A Week Biking To San Francisco On A $24,000 Salary

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This week, a fitness instructor who works with people with disabilities, finishing up a three-week bike ride from Park City, UT to San Francisco, CA with a friend.
Industry: Fitness and Hospitality (I am a full-time ski instructor in the winters, for skiers with disabilities, and I teach the same people how to bike, paddleboard, kayak, and rock-climb in the summer. I work as a server part-time to supplement my income. This affords me a great “shoulder season," when I don’t work and get to play!)
Age: 23
Location: Park City, UT (most of the time)
Salary: $24,000, but that’s a pretty rough estimate. Some months I’m making nothing, and others I’m making up to $3,500.
Paycheck Amount (every two weeks): $0-$1,000, depending on how many jobs I have at the time
# of roommates: Two (my aunt and uncle)

Monthly Expenses
Currently $0, but when I was living with my aunt and uncle, I was paying $300, which is a steal for Park City!
Utilities: $0
Transportation: $0 on my bike, save for having to buy the occasional new tube or other part.
Phone Bill: On my parents' phone plan
Health Insurance: On my parents' health insurance

Day One

8 a.m. — We wake up in Clear Lake, CA, just north of Napa county, and have breakfast at camp: oatmeal, peanut butter, and fruit, which we bought the week before.

9 a.m. — We stop at Kmart because I have NO MORE bike tubes, and I’ll be darned if I pop a tire with no spare tubes. $11

12 p.m. — Right around mile 20, we stop for lunch on the road: wraps with tofu, fruit, veggies and hummus, and chocolate (all good meals include chocolate).

2 p.m. — Fun fact: There is a mountain between Clear Lake and Calistoga, and Ellie and I are grinding it out for the next six miles, fueled by trail mix that’s actually mostly chocolate. The descent through the beautiful forest and then vineyards, however, makes the climb so worth it!

5 p.m. — We drop into Calistoga and are SO EXCITED to be in Napa County, clocking right around 50 miles for the day. We drop our bikes and go out to Thai food. Ellie and I split the cost. $22

7 p.m. — Drinks at Susie’s Bar (Ed note: supposedly Napa Valley's oldest bar), where we chat up some old locals and a few Danish guys on vacation. We each buy a round. $12

9 p.m. — We set up our tent at the Calistoga RV Park. There are a ton of signs that prohibit tent camping, and RV spots are $50, but we pitch our tent anyway and hope for the best.

Daily Total: $45

Day Two

8 a.m. — We eat quickly, to avoid anyone kicking us out of the RV Park, and head to Healdsburg, which is about 20 miles away.

11:30 a.m. — Early lunch in Healdsburg. We splurge at Shed, a market/café, and get two premade salads, a slice of frittata, hummus, fancy cheese and crackers, and coffee. I cover both of us. $49

12:30 p.m. — We get a slice of pie with ice cream at Noble Folk for $7, which is absurd, but Ellie buys that. We’re doing great on time, so we walk around and poke into a few boutiques and tasting rooms.

2 p.m. — We strategically map our route from Napa County into Sonoma so that we miss any big hills. After two weeks of biking, we’re much stronger than when we started, and carrying less weight than at the start of the trip, but still.

5 p.m. — We end our 50-mile day in Forestville, and it turns out a friend’s sister lives there. We are crashing in her guest room for the night, so we offer to cook dinner. We pick up groceries to make pasta with roasted cauliflower and fennel, sourdough bread, and kale salad. Total comes to $28, but Ellie pays.

9 p.m. — We catch up and drink beers after dinner, but crash early since they have work and we have another day of biking tomorrow.

Daily Total: $49

Day Three

8 a.m. — Same-same for breakfast — oatmeal, peanut butter, fruit.

10 a.m. — We stop in Guerneville to visit the Armstrong Redwoods Reserve, which are some of the most incredible trees! We meander through the forest before heading out of town, with a quick stop at Safeway. We get hummus, veggies, hard-boiled eggs, fruit, and CLIF bars for lunch, and soup, rolls, and an avocado to make avocado toast for dinner. $28

11:30 a.m. — We stop in Duncans Mills for a cup of coffee and a pastry at Gold Coast Coffee. The bear claws are worth a trip up the coast! $7

12:30 p.m. — After 16 days of biking due west, we spot the Pacific Ocean for the first time! We stop to eat lunch on the coast and then start biking along Highway One.

2 p.m. — This road is incredible, with rolling hills, windy curves, and views of the Pacific crashing on the rocky coast. We stop a few times to snap pictures.

6 p.m. — We get to Bodega Bay, our campsite for the night, and grab beers in town before setting up camp. $15, but Ellie pays.

9 p.m. — There are three other bike-tourers at the hiker/biker site: one from the Bay Area, taking a short trip; and two who are biking the whole coast, from the Mexican border to Seattle. We share beers with them, and then crash for the night.

Daily Total: $35

Day Four

8 a.m. — We wake up to the sound of rain, and crawling out of the tent is tough. We cook oatmeal and pack the tent quickly, since biking in the rain is better than sitting in the rain.

10:30 a.m. — So now it’s pouring, but the rain is supposed to stop soon. We find shelter and grab a cup of coffee in Valley Ford. $3

12:30 p.m. — We stop in Tomales for lunch. I pick up a salad with house-smoked salmon while Ellie has a breakfast burrito, and we split a peanut butter brownie from the bakery. $15

2 p.m. — We’ve only biked six more miles, but it’s not like we can just bike past Hog Island Oyster Company and not stop! The rain has stopped, and we have a half-dozen grilled oysters while overlooking Tomales Bay. We’re offered beers but decide that would make it too hard to keep biking. $18

5 p.m. — We are staying with Ellie’s great aunt and uncle at their house in Inverness, so we pick up a bottle of wine at the deli in town, which Ellie pays for ($19). Picking a bottle of wine for a pair of 90-year-olds with a house so close to wine country proves to be more difficult than expected, but we settle on a bottle of Pinot Noir.

7:30 p.m. — Connie and Sandy are the coolest old folks ever and they cook us dinner, which includes the best cheese I’ve ever had, ratatouille, wine, and homemade apple pie.

Daily Total: $36

Day Five

9 a.m. — Today is our last day of the ride! We have breakfast with Connie and Sandy, who make us eggs, tons of fruit, and sticky buns from Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes (also worth the trip from SF).

10 a.m. — Apparently, we picked the right route to SF, considering we avoided a huge climb up Mt. Tam, biked through a sweet state park, and are being constantly passed by people out for a ride. Multiple people have told us that we’re an inspiration, and my ego is growing.

12:30 p.m. — We roll into Fairfax for the first farmers' market of the season. I get a hummus plate for lunch and pick up fruit and samosas for lunch tomorrow. $17

3 p.m. — We stop at a grocery store in Sausalito, and I pick up veggies, hummus, and other snacks for my train ride tomorrow, as well as a handful of postcards to mail to family ($7.50 for 15). $21

4 p.m. — We cross the Golden Gate Bridge, stop and take pictures like tourists, and narrowly avoid getting hit by actual tourists on the bike path.

6 p.m. — Dinner with friends at Leaf. I have the Korean BBQ bowl and a beer and take home leftovers so I can drunk-eat later. $23

9 p.m. — We bike to Zeitgeist, where we meet up with everyone we know in the Bay area, which includes family, friends who live there, and a friend who’s also passing through. The boys buy pitchers of beer.

11 p.m. — We drag our bikes up four flights of stairs to my friend's apartment and crash on his bed while he takes the couch. What a guy.

Daily Total: $61

Day Six

6 a.m. — I’m taking the Amtrak from Emeryville, so we get up early to take the BART. We stop at Starbucks because I am a miserable human without coffee. $6

8:30 a.m. — Box the bikes at the station, hugs for Ellie, then my train departs for Salt Lake City. I don’t have a phone (lost on day two of the trip), so I’ve stocked up on newspapers and a book for the 16-hour journey. The ticket is $89 and fee for the bike is another $25, which is way cheaper than flying. $114

2:30 p.m. — We have a 20-minute stop in Reno, so I run stairs for 10 minutes and do a few downward-facing dogs while people stare. Whatever, I hate sitting still.

5 p.m. — Dang it, not enough train snacks. So I buy pretzels, trail mix, and coffee. $9

8 p.m. — Nine hours down, seven to go. I have two seats to myself, so I get out my sleeping bag and crash.

3 a.m. — Train rolls into Salt Lake. Ellie flew to Alaska, so I have both our bikes, which I unbox, put together, and walk the three blocks to the hotel where my mom is staying. Once I’m inside, I thank my lucky stars no one gave me trouble getting in. I crash.

Daily Total: $129

Day Seven

9 a.m. — I say hello to my mom, whom I only sort of woke up last night, and we have breakfast at the hotel. I call my friend George, who recovered my lost phone (Woo!), and he drops it off. I wanted to grab a six-pack for him, but liquor stores in Utah are run by the state and don’t open until 11.

11 a.m. — My aunt comes to pick us up, so we load the bikes and drive to Park City.

12:30 p.m. — Girls' lunch at High West Distillery; I have a bowl of veggie chili and the best roasted Brussels sprouts. Mom’s treat!

3 p.m. — My bike bags explode once we get to my aunt and uncle's house, where we’re spending the night before driving to Aspen to visit my brother. I do some much-needed laundry, and then run to the store so I can cook them a thank-you dinner. $34

6 p.m. — I make roasted chicken, quinoa salad, a carrot tahini salad, marinated feta, assorted olives, pita, and a green salad. The old folks provide the beer and wine. We talk about the trip and then call it an early night, so I can pack and be ready to roll tomorrow.

Daily Total: $34
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