Editor’s Note: We first wrote about Bob Kaspar’s exploits last summer, calling him The Man Who Climbs In Jeans, after he solo-summited Mount Whitney at the tender age of 65.
Now, the experienced climber, world traveler and longtime Oakhurst resident is on the road with plans to ride his bike across the United States from a starting point on the beach in Southern California to his hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts. By the time Bob puts his kickstand down in Brockton, south of Boston, his total mileage will be somewhere in the range of 3,800 – 4,200 miles. He volunteered to send us updates on his trip, in the form of “a discomforting combination of pithy travelogue and pixilated existential musings.” Who could resist? Here’s Bob’s first missive from the road.
I don’t know when I first got this idea, I only know when I first announced it. We were at Tahoe visiting with friends and I suddenly said “I’m planning to bicycle across the United States next summer.”
Martha looked at me. Our friends looked at me. Trumpet the Beagle looked at me.
Even I looked at me. Technically, what I said was true but deceptive, because I think I’d only actually been planning it for several moments before announcing it. So, needless to say, we were all pretty surprised.
Like most big ideas, this one carried with it the dual possibility of great success and total disaster. I didn’t even own a bike and hadn’t for 50 years. My only long bike trip was in 1966 when I was 14 and me and my friend Jeff started for Yosemite from Southern California.
Nonetheless, several weeks later I had purchased a bike and some gear and began riding and planning.
I started with short rides around Oakhurst and gradually worked up to riding from Mammoth Lakes back to Oakhurst in a single day. That was around 140 miles with about 11,000 feet of elevation gain, so it was a pretty good test.
It turned out that my Achilles heel was, well, my Achilles heel. Nearly my entire life I’ve had a continuing problem with a tendonitis in my right Achilles tendon so, as it was in rock climbing, fencing, and long-distance backpacking, I had to develop a strategy to minimize pressure on it. I altered the bike geometry, pedaling rate and foot position to accommodate.
We also had cope with my chronic designers disease. That is where everything you see would seem a little better if it was just a little more this way or a little less that way.
This generally condemns me to designing and making my own equipment, which invariably ends up being more expensive than just buying it and, just as invariably, ends with me still saying that it would seem a little better if it was just a little more this way or a little less that way.
For months, our lives were pedal, sew, weld, repeat. I did progressively longer rides and Martha and I enjoyed our Sunday rides around Bass Lake. We studied routes. I studied seasonal climate data to find out how and where I could most likely see a tornado and statistics of bike accidents in an effort to learn how to best not see one.
Finally, it’s early April when the indispensable Martha drops the “H Bomb” — H for Honesty.
“You’re making it very hard to miss you,” she said, “because you won’t actually leave.”
So I knew it was time to stop planning, reach up to the top of the console, lift the red safety cover … and turn the launch key.
Carrying the ultralight tent designed by Ray Jardine and crafted by Bob and Martha, Bob left on his bike trip from Carlsbad, California on Wednesday morning, Apr. 12. He’s pictured here at the beach in Carlsbad, with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Bob continues the narrative with a colorful description of everyday wardrobe.
When riding I wear fluorescent yellow socks. It’s about as elegant as eating sushi with a spork but on the other hand it’s good camouflage in a room full of Santa Barbara divorcees wearing their spring floral prints.
I travel about a mile down the coast and then make a turn eastward casting a final (nostalgic, sniff) look back at the Pacific.
I planned for about 70 miles that day, including about 5,000 feet of climbing. Leaving the populated areas of the coast, you climb steadily through the sandstone and chaparral of the coastal ranges. Springtime, and everything’s in bloom.
It was about 9:30 p.m. when I left San Ysabel in the fog and wind. I stopped a couple miles short of Julian at a perfect little picnic area called the Inaja Memorial picnic ground. It was secluded, with an elevation of about 4,000 feet.
About 15 minutes after I had gotten into my sleeping bag I heard the sound of a car pull up in the parking lot and the doors shut followed by the sound of a couple of teens shuffling by in the dark only to settle on a rock about 30 feet from me on the other side of a bush.
It was clear that they were unaware of my presence and it was equally clear that they were enjoying each other’s company. What to do?
To do nothing would seem creepy. Maybe I should just suddenly let out a blood-curdling scream? But that would seem creepy too. And maybe he had weapons? All I had was a small spray bottle of mosquito repellent. And it wasn’t even a hundred percent DEET!
I guess sometimes the only choices are between creepy and creepier. So I opted for honesty and simply switched on my headlamp which was followed by the predictable gasp and the sound of frantic sheveling (that’s what you do when you’re disheveled but don’t want to be).
Sensing abject terror in the fog, to help things along I simply said in my lowest and most reassuring voice “It’s okay, I come from Ahh…wahhn…eeeee.” I dunno but for some reason this simple truth seem to panic them even further. I’m not a naturally mean person, but I think I’ve gotten a lot better with practice.
The next day, Bob cruised down Main Street in Julian, California and made his way to Anzo Borrego State Park, where the desert was in full bloom. Along the way he passed date palms and sand dunes, and camped his second night in a desert wash between Glamis and Palo Verde. Mileage day: 131.
We’ll post another of Bob’s updates soon as his journey continues across the U.S. through California, Arizona, and New Mexico, riding his bike and making his way all the way to Massachusetts. Here’s a clue: in his next installment, Bob does not get shot.
Follow a map at this link: http://bobkaspar.com/2017-bike-trip-map/