Pacific Coast TourĖ Southern California
Denis Kertz, ©1999
I woke up and quietly removed my panniers and equipment out of the room so as not to disturb the others.† I packed up my bike and headed the few blocks downtown, looking for the Big Sky Cafe that was advertised at the hostel.† I found the side street it was on and started checking addresses but couldnít find it even though the address suggested it had to be nearby.† Of course it was, right across from me but this time I had an excuse as a big truck was blocking the view and I had to walk around it to be able to see the cafe.† Breakfast was OK but a little disappointing for a place that claimed to have the best breakfast in SLO.
After breakfast I decided to find one of the paying Internet access spots so I wouldnít have to wait around till 10:00 for the library.† I headed to one that was a computer store and right on my way out of town.† It didnít open until 9:00 so I had to wait 10-15 minutes.† However, no one showed up promptly so I located a coffee shop that wasnít far away and took care of business, including alerting Hank, who I was going to meet in San Diego, about my plans.
Then I headed southwest out of town, back to the shore on roads paralleling Highway 1.† It was pretty easy cycling and the weather was cooler than the last few days as predicted.† When I reached the coast in 8 miles, it was motel row along the coast for another 7 miles and the side road merged back into Highway 1.† At this point, Highway 1 headed inland, skirting Vandenberg Air Force Base on the coast.† After a short, fairly steep climb, the route flattened out for about 10 miles making for easy pedaling.† I made good mileage with a westerly wind that seemed to be helping through a produce farming area.
At Orcutt, I took a detour off Highway 1 onto 135 and then a right turn off 135 that lead to a steep, about 3 mile climb that got me into short sleeves.† Then a good descent leading into Lompoc.† At Lompoc, I had to decide whether to call it a day at 3:00 and 60 miles or continue another 20-30 miles.† I chose to detour off Highway 1 onto the Santa Ynez Valley Route (Highway 246), which the Bible suggested was a more scenic route and that would add another 30 miles of cycling for the day.
Fortunately, my legs were still churning on autopilot and it was relatively easy miles.† However, I was afraid to stop lest my legs forget what autopilot was.† I passed through Solvang, a Danish founded community, which I recognized from Usenet as home of the Solvang Century.† Outside Solvang, traffic really started to pick up and the shoulder started disappearing.† On one climb cars were whizzing by at high speed in both directions and I had maybe an 18 inch shoulder.
Just outside the Lake Cachuma County Park, I stopped at an overview of the lake and then continued into camp for a hiker-biker site.† Unfortunately, the parkís grocery store was closed for the day and I had to rely on my granola reserves.† On the other hand, the hiker-biker site was located on a small peninsula and removed from all other campers.† I had the place to myself with a nice view of the lake with a gentle breeze off the lake and nary an RV in sight.† Not bad.
It was a little brisk when I got up with a breeze coming off the lake.† I packed up and hit the road, not looking forward to the climb ahead, especially without breakfast.† The first 6 miles gave me a chance to warm up with some moderate climbing.† The shoulder was almost non-existent and there was a lot of traffic but fortunately mostly it was one way, heading south presumably to Santa Barbara.† After 6 miles, the 4 mile San Marcos Pass climb to 2,225 feet began.† Initially I was in my 2nd low gear but shortly in my lowest gear.† The climb wasnít too bad other than for the length.† There was a really nice view of the valley but it was to my left and behind me, which made viewing difficult.† I cranked along at 4.5 mph so this took almost an hour.† I stopped once to shed my long sleeve jersey, again at a Vista point, and finally to try to capture some of the view on film.
At the top I started a rewarding 7mile descent, most of it at 30+ mph.† There was a view of Santa Barbara below but somewhat obscured by low hanging clouds.† At the bottom of the descent, I picked up Foothills Rd to skirt around Santa Barbara and then headed into Santa Barbara to pick up State St.† I chose to go right on State to find a restaurant and finally found one for breakfast.
After breakfast, it was well after 11:00 and I checked the phone book for the library, which was downtown, the other way just off State St.† When I got to the library there were 5 PCs but all were busy, as I feared, since it was near lunchtime.† But PCs could only be used for 30 minutes when people were waiting so I only had to wait about 15 minutes.† Then I checked my email and let Hank know I would be by Sunday evening.
State St took me to the beach where I checked out the wharf and made a call for an eye doctor appointment back home.† Then a bike path took me along a palm tree lined drive.† Eventually the bike path gave way to other streets that paralleled 101 so I avoided the freeway.† When I got to Carpinteria it was just after 2:00 but I was hungry again so I stopped at a little grill and had a jumbo burrito and margarita on the outdoor patio and think Iím in heaven.† Afterwards, I wasted time looking through 4 grocery stores and a food mart looking for a VICCCS without success.† I no longer thought I was in heaven and settled for a yogurt.
I headed to the Carpinteria State Beach Campground, which was less than a mile away, and setup camp in a hiker-biker site.† I walked to the beach and spent a little over an hour mellowing out.† Then I cleaned up and walked back to town for another margarita at the same grill where I was before.† After I had my margarita in hand, I noticed others walking around with margaritas in small, individual pitchers.† Had I seen that before, I probably would have had that and never made it out of the grill.
I packed up and headed back into town to an International House of Pancakes I spotted yesterday for an OK breakfast.† After a few miles on the road, I had to get on Highway 101 because it was the only road between the coast and the mountains next to the coast.† After 8 miles, I exited at Seaside and was back on Highway 1.† I picked up a bike path outside Ventura and stayed on it along the coast rather than leaving as the map suggested.† Today I used the Adventure Cycling maps rather than the Bible since the route started getting more complicated as it entered the Southern California metropolitan area.
When the bike path merged back onto Harbor Boulevard, I took a side trip to the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center in Ventura Harbor and spent about an hour.† The Channel Islands are a group of about 5 islands off the coast that used to be ranches but now are a national park.† You can take a boat out to the islands but I chose to learn about them through the visitorís center in the interest of time.
Back on the road, Harbor took me into Oxnard on more easy riding.† In Oxnard I got the address of the library about 3 miles away and got directions from a local.† At the library around 1:15, there were 2 adult PCs that were busy until 2:30 but I was told the childrenís PC might be available.† It was for 10 minutes until 1:30 but thatís all I needed to check email, which I wasnít supposed to do in this library.
Leaving, I stopped for a fish & chips at a fast food place because I wasnít sure there would be food after Oxnard.† I took Ventura to Hueneme, which skirted a Naval base.† I took a Navalair frontage road along Highway 1 and passed an entrance to another naval base entry with a couple of rockets/jets on display at the entrance and think I saw Maverick talking to Gunner and Bandit.
Shortly after, it was back on Highway 1 again and I was really flying at 19 mph and it was obvious I had a good tail wind since the air was perfectly still around me as I was flying.† There was a nice vista of he Malibu Mountain National Recreation Area as I continued to zip along.† Back in SLO I had seen CYN (sin) as part of a street sign and assumed that was a Spanish name like SAN.† Here again I saw CYN and I finally realized that it was just an abbreviation for Canyon Ė another mystery solved.† Just before camp was a seafood/restaurant that I almost passed up but decided I best take advantage and had a burrito and beer.† Then just when I thought this would be a 2nd night in a row without a VICCS and thought I might go into withdrawal, I found one here and devoured it.
Just down the road was the Leo Castillo Park.† Wind surfers were having the time of their lives, zipping along in the stiff breeze.† There must have been 15 wind surfers out and the big question was whether they were going to nail any of the surfers who were also out.† I had trouble locating the hiker-biker area and had to ask the campground host who pointed me in the right direction.† I was also concerned about safety since the Bible mentioned that as a potential problem due to transients but the campground host assured me there wasnít a problem.
I got up earlier than normal and was off by 7:00.† The Bible warned that this would be a difficult day as I made my way through LA.† It would be 80 miles to get to the next available campground and I wasnít looking forward to heading through LA, although I had started suspecting the Bible was overstating the issue.
The route was rolling with lots of traffic but a wide shoulder.† After about 8 miles, I found a cafe for breakfast, which was good but a little expensive but not surprising along the coast near Malibu.† Pulling into Malibu, I saw an impressive looking building on a hill with a huge, impressive lawn and saw Pepperdine University on a sign on the lawn.
Approaching Santa Monica, I picked up a bike path along the beach and got off Highway 1.† The beach was at least a couple hundred yards deep and went on for miles.† One section had 7 rows of 3 sets of volleyball nets but they were all unused this morning.† I also saw a tractor on the beach pulling a groomer behind it.
Cruising along the beach was kind of cool, watching other cyclists, roller bladers, and joggers.† At one point, I saw a woman in a bikini appearing to be mooning me but she was just demonstrating some kind of squat to two other women, probably an aerobics class.
After a while I had to head inland for a few blocks to skirt an inlet and caught another bike path back to the beach. Now jets screamed overhead as I rode past LA International Airport.† A little while later I was joined by two sisters on bicycles, Veronica and Karla, returning home from a bike ride.† Veronica started asking about my trip and we talked and rode together for about an hour.† They were on their way home to Hermosa Beach and joked they were the LA Angels sent to escort me to Palos Verdes and make sure I came away with a good impression of LA.† I was impressed...
The LA Angels left me at Hermosa Beach and pointed out where to pick up Palos Verdes Dr.† Palos Verdes is a hill on a peninsula with very expensive homes overlooking the LA beach front.† I got to see a little more Palos Verdes than I expected when I inadvertently picked up Palos Verdes Dr W rather than N, which wasnít hard to do since a lot of streets were name Palos Verdes something.† This reminded me of Atlanta where every other street is Peachtree something.† Anyway, I climbed Palos Verdes Dr W and got a great view of LA before I realized my error.† The side of the hill I was on was so steep that when I stopped to take a picture looking over LA I could have easily jumped onto the roof of a house from the street.
I retraced my way back to Palos Verdes Dr N and had a nice ride through the Palos Verdes residential area.† I also rode past a reservoir that was completely empty, which suggested it must have been a dry summer. Unfortunately, all too soon I picked up Anaheim through Long Beach.† The LA Angels had warned me about this area and I could see why.† It was an industrial area with a couple of refineries and stores along the street had bars over the doors and windows.† The Angels said I should just ride on through and everybody would assume I was just crazy and leave me alone.
At an overpass under construction, not liking the tight detour around the overpass, I decided to head up the overpass anyway since there wasnít that much going on.† I got most of the way up and a foreman stopped me saying he had no liability coverage.† He was upset but said I could continue but not to do it again.† I assured him I wouldnít and continued on.
Shortly after the overpass, the route headed back to the shore.† Along the way I saw some emergency vehicles at a blocked off street and someone was being carried on a stretcher.† Just when I thought there was a serious accident, I saw a lighting setup and realized this was a film scene and I hope they got me on film.
Shortly, I was back at the beach and on a bike path.† This part of Long Beach looked much better but it didnít last long and I rejoined Highway 1, now called the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), through Seal Beach and Sunset Beach.† At Huntington Beach I got on another bike path along the beach and it was more miles along the beach just like in Santa Monica although by this time I had had my fill of seeing mostly empty beaches.
When I reached Newport Beach, the bike path ended and I was back on PCH.† Since I was close to camp, I stopped for dinner when I saw a pizza place.† I ordered a 12Ē pepperoni pizza and the waitress looked at me quizzically and said, ďAre you sure?Ē† I assured her I was in need of some serious food and explained why, not telling her the only question was whether to order a 14Ē or a 12Ē pizza.† She was beside herself when she learned about my trip and I had no difficulty finishing the pizza.
When I left it was just a few more miles to the turnoff to Newport Dunes Aquatic Park, the first campground that allowed tents south of LA.† The weather had turned overcast and cloudy and it looked like it could rain.† This apparently was an omen as it cost $25 for a site just wide enough for an RV with a picnic table and hookup.† The campground was a mass of RVs with only a couple of sites with tents that I could see.† The one saving grace was there was a grocery store on site and I was able to indulge in a VICCCS and a beer.
This was an interesting day.† The Bible had billed this as a tough day requiring all of oneís wits and riding skills to make it through.† As it turned out, other than for the stretch in Long Beach, it was actually an interesting day. †The miles along the Santa Monica/LA beaches were relaxing, the view from Palos Verdes nice, and the LA Angels heaven sent.
I didnít sleep well, probably because the lights from the campground kept my tent partially illuminated.† I donít think I managed to sleep until after midnight.† I woke up early and packed in the tent.† As I was getting ready to unload the tent, I noticed my watch showed just after 6:00 so I had started packing an hour earlier than I thought.† Even though I had already packed up my sleeping bag and air mattress (Thermorest), I laid down again and managed to sleep for another hour.† Then I completed packing and headed out.
It was cloudy and again looked like it could rain. †In a few miles I stopped for breakfast (banana pecan pancakes) and it was very good but still overpriced.† On the road, Highway 1 was rolling but no difficult climbs.† When I pulled into Laguna Beach, I located the library and got there just after opening at 10:00.† The 3 PCs were in use so I had to wait until 11:00, wasting an hour.† I found email from Hank saying we would meet on Sunday at Torrey Pines Beach and I would be staying with Laurie that threw me until I remembered who Laurie was.† Had I known that Laurie lived in the San Diego area, recognition would have come much quicker.
Finally at 11:30, I was ready to hit the road.† I stayed on PCH until San Clemente where I stopped for refreshments and a burrito.† Continuing, I realized I had missed my San Clemente turnoff and started to back track.† But then I just headed down towards the beach and found myself wandering somewhat aimlessly as the roads were winding and unpredictable with some short, steep hills.† Finally, I spotted a bike route sign and followed it, as it looked right.
Back on track I paralleled I5 on an old road that went all the way through San Onofre State Beach, which was pretty much just a very long (miles) parking lot parallel to the beach.† I saw two cyclists pedaling to the beach with one towing a surf board on a trailer.† I met another local cyclist who told me he had cycled from San Francisco twice.† At the end of the park, the road turned into a bike path parallel to I5, crossed under it and then linked with the Stuart Mesa Rd through Camp Pendleton, a Marine Camp, which was usable by cyclists as long as no military actions were in progress.† Fortunately, no war was in progress and I proceeded through the camp.
There was nothing exciting in Camp Pendleton, which I treated as good news and the road lead back to the PCH (now called Coast Highway) at Oceanside that had a lot of traffic on a Friday afternoon around rush hour.† I stopped for refreshments and continued on through Carlsbad.† Passing South Carlsbad State Beach, a sign said the campground was already full at 4:30.† Based on that, I expected my destination of San Elijo State Beach to be full also but was not worried since they were supposed to always find space for a cyclist.† Neither of these campgrounds, the last two before San Diego, had hiker-biker sites since transients loved the $3 per night rate.† Consequently, hiker-biker sites had been eliminated.
In Encinitas, a few miles short of camp I stopped for a fish & chips dinner at 5:00 and headed out by 5:30.† When I got to the camp, I was shocked to find the campground was closed for restoration.† The sign mentioned the availability of South Carlsbad but I was in no mood to retreat 6 miles.† I asked a surfer leaving in a truck about motels and he said he thought Solana Beach a couple of miles south might have some.† I mentioned the possibility of sneaking into San Elijo and he said he knew riff-raff slept there and didnít get run off but that made me wonder how safe this place would be.
I decided to chance heading to Solana Beach with time growing short and daylight starting to fade.† A couple miles further and I hadnít seen anything.† I was about to give up and starting to wonder what to do when I just happened to notice a Marriott Courtyard on the right, the only motel in sight.† I just happened to have a ton of Marriott Reward points that I would gladly trade for a room but I doubted this could be done on a momentís notice.† Nevertheless, I walked in and checked availability and they had some rooms but they couldnít use my points.† However, I was told I could pay ($129) and later get the charge reversed in exchange for points.† Given the situation, I had my credit card in the receptionistís hands before she knew what was happening.† Then I calmly rolled my bicycle through the lobby to my room.† What an incredibly lucky break and the shower didnít even require quarters.
Tomorrow the Mexican border.
I slept well in a nice king bed and it didnít hurt that Courtyard had an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast.† On the road, after a couple of miles it was a long climb from Torrey Pines Beach but I only needed my 3rd lowest gear and I climbed it at a scintillating 6 mph.† I saw about a dozen cyclists headed in the other direction on their Saturday morning bike rides.† Then it was a winding descent to La Jolla followed by a winding route through La Jolla but easy to follow due to the bike path signs.† I didnít know it then but I actually passed very close to where Hank lived on the La Jolla shore.
A bike path took me along Mission Beach and it was a bit tedious due to pedestrians, cyclists, and roller bladers on a Saturday morning.† Then I crossed Ocean Beach on Nimitz Boulevard.† Harbor Dr took me right past the San Diego Airport to downtown where I caught a ferry ($2.50) to Coronado Island.† A bike path took me around the east side of Coronado onto another bike path that paralleled Silver Strand Boulevard, a long, narrow piece of land separating San Diego Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
At Imperial Beach the route headed inland for a mile or so then south for a couple of miles.† Unfortunately, the ACA map directed me on to a rough asphalt road that turned to gravel and didnít look good.† A rider on horseback told me that the road elbowed and intersected with an asphalt road that took me to Monument Road, the southern most road parallel to the border, that took me to Border Field State Park and the coast.† My map led me to believe I could ride through the park right up to the border and I was going to stick my arm through a fence and claim I was in Mexico.† However, what the map didnít show is you needed a dune buggy to get to the border.† When I got to the park, the road turned to sand that was impossible to either ride or push my bicycle.† I was only about 1/2 mile from the border and I could see cars moving along the Mexican highway that headed south to Ensenada.
considered parking my bike and walking to the border but decided against
that.† I briefly considered heading to
the Tijuana border crossing but it was mid-afternoon and I needed to find a
place to stay and I doubted I would be lucky enough to find another Marriott
Courtyard wherever I wanted to stay.† So
I headed back to Imperial Beach on Hollister Rd, which brought me to an I5
interchange at Hollister and Coronado.†
I could see a big motel across the way that advertised low rates in the
phone book so I crossed diagonally to a phone booth and called for rates - $50.† I also called Marriott just on the off
chance they might have something in the area but there was nothing.† However, from the phone booth I could now
see diagonally across the road where I had been was a motel advertising $38
rooms on a sign.† Figuring I was not
going to do better, I crossed the road again and got a room.
I got up early to get an early start to make it an easy day.† I retraced my route back to Coronado, approximately 12 miles, where I had breakfast by the bay, next to the ferry dock.† I had just enough time for a leisurely breakfast before the first ferry at 9:30.† It was already a nice day as the ferry got me back to the mainland.† Then I retraced my way back to Mission Bay Beach where I spent almost two hours soaking up the sun and watching Southern Californians at play.† Then I got Hankís home phone from information and rang him up before heading back to Torrey Pines Beach where we were going to meet.† After talking with Hank, we decided it made more sense for me to cycle back to his place in La Jolla, which was right next to the bike path.
I made it to Hankís at about 1:30 where we got caught up since the last time we had seen each other in Naperville, about 5 years ago.† Then we headed to a local sports bar to watch the 2nd half of the Packers/Broncos football game where the Packers got trounced and Hank was beside himself.
Later, Laurie, who I hadnít seen in 8-9 years and I had no idea until a couple of days ago that I would ever see again, met us at Hankís where we had a great barbeque on the patio right next to the ocean, joined by a couple of other friends.† I tried to control my eating to not make a fool of myself plus I now needed to start getting back to a normal diet, not all that easy after getting used to eating pretty much whatever and however much you wanted.† But the food was so good I offered to let Hank and his wife, Alena, cook for me on my next tour.† I think they declined.
After dinner, we packed my bicycle in Laurieís Saab convertible.† The panniers and equipment fit in the back seat but the bicycle stuck out of the trunk even with the front wheel removed.† A couple of bungee cords seemed to do the trick to keep the trunk lid closed.††† Then we headed to Laurieís UCSD medical lab for some last minute preparation for her conference in New Orleans.† From there we headed to Laurieís home in Leucadia, which turned out to be not all that far from the Courtyard I stayed in Solana Beach.† Had I known where Laurie lived, I might have been able to stay in Leucadia although Iím not sure Laurie would have honored my Marriott Reward points.
Laurie had an 11:30 am flight to New Orleans so I accompanied her to the airport, bid Laurie farewell, hoping weíd see each other again in less than 10 years, and returned to Leucadia with the car.† Back home, I called the Leucadia Cyclery and they offered to pack up my bike and ship it home for $20 plus UPS charges so I dropped off the bike.† Cost was $37 UPS plus $10 insurance plus the $20 handling, which was a little more than the airlineís $50 charge but included insurance and no hassles.† Then I called American Airlines and rescheduled my return for Tuesday at 8:00 am with a limousine pickup at 6:15.† The flight was earlier than I wanted but it was the only non-stop flight available.† Finally, I packed up everything into my two rear panniers strapped together, my large duffel bag with sleeping bag, tent and other equipment, and one front pannier to carryon with essentials and fragile items.
The limousine picked me up promptly at 6:15 and I made it to the airport without difficulty.† The flight was fine as I was flying first class and even had an empty seat next to me.† There were some great views as we took off.† I could see the coast up through La Jolla and beyond.† Even more impressive were the mountains in the Baja.† I was unaware that this area was mountainous but the view left no doubt.† The rest of the flight was uneventful.
One interesting after effect was my bodyís recovery from touring.† I hadnít really been aware how much stress this tour put on my legs but it must have been considerable.† I always felt fine while I was touring and only a few times did it feel like my legs were getting tired.† However, once I got back home, I didnít do any riding for a couple of days but when I did I was surprised how dead my legs felt even on an unloaded bike.† It was almost two weeks before I could accelerate on my bike without my legs feeling sluggish.
The Pacific Coast Tour easily lived up to its reputation as one of the best cycling touring routes.† Virtually every day was a scenic tour.† Even the tours along the LA and San Diego metropolitan coasts were an interesting adventure as a change of pace.† The Oregon Coast, the Avenue of the Giants, and the Big Sur stood out as the most memorable.† The two elderly women tourists were far and away the most inspirational and the LA Angels the most heavenly.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 1999. All rights reserved.