The John Muir Trail had been an amazing wilderness walk seeing few people but just before reaching the Mt Whitney Trail, where I would meet an onslaught of day walkers, I sat and had one last look at the magnificent scenery and the way I had come across the mountains with Mt Hitchcock dominating it.
Guitar Lake. Looking back from where I came.
I lifted my heavy pack and joined the day walkers and my peace was soon shattered. I had been in harmony with the country and the trail for 16 days but now I could feel my gut tightening as my dream walk was about to end and I had to get back to the reality of civilisation! I wish I had time to go back the way I came?
I pushed on along the main track up to the summit with other walkers. They were day walkers but they looked exhausted, and I would pass them and leave them in my wake despite my heavy pack. One guy had to stop every 50 metres to rest. The trail levelled and beside it rock pillars were standing proud. Between the pillars there was a very steep and spectacular drop to the east and towards Death Valley and a road that I had previously cycled on.
On my final climb to the summit a huge slab of frozen snow had covered the track, so I scrambled over the rocks following no definite route. I met a guy from England who was working in the US (his English rowing club shirt gave him away). He wasn’t looking too good as he was being affected by the altitude. I later saw him sitting quietly on the summit waiting for his friends and his health to return.
When I reached the top several other people were sitting on the rocks. Some of them were affected by the altitude and were lying down and trying to overcome that un-well feeling. Many of the hikers had started walking from the bottom of the mountain at 4.00am this morning, so they had climbed several thousand vertical feet in a very short time. It is a 37 km (23 mile) trip from the bottom to the top.
On top of the highest mountain in contiguous United States, Mount Whitney.
When I caught my breath I looked out towards an extraordinary wilderness. The day was so clear and I could see for miles. It was simply spectacular. I was here at my final destination looking at the direction from where I had crossed all those mountain ranges. The mountains were layered, across the wilderness like mirror images. They spread for miles until the far distance haze sucked them in and they vanished from sight.
The end of another great journey.
I reflected on the 354 kilometre (220 mile) route that I had taken across the mountains. Reliving my journey, I could see myself slowly weaving my way south across the high peaks and lower valleys. I felt the sweat of the hill climbs and the chill of the mountain tops. When darkness drifted in I was always camped at the most exquisite of places, with million dollar views. Apart from a very few nights, the sky was cloudless and the stars twinkled. I was very lucky to have such good weather so late in the season.
I turned to the east and looked towards Death Valley. It was quite incredible really, here I was aloft the highest mountain in the US and Death Valley, the lowest point, was 70 miles away as the crow flies.
I was standing at 4,421 metres (14,505 feet ) above sea level and at the end of another incredible journey yet I didn’t feel as exhilarated as I thought I would be. Maybe it was all the people around me that took the shine off my achievement or it was because I was so used to seeing and achieving special things I was blasé about it all.
An information poster at the summit read – ‘John Muir first climbed the mountain on the 21st October 1873’. I milled around for 50 minutes before signing the visitor’s book next to the emergency hut and started to move. Before leaving, I walked over to a tall fence. It turned out being a toilet with three sides, giving little privacy but the most fantastic view.
I started my descent and within 3 miles I met a guy wearing an Arafat hat and carrying a Wildness Equipment pack. I thought he looked like an Australian especially wearing an Australian pack so I asked him where he bought it and told me Sydney. His name was Adrian Lake. He was working in the US and he tried to visit a different part of America every weekend. He had started heading up to the mountain very late, so by the time he reached the top and returned, he would be descending the last part of the mountain in the dark.
After a pass the trail was thick with snow and ice. Views of Mt Whitney and the Pinnacles were superb but the icy trail was pretty dangerous, I slipped several times, but my trusty stick prevented me from going over. I was glad I wasn’t walking this section in the dark. About twenty other people were descending around me. It was a wonder that someone hadn’t slipped to their death as it was dangerous, especially for beginners and there were a lot of those.
After leaving the ice field I managed to make better time. I trekked through Trail Camp grounds, and above the camp there was a toilet that looked like a truck and several tents that were spread between rocky outcrops. It was the strangest campsite that I had come across. I noticed some toilet paper in a pool of water and paper under some rocks. I wanted water but I decided not to take any from the lake system around the camp as hikers had left such a mess and who knew what was in the water. Many walkers were packing up their tents and heading down the mountain as I passed by. Camping at the site meant that walkers didn’t have to walk to the summit and return on the same day.
As the track descended steeply and the valley floor was getting closer I could see lakes below. At Mirror Lake, which was well away from the people camping, I filtered water and continued marching through Outpost Camp. It was cold in the valley as there was now no sun to warm it. I crossed a creek that was frozen but I didn’t fancy camping there. I descended further to Lone Pine Lake and the trail just kept descending and zigzagging with seemingly no end. No wonder people were looking exhausted.
I suddenly got glimpses of the car park way down in the valley and like a little child I cheered. The switch backs still made it a very long way but at least I knew my walk had an end. By 6.25pm I finally reached the car park. I asked three other walkers for a lift but they said they weren’t going to Lone Pine. I left my trusted stick in the car park for another walker to use and walked along the bitumen road down the hill in the dark. I could see the lights of Lone Pine but the town was still 13 miles away, a long way after such a difficult and tiring day. I walked on, my feet were burning on the hard bitumen road and I didn’t fancy my chances of being picked up, but twenty minutes later a four wheel drive stopped. Three guys from LA welcomed me in. I was happy and so relieved to reach Lone Pine and find a $40.00 a night motel. It had been a 16 day trek.
I had a shower and took my clothes to the laundry and went to the Pizza shop and had a salad bowl and a small pizza and coke and talked to some of the walkers who I had met up the mountain. When I returned to my room I wrote in my diary until 12.20am.
Monday 19th October 98
It was lovely to be in a bed and have a restful night’s sleep. For breakfast I went to Carl Jnr restaurant and had bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns and a muffin and finished off with a Danish pastry which wasn’t the best Danish I’d had.
I did some grocery shopping, went to the bank and bumped into three women that I had met up the mountain. They mentioned that the Australian guy, Adrian Lake, had stayed with them all the way down the mountain and helped them by shining his torch when theirs had failed.
I returned to the motel and packed up before heading to the Town Hall and whilst waiting for the bus to arrive I wrote some postcards to post home. A man sat down beside me. He said he was a born again Christian and a Jew and that he was a Prophet. He said things happen when he is around. He also went on to say that he once killed people for a living and that he was once one of America’s top agents. Lucky me, I always get the good ones to sit next to!!
I had two bus rides before I was dropped off at Lee Vining where I had to hitch hike over the mountain via the Tioga Pass and into the Yosemite at Tuolumne Meadows. I walked to the Tioga Pass road and waited but it didn’t take me long before a Japanese guy on holiday stopped and gave me a lift straight to the Yosemite Valley. How lucky was that. The last time I crossed the mountain was by bike and it was snowing and sleeting. It was much warmer this time and it was a pleasure to be able to look out of the window of the car and watch the scenery go by.
Arriving back at Yosemite wasn’t quite as romantic as arriving the first time but it was still very special. There were a lot less people there as many of the campsites and tourist shops had closed down for the season. I camped at Sunny Side camp site again.
20th Tuesday October
I collected my bike from the Ranger Office and cycled to the left-luggage lockers to retrieve all my gear. It took much of the day to pack all my excess gear into boxes and send some of the gear I borrowed to Mountain Hardwear and a box of other gear home to Australia. It was good to know that it was the last time I would have to send any gear away.
Repacking my bicycle panniers and sending my walking gear on.
I cycled out of the park beside the Merced River with tall spruce trees and towering vertical high cliffs on both sides. I was leaving the Yosemite National Park, a magical place and I don’t think I will find a more impressive place than Yosemite on the rest of my journey.
It was goodbye to Yosemite Valley for the second time.
I continued to follow the Merced River and within minutes the huge mountains were behind me. I felt a sense of sadness. The river was low but between April to July, when the winter snow melts, the river is at its highest and rafting and kayaking is extremely popular on the grade 2 to 5 rapids. Starting above the Yosemite Valley the Merced River runs for 112 miles before it joins the San Joaquin River.
The road ran beside the river for 15 miles before it moved away and I found myself climbing a small mountain range. The drier hills were littered with burrowing animals but I didn’t know if they were Prairie dogs, marmots or groundhogs. I didn’t have a good knowledge of American animals. They were very active, running and scurrying around and dodging in and out of their holes. I found them quite entertaining and a distraction from the strenuous hill climbs.
21st Wednesday October
On the other side of the mountain range the road flattened and it wasn’t long before I arrived in the town of Merced and into a market garden area which seemed to have a large number of Hispanic workers. It was good to be back in a farming area. I always think about my enjoyable early years on a farm.
After passing through Merced I headed along the flat country road to Tracy. It was a pleasure to ride through the flat vegetable, almond and stone fruit farming districts of the San Joaquin Valley.
When I left the valley and headed towards the Altamont Pass and my nice flat road started to climb again. Before me in the far distance were hundreds of wind generators on the bare hillsides. It was quite a spectacle. As I got closer they turned out to be the oldest and the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, having been constructed in 1981. I thought there were hundreds, but I found out later that there were about 4,800 small wind turbines spread along the ridge. Being some of the first to generate electricity they produce less power than the newer ones that are constructed today.
The hillsides were littered with wind turbines.
Although the turbines save the environment from greenhouse gases they are responsible for a large number of raptor and bird deaths in the area. With these older style turbines being mounted on towers 60 to 80 feet in height on ridge tops and canyons they are more prone to cause bird deaths than the more recent turbines that are being built on towers 200 to 260 feet in height. The older turbines have blades that reach lower to the ground and can be more hazardous to raptors that swoop down to catch their prey. The newer turbines are now being located away from concentrated bird habitat.
I started my climb up the bare hills and before long the road steepened and I was soon feeling the strain of the climb, plus the heat of the day. These giant windmills however gave me something to focus on. At the top of the Altamont Pass, which apparently serves as a temperature buffer for the city of San Francisco by separating it from the heat of the San Joaquin Valley, I paused to rest and take in the view. From the summit it was downhill following a string of minor roads for safer cycling through the suburbs where I found a park to camp. Camping wasn’t allowed but I had no choice but to risk it. I let it get dark before settling in for the night.
Thursday 22nd October
I was camped in the park illegally so I aimed to get up early so no one would catch me, but I didn’t need an alarm because the park sprinklers came on at 5.30am, so I had to break camp quickly to avoid getting drenched.
It was quite foggy and the roads got busier the closer I got to the great city of San Francisco, but it was the city of Berkley that I planned to visit first as it was the headquarters for Mountain Hardwear. I needed to thank Mike and his team for all the equipment that he had loaned and sent to me along the way.
I took a longer and more deserted scenic route into Berkley, via the Redwood Road in the Chabot Regional Park to keep away from the traffic. It was a much more spectacular though hillier and harder route than taking the city streets. Once out of the park the roads were much more congested. It wasn’t long before I found the Mountain Hardwear headquarters and was catching up with Mike Wallenfels and a few of the other staff members. Most of the staff members stopped work for 20 minutes so I could give them an overview of my trip.
Mountain Hardwear manufactures outdoor clothing, backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags etc and it was in 1993 that a small group of outdoor people decided to get together and form the company, most having worked for other outdoor companies at the time. Working for Snowgum, an outdoor shop in Perth I was already using a lot of the Mountain Hardwear equipment but Mike had been generous enough to supply me with two different sleeping bags, a four season tent, thermals and other warm clothing.
I later toured around Berkley and the University Grounds and that night I stayed at the home of employee Phil Scott.
23rd Friday October 98
It was a lazy day. I took my time having breakfast before going out to visit a publisher who Mike had suggested I go and see. He said I should contact him when I had the book written. Later I toured around town a little and had Chinese for lunch and Japanese for dinner with Phil. It was a coincidence that Phil knew Arthur Weston, an outdoorsman I knew in Perth. It’s a small world.
24th Saturday October 98
We had breakfast before I moved off towards San Francisco. Unfortunately San Francisco was on the other side of the huge San Francisco Bay so to save cycling miles around the bay, I cycled to the train station instead and put my bike on a train and crossed the water by rail. Once off the train I cycled around the bay using the cycle-ways as much as I could, stopping at any place that took my fancy. Apart from the road that follows the bay, the streets in San Francisco were virtually all straight. San Francisco is the 12th most populous city in the United States.
Alcatraz the island prison.
I could see the island prison of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the Fisherman’s Wharf. Alcatraz was 1.5 miles off shore in the bay and I could clearly see several buildings on it. The Rock, as it is sometimes called is only 22 acres (8.9 ha) and was established as a prison in 1934 but closed down as a Federal Prison in 1963. It is now a huge tourist attraction and many tour groups along the wharf area and the water’s edge were advertising their pretty expensive tours. Although tempted I had nowhere to leave my bike and it was a little more expensive than I wanted to pay so I slowly moved on following the bay on the cycleway to the Golden Gate Bridge. I stopped near the bridge and watched the boats passing under it, moving in and out of the large bay. Joggers, walkers, cyclists and lovers were all using the path that led up to the bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge.
I knew that I couldn’t leave San Francisco without crossing the Golden Gate Bridge by cycle so I followed the cycling path up a level and started to cross. Riding over the bridge felt pretty special. It was one of those things that I felt I had to do, although it might not be quite as thrilling as jumping out of a plane. It was a spectacle to look at, and it was quite a spectacle to cross. Two tall red steel towers support the two main three foot thick cables. Each cable, made up of 27,572 strands of wire, passes through the two main towers and is fixed in concrete at each end. There are 80,000 miles of wire in the main cables and 1,200,000 rivets.
At times the pathway narrowed leaving little room for walkers and cyclists to pass, and although there weren’t many walkers on the bridge at the time, I could now see why there were so many accidents and confrontations with walkers and cyclists when it got busy. More recently cycle rental places have increased, so at times the bridge is packed, but I suppose when the bridge was built the designers didn’t think that one day the bridge would become so popular. Sadly the bridge is also a popular for people jumping off and suiciding.
The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when it was first built in 1937, but since then several other bridges have exceeded it. It is 1.71 miles long and 90 feet wide and has six lanes and it also has a pedestrian and cycle way on both sides.
At the far end I stopped, took in the view of the ocean and returned to the San Francisco end of the bridge taking another break to check out the city views . The water below the bridge was shimmering and ruffled with wind and waves, it looked very inviting. Happy to have achieved another goal I left the bridge and San Francisco and followed the coast, passing through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and after several kilometres I was out of the city and into the countryside. I was now really on my last phase of my journey and on the downhill southerly stretch to my ultimate goal of Los Angeles.
Looking towards San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nearing Half Moon Bay I met up with a local cyclist. He stayed with me for a while and when I told him I kayaked, he told me that I should paddle out to Maverick’s Reef as it has amazing surf. Maverick’s Reef, was only a few kilometres away and was a world famous big wave break about ½ mile off the coast. I hadn’t heard of it, although why should I, I wasn’t a surfer. He said several elite surfers lived around this area because of the big surf break.
Apparently the waves at Maverick’s were the Mount Everest of surfing, unique and completely intimidating. It has giant wave faces, huge peaks with explosive speed, swirling boils, strong currents, shallow reefs and cold water temperatures. Maverick’s has moved into the foreground of big-wave surfing, attracting the most elite riders to test their limits. These riders are sometimes presented with 30 to 50 foot high waves. The break is caused by an unusually-shaped underwater rock formation. Somehow I think it sounds a little too big for me to conquer, I think I will stick to the thrill of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t bother to detour to Maverick’s, I kept cycling following the road along the coast instead.
Sunday 25th October
At Santa Cruz I cycled around the coast to the Light House Point Park where I stood and watched a number of surfers in the bay having a good time and carving up the waves. It was a perfect day and the surf looked so inviting. Across the bay swimmers were taking to the water and an amusement park was in full swing. I could hear screams way out at the point. The town was abuzz with tourists, locals and University students. The town had a good feel and looked a very friendly place.
Surfers at Santa Cruz.
I slowly cycled through the town and back into the country again trying to follow the coast as much as I could. At Moss Landing the river and inlet looked a sensational piece of water to paddle on and do a spot of bird watching. There was a river on one side of the highway and a lagoon, marina and the ocean on the other. Several of the shops were quite new including a kayak shop which I had a quick look around. I didn’t need anything, but I was always interested to see what other shops had.
A few miles further I came to the town of Monterey and called in at the Monterey Bay Kayaks which was a bigger store than their other one at Moss Landing. It also looked a very nice place to paddle in the ocean but I kept cycling, finding a camp ground in the very pleasant town of Monterey.
Monday 26th October
It was slightly misty when I climbed a steep hill onto a major road where I came to a freeway and a scenic toll road that weaved around the peninsular for several kilometres. It apparently had some of the most beautiful views of the ocean but after already seeing so much of the coastline and with a lot more to see, I didn’t think that missing a few kilometres would matter. I was forced to cycle on the freeway for a short distance as there was no other road but soon after I was able to veer off to the town of Carmel, a very nice but rich area with trendy shops and a supermarket. I bought a few items at the supermarket but just as I was leaving a bread and cake stall that stood outside fell over scattering breads and cakes all over the road. Shame, it was a waste of good food!!
I cycled around Carmel’s leafy streets checking out all the new homes and the beautiful, old but quaint houses before joining Highway 1 again. Here I followed the coast for the next 120 miles. Sea otters frolicked in the ocean and were quite an attraction. The day was overcast so the ocean and coastline were looking a little grey and uninviting. The country was hilly with lots of road works on the bridges which meant I met traffic that came in bunches. The coast was lovely but it would have looked better if it had been sunny. There were a lot of signs saying, “No Trespassing!”
Cliffs of the Big Sur.
I passed the Big Sur Point Lighthouse. The coastline around there was regarded as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the US. Big Sur was something special. The road moved inland a little and unfortunately I lost the view of the coast. I started climbing, passing a campsite before arriving at the Big Sur Village. I had coffee, bread and cheese and rang Elaine and had another coffee which was free. I talked to a man who had a beard but no moustache. He told me about the great walks around the area. As he moved away he asked me if I wanted another coffee and then soon after he returned and asked if I wanted to smoke a reefer around the campfire. I thanked him and declined saying I have never smoked in my life.
Cliffs of the Big Sur.
I moved on, continuing my journey up the steep hill and at the top I was pleased to find a shop. I continued to follow the coast, up and down over bridges being repaired and with views of the ocean which was full of seaweed. By the time darkness was upon me I had arrived at Plaskett campsite which had beautiful green grass to camp on. It was only $5.00. Nearby campers Lynn and Arno invited me for after-dinner chat and wine.
Tuesday 27th October
I left the camp by 8.00am and cycled through Gorda, a nice tidy village and followed a twisty hilly road where three deer ran across my path, mum, dad and junior. I came to Ragged Point hotel complex which was very neat and tidy and I stopped only briefly. It was downhill to a river where I noticed three cyclists behind. On the uphill run Bruce, Richard and Garry caught me up on their super light titanium bikes. Bruce’s bike cost $5000 and Richard’s bike was $4000. They travelled light with only a back pannier as they were cycling from motel to motel on their way to San Diego in the south. I kept up with them and talked as we passed a beach with hundreds of sea lions.
Just before we detoured to San Simeon Point, we passed a sign saying Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle was an architectural wonder, designed by Julia Morgan in an era when female architects were few. The European-style castle when finished fulfilled the dream of newspaper magnate William Hearst who wanted a castle built on his ranch at the summit of his favourite mountain. It was filled with fine art. For 28 years craftsmen laboured in the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean to create a magnificent estate of 165 rooms, and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways. The rooms were furnished with an impressive collection of Spanish and Italian antiques and art. The Castle is open for tours daily.
At San Simeon Point, Bruce treated me to lunch at a café. We sat outdoors and talked, ate a Caesar salad, bread and a coffee. Finishing our meal we cycled on to Cambria, a very clean, colourful, quaint tourist town where there were lots of new and old-looking buildings. We stopped at a bike shop and the guys pumped up their tyres. Once out of town the guys left me, but I caught them up at the town of Harmony, but they soon passed me again. Still following the coast, which was on my right and the Santa Lucia Range on my left, I met them yet again in Cayucus. This time we said our goodbyes, for the last time.
I moved on to Morrow Bay which had several state parks and a huge round rock, well more of a small round mountain sticking up in the bay. It was getting cold as I passed Morrow State Park and met another cyclist from Oregon who said he was cycling south and trying to get away from the rain in Oregon. I moved beyond San Luis Obispo and about 10 miles later the ride became a coastal ride again. This time, the sun was shining and the sea glowing and looking ever so inviting.
As I was passing a row of shops I noticed a sign indicating, Fish & Chips on special for $3.99 after 5.00pm but it was 4.40pm. I thought I’d take a punt and ask the woman if I could have the special sooner, but disappointingly she said no. I left and moved on to Pismo Beach where I camped at the state campsite. I rang Jenny, but I only got the answer phone. After dinner I walked into town, rang Rusty, a guy I met on the John Muir Trail, and bought an ice cream, a beer and a packet of crisps. I walked home feeling bloated.
Wednesday 28th October
I woke up to fog and heavy dew so the tent was ringing wet. Birds were lively in the dense trees nearby. I left Pismo Beach passing several RV parks and I became excited after seeing a cyclist at Grover Beach. I thought he had panniers on his bike and was touring like me but as I drew closer, his bike bags turned out to be bundles of cool drinks cans. He was scruffy and long haired.
I hit the country road and moved through farmland that grew lettuce and vegetables. There were tractors shaping rows and then flattening the tops for sowing. I followed Highway 1 up a steep hill passing gum trees and getting a brilliant view of the farmland fields and the sand dunes towards the coast.
There was little traffic on a downhill run onto a plain full of farmland. Several workers were cutting lettuce and using elevators to load them into boxes, but further along other cutters were throwing the lettuces straight into boxes.
Tractors were ploughing, discing and levelling. Closer to the road a forklift tractor was taking four pallets of vegetables off a truck at one time. It looked as though the pallets would fall but fortunately they didn’t. There was a hive of activity with machinery throughout the fields as well as manual workers syphoning water from channels with irrigation pipes to water the crop.
I cycled through Guadalupe, a Spanish looking town with a small supermarket and soon after it got hillier with the surrounding fields growing green beans. Later the vegetable fields made way for cattle and then suddenly the fields turned dry. It was even drier nearer the coast where a large area of dunes, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, stood boldly nearby. Apparently the dunes are popular with filmmakers, having used them as a setting for a number of films.
Nearing Lompoc I had a good push from the strong wind and at the shopping centre I shopped for groceries and ate at Taco Bell. Cycling out of town, I passed lots of shops, and even had fire engines racing with sirens sounding pass by me. I found some good hills and going down one steep hill I was travelling at 47 miles an hour which was fun but I must admit it was with some apprehension, as I was just hoping that the bike would stay together.
When I reached the coast I could see oil rigs out in the bay. I passed Refugio Beach camp and it looked nice among the Pines, but I continued on to later find a beautiful row of big gum trees that reminded me of Australia. I soon arrived at Goleta and stopped at a cycle shop where the owner gave me a cycle route map and the location of a hostel in Santa Barbara. By the time I reached the hostel, it was dark.
Thursday 29th October – My wedding anniversary
I woke a few times in the night so I didn’t sleep too well, probably because I wasn’t used to a bed and a pillow. At 8.00am I walked the main street in search of a hairdresser. There were lots of coffee shops open but it seemed that most other shops didn’t open till 10.00am or 11.00am. Fortunately though, the hairdresser opened at 9.00am. It was a lovely main street, clean and colourful with nice buildings too. There was even a man steam-cleaning the pavements.
I had an 85¢ ice cream before going into the hairdresser. I was in the chair within minutes and the hairdresser washed my hair before she cut it. She also trimmed my beard and did a very good job. I felt a whole heap better and I’m sure I looked a heap better! It cost $20.00 with the tip. That was the fourth time I’d had my haircut whilst on this trip and this time would be the last before I headed home.
Retuning to the Banana Bungalow the hostel where I stayed, I packed and was away to Stern Pier in no time. Once there, I had the pleasure of seeing some dolphins frolicking. I was also meeting a guy called Rusty whom I had met on the John Muir trail here. So I sat on a bench and waited for him. The only trouble was I was having some difficulty in remembering what he looked like as we had only met once and for a short time. A man sitting close by looked similar, but it wasn’t Rusty.
The beach had been graded and the white sand was looking inviting. People were walking along the pier and around the small boat harbour which was about a mile away. It was quite a beautiful scene, very touristy but clean and inviting. It was probably my number one town so far. There were many good cycle ways, clean streets and attractive buildings.
Rusty arrived late in his old van. We went to a coffee shop and sat outside and talked for 2 ½ hours. It was great to relax. Rusty was a chiropractor but he only worked just enough to pay the bills.
It was sunny and about 12.30pm when I made a move and cycled to the harbour and then made my way out of town. I passed palm trees, lots of flash motels and cycled through a trendy village, which even had a dog parlour. It took me a while to find the cycleway again. I had to go on and off the freeway which followed the coast. Several oil rigs were out in the ocean and beyond them in the far distance were the Santa Cruz and Rosa Islands. I followed a road next to the ocean and passed a long line of RVs that were parked up and camped along the coast. It was an eye opener to see so many RVs camped beside the road seemingly without any authorities to bother them. I found a bike path again and an older guy caught up to me just before I entered Ventura. I asked him the way to the Outdoor Clothes Manufacturer and shop, Patagonia as I was keen to check it out. Luckily for me, it just happened to be a mile and a half away so I decided to call in.
RVs camped out along the coast.
After I left the shop I cycled along the coast through several tourist areas, a marine park and a boat harbour before finding the McGrath campground which only cost me $3.00. I was always happy when I found a cheap campsite and didn’t have to pay the same rate as one of the big recreational vehicles. Apparently the campgrounds along the Pacific coastline accommodate people on bicycles unlike other parts of the US. Apart from there being a lot of light aircraft flying overhead, it was a cloudless sky, with a near full moon and no wind. I rang Jenny to remind her that it was our anniversary. She hadn’t forgotten.
Friday 30th October
Condensation was heavy inside the tent, so much so, that it was dripping, but soon dried when the sun came out. I rang Jenny and she was getting nervous as I was soon due home and she didn’t know how she would cope or how long it would take her to get used to me being around again. When I returned from my one year cycling, walking and kayaking around Australia, Jenny had become quite independent and took a long time to adjust to me being back home.
I eventually left at 8.20am working my way between vegetable fields. I arrived at Point Hueneme opposite the St Cruz Channel Isles and thought I’d call in at Wendy’s for a baked potato, but disappointingly it wasn’t open. The road was full of shops, and when I turned a corner I saw a shop called Pam’s Dog House. It brought a smile to my face as it reminded me of my friend Pam back in Perth, although Pam doesn’t have a dog! I came to a beach and jetty where it looked as if every surfer was driving a new four wheel drive vehicle. Here I talked to an Afro American on a bicycle, curiously I hadn’t seen that many Afro Americans riding bicycles.
I left town and passed more vegetable fields before getting back onto highway 1 and passing Mugu Point, a popular site for viewing birds, marine mammals, and wildflowers. Between the park and the naval base, Mugu Lagoon provides one of the largest coastal wetlands in Southern California.
As I followed the coast I chatted to a passing cyclist who told me the location of a hostel. Two more cyclists came along and we started talking. They knew from my accent that I wasn’t from around there and when I told them what I had done they were impressed with my journey and invited me to stop at a coffee shop, so they could treat me to coffee and cake. I asked for an espresso and got an inch or so of coffee in the cup. I just thought that they had forgotten to put in the hot water, but unbeknown to me it was apparently what an espresso coffee looked like. I have lived a sheltered life. I then asked for a proper coffee, one that had water to the top of the cup.
We sat down and talked, and one of the mountain bikers said he knew the guy who designed the Ocean Kayak sit-on top kayaks, who is now a millionaire though he sold his business after a marriage breakdown. When the guys left me I went grocery shopping before moving off along the busy coastal road. It was hot, especially on the up hills. The beaches were quite special, but there was hardly a soul on them. I arrived at the famous location of Malibu where there were some stunning houses and many snazzy cars, though most were parked on the roadside or stuck out into the road. They were a hazard for me as I had to go out further into the road to move around them.
The wealthy city of Malibu stretches 21 miles (34 kms) along the Pacific coastline. It is a beachfront community famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, and the home of countless movie stars. Compared with some places in Australia it didn’t seem that special. It had a highway running right through it, and the coastline crowded with houses! Maybe I had just seen too much beauty in the last eight months that I was now getting a little critical.
Surfers had taken to the water just before Santa Monica. As the high-rise buildings started to appear, I found a cycleway and as I rode along it I realised that the end of my journey was very close. After eight months of travelling around the American countryside, seeing so many beautiful and amazing sights, I was actually feeling quite sad to be going home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home, but it did mean my wandering spirit was no longer going to wander. My life on the road was going to change into a life at home.
The beach was now full of volleyball courts. Typical California, the path was full of skaters, some good, some shaky. I followed the beachfront of Santa Monica and got off the busy cycleway and headed into town at the fairground. Santa Monica turned out to be a real city. I was surprised as I thought it would only be a little town. After a sightseeing trip around town I headed back towards 2nd Avenue as a skater skated off the pavement and onto the main street, travelling down a steep hill at an amazing speed. I couldn’t imagine how he was going to stop but I supposed he had worked it out and within minutes he was gone from my sight.
It’s city life.
I eventually found the hostel that I had been told about but there were no beds left for men, so I went next door and asked for directions to another place. A guy told me about the best hotels in Venice and suggested that I had better get going before it got dark, as he didn’t think it was safe to be out then.
I cycled on for about 10 -15 mins to Rose Avenue and then down to the ocean where there were people everywhere, enjoying the beach, exercising and many more around an outdoor market. I found a Cadillac Hotel and booked in for $20.00 a night, with four to a room. There was a Frenchman and Dutchman in my room. I showered and did my washing.
I had pizza and chips at the local food place where there were some weird characters hanging out. By the time I had finished my meal and headed back to the hotel the beachfront was fairly deserted, except for a few more weirdos.
At 2.30am the Dutch guy came back into my room and somewhat unsettlingly, began vomiting in the toilet before being ushered out by another guy. Thankfully they both left.
Saturday 31st October
I was out walking along the beachfront path at 8.00am and stall holders were erecting their stalls. I walked by some more weird people who were standing next to a ‘drug free sign,’ Mmm….I wondered if they had read the sign!! The beach was at least 150 metres wide and half of it had been groomed and looked good.
The beach at Venice.
There were several runners and cyclists on the paths and surfers were surfing near a groyne. I walked across the beach and to the water’s edge and waited for a wave to wash in. I had started in New York on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, I had been to the deep south, up to the high north and across to the west where I was now dipping my feet into the Pacific Ocean. I had paddled, walked and cycled 14,500 kilometres in seven months, including three weeks of touring with Jenny and now it was over.
I returned to the hotel and rang a rental car company as I was a couple of days ahead of schedule so I thought I would go sightseeing. The Rental Company driver picked me up and drove me into Santa Monica following the Santa Monica Boulevard. We arrived at a small office which looked a bit dodgy. My first choice of car was too small to get my bike in so I had to rent a larger car.
Although I had two days left, for me, my journey was really all over and the spark had gone. But nevertheless, I took the two-day opportunity to look around some more. I drove into the mountains with the rental car to see a bit more of the country before returning to LA to check out Hollywood, which didn’t appear to me as being very special.
Los Angeles is the second largest city in the U.S. with about 3.6 million people, but unlike being in the wilderness I felt alone in this big city and so I was happy to get to the airport and head home. After 8 months in the U.S. I was now ready to leave.