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Day 160-204, 18Dec08 – 31Jan09: San Francisco. Part 3: Outside SF, Yosemite, Berkeley & Wine!

February 4, 2009 by  
Filed under California, North America, Trip reports, USA

We did not only spend time in the city, but managed to get out. As my knee needed more rest, we were lucky that Alison had borrowed us her car, so we could head out of town for New Years. She had warned us that the tires were old and bald, so it would be better to avoid rain.

Right after we pulled the car out of the garage in Filbert St, we continued the road East, leading up and down a huge and steep hill. I think we found the steepest road in SF, and we both felt we were in a rollercoaster when we crossed the top..

Snow and champagne in Truckee, saying goodbye to 2008…

Truckee in winterAfter my new camera had arrived (yes!) we packed our camping gear in the car and drove to Truckee, a few hours east. We arrived in the dark and noticed that most of the town was covered in knee deep snow and the car slid back and forth over the slippery roads.

It was so great to see Colie again. I had been climbing in Uganda 4 years ago together with Romke, Ali & Andy and now we had seen the entire team again, spread out over Amsterdam, Seattle, SF, Truckee and a bike! Colie took us on a tour of Lake Tahoe, which looked wonderful in the winter snow.

Finally after avoiding the snow since Northern Alaska, it was great to be surrounded by the cold white stuff!  We went for a nice winter hike with some of her friends and got ready for a new years Eve party with more friends and lots of great food and drinks.

ColieIce at Lake tahoeIvana at Lake Tahoe

Goodbye 2008, we will miss you..

We have no idea what 2009 will bring, but 2008 was again amazing. I had been on 6 continents (alas no Antarctica this year), hiked with friends in Australia, almost got scammed in Kuala Lumpur, proposed to Ivana on the summit of Kilimanjaro, witnessed by all 26 clients. We saw Machu Picchu with Ivana’s mum, watched a lion grab a gazelle in the Serengeti and cycled 7000km through wonderful North America. It was not always easy, but it felt that we had been more alive in one year than most in their lives…

ColieIvana and Harry, Lake TahoeIvana in Truckee

Off to Yosemite: big walls and black bear?!

El Capitan in winter, YosemiteWe had a great time in Truckee, but as bad weather was coming, and we wanted to see Yosemite park before it became impossible to get there, we headed out on New Years day.

The road to get to the valley was high and steep and there were several spots with snow and ice, but the views of famous walls like Half Dome & El Capitan made up for the nerves.

The final part into the village and campground was even completely covered in it, but I managed to reach the famous Camp 4, home of all Big Wall climbers. The camp was covered in deep snow, so we had to prepare a campspot by packing some snow.

Just when I was busy preparing the tent, I saw a big shape passing just behind it. It was almost dark, so I turned on my light and called Ivana. ‘Look at that, a bear!’

Just as we though we had definitely left ‘The Wild’, we had the closest encounter with a black bear so far, less than 10m away. The big animal did not pay attention to us and slowly walked into the foggy forest…

Ivana in Yosemite with Half DomeYosemite FallsIvana in Yosemite in winter

Ivana cooking in the snow, Yosemite (2)Winter in Yosemite

Half Dome, YosemiteIvana checking pix.

We made sure to leave no food in our tent or car (Yosemite bears are known for ‘opening’ cars) and put everything safely in the special bear-proof containers. We managed to cook a nice pasta meal and finally sacrificed our last Adventure Food meal, before heading over to the restaurant for a cup of hot chocolate.

Camp 4, YosemiteYosemite with Half Dome

Yosemite FallsCamp 4, Yosemite

The night was cold and uncomfortable, but we got no more bear visits and the next morning we took the free shuttle around the village and walked back past great views of the Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

Oakland and Berkeley

It was time to get out as more snow was expected. With much effort I managed to get the car back on the road and down to drier elevation before the rain hit hard. We contacted Mikelanjelo & Jessica, who had invited us already a long time ago and stayed a few days in their place in Oakland.

Street Musician in BerkeleyJessica and MikelanjeloFat Squirrel in Berkeley

Couchsurfing in Oakland

Together with their friend Kristan and her kids (including “I-love-you-Leif”) and boyfriend they made us feel at home.

They showed us around in Berkeley as well, a nice college town with a friendly atmosphere, unlike Oakland which had an air of aggression, which was confirmed after the shooting of an unarmed boy on the subway a few days later…

We visited a multicultural fleamarket and were chased by fat squirrels in the park on yet another sunny winterday..

Ivana had left a comment on an Argentinean newssite, where bicycle touring was criticized, and soon after we were contacted by Ramiro, an Argentinean living in the US. he asked us to come over to his girlfriend Barbara’s house for some great homemade empanadas! And he even invited us back the following week, so I guess we are not such bad guests after all 😉

The good life in wine country

Us in Napa ValleyMitch had introduced us to his good friends Adriana & Gerard. It as fun to speak some Dutch again with expat Gerard and after inviting us in their home for a great meal, they asked if we already had seen the vineyards. We explained that we had been on the coastal road all the time, and they immediately made plans for a tour in the weekend.

We had a great day, cruising in Gerard’s convertible in the warm winter sun. We visited many wineries, tasted some good wines and olive oils and thoroughly enjoyed the company and places we visited.

The good thing about a bicycle trip is that you sometimes get taken to places where you would never had gone yourself, but that are great anyway…

Winetasting at V.Sattui WineryVino Tinto

Winetasting with GerardGeorge, V.Sattui Winerywinetasting friends

Lunch with Gerard and AdrianaGroovin' and cruisin' with Adriana and Gerard

My knee was feeling a bit better and though I could not step down stairs properly, we decided that we would try and start cycling again. But first it was time to say goodbye to SF!

Next and final SF report coming very soon :) : Critical mass, bellydancing B-day and many friends…

Day 66-73, 15- 22 Sept 08: the Cassiar and Yellowhead Highway. Contained bears, no more wildlife?

September 23, 2008 by  
Filed under British Columbia, Canada, North America, Trip reports

15th September 2008: Stewart to Bonus Lake, 81km

We could not resist George’s offer to bring us back to the Meziadin junction. Though the ride from Stewart is beautiful, loosing a day –of which half would be uphill non-stop- cycling a stretch we had already done did not appeal. George was happy to get put of town and spend some more time with us, so we put the bikes in the back of the pick-up and 50 minutes later we got dropped off at the exact same spot where we had left the Cassiar Highway a few days before. Back to business!

After all the bear-less hours in Hyder, we got a pleasant surprise. I stopped to pick up CAD $3 in change from the shoulder: our total is now up to about 9 dollars in change found along the road, somehow people literally throw money away… Ivana came up to me and asked if I had stopped for the bear. Bear? Which bear? I looked ahead and saw a large black spot on the side of the road. Damn, she was right, a huge black bear was strolling in the grass. We filmed a bit and tried to warn a passing car, but he did not decease any speed and nearly hit the poor bear as he was crossing the road…

We had planned to stop for lunch and a few minutes ahead we rested near a so-called ‘bear-container’. No it does not contain bears, though that would be funny (funny/interesting and funny/haha), but it is a strong trash container. These are useful in more ways than one: the lids cannot be opened by pear paws so bears cannot get to the trash and will not get used to human food remains. As the sticker on it says: ‘be bear aware, a fed bear is a dead bear’ as once a bear is used to human food, it will no longer be afraid of humans and will have to be hunted down.

The containers have another very useful feature: the backside can be opened and campers can place their food bag inside, next to the hanging plastic bags hat are inside as well. So the supplies are safe from bears and other scavengers, but outside the actual trashbag, so everything stays clean. The availability of a bear container was one of the most important reasons for us to stop at certain places along the highways of Canada & Alaska; even though most are on ‘no overnight camping’ rest areas, we rather be breaking a non-enforced law than attract and feed bears…

It was clear that we were getting into the last and warmer part of the Cassiar Highway. Not only were the glaciated and snowy peaks disappearing out of sight, but we also encountered new types of animals: small yellow and black-striped suicidal caterpillars (even though only a few cars pass the Cassiar per hour, it takes the critters longer to cross it) and some small garden snakes, though mostly in the flat and/or dead variety.

Ivana and I always use to joke that we are collecting airmiles when we are climbing yet another hill and Newton would probably kinda agree as basically we are gathering gravitational energy. The long sweet downhills we always refer to as ‘free miles’ , even though we were riding in Canada, which is a metric country. It was nice to see that after a day of collecting airmiles, we not only cashed in our accrued miles for some free miles, but we ended up at the aptly named hidden but beautiful ‘Bonus Lake’ rest area to top it off. Read more

Day 47- 52: Aug 27 – Sep 1: Anarchy, Argentineans & gasguzzlers in Nugget City

September 2, 2008 by  
Filed under British Columbia, Canada, Go green, North America, Trip reports, Yukon

It was hard to leave Tracy & Sylvester as we had felt so much at home in their place, but we had to hit the road, winter was catching  up…

We managed to delay ourselves until about 16.00 in Whitehorse and then left in a terrible downpour, and as the first few km were steep uphill to get out of the valley, we were feeling down. But the sky stopped dumping water on us and soon we found ourselves going up and down over rolling hills besides more Wonderful Lakes. We had set ourselves a new goal: get to Scott’s Anarchy Farm! We had met Scott in the Potlatch (see previous post here) and he had invited us to visit him when we would pass.

Unfortunately he was not in the Greenhouse: a big plastic covered collection of wonderful smelling flowers and vegetables. We waited outside for some moments and cycled around in the area, but as we did not had the directions to their house, we returned to the greenhouse. The rain started again, and we decided to sleep inside the greenhouse, setting up our inner tent only. It was by far the best smelling campsite on our entire trip.

In the middle of the night we heard some noises and Scott came in. He did not seem to surprised to see us sleeping in the middle of hundreds of flowers and added one more log to the slow burning woodstove, so the temperature stayed above freezing.

The next morning he came back with coffee. A few weeks later he sent us a great poem, please check it out here on his 1000 Americans page. We stayed close to the warm fire all morning and only after noon, we packed our tent and continued riding through the rainy Yukon lake District. The wind was friendly and even with our late starts we did over 100 km, ending up late at a deserted state campground, close to Teslin lake.

August 28 – 30: through the lake District with Mate & tortas

We had promised ourselves to start earlier, and actually managed to get on our bikes before 8 ‘o clock! We arrived quickly at the small place of Teslin, where we spend several hours in the library. We were surprised at the many small libraries we met, there is so much great stuff to see and hear, most offer Internet access and the ladies running them are without exception all nice and friendly, so support your local Library and get your kids to read!

We spend some time in the Teslin Motel, working on our reports and chatting with Heather, who was on her way North, on a big BMW motorbike (see her picture here). We fixed her iPhone for her and chatted with this lovely woman, who was in great spirit.. Do not pass the Motel without seeing the hidden gem: a small museum with stuffed animals in the gift shop (some of Ivana’s images are on Flickr here). This sounds much worse than it is, they have done a wonderful job. Oh, and the Wifi is free at the Motel :)

Ivana managed to cross the scary and long bridge, which had a steel bottom, through which you could see water below. As with most rivers, we had to climb a steep hill to get out of the valley it had created, but during the climb a van stopped. Read more

1000 Americans: Louise from the Gakona Junction Cappucino bar

August 29, 2008 by  
Filed under 1000 Americans

_MG_0385-Louise-cappuchinobar-gakona

‘Now you be careful and watch out for that bear! He’s is not afraid of no humans, look at these pictures!”

Day 22-25: August 2-5: Huskies, bears, moose & beer: Denali park!

August 2: Resting, Denali info & Huskies

We woke up late, still exhausted from the previous 2 days. It was nice to relax again, while catching up on some work, emails and laundry. In the afternoon we checked out the visitor centres at the beginning of the only road into the park. The Denali park road (not to be confused with the Denali Highway, which we will cycle the next week), is a dead-end road that goes on for about 90 miles. It is forbidden for regular vehicles (cars, RV’s) after mile 15, but cyclists are allowed, as long as they pay the park fees. There are special camper buses that can take two bicycles as well as a lot of backpackers and it is actually cheaper to take that bus to the end of the road than a regular tourbus.

We decided that we would catch the Camper Bus into the park and then cycle back down the road. There are two options to camp along the road: you can reserve a paid spot on one of the 3 or 4 official campsites or you can go ‘backcountry camping’: The wilderness areas next to the road is divided into different sections and you can get a free permit to hike and camp in one of the sections, as long as there are still spaces, as they limit the impact on nature.

This is a great way to see the park, you can meet bears and caribou on every corner. The sections where there are known families of wildlife, like bears with cubs or a fox-den, are closed off for camping and hiking. We reserved the bus out and two sectors for backcountry camping, so we could stay in the park for 3 days.

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Day 14- 21: July 24-Aug 1 2008: Fairbanks to Denali park via North Pole!

August 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Alaska, North America, Trip reports

July 24 – July 29: resting & recovering in Fairbanks

We spent almost a week in Fairbanks, relaxing and catching up on resting, washing, shopping & working. Besides the overwhelming abundance of We were pleasantly surprised food-wise on two occasions. First the day after we arrived at Ericka’s place, they celebrated Miles’ b-day and we were invited to share the pizza, coke and pie and meet some of their family.

The next day we went out to see a bit more of Fairbanks and we cycled around the town visiting some places along the way like the lovely Farmer’s market, selling extremely expensive but . There were no video camera batteries for my camcorder anywhere in the city, so not sure if and what I can film before the next big city, which is Vancouver, 4000km away…

At the end of the day we visited the Pioneer Park, a place for tourists and locals to hang out. It is a bit corny, but they preserved and moved some of the oldest houses of Fairbanks here. We noticed a lot of people eating and unconsciously followed them to the source. We ended up at a set of tables, covered with fresh fruit, salad, chocolate cake, chips and meat. Besides it were a few large containers filled with cans of soft drinks, it was biketravellers’ heaven.

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