My trek up the coast continued under blue skies as I was leaving Oxnard and passing through beautiful beachtowns such as Santa Barbara. It was nice to be out of the big cities and there were decent bike-paths along the beach most of the time. Outside of the towns, I stayed on Highway 1 for the most part which varied in quality and shoulder-width. I had actually expected a short day and thought my couchsurfing-host was close to Santa Barbara – I took long breaks at the beach and even a 30 minute nap before I checked the map and found out that I still had 40km to go – oops. It was early enough to do it and when I got to Jim’s place, I was glad I had made it. He and his wife live in a really nice neighborhood and I got to stay in their guest-house with ocean-view with another couchsurfer, Ander from Bilbao/Spain. Jim took both of us down to the private beach of the gated community. I was surprised to see a lot of cameras, gates and even armed patrol-signs at the entrance, but the explanation was simple: Brad Pitt owns a house at this beach and therefore only the few people from the community and Brad Pitt (+Angelina and all the kids I guess) are allowed there. After checking if Brad was home, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset.
After the stay at Jim’s house, I had to go inland for about two days to follow Highway 1 and the scenery changed completely. No ocean-view anymore, but a lot of farms. California is huge in agriculture and I finally could see it – especially the smell of fresh strawberries for hours while riding past the fields was a nice side-effect. After spending my Halloween-night with Andrew and his fiance in Lompoc, it was time to first get a hair-cut and then head back to the Pacific for some of the best days of the whole trip. On my way from Lompoc to San Luis Obispo, I was taking a break at Pismo Beach when another cyclist pulled up beside me. It was Addison who I had heard about earlier from a warmshowers host. We actually had tried to meet up in LA, but that didn’t work out so it was nice to randomly meet on the road. He started his trip in August and went from Montreal, where he had just graduated from McGill University, all the way down the East Coast to Key West, Florida. Then he flew to San Diego and is going up to his hometown Vancouver. He is the only cyclist I have met going North and we decided to ride up the coast together until San Francisco.
I don’t really know what to say about the last days of my trip and will just upload a lot of pictures that hopefully capture the beauty. Highway 1 hugs the coastline and the views are just spectacular – provided you get lucky with the weather. And that is the one thing I am really thankful for (besides staying healthy of course): the weather has been absolutely amazing on my trip. I think I might have had 5 days of rain in 86 days of riding. People had warned me about the fog, clouds and wind on the coast going up North which would have meant that I wouldn’t have been able to see anything but the street. Instead, we had perfect weather and it was just a pleasure to cycle despite the fact that the road is superhilly with steep grades and not a lot of shoulder to ride on. Besides the views, there was another cool thing to see on the way: elephant seals. These big creatures come to the beaches in that area to chill on the beach and relax. There were tons of them just laying around and making weird noises and it was fun to watch them and think about how calm and relaxing that life must be.
It was really nice to have company these days on the coast. We camped a lot and since it gets dark at about 5PM already, it’s easier to stay up if you have someone to talk to. There are lots of cyclists on the Pacific Coast anyways and at the hiker/biker sections at the campgrounds, we met a lot of other people riding down the coast every night. We also camped at the campground in Big Sur, because everyone had told us how beautiful Big Sur is. So we had started talking about it too and when we finally got to the ‘town’ of Big Sur, we realized that it was a gas station, a cafe/pub and a couple of houses. And we both had to admit that we had no clue what the hype was all about. Later that afternoon, we hiked back up to the cafe from our campsite in order to use the internet. It didn’t work at first and so we killed some time by playing battleship, but when it finally worked, I looked up what Big Sur actually is and we learned that the town itself isn’t that special, but the term Big Sur also refers to the whole coastal region with its cliffs and great views – and yes, that hype is justified.
Since we had decided to camp at Big Sur to check it out, we had a really long and tough day ahead of us all the way to Santa Cruz, about 130km away with big hills and headwinds. We were making good progress, but it wasn’t the easiest and nicest day of cycling with the wind and tired legs after the last hard days. We stopped at a corner in the middle of farmlands to have a look at the map and had to turn left. I said “30 miles of headwinds from now on” and was not in the best mood when all the sudden we hear a guy screaming and shouting from the other side of the road a few hundred feet behind us. I just see an old guy with a white, long beard jumping up and down and then we hear the words: “FREE FOOD, COME ON OVER GUYS”. Those are the words that make every cyclist turn around and I’m so glad we did, because it was yet another unique encounter in the middle of nowhere. Paul is a retired teacher and biked across the US in 1983. He had told himself back then that he would give back in some way the hospitality he had received from people all over the states. So now, every Tuesday and Thursday from 10.30AM to 2.30PM, he sits in his green VW-van at the same spot and is a road-angel to cyclists passing through. He gives out energy bars, freshly baked cookies (SO GOOD!), water, has tools to fix bikes and best of all: energy and happiness. This guy, he calls his van and himself Kermit due to the green color of the car, is amazing and a real inspiration. He was so excited to help us out and talk to us about our trips that we completely forgot about headwinds, hills or any other kind of annoyance. He was full of energy and just looking at him and listening to him would make everyone smile. He had a little sticker on his shirt with a “fun-meter” and it was set to max which was absolutely appropriate. And if some of you now think – like I first did – that he is just a crazy guy, I can assure you he is not. His outlook on life is great and when he said: “Well, what else am I going to do when I’m retired? Sit at home with my wife and wait until we die or go out there, experience the world, help others experience it and just enjoy everything?!” I thought about it and really hope that I will be as energetic and motivated as him when I’m his age. This encounter also made me realize how much I will miss the life on the road – of course the scenery, mountains, beaches, cliffs, animals etc are great, but there is nothing more memorable than the random, special people you meet in the places where you would not at all expect it.
After meeting Kermit, the rest of the ride was so much easier and we arrived in Santa Cruz and got to spend the night at Tom’s and Deb’s place which was great after having camped for a couple of nights. The next morning, Deb actually rode with us for the first 20km up the coast to a coffee-place where we stopped for breakfast. As we were about to leave, we saw a lady pushing a trolley up the big hill on the highway. We could tell she had obviously come a long way by looking at her equipment. Pierrette is from Quebec and has been walking for 7 months all the way from Alberta, Canada down to California and is continuing on to Argentina. She had great stories to share and walks for peace and non-violence towards kids. Another inspirtational encounter and also another Canadian – have had a lot of those on my trip (and slowly picking up the “eh” at the end of each sentence).
We continued on to Half Moon Bay, where I set up my tent for the last time on this trip. It was a great campsite at the beach and we had a few beers to celebrate the achievement. The next morning, we took our time since it was only about 60km to San Francisco and we weren’t in a rush. It was a slow day and the closer we got to San Francisco, the more anxious I was to finally see the Golden Gate Bridge and complete the trip. After one of the steepest hills of the whole trip, I saw a little red bridge about 20km away and it sure was the Golden Gate Bridge. The last kilometers, I was being really careful, because I really didn’t want to have an accident so close to the finish line. But there was nothing to worry about and at 3:04PM I had reached my goal – 86 days of cycling and 7738km after leaving the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, I had made it all the way across the American continent to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
I have to say that it is a really weird feeling right now. This has been my dream for half my life and I just can’t believe I have actually done it. I still remember how I googled “Bike tour New York San Francisco” more than 12 years ago and was fascinated by the idea. So I guess the word ‘bittersweet’ best describes the feeling. I’m definitely proud of myself and more than happy to have lived my dream, but at the same time sad it’s over. But as Kermit would say: “Life is good” and there are more adventures out there!
One of these adventures will be my little roadtrip that is coming up. After exploring San Francisco, I’m going to rent a car and drive to Las Vegas from where my flight departs next Thursday. On my way to Vegas, I will go through Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks which should be a nice drive. Addison has decided to join me for my roadtrip and the days in Vegas – I’m happy because now I don’t have to go to the great All-you-can-eat buffets by myself which is always awkward ;).
I will update the blog one last time before my flight home with the last updates. Hope you have enjoyed reading the final part of the bike-story and once again I want to remind you that you can/should still donate for Make a Wish Germany on www.donare.de/coast-to-coast-2013 if you haven’t already done so (or even if you have).
Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend,