The trip to the USA was a spontaneous one. One day, at the beginning of May it just sprang into my mind while I was driving to work. Everyday life, traffic jams, noise and grey reality – not much is required to be able to come up with such an idea. There was a quick talk with Ania on the phone if she wanted to take the challenge and the whole thing started. First of all, planning the route of the trip, fund-raising, checking and choosing the right equipment , creating the web site, measuring the risk and threats, and 1000 different things which are impossible to count.
On the 27th of June 2014 at 10:25 we had a flight from Berlin to San Francisco with a stop at the Chicago Airport. You can imagine how surprised we were when we found out that our luggage had been left at Chicago. In fact, the bicycles were the main element of our trip.
The situation forced us to change the plans: we had to go by means of public transport instead of our bicycles. We ate dinner, had the last glass of wine and went to bed. From that moment we didn’t have time for sleeping or taking a bath. We received bikes at 2:30 a.m. Until the sunrise we were occupied with packing and preparing our bikes and our equipment, getting to know the functioning of our GPS which in fact didn’t work and charting the rout. After breakfast we left the hotel. It was the first time when I realized that the whole trip was one huge unknown and a spontaneous thing, for which we hadn’t been prepared in a professional way. There was no way out – we had to improvise.
To be honest I do not have any experience in using GPS nor am I able to repair my bicycle myself. Up to that moment every time something went wrong I went to the service. I had changed the wheel once so far. Sleeping in a sleeping bag, no shower, no face cream or electric shaver were just a few of the enormous number of new things that we were to undergo during that trip. It turned out to be a survival camp.
After not much of a sleep at around 8:30 a.m. we left the hotel. We had the opportunity to try out our equipment on the main street of San Francisco. It turned out that I just had one efficiently working brake. The rest was ok. Anna’s bicycle was perfect. We bought some pepper spray and went to T-Mobile (one of the mobile operators which has the worst outreach). We were at Apple’s twice . I got a mobile phone from Ania the day before we set of. We still didn’t have the map.
San Francisco is a crowded and noisy place.
We turned on our mobile and GPS and we rode through the city. We got lost and travelled around for over an hour. Finally we got to the fairy which seemed to be the only way to get out of this city. We met some cyclist who told us that the best way to get out was to use the underground but it was almost impossible to get the tickets. A nice, homeless American helped us and aked for 4$ in return which we gave him. We laughed that these additional services weren’t cheap. At the platform we met some young people smoking weed or some other good staff. We got into the train and travelled as far as West Dublin.
Actually, we started our trip at 6p.m on Saturday the 28th of June ( 2:41 a.m., Sunday the 29th of June, Polish time). Our first destination was the National Park of Yosemitte which was 200km away. GPS didn’t work smoothly and the mobile was about to die. We went along bike route through the area of beautiful villas, we admired the views. Then we left the city and travelled along a road with a cold wind blowing from behind. The tarmac pulled as forward. The views were magnificent. Life couldn’t be any better!! On the way we stopped and did the shopping. We got a map We were riding on the Route 120 when it got dark. Our first night was ahead of us. We were tired and sleepy. At about 4:00 a.m. we stopped at the reception desk of some camping site. We took out our foam mattress and sleeping bags. It was cold and humid. We must have been sleeping somewhere near the lake. GPS didn’t work, our mobile was out of reach. From time to time a car passed by. We had the feeling that we were somewhere at the end of the world. Ania was sleeping as a log and I was on guard. I had the impression that somebody or something was watching us. I heard strange noises. “Predator” came up to my mind and I felt terrified. The only weapon we were in possession of was a knife and pepper spray. I remained in that state for 1,5 hour and then I wakened Ania. We moved forward to the nearest shop. We had to refresh ourselves and needed some coffee.
It was an early morning. The shopkeeper was a really nice woman. She welcomed us with a loud scream and wanted to know where we were going and where we were from. She took some pics and got autographs. She let us use the bathroom and then served fresh coffee. We bought some crisps, nuts and cookies – all what we dreamed of. After the bath in a sink, we put our Odlo outfits on to cover the bodies and protect ourselves from the sun. It was really hot and still. Some hills appeared ahead of us. From time to time little slopes showed up but it was still not enough to enable us to come up the next hill without carrying the bikes up it. Ania’s bike had an overload of about 10 kilos, which started to cause some problems. We had already quarreled about it several times during our flight. Just to make it clear, my older sister took everything what she had thought would have been useful i.e. a notebook, 1 kg of protein supplement, a wallet, a huge tube of toothpaste, a bottle of shower gel and a tube of shampoo, a pair of shoes, a towel….Everything what she had managed to fit into her bags.
I tried to speed up but the groans from behind became louder and louder. From time to time we had to wheel the bikes. It got really hot but our Odlo outfits were very comfortable. Ania couldn’t make out any longer. It was midday and the sun was high. We exchanged the bikes. I wheeled hers and she did mine but only for a little while. Anna’s rear break had got stuck. No wonder she had had difficulties wheeling it up the hill. A horse wouldn’t have pulled that load! Our first technical problem ended up with the necessity of breaking. We had to grease the breaks and chains and we checked the tires’ pressure. We ran out of water and had already travelled without it for some distance. Finally, we got to Mariposa and met Nat who offered us some help with the broken bicycle but unfortunately it turned out not to be useful. He gave us a new map and told us what was the easiest way to go through the National Park of Yosemitte. He marked a bicycle shop in Mammoth Lake. Nat told us that we would reach that place no sooner than on Tuesday. In the meantime our I-Phone which we used only to take pics started to get hotter and hotter. Sigma – the thermometer on our bicycles – indicated the temperature of 48C.
We rode forward and we had already travelled 220 km. Then there was another Anna’s slowdown and this time it appeared to be a serious one. I took out the foam mattress and my hands were shaking when I looked at Anna’s pale face. After half an hour everything went back to normal. She is a tough girl! She can regenerate herself quickly.
We were sitting on a porch of sb’s house which looked as sb had abandoned it. We decided to reduce our luggage. We reduced our staff and left only the most necessary things. At the motel in Mariposa we posted our belongings. It was so to say only 7 kilos package.
It was high time to eat something. Fortunately there was a small restaurant where they served delicious food i.e. salmon, rice, vegetables, salad and soup. Then we had some sleep lying on grass, we mended the air chamber in my Stevens bike, drank some coffee and ate some delicious cake. It was at around 2 a.m. Smiling and being a little bit lighter we continued our journey.
The flow of time didn’t matter to us at all. The days and nights were signaled by turning our headlamps on and off.
It was still dark when we arrived at the entrance of the National Park of Yosemitte. We took a quick sweet pic and went on. The first rays of the sun started showing up when we turned our headlamps off. There was about 200 km ahead of us. The route went through the Yosemitte Park, mainly mountains. We were heading to the gas station in Crane Flat passing through Curry Village and Yosemitte Village. We didn’t manage to park our bicycles because as soon as we got there some people came up to us. We didn’t expect such a fun-club. It was a group of Japanese people who took some pics with us, asked as different questions about our trip, told us about their sport achievements and asked us for autographs. We laughed and went to do the shopping. We bought all the things we wanted. In fact it was not the first time. We drank and ate as much as we could, took a bath in a bath tub and laughed at ourselves. At that time we were 1800 m ASL so some of the mountains were already conquered by us. The whole route was full of hills and from time to time we went down a hill. It was extremely hot which was killing us so we decided to take a nap on the bench and then again we set on our bikes. This time we rode on Tioga Rd ( 3000 m ASL). We were so tired and thirsty that the idea of taking a bath in a stream seemed to be the best one. We cycle forward passing mountains around us. Beautiful views … we would remember them forever. Tears were running down my cheeks ‘cos I couldn’t believe I was there. One hill after another and it got cold. We dressed and then undressed as we got hot after a moment.
In the end , at around 9:40 p.m. we got to the camp. We hadn’t drunk for at least 2 hours. We hadn’t eaten either. We just got energetic bars which we had received from Kinga, Anna’s friend, before our flight from Poland. The shop had already been closed. Fortunately, another nice man appeared and gave us some food (instant pasta, some kind of fruit and sth to drink). The camp’s staff let us stay there. We didn’t waste our time and went to sleep. A place under a tree, sleeping in a sleeping bag, one foam mattress, humidity and cold – that was what we had to go through. It wasn’t anything pleasant. I was on my guard once again. I didn’t like the night, I trembled and looked out for a teddy bear…We only had 3 hours sleep. After a long fight I managed to persuade Ann to get on her bike. It was about 3 am. I used a bathroom at the camp site and went along 395 Rd towards Mammoth Lake and the bike service.
We drove through the night. No cars were passing us. First few kilometers we rode up the hill but then there was about 30km long slop. It was extremely cold. High up in the mountains there was snow. The temperature was around 9C which we felt as if it was about 0C. I sped up to 60 km/h. It was even colder but I could feel freedom. I waited for Annia. We turned our headlights of and watched the sunrise. We were riding on an old, damaged road when it began getting hotter and hotter so we took our jackets and trousers of. At about 10:00 am. we ate breakfast which consisted of a hamburger with an egg and some cheese, in addition some scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee to wake us up. We met a family which couldn’t believe that we rode that far. We had a small talk and hit the road. There were still some kilometers left to Mammoth Lake. Once again we had to ride up the hill for about 10 kilometers. We were exhausted but the thought of a next stop filled us with optimism. We reached the bike shop. Those nice and helpful guys couldn’t believe that we had a plan to go all the way to New York. They were great and fixed Anna’s bike. We gave them our cards with trip info. We had an hour long nap at the fire brigade’s building. We got our bikes from the service at around 1p.,m. We did the shopping at the supermarket, had a bath in a sink. We met hundreds of people asking us questions what we were doing there. We also met John who helped us to plan the trip to the Death Valley and Las Vegas. He warned us that it was a stupidity to go there because of very high temperatures in that area. It is said to be the hottest place on earth. As usual we were obstinate. We had a plan to go through the Death Valley at night. During the day we slept only one hour. Anna threatened me that it hadn’t been enough of sleep for her and that she should not have managed to go this way any longer.