Riding California, Border to Border: Part 1 of 3

John Pilkington of Encinitas, California has ridden two previous multi-day ElliptiGO rides, but he decided to up the “epic factor” on his most recent journey. The 62-year-old had previously planned to participate in the California Coast Classic (CCC) Bicycle Tour, which extends from San Francisco to Los Angeles, as he had in the past. He was encouraged by his friend and fellow GO rider, Steve Burton, to consider a unique twist:  extend the trip to California’s northern and southern borders, for a total of 1,250 miles. John was all in.

John planned his trip in three parts:  first, his friends Bill Pinnell and Jorge Lee would ride with him from the Oregon-California border to San Francisco, September 2nd through 7th. Then, he would join the CCC Tour on September 9th and ride to Los Angeles on September 16th. For his final leg, he would solo to Mexico, arriving on September 19th. His trusty converted Founder’s Edition ElliptiGO bike would serve as his steed.

In conjunction with his efforts, John, who suffers from severe arthritis in the cervical and lumbar region of his back, also fundraised for the Arthritis Foundation.

Read Part 1 of John’s journey!

Jorge Lee, Bill Pinnell and John Pilkington

So It Begins…

Bill, Jorge and I met up in San Francisco for the start of our journey; Bill and Jorge would accompany me for Part 1 of my trip, riding from the Oregon border to San Francisco. With a beautiful sunrise over the San Francisco Bay, we started the long drive to the Oregon border on September 2nd. After setting up the GOs at the border, we headed out for a 37 mile ride. The Oregon fires cast a smoky cloud over the day and I wore a mask the whole time. Our first night in the redwoods was spent in Klamath.

Days 2 and 3:  Riding Through Trees

We left Klamath on September 3rd and had just as much smoke and haze as the day before. Mask on again. Today’s ride was 68 miles and 3,100 feet of climbing and ended in Eureka. We saw one of the oldest and largest redwoods in the world on this day. “The Big One” was 286 feet tall, 75 feet around and was estimated to be 1,500 years old. As we passed through the town of Elk, we actually encountered a herd of elk. We eventually made our way to Eureka.

We left Eureka on the 4th – still wearing my mask – and headed to Garberville, a 75 mile day with 3,300 feet of climbing and our first meeting with one of the drive-through trees. We had lunch in the little town of Miranda, a place with good memories for my wife Anita and me. Today we saw the “Immortal Redwood.” The tree is 1,000 years old and has survived a fire, a lighting strike which took the top 50 feet off the tree, the great flood of 1964, and the axe of several lumberjacks over the years.

Day 4:  Toughest Day

September 5th, Day 4 of riding, was the one we were most anxious about! It would be our/my toughest day of the entire tour. We started before sunrise and finished after sunset, covering 116 miles and climbing 9,000 feet. This day was actually the most fun of them all. We went through another drive-through tree and met a couple of touring cyclists as we climbed out of Leggett on our way to Fort Bragg. The descent that followed was incredible. I had a little prayer that I said each morning simply asking that today be more fun than the previous day and it was on this day that I realized my prayer had been answered each day so far. We made it to Pt. Arena with enough time to have dinner before the hotel restaurant closed, but more important, we also got our daily beer reward.

Day 5:  Bed, Bath and Beyond

We left Pt. Arena on the 6th and headed to Bodega Bay. We spotted a couple of whale pods as we made our way down the coast, mostly humpbacks and some greys all headed to Baja. The whales seemed to be going at the same speed as us because every time we had a good view of the water, we saw the spouts and flukes, which went on for about 30 miles. The Gualala Coast Observer came out to interview us and did an article on our tour. Obviously not a cyclist the reporter referred to Jorge as the operator of the “Shag Wagon”. The term is “SAG vehicle”, referring to Support and Gear. Oh well – we did not see Jorge most of the day, so who knows.

We made it to Bodega Bay, except we were going to stay at my friend’s place in Jenner, 20 miles north of Bodega Bay. We decided the best approach was to ride to our original stopping point, load the GOs and drive back the 20 miles to the house we were going to stay in that night. My friend Joe offered to make us dinner and brought some of his homemade wine – it was outstanding! The view of the ocean and waves was pretty spectacular as well. The pasta we had for dinner became our breakfast the following morning. That was the first night we each had our own room and bath.

Day 6:  San Francisco Ahoy

September 7th would be the final day of Part 1, so I was feeling a bit sad about the prospect of Jorge and Bill leaving, but I was excited about meeting up with the CCC Tour for Part 2 and to see Anita, who was flying up on Friday to spend the night and see the start of the CCC Ride. We drove back to the spot we ended at the night before and encountered the first rain of the tour. It was just enough to get the roads wet. We passed through several towns that held many memories for me, when my family used to live here. We eventually rode through Sausalito, and then onto the Golden Gate Bridge, and eventually made it to our hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf. We spent most of the day unsupported, as we told Jorge to head to Sausalito and eventually told him to explore on his own because with all the climbing and rain, we would be late arriving into San Francisco.

Day 7:  Off Day

Friday, September 8th, was our only off day, so we did a morning GO pub crawl through San Francisco rush hour traffic. Later that day, I got officially registered for the CCC ride, met with the SAG crew and dropped off my specific GO gear for any needed repairs on the ride. I reluctantly dropped off this gear because I did not want to acknowledge the possibility of a breakdown:  I refused to jinx our good luck regarding flats or broken spokes or cracked load wheels, because so far we had had no mechanical issues and that continued through the CCC ride (unlike 2015 when I had a rash of broken spokes). Nita arrived around noon Friday. We had a nice dinner on the wharf and got to bed early after reorganizing my gear and packing stuff for her drive home. After seeing me off at the start the following day, Nita and Jorge drove back to San Diego with the extra GOs and all the stuff I no longer needed.

Read Part 2 of John’s journey.

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