As my regular followers know, when I write that I’ll do another update soon, this doesn’t necessary mean anything really. Sorry about that, but here comes the story about how I wandered into the desert to end up finding an oasis of joy and adventure. Who would have known that fate would sent Bubba to find me…
If you just want to see the pictures go here 🙂
I started my trip from San Diego heading east with the goal to ride with Frank into the desert. Since we don’t have that much desert in Germany I though of it as a chance of a lifetime. Little as I knew at that point that it would be life changing. My goal was to get to Tucson and then take the train or bus up to Kansas City in order to cycle from there to Washington, Missouri to visit my former Host family.
Taking it easy across the few small coastal mountains just east of San Diego I fell back into my cycling routine quite quick. Bike, eat, sleep 🙂 Always on the lookout for nice stealth camping sites I found plenty along the way and small supermarkets provided me with all the food I needed. One night I was fortunate enough to end up at the doorstep of the local fire department and besides Water and Powerade I settled a little later to sleep on their nicely trimmed lawn.
The next day I went for a nice spot off the road in a little prairie like field, little as I knew at that point it was going to be my last night of being a lonesome bikeaholic.
The next morning I started heading east as usual and thought seeing the border fence between the USA and Mexico was going to be the highlight of the day. The first sign of something being different struck me as odd but not to strange. There was an other cyclist, with just a camelbak in the middle of the desert wearing a bright yellow warning west that said ‚Bike Florida‘ „quite far off to the west…“ I thought but who knows. I was just about to pull over to ask her if she needed assistance but then I saw her snapping pictures, so she wasn’t in need of any help.
Well, moving on minding my own business. As I continued rolling down the side of the road all of a sudden a pick up, pulling a big trailer, pulled up next to me. The guy inside, wearing a quite colorful shirt, leans over and tells me to come by and stop at his Sag just up the road. At this point I just thought that Sag is a quite funny name for a restaurant, but I’ll sure stop there.
A few Miles later I learned something new instantly, it’s not written Sag but SAG and stands for Support And Gear. This is a checkpoint set up during bike events where bikers can stop for refreshments, snacks and minor bike repairs. This is the classic definition, if it is defined by Bubba (the guy in the pick up) the variety starts with water and granola bars, includes fresh fruit and sodas and was in this case extended to sushi. Yes, sushi, we are talking about being in the desert having above 30°C and one would appreciate just having peanut butter and jelly. At this point I learned about the concept of Bubba’s tour, it’s called Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers, and he stands true to that concept with every ounce 😉
After filling up with water, banana-peanut butter-honey-tortillas and of course sushi I was about to proceed my way having the feeling that I was quite lucky to find that SAG stop. As I was preparing to leave Bubba asked me if I wanted to join him and his cyclist for dinner and stay for the night at the school they where sleeping at. I gratefully accepted the offer and was on my way to Calexico for the night. Along the way I meet some of the other cyclists who where quite impressed with the set up of my bike. I think I don’t have to mention that most of the other cyclists where riding Carbon Roadbikes that where about as heavy as my suspension fork alone 😉
After a long day of cycling everybody was tired, so there wasn’t that much talking in the evening but at dinner time and for breakfast the next morning everybody was interested about my journey and the things I had experienced. I got called crazy a few times for biking Alaska in the winter, but I’m used to that by now 🙂 Everybody I talked to was genuinely interested and it was great fun sharing my stories with them. The group consisted of 24 cyclists and the average age was about 67 if I recall it right. This group was the best example of how little it matters how old you are. As I saw them biking the next day I was sure that most of the people at my age wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. I was able to experience this first hand, because we where riding the same route the next day again. There aren’t that much ways going through the desert so the overlapping wasn’t to surprising. Bubba was so generous to invite me to stay another night with the group and have dinner and breakfast together. Since I already started to like the attitude and the mindset of my fellow bikers I was happy for Bubba’s offer.
The next morning posed a problem to me then. Looking at the route sheet I saw the goal was again identical to mine. I already felt bad about staying two nights after being just invited to stay one. I didn’t want to take advantage of the hospitality and offered to work this day to make up for me staying with them yet another day. My request was gladly accepted and Bubba told me that there was something else he wanted to know… If I wanted to go all the way across with the group to San Augustine, Florida, which was their final destination. This came quite as a surprise for me and I couldn’t say yes right away. The reason being that I needed to go to Missouri and not to Florida to meet my Hostfamily. Florida isn’t quite around the corner, and would have meant to make my way another 1800km across the US going back. I didn’t know at that point that Bubba was a former Police Officer from St. Louis, which is the biggest city of Missouri. He wasn’t the only one, his tent and luggage Crew Craig, Aaron and Shawn (Captain, Batteries and Sears :-)) are from Missouri as well, and would take me home with them once the trip was over.
It is hard to believe this so ill give it a quick summary, I meet a guy in the desert riding along the highway, he invites me to free food for two days, offers me to work and travel across the country, including free food and accommodation and then gives me a free ride home afterwards. Now what are the chances for this? I should go and play the lottery from now on I guess!
My work and travel routine across the lower United States included preparing the SAG for the bikers, shuttling them around for special events in the cities and helping out the tent crew a few times when they where in a squeeze. Yes, that is it! The best thing for me though was the feeling that I had doing my ‚job‘ , because it didn’t feel like a job, I’d rather describe it as helping friends to make their way across the country on their bikes. The moments when I really felt that I’m working where rare and I’d have never thought that it would be so much fun to do this trip. Not only where the bikers great,(you might have realized that I never refer to them as customers, because they didn’t give me the impression of them being customers!) but the staff was outstanding and we didn’t only have a blast in our off time. Work hard, play hard, doesn’t do it, it was rather play hard at work for me.
So as we make our way across the country Bubba kept helping other fellow cyclists that he meet along the way. Fortunately I was the first one he met and got the upgrade to join the team. As we where nearing Mamou, one of the highlights of the trip, he picked up Jessica along the way. She is from Australia and was doing the trip across the States all by her self. That means going through the deserts and prairies self contained, just like me in Alaska but a little warmer. As I have just been through kind of the same thing myself I have the greatest respect for her. As I was talking to her I found out that she wants to travel across Europe next. So for me this again means that I was fortunate to be on this trip with Bubba to meet her and have a travel partner when I come home to Germany!
Other highlights of the trip where marvelous sunsets, Catalina State Park, Big Bend National Park (the spot with the fewest light pollution in the US), Texas Hill Country, the Oakley Plantation and all the other beautiful places that I cannot include here. Come see me for a full detailed story of the whole trip 🙂 As usual the thing that impressed me most where the people and their stories who made this memorable!
The over 6 weeks I spent with them just flew by in a blur and all of a sudden there was the Atlantic Ocean at our feet. I wouldn’t have minded to turn right around and head right back with them to the Pacific. But I guess most of the people need a little break after having biked over 2000miles across the Untied States.
I’m glad I got to meet all this people, that I got to know as staff and riders, but left as friends.
I don’t have to mention Bubba again, he’s the prime example of somebody who biked himself across the country and is passing on the hospitality he experienced himself. I hope that some day I might be able to give back to the cycling community like he does! I’ll never be able to step into his shoes, because I don’t wear crocs 😉
Chandler our bike mechanic, the Swiss Army knife of bike knowledge. If there is a Thrift Store in town, he knows it, but don’t rely on him telling north from south…
Of course we had our two wonderful chefs Shawn and Ann who helped preparing the most delicious meals and helped me to gain 10lbs 🙂 Not to forget the Pensky guys aka Captain, Batteries and Sears who where a never ending source of sheer fun and madness. It shouldn’t be called Cabin-Fever but Pensky-Fever, since it seems the only way to explain how the three guys made it across living in the back of that big yellow truck.
The SAG crew consisting of Ed, Joyce (who did a wonderful job organizing us crazy SAGers), Larry and occasionally Snowflake (for the most part she was Bubba’s personal assistant and Dusty-Dogs personal entertainer/sitter).
And of course Margie who was always up to something, explore and investigate should be her Motto. I think I never saw her once without a smile on her face, she kept saying she could easily be my mum, well not with that Kentucky accent dear 🙂 To me she rather occurred as being a travel buddy that looks at the world as her playground. Keep exploring!
Again I can’t even imagine the odds for having this happen to me, just a few minutes each way and I’d never met Bubba! For me it was the perfect wrap up of my travels through North America and sparked my desire again to explore Europe upon my return. So this is the end of my trip with Frank across the United States. Good new are, this is not the end yet. Right now I’m sitting in the bus heading across a big bridge in Denmark, having already crossed through Norway and Sweden…
The Journey is not over yet, I’m coming home, but I’m not staying! 🙂