We’ve now hit a point in our journey where you become a little astounded in the capacity your legs and 27 gears on a bicycle can get you in just under 4 months. Hovering around 3000 miles now you begin to really take stock of the hills you’ve climbed and the carpet of roads you’ve rolled over – needless to say, we believe that traveling by bicycle is by far the best way to travel.
After our spectacular shorelines, desert like climbs above San Francisco and, most recently, above Santa Barbara, we’ve managed to time our trip perfectly to align with the Hall Family’s chili cookout, where we met up with a good friend [and currently renting financier of our trip] Andy. Him and his family invited us into their annual family party gathering for a great afternoon of cold beer, a handful of kids to play with, kites, body surfing and enough smiles to gag a rainbow.
Andy’s mother Debby has taken the vagrants into her home in Thousand Oaks where we are spending some time to soak in more sun and generally live the hard life of catching up with friends and exploring a new place before diving a bit deeper into the Los Angeles area.
Another two weeks and a couple down on our ongoing epic cycling saga, hope you enjoy! I’ve also added a small section on our site solely dedicated towards meandering rants and observations Ance and I have come to along our journey, you can find them over at the Rants section.
October 25th (Carpinteria to McGrath State Park)
Another traditionally slow start with Ance’s magical pancake making powers topped off with a glorious shower. Rolled out of campground around 9:30AM and stopped into a laundromat nearby. Augustine found a 1 year old cutie to chase around the place to make the habitual practice of washing clothes much less mundane.
Bought an early morning healthy snack of ice cream – a $1.50 box of 6 orange cream bars? Who can say no at 10:30 in the morning? Kept trucking onto Ventura where we called some friends back home, got a hold of Andy to meet up at Sycamore Beach for his family’s annual chile feed and figured out a spot to camp for the night.
Wandered a bit around town where they were holding a business trick or treat for the kids – and shameless dudes with 2 dollar plastic masks and ponchos singing, “III Waaaant Candyyyy…do dado do….I want candy.” Augustine saw buzz lightyear, princesses and several turtles and a banana peel.
Stole out of town a bit late and wound up standing slightly confused outside the McGrath State Park campground staring at a “Closed” sign declaring prosecution to the full extent of the law for trespassing. Already getting dark, we decided to have a sit down and camp in front of the gate – on the opposite side of the friendly signs.
After pulling out some stuff to make dinner, a gray SUV with bikes strapped on the back popped into the short drive in front of the gate. A man jumps out in the dark, “You guys looking for a place to camp for the night?” Ance and I look at each other, “Umm, yeah we are actually.” “Well, come on it!”
Brad and his wife Linda turned out to be the camp hosts. They lit the way to our campsite in the deserted campground, gave us a lantern for the night and flipped on the showers for us. “There of course is no charge for the night, I mean we’re closed. And the showers are on but don’t put any quarters in them, they’er setup just to turn on for you.” The universe provides.
Brad, outside of being ridiculously nice, is an author of several works – one including the Slightly Whacked Vegetarian Cookbook for Regular People – you can find him online over at www.bradljohnson.webs.com.
October 24th (Los Padres National Forest to Carpinteria State Beach)
Eggs and pancakes for breakfast in the National Forest. Did not get moving until 11:15AM. Clear hot beautiful day, which pretty much seems to to be the norm around here. Great drop out of the little canyon like valleys we’d climbed into a couple days before. The landscape epic but dry and scorched feeling, like an old fashioned broom left near the fireplace too long.
Some rolling, hugging curves to get out and off Paradise Road until hitting a slow and steady climb to 2200FT to get through the San Marcos Pass before plunging back towards the ocean into Santa Barbara. After two hours of climbing we’d blown the whole drop in around 20 mins into the city.
Got great directions to Trader Joe’s and sat in the shade enjoying some treats and a couple of cold beers – pretty wonderful after spending the last couple of days dodging the heat in the hills above Santa Barbara. Stopped into REI to replace some broken gear and then set off to Carpinteria State Beach. Got in at dark with just a torrent of people still flowing into the park that was absolutely packed – a bizarre site considering in the mountains the campsites where almost entirely empty.
Other hiker/bikers at the campsite were utterly non-communicable in any sort of way. Funny how you can cram a bus load of people into a small space and still not find anyone to talk to. Fell asleep listening to giggling children chasing each other and parents laughing historically over their campfires with an assortment of cocktails and brown bottles tinkling their dreamy songs the whole night through.
October 23rd (Los Padres National Forest Rest Day)
Ritualistically slow morning of pancakes in the clear cold morning tucked into an epic looking canyon valley. Took a walk into official Upper Oso campground for water – almost no one here. Found a nicer (flatter with more space) camping spot along the trail. Got back to the bikes and pushed for a bit to the new and improved and completely Ranger free space. Hot.
Did up some popcorn for lunch while Augustine took a nap. Ance and I took a shallow spring river bath/shower by using our cooking pot to dump water on each other in caveman/woman shower style – super cold and refreshing. We’ve managed to find one of the few places along Paradise Road with water you can actually find and use for washing thanks to a great National Forest maintenance guy that gave Ance the rundown on the best spots in the park along the road.
Went for a run in the fading afternoon light, still golden and incredibly hot for late October – according to my inner Alaskan weather clock. Ance and Augustine hung around base camp to make a pirate eye patch for her halloween costume. After washing up after my run we went for a walk that was cut short by running into our first rattle snake of the trip. I took a picture, but I am no snake hunter, so it just looks like a rock.
October 22nd (Live Oak County Park to Los Padres National Forest, Santa Cruz Trail)
Could not sleep reasons beyond me. Stayed up until 4:30AM reading a ridiculous book that Ive been carting around since we started – Middlemarch by George Elliot, it is sorta like a long winded Jane Austen book with splashes of victorian sounding graciousness.
Ate a hot breakfast in the hot sun commenting regularly on how bloody hot it was sipping on hot coffee.Rolled out sweaty before even putting a foot of distance on the treads. Hopped onto a ridiculously busy fast road before pulling off onto Stagecoach road to drop and climb on Paradise road into the National Forest.
Stopped in at Paradise Park to fill water and trucked a bit further down to White Rock day use site. Found a pond of unsavory looking water probably not fit for anything but getting Hepatitis. Ance ended up asking/chatting with Mike Field (NP Maintenance Dude) who told us to go talk to old hippie man Bob for directions to find free camping towards 19 Oaks and possibly a place to cool off with some spring water.
Bob turned out to be a great kind man who used to play music at the now defunct Paradise store. Spent a great deal of time talking with us about the up-coming solar eclipse and sining praises to Augustine’s cuteness in Spanish – charming guy.
Did some mountain pushing up dusty ATV trail until hitting hiking trail off to 19 Oaks. Trail turned out to be to narrow, rocky and steep for us to realistically make the mile to the 19 Oaks campground, so we found a spot just off the trail large enough to accommodate our tent. Macaroni with sausages for dinner – Augustine down for the count at 8PM.
October 21st (Lompoc, River Park to Side of the Road Outside Live Oak Camp)
Said goodbye to Maria (great Spanish cyclists now living in Switzerland finishing up a cycling tour from Washington). Also ended up chatting with great Australian couple with a similar mindset as ours on kicking back and enjoying the road as it comes – with great stories about stealth/dirt bagging camping.
One random thing that they mentioned was that after passing through Alaska and jumping out of Vancouver all their gear and bikes got stolen in northern Washington. Apparently they got on national Television because of the loss. Somehow Amazon.com found out and donated a bunch of clothes and gear for the cause. The world is a random place.
Headed out of the park and stopped off 20 mins in at a fruit stand where an incredibly helpful and inquisitive woman provided directions and peppered us with friendly questions about our trip. Thanks so much for the strawberries!
Kept trucking in the heat to Bullton and the Whister-esq Solvang. Stopped in at an Albertson’s for the cheapest most unnatural ice cream bars we could find. Continued on deeper into the San Ynez valley looking parched and weathered like an old face.
Began short gradual climbs to Chamach Lake (dammed). Beautiful in a sterile slightly frightening way given how low the reservoir is this time of year. Into the evening we began hitting the climb portion of the San Marcos Pass road. Decided to pull off onto a side road leading to what looked like a campground. Turned out to be closed so we threw down base camp on the side of the road in front of a sign that proclaimed we’d be prosecuted for trespassing.
Clear and cold evening with a bewildering glitter bomb of stars and skirting plans and satellites in a world that never sleeps.
October 20th (Grover Beach to Lompoc, River Park)
Woke around 7:30AM. Got out of park early and back tracked a bit into town for a laundromat. Got local info to Lil’ Bites for breakfast. Great veggie omlet and perfectly rounded kiddie meal for Augustine, all prepared for you. Big treat.
Last night I got an insight into the incredible memory that my wife has. Ance was able to recall, by memory, every day of our trip and the places we stayed. Pretty impressive.
Left laundromat to continue on California 1 with agricultural landscape and not the romantic pastoral kind – pretty, it was not. Periodically you’d pass by gated communities with a golf course on one side of the road and on the other massive sweet smelling strawberry fields covered in plastic with a fully clad group of Mexicans harvesting – fully clad, apparently, to stave off any maleffects that could be caused from pesticides that are sprayed.
The stark and strange divide sticks uneasily in your mind. The green golf courses, massive gardens and homes flaunting wads of wealth strewn about among fields of toil and at the very least marginal poverty paint a stark contrast and expose an up close harsh nude portrait of humanity, etching out the injustices of history, economy, place and ethnicity.
We seem to be getting behind the light a lot recently. At dark we rolled into Lompoc River park where we met Marie and Juan. Juan was finishing up an epic trip from New York and Marie finishing up a trip from Vancouver, BC. They invited us to camp with them as their guests. Marie and Augustine hit it off instantly.
October 19th (Outside Cayucos to San Obispo County Park)
Flat rolling into Morro Bay. A town fest taking place. Two women and one guy carrying on a conversation while we’re passing by (not to encourage a stereotype, but the ladies had a Russian accent):
Woman 1: “A man can never provide enough money for his wife.”
Woman 2: [Laughs merrily] “There is never enough to live the way we want.”
Man: [Silently stares at the ground while walking]
Maybe we just caught the conversation at the wrong point and totally misunderstood, but it seemed to be pretty awful. Trucked on into San Obispo where we found a great cheap grocery store to restock. Outside the store a woman we’d randomly met and asked for local information about the town and nearby campsites ended up trying to give use 20 dollars in support of our trip. (I wish I could remember your name, but thanks for the offer and your directions to the campsite were awesome!)
We meandered into the county park after hours with some confusion on how to pay and where the hiker/biker area was. A ranger just getting ready to leave obviously noticed our dumbfoundedness and advised us on our camping site, gave the code for the bath rooms and showers and then said:
“Our office opens at 9AM. If you wake up at dawn and we can’t collect your money, we can’t collect your money. Don’t lose any sleep over it.” We set our internal alarm clocks to dawn and hit the nylon polyester bags early.
October 18th (Los Padres National Forest to Outside Cayucos)
Unbelievably made 51 miles today! Biggest miles today in a while, California sunshine has imbued a sense of easy bumbling bliss putting to sleep thoughts of big miles. Great bluff overlook site between the peppering of legitimate/official National Park campsites. Beautiful light humming through the light mist and fog of the morning.
Eggs for breakfast. Rolled out at 10AM. Stopped to give some water to a pair of hikers/hitchhikers and one of those Gatorades we got from the fireman the night before. Stopped in at Federal fire station to fill up water and met up with the same guy we’d met the night before. “You sure you have enough food?”
Fairly easy going until hitting slow roller for 30 min climb followed by an epic winding drop into a gulch where we proceeded to climb from 40-50 mins, sweating our tails off on an impossibly narrow and busy road. Good drop and then some flats. Stopped in at an Elephant seal overlook – most taking a nap and scratching their bellies in the sun. Human saturday afternoons don’t seem to be much different on a sunny day.
Continued on fast easy road with wind at our backs, not wanting to stop even though dusk was quickly announcing its presence. Pulled off onto an eerily similar looking trail to the one we got a $200 ticket. While walking the trail to weigh the statistical probability of being kicked out by a ranger with a pretty yellow ticket, we ran into some teenagers with no sense of how far a mile actually is. Gave us pretty good, though millage off, directions to a nearby beach where we could more likely get away with camping at.
Lots of people soaking up the sunset. Middling age couple sipping wine until dark chatted with us a bit. “Your trip sounds amazing! Always gotta take time to smell the roses.” A good natured cliche from a wonderful middle aged woman out to hug rocks, trees and everyone around her.
Though our spot is pretty secluded, irrationally paranoid about a Ranger visit. Woke in the middle of the night to a strange sound. Turned out to be a skunk walking the shoreline picking at tasty snacks of the washed up goods.
October 17th (Big Sur *MONEY SPOT* to Los Padres National Forest)
Didn’t get going until 12:30PM due to the availability of water. Washed some clothes in the river and had a wonderfully slow breakfast listening to that small trickling of the Big Sur. Ance decorated the trailer with the pumpkins she’d made with Augustine and away we flew – slowly.
Big climb out of river valley to breakout toward the ocean shore. Every pullout a viewpoint of stupendous insane views of sheer cliffs and the rolling bubbly blue. Leap frog with a couple of cyclists today. One pair from Britain doing Vancouver to Mexico.
“Though we were doing a big trip, but now it doesn’t seem so. Shame we’ve got to go back to legs and work.”
Pulled into a tree covered spot within the National Forest. While prepping dinner a Federal Forest Fire Fighter stopped to say hello and gave Augustine some Gatorade. He told us a bit about how he recently started hosting cyclists traveling down the coast – he’s at his 25th apparently. “Whenever I see cyclists, I always try and do what I can. I don’t really cycle, but I kinda live through other people’s adventures.”
October 16th (Outside Carmel Highlands to Pfeiffer State park California, on the Big Sur!)
Pancakes! Wondrous views, oh my. Great epic climbs dropping curves, lovely with the ocean breeze. After two hours, plowed into Big Sur and its accompanying valley. Found an actual river with water in it. Had to stop. Pulled into out of the way spot on an old derelict trail to stay for the rest of the day. Popcorn, river bath and retreat to tent to make halloween decorations.
October 15th (Monterey MONEY SPOT to past Carmel Highlands)
Monumentally lazy start with a huge breakfast really jamming you into your bicycle seat. Lumbered into Monterey to stop in at the grocery store. Continued on ocean shoreline bike path eventually hitting 17-mile road. Passed through Pebble Beach and ridiculous multi-million dollar housing behind gates on either side of the ‘community.’ Ugly display of wealth spewn and strewn across far too much space.
Big climb out of the insanity with a quick drop into Carmel Highlands Safeway. Nice mountain biker directed us to spot on bluffs outside of town overlooking a totally boring roiling crashing ocean against rocky shores.
October 14th (Into Monterey and Back to MONEY SPOT)
Great non-stressful spot just beyond the freeway under some long needled pine trees. Most likely was a hippie commune of some sort because of nice natural looking hand hewn benches and protected living area. Probably was pretty nice until the authorities kicked them out.
Went into Monterey to have a poke around. Stopped in at Bay Bikes for possible map. Super helpful and stoned pair took in our bikes and gave us easy going directions to everything that we needed. Passed by a building, “Cannery Row Brewing,” and had to stop in. Asked the woman behind the server barrel what beers they actually brewed there:
“Ahh, nothing actually. It’s a trick.” Giving me a big smile I gave my farewell.
October 13th (Sunset Beach to Side Spot out of Monterey)
After getting a ticket from the man the other night, we’ve been pretty weary about where we might be able to pitch up a tent without the National Guard being called in. Having a real paid site, we took a relaxed breakfast and ride out of sunset beach.
Ended up running into some pretty helpful and awesome people. Got directions from a college girl who hung up on her boyfriend to chat with us for 10-15 mins about routes through Marina and location of REI. One of the most chipper helpful people I’ve randomly come across. On hitting REI, I came to meet a guy named Thomas who passed to me a great phrase that I’m going to repeat probably for the rest of my life: “The universe provides.”
Ended up trading Howl by Ginsberg for some rolling papers. Not sure how Ginsburg would have interpreted that trade.
October 12th (Skyline Open Space Reserve to Sunset Beach)
One of the earliest starts of the trip – 7:45AM. Owing largely to a sweet sounding Ranger lady that kindly asked us to get up and get out of the parking lot otherwise everyone will think it is just hunky-dory to camp right there in the parking lot. Had breakfast just down the way on the side of the road like true vagrants.
Steep climbs short drops. Ran into a guy who’d recently been to Estonia, so actually knew where Latvia was on a map. Bit of a climb and meandering drops down into Santa Cruz.Some of the most twisting beautiful cycle touring roads we’ve ever been on – hop stepping a mailman down the mountain pretty much the whole way.
Had to take a rest (me, not Ance) to take a nap and doze while Augustine ran around a deserted playground.
October 11th (Just Beyond Filoli Historic Estate to Skyline Open Space Reserve)
Day of constant adjustments and expectations to our day. While packing up tent, a father son pair were walking along the trail. “I’ve hiked up and down this section of trail for over 30 years now and have never seen a tent. I said, ‘must be from outta town.” This same guy passed a bit later on the road trying to pass 20 dollars out the window, “Can I buy you guys a couple cups of coffee?”
Rolled into Woodside for breakfast. And by breakfast, I mean we occupied a small corner of the parking lot to setup our stove and cook sausages and eggs with our on-the-road made Italian expresso. While setting up, met a cadre of super friendly cyclists who filled us in on some great routes to take to get back down to the ocean. Also got a couple holy shits and seriously remarks on the amount of things we cram on our bicycles.
After breakfast found out that the Day of the Horse was taking place in Woodside. A bunch of really great and free things to do with Augustine – she got on a horse for the first time without flinching. We got cookies and carrot cake and generally felt like part of the local crowd without much effort. We highly recommend the occasion to anyone passing through Woodside if you happen upon it.
Big climb up Old La Honda road. Friendly cyclists encouraging us up the whole way. Met a couple of cyclists at the top. One was a man who was getting prepped to do a trip across the United State in support of heart disease research. Apparently just 9 months before he’d had a stroke and could barely speak or walk until he started hitting the bicycle. Another guy told us about crazyguysonbikes.com and indicated he had a place in Brazil if we ever happened to be in the area. Yet another stood amazed that we’d pulled 450 pounds of gear of so up Old La Honda road.
Finally, hit a marginal summit and had a late lunch. Continued on until darkness began falling. Pulled into Skyline Open Park Preserve. Great little trail by horseshoe lake. Quiet and out of the way. Set up the tent and wound up the radio and began cooking dinner under the stars. Around 8PM a truck pops up over the nearby hill out of no where and (in my view) unnecessarily flips on his siren lights.
The two Rangers that dished a warning out to me and wrote up a ticket for Ance – they were actually taking it easy on us. Brendan and A.Hapke were probably two the nicest people that could catch you doing something illegal. They helped us load up our stuff into their vehicles and moved us to the parking lot. Brendan took down our website address and gave us some good advice on good routes into Santa Cruz – hope you both are well!
October 10th (San Francisco to Just Beyond Filoli Historic Estate)
Heading out of San Francisco was kinda like trying to leave a relatives house that you actually like, all that good food and good company throws an anchor around your neck desperately trying to drown out ambitions to do anything else.
Staying with Jeff, Yoko and Isaac was like showing up at your second home after a long hiatus. Ance and Yoko cooked together, Jeff and I exchanged stories and rants, while Isaac showed the ropes of the house to Augustine and played the role of lively entertainer the best a 10 year old can with flair. It was truly a vacation from a vacation that only fuels our sense that the world is a-flood with good, wherever you go.
We did actually get our stuff together and load those awkward horses though. We got out of San Francisco through Mission Street and Daley City until we hit Hillside Road and popped out onto Skyline Road with some detours. We ran into some overly nice runners and cyclists directing us all along the way.
Ended up finding this great spot above the road that’s part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. With a fully loaded food bag we at like royalty and drifted of to sleep just beyond the Water Temple above San Francisco.