Friday, October 31, 2014

New Possibilities

Here I was today just doing some editing on Chapter 12 (as I write this I am actually on Chapter 13) while my Twitter feed was scrolling at an alarming rate when up pops a message in Facebook from a fellow touring cyclist whom I hosted back in March/April.  He's been in New Zealand for the past few months (?) on a tour and will be returning to California on Nov. 22, to his wintering grounds in Borrego Springs.

He suggested that maybe we could ride together some after the wintering.  I am fine with that idea.  I then suggested that maybe I could ride down to visit him while he was down there.  It would mean I was gone from here for a bit, but that's okay.  I'd have to figure out exactly where he was, and it would take me a few days down and a few days back.  But I wouldn't have to carry as much stuff on the bike, probably since it would just be a "short" journey.  Definitely worth thinking about.  Definitely worth doing.

(laces are actually orange)
Would be nice to have a traveling companion who has probably 30,000+ touring miles under his belt.

I've been taken to the New Balance shoe store where I was fitted for some new shoes - paid for by the landlady where I am getting the free rent.  Mens, size 10 - EEEE width.  Yeah, I have funky shaped feet. If they were hairy, they'd be like Hobbit feet.  Then she bought me another pair that were slip-ons so that I didn't have to lace up the trainers each time I had to go outside.  Yeah, probably well over $250 in shoes for me today. And she keeps buying me new underwear.  Well, I have new underwear already that I haven't gotten to, and I tell her that really I can't take all of it on the bike. Maybe a week's worth, max.  Now I have around three weeks worth!  Plus new tops and pants and even a sort of cardigan thing and one skirt (not that I have but the new shoes to wear with the skirt, and the shoes are not really dress shoes!  And did I mention I don't wear skirts or dresses?).  However, the 2nd pair will come in handy for those midnight camping times when I have to leave the tent for the loo and don't want to step on anything nasty.

This is all just another way of how God is providing for me... giving me new shoes for the journey I will be on, shoes that I wouldn't have been able to afford, nor that I had time to go get.  The way I see it is that after the whole Britain excursion was just cut off from me - God completely closed that door there - that God provided a soft, comfortable landing for me to recover from the shock of having my dreams completely shattered.  Yes, shattered.  So the first two weeks were with a best friend, and now I will spend 4-1/2 months surrounded by the love of other friends.  Also, San Gabriel has a lot more hill work that can be done than where I used to live.  So I can build up better.

One thing left to get, really, and that would be a couple of new bras or sports bras.  The two I have are getting ratty.  Would like to get a proper fit, however, and that won't happen at K-Mart or Target, so I will have to just do my best at those stores.

I have definitely been told that I can stay in the apartment rent-free through February 2015, and that's probably about the time I will want to get on the road anyhow.  Not sure of which direction I will go except to head eastward.  If I choose to go with my friend who is a touring cyclist, we'll plan a route together.

A little rain tonight in the San Gabriel Valley with a little thunder.  Much needed moisture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Had I been in Scotland as had been planned, one of the things I would have put on my schedule was to see the filmed National Theatre production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller.  Twice.  Because they swapped the roles of the creature and the Doctor.  It's playing here in the US as well.  In fact, it was playing 2.5 miles from where I currently am staying in San Gabriel, and I discovered yesterday afternoon that it was showing yesterday night (one showing only) with Benedict as the creature.  Well, I dropped everything and made a walk for the theater.  Yes, I could have taken the bus, but finances are limited and the ticket price was already $17 (thank you Fandango for the $2 processing free!  Not!).  My left foot, which has been sore for a bit, was not entirely happy with the walk there and even less happy with the walk back.  However, it has little soreness today from the excursion.

I will say this - that Benedict was fantastic.  In fact, I kept looking at him and trying to find him... and he was so made up, his movements so distorted and his voice so distorted, that although I knew it was him, I forgot it was him.  There was nothing recognizable.  He is on stage flopping and flailing about by himself for many minutes at the beginning... and what strength he had to have to do that.  Really had to be in good conditioning... which would have been true of the entire play because it was so physical for the creature, and that I found fascinating. His voice was distorted almost as if he'd suffered a stroke.  It was all very effective.  So I'm interested to see how JLM does it when Ben is playing the doctor.  Hopefully someday this will be released on DVD.

That's what I would have done in Scotland had I been there.  Glad I can do that here.

In the meantime my hosts here have showered me with new clothing, and I really need to wash what I already have.  I have been fed every night, and I am resting.  I had a rough weekend of complete exhaustion.  I have started taking the Mannatech products again, and because my system has been so depleted, the concentrated nutrition plus glyconutrients can sometiimes make you feel a little flu-ish at first, and that's probably what happened.  Sunday was a really bad day that way, but I felt quite dizzy all weekend.  As soon as I would take any products, my energy level dropped drastically.  Now, the drop is very slight.  I can still feel it, but my body is adjusting at the cellular level.

One of the cats finally came out and sat near me last night.  Well, "near" being about six feet away.  However, he was quite relaxed about it and didn't scoot off the moment I made eye contact.

In other news, I've got eleven chapters up of my SHERLOCK book.  More chapters to come.  The book is called, "The Blackbird Sings Again," and is a direct sequel to the most recent Sherlock episode, "His Last Vow."  After I put up Chapter 11, I got the following comments from a reader: "On reading the first few pages of chapter 11, all I can say is WHY?  WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS!? And now I crown you Mofftiss II...And the thing with the gravestone.  GAH.  That's so Mofftiss.  You're a bloody genius and an evil, evil person.  Maybe you should help write S4."  I was so tickled with those comments (they are actually high praise!) that I was giddy with delight for the rest of the day (yesterday) and am still very delighted.

If anyone wants to read it, I'd be very happy to share the link, but I do ask that you have seen all 9 episodes of Sherlock or you will not know who is who and what is what. All 9 episodes are available on Netflix.  I bought and downloaded them through ITunes.

"Moftiss" is a combination the the two creators of the series, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.  They are known for making you all emotional (whether happy or sad) in their Sherlock episodes and then ripping the rug out from under you in a very jarring effect to make you scream What???  Why????  And that's often how each series ends.  Then then they make you wait a couple of years for more.  This is why they are sometimes referred to as Satan and Satan's best friend.  LOL

I'm not entirely certain how many chapters are left although I have the last two written already, and Chapter 12 is nearly done.  I suspect I have a few more to write in order to wrap up the mystery.

So here I sit eating some canned tuna salad on crackers.  Writing.  Resting.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Walk in San Gabriel

A week ago I was mailing off the last of the things I decided to keep into storage at my sister's house and sending a package to Scotland.

Today I am counting day 5 in my new little temporary - and I do stress temporary - home.  I will be continuing the bike journey when my time here is finished.

My energy level seems to be about one hour of hard work and then I have to rest.  That's the anemia talking.  It will get better daily, but for now I just rest a lot.  Some say you can't know that you have anemia without a test, but you can know if you've had it before.  You know what it feels like.  You know the constant exhaustion that dogs you.

I walked up 3 blocks to the CVS pharmacy to get some Epsom salts.  I got a few basic art supplies there as well as I decided it was time to do some art.  I see the great art work that shows up in my Twitter feed.  I used to be darn darn darn good at portraits and I used to work mostly in oils, acrylics and pastels.  Well, all that was at CVS were pencils, colored pencils, and some drawing pads.  Okay, whatever.  I don't need expensive art supplies to make art.  Just go with the flow.  I really wanted to get a spatula (for flipping things in the fry pan).   Guess I will have to wait until I go to Smart & Final again.

I got the air bed set up.  Might need to put a little more air in it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tale of the persimmon thief

There is a persimmon thief in the neighborhood who brazenly comes by with his fruit picker to steal the persimmons off the tree right outside my living room window.  These persimmons are highly valued by Gail, the landlady.  This thief comes by during the daytime to do it.  I can't really see him from the windows because I have a lot of foliage, and I'm not really looking either.  However, he comes by and has been chased off twice now.  So, I went out and picked another 4.5 buckets of persimmons.  We're hoping that by continuing to pick them that we will discourage him from coming by.  I will pick more in the daytime.  They come off pretty easily, unlike oranges which you have to fight with all your strength to pull down from the tree.  They're pretty hard like apples but need to ripen up like an over-ripe tomato - very mushy - before being eaten.  Tomorrow I will have a lot of persimmons to wash!  I am certain I will pick a few more buckets full.

The adventure continues!

Feeling blessed

My little kitchen.
Third night sleeping on the floor although the aerobed (or lie-low as the Brits call it, but I don't know if that's how they spell it) did arrive today.  I just need to set it up.  Honestly, however, sleeping on the floor has proven quite comfortable.

Today is when Gail's workforce arrives - people who do her cleaning and gardening.  This includes her sister-in-law, Joan.  Well, I was shocked and blessed when Joan came to my door with a brand new toaster oven and some clothing and towels.  I have been given a LOT of clothing since coming here.  They probably don't understand that I won't be able to take any of these things with me on the bike when I leave, but nevertheless these things are welcome right now.

So today I have been sitting back and resting.  Still feeling like I need to crash every few hours and take a nap, but I think that's still the anemia talking to me.

I really need to get out on the bike and explore the area.  I did find a local bike shop that's about 3 miles away, so I will ride up to them and introduce myself.  I need to get some more ankle bands to secure my long pants at my ankles so that they don't get caught and torn in the chain.  I had them while at Jeanette's house, but one of them disappeared because I didn't put them away properly...and the sock thief, Opie (short for Optimus Prime - he was a Chiweenie), may have taken off with it.  That little dog would take off with anything but mostly socks.  I'm not saying Opie took it.  It could have fallen down between the sofa cushions, and I just never really looked for it.  But, it definitely disappeared there.  Not that I care.  Just need to replace it, that's all.  However, I actually only need to have one for the right leg since it is the one that comes in contact with the gears if not tied down.

Last night we looked and looked for one of the cats.  I knew Sealy hadn't gotten out, but where he was hiding was a complete mystery - and there are only so many places he can hide.  The cabinets in the kitchen are open and we looked in all those, but he wasn't there... then Gail pulled out the top drawer... and he had crawled into the cabinet and up behind the drawer and gotten into the drawer.  How long he was in there we don't know, but a long time.  Hours.  So today I checked that drawer first thing, and he hadn't gotten in there again, but an hour later I found him in that drawer.  So, I have temporarily removed the drawer.  He's not hiding in there from me again!  The cats have not at all warmed up to me yet, but it may take them a few weeks.  I have managed to pet them, however, so there's a little progress.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Settling in - temporarily

My little apartment.  That's a Hilton in the background.
I arrived via bike in San Gabriel on Saturday, three days ago at the home of some friends from church, and they hosted me for the night.  I was shaky when I arrived, which I later attributed to anemia having been on a very, very heavy period for the last week and having also that almost supernaturally unnatural tiredness that comes with anemia.  Definitely did not want to be in the middle of the desert dealing with that nonsense.  Dang menopause needs to pause permanently.  No, I'm not taking any hormone replacement therapy.  Thanks, but no thanks.  My body will adjust naturally the way it was designed to.  The hot flashes started up again today (they go on hiatus during a period), so that means I get to start counting the months without a period again... I can't seem to reach that magic #12 that is supposed to signify being done.

The landlady, Gail, of the little complex of homes/apartments that her father build in the 1950s, also used to go to the church I went to in Santa Monica, so we've all known each other for about 14 years.  One of the apartments was currently empty, but due to her health, she hasn't been jumping on the bandwagon to get it updated and has sort of been using it as storage.  Also, there are two Siamese cats here, Sealy and Lionel (both males), who were abandoned by the previous tennant.  Their abandonment had not been discovered for 5 days.  Anyhow, they live in the apartment.  I think it's been empty for a few months.

some of the 7 buckets of persimmons
that I hand-scrubbed today for work
Gail offered me the apartment rent-free plus some odds and ends work around the complex.  She felt that if I didn't hear God's clear leading to continue the bike journey, that I should stay put.  Well, I don't know for sure anything after the British fiasco, but I did know that I did not want to start over in Los Angeles.  I didn't feel I was meant to be there anymore, and the only thing I knew for sure was that I needed to get on the road, and the only way to do that was with the bike.

I have decided to take the slight pause of the bike journey and stay in the apartment.  It will be mine for a few months.  I basically have no bills.  Even my Wifi is tapped off of my neighbors.  No electric or gas bill.  No rent.  No coin-operated laundry machines.  Not that I have much laundry anymore anyhow.  One of my first issues was coffee, but Gail brought me two different machines - an older Keurig with tons of k-cups that she didn't like, and a regular coffee maker.  The Keurig was supposed to be a 3-step, idiot-proof system, but I quickly proved that 3 steps were too many for this idiot!  I've got it under control now, however.  I really have everything I need here.  I will take pictures of the cats when they warm up to me a bit.  They are still hiding most of the time.

I have now spent two nights in my new little apartment.  It's a 2-bdrm, 1-bath duplex that was built in the 1950's and really hasn't been updated since then either except for occasional coats of paint and new carpet.  Still, it's a roof over my head.  I went shopping to get some supplies - and $200 later have some basic food stuffs.  My first two nights have been sleeping on the floor on a palette of blankets and comforters, but Gail has ordered a queen-sized air bed for me.  Sleeping on the floor the first night was awkward, but last night I slept soundly.  Need to get used to being on the ground anyhow for future camping.

This is not a permanent stop on my bike journey, but my life is in a place of flexibility - to be there for others and then to move on when the need does not exist.  So I will be here through Christmas, likely, and maybe into early next year, and in a way that's better because although I will still be setting out in winter, I will heading into spring.  Maybe I can still make the two weddings in Michigan of my twin niece and nephew.  Maybe I can even figure out how to lighten the load in my panniers, as they are still too heavy!!!!

Life is good.  God provides.  The adventure continues!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 2 - Road Magic

Goal:  San Gabriel, CA.  I woke up at 5:15 A.M., ready to leave at 5:30.  The bike was fully packed already.  As I always needed help to get it out the door (mostly to keep the dogs from escaping), Jeanette agreed to be awoken.  It seemed much heavier than the day before... and I think it was.  Jeanette got up and got everyone else in the house up, and they all prayed over me, and then I was out the door at maybe 5:45.

It was, of course, dark outside, but I wanted to travel in the dark to avoid traffic, and I especially wanted to get through downtown Los Angeles, which was 10 miles away, in the quieter hours of the morning.  I took Venice Boulevard all the way into downtown, then turned left on Main Street.  I took Main Street all the way to Cesar Chavez Blvd, then turned left and went down to Mission, less than a mile.  On Mission I turned left and took a bike lane all the way to Valley Blvd and turned right.

Nearing the top of the big hill.
There was on place on Venice that was an incline and I got terribly out of breath (didn't stop, however).  But I was gasping. There were a couple of arched bridges to go over, but nothing like the monster arched bridges down by Long Beach.  I was able to cycle over these other bridges.  There was only one place on Valley, just west of where the 710 connects that I got off the bike and walked it up the hill.  It was a long, steep hill, and I downed some Gatorade at the top for refueling.  I hadn't eaten or had a whole lot to drink up to that point, and that was about 15-16 miles into the 21 mile journey.

After the big hill I rode the rest of the way in with little to no difficulty.  I arrived at my host's house at 8:25 A.M.  I was having a bit of an asthma attack for a little while.  I only gained 500 feet in altitude, but I don't think I had quite recovered from the stress of that first hill on Venice.

This host is a long-time friend, Priscilla, and her husband, Richard.  They live in a little complex of houses/single apartments that were built by her landlady's father in the 1950's.  Her landlady is also a mutual friend as we all used to attend the same church in Santa Monica.

One of the apartment units is empty because it needs a lot of work that she can't afford to do at the moment, Right now just two cats are living there, and she offered me the apartment rent-free for a few months (or longer) plus work (not remodeling work but work for her).  Well, part of this trip is being open to new possibilities.  The Lord knows that I lost a lot of $$$ with the British fiasco.  I needed some time to recover.  Maybe now I will have some time.

A second birthday celebration
So, although I had totally planned to be in Redlands for tomorrow, Oct. 19, I have decided to stay in San Gabriel for a while with the free rent and just recuperate some finances as well as maybe just an emotional rest period.  Of course I've barely got a stitch of anything, so a few basic supplies will have to be procured, not the least of which is some type of bed.  I guess I'll be semi-camping in the apartment with the two cats.  Thankfully I love cats, and they are even Siamese.

I will continue my journey soon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dipping the bike

Day 1 - dipped the bike into the ocean at the Venice Beach pier.  It really wasn't a regular biking day, because I only rode 4 miles down and 4 miles back to my host's house.  In fact, my host, Jeanette, drove down to the beach after me and it took both of us to drag the bike through the sand down to the water.  We kept waiting for a wave to hit the back wheel, and then it would either miss the wheel or come up too far.  Needless to say my shoes became completely drenched and then completely caked in sand.

The bike handled well with all the weight.  My brother, who is an athletic instructor, had advised me not to ride at all that day but to rest, but I  had to take the bike down and officially dip that back wheel.  I also didn't push myself very hard on the ride back to Jeanette's house.  Just nice and slow.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birthday ride.

Rode fully loaded over to I. Martin to say goodbye to my friends there.  Of course I had to get another hug from Ryan!

Whereas I had planned to do a 35-mile fully loaded ride that day, I decided that the 15 miler was good enough. My muscles were feeling the burn of the previous 3 days of riding, and I wanted to give them a chance to recover a little.

My host, Jeanette, took me out for dinner at Natalie Thai, then we went to church, and when we came home an ice cream birthday cake was waiting for me.  It was a great day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Training day 3 - what a slog!

Usually works good, but today not so much.
Today I upped my mileage with the loaded bike to 30 miles.  Yesterday's 25 miler felt pretty good, but today did not.  There was an element missing:  Gatorade.  Yes, I didn't have it Monday and I slogged at 20 miles.  I had it Tuesday and wasn't bothered at all at 25.  Didn't have it today and I was feeling it.

I did take some fig newtons and some peanut butter crackers.  Usually fig Newtons are good for some energy... but not so much with a fully loaded bike.  No, the carbs are too complex for fast energy.  That's where Gatorade is so powerful.  It hits your bloodstream quickly and thereby your muscles quickly.  So it looks to me like I am going to need a steady supply of Gatorade on the road.  Like - don't leave home without it.  Ever.  Because I literally kept having to stop to rest, and it took me much longer on the ride than it should have.

I know some people think that Gatorade is nothing but sugar, and there IS a lot of sugar in it, but hello!!!  The body runs on sugar.  I don't want to hear any anti-sugar arguments.  You go out on a fully loaded bike and see how well you do on water alone after 30 miles.  Yeah, Right now I am downing sugar.

That being said, I did stop on the Ballona Creek Bridge again (both ways), and the 2nd time I was approached by an Southeast Asian man and his wife who were on a tandem.  He said he had just ordered a Surly LHT and was waiting for it to arrive and that he planned on touring the USA also.  He kept saying how much he wish he could go with me.  He said he also wanted to tour all of Thailand and asked if I ever wanted to go there, but I said I could only go if someone sponsored a ticket for me.  Well, more than that, but that's the general idea.  I introduced him to Warm Showers and also this blog.  He had never heard of Warm Showers.  He said he was doing the tandem with his wife to get used to extra weight, but only real way to get used to the extra weight is if she's not pedaling, because the weight on the bike is dead weight.  I still have too much of it.  Need to get serious in the next 48 hours and start dumping some stuff.

The Ortlieb Rack Pack arrived today... more weight for the bike.  The tent, however, is a different matter.  I ordered it off eBay but like a doofus forgot to tell the seller to send it to the address where I am currently staying, so of course it went to my old address where I don't live and now it is already being sent back.  So I will have to get another one from a store or something.  Time is short but thankfully I don't need the tent for several days, potentially.

Monday, October 13, 2014

First ride with gear

The 1/2 gallon water bottles on the front panniers were empty.
So I wasn't fully geared.  I'm still missing my Ortlieb rack pack, my tent and my sleeping pad, but I was as geared as I could go and it was a good training run to get the feel of that weight on the bike.

And I felt that weight, even going down hill.  I felt it, and I kept reminding myself that I was not rushing.  I had no one timing me.  It was just about getting used to the different feel of the weight on the bike - which I estimate to be at least 50 lbs. I'm thinking I still need to see what can be jettisoned.  I know I am still over-thinking and over-planning, and let's face it, this older laptop weighs way too much, but it's what I have and it's what I'll use until I get another one.  Besides, blogging from the IPhone 5 is not as pretty as from a regular computer.  More clothes need to go. I am probably over-stocked on food, but in some things it's better safe than sorry.  Of course the weight will fluctuate as the food gets eaten or as water gets added.

I basically rode from about Washington/Sepulveda in Culver City (Los Angeles) down to the Venice Pier, then got on the bike path and rode it north to the end at Temescal Canyon/Will Rogers State Beach.  It was about 10 miles each way.  I think I kept a fairly good pace of 10-11 mph, which with a load like this would a good pace although as my strength builds I will try to get it up to 12.5 mph.  This has never been a fast bike, but I won't be zooming down any hills even with the weight.

Little bear seat-belted on for the journey with a zip tie.
Ryan at I.Martin did all the work for free again, even reassembling the bike after the British travel fiasco.  Yes, the bike traveled 10,000+ miles and never set rubber to road in Britain.  A sponsor then purchased new tires for me, and Ryan installed those, plus he put in new tubes and liners, and I don't think he charged for those.  Anyhow, I zip-tied my bike mascot, a USA beanie babie bear that I've had for years and years to the bike.  Every bike needs mojo and mine has that plus a few little encouraging notes from friends.  Someone asked me what the bear's name was, and I said he didn't have one.  They suggested Ryan after the mechanic, but the bear doesn't look like a Ryan to me (sorry, Ryan!), but I'd be willing to call him Martin after the store. Or Marty Bear after the store.  He'll get fairly grotty and faded with time, but I'll just try to keep him clean or eventually I'll decide to pitch him for the weight reduction.  For now, he can stay.

I felt like 20 miles was a good starter day.  Any more than that, especially after being off the bike for 10 days, was really pushing it.  I'll go out every day this week with the weight, however, and I will push myself a little further each day to build the strength I need.  I have over 20 miles to my first host on Saturday, then on Sunday I have 50+ miles of city traffic to do.  Monday will also be 40+ miles to finish getting into Palm Springs, and then I will take a day of rest with a friend before I hop to a new host in Indio in prep for the big 100 mile crossing the desert ride.  Lord, please give me cloud cover that day!!!  Then I will rest in Blythe a day before crossing into Arizona.

I might break the desert ride into two days.  That's what a friend did.  He had someone meet him half way, then drive him back to Palm Springs for the night, then back to the same point the next day.  Cyclists can be OCD that way about the exact spot, not missing anything.  I'm sure I'll get over that quickly the first blizzard that sneaks up on me.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just resting before the journey

What my life is reduced to.
My bike is supposed to get new tires tonight, and tomorrow I should pick it up.  Then I will start loading it and taking some local trips with it fully loaded so that I can get the feel of it, because I have a lot of miles to travel.  Plus I need to still see what has to be pitched from the stuff I have left.  I know I have too much clothing that I just don't have room for.

I still have to ship out three boxes, but then I'm pretty much done.

The orange front panniers arrived yesterday, and I love them, of course.  I really wanted orange...whatever it takes to be brightly seen on the road.  Now just awaiting my new tent which I hopefully will not have to use too often, but there are some places where it might be necessary, even if it's in someone's back yard.

Since I am calling this place my first official Warm Showers host, even though they aren't with Warm Showers (but are signing up!), I will tell you that my host has purchased a new set of tires for me.  They are being put on the bike tonight or tomorrow.  I don't know how old the tires are that are currently on the bike, but I do know that I have put over 1300 miles on them, and I just don't know how old they were before that.  Not to mention I made a mistake a few weeks ago and ran them through freshly laid asphalt.  That was a mess.  Oh yeah.

So another sponsor is looking into getting me a yellow Ortlieb rack pack, something I need to keep the tent and the sleeping bag dry.  The sleeping bag arrived yesterday and it is oh so light compared to the other monster I had.  So much smaller too.  The tent weighs less that 3 lbs also.  I think it comes in at 2.9 lbs and is orange.

So, I just have to be very strict with what I am taking.  I even put my big NASB Bible into storage because the thing just weighed too much for the bike.  I am jettisoning things right and left still.

And that's where I'm at.  Next week I will take the bike down to the beach and dip the back wheel into the water, then will ride on Saturday, Oct. 18 out to San Gabriel.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Money changeroo

Today my host took me and the bike to the bike shop, I. Martin Bicycles where Ryan will no doubt do his stellar job in getting my bike put back together after 10,000 miles of air flight.  Yeah, that was a fiasco.  Still no one can believe that it happened.  But, whatever.  I'm leaving Los Angeles on the 18th, I think, and will be heading out across the city and into the desert.  It will take me 4 days to get to Palm Springs or 3 if I really push it, but then I will need a day to get mentally prepped for the crossing between Indio and Blythe.  I've never gone that far in one day (almost a century ride).  There is a good Warm Showers host in Blythe, and then I will cross the border into Arizona.  Woo hoo!

I ordered a new sleeping bag today that is only 2 lbs and goes to 20-F.  Also a sleeping pad.  Both should arrive next week.  Still need to get a tent and am waiting to hear from a seller about that.

Also changed all my British pounds into dollars and had to have my bank account changed from being out of the country to in the country.  Even the bankers were shocked at what happened to me at Heathrow.  Seems like everyone is shocked.  A BFF in San Antonio, TX actually started crying when she read my blog and then she started crying tonight when we were on the phone.  Weird, but I feel I have already moved on from the incident.  She also thinks my blog on Dear Britain, My Beating Heart is the best thing I've ever written, like it's Pulitzer material.  (She's never read my Sherlock fanfiction which is stunning, actually).

My host is also sponsoring me a new set of hardcase tires and liners from some manufacturer.  I honestly don't know how old the tires are or how many miles they have on them.  I just know that I've put 1300+ miles on them.  Tires are generally good for about 5000 miles  Some suggest getting Schwalbe, but I don't think my shop stocks them.  But I know they stock other good tires.  Some recommend gators.  But as long as they are reasonably slick and not knobby.  I don't need or want mountain bike tires.

The new Ortlieb front roller classic panniers (in ORANGE!!!) should be here on Wednesday.  Yay!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Regrouping for USA tour

This picture doesn't belong to me but
I will replace it with my own soon
Well, I had been planning the European tour, but I am regrouping now for the original USA tour that I had planned.  Thankfully my missing luggage from the return British Airways flight turned up today.  The duct tape that we had put around it for easy identification had been cut, and the case had been rifled through.  Totally mess inside... well, once we got inside it.  We didn't lock it because we didn't have a key for it.  It was on loan from a friend, but it sure seemed locked when we got it back, because we sort of had to beat on the tabs to open them.

I would still like to get an Ortlieb Rack Pack for the back so that the tent and sleeping bag could be protected.  I still need to get the sleeping bag an tent, however.  I had both of those items but the sleeping bag was too huge for sure.  The tent I could have lived with, but that sleeping bag needed to be about 1/4-1/3 the size.

So... things are a bit tight.  People are starting to donate to a fund set up for me to help me recover from this difficulty, and today I was able to purchase the Ortlieb front panniers.

You Caring

If you feel like donating, great, if not, no problem.  But I do need sponsors.  Lots of sponsors.

My packet for the Palace to Palace ride that I just missed arrived in Scotland.  My friend in Scotland is sending it to my sister in Texas.  I will one day make good on the 2014 P2P ride for all the people that sponsored me.

I've gotten pretty ruthless with my remaining stuff today.  I already have another bag of stuff to take to the thrift store, and I may still need to get more ruthless after that, although I won't have anything left to take to the thrift store.

So that's the plan for the moment.  Head across the USA on my original route.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Missing Luggage

At LAX on the way to Heathrow before
things started to go downhill.
As if missing out on having the British and European cycling adventure wasn't heart-wrenching enough, one of my pieces of luggage disappeared somewhere between Heathrow and LAX.  Now, I know for certain that it was on the plane, because I was escorted personally by customs to the airplane where it was verified that my four pieces of luggage were on the plane.  Trust me, they make sure YOU are on the plane and everything you brought with you is on the plane.  That piece of luggage, by the way, didn't belong to me, either, but to a friend.

But by the time I got to the carousel... and I waited and waited and waited... one piece did not arrive.  It was the piece, of course, that had all my bike panniers in it.  Also had my entire DVD collection as well as various other items that were dear to me.  Brand new Ortlieb panniers.  It is the suitcase on the bottom wrapped in duct tape.  The duct tape was put on not to hold it together but for me to more easily identify it coming off the carousel.  That backfired.

So, I am totally back to square one.  Totally.  And here's thing:  I had previously been preparing for a x-country USA bike trip that was to have started in February 2015.  But when I realized I was going to Britain, I got rid of almost all of the USA stuff because I thought I'd just replace it over there.  Only now I'm here... and I have none of it.  Some of it just became too bulky and was extra weight or unnecessary.  I had spend $$$ buying food and prep for going across the country.  I was going to have restocking stations with friends.  But I gave all that food away.  All of it.  I had to get very picky about what I was taking to Britain because of the weight issue.  Nearly everything was jettisoned.  Now I find myself in the position of needing to kit the bike again... and that's not a cheap process.

A friend has set up a donation page for me to help me recover these lost items and to get things going again.

If you feel like donating, any little bit will help.  I want to get on the road in the USA as quickly as possible before winter sets in.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dear Britain, My Beating Heart

Dear Britain,

You have been my beating heart since around 1968, when at 9 years old I first saw the film, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and it led me to love all things British and start a lifelong obsession.  After that movie it was all about "tell me more about this country where such wonderful people and talent comes from."

And while you're at it, let me wander down your quiet country lanes and old cobblestone streets to see the old thatched roofs and listen to the various accents and colloquial dialects.  I want to see the Scottish lochs, the Lake District, the Devon moors, the Shetlands and the Orkneys.  From east to west and north to south and every side road inbetween, I want to see what's there.

I want to see the locations where some of my favorite British films were shot, and I want to see locations that I've written about, that I've dreamt about, that I have held dear to my heart.

Britain, you don't know how much I love you, how much I've always loved you for years and have wanted to visit you for most of my life.

So imagine my delight when a friend in Scotland agreed to sponsor my airfare over and put me up for an extended stay.  Now, this was fortuitous as I am a touring cyclist who can think of no better way to see Britain than from the seat of a bicycle.  A fully loaded bicycle that could meander to and fro while I take my time to soak in the culture.  Britain, you also make an excellent home base for jumping into Europe for longer bicycle tours.

1 October is a special day for my friend in Scotland, so we decided I would leave the USA on that day.  Then some wonderful things began to line up within that first week of October.  First, I signed up for the 45-mile Prince's Trust Palace to Palace ride on 5 Oct.  Another friend paid my entrance fee and then I was able to raise the money for donations.  I would have to hustle on the ride because at 13:00 on the same day was a SHERLOCK screening of His Last Vow at the Hertford Theatre with a Q&A afterwards with stars Amanda Abbington and Martin Freeman.  Someone even paid for my cab fare to get from Windsor Castle to the Hertford Theatre.  Another sponsor.  On Oct. 4 I was to meet another Sherlock fan for dinner, and the two of us promised not to do too much fangirling about meeting another fan.  Afterwards I was staying with a Warm Showers host in London.

According to the Warm Showers website, The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink.  I've been a host 5 times in Los Angeles, and I have taken excellent care of my cyclists.  

Now, before I go any further, I should state that BBC1 SHERLOCK is my latest British obsession, and I was planning a 1-month tour of Wales to visit locations where it was shot and even the city of Cardiff where the Hartswood Studios are.  Yes, I would have toured in January, and it would have been miserable weather, but it also would have been brilliantly wonderful.

Since I was being given a ticket to Scotland (1-way), I decided that after Wales I would jump to the mainland and start cycling south to Greece with a some time in Paris with a good friend.  I have a friend in Greece who makes the most exquisitely beautifully decorated cookies you ever saw.  Too pretty to eat.  EuroVelo shows many different cycling routes throughout Europe.  Mix and match!

But darling Britain, you do not yet understand that there is a world-wide network for touring cyclists and that the network makes extended stays possible in any country for little to no money.  There are many well-known cyclists who are surviving on $5 per day.  Our plans are not set in stone because of the vagaries of weather (mostly).  We do not need to have loads of finances to tour your country, nor do we necessarily need an exit ticket to visit because chances are we won't be leaving from your lovely country when we exit wherever to go home.  We may not know when we are going home at all.  So to ask to see a return ticket is, for a long-term touring cyclist an unreasonable request.  

Some of us, like me, give up everything to start a life of cycle touring.  The world becomes the home.  So dear Britain, I gave up almost all worldly possessions, my job, my apartment, to begin cycle touring from your country.  Per my passport, I am allowed 180 days from time of entry into your country per year.

Had I known that a longer stay in your country would arouse the suspicions of customs and cause me to be detained at Heathrow for 15 hours in "customs detention" only to find out that I couldn't set foot on your soil because I was being denied entrance… my first trip out of the country, my first time trying to use my passport, and you didn't like my nebulous cycling plans or my apparently insufficient funds, or that I didn't have a home to go back to and also that I had no return ticket… please re-read about touring cyclists.  15 hours in detention also meant that I spent an entire night in detention.  I was brought a pillow and a blanket, but I told them I would not be sleeping.  No.  Even as 30 hours without sleep caused me to begin to hallucinate (undulating floor tiles and furniture that seemed to float about 1/2" off the ground), I still refused to sleep.  I did lay my head down in exhaustion from crying, but I did not sleep.  How could I sleep when I was in your country for such few precious hours?  No, I composed this love letter to you as well as doing some other writing, because pen and paper were about all I was allowed.  Except for the clothes I was wearing, I had no personal belongings for those 15 hours.

My one souvenir - from detention.  Crisps.
Well, they were crispy.

I arrived in your country on 2 October and was back in Los Angeles on 3 October.  Slingshot.  Exhausted.  In the same clothes for 48+ hours.  Slept much of the way back.

I had seen a little of your green earth and paddocks as the plane took off from Heathrow, but it was a little overcast, and soon the beauty of your land was shielded with clouds.  No, I was not even to really see it at all.

My Scottish sponsor was gutted, but no one more than me.  I think I sobbed in grief for all the lovely plans that I had that were dashed.  I sobbed for the Palace to Palace ride, for the Hertford Theatre event,  for the Warm Showers host, for the money and support that others have invested in my dreams and life.  I wept for the missed roads in Scotland for the John O'Groats to Lands End bike ride, for the time spent with my sponsor, for the time spent in Paris with friends, for the time in Greece and all the adventures in-between.  

Had I known that a longer stay in Britain would have been better received with a "tourist visa" and not just the passport alone, rest assured I would have had one.  Good for future reference.  However, the issue of the return ticket date, well - thus are the vagaries of the touring cyclist.  Because you're not the only country I'm cycling.  You're just my favorite.  I'll come and go.  I have a USA friend who is on an 8-yr tour  and is currently in New Zealand.  He does not have a specific return date but neither does he have a particular passion for any one country like I do.  

I don't have a desire to set down permanent roots in Britain unless it were some little Beatrice Potter type of cottage that I could just use as a bolt hole and write.  Oh yes, I write as well as cycle.  Even in customs detention where I wasn't allowed anything personal but for the clothes on my back, I asked for paper and pen to write.  At first I was so grieved that words failed me, even though I wrote all the eleven hours over on the British Airways flight.  

Oh, and before I forget this lovely thing, when British Airways learned it was my first international flight, they upgraded me.  How lovely was that?

Britain, what I am trying to tell you is that there is likely no one outside your shores who loves you and appreciates you more than I do.  I pose no security risk, I have complete hosting on your lands.  No, I can't give you an itinerary of every day I'm spending there or where my cycling will take me there.  I just want to see it all.  

I asked Jackie, one of the customs detention workers, if this incident was a big black mark on any attempt to return.  She said it was a "little" mark - because now my passport will always be flagged in your country but that if I get a tourist visa, I shouldn't get hassled.  Fingerprinting, pictures, pat downs, and 15 hours in detention before being put on a flight back home, well, I was completely gutted and shattered.  My dreams shattered completely.  Jackie was lovely to me, by the way (but I was understandably appalled when she liked CSI better than SHERLOCK).  Actually, everyone was lovely.  They knew I wasn't a criminal.  Just didn't have the right paperwork and details.

So, the one who loves you the most has been sent away.  Unrequited love.  The story of my life.  But I still love you.  And I will return, and hopefully you will treat me with renewed kindness and allow me to step foot on your beloved soil.

All my best blessings,

Jenny Arata

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Leaving Los Angeles for Britain

Oct. 1

So I've never been out of the USA before, and this being my first time ever to exercise my passport and not knowing what to expect, I arrived at the LAX international terminal several hours early. I had a bike, two suitcases, a box, a heavy purse and an even heavier laptop case. 

I knew that one piece of luggage would go for free but the others not so much but what can you do when you've just uprooted your whole life and you need those pieces left to all arrive at your new destination at the same time?  You pay the piper whatever the piper asks because your new life is beginning. 

My dear friend Jeanette who hosted me last night as well as drove me to the airport and helped me to wrangle the considerable luggage inside. Of course the bike had to go into the freight section. I told the British Airways attendant that it was my first ever overseas flight and he wrote a number on my ticket. Jeanette asked if there was any way I could get bumped up in class and he said it would be his last day on the job - which turned out not to be true because he did indeed bump me up in class, at least to business class, and I went on the upper deck of the plane. I got a seat in row 80, and that was by the upper emergency doors. I had a private entertainment screen (maybe everyone did). At least everyone on the upper deck did. 

Chicken curry or tomato pasta were the hot menu. Served piping hot two hours into the flight which would have been 23:48.  On the tray included curry with long grain rice and something akin to refried beans, a dinner roll, salad, very small Hershey bar, lemon cake and water. Tasty. I didn't get a proper supper before the flight took off because the line at Panda Express was obscenely long. Coffee was served separately. One thing I will miss for certain from the USA is International Delight Hazelnut Creamer. Perhaps I can find a good hazelnut creamer there. 

Yes, two hours in the flight and I tried to watch HOTEL BUDAPEST but found it dull. Perhaps it would have gone better had I not been writing some Sherlock fanfiction at the same time. Oh yes, I do that. 

Oct 2

Crossing the midnight hour on Day 2 of my life. Lots of turbulance. 

Maleficent is a slightly more interesting movie. I've been running my IPhone for about Three hours and am down to 44%. The app that I downloaded for writing seems to be doing well. 

Not quite half way through the flight and I got to use the bathroom in a plane forward the first time. Well, I don't think I could have held it for 10 hrs. 

I definitely can't watch 3 more movies to fill the time so I will go back to Sherlock writing for a bit. I have to wrap up the Anthea thread.

One good thing is that I am testing the Jackery Giant recharger as other s supposed to recharge 4-5 times. I'm workineRly done with the first recharge and it's working great. I'll get a similar one from the Newton Bike Shop except that theirs is solar powered, something I need for the road. 

Nearly 3:00 AM - been on the plane for five hous, so half way through the journey. I can just begin to see the first Rays of sunlight. Of course, I haven't changed my clock over. Not even sure where we are but we are probably over the Atlantic now. The window at the emergency door is very small so it's hard to tell anything. Flying into the rising sun, however, will quickly reveal where we are. We're supposed to fly over Southern Ireland but I'm on the wrong did of the plane for that. Actually, I am in the middle of the plane although on an aisle seat. 

And here's where things suddenly went horribly wrong...

Left behind gear

So I was packing a big suitcase last night and had to keep it under 50 lbs.  I was at 57. I got ruthless. Shaved off 10 lbs. what is unnecessary?  What can I abandon?  

I have already abandons almost all the kitting I bought for traveling across the USA, a trip I was planning for Feb. 2015. I just couldn't justify the bulk or expense of getting it all overseas. I will replace the camping gear in Scotland. I still need to get the Ortlieb front panniers and also the Ortlieb rack pack. 

Now to get the bike put back together when I arrive in Scotland. If I only get on the rear rack I will be happy.