Sunday, May 4, 2014

Let The Good Times Roll- Thanks to My Hosts

The hospitality in Australia was top notch, but so far the States is keeping right up! I knew it would, Americans are known for being incredibly kind and generous! 

My nephews helping out with Grandma's birthday cake, excited to celebrate together in San Francisco

Hanging out with a 4 year-old is guaranteed to be entertaining

My first host was my brother and his family.  They have three kids and live north of San Francisco in a suburb.  Luckily I got dropped off at his house and didn’t have to climb the enormous hill- a 25% gradient, at least, for a good 100 to 200 meters!  Walter and Jen always do a great job of making me feel at home.  They have 3 boys between the ages of 4 and 10 and have a very active life!   I love staying with them and getting a taste of what life would be like with 3 kids, which means going with the flow and never really accomplishing exactly what you set out to do! Never-the-less, there is never a dull moment!  I got the boys excited about painting pottery, helped out with the driving and picking up of after school activities, went to swim practices, and did some other art projects.  I fit the role so well of being “Mom,” but for now, I’m totally satisfied with being an aunt!

Trying to share my passion of arts and crafts with my nephews

Sushi has become a tradition when I get together with my parents

My second hosts were my parents of course! They picked me up at the airport in San Francisco and were with me for a week.  Despite their car problems, we had a really nice time together.  It felt like we’d just seen each other in Australia, but we still had plenty to talk about.  I was lucky to have some constant companionship, not to mention, I got spoiled- I restocked my coffee and tea supply from the hotels and my sushi craving was satisfied on night two!  Hanging out with Mom and Dad gives me insight into what retired life must be like.  My mom and I were in a parking structure waiting outside the elevator for my Dad.  He had forgotten something in the car and went back up to fetch it.. A man approached the elevator, got in, but then realized, perhaps we were waiting for the elevator too.  After all, we were right in front of the door.  He asked us if we were going up or down.  We just looked at each other, with a puzzled expression, and then I answered, “No, That’s ok. We’re just hanging out!”  We were caught off guard and couldn’t really explain that we really didn’t have a worry in the world, and were perfectly content and carefree talking in a parking structure with no particular place to be.  Welcome to retirement, or the life of a tour cyclist, they are similar in many ways!

Chillin' with Dain after a long ride in the Picos de Europa. Rough life, or ice cream! Why not both?!?!  

My third host was Dain, a TBT client who had a neat house in Moss Beach, California. We cycled in Cantabria together the previous summer.  Those were some difficult days pedaling through the Picos de Europa when our most stressful decision was what to have at the end of a bike ride, an ice cream or a beer. We instantly bonded with similar outlooks on life, and a passion to cycle and explore the world.  My parents and I marveled at Dain’s house and his art collection, not to mention his backyard was literally the beach; rocky cliffs going straight down to the water. Dain wasn’t even home, but he let us stay at his house anyway.  That night we all went to bed listening to the sound of waves crashing against the rocks, delightful!

One of Dain's many pieces of art.  I spent some time talking with this lady

The view from my window waking up in the morning at Dain's place, gorgeous

My next host was an old high school friend, Michelle.  She and her husband have a 2,5 year old daughter and are expecting another child in the Fall.  Although I made a complete detour over some coastal mountains and through a military base to reach her house, it was well worth it to see her.  Michelle and I were together in school from first through 12th grade in the same Spanish immersion class.  We hadn’t stayed in touch to a considerable extent, except through Facebook.  My bike ride however, makes for the perfect excuse to visit some of my childhood friends.  She is also a teacher and set me up with a half-day visit to her school, my first public school visit in the States.  I also hadn’t had an authentic Mexican meal in years, and her town is filled with Taquerias and all sorts of Mexican restaurants, absolutely delicious! 

Loved the authentic Mexican food in King City- Can't believe the size of that burrito, actually could have eaten 2!
This was only about half the goodies that Murdock gave me!

Following Michelle, I had a completely unexpected host.  My trip wouldn’t certainly be the same without my spontaneous and completely random moments!  Coming back from Michelle’s town I stopped at the top of the massive climb again, to refill my water bottles at the fire station up top.  There was a firefighter in the parking lot and I asked him if I could use the water tap.  He wouldn’t have anything of it,…..he wasn’t going to let me have that water since it hadn’t been treated even though I was going to use my filter. He insisted that I come in and have a cold Gatorade.  Murdock was his name and he was incredibly impressed with my trip, so much so, that he wanted to gift me with anything that could help me out,….emergency meals, sunscreen, flashers, emergency blankets, insect repellent, dried fruit, energy bars, you name it!  I left the fire station hydrated and with my arms filled with lots of goodies, it was like Christmas had come in May!  Even better was the invite to stay down at his house on the coast after the descent. 

Now that is a true 49ers fan

Murdock was a great host and has set me up with several friends and fire stations in Central California

Murdock lived on the coast and worked at the fire station at the top of the hill, but his wife and family were in Central California close to The Sequoias were he used to be a firefighter.  He was a big 49er fan and his guest bedroom and bathroom was covered in their memorabilia!  Little did I know he was also a big time traveler and loved his fair share of adventures-from hiking to marathon running and scuba diving.  His fridge, like mine back home in Barcelona, was filled with magnets of all the different places he traveled.  He was also a collector of fire station patches and it just so happened that he traded them with a fire fighter back in Barcelona!  We had a great time talking about our travels, life,…in fact, when learning about his wife, he told me that he proposed to her while they were scuba diving in Cabo San Lucas.  After the whale boning tales from Sam back in Australia, I wasn’t going to fall for any more far fetched tales.  But this happened to be true, I watched the video!  After he shared that, I felt compelled to share with him a secret I haven’t told anyone about how I’d love a future partner to propose to me.  I’ve never disclosed this information to anyone because it is a really personal and intimate topic.  At this rate, I don’t know if I’ll ever get married either, but Murdock seemed like a nice guy, and appreciated those little creative and original personal touches, so I felt like the moment was right to disclose the information.  Random,  I know!

Orienteering, my new favorite sport! I guess I'm a "natural", after all I do it all day long on my bike

My next hosts weren’t as random, but their hobbies were.  Steve and Sheila were friends of family friends of mine back in Eugene, Oregon.  They lived in Cambria and were both teachers.  In his free time, Steve enjoyed orienteering. He participated in national and international competitions plus he made maps.  You know how much I love to look at maps, so I was fascinated!  I never realized orienteering was such a complex sport comprised of critical decision-making and a strategic terrain selection. You have to find your way through an area with a map, while running on trails or through the bush and find different landmarks as fast as possible.  I mentioned my interest in running and before I knew it I was out orienteering with him the next morning.  Steve ran about 5 feet behind me as I tested out one of his maps on a network of trails in a forest that overlooked the ocean.  Although I had to stop from time to time to look at the map and determine my location, I only made one wrong turn.  He told me I was a natural! There you go, just another typical day on my trip- orienteering in the morning before hopping on my bike to attend a wedding on a vineyard!

What a neat idea, a B & B for cyclists and wine tasters

Tonight I’m at a bike bed & breakfast run by Elaine and Scott in Templeton.  They also happen to be Warmshower hosts.  Their bed and breakfast caters to cyclists, although the majority of their clients turn out to me wine tasters.  There are over 200 vineyards in the vicinity and the terrain is a cyclist’s paradise if the head wind doesn’t get the best of you.  I’m setting off shortly to make my way up to The Sequoias.  I will stop and visit a Thomson Bike Tour client, and Murdock has set me up with some fire stations in the area as well as friends and family for me to stay with.   I’m a pretty lucky gal-people take really good care of me regardless of where in the world I am!   

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