A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Marybeth Bond, author of the National Geographic book Girlfriend Getaways. Now Bond, her daughter Julieclaire, and goddaughter, Laura Maxwell, have gone on an extended getaway: They’re biking cross-country to raise awareness about bone health, and blogging about their experiences at Bond Girls Bike America. We asked Bond for some highlights of the trip so far, and she sent us a collection of photo postcards.
Farewell to my City by the Bay
Waving goodbye to the Golden Gate Bridge, friends and family, we cycled east into the Central Valley through vineyards, walnut groves and strawberry fields whose intoxicating fragrance tempted us to stop, pick and gorge ourselves. We pedaled on past ostrich farms, llamas, cows, horses and alpacas. Pedaling just a few hours from home by the freeway, we were already in Oz.
Northern California has been my home for 32 years and yet, as soon as we left the congested San Francisco area, we cycled two-lane roads and down the middle of Main Streets in small towns that I have never visited.
People waved, truckers honked and agricultural workers looked up from picking fruit and smiled as we cycled past. We followed detailed bike maps from the folks at Adventure Cycling who have researched and developed 40,633 miles of prime cycling routes in the U.S. along many quiet and scenic roads.
We zipped by fruit stands before they opened and pedaled through Winters, California a week before the annual quilting festival. The cheerful ladies in the local quilt shop showed us their prize-winning quilts and gave us a schedule for future quilting classes. The succulent smoke of roasting meat lured me out of the quilt shop to a sidewalk barbecue where we bought tri-tip sandwiches.
The Trail of Gold and Silver
Riding through the foothills toward the Sierra Nevada mountains we followed the trail of gold and silver. From Sacramento east the bike route took us through territory brimming with history. In Placerville, just a few miles from the site where gold was discovered in 1849, we flirted with the ghosts of trappers and gold miners. A lawless settlement during the Gold Rush, it was nicknamed “Hangtown” because criminals were hanged two at a time. We were glad to have made a detour into an old fashioned candy store on Main Street for homemade taffy, fudge, and pina-colada and green-apple licorice, for soon we were huffing and puffing as we pedaled from the foothills into the Sierra Nevadas and crossed Carson Pass at 8,755 ft. with snow along the road and avalanche warnings.
Summer arrives on July 3rd, one sign reminded us.
Nevada boasts the “Loneliest Road in the Country”; Route 50. It was a difficult ride through tough terrain, temperature extremes and long stretches with no services. We learned that means no towns, water, toilets, gas, trees, bushes or shade. With little other scenery to concentrate on, our attention turned to the skies, where we delighted in seeing ice cream cone-shaped clouds. We were able to ride for long stretches side by side on the highway. Where in America can you do that for 60 miles and have only two vehicles pass you?
After a long, hard day of pedaling in extreme heat in Nevada, we stopped for the night in a tiny town near the pass in the Ruby Mountains. The ten-spot RV park was full but the owner found us a patch of gravel and ran extension cords and a hose from the office to our RV so we could have water and electricity. After dark the only indication of life around us was the 12-foot-tall blinking cactus at the exit. In the morning the camp came alive and we met our neighbors; rugged men with broad smiles who live in the RVs and work in the gold mine three miles up the mountain. Gold mining must be good business in this area of Nevada; they told us they’d extracted a million ounces of gold in the past ten months. We looked for gold dust around their RVs before we left, but no luck.
Alone in Zion
Shortly after dawn we biked through the Zion National Park
entrance gate and cruised to the end of the canyon beneath the red rock cliffs. Private cars are not permitted beyond a certain point in the park and most visitors use the shuttle buses and hike some of the 65 miles of trails. During the day temperatures hovered in the high 90s and as we glided through the canyon the vermillion walls still radiated heat. We ended the afternoon by shooting the rapids of the cold Virgin River in an inner tube. And at dusk we had the park to ourselves. Back at our campsite we built a fire, barbecued steak, and after dinner, we stretched out on the picnic table to gaze at the big skies offering a zillion stars at night.
Campgrounds are places where everyone shares with each other; inner tubes, early morning fresh-brewed coffee, tokens for the showers and firewood. When we left Zion we had made “on-the-road camping” friends with teachers from Arizona, (criss-crossing the USA with their teen daughters), canyoneers from California and New York who explore remote canyons by rappelling into steep, isolated canyons, and two couples from San Diego who offered their tubes for rafting and serenaded us with guitar music, and some schoolkids (with their teachers and dean) from Kipp Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts, who were some of the most polite, well-behaved sixth graders we’ve ever met.
From the seats of our bikes and our campsites, we are discovering that America is filled with friendly, interesting, generous people. While I was writing this blog entry, someone knocked on the door of our RV. It was Duane, the owner of the RV park in Torrey, Utah, who brought us elk shoulder and fresh rainbow trout. His buddy caught the fish that afternoon and he had hunted and dressed the elk last hunting season. He and his wife only eat meat they’ve hunted or the chickens they raise.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
We gave him a box of Total cereal and a huge thanks in exchange.
Aren’t Americans great? It’s people like Duane and the campers at Zion who renew our faith in our fellow citizens.
Support Vehicle and Home – A Rolling Cereal Box
The reason why we had a box of cereal on hand for Duane was because we’re riding inside of one, so to speak. Our rolling home for the next two months is a 28-foot RV, decorated with the logos of Total cereal, our sponsor, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the beneficiary of our charity ride. We’re cycling across the USA to promote bone health and to raise funds for osteoporosis education and research. Osteoporosis runs in my family so I’m committed to this cause and Total cereal is our partner in increasing bone health awareness. As a mother I am concerned for my daughters because 85 to 90 percent of a woman’s bone mass is acquired by age 18. After that women have to work to maintain the bone health they have and to prevent osteoporosis and broken bones. Our charity bike tour benefits the National Osteoporosis Foundation and Total cereal is matching 100 percent of the money raised up to $25,000 so that’s why we’re driving an RV that has bowls of Total on the sides. We get a lot of laughs from people’s reaction to the moving Cereal Box. Every morning, at least one camper asks us what we had for breakfast.
Photos: Marybeth Bond