Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Heading Home

I have an hour to kill in the airport, so I'll close out this blog with some parting thoughts on my trip.

After getting back from Tijuana on Friday, I laid low in San Diego, took in the Comic-Con, and got used to not riding 100+km a day. The distractions of the Con were an excellent buffer for the transition, but it still felt odd not going through the process off planning and preparing for my daily rides. I constantly felt like I was forgetting something, or late for an important appointment.

On the whole, this bike tour went smoothly. I don't recall any significant headwind. I was never forced to skip a day or stop riding because of weather. I didn't even get one flat tire! Each of these were significant issues in my cross-Canada tour, so I was very fortunate this time around, and appreciative of that fact.

Having said that, each day on the road brought unique challenges, some more subtle than others. The process of physically adjusting to the increased daily workload was expected, but not pleasant. Struggling with low visibility in the fog during most mornings while negotiating tight mountain passes was certainly stressful. The sharp contrast in temperature between the coast and just a few kilometers inland could be a shock to my system that I sometimes had to manage several times a day. Campsites weren't always located at convenient distances, or always friendly to cyclists. And finally, steep descents down coastal cliffsides with little or no shoulder - and sometimes no guard rail - was an exercise in pure faith.  However, all of these challenges were a welcome and rewarding part of the journey.

Of all that this trip had to offer, I think the best part was the reassurance of having such a clear purpose at the start of each day, and being able to reset at the end of each day. The immediacy of managing the challenges of a brand new ride each day while keeping track of my longer term schedule constraints struck a perfect balance of focus between keeping me in the moment while not losing sight of my overall goal.

Now that I'm done, it feels like I'm missing that longer term goal, and that I'm just managing a day to day routine. The world has a knack for keeping us busy with mundane activity, and frankly, most of that activity is necessary and has to get done, but it's not all tied to a bigger picture.

What I'm going to try and keep with me from this trip is the importance of having that longer term goal that's tied to action I need to take every day. I might not be able to see the final destination ahead of me, or know exactly what it's going to take to get there, but I want to know that I'm heading towards it, and I want to be able to see a piece of that journey in every day I manage to drag myself out of bed.

So, my plane's boarding in a few minutes, and in a few hours I'll finally be back home. It's been an incredible trip, and I hope you had some fun following along.

Until the next one,

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 25: San Diego to Tijuana. Final trip total: 2903km

I was hoping for something memorable to mark the last ride of my trip, but the only notable thing about it was the heat. It hit 34 degrees with intense humidity. Thankfully it was just 60 km to Tijuana and back, so it was a breeze.

Getting into Mexico didn't pose a problem, except I had to negotiate a turnstile. This would have been an issue had I been riding with a full pack, but fortunately I only had a single pannier with me so I was able to squeeze through with Dolores.

I didn't plan on spending any time in Tijuana, I just wanted to get my passport stamped, grab a bite to eat and head back. I grabbed a couple of tacos at a roadside stand which were surprisingly good. I actually did spend a little time riding around, but the traffic got sketchy so I decided to call it a day and head back - that's when my day took a bad turn.

Heading into Mexico took no time at all. Heading out was a different matter entirely. I got in line at the pedestrian crossing where I entered Mexico. We were corralled outside in a narrow walkway under a canvas canopy that seemed to intensify the heat rather than protect us from it. I was in one of two lines, but I couldn't figure out if I was in the right one since no one spoke english. There was also an empty line that I was told was for people was disabilities, but it became quickly apparent that it wasn't being used by people with disabilities.

It would be one thing if our line was moving slowly, but it wasn't moving AT ALL. The exact same guy was at the front of the line for over an hour. The only people getting through at all were the ones skipping through in the empty line. I was shocked that people weren't raising a stink about waiting around in a line that wasn't going anywhere, I was starting to get worried.

A few people decided leave, and although I couldn't figure out exactly what they were saying, I got the impression they were going to another border crossing. Of course, I had no way to know for sure. I decided to take a gamble and head out in search of another border crossing.

Fortunately, I got lucky. There was another pedestrian crossing a little over a kilometre away. It was hassle-free at the second crossing, and I never got an explanation of what was going on at the first crossing. Everything seemed very sketchy.

Aside from the border hiccup, I made it back to San Diego without incident. My trip has officially come to an end. It's still too early (and I'm still feeling too much heat exhaustion) to reflect adequately on this milestone. For now, here are some interesting stats:

Total distance: 2903km
Total days: 29 (25 riding days, 4 days off)
Average daily distance: 116.12km
Highest daily distance: 178km
Fastest speed: 70.1km/h
Highest single elevation climb: 365m (1200ft)

Found the crossing into Mexico, unfortunately it was a turnstile. Managed to get Dolores through.

My fine dining experience in Tijuana

Eventually made it back to San Diego. End of my trip!

And here are some pics from Comic-Con

This was the only pic of Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes I could get before security threatened to kick me out

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 24: San Clemente to San Diego. Trip total: 2845km

This is a bit anti-climactic. I arrived in San Diego today on schedule. My intention was to check in to my hotel, unload Dolores' gear, and head out to Tijuana with nothing but my phone and wallet to cap off the trip.

It's 3:30pm now, I'm at a bar waiting for my buddies to get here so I can check in to the hotel. I probably wouldn't get back on the road until 5ish, meaning the earliest I'd Cruz three border and get back to my hotel would be 8ish - not accounting for nominal time didn't in Tijuana.

I'm going to be in San Diego for the week. On top of being able to take an awesome Pacific Coast bike trip, I also have tickets to the most exclusive nerd convention on the planet (thanks,Tri). Rather than rush another 60km in for today, I'm going to take Dolores across the border Friday or Saturday. I'm in no rush at this point.

So basically, I made it. 2845km down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to San Diego in 24 days. I'll close off this blog once Dolores actually gets across the border into Mexico, and I'll try to do something memorable to mark the occasion, but essentially I've arrived at my destination. No more worries about flat tires, weather, or injury. I'm going to relax today and give a proper wrap up to the trip once we get into Mexico.

Comic-Con crew

Leaving San Clemente this morning

San Diego

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 23: Santa Monica to San Clemente. Trip total: 2743km

Another beautiful day for a ride. The intense heat was nicely balanced with the ocean breeze, so as long as I stayed hydrated, I was able to keep up a nice pace for the 130km needed to get to San Clemente.

My guidebook warned about possibly encountering issues at state parks in southern California because of problems with transients. I've now seen evidence of this, but not with actual transients, but rather with the policy of the parks. It's clear to me that San Clement state beach associates this issue with cyclists.

I arrived early and asked to book a site for two nights, which was available. They wouldn't let me book two nights in a row - they said it was their standard policy. I was told that I can check back in at 9am to see if my site is available for booking again tomorrow. She made the mistake of saying the person who had the site before me had it booked for the next two days but left this morning, so I should be okay. I said, "booked for three nights? I guess he wasn't on bike, right?"
No response.

Although clearly not inviting to cycling tourists, being at a campsite right on a killer beach is a nice way to finish off my day spent melting in the heat. I'm going to take tomorrow off to prepare for my final ride on Wednesday. Hopefully I'll get to spend it here and not get kicked out for being a 'transient'.

Surfers at Manhattan Beach

Lunch at Long Beach

Laguna Beach

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day 21-22: Lompoc to Carpenteria, Carpenteria to Santa Monica. Trip total 2612km


Leaving Lompoc led me up a gradual incline for 16km in sunny pastures before flattening out and heading back out to the overcast weather of the coast I'd become used to. As the sun finally came back out, I took the opportunity to grab lunch in Goleta and let the hottest part of the day pass by before covering the last 30km to Carpenteria. Riding through Santa Barbara gave me my first real experience of the southern California weather I've been looking forward to - sunny and hot, with the ocean breeze pushing me along.

Leaving Lompoc

I found a fugitive

Santa Barbara


Carpenteria to Santa Monica was the perfect ride. 127km over flat terrain along the sun-soaked coast. I spent a comfortable amount of time riding along beach paths, but fortunately not too much time. Navigating pedestrians gets exhausting.

Getting off the beach path proved the most interesting part of the day. Google decided the best way to cross over the freeway was to lug my bike up a couple hundred steps (think the Baldwin Steps at Casa Loma). My bike is 75lb fully loaded, which was bad enough to deal with, but I was stuck behind another cyclist who kept stopping in front of me, killing any momentum I tried to maintain, forcing me put down and pick my bike back up several times throughout the climb which added unnecessary effort. When I finally got to the top I had to listen to him bitch to everyone within earshot about how exhausted he was after carrying his [feather-light racing] bike up the steps. When he saw me behind him with all my gear and a look of murder in my eyes, he shut up and got the hell out of there.
Carrying my packed bike up that bridge and these steps was not fun.

Finding state campsites with hiker/biker sites south of San Francisco is proving to be more of a chore than I care to deal with today so I'm staying at a motel tonight. The plan for tomorrow is to hit San Clemente State Park, take the following day off before heading into San Diego!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Day 20: Morro Bay to Lompoc. Trip total: 2376km

We need these signs in Toronto

I moved inland from the coast today and left behind the fog - for now. It was refreshing to have sunshine and flat roads for the morning portion of my ride. The only hiccup was when I decided to second-guess google and take a shortcut which resulted in me scaling the only mountain in sight, otherwise I might as well have been on a track for the first 100km.

After lunch I had a 900ft climb into Lompoc, but it was right at the end of my ride so I didn't mind.

As an aside, you might have noticed that I'm a terrible tourist. For me, going on long bike tours is primarily about setting a target and seeing if I can reach it. I enjoy the physical challenge and transformation that takes place, the mental cleansing from the solitude, and taking in what the trip presents. I almost never go out of my way to hit a landmark or check out an attraction, I'm happy to absorb my surroundings as they unfold.

I mention this because I've been getting a bunch of suggestions about places to see and things to check out, and I'm probably not going to do any of them. This might make for a boring way to travel for some, but for me it's been immensely satisfying.

So, I hope you enjoy these pics from another day where nothing particularly interesting happened -

Breakfast of champions before leaving Morro Bay

The missing apostrophe was one of a few things I found disturbing about this sign. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't take a detour to see what this was all about.

My view for most of the day

1/3 of the way up my one big climb for the day

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 18-19: Santa Cruz to Big Sur, Big Sur to Morro Bay. Trip total: 2253km

Network coverage since I left Santa Cruz was almost non-existent until now so I'm packing two days into one post here, strap in!

Actually, things have been uneventful. I'm used to starting my day in fog, but it's generally burned off by noon, but not for the past two days. Oh, I've had pockets of sun, but they've been few and far between.

Riding in heavy fog for an entire day's ride really messes with my sense of space and time. I'm used to intuitively guaging my progress throughout the day based on what part of my body is currently getting sunburned, and seeing the changing miles ahead of and around me keeps me engaged in the ride. Heavy fog limits my world to a 30 foot radius around me, and the time of day is perpetual dusk. This makes it seem like I'm cycling in one spot for hours on end. I can't stress how draining that's been. I won't even mention the added stress of navigating the fog along a narrow cliff edge for longer than I'd care to think about.

Now, with the complaining out of the way, on to the highlights. Santa Cruz was a great stop for me. I've been staying at campgrounds and small towns until now, so getting to play around on a cheesy boardwalk, midway and beach was a perfect change of pace.

From Santa Cruz I made my way to Big Sur and enjoyed brief glimpses of picturesque pastures before heading up the mountain.

From Big Sur I had a challenging ride out of the mountains before hitting a refreshing stretch of flat terrain to finish off my ride in Morro Bay.

I've covered 285km over the past two days and I'm rewarding myself with a motel room for tonight.

From yesterday...



I really wanted this to happen, but sadly...no.

From today...

Under the fog

Over the fog

In the fog

I was told I had to go see Hearst Castle. There it is, that smudge on the left!