Back to the future
Trip Start Jul 12, 2013
16Trip End Oct 01, 2014
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However, sunshine finally breaks back through and at 3.30 pm a police car pulls up next to me at a red light, leaning over to chat the officer asks the usual questions...
" Where d'ya start from"
"Awesome and just where do you finish"
Me: "In about 200 meters, at that hostel over there"
"Well in that case - Welcome to San Diego"
And that's it.
I'd like to say there is a huge sense of triumph, jubilation at arriving here but it's more like a quiet sense of satisfaction at a task completed.
When I set out, Vancouver was my anticipated destination but on reaching it I just wasn't ready to finish, physically and psychologically. It didn't feel like an ending, only a pause.
But now it does, and in a content way, I'm ready to stop pedalling, for now at least.
The US has been full of surprises. It's been tougher than expected and the cycling demanding in a way that was different to Canada. Constantly undulating road progressing to some big, steep climbs. In this past section alone there were 6, one thousand foot passes to tackle within 3 days. The traffic also has continued to get progressively worse as quieter coastal sections quickly changed into bustling urban sprawl and finally, to hectic thoroughfares through the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego.
Thunderous, traffic clogged roads swallow cyclists and force riders to weave across busy entrance/exit ramps of multi lane highways......admittedly exacerbated when I missed a turning and mistakenly cycled 10 miles of freeway (motorway) into Santa Barbara
Mostly though, the coast remains resolutely on my right hand side. I love watching both the surfers and the seals expertly riding the swells. Nights in ocean side campsites spent falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach (trying not to think about the constant tsunami zone warning signs).
After a week off the bike in Los Gatos, staying with family, it took a while to get back into the rhythm of the road. Great weather helped, as did some of the most spectacular and iconic scenery. Field upon field of produce, acres of vegetables and fruit, whole sections of the road perfumed by ripe strawberries. Fans of Steinbeck novels can't fail to recognise the land about which he wrote. Seventy five years on, the majority of fields are still harvested by the Mexican populations who migrate across the border for this demanding work. It appears little has changed, except maybe his graphic descriptions didn't include a landscape swathed in parts in plastic sheeting and polytunnels.
From Monterey and Carmel (where Clint Eastwood remains mayor) I rode through an area known as the Big Sur. The road here climbs over 1000 foot crossing a series of bridges (the most recognised of which Bixby Bridge has been made famous by the annual Big Sur marathon) which span dizzying drops and cliff faces
The beach bike paths of downtown LA, Santa Monica and Venice Beach were fantastic places to slowly cruise, watching the competitive posturing of weight lifters at Muscle Beach or the colourful, eccentric or surgically enhanced inhabitants of an area obsessed with image.
The low points, cold, tiredness have been transient, pain is indeed temporary and there is an immense satisfaction in pushing physical limits and in tapping the mental strength required to persuade a tired body to do just one more hill, one more mile. Even the experience of having my camera stolen (which I stupidly left charging unattended) was tempered by the help and kindness people gave in trying to find it. It is the reason however for the lack of pictures although I'm hoping to fineagle some more to add shortly.
The last few nights of the trip characterised what I have appreciated and enjoyed the most throughout this whole experience. An impromptu invitation at one campsite to a family celebration dinner with other cycle tourists and before arriving in the city, two wonderful nights of Warm Showers hospitality, talking travel and bicycles.
For me, the highlights of the journey have not been found in the scenery, albeit spectacular, but with the many wonderful people with whom I've met and shared time along the way, many of who will remain friends for much time to come
So that's all folks. Claud is taking a well earned rest in San Diego where I will spend some time exploring the city and enjoying the sunshine before embarking on a marathon bus journey back to Toronto. My natural sense of neatness enjoys the fact that I will finish the journey where I started nearly 4 months ago. Although I will miss the sunshine!
Future plans extend as far as spending some more time there before seeing where the world takes me. Claud and my panniers will accompany me back so who knows what's in store. But for now Canada, Toronto and whatever may be next......
The final thank you's go to John, Susan, Baci, Shadow and Cara for the tlc.
Fellow cyclists Dave and Tracey, Andrea and Mattheas, Richard, Eric, Johan, Gerry, Tom and Emma. Camp hosts Terry, Jeanie and Orville for your help and for the taxi to the shower block! To Joanne and Tom, India and Todd and Gary and Lee for wonderful food, hospitality and company. And to Ben, wow, what a journey eh!
And finally, for all the many emails, blog comments and Facebook messages from friends and from family, thank you. Without your support I wouldn't have started, let alone completed this trip. Your words and your friendship have been appreciated and valued more than I can say.