Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bicycle Tour to San Francisco

I recently rode my bike from San Diego to San Francisco, and decided to take my sister Graefix's advice and post on the blog about the journey. This is in case the post inspires anyone to take a similar journey - it's actually very easy to do! You can go pretty much anywhere you want in the UNIVERSE on a bike and it's pretty cheap too. Seriously though, get yourself a cheap used road bike, get on ebay and find some old panniers (saddlebags) and a rack and voila! you're ready to start the tour. It's almost as simple as that.
My trip began in Oceanside, California at Hydrovisions where a friend of the family runs his small boat factory manufacturing Raptor 16 outrigger sailboats. I made my way through southern California slowly, stopping regularly for food at Denny's and El Pollo Loco. My first interesting stop was at an archery range on Camp Pendleton where I asked to shoot some arrows. However, you have to be a cub scout - literally a Cub Scout, I'm not using "Cub Scout" as a derogatory term toward Marines - in order to shoot arrows, so no dice.
I discovered on night one of my trip that my sleeping arrangement was not going to work quite as I had planned. I had decided to leave my tent in Oceanside since I didn't have room for it in my panniers, and was happy because I would be saving weight anyway. I learned at Doheny Beach campground in Dana Point - which I found after receiving directions from a San Clemente police officer who told me that I was in God's country - that my rainfly doesn't pitch without the tent, so I did't have much shelter. I bought some clothesline at Ralph's and sewed some jury-rig things at Starbucks to try to make it work, but it didn't work, so I bought a tarp the next morning, left my rainfly and poles with Graefix in Pasadena and hoped for good weather on my trip.
I had fabulous sunshine for the entire ride to San Francisco and even met up with an Irish rider named Colm (pronounced "Column") who was also going North. I met him in Pismo Beach, which is California's ATV Mecca because of its dunes which allow ATVs to run free. I searched the whole town for a "Hike & Bike" campsite (a campsite which usually costs between $3 and $5 for cyclists and hikers) but couldn't find anything except for a $20 RV site. Finally I reached the end of the line at the Pismo State Beach North Campground where I found two cyclists who had shelled out the $20 for RV sites, and Colm was nice enough to share one with me. I took out my 24 (or was it 25?) oz. Foster's and rested easy with the knowledge that I had a place to stay. I wound up riding with Colm for the next two weeks until he reached Santa Cruz where he got a job as a carpenter making $22.50 an hour the second day after he got there. The last I knew he was living in his Mountain Hardwear tent - the same one that saved me from many a cold night under the tarp - in the redwoods outside Santa Cruz and not paying rent and hitting the Irish Pub each night. I hope to visit Colm again someday, and it was very fortunate that we joined forces on the ride!
Back to the ride, I've skipped over some of California's coast that might be worth mentioning. In Santa Barbara I checked out the Santa Barbara Mission where one of Santa Barbara's seemingly limitless supply of elderly (and I'm paraphrasing Lonely Planet here) public attraction (e.g. library, museum, visitor center, etc.) employees told me that yes they had a credit card machine but that no I couldn't use it because $4 was too small an amount to charge on a credit card.
In Lompoc I didn't have to go to the MIssion because there's an excellent mural of it right next to El Taco Loco, where I stopped for lunch. In fact, there are excellent murals all over the place in Lompoc. There just aren't really any people. And there is lots of wind. It's very strange and sterile light there with a constant wind blowing and very clean streets, like a 1970s movie set. And on the side of every building there is a mural. Very interesting. I liked Lompoc. It's pronounced Lom-poke.
The Big Sur coast was beautiful, but the town of Gorda pissed off my friend Colm to no end because the owner of the general store there placed stickers over the "99cent" markers on Doritos bags that said "$3" in bright orange letters. On the bright side he did find a pair of sunglasses there that he liked more than the ones he lost at the (BEAUTIFUL) campsites accross the street from the general store.
They have a sign along the Big Sur coast that has metric conversions - only one though. Perhaps a communist lives there and was tired of figuring out in his head every day how many kilometers away the Monterey Peninsula was on his drive to work. Strange.
Monterey was most remarkable for its pleasant scenery and the presence of Veterans Memorial Park - a campground on the top of a hill *in the middle* of Monterey where cyclists and hikers can camp for $5. It's a beautiful place to stay and I recommend it for anyone considering a visit to Monterey.
Santa Cruz was also pretty, and has a remarkably creepy carnival scene along the beach. Colm and I rode through it early one morning when nobody was there, it was an interesting experience. This is where they shot the movie "The Lost Boys" I think.
Beyond Santa Cruz I was almost to my destination of San Francisco. I made a final camping stop in Half Moon Bay, where I slept under a beautiful Juniper tree and watched the best sunset of the trip. So for me it was Half Sun Bay. I met a cyclist there riding a tank - what I've come to call bikes loaded with way too much gear: panniers on front and back, sleeping bags and pads strapped on, etc. He was a nice guy, and had some interesting stories about riding through the Pacific Northwest right in the middle of all the shit you all saw on the news - yeah, the flooding in Seattle, the rain in Oregon, all of it. He almost quit, but kept going. He was forced to stay in a hotel for $120 one night only 7 miles from a campground because the weather was so horrible he literally couldn't ride any further. He was also on a tight schedule which meant that he'd been pushing his tank between 60 and 70 miles a day for 23 straight days when I met him. Jesus Christ. He was a trooper! He was riding from Vancouver to San Diego.
In Pacifica I stayed with my friend Forrest from Boulder for a couple of days and met his brother and his father, and had a great time hanging out with his friends. We went to Winter's Bar where I saw several fights almost break out and where Forrest told me about how he had barely prevented someone from being stabbed there the week before and where two weeks before someone *had* been stabbed there. There was a band which started out covering various rock bands but then settled on AC/DC for the last hour and a half until last call.
On my final push into San Francisco I stuck to the coast until I had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and crossed into Marin Highlands. There I rode through a mile-long tunnel which runs traffic through one way at a time at five minute intervals. Pretty exciting to do on a bicyle in the dark with oncoming traffic! What a neat tunnel. On the other side is a beautiful world of rolling green hills and pastures that is Marin Highlands. One can camp for free there at Bicentennial Campground, and I did. A mile and a half before reaching this idyllic spot I hit a speedbump, however. One of my panniers bounced off my rack, which is a seatpost-mount rack, flew out on its bungee cord, and was launched back into the rack. This impact propelled the rack into the spokes of my back wheel. When the rack was sucked into my wheel, the wheel locked up, a hole was burned in my tire, and a few seconds after I stopped my tube burst with a loud "Pop!" that left my ears ringing. Remarkably, I didn't break a spoke even though the rack was totally mangled. I walked it the remaining mile and a half to the visitor center and then another half mile to the campsite where I took lotsa pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I got back to Pasadena via Amtrak, from whence Graefix drove me to the Santa Barbara Tourist Hostel where I am now employed part time. Of all the places on my trip I liked Santa Barbara the most and that's why I'm here now. The plan now is to learn how to sail, work at Bicycle Bob's, and see what the future brings.

3 Comments:

Blogger estifallen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21/12/06 11:16 AM  
Blogger estifallen said...

Just wanted to clarify that when I said the archery range was a cub scout range, it was literally that - a range run by cub scouts. I wasn't referring to Marines as cub scouts in case there was any confusion...

21/12/06 11:18 AM  
Blogger lpsmith00 said...

I am planning a ride from San Diego to San Francisco. I've been told that the ride north is much more difficult than the ride south, but I'm pretty determined to do it. What time of year did you make the ride? Did you find the wind to be in your face constantly?

Thanks!

7/5/08 10:49 AM  

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