Friday, December 23, 2011

Home for the Holly days

For me, the holidays are a time to spend with friends and family, a time to appreciate what we have.  I find myself missing my large family which extends worldwide.  All of the people who showed us love and hospitality on our journeys are in our thoughts and hearts, and we miss you.

Here is a picture of Gregg and Neva.  Gregg lives in San Francisco with four other young professionals.  His hospitality, generosity, and knowledge of the city gave our trip a great kick start. 

Three of his roommates are artists.  The whole house has bits and pieces of each person.  It was a joy to spend two days around such diverse personalities in a beautifully eclectic environment.

My sister Vicki lives in Vacaville.  When I had come down with a cold, she put us up and nursed me back to health.  My sister and I grew up on a horse ranch, and this is Neva's first time on a horse.  It means a lot to see her up there. 

Leaving Sacramento, we had to climb quite a bit of elevation to get to Placerville.  We stopped in at the Golden Spoke Bike Shop, and quickly made friends with the staff due to our unique bike set up and tales of adventure.  Rufus, one of the shop employees, gave us a place to stay by Sly Park which backed miles and miles of national forest. 

Rufus dropped us off in Kirkwood in the early morning hours.  Fisherman were on the lake, the air was crisp and clean, and the view of Red Lake was pristine, it was a perfect day to ride.

We stayed in Walker, California after climbing multiple passes, the steepest being Monitor Pass, which summits at 8,314 feet.  Coming from Markleeville which is 13 miles away, there is a notable 3,000 foot elevation climb.  My legs were feeling quite overworked by the end of the day, when some passers by, Mark, Deb and JW offered a warm bed to us for the evening.  Deb later relayed to me that Neva and I had gone over at least 3 of the passes on the California death ride.  Neva got to stay up later than usual with new friend JW, and I got to relax on a comfy couch.  I also gained some insight for applying to grad school since Deb and Mark have a business, YouTern, which is directed toward helping students maintain a career path.

And then it was up and over Tioga Pass, thanks to Tony, Tony and Chris.  Neva and I spent the day in Yosemite Valley, and saw El Capitan along with the other majestic (and super touristy) places in Yosemite.

Some fire fighter friends of ours, (left to right) Justin, Jay and Matt housed us in Wawona after a long day of biking in the Valley.  Here they are, ready to head out to work.

We hurried down the mountain to lose elevation quickly in order to avoid the impending snow storm forecasted above 7,000 feet.  We made it passed Bass Lake, and stayed in the town of Auberry while it poured rain for a couple days.  The whole Seventh Day Adventist Church showed us wonderful hospitality.  Monte and Steve opened their home and their hearts to us, not to mention they are both vegetarian and Monte is a great cook!  Here they are, dropping us outside of Clovis after I had some tire problems on my way out of Auberry.

More fire fighter friend crew hospitality was waiting for us in Grant Grove, and again passed the Giant Forest.  We stayed the evening with Maury and her roommate Roxanne (second from the right).  Roxanne is headed off to work with part of her crew.

The giant sequoias were blissful to ride through.  I suppose it helped that I had a huge 22 mile descent once I hit the Giant Forest.  It is not nearly as touristy after September, so I felt like I had the whole place to myself.  With insight from the firefighters on the area, I was in even more awe at the majesty of the Sequoiadendron giganteum.  The pine trees and firs are dwarfed by these giants.  There are also some fire scares visible at the base of this sequoia.

In Auberry, I had met a cyclist passing through on a short bike tour.  She lives in San Francisco, and had about ten days to embark of a fun biking journey.  We crossed paths again in Lemoncove where we pitched tents together and decided to ride as a group, as we were headed in the same direction.  Motorist passerby, Nancy had stopped to ask if I needed help when I had a flat, and offered her house up to Liz and I once we had made it up the hill.  Here is (from left to right) Mark's father and mother visiting from the UK, Nancy, Mark, and Liz after dinner.  

Here is the delicious peanut, tofu Thai dinner that Nancy whipped up using mostly vegetables from her and Mark's exquisite garden.

We went up and over Ponderosa Road, thanks to Mark.  Liz had to make her way towards San Francisco after hitting Tehachapi, and I left the mountains and the Sequoia National Forest towards the flats.  Neva and I stayed in Lancaster with a couple from Warm Showers.  Gene and Ann were very hospitable, and very inspirational, biking at least 30 miles a week at the spry age of 77.  Gene and Ann love biking, and Gene can geek out for hours on bikes, gear, and routes.  It was fun looking at maps with him, as he was so knowledgeable about the area and had done similar rides himself towards Big Bear, which is where I was headed.  Gene has his tours and adventures chronicled here at Crazy Guy on a Bike.

We then started heading back into the mountains, toward Buckhorn campground in the Angeles National Forest.  The Buckhorn campsite was the nicest campground I stayed at on my trip.  The atmosphere really puts you right in the middle of the forest.  Big horn sheep also inhabit the rocky mountains which are just up the road.  While we were packing up in the morning, the Nevar family from L.A. made us a traditional Mexican feast for breakfast.  In exchange, I showed them the process of changing a tire puncture.  I couldn't have asked for a better nutritional start.  They even wrapped us up some burritos for the road. 

We continued on to Big Bear and stopped in Yucaipa on our way to Idylwilde.  Another Warm Showers couple, Tim and Kym, hosted us on a cold, foggy day.  Tim teaches acrobatics at the local YMCA as a hobby, and Kym has a dog training business.  

Neva had a hay day watching the youth partake in different types of acrobatics.  Here is a picture of Tim (far left, blue shorts) with his team of aerial acrobats.

Shortly thereafter, our bike trip came to an end in Pine Valley, CA.  We stayed with my mother and step father in El Centro, CA, and then headed out to Cuzco, Peru five days later.  In Peru, we stayed with Ricardo, who opens his home up to tourists, and offers a wide range of information on the area.  There is Jim (my step dad) on the left, and Ricardo on the right.

The views in Peru were spectacular, and I can't wait to share more pictures of the majestic areas of Machu Pichu and Pisaq.  Here is me with Neva on my back, and Incan ruins in the background, at the base of Wayna Picchu, the tallest point at Machu Picchu.

Since then, Neva turned two years old, we shared Thanksgiving with family, and Neva got to explore Lego Land.  Now, it's the holly-days, and Neva and I find ourselves in Denton, Texas.  It has been two weeks since we left California, and we have cozied down for some solo family time for the winter.  Here we are messing around in some fake snow playing dress up as Cindy Lou Who and Max the dog.

Happy holidays to all from Neva and I.  Stay tuned for some infant travel changes I noticed on our last few flights in November.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Such Great Heights

Biking through the sierras has it's ups and downs, literally.  We were nearing the highest point in our trip, slowly but surely.  Neva and I had climbed 1800 ft in elevation and then rolled  back down to Lee Vining, just a stones throw from the beginning of the ominous Tioga Pass, which is considered the back way into Yosemite, and summits at about 10,000 ft in elevation.  I decided to bike by to scope out what we might be in for the following day.

As I was turning around, Tony, Tony and Chris, who had seen Neva and I voraciously take to a late lunch at the market down the road, stopped to see if we wanted a ride up the pass.  They were no stranger to the rigors of Tioga.  The San Francisco locals try to frequent the area at least a couple times a year.  They informed me that the multiple lakes around the area, the variety of wild fish, and the option to fish remotely in the high elevations, defines the area as a "fisherman's paradise".  Chris even was able to take home the much sought after golden trout.

We decided to take the offer and join our new friends at their campsite on top of Tioga.  Neva and I were grateful for the ride up Tioga as we saw a cyclist on a double decker bike struggling at a snail's pace to make it up the pass, with nothing more than a backpack.  I saw a shadow of myself pulling 130 pounds of weight up the steep grade.  How my calves might burn, how my back might ache, and how my forearms might shake trying to keep the load steady while going uphill, I was indeed grateful at that point. As we continued to climb up steep grades, we saw confident men dressed in all black with helmets on, fly passed us on skateboards, gaining speed at an atrocious pace.  We cringed slightly remembering the fallen rocks in the road that are a typical occurrence on steep mountain passes.  We attempted a warning wave, but they were gone in the blink of an eye.

It was pretty cold at the top.  Eighteen inches of snow was in the forecast for the following week.  The guys extended their van to us for shelter that evening so we wouldn't have to pitch our tent.  It was early to bed, early to rise that day.  The low temperatures and strong winds rocking our shelter, and whistling through the trees made sure of light sleep and an ambitious start.

Chris started up the fire while father/son crew organized breakfast and loaded up the van.  I was quite impressed with Tony's (senior) ability to pack the van with enough camp gear and fishing gear for three grown men on a long weekend fishing trip, with the addition of a bike and trailer and two extra passengers.  As a bicycling tourer, I can definitely appreciate the skill of compact packing.

It was time to go.  Tony dropped us at a gas station where we would have a nice decent down to the village.  Upon saying good bye, I noticed Neva's doggie "Buppy" was missing.  Upon further contemplation, I believe it was possibly thrown outside of the cabin on our way to inspect Tioga pass.  It was a sad day knowing that this dog that had accompanied Neva to four countries, through 6 states, and on three bike tours is now on his own.  Neva had taken to a stuffed cow in the van that belonged to Tony's (junior) mom.  They extended the cow as a parting gift, and headed toward San Francisco.

I looked ahead of us.  We had exchanged a large climb for a large decent.  It will be a good day, possibly with an unusually high number of bug consumption.  Rest in peace Buppy.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Daily Grind

Neva and I have been traveling for a good long  bit now, and we have met so many wonderful people.  I think about them daily, and the lovely community that has developed for us down the Sierra Cascades in California.

I wanted to get a quick blog up today, which I will try to update regularly which will have the date and location of where we are at so we can be followed down the map.

Here goes, pictures are coming soon.

Sep 16, 17, 18 - Austin, TX - ACL
Sep 19 - Leave Denton, TX on greyhound
Sep 20 - Flagstaff, AZ
Sep 21 - San Francisco, CA
Sep 22 - San Francisco, CA
Sep 23 - Vacaville, CA
Sep 24 - Davis, CA
Sep 25 - Folsom, CA
Sep 26 - Placerville/Sly Park, CA
Sep 27 - Placerville/Sly Park, CA
Sep 28 - Markleeville, CA
Sep 29 - Walker, CA
Sep 30 - Bridgeport, CA
Oct 1 - Tioga Pass/Yosemite, CA
Oct 2 - Wawona, CA
Oct 3 - Bass Lake, CA
Oct 4 - Auberry, CA
Oct 5 - Auberry, CA
Oct 6 - Toll house Road/Pine Flat Lake, CA
Oct 7 - Prather, CA
Oct 8 - Grant Grove, CA
Oct 9 - Grant Grove, CA
Oct 10 - Ash Mountain/Giant Forest, CA
Oct 11 - Lemon Cove, CA
Oct 12 - Springville, CA
Oct 13 - Johnsondale, along Kern river, CA
Oct 14 - Kernville, CA
Oct 15 - passed Bodfish, CA
Oct 16 - Tehachapi, CA
Oct 17 - Lancaster, CA
Oct 18 - Monte Cristo campsite/Tujunga, CA
Oct 19 - Buckhorn campsite, CA
Oct 20 - Big Pines, CA
Oct 21 - Crestline, CA
Oct 22 - Victorville, CA
Oct 23 - Big Bear Lake, CA
Oct 24 - Yucaipa, CA
Oct 25 - Yucaipa, CA
Oct 26 - Oak Grove, CA
Oct 27 - Julian, CA
Oct 28 - Pine Valley, CA - ENDED ROUTE
Oct 29 to Nov 1 - El Centro, CA
Nov 2 - Los Angeles, CA

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weather, It will Happen

The clouds are marinating over the horizon, immanent snow threatens the higher elevations.  Thunder whispers the possibility of precipitation in the distance.  The sun attempts to peak through the heavy blanket, with no success, leaving Bass Lake and the surrounding areas, including a tiny bicycle and trailer, in a large shadow.  It is almost silent, except for the symphony of different lake birds, and a construction truck, every now and then.  The stillness is almost palpable.  There is no wind today.  Every acorn and pine needle stay in place, and the trees stand, statuesque and strong with their evergreen presence.
View of the clouds when leaving Bass Lake
We have been running from the weather, going up and down in elevation, and back up again, hoping to escape the aforementioned forecast of snow above 7000 ft.  If we head far enough south, we may even escape the storm altogether, but I don't think my legs have it in me.  My rain coat is on, and my rain pants are within arms reach, for the anticipation of what is sure to come.
Neva eating a warm breakfast on one of the colder days
I don't mind weather so much.  It is fun to coast over miles of different terrain to see the golden grasses cover the land like a cozy afgan, and to climb up to almost 10,000 feet and see the land change into a forest of evergreens, so thick, you can barely see 3 feet through them, and the surrounding mountains linger in the background like slate colored top hats speckled with bits of green and white.
View from the top - the view coming down from Tioga Pass, roughly 10,000 ft in elevation
We stopped in at Slim's Koffee Shop in North Fork for a midday rest.  Scott, the owner, stood proudly in front of his delicious line up of teas, all chosen with meticulous care, and kept in large mason jars on a special shelf.  The locals who frequent Slim's came in the door one by one, and Scott would welcome them in by name with a big smile, and ready to whip up another delectable drink. 
Scott making some green tea
 I heard a 'ding' among the hustle and bustle of a popular small town coffee shop.  Our green tea had been steeped to perfection, and was brought to our table, along with a small piece of pistachio biscotti for a flavor accompaniment.  I sat and sipped my tea, taking in the ambiance.  With local art lining the red walls, the thick smell of warm coffees and teas wafting through the air, and the song "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes playing softly in the background, I almost didn't want to leave.  Neither did Neva, as she had befriended a local 3 year old with a glittery gold top and blonde hair.  We had to get going though, back to the crisp air that was so thick with moisture, you could almost pluck out a cloud like cotton candy and chew on it. 
Neva pondering life...or just digesting for a minute, either way, it won't last long
 In the evening, we stayed in the town of Auberry.  Taken in by a lovely church, the Auberry Seventh-day Adventist Church.  There were warm smiles, story exchange, and Neva's favorite, a full playground in back.  We ended up staying at a little hotel above a coffee shop just a few miles from the church.
I awoke in the middle of the night, and walked passed the window to hear the soothing sound of rain, pattering loudly over the entire landscape.  The rain continued to come in a steady stream, with no signs of slowing.  In the morning, we biked back to the church, decked out in rain gear, amidst the pouring rain.  Quick, cool breaths accompanied each pedal stroke, and a smile was frozen in place as my gloves and shoes slowly gathered water.
View from my room in Auberry - the rain had stopped temporarily
We spent the first part of the day with the children, talking about our adventure, and decided to take the day off to spend (sleep) in the lovely little town of Auberry.  I will talk about the hospitality we found in Auberry another day.
We continued our journey the following day, and the rain decided to follow us yet again, along with a visit from multiple flat tires.  The continued stopping gave me quite a chill, and we stopped for the night with a generous couple, Dave and Cheri who let us sleep in their motor home.
Dave, Neva, and Mini
Maybe we will be able to ride tomorrow, and we will see what weather we will be graced with then.  Soon, we will be climbing into the Sequoias, a 5000 ft climb in elevation from where we are now.  Shorts or pants, rain gear or sun screen?  We shall see.

My trip down memory lane

I've come a long way, literally, since my first tour.  As I was perusing through some of my old blogs, I figured you guys could join in on my journey.

Being employed at the Bike Shop Hub definitely propelled my interest in adventure cycling.  Little stars were in my eyes, and cogs of fun were turning in my head as I walked down the aisles of gear, stacked to the roof in the tiny garage from which the business started.

I decided to go on my first tour in the summer of 2008, planning to leave for a week long jaunt up the Pacific coast, via Route 1.  As I was preparing for my tour, I decided it might be helpful to log my preparation.  I broke it up into three parts, Destination, Training, and Packing up
In September, we went on our annual work trip to Interbike in Las Vegas.  The day after we got back, I was enjoying my post Bikram yoga bike ride in the crisp Flagstaff morning when...BAM!  I got doored.  The day after that, my co-worker Jeff broke his collar bone when his front pannier snags on a safety cone.

After a metal plate, 3 screws, physical therapy, and an expensive pair of Salsa carbon fiber handlebars, my mostly mended bone was ready to brave the November bike tour up the PCH.  Here is the gist of Going There, Heading Back, and Riding with a Burley Nomad Trailer.
Once the rush of being on tour wore off, and the reality of the rat race sank in, I decided to get some more commuter specific gear since I commuted quite a bit between work and school.  Then, the unexpected...

In March of 2009, I found out that I was with child.  I knew that my biking habits might change, but I was determined to share my hobby with my little one.  The entire time I was pregnant, I was mentally preparing myself for traveling by bike with my baby.  Being that I was a first time mom, there were lots of fears that I had to face, and concerns I had to settle before I could think of putting her in a trailer.  After 41 weeks or so of contemplation, I decided that I would be ready whenever she was

The day finally came when I was able to ride to work with Neva for the first time.  I went super slowly on a bike designated path, and both of us were hooked.  She looked so cute all bundled up, and she would drift off to sleep as soon as the wheels started turning.  I was asked to guest blog on the Bike Shop Girl Blog and wrote about my Evolution from a biking girl to a biking mom.

I proceeded to commute around Flagstaff with Neva, weather permitting.  Spring was usually the time we'd pull out the bicycle, and take her around town.  I also was able to get back into touring, and did a short weekend tour of the White Rim Trail with my buddy Cass and James.  As all good things must come to an end, and we continue to evolve and grow, Neva and I decided to move onward and upward from Flagstaff with a heart full of love, and a head full of memories.  Here is a post that my boss wrote, referencing one of my last days in Flagstaff
The last post I did for the Bike Shop Hub was on their blog Commute By Bike.  I did a review on a pannier made out of all recycled material called the Donkey Boxx.  I miss you guys at the hub, and all of my friends in Flagstaff.  Thanks for helping shape the Megan of today with 8 years of Flagstaff fun.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Need a little help from our friends

Now that I have braved through the toughest terrain on my journey, thanks to lots of new friends and wonderful hospitality, my riding legs are stronger, and my writing cap is on.

However, I could use a little help with design, colors in different browsers, and things like that, since I am definitely not super website savvy.  Neva might be a little more computer literate than me...
So, I am open to suggestions and constructive criticism to improve my blog for better visuals and easy navigation.  Thanks everyone!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Greetings! Allow us to introduce ourselves...

The introduction section only allowed 500 characters, so let me introduce our blog properly.  Neva and I are currently on the road biking down the Sierra Cascades, so internet access is limited, and my energy can be waning after long biking days.  But don't fret!  I have plenty of stories and information that I have in my noggin, anxiously awaiting blog time.

For those of you that don't know me personally, my name is Megan, and I have a daughter Neva who is currently 21 months old (that's us!).  I worked at an online bike store, the Bike Shop Hub, for three years.  The experience I gained there was invaluable, not only for working for a growing internet business with a great work ethic and business model, but also for an in depth understanding of bike touring equipment, not to mention the long lasting relationships I've gained through the tight knit bike community of like minded people.

The experience that I have with bike gear is very unique in that I've had the opportunity to test lots of panniers, racks, cargo trailers, and child trailers.  Bike gear is definitely not cheap, and as a biking parent, I understand that there is the balance between cost and quality.  I hope that I can be a useful resource for other bikers and travelers who have stepped into the world of parenting, and are looking to pursue the new and exciting adventure of traveling with a little one. 

Currently, I am on my 6th bike tour, and this is Neva's 3rd.  Our other half, Christian, will be able to join in on some traveling infant fun in December for our much anticipated, but still in it's infancy, plans of western Europe for the winter.
I'd like to thank some of my touring with an infant buddies that have accompanied Neva and I in the past, along with our friends and family who have believed in us through all of our travels.  Thank you Cass Gilbert (check out his awesome journeys at, Ben Williams, Todd Wagner, James Worden, Robert May, Cori Cusker, the Ragsdales,my mom and step dad for giving me my first camping experiences, and my dad for introducing me to international travel, Christian for being a loving and supportive partner, and lastly, the community of people who have shown us hospitality, a warm home, a gentle smile, and a loving heart.

Okay, here is the introduction I wrote from the train last Tuesday, when we were leaving the brisk air of Flagstaff, Arizona, headed west toward the lightly foggy bay area of San Francisco:

Have you ever thought, "Gee, I'd like to travel more, but I'm nervous about how my infant might handle the rigors and chaos of crowds and terminals, not to mention the pains of the continuously changing nuances of luggage rules, restrictions and loop holes when traveling on trains, planes, and bicycles?". 
This blog is meant to be a source of information for active people who either have kids, are expecting, or are planning on having kids, and like the idea of shared family experiences. Children are very receptive and adaptable to different experiences, and including them in our hobbies and interests can pass on positive learned behaviors while portraying a healthy family unit that works together.
So, who is this lady, and why do I care? Well, my name is Megan, and I have a 21 month old Neva. Currently, we are on a bus headed to San Francisco for my 6th biking tour, and our 3rd biking tour together. Neva has been to 4 countries so far, 22 plane rides, and most recently, has traveled by Greyhound bus and the Amtrak train. All of these trips took some planning, to say the least, research, and coordination in order to give me the experience and the confidence to continue with my traveling lifestyle, post partem. 
I've already gone through a lot of leg work on the intricacies of traveling with a child from dealing with the TSA, to cost comparison analysis when traveling with large gear and multiple items, to using proper terminal terminology, along with how to manage the stresses that come up when you are traveling with just you and your child. 
My hope is that my knowledge and experiences might give other people the confidence to continue with their current physical lifestyle and not feel like they are giving up anything. I continually hear people express a mentality that infers they are unable to maintain any of their passions because they now have a child. People's lives do change with a child, but they don't have to stop. My daughter enriches my life, and I feel lucky to be able to learn from her when we are able to experience new territory together.
This blog, Neva - Travel with an Infant, is meant to inspire people, and is ultimately a compilation of my family's experiences, condensed down to what we've learned from traveling with an infant.