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My California dreaming

Iunie 1, 2016

I am trying to write about my California dreaming in a very objective way. As it is.Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 4.40.17 PM

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Since I first started the bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, in 2012, I knew there’s something very special about it, that will forever influence the way I am. We are talking about 750km with 6000m elevation gain and some amazing sights. But this post is not about how beautiful is being outside, enjoying the sun, eating Mexican food or taking pictures in a convertible riding down the coast. This is about my California dreaming, the idea of getting so physically fit and mentally strong, that I could do the ride without any sleep.

You can check out the activity at http://www.strava.com/activities/593630200.

This blog post contains 3 parts that will talk about the why, the how and the actual ride. Maybe something about what inspires me and what I want to do in the future.

Why? Why would you want to ride SF2LA without any sleep? Why aren’t you doing something else?

I think this is a hard question and, unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to that. I am very competitive and I like to compare myself with others. I like to push it to the limit and challenge myself; the harder I go, the better I feel afterwards. I love taking decisions under enormous pressure.

People think that exercising is healthy. That’s true, but when you are doing something close to your limit, you are not exercising anymore. Just to make it clear, what I’m doing is not healthy. SF2LA as a single ride is not healthy and it puts A LOT of pressure on your body. Take another example, I was riding the bike with a group and, after a while, I started to have some concentration problems, i.e. I couldn’t see where the road curves ahead. I looked at the GPS and we were averaging 50km/h for over 6 minutes already. This is anything else but healthy.

About going to the limit, I like to believe:

  • You haven’t pushed it hard enough if you aren’t about to cramp or throw up;
  • You know you are close to your endurance limit if all you can eat is a can of Coca-Cola (or soda of your preference);
  • The pace is really high if you’d rather use the remaining water to spill it over your head, rather than drink it.

How? How can one ride 750km without having to sleep?

In 2015, I did 8 double century bike rides in California: Solvang Spring, Mulholland, Devil Mountain Double (insanely hard), Central Coast, Davis, Heartbreak, Terrible Two and Mt Tam. A double century is a supported 320km (200 miles) bike ride that is somehow popular here. All I wanted was to get a good understanding of what is like to ride 320km as fast as I can. Some rides are extremely difficult and some others are easier, thus the distance is the only factor to be taken into account; I’d add the heat and elevation gain to the list of decisive factors. Nonetheless, I had a great year of training and I won 2 jerseys: California Triple Crown Stage Race (finished the hardest 3 double centuries in California) and Gold Thousand Mile Club (5 double centuries in a year and volunteered at one).

The hardest part in the 2015 training season was that I had to drive solo for about 4-5 hours to get to the starting line, ride for 12-16 hours and then drive back for 4-5 hours. There were 8 such weekends and it became tiring, but I knew that’s gonna help me get where I want. None of my friends are interesting in doing this, so it wasn’t easy, and much of the ride is solo, because it’s impossible to keep a pace line for such a long distance. If you don’t have the right context to do something, would you still do it?

I have attempted SF2LA and failed for three times. I realized the two problems that I have are: I can’t eat enough to keep on going and I run out of gas after 16 hours. I’ve always knew that the nightmare starts after 16 hours of riding and it lasts for about 8 hours. Sometimes, knowing the problem and the solution doesn’t mean you’ll be able to actually do something about it.

I pleasantly remember some other one day rides in Romania: Bucuresti-Constanta (275km), Iasi-Constanta (415km) and Transalpina-Transfagarasan (360km). Many Romanians are complaining about the roads and the drivers, but I think they are wrong. The roads are in a really good shape and the drivers were awesome; I remember going up Transalpina and people were cheering me up. Plus, they really know how to drive, although they are a bit more aggressive than Californians.

I think that at any point in time, for a given vertical, one is operating at her incompetency level, exactly what Peter’s principle say. What I also think is that once you hit the plateau, you can get at the next level if you are willing to take a lot of damage and risks, and you make a lot of sacrifices. In order to do SF2LA, I realized I have to train harder, take more risks (i.e. push it even if I am injured) and do certain sacrifices (i.e. don’t do alcohol, sleep more & better). I don’t believe that it’s enough to wish something come true and to just work towards it. Of course, it’s just effort, not a superpower, but you won’t get to the next level unless you adjust your lifestyle.

In 2016, I had the weight I wanted (75 to 80 kg) and I knew many things about myself. So it is the time to push the gas pedal and get some real results. The workouts that helped me get into the SF2LA shape are:

  • Berkeley half marathon in 1h25m, top 2%;
  • The Coast ride, 3 days of group riding from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. I tried to stay with a fast pack and even force a breakaway in the end of the ride;
  • Oakland marathon in 2h59m, top 1%; it took me 5 days to recover;
  • Devil Mountain Double, https://www.strava.com/activities/561666906, I was shaking at the end; it took me 3 days to recover;
  • Davis Double, https://www.strava.com/activities/583771305, I averaged 19.3mph (31km/h) for 320km. I rode a lot in time trial mode and I realized I need to work on getting rid of my belly. I drank ALOT of sodas and, at the end, I needed to rest one minute before I could talk. I was happy to have learned that I finished second, with an 8 minutes gap to the first finisher;
  • Penvelo group rides on Tuesday or Thursday. I was renting a car from the city, drive 40 minutes one way just to ride 1h20m with a club. The pace is amazing and that explains why I was spending 2 hours driving just to ride a little over 1 hour. We usually average over 36km/h for 1h20m;
  • Boxing workouts and sparring. I like to test my fitness level against an opponent in the ring. Plus boxing is really fun.
  • Yoga. Good for stretching and relaxing.

The actual ride

I have some amazing equipment and I can’t use it in a really long unsupported bike ride.

  • S-Works Shiv time trial bike with HED rear tubular disc wheel, aero helmet and ZIPP 808 front tubular wheel;
  • ZIPP 404 tubular wheelset;
  • ENVE 25 classic carbon wheelset with inner spokes (it’s hard to true such a wheel, unless you have some good experience);

I knew the only way I could do the ride is with ordinary equipment that can be easily fixed. I was frustrated that I cannot fly with my tubular ZIPP 404s, but I have to ride the training wheelset.

I woke up Saturday, 28th May 2016, at 8:30 AM, I washed my face and then I knew now is the time to do SF2LA. I’m at a peak shape and I should take advantage of it. So I had a quick breakfast and then I started rolling. I didn’t take much stuff with me, as I wasn’t 100% convinced that I’m going to ride to LA. I remember what Floyd Mayweather Jr said: “When I travel I don’t pack clothes. I only pack Benjamins”.

I started rolling at 9:15 AM and, by 5 PM, I was in Monterey, buying stuff from a bike shop. A major challenge of riding unsupported is that during the day there are 28 Celsius degrees and 8 degrees during the night, so you need some clothes to survive the night. From Monterey to San Luis Obispo, a city where I could have the very next solid meal, the are 215km. The tiny villages in between are dead during the night, so I knew that pacing myself is the key to the potentially successful ride.

I mentally separated the ride into 3 parts: heaven, hell and nightmare. The first third was heaven, from San Francisco to Monterey, and everything went according to the plan. The second third, Monterey to San Luis Obispo, was hell, as I was riding in the dark and there aren’t many places you can stop for food and water. I got water from drivers, public toilets and I even found a water bottle in a closed gas station. With 10 km to go to San Luis Obispo, I had a hard time breathing and I had to stop; it was really cold outside. I was thinking about giving up, but then I remembered a quote from Narcos: “I didn’t go this far to go this far”.

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Once I got to San Luis Obispo, I ate at a restaurant (Denny’s) and I soon started the last third. I was feeling miserable and I wan’t convinced that I could do it. It was still dark and I was freezing. I knew that if it will get warm, I will be able to get back into the game. It was still cold and it didn’t get better for the next few hours. I arrived in Santa Barbara Sunday at 1 PM and I had a few issues to solve: the back tire was destroyed, all the pieces in my body were hurting and I had numb fingers. Santa Barbara is really spread out and there are soooo many traffic lights, so it took me a while to ride the 10 miles of this city. Soon it was Sunday 3 PM and I was 140km away from Santa Monica. I dropped a lot of my stuff at a bike shop and a very kind mechanic is going to mail me home the stuff. I tried to push it really really hard from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica and I couldn’t really get too deep. For every pedal stroke, I was feeling at least four different types of pain and the harder I’d go, the more it’d hurt. Nonetheless, after 5 more hours for grueling suffering, I got to the Santa Monica pier, where I watched the sunset and it was amazing. There, I bought some clothes, I took a cab to a hotel and I soon slept for 6 hours. The next day I was driving back from LA to SF. „It was hell, but I’m finally home.”

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Some quotes that I find very motivating:

  1. „The tempt for greatness is the biggest drug in the world”. I could barely see the road in Malibu after suffering for 700km, but I knew I’m gonna make it.
  2. „To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy”. I had to adjust the lifestyle to achieve what I want; I have never smoked anything my whole life and I do my best to avoid alcohol.
  3. „A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t”. It was really cold and I couldn’t breathe, so I lied down the road. I literally sat on the ground and I thought about giving up, but I didn’t.
  4. „Don’t count the days, make the days count”.
  5. „To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when no one else will”. When I first talked about SF2LA, nobody believed I could do it. Over the time, very few friends have changed their opinion.
  6. „A true champion can adapt to anything”. I don’t spend too much time planning things and I’m always confident I’ll find a way to get out of trouble.
  7. „They’re talented, I’m God gifted, there’s a difference”. My favorite quote. Ever.
  8. „I didn’t come this far to only come this far”. Thinking about where I was a few years ago and where I’m now.                                          Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 11.11.56 AM
  9. „I do it for the haters that them never put their hands up”.

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I signed up for Alta Alpina 8 passes challenge and that’s basically it. I am dreaming about doing Race Across America one day.

Anunțuri

2016 New Year’s resolutions

Ianuarie 2, 2016

I thought a lot wherever it’s appropriate to publish my New Year’s resolutions. The thing is that the more information you can, the better the decisions you take. I’m not losing any information by making this list public, so presumably the future decisions are going to be better.

2016 New year’s resolutions:

  1. Work smarter and take more risks.
  2. Be more social, kind, empathetic and definitely not dismissive. Keep in touch with old friends and close family members.
  3. Spend time every week reading a book and use reading as a way to clear my mind. A rough estimate is to read a book every 2 weeks.
  4. During weekdays, do stuff that’s not work related, before and after work.
  5. Keep the diet clean and cut on sugar, i.e. Coca Cola.
  6. Travel less.
  7. Be more careful about the place I call home.
  8. Ironman, SF2LA, ideally Paris-Brest-Paris. Flat marathon in under 3 hours. Always keep my eyes on the prize.
  9. Sign up for improv classes.
  10. Continue training with a coach to level up my game in a sport discipline.
  11. Explore the impact of turning vegan.
  12. Don’t plan everything. It’s lame and it will not happen this way!

2015 in review

2015 in review

Ianuarie 2, 2016

Short version

What went well in 2015? and I should keep doing in 2016.

  1. Work was good and we shipped stuff to production, in an ever changing environment. I did relatively more code review this year and that helps others ship their features.
  2. I had time to do stuff I care, besides work, such as reading a book and working out. I lost about 7kg in 2015. I wished I’d had hiked more, but I’m content that the day hikes I did were pretty intense.
  3. I have a weekday routine. I get to do stuff before and after work. In general, my diet is clean and I’m not drinking any alcohol, so I can recover well the next day.
  4. I did 7 double century bike rides (320 km on a roadbike) and I that’s a great way of discovering California. In 2016, I will ride only the hardest 4 races.
  5. I train with a coach bi-weekly and I get advices on how to improve my technique, rather than just my body conditioning. I want to further invest in this direction, as I find technique to be very important in any sport discipline.
  6. I traveled the world quite a bit.

What did not?

  1. Many times the pace is not as high as I would want to be. I lose my focus and I’m not working as hard as I could. I realized I really like living on the edge :).
  2. I didn’t socialize as much as I would like to, thus losing touch with many friends. The new people I met are from work or are training in my sport disciplines.
  3. My English did not really progress.

So what’s changing in 2016?

  1. I hope I’ll be more kind, social, tolerant and empathetic.
  2. Don’t underestimate people just because they do things I initially find boring/lame. Reconsider everything!
  3. Stay in better touch with old friends.
  4. Take more risks!
  5. I need to raise the execution pace! That means I need to keep my focus and, more often, get out of my comfort zone.
  6. Sign up for more improv classes.
  7. Develop a plan A. Then, a plan B. Don’t forget about a plan C.
  8. When I have to take it easy, take it really easy. When I am pushing to the limit, then go full gas.
  9. Embrace the changes of 2016!

 

Longer version:

What went well in 2015?

  1. I read a few technical books related to design patterns and development for the iOS platform. At work, I spend more time doing code reviews and helping others merging their features. I am happy that some of the projects I’ve been working on, have shipped or are shipping soon.
  2. I had time to read some books about how to work smarter and how the stock market works. It feels good to understand part the monetary policy of 1990s, a Fed ex-chairman explains in his autobiography.
  3. I eat good food and my weekday routine is: wake up, eat breakfast, do something for myself for 1-1.5 hours, work, eat lunch really fast, work, do something else for myself, eat dinner, sleep.
  4. I completed 7 double century bike rides, i.e. 320 km or 200 miles, that must be finished in under 16 hours. Some of the rides were insanely hard and I have thought a lot about just giving up; I want to complete RAAM one day and no matter how trained you are, RAAM is harder, so if I abandon this ride, I simply cannot aspire about biking from west coast to east coast in under 12 days. As a side effect, I won the Golden Thousand Mile Club and the California Triple Crown stage races jerseys. #swag
  5. I ran the Berkeley half marathon in 1h25m, finishing 52th out of 3000. I am not a runner.
  6. I climbed Mt Shasta with crampons and ice axe, from the Bunnyflat trailhead, in a day hike; 10 hours end-to-end.
  7. Although I failed twice to bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles without sleep, I think those were two of my best bike rides. I also rode my road bike in Romania and it was pretty cool: this, this and this.

What do I think I should continue doing in 2016?

  1. Read a paper book every month. I am realistic with my goals.
  2. Ride some of the double centuries that are close to San Francisco. Also, do ride a few multi day bike events.
  3. Train hard and eventually do SF2LA on a bike without sleep.
  4. Train the boxing skills and improve the technique: „Precision beats power and timing beats speed”.

What went wrong in 2016?

  1. I could have worked smarter and iterate faster on my projects. Many projects are time sensitive and earlier is better than later.
  2. I didn’t really like the place were I used to live. I am glad that it finished and I’ll be living in a new home.
  3. I rarely socialize with people and many times I’m not accepting people. A lady even told me I’m a robot.
  4. The average length of a bike ride is about 100km, thus most of my rides are really long rides.

What should I start doing in 2016?

  1. Be more social, kind and empathetic.
  2. Take English pronunciation classes, not because I can’t speak English now, but I want to be more confident when speaking to an audience.
  3. Develop more plans and check the progress regularly.
  4. Sign up for an improv class. I took a few at work and I felt that I’ve learned something.
  5. Train more intense, ideally with a club. For cycling there’s Penvelo, for triathlon I got Golden Gate Triathlon Club and for boxing a coach and sparring partners.
  6. I want to get swimming as part of the weekly routine.
  7. Get in touch with San Francisco Randonneurs and ride their brevets.
  8. Run the half marathon and full marathon full gas. I should do the flat full marathon in under 3 hours.
  9. An ironman. I think I can do it even tomorrow, but I want a great finish time and the right context; I don’t wanna go there by myself.

Amazing. Really amazing. 600miles. 2 days and one afternoon.

Mai 28, 2014

In the San Francisco area, I see people abusing „amazing” and „awesome”. For instance, X says „I’ve been to the SF ZOO last weekend” and, 99% chances are that, Y replies „This is awesome!” or „Wow!” or „I’ve been there last year and it was amazing!”. Come on! this post is about something really amazing. The problem is that only very few actually understand the magnitude of what I did, and those usually aren’t too serious about technology, thus they don’t stay long hours on social networks and they don’t read my blog.

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So, I did 960km (600miles) in 2 days and one afternoon with my roadbike; I went from San Francisco down to San Diego, following the Pacific Coast Bike Trail. Briefly, I did 216km (134miles) Friday afternoon, 380km (235miles) Saturday, 370km (230miles) Sunday. And yes, 960km of the beautiful west coast. Before I write down some stuff about each day, let me explain why I think this is AWESOME/AMAZING:

  1. Very very few of my friends understand how much effort it takes to accomplish this. Also, very very few understand why would somebody do this.
  2. I don’t have a training plan. I don’t train regularly. I have in progress a work schedule that allows me to train 4 hours a day, during the week. Yes, I do spend way too much time in the office.
  3. I never biked so much in 3 consecutive days. I did 340km (215miles) before, but I didn’t bike the next day.
  4. I did the same trip 2 years ago and finished in 4 days and 5 hours.Going from 4.5 days to 2.5 days is very challenging.
  5. I always knew I am going to finish the trip in 2 days, if I get to Monterey after the first half day.
  6. I didn’t take any pictures while riding the bike. I did take a picture when I rented, in San Diego, a convertible to get back to San Francisco.
  7. The bike route passes an US military camp and I had to negotiate with the soldiers to let me go.
  8. Google Maps told me to ride on a street that passes a nuclear power plant. I tried to negotiate with the security guy in the front-office and he closed the deal by saying „are you fucking crazy? this is a nuclear power plant!”. I tried „but, Google Maps tells me to use this street”. „Fuck Google Maps”.

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In this Friday afternoon, I started in San Francisco around 2PM and soon I arrived in Santa Cruz. It’s a ride I did many times before and it went really smooth. There are about 130km that I did in just a bit over 4 hours and I felt really fresh. I knew I shouldn’t stop in Santa Cruz, because there are 90km to ride to Monterey. Just after it got dark, I arrived in Monterey and booked a room in a hotel. I was feeling pretty good, everything went according to the plan. I knew something was wrong, but at that point I didn’t know what. I couldn’t sleep due to the adrenaline I had in the bloodstream. It took me about 3 hours to sleep and I slept 4 hours; the clock had to wake me up at 5 AM, as this would have been the hardest day of the trip. I had to start the day that decided if I’d get to San Diego by Sunday night.

The first half hour of Saturday I wasted on looking for food and drinks; at 5AM there aren’t too many options in Monterey. So I eventually started cycling Big Sur, which is probably the most challenging segment of the trip. I knew there are 200km (120miles) with alot of uphill climb and downhill, and that it’s mostly flat after this. It took me about 9 hours to get from Monterey to Morro Bay (so the average was pretty bad, around 23km/hour). It was about 4PM when I got to San Luis Obispo and I had 190km to go to Santa Barbara. It gets dark around 9PM, so I had around 4 hours of full light and, if I wanna sleep in Santa Barbara, I’d need to bike on dark. I stayed super super super focused those 4 hours of full light and I biked alot. Those were the hardest 4 hours of my entire trip; no surprise, I knew that. I stopped just in Santa Maria and I ate an AMAZING authentic burrito; damn, it was $3 and so well done (as a fact, I also loved the restaurant, it was similar to some low-end restaurants in Romania, in terms of atmosphere and music). Soon it got dark and I was about 50km away from Santa Barbara, about 2 hours of biking. I stayed cool, turned on the lights and by 11AM I was in Santa Barbara. The biggest mistake I did was to stop at a 7eleven; I was freezing and I had hard times warming up (it took me about 5 minutes to be alright again). I took a shower and I slept soon after that.

I woke up Sunday at 7AM, which is a bit late for what I had to do that day: bike from Santa Barbara to San Diego. I ate breakfast at the hotel and then I started working on the first sub-goal: arrive as soon as possible in Los Angeles. The ride is spectacular and the tail wind helps you average 32km/h (20mph). I think that I averaged even more between Oxnard and Santa Monica. Just before Santa Monica, I got a flat. It was 2:00 PM and everything was working great, but this flat almost ruined my ride. I felt weak, dizzy and unable to react. A friend told me „search for solutions, not excuses”, so I started to think how can I solve the flat. The problem is not solving the flat itself, but fixing it such that you can ride as you did before (e.g. you need to put alot of air pressure in the inner tube). I kind of fixed the flat and I stopped at a bike shop in Santa Monica; I used their floor pump and I got back into the game. It was about 3:30 PM and I was still in Santa Monica. San Diego is around 210km (130miles) away. I still had 5 hours of day light and a flat terrain to ride on. I biked on the beaches in Los Angeles, near the ocean, but this simply didn’t scale. It would have been impossible to get to San Diego the same day and bike with kids on the beach. So I switched to the Pacific Coast Highway and the fun just began.

200km and 5 hours of day light, sounds like mission impossible. I was lucky that there was tailwind and I did my best to not stop. At about 8 PM there were 100km to go and I relaxed a little bit; I started to engage in some conversations on social networks and, somebody down to Earth told me: „less facebook, more bike riding” (Romanian „mai putin facebook, mai multa talpa vreau sa vad”). It got dark, but I was 50km away from San Diego and I was pretty relaxed. I negotiated with security from both a nuclear power plant and the US army camp, and eventually go really close to San Diego. 10 PM and I was 30km away; I stopped to eat some spaghetti, and after I finished, on the floor a cockroach was saying hello to the clients. The last 20km were the hardest, I had to climb 200m (660ft) just before San Diego and I almost felt I couldn’t do it. But, I did it! In San Diego it was very cold and I was freezing, so I had to bike in a position where I use more muscles than standing. I ended up not sitting on the saddle for the last 10km and by 1 AM I was in San Diego. I was super tired and I could barely speak. I told the receptionist that I want just to sleep and that I don’t know when I’ll wake up tomorrow. I took a shower but I didn’t use the soap; I couldn’t properly wash myself. Soon I went to sleep and I slept instantly.

That’s it, simple story! I want to work on a work-schedule that allows me to train during the week, so I can improve the time next time I’ll be riding on the Pacific Coast Highway. Once I train regularly, I’ll think about bigger challenges. For now, I’ll focus on balancing work with training.

My epic 9 days bike trip

Iulie 23, 2012

I decided to start writting the new blog posts in English, as more people would understand the stuff I write. It’ve a while since I wrote the last post and, somehow surprisingly, I changed pretty much – basically, I would say that I discovered what’s life and how one can live it :).

Now, let’s get back to the main topic of this post – my epic bike adventure in California. I will not describe how I see life in California, as it’s very personal and the overall experience is composed from many small things, that one may consider important or simply ignore (i.e. some of us don’t like moving 5kms to the nearest shop or living at countryside). One might ask, why epic? What’s so epic? You just ride a pathetic bike. Well, of course it’s not epic if you think that I’m as fit and experienced as a participant of Tour de France. Now, let me start with the most important statistics:

  • I biked roughly 1000kms (600miles) in the first 5 days of the trip with about 8000m (24000feets) uphill, from San Francisco to San Diego.
  • I had one day and a half to rest.
  • I biked 260kms (160miles) in 2 mornings and 2 evenings, because I really wanted to be in the desert; I biked the Death Valley during the summer! Nothing compares to biking in the desert where the temperature was roughly 50 Celsius degrees (115-120 Fahrenheit) and the air very dry. I think that biking the Death Valley is the most challenging thing I did on a bike; it’s both physical intense (i.e. high temperature variation) and very technical (you have 3 stops in total, from only 2 you can get food and the distance between the first two stops is of 72 miles, 115kms) – would you try doing this?

OK, now the first question one might ask: why did you do this? Well, I wanted to take advantage of my stay in California, and visit Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I would have visited with a car, but guess what? I don’t know anybody my-style wanting to go in L.A. or L.V. at the time I had some free days. So, I was basically alone and the only other alternative was to stay in the (boring from my point of view) Bay Area. I think it’s cool to go alone with the bike, because the landscapes are insanely beautiful and you bike in your own rythm. Of course, I would do the trip again, but with a 2 persons bike 🙂 – I find the wild US west coast to be very romantic.

Now, let’s start the story. I left San Francisco on 29th June at about 9 P.M and, after a while, I arrived in Pacifica. I ate something there, then I continued my adventure and lately I camped in Half Moon Bay. The weather conditions were difficult for biking and camping, as it was foggy and rainy. I did a terrible mistake by camping next to the street and I slept just two hours in the first night, due to the cars passing around.

As you can see, I had just a sleeping bag with me, as I wanted to be super-lightweight. I woke up before the sunrise and I noticed that all my clothes are wet; it’s definetly not a pleasure to bike with wet clothes, fog and rainy clouds. Nevertheless, I started biking with the first stop in mind: Santa Cruz. Obviously, things didn’t work as expected, and because of the weight I was carrying, my bike behaved strangely in a curbe and I had an accident. Damn, after this I wounded my right knee. I got somehow lucky, because last time I ended in the hospital after a bike accident. I had hard time biking and I was very disappointed by the event, as I really wanted to bike from San Francisco to San Diego, and that wound wouldn’t let me accomplish my goal. I rested 20 minutes and then I continued my way, and soon I met a guy who was touring from Portland, Oregon. He is teaching history and he allocated 3 weeks to get from San Francisco to San Diego :). At that time, I was asking myself: what’s wrong with me? I want to get in San Diego in couple of days, not weeks; do I still have any chance? I had a good time talking with this guy about history and life, on our way down to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a nice city known for surfing and other water sports. Because I had hard time sleeping the night before, I rested about 2 hours on the beach, where I watched some very attractive California girls playing volleyball 🙂 (well, not extremely hot, but definitely I knew I’m not in Bay Area anymore). Soon I arrived in Watsonville and the hard part of today’s ride just started; the weather was cloudy and the wind was coming from the front. After 4 hours of biking I arrived in Monterey; I was exhausted, hungry and sick of the weather. I didnt know where to eat, so I stopped at the first fast-food; interestingly, the fast-food menu made public the number of calories per product and I ordered the menu item with the highest score (roughly 2000 calories in a burger, fries and a soda). Damn, I felt so good after I ate these 2000 calories. Now, it was almost evening and I started searching for a place to sleep in Monterey. I was not happy about the idea of sleeping in the bag, so I started searching for a hostel. I found one, but it was full, so I had to negotiate with the receptionist about sleeping in the building, rather than sleeping outside in the dark. I got lucky and they gave me a mattress to use that night; yey, a decent sleep for me this night. I felt asleep instantly and I recovered pretty well.

Monterey

I started the second day in Monterey and soon I arrived at 17 Mile Dr; this time I skipped the scenic road, as I’ve already been there with the car. Very soon I started one of the hardest parts of the bike route: Big Sur. Biking Big Sur is challenging, as it goes up and down, and attention has to be paid to the traffic. It took me couple of hours to pass Big Sur, but it was lovely and amazing. Yea, Big Sur is impressive. I felt great when I met other bikers on Big Sur and I was biking at least two times faster than them ;). Eventually, I arrived in Cambria, which is located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I wanted to camp in Morro Bay State Park, and I had to take some extreme decisions. Highway 1 becomes freeway on a portion of 10 miles (16km) and the Navigator showed me a workaround of 50 miles (80km); I was asking myself: 50 miles or 10 miles the hard way? Damn, I really wanted to feel some adrenaline, so I took the freeway with the bike. I already prepared my speech for the police, if they would have caught me, but I successfully and carrefully biked that portion of freeway. Nevertheless, I arrived in Morro Bay State Park and slept there in my bag.

The third day was insanely difficult, mostly because I never biked couple of days in a row. I visited San Luis Obispo and I had the early lunch in Santa Maria. Actually, before entering Santa Maria, I saw Guadalupe, a poor agricultural city with people that speak only Spanish; at the shop, I used cash to buy food and talked in Spanish. At that time I was asking myself, I’m still in the US or I passed the border to Mexico? Later that day I arrived in Santa Barbara, one of the most beautiful cities I ever saw. I wanted to rest and wash my clothes, so I went to a hostel where I met alot of nice people. I was stopped by 4 Swedish girls telling me: „You’re so fast on the bike, we saw you two times on the highway 1”. I wanted to show them that I’m also fast at other things (i.e. thinking or solving calculus problems), but I was too tired to talk with anybody, so I just went to sleep.

I was fresh at the beginning of the forth day and excited by the fact that in few hours I’ll be in Los Angeles. The route from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles is insanely beautiful; please check Oxnard and Malibu. By noon I arrived in Santa Monica and the first thing I did was to reserve one night at a hostel. L.A. has lovely beaches, very attractive females, huge traffic, nice places for tourists and a high score at the chapter of homelessness. I visited Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood Bld, Universal Studios Hollywood and Venice Beach. I spent 2 hours of the night in an R&B club, where the live music was simply awesome, and then I entered a British bar after seeing it playing karaoke. Nothing compares to sing, with a Romanian accent, the song Eye of the tiger. Many people in the bar wanted to sing with me, but I told them it’s my song, as I biked from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 3 days and 5 hours.

Surprisingly, I slept 10 hours and I woke up at about noon, when I also noticed that I have a flat, due to the crappy streets of L.A. I fixed the flat at a local bike shop and I started biking to San Diego. That day was 4th July and there was some traffic in L.A., so it took me a while to get out of the city and start biking the highway. The beaches of south L.A. are very nice and romantic 🙂 (damn, I should avoid using this word); I would definitely go there again, but not alone and not with boys :). Soon it became dark and I was still pursuing the goal of biking Santa Monica – San Diego in 1 day. It was epic when I had to pass a military camp with the bike and the soldiers didn’t let me in. I tried to negotiate with them, but everything was in vain; eventually, the soldiers called their superior and they found out that it’s fine to pass the military camp with the bike. Nothing compares to see the sign „Tank crossing” and the stop sign, where you have to look left’n’right to see if there’s actually a tank crossing :).

I eventually got to San Diego, but not without an accident, due to sleeping on the bike. Yea, I felt asleep on the bike, if you can belive it. Why? Because I was completely exhausted. I was happy I’m in downtown San Diego so I was looking forward for the next days of my adventure. I was continuously asking myself: what’s to see in California or around? Hell, yea, Las Vegas and the Death Valley. I really wanted to do the desert during the summer. I don’t know why. Why on the bike? Why in the summer? I don’t know what was my inner motivation, but I really wanted to do it. I wanted to say that I biked the Death Valley during the summer.

I took a bus from San Diego to Las Vegas and I arrived in the city of sins just after the sunset. I took a hotel room, because it was pretty cheap, and I went out in a club. I was impressed by the nightlife in Vegas and I didnt do much, as I went there to bike, not for clubbing. I had some drinks in a club in Paradise and then I went to sleep. At the beginning of the next day, I spent some time searching for a truck to take me to Pahrump, the starting point for my adventure in the Death Valley. I did some hitch-hiking, but nobody even looked at me. Eventually, I started looking for a truck in a gas station and there a guy asked what’s with the camera on my helmet. I explained him that I want to bike the Death Valley from west to east and I need a truck to get there. I could have biked from west Las Vegas to the entrance of the Death Valley, but there are several issues: the distance is 100km and it can be biked only in late afternoon, so I would have spent one day more, the supply chain is poorly organised (i.e. there’s no food in between so I would have to take more food with me) and I already threw away the sleeping bag (it was extra weight and I had to take alot of water with me), so I would have to sleep in some bushes. Nevertheless, this guy and his friend gave me a ride to the entrance of the Death Valley. I really don’t know how to thank to these guys, they simply made my day! I was so happy at the entrance of the Death Valley! Now, the first sign I was: „Next services 72 miles” and that’s about 110km, hell ya!

Before actually starting the real ride, I also swam in a desert swimming-pool. Come on, how many times would you see this in a life?

Now, I would like say few words about the Death Valley. I’ve been to many nice places, such as Hawaii, Alps and Monte Carlo, but nothing compares to the feeling I had when I made the first steps in the Death Valley. I love the smell and the taste of this desert. I love the serenity I was feeling form the early beginning. And, honestly, I didn’t and I don’t care if I die, mostly because I like to take risks. There are other reasons, but nobody (except my mum, she would be the only one to cry) would be interested in hearing about these. Below you can see a collection of photos I took while biking the Death Valley.

I started the ride with 2000 calories in food and 9 liters of water. Hell, ya, 9 liters! In the first evening, I went from the entrance of the Death Valley to the Furnace Creek. There are roughly 115 km and I did them in 4 hours; I got lucky that most of the road was flat or going downhill. When I arrived at Furnace Creek, I started to search for a decent place to sleep and soon I met a local friendly guy. He showed me the swimming pool and immediately I jumped in it. Swimming after 4 hours of desert is the best thing to do! Then, I searched for a place to sleep, and because I didn’t have a sleeping bag, I just searched for a palm tree. I slept next to a palm tree and it was great! I felt so good after this sleep. I am amazed by the outdoors in the Death Valley; I would have stayed days under a palm tree and watching the near mountains. Nothing beats this mix of palm trees and bare mountains.

Nevertheless, the first half of the second day I spent at the local shops and thinking about how great is to contemplate in the valley. In the late afternoon, I started to ride from Furnace Creek to Stovepipe wells. I remember that there are about 20 miles and I did them in 40 minutes, so a speed comparable to the average in Tour de France. Of course, I had (a strong) wind from behind and it was mostly downhill. After Stovepipe wells, the uphill begins. It took me 2 hours to get to a point that I couldnt bike anymore. I was exhausted and I couldn’t eat anything. My organism simply refused to eat. I was not worried and I knew that I need some sleep, so I slept 30 minutes just near the street and on asphalt. It was dark and I wasn’t too far away from the third stop, from where I could take some water. Things became interesting, as the temperature during the night was pretty low and I was sweat. Before midnight I arrived at the last stop and I was looking for water. Because there was no (natural) light, I couldn’t find the water so I tried to find a place to sleep. There were not many options and I tried to sleep directly on the land; I couldn’t sleep and after 20 minutes I was cold. I started to move around and I found some bushes; damn, I slept so comfortably in these bushes! Before the sunrise, somebody woke me up and asked me „what the heck are you doing here?”. I told him that I’m exhausted and I’m looking to get out of the Death Valley. I still had 60km to ride, so I told him it shouldn’t be a big deal. Then, the guy asked me if I need anything; damn, they were all so polite. I asked them for an apple and they gave me: 1 apple, 3 bananas, 1 orange and some biscuits. I instantly ate everything, filled my water bottles and continued the ride. Just before getting out the Death Valley, I saw some wild donkeys. I still ask myself: „wtf are you doing here?”. Before the noon of the third I was out of the Death Valley. So, it took me 2 mornings and 2 evenings to bike 260km of the Death Valley. Damn, this was so cool!

That being said, thank you for reading this! Or at least for looking at some photos! I wouldn’t do it again alone. I wouldn’t do the Death Valley with assistance. I would bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles/San Diego on a tangem bike and only with a (attractive California) girl ;). I’m not interested in biking very long distances with a group of cyclists because it’s hard to find people with the same skills and fitness level. Looking forward for new adventures! 🙂