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.

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