Time seems to be playing tricks on us. In some ways, we feel we’ve been in the US for an age, in others, we feel like the trip has barely started. However we may feel, there’s no denying we’re four and a half months into this trip and a stone’s throw from the Mexican border… and our life on two wheels is about to change dramatically.
SoCal (Southern California) has been a dramatic change of pace in itself. We’re still on bikes and we’re still cycling past beaches but the atmosphere, scenery and pace has shifted. The areas we’ve cycled through since San Francisco have been more urban and definitely more upscale. SoCal has stretched our daily budget to its limit; state park campgrounds have doubled in price, coffee and a croissant in Santa Barbara set us back $14 instead of the usual $4 and everyone here drives performance cars – as opposed to the battered pickups we saw throughout Alaska, Washington or Oregon. We’ve been through La La Land (otherwise known as Los Angeles) and survived, we’ve learned a bit about surfing culture (unfortunately without getting on a board) and we’ve embraced the Californian culture of healthy eating but only when it’s meant ‘superfood’ strawberries on top of chocolate pancakes!
As we’ve approached the border, we’ve taken fewer and fewer pictures mirroring our mood that we’re ready for a change of scene perhaps? Here’s a selection nevertheless and for those of you shocked at the inclusion of just one food photo this time, never fear, see the separate blog entry dedicated solely to the splendid cinnamon roll….yum!
Leaving San Francisco took us straight to the dramatic Big Sur coastline. Having seen it the previous week with the London crew, we knew we were in for a treat. We were delighted when the scenery that inspired the name for our blog delivered again, with jaw dropping cliffs, breath-taking sunshine and thrilling cycling.
Heading down Highway 1 towards Cambria, we came across hundreds of elephant seals who use these beaches to moult and mate and snooze. We could have stayed for hours watching their lazy ways…and they dribble in their sleep just like we do!
Planning the next leg of the journey into Baja California, Mexico, Skip – one of our wonderfully generous hosts – looks over the maps with James and gives us some invaluable advice. Thanks Skip!
Outside of Malibu is motorbike hangout Neptune’s Net. We happened to drop by on a Sunday afternoon, along with all the other ‘bikers’…needless to say we didn’t quite fit in on our bikes but we certainly enjoyed the show…
…particularly when some guys started doing tricks outside the front door, right on Highway 1. It was great fun until the local police showed up and everyone scurried home!
Local Californian strawberries…healthy, nutritious and absolutely scrumptious when added to pancakes with posh dark chocolate (kindly donated to us by Erin in San Luis Opisbo – thanks Erin!)…a real Sunday morning treat and proof that cooking on a camp stove can be both ambitious and luxurious.
When we arrived into the outskirts of LA, James decided he had to fit in and promptly ditched his luggage, lost his shirt and acted like a local while I struggled behind valiantly with all the panniers!
We headed to Venice Beach for the afternoon and between the guys on show at Muscle Beach and the hippies selling their incense sticks and painted skulls, we felt positively normal. Watching these guys get hot-headed in fierce local basketball rivalry was a fun way to pass half an hour.
Up to arriving in Santa Monica we were proud to say that we’d either camped or been generously hosted at various places for the whole of our journey – not needing the services of a hotel, motel or hostel. LA changed all that, not a campground or host in sight meant that we had to visit a hostel for the first time…true luxury, our bikes even had their own room.
We didn’t linger for long in the LA area and leaving Santa Monica the next day on a very convenient 20 mile bike path made for pleasant riding…even if the planes taking off and landing at LAX seemed remarkably low.
The bike path haven didn’t last for long though and we soon found ourselves battling smog, congestion and seriously heavy duty traffic around the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach area. We were dreading this section and it dragged on for more than 20 miles but thankfully all the drivers we got up close and personal with were very courteous.
We were pleased to leave the LA traffic behind and enter Orange County, affectionately known as ‘The OC’, where the sun always shines, the cash always flows and men and their dogs have oceans of time to enjoy volleyball at the beach…
Since entering Southern California, it seems every time we come around a corner on the bikes and see a stretch of beach, there’s an inevitably a surfer or two out there trying to catch waves. We learned more about surfing culture and practice from Brian at Huntington Beach when he hosted us – thanks Brian! Neither of us was brave enough to get on a board but they sure do look cool…
And so we've made it to San Diego! The length of the US. We’re looking forward to much more beach riding and lots more sunshine…farewell USA and hola Mexico!