After a lot of fog induced misery down the US coast we pondered completing the final leg of our 9 month cycle tour by train. Philippa came up with lots of good reasons why that would’ve been a sensible decision and yet it wouldn’t have seemed like a fitting end to our tour and so after receiving an encouraging email from a Brit who’d cycled to LA a few weeks earlier we opted to carry on by bike. Before we left San Luis Obispo we had lunch with Neil and Ali, who luckily were also in town on their road trip. We won’t see them again on this tour, but it gives us another set of friends to visit in the Brisbane / Gold Coast area.
After leaving San Luis Obispo we had a really short, 25km, hop to Oceano as there wasn’t anywhere suitable further south to camp. The ride was great, we had sunshine, blue skies and rode through vineyards. The next day to Lompoc started out with more flat strawberry fields, but again the sun was out and the road through the Vandenberg air force base was incredibly quiet. (Incidentally I’ve since discovered that Vandenberg air force base is one of the launch sites for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and there’s currently a massive wildfire ripping through the base.) The Lompoc campsite wasn’t great, but at least no one was threatened with a knife while we were there, unlike the experience of some other cyclists.
From Lompoc we had our last major climb before Los Angeles, although it was such a gradual ascent it hardly counted as such, especially compared to some of the other hills we’ve done. Then it was time to rejoin Highway 101, which was a two lane motorway. After taking photos of the road signs pointing towards Los Angeles (we must be getting close!) we cranked up the music on our iPods and flew along the highway, enjoying the sea views and massive shoulder. When we were in San Luis Obispo our WarmShowers hosts, Greg and Christine, received a message from a Brazilian couple heading northwards from Los Angeles, and after the motorway section we bumped into them. It’s funny knowing something about the people heading towards you before you’ve even spoken to them! For deaf people El Capitan State Beach must be incredible because of the unspoilt views of the ocean, whereas for us the drone of the motorway and train line distracted from the peace. This was out third consecutive night alone; were where all the other cyclists heading to Los Angeles?!
After leaving El Capitan on Saturday morning we met Ray, a France cyclist heading to Nicaragua, so we weren’t the only ones heading south. After a bit more motorway riding we turned into the University of California, Santa Barbara and watched parents dropping of their offspring for the new term. By noon we were in Santa Barbara, which was really beautiful and felt like the California one expects. However, there were still a large number of homeless people wondering around and we kept a close eye on our bikes whilst we used the WiFi at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, which came with a cheeky lunchtime beer. That evening at Carpinteria State Beach was really sociable as there were loads of other cyclists. Being our penultimate night of camping we went to Island Brewing with Grum and Ju, who we’d chatted with a week ago at New Brighton and Monterey.
Our penultimate day of cycling was once again foggy. Groan. However, there was an amazing bike path next to Highway 101 to Ventura, which with the marinas felt like a small scale version of the Gold Coast. The rest of the day was along Highway 1 that was right next to the beaches. There were plenty of people trying to sunbathe, but once again we weren’t overly impressed with the Californian coastline. The beaches are often grey rather than golden, the water is generally very cold and just meters from a very busy, noisy highway. Perhaps we’re jaded after seeing so many incredible beaches in Australia. The upside was a fantastic last night of camping at Leo Carrillo State Park with Grum and Ju plus Andrew and Di from South Dakota. There were great conversations, a fire, shared food, wine and an understanding of what we’ve all experienced whilst riding 1,000s of kilometres down the coast. We’ve not been totally sold by cycling along the US coast (too many busy roads; dangerous sections; boring sections and bad weather). The highlight has definitely been the interactions and shared experiences with all the other cyclists.
We weren’t sure how we should feel when we woke up on our final cycling day, but it seemed like just another normal day, although we both know that wasn’t the case. After 200+ days of cycling it was now the final day. The first 40km were through Malibu, the land of the wealthy. The beachfront houses were incredible, the number of supercars was staggering, including countless Teslas, and yet again there were still homeless people wondering around. Once we were off Highway 1 we rode along the beach cycle paths, which are concrete slabs straight across the sand. Fortunately, it was a Monday because otherwise the beaches would have been packed playing volleyball and, presumably pretending to be in Top Gun. We rode past Los Angeles airport and could have gone straight to the terminal and flown home. However, we’ve still got two weeks in the USA, so we checked into a Super 8 motel (hint, it really isn’t very super) and then took the bikes over to a WarmShowers host for safe keeping.
Suddenly it was over. We celebrated the 11,000km of cycle touring with a salad in our musty smelling Super 8 motel and listening to the aeroplanes landing at LAX. We’ve now started a road trip around southern California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. We’re currently in Yucca Valley, just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Despite being in a desert it’s raining (yes, really) and we’re in a motel rather than camping and hiking. We’ve really not been lucky with the weather! We’ve bought some wine to cheer ourselves up (and so the weight gain begins says Philippa).