Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Vacation Part 1: Old Town and Paddle Boarding

8/19 - We woke up feeling rested and accomplished. Now it was time to reward ourselves! We decided to go have lunch with Ethan's cousin, Becky, whom I've never met, in Old Town. Ethan ran down to CVS to get breakfast (for some reason our very nice hotel did not serve a complimentary continental breakfast...dumb) and came back with a box of Froot Loops and milk. Perfect!

We ate and got ready then headed to Old Town. (We bought two 3-day passes for the MTS for only $14 each. We figured $28 to get around San Diego for three days was pretty cheap. They were good for both buses and trolleys. Highly recommended. -E) This Old Town was unlike any I had seen and was seriously old. They had managed to preserve and rebuild the town to look as it did when it was founded (I don't know when) by some Spanish people. It was really cool except it was about 1000 degrees in the little shade available. We went in every store or museum that had air conditioning. After a while Ethan decided he wanted to check out the old mission park where the town was officially founded. Unfortunately it was up on a hill. I wasn't too pleased about it. We went anyway and it was really pretty and you could see out into the harbor. There was also a very nice breeze that I took full advantage of.

We walked back down and headed back toward old town to meet Becky for lunch. We met her at a Mexican place called The Alamo. We rarely ever eat "authentic" Mexican food so we didn't really know what to order. It was funny, but we ended up getting taquitos and a regular taco somehow.

The food was great and it was great to finally chat with Becky. She told us about all the great things to do in SD and that the zoo and Seaworld were both worth the money. We were sold. We had to get going even though we probably could have stayed and talked all day. We had tentatively made reservations for stand up paddle boarding (referred to as SUP) not far from Old Town, but we had to take the bus there.

We had called ahead and the guy said he should have two paddle boards for us provided the people who rented them brought them back when they were supposed to. If you rent them in the morning you can bring them back when you want basically and pay for however long you were out. The people he rented them to said they would be back at 3, but there was a chance that they might keep them longer. I guess they decided to keep them longer because when we got there (at 4 pm) he had no boards for us. Poop! I had really wanted to try this out and was super bummed.

The area that we were in, Mission Bay, was riddled with rental places though so we stopped and checked a few out. We stopped in one and the guy there didn't have SUPs but he directed us to a place that did out on this "pier" that was really a peninsula of land. We headed out there and were in luck. They had plenty of boards and rented them out til 7. Hooray! We changed and put our stuff in a locker. Like I said before, Mission Bay is a large bay that's very well protected so it was a great place to try out SUPing. We paddled around and even tried sitting and paddling. We found that pushing our boards together and paddling on our own side was easy so we did that too. We paddled over to a bridge not far away and realized when we got there that there weren't many other SUPers over there. We quickly found out why. There were a ton of boats and water skiers making waves, which is not conducive to SUPing. We decided to head back after taking some pictures and then there were a bunch of boats where we came from going fast and pulling skiers, tubes and wake boarders. We found out that the 5mph speed restriction ended at 5pm. Annoying. Despite the waves we made it back without falling.

We got back on the bus, which took us back to Old Town where we got on the trolley back to downtown. We decided to get pizza to take back to the room. It was delicious. We also got a bunch of candy for dessert, which was also delicious. It was a great first day of vacation and we like SUPing!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kayaking, SD and the Mexican border

8/18 Day 38 - We woke up and Julie drove us down to the beach not very far from where the kayak place was. Was said goodbye and headed over there. Luckily we were able to grab a spot on their 10am tour. (But they made us pay $40 more even though we had a GroupOn. Bad start. -E) We had to wait a little bit, but we went to Starbucks and got a snack so we didn't mind. When we got back we got our life jackets our helmets. We met up with the other people on the tour and the guide. Since there was an odd number of people and a lot of people she asked if Ethan would be the guest guide and if I would go in a double with her or someone else. Definitely not the ideal situation, but I felt bad so I said yes. I got paired with a Philippino woman who was really funny and Ethan got to wear a special life jacket and no helmet.

We kayaked out to these cliffs and learned about how they were eroding and how all the houses on them would be gone in 50yrs. (Dr. Seuss had a house there and supposedly the fish that he had in all of his stories was the California state fish that is plentiful in this area. -E) We learned a little about the animals that live in the ocean and around there as well as a short history lesson on the area. We also got kayak into one of the caves, however it was very brief because we had a lot of people. After that we went back to shore.

All in all we didn't feel that the kayak tour was worth our money, but we enjoyed it. We would have much rather rented some and did our own tour, but whatever. After that we hopped on a bus back to Julie's, packed our stuff and headed for downtown to our hotel.

We went through Mission Bay, which was really cool and pretty. It's a pretty large bay where people paddle board, kayak, waterski, wakeboard, tube and sail. It's very protected from the ocean so the water is really calm. It wasn't too far to the hotel and the ride was flat. We had to deal with traffic and no bike lane, but it wasn't too bad.

We finally made it to the hotel in downtown. When we went to check in the guy behind the counter couldn't find the reservation. We tried every name we could think of (we were pretty sure he was just a moron and was typing something wrong, but we humored him anyway). I had just spoken with a lady who received our package of clothes like an hour or so before and she confirmed that our reservation was under my name. So I knew he was just dumb. (He looked at us like yeah right can two scrubs on bicycles afford to stay here. Screw you, dude. -E) After a while another lady came up and typed it in and found it right away.

We took all our stuff off our bikes and headed out for the Mexican border. Our original plan was to take a ferry across the bay to Coronado and then head south to Imperial Beach. Julie told us there was a train that takes you back from the border and that sounded much better than biking back. When we got to the ferry the next one didn't leave for 45 minutes so we decided to scrap it.

Eventually we ended up on this road completely dedicated to car sales. Every block had a few dealerships on it. It was called the Mile of Cars. It was strange. After a while I got tired of all the traffic so Ethan found a different route. We were pretty close to the border at this point. After a while the less busy road turned into a totally carless road. I got nervous because we were so close to Mexico and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, we passed a bunch of horse ranches and then turned back toward the main road. We could see Mexico as well as the giant fence that keeps people out. It was weird. When we started to get closer to the border crossing we noticed a helicopter hovering very close to the ground and were surprised by a 4-wheeler that came out of nowhere and crossed the road in front of us - we presumed they were border patrol. Very Weird.

We eventually ended up at this really nice outlet mall that had all sorts of your average stores. We thought about going to look for flip flops - I lost mine a few days ago- but decided against it. We passed some duty free stores and then came up to the giant gate that separates Mexico and the US. A ton of people were going back into Mexico with all sorts of stuff. We stopped in sight of the "Mexico" sign over the vehicle crossing and snapped a pic. It was very anticlimactic. Oh well! We were done!! Hoooooorayyyy!

We got back on our bikes and headed for the pedestrian overpass to the train station. From behind us I heard someone say my name. Instinctively I turned around and there was the couple we had stayed at Doheny with. Small world. They crossed the border and had a celebratory beer/tequila shots and were also taking the train (or trolley as they call it in SD) back into downtown. We crossed the pedestrian bridge with them to get to train, which you weren't supposed to ride your bike over. The two of them and I walked, while Ethan decided it wasn't a big deal and rode. Well turns out they really don't want you to ride across it because when we got down on the other side two security officers were there waiting. They gave Ethan a hard time about it and threatened to make him go all the way back and walk his bike back over. It was super unnecessary and annoying, but Ethan told him he only biked because it was easier. (And there were like two other people on the overpass so big deal. They were the kind of cops you could tell were bullied in high school. -E) The officer let him go for being honest. After our brush with the "law" we got our tickets and put our bikes on board. It took a solid 35 minutes to get back into town but it was way better than riding back.

We showered and then went out for a celebratory burger and Ethan had a beer. We got a tub of ice cream for desert and went back to the hotel. (I put the tub in the ice container and filled it with ice to keep it cold. Brilliant! -E) We enjoyed our mint chocolate chip ice cream while we relaxed and thought about how awesome we are. 1863.58 miles of biking over 38 days (36 biking days). It felt incredible and very surreal. We thought back on the last month. All the people we met, friends we made, places we stayed, things we saw, & wildlife we encountered added up to one of the most epic adventures ever.

We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow

8/17 Day 37 - Originally we planned to go only 30ish miles this day and then another 30ish to San Diego the next day as well as bike to the border (and back). The more we thought about it though the less appealing it sounded. Ideally we wanted to get closer to San Diego so we didn't have that many miles to cover on our last day. Pretty much the only way we could do that was to pay for a hotel or try CouchSurfing or WarmShowers. We've known about CouchSurfing for a long time and really never had the opportunity to try it. We had only recently heard about WarmShowers. It's essentially the same as CouchSurfing but it's specifically for bike tourists. Basically people open their homes to travelers (or bikers) to stay on their couch or extra bed and get a hot shower too. We sent out a couple CouchSurfing requests and some WarmShowers requests and crossed our fingers.

(I woke up early to look for some tide pools, but came up empty. I did find a dead leopard shark on shore though and walked the pier to a great view of surfers, gulls, and the sunrise. -E) It was the hottest morning we had thus far and we were not looking forward to riding in the heat. We rode on a really short bike path for a while and then went to McDonalds (2 miles out of our way. -E). We stayed there for a while in the air conditioning. Ethan ended up plugging his phone into an outlet in the ceiling... (I used a dry sack and attached it to a hanging light and put my phone in there so it wasn't just hanging from the cord. Genius! -E) People gave us some interesting looks. After that we headed out. It was a bit hilly getting back on our main path, but wasn't too bad.

The details of the rest of the ride are a bit fuzzy by now, but the highlights included riding on an abandoned stretch of highway 101, passing a nuclear power plant and riding through Camp Pendleton (a very large military base). The stretch of 101 had been left there when they built highway 5. It was really strange, but also pretty nice because it was so wide. It was a section of the bike path that we rode through Camp Pendleton, but it was before the base.

We finally got to the part where the bike path heads into the base and were relieved to hear we could definitely ride through there. (There had been a few signs indicating the camp was closed to cyclists this day, but we decided to check it out because we really didn't like the alternative... riding on Hwy 5. We also passed a sort of shrine to fallen cyclists on the route. It was sad and inspiring at the same time. -E) Sometimes they are doing training or stuff that closes the camp to bikers. If it is closed you have to turn around and ride your bike on the highway. Normally it's illegal to do that, but since there is no other way to get through that area for bikers that section is overlooked when the camp is closed. Luckily it was open and we continued on. We were a little nervous going through because we weren't sure what to expect. We ran into a guy on his bike though that seemed to take an interest in what we were doing. He had biked through there many times so he led us most of the way. He also told us a bunch of stories about what they do on the base and the encounters he has had with the people there. It was interesting.

We got to a part that we had heard about where you have to show then your ID. No big deal. Ethan showed his, but I was too slow to get my ID out I guess because the guy told me to just go through. Okie dokie. :] It was really hot riding through there and I saw a baby rattle snake so we were really glad when we got out of there.

By this time we had heard back from a lady on WarmShowers who said she could host us. Woohoo! We were to meet her at a pub in La Jolla and then we would all ride to her house. We were super relieved. The only other notable thing that happened was we rode up this huge, stupid hill to get up to La Jolla and we stopped at Torrey Pines Golf Course. It was cool I suppose. It wasn't much farther to the pub after that.

We walked in and had no idea what Julie looked like only that she was wearing a blue shirt. We walked around and didn't think we saw her. Finally we hear Ethan's name and there she was. We walked right past her somehow. We chatted with her and her friend (can't remember his name), Ethan joined the two of them and had some beer and we got some food. We learned that she was from MI (Detroit suburbs), she likes swimming, biking, surfing and craft beer. She also started a website called PubQuest. It maps all the microbreweries in the country. She likes to bike tour to different breweries. Ethan loved the idea. After a while her friend left (and then texted her that he didn't think we were serial killers) and we left a little after that.

It was another 8 miles to her house in Pacific Beach and we decided to take the scenic route. It was pretty hilly at first and I, of course, was on the struggle bus. Anyway, we finally made it, then we showered and went out to dinner. We randomly ran into some friends of hers too. They were really nice.

We had bought a groupon for kayaking in La Jolla so we decided that Julie would drive us out there in the morning and if we got to kayak we could take the bus back and if not we could maybe catch a ride back to her place with her. She was going swimming with a friend nearby.

We went to bed hopeful that we could kayak in the morning...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Orange County

8/16 Day 36 - We woke up and took our time packing up. My Uncle Bob had just landed in LA so they stopped by to see us off. It was great to see him. :] We left at about 11.

We rode through cities literally the entire day, which is good and bad. It's good because the miles go pretty fast, but bad because some towns (mainly Laguna Beach) are not bike friendly. People are parked on the side of the road with two lanes of traffic and no bike lane. Very stressful.

We stopped in Long Beach for lunch at Panda Express. Our next stop was Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA) where I saw a dolphin. We thought about checking out Balboa Island, but decided not to. We just rode down by the harbor instead. (There were some amazing houses up on a cliff/hill that all seemed to have infinity pools/hot tubs. One house had the entire slope covered with solar panels. Neat. -E) After that we stopped at Ralph's in Dana Point for dinner food and the campground was less than a mile from there. It was pretty flat most of the way except going through Laguna. It was also really hot, but like I said the miles went by fast so it wasn't too bad.

The campground was nice, but the hiker/biker site was really small and behind the bathroom again. There were only two other people there so we ended up having plenty of room. They actually have been riding the same route as us, but we found out we have been a couple days ahead or behind them the whole time. They knew Josh and Frank and had stayed at the same place as us in Monterey. It was really strange that we only ran into them once, but also kinda cool.

We didn't sleep very well because it was hot and we were really close to a train track that was very busy. At times it sounded like the trains were derailing and coming right for us. Not cool.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

R & R

8/14-15 Days 34 & 35 - We got a great night's sleep at Chelsea's and woke up feeling refreshed and a little sore. Our plans for this day included breakfast, REI, lunch and the Griffith Observatory. It took us a while to get going so our breakfast kind of turned in to brunch at Johnny Rockets (there was a groupon for it .. Don't judge us!). We went to REI and Ethan finally found this packable daypack he'd been looking for since we left Chicago. Hooray! He returned the bag he had got instead and bought the daypack. Success! After that we headed to the observatory.

The observatory was packed with tourists, which is always annoying, but it was actually really cool. It's basically a mini-museum about astronomy as well as an educational tour type thing. You could also go out onto the roof and into two telescope towers they have. We are completely fascinated by space so we really liked it. We hung out on the roof looking over the skyline and up at the Hollywood sign. It's so much smaller in real life.

After we left the observatory we decided we needed a closer look at the Hollywood sign. Ethan found a place that got you as close as possible, but it took us through some of the most winding and steep roads I've ever seen. It made me seriously car sick. When wevgot there there was an ice cream truck so naturally we got a drumstick chocolate cone. We took a couple pics and noticed that there were several news vans there. We decided it was nothing, although we did see some helicopters over the area from the observatory, which we thought might be strange.

Anyway, after we left there Ethan really wanted to go to Coney Dog. It's a coney dog restaurant owned by some famous people from Detroit or with special ties to it. (KRIS DRAPER, Braylon Edwards, and Tim Allen are all part owners. -E) It was pretty neat. They had a bunch of Red Wings posters and old pics of Detroit. Ethan got some coney dogs and I got cheese fries. They were OK. After that we needed to get gas and then we were going to the airport to pick up Ali (my sister).

After getting gas and Ali we headed back to Hermosa beach for Taco Tuesday. We met Chelsea and Ali's friend Kyle there. We hung out for a while eating tacos and drinking beer (I didn't have any beer). After that we went to a place close by that was a bit quieter and they also happened to have a ping pong table. We played best of three and eventually were joined by this strange but cool guy from Ghana. He kept score for us and then played Ethan and was actually kinda good. (I won though. -E) It was awkward, but we had a good time.

The next morning we got bagels with Ali and then went to Target for some food and other random things. We also had to get Caladryl for Ethan because we're pretty sure he has poison oak or something similar. It's pretty gross and not comfy for him :[. After that we got Chick-fil-a because it's delicious. (And some YogurtLand, which is almost equally delicious. Why can't they have those in Michigan? -E)

Once we were filled up on chicken and frozen yogurt, we went to the beach and chilled for a while. It was the first time we had been to the beach to enjoy the sunshine. It was great. :] When we'd had our full of the beach we headed back to Ali's apartment, which is like 100 yards from the beach. We chilled there for a while then went back to Chelsea's for dinner. Again, the food was awesome and it was great hanging out with the fam! We stayed up watching shark week for a while followed by Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman - great show... if you like listening to Morgan Freeman talk about things beyond your comprehension.

The City of Angels

8/13 Day 33 - Our plan to wake up at the butt crack of dawn worked somehow even though we didn't set an alarm. I woke up just before the sun rose and we decided to get on the road. Again, our first goal was Mcdonalds. We did the fastest packing job ever and headed out.

On the way we passed a US Naval Base and all the guys were out running & singing. It was kinda cool to see in real life. We got to Mickey D's and decided we had plenty of time to chill. We found a plug and got some sausage McMuffins.

After hanging out there for a while we decided it was time to go. We headed out to our next stop, which was a state park outside of Malibu. It was pretty flat most of the way, which was nice because it was really hot. Then when we got closer to the park it started to get a bit hilly. They weren't big hills but I was annoyed. We finally got to the park and it looked like it was down a big hill. Not going in there. So we kept on but I had to pee really bad. We stopped at the first gas station we came to in Malibu. There were "no public restroom" signs all over so I made Ethan get a snickers so we could use the potty. After that we continued through Malibu. It was really pretty, but it didn't look like they make it look on TV. Anyway, we passed some ridiculously big and beautiful houses and saw some even more ridiculous cars.

We stopped at a city park just outside Pepperdine University. It was the nicest park ever. We filled up our water bottles, made PBJs and watched some kids play laser tag. After lunch we headed out. Our next break would be Santa Monica. Eventually we got to a sign denoting the LA city limit and population of over 3 million. Cool. We continued riding and kept going past Santa Monica. We were on the bike path and just wanted to get there so we didn't take a break. We got to Venice and knew it right away. There were all sorts of people hanging out, rollerblading and being weird. Again, wasn't how I pictured it, but it was cool.

As we were riding through Venice Ethan spotted our friend Molly. This is crazy! She had said she would be in that area that day, but we had no idea when or where she'd be. We stopped and chatted with her for a minute and then decided to take a snack break with her and her friends.

After our break we only had a few miles to go to get to Redondo Beach where Chelsea (my cousin) lives and works. We were headed to her office to get her house key and then over to her house for a much needed shower. We continued riding on the bike path and it took us around Marina Del Ray where we saw some super cool boats and then back to the beach. We got to Chelsea's work at about 4:30 then headed to her house.

We showered and later had dinner with Chelsea, Huy, Aunt Terry and Uncle Dave. The food was great and the company was even better. :]

Monday, August 13, 2012

The flat tire day

8/12 Day 32 (Second Half) - After we had everything taken care of at McDonalds we headed for Santa Barbara.

We stopped first at Old Mission Santa Barbara. It's this big mission that sits up on a hill overlooking the town. It was really pretty, but the tours were $5 so we skipped the tour and just hung out outside. (Skye talked to Nonnie on the phone for a solid 30 mins here. It was a much needed break in the shade. -Ethan) After that we went to the courthouse which was built a very long time ago (not sure of the exact year, look it up if you want to know). Anyway, they still use the courthouse for normal courthouse stuff but the public is allowed to tour through most of it. There is also a tower that you're allowed to tour as well. We decided to check out the tower. It was pretty cool and you could see almost all of Santa Barbara.

After we left the courthouse we stopped briefly at an old fort, not sure what it was called (El Presidio -E) but I was done looking at old stuff by then so we just looked for a minute. After that we headed to REI for some needed equipment replacements. They pretty much let you take anything back there if you're dissatisfied so we returned my Camelbak and got a new one in purple. We also returned our sporks that broke a few days ago for new ones and bought two new tubes in case we have any more flat tires. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen again. I think Ethan would lose it. :]

We left Santa Barbara and still had about 30 more miles. We biked through a couple towns and finally came to this bike path Ethan wanted to take. When we got to it we realized it wasn't paved. Usually we don't mess with unpaved paths because they're difficult to ride on with heavy bikes. But this one seemed really compacted and not too bumpy so we decided to take it anyway. Wrong choice. It ended up being super bumpy and it sucked. We even had to take our bikes over train tracks. I was not happy. It finally smoothed out near the end, but we were still happy to be off of it when it finally did end.

We eventually had to get back on HWY 1 which always sucks, but the shoulder was good the whole way so that makes us feel better. At one point the highway is squeezed between the ocean and the mountains and there is actually a bike lane on it. It was pretty neat and really pretty.

We decided that since we wouldn't need dinner food the next day to just eat out before we got to the campground. We found a place that had pizza a few miles before the campground in Ventura. After we ate we went to the grocery store for some Oreos then biked a little less than 3 miles to McGrath State Beach. There was only one other biker there (we didn't catch his name). He had been riding for 7 months. Wow! That's a long time. We talked to him for a while and then set up camp. It was a pretty uneventful night. We went to bed super early so we could get up at the butt crack of dawn and get on our way to LA.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Morning Report

8/12 Day 32 - Despite the blinding light from the bathroom and the moonlight last night I slept pretty well. Ethan woke up at some point for a while and saw a shooting star. Maybe he should have made a wish for a stress free day because we could have used one this morning.

We woke up super early hoping to leave early. We got all our stuff packed pretty quickly, but when I went to move my bike closer to camp I noticed my front tire was flat. Ethan got to work on it as fast as he could. He found a tiny wire stuck in the tire that had poked through the tube (probably from a shredded truck tire on the highway... Sound familiar Shawn?). He replaced the tube with the last good one we had. We prayed that we wouldn't need another one. We left camp at 7:45, plenty of time to get to McDonalds 22 miles away.

On the way out I noticed my Camelbak (a little backpack that holds a water bladder with a tube so I can drink and ride) was leaking down my back. I took it apart and didn't see any leaks in the actual bladder so I strapped it to my bag on the back and we continued. We got about 12 miles when I looked at Ethan's back tire and noticed it was almost flat. Crap! We stopped and put air in it hoping it was a slow leak. We didn't make it very far. We only had one tube that we thought might make it to the next town so we stopped and Ethan changed his tube for the other one. He found a wire in his tire too. We knew it was a slow leak in the old tube, but weren't sure how slow it would be with all the weight on Ethan's bike. We crossed our fingers.

We rode about 2 miles before it went almost completely flat again. Ethan decided that he would keep riding and put air in it every 2-3 miles until we got to Goleta. There were 4 bike shops in the same plaza as McDonalds so we knew we'd be ok once we made it there. At first Ethan thought I could ride ahead of him to try and get there faster, but he's must faster than me even with a flat tire so that didn't quite work out. I would get ahead of him while he stopped for air and then he would catch me. So with about 3 miles left we ditched that plan and decided we could still make it to McDonalds for breakfast.

We made it there with plenty of time. And the tire held up the whole way. We got some sausage McMuffins and hung out for a while. Ethan went over to the bike shop across the street and found a tube that was a little small, but the guy said it would work.

Currently we are sitting outside McDonalds. Ethan is fixing his tire and I'm blogging. Our next stop is Santa Barbara. There are a couple things we want to check out and an REI that we might go to for more tubes ... We're not taking any chances. :]

Top Ten Bike Touring Tips: #10

#10 Trust Your Instincts - Unless you are completely new to biking in general, you probably have a pretty good handle on common sense biking. So when you're on a bike tour it's especially important to trust your gut and use your common sense. If something doesn't seem right or feels off to you stay away from it or don't do it. For example, if you decide to try an alternate route but it looks a little sketchy just stay on the main road. Or if that tunnel looks a little too scary, walk your bike on the sidewalk. The main reason you need to trust your instincts is for safety. When you're on a bike tour safety is #1.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Last of the Hills

8/11 Day 31- To explain the title, today was our last day of giant hills. After today we won't have anything over 300ft. Yay!

We woke up super early this morning around 6:15 (the earliest we have been up on purpose). We had about 60 miles to do and two pretty big hills. We left at about 7:15 and it was really nice to be out on the road alone. There was very little traffic until about 10:30 or so. It was great.

Our first stop was in Guadalupe. We pulled in to an American Legion that had picnic tables and ate some pop tarts. We decided we would eat little meals as much as possible because we knew it was going to be hot and a very long day. After that we went another 10 miles and stopped in Orcutt. The first big hill was about 8 miles ahead so we made PBJs and had an Arnold Palmer. On the way to the hill we went through more strawberry fields. It was hard not to stop and just smell the air.

When we got to the hill, the sun had come out and we were pretty far inland so it quickly became scorching hot. The hill actually wasn't too bad, we've definitely had worse. But it was so hot! We had to stop every time there was shade (which wasn't very often) to cool our bodies off and drink water. Ethan ended up in his spandex with no shirt and I ended up in mine with my shirt pulled up and tucked in my bra. We couldn't get up that hill fast enough. Finally we made it and we spent a solid 15 minutes cooling off in the shade.

As we came down the hill we rolled into the town of Lompoc. Odd name, but all we cared about was the temperature. Lompoc isn't really close to the coast, but there was an awesome cool breeze through the city that felt amazing. We stopped at Burger King to fill up our water bottles and fought the urge to buy a large fry. After that we found a park to chill and eat lunch. More PBJs.

We sat there for a while contemplating the next hill. It was 13.5 miles up hill and only 2.5 miles down. We decided to just go for it and stop when we found shade or sooner if we needed to. At first it wasn't too bad. It basically was a series of rolling hills that gradually took us higher and higher. Again, the worst part was the heat. After a while we came to a spot where there literally was no shade for miles. It was torture. It also happened to be a very long & slow uphill stretch. Finally I told Ethan that we had to stop even if there was no shade. We stopped at a call box that gave us about a 2ft square of shade. At this point I was on the struggle bus for sure. I'm not sure how much farther we had to go. I wasn't sure if I could go two more feet.

Somehow, as usual, we made it up the hill. At last! The final big hill! We took a picture at the top and sailed down the other side. Luckily the campground was right at the bottom and we were back on the coast. The breeze was cool and we felt so relieved. We paid for our spot at the hiker biker (stinkin $10 per biker & its usually $5. Crap. -Ethan) and set up camp. A father-son pair, Bob and Dante, were there too. We've ended up staying at the same place as them a few nights. We made dinner and spent most of the evening chatting with them. Their last day is tomorrow. We're super excited for LA (technically Redondo/Torrance) so we're going to try to get there on the 13th. Yay! The next two days are going to be long, but I think it will be worth it. The end is in sight!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Top Ten Bike Touring Tips: Honorable Mentions

So we decided that since we are nearing the end of this adventure we would share a bit of the wisdom we have gathered over the last month or so and from our last trip. Before we go any further we have to declare our disclaimer. *We are not professionals and all the advice we are about to divulge should be considered suggestions. We still consider ourselves to be amateurs and if you're looking for advice about bicycle maintenance you probably won't find it here.* Ok, now that we've said that here we go! One more thing...these aren't in any particular order.

1). Outlets - if you are relying on electronic devices (cell phone, GPS device) to navigate, for emergencies, or other important reasons make sure you always have these things charged. This seems simple enough, but if you are on a budget you'll likely be camping in the cheapest places, which rarely have electricity. Along the west coast we have stayed at one campground that had electricity at the site we paid for. Most of the state parks don't even have electricity for motor homes. So you have to resort to finding a working outlet whenever you can. This can sometimes lead you to very odd places. For example we have found outlets outside grocery stores and gas stations (they use them to light up signs, etc), in restrooms, restaurants, laundromats, public pavilion areas, & neighboring RVs in campsites (it never hurts to ask). Probably the most interesting place we've found a plug was outside a subway/gas station across the street from Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It was cool. Pretty much every time we walk into a store or restaurant we look around for a plug. If we plan on eating there we find a table with a plug or ask someone. People are usually pretty understanding when it comes to charging things. At least most everyone we have encountered seems to understand that we need our phones to be charged and we're not just weirdos loitering around for no reason. We generally are paying for something where ever we end up charging so it's not usually a problem.

2). Rewards - At the end of your day feel free to reward yourself. Biking every day is awesome and getting to your destination is rewarding, but sometimes giving yourself a little something extra makes it that much more worth while. For example, we reward ourselves with food. We'll get cookies, pop (or a beer), candyand even make extra food for dinner. It works for us because we love food and we need to replenish calories anyway. Two birds, one stone. We'll also reward ourselves for reaching our smaller goals, like getting over a giant hill or going a certain number of miles over a certain period of time. Rewards can be anything you want as long as they are something that makes your hard work worth it at the end of the day.

3). Swallow Your Pride - this mostly refers to dealing with motorists, but can be applied to other facets of biking. When dealing with motorists it is best to let whatever stupid thing they did go. Unless they hit you. Then get mad... After you get any necessary medical attention of course. For example, we've been honked at, flipped off and yelled at, which sucks, but we don't react to it. You never know when this person may be driving behind you later in the day. You will also not likely see this person ever again so getting mad is not worth your energy. Save it for the ride... You'll probably need it :]

4). Be Flexible - Having a plan is always a good idea (stay tuned for more on this topic in the actual Top Ten Bike Touring Tips). But sometimes your travels call for a change in plans or something happens where you need to be able to adapt to the situation. You never know what is going to happen and you just need to OK with changing the plan a little. Also, when things don't go exactly according to your plan, often times there isn't much you can do about it. You will also need to be able to change your plan depending on how your body reacts to the big change in diet and exercise. If you're really sore or something hurts, it can't hurt take a day off (if you have time) or maybe split a long day in half.

5). Wake Up And Get Going - sleeping in is awesome, but it's important to get on the road early. We didn't really learn the importance of this until more recently. We thought 10 am departures were plenty early, but have discovered the benefits of getting out even earlier. For one, there are far fewer people on the road. It's nice not to worry about car after car after car. It also feels good to know that you can break early and often along your route and that you have plenty of time to explore if you find something interesting. Also, it is a great feeling getting to your campsite earlier so you have time to unwind. It's annoying and boring when you only have time to set up camp, get dinner going, and hit the sack.

Stay tuned for the top ten...

Easy breezy

8/10 Day 30 - One month of bike riding! Woohoo! We woke up early this morning, but took our time getting ready. The rain fly had a bunch of condensation on the inside so we had to wait for it to dry. After we had packed up we headed for Morro Bay to attempt to get McDonalds for breakfast. It was 25 miles and we had about 2 hours to get there. It was going to be close.

About a mile down the road I was thinking to myself "I really want to see a whale or some dolphins." And I thought about when I saw a dolphin while eating breakfast in Redondo with Aunt Terry. It was awesome. Then I looked out to the ocean and saw a fin! I yelled at Ethan to stop and kept my eyes on that spot. And all the sudden there were 3 or 4 dolphins playing in the surf. It was soooooooo cool. We watched them for a while until we couldn't see them anymore. We added dolphins to our list of wild life we've seen. (dolphins, black bears, elk, deer, bald eagles, giant slugs and snails, raccoons, california condors to name some notables.) Yay!

After that we booked it to get to McDonalds. We were going pretty fast until we got to a hill that slowed us way down. As soon as we got over it, it was back to fast biking. Then we got to another hill. Crap! Oddly enough about half way up the hill there was a McDonalds billboard. Ugh! We got up the hill and continued riding pretty fast. By the time we got to the town right before Morro Bay I pooped out. My legs were so tired. I knew we weren't going to make it, but I kept going as fast as I could.

We got to the parking lot at 10:40. Darn! There was a subway in the same plaza though so I went there, while Ethan went to McDonalds to see if they had anything left. They only had one sandwich left so he went to the grocery and got some chips. We got a sub and found a plug for our phones.

When I took my phone off airplane mode (saves battery big time when going through low/no service areas) I got a wonderful message that made up for the lack of Mickey D's. Gunnar (older brother) proposed to his girlfriend Catherine! Yayyyyy! I knew that he was going to, but it's still way exciting! A few minutes later as I was blogging they called so I got to talk to them about it. It was great to hear from both of them :]. Super excited guys!!!!

After chatting with the newly engaged people we chilled at subway for what turned out to be about 2 hours. I wonder if the people working there were wondering what we were doing. Anyway, after that we went to Albertson's right around the corner for some food and other things. We spent a solid hour there getting random things we kept thinking about. So in total we spent 3 hours in Morro Bay. It's definitely the longest break we've taken so far.

We didn't have much farther to go to Pismo Beach though and the terrain was fairly flat so we weren't worried about the time. We left there and made pretty good time to San Luis Obispo. (Ethan here. On the way we went by Morro Rock, which is part of the Nine Sisters. They are ancient volcanoes that popped up and quickly became extinct because the tectonic pressure found a different way to release, the San Andreas Fault. Pretty cool!!!!!!) It was the first city we went through with palm trees lining the streets. It's getting warmer!! We only went through the outskirts of SLO and kept going. We eventually got on a road that follows 1/101 to Avila/Pismo Beach. As soon as we got on it the wind was in our face. Why does this always happen?? The last 10 miles the wind is always in our face. Argh!

We finally got pretty close to Pismo and decided to stop for a snack. We pulled into a small winery that had picnic tables outside. We walked in just to look around and see if they had a potty. The owner's wife ended up greeting us and asked us all about our trip. She thought we were pretty cool. She let us hang out for a while to get out of the sun and chatted us up about art (they also have a gallery in there) and our trip. She was super nice. I went to the bathroom and we made some PBJs with tortillas. They were actually really good and we wished we had thought about it before. We're not sure how long the jelly will last though in the heat. :-/ If it gets gross though just PB samwiches are good too. (or granola bars dipped in PB)

After our snack we headed to the campground. We stopped at 7/11 for dessert and some pop first. When we got to the campground we came in the back way and went through the whole camp to get to the check in kiosk. It was really nice and we were excited. But when we pulled up we noticed a sign that said "no hiker biker available." Shoot. We went up to the window anyway to get an explanations and find out what our options were. The lady explained that they used to have hiker/biker but took it away and that even though their sign says they're full they have regular site for $35. She told us about a county park that did take hiker/biker though that we already passed. So we could stay and pay $35 or go to the other place, which we knew nothing about. $35 is way too much to camp there so we went to the county park. We made the right choice. It was $13, the showers were free, and there was a pool. Yes!

We got in and they put us at the 2nd hiker/biker site which no one else was in. Yay! We set up the tent and unpacked then went down to the pool. Ethan tested out the pool, while I talked to Deena on the phone. After that we made burritos again and then I took a shower. There was a laundry room right next to the bathroom that had plugs so we were chillin in there for a while blogging and stuff. Then the guy camping next to us came in and offered to run an extension cord to us from his site for our stuff. Hooray! People are so nice. We went back with him and he hooked up the cord. Now we are at the picnic table... I'm updating this and Ethan is updating our mileage and how much money we've spent. We're three (or probably 4) days away from LA and super excited to see Ali, Chelsea, Huy, Terry and Dave and of course Daisy. :] See you soon guys!

Decisions decisions

8/8 Day 28 - Last night was rough... For me anyway. I woke up to a sniffing noise outside the tent. My mind immediately went to coyote or bobcat even though we were in the middle of town. It sounded like a dog and I couldn't imagine someone would just let their dog wander around the park in the middle of the night. Later we found out it had been raccoons. Side note - If there are food bins for our food we always use them - safety first! And if there aren't food bins we put the food in one of our thick plastic dry bags that is hard to get into and set it away from the tent or hang it in a tree. However, at this particular park there were no bins, and no signs about raccoons. We should have known better though. We put the food bag in the vestibule of the tent and I think they could smell it. We also had some candy wrappers in the tent that they could probably smell. Anyway, I was terrified that whatever was outside the tent wanted in and we were going to get attacked. Therefore I did not sleep well. After I got too tired to think about them I realized I had to pee. Dang it. That kept me up the rest of the night because I refused to go by myself. Some time very early in the morning I got a horrendous calf cramp that brought me to tears. It was the worst night ever.

So when we woke up I felt terrible. My whole right side was throbbing from my fall and my left calf was still cramped and seriously painful. I was not at all excited about our hilly day. Fortunately we decided to shorten the day that the book had planned making the next day about 55 miles. We would do two of the three big hills and do the next one the following day. It seemed like a flawless plan.

We headed out straight uphill. Somehow even though we were already way up we had more to go. It sucked but it wasn't too long until we were going back down. We decided to do a little side trip onto 17 mile drive. It's a private road that costs cars $10 to drive on. It takes you out onto the peninsula and through some very scenic territory. The Pebble Beach golf course is on that road. We only rode on it for a couple miles which is great because it was busy and very narrow. We got off and went through a very classy neighborhood from which you can see the golf course. It was a very beautiful place with white sandy beaches.

After we got through the neighborhood we ended up on the edge of Carmel and decided to stop at the grocery. We forgot to get breakfast food the night before so we stocked up on pop tarts and got some noodles for dinner. It was about 26 miles til we could stop for lunch at a state park that the book suggests to stay at to split the day in half (so what would be 60 miles in one day would then be 30/30 over two days). We were planning on going a bit farther to make our day more like 45 miles.

We rode along some very beautiful coastline. The sun was shining and we had a pretty strong tailwind, which was very welcome considering it was in our faces yesterday. We had to go over a few pretty large hills and at the top of one the wind was so strong we had to brake going uphill. While it was a nice break from peddling, when you're that high up and there is only a guardrail between you and a couple hundred feet of rocks straight down, it's a little scary. (We definitely agreed with the name of it, Hurricane Point.) We rode very carefully down the biggest hill trying to avoid getting thrown around by the wind. We made it just fine :].

After we got through those series of hills we came to a somewhat downhill part, but the wind was still very strong. We barely had to peddle for a couple miles and were going around 25 mph. It was awesome. That part took us away from the ocean though, which was not awesome. It quickly went from perfect weather to unbearably hot. We knew we were close to our lunch destination though so we kept on. After going through some construction and stopping to get an iced tea we finally made it to the state park. It took us a while to find a good place for lunch, but we finally found a nature center that had a picnic table out front.

We walked in to see if we could charge our phones and got talking to the rangers. They asked where we were planning on staying, but when we told them they asked if we had reservations. Umm no we don't. Why? Well that place only has two campsites and they are always booked and there are no hiker/biker sites. Well poop. We plugged our phones in and decided to make lunch while we talked about our options.

Option 1: stay here and then go 30 miles tomorrow putting us one more day behind schedule (2 days overall.) Option 2: stay here and go 68 miles tomorrow keeping us on schedule. Option 3: keep going another 30 miles to where the book had us staying in the first place.

We contemplated those for a while. My big issue was staying on schedule. I really don't want to add more days at this point because I want to have plenty of relax time in LA and SD. But I'm also still in a lot of pain from falling and the calf cramp. Ethan was mostly concerned about the hills we have to deal with over the next two days. Ultimately we ended up deciding to stay. It would put us another day behind, but we decided the benefit of having all day to get over the hills tomorrow outweighed the cost of losing another relax day.

Anyway, after we made our choice we decided to take a short hike to a waterfall nearby. It was really hot and the waterfall was less than spectacular. We were a bit dissatisfied. Oh well. After that we paid for a hiker/biker site and set up camp. We walked around for a while and got some snacks, two Dr. P's, and a beer at the store. Then we made dinner and charged our phones at the bathroom while cleaning dishes.

We ended up hanging out with another couple that we met a few days ago. They made a fire and we made s'mores. It was a good night. Early to bed (10pm) so we can get up and get those hills over with. :]

That wasn't so bad, was it?

8/9 Day 29 - We woke up a little late this morning, but we didn't have too much packing to do. We got everything together pretty quickly and headed out. We still were not sure where we were going to stop today when left. We could either go 30ish miles and be one day behind sched or go 70 miles to stay on sched. We had 4 big hills ahead of us that we were very nervous about, which made the decision difficult. We decided we would make our decision to stop or move on at the campground 30 miles away.

Immediately coming out of the campground we had to go up the first big hill. We stopped half way up at a tiny store for a snack (raspberry tea and a donut.) That gave us what we needed to get to the top. The campground we were at was quite a bit inland so going up was really hot. But when we came down the hill we were greeted with the familiar chill of the ocean air. It was great. Hill number 1 done!

We rode for a while until we came to the state park we were planning on staying in that only had two sites. We walked out to this waterfall that Ethan wanted to see. It was pretty lame but the view of the ocean was cool. We left there to try to get to the next state park as quickly as possible. We went over another big hill, but it wasn't bad.

We got to our decision making spot at about 1:30. We could either stay there or go another 35 miles. We decided to continue on. Stopping that early regardless of how hard the hills were coming up seemed like a waste of a day. We had 7 hours or so until the sun set and figured we could make it well before then...

We decided to skip lunch so we could make better time so right before the first of the last two hills we just ate a bunch of random stuff. Poptarts, granolas and a can of mandarin oranges we'd been saving. We also had to fix my toe clip which had come unscrewed somehow (we as in me. -Ethan.) We came to the first hill and we went slow, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as we thought. The second hill was immediately after the first and again, not that bad. We were so happy. We came down the second one and knew it would be smooth sailing from there.

It really was pretty flat after those hills, which was awesome. As we rode this creepy fog started to roll in. It wasn't really thick because you could still see fairly well, but it was still really strange. We got out of the fog and eventually we were riding really close to the ocean. It was probably the closest we had rode to sea level in a long time. We saw some pretty big sea lions chillin on this beach along the way. They were funny and bigger than any marine animals we had seen so far.

As we got closer to San Simeon we saw Hearst Castle from afar. I'm not sure of the story behind it, but we hear it's pretty cool. It's huge too because we were pretty far away when we saw it. As we got closer we came to a really busy parking lot on the roadside. As we got closer we realized there were a bunch of elephant seals sleeping on the beach. We had to stop. They were pretty cool because they're huge, but we didn't stay long because they were sleeping and it was boring. We didn't have too much farther to go to the state park and we stopped to get a pop and some chips to go with dinner.

We set up, made dinner and hung out with some guys that stayed at the same place as us the night before. They made a fire and it was really cold out so we stayed there for a while. We went to bed feeling accomplished and excited to still be on schedule!