Each springtime, many hikers make the trek on the Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada. The small town of Wrightwood in the mountains north of Los Angeles is known as one of the hiker friendly stops on the way. Locals often meet hikers where the PCT crosses the highway and give them a five mile into town so that they can resupply, and sometimes even offer an overnight stay.
The same can’t be said for long distance bicycle tourists. Not that Wrightwood is a bad place to ride, it is simply off the beaten path for cyclists, though there are a few coast to coast riders who wish to avoid the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles and don’t mind a lot of uphill and downhill through the local mountains to do so. (Though who knows, there may be more bicycle tourists due to Adventure Cycling’s new Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route, which follows the PCT via roads.)
So while heading into town on an errand, I was surprised to see a couple of bicycle tourists riding through town late in the day yesterday, on this cool, 30-something degree day in November. Though they were wearing “normal” clothes, they were obviously tourists, due to the tent and other gear they were carrying, as well as their Surly brand bicycle frames equipped with decent components.
On the way back, I saw them on the side of the road, with one of the bicycles upside down. Although I was in a hurry to get down the mountain, I stopped and asked them if they needed help. The chain had overshifted on one of the bikes and got wedged between the rear gear cluster and spokes. We weren’t too far from my place and so I got them a screwdriver to help get it out, but it was wedged in so tight that the only way to get it out was to remove the gear cluster. Thankfully, I was one of what might be handful of people in this town of 3000 people with the bike-specific tool to do so, as the nearest bicycle shop with that tool would have been a 40 minute drive. I got that cluster off and the bike was good to go again (luckily no apparent spoke damage) in just a couple of minutes.
Although I was certainly interested, I never did ask them where they were heading or other particulars about their trip. That would not have been a short conversation, and I had a young child who was already doing a good job of patiently waiting in the car during the bike repair. Furthermore, with the end of the day approaching, such a conversation would have led into discussion of where to stay for the night. If I didn’t have previous plans down the mountain, I might have “paid it forward” and offered them a place to stay for the night, as others had done for me when I bicycled across the USA. But I was glad to do what I could, and I’m sure the rest of their stay in town turned out all right for them.