Week One: Fairfax, California - Pismo Beach, California
Day 8: Pismo Beach - Lompoc
Pismo beach was interesting because I stayed at a host's house from warmshowers.com. He was an middle-aged guy named Eric, and he was leaving the next day to do a cycling tour from Vancouver back to his house. The previous summer I'd ridden a large part of what Eric was about to ride. I think that he'd only accepted me on such short notice because he saw that I'd ridden most of his route. Especially since he'd accepted me on the very night before his big trip.
Over dinner Eric told me that he has been a technician at a maximum security psychiatric ward for the past twenty years. I told him some of the best sections I liked down the west coast, and he told me a little bit about how working in a mental prison was like. I'm sure he was glad to be on a bike trip because his job didn't sound too comforting. In the morning he took his son to school and said he wouldn't be back until later. He left me with the house and told me I that could use his kitchen to make myself some breakfast before I left.
My morning in Pismo Beach started in the kitchen of a beachside house. It was a nice change after a week of camping. Heading out of Pismo Beach the weather was foggy due to the marine layer. As soon as the highway cut east the sun was in full blossom. I rode parallel to the highway on back farm roads most of the day.
The sweet smell of strawberries filled the air from the fields around me. That was certainly the highlight of the ride. After that I passed a button town called Nipomo, surrounded by farms, dust, and a run of the mill shopping district. Just ahead of Santa Maria the bike path turned to gravel and ran alongside the edge of the residential section of town. To my left was endless identical townhouses, to my right was a vast view of farms, train tracks, and a large hill. Santa Maria felt like being somewhere in Latin America except for the signs which were all in English.
South of Santa Maria the highway was the only route to avoid a 2000 foot climb at a 7% or 8% grade. The climb on the highway wasn't too much better. Instead of one monstrous climb it was 4 smaller but still deadly climbs with mostly gradual uphill in between. That was the toughest part of the day. Meditation on the uphills was key.
I arrived in Lompoc quite tired, and I was in need of some food and rest. Rolling into town I looked over and saw a large sign for "Chinese Buffet." At the time I couldn't think of a better place. I had contacted some people from warm showers in Lompoc, and secured another place to stay! After eating I rode a few blocks over to Andrew & Sujata's apartment.
Day 9: Lompoc - Isla Vista
Andrew & Sujata were fun to stay with. They were a young couple who did bicycle tours on a tandem bike. They were getting ready to ride the Trans America trail that summer. They were in the process of moving, and that night Sujata had just received news that she had been given a full ride to Law School in Denver. Things were a bit festive and chaotic at their apartment. I agreed to go out and celebrate with them, so I joined them for a Monday night out in Lompoc. We played some pool, I met all their friends, got drunk, and told them stories about crossing into Canada "naturally" the summer before on a bicycle. We got back to their house and I zonked out on the floor.
I woke up feeling a little less than fresh. I ate some breakfast with my new friends. After thanking them I headed out towards Isla Vista early that morning. Leaving Lompoc the scenery got very nice along HWY 1. Expansive open fields and green rolling hills were all around. Not many cars or people were in sight. Plenty of Hawks and Condors were flying above, and cows by the highway were looking at me curiously as I peddled by them.
To pass the time I was singing songs for a couple of hours and since there were no people around I could really belt them out. I noticed that the cows seemed to enjoy me singing to them and so I made it a point to sing to all the cows I saw. Some of them even trotted alongside me for a bit. The fifteen miles or so of cow grazing land was a very gradual uphill through green hilled valleys, and it culminated to a tiny climb before a three mile 7% grade descent! I zipped down the hill all the way to the ocean.
It was nice having the sea breeze again. The rolling hills along the beach got tiring as the view remained relatively the same. Lots of cars zipping by me again wasn't fun either. I rolled into Goleta a bit tired. A family friend, Gaby, lived in Isla Vista at that time and she had invited me to stay at her place on my way down. I got a hold of her, and off I went to her apartment.
Day 10: Isla Vista - Oxnard
Gaby's house was right in the heart of the college party town of Isla Vista near to Santa Barbara. Gaby lived with three roommates in a big apartment. According to the girls it was unusually slow in town due to spring break. That was ok because I had ridden almost 100 miles in two days, and I'd partied the night prior in Lompoc. I was toasted and so I declined their offer to go out that night and I slept on their living room sofa. The girls went out bowling and I went out like a light.
I was slow to get up the next day. I didn't roll out of Gaby's apartment until 12:30pm or later. Good thing the bike routes along the 101 highway were nice and flat almost the entire first stretch of the day. I biked through the centers of Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria. South of Carpinteria things got a little hairy. There was construction along the 101 that included part of the bike path. I was stuck and the sign said that I had to take a detour. The problem was that the detour was up and over large canyons and would have been an extra twenty miles. The sign was near the north tip of a bay. I could see all the way to the other side of the bay where I saw a pier and what looked like a little town. From my vantage point it looked like the right lane and the bike path, which were under construction, was freshly paved all the way across to the little town on the other end. I figured that the town on the other side must of had a bike path going south. I took my chances and peddled on the closed road. At first it was very nice. Essentially I had my own car sized lane which was paved with immaculate asphalt and I was shielded from the cars to my left by a barricade. It remained like that for about two miles across most of the bay.
Things changed about three-hundred feet from the town, where a large tractor impeded me going forward and the right lane turned into un-rideable dirt. There was an opening in the wall to the 101 for the tractors. I could see the turn off for the town only three-hundred feet away. It was the moment of truth; I'd either ride the 101 on the car lane, which was already a lane down, for 200 feet or I'd backtrack two miles to take a twenty mile detour up and over canyons.
I took my chances, and I must admit that few times have I ever had that much of an adrenaline rush riding my bicycle. I wouldn't recommend that path to anyone. When the dust settled though I got to the other side. I risked my life by turning twenty miles into two.
The rest of the ride I went through smooth and flat bike paths across Ventura. Right after the Oxnard County line I arrived at the beachfront Mcgrath Campground right before dark to find out that the campground was permanently closed. I had ridden forty-five miles to get there, it was starting to get dark, and I remembered from searching campgrounds online that it was the only one in that area. I decided to sneak through the gate and give the campground a little peek before riding aimlessly into the night.
It was a large empty campground with unmaintained lawns, and sandbags blocking the entrances to the bathrooms. The sun was setting, and I knew that I only had thirty minutes of sunlight left. I decided to take my chances again, and for the second time that day I ignored a "closed" sign. I rested my bicycle against a tree, and scouted for the best site. All the numbered camp sites were visible from the roads, and I figured it wouldn't be good to be visible in case the rangers came to check in or worse if late-night hooligans used the site when no one was around.
I found a spot surrounded by low swooping trees in between two of the numbered sites. I set up my tent and hid my bike there too. Time was on my side because literally ten minutes later a ranger drove around the campsite and didn't spot me! The most important thing was that I had made it, I was healthy and I'd stayed on schedule even if it meant breaking some rules.
It was a windy night! Thankfully I was surrounded by trees but even so my tent would have definitely flown away had I not been inside of it!
Day 11: Oxnard - Los Angeles
I woke up suddenly to the sound of wheels on the gravel. It was early and for a second I thought that somebody may have spotted me. I peeked my head out of my tent and I saw a ranger driving around the site. Once again they did not spot me. They drove around and then left. It was a relief not having to deal with them. I got my things together and packed out. I was on the road by 7 am.
I Tried to find a coffee shop in Oxnard and I learned that Oxnard was a town designed for motor vehicles. Long farm lands followed were followed by a large airport which was followed by a large residential area, and no places for wifi were available anywhere. I cycled about 4 miles away from the coast road before I decided to continue south and eventually I cut back west towards the coast again. On my way back towards the coast I finally ran into a coffee bean.
At the coffee shop I plotted my route for that day and I realized that I could make it all the way home to L.A., if I pushed myself. Riding out of Oxnard I stopped at the last farm stand I saw. I figured that it would be the last stand I'd see for a while. I bought a pound of delicious strawberries for three dollars.
I was excited to reach the Santa Monica Mountains. I could feel that I was getting near and I knew that the rest of the ride would mostly be beautiful coast scenery. I stopped at the Sycamore State beach to make some brunch. I also took a little refreshing dip in the ocean. I got to the last campsite in Malibu at 1 pm and there was no way I was stopping there!
It wasn't long until I was in Zuma beach and from there I knew I was within striking distance. I really pushed it, and made it to my moms house before the sun went down! We went out for dinner, and finally I'd have some days off the bike!
Days 12-19: Recharge and Reunion in L.A.
I spent a week at my mother's house. Got to rest my legs and take it easy. My brother, Sunny, had been going through a tough time. Drugs, problems, and living on the streets had enveloped him.
Sunny came by one night to see me. He witnessed my bicycle all geared up and my mojo which came with the lifestyle. Sunny pleaded with me to join the journey. He said he needed to get out of where he was and that his situation was critical. He had a spark to his eye and I could tell that he was being genuine. After all I needed a partner and so we teamed up.
Sunny and I spent the rest of the week gearing him up for the journey..
Weeks Two & Three: L.A. - Tijuana
Sunny and I had to get moving because I had found a young woman on a bicycle-touring website forum, https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/, who was in search of bicycle travelers peddling south into Mexico. Her name is Eva and she was waiting in San Diego with her geared up bike.
Eva had been riding with a friend of hers who, for whatever reason, had ceased their cycle tour early. The two girls had been on a surf/bike tour, and Eva was pulling a surfboard on her bicycle trailer! Unfortunately Eva had been left solo in San Diego. She'd prepared and had hoped to ride all the way to Mexico and beyond but suddenly she'd found herself all alone when her friend left. The prospect of riding a bicycle alone into Mexico is quite daunting, and I know first-hand since I'd been contemplating the journey myself. Luckily for all of us we found each other online.
Sunny I rode from Los Angeles to San Diego with tranquility in three days. My brother was new to the bicycle life and his lifestyle just prior was anything but "healthy," so we took it easy at first. We rolled into San Diego one afternoon and met Eva at a Mexican restaurant. We were all giddy and excited for the trip.
Eva had a friend in San Diego where we were invited to stay. We spent a couple of days at Eva's friend's house before heading south!
Next Stops: Tijuana/Rosarito/Punta Colonet/Santa Rosalia/Mulege/Playa Escondida/La Paz (The Journey continues here..)
Check out my kit and the bicycle that took me from California to Costa Rica!
Awesome volunteering places that I recommend!