Reflections on 900 miles on a bicycle

On the northern California Coast




On the northern California Coast
On the northern California Coast



[I wrote this back in August of 2010]

Well, I’ve been back for a week, so it seemed like time to write reflections on my Portland to Berkeley bicycle trip.


Why did I do it? Was it turning 50, the old “mid-life crisis” reaction? Maybe, but probably only a small amount. I’m pretty satisfied with life (career I love, good friends and family, the body working pretty well). Was it “because it was there”? Probably a bit. I had started to think about riding up to the AAPT conference, but summer plans (and prevailing winds) pointed me in the direction of a return ride. And, hey, with two months off every summer, why not spend a couple weeks on my bike? In the end, why I did it is probably a lot like why I’m a vegetarian: “All of the above.”

Athletic accomplishment?

Many people are impressed with my ride, thinking it’s quite an athletic feat. I’m not so sure it’s that hard. One of the riders I met on my trip (Ineke, who is quite a commute/around town rider, but not a big cycle tourist) hit it right when she said “It’s not so much about the legs as it is about the mind.” Dalton, a 17 year old girl riding from Washington state to SF with her dad and 14 year old sister, also had a hint about what was going on when she asked me “Do you ever feel like just quitting?” I told her that I did often, and that seeing all the other riders on the Pacific Coast route is a great encouragement to complete my trip.

How much preparation did I do for the trip? Not that much. I rode a few 30-70 mile rides over the past year, and several 20 mile commutes home from work (in the fall I was great at 1-2 times/week, but this fell apart when it started getting dark early, when it was raining, and when I got a sore throat). Other than that, my bike is my primary means of getting around town, so I am on it almost daily for 2-10 miles of errands and commute from the subway to work. I think that being familiar with and comfortable on my bike, especially in traffic, is probably the best preparation I had for my trip.

So, can anyone jump on a bike and ride 900 miles? Probably not. But I believe that one doesn’t need to do as much preparation as many would expect, especially if you are willing to plan your days as not that long, and are willing to take each day “slow and steady.”


In Oregon, my first night
In Oregon, my first night

I tend to overpack for just about anything, and while my tour was not a complete shift from this, I did cut down from what I might have packed on another day. My bike and packs weighed in at around 110-120 pounds (depending on how stocked up on food and water I was at any give time). My bike with racks, fenders, kickstand, etc. weighs close to 40 pounds. Not sure of the empty weight of my bags (two sets of panniers, one rear rack, one handlebar rack), but I clearly was carrying a lot of “stuff” in my bags.

Tent: I only have one tent, a wonderful self-supporting two-person tent. I could have saved some weight here, but it was nice to have the extra room inside. I didn’t need it so much on this trip (no rain), but if it had rained, being able to put my bags inside is a great plus.

Stove etc.: I have an older MSR “Whisperlight” stove that burns white gas. The fuel bottle connects to the stove, so the stove itself is minimal in size and weight (you could easily put it in a small shoe). It burns hot, and can burn just about any liquid fuel you can find (although white gas can be found in almost any sporting goods store in the US). The stove does take priming (big flames at first), and I had a bit of “stove envy” when I saw other cyclists whip out their compressed gas stoves and have them give off nice blue flames on the light, but I’m trying not to replace good equipment I have just because there’s something “better” available. I have a “cook set” that contains two pots, a pan, and two plastic cups. The pan I never used, and I had another cup so the cups I didn’t need either. I have a stainless steel insulated coffee mug that fits nicely in my waterbottle cage (and holds drinks hot for hours!), so there’s another cup. I think next time I’ll leave the pan and plastic cups at home.

Clothing: I pretty much rode with just my wool outfit: long-sleeve and short sleeve jerseys, cycling shorts, and leg warmers. I had an extra pair of shorts and tights that I never used, but I think they were important to have (a cyclist needs to be able to care for her/his bottom in any conditions, and if it rains it’s great to have a pair of dry shorts to change into). Perhaps the street shorts, pants, and sweat pants were a bit much–but the shorts were great for swimming in.

Making friends and acquaintences

Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast is probably the most social bicycle tour one can take. You can find a state campground with hiker/biker campsites about every 30-50 miles, and during the summer there are plenty of cycle tourists riding southbound (and a few northbound). Nights turn into social gatherings for those so inclined. I met several people who I have kept in touch with over this past year [I’m writing this section in June 2011], and will have a chance to visit with Morris this summer when I’m in his neighborhood in Arizona for three weeks for a teacher training.

Beachcomber Cafe, Trinidad, CA
Beachcomber Cafe, Trinidad, CA

My blog from the trip

I blogged my trip on

Blogging my SF-San Luis Obispo bike trip on

I’m riding a six-day bicycle tour from San Francisco (well, Daly City BART, actually) to San Luis Obispo. I found a great web site for posting bike trips, You can follow my trip there.

I’m riding a great touring bike, the Surly “Long Haul Trucker.” The bike is not light, but it’s sturdy I’m fully equipped with Ortleib panniers on the front, a handlebar bag, a “trunk” bag (sits on back rack), and Arkel panniers on the rear.

California Action Alert on Employment & Disability

Dear Advocates,

AB 1269 is important for Californians with disabilities who want to or do work. If you’re unfamiliar with Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program, please see the following text link that describes the current program.

AB 1269 adds desperately needed improvements to California’s Medicaid Buy-In Program that were vetoed by the governor two legislative cycles ago because of legal language flaws, and again during the last legislative cycle because of the budget. Advocates have worked closely with the governor’s staff and the state’s fiscal actuaries, and are confident that we have addressed concerns expressed by this administration.

Please let Assemblymember Brownley know that you support her bill as she ushers it through the committee process. It is important to ask people in your personal life and business associates to also send letters of support. Please spread the word.


Write Letters to Members of the Assembly Committee on Health by April 16, 2009

AB 1269-Fundamental Fairness!

CALIFORNIA WORK GROUP On Work Incentives and Health Care  the CWG


Dear CWG Participants & AB 1269 Supporters,

We need you, your friends, family, and colleagues to write letters of support by the end of this week!


1.   Write your letter of support! See our sample letter below that you can edit with your own stories, Assembly contact person, and your personal contact information.

2.   Please send or fax a letter of support to Julia Brownley, the bill’s author attention Irene Ho.

Office of Assembly Member Julia Brownley

Attn: Irene Ho
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041
Tel: (916) 319-2041
Fax: (916) 319-2141

3.  Send or fax a copy of your letter to Ginny Murphy:

Ginny Murphy
World Institute on Disability
510 16th St. Ste 100
Oakland CA 94612
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109

4.   Forward this email to a friend or colleague who can join us in supporting AB 1269. Consider sending them your letter so they can see why you support the California Working Disabled Program.

Thank you for your action and support! Please contact us if you have any questions. If you need any assistance with this AB 1269 letter of support over the next two days please contact Burns Vick, Policy Consultant, at


Bryon MacDonald
Program Director
California Work Incentives Initiative
The World Institute on Disability

Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability

Sample letter

“Cut and paste” the following letter into your word processor, then make the needed changes to personalize it:

April ____, 2009

The Honorable Julia Brownley
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0041

Dear Assembly Member Brownley:

YOUR NAME or ORGANIZATION in YOUR CITY is deeply committed to support the improvement of Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled Program with the features and the fundamental fairness found in your pending legislation AB 1269. ____________A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHY YOU SUPPORT AB 1269… ________________________.

Medi-Cal’s California Working Disabled program (CWD) came about so California workers with a disability who have earned income under 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can buy into Medi-Cal by paying an affordable monthly premium. This bill would reform the program to enable more disabled individuals to save their earnings without consequence, and enable them to retain their health coverage and hard-earned savings when changing employment during these hard economic times, and when they receive retirement income.

AB 1269 improvements to the California Working Disabled Program:

  • Allow enrollees who are temporarily unemployed to remain in the program for up to 26 weeks (6 ½ months) during a work transition;
  • Allow enrollees to save their earnings without any limit or ceiling as long as they save them in a separate bank account; and
  • Allow enrollees to stay in the program and work by exempting Social Security disability income that converts to retirement income.

In 1999, California passed legislation (AB 155-Migden) that established the California Working Disabled program. While creation of the California Working Disabled program successfully facilitated the return to work for some workers with a disability, program enrollment rates have been much lower than every state projection since 1999. These long sought, non-controversial improvements, and promotion of them by the State of California, can improve employment outcomes for many more California residents working and living with a significant disability.

Thank you for your leadership.



Ginny Murphy
Projects Coordinator
California Work Incentives Initiative
World Institute on Disability
Phone: (510) 251-4340
Fax: (510) 763-4109

War Resister support protest at Peace Arch

Photo of protestOn my way back from Canada, I stopped for my usual visit to the Peace Arch on the Canada/US border. This year I was pleasantly surprised to find a protest in favor of US war resistors, and Robin Long in particular. For more details, see Click the photo on the right for more photos.

Robin LongIn short, Robin Long is a US Army soldier who fled to Ontario in 2005. He has been in Canadian courts as one of the test cases for deportation. While the Canadian Parliament votes (non-binding) to allow US soldiers who have left the US to stay, the Prime Minister has different politics.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article on Long’s deportation.

I was interviewed by GlobalTV, so I might appear in an online story there.

Great visit with some of the Canadian Trampleasures

Four TrampleasuresThree more TrampleasuresLast night I had a great visit with cousins in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

Gary is my “fourth cousin.” He’s proud to be the oldest living Trampleasure in Canada, and the third oldest in the world (my dad beats him out by a decade, as does Colin in London).

I met two “fourth cousins once removed” and three “fourth cousins twice removed.” We had a great time talking about the family tree, how Canada got it’s name (a joke I’m sure they would have heard, but maybe it’s just a US joke), whether or not we actually made it to the moon, and the reality of the 9/11 events (let’s just say not everyone believes the US government tale).

The kids were pleased to see a Trampleasure from another shore (well, almost).  I had a great time. The visit gave me encouragement to do more family tree research.

Two lovely days on Whidbey Island, WA

Eagle landing with preyMmm. Relaxing.

Quinn's cabin in the woodsI spent Saturday and Sunday with my old neighbor Quinn. Quinn moved up here last fall, and is enjoying his first summer on the island. He’s got a nice place, with enough space to hang his many guitars, but not so much as to need to hire a housecleaner 🙂 He’s on the end of a dead-end road, with a few other houses within earshot, but not enough to make one feel crowded.

Both days went great, Quinn and I hung out a bit talking, then we went off with his friend Charlene to see the island (well, south part).

Saturday was (not by plan) “Cultural day.” We went to one of the local towns (Langley) for an art/music festival (Choochochum), where my souvenir from the island was a CD of one of the local bands that played. We then went over to Charlene’s place for dinner, then off to visit a neighbor (environmental consultant, full of great stories and anecdotes).

Harbor seal pupSunday we went to South Whidbey State Park and walked through the forest, including a view of the “Ancient Cedar.” Next we walked the beach at Double Bluff, where we saw a Harbor Seal pup on the beach. We later heard from a marine mammal volunteer that the beached pups rarely make it. This one seems very thin, and its rear flippers appeared paralyzed. See my album for lots of photos of the cute pup:

Further down the beach we realized it was about time for the cruise ship Charlene’s nine-year old son was on to pass by. We looked carefully at the first one, waving as it went by (we could barely see people on the deck). Oops, wrong company. Two ships later we saw his ship. We waved and waved, because he had told his mom that he’d be watching the island as he passed. I got a couple photos where we could see people at the railing, but too small to identify anyone.

I’ve seen a few eagles, and this morning on my drive I was able to take a picture of one arriving at the nest with some food for the little ones.

Today I’m off to visit the Trampleasures in Canada. Gary and Betty Anne will be there, as well as probably a few of the kids and/or grandkids. It should be fun. I haven’t seen them since ages ago when they came down to California. Time to get back on the road

Mt. Rainier and a family of foxes

Mt. RainierToday started off with me doing laundry and computer tasks while Etsuko went to class and Bob went to work.

Around noon, we had got it together to drive to Mt. Rainier. Etsuko used to give tours on the mountain, so she was our guide. The park entrance is about two hours from Seattle, but we had a nice drive, and didn’t run into much traffic. I find it interesting how you can see Mt. Rainier clearly from Seattle, but then when you start getting closer to it it becomes hidden behind closer, but much lower foothills (west coast speak for 2,000 foot mountains). But, we finally got there, and had a wonderful drive up the mountain, stopping at waterfalls and wildlife along the way.

View from Paradise InnAt the top of the road, at about one mile high (~5,000 feet), we stopped at the Paradise Inn for a bathroom break and to enjoy the view.

On our way down from the Inn, we were stopped by a gaggle of cars (well, two) pulled over with cameras flashing. A family of four foxes (looked like “mom” and four kits) were posing for us. The kits were happily romping around in the snow, while mom seemed happy to sit in the sun, scratch, and stretch. I’ve got several photos online, so be sure to check the album.

Mom strechingMore foxHere's the kids

I found it amazing how “tame” these foxes were. They weren’t begging for food, but they also didn’t have the fear of humans that one would expect from “wild” animals.

On our way back down, we stopped at a great Thai Wok, a great Tai restaurant in and had dinner (with enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow). The review on Yelp was great, and I added another to it.

Two hundred people can commute…but how would Lenin do it?

Poster from ferryGreat poster on the ferry. Be sure to click on the larger image to see all the details.

The options shown in the poster are: By car, by bus, by light rail, and by bike. Very descriptive.

Lenin in SeattleThen, there’s Lenin in Seattle: A guy found this in the former Czechoslovakia, bought it for its artistic importance, and brought it to the US. You can buy it for $250,000 if you have a better place for it.