Update From the Road #6:  Cross Country Bike Trip 2005 Archive

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Well, here we are again. The ride this time was from San Francisco to Los Angeles and again, mission accomplished. The initial plan was for my buddy Steve and I to pedal around Napa for a day with my new friends up there and then make the run south to LA in 6 about days. As I am sure you already guessed though, it didn't work out quite as planned.

The trip started well enough as Steve and I both arrived in San Francisco as anticipated, but we had to cancel the Napa part of the ride as I tried to plan it all last minute

The morning of our first day riding met us with a steady rain. Fortunately, while eating breakfast the rain tapered off. We pedaled though downtown San Francisco, so as to start at the spot where Steve had finished his cross country bike ride three years earlier (we had left from my finish point in San Francisco, so I was covered). Now, neither of us do much group riding so we felt it necessary to go over all the hand signals to be used. They come in handy when someone is drafting 2 inches off you back tire at 20 MPH. It was somewhere shy of the 2-mile mark where we had our first and fortunately last accident. The accident basically entailed Steve ramming his bike in to the back of mine as I was stopping abruptly. Steve's front tire took on a wobble as a result whereas I had only cosmetic damage on my bike. I can't say whose fault it was for sure, well, actually I can. It was mine. In any event we carried on.

It was a pleasant, sweat inducing climb (if there is such a thing) out of San Francisco proper through the Presidio. Our intended route was to take the Pacific Coast Highway, California Route 1, all the way down to Los Angeles, if only we could find it. It was about an hour in to ride where we did the "I thought you had a map", "No, I thought you had a map" routine. All that we needed were big floppy shoes and some red clown noses to complete the picture. I could almost hear the circus music in the background.

Eventually we found our way on to Route 1 and some spectacular scenery. The road climbs up and down cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At times, waves are breaking not twenty feet from the road. Truly magnificent.

We could easily pick out the tourists driving down the Pacific Coast Highway as they had their rental Chrysler Sebring, or Ford Mustang convertible. And on a completely overcast chilly day, the top was still down, probably with the heat blasting.

Another thing we had not planned was where we would finish up on the first day. The stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway once 40 miles out of San Francisco was rather desolate. At least more so than we had anticipated. We had run out of food and water about 60 miles in to the day with little hope of finding anything for another 25 miles until we hit Santa Cruz. We ended up pulling in a little rest area where there was a guy playing with his dog. He inquired about our story, which we happily shared. The guy was kind enough to give us some water to hold us over. He also thought it was such a great story that it warranted the consumption of certain controlled substances, which, obviously, we declined. He apparently had been taking them as he told us the next 15 miles were absolutely flat. Wrong! If you recall from some of my former updates though, I rather ride uphill all day than fight the wind. I stick by that, so no complaints from me.

We pulled in to the town of Davenport after about an additional 15 miles. The town was basically a cafe, Bed and Breakfast and little else. As we were quickly running out of daylight, we would have stayed at the B&B, but were told that they were closed for the night. They had a room, but the manager wasn’t there to rent it to us. The race was on against the remaining sunlight and the last 10 miles to Santa Cruz. As we began to pedal away, the manager of the B & B came out and said she would rent us a room. The room was not exactly what I would call the most masculine of all rooms as it was called "The Flower Room" or some such thing. The room had far more doilies and lace than we would ever need in our lives, but talking about football and guns made us feel better about the situation. We ate dinner at the cafe and were asleep by 9:00 as there was nothing else to do.

Steve and I got a fairly early jump the next day even with squeezing in 11 hours of sleep. We made our way south another 65 miles to Monterey. For some reason the two days of riding had taken a toll on our knees. Perhaps it was riding too long on the first day out of San Fran or perhaps our bikes were set up improperly, who knows? We ended up taking a day off in Monterey so that Steve could try to get his knees back in shape as he was having more trouble than I. I opted to pedal the 17-mile scenic drive around the Monterey peninsula. The 17-mile scenic drive lives up to its name in all respects. The route was 17 miles and hugely scenic, passing along the ocean as well as numerous golf courses, including Pebble Beach. Afterwards, Steve and I ended up walking downtown for some lunch and a few pints. There were three English pubs in Monterey that we were able to find, so we opted to sample them all. Sort of a compare and contrast with the Crown and Anchor being my favorite.

The next morning, with much anguish, Steve had to make the decision to call off the ride so as to not potentially do permanent damage to his knees. Certainly a tough call and one that would have me pedaling solo again. As I wasn't 100% either, I rode a meager 30-mile day to Big Sur. Steve had rented a car to head back to his place in LA, but met me for lunch in the event that I would have to call it off as well. I decided to press on. This left me in Big Sur at 2 PM in a motel with no TV or telephone. I couldn't even get my cell phone to work. I cleaned my bike for two hours, read a journal I had written when I was in South America a couple months earlier, ate dinner and it was still only 7:30. I was asleep shortly after 8, which was fine as the next day was to be the most strenuous of this leg of the trip.

That next day I was riding to San Simeon, a town that exists solely to cater to the visitors of Hearst Castle. It was a tough ride up and down all sorts of seaside hills, some without guardrails, but it was the most scenic day of the trip. It was also one of the days where I did not have to get off Route 1, as is mandatory when it passes though certain areas. As I got an early start, I finished up rather early and had some time to hang out down by the beach. My time would have been better spent visiting Hearst Castle that afternoon as opposed to the next morning, but as I forgot to set my watch back the night before for daylight savings so I thought I had missed the last tour of the day. It was just another bit of superb planning on my part.

In the morning I hopped on the bike and rode the four miles back to the Hearst Castle visitor center from where they bus you up to the castle itself. It was probably only the third time I had locked my bike on the entire trip and I was at least somewhat paranoid. For those of you that have the opportunity to see Hearst Castle first hand, I highly recommend it. It is an icon of a time long since past.

The rest of the day was a rather uneventful and one that landed me in Pismo Beach running out of daylight. While in Pismo Beach I ran in to a couple of Brits that happened to be biking from LA to San Francisco. We ended up meeting for a few pints later on that night and exchanged some good stories.

From Pismo Beach the ride was right along a nice beach for many miles but turned somewhat inland though strawberry field after strawberry field. It smelled delicious. Around one o'clock I got to a major town for lunch and took a little rest as I was going rather hard that morning. While riding out of town I saw a gigantic orange sign, which was an all too familiar detour sign. Route 1 was closed and all traffic, including bicycles, was forced inland to the mountains. This is not what I signed up for. I didn't find out until later, but the last storm that came through washed out the road. You think my British friends from the night prior would have mentioned to me that part of Route 1 had plummeted to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. That would have been some useful information. I was planning to finish the day in Santa Barbara and be in LA the day thereafter, but those plans were shot. I ended up staying in the town of Buellton, the farthest from the coast that I would be on this leg of the journey.

The following morning I ended up riding along Interstate 101 and for those of you familiar with it know that a bike certainly does not belong there. It was like riding on the shoulder of the New York State Thruway. I was told that it was fine to ride on the Interstate as long as I got off every exit and then back on, so as not to block traffic from using the on and off ramps. The nice thing was that this was the flattest part of the ride. I ended up around Oxnard looking for a place to stay that night but found that not only was there no room at the inn, there was no inn! I had to head south another few miles to some small town with only one hotel.

My final day riding started about 8:15 and I was hoping to make it to LA by early afternoon. The ride was almost completely flat until I hit Malibu. There were a couple of big climbs, but the scenic vistas were entirely worth it. No wonder the homes in the Malibu Hills cost what they do.

Being that Steve lives right in the middle of Hollywood I had to head inland for 15 miles. Also, Steve being the thoughtful guy that he is, told me the easiest way to get to Hollywood from the coast. "Just take Sunset Boulevard all the way in" he tells me. My advice to all of you who might actually still be reading this novel of an e-mail: Don't ever ride a bicycle on Sunset Boulevard. It is a death wish. With some creative riding, blowing some lights and at one point riding on the sidewalk, I made it to Hollywood. I had completed my bike ride. In total from New York to LA it was 4,142 miles that took me 289 hours, 7 minutes, to ride. I was quite pumped. I ended up changing my return flight to NY and stayed on in LA for a couple of extra days. For those few days Steve and I lived the life of Riley and partied like you can only party in Hollywood.

Well, that's it. The riding is over and I am hanging up the bike shoes, as there are other adventures to be had. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.

Be well,


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