Our final few hours in the saddle beckon, (well on this trip anyway). We intend to cycle about 25 miles from Solana Beach to our Warm Showers hosts in San Diego, where we’ll drop off our bags and then (with our travel documents) cycle the last 14 miles to the USA/Mexico border.
We hope that we’ll be able to go across, have our photo taken, then cycle back – just so we can complete our border-to-border trip. We’ve heard so many different and conflicting stories about the USA/Mexico border on our trip so we’re not sure what to expect – watch this space!
I’ve been dreading today’s section of our cycling trip for some time. Travelling into Los Angeles, the most car-dominated city in the USA, by bicycle is not for the foolhardy. To be honest the first 40-50 miles from Ventura to Santa Monica via Malibu were not as bad as I’d expected. Most of the way there was a broad shoulder or a cycle route. Even when we reached Santa Monica and had to head towards downtown LA the roads were signed bike routes and passed quiet residential streets for about 20 blocks. Then we had to turn onto Wilshire Boulevard for about ten miles of car dominated hell. This is when the nerves started to fray. I suggested we could try to see if there was a quieter parallel street we could use. Garmin said not and Mike wanted me to look at the Garmin map. I wouldn’t as to me there seemed no point as Mike was going to follow Garmin come what may. Mike still wanted me to look at the Garmin map, I still refused, this conversation repeated itself several times until I finally blew and cycled off into car-hell that is Wilshire Blvd. I only went two blocks then stopped to wait for Mike, but it was two blocks too far. A silence has descended on our holiday. Hopefully it won’t last long and providing we can get out of LA ok tomorrow and in one piece, (and speaking) we can resume normal holiday communications, which have been rather good up to now.
On a positive note the hotel were fine about us putting our bikes in our room (something we were slightly anxious about in LA) so Mr Van Nicholas and Mr Condor have a very nice 12th floor view towards the Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory.
As we’ve headed south I’ve been expecting to see more Mexican-inspired architecture and generally this has been the case. What I wasn’t expecting was to find myself in Denmark, but that’s where we appear to be, having arrived in Solvang!
Solvang translates from Danish to mean ‘sunny fields’. The town was settled in 1911 by Danish immigrants and they tried to recreated a bit of Denmark right here in sunny California. In addition to timber framed buildings, there are windmills, lots of shops selling Danish pastries in abundance and a statue of the Little Mermaid and its creator Hans Christian Anderson. It’s all very lovely and a bit weird at the same time. Who knows where we might arrive next on our travels?
We’ve met lots of nice pets on our travels (and their owners of course), but we have also seen some alarming animal sights.
In San Francisco we saw a man walking his cat on a leash – I suppose I should have expected this since it was the Castro. When passing through San Luis Obispo yesterday morning we saw a dog wearing a babies’ nappy. Initially I thought it must have been incontinent but then overheard the owner talking to a friend. It turns out the dog had come on heat the day before she was due to be spayed. Fortunately the nappy prevented us and other customers being put off our morning pastries.
The most alarming animal image we’ve seen was in the Giant Redwoods. I know that the USA has a strong gun culture but I wasn’t expecting it to have extended to a familiar children’s character, but sure enough there was Paddington Bear with a riffle. Heaven help anyone who touches his marmalade sandwiches! Whatever next, Tinky-Winky with an AK46 or Thomas the Tank Engine pulling a cruise missile? Guns are one bit of American culture I can definitely do without.
As we head further south in California the landscape is becoming far more arid. Gone are the lush ferns and dense pine forests that were so familiar in Washington, Oregon and northern California and hello to palm trees. The sun has been our constant companion so far today, from the look of the earth it has been around these parts for a while. The grass is very yellow and brown which makes the dark skinned cattle stand out very clearly. The only break in the dry landscape comes with artificially irrigated land such as golf courses or private gardens, these too would shrivel if it weren’t for the constant sprinklers at work, (not sure I approve of such a carefree use of good water when California apparently has water shortages). Lots of suncream needed today – quite a contrast to the weather in the UK at the moment.
Being on a long road trip often brings to mind ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, the movie about three drag queens travelling across the Australian outback in a converted bus. Clearly we don’t have a bus and we are not drag queens, (at least we weren’t last time I checked). But we are covering awesome distances. Today was one of those long stretches, 120+ miles and at points, as the Pacific coastline stretched out ahead of us into the distance, my mind flashed back to the scene in Priscilla when they are looking out over miles and miles of desert as far as the eye can see. I have to admit I have wondered about attaching a long flowing piece of pink chiffon to the bike and blasting out opera through a sound system. However, Mike’s luggage weight restrictions have prevented either of these items being available.
Having any additional drag (geddit?!) while struggling against the awful headwinds we faced today would not have been pleasant, so I suppose the chiffon-bicycle-opera combo will just have to wait for another day.
From San Francisco to Santa Cruz (75 miles) was constant headwind, a shame as it distracted our attention from the really pleasant coastline.
We’ve had another Priscilla moment as we passed (twice) a young guy on a bike laden with four bags, a tent and even a guitar on his back. We’d passed him before in the Redwoods and Eurika, but a bit like the Hare and the Tortoise, he keeps overtaking us! Those familiar with Priscilla will recall the women running across the outback pushing some strange ball who keeps overtaking the coach – this young guy is our equivalent.
Thankfully the wind turned after Santa Cruz, but it still meant that we arrived in Seaside after dark – over an hour later than scheduled. Nick our host was just going out as we arrived – to spend the evening mountain biking in the light of the full moon. We were welcomed by his fiancé Katie who chatted with us all evening and gave some good advice on a Mexican take-away. Today’s exertions have left us pretty weary, so we’re off to sleep now. Only 100 miles to cover tomorrow.
We worked out our final cycle route for today last night using the Garmin/Google map combo. It looks like it will be a wonderful ride on route 35, then Highway 1 all along the coast from San Francisco to near Monterey.
The slightly down side is that it’s a bit longer that we’d thought at nearly 120 miles, but we’ve done it before and we can do it again. Mike was a little displeased at the length of today’s journey, but I know he’ll be fine riding it, especially now our bikes have been fine tuned, tyres pumped etc (fingers crossed for no technical problems) and it was worth it to spend two whole lovely days in SF.
Sadly the old girl didn’t show us her Golden Gate properly, we only got a peak of the top of the towers through the fog, so we’ll just have to return one day. I’m sure we shall.