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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Last 60 Miles

Technically it was 56, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it. I did it though, today I came to the end of my month long, something around 1600 mile, adventure down the Pacific Coast. And I did the full stretch from Seattle to LA (to be precise, from Bangor Base to two miles out from Santa Monica, so pretty damn close), solo, no rides down the road, just me and that cheap trailer, cheap bike, and cheap self. Part of me feels like I cheated myself not doing the very short extra distance it would have taken into Los Angeles proper, but at the same time, the traffic was already terrifying me for as close to LA as I came, basically from Malibu on. And if I start that kind of thinking, I could say, why didn't I go the extra 150ish miles to the border, or start from Vancouver since I did that trip up there anyways, so I could say I did the full US Pacific Coast as many cyclists do? Then why not from Alaska to Chile as others do? No, I did the trip that I did and that I wanted to do, and I ought to feel accomplished in it for exactly what it was, no more or less. I mean, I was holding my trailer together with garden hose at the end for goodness sakes. I'm laughing just thinking about that.

So, today itself, those last (almost) 60 miles? It was a decent ride. I got around early this morning, after waking many times throughout the night anyways. I remember waking around 2 or 3 with the weight of one of my host's cats on my belly, and somewhat sleepily imagining it was my belt bag for a moment, wondering why I hadn't taken it off. I'm glad I realized what the furry object on my stomach was before I tried to unbuckle it. But yes, after a somewhat less than fully restful night, I was up and around with the sun, and I was saying farewell to my still recumbent host by 6:30, and on the road. I wanted to beat both the heat of the day and the traffic, make my pick up from Santa Monica to my friends' in Anaheim as smooth as possible.

Those first couple hours of morning riding were so cool and perfect, and then around 8 or so it was already getting hot. Then it just kept heating still hotter by the passing hour. My NOAA app says it's 91 now. I'm so very glad I got up early enough, and the road was flat and easy enough, that I was finished by 12:30. I'm told this is unseasonably hot for this time of year. My wrists, as well as returned G logo burn from my bike gloves can tell.

Oxnard was as flat and uneventful as I was told it would be, navigating along a combination of trail and a zig zag of bike lane streets, until I reached a road running next to the air force base and roughly parallel to 1/101. Then I soon found myself back on the Pacific Coast Highway once again, for one more stretch. Malibu has some gorgeous beaches, sand, sun, shimmering sea, everything you're told to expect, including the ludicrously overpriced homes where the famous people live. And the warnings I got about cars parked where they shouldn't be all along the shoulder and making my life more difficult held true as well. Once the bike lane vanished and I was riding on shoulder as much as I could, though frequently needing to move in and out of the flow of traffic because of all the parked cars, things got less fun. There were also some hills in there too. ...Up to a whole whopping 180 feet above sea level! It's hilarious to me how much everything is relative, and so spoiled by all the flatness, in the harsh heat I was cursing those little hills, after all the huge climbs of this trip.

I was tired today, and I could almost nap right now. I think it's the less than great sleep I've gotten the last couple nights. Realizing there was no other time coming for it, halfway through my ride I finally drank the 100 calorie shot of caffeinated goo I've been carrying with me all the way back since I got it from my host in Mill Valley, north of San Fran. It did help a little, or at least I convinced myself it did. I've been rationing my bars the last few days to not have to buy more (stupid really), and had what seemed just the right amount to get me through the day. ...Not that I didn't feel famished and wasn't really grateful to stuff my face with quesidilla and cookies my friends provided upon getting back to their place. ...Ah, it will be good not having to worry about constantly stuffing my face to keep weight on now.

The last stretch was way too urban for me, too many cars passing too close, too much shoulder taken up by parked vehicles. It was really not the kind of riding I enjoy, despite the views being gorgeous and the ground totally flat at that point. I called in the cavalry to get me at the rendezvous point, a service station at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and the PCH, about 10 miles out. Somehow I timed it perfectly that they arrived just after I did. My mind entirely on being tired, at the end, and the logistics of getting my bike and trailer into their vehicle (which with both bike wheels off we managed easily), I spaced on getting a picture taken of me there as I should. All I have is the quick, awful selfie I did before they arrived and a standard shot of my bike. Just being at a gas station, it's really not the coolest end of the road photo. But, thankfully, I was given a better one of me and my reassembled bike in their backyard next to the shed my dad helped them with when my parents visited them this Summer (instead of me, their son, up in Seattle, hah (some necessary but not sincere grief you understand)). It just seems so surreal being so suddenly and unceremoniously done with this adventure of the last month. But rationally I know no grand end point or perfect photo op would actually have helped with that. It didn't when I arrived in Seattle. Transitions like this are just inevitability weird and feel like they should be more momentous, less instaneous, than they usually are.

I need to remember I have several post cards I need to send to some special people from the road, my first host of the trip, the host who saved my trip with garden hose, the awesome firefighter who requested one, and my ex-landlady to name the ones I can think of right now. That'll give me a little quest to undertake. But for now, I foresee lazy lounging with my phone. Maybe even a siesta, now that I'm in the right part of the world for that sort of thing. I made it. End of the road. ...For now.

Easy Breezy (Some Exceptions May Apply)

I was awoken this morning on my couch on the porch before dawn by the crow of a rooster. This notion they do their cockadoodle thing right at dawn and that's it I can tell you is a lot of nonsense; once they start crowing, they just keep going. I laid there for a long while messing on my phone and eating from my box of cheerios. But once I got up, I got around quickly, eager to hit the road.

Funny thing, a couple guys showed up last night while the other couchsurfer and I were chatting in the kitchen and announced themselves as the illegitimate sons of someone or other as something like a code. We explained who we were and that everyone else was asleep. They said they were going to set up in the yard for the night, and we said, "uh, yeah, go ahead." They promised not to bug me as I was falling asleep on the outdoor couch, and ended up going to the other side of the yard. Turns out this morning that my host had no clue who they were, just a couple of vagrants, who may or may not know one of the other people from the house, or a former resident. That's just the kind of house they had running. I love it.

Today was mostly flat and easy going. ...Though not entirely. The heat was harsh, even in the morning, quickly over 80, which felt less than great on my burns, and caused sweat to drip down my forehead even on the flat stretch. Then there was the frequent bumpiness of the road, often poorly paved over cracks, patchworks of tar and cement repairs. And then there was the traffic accident on the road that provided the one really good bike route, the official Pacific Coast route. The police officer told me to turn around, and told me the best route to take. I listened to his directions and started heading backwards. Then I stopped and checked my maps to see what it was he was actually instructing me to do, and realized it would take me over a mile backward and then many miles out of the way to the north. Then I realized there were side roads I could use to get around the accident easily, and his ludicrous detour was entirely unnecessary. I honestly wonder if he was just ignorant or if he was actually trolling me on purpose. I got a little nervous that there was still trouble up ahead past the accident when I noticed virtually all traffic was going en masse in one direction, opposite to me. But it turned out to be nothing, or nothing I had to deal with at least.

And then, right at the end of my ride, after getting back off blissful bike trail as I'd been on much of the day, I had some bastard ram into the back of my trailer as I was sitting at a turn lane waiting for the light to change. The look on his face said it was on purpose. Bastard. Not only was I shaken up by it, but my hitch got shifted down and my trailer was scraping my back wheel for a few very bad moments as I biked to a place to stop and fix it, and it tore my poor garden hose more. But, well, it could have been much worse, couldn't it? I just can't understand people who do that sort of thing, just can't.
It was a little surreal shortly after that pulling into the junk/art strewn yard of my host and being done with my day...before noon. It's been a long time since I've taken such a short day. But it felt fitting for my second to last, and the alternative would have been a damn near centennial to Santa Monica...which, well, with it this flat, maybe I could have.

But then I wouldn't have met my spectacular host (an interesting fellow, engineer back in school for physics, who has had some wild adventures, a history of drug addiction, and current involvement with psychedelic culture) and been able to go with him and his friends to the museum LA. That's right. I officially was in LA today, the goal of my trip, to go with them to the Getty Museum. It felt surreal, a tad wrong, exceedingly anticlimactic, being there, arrived by car. But it was good, so much fun. We came to his friends' house in the desert of Thousand Oaks, and were invited in and provided some of their meal. They're an interesting older gay couple who seem almost polar opposite, one reserved and considered, the other outgoing and fast spoken. The museum was incredible. It requires a tram ride up the hill from the parking lot in order to reach its lofty perch overlooking the city and the Santa Monica bay, so I was able to get quite a view of where I'm headed tomorrow. It was college night, so the place was filled with college students, hanging out in the large open plaza with free food (which we sadly missed out on), music, and light sticks, as well as wandering the exhibits, crowding the space, and taking photos they shouldn't. Only a fraction of the museum was open for display, one building of four, and yet it was still plenty to see in the allotted three hours, exhibits ranging from unusual photographic techniques, neoclassical sculpture, and impressionist paintings. I really enjoyed it, and felt lucky to get to go.
But come the end of the evening, with the need to make the long ride back to I can get up in the morning and cover that distance again to very close to the same area, though thankfully not going the same way...I was ready to get back and get to sleep. I had to pass on the offer of quinoa, so I could be in bed at a reasonable hour.

And now, here I am, having mostly typed this out on the ride home, bringing my recounting of my second to last day to an end as I lay here on this sofa that generally belongs to my host's two cats, CAT07 and CAT08, while my host is doing some reading in his bed nearby. It's time to say goodnight, as the morning has a whole new day, and the final 60 miles of my adventure.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reuniting with 101

It seems fitting that at last, with things having generally gotten more difficult since splitting off onto 1 near Leggett, that for my final, hopefully easy stretch, 1 remerged with 101 about halfway through my ride today, right at the point I came down from my last big climb. It was up to 1000 feet, but thankfully was a gradual climb, though with a far steeper downhill that was enjoyable to do. From there it was mostly flat the whole way, the short 50 miles of the day. I didn't get started until after 8:30, and even with a stop at the rest stop midway through to munch on the cereal I've been carrying since the start of my trip, I arrived by 3.

If only I didn't find myself with my first flat of the entire trip as I arrived at my destination. A staple, another damn staple... Cursed urban areas. Thankfully it was at the end of my short day and I had plenty of time to mess with it. I decided to patch it, and it seems to be holding. The problem is that it was my back tire, which seems just a little big for my wheel, and I just can't reseat the tire quite right. I remember the bike shop guy had all kinds of trouble with that when he put it on for me too. I don't know. I just can't care anymore.

I'm going to sit here with my beer next to this bonfire with my interesting hippie host, two PHD guests, and other corporate couchsurfer who has his own bike touring experience. It's an interesting mix. The wind is raging, just lifted this picnic umbrella briefly from its stand, the fire rising a little high for my tastes, I'm seated at a picnic table outside in a large eclectic garden with everything from citrus to corn to aloe my host gave me to squeeze on my burns fresh from the plant, and will be sleeping on an "outdoor couch" tonight I have yet to actually see. I'm tired. This should seem like a really fun, fitting California Couch surfing experience, and yet my mind isn't here, it's 40 miles ahead to tomorrow, and 60 miles to the end from there. I have two more days, and they should be simple, but my unexpected flat at the end of the day, a minor issue, an inevitable problem on tours that I had been really lucky to avoid so far, has made me realize I've just lost all my patience for mechanical issues. And that's simply no place to be at mentally when touring. Hopefully tomorrow morning I will get back on the bike and everything will seem right again.