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West Coast: Week 3

Week Three started out in the Salinas Valley with a ride through Salinas, the hometown of one of America's literary giants, John Steinbeck.

My road-worn pal was so giddy when he got to meet his predecessor and idol, the truck that Steinbeck drove around the country for one of this final novels, Travels With Charley. Behold, the storied Rocinante:

From Salinas we rode through rain all the way to Santa Cruz. I was surprised at how things turned mountainy so quickly. From there we climbed along Highway 9 through mountain towns and beautiful redwood forests. The size of the trees was just amazing. So was the big banana slug that tried to hitch a ride on the bike.

I plummeted down from the mountains and rolled up to the very pretty Stanford University, enjoying a coffee and apricot-oatmeal loaf while still damp from the forest rain. I met a man there who told me some of the trees in the center of campus were planted in the 1890s. The geographical and cultural diversity of California is truly astounding. Consider that the photos above and below were taken just hours apart.

Leaving Palo Alto I just had to swing by the Facebook HQ. It was strange to ponder that this group of buildings in many ways is one of the epicenters of the modern world. Even stranger was the fact that, instead of building a cool photo-op sign for tourists like me, this massive, multi-billion dollar company simply stretched this printed tarp over an old Sun Microsystems sign (the logo is still visible on the back).

Our entrance into San Francisco was a little jolting for my sheltered pal. We went through an underground camp of people selling stolen bicycles, past a train stop that also served as a dice-game and other cash-only-activities hub, and then into a neighborhood where men were wearing skirts and people that seemed high on drugs were break-dancing in the middle of the street. These folks were just part of a city full of folks going about their daily lives. While all of that was unique, the thing that shocked me the most was this:

There are PALM TREES in San Francisco!! Who knew!??

I climbed the steepest hill ever, just to cruise down the curviest road ever:

A few more shots from Frisco:

From there I was Sonoma-bound. It was a great ride along mostly well-planned bike infrastructure and then through spectacular countryside.

I took a break for a chat with KRCB radio, the NPR affiliate of the North Bay area. Listen to the interview here.

Week 3 ended at the dinner table of some nice folks in Sonoma I met via Couchsurfing- a great way to wind down a memorable week in CA.

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