It’s been a while between blogs. Sorry about that. We have been off the bike and off the grid for 2 weeks. For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you will have seen our brief updates. If you are not following us on Facebook, you should click here and like the page immediately. We have nearly 700 followers of the blog, and only 333 likes on our Facebook page. Help us even that out will ya?
Reno. They say it’s “The Biggest Little City in the world”. Thank goodness it’s small, is all I can say. What an awful place. It’s just casinos, bad food and shopping mall scariness. Done with Reno. And shall speak of it no more.
The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco however, very cool.
Two days earlier, we were consulting with “Goober the Garmin”, and all signs suggested that we would reach our 2000th km randomly as we rode over the Golden Gate. “Bloody beaut” we thought. Alas, a 32 km detour the day before (thanks to Goober) meant that instead, it was our 2029th auspicious km at this looming landmark. Our 2000th km was met while riding down yet another steep hill at 65kmph in some back water street. Oh well, you take your milestones wherever they fall eh!
The Golden Gate is one of those monuments that you are so familiar with from movies and photos, that when you actually get to see it in person, you get shivers. I certainly shed a tear or two. I was super emotional! I mean, it’s an awesome sight. And we rode all the way from Canada to cross its busy sidewalk! I was totally overwhelmed with a sense of achievement as we pulled-up in the middle of the bridge to gaze over the San Francisco Bay. Before setting off on this journey, the furthest I had ever ridden was on my one & only bike tour, riding 700km in Vietnam. Now I have over 2000km under my belt. It’s pretty surreal to accept. Of course, there is still an odd 18,000km to go, but still, taking a moment to pause and absorb the achievement was rather special.
So having shared with you all these wonderful feelings, now I can tell you about the hundreds of lunatic tourists there were, on hired bikes wobbling all over the place and creating absolute mayhem for us with a fully loaded Falkor. It was like trying to ride a motor bike on the footpath outside a primary school after the dismissal bell. Complete and utter pandemonium. We were lucky to make it across in one piece, and so was everyone that we passed.
We spent 2 days in San Fran and stayed with friends of friends, Milton & Sam. They live on top of possibly THE steepest hill in the city, and after pushing Falkor up to their gate, we enjoyed hanging out with them and their gorgeous children, while getting ready for Burning Man.
Being ‘Burners’ themselves, they helped prepare us for our 8 days in the desert and made sure we were appropriately dressed. Brendon donned his formal dress shirt and waist coat all week, and I enjoyed the selection of sparkly costumes that Sam dug out. They opened their doors to us unequivocally and spoiled us with their generosity. We felt really blessed to have had the chance to meet them.
Alas, time is always short and we had to get our hustle on the get the Bremarathon to Reno to meet our mates for the Burning Man festival. We wanted to ride Falkor into the Burn, but were continuously warned against it; “Everything that goes to Burning Man, never comes back the same”. The ‘sand’ from the desert out there is so fine, it is like talcum powder. Very alkaline talcum powder. And it gets into absolutely everything. Also, it is a 260km ride from Reno to the Black Rock desert, with few provisions available along the way and absolutely no shade. We debated long & hard as to whether we could make it on the bike. We decided that the longevity of Falkor was our biggest concern, so we met up with some of the crew in San Fran and packed Falkor safely into a truck to Reno where she would spend a little holiday in a storage unit. In the mean time, we had to catch the Greyhound to Reno. Ergh. Greyhound buses. I think the long dry ride through the desert would have been less scary. We spent 2 days in Reno with our mates Dan & Ann, on the mega mission to get all the necessary supplies for our camp “CocoPocoLoco”. The preparations were extensive and exhausting. Despite having an actual bed to sleep in for the first time in months, we were knackered before the festival even started.
We set off on Sat 24th Aug; 2 x 24ft trucks, and one jeep, all loaded to the rafters. There had been some serious fires in Yosamite Park and the air was thick with grey smoke clouds, masking the beauty of the road we travelled on. It would have been awful breathing that in while cycling and there were no shoulders to ride on. With the added bonus of all the RV’s kicking up the dust on the road into Black Rock desert, I was glad to be behind a car window with the AC on.
The Burning Man festival is in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. It started in 1986 and is a celebration of “radical self expression and reliance”. On the first night I had the misfortune of cutting my leg on a very sharp metal rebar. Radical self-reliance; fail. Luckily we were camped with the good Dr Kelly, who whizzed me and Brendo off to the medical tent on the back of his flat bed bike, with red flashing headlamp and appropriate siren noises. I got 4 stitches and a tetanus shot, while Brendy squeezed my hand (and took photos with the other). For those of you who know my views on this kind of immunization, you can imagine my joy about the whole situation. But at least I am all put back together, and I know a few of you will be giggling at the forced injection. Go ahead, it’s pretty funny. But I was very glad to be so well taken care of. The medical care there is incredible. Can you believe I got immunized in the middle of the desert? You can even get an x-ray!
They say it’s impossible to explain the festival to someone who has not been, “like trying to explain a colour to a person without vision”. I must admit, I now accept this cliché. Could I explain what we saw and did? Sure, I could give it a go, but in all honesty, it would sound like total madness. Which of course it is. Complete and utter madness in the middle of the desert. It’s very hot, and very dusty and everyone has fabulous costumes and creative imaginations. Some of the incredible art created out there is unbelievable. Should I tell you that we were on a broken-down disco bus watching a bumble- bee car have a flame-throwing war with a pirate ship? Or that while waiting for a home-baked cookie from a small country homestead, the entire house drove away into the sunset? Crazy and unbelievable, but just some minor episodes out on the “Playa” (a Spanish word meaning ‘an area of flat, dried-up land from which water evaporates quickly). It’s a very true definition. A dry place she is.
We had some wonderful connections with old friends and new, and those friendships, despite the amazing art and fire spectacles, were definitely the highlight of our festival. It was a real test of a whole new kind of endurance for us, and those amazing people made it a super special time for us. Watching ‘The Man” burn on Saturday night was an experience like no other. To be sat among a crowd of 65,000 people all cheering and whooping as fire works exploded on a giant wooden man on top of a giant wooden space ship, well, it was just incredible. The sound of it exploding along and the energy of all the spectators was truly amazing. Contrasted with the burning of “The Temple” of Sunday night, where everyone sat silently and watched it burn down, occasionally calling out a message to a lost loved one, to whom a note was written inside the temple. It was an amazing feeling to let go of grief and watch your sadness burn down while in the company of 65,000 strangers. Well, about 64,980 were strangers.
In any case, photos can only capture so much, and we were so busy getting involved that we didn’t take many, so you’ll just have to trust us.
But the dust really is out of this world. When you arrive at Burning Man ‘a virgin’, there is a ceremony at the front gate where you have to lay in the dust and make snow angels. A bell is rung, a line crossed and some words shouted into the desert air, but basically its just about accepting that you are gonna get dusty. And stay dusty. There aint nothing you can do but accept it. It’s crazy the way the dust tests you, and on many occasions I found my mind wandering out of the desert in search of a body of water. Needless to say, the respite we found in our hotel pool and shower was delightful. Not quite sure that the cleaners of said hotel will feel the same sense of divinity in our absence, as we washed literally everything we had in the shower in that hotel room. You know me and my obsession with washing!
After a full 24hours of un-dusting back in Reno, we met brother Michael and made plans for our ride together out to Lake Tahoe to spend a week relaxing at a luxurious chalet…..but that’s another blog story.
(The absolutely amazing photos of Burning Man in this blog are courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson http://duncan.photoshelter.com/gallery/Burning-Man-2013/G0000KxrCu5xuLY0/2)
Did I mention we shaved our heads?