To hitchhike or not to hitchhike? (When alone)

Hitchhiking as a woman in a different country is a pretty nerve-racking experience.

My knees were bleeding. My elbow and hands were bruised. My hair was matted and dreadlocked from the wind. I was a mess.

Shaking a little, ready to raise my right arm and stick out my thumb to oncoming traffic on the 395 highway, I did nothing but think of my worried Mother and hope for the best…

Now before I give away the story, let me tell you how I got here.

I’m on a blissful mountain holiday in Mammoth Lakes, California (a town tucked away in the Eastern Sierras. A town that boasts serene lakes, snow peaked mountains and Ansel Adams worthy photography). It’s a snowboarders / bikers / runners’ paradise. One might say it’s, ‘gnarly, dude.’

I’m training for my first triathlon coming up end of June. How blessed am I to do the final few weeks of training in such a place! The views, the altitude, and some great tips from professional athletes who live and train here.

My trickiest element of the triathlon is the bike. Now I’m no dolphin, but so far in training, I have felt more at ease in the water than on two wheels. You see, with running and swimming, it’s just you. All you. In my opinion the bike just gets in my way.

Having said that, the breathtaking rides I’ve had out here on my trusty ‘rental roadie’ with new friends have been nothing but exhilarating fun. It’s clicked, I thought. This is why middle aged men in Lycra are out and about on their bikes so much… it’s bloody fantastic!!!

So, with my new found biking confidence, I’m on a euphoric high after biking the hilly backroads…. after parting ways with my new American pals, I have about an 18 mile ride back to where I’m staying.

(this is how we get to being alone on the 395….)

Cue gale force winds.

Zooming traffic to my left. Open meadows to my right. My knuckles are white and I’m clenching my teeth trying to fight the wind. I take a tiny breather as it softens and finally, my cadence can pick up a bit as the wind basically disappears.

Then out of nowhere a HUGE gust shoves me from the side and whips me right off the bike without even a millisecond to try fight it.

I’M OK – were my first thoughts. Bleeding and scraped but OK.

Thoughts quickly go downhill. Stupid bike. Stupid wind.

Shaking a little, I get up, try to compose myself, but even this is impossible. The wind is now so strong I can’t even stand and hold my bike. I’m not strong or heavy enough and before I even attempt to get back on, I get knocked over again.

Cue sense of humour failure. F***ing bike! F***ing wind!!!

A car pulls over.

A man is driving and the woman to his left says “hey sweetie. You ok? You came down pretty hard there. D’ya need a ride?”

(Think fast, think fast, make good choices, make good choices).

“I’ll be fine. Thank you though. That’s really kind. I’m absolutely fine though.”

The car pulls away.

The wind howls, my body throbs, and I look into the distance at the never ending rolling hills ahead. Bad. Bad. Bad decision. Bad choice.

I knew I didn’t want to get back on the bike. I couldn’t even stand up let alone balance on two wheels. I didn’t want to hitchhike either. I wish I didn’t care, but the fact is if you’re a young woman in a different country, you’ve got to have your wits about you. Make that a young woman who looks about 15. EVEN WORSE.

My thoughts race as blood starts to congeal and I look onto the mountains….

A car pulls over about 50 yards ahead. It then creepily reverses towards me.

The man in the passenger seat gets out first. Then the other man.

My initial thoughts were: This is dodgy. Not ok. Nicht good!

“Need a ride?” Said the older man in a well spoken English accent .

“You having trouble with your bike?” said the other. He was a couple of decades younger, perhaps in his 40s, he had dark skin and an accent I couldn’t make out.

“It’s so windy.” I replied. (Think fast, think fast, make good choices, make good choices). “Where are you heading?” I asked.

“Just up to Mammoth Lakes,” said the older guy. (Good answer).

“Me too….”

He opened the back of the car to see if my bike would fit in. My eyes violently scanned what was in the vehicle. I saw tools and rope. (WEAPONS!?) (probably just hiking equipment… we’re in the mountains). I sneakily took a photo of their number plate. (What good is that going to do? You’ve got no signal, you tit).

I wearily got in the back of the car.

“I’ll just text my friend to let them know I’m getting a ride back.” (Lie).

Thoughts turn to my parents. They would be having such a wobbly right now.

^^^ looking back on all of this now I’m a little ashamed to have so little faith. Turns out these two men were nothing but kind, generous people, wanting to help someone. However, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as we all know, bad things do happen. Horrible things. On this occasion, I’m very lucky to have met the good sort.

We exchanged emails as I wanted to thank them properly and articulate how much it meant to me to have the help and to encounter such kindness. Then after a quick google search I find out they live in Hollywood and he’s a world famous neuroscientist!

I BLOOMING LOVE TRAVEL

Now to spend the rest of the afternoon sourcing anti-sceptic wipes and band-aids…

Maybe Canada next year?

I have a tendency to be as awkward as a cow on roller skates. I’m too quiet. I laugh at things that aren’t funny. I have a resting bitch face. I always look lost. I say, ‘pardon?’ too many times and if I were given a pound for every time I waved at somebody when they were waving at the person behind me – well, I’d be a millionaire.

The other day in fact, I joined a new running club. A woman just behind me said, “wow, sweetie! You did so well!” I quickly turned round, smiling like a Cheshire cat, and said, “Aww thank you! My quads was hurting a bit, but I really enjoyed it.”

Guess what? She was not talking to me. She was talking to her dog.

Sometimes you can run away from feeling so awkward by thinking, ‘ah well. I’ll never see them again.’ But that option doesn’t look so likely for me right now, as I am living here, in Mammoth Lakes, for 3 months. It’s quite a small town and you bump into the same people quite a lot.

NOTE: Mammoth Lakes is in California, not Canada. I’ve had quite a few messages lately asking me how Canada is. Or telling me that it looks like I’m having an incredible time in Canada.. AM I!?!?!

I am so grateful to be living in Mammoth (California) for the summer. It’s my favourite place in the world. I quite often have to pinch myself. Last week for my birthday, I climbed my favourite mountain to 11,000 ft and enjoyed some squashed birthday cake at the top.

This week I kept up with my altitude training, helped out with the Summer Mini Adventure Camp and did some babysitting. I spent 5 hours yesterday with a 6 year old boy who repeatedly told me that I had small boobies.

I’m tired from the altitude and feeling a little deflated at my slower running times up here. But I’m determined to keep working hard and hopefully see the benefits when I’m back in the UK. At sea level. With all that beautiful oxygen.

So, folks. I’ve been here one month now. Two more to go! Maybe Canada will be next on my list?

Closer to the clouds

The mountains were calling and I have now arrived in Mammoth Lakes, California (8,000ft above sea level).

If you have ever experienced high altitude before, you’ll know that all physical activity is more demanding when you’re closer to the clouds. Even walking up the stairs, I’m wheezing, feeling like an asthmatic 90-year-old.

In terms of running: I have been advised to cut back my mileage by at least 25% for the first week and should expect to be at least 15% slower. One of my goals is to join the Mammoth Track Club. The Mission of the Mammoth Track Club is to support athletic and academic achievement, develop professional athleticism and promote lifelong health and fitness through running in a high altitude environment.

http://www.mammothtrackclub.com

Sounds fun.

Even though I have been taking my running steady these last few days, the dramatic elevations have shocked my body – especially my little size 3 feet. A steep, fairly long downhill run has caused trauma to my big toe, resulting in painful swelling and severe bruising. Pass me the ice pack!

I’ve done a couple of mini hikes, but nothing too severe as of yet. But I have 3 months and those mountains aren’t going anywhere. It is a tad frustrating though – I have also come down with stinker of a cold.

Currently sniffing Olbas oil and bathing my foot with Epsom salts.

When messaging Anne, my soul-mate who I met in Bangkok, she said: “You manage to survive Thailand, yet Cali tries to destroy you!?”

I actually think that because the last 5 months have been so full on (sometimes dangerous, often dirty) my body has become exhausted trying to protect itself.

Now that I’m in my true paradise and doing what I love, my body has relaxed and, OH HEY VIRUS. But if I’m going to be anywhere, California is the place. Priding itself on health, vitamins and minerals galore (minus the outrageous cost of healthcare), I think Mammoth has got my back.

The landscape is spectacular. The people are ever so friendly. The buses are free. What’s not to love?

In the winter months, Mammoth is a popular ski resort. So even now, in the hot summer, it’s got that chilled, ‘Apres Ski’ kind of feel. I had a peek on Tinder out of sheer curiosity (purely for research purposes, of course). It amused me that all the men pretty much look the same. Oh, and apparently life is ‘totally rad’ and ‘gnarly, man.’