Well the first few days here were a highly charged mix of emotions. Energy sapping frustration being the main one, but then at the other end, huge acts of kindness from new friends and total strangers. We stayed overnight in Los Angeles so that we could pickup the maps we are going to use. They had been mailed ahead to an US Postal depot for general delivery pickup by us. All we had to do was show some id and they would be ours. “Have you got a packet for us?”. It could not be found and we were without a plan and rather stressed. The person behind us invited us back to her office to work on the problem and within an hour we had the envelope ( you see we had used the wrong word!). She designs costumes and worked with Elvis and Michael Jackson, so welcome to LA.
We transferred to a place called Riverside, to be near the bike shop holding our new bits called USA Cyclery, who were so helpful. We also bought a Motorola Zoom tablet computer and spent an evening and then the early hours of the next day setting it up to be our new lightweight friend. Tablets, and that is every one of them will not run WordPress, which is what you are reading this on. Two hours of work the next day and a further two where we had bought the computer and we had a refund and had been aged by the process.
Four days and we had not turned a wheel. We were however in the comfortable embrace of our new friends Phil and MJ and things had improved and the smile was back on our faces and we will be eternally grateful. it was time to ride.
“You can ride through miles of sprawl, or we can go up to Highway 38 in the truck”. So Phil would ride with us up the route to bring us, in just a few miles onto the Sierra Cascades bike route. The temperature at the start of the climb was 84*F and dust held in the air obscured the view to the mountains ahead. These would be our mountains, we would get to know them very soon, they were shimmering but one thing was clear,they had snow on them and quite a lot of it.
The dryness of the air was beyond anything we had known forcing us to take sips of water so that you can swallow. Whistling or eating a cracker would be impossible on this climb and it was small comfort to know that we did not need to do either. Grades in New Zealand had been up near the 10%, but here thank goodness the figures all the way up were 3,4 and 5%. For a while this is easy, for an hour it remains quite tolerable, but then there is a point where some of the fun stops. After 3,000 ft of climb we said farewell to Phil, two hours in to the climb.
The climb continued and almost another 2,000 ft of climbing we had a break at the only cafe. “How many touring cyclists come in here?”. I was not expecting the answer “Well we had one last Spring”. So it looks like we are going to be a little bit unusual if not even unique.
The monster climb continued. We came across campsites all of which were closed and our legs had given all that they had for the day. We were not going to get to the top of the climb. We had 6,500 ft on the altimeter and were not going to find the other 2,000 ft to the top. We decided to pull in at a closed site and pitch the tent for the night. This was going to be the highest night in a tent ever for us and we were up high with snow still around us.
I pulled on the phd down vest and a layer of merino along with winter running tights, this was going to be a bit of an ordeal and it was only day one. 84*F to bellow freezing in one climb and the biggest climb we have ever done.
The night was clear, cold and long. Our heads hit the Exped inflatable pillows at before 9 and we woke up at after 8. More climbing needed to be done. Onyx summit at 8,443 ft and 38 miles of climbing is quite an introduction to the mind numbing dimension of the USA. We put on one layer and started down the other side. We stopped within a mile. We were freezing and pulled on another layer.
Down we went to Big Bear Lake and then Big Bear City. What a ride down, the views opened and we were ecstatic. Pulling into the first place we found for coffee I asked “how many touring cyclists come through?” I have to get used to the answer, “Well I think you two are the first I have ever seen.”