I don’t even know where to start with this. We woke up from an awesome night’s sleep in our hotel in Alpine ready to do some serious climbing. We knew we were in for a crazy day, topographically speaking — the route had up climbing nearly 5,000 feet over 62 miles. What we were not expecting were the unrelenting, soul-crushing headwinds. Being forced to stand up out of the saddle and climb in your granny gear is never a thing that should happen. But oh did it ever happen. Even on the descents were were peddling against resistance. It was cruel. Over the course of the day I shouted my fair share of obscenities into the wind. Luckily, our spirits were kept up by a group of 46 cyclists we met early in the day. They were a group of retirees who were riding with an organized, supported tour from San Diego to Florida. They were generally awesome and hilarious and provided a great deal of entertainment and perspective throughout the toughest parts of the day. We left them with about 25 miles to go and eventually descended into the Imperial Valley and camped in a town called Ocotillo where the only source of food is the mini mart attached to the gas station (if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip thus far, it’s that “food deserts” are a very real thing). We stayed in the empty lot between the community center and the fire house with our new friend Frankie. Frankie is an 18 year-old British guy riding solo across the Southern Tier while on a “gap year” (for those not familiar with gap years, please see the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKFjWR7X5dU). We all compared stories about how our moms didn’t want us to go biking across the country. Sophie and I have called our mothers every single night to report that we are still alive and well. Frankie told us he hadn’t spoken to his mother once since he’s been here. Then he corrected himself and said, “Well actually, I Facebooked her once.” You’re welcome, momses.
Sophie’s new friend Bert, who is 75 and riding to Florida. What you cannot tell from this picture is that they are holding hands.
And that ain’t even the top.
The good thing about climbing all the way up is that you get to cruise all the way down.
First sunset in the desert, on the way back from the mini mart with Frankie.
Sophie reassuring her concerned mother that we are a-ok.
Home for the night.
This is Bubba. He owns the touring company that was shepherding all the retirees to Florida.
Today was a beast. Riding through the rolling hills of San Diego county down the coast from Cardiff to Mission Beach was strenuous enough but once we headed east to encountered a whole different kind of terrain. We said goodbye to the Pacific Ocean and very shortly thereafter entered the desert. It was about 85 degrees today once we rode east and we climbed like we have never climbed before. Initially we had planned on riding up to Lakeside (elevation: 500 feet) but, having ridden farther than planned yesterday, we decided to ride all the way to Alpine (elevation: 2000 feet). We were slowed through the early part of the day by constantly having to check directions and make sure we weren’t lost (which we were at one point and it led to hiking on dirt trails with our 85 lb bikes… seriously). We were slowed in the later part of the day by the unrelenting climbs into the mountains and a stiff headwind. Sophie wanted to push on to a campsite several miles up the road. I vetoed that plan for fear of running into darkness and for need of some luxuriating. Turns out, the only hotel in Alpine is awesome. Pool and jacuzzi, which worked wonders on our sore muscles and free chocolate chip cookies, which worked wonders on our blood sugar levels and general morale. Plus, there’s wifi so not only can we post this blog but we can also watch “House of Cards.” Boom. Until next time.
The last time we’ll see the Pacific for many moons.
Some legend set up a free water and bananas stand, complete with packets of electrolyte powder and WD40 for our gears.
That tiny speck in the distance is Sophie crushing my spirit as she crushes this climb.
Allison, Dan, Rowan and us before the morning blast off
After a comfy night sleep and this glam shot, we hit the road out of Huntington Beach before 8. We then spent the entire day weaving from beach town to beach town down more of the Southern California coast. We were riding through Laguna Beach when the sight of pastries stopped us dead in our tracks. While Mad guarded the bikes and found us a bench, I went in and spent $16 on pastries. The sugar rush provoked this bit of wisdom from Madeleine:
“Turns out I’m not in that good shape. Rough to find that out this way.” Then, “You know how on weekends we get bagels, and afterwards we always want another? Well now we can just get two bagels.”
Dropping knowledge while cramming pastries
Almond butter by the spoonful
All loaded up
We road along a dreamy bike path that boarders the coastline that afforded us many miles of stress-free riding. It also included going through Camp Pendleton, an active military base that was relatively un-noteworthy except for the occasional fully uniformed soldier and this crazy training obstacle course that looked like it would take down any American Gladiator. Unfortunately we didn’t risk taking photos, we thought that might offend the code of visitor’s honor.
We ended the day after 67 miles at San Elijio State Beach, just north of San Diego. Our hiker/biker camp site cost 1/4 as much as regular sites, we built a toasty fire, ate a hot campstove meal, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of staying on a beach.
77 miles with yesterday’s tailwind wasn’t so bad, 77 miles today with a hefty headwind was a little rougher.
We hit the road just before 7 and immediately came upon the hills of Malibu. I’ve decided that when I’m rich and retired, I will devote myself to creating a flat bike path through all of Malibu. Also, apparently Thursday is trash collection day, because for a full 20 mile stretch the bike lane / shoulder was littered… littered with trash cans. So we wound up spending more time than we would have liked with half our bikes in the driving lane. So it goes. The crowning achievement of this stretch was definitely when LA traffic kicked up and we rode faster than the cars.
Selfies in motion
We look so happy in this picture because we had just stopped for breakfast with Madeleine’s brother and sister in Venice Beach. Breakfast burritos and coffee will do wonders for tired Malibu legs.
Taking a directions break somewhere inland
Feels good to be horizontal
At the end of the day we were excited to cruise into Huntington Beach, where friends Dan, Allison and Rowan hosted us for a night of lasagna and a real bed. Thanks a million for having us!
With the best intentions of getting on the road by 6:30 our first day, the homemade coffee was too good to pass up and so we started an hour late. No matter, we were in for a smooth day.
Our sendoff committee had mixed feelings
For the first 20 miles we rode on familiar roads that we had gotten to know well on our training rides. It seemed anticlimactic, but after passing the Santa Barbara Harbor, we were on new territory. By the 10 mile mark we had made friends with a curious crossing guard, which can only predict positive things for all the streets we’ll have to cross in the next 3 months.
We stopped at the famous surf spot Rincon, in Carpinteria, 30 miles in. We watched this one guy go by and saw him do all kinds of fancy moves, and on his walk back up the beach Mad realized it was pro surfer Mikey DeTemple – which was exciting. Concerned Mother #1 packed us homemade almond butter and plum jam, so we put that to work.
Lunch of champions
We rode through some very pretty and very ugly parts, with some stretches consisting of ocean views spotted with surfers, and others consisting of business parks and seemingly endless telephone towers.
A brief stint on the 101 wasn’t as bad as predicted
At least we’re headed in the right direction
Arrived at campsite
All in all, a great first day. We had a gentle tail wind all day to help us along, and got to camp at Leo Carillo State Beach with enough energy to make a campstove dinner and even throw together a little fire.