but they made sure I was ready to go for the next day, setting me up with breakfast and gatorades to go. They covered the costs of everything. Thanks guys!
My next stop was Sacramento, and after biking 75 miles (while stopping to check out the bicycle capitol of the USA which is Davis, CA) I made it to firehouse 2. This is the downtown station for the Sacramento Fire Department, and the station houses a lot of people. There is a truck, engine, medic and chief’s car. The crew at station 2 that day was extremely friendly and welcoming, and I also got the chance to ride along on some calls with the engine. We even drove around the downtown district for a while, and the captain and driver pointed out all the interesting buildings and histories. We also stopped to check out California State Capitol and State Firefighter’s Memorial. The most interesting part about the stay in Sacramento was meeting up with one of the firefighters who was originally from Michigan. We both went to the same fire academy and EMT basic school in metro Detroit, and got to bond over our matching Schoolcraft college fire academy PT shorts. What a small world. At dinner time we celebrated the birthdays of two firefighters with cake and pie, and by singing happy birthday.
Truck 2 and Engine 2 escorted me all the way out of Sacramento, blocking the lane for me for probably five miles or so. They were with me all the way until the city boundary. That was great. In Sacramento I also had the chance to share the story about the trip with a local newscaster, and it certainly helped spread the word as some firefighters in the nearby city of Rescue noticed me traveling the next day, and were quick to offer lunch at their fire station. The fire service is all about helping others, and I’m learning that more and more throughout this trip.
On day three I pedaled to the Camino CAL FIRE headquarters. This has been the most interesting fire station of the trip, because on the grounds there are many different buildings that support different functions of CAL FIRE. In the middle of the area is giant 150 foot lookout tower that was previously used to spot wildfires. Surrounding this tower is an apparatus bay, administrative office, mess hall, dispatch center and sleeping quarters. The firefighters let me climb up the tower to watch the sunset over the treeline and mountain ridges, and it was beautiful. Something I will never forget. One guy at the bottom shouted up to me “Look, you can see where you’ve come from, and where you are going!”
I had the chance to talk with some different dispatchers and learn more about CAL FIRE in general, and to sum it up briefly it is a GIANT fire department. They have thousands of personnel, engines, helicopters, planes etc. Everyone I met there was extremely informative and supportive of the trip. I’d also like to say a big thank you to them for route advice through the Sierras, which kept me safe on the roads as I biked the next day.
Like the earlier fire stations, CAL FIRE set me up for the next day of touring with two bags of snacks and fruit. One of the firefighters lugged a giant box of items they’ve collected from different lunches handed out for wildland fires, and generously invited me to take whatever I’d like. Thank you CAL FIRE.
Biking though the Sierras was a memorable trip. The views are stunning, and trees and mountains just surround you. In the Midwest I’ve never really worried much about different elevations, but along the path through the Sierras I would see the different signs naming each mountain pass or summit. On the sign is the name of the pass and its elevation, and its always a relief to get there because you know you have a long descent down. The highest pass I reached (I believe) was Carson Pass at about 8600 feet. I mentioned that the views of nature were spectacular, but I really got a kick out of seeing one mountain top that still had snow on it. Here I am, its 85 degrees and the middle of July, and there is still snow on the mountain tip. that was just so foreign to me that I found it really interesting.
The stay in South Lake Tahoe was great, and the crew there treated my father and I well. My dad is driving a support car for the Nevada leg of the trip, and he arrived in South Lake Tahoe on July 13. He has been great, and I’m very grateful to have his support, especially here in rural Nevada. I have never experienced a place so rural before in my life. The road I am riding, highway 50, is called the Loneliest Road in America. It’s no joke. I have also been learning that Nevada is full of mountain ranges. There have been many passes to go through every day of riding thus far through this state, and I have a few more to get through before Utah.
The descent out of Tahoe into Carson City was fantastic. I don’t think I pedaled for twenty minutes straight. That’s something you never get to do riding in the Midwest! There was a pretty distinct different once over the mountain between California in Nevada. Once in Nevada I was blasted with a wave of heat, and the tall trees I once was surrounded with were transformed into shorter bushes and brush.
Carson City Fire Department did a great job to support this ride. Alex, one of the firefighters, rode with me around the city, showing me to the Nevada State Capitol and State Firefighters Memorial. At the memorial we were greeted by an Assistant Chief and engine and medic crews from station 1. We got a chance to remember Nevada’s fallen firefighters at the memorial, and then headed to station 51 were all of the on-duty firefighters came over for lunch. There is great camaraderie in the fire department in Carson City.
Alex and I rode out of Carson City with a third person, Tim, who is an NDOT worker. Tim has been an extremely helpful resource to me for the route planning parts of the trip, and I was so excited to not only meet him, but have him ride with us. Tim set up media coverage with the newspaper for the ride, and after that we all headed out together in the 100 degree heat.
Finishing up the 100 mile day we made it to Fallon, NV. This was the first volunteer fire department to house me for the trip. They were fantastic. The minute we walked I was greeted by different firefighters, as well as their spouses and children, all cheering and asking about the ride so far. Fallon is the first all-volunteer fire department in the nation to receive an ISO 1 rating, and I was very impressed with their organization. Different fire memorabilia, articles and photographs all surround their station walls, and all of the firefighters I met were extremely proud of their department. It was a great opportunity to stay in their firehouse, and I am so grateful that they were able to support me for this leg of the trip. Hats off to Chris at Fallon for doing such a great job organizing the dinner and other arrangements.
I left at 5 am the next morning with some more riding companions – Chris’s wife and a friend of hers. It’s so nice riding with other people, especially riders who are familiar with the area. We had a great start, but the rest of the day was rough. 115 miles. In the end my father and I made it to Austin, NV, and I am glad that day is done. That was yesterday. It ended sort of funny though. There were no rooms open at any town motels, so luckily the fire department chief let us sleep on the floor of the firehouse. We didn’t have any blankets or pillows, but we found a few boxes of clothing that must have been used for a children’s Christmas pageant. There were shepherd’s robes and sheep costumes, and they all made for a great bed! It was like our own little nativity scene. There was no room in the inn for us either, and so we had to sleep on the shepherd’s robes in the floor of the firehouse!
I appreciate all of the text messages, emails and phone calls that people have been sending to me as I bike. It means so much, and it is very encouraging and supportive. Thank you all so much!