Well, here we are again. The ride this time was
from San Francisco to Los Angeles and again, mission accomplished.
The initial plan was for my buddy Steve and I to pedal around Napa
for a day with my new friends up there and then make the run south
to LA in 6 about days. As I am sure you already guessed though, it
didn't work out quite as planned.
The trip started well enough as Steve and I both arrived in San
Francisco as anticipated, but we had to cancel the Napa part of the
ride as I tried to plan it all last minute
The morning of our first day riding met us with a steady rain.
Fortunately, while eating breakfast the rain tapered off. We pedaled
though downtown San Francisco, so as to start at the spot where
Steve had finished his cross country bike ride three years earlier
(we had left from my finish point in San Francisco, so I was
covered). Now, neither of us do much group riding so we felt it
necessary to go over all the hand signals to be used. They come in
handy when someone is drafting 2 inches off you back tire at 20 MPH.
It was somewhere shy of the 2-mile mark where we had our first and
fortunately last accident. The accident basically entailed Steve
ramming his bike in to the back of mine as I was stopping abruptly.
Steve's front tire took on a wobble as a result whereas I had only
cosmetic damage on my bike. I can't say whose fault it was for sure,
well, actually I can. It was mine. In any event we carried on.
It was a pleasant, sweat inducing climb (if there is such a thing)
out of San Francisco proper through the Presidio. Our intended route
was to take the Pacific Coast Highway, California Route 1, all the
way down to Los Angeles, if only we could find it. It was about an
hour in to ride where we did the "I thought you had a map", "No, I
thought you had a map" routine. All that we needed were big floppy
shoes and some red clown noses to complete the picture. I could
almost hear the circus music in the background.
Eventually we found our way on to Route 1 and some spectacular
scenery. The road climbs up and down cliffs overlooking the Pacific
Ocean. At times, waves are breaking not twenty feet from the road.
We could easily pick out the tourists driving down the Pacific Coast
Highway as they had their rental Chrysler Sebring, or Ford Mustang
convertible. And on a completely overcast chilly day, the top was
still down, probably with the heat blasting.
Another thing we had not planned was where we would finish up on the
first day. The stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway once 40 miles
out of San Francisco was rather desolate. At least more so than we
had anticipated. We had run out of food and water about 60 miles in
to the day with little hope of finding anything for another 25 miles
until we hit Santa Cruz. We ended up pulling in a little rest area
where there was a guy playing with his dog. He inquired about our
story, which we happily shared. The guy was kind enough to give us
some water to hold us over. He also thought it was such a great
story that it warranted the consumption of certain controlled
substances, which, obviously, we declined. He apparently had been
taking them as he told us the next 15 miles were absolutely flat.
Wrong! If you recall from some of my former updates though, I rather
ride uphill all day than fight the wind. I stick by that, so no
complaints from me.
We pulled in to the town of Davenport after about an additional 15
miles. The town was basically a cafe, Bed and Breakfast and little
else. As we were quickly running out of daylight, we would have
stayed at the B&B, but were told that they were closed for the
night. They had a room, but the manager wasn’t there to rent it to
us. The race was on against the remaining sunlight and the last 10
miles to Santa Cruz. As we began to pedal away, the manager of the B
& B came out and said she would rent us a room. The room was not
exactly what I would call the most masculine of all rooms as it was
called "The Flower Room" or some such thing. The room had far more
doilies and lace than we would ever need in our lives, but talking
about football and guns made us feel better about the situation. We
ate dinner at the cafe and were asleep by 9:00 as there was nothing
else to do.
Steve and I got a fairly early jump the next day even with squeezing
in 11 hours of sleep. We made our way south another 65 miles to
Monterey. For some reason the two days of riding had taken a toll on
our knees. Perhaps it was riding too long on the first day out of
San Fran or perhaps our bikes were set up improperly, who knows? We
ended up taking a day off in Monterey so that Steve could try to get
his knees back in shape as he was having more trouble than I. I
opted to pedal the 17-mile scenic drive around the Monterey
peninsula. The 17-mile scenic drive lives up to its name in all
respects. The route was 17 miles and hugely scenic, passing along
the ocean as well as numerous golf courses, including Pebble Beach.
Afterwards, Steve and I ended up walking downtown for some lunch and
a few pints. There were three English pubs in Monterey that we were
able to find, so we opted to sample them all. Sort of a compare and
contrast with the Crown and Anchor being my favorite.
The next morning, with much anguish, Steve had to make the decision
to call off the ride so as to not potentially do permanent damage to
his knees. Certainly a tough call and one that would have me
pedaling solo again. As I wasn't 100% either, I rode a meager
30-mile day to Big Sur. Steve had rented a car to head back to his
place in LA, but met me for lunch in the event that I would have to
call it off as well. I decided to press on. This left me in Big Sur
at 2 PM in a motel with no TV or telephone. I couldn't even get my
cell phone to work. I cleaned my bike for two hours, read a journal
I had written when I was in South America a couple months earlier,
ate dinner and it was still only 7:30. I was asleep shortly after 8,
which was fine as the next day was to be the most strenuous of this
leg of the trip.
That next day I was riding to San Simeon, a town that exists solely
to cater to the visitors of Hearst Castle. It was a tough ride up
and down all sorts of seaside hills, some without guardrails, but it
was the most scenic day of the trip. It was also one of the days
where I did not have to get off Route 1, as is mandatory when it
passes though certain areas. As I got an early start, I finished up
rather early and had some time to hang out down by the beach. My
time would have been better spent visiting Hearst Castle that
afternoon as opposed to the next morning, but as I forgot to set my
watch back the night before for daylight savings so I thought I had
missed the last tour of the day. It was just another bit of superb
planning on my part.
In the morning I hopped on the bike and rode the four miles back to
the Hearst Castle visitor center from where they bus you up to the
castle itself. It was probably only the third time I had locked my
bike on the entire trip and I was at least somewhat paranoid. For
those of you that have the opportunity to see Hearst Castle first
hand, I highly recommend it. It is an icon of a time long since
The rest of the day was a rather uneventful and one that landed me
in Pismo Beach running out of daylight. While in Pismo Beach I ran
in to a couple of Brits that happened to be biking from LA to San
Francisco. We ended up meeting for a few pints later on that night
and exchanged some good stories.
From Pismo Beach the ride was right along a nice beach for many
miles but turned somewhat inland though strawberry field after
strawberry field. It smelled delicious. Around one o'clock I got to
a major town for lunch and took a little rest as I was going rather
hard that morning. While riding out of town I saw a gigantic orange
sign, which was an all too familiar detour sign. Route 1 was closed
and all traffic, including bicycles, was forced inland to the
mountains. This is not what I signed up for. I didn't find out until
later, but the last storm that came through washed out the road. You
think my British friends from the night prior would have mentioned
to me that part of Route 1 had plummeted to the bottom of the
Pacific Ocean. That would have been some useful information. I was
planning to finish the day in Santa Barbara and be in LA the day
thereafter, but those plans were shot. I ended up staying in the
town of Buellton, the farthest from the coast that I would be on
this leg of the journey.
The following morning I ended up riding along Interstate 101 and for
those of you familiar with it know that a bike certainly does not
belong there. It was like riding on the shoulder of the New York
State Thruway. I was told that it was fine to ride on the Interstate
as long as I got off every exit and then back on, so as not to block
traffic from using the on and off ramps. The nice thing was that
this was the flattest part of the ride. I ended up around Oxnard
looking for a place to stay that night but found that not only was
there no room at the inn, there was no inn! I had to head south
another few miles to some small town with only one hotel.
My final day riding started about 8:15 and I was hoping to make it
to LA by early afternoon. The ride was almost completely flat until
I hit Malibu. There were a couple of big climbs, but the scenic
vistas were entirely worth it. No wonder the homes in the Malibu
Hills cost what they do.
Being that Steve lives right in the middle of Hollywood I had to
head inland for 15 miles. Also, Steve being the thoughtful guy that
he is, told me the easiest way to get to Hollywood from the coast.
"Just take Sunset Boulevard all the way in" he tells me. My advice
to all of you who might actually still be reading this novel of an
e-mail: Don't ever ride a bicycle on Sunset Boulevard. It is a death
wish. With some creative riding, blowing some lights and at one
point riding on the sidewalk, I made it to Hollywood. I had
completed my bike ride. In total from New York to LA it was 4,142
miles that took me 289 hours, 7 minutes, to ride. I was quite
pumped. I ended up changing my return flight to NY and stayed on in
LA for a couple of extra days. For those few days Steve and I lived
the life of Riley and partied like you can only party in Hollywood.
Well, that's it. The riding is over and I am hanging up the bike
shoes, as there are other adventures to be had. I hope you enjoyed
it as much as I have.