Vulnerability, Warts and Whiskers

Vulnerability isn’t a topic I thought I’d be exploring on this trip; though it’s an issue on every trip I’ve ever taken. Anytime we step out of our comfort zones we push against our personal boundaries; whether they be physical, intellectual, or emotional.

The physical vulnerability I anticipated. Living with epilepsy and brain injury I knew they would offer their unique challenges. Sharing the roads, often shoulder-less, with semis, logging trucks, people texting and driving, and holiday traffic, can be jarring and wear on your nerves. Most drivers give me space, every so often someone will crowd me to make a point. Tourist traffic on Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula was so prolific that the sound of cars steadily passing became numbing and energy sapping. One of the perks of towing your canine companions in a trailer is it is much more visible than a bicycle, and you can decorate it with reflective decals, flags, and flashers. It’s also three times as wide as the bicycle and motorists will give me a wider birth, most of the time.

Crossing the Astoria-Megler bridge connecting Washington and Oregon.

Intellectual vulnerability: challenging your preconceived conceptions, expectations, route planning, and the soundness of your intellect. I thought I planned well; this trip has been bouncing around in my head for years. Despite being familiar with the route, I couldn’t control the weather or prevent several heat waves from hitting B.C. and the Olympic Peninsula. I was happily anticipating the cool misty weather of the northwest. It laid waste my expectations on how many miles I could cover. The heat zapped me, and I ended up taking quite a few extra rest days and covering fewer miles. Then, there’s Houston, my effervescent and unpredictable brain. He’s most mischievous when I’m tired or in a stimulating environment, which includes: bright or fluorescent lights, noise, and people. When Houston is tired, he’s a trickster. More on Houston and his shenanigans later.

Emotional vulnerability has ended up being by far the most challenging and unsettling. I know I have health limitations, and I work hard at compensating and managing them, really hard. It often feels like a full-time job. Sharing or admitting I’m struggling isn’t easy for me, and I often wait until it’s too late, I’m drained, confused, completely inside my head, and shut down emotionally. I become a befuddled old grandpa, chasing kids off my lawn. Intellectually I understand it’s better to fess up before it goes too far, but, even if I’m willing to let my guard down I often don’t realize it even if I’m not consciously trying to push through something. I’m not a lot of fun do be around when I’m in my catatonic state. When I get like that while on the road, I pull over, break out napping paraphernalia, and the girls and I will take a siesta. When I arrive in camp: pitch the tent, walk the girls, feed the girls, feed me, walk the girls, and crawl into the tent. I’m in bed sometimes by 7:30 pm, up at 5:30 or 6:30 am.

When I’m not touring I usually plan carefully: monitoring and managing my energy levels before I’m out and about in public. I’ve lived alone most of my adult life; I’m used to just being me, warts and whiskers when I’m home. At the end of the day, I have enough energy to do the basics and crawl into the tent.

Receiving help and support isn’t something I’m comfortable with either. I receive it awkwardly. I take it as a sign of weakness; people might find me needy, annoying, and pitiful. I also didn’t want to be a burden. I’ve lost a lot to the brain injury; my fierce independence and shredded dignity are all I feel I have left.

Cape Lookout State Park was magical. I stayed on for four days to recharge my mental and physical batteries.

This trip so far, 625 miles, has had so many layers to it. Intense joy, so overwhelming I feel like I’ll burst, to such intense emotional turmoil that it opens the floodgates. I’ve cried out of joy and sorrow more on this trip than I have in years. I’m not a crier, though I might have to reconsider that belief. I find cycling hypnotic and meditative, soothing and restorative emotionally and physically. I wonder if that’s what’s causing my hardened shell to crack?

Week II

Another heat wave came through during the second week. I struggle in heat over 85, and I don’t think the pups are thrilled with it either. Rather than sap my limited physical resources I took extra rest days when the temperatures peaked. I am still waiting and looking for the cooler misty weather that the Olympic Peninsula is famous. Several fires started in Olympic NP; by the end of the day, my face was smudgy from the smoke. Olympic is beautiful, even when it’s toasty warm.

Outside of the park was another story. I was blown away by how much of the surrounding land had been clear cut and was in the various stages of regrowth. Areas with regrowth didn’t have the diversity of plant life; there was an absence of undergrowth, mosses, and ferns. As I cycled through I could feel when I was in old growth versus clearcut and regrowth areas. The temperature would drop significantly in the old growth forests as if someone had opened the door to a walk-in freezer. Regrowth clear cuts, even if the trees had grown significantly, the temperatures would soar, as if someone opened up a giant industrial dryer door.

Day 8,  August 20:

Rest day, took a second rest day to wait out heat wave, forecasted to break tomorrow, dip into 60’s.

Weather:   High 90’s

Highlight:  Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park, followed by swimming in a beautiful crystal clear glacier-fed stream.  Magical.

Campground: Klahowya USFS Campground.

Sol Duc River, Olympic National Park
Sol Duc River, further upstream

Day 9, August 21:

DAY 9 PCBR 21 August copy

Klahowya to Hoh Rainforest Campground, Olympic NP

Miles:  35.5   Elevation: 3,031′

Weather:  50’s-60’s with misting and light rain.

Highlight:  the cool weather and the Hall of Mosses walk at Hoh Rainforest in Olympic NP.

Campground:  The Taj Mahal of campgrounds.  Our site was beautiful with a little meadow, little drop down to the picnic table in mossy ferny woods, then another drop down to area to pitch the tent.  A trail lead to the river, a milky glacier fed stream, and continued on along the bank.  In the morning two does and a fawn walked by our site.  One doe jumped up onto a downed tree to get a better look at the dogs.

Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
Hall of Mosses trail, Olympic NP

Hoh River with its milky glacier water.
Walking the girls along the Hoh River.
I’m taken by the lush, mossy, ferny-ness of Olympic NP.

Day 10, August 22:

DAY 10 PCBR 22 AUGUST copy

Hoh Rainforest to South Beach Campground, Olympic NP

Miles:  25

Elevation:  2,363′

Weather:  cool 60’s

Highlight:  moody weather and dinner on the deck at the Lodge overlooking the beach.  Half a mile north of the campground.

Campground:  open area, reminded me a little bit of the California beach campgrounds.  The Swiss couple Tess and Ben pitched their tent next to mine.  Huge trees washed up onto the beach, round pebble beach, rugged rough surf.  A treat for my canine companions.

Swiss Ben and Tess, cycling from Anchorage to Ushuaia.
South Beach campground, Olympic National Park. Here’s a close up of Tess and Ben’s setup.
Bodhi tasting the weather, she opted to continue napping. My Georgia peach prefers warmer temps.
South Beach, Olympic National Park.


Dory enjoying a little off-leash time.
Moody day on South Beach, Olympic National Park. View from the park concessioner’s lodge.

Day 11, August 23:

DAY 11 PCBR 23 August copy

South Beach to Willaby Creek USFS Campground,  Quinault Lake.

Miles:  30

Elevation:  2,846′

Weather:  50’s-60’s

Highlights:   Taking the dogs swimming in Quinault Lake, meeting Hellen & Norman from Montreal cycling to Ushuaia, Argentina, and waking up to Loon’s calling.

Campground:  Site 1 the first night.  Pretty little campground, but this site had the tent pad right next to the neighbor’s picnic table.  LOUD incessantly chatty types who didn’t go to bed until 1:30am.  Hellen and Norman from Montreal pitched their tent with us, the campground was full when they arrived at dusk.  Hellen introduced me to the idea of earplugs.

Hellen and Norman from Montreal, they’re traveling from Calgary to Ushuaia. They shared the site with us last night.
Impressive how compact all their gear ends up being once packed up. I’ll post a video clip later.

Taking off!  You can follow Hellen and Norman’s tour to Ushuaia Argentina: Norman’s  and  Hellen’s
Sisterly sunset affection.

Day 12, August 24:

Rest day

Highlight:  Swimming in Quinault, Loons calling, and breakfasting with Hellen & Norman.

Campground:  moved to site 12.  On the lake, great swimming, much quieter.

Smoke from the Olympic National Park fires make colorful sunsets.
The little beach off of our campsite.

Day 13, August 25:

DAY 13 PCBR 25 August copy

Lake Quinault to Hoquiam River RV Park.

Miles:  47  Elevation:  4,300  **Forgot to resume app and added miles and elevation missed via Google maps.

Weather:  high 90’s

Highlight:   Humptulip US F&W fish hatchery.

Campground:  A necessity, not a destination CG by any means.  Meh

Rainbow Trout at the fishery.
Rest stop. Bodhi showing why, even when her harness is hooked in to the trailer, we can’t ride with the door open. Madam likes to surf, balancing one leg on the trailer hitch.
One of the many, many, clearcuts I cycled past. It feels like you’re cycling through an oven where there aren’t any trees. You can feel the heat radiating from the exposed earth.
Siesta. Taking a break in a spot of shade. Bodhi showing off her napping super powers.
The cool breeze coming of the water was deliciously refreshing.

Day 14, August 26:

DAY 14 PCBR 26 AUGUST copy

Hoquiam to Kenanna RV Park

Miles:  33

Elevation:  1762’

Weather:  high 90’s

Highlight:  cool bridge, drawbridge, with wooden planks for cyclist/pedastrian walkway.

Campground:  Long but beautiful walk to the beach in tall grasses.  Waking to coyotes!

This girl can nap. She fell into a deep sleep within seconds of getting into the tent.

Cool old bridge with a wooden pedestrian/cyclist path. I don’t know what it is about bridges, but I love cycling over them.

Day 14, August  27:

Rest Day from heat.

Highlight:  wifi access,  House of Donuts in Westport.

Campground:  KenAnna RV Park no coyotes this morning 🙁

The walk to the beach was through tall grasses and wild flowers.
The walk to the beach was through tall grasses and wild flowers.

First Week

August 13-19th

The first week in maps and photos.  The few times I’ve had access to wifi I was too tired to write or post.  It’s unrealistic to try and catch up.  I’ll leave that for when the trip is over and I can post more details and essays from the journal I’m keeping.

Day 1, August 13: 

Day One 13 August 2016 copy

Capitano RV Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada to

Living Forest Campground, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC.

Miles:  16 miles

Elevation: 1,500′  

Weather:  90’s

Highlight:  Ferry ride from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

Campground:  On the bay, lovely setting.  Cafe that served breakfast, espresso drinks, and other light fare, outdoor seating on the deck overlooking the bay.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 2.08.00 PM
Sea dogs
Waking up from their naps as we approach, the sounds of the engines slowing down woke them.
View from the little outdoor cafe’s deck.

Day 2, August 14:

DAY 2 PCBR 14 August copy

Nanaimo, BC to Osborne Bay RV Resort, BC

Miles: 27

Elevation gain: 2,000  

Weather 90’s

Highlight:  Riding a small section of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Campground:  Resort is a stretch.  Be sure to ask for a site on the bay, below.  Walkway along the bay, beach across the stream over a boardwalk bridge.  Avert your eyes from looking left at the factory.  Water is super warm and it was a huge plus to swim after a long hot 90’s ride.

Pit stop for caffeine and dog stretch.
The Trans-Canada Trail. Easy bit for cyclists and trailers. Soon the trail became narrow, hilly, and a bit sketchy for towing a trailer. I needed to dismount and ski/slide down to keep the bike and trailer from fish tailing. Glad for the taste of the trail though.
Where the Trans-Canada Trail became a bit trailer-challenging.


Osborne Bay, I think…
Osborne Bay RV Resort. Low tide. View from the boardwalk that lead to the beach.
Camp site view of the sunset.


Day 3, August 15:

DAY 3 PCBR 15 August copy

Osborn Bay to Goldstream Provincial Park, Crofton, BC.

Miles: 39

Elevation:  3,600  

Weather:  90’s

Highlight:  Changing  my first flat on the bike, the rear wheel.  Lucky unlucky, flat happened in front of the Dwight School on Shawinigan Lake.  Hotter than Hades so it was a welcome break.

Campground:  Lovely, lush green.  Well spaced sites.  Huge gorgeous old Maples with enormous leaves.  Trail to a crystal clear swimming hole framed by ferns.  Stayed two nights.

The offending nail
Bodhi hanging while I wrestled with changing the tire. Her favorite perch is at the end of picnic tables. She’s guarding my solar charger.
Temps reached the high 90’s. Asked the families at this little beach if they’d mind if I took the girls for a quick cooling-off dip off to the side.
Swimming hole at Goldstream Provincial Park.


Day 4:  August 16:

Off Day

Bike repairs:  back tire issue and gears tweaked.  Joined MEC, the Canadian cousin to REI.  Bought tubes, CO2 canisters, and whatnot.

Highlight:  Dim Sum in China Town, Victoria.

First sign of autumn. These giant maple leaves were lovely and impressive as they slowly floated down from the giant 100 year old plus maple trees.
Fabulous treat to have dim sum.


Day 5, 17 August:

Day 5 PCBR Part 1 copyDay 5 PCBR Overview 15 August copy Day 5 PCBR Part 3 copy

Goldstream Provincial Park to Victoria ferry terminal.

Ferry to Port Angeles, Washington, USA.

Miles:  21  Elevation:  2,000 

Weather:  80’s

Highlight:  Ferry and hanging out and riding around Victoria.

Campground:  Elwha Damn RV Park.  Tent sites are nice, some quite private.  Owner gave me quarters for the shower.

Dory having a good roll and stretch.
Hanging with Janet as we wait our turn to board the ferry.
Impressive how many bicycles were on the ferry.
The Sisters in-between admirers. They received quite a bit of attention for the dog-lovers onboard.
The Sisters took turns being out and about, hobnobbing with fellow travelers.
Lovely little covered bridge on the bike path leading out from Port Angeles.


Day 6, August 18: 

Day 6 PCBR Take II copy
Oops. Made a wrong turn out of the campground. It took me four miles and some steep hills before I caught my navigational error. Janet came to the rescue and redeposited at the junction.

DAY 6 PCBR Take I copy

Elwha RV Park to Klahowya USFS Campground

Miles:  33

Elevation:  7,000

Weather:  High 90’s

Highlight:  Swimming in Crescent Lake.  Intense sapphire blue and turquoise water.

Campground:  Lush with giant mossy bearded trees and lots of ferns, along a shallow river.

IMG_6202 IMG_6204 IMG_6401 IMG_6215 IMG_6216



Day 7,  August 19:

Rest day

Weather:  high 90’s

Highlight:  Swimming at Crescent Lake



Despite being the eve of the start, I slept like the dead. Though Capilano RV Park is practically in the heart Vancouver, BC, it was quiet. It’s not the sort of campground people make raging campfires, drinking and howling into the wee hours. They’re out touring Vancouver, kayaking, hiking, cycling, all day, and come back to the campground to sleep. There was everything from small tents like mine, Roadtreks like Janet’s, to big million dollar RVs. Campers and RVs of every age, shape, style, and size, packed in intimately like sardines.

We rolled in after two long hard days on the road; learning the hard way that the cities in western Oregon and Washington have been discovered and exceed the limits of I-5. Washington on I-5 was devastatingly slow and congested, with bumper to bumper crawls around the larger communities. We arrived at the border crossing bleary eyed but ecstatic. A lot has changed since I lived in the Seattle area in 2003. Whippersnappers.

Oy, the traffic was brutal.


We barely backed into our site before sundown. I fed the girls, pitched the tent, took them for their evening stroll, and crawled into my sleeping bag. I didn’t have it in me to prep and pack in the dark; I was done for the day. Despite getting up at dawn, I wasn’t ready to roll until 10:00 am. Prepped our wattle bottles, my concoction of electrolytes, and, water, neat, for the girls. I loaded the panniers with snacks, lunch, warm clothes, rain gear, spare parts for the bike and trailer, a DSLR camera, my iPhone, a waterproof Sony point and shoot, laptop, leashes, water bowl, dog bed, camp chair, sunscreen, etc.

We took our “First Day” photos, and I pushed off. Joy. Pure joy as I pedaled out of the campground and over the bridge towards West Vancouver’s ferry terminal. I chose the scenic route that hugged the coastline, though it offered very few views of the bay. Very quickly I was grateful that I wasn’t carrying camping gear and food; it was a rolling landscape with quite a few steep graded climbs, with rewarding descents. Bodhi and Dory were ecstatic and chirped, squeaked, and woofed the entire ride.

It was amazing to see how many cyclists were out on the road; I easily saw a 100, if not more in just nine miles. Those riding in the same direction zoomed past me effortlessly. The road shoulder bore evidence of their regular presence, pieces of bike inadvertently shed along the way. If I didn’t need the momentum going up and down, I would have stocked up on escaped, intact flashers and water bottles.

Love the Canadian mailboxes.  Canadian friend Caprice told me they wrap the mailboxes to easily remove and replace wrapping when tagged/graffiti’d.  Clever & colorful.

Aussies made their presence known by cheerfully calling out “good on ya’s!” At the top of one hill, trying to decipher the signs for the ferry, two young women stopped and asked me where I was heading. “Mexico!” I happily chirped. They looked at each other, then uncomfortably looked at me, then at each other. Finally one broke the news, “you do know you’re going north?” I told them I was taking the ferry, which was north, they looked visibly relieved and pushed off after wishing me well.

Once I had the ferry ticket in hand, we rewarded the girls with a swim in the bay, while we waited to board. I was given a one-time passcode to the cyclist and dog owners’ gate. We ruffians were the first to board; it was a hoot to ride into the belly and the length of the ferry. Grabbed a few essentials and the girls and I went to the open deck on the bow where we met up with Janet.


It was a breathtaking trip with views of the various mountain ranges off in the distance. The sky was a deep sapphire blue, brilliantly sunny, and the sea perfectly calm, a rare event I was told. One other brave soul lasted outside with us. Dory took a shine to him and waited until he fell asleep before sneaking up and bathing him in kisses. Fortunately, he was open to her affections; inviting her to snuggle up and join him.


Once docked, we rolled off to complete the last leg. It was a perfect way to start the trip, a short day with the novelty of a ferry to break it up. It was uncomfortably warm for the ride; BC was in the throes of a heat wave. Of course. I seem to be a magnet for heatwaves when I tour. Despite watching the weather for months, longingly; coveting the temps in the 60’s and 70’s. When I arrived, the temps jumped into the high 90’s. It would be a murderously hot first week.


Regardless, it was a thrill to be on the road, a novelty to be on Vancouver Island, and despite the heat, I felt a deep cellular joy as I pedaled through my first day, with the girls’ chirps and yips as my soundtrack.

Card Punched?

My last bike tour ended with a seizure; this tour is beginning with one. I normally have tonic-clonic seizures–I will gaze unresponsively, temporarily forget who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing. Or, I’ll be talking to someone, and my brain hears gobbly-gook, or I’ll speak gibberish.

I think I was 12 the last time my knees looked like this. 🙂

Occasionally, usually with gaps of 1-2 years, I’ll have a grand mal seizure. This is what most people think is epilepsy. Full or partial body convulsing. Fortunately, I know when I’m about to have a grand mal; I feel odd and yellow-y. It gives me a few seconds to stop and prepare. This time, I was talking to someone who I didn’t feel comfortable seizing in front of, the tremors started, and I tried to make a run for a more private location. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking, you can’t seize and run. LOL. I only managed a few strides before my legs gave out. I vaguely recall landing on my knees and elbow and trying to crawl. Gratefully it was quick, and I didn’t lose consciousness.

It is an intensely personal and intimate experience. I feel very vulnerable; my body and mind are not under my control. Afterward my body feels like I ran a marathon and my mind is foggy and confused. I sob, overwhelmed with confusion and completely disorientated emotionally and physically. It takes about 30 minutes for the fog to lift, and hours to start thinking clearly. It can take days to recover energetically.

Last seizure I ended up with a concussion and two sprained wrists, that’s the reason I had to abandon the tour. If it wasn’t for the injury, I could have taken a few days off and resumed. This time gratefully, the only injuries were deep abrasions on my ankles, knees, elbows, and muscle soreness. I look like a four old who took a tumble off her scooter. Interestingly, my leg muscles feel as if I had run hills. It’s bizarre, and oddly fascinating how my body feels post seizure.

I’m hoping that my seizure pattern stays the course, and I won’t be due for another one for at least another year. Ridiculous as this might seem, the fear of having a seizure that was hovering in my thoughts, has lightened. It’s not logical, but I choose to believe I’ve had my seizure card punched, and I’m done for the year. I’ll still be careful, watch my energy levels, and take the necessary precautions, but part of me feels a bit liberated. Got that out of the way.

It brought to light how much I do worry and think about it, and how self-conscious I am. I had a grand-mal in front of someone once who didn’t respect my privacy and wasn’t trustworthy. It was a bad one, and I was out of it for a while. Fortunately I was in a doctor’s office. The last thing I remember is this person shouting, her mouth gaping open like a bass going for a fly, as the waves started to take over and I went unconscious. The Uruguayan healthcare professionals assumed she was a family member, didn’t realize she was a coworker and disclosed private information to her. She, in turn, acted as the town crier to my coworkers and employer. She recounted the event in colorful detail as if it was a source of entertainment at social gatherings.

It was a violation and left a lasting impression. It’s bad enough to have to manage your life as an epileptic, but, adding the stress of someone witnessing you in a vulnerable, intimate moment and abusing it, adds another complicated emotional layer. Before that experience, people had always been kind, and it never occurred to me that could be an issue.

Fortunately, it’s not in my nature to cower. Though it’s a shadow roaming around in the back of my head, the part of me that is feisty and determined is more powerful. The emotions are jumbled, but the determination to live life fully usually prevails.

I wasn’t going to break out the gray or purple ribbons for this tour: gray for brain tumor and purple for epilepsy, but I am now. My last trip it helped to educate people about brain tumors and epilepsy as well as connect with people who were experiencing it personally. I don’t proselytize– if someone asks about the ribbon, I’ll share my story. Interestingly, the people who ask about the ribbons almost always had someone in their life who were recently diagnosed with one or the other, and it felt good to help ease their fears and offer them support. It’s hard to understand how it impacts your life until you’re in the thick of it. It helps me see that although I’ll never be who I was BT (before tumor/brain injury), I can see the progress I’ve made.

Gray ribbon for brain tumors.

I’m excited and ready for the trip to begin. I’ll take time to make up some ribbons. Janet’s Roadtrek has returned from the shop and is ready to go. Everything, despite the obstacles, is coming together. Today we’ll pack and prep for tomorrow’s departure. Woohoo.

Mexico or Bust August 2016

Images from the Adventure Cycling PCR maps.

I’m a week or so out from cycling the Pacific Coast Bike Route. Epilepsy and the challenge of having TBI (traumatic brain injury) have kept me from bike touring the last two years. A failed solo bike tour, towing my two dogs from Santa Monica to the Mexico border, and across to Gainesville Florida, had to be abandoned at mile 863. Just shy of the New Mexico and Arizona line I had a seizure; I ended up with a concussion and two sprained wrists.

That gave me a healthy dose of reality. After the months it took to recover it took several months more before I felt brave enough to get back on my bike. I started out only riding on remote dirt roads with little, if any, road traffic. Poco a poco I inched my way back to riding on roads with the dream of doing another long tour.

My neurologist read me the riot act, asked me if I could see in hindsight that it was poor judgment to strike out on a solo tour across the country with unmanaged epilepsy and TBI. Yes, hindsight is 20/20. If he meant to scare me off the idea, he succeeded, temporarily, it didn’t however completely squash the dream.

I’ve since been floundering, struggling with my health issues and depression: unable to work, not having a sense of place or a sense of purpose. I’ve missed being near the water and immersed in nature. I feel most peaceful and at home in my skin in wilder places or near the ocean. I can’t do many things that I used to love to do, or feel accomplished doing, but I can sit on a saddle and pedal a bike, albeit slowly. Being back on the West Coast has me longing to be in motion and bike touring again.

Magically a friend stepped forward who is also in transition. Janet needed time and a reason to slow down to explore what she wanted to do in the next chapter in her life. She offered to be the sag wagon for the PCR, Vancouver to Mexico tour. Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

**Update As of September 4th I’ve been cycling unsupported. Logistically it proved to be too challenging and stressful for us to travel together. The holidays and weekends were challenging because campgrounds filled quickly. As a cyclist, I could find a site at a hiker/biker site, sites most state and national parks put aside for people cycling or backpacking. That left Janet in a lurch, though. Private campgrounds often are geared towards RVers and prohibit tents. Finding a campground that wasn’t full and receptive to both RV and tent was limiting our options. We had to plot days in advance and often what we planned, what the weather offered, and how I was feeling physically, weren’t aligned.

It was making the trip stressful, for each of us differently. Traveling under stress is no way to travel. Janet was worrying about scoring a campsite and had to rush out in the morning, pass up opportunities to stop and explore and savor the morning’s journey. If something caught her eye, she’d make a mental note and hope to be able to retrace her steps.

I was feeling pressure to make campgrounds on days I wasn’t feeling strong, or, needed to stop short on days I was thriving. This is pressure I put on myself. It made for a stagnant way for both of us to travel. Loosening things up, gave Janet an opportunity to wander untethered, visit friends, explore without anxiety. I can pace myself now on how I’m feeling and adjust to what challenges the terrain presents.

I appreciate the time Janet and I were a team; it was fun, and a novelty for me, to share an adventure. It was also comforting to know, especially on the days the temps were sweltering, that someone had my six. We’re still planning to meet up occasionally along the coast, and I’m looking forward to catching up and sharing our adventures with each other.



On a day with all the stars aligned, I can tow the girls 50 miles. However, a more realistic day is 30, less if there is a lot of climbing. That’s beyond slow, that’s a crawl, and not many people would be willing, or patient enough, to travel at that pace. Fortunately, Janet’s a talented woman with many interests. It’ll give her time to explore locally, read, paint, write, bird, and hike. She’ll be traveling comfortably in her very cool Mercedes Roadtrek with her adventurous sidekick, Elsie, the cat. We’ll be quite a menagerie.

There have been technological advances since my last tour. iPhone’s “find friends” app will help locate me in case something goes awry. My co-conspirator has a fully functioning brain and can do the mental heavy lifting. Map reading mishaps won’t set me back hours, or days, because the route is 1,800 miles pretty much following the same road along the coast. Keep the ocean to my right should be fairly easy to remember. Not needing to carry all my gear will lighten the load I’m towing by 50 pounds. Now I’ll just have the two pups, our water, rations, and the canine caboose weighing in around 110 pounds. Hopefully, that’ll mean less pushing and more pedaling up hills.

Circumstances such as they are, this is a tremendous gift. It gives me direction, a sense of purpose, and a mini-adventure that is me-sized and me-appropriate. It’ll combine my passions, photography, nature, time with my pups, birding, and cycling. Almost all the travel I’ve done in the past has been solo or with my furry companions. It’ll be a unique opportunity to share a little adventure with a friend who is also in transition. Hopefully, along the way, we’ll each have the epiphanies we are seeking, and at the very least enjoy our individual and shared journeys.

Chirping Canines video link.

Getting a double kickstand installed.


Added flasher to my helmut.


Dory inspects the new Brooks Saddle.


The girls love catching all the smells and seeing the sights.


Dory and I having a moment


Bridge on Bear Creek Greenway


View from a bridge on Old Highway 99.


pushing up to Old Highway 80 from Viejas



Long Overdue Update

I’ve put off this update for so long that it’s awkward and embarrassing. The longer I put it off, the more uncomfortable and monumental the task felt. At first it was because I was crushed and disappointed, it felt like a failure, a lack of fortitude and determination.

In reality, however, it was necessary.

Back in December, just shy of the New Mexico border on I-10, I had a seizure. Fortunately, I had zipped up the canine caboose when I turned onto the interstate. Another stroke of luck: I felt funny and stopped. While straddling the bike, I fell back and smacked my head hard enough to crack my helmet. The result was a mild concussion and two sprained wrists.

It is unnerving that despite the steady stream of traffic on the road, no one stopped to help.

(Safety plug: always wear your helmet! My neurologist has a patient who lost his balance while waiting at a stop light, hit his head on the curb, and is in a coma.)

Luckily I had friends who lived a couple of hours away and came to the rescue. Lucky unlucky that it happened where and when it did.

It rattles me to think what could have happened. What if I had been on a narrow shoulder-less road if the caboose door hadn’t been zipped, if it had happened on a blind curve? Lucky unlucky. Before I start out again, I need to be confident that my seizures are being managed.

What makes it especially frustrating — the most challenging part of the trip was over. I was leaving behind the California passes, the Arizona 100 degree heatwave and was feeling fit and comfortable with my steady tortoise-like pace. I had hit my stride, the dogs and I had our routine down, and we were enjoying life on the road.

I try to remember that I managed to cover 863 miles with an elevation gain of 21,086 ft, carrying and towing 150 lbs+ of dog and cargo.

Here’s to next autumn, 863 miles down and 1,850 to go.

P.S.  In January 2015 I bought a Lance 2295 travel trailer with the intention of traveling the country and audition potential towns to set my roots.  The photo was taken when I was a volunteer caretaker at the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve.  More on my travels circumnavigating the US and Canada to come.  One and a half years later I landed back in Patagonia, Arizona.  There’s something about Patagonia that keeps calling me back.

Sonora Desert National Monument & Maricopa, Arizona.

I am delaying my posts now due to an incident; a man I didn’t know used my blog to locate me. At the ripe age of 50 I didn’t think that this would be an issue, but oddly it is. For that reason, I’ve delayed my posts by a month for safety reasons. The encounter was benign but unsettling.


With temperatures reaching low 100’s in October, when I took this photo, I needed to be creative.  In Calexico, I bought an umbrella and jerry-rigged it with some duct tape.  To protect the girls from the heat I started getting up at 4 a.m. to get to the day’s destination before the heat of the day reached its zenith.  The temperatures have been unseasonably high, by as much as 20 degrees.



Janet and I met up and after I had crossed into Arizona, we dismantled the trailer and gear and piled it up into her snazzy RoadTrek to get to the hotel.  I also had several adjustments and repairs that needed to be done.  It took some driving around and visiting different bikes shops before I found the right parts and mechanic.  Janet is not only kind, but patient.



I knew California was a big state but didn’t really get just HOW big until I cycled across it.  It felt like that Monty Python in Search of the Holy Grail scene when the knight is storming the castle but never gets any closer.  I was downright giddy when I crossed into Arizona.  My first 50-mile day.



A regional delicacy?



I passed a few canals along this section, I was surprised how just the sight of water elevated my spirit.


IMG_5693Cycling in the Sonoran Desert was magical.  The mountains on the horizon and the variety of cacti was a feast for the eyes.



It was unbelievably hot cycling on I-10 through the sand dunes.  No shade to be found, I envied Bodhi and Dory’s umbrella.  Some of the sand dunes were tall enough that I could feel the heat waves radiating off of them.



Bodhi loves exploring and nesting in little nooks and crannies.  She found herself a cozy nook in Janet’s RoadTrek.



I pity the cow that has to graze in this country.  Slim pickings.


IMG_5620A surprisingly successful combination, there was a sign on the window saying they’d moved to a bigger location.



A gas station had this facility for pets, it had cooling mist that I envied.  Great service to prevent pets dying in cars.



My inner child was giddy with the motel’s space theme.



Janet dropped me off at the motel, I was sad to part company but no doubt our gypsy paths will cross again.  Dory was crushed, she was quite smitten with Janet and her luxurious Mercedes RoadTrek.


IMG_5649My favorite campaign sign, a giant mustache!


More highlights pedaling through the Sonoran Desert:


First sign of saguaro cactus.



It’s hard to imagine it raining here.  If I hadn’t worked in the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest for a season I wouldn’t have believed it possible.


Gloriously flat smooth paved roads.










I refilled the water bottles at a remote school that seemed to appear out of nowhere.



Felt absolutely decadent staying at a hotel casino.  Gambling baffles me so I stayed clear, but I did appreciate the beautiful room and pool for less than I’ve paid to stay in a Motel 6.





This was a tough day.  Even though I got out early the heat was draining and there wasn’t a shoulder to ride on.  Met with the most aggressive and vocal drivers on the route to date.  Fortunately encountering hostile drivers has been rare, there were more today then the entire trip combined.





A memorial for Sally, who made the olympic team, but didn’t have the opportunity to realize her dream.  While out training on her bicycle she was struck and killed by a motorist.  Poignant and sobering.



Bodhi being creative in her quest for shade.  Lucky gal.



Dory enjoying a solid nap.


Mexicali Mexico and Paseo de disfraces

Being so close to the border, again, was too tempting an opportunity to pass up for the second time. I met a local journalist in a Starbucks in Calexico, and he offered to connect me with a member of the Mexicali cycling club MXLI Bici. How could I resist?

This is the photo he took for Mi Calexico.


If it wasn’t for the official boarding crossing in some areas, it was hard to believe you were in Mexico.

I quickly researched and found a hotel that allowed dogs, checked that I had the dogs’ rabies certificates in order, and off we went. Crossing into Mexico was a breeze. The border agent asked a few questions about what was in my panniers and inspected the dogs’ rabies certificates.

It felt electric to be back in Mexico, with the buzz of the streets, the smells, and colorful signs and storefronts. I asked two policemen for directions to the hotel and gratefully my Spanish was solid enough that we understood each other.  Later on, that evening however, the waitress didn’t understand me when I tried to order sparkling water. My Spanish is hit or miss; I never know when my wonky brain is going to cooperate.

The hotel was comfortable; it was heavenly to shower after several hot days in the desert. I fed and walked the dogs and tucked them in for the evening.

I met up with Danahi Valdez, the MXLI Bici contact, a mover and shaker in the cycling movement in Mexicali. Denahi is trying to popularize cycling within Mexicali as well as making it safer.

I learned a lot from cycling with her; she is cat-like on her track bike; it doesn’t have brakes or gears. Denahi made eye contact with drivers at stop signs and corners, used gestures, whistles, and a lot of common sense. It was a good reminder that it doesn’t matter if you have the right of way if someone doesn’t see you or will not yield.

We went on a condensed tour of the center of the city and had dinner at Jalisco, a traditional Mexican restaurant. In retrospect I feel a bit silly; when asked what kind of food I’d like to eat, I said Mexican. That’s as vague as a guest in the USA saying they want American food. She had to call a friend to get a recommendation; she explained that “Normally I like Sushi, Chinese or…”

It was exhilarating riding around in the warm air, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of Mexico. Delicious smells wafted out from the taco stands, music from homes, cafes and bars, and the vibrant colors of the buildings, signs and murals. Magical.

I ran out of steam and had to call it a night, missing out on going to the local craft beer tasting. I was disappointed, but it’s essential I pace myself, Houston (my brain’s nickname) can be unforgiving if his limitations aren’t respected.

Denahi suggested I consider staying another night and join the MXLI Bici “Paseo de disfraces,” a Halloween costume ride, with refreshments and a costume contest they were sponsoring.

A boxing match with either very petite bantam weights, or boys, on the plaza.
One of the many murals in Mexicali. I learned that the largest concentration of Chinese immigrants in Mexico was in Mexicali.


I couldn’t pass up that opportunity and decided to stay. The next day I explored the city by bike, took the dogs for several walks, and hung out at Starbucks enjoying their a/c and wifi once the temperature started soaring. After cooling off, I went shopping for Halloween decorations for the bike and caboose.

I was a tad nervous riding through the city that night on my own to get to the starting point and got lost despite Google’s map and audio cues. Houston was not cooperating.  I stopped and asked a man on a bike heading home from work for directions. He realized the instructions were too complicated and happily took off calling over his shoulder “sigueme!”, “follow me.”

We wound through the city for at least 20 minutes. Occasionally he would turn to check I was still following, and flash me a big smile. I was relieved to see helping me wasn’t a burden, and he was getting a kick out of it. When we arrived at the University Plaza, where the cyclists were staging for the ride, we parted company with a formal handshake and thank you’s.

The crowd was diverse, all walks of life, ages, bicycle types, it was fantastic. It started after dark and was lead by two motorcycle police, and a police car at the back of the pack, lights, and sirens. More magic.

Staging area at the University Plaza.




It was a beautiful but starless night.  Street lighting was scarce, as we cycled people would call out “hoyo!” as they came upon potholes or obstacles to alert cyclists.  We moved in a tight formation; it was like cycling in a school of fish through the city.  I wasn’t able to get an accurate count, but I estimate there were over 50 cyclists. An impressive showing considering they were competing with a salsa dance and a protest march.

The people I rode with were warm and friendly; there was an instant kinship. There was even a couple traveling with their dog in a trailer. The experience was so positive it has me itching to tour Mexico.

Iron Man needs a recharge.
Another dog trailer cycling family!
Restarting the ride after snacks and the costume contest.

IMG_5452 IMG_5460 IMG_5445 IMG_5470 IMG_5472 IMG_5506

I’m glad I crossed into Mexico and didn’t get caught up on the less than glowing portrayals of border towns in the USA media.

It was hard to leave the next morning, I felt a strong pull to stay in Mexico, and bounced around scenarios of touring further south towards the coast. I reigned myself in and bookmarked the idea for another trip when I could properly plan.

At my pre-morning border crossing coffee at Starbucks, I met Daniel, another customer waiting for the cafe to open. We had a great chat about the gray ribbon that I wear (gray ribbons are for brain tumor awareness) and the bike tour. Daniel, it turned out, had someone in his family who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I hope he found our conversation helpful.

I was deeply moved by how warmly welcomed and encouraged I was by Daniel and the other the Mexicans I met. They were kind, enthusiastic, and supportive. Since my visit, the stats on my Facebook page “Silver Hooligan” show that the majority of people who have liked and are following the page are from Mexicali. I’m glad the connection was mutual.

My gray ribbon.

After a good-bye selfie request by Daniel, I headed for the border crossing. I was stunned by how long the lines were to cross over; it wasn’t even 8 a.m. when I arrived. I was grateful to be on a bicycle, which allowed me to ride carefully between the rows of idling cars until I was waved into the empty “medical lane.”

An incredulous Border Patrol agent questioned me for several minutes; she was more concerned about my temporary passport that was issued at the American Embassy in Uruguay, than about the dogs. When an agent came by with his working dog, sniffing cars, I was relieved that Bodhi and Dory sat calmly and just watched him with curiosity rather than greeting him with excited barking.

Guess which lane I was lucky enough to use?

It was a pleasant surprise how easy it was to cross over on a bicycle with dogs. Mexico has been one of the highlights of the trip so far, and it’s planted the seed to come back and do a proper tour.