< Sunnyvale, CA | La Paz, B.C.S. >

Los Angeles, CA


I finally left Sunnyvale with my friend Justin as we rode together to Big Basin State Park. 11 days of relaxation had left me with very little of the strength I had when I arrived, and it was tough going getting over the Saratoga Gap and down into the Santa Cruz mountains. But we made it, finally, at dusk and were informed that all the campsites had been taken.

After talking with the camp ranger about our options for a while —none— a very nice couple offered to let us share their campsite with them. Saved! Another example of the overwhelming kindness of strangers when it is least expected and most needed.

A little while later, Justin’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend Brenna came to join us at the camp, and we all had a fine time. Unfortunately, in a moment of thoughtlessness, I left my daypack full of oatmeal on the picnic table, and when I woke up in the morning all the oatmeal had been pillaged by raccoons, and my daypack had been ripped apart. It wasn’t the best pack in the world. It had large holes in it which already caused me to lose things, the zippers jammed constantly, and it had a sort of anti-padding which made wearing it occasionally painful. But despite all that, or maybe because of all that, I had grown fond of it and was sad to see that piece of crap go.

Anyhow, we went to Santa Cruz for breakfast that morning, and I had my first taste of sourdough pancakes. They were delicious. And after what would have been a tearful goodbye if I weren’t too manly to cry, I was on my way south.

The ride itself that day was uneventful. Rather it was full of the events that always seem to occur when I ride: I got lost a bit, and found my way; I had some headwinds; I ate some fruit which I found lying on the ground in these big fields; etc. And I felt surprisingly good considering how I felt climbing the day before. I eventually found myself at a city park in Monterey, which was placed sadistically at the top of a steep climb.

The following day my brother and my father came down from Sunnyvale to meet me, and we went to the Aquarium and drove the 17 mile drive. I was unable to ascertain whether the sea otters were Alaskan or Californian in origin, so that mystery remains unsolved. But the more I learned about the otter at the aquarium, the more I suspect the guy I met in Bodega Bay might be right.

Anyhow, the next day I rode south from Monterey and into Carmel, where I took the tour of the mission, and saw the final resting place of father Junipero Serra. I rode to Point Lobos and into Whaler’s Cove for the post-brunch pre-lunch meal, and did a bit of hiking around there. I eventually made it to Big Sur, and started the sharp climbs and descents of that region, and it started to rain (no surprise there, I guess).

I eventually reached my camp for the night, and was able to set up my tent in a brief lull in the rain, and remain relatively dry throughout the night. The hard rain that night gave way to a beautiful clear morning, and I continued along the steep coastline until the San Luis Obispo county line, where it suddenly flattened out and I breezed down the road with a strong tailwind.

I saw sea lions in their hundreds sunning themselves in the beach, and barking amelodiously. I never knew that they could use their flippers to scratch themselves, and I was amazed to see how dexterous they were.

Just south of the Sea lions, I came to Hearst Castle, and took the tour (#1). It gave me quite a few ideas on how I might decorate my tent.

The next day was made considerably easier when I ran into a local bicycle club who showed my the way past Morro Bay and through San Luis Obispo. In Pismo Beach, I pioneered the combination of black cherry vanilla and chocolate-fudge brownie on a single cone. I could tell from the look on the ice cream man’s face that he thought I was either a genius or a madman for that combination. It was fantastically delicious. He said I’d have to ride ten miles to work off the calories in that cone, and I told him the point of the cone was to get just those calories back. Plus extreme flavor.

After Pismo Beach, I forged ahead into Santa Barbara county. I got lost figuring out how to get out of Orcutt, but eventually found myself on a frontage road which joined the highway later on. Unfortunately, that highway was being freshly paved as I rode on it, and hot tar from the road coated my tires, and then rocks and glass and small sticks followed shortly. My tires looked like a giant sprinkled donut, but like the rare kind I didn’t want to eat.

I eventually solved the problem of the tar coating my tires by putting my foot against them while I’d go downhill. Given enough time I was able to clear off all the debris, and after doing this procedure several times, I seemed to have gotten rid of the tar as well.

Eventually I rode into Buellton, and knowing that this was the home of Andersen’s famous pea soup, I set my appetite to kill. I sauntered into the restaurant and was delighted to see an all-you-can-eat traveler’s special. It turned out that all I could eat was five bowls of soup and three baskets of bread and a complementary milkshake. I walked out of there supporting my stomach, ashamed at my meager showing and wondering how I would be able to ride with my knees hitting my belly all the time. But through a small miracle, I pushed on to Solvang and then eventually to Cachuma Lake for the night. I was kept awake that night by some of the worst smelling flatulence I’d ever produced, and I could only thank the soup for that unholy miracle.

The next day I climbed up over the San Marco pass and down into Santa Barbara. The colonial architecture was beautiful there, and I had plenty of opportunity to see it, since I got thoroughly lost trying to ride through town. After a while I just chose a direction I thought might lead to the beach, and when it did I turned left (a technique I had employed a few times previously). The day ended in Ventura, on the four month anniversary of the beginning of my trip (the 20th).

The next day can be described as the hardest most dangerous riding I’ve done the entire trip. It seems that the Santa Ana winds decided to whip up to category-2 hurricane speeds overnight. And being a very stubborn fool, I decided to ride anyway. At times the wind blew me to a stop, and at times I had to get off my bike and brace myself with all my might in order not to be blown over. I was cut by ballistic tree branches and leaves, and was scoured by sand and dust. When I got to the sea, the wind ripped water off the surface of the ocean and flung it at me. But still I went on, and on into Malibu. There finally, the winds created fires which blocked the road forward, and blocked the road back, leaving only the road up into the Santa Monica mountains available to me.

The road I had to take was steep enough that it would have been a tough climb without the wind, but the wind blew directly at me, and after a short while I was no longer strong enough to ride. So I began to walk. And after a while I could not walk, so I sat down to rest until I could walk again.

While I was resting a woman named Rita came up in her minivan and offered to take me up the mountain, but we just couldn’t find a way to fit both me and my bike in her van. Thank you so much for trying Rita.

Eventually a photo-journalist named Kevin Brooks came by in his truck and offered to give me a ride as well. I gratefully accepted and we sped up the hill into the wind. I have a new respect for machines now, that they can have that much power.

We stopped by at a local bar and grill for a beer, which became four beers. Suddenly musical instruments appeared and started to be played. And one of the players was Robert Blake. I found myself on the washbasin bass for a couple of songs, and we played some ol’ timey country music.

The evening was so surreal, that in writing about it now I’m not sure if it wasn’t just a fever dream brought on by the wind and fire and exertion.

In any case, Kevin drove me to my friends on the other side of the fire, and I was finally able to rest.

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