Leaving the coast has left me with mixed feelings. The riding itself is much easier, as the terrain is mostly flat and what little wind there is rarely pushes against me. However, heading into the San Joaquin Valley has been brutally hot. The high temperatures here in Fresno are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Santa Cruz was relaxing. I left feeling strong and motivated. I rode down to the coast to satisfy my ego for the next leg. I'll be going from sea level to over 7,000 feet elevation. The first few hours out of Santa Cruz were peaceful, but then I had to traverse the Pacheco Pass on highway 152, which rises to 1,300 feet. From the top, I had a spectacular view of the San Luis Reservoir. It is a manmade lake that I think is used mostly for irrigation. It shouldn't exist, but is still a beautiful sight from the top.
The blistering heat was brutal on the climb, but luckily the shoulder was smooth and wide. I reached the top at around noon (horrible timing), and looked forward to a fun downhill. However, there was so much broken glass and debris on the shoulder going down that I had punctured not one, but TWO tubes on the way down. Not both tires at once, either. I got a flat, changed it, continued, and got a second flat. It took me nearly as long to come down as it had to go up.
Campgrounds near the reservoir were mostly catered toward boaters. They had little shade and no drinking water. I went a little further east to a KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) and got a car camping site. I had to pay full price, but the pool, showers, and water were all free.
The next day took me through vast farmlands. Huge fields of fruit trees, cotton, and other unknown green wonders planted in perfectly straight rows made me think about our food system. All this wonderful food, but there are many other stories from the fields, no doubt. I felt weird resting amongst beautiful crops while stuffing my face with Snickers bars and Gatorade.
I stayed on the highways (152 to 33 to 180), which took me through towns big enough for resupplies and shade. My stylish helmet worked wonders against the beating sunlight, and the smooth, flat roads allowed me to continuously ride in higher gears for the first time on this entire tour. I was able to maintain about 11-12 mph while cycling, as opposed to 6-8 mph through the hills and winds of the coastal route.
Fresno came into focus in the early afternoon. Approaching from the west, the city skyline suddenly rises over the farmland. Without any noticeable transition through suburbia, I was suddenly on a freeway, which I had to exit. I rode another 2 miles and I was downtown. It was amazing how quickly my surroundings had changed.
Downtown Fresno is frighteningly vacant, but not abandoned. There is a nice outdoor space with shops, bars, and cafes. But, like my hometown of Buffalo, the main street was closed to traffic and it has killed commerce. The foundation of a cool downtown is there, but there are very few people actually walking around. I was expecting zombies or terminators at every turn, or maybe some of the freakshows from Road Warrior. The Rapture came to mind, but I'm still here, so obviously that's not it. But a tumbleweed and the whistling music from The Big, The Bad, and The Ugly would feel appropriate.
I am heading out tomorrow morning for the lodge in the hills, completing my ridiculous bicycle commute to work. I will take 2 days so I can see a bit of the parks before I start working, but I also will be happy to unload the bags and settle in to what will become my new reality for the next 9 weeks. I will take pictures and do another post here after I roll into camp.