Day 21 – Solana Beach to The Mexican Border! (73.2 Km)

Done!

Twenty-one days in the saddle and I made it to the US/Mexico border.

What can I say? Before going in to the last day, I feel I should thank everyone who has supported me over the last three weeks and also in the build up to this trip. Thank you all for your messages, comments, calls and everything else. Every single contact helped keep me motivated and pressing forward towards the border fence. It meant so much.

So, day 21. With the pressure on to actually finish, conveniently today was the shortest distance travelled all trip. With a high level of organisation, clearly coming from Babs, the aim was to meet her at the border fence on the ocean for 1pm. With plenty of time to cover the circa 3 hour trip, I attempted a lie in and later start, this didn’t work! I was up at 5:30, like a 6 year old child on Christmas morning, however I had no presents to collect other than the hot breakfast at the hotel, which didn’t start until 6:30. I duly waited and sat down for my last breakfast in anticipation of the day ahead. As an aside, I’m not sure why and perhaps it is a habit I will grow out of, but whenever I am offered a breakfast buffet containing bacon, eggs, sausage and a bread selection, I feel compelled to make sandwiches! Moving on, breakfast was clearly a DIY masterpiece, but soon I was finished and back in my room. Killing time, I overdosed for the last time on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News before checking out and getting on the road for 9am.

Straight on to 1, the day couldn’t have been simpler, stay on it until a brief stint on PCH, a short ferry trip and then a cycle path most of the way to the border. Big G however, had a more interesting route for me. To be completely fair, Big G gave me an option to go via La Jolla, rather than the direct route. I had time on my side, so I decided to take it. La Jolla is a nice town, very picturesque, but it is also at the ocean and at the bottom of a very large hill! This evening, after looking at the map in more detail, I realised I climbed a hill up 1 and instead of taking the left down in to San Diego, I took a right downhill in to La Jolla. There is only one way out of La Jolla and it is up!

Nothing wrong with a hill though, I secretly quite enjoyed it after several days of flat riding. I was down in to San Diego in no time and soon at the ferry terminal. Single ticket bought I made it across the 100m of water (should have swum it) and on to the final bike path in good time.

It was bliss, the majority of the last 15 km or so of my trip were spent cycling with water to my left (a novel change) and with the wind on my back. Turning off the path and on to the last section, in to International Friendship Park (IFP), I was on the home stretch. Little did I know none other than the offspring of Martin Luther King had last second plans to spoil my ending!

As I entered the car park to IFP I was greeted by two groups, first, the wonderful and camera toting Babs, she had beaten me to the line and was ready to make sure the moment was captured, the second was the local county Sheriffs/Park Ranger, who was not in favour of me finishing the last kilometre to the border! It turned out that today was the 55th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream speech’ and his son and Fox News 5 had decided the best place to discuss this was at the US/Mexican border! Well Martin Luther King the 3rd, I also have a dream and its to touch the bloody fence. After a little wrangling Babs and I were allowed through, but without the rental car, fortunately there was an abandoned hire bike in the car park. After registering, Babs jumped on and followed me to down the path, to the border!

Almost dashed at the last, after 21 days my plastic challenge was finished, appropriately in the sun, with a news crew, who paid me absolutely no attention whatsoever.

Thank you again everyone.

Martin Luther King III commemorates father’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ in San Diego

Day 19 – Santa Monica to Laguna Beach (105.2 Km)

As much as I wanted to sleep in today, I couldn’t. The motel was truly terrible. I got up and out as early as I could, I was in such a rush that I left one of my chargers and a cable. Annoying.

On the plus side, I managed to attach my Muscle Beach water bottle, so I still have that!

Today was flat and mostly by the beach, after a quick breakfast, I didn’t stop until Huntington Beach and Pier. The day was mainly taking in the wide expanses of sand and enjoying the slow meandour down the cycle paths, which are located in the middle of the beaches.

I had a bit of fun in the sand, some of it had blown on to the path on a corner, my front wheel slipped out and I careered off for a slow motion spill. Pride more than anything else was hurt. I had to get up and pretend nothing had happened, moving swiftly on!

Through Newport and ending in Laguna Beach, I’m glad I went a few Kms further. Laguna is beautiful, after checking in to my much nicer accommodation, I decided it was about time I went for a run along the beach. Short and sweaty, the run was a great way to take in the area and the sea was a great temperature to cool me down after.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking down the main promenade. I even attempted to get my hair cut, but failed, the far too hip barbers only took appointments, no walk ins! I guess I’ll just have to remain looking a state for Babs when she meets me at the finish on Tuesday. Sorry!

Day 18 – Ventura to Santa Monica (98.7 Km)

Only short days left in the saddle, but lots of exploring and non cycling activities to do!

Once again I couldn’t sleep in. A Poptart and a banana for breakfast and I was on my way. No sooner had I hit my morning rythm than I bumped in to the Fireman charity riders. As I headed through Oxnard I was shouted at as I passed their fire station starting point. Today was their final day of riding and they had a cavalcade of fire engines supporting them for the first and last sections of the stage. Generously they invited me to join them, epic, I couldn’t turn them down.

I rode with the fire fighters until their first stop, I didn’t want to outstay my welcome, so pushed on. I also wanted to be able to see them finish their journey and congratulate them at the end without being part of it. It just didn’t seem right any other way.

On I went and soon I found myself in Malibu, where it is safe to say, there is some money! The cars parked up and driving through were akin to the ones on show at Carmel a few days ago. The houses were pretty epic too. Well, at least the backs looked good, the good ones all front the beach and the road is behind them!

A brief stop for a coffee and I finished my day cycling before 11. I haven’t provided many pictures of where I have been staying up until this point, but today’s is pretty special.

I quickly showered, changed and ran out of the room, so that I could get to Santa Monica Pier and watch the firefighters finish and so as not to catch anything! My trusty silk liner was clearly needed later on.

Watching the guys and girls finishing and being waved in by their families and friends was amazing, they have raised so much and have such great support, I felt quite honoured to have been a very small part of their journey.

I left them once again to celebrate and went off to explore Venice Beach. What a place. It was sensory overload, a great beach, street basketball, an amazing concrete bowl skate park, balance ropes, Olympic rings and of course, Muscle Beach. Muscle Beach was actually the biggest anticlimax of the whole day. I expected a massive outdoor gym full of Schwarzenegger-esk giants, but it was all a bit tired and normal.

It may have been a disappointment, but it didn’t stop me from buying this:

I currently have no idea how this will fit in my bike for the next three days, but I need it as my new work drinking bottle, idiot.

Anyway, the rest of the day was made up with me cycling up and down the promenade witnessing the weird and the wonderful. I locked my bike up, so I could dip my toes in the ocean, but as I did I was told by three separate people I was crazy to leave my bike, even for a second. The fear and paranoia set in fast, so I called it a day and headed back to the motel.

Feeling itchy, either from the bed or the relatively low level of today’s exercise, I decided I’d go for a run in the sun. It turns out my legs still work for non cycling activities, just.

Another short day tomorrow, almost there.

Day 17 – Lompoc to Ventura (139.3 Km)

Almost there!

I think today was the first time I actually thought I may have broken the back of this little adventure. The longest of the short days left, dare I say, there’s not much than can go wrong from this point.

Another unnecessarily early start, I was up and out at the crack of dawn. I just can’t sleep in.

This and the next last few days really aren’t tough cycling. Mainly flat and good roads, my glass half full is telling me all is OK.

Never ideal when you see the road you’ve lived on for the last several weeks is no longer accommodating you, but not to worry, the very well sign posted PCH cycle route, took me through a lovely town for breakfast and then on to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, a combination of two amazing words, perhaps to dwell on later. I was there just before lunch, and I must say, SB was the best city I’ve been through so far. Great shops, road and views all the way. One day I’ll take a photo that justifies what my eyes saw and my head describes, but until then..

Off I went, not far to go, I had a fantastic surprise in store. The US isn’t exactly cycling mecca, but every so often they deliver an unrivaled cycle path.

On the coast side of the road, with one of the best beaches I’ve seen on the trip to my right, I found myself on a private and gated cycle path. A tip of the cap to whomever got this agreed, it was amazing.

Soon my day was done and I was in Ventura for lunch, In and Out, just because, and then the Motel was booked. I decided a Friday drink was the next step, so off I went.

Ok, so honestly, I had a few beers in a great local brewery. But what I witnessed next was not drink enabled! On the walk back (8pm) I stumbled into a Cornhole tournament.

What is that? You may rightly ask. Well, as far as I can tell, it is a bean bag throwing competition, where the prize is $42,000! I caught the warm ups, but the tournament is going on all weekend. If you’re in doubt:

Mind boggling.

Tucked up and thinking about the sights and experiences of my short cycle tomorrow. My daily average is going to be ruined, but I may have something of interest to write about!

Day 16 – San Simeon to Lompoc (165.9 Km)

After the fun and games of yesterday and the realisation that I am actually ahead of schedule, today was supposed to be a gentle and short spin to Pismo Beach.

Once again no breakfast at the motel, so in fitting with my day plan I decided to stop off for a relaxing breakfast and coffee at the first place I could find. After an hour I passed through the perfect town, so racked up, ordered and received what was honestly the best breakfast bagel I’ve ever had!

You really can’t tell from this picture, but this bagel was insane. Believe me, over the last 16 days I’ve had a lot of ‘fast’ breakfasts and this blew me away. Anyway.

After gushing to the waiter/chef for longer than he was comfortable, I headed off. Pismo was only a total 50 miles, so I only had another two hours in the saddle.

As I pushed along my favourite road (1), I saw a cyclist in the distance, siddling up beside him, I met Kevin. We got talking, he was on a cheeky pre work jaunt and in no particular hurry, it turned out he was the owner of his business. He offered to buy me a cup of tea, so once again and in keeping with my day of almost rest, I accepted and we stopped for a good natter. He had participated in and was still training for some really serious cycling endurance events (PDP etc), I was in awe.

After taking me past his lovely store, Kevin gave me the directions to get back on route and over to Pismo. Game on. Not much longer and I was there, day finished at 11:45. As I ordered my unnecessary and very early lunch I started looking at motels. Unbelievably they were all very expensive! Who would have thought a seaside town in California in mid August would have expensive accommodation?

Knowing tomorrow was also supposed to be a short day I flicked through my schedule to see exactly where I was going, how far it was and crucially, how much the motel was going to cost! I found a motel 6 for pennies, back on the bike.

80 KM to Lompoc, with the wind on my side and full of energy, I was making great progress. Then I was hit with the most ludicrous section of roadworks of the whole trip. Only 200m long but with a militant, jobsworth of a road coordinator, I was made to wait 15 minutes and for all the traffic to go through both ways before it was considered safe for me to ride.

On I went and the rest of the afternoon was epic. I had almost an hour of straight, smooth road, with a tail wind and hardly a car travelling either direction. Ending with a couple of hills and finally the motel, with a massive grocery store directly opposite. Fruit! Clearly I walked in to KFC!

Without tempting fate, all seems to be on track and if the weather keeps up, I may even return to England with a tan.

Day 15 – Carmel to San Simeon (148.7 Km)

What a day!

A fabulous breakfast in my rather plush hotel and on the road for 7am. Today was the day, Big Sur in all its glory. The legend of this section of coast preceeds it and I couldn’t wait.

It really didn’t disappoint. The sun came out and the hills started rolling, relentlessly. It was up and down all day, with ore inspiring views throughout. Too many view points to stop at and so many epic descents I lost count.

The hills kept my average speed down, but I assure you the effort was there! About 60km in I stopped for a photo, my tortoise senses were alerted, I saw Jeremy, one of the boys from a few days ago, how was he ahead of me? A quick shot and off, I clearly needed to put some effort in!

Nearing the end of the day I hit a traffic jam, with elation, I passed by all the cars that had so gleefully come by me in the hour before. Pedal power was clearly the superior mode of transport today! My glee was well and truly shoved back in my face when I got to the police car at the front of the jam. A truck had turned over up the road and nobody, not even hero cyclists (not me, the 20 strong firefighting charity ride also caught at the front) were getting through. Aaaaaah, I only had 12 miles left.

Sat in the shade, with a pretty spectacular view. It wasn’t bad at all. Truth be told, if I had made it to the hotel I would only have been trying to find the nearest terrible restaurant for dinner.

We didn’t get to see the lorry in its perilous position, but one of the team helping to move it let me take a photo of his photo.

Too long and taking the corner too tight.

After 4 hours the road was cleared and all were able to start their journeys once again, however not with any pace. We had to sit behind the lorry all the way down the hill, until it cleared the tight turns and made it on to a straighter section.

One massive positive to all this was that because its car week and Route 1 is not only the main way back to Monterey but also a fantastic driving road, we got to see an unrivaled selection of super cars sat in traffic.

The other silver lining was the forced stop allowed Jeremy to catch up, so for only the second time in over two weeks, I had someone to have dinner with!

Day 14 – Davenport to Carmel (124.8 Km)

With a shorter day planned I had a little lie in and headed down to the motel reception for breakfast, however it wasn’t to be. Everything was shut and not looking close to opening. So on the bike and a short trip to Santa Cruz I went, where I duly racked up and got my morning calories.

(I know, a stylised photo, Google did it automatically, who knew)

A few quick shots of the closed and slightly eery fair ground and I was, for the first time since the fateful Day 2, back in the hands of Big G. With apprehension I took various left and right turns until I got to the entrance to the faithful ‘1’, but Big G had other ideas, there would be no ‘1’ today. To be fair, as I headed towards the entrance to ‘1’ there was a big sign saying no bicycles, so Big G seemed to be on my side!

Off in to the countryside I went, soon I encountered teams of workers picking fruit and veg, it went on for miles and miles. The whole time I was riding passed them all I could think was, what do they do with all this? They don’t serve it anywhere!

After the fun of the farms, Big G got back to its usual behaviour, all I’ll say is that if you ever need to hide and perhaps bury a body somewhere randomly in Southern California, I know the roads for you. Moving swiftly on. Soon I was on a fantastic cycle path, it took me all the way to Monterey, where the fun could really begin.

This week is car week in Monterey, Pebble Beach and Carmel and it didn’t disappoint, unlike my photos!

Today was particularly great because it was classic Porsche heavy. For those who don’t know, the Porsche 912S, short wheel base, in sunburnt orange, is the car of my dreams. It wasn’t there, but it got very close!

Carmel was awesome, thousands of car lovers, hundreds of beautiful cars and one lycra clad cyclist getting in the way! I spent over an hour admiring as many cars as I could, then head off to the hotel.

That’s right, hotel. Due to the car show, there was a distinct lack of accommodation on offer and even less at a reasonable price. No choice but to grant myself some temporary luxury, the budget is blown and I am definitely having breakfast here tomorrow!

Day 13 – Novato to Davenport (158.8 Km)

This morning was by far the hardest so far. Waking up and having to leave the lovely and homely surroundings of Casa Fulchiron to get on the bike and ride in to the (now properly named fog) ‘Marine Layer’, was tough indeed. After fresh fruit, a smoothie, an orange juice, a coffee, three eggs and toast I wheeled myself out of the house and head off for the day.

Unlucky for some, 13 was good to me. 15 minutes in to my ride I found my first commuter, a native of Kingston, West London, no less. Seeing I was a fish out of water, he took me under his wing and we cycled together as he explained the route. No sooner had I gone it alone than another commuter came in to sight. This one was a fully fledged ‘roadie’, who immediately tried to race me! I tacked on to his wheel and to his frustration struck up a conversation. He was a really nice guy and let me take his wheel all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge and over.

Here one would expect a photo of said Bridge in all its glory. Unfortunately, today was not the day! The marine layer was thick and in no danger of dissappearing. Not to worry though, I’ll be back in San Fran in a week… and will buy a post card of it!

Fighting through San Fran was a real battle. I love a bit of commuter cycling, but this was different. The traffic really isn’t that bad, but the lights stop you every 100m. With all the hills and the random stops my legs were feeling heavy after only riding a few hours. I pushed on and soon the city was behind me, a quick coffee stop and back on 1, I was able to get in to a rhythm and soon the day was over!

My motel tonight is perfectly located. Just off the highway and 5 minutes to the beach. I checked in and for a short moment it looked like the sun was coming out, that’s all I needed.

A dash across the lost boys abandoned railway, Speedos on, and my first dip in the ocean.

I was in the water for a sum total of two minutes! A combination of paranoia over my belongings and the sun not actually being out, brought me back to shore. It was worth it, in every way.

Dinner over looking the sea and a smile on my face remembering the day that has been and in anticipation for an epic day tomorrow.

Win.

Day 11 – Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa, via Bodega Bay (214.0 Km)

It was so cold this morning! But that could only mean one thing, a lack of cloud cover and the potential for sun.

Pop tarts eaten, out I went. It was the first morning I have regretted my lack of kit, a long sleeve top would have been really useful! I trundled along at a pretty slow pace and after hitting a hill I’m sure wasn’t on the map (thanks Big G), I was greated by a café at the top.

Now I know what gravy is, I clearly ordered it! As the food arrived the sun came out, so I sat happily knowing I would have energy and heat as soon as I restarted. As I was drinking my third cup of coffee I noticed a group of three youngish cyclists whiz past. I quickly paid my cheque and set off trying to catch these tortoises fellow cyclists! Unfortunately, 10 minutes down the road was a town and they pulled in for a rest, darn it, no chat for me today!

The silence was more than made up with by the stunning scenery, which for once I could actually see.

It is so much easier cycling in the sun. Soon I was making good time and saying hello to various cyclists who had appeared with the weather. As I rounded yet another climbing corner I saw two cyclists taking a picture. Pulling up, we got talking, they had only been going an hour or so, but were planning lunch at Bodega Bay, my end point, so we decided to ride there together. A relaxed jaunt to Bodega Bay ensued, they were on separate adventures, but ending in Mexico and San Francisco.

Arriving at Bodega Bay in high spirits, we hit the only grocery store in town for lunch. As we were eating I set about looking for my accommodation for the night, the nearest place I could find was 30km+ away! I played around, certain that couldn’t be right, but unfortunately it was!

Sunday is my planned rest/short day, I’m dropping in on a great friend’s parents who live in Novato, they’re putting me up for the evening. Amazing. With Novato my goal for tomorrow I decided to ride part of tomorrow’s route and stay in Santa Rosa. More today meant less tomorrow.

Today ended up being a pretty long but really fun day. Only downside being I was so tired on arrival at the motel that I could only face a 20m walk to the nearest food station, Taco Bell. Tragic.

Bring on tomorrow and the prospect of doing washing, eating vegetables and generally relaxing!

Day 10 – Fortuna to Fort Bragg (190.1KM)

What a day!

Breakfast in the hotel before sunrise and out on the road feeling energised. I left Fortuna with high hopes.

After a bit of fun going down the wrong road and having to hop over a barbed wire fence to get back on track, I was soon as the entrance to what turned out to be the most incredible 40kms.

It’s really difficult to describe and my terrible photos can never do them justice, but the sheer height and volume of the redwoods in the Avenue of Giants is out of this world. Cycling through only minutes after the sun came up let me think I had the entire road to myself. I won’t gush too much, but I felt very privileged to be able to ride so much of the road with only the sounds of nature around me and the smooth ticking of my bike.

Unfortunately, I was all too soon brought back to reality and ejected back on to the faithful 101. Onwards and looking to finish early, I only had a few hours left in the saddle.

As I was preparing for my midmorning stop I spotted a fellow cyclist on the horizon. Food or contact? Contact it was and for once it was worth it. A chatty Aussie called Bart kept me company for the next half an hour until we stopped for a rest at a rather strange shop mid climb. Bart had started his day further on than me and was planning on ending at Fort Bragg, I was pursuaded to extend my day!

The extension of the day brought with it a relatively serious climb and a finish along rolling hills. I was feeling good after a relatively relaxing yesterday, so left Bart and pushed on agreeing we may meet for a beer later if we both made it.

I’m so glad I was pursuaded. The additional 65km or so was fantastic. A gruelling hill perhaps, but really enjoyable and it was followed by an incredibly rewarding, long and winding descent. Truly epic, a really great day in the saddle, one I wouldn’t trade for another.

Of course one thing I would change would be the weather, the fog is still following me everywhere I go. As I type, it’s thicker than ever!

Once again on the hunt for fruit or vegetables, today I was particularly unsuccessful. The store clerk in the only food shop I could find laughed at me when I asked about bananas. I’m having Pop Tarts for breakfast!

It’s 7:15pm and I’m all done for the day. No sign of Bart!