Back to the future

Trip Start Jul 12, 2013
Trip End Oct 01, 2014

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday the 22nd November, it's raining in Southern California, for one of the few days this year according to all the locals I meet.
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"
Me: "Toronto"
"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. Four thousand and eight hundred miles (7725 km) in 116 days. 1653 of those miles (2660 km) in the US following the Pacific Coast Highway.

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. Oops

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. Five long, 60-70 mile days later put the majority of the climbing and wilder highway behind me and here began the slow build up of beach towns leading through Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and into San Diego. In Santa Barbara I also met up again with Ben and after sharing so much of the time on the road it seemed only fitting to cycle the last week together to arrive at the end of the adventure.

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.
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Candice Henderson on

Lorraine, I've thoroughly enjoyed your blogposts and look forward to meeting up with you in the Toronto area in the near future. We'll have a family Christmas celebration here in London on December 29th and you are most welcome to attend. Just an ordinary late afternoon dinner with my relatives from Michigan, Hamilton, Essex and London. Maybe an African Canadian friend. Nothing exotic in the way of eats but lots of wine and, of course, turkey.

Bob Eady on

Ah, the final entry-- the old double edged sword. 1. Congratulatons on an amazing journey well done but 2. sadly your inspiring blogs will no longer grace my in box. A brief conversation with an ambitious and spirited adventuress has provided me with a summer/fall of entertainment and insight. Maybe someday you will return to complete the continental circle and find yourself near our winter hideout in Florida. If not, may legs of steel carry you to further adventure. The world is waiting.

angela on

yay i get to see you sson!!!

Bill Boyce on

Congrats Lorraine. I hope u always find a brew at the end of the day. And that I can have a fellow sipper at the ends of my days! :)-

Ann and Col on

Really enjoyed reading all your blogs and hearing about all your adventures. So pleased that you are happy and healthy after your epic trip! Loved all your photos. Look forward to seeing you when you finally get back, if you come back! xx

Mum and Dad. on

Just knew you could do it. We will miss the blogs but expect a full lecture (with powerpoint slides) when you get home :-)
Well done, we are really proud of all you have achieved and grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped you along the way.

Karen Eckersley on

Thank you for letting us share this amazing journey with you.
Hope to see you at some point.
Lots of love
Karen and Francis

Tina, Mike, Joshua, and Nicholas on

Congratulations!!! It's a fantastic accomplishment! A quiet victory. I'd love to do what you've just done (ok maybe not the biking on the highway part). I'm going to miss your blog updates and being able to live vicariously through your adventure! Email us when you're back in around Toronto!

Julie & John on

Hey the Team Claude has finally arrived at the end of an epic trip. Well done to you both for surviving it. Shall look forward to seeing you whenever you arrive back in the UK. Enjoy some time to reflect on all you have achived and give your poor muscles a chance to return to normal.

Simon Harper on

Congratulations Lorraine - safe journey home :) xx

Sandy on

Well done, what an amazing feat of endurance, self discipline and willingness to adventure into the unknown. If you come back home it will be great to see you again (and some of the pictures... not all of them mind!), to hear your tales and of your next plans.... after a spell of probably not knowing if I know you. There is always a bed here if you need a stop over, a bowl of soup or a bit of a gossip. If not... well, just keep blogging

Gordon Grant on

Well, congratulations on all of that! it's such a bittersweet thing to know that there won't be any blog entries waiting when I get home. It was always such a treat to hear from you, especially when I myself was far from home.
Best of fortune and all happiness as you winter in TO, and hope to see you sometime soon.

Bob Eady on

Thanks for your reply to my comment, FYI my run club in Florida has a dedicated sub group of Triathletes. 4 did Pensacola Ironman last year, and this month 3 more including one age 60 did it as well. If you ever make it here I can perform introductions and then sit and watch y'all train, pain and gain.
Send me an email address some time so I can communicate if this blog connection disappears--I am a bear of very little brain when it comes to computer etc savy. Bob E.

sorbus on

Great journey Lorraine. That is what life is all about. And, as you say, ultimately it's the people who make it memorable, exciting and worthwhile. So have a good bus trip back to Toronto and enjoy yourself in the city of the colourful Mayor. rxx

Susanna on

I'm the Susanna you had Thanksgiving and it was a joy to spend it with you ! Your blog has some lovely photographs and I will enjoy reading it. Let me know if you want to ever visit here in Malibu as I would love to show you around !

Valerie on

Hi Lorraine,
I found your blog while searching for cycling inspiration to forge my own journey... and boy did this do the trick! Having seen Canada by plane, train and automobile growing up here, I believe it's near time to see it on two-wheels, powered by me. Hope your return to "normal" life back home was joyous and maybe I'll see you out there.

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