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!
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.
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.
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.
NEXT BLOG: Meet Petros, the world’s most famous pelican. A blog quickie!
54 thoughts on “Home and a Surprise… The Ten Thousand Mile Bike Trek— End of Series”
You are a lucky man Curtis!
Yes I am, AC. 🙂
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 journey is over? Where are we going next?
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’ll meet you in Ireland if you are there in June 2017!
That would be so much fun, Andrew! We could definitely quaff some pints of Guiness together. I suspect it will be in the spring or fall since I am presently saving my summer for backpacking. –Curt
Hey Twin: Count me in for the 74 summer back trek.
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
Curt it has been amazing to follow along with you! Congratulations on the trip and in finding that special lady to start the next chapter with.
It has been fun having you along, Sue, as a Canadian, fellow bicyclist and adventurer. Thanks so much! My special buddy has filled many, many chapters. 🙂 –Curt
Just truly wonderful!! Great series Curt. I loved every minute. Peggy is a lucky lady.
So glad you were along for the journey and enjoyed it Sylvia. As for Peggy, we are both lucky! Which is what makes it work so well. 🙂 –Curt
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 so much, G. And I am so glad you were along for the ride. I figured you knew the answer. Laughing. –Curt
I’d rather hoped this was when/where your Peggy entered the scene.
Me too, Peggy. Although I didn’t have a clue. Otherwise I might have been bicycling home at two hundred miles per day. 🙂 –Curt
Thanks for the series Curt. It was an enjoyable way to see parts of the country I’ll likely never see. And you even won a prize when you finished!
My pleasure, Dave. And it was the Grand Prize! 🙂 –Curt
One could not wish for a happier ending. So glad you survived that crawl over the raging river.
Yes on both counts, Gerard. 🙂 One certainly wouldn’t have happened without the other! –Curt
Beautiful ending of an inspiring trip (well, 2 of them, actually!) and a most wonderful surprise. Now what the heck are you going to write about?
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
Thanks for the buggy ride!
“I got down on my knees and crawled.” Given the conditions, I’m mighty glad you did that.
It was my pleasure, Yvonne. As for crawling, normally i walk across those logs. Crawling was the only option across that frothing river with its thousand foot drop! 🙂 –Curt
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
Yep, there’s one in southern Idaho.
Be interesting to know just how many there are!
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
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
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!
It all came together for me, Dave. From the bike trip, to Peggy, to retracing the route, to writing about it and sharing it on my blog. I was/am lucky. 🙂 –Curt
Ha! I knew it was that you met Peggy on your return! Lovely story Curt. Sometimes the world turns, or we turn, in exactly the right way.
And isn’t it great when that happens, Alison! Many of you who have been reading my blog for awhile knew the ending. 🙂 –Curt
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I waited impatiently for each episode and what a great end/start to your bike riding adventure/life with Peggy.
What a nice comment, Alphie. My thank you right back at you! –Curt
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.
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
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
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
I loved this series Curt. And Peggy is a very lucky lady. 🙂
Many thanks, Sylvia. I had fun writing it. As for lucky— we both are. 🙂 –Curt
Happy story, so glad it worked out for you both.
Always good to have a happy ending, Hilary. 🙂 –Curt
Thank you for marrying Pegge, Curt, because through you, we all get to meet her!
Laughing, Crystal. Hard not to meet Peggy when you enter my life. She’s chuckling at your comment now. –Curt
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