Tijuana was a sprawling chaotic city stamped on the side of mountainous terrain, the oh-so-familiar mass of traffic, passing trucks belching black exhaust smoke, horns blaring, the final city of what had become rather 'normal'. Being late in the day I decided to spend my last night in Mexico and cross the border in the morning. Having read how its particular border crossing was extremely busy with traffic that evening I plotted the best cycle friendly route - albeit a relative term!
The following day bright and early I'm joining the cues at traffic.
Spotted by an attendant I'm pointed over to join the queue of people whom were walking through. Soon being served I'm asked if I had an "I94 card", bemused to what one was the officer reluctantly leads me over to another office, there firstly having to pay the $6 admin fee I'm then asked for an address of where I'd be staying so gave that of the pre-arranged WarmShower host's whilst I'd be in San Diego. The lady now serving me asked me to wait the return of the initial officer to escort me back, but after 10 minutes with still no sign of him said she'd walk me. Strangely now asking me to bring my bike through the office. Obliging I'm escorted through a rear door leading into a 10 ft barbed-wire topped fenced walkway, opening a gate at the end of that she says;
"There you go, have a nice day"
"Uh?" says I, "that's it? I'm in? No paperwork or anything?"
"No, that's ityou can continue, good bye"
I'd thought I was being led back to the initial officer for a grilling of questions so was flabbergasted how easy it was! Just one signature on a small entry-stamp document and $6. Considering I was entering the fruit-rich state of California not to even have my bags searched, or questioned as to their contents, I could have been kiddie smuggling..okay they'd be small kids!! or even smuggling cocaine or other narcotics. I'd read stories how others were asked about their bank balance, proof of income and similar issues..I still can't believe how easy it was! But hey, I was now in 'the land of opportunity'! It certainly felt sooo different, as did I. Sort of sad, sort of happy, very mixed emotions.
With a distance of about 15 miles to San Diego centre - or downtown as they'd say - I'd pre-plotted a scenic bicycle lane route along "Bayshore Bike-way" along the bay-front with a brief ferry crossing at the far end.
The ride to the ferry crossing was excellent, a very popular cycle route with riders of all ages and styles that passed through a marine bay wildlife reserve, being early I was in no rush to reach the hosts's house, I'd got all day to ride the short distance.When initially plotting this section I was unsure about the ease of the ferry crossing, but rest assured the place was geared toward cyclists, easy boat access along with large area for the bikes.
San Diego is home to the United States largest navy base which locals refer to as 32nd Street Naval Station. It's the principal home-port of the Pacific Fleet, consisting of 50 ships anchored along 13 naval-piers. Moored in the public harbour was a decommissioned aircraft carrier, now open to the public whilst further along was a Walt Disney cruise ship with recently disembarked tourist wandering around, seamlessly blending in I was a tourist among the tourists!
Locating my hosts Judd + Victoria's house proved interesting, to say I took the long way makes it sound like a short-cut!! Nevertheless asking for directions from a cyclist from Kansas whom was visiting his parents was keen to hear more about my adventure (the joys of speaking English!!) and invites me to a BBQ at his parents house later in the day. After many-a wasted miles I finally reach my hosts house, and what a great place they had for cyclists to enjoy! A hot-tub, a discrete outside heated shower, a plastic-grassed lawn, garden furniture and a breakfast cabinet with crockery, cutlery, fruit, coffee, tea and a kettle! With just a mile or so to down-town it was perfect, and even better they had two other cyclist turning up that day! After de-bagging and pitching my tent I head out to meet Eric at his parents house . . . foooood!! ..San Diego was proving great! With some of my gear worn out fortunately the city had one of the national REI outdoor stores so the following day I headed to it, at 16 km's it was quite a trek through inter-sectioned suburbs but worth the ride as the store's product range was excellent!
On the 2nd morning I bid farewell to Judd + Victoria, riding down the harbour's cycle route. Knowing free-camping along the busy US 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) would not prove so easy I'd pre-arranged several more hosts along the route. Two days later at Los Angeles, my hosts were at Redondo Beach, 6 miles south from Santa Monica where ol' Route 66 finishes. Jason + Philly had only recently joined WarmShowers so I - and another cyclist the same night - were their first guests! Jason was keen of taking us for a spin around town in his new soft-top Mustang...cruising around the boulevard's we're informed just how much some of the beachfront houses sell for, most were not that big but sold for literally million of dollars! Jason and Philly served up an awesome dinner and good drinks with all of us telling stories of our travels, such a great night, thanks guys!
The following morning I'm riding along a beach front palm-tree lined cycle route with cool cyclist and joggers wearing the latest fashions - some with their hand-bag pooches. All walks of life enjoying the early morning cool sea-breeze as the sun rises. I pass shops such as 'Bikes - Skates - Surf' whilst just up ahead is Santa Monica Pier.
Reaching this felt strange! I had the same photo taken in 2008 after completing Route 66 for which I'd built the bike in the first place, so to be back here, with the same bike that's since traveled across Africa, Europe, central Asia, China, south-east Asia and south America really did hit home just how far I've cycled it
Traveling opens one's eyes to the real world, here I find that Kim Jong-un and Trump are actually best'est of buddies!
No sign of David or Pamela...
Yes Sur, the night run!!
Many southward cyclists I'd met in Mexico's Baja-California had asked how I intended to cross through Big Sur.
"Big Sur is a lightly populated, unincorporated region on California's Central Coast that is frequently praised for its rugged coastline and mountain views, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. Big Sur has been called the "longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States, a national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development" and "one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation".
Unfortunately the area is frequented by landslides, such that the 90 mile stretch has an annual government road rebuilding budget set at tens of millions of dollars. The recent landslide (2017) was the biggest ever seen, a huge section of mountainside had simply slipped , taking / covering a long section of the road whilst other smaller falls had wiped out two bridges. Now, passing through was not possible...well..not in a car....
Many of the cyclist I talked to had 'done the night-run', waiting until 1 am to pass through, although there was a rumor that an Australian cyclist had been caught and heavily fined.
From my entry in the U.S. the amount of passing traffic along the coastal route (now the '1') was higher than what I'd expected and felt it was not quite living up to the internet hype and thus my expectations. Just before the town of Cambria was a turning for Route 46 and due to the road closure much of the traffic was thankfully turning. Cambria was as quaint as it comes, I half expected to see the Dukes of Hazzard drive through being chased by sheriff Boss Hogg.
The red line indicates the closed section;
Permitted to camp behind a hostel - albeit for $20!! I hatch a plan. The main landslide road closure area was just passed Ragged Point ~ 25 miles further along so I decide to leave the following day later, around 1pm, I'd at least then have time to see if the Duke's Daisy Duke was in town! The hostel manager updates me on what to expect and became part of the team, he was really hopeful I'd get through, if not it would mean a ~ 2 day back track / re-route! With no sign of the lovely Daisy Duke I head out, now with little traffic I'd easily be spotted by any passing policy men and felt sure they'd know my intentions.
These signs were a common sight;The annual gathering of nesting Walrus's, one of the reasons this coast is ecologically sensitive.
Toward Ragged Point the road started climbing, twisting and hair-pin winding around the rocky terrain. On reaching the 'town' I call in to a touri$t shop for some $nacks and refill my water bottles.Now around 6 pm I was getting close and had to ride carefully, if I got too close or at the actual closure-gate 'point of no entry' I may be seen by workers of whom would definitely know my plans, so (unbeknown to me from that point ) about 2km before the closure I see a perfect spot to make temporary camp. At this hair-pin was a clump of bushes and trail that descended down a few feet out of sight, and bonus, even a small spring! An absolute perfect spot to cook dinner, have a coffee then take a nap to await midnight. Occasionally a vehicle would come down the hill, clearly seen carrying road workers heading back home.
Buzzing with excitement and adrenaline, sleep was non-existent. The previous car had passed about an hour ago, so now 11:30pm decided it was time. Bags packed and clipped on I head off. For fear of possible site-security seeing me approach along the snaking road I kept my lights off but fortunately an almost full-moon shone across the clear sky giving just the right light level to ride but not to be seen. About a mile along I pass the first barrier, several large bollards dotted across the road with a NO ENTRY sign, simply passing between the bollards. Not sure of what, or whom(!) lay ahead I gingerly press on, a couple of miles further two field-type padlocked metal-gates block the road; NO ENTRY BEYOND THIS POINT, I was buzzing with adrenaline! Next to one of the gate's supporting pillars was a convenient 'touring bicycle' gap, squeezing through I was now well and truly in no-mans-land, the tarmac had become aggregate, sneaking along like a mouse edging past a possible sleeping cat I pass a large site Volvo tipper truck , followed by a Caterpillar bulldozer, a couple of works vans made me think security men could be inside sleeping , paranoia ensuring my quietness. Up ahead the landslide 'road' come to a steep switch-back, compacted loose stone by the bulldozer, too steep to ride I push to the top then switch-back to the original direction on level ground. Around the corner the tarmac commences although still in no-mans-land I was unsure of how much remained. As the road straightened out I could see lights at the end of a canyon-like embankment section, cycling through it I see similar gates as before, blocking the road, the mouse was almost at its cheese, the end was in sight, but I could also see what looked like the silhouette of someone! NO!!! How could I get this far and get caught?
A quick U-turn to where the embankment started gets me off the road behind a pile of stones. My mind now running overtime on what to do. Deciding to wait for 30 minutes I refresh my thoughts and clear my excessive paranoia by star gazing. After, as I start to go I see the silhouette getting closer, and quite fast..I've been rumbled....but as 'it' gets closer I couldn't believe my eyes!....another bloody touring cyclist!! Was I glad!! As was the Polish cyclist when I gave him the low-down on just how easy it was. Bidding farewell we continue and seconds later I'm wheeling past the locked gates onto the open 'fine-free' road at the village of Gorda!!
A mile or so along I mange to find an open out-of-sight wooded area suitable to pitch tent and gets a few hours kip before sunrise. (later Googling I find the length of the 'no-mans-land' section was about seven miles).
Later in the day as I start passing smaller villages the traffic increases, nothing too much but still felt the Big Sur area was well over-rated. Mid afternoon I pass a birdwatcher (~ birdie) in a lay-by with his binoculars tracking some birds. Asking if was okay I stop for a chat I tell him of my 'night-run'. Mark had also done some bicycle touring so intrigued by my trip. Continuing, a few miles ahead I see he'd pulled into another lay-by but without his binoculars, curious as to where I'd sleep that night he was inviting me to his house ~ 20 miles away in Pacific Grove, a neighbour of the bigger Sand City. Gladly accepting I joyfully ride along knowing I'd have a warm bed that night!
Mark + Chelsea suggest the following day I take the beach-fronted Monterey Bay Coastal Trail cycle route out of town. It proved a perfect way of bypassing the busy maze of suburbs and intersections of the two towns.
One of the weird-n-wonderful's occasionally seen along the road.With San Francisco just one day away I'd planned to reach a campsite marked on my map but with a constant day's headwind felt weak toward the end. Stopping at a pumpkin farm tea-shop / cafe for a break I asked about camping there, the lady said yes but being illegal to keep out of sight of the road, wandering around the back I notice a derelict wooden bungalow. With the front door ajar I open it to reveal an excellent place to camp! Out of the wind I already felt better, and there was even an old sofa to lay on!
The next day I pass this; Camerons Pub & Inn, true British style complete with a double-decker bus....it looked a bit more up-market than my night's accommodation!
Think I'm getting close..
Around midday I can just make-out the columns of the Golden Gate bridge, quite a moment for me! Slowly edging closer the roads start to become busier but following my U.S. Adventure Cycling Association map I'm guided onto quieter routes. Later arriving at the Golden Gate Park I initially ride along some of Lincoln Way, a road that terminated at the Pacific coast, quite a coincidence as the next leg of my route is the trans-American Lincoln Highway - San Francisco to New York City.
Pre-arranging to meet Cyndi, my warmshowers host at a restaurant we have a good talk and I'm informed of the sights and things to do around the city. Her house is situated just off of Golden Gate Park, a huge 3 x 0.5 mile green area with limited traffic access..I'd certainly explore that area some more!Cyndi explained about using the BART system (Bay Area Rapid Transport - underground), well geared toward cyclists so getting across the bay so getting from one suburb to another was easy and avoiding the mass of traffic light intersections. The park itself had a HUGE flower conservatory, a polo field, a visitors academy of sciences centre, a museum, cycle lanes galore, running groups, dance groups and even a Dutch windmill. The following day I head out to see and ride across the bridge.
Now November, with weather turning colder I started to reconsider my tour's next leg. On a warm sunny day, saying I was going to cycle the northern states sounded okay, but now waking to each morning's coldness the idea didn't quite feel as appealing! My mother and twin sister had planned to fly out to meet me when I arrive in New York City but started to make more sense for me to fly back home for a few months. Talking to Cyndi she was fine about me leaving my bike and bags stored at her house so after a nights further pondering decide to return. Even better I manage to get an amazingly low ticket price of just $270 through wowair.com, two days later I'm back on the BART albeit without yellow-7 as I head to the airport!
On April 13th I fly back, join me as I next head east along the Lincoln Highway to N.Y.C.