I think my bike is trying to tell me that it had about enough, as things keep falling apart. Meanwhile, I get bitten by dogs and ridiculed at the UK border. So long America, and thanks for all the trailmix.
Packing up my gear in the morning had become routine, but dodging the ubiquitous bees at Refugio State Park added a little extra challenge. I cooked a bland batch of breakfast porridge, said my goodbyes to Heather and Joey, and hit the road. The road hit back pretty hard a few miles later when it swung away from the coast and presented me with a steep and long uphill.
The reward, of course, was a downhill ride that took me all the way into Lompoc, where a burger fuelled the onward journey. Going fast was somewhat worrying at this point, as I had discovered that my rear tire had a nasty looking cut in the sidewall. Nonetheless, I made it to Santa Maria without incident, where I opted to stay in a motel and watch Quentin Tarantino movies.
The tire sidewall ripping open and my tube exploding in a loud bang at 3am was a little disturbing, but the feelings of WTF and FFS soon gave way to relief, as this could have been rather painful on the road. Plus, I had been carrying an extra tire since Canada and it finally got its chance to shine.
A delicious breakfast in a small Santa Maria cafe was followed by a relaxed ride through vineyards, hills and a few cute towns. I arrived at Morro Bay State Park in the afternoon and pitched my tent safely out of pooping range of the California Condors that had elected one of the trees in the hiker/biker area as their hangout spot.
The next morning brought a late start, and a slow journey north. I had resolved to make this a half day and stay at San Simeon State Park, about 50 km away. This gave me the chance to check out Cambria, yet another pleasant coastal town with sea food aplenty. When I got to the campground, I found that the showers had been disabled because of the draught, but a brief under-the-spigot wash was sufficient to keep hygiene levels from dropping all too low. There was a horde of twelve other cyclists, all of them southbound of course, and so the evening air was soon filled with bike chatter and the smell of rehydrated food.
When I left the park just after sunrise and ignored the alleged Zebra herd at Hearst Castle, I was en route to Big Sur, one of the highlights of the Pacific Coast highway. Just before I got there though, I passed a massive elephant seal colony. Reminiscent of European holidaymakers on Mediterranean islands, their bulky bodies covered the beach, and fights broke out regularly. They also smelled worse than I did, which deserves credit.
I reached Big Sur in the early afternoon, and the hilly coastal route fuelled my ambition. Pedalling hard got me to Andrew Mora State Park that night (no showers again), and further into Monterey the next day. The scenery was dramatic and the road wasn’t as dangerous to cycle as it had been described to me. Despite the many ups and downs, Big Sur was a memorable and very enjoyable ride.
I stayed with Ala that night, in a small coastal town just beyond Monterey. It was the night of the election and we drowned our sorrows in a few cans of excellent beer. From there, I followed the shoreline into Santa Cruz, where I was staying with Rita, another warmshowers host. I never actually got to meet her, as I spent most of the evening watching the student protests in town. My bed for the night was a cosy little trailer in Rita’s driveway.
The final day of the trip brought a last prolonged climb. Heading inland, I cycled back up to Skyline Boulevard, where the trip had started half a year earlier. From there, I descended into Silicone Valley and made my way to Devon’s place once again, where the bike got its familiar resting spot in the garage.
Over the next three days, I watched a lot of South Park with Devon and Betsy, went hiking with Shiffy in Palo Alto, partied with Max in San Francisco, caught up with Karsten in Mountain View, missed trains, threw away my cycling socks, slept on floors, broke the saddle of my bike, and got bitten in the belly by this innocent looking Cock Retriever.
Because my bike was now fairly unrideable, I took the commuter train and cycled only the last mile to the airport. The flights were reasonably uneventful. Surprisingly, I was able to catch a little bit of sleep. The border control officer in London laughed at me and said he had never seen a passport in such a trashy condition before. I promised him to turn my life around. Then the baggage person told me that my bike was on the list of things that probably didn’t make it through to Edinburgh. Turned out that the list was wrong and his colleague found it for a happily ever after. Stressful stuff though. I need a holiday.