Marin County and Oregon, USA

Apparently there are only two Filbert Streets in the whole-wide world, one is in San Francisco the other is in Leicester. (I’m sure that that’s wrong, but it makes for a good story) This photo was taken in San Francisco around about 1998 with my old university chum Amy.

My biggest worry before I started this tour was arriving at passport control and being refused entry into the country. Before entering any country I would quadruple check that I had the requirements for entry and then double check again.  It would always be the part of the journey where my heart would be beating in my chest and my mouth would be dry whilst I wait in the queue.  I had flown from South Korea to San Francisco, I had an ongoing flight out of the US and I had my ESTA; so all of my paperwork was in order.  Over the past 40 years I must have visited the US over 20 times and I was last in the US two years ago and so by coming back I was taking my journey near enough back to where I had started and catching up with my old university friend Amy who had kept in touch and definitely kept me going  over the past 2 1/2 years. This time I got stopped by immigration, as they didn’t believe my story.  I was detained for 5 hours and questioned; they play a lot of mind games, and are really very rude and accusatory and there’s nothing that you can do other than reply back very politely. There is no-one that you can complain to about the way that you have treated and the fact that they can for whatever reason decide to refuse you entry regardless of how much evidence you have to corroborate your journey.  For instances like this I do carry around evidence that I own property in the UK and therefore have a tie to my home country and that I have money in my account and I have had to produce this evidence to immigration in the past on this tour. My one consolation at the time whilst I was waiting was that at least if I didn’t get into the country it happened at the end of my journey rather than at the start; at the start of the journey it would have been really sad.  Initially before arriving in the US I was planning to leave my bicycle there, nip home for a few months and then fly back to the US, pick up my bicycle and head down to Chile and continue with my journey, but during those five hours I decided that if they let me in I was never going to come back. Eventually they did let me in, but of course leaving the airport I got stopped again by customs, got asked the same questions and had my bags opened and x-rayed before I left. I do have friends and family in the US, so I may have to one day go back, but the whole experience has obviously vexed me, especially as during my 5 hours of waiting in a room of more than 100 people, there were no white people, maybe a coincidence, but maybe not.

For the past few months Amy had been planning amazing things for us to do such as a road trip down to the Big Sur. So my next day after arriving we had a Hip Hop dance festival to go to, a week or so later we went to see Hamilton, another week later we went to a talk given by Jose Antonio Vargas. Jose Antonio Vargas is an undocumented immigrant in America and it was an eye-opening talk about his experience living in the US and being undocumented he works as a journalist, filmmaker and activist, he’s been to university in the US and he pays taxes like most undocumented immigrants in the US but he could be deported at anytime. About a week after the talk we went to see Lizzo in concert and after that we had planned to go down to San Clemente (which is about 450 miles away) for Christmas.

Hamilton
Lizzo

Unfortunately Dave, Amy’s husband, caught an absolutely awful bout of flu which he kindly passed onto Amy and myself and we were pretty much laid out for the next month, the only saving grace was that their 10 year old daughter was perfectly fine through all of this and was able to go to school and get around whilst we were totally out of it. So Christmas in San Clemente in Southern California was cancelled and we spent it relaxing at Amy and Dave’s home which was in Marin Country. Marin County is right next to San Francisco.

I managed to recover from this awful flu just after Christmas and I joined a local social cycling group called Proud Marin Sister (PMS) for a bicycle ride. Although I maybe a ride leader and have done quite a bit of cycling there’s still always that worry of turning up to a cycling group and finding out that they are too fast or too cliquey. We cycled the Richmond / San Rafael Bridge. and then went to the Cheesecake Factory for Brunch. The Richmond/San Rafael Bridge is a two tier bridge, the top tier has three lanes and so one of the lanes had recently been changed into a dedicated cycle and pedestrian pathway, which made access to the other side of the bridge possible and easier without having to take a longer route or public transport to get there. The women that I met on the ride were fantastic and very sociable and waited for me, I was so slow, in my head I thought that they must have been thinking that I was lying about my world cycle tour because I did struggle to keep up with them a lot of the time.

On the bridge. On the left hand side you can see the concrete blocks that were used to separate the cars from the pedestrians and cyclists
We started here
Beautiful scenery cycling across

The women from PMS were fantastic. I loved the fact that it was because of the bicycle why I met these women and they were just so welcoming. One of the ride leaders, Cath invited me along to her birthday run that she’s does every year with her pals.

Running for the finish line

Marin County has absolutely beautiful scenery and is the home of mountain biking and Marin Bicycles. So I cycled around and finally cycled across the Golden Gate bridge. The last time that I was here I was extremely lazy and sat on the sofa at Amy and Dave’s house.

I flew up to Oregon for a week to catch up with a few of the people that I met along the way the last time that I was in the US.

I also caught up with an old university pal, Tracey, in Berkley who I haven’t seen in about 15 years.

Amy, me and Tracey

My tour was coming to its end. So I have thoughts of what to do next. Over the last couple of years Amy had been telling me all about her results from her DNA test and trying to persuade me get my results done. I had also read an article about a family of five from the US who got their DNA results done and travelled around the world visiting all of the places that they had a genetic connection to https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/travel/dna-test-sends-family-of-five-on-journey-around-the-world/. So the idea of getting the test to help determine where to next does appeal, although I am fully aware that the science isn’t particularly precise. So after much research I decided to go with MyHeritage DNA as apparently they have a little bit more diversity in their DNA database.

My results really are saying that I should visit a large percentage of the African Continent.

My next destination was Portugal and then London. It was now February and I had no suitable clothes and therefore no intention to cycle in Portugal so I decided to ship my bicycle home with Bike Flights. It was a really easy procedure and I went with them because they are bicycle specialist and if anybody is going to get my bicycle back home it would be them.

My bicycle wasn’t in a good state when it arrived. The box was absolutely battered and the company had had to wrap it in some sort of cellophane to try and keep everything inside, a couple of things had dropped out in transit; luckily nothing too important. It took me a whole day to try and put it back together as the rear of the bike had been squashed and I couldn’t fit my rear wheel back in and I had to use brute force to pull the rear stays apart. Even after putting it back together it still didn’t ride right so I had to push it to http://www.billys-bespoke-bike.co.uk/ Billy’s Bespoke Bike Company, where he very kindly sorted out for me.

By Susan Doram

I am passionate about cycling and enjoy encouraging others to ride their bicycles. I am a cycle coach and founder member and chair for Leicester Women's Velo and Founder member and club secretary for Ride on Sistas. I love to encourage others to get active. I am an award wining personal trainer and one of Cycling UK's 100 Women in Cycling 2019. I've been on numerous cycle tours and have encouraged others to join me. Part of my cycle touring experience has included cycling around the world for just over 2 1/2 years.

4 comments

  1. That’s brilliant. It’s so lovely to visit old friends and pick up where you left off. What a state to get your bike back in! Lucky you could go back to Billy. Interesting to get your DNA done. My dad, his brother and my sister have had theirs done so my dad says at least he knows is that they’re related to him, he’s not so sure about me (joking). Cycling through Africa would be one big ride!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you were in Ca in Dec 2019 and you mentioned you had a terrible flu — I would be interested to have a corona virus test — just to find out if that flu was the virus

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne thanks for reading. We do wonder whether we had Covid-19 especially as my friend’s daughter was perfectly okay and someone else who caught it ended up in hospital.

      Like

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