WEST: GRID Alternatives
To see the final blog about the GRID Alternatives Trans American Cycling Tour, 2016, please go here.
To donate to GRID Alternatives through Climate Ride, please go here.
Welcome to my travelogue for the GRID Alternatives Trans American Cycling Tour, 2016. If you read some of my prior blogs you will see I am more interested in reflective writing on environmental issues than I am in writing a travelogue. However, the nature of the trip I am on (and have been on since April 8, 2016) makes me think this kind of writing has value. And because of the challenges and stresses a trip like this entails, I don't know that I will be able to write anything thoughtfully reflective until the trip is over.
For those of you tracking this tour day by day, please log onto my Facebook and Instagram accounts. There are links for both (and my Twitter account) at the bottom of this blog if you keep scrolling down. But if you don't participate in social media you can check in here from time to time. But please be forewarned - I find it very difficult to find wifi reliable enough to keep my blog fresh - in fact, I am often as much as two weeks behind. That said, I will get to it when I can, so please keep coming back! I promise you I will add to it eventually, so your patience will pay off.
On this trip I will travel more than 5000 miles on a bicycle over a number of months and visit a total of 11 regional GRID Alternatives offices - 8 in California (San Diego, Inland Empire, Greater LA, Central Valley, Central Coast, Bay Area, Bay Area North Coast and North Valley) - and then 3 more GRID offices in Denver, New York City and Washington, DC. The route will zigzag northward through California, then east across the Rocky Mountains through Nevada and Utah to Denver, and across the great midwest and the Appalachian mountains back to my home in NYC. The final leg of the tour from GRID's New York office to GRID's Washington DC office will take place from September 17 - 21 as part of the signature “Climate Ride NYC to Washington DC tour". At each office I will meet with GRID staff and participate in volunteer installations wherever possible. I also intend to do some additional cycling to see family and friends, and celebrate the National Park Service’s Centennial.
A great way that you can help put some wind behind my back is to support fundraising for my Independent Cycling Challenge at Climate Ride. Funds raised from this Climate Ride Independent Challenge will support GRID Alternatives. Please know that I am not raising money for myself - the trip is entirely self funded. So 100% of your $ goes to a tax deducible organization. And several excellent ones at that - Climate Ride takes a small portion for providing the fund raising website, and the rest goes directly to GRID. GRID's teams of volunteers come together to install solar systems for low income homeowners at no cost to homeowners. In addition, GRID’s hands-on training has evolved into one of the best solar training programs in the country. Your generous donation will help GRID Alternatives improve the bottom line for homeowners, decrease carbon emissions, and offer workforce training in the solar field - from marketing and sales to system installation - for individual homes, businesses, community solar and affordable housing. This is how to put people to work; solar has been the fastest growing industry in the country for the last four years!
You can make a secure online donation today by clicking on the 'Support Me' button on this webpage. You'll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!
A map of Grid Alternatives regional offices and a map of my route "in development" can be found here.
I flew from New York City to San Diego on April 7. On April 8th, I woke early so I could join the GRID, San Diego crew at Mesa Grande in Santa Ysabel, California about 50 miles out of San Diego. It was a whirlwind install - I was tired and jet-lagged. But the GRID crew were fantastic, and I felt excited to be there. And I wasn't aware of it at the time, but a few days later I cycled through the same community as I began my ride throughout California. On the 9th of April I unpacked and reassembled my bike, and on the 10th I left the home of my friend John Tessmer to begin the tour. On the morning of the 10th a few people from the GRID office gathered at John's to see me off.
On the 9th of April I unpacked and reassembled my bike, and on the 10th I left the home of my friend John Tessmer to begin the tour. On the morning of the 10th a few people from the GRID office gathered at John's to see me off.
On April 10, I left Julian, and headed east toward Anza Borrego. My host for the evening, an experienced long distance rider named Ben Blue, had talked me into riding through Joshua Tree National Park. I was not disappointed. I had a strong second day, riding quite a bit of it downhill (as opposed to the day before). I stopped near the Salton Sea and found an RV Camp. The next day, on April 11, I made it to Cottonwood Campground on the south entrance of Joshua Tree. What a stunning place!
On the morning of April 12 I began the trek through the park. What a deeply satisfying day it was. I dropped from 3000 feet down to 2000 quickly into the Pinto Basin, and then climbed another 2000 feet to finally arrive at the Cholla Cactus Gardens.
In an attempt to keep this travelogue up to date, I am going to link to my Garmin trip records for each day I cycle. I will then try to fill in the gaps with narrative as time allows.
April 13 - Out of Joshua Tree toward Riverside
April 14 - Out of Yucca into Riverside, stay with Bambi Tran from GRID
April 15 - GRID Inland Empire installation in San Bernardino
April 16 - GRID Inland Empire installation in San Bernardino
April 20 - GRID, LA office and site visit day, evening with family
April 21 - Arrive in LA to stay with Kareem Ferguson
April 22 - Into Venice to visit Jeff Leahy and on to visit with Debra Dralle
April 25 - Wind out of the NW is very tough going, stay at Motel in Lompoc, have dinner with Ian Cummings
April 26 - Arrive in SLO, stay with Justin Hitchcock of GRID Central Coast
April 27 - Layover day at Justin's, do laundry, start this blog post
April 28 - Participate in GRID solar installation in San Alamos, driven up to Atascadero where I sleep in GRID Central Coast office
April 29 - Get to the valley, where I find an RV Park after a long day riding
April 30 - Another long day (10+ miles more than the Garmin says because of equipment malfunction) to Fresno, where I find an inexpensive Motel 6. Plan to rest here for a day, do laundry, catch up on this blog.
May 1 - Take day of rest in Fresno, decide to change itinerary and cycle to GRID North Valley office in Chico next instead of Bay Area.
May 2 - Bike from Motel 6 to GRID Fresno office, felt warmly welcomed by staff and had great conversation about managing growth, aggregating outreach and installation opportunities over a 12 county area, and strengthening communities. Tom Esqueda, the ED for GRID Fresno kindly booked me into a very nice motel called the Piccadilly Inn.
May 3 - Rode from Fresno to Atwater. Long day, headed for an RV Park at end of day, only to discover in the nick of time they did not accommodate bicycles. I ended up in a cheap motel by the train tracks (which run all the way up the valley - I've been following train tracks, and trains, for 4 days).
May 4 - Rode from Atwater to Lodi, and stayed with Warm Showers hosts Randall and Elyssa Oliver. This was a 70+ mile long day, but I lost my computer data at the end of the day. I also discovered that I tend to lose 10+- miles/day due to computer snafus, so I need to adjust data in my head. Even so, I passed my 1000 mile mark on this day.
May 5 - I left Lodi late and faced rainclouds and some afternoon showers (as well as intense traffic) all the way to Roseville, where I visited my high school friend Preston Stepper. Preston is starting a new business - running a live music business called "The Acoustic Den Cafe". Slept at Preston's home.
May 6 - Left Roseville early, and because I didn't get much sleep, I knew I didn't want to make it a long day. Stayed overnight in Marysville in a Motel 6. I am now adding 100 miles to my totals because of the lost data in Lodi and because I lose miles everyday due to computer issues. In any case, I hit 1150 total miles today.
May 7 - Holed up in the Motel 6 in Marysville waiting out rain. I decided to chance it and take off. Made it to River Reflections RV Park on the Feather River outside of Oroville. There was a festival supporting Foster Children at the park, and a great band playing golden oldies. Drank Feather River IPA and enjoyed myself until the evening, when the skies opened p and there was an amazing downpour. Miraculously, however, I had placed my tent on 2 palettes I found and remained dry (although the tent was very wet). In the morning of the 8th I dried myself out as best I could and left for Chico.
May 8 - Found a Motel 6 on the north side of Chico so I could dry out my equipment. Stayed there and prepared to visit the GRID North Valley office the next day.
May 9 - Day in Chico, stayed with wonderful Warm Showers couple. Got help from North Rim Bike Shop and visited GRID office. Great day!
May 10 - Rode to Williams on the edge of the Sacramento Valley through Delta rice farms. The day was gorgeous (a relief after 5 days of grey skies) and the wind mostly at my back. Stayed at the Capri Motel for $35, a wonderful dive with clean rooms and a pleasant Gujarati owner. Kids played ball in front of my room until sunset.
May 11 - Over the mountains to Clear Lake, CA, one of the poorest per capita towns in California. Stayed for the next 3 nights at the Clear Lake RV Resort on the edge of Clear Lake. The place was under construction, so the bathrooms were a mess and for awhile the shower didn't work. I liked it anyway. The people were friendly and I felt safe. And I paid $65 for 3 nights.
May 12 - Participated in solar installation for GRID Bay Area North office.
May 13 - Participated in solar installation for GRID Bay Area North office.
May 14 - Biked from Clear Lake south to Vallejo and stayed in a Motel 6. The ride was long - 80 miles but traversed some extraordinarily beautiful country - especially Pope Valley, where I biked at least 10 miles downhill on a winding road with almost no traffic. Sensational ride!
May 15 - From Vallejo, I headed west to Petaluma and then down to Novato to visit friends Judith Bell and Daniel Ellenberg. The ride from Petaluma to Novato was especially beautiful, and the evening was terrific. So enjoy my friends, and the freedom a bike offers to spend time with them...
May 16 - Left Novato early and took a long ride (not in miles but in time) to Palo Alto, where my Dad and his wife Dawn live.
May 17 - 20 - My Dad is 97 years old, and still clearheaded and funny, although he and his wife Dawn do struggle some to manage the challenges of daily life. I was not sure how long I would stay because I didn't want to add stress. But it is now Friday and I am still here, so my visit seems to be going well.
On May 21, I made my way to Berkeley from Palo Alto, but not before my son John, his partner Beth and my granddaughter Devon showed up to spend the day with my Dad and his wife Dawn. What a great reunion it was! Even my brother Chris and his wife Nita came up from LA for the visit.
Later in the day I took the lovely ride over to the East Bay, especially across the Dunbarton Bridge across the salt flats and onto a finished section of the Bay Area trail along the bayshore on western Hayward and San Leandro. I spent the next three days in Berkeley at the home of Rafael Gonzales, and old friend and noted poet and activist. Rafael and I spent a lovely day together at the excellent Oakland Museum of California.
On Monday I was treated to a terrific welcome lunch (in my honor) at the GRID Bay Area Headquarters. I felt very welcomed by the entire staff, and owe a very special thank you to Lia Papazaglou and her colleague Daisy Meyer for taking such good care of me. Lia has helped me at every GRID office along the way by making sure I was in touch with just the right person. On Tuesday, May 24, I participated in a solar installation in Daly City with a team from Sunrun on a corporate build at a new housing development built by Habitat for Humanity. Loads of fun!
On Tuesday, May 24, I participated in a solar installation in Daly City with a team from Sunrun on a corporate build at a new housing development built by Habitat for Humanity.
On May 25, while still digesting the conclusion on my California tour, I left the Bay Area to begin the trek to Denver. Once I get to Denver (I am catching this blog up on June 7 in Milford, Utah), I will have visited 9 of the 11 national regional GRID offices. Assuming I get to participate in a solar installation in the Denver area (which I expect will happen), I will have participated in 7 installations.
But in the meantime, I am now in the process of touring across Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Yesterday I passed from Nevada into Utah on highway 21 - even more isolated than the famous "loneliest road in America - Highway 50". What an amazing 83 miles from Brady, Nevada (a gateway town to the Great Basin National Forest) into Milford. But I am getting ahead of myself. Below are the Garmin records, photos and short Facebook blurbs from the past several weeks.
May 26 - Headed out of the Bay Area to begin my trip to Denver. Now the true long distance cycling challenge begins! Tomorrow I will pass through Sacramento, follow the American River for a while and tackle the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Excited!
May 27 - Made it to Bear Lake RV Camp. Thought I would be leaving early the next day but because Memorial Day weekend was going to make finding a campsite difficult. I was right. Set up a bootleg camp on the outside of the RV park (with the blessing of the owners). Decided to stay over a day because my campground was free and I had internet. Besides, it was a beautiful place.
May 29 - Got over the Sierras and into Nevada. Rode into Carson City to discover the town was deep into "midnight madness" - a 72 hour long softball tournament. I decided to catch it for a few minutes on my way out of town tomorrow. And I thought I was the one having a ball...
May 30 - Got into Fallon. Really in the heart of Nevada now. Casinos are plentiful. So is land. People are scarcer. Soon I will be on the "loneliest stretch of highway in the US", a remote stretch of highway 50.
May 31 - 61 miles today with one place for water on the way. Tomorrow to Austin, Nevada, and then a 71 mile run with no water.... I will carry enough - figuring out how to do that... The Great Basin desert in Nevada is astonishingly beautiful and sometimes bleak. Great landscape! Loving this challenge...
June 1 - Kept today mellow, although it was 50 miles with no services. In Austin, Nevada, tonight at a Baptist RV Park. Truly Christian in that it serves travelers with or without $ and works on an honor system. Beautiful country, mixed culture. Lots of Trump supporters out here. I feel bad for them - they genuinely believe he will help them... It's hard to watch people be so conned. Anyway, tomorrow I have a 71 mile ride with no services. Broke my water bag today but I have figured out another way to carry extra water.... Two passes to climb - maybe my biggest challenge to date...
June 2 - Made it, 70 miles, no services, including water. From Austin (pop 192) to Eureka, Nevada (pop 690). 82 miles and 3 mountain passes away is my stop for tomorrow, the booming metropolis of Ely (I think about 9k)... It's basin, ridge, pass, ridge, basin, ridge, pass, over and over. Beautiful and the most remote country I've ever seen in the lower 48. Eureka has a nice feel, btw. Lots of kids, good park, a good bar and grill. I get the impression the folks who live here genuinely enjoy their town and are proud of it. The sign on the way into town reads "the friendliest town on the loneliest highway in the world". Seems right...
June 3 and 4 - Resting today in Ely, Nevada. Have had a really good time here - great sporting goods store with attached bike shop and a manager who offered me new meal replacement bars as a gift because he likes what I'm trying to do. Town also sports several casinos and a 1950's soda fountain (was built in 1947). I'm somewhere between old Vegas and "Our Town". The trip in was challenging with 3 passes to climb and no services. But guess what? In 2 days I have to do an 84 mile jaunt with no towns as I cross into Utah. Challenges keep getting incrementally bigger... And I seem to meet them, which of course makes me feel good...
June 5 and June 6 - Just finished the most challenging day yet on this tour. 3 peaks, 100+ degree heat, 83 miles, no services. I am indebted to Paul Bath of Sportsworld in Ely, who gifted me ER Bars (at 800 calories per serving, they saved me from flagging not once, but twice, since I had to deal with an intense wind while climbing which made the effort exponentially harder), and also to traveler Micah Jayne, who had the foresight to cache water and fruit at the second of 3 peaks today -- although he was in a car, he could tell what I was up against... So my bike karma keeps building - I have a lot of giving back to do when the time is right... And tonight I am resting in a motel in Milford, Utah. Cute town of 1200 people. Last night I stayed in Baker, Nevada, at a charming RV park where I met Micah... Baker has 69 inhabitants and because it's the gateway town for the Great Basin National Park, it has a couple great restaurants and bars... I love this expansive, dry, mountainous country... And I so enjoy being off the beaten path...
June 7 - Resting up in Milford. Tomorrow I will bike 50 miles to Cedar City, where I will then spend four days enjoying the surrounding area with my good friend Maryjane Fahey, who is coming to visit. I probably won't post again until I hit the road for my next segment on Tuesday, June 14th.
So it's now June 21st, and I am catching up in Durango, Colorado, where I am visiting my Uncle Tom and his partner Chris, and my high school friend Linda Jones. Below are a few pictures of a side trip to Bryce Canyon that Maryjane and I took. Because we stayed in a ski lodge near Cedar Breaks, Utah, we spent little time in Cedar City (it was about 25 miles and 4000 elevation feet away). We saw Zion as well, but thought that, while extraordinary, the crowds made it a far less enjoyable experience than Bryce.
Leaving Cedar Breaks was bittersweet. I was ready to get going onto the next leg of the trip to Denver, and reluctant to leave the comfort and relaxation in which Maryjane and I were basking. But on June 13, Maryjane and I drove our rented truck down to the Cedar City airport where she caught a plane to head back to NYC. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a car from an employee at the ski lodge, so I drove back up the mountain (saving myself from a 30 mile long 8% grade climb). It wasn't all peaches and cream, however, because it was raining in Cedar City and snowing at Cedar Breaks. So, I started my bike trip to Denver at 10,000 feet and a snowstorm. But then, it could only get better. And it did. The sky stayed raucous for much of the day, however. That evening I posted the following on Facebook: " Left Cedar Breaks - about 20 miles east of Cedar City - yesterday morning in a high elevation snow/sleet storm and spent the evening in warm sunshine at Red Rocks Canyon west of Bryce Canyon. Today I cycled to Escalante, where I have found wi-if and therefore, Internet... Spent 4 lovely R&R days with Maryjane Fahey. What a good time we had, Zion and Bryce National Parks, Cedar City, hanging out, even the Tonys on TV... On my way to Denver in earnest now, although southern Utah certainly inspires me to slow down and enjoy... What amazing country!"
On the next day, June 14, I created another post connected to a story on Climate Central that can be located here: "Yesterday I spoke to a Park Ranger near Bryce Canyon. We were talking about my cycling route and he warned me to skip the hotter parts of the day once I hit Escalante. Then he mentioned that he had been a ranger for 18 years and he had never seen heat waves come as early to southern Utah as this year. He fell silent. And then he said, "Only people who go from their AC car to their AC office are missing that the heat is increasing. And that is a lot of people. But one thing is certain. Climate deniers don't visit parks, they don't hike and they never camp. If they did, they'd know. Only people who isolate themselves from the weather can still believe its not changing." I thought of Donald Trump. Has he ever slept on the ground? Has he ever hiked 10 miles in a national park? Has he ever biked 80 miles? I doubt it. It would mess up his hair."
Next up was Escalante. I sent out no posts on June 15 because I had no cell service (this problem would persist all the way to the Colorado border). But the beauty around me was stunning and I was very content to amble along.
Leaving Escalante and heading up Boulder Mountain was a new challenge. The summit was almost 10,000 feet and I got there on June 16 after a day of arduous climbing. The day before and after both offered up some incredible views... I posted the following on Facebook: "I have to be quick because I only have wifi for another 10 minutes. But I'm fine - yesterday climbed over 5000 feet and today am dealing with a very intense desert sun. And all is good. Making my way through southern Utah - a place of exceptional beauty, mind blowing scenery and extreme temperatures. A truly amazing place... Got several more days in front of me without cell service - not much out here except beauty... What more does one need really?"
On June 17, I met Tony and Joy in the RV Park in Hanksville. They are fellow bikers on the ACA Great Western Trail, which is what I took from San Francisco to Durango, CO. We rode together the next day into Lake Powell, where we spent the night in the shade of a closed National Park Visitor Center.
On June 18 I left my new friends and continued on to Blanding, Utah, where I treated myself to a hotel room. My post on Facebook that night reads as follows: "Today was the most challenging day I have had. At one point in the afternoon my Garmin computer was registering 118 degrees. In addition I had 74 miles to cycle with no access to water beyond what I can carry (4 liters). I had to get from about 4000 feet (stayed at Glen Canyon last night) to 7000 over a 48 mile climb. Lots of uphill... All that said, Utah keeps being spectacular. I'm so glad I am seeing this desert now because in several decades this kind of landscape will probably be too dangerous to visit (because of extreme heat) for much of the year... In that way, it's like visiting glaciers - now is the time! Our climate is changing so rapidly that much of what we take for granted may not be around much longer..."
On June 19 I wrote in Facebook: Left the Adventure Cycling Western (ACA) route today to make my trip to Denver more direct after a side trip tomorrow to see my uncle in Durango... Today hit 102 degrees, and it sure seemed like I climbed a lot...in Cortez, Colorado now --showered, tired, eating. How good beer and food taste!"
On June 20, I made it to Durango. What a pleasant town, and the Animus Valley to the north toward Silverton is exceptionally beautiful! I am staying with my Uncle, Tom MacCluskey and his partner Kriss Larson. A retired music critic and music restoration specialist, Tom does many things, and one of them is spend several hours everyday doing mosquito abatement at the nearby James Ranch. This ranch was profiled in a movie about innovative agricultural practices narrated by Robert Redford.
June 22 - I left Durango, headed for Denver. I planned no stops and hoped to get there in 5-6 days. Every day the scenery and routes were extraordinary. That evening, I wrote on Facebook: "Left Durango this morning after a day of rest and pleasure spent with my Uncle and his partner. What great people they are! I'm now heading to Denver in earnest - I should arrive early next week... Today was a long one but not as hard as some days prior. However, my Garmin said it was 106 at one point (it definitely was hot). Tomorrow I tackle the famous (infamous) Wolf Creek Pass- about a 25 mile climb from 6000 to 10500 feet. Woohoo"!
June 23 - After a lovely evening in an RV Park north of Pagosa Springs, I tackled Wolf Creek Pass. My FB entry at day's end: "Got over Wolf Creek Pass. Along the way I met 2 Mexico to Canada hikers on the Continental Divide Trail and 3 bikers on the Divide Bike Trail. Am I jealous of what they are doing? Sure, but then my project kicks butt also:
You can support the Climate Ride “GRID Alternatives Trans-American Cycling Tour”, 2016 by going to my Climate Ride Fundraising Page.
June 24 - Made good timing today in spite of another summit - this one named Poncha Summit. Either I'm getting stronger or the climbs are getting easier. But tomorrow or the next day I get to sample the climb into and out of South Park Valley - used to drive that area 30 years ago - it seemed like a climb in a car at the time - so I am guessing it'll be intense on a bike....
June 25 - Ended the day at a poorly run and ill equipped RV Park on the side of hill with no cover. An intense wind and intermittent thunderstorms kicked up. I was lucky to make some food and get my tent up in the wind and rain (although it was stunningly beautiful). ...Interesting things one faces when human created spaces are not available.
June 26 - At the end of a long day and after my arrival into Littleton where I was greeted by my old friend and student Rick Long and his family, I wrote: "Made it to Denver, and am happily resting with Rick Long and his family in Littleton, who are making me feel incredibly welcome....Yesterday was a long one with many missteps, I think I went 10 miles further than my Garmin shows because a new update wiped out my settings and I didn't realize it wasn't recording for several chunks of the ride. But no matter, after going over an amazing final pass into the front range south of Sedalia and biking north on 105, I was able to see the lovely little towns in the foothills between Colorado Springs and Denver metro. Colorado has been extraordinary, and although I'm out of the mountains, I'm only 1/2 way across the state. I'll be here for a few days organizing and visiting GRID Denver! Yea"!
June 27 - I bought new shoes and a lighter pair of long pants and got a new cassette and chain installed on my bike. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It was - little things can make a big difference on a trip like this. I am having a wonderful time with Rick Long and his family, and am also feeling restored. Tomorrow I visit GRID, Denver, and it should be quite a day. So, look for more to come, probably when I am in eastern Colorado, Kansas or Nebraska (still figuring out which way to go). My next critical stop is Galesburg, IL, where I grew up and where my Mom still lives.