Sunday, October 12, 2008

Epiloge - Isnt that what they call it.


Well its over. A job that was 8 years in the making. A dream that was in the head. A dream that was talked about in times over a pint..'You know what I would really like to do?' 'No. What..'
Id love to cycle the Pacific Coast Highway from Vancouver to San Diego.''Well, why dont ya?'
Ah! I will one day...... have another pint..!
There were a few serious attempts ...well attempts! None too serious. If Im honest.
Then I turned 60. I thought.? If you are going to do it you better get serious.
They say you rarely regret the things you do but you always regret the things you dont do.
It was in Paulines garden, cutting the grass. There was an intervention. An element introduced, which made it possible to move, and it was a commitment.That commitment came from somewhere deep in the heart. Someone saying 'Do it now or regret it forever!' So I decided there and then to 'book the flight'.
No more prevarication.
Time to live the dream.
That done, everything else was easy. Make the plans, dust off all those old websites. 'Crazy Guys on Bikes' Dig out the book 'Bicycling the Pacific Coast'
Tell people!... 'your mad' 'your nuts' 'on your own?'' why not wait and go with someone'.
But I can tell anyone now ...
THERE ARE AN AWFUL LOT OF CRAZY PEOPLE OUT THERE. A lot of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Nice people!
There's a guy who is on his way round the world on a bike
there's a couple who cycled from Northern Alaska heading for Tierra Del Fuego. There's the 2 brothers whose jobs weren't going so well, Never rode bikes before, no training, bought 2 second hand mountain bikes and headed out from Seattle to San Diego. (have to say I worry about them).
My 'support group' Intrepid Canadians mostly. Who do something crazy annually. They are off to cycle China next year! Nutcases!!
Have to say, by and large, members of the older community. People with wisdom and fortitude. Not given to fanciful ways. Just ordinary people who want to do stuff and dont see the pitfalls.
THE BAND! A 5 piece band who were cycling the Pacific coast. Travelling with all their instruments including a drum kit. (Im Serious) and a double bass in a trailer behind the bike which was a coffin.Playing in different venues every night.
A lot of nutcases out there.
But people who live the life and dream the dream and make it possible.
Acouple wholeft their home in 2004 cycling round the world, were not due to finish until 2011. Can you believe that!!
A lot of crazy people.
I have been taken with the generosity of people and the support from people.Unexpected support, which made me feel that the next town or person i meet could be someone who will, in some way, change me.
And so it was.
In Vancouver, Colin Shanogue in The Bottle Tipper who gave me my breakfast every day and some nice dinners.
The bus driver who carried my bike across the tunnel in Vancouver and gave me a verbal travelogue of the islands in Puget Sound I should go and see.
Jean, who took my picture on my camera in Vancouver park in front of the Totem poles. She wanted to tell me her life story.Her husband wasnt too impressed.
All the people on the ferry to Vancouver Island who enquired what I was doing and told me their story.
The people on the ferry from Victoria to Port Angelas who seemed to be lining up to ask me about my trip.
The surly US immigration officer who told me to go back and fill out the form right. And the sweet lady immigration officer when I went back up. Cause surly was busy..

Piroska and Donald who extolled on me the ways of the camper. And who in reality gave me that, wanting to do it. And so it proved. Looking back, the nights in the tent, uncomfortable as they may have been where the best nights. Out under the stars listening to the surf. Meeting like minded people. It is an amazing dimension to experience that a soft bed doesnt give you. So to Perouska a very special thank.
Forrest Daniel, a professor of voice. 2 professors in one day!! Donald was also a professor. who was 'Salem or bust' who inspired my 'San Diego or bust' banner which got me so much praise and support on the road.
Nancy and Paul from Crazy Guys my support team. Nancy a retired teacher and Paul a nuclear observer, no less! Crazy Eh?
Chris and Tracy Berryman my first night camping companions
from Tacoma who shared their camp dinner with me and gave me coffee the next morning.
Werner from Cross canada who extolled the virtues of the heart rate monitor which really helped me.
All the cc crew.
John from London the Adventure cycling group who i never saw again. His wife had bought him the trip as a present on his 60th birthday.
Bonnie in 'Art Happens' in Nahelem who gave me a place to stay, where there was nowhere else. Trusted me with her paintings and left me with some music playing that really soothed me.
Virginia Gillmore in Yachats who showed me where she had marked the rising of the sun on all the solstices.
Herman and Mary Hutchinson in Half Moon Bay who brought me to their house and treated me to cheese and biscuits and some nice charrdonnay and watched the sunset from their deck.
, who invited me to his house in Berkeley in San Francisco. Told me to stay as long as I wanted.
, from Navan who had recently moved to San Francisco with his dad. Who wanted to pint with me in San Fran. Unfortunately or fortunately I got his message too late.
Ed and Marge Moore from NY and\Florida who had me to lunch and in the best traditions of a new Yorker made me promise him a dinner in dublin when next he comes.
Berry who got me out of San Clemente when I was lost.
And Jim Barnes a retired teacher who was cycling in aid of his foundation set up for his brother who suffered brain injury. He was stopping at every hospital on the way from Canada to San Diego to tell them about his foundation. He was great company for last few days of the trip.
All those lovely people who spoke to me and encouraged me on the way down and who thought I was awesome. There was never a begrudger. Not a single negative comment all the way.
And all those lovely people, my family and friends who didnt forget me out there.
I give a humble Thanks.
Thanks for making it memorable..... CHEERS!

san Elijo State Beach to Mexican Border 54 miles


The morning breaks early..
The joggers start at 6am (can you believe it!!) No respect for the elderly who want a lie in..
Jim and I rise and get set for the day. Break camp for the last time and decide to go and have breakfast together before we take on the day.
A young guy came to the camp last night to introduce himself. He lived in the town and had just completed his Canada to Mexico border trip yesterday. Came down to see if we needed anything. I dont know how he knew we were there but I suspect he was so full of his trip.. he didnt want it to end. I think i know how he feels....
It was he who told me about the great breakfast place.
Over we go, and as we enter this crowd of guys say... 'Where you coming from?' We say 'Vancouver' and they exchange to each other 'didnt I tell Ya' RESPECT!!
Great breakfast!
Jim and I decide to say our goodbyes, in case we do not see each other on the trip today. He has his stuff to do.
I head off apace down the road. Feeling elated and excited about the day ahead.
There are so many joggers on the bike path its like there is a marathon going on, Ladies in there shorts and T shirts, all carrying these big bum bags with water and the like. I cant imagine what is in there. They look like a SWAT team. But its probably like their handbags. Full of junk and change...

I thought all the climbs were behind me but entering Le Jolla (pronounced Le Hoya) there's a 3 mile climb about 6%. Im passed by many many road bikers. You get the impression they are trying to impress... fly by.. then run out of legs and slow. But great support... guy goes by.. tips me on the back and says 'awesome climbing man, fully loaded'. I get near the top and a biker who has stopped shouts ' thats great climbing buddy, with all those bags'. Its enough to lift you over the crest. Also guys going down on the other side shout encouragement when they see me.
This has to be one of the great things about this trip. The support and the encouragement i have got.A true bonus!!
Over the top and spinning now through La Hoya on the outskirts of San Diego a nice area.
As I wend my way around, following my direction book up hills and down dales I join a short bike path that brings me out into a quiet estate of houses and as I slow to check my direction a voice comes from a garden. 'Where you coming from?'.. 'Vancouver!'.. Awesome!!
I stop for a chat and in the conversation I say I am surprised by the support and encouragement I am getting, especially from people like him. He says ' well man, your a traveller, you deserve encouragement'. I tell him I thought all the climbs were behind me and I refer to the climb at La Hoya. He says , I know, I saw ya'. So he knew I would come by some time later and waited for me. What about that?
On I go into San Diego. What a beautifully situated city. Lots of water, outdoor life. A great place to live from what I can see.
Im sitting at a light and this guy in a pick up leans out the window.. ' Where you coming from?' 'Vancouver' I say... 'Didnt I see you in Oregan a couple of weeks ago?' ' You could have!' 'Way to go man!!' ... and he is gone...
No time to dawdle, the border beacons..
In my enthusiasm, I lose my way in National City. Its like driving down the North Wall in Dublin only miles longer. I miss my turn and have to go into a Wendy burgers place to find my way.
I meet some State Troopers who put me right. Soon Im barrelling down through Chula Vista. Getting distinctly Mexican now. And on into San Ysidro. I didnt ask for a pronunciation here. Just go... your nearly there........I see the huge city ahead, of small houses and soon enter a conjested town full of money changer places.I know im close now.
My map holder has fallen apart now and my directions are confined to my back pocket. which means I have to keep stopping to refer to them....
Pass under US 805 freeway...right on Camino del la Plaza... cross the interstate 5.... and take the first left.. follow the signs for bus and taxi parking ...
Then I see it ... like the M50 Toll Plaza except its got MEXICO above it.... WOW!! Im Here!!
I cant believe it... I cant be here ..after all this time.. 37 days with two days rest. 1984 miles.
But I must be .. there is a barrier says I cant go any further.. 100's of people streaming into Mexico on foot through barriers.. it has to be true.
And in a strange way its an anti-climax......

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Huntington Beach to San Elijo Beach Park 69 miles

This was an early start. I was so tired last night I checked into the worst motel ive stayed in. But it was ok. I just needed a bed.
Up at 6.30 and gone by 7.30 on the last big push.
It was an uneventful pull except that i Had my first spill. I was stopping to take a look at my map when my pannier bag caught a high kerb and knocked me off before I could get my foot out. Nothing serious, a bit of road rash on my knee and wacked my lip.
War wound!!
A pleasant ride apart from that through towns and cities. All built up except for a couple of short country stretches.
I took a wrong turn through San Clemente and while i was wondering which way to go up comes Berry on a road bike. He kindly stops to help me out and agrees to lead me out of the chaos im in. He kindly gets me on track and leads me through the hills and byways of San Clemente down as far as Camp Pendelton. He is a very fit 70 year old and a true gent. So, thanks Berry for your help.
Camp Pendelton is an army base where before 9/11 you could have sailed thro but now is restricted entry. Berry suggests I should ride the freeway. Its noisy and hot but its straight. I go for the easy option. The base was open and it was okto ride through it, as long as you had I.D. and werent a threat but my goal has always been totake the shortest route. So its freeway for me. I will never critisise the traffic on the Naas Duel carriageway again.
Soon im into Oceanside and Carlsbad. I had met Jim earlier and we agreed to meet in Carlsbad State Park but when I get there they wont take hiker bikers.
I leave a message for Jim, I have gone south another 9 miles and he soon follows. We meet up at San Elijo Beach and pitch tents. Cloudy evening but nice. Last pitch of the trip so make it good. I poach the internet from outside a real estate office , with their permission of course to do the blog.
We are pitched right a girl guides camp and Imin bed at 8. These little tykes are playing Hide and Seek till 10. KIDS!!!
Put thatwith the train track 100 yards away with the trains which give loud, long blasts on their horns (if thats what they are called) till 3am.
Not going to be much sleep tonight...
Big Finale tomorrow. 54 miles to the Mexican border... bring it on...
No pictures today. Nothing really worth seeing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Santa Monica to Huntington Beach 41 miles




There you go Peter. The bandana came to me in a flash of stylish wisdom... I think it could be permanent and fetching around Latton. What do you think??
I was glad I made that jump from Leo Carillo to Santa Minica yesterday because the 41 miles today was the least enjoyable cycling it was possible to have. It was both physically and mentally challenging and exhausting.
Once I left Santa Monica I had 9 miles on a cycle path the wound its on the beach. It was pretty scenic and novel at the start. With road bikers, roller bladers, people walking dogs and kids. But soon it became tedious with a fine film of sand on the concrete path which threatened to bring you down at every winding turn. The walkers and joggers and roller bladers became a nusience and sometimes it was just plain dangerous.
The cycle path went through car parks around marinas and at one time wended its way through an underground car park, Really!! like the Ilac center and out the other side. Then across a pier and ended at a very busy junction of the Pacific Coast Highway. Then it was 25 miles of heavy traffic through Los Angelas riding on the road without a shoulder. Traffic lights every 100 yards which always seemed to be red against you. Those guys out there wanting to kill you and on top of it all a headwind. I really had to be on the alert at all times. No day dreaming on the road here.At one stage I had to negotiate around a Highway Patrol car that had pulled in a driver. He had ssopped it awkwardly and forced me out onjto the outside lane to pass him with a bus passing at the time. I let him have it as I passed 'You are going to get me killed officer' i shouted at him. I tink he was shocked tohear me. But thankfully didnt react.
The ride finished with a windswept 6 mile open road into Huntington. By the time I got there I was ready for the first kip i came to. I didnt care what it was like. I am exhausted....

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mc Grath Beach to Santa Monica 59 miles



We agree to meet today at the Leo Carillo State Beach, as its the last hiker/biker camp before south Los |Angelas. Its a short run, only 27 miles.
Im slow out of the blocks today. One reason is that I have my tent folded, packed and stowed and discover the keys of my bike lock are inside the tent. So all has to be unloaded and opened to get the keys. Language is foul!!
Everyone is gone before im ready to go, so I head off alone. 3 miles down the road and no breakfast in me I find a Subway and in for a sandwich and coffee. While Im having it they kindly charge up my phone.
Off again and into Port Hueneme, a huge American Naval Base and from there, across miles and miles of farm land. 100's of acres of parsley, (no kidding) And lawn turf 100's of acres. Wild!!
Around the naval base I come across this display of Fighter Jets and Missiles. See the pics!
Then I hit the coast again and these fantastic beaches.
Shed loads of surfers and beach people generally. Nobody seems to work out here. I soon come on my destination of Leo Carillo Beach Park.
Going in, there is no one there that I know and Im feeling fit still. Its early in the day and I cant justify stopping. So I decide to move on. The guys will realise that when I dont show and Ill see them tomorrow on the road anyway. A groupofteenagers on the road see me coming and and have the crack. Where you coming from buddy...? I say Vancouver... and he nearly gets sick... wow awesome!! The girls go 'way to go man'. RESPECT!!
So on up the road and a few miles further on I see Malabu! Did you ever think?? Long sprawling beach goes for miles.
I decide to go another 20 miles and get a motel.
Malibu is nothing to write home about,except for the people who build these homes on stilts right on the beach! Anyone tell them about storms or stuff...? Apparently not! Its magnificent beach with huge seas and surfers but apart from that no big deal, so move on. Im gone my 20 miles so I decide.. a motel here anywhere will do. NO HOTELS, NO MOTELS just rich beach front houses and nothing aproximating a lodging house.
Ok move on, Topanga.. nothing! Santa Monica where the drivers actually want to kill you! But no hotels!!
Starting to panic now... visions of sleeping on the beach. I join the Santa Monica bike path down along the beach for safety sake.
Now you see it.. Roller bladers, skate boarders, chicks bursting out of hot pants, jogging with ear phones, kids on bikes, boards and anything that has wheels, beach bums, body builders, muscles and boobs legs and ... the rest! Lovers, liars, smoke sellers and hustlers... all together in profussion. The beach, as I approach Venice Beach is thronged with people. 5pm. Hate to think what its like in full summer at mid day. Mad!!
Then on Venice there is about 2 miles of stalls selling al sorts of beads, baubles ,hats and the like. I think !!!!! Haight Street in San Francisco!!! Its all moved here. This is the new hippie culture. Right here on Venice Beach In Santa Monica..
Anyway. my problemis not solved... where am I going to lay my weary head. I ask a taxi driver and he points me in a direction... Holiday Inn!! You deserve luxury my boy after all you have been through..... book in... shower.. those little bottles... smellies and a soft bed and 2 tv,s.
Ill attend to my own body now....What muscles I have.....
Long Beach California.. another iconic name. Tijuana looms in 2 days

Refugio State Beach to Mc Grath beach 54 miles



Woke up to a Tequila sunrise and the sounds of the sea. Got organised and headed off again with Jim. Heading for Mc Grath State Beach.
Jim has a foundation for his brother who was injured badly in a fall at work and is now paralysed. When he was in rehab with his brother he saw there were a lot of kids in there who had hurt themselves (mainly head injuries) falling off bikes and scooters and roller skates. Now with the assistance of the police,they go to outings where kids are biking or skating and provide them with tuition and gave free helmets. Its a great cause. He is doing this trip, Canada to San Diego and calls at all the hospitals on the way down totell them about his foundation. As his literature says 'I am my brothers keeper' A great man!
We cycle our own path down and agree to meet later in Mc Grath Beach. I meet him later and he tells me he has met another Swiss guy who is coming to the park as well and I soon meet him on the road too. We stop for an ice cream and head on at our own pace. As I am going through a town I hear my name being shouted out and there at the bus stop, in civies, are some of my Cross Canada friends. They are having a day off and are getting the bus to town for some shopping. A few miles up the road I come across a library and I go in to get the internet, to post yesterdays blog. Who comes in, only other members of the Cross Canada group with the same idea. We bring each other up to date on our news and as I am leaving I meet Jim also having an ice cream. So we agree to cycle together for the rest of the way. Then Hans from switzerland joins us and the 3 amigos zipp into Ventura together. Jim has to go to a hospital to check in with them and we loose Hans going through Ventura. I make it to Mc Grath on my own and find only a solitary bike (no owner) in the camp site. Kurt soon arrives having been out in the sea for a swim, to claim the bike. Hans arrives and two young guys from Canada ride in, Jim arrives and we have a bit of crack around the table for the evening. Everyone has a beer with them(only one) and its very sociable.
Soon its dark and its off to bed at 8pm.
Better get used to it guys John is off to bed every night at 8 when I get home. Its ingrained...

In the night we are visited by racoons. They are devils, about the size of a cat but with front paws that are like fingers. They can open zips and bags and they are very curious. They upturn the bin and move the stuff around. Up on the tables and will open bags to get whatever is in them out.
But apart from that they are pretty harmless.
Tomorrow is an easy ride down to Malabu... and the GIRLS!! Bring it on....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pismo Beach to Rufugio Beach 77 miles






If you ever wake up and think 'this day is going to be a crap day' and decide to fold your tent on the day and go back to bed!!... dont!
Cause one thing i discovered today was that, no matter how you feel on any given day, as sure as eggs is eggs by lunch time things will have usually changed for the better.
That was how today was for me.
I woke this morning I had a sore bum, my legs ached, i didnt sleep too well and I was feeling 'this is not what i want to do today'.
I got no breakfast cause it didnt start till 8 and i wasnt waiting around. I headed out and soon, after a few miles, I had no legs. I was up and down in the saddle trying to find a good place to sit. It just wasnt working. A guy pull out in front of me on a bike and bob , we say good morning and in the chat i tell him I think ill only make Lompoc 28miles down cause im tired. He says the same and goes off.
He goes off ahead of me cause im slow today. Then Im passed by another guy on a bob who i had been with a few days previous and he goes on ahead of me. The last day we were on the road I was leaving him for dead. A measure of my malaise!
I stop 10 miles down the road for a coffee and bun and am writing the day off.
On the first major climb of the day i am joined by a nice guy who slows for a chat and i tell him to go ahead as im not on form today. He says you know, that rarely does a day finish the way it starts and by lunchtime you might feel differently. After a while he leaves me and i stop for a 5 minute break. Then the energy comes from somewhere and im sailing along. A few miles down the road just before the next climb of the day I come across him again and the first guy on the bob, stopped for a puncture. I stop to assist. The first guy says he is trying to make Santa Barbara. A good bit down,like another 70miles from where we are now. I refer him to the major climb after Lompoc and he tells me its 14 miles long.
I say yes that's a major climb and im not doing it. But he says 'well if it 14 miles long it cant be very steep!! good point. I head up that climb and sail into Lompoc energised. Stop for the proverbial 6ins subway and im ready for this 14 mile sucker.
I break my own rule by taking out the ipod and putting on Van the man, Astral weeks. Talk about the angels? Its totally inspirational and im flying up the climb. Its 85 degrees in full hot sun and im loving it. Got the factor 30 on and Im covered. Then comes REM more inspiration then Meat Loaf. Im bombing along and im eating this sucker.. Feeling really strong now. Make 2 stops for a weener and a gateraide and off again.
Finally, with a whoop and a holler, im at the top of the very last hill on the Pacific Coast. What a feeling. Ive got here and done all the hills and now its plain sailing all the way to San Diego. I am so happy with myself .I stop to take my picture.
Grandads a Genius rings in my ears.
The downhill was the best yet 2.5 miles of 7% grade. Im in the big ring and Im flying hit 40mph shirt akimbo and its a whizzer.
Camp ground awaits a mile of so up the road. When I get there the State Trooper tells me the camp is closed for the winter. But Regugio Beach is only 10miles further on.
Im ok! My ass is grass but the legs are like Fred Astaire. If somebody would massage my bum i could go for ever. The 10 miles is a flat fast run and Refugio soon appears. There im right on the beach and I go in for my first swim in the pacific. Really nice! I meet Jim the guy I met this morning who said he was going to stop in Lompoc.
He says I inspired him to do the last big climb and he is pleased he got here too. We share a bowl of mushroom soup and he brings some choc cookies his wife made for him and we have a nice evening over a beautiful sunset by the beach. Idylic!
Best day yet by far on the bike. I learned a lot about myself today. Stuff i wont forget.
Into santa Barbara tomorrow. To where the beautiful people go. 100 miles from LA. I sleep a great sleep to the sould of a thundering sea less than 50 yards from my tent. Where would you get it.....