The West Coast

Sausalito, California. March 5, 2015

DAY 1: THE WEST COAST

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was an experience on its own, like nothing I've ever done before. I have never seen so many cyclists and people and cars. Almost all cyclists waved at me, to wave back would be silly - that's like waving back at all the cars on the freeway but I did anyway. Up until yesterday it was something I've only seen in photos and in documentaries (not waving to cyclists, the bridge!)

San Francisco's streets lived up to their expectations of being steep but I didn't visit the city itself, instead I just continued along the coast.

There were many hills but the sunshine, tailwind and ice cream stops made them much more enjoyable.

Crossing the road to take a photo of this house may as well have been the toughest thing I've done all day. I had to wait patiently as cars buzzed by in the busy two lane pacific highway until somebody stopped to let me through.

Then I met a painter beside the road. Although I could not help but think of a Lord of the Rings reference: "My precious!"

The sunset would be amazing from the coast but I had other plans, I will be heading inland to the redwoods to visit Jason and Sarah whom I met in Death Valley (Geologist's cabin). 

The first stop was Pescadero, a small town untouched by tourism. Heart shaped signs with slogans like: "Sing a song", "Dream", "Love" and so on accompanied my ride to and past the little town.


 

DAY 2: THE OLD HAUL ROAD (42MI/68KM)

I've found Google Maps to be such a great tool to plan the day - it often takes you on some cool back roads, some of which are not suitable for biking.

This time around I was on Old Haul Road, it was flat and pleasant ride through some redwoods but unfortunately ending at a gated entrance to private property.

I met a ranger driving up the road on my way back and he suggested to take Alpine Drive, a longer and steeper way into Boulder Creek (still better than retracing back to the Pacific Coast and spending another day to get to the town).

At the top of the hill

It wasn't long before I was back on the dirt, this shortcut involved some pushing but excellent views of the sunset.

I arrived to Jason and Sarah's place in the dark to be welcomed with great dinner and as they have seen my post about "Death by Chocolate" ice cream in Vallejo: a ice cream - fudge - brownie dessert (best way to describe it would be "heart attack in a bowl"!!!)


 

BOUDER CREEK / REDWOOD BASIN

My initial plan to return the camera which Sarah and Jason gave me at Death Valley has failed. I managed to drop it 2 times (1st: flew out of my handlebar bag on saline valley road, 2nd: hiking in Yosemite - which chipped the lens) and lose the lens cover from the Golden Gate bridge. 

In the last 30 days I only had one rest day in Vallejo but ended up getting roadsick (opposite of homesick?) and continued down the coast. It was time to look around Boulder Creek and the Redwood Basin state park.

IMG_1958.JPG

The one below is called "Father Tree" can you find out why?

IMG_1978.JPG

This one has been around for quite a while

IMG_1982.JPG

Downtown Boulder Creek

IMG_2009.JPG

Caution, this car has sharp edges!

IMG_2007.JPG

 

Day 3: SUNSET BEACH (60mi/96km)

Riding back to the coast through Redwood Basin park was great. I met a mountain biker who rode with me to the top of the hill to show me the right route and from there it was downhill until the coast.

IMG_2039.JPG

I was told I could see seals at Ano Nuevo park by the ocean but ithe only way to do it is via 3 hour guided walk. I may be missing a great opportunity but I really wanted to keep going and see what's around the next hill.

IMG_2050.JPG

The beaches of Santa Cruz

IMG_2054.JPG

I made it as far as Sunset Beach to see the sunset...

IMG_2069.JPG

...every last moment of it.

IMG_2089.JPG

 

DAY 4: BIG SUR (61mi/98km)

"If you get lucky one of the taco trucks will come here at 6am and you can have taco and beer for breakfast," said the camp host yesterday. I was up at 6 but there was no taco truck :(

IMG_2098.JPG

This is how my bike would have looked like if I continued to collect license plates from every state/province I visited, as originally planned.

After some navigation issues I got back on the right track to Monterey, one of the highlights of the day was seeing an elderly man riding a bicycle energetically and holding his walking cane on the handlebars. For the days to come, I would keep this mental image when I need to go uphill!

As you can probably tell I am not too found of cities, a subway lunch and a crawl up a hill took me past Monterey.

IMG_2109.JPG

"I've driven all the roads in Alaska, I don't want to bike them," meanwhile I have took it upon myself to convince everybody I meet to go to Alaska. It's just a ferry ride away, a plane flight, a drive, or if you are me: 8 months by bike :)

Alan lives in Anchorage but travels around most of the year. He rode from Chickago to New Mexico and across to San Diego, then he didn't like the heat so instead of going into Mexico turned north.

IMG_2127.JPG

I met a polish couple who have been travelling for 5 years: They cycled through the middle-east, africa and south america. Their next step is Alaska then Asia.

"What do you do about beers?"

I was just about to tell them about my beer preferences and then realized that they meant BEARS. I proceeded to tell them how I never had any problems and they wouldn't if they store their food properly. Maybe I should have scared them a bit so they take more care but that's something the locals normally do! 

The Pfeifer redwood campground's hike & bike spot had many interesting people.

An Australian on his first visit to USA, touring the west coast and then across to New York. A German backpacking, currently getting ready for a 4 day hike in Big Sur. He also had mountain biked for two weeks through the Alps (that went on my "to-do list").

Denis and Pierrette, traveling south with a 80lb Labrador :) Pierrette had walked from Canada to Mexico.


 

DAY 5: FOG, SEALS AND COWS (94MI/151KM)

IMG_2151.JPG

The band at hike & bike camp

IMG_2162.JPG

How could I describe this day? Coasting down hills I don't remember climbing, a sea of fog, narrow-windy roads and courteous traffic. I didn't see much through the fog, something like that would have definitely upset me in the past but now it didn't really matter. 

IMG_2168.JPG

I opted not to take a dirt road to one of the plateaus because of the fog/clouds, rain was forecasted for tomorrow and instead I would try and reach Morro Bay, where a friend from Montana is staying for the winter.

The problem was, it will be a long day with a lot of hills. I munched down a $13 hamburger at Goleta (must have been few days old as it did not taste that good) and took off.

IMG_2211.JPG

After few monster hills, I finally reached the promise-land: flat roads and tailwind.

IMG_2220.JPG

...and then after almost a year on the road, I had to update my definition of "cute"!

P1150355.JPG

I had to ride in the dark, not long enough to make it hard but long enough to give me bragging rights. 


 

Morro Bay

unnamed (2).jpg

I am staying with Fred and Judy at Morro Bay, whom I initially met in Montana. It was through a friend of a friend of somebody I know from Alaska.

Fred is 78 and an active cyclist, he is currently planning his next trip: mountain biking through Idaho. I love telling his story to anybody who says "I can never do something like this" or "It's too hard". To top it off, I learned that he had a heart attack while riding 4 years ago and broken a hip last year!

IMG_2246.JPG

Morro Rock, volcanic of origin


 

Day 6: Century+ (105mi/169km)

IMG_2270.JPG

Fred rode the first 6 miles with me

IMG_2279.JPG

Another volcanic rock, there are 9 in the area.

IMG_2289.JPG

"You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals"

Bloodhound gang song rings through my head... and this is how baby Llamas are made!

Only if he was holding a big mac!

IMG_2318.JPG

I've been very anxious over the last week, I applied to be a Blackburn Ranger and the winners are to be announced anytime now. It's basically a sponsorship offer where the company selects 6 people and supplies them with a bike & cycling accessories to cycle the Pacific Coast or the Great Divide.

In Lompoc I got the news that I am on the team which means that I will get a second chance at the great divide (although I will be attempting the hiking trail this time around) and an opportunity to meet the other 5 rangers, as well as promote an active lifestyle through the ranger program.

Below is my application video:

I left Lompoc with my ears burning and a big smile on my face, holding a 3-scoop ice cream (which turned out to be a big logistical challenge as I wasn't able to eat it fast enough before it started melting!)

There were still 20 miles to go but that didn't matter.

IMG_2331.JPG

Anarchy in california!

IMG_2342.JPG

I met the sunset along the coast but I still had few miles to go. The rangers at Refugio beach showed me the way to the hike & bike camp where I met another cyclist (see! they aren't there only to give out tickets!):

"I was tired at looking at them things on postcards and magazines, so I went to see them."

On his bike Robert has a big american flag. One year on the road, cycling for freedom and the american troops.

What a day!

 When I was in San Francisco, Marc showed me how to take night shots, thank you! (Those are oil rigs off the coast)

When I was in San Francisco, Marc showed me how to take night shots, thank you! (Those are oil rigs off the coast)


 

DAY 7: ... (78mi/126km)

IMG_2371.JPG

Duct tape and zip-ties held the small L bracket that I broke in Death Valley, I visited OMM's office in Santa Barbara to get the replacement part and learn more about the company.

IMG_2378.JPG

Channing initially made racks for his own suspension bike and in 1997 started the company. After replacing the bracket on my bike he showed me around the shop, from bending the aluminum pieces, to stamping out joints, welding and painting -everything is made here.

 The welding framework where the racks are put together.

The welding framework where the racks are put together.

OMM racks through the years (left to right)

Shipping and storage

Just above the PCH

IMG_2407.JPG

I didn't really know what to expect from the West Coast Route. I knew it would be easy, I mean I've only had sunshine, some foggy days and tailwind (yes - tailwind everyday!) but I was getting to meet many friends I've made along the way. Today was no different, I met Randy from South Pass in Death Valley - him and his friends topped off my water supply before I headed into Saline Valley.

I found myself riding in the dark again to reach my destination but it's all good - wide shoulders, tailwinds and the sound of crashing waves.

IMG_2435.JPG

 

Day 8: Seal Beach (76mi/122km)

IMG_2438.JPG

"What camera is that?"

"A gopro."

"Wow, it's so small... how do you put it on your board?"

Yup, I was in Malibu. Everybody surfs here.

Big houses, expensive cars, sunshine and tailwinds, riding bikepaths along the beach and alphabetized streets, getting a flat tire and 16 lane highways. The ride along the coast was uneventful.

(I did have to climb down the fence after taking that shot of the highway - people started honking at me)

IMG_2472.JPG

Mike's place was easy to spot. I met him driving the 4x4 dirt roads in Death Valley

I also realize that I've said "Death Valley" way more than the Pacific Coast and this post is about the coast, so here, to even the odds:
Pacific Coast, Pacific Coast, Pacific Coast, Pacific Coast, Pacific Coast

IMG_2479.JPG

 

DAY 9: La Jolla (92mi/148km)

IMG_2497.JPG

Up before sunrise, long day ahead today. First stop was Huntington Beach, popular for surfing and bike paths with speed limits and stopsigns.

IMG_2506.JPG

Not sure which one of the two makes this shot interesting.

IMG_2490.JPG

Notice the surfboard at the back :), Surf town, USA!

IMG_2508.JPG

Contrary to what I thought this would be, there was no Bay Watch. No David Hasslehoff or Pamela Anderson running along the beach, just lifeguards driving a pickup truck...

Donut shop is closed... in emergency, who are you gonna call?

(tip: it's not ghostbusters)

IMG_2526.JPG

Staying with a friend-of-a-friend again. Rachel had herself done touring in Alaska and Yukon/NWT and after talking to her I realized that the rain I had on Denali Highway was nothing compared to what it could have been. Tomorrow I ride out to Mexico!

IMG_2532.JPG

 

DAY 10: MEXICO! (29MI/47km)

 

The funny thing is that I haven't yet swam in the ocean.

GOPR6264.JPG

even the baby sea lion stopped by to say hi!

GOPR6268.JPG

City riding was well... city riding. Streets, stop signs and potholes, occasionally a nice bike path by the ocean but those didn't last too long or ended up making a loop. It was about after 10 miles when I realized one of the paths made a complete circle (I have excellent sense of direction!)
Nathan, a motorcyclist stopped to say hi, he saw the Alaska license plate on my bike. 

IMG_2539.JPG

I cheated! I took the trolley for few stops to reach downtown. Below, a military carrier-turned-to-restaurant.

IMG_2547.JPG

Painting the dole banana ship bright yellow would have been more appropriate!

IMG_2550.JPG

Today was actually the first time on the coast that I had headwind. After riding past million dollar homes along the coast for the last 9 days it felt odd to be traveling through the suburbs. Increased police presence and border patrol trucks reminded me that I am nearing Mexico. To be honest the ride today through San Diego felt more like a necessity, I had no burning desire to get to the border but it seemed like the right thing to do. 

IMG_2564.JPG

In the fading daylight I made my way to Field Border Park, Rachel told me there was a concrete fence you can get to, which is the actual border. But looks like I took the wrong road - this one turned into a river...

IMG_2569.JPG
IMG_2574.JPG

I MADE IT!

I got back into the park and was at the Mexico border talking to a guy on the other side. Hector was here walking his dog.
"Nice meeting you" I said and stuck two fingers across the fence. We shook hands (or fingers..).
OK. I need to think more before I act. Shaking hands across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world.

IMG_2575.JPG

I didn't realize that until I turned around, a border patrol truck approached.

"What did he give you?"

"We just shook hands."

"Did he give you drugs?"

"No."

"Put your hands on the trunk."

After a TSA grade pat-down the border guard believed my story that I got here on a bicycle which was up the trail at the park washrooms. Soon another guard showed up and they were running my passport through and asking me questions for well over 30 minutes.

I was good to go, it was pitch black dark and I got offered a ride but we couldn't fit Deadhorse in the truck, so instead officer Gonzalez drove behind me with his bright lights on.  He took me the long way around through a maze of dirt roads, giving me directions via the megaphone.

IMG_2577.JPG

Aside from the initial few minutes, the border guys were pretty cool and nice to talk to. I wonder if the Mexican on the other side got the same treatment? I bet he's eating taco right now and drinking a beer!


So what happens now? I have to go back to Canada to work for 3 months before continuing south. In the meantime I hope to finish a documentary for cycling Alaska (Due in May).

I got a spot on the Blackburn Ranger team and I'll be cycling the Continental Divide Trail in July. Something that has been done only once. I've never bikepacked before and have done single-track twice in my entire life.

But how do you know you can't do something unless you try?