Day 39: San Diego – Home

Day 39: San Diego – Home

Knowing that the bike would fit in the bike box was a massive relief and just left the sizeable task of repacking my possessions for the flights – of which there were 4 – home. By the time I’d finished, the bins in the motel room were full of assorted receipts, leftover food and toiletries that had been spared the return journey. The motel offered airport transfers for $5, which was ideal, and as it was basically the handyman with a people carrier, there was no difficulty with taking my bike in the back.

Arriving at San Diego airport, I checked in for my United Airlines flights through to Vancouver. I was charged $150 for checking in a bike, a fee I was prepared for, and one that reminded me how lucky I was that British Airways generally waived the oversize baggage fees associated with carrying bikes. Luckily, I was able to carry on my two panniers as hand luggage at all four airports.

After a tasty pulled pork sandwich at the airport, I boarded the plane for the short hop back to San Francisco. On my first visit to San Francisco I passed through in an hour and a half, on this occasion I was there for 50 minutes, exiting the plane straight back to the gates and walking the short distance to the gate for the Vancouver flight.


Arriving in Vancouver, I made my way straight to the oversize baggage carousel where my bike had been located when I arrived in Canada 5 and a half weeks before, and was relieved to see that although it had clearly been through a security check, it looked fine. The bike making it to Vancouver was a massive relief, it arriving late in Edinburgh was much less of an issue!

Sitting on the return flight from Vancouver, I tried to remember the films I’d watched on the way out, what seemed like a very long time ago. I’d watched The Big Lebowski, but I was struggling to remember it. It was a 9 hour flight to Heathrow, so I had plenty time to watch another couple of films on the way home, opting for Fargo and Rogue One.


I arrived in Heathrow and had a few hours to spare before my final flight back to Edinburgh. I was delighted to find a Wagamamas in the departure lounge, not having had any Asian cuisine whilst in America, my Ginger Chicken Udon made a welcome change. My onward flight to Edinburgh was delayed by 15 minutes, hardly a great hardship, especially when the rest of the journey had gone seamlessly.

Finally, after 24 hours on the move, I arrived home, exhausted but delighted to have successfully completed my mission! And after days of sleep deprivation, I slept for 15 hours straight.


Day 38: San Diego – Mexican Border

Day 38: San Diego – Mexican Border

Distance: 42:07 miles.
Time: 4:27.
Average Speed: 9.4 mph.

The big worry, when bike touring, is how you’re going to get your bike home at the end. So today, the minor issue of making it to Border Field State Park for the end of the journey came secondary to the concern of finding a bike box. My dash round San Diego last night had been part city exploration and part looking for bike shops that might have been good enough to leave boxes lying around.

The city centre hadn’t looked promising, so I compiled a list of bike shops further afield that I could cycle round in hope. The list was especially necessary as the month’s phone contract I had taken out on entering the States had now expired, so my phone wouldn’t be much use ‘out in the field’. I set off to my first port of call, Mission Hills Bike Shop, it was 2 miles from the motel, up a gradual hill. They had a box and were happy to give it to me, but it was a 21″ mountain bike box. Would it be big enough? No time to worry about that now, I had the box and needed to get it back to the motel. The box was folded in half, but if I hadn’t been watching people cycling to the beach with surf boards all week, I’d never have risked rolling back down the hill with it under my arm.

Relieved to at least have something to work with, I set off for the afternoon’s objective, the end of the route. I pedalled along the quay to catch the short ferry to Coronado.

image.jpg Coronado was a lovely tourist town on a peninsula across the bay from San Diego, from there a beach-side bike path led round to the south side of San Diego further down the coast. The weather was perfect, a sunny day with a strong tailwind. I’d have to fight against it on the way back, but I could worry about that later.


I skirted through Southern San Diego on residential streets before being surprised to return to quiet agricultural land as I neared the border. I was also surprised to enter Tijuana River State Reserve, I hadn’t been expecting to cross the Tijuana River. Eventually, I could see the border fence on a hill, and Tijuana on the other side. I headed west on Monument Road, reaching Border Field State Park shortly after. The road led to a beach where the border fence continued out into the sea, on the other side the beach was bustling, a busy town right up to the border. On the US side the park was deserted, just me and Border Patrol. It was a great spot to finish the trip, where the Pacific passed on into a new country.


Turning to head home, the headwind was feeling particularly stiff. Back in San Diego, thoughts turned to duct tape for the box. I stopped at a craft shop and picked up some packing tape, just in case, before finding gorilla tape in Walmart. Spanish appeared to be the predominant language in parts of Southern San Diego, I was greeted with buenos noches in one shop, and the Walmart had bilingual signs.

It was another hour and a quarter back to the motel, pedalling for block after block on Broadway and through the ‘Mile of Cars’ before passing the downtown skyscrapers at dusk, reaching my destination at sunset, the story of my trip.


Quickly dismantling the bike, to see if it would fit in the box, I was relieved to find that it would fit, just! Such a relief, the rest of the packing can wait until morning.

Day 37: San Clemente – San Diego

Day 37: San Clemente – San Diego

Distance: 68.85 miles.
Time: 7:50.
Average Speed: 8.8 mph.

Hi there, San Diego!

Setting off at quarter past 6, traffic was light, not that it mattered much to me – after half a mile the route moved onto the old pacific highway, and for a while I had the deserted 4-lane road to myself.


After a mile or two, a lane of cars appeared, and then disappeared again as the road passed through San Onofre State Beach. After crossing under the newer I5 Interstate, the full 4 lanes were back, but with a one lane width bike path meandering around on the Tarmac.


Soon after came the most unusual part of the trip so far, as I entered the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, necessitating an ID check. I got an idea of the scale of the compound when I passed Fire Station 10, then a school, shops and even a McDonald’s.

Back out of the secure area, I headed into Oceanside for lunch. Well, breakfast as it was 9 in the morning, but it felt like lunch so I had fish from a beachside kiosk. Continuing, I enjoyed fine ocean views at Carlsbad before stopping for lunch at ‘Pizza Port’ in Solana Beach.


At Torrey Pines State Reserve there was a long 135m climb away from the sea, after which, I took a wrong turn, taking me up a hill to La Jolla. I had to return up another hill to the outer reaches of San Diego, at La Jolla Cove, on the coast. I enjoyed viewing the spectacular coastal scenery, along with birds and seals resting on rocky precipices.


I passed along quiet residential streets and some popular bikes paths at Mission Beach and Harbour Drive before reaching my motel for the night, delighted to arrive after a tough day.


Although right beside the airport, the motel is in a good spot, right beside Little Italy, where I headed for dinner at The Crack Shack, enjoying a fiery fried chicken sandwich with a fruit-based ‘slaw’. It closed at 10, so I headed off for a walk through the city, along passed the Marina, through the Downtown skyscrapers to the Historic Gaslight Quarter, where I had gelato.

imageEn route, I was blocked for some time by a container train passing up the middle of East Harbor Drive, it was vast, the carriages passing for minutes before stopping over an intersection, blocking pedestrians and traffic alike. After 20 minutes of waiting, and following the lead of other pedestrians, I jumped over the links between the carriages and made my escape.

Tomorrow is set to be a busy day, I must make the 40 mile round trip to the Mexican border, find a bike box for my trip home and book my connection to Vancouver.

Day 36: Santa Monica – San Clemente

Day 36: Santa Monica – San Clemente

Distance: 82.34 miles.
Time: 8:32.
Average Speed: 9.6 mph.

Today was a toughie. I set off at 9, knowing that a long day was likely, as there were a lot of bike paths during the early part of the ride. I cruised along Santa Monica and Venice beaches, before hitting the roads to round the colossal Marina Del Ray.


Back on the beach path, I passed through Manhattan Beach, before stopping for pancakes and fruit at the Good Stuff restaurant in Hermosa Beach.

Reaching Redondo Beach, I was set to begin the trickiest part of the ride – cutting across town for 15 miles to Long Beach – when a man asked about my ride. His name was John, he’d bike toured in the past, and having just retired was planning another one for this year. Would I like him to show me the way? In the end, he guided me for 25 miles across one of the most difficult parts of the route. His style of urban off-road cycling did take a bit of getting used to as he bounded on and off kerbs while making outlandish hand gestures, to inform drivers of his intentions and berating any that got in his way. He was an interesting man, having a pilot’s licence, and also sailing 25m catamarans.

Finally, reaching Long Beach after a long and tortuous route, we were blessed with a nice bike path, and John rode with me until it ended, just before Seal Beach.


Continuing through Huntingdon Beach and Newport, my nerves were frazzled, once more the shoulder was a car park and when I didn’t take a dominant position in the lane, cars would fly passed, a little too close.

It was 6 o’clock and I still had 16 miles to go to Doheny State Park, so I stopped at Ruby’s Diner in Corona Del Mar, for dinner. It was a decent burger, but the real highlight was a Reece’s peanut butter milkshake.

Back on the road, the fact I’d had a cross-headwind all day started to tell as fatigue set in. The road was also much hillier than I’d been expecting, especially when I reached Laguna Beach, the city limits of which contained three or four decent size climbs.

Finally, reaching Doheny State Park at half past 8, I was shocked to find that they’d stopped their Hiker/Biker camping in October, and worse still, their regular sites were full. The next site recommended was San Clemente, 7 miles further on. It had been a gloomy evening, so it was quite dark now, but what else could I do, so I continued on.

Luckily, there was a bike path, beside the highway, all the way to San Clemente. Then, I started along a new beachside bike path. It was too new to be on my maps, my gps telling me to redirect the other way. Suddenly, after 20 minutes of cycling along through half a centimetre of sand, my gps sprang into life, the track existed again, and I was now close to the entrance of San Clemente State Beach Park.

On arriving, at half past 9, I was surprised to find the Hiker/Biker camping had gone from here too, and the campsite was mobbed. I wasn’t cycling another metre, however, so I set up camp under a tree, and will be away bright and early in the morning.

Next stop, San Diego…

Day 35: Ventura – Santa Monica

Day 35: Ventura – Santa Monica

Distance: 68.14 miles.
Time: 6:32.
Average Speed: 10.4 mph.

Although it was to be a shorter day than the previous few, I was keen to get on the move. After setting off, I headed along the Ventura coastline, passing Surfers’ Point which was a hive of activity despite it being 8:45 on an overcast morning.


Rolling along some peaceful residential streets, I turned the corner and was amazed to see the backyards of the houses I’d just passed by.


Continuing to Port Hueneme, I pedalled right through town and out the other side looking for somewhere promising to breakfast, before backtracking and finding ‘The Best Breakfast Cafe’.

Soon I was back on Highway 1 and back on the coast, admiring the view at Point Mugu.


continuing on to Leo Carillo State Park where I saw the very specific random collection of vans and trailers that suggested a film shoot was nearby, and there it was, further along the beach.

Next up was probably the most dangerous part of the route so far, as I passed through Malibu for the next 21 miles. There was a car width shoulder throughout, but most of the route was along busy beaches and the shoulder was lined with cars. It was a fine line between leaving room for opening car doors, and staying off the carriageway. I took a break half way through, stopping at Malibu Seafood for some Clam Chowder and Fish Taquitos.

Then, at 5 o’clock, I reached the outer reaches of the Los Angeles coastline, moving onto the beachside bike path to head along the coast through Santa Monica and Venice Beach.


It was still overcast so the volleyball courts were empty, but the bike path was crammed.

Returning to Santa Monica, to check into my Hostel, I spotted a new restaurant next door, North Italia, deciding to give it a try, and staying until it was time for bed.

Day 34: Lompoc – Ventura

Day 34: Lompoc – Ventura

Distance: 84.79 miles.
Time: 7:39.
Average Speed: 11.1 mph.

After almost 5 weeks on the road, it had been looking seriously like I might not make it to San Diego, and that I might have to finish in Los Angeles instead. It was cards on the table time. After the inland struggles, yesterday was an improvement, but could I build on it?

I set off at 9 to give myself a good chance, knowing that there was a long hill to start the day and then it would be relatively flat, hopefully with a tailwind.

The initial hill was not too bad, 16 miles but very gradual, until the last two miles at least, just when the sun was at its most intense. A long steep descent followed and that was 20 miles done, in 2 hours of cycling.

I turned onto the 101 and headed for the coast, reaching it at Gaviota State Park. Once I turned South again, the tailwind was strong and the miles passed quickly, reaching 30 miles at 12 o’clock and 40 miles at 10 to 1.

Just passed the 40 mile mark, the route left the freeway and headed through Goleta on its way to the Santa Barbara oceanfront. The going was slower, and I savoured rolling through idyllic Santa Barbara with its Palm-lined boulevards set against a spectacular mountainous backdrop.


I stopped at a beachfront cafe for lunch, then pushed south through Summerland, I was already at 60 miles for the day, and it was 5 o’clock, so I was busy trying to work out which campsite to aim for.


Arriving in Ventura, at 7 o’clock, I was planning to continue for 5 miles to McGrath State Park. I googled it, to ensure it was open at this time of year, only to find it hadn’t been operating as a campground since 2014 because of storm damage. So, as it was 21 miles to the next campground ahead, I would have to endure a half mile retreat to the Emma Wood State Beach campsite.

Quickly, doing some sums as I had dinner, in Ventura Burger King, I planned the route ahead. For tomorrow night, I have booked a hostel in Santa Monica, 60 miles from here. If I can then push through Los Angeles to Doheny State Park on Tuesday, then by Wednesday evening I could be within touching distance of San Diego, allowing me Thursday to reach the Mexican border and find a bike box, before my flight on Friday.

You know, it might just work.

Day 33: Morro Bay – Lompoc

Day 33: Morro Bay State Park – Lompoc

Distance: 73.91 miles.
Time: 6:46.
Average Speed: 10.9 mph.

It was cool this morning as the fog hung over the bay. On the road, it soon cleared, but it was merely hot, not scorching, so I felt much better. Plus there was a tailwind, that always helps.

I took a detour round the bay in Los Osos, stopping for breakfast, before heading inland on Los Osos Valley Road. The road was flat, but passed through pleasantly rolling farmland.


Skipping around the edge of San Luis Obispo I headed for the coast once more. On the way, I spoke to cyclists, Lexi and Mary who were travelling from Vancouver to San Diego, but had taken the train to avoid the inland detour. Because of the skipped miles they now had 2 weeks to reach San Diego, so were taking it easy. I arrived at the coast at Pismo Beach, pleased to see the Pacific once more.


After lunch from a Mexican food kiosk in Grover Beach, the route turned inland again, to avoid the Vandenburg Air Force Base. The going was flat and easy, but not very interesting. Then, taking a road marked as an alternate cycle route back to Highway 1, I followed it across flat farmland before reaching the brutal crux of the route. I was on my limit by the top.


I passed through Guadalupe, with it’s proliferation of Spanish signage, and stopped for a drink in Orcutt, enjoying a few moments in the shade.

I was nervous about the last part of the route, as it would take me over a several hundred metre ascent on ‘Harris Grade Road’, luckily the highway to the bottom of the climb was pan flat, then I knew it was 4 miles to the top, and then downhill to the end. My kind of challenge!

The climb was a nice one, largely on a gentle gradient with sweeping uphill bends and as many flat sections as steep ones. So much better than the highway climbs, bulldozed at a constant gradient through the landscape.

Arriving at Lompoc River Park campground, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a county run park, so relatively cheap, and mainly comprising families. I’m not sure the family in the site beside me are fully embracing the camping ethos, however, having spent the evening in their car, listening to music, with the engine running!