Home and a Surprise… The Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trek— End of Series

When I arrived at Lake Tahoe, I returned to what I considered my home territory. Half of the beauty of the area is found in the Lake, the other half is in the surrounding backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

When I arrived at Lake Tahoe, I returned to what I considered my home territory. Half of the beauty of the area is found in the Lake, the other half is in the surrounding backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

I had planned my six month, solo bike journey around North America as a great circular route, starting and ending in the small, rural town of Diamond Springs, which is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range east of Sacramento. I grew up there, and the connection was important to me.

I had seen my journey as twofold. My primary purpose was to explore much of the US and Canada in a way few other people had. But I also wanted to use the opportunity to undertake an inward voyage, going back in time to explore my childhood and learn more about myself. Thus the Diamond Springs tie in.

The three-month trip Peggy and I made this spring allowed me to retrace my route and relive my 1989 experience. It also allowed me to share the journey with you, which I have done with 54 posts that included approximately 50,000 words and 1,000 photos: in even more words, that’s a lot! In the end, my North America bike trek had turned out to be everything that I hoped for, and much more. I had seen great beauty, met good people, and had numerous adventures— enough even for me.

Someday, I may share the inward journey. Suffice it to say here, I learned a lot about myself along the way. I achieved a balance and inner peace that have lasted up until today. I haven’t found myself teetering on the edge since 1989. I could run off and play in the woods for reasons other than to put Curt back together again.

But for now, let’s finish up the bike journey and discover the surprise at the end.

I left Carson City, Nevada following Highway 50 up and over Spooner Pass and then dropped into Lake Tahoe, arguably one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. Memories came flooding back. I had spent three college summers driving a laundry truck between Placerville and Lake Tahoe six days a week. The work was easy, the scenery beautiful and the money… well, it was enough to pay for my UC Berkeley education. (I only had to cover my living expenses, books and student fees. Those were the days when tuition at UC was still free, back in the days when government still believed that an investment in public education was one of the best investments it could make, back before it decided that making banks wealthy–er was more important.)

In 1974, I came up with the crazy idea that the organization I was Executive Director of in Sacramento could raise funds off of 9-day hundred mile backpack trips. Actually, I just wanted to go backpacking. The first one I led was from Squaw Valley, just northwest of Tahoe, across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Auburn. I took 63 people aged 11-70 and learned a lot. (I’ll tell you the story some time.) Fortunately the Trekkers let me live, and the event made money. Later I would add 9-day, 500 mile Bike Treks. Several included Lake Tahoe. I even organized a 7-day winter cross-country ski and camping trek through the Desolation Wilderness west of the lake. That was an experience!

I feel a deep attachment to the Sierra's on the west side of Lake Tahoe, having backpacked up and down and across them many, many times over the years. I feel more at home there than I ever have in any city.

I feel a deep attachment to the Sierra’s on the west side of Lake Tahoe, having backpacked up and down and across them many, many times over the years. I feel more at home in these mountains than I ever have in any city.

This impressive rock greeted me as I biked down to the Lake from Sooner Pass.

This impressive rock greeted me as I biked down to the Lake from Sooner Pass.

The Casinos started a quarter of a mile beyond this lovely meadow!

The Casinos started a quarter of a mile beyond this lovely meadow! Nevada has done a much better job of controlling growth than California.

My bike trip took me along the east shore of the lake to Stateline where I biked past more casinos and entered California and El Dorado County, the county of my youth. Highway 50 wound through South Lake Tahoe and then over to Myers where I climbed my second 7000-foot pass of the day. I felt like I could have done it blind-folded. I was on my laundry route. Every curve, every sight was an old friend. Passing over Echo Summit, I had a wonderfully long downhill ride to Riverton and then climbed up once more to Pollock Pines, where I left Highway 50 and detoured through Camino. I found a small barbershop there and got my first haircut since Nova Scotia. I was a bit on the bushy side. There was a chance that they wouldn’t recognize me in Sacramento, especially if you threw in the fact that I had lost 40 pounds and now had big, bulging muscles.

The Sierra's are world renown for their granite. This view is from the southern portion of the Tahoe basin just before you begin to climb out of it toward Echo Summit.

The Sierras are world renown for their granite. This view is from the southern portion of the Tahoe basin just before you begin to climb out of it toward Echo Summit.

Because of my laundry days, I knew every curve (and straight-stretch) between Lake Tahoe and Placerville!

Because of my laundry days, I knew every curve (and straight-stretch) between Lake Tahoe and Placerville! Just beyond the small hill on the left is a major drop into a deep canyon.

Horse Tail Falls is one of many scenic views I appreciated on my laundry trips and on my bike ride down the mountains. I once crossed the river when it was roaring like this on a narrow log. It was raining and I was by myself. I got down and crawled.

Horsetail Falls is one of many scenic views I appreciated on my laundry trips and on my bike ride down the mountain. I once crossed the river up near the top on a narrow log when it was roaring like this. It was raining, I was by myself, and I was wearing a 50 pound pack. I got down on my knees and crawled.

Sugarloaf Mountain located next to Kyburz Resort on Highway 50 in El Dorado County, CA.

This wonderful chunk of granite is known as Sugarloaf and is another favorite view along Highway 50. It’s quite popular among rock climbers, which is another sport (like jumping off bridges), I see no reason to pursue.

A short five miles brought me to Placerville, where I lingered, not wanting my journey to end. I had gone to high school here and spent my teenage years in the town learning about life, love, sex, and books, not necessarily in that order. Eventually, I climbed back on my bike, picked up Highway 49, and biked 3 miles into Diamond. I jumped off my bike, dropped it, and did a jig with great enthusiasm. People must have thought I was extremely odd. And I was. My 10,000-mile North America Bike Trek was over.

The town of Placerville where I went to high school was once known as Hangtown and is quite proud of it's heritage. A large oak tree in the center of the town was used for hanging bad guys (and probably a few innocents) during the Gold Rush Era.

The town of Placerville where I went to high school was once known as Hangtown and is quite proud of its heritage. A large oak tree in the center of the town was used for hanging bad guys (and probably a few innocents) during the Gold Rush Era.

Hangman's Tree location in Placerville, CA.

The tree was cut down long ago but this rather ghoulish fellow (or his look-alike) has been hanging at the site where the tree was as far back as my memory takes me.

Speaking of evil-doers, you might want to check here to find out why the Placerville Police of Chief was driving me around in his squad car behind the courthouse featured here and wanted to know whether I preferred to go to my graduation from high school that night or go to jail.

Speaking of evil-doers, you might want to check here to find out why the Placerville Police of Chief was driving me around in his squad car behind the courthouse featured above, wanting to know whether I preferred  to spend my night graduating from high school or going to jail.

And finally, after riding my bike for 10,000 miles, I returned to Diamond.

And finally, after riding my bike for 10,000 miles, I returned to Diamond.

But my trip wasn’t quite over; I still had to bike into Sacramento.

I spent the night in Diamond and then rode along Highway 49 through the town, past the cemetery, past my old house, and on to Eldorado, following the same route I had six-months earlier. It felt like decades. In El Dorado, I left my route and followed back roads into Sacramento. I had a Trek-planning meeting that night at the Lung Association. My friend Jane Hagedorn, the Executive Director, had lured me back into town with the promise of Treks. I wheeled my bike into the office at 909 12th street and was greeted royally by Raquel, Jane’s executive secretary, a woman I had hired in 1974.

“Where’s Jane?” I asked, eager to see my friend. “She’s on an important phone conference call,” Raquel answered. The door to her office was closed. I had turned around, a bit disappointed, when a woman I didn’t know came bursting out of one of the offices. Wow, I thought, she’s gorgeous. She gave me a lovely smile that warmed me from my head to my toes, and everywhere in between.

“Hi,” she greeted me, grabbing my hand. “I am Peggy, Jane’s sister. You have to be Curtis! I’ve been hearing stories about you for years.” I swear— I fell in love— then and there.

A new journey had begun.

Last week, Peggy and I celebrated 24 years of marriage and 26 years of happily wandering the world together.

A 1993 photo of Peggy one year after we had married. Always up for an adventure, she had just finished a 150 mile backpack trip down the John Muir Trail I had led. More to the point she had just finished hiking a 16 mile day with a 40 pound pack up and over Mt. Whitney that had included 9000 feet of elevation gain and loss. And she was still smiling!

A 1993 photo of Peggy at 43 one year after we had married. Always up for an adventure, she had just finished a 150 mile backpack trip down the John Muir Trail I had led to celebrate my 50th birthday. More to the point she had just finished hiking a 16 mile day with a 40 pound pack up and over Mt. Whitney that had included 9000 feet of elevation gain and loss. And she was still smiling!

Peggy celebrating the end of re-tracing my bike route at the Diamond Springs hotel. She had driven our RV the whole way so I could take photos and notes. Still smiling!

Peggy celebrating the end of re-tracing my bike route at the Diamond Springs Hotel. She had driven our RV the whole way so I could take photos and notes. Still up for an adventure, still smiling and still gorgeous at 65!

NEXT BLOG: Meet Petros, the world’s most famous pelican. A blog quickie!

 

54 comments on “Home and a Surprise… The Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trek— End of Series

  1. I knew this would be the end of the story — I only was missing the details. It’s a great conclusion, and how lucky you were. Now, speaking of luck — tell Peggy there’s one woman down here on the third coast who envies her hair almost beyond reason. I don’t precisely mind my white hair, but I sure would be happy to have my thick, brown hair back!

    What’s a bit amusing is how sorry I am to have this trip ended. I can only imagine how tempting it was for you to draw it out, slow it down a bit at the end. It must have been wonderful fun to retrace the route — and not just fun, but satisfying.

    • Yeah Linda, that ending/beginning keeps creeping into my writing. It’s too good of a story not to. The one thing I didn’t mention this time was that first I had to persuade Peggy and her two teenage kids that it was a good thing.
      I’ll pass on the news to Peggy. She’ll laugh. She has the type of hair that she takes a couple of minutes to fluff in the morning. She is forever debating on the length, however, and I am forever faced with a ‘new woman.’
      I had been wanting to retrace the route for several years. From time to time, Peggy and I would cross over sections of it, maybe even follow it for a few hundred miles. But doing the whole thing again was a special treat. I would have been very happy to stretch the whole thing out for another month or two in the end but I had work to do. And of course I didn’t know about Peggy… –Curt

    • The perennial question for those of us who wander, huh Andrew. Over the next few weeks I’ll be back east in Boston, Connecticut and North Carolina with family for the holidays. This spring I am going to be focused on writing my next book with escapes to the Oregon, California and Washington Coasts. I’d love to work in a trip to Ireland, but we’ll see. As for adventures, I would love to do another major backpack trip in the summer: 740 miles for 74 years sounds attractive. But that may be a pipe dream. 🙂 –Curt

      • I’m excited about the trip, Marvin. I start training in January. I want to push myself really hard to see if it is even possible. Some of it I want to do by myself, as a reminder of the numerous journeys I made alone, and some as family trips, but other sections I would like to do with friends, as a celebration of the numerous adventures we had together! I’ll include more information here and on Facebook as I do my planning. I am pleased that you have been following my blog. Very much. –Curt

  2. Well Curt, you’ve taken us a journey that 99.9% of us wouldn’t even consider and we’ve enjoyed every word, every picture in every post.
    But, PS. Yup, I guessed the surprise was Peggy !!

    • Thanks Lex, and you have me chuckling. That little adventure did occupy several months! And I was asking myself the very same question. What next? I came up with nine blogs for the next month plus, however. There never seems to be a lack of material. If there is, I’ll just have to go out and travel more. Darn! 🙂 –Curt

  3. It’s a great story Curt. Well told and beautifully illustrated. I hope you will share the inner journey some day too. I listened to an interview recently of a woman who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and she talked about the duality of the journey too. My number one takeaway is–Good for you for having the spirit to take on a challenge like this!

    I paused when I read “Sugarloaf.” I wonder why so many places like that share that name. There is a very well-known Sugarloaf in Rio de Janiero, and there are Sugarloafs (Sugarloaves?) in Virginia and Maine as well (and likely elsewhere).

    • Thanks, Bill. The journey was what I needed at that time, from both an external and internal perspective. Maybe like you returning to your roots and farming, although I must say, my journey wasn’t nearly as challenging as yours. I’ve started working on my next book, tentatively titled, “Tales of an Incorrigible Traveler,” which will incorporate more of the inward journey.
      As for sugarloaf, I was aware of Rio. Must be in the specific look. Now I have to Google ‘sugarloaf.’ 🙂 –Curt

  4. Wow, Curt! What a trip x 2! Thanks for this insightful, adventurous, entertaining series with the best ending ever! Congrats to you and Peggy and the incredible serendipity of crossing paths just at the right moment. Destiny, for sure.

    • Destiny it was, Kelly. What can I say. 🙂 I am pleased that you enjoyed my adventures. I was fun writing about them. Now begins the difficult part of turning them into part of a book. Thanks for following along. –Curt

  5. I really enjoyed following your journey with your easy, informative, and entertaining writing style. A real treat and a compliment to you because biking 10,000 miles isn’t something I’m interested in, but you pulled me in.

    I’m so happy to read that your trip ended with finding someone precious. Yes, she’s still gorgeous!

    p.s. would have liked to see a before-you-started-the-trip and after-you-ended-it photo …. with the beard, 40-pound loss, and muscle gain. 🙂

    • Thanks Timi. Glad you enjoyed the adventure and my wandering tales. As for before and after photos, they were few and are buried somewhere. I’d like to see them too! The bushiness, BTW, was all hair and no beard. I’m lousy when it comes to growing beards… 🙂 –Curt

  6. Your pictures and story of Peggy round off your adventures perfectly! I’ve enjoyed the trip too, Curt, and learned plenty about the States, cycling and much else along the way. Thanks for making the effort – both times!

  7. Aw…
    These photos of Peggy are so gorgeous.
    What a trip! This section made my heart beat faster. Although not a native Californian these landscapes and names are familiar to my American memory now. Love this John Muir Trail!
    These trips (the old one and the new one) you shared on your blog were quite something.
    Thank you!

    • What a trip indeed, Evelyn! 🙂 I found myself thinking that several times as Peggy and I re-drove the route. Did I really do this? (Laughing) The John Muir Trail is one of America’s and indeed the world’s greatest hiking trails. I’ve been over it several times… and am sorely tempted to do it again! My thanks to you for being along with Peggy and I this summer, and for all of your comments and support. –Curt

  8. Congratulations on your anniversary Curt. I love the story of how you and Peggy met. Terri and I are coming up on 42 years. As you know. solo travel is fine, but there’s nothing like having a partner to share the road. All the best for the next 24 and have a fun and relaxing holiday. ~James

    • Thanks, James. It doubles the fun, no doubt about it, and 42 years is a great accomplishment. Had I met Peggy earlier… One fun part of the story I didn’t tell was Her sister Jane told Peggy that I was a safe date. We never did quite figure that one out. 🙂 Just how safe can a man be who has been out on a bicycle by himself for six months! –Curt

  9. A wonderful grand finale post, Curt(is)! 😀😃 I love that it ended with your meeting of Peggy. As for coming to the end of the series, oh no! I’ll miss these posts, it’s been truly epic and although I might have missed a few I feel as if I’ve been with you along the way. They’ve all been fascinating, educational, inspirational and often funny – at your expense of course! Have you considered writing about your inner personal journey or even merging that story with this 50,000+ word travelogue into a book? That would be popular! I’ve always wondered what took you on this journey in the first place. Will we hear about some of your other adventures now? I feel your life has been one long series of travels, madcap events…😀

    • First, thanks Annika. And yes, the series is over. Now I have to start editing, editing, editing to get it ready for book form where it will join several other tales. I suspect that will include the inward journey. There will also be backpacking tales, with bears, lots of bears. 🙂 More adventures to come! –Curt

  10. A great end to a great series, Curt! I still can’t believe you did all that biking. The Sierras are gorgeous — have never seen them. Have never seen a hanging guy outside a building either, but that’s not on my bucket list. Congrats to you and Peggy for a wonderful marriage. She seems to be just the partner for someone with a roving spirit!

    • Thanks, Rusha! Revisiting the route was great fun for me. Kind of boggled my mind as well. 🙂
      You have to see the Sierras. There’s a reason why John Muir called them the Range of Light. I really hope I can do a long backpack trip down them again this summer. And yes, I really lucked out with Peggy! –Curt

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