In our first leg of our epic journey cycling from Vancouver down to the southernmost tip of South America, Ushuaia, we travelled through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. With almost 3000 km ridden over the past two months, it has been amazing the places we have gone through and the wonderful people we have met.
Our ride through Washington state included four ferries, four islands, mountains and rugged coastlines. We started in the calm, still waters of the San Juan islands, danced in the streets of the charming Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend, slowly climbed the slopes of Mt. Walker on the Olympic National Forest and sped downhill out onto the calm oyster and salmon rich waters of Hood Canal. After, we cycled out to the Pacific coast with a stop at the small sun-warmed Lake Sylvia nestled in forest, out around the wildlife refuge of Willapa Bay and finally out to Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the mighty Columbia. In this route, I felt like we saw a glimpse of small town America. Towns were a collection of homes, a grocery /convenience store/ gas station /liquor outlet combination and a bar nestled in the forest perched on the side of the highway framed by mountains when you could see them in the rare, clear day. These little towns passed by in a blink of an even on a bicycle. They were working towns – logging and fishing mostly. They were sleepy and understated but had a quiet strength and were always friendly and hospitable. There was always a hello as we passed through and had a snack at their only store. Even the large monstrosities of logging trucks, which it sometimes feels like seeing them approach in my rear view helmet mirror, were perhaps the most courteous on the road. They often slowed down and gave us as much room as the situation could allow.
After two weeks on the road, we crossed the insanely long bridge from Washington to Astoria, Oregon. It was 6.6km (4.2mi) long crossing the Columbia River and I felt like we were on it forever. While the backcountry towns in Washington seemed a little more remote and cyclists were farther in between, the Oregon coast was definitely not off the beaten track. There seemed to be an endless stream of RVs and we were running into groups of people cycle touring daily. However, the Oregon coast is deservedly popular. The horizon to horizon stretches of sandy beaches nestled in green forest or scrub covered dunes, the tall dramatic capes with stunning views and the rippling sea of sand dunes – I felt like we were traveling from one postcard picture to another. Rain was a bit of an issue riding through Oregon. We had a lovely time slowly meandering through northern Oregon, visiting all three breweries and one winery in the two days we spent in the charismatic hipster chic city of Astoria with the inspiring Godiva and Buddy, the beautiful sandy beach at Manzanita and stuffing ourselves with cheese at the Tillamook cheese factory. By the end in southern Oregon, we were doing longer days chasing the sunshine then would hunker down to hide from the storms like at Pacific City or at Humbug Mountain. We were dancing with nature, trying to understand her flows.
After being rained out with a particularly crazy storm, the remnants of an Asian typhoon that hit the southern Oregon coast with 60 mi/hr winds and 90 mi/hr gusts, we crossed in California about a month after departing Vancouver. In California, our stormy headwinds magically switched to amazing tailwinds and our liquid sunshine became real sunshine. The only rain we got in the whole month we were in California was a couple sprinkles in LA, which is amazing with how big and diverse California is. With a coastline 1038 miles long, California is over half of the whole Pacific Coast route from Vancouver to the Mexican border and a significant chunk of the overall Americas. In northern California, there were big trees, big hills and beautiful but heart-stoppingly cold ocean dips. We stood in awe of the ancient redwood forests carpeted with luscious green ferns at aptly named Elk Prairie (which had many elk in a fern prairie beside camp) and the famous Avenue of the Giants, ate whole grain trail mix at the hippy hangouts in Humbolt county, cycled through little Victorian villages that looked to be a step out of time perched on sea cliffs on the isolated, ruggedly scenic Mendocino coast. One store towns surrounded by rolling pastureland dotted with sheep and cattle dropped down in rocky cliffs down to the brilliant blue ocean. Oh and the colour of the water – azure, turquoise, a translucent jade – all of these colour words just don’t seem to describe it completely. I was amazed; the water looked beautiful in Oregon but coming back out to the sea after Legget “hill” (our highest point on the whole route at 1950ft) by Westport was like WOW! The brilliant turquoise looked almost tropical. San Francisco was fun as we rode across the Golden Gate Bridge and bought deep fried seafood and chips from a busy little stand at Fishermen’s Wharf to eat on the docks eyeing up eager seagulls. Monterey, the gateway to the stunningly dramatic Big Sur, draws visitors each year including monarch butterflies that makes an incredible migration each year from southern Canada and the northern United States so their species can survive the winter. After quaint Cambria, the cities and incidentally, the massive power plants and off-shore oil platforms started. While there was oil development off-shore and even on the inland side of the coastal road, the long stretches of sandy beaches was sacred. Worshippers of the sun danced in the waves, jogged along the shores and of-course cyclists in stylish spandex raced along as well. The devoted surfers would sometimes come around sunrise and leave shortly after probably to catch some waves before work. Southern California had a wonderful network of bike lanes and between Santa Barbara and Ventura, there was even a time that we had a bike lane on the busy freeway! We made it almost all the way around LA on a beachside bike path through eclectic Venice Beach. After an amazing 2940.3km from Vancouver, Canada and 59 days later, we have made it to San Diego.
The blog is copied below. However, for regular updates and the tracking map where our SPOT satellite updates our daily location to so you can see where we’ve been for a week, check out our blog for this epic adventure at http://theworldcan.org/biketrip.html.
September 6, 2013 – Getting our Bike Legs On
Strapping over 90 litres of stuff onto two narrow wheels plus us on the bikes is always an adventure. Cycling off into the drizzily Tuesday morning towards Twassasen ferries was a test of balance vs wobble. It’ s like sailors getting their sea legs… With us it’s our bike legs! However, after pumping up a few hills, we find our cycling balance Zen. We made it to Vancouver Island, caught the ferry from Sidney to Friday Harbour on San Juan Island, USA! The island was so nice, we spent the next day exploring it. It has really rich history as the site of the Pig War in the 19th century between the American and the British. Only one shot fired, only one casualty -a pig- this war over said pig was actually about the international border with future Canada. Our third day was a three island day, departing San Juan Island, then crossing Fidalgo Island then over the old, high, narrow bridge at Deception Pass and then crossing Whidby Island. We biked over stunning high lookouts over the water, through tunnels of forest with trees hanging over the road, opening out onto patchwork farms. We have had some crazy weather too: rain, cloudy, a peek of sunshine, fog, hail, lightning and thunder, rain and oh did I mention rain? AND this is all in one day. We were serenaded to sleep last night deep in the woods with the crackle of lightning and the roaring deep rumble of thunder that seemed to resonate forever. We ferried to Port Townsend today, a really picturesque town with lots of little cafes, nestled in historic old brick buildings with sailboats all around in the calm, foggy waters. Apparently, it’s their 37th annual Wooden Boat festival, the biggest of the year here so we may have a short day today and dance in the streets tonight with live music and pirates. Huzzah!
September 11, 2013 – Why did the slug cross the road?
Riding along the road, it is amazing to see how many slugs are trying to cross busy highways. Some you see have just recently crossed. Apart of me thinks it’s rather crazy but then I think of us on our epic journey of cycling to South America. If you take it day by day, moment by moment, the distance will start to roll by and you realize that impossible is only a frame of mind. These are my thoughts as we have passed our first week on the road, braving hills with heavy packs and thunderstorms. It’s amazing to look back and see the distance we have covered in just a little over a week. We have almost completed Washington state! Our packs don’t feel as heavy anymore. The hills are not as intimidating and the rides down are just plain thrilling. Our distances have been getting longer where 50km …with hills…is pretty awesome. We did almost 80km yesterday, crossing over 3 big hills. We left the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend and cycled deep into the Olympic National Forest to Falls View Campground. Mt Walker was a challenge but we went slow and steady up the gentle but long slope and we were at the top before we knew it. Then it was like 8km of downhill opening up onto the calm, still waters of Hood Canal. Hood Canal is known for it’s oysters and salmon and thanks to the wonderful hospitality of our new friends Joan and Alex of Hoodsport, we got to experience both. They taught us how to pick oysters and shuck them too! I never thought of myself as an oyster lover before but man, when they’re fresh like you just picked them, they are awesome! We are now at Lake Sylvia by Montesano, just a day’s ride away from the Pacific Ocean. It is a lovely little sun-warmed lake nestled in the forest.
September 22, 2013 – Oregon Trails
We are now at Pacific City along the Orgeon coast, about 40km north of Lincon City. Our last week has been a lot of fun. Cape Disappointment at the southwestern most point of Washington may have been disappointing and downright treacherous for early explorers and settlers with its hidden sandbars at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. However, it wasn’t disappointing for us with a fun Saturday market, great seafood, bodysurfing on ‘Waikiki Beach’ and hiking trails. They talk about how the mouth of the Columbia is a rich convergence of history from the indigenous peoples of the area to the destination of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 that was monumental in American exploration of the West. We then crossed the incredibly long bridge from Washington to Astoria, Oregon, almost 7km in length. It was like two full bridges on either side with a long floating bridge between them. In Astoria, we stayed with the inspiring Buddy and Godiva on their sailboats. We visited the Astoria Column, which up high on the hill had a breathtaking view of the whole city and area. We also managed to visit all three of the city’s breweries and the very unique Shallon winery, where Paul, an almost 90 year old wine sage who has perfected cranberry and whey wine and a true chocolate orange wine served in an ice cream cone shot glass. The ride south on the Oregon coast raises us up to amazing views of the stunning long sandy beaches with crashing surf. We went to the cheese feast tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory and saw right onto the working rooms with pounds after pounds of orange blocks of deliciousness circling around on conveyor belts. We ended up staying at the Tillamook airport in the shadow of the huge wooden blimp hanger that used to house the navy blimp fleet during WWII! We then rode to Cape Kiwanda with a huge gravity defying sanddune overlooking scenic sandstone formations. It was also the annual Longboard Surfing competition so we stuck around to watch the talented surfers. Today, we woke up to strong gale force winds and pelting rain, coming from the south. It becomes a treacherous situation with forceful headwinds, catching in our panniers like unruly sails balanced on two thin tires on slippery wet roads that sometimes drop away to steep cliffs down to the surf below. Instead, we are hanging out at a warm, dry coffeeshop, recharging our electronics and our spirits watching the blustery weather outside.
Video of Crossing the Youngs Bay bridge from Astoria to Warrenton – http://youtu.be/4kVfKi_Vwow
Video of Cape Arch Tunnel – http://youtu.be/yaZNxSnMJhY
September 30, 2013 – Chasing the Sunshine, Hiding from the Storm
Southern Oregon was stunningly beautiful. There was horizon to horizon stretches of sandy beaches nestled on green forest or windy scrub covered dunes. There were tall dramatic capes that had amazing bird’s-eye view over the landscape for miles…ahem, kilometres *wink*. There were rippling sea of sand dunes that stretched from forest to sea with clear, still lakes nestled inside of them. It was like we were traveling from one post card picture to another. Nature was both stunning and powerful here in Southern Oregon. Getting tired of being rained on and starting to feel like cats stuck in a damp sack, we made some distance and traveled 440km in 6 days, including crossing over 1000km cycled!! We were chasing the sunshine and made good time but then the storm caught up to us at Humbug Mtn just south of Port Orford. The storm was the last legs of a typhoon in East Asia and it was strong. We hid under our tarps for three nights there as we hid from the storm. There is rain — we’re used to that in Vancouver — and then there are storms. It was raining so hard that one night, instead of going to the water tap to wash dishes, I just held it under the corner of a tarp and our largest feed-four-people pot filled up in 5 seconds. the wind howled like semi-trucks barreling down the highway and the trees on the hill were swaying, as Rigel said, like wheat fields in the breeze. Full grown, large trees swaying as if it was grass in the wind. We would hear a crack and BOOM, and a tree right behind camp had fallen over. Humbug Mtn, right in front of us, disappeared from sigh in the swirling clouds and mist. It sounded like crashing waves just outside of the tent but it was just the wind. It was 60 mile an hour winds with gusts up to 90 mi/hr!
Video of running down a sand dune – http://youtu.be/8WQv6NpRuuc
Northern California, USA
October 8, 2013 – In the Shadow of Ancients
We crossed into California and all of a sudden, it has been clear blue skies for the last week. Northern California has been an exercise of hill climbing and then flying downhill – strenuous, thrilling but also absolutely beautiful landscape. We have been wandering from redwood grove to redwood grove, riding in the meditative silence of these tall giants and pondering the timeless splendor of nature. It is like Mother Nature’s cathedral with thick pillars of enormous tree trunks and dappled sunllight filtered through the high leafy canopy in rays of light onto the carpet of fern and sorrel underneath. The sunlight lit up the trees with mystical green halos. There were almost no cars on the scenic Newton B. Drury parkway where we first spent some time with these giants on Elk Prairie (which lived up to its name with lots of elk!!) and the later Avenue of the Giants. These red trees, which are the tallest living thing on the planet, are also ancient. The trees we’re seeing are up to 1500 years old and as a species, it flourished back in time from Jurassic Age with dinosaurs. With some of the trees, you can see evidence of flood, fire, wind damage and ax and they are still growing. Amazing.
Video of downhill after Crescent City Hills – http://youtu.be/kxQbEH-U9DA
Video of riding on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through old growth redwoods – http://youtu.be/usxJcGcWwI0
Video of Avenue of the Giants – http://youtu.be/Rks1Tfm1wJE
October 10, 2013 – A Workout for the Legs and the Eyes: Ascending Legget “Hill” and the Ruggedly Scenic Mendocino Coast
From the Avenue of the Giants and the subsequent Richardson Grove of redwood trees, the ascent began, which crested at the highest point of our trip from the Canadian to the Mexican border: Legget Hill with a summit at 1950 ft. The sign post listed it as a steady ascent on a 7% grade for 4 miles (just over 6 km). It was exhilarating and COLD at the top! You could actually feel the wind get warmer on the descent. The downhill was glorious – lasting close to 20 km, flying through commercially managed redwood forest and an abandoned town of Rockport with old wooden buildings overgrown with moss and windows boarded up. Then, there was the ascent up Rockport Hill, “only” 690 ft, and another glorious abet shorer descent that shot us back onto the beautiful, rugged coastline. There were isolated black sand beaches framed with rocky sea-stacks. Hwy 1 is hilly but amazingly scenic, rising up and down over golden grass covered hills, dipping down to a gulch and almost touching the water then swinging around a hairpin turn to an ascent up to the stunning views on the rocky headlands that drop in cliffs to the ocean below. It was a string a little Victorian villages with gabled homes with wide veranda patios and white wooden halls and churches clinging to cliffsides and nestled in pastureland dotted with cows and horses.
Video of riding on the Mendocino coast around Westport – http://youtu.be/YDi67uJnnq8
Video of riding on the Mendocino coast – http://youtu.be/PrVT874c4vE
Video of descent to the Navarro River – http://youtu.be/Ny0IBekPU54
Video of Mendocino coast on the way to Manchester – http://youtu.be/4SMaQ4i8NrM
Video of riding around Stewart’s Point – http://youtu.be/dKdQu9rl-rg
October 15, 2013 – An Urban Interlude
We cycled out of the cool (both in temperature and awesomeness) redwood grove of Samuel P. Taylor State Park, one of the first in the state of California, on Oct 14 morning on our way to San Fransisco. Though it is hot and dry outside of the redwood grove in the rolling grass ranchland around the park, the tall redwoods lock in the moisture, the shadows and the cold. My fingers felt like little stumps because they were so numb from the cold. It quickly became urban and the ranches were replaced by suburban homes. I reminded me of Vancouver with all of the bike routes. We made it to Corte and then quickly got distracted by a beautiful open air courtyard mall – burgers! French pastries and chai lattes! REI (the American equivalent to the Canadian MEC)! Ah the city life. With the budget debates in Washington, all of the national parks were closed, which meant that the only camping option within 10 miles of San Francisco was closed. After trying to find other options with the help of the friendly REI staff, one staff member, Joe, actually took us in for the night! Joe, thank you. You are amazing. The next day, we made it over the Golden Gate Bridge passing under it’s iconic arches and looking out to the skyline of downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz island in the middle of the bay.We rode on the cyclist path along the bay shore to carnival-like Fisherman’s Wharf. We got some delicious clam chowder in a breadbowl and some fish and chips from a stand and ate it on the dock as some large seagulls looked attentively on. Since we went off route to cross San Francisco in order to see Fishermen’s Wharf and the next camping was about 50km ride south of the bridge, we took the metro the Daly City, a suburb that reminded me a lot of Richmond with Asian supermarkets, sushi and dimsum restaurants everywhere — except it had a lot more hills! We finally found our way out of the suburban labyrinth and maze of cars and traffic. After passing over Devil’s Slide, a grinding ascent, a spaceship like tunnel and then an exhilarating descent with the sun setting over a beautiful sandy beach, we were out of the city and back onto winding oceanside roads.
Video of riding in Samuel P. Taylor State Park – http://youtu.be/PuXUUAQ7Ut8
Video of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge – http://youtu.be/3FOY2P6AqIc
Video of Devil’s Slide tunnel – http://youtu.be/6VBndUoqJVY
October 17, 2013 – We Are the Butterflies
We flew over the flat farmland around Monterey Bay, through lush fields of artichokes, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and cauliflowers. Lively Mexican tunes blared from the fields with people hard at work picking the delicious fruits and vegetables, but always friendly to give us a wave as we rode past. We made it to Monterey, which was both the birthplace and inspiration for novelist John Steinbeck, and we rode through Cannery Row. One of the most magical moment for me was going up to the Butterfly Sanctuary there (well technically in nearby Pacific Grove). Every 4th generation of monarch butterflies migrate down o this grove of eucalyptus and pine trees and a few other groves in California and Mexico so their species can survive the winter. They come from as far as Alaska but most seem to fly from around the 49th parallel in Canada and the United States. Those from the western side of the Rocky Mountains come down to California and those on the eastern side fly down to central Mexico. Amazingly, it is not even the same butterflies that visited last year but rather their great grand-children. A normal lifespan is four to six weeks but this special generation lives eight months so they can make the migration. No one actually knows how the butterflies find the same place each year. We are just at the beginning of the migration and they are just starting to arrive. However, we were walking in clouds of hundreds of fluttering butterflies. They cling to the eucalyptus branches in such numbers they look like brownish leaves… then they flap their wings and reveal their brilliant colours. It is so amazing to consider that these fragile creatures made the exact same trip that we did – travelling down the coast from Canada to this spot in Monterey, California.
Video of dunes creeping onto the bike path by Monterey – http://youtu.be/d_TotWCgXBA
Video of beautiful ride by sand dunes and beach looking out to Monterey – http://youtu.be/CbmDL38OhIw
Video of cycling through Cannery Row in Monterey – http://youtu.be/AwYAheNtOaQ
October 21, 2013 – Between Earth, Sea and Sky
The Big Sur area is dramatic. It is where the mountains meet the sea in a crash of waves and surf. There are grinding long ascents as we wind up mountain roads and then thrilling downhills with amazing views over the brilliant blue ocean. Big Sur, though popular and busy with many RV parks and restaurants to cater to the horde of visitors remains a natural wonder and a truly special place. In the Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, there is a lovely little swimming hole in the Big Sur River Gorge. The adventure starts when the trail ends at the river bed and you have to scramble over boulders, under fallen trees, wade across the river and even through a little rock crevice. The boulders make little cascading pools in the river and after walking up for a little bit, you start wondering if you’ve already passed the swimming hole you were looking for. Then, we saw a towel draped over a rock up the river. People! Maybe there is more. We scramble up a little farther and the rocks open up to this amazing and deep swimming area with its own little sandy beach and a cascading waterfall feeding it. The canyon surrounds it in sheer cliffs with maple trees defying gravity by growing on the sides. We met some amazing friends, Jenn, Ashley, Shawna, Robyn and Matt of Santa Cruz, and played this interesting question game around the campfire. “What is paradise?” – one of the questions that arose. Paradise was here, we agreed. In this beautiful redwood park, in the company of friends and good food, feeling safe and not stressed. Paradise is a state of mind.
Leaving the state park, the roads were bathed in fog. Feathery fountain grass stood as still sentinels along rocky mountain slopes. Sometimes, the sun should shine out from the tops of trees, creating a crown of rays in the mist. The fog and grey gave a mystical quality as we rode along the winding road between the Sea Otter Marine Reserve and the Los Padres National Forest. The bark of sea lions serenaded us on translucent jade coloured ocean (apparently this is also the area to find real jade …we picked up some green stones on the beach – jade? maybe!). There would be black jagged rocks peaking out of the water like fangs and I would see large white rocks in the sea in the distance that when I got closer, realized there were just streaked white by generations of cormorants roosting there. The fog made it so the sea blurred right into the sky, blurring the horizon into a bluish-grey.
A long but good video of riding in the Big Sur area – http://youtu.be/LBYjzUVhm9E
A video of descending into the mist after Big Sur Station – http://youtu.be/gl9wKppuwpE
A video of waves going over road around San Simeon- http://youtu.be/do8PMuuxx9A
Southern California, USA
October 24, 2013 – Hola Palm Trees!
Our redwood groves and isolated beaches have transitioned to rolling farmland as we are entering southern California. There is a lot more people and cities and we are starting to practice our beginner Spanish more. Morro Bay was a lot bigger than we expected coming from towns that were often one street and a couple houses around a grocery store gas station combo perched on an isolated cliffside overlooking the ocean. Morro Bay was an interesting juxtaposition of beach and industrial – there were people jogging on the beach with the iconic huge rock in the bay, the core of an ancient volcano, and the tall stacks of a powerplant in the background — all viewed from the wide shoulders of a busy freeway. In San Luis Obispo, we rode down a palm tree lined boulevard, which made me all excited. From trying to out-race the rain in the Northwest, we have had an incredible run of sunshine. We are on our 25th day without rain. Though the maple tree leaves are turning colours and the Scarecrow Festival where creative life sized paper mache Marilyn Monroes, pirate zombies and elephants line the streets in Cambria herald fall, the palm trees seem to promise more sunny, warm weather to come.
Video of the amazing flat roads after Big Sur – http://youtu.be/xf83_LCov6M
October 25, 2013 – Seduced by a Beautiful Beach
We had big plans this morning as we woke up to an overcast day. As Bryan and I ate most of a jar of dollar-store “Nutella”, we discussed how we were going to make it past Santa Barbara today. We had a spectacular morning riding up our last major ascent left on our journey down the California coast. We rode through a long rolling ascent up narrow valleys in a range of coastal hills, canyon walls lined with trees with hanging moss, for about 14 miles to a top elevation of over 900 ft. All of the rest of the hills in California seem to be 300 ft or below. We crossed the top and then it was a thrilling descent. At the point when I started slowing down, when I started to feel comfortable taking a split second glance away from the road whizzing past me to my odometer on my handlebars, I read 57 km/hr. After a bit of freeway riding, we stopped for lunch at Rufugio State Beach…. and didn’t leave! As we were eating lunch under shady palm trees watching brazen squirrels sneak around seagulls on the sand. Gentle waves lapped onto a sandy bay lined with palm trees. Little kids played in the surf and paddle-boarders looked serene as they floated on the blue waters. The camp host rode up to us in a golf cart, “Are you just stopping for lunch? Best hiker biker site on the California coast! It’s you, the road then the beach!” motioning the short distance from our potential tent sites to the gorgeous beach with his hands. We took a look and were persuaded. We had a lovely rest of the day relaxing on the beach.
October 26, 2013 – Picture Perfect Santa Barbara
After our relaxing day at the beach, we had pretty much perfect conditions the rest of the way to Santa Barbara. The sun was shining, the roads were virtually level, a tailwind pushing us a long and lots of people on beautiful beaches to keep us entertained as we pushed our pedals. The miles just seemed to fly by though the city portions are always a slower challenge of negotiating bike routes. We hung out at Santa Barbara today for a few hours, first eating some fish and chips on Stearns Wharf with some huge seagulls eyeing us up and then cycling up ritzy State Street. State Street is a shopping area reminding me of Robson St in Vancouver with lots of boutique shops, restaurants and sidewalk cafes — except it had a lot more palm trees! With tall palm tree lined boulevards, elegant Mediterranean architecture with red tile roofs and arches and beautiful sandy beaches filled with people out in the sunshine surfing, sailing, jogging, even tight rope walking and yes, cycling, Santa Barbara is the image of California. When we think of Californian lifestyle, the boardwalk area of Santa Barbara captured it almost perfectly.
Santa Barbara is not the only tribute to a saint in the area. Street and place names are filled with saints here. There is Santa Maria, Santa Clara road and Santa Rosa road. Then, as we were leaving Santa Barbara by Carpinteria, we see a sign for Santa Claus lane! Apparently, this beachside road used to feature an 18 foot tall statue of Santa Claus for 52 years alongside his pal, Frosty the Snowman, in a Christmas village themed street.
October 29, 2013 – In the City of Angels
Like peacocks of glass, wood and frame, the beautiful homes of Malibu are perched on the cliffside preening to the scenic natural splendor of the brilliant blue ocean. The ritzy homes continued though out our LA journey as we experienced a very enchanted, privileged side of the City of Angels for the most part. From one night camped out under the stars on the hills of Malibu overlooking a palm tree silhouetted sunset on the bay at the Malibu Beach RV Park, it was a 12.7mile dance with traffic through the rest of Malibu until the beginning of the bike path at Will Rogers that went almost the entire way around LA. Venice Beach boardwalk was an experience of the eclectic. There was a man in a leopard print loincloth (and only the loincloth) standing on a stool on the sidewalk playing with long toy snakes. There were aspiring musicians armed with headphones stopping people in the streets to try to get them to listen and buy their tunes. There were mechanical gypsy fortune-tellers, bikini shops, falafel and fennel cake stands and “clinics” with three or four people dressed in bright green out front trying to entice visitors to get a consultation for a medical marijuana for $40. Mix in surfers, skaters and body builders with biceps perhaps bigger than my torso at Muscle Beach and a sizeable homeless population. There is graffiti art and murals painted on old building walls including the iconic “Venice on the Halfshell”, a modern Venus rollerblading down the boardwalk by artist Rip Cronk from 1989 reinterpreting the Italian Renaissance classic, “Venus of the Halfshell”. Above the blonde beauty are the words “History is myth” herald by Renaissance style angels.
We were very lucky and found an amazing couchsurfing host, Ed, to stay with in Redondo Beach. Cities can be a desert of affordable shelter; ironic because houses are everywhere but even finding a small (legal) space to set up our small tent can be hard. I was worried about crossing LA not because of the traffic or even LA’s sometimes reputation (people in hush tones had warned us not to stray from the bike path) but because it was a huge distance of concrete city. Our guide book listed 83.5 miles between options for tent camping, from Malibu beach RV Park all the way to Doheny State Beach. That’s 134.4 km through an urban maze. We were lucky to have the opportunity to stay with Ed, an amazing local firefighter and white water rafting guide in his spare time. After Redondo Beach, the road went inland a bit and transitioned from long lonely beachside stretches (maybe because it’s off-season? anyways, the empty bike paths were great for riding) and empty, ritzy beach homes to busy streets filled with strip malls with cheap fast food Mexican joints, cheque cashing places and dollar stores. The numerous places closer to the beach offering to “reverse the signs of aging” were replaced by McDonalds and El Pollo Loco fast food joints on every corner. We passed by the busy Port of Los Angeles with powerplants pumping grey fumes out of their stacks and big trailer trucks dominating the roads. As we stopped at the McDonalds in Wilmington to take a short break from the hectic traffic and to recharge the bottomless pits that is our stomach these days, an older black man stumbles up to us with rumpled, ragged clothes and pink sores on his face. He asked us and the other people entering and exiting the door for change. These two younger men who had been excitedly asking us about our trip in classic gansta speak handed the man their change and their food receipt, which you need to get the food from the counter. A split second later, another woman waved the man over with an enthusiastic smile and cheerful call, knelt down to tie his shoes and gave him some clothes from her car. As we were leaving, the man was now eating and more well clothed. City of Angels, indeed.As we came back to the beachside promenade at Seal Beach, we returned back to a fresh ocean breeze and upper-class beach neighbourhoods. Erin and I stood on a street corner in Seal Beach discussing if were were still in LA and a local resident came up to us and adamantly cleared up the debate, “You have left LA. You are now in Orange County.” The OC was clearly differentiated from LA. We had made it! We had cycled through LA!
Video of riding through Venice Beach – http://youtu.be/26qLy2AH5GY
October 30, 2013 – A Military Detour
Today, we cycled through the active Marine Corp base of Camp Pendleton just north of Oceanside today. Even as we approached the base on a bike path made from an old abandoned part of Hwy 101, a military helicopter swooped down at us, checking us out before flying out along the beach. They came so close that it was like some Marines were going to jump out, repel down and ask us for ID. After the tragic events of September 11, the wary Marines had closed off their base to cyclist, forcing them to the only other option of the insanely busy I-5 freeway. However, a decade later, they are once again open to cyclists. We showed our ID to a young soldier at the gate, who seemed to be more excited about hearing about our trip than actually examining our IDs and then we were in. As we were crossing the base, we came up to a spot where a sign said “AAV/Tank Crossing”. As we were wondering what AAV stood for, an armoured assault vehicle appeared from the bushes on one side of the road, crossed infront of us and then disappeared into the bushes on the other side of the road. With wheels rather than the continuous track of a tank tread, the black, dirt covered vehicle was only a little smaller than a tank, reminding Bryan of a modern incarnation of a war elephant. It was bristling with a half a dozen marines with assault rifles pointing in all directions and a large turret in the front. Super surreal.
October 31, 2013 – San Diego!!
It is kind of crazy but amazing; after 2940.3km from Vancouver, Canada and 59 days later, we have made it to San Diego. It was a bit of a challenging ride as we are in the city (the urban area really has not stopped from before LA) and bike routes seems to search out obscure and constantly changing back roads. This is a quote from our directions: “Pass Bird Rock Elementary School, then turn left and ride up a narrow alley. Pass the school playfield and turn right into another unnamed alley. Take a left on Agate Stm the second normal looking street off the alley.” Mission Beach was full of people enjoying thge sunshine on the beach and crossing a couple more bridges, we were deep in the heart of San Diego, which seemed to centre around the well protected bay filled with marinas. We had a long picnic lunch at Spanish Landing park, where the Spanish first landed in the area and then a victory beer in the touristy but nice ‘village’ of Seaport. It’s amazing to look back at the last 2 months to see how much we have traveled and how we have grown, especially our rock-hard thighs! We are excited for the challenges and adventures of Baja California to come but first, we are spending a week in Phoenix with Bryan’s parents; a little vacation from our vacation. Apparently, the trick of moving really fast is to put the bikes in the back of the truck.
Video of Riding around the Embarcadero in San Diego California – http://youtu.be/e5dvpUouGs0