California Coast Cycling

The cycling trip kicked our butts. We had planned to cycle from San Francisco to Los Angles, but our time frame was marginalized by other occurrences. Secondly, we did a poor job researching how much vertical involvement there was with this trip. Especially in the section between Monterey and Point Sierra Nevada along Hwy. 1.

Our first day we made it 50 km (30 Miles) to Big Sur, where we unanimously agreed on calling it a day at 4pm. We had a late start out of Monterey because after unpacking my bike from it’s box, the front axel quick release pin was missing and we had to wait for a bike shop to open to get a new one.

The weather was good to us, nay, excellent this day. It was sunny with enough cool air breezing in from the ocean to keep us quite comfortable… that is our skin was comfortable, but our arms, backs, and obviously legs were of a different matter. “There is no Life, Truth, … ”

The next day, with renewed vigor, or maybe just thick skulls and slow to learn, we were ready to cycle on. The great thing about this kind of trip is you can eat what ever you want. Not that I really restrict my diet much, but Frankie “Wrong Way Waldo” often commented on how we could eat what we wanted because it’s all going to get burned off anyway. And despite all that eating, Frankie found that her jeans didn’t fit her to well when she got back home, they’re all a bit loose.

So with a breakfast of champions, we tackled one of the bigger hills of the trip and stopped for lunch in Lucia. While making ourselves fat and happy again, we started discussing how we were going to get to San Simeon, our next planned stop, by some means other than the daunting cycling option. We asked the waiter/owner of the small restaurant what sort of options there were… he said there was a bus that ran up the coast, but no longer does. The real problem now though, is that they didn’t take the bus stops out. All along this section of Hwy. 1 there will be a bus stop sign, schedule, and sometimes a bench. People (like ourselves, ready for a ride) have been known to find a bus stop, check the posted schedule and sit and wait for the next bus that isn’t coming.

After a little laugh, which then faded into the disappointment of realizing we couldn’t get a ride from this ex-bus service, the waiter excused himself and we continued plotting. Frankie went outside to ask a truck that had just parked if he was going South, she actually asked a few folks as it was. But meantime, a nice middle aged English man approached Everett “Walker” and I “Peek-a-boo” and apologized saying all he had was a small white car, but was willing to help in any way he could. He had over heard our plight, as the establishment was very small and intimate.

Realistically, he could only fit one bicycle and cyclist in his car, so we packed Frankie “Wrong Way Waldo” in, along with our packs, and sent her with James on to San Simeon. Some of you may be thinking “how safe is that really?” and that’s a fair thing to question. But the sweet humble nature of James and the fact that Frankie “Wrong Way Waldo” has this overly trusting nature of people with English accents, and that even HE was the one who suggested that we take down his license plate number, which is not conclusive, I know, let us feel comfortable letting James help us in this way.

As it turns out James is a gay British actor from London who worked as an actor in Kenya for 12 years. He has now turned his interests to wine shows and is in California to set up just that. Frankie said the two of them had a wonderful time chatting it up. But her thought did turn to Ev and I as the rain poured on the car, chugging up the massive hills its self.

Meanwhile, us two blokes left behind, and really we were fine by that, got absolutely drenched while cycling the remaining 60 some odd kilometers (40 miles) with more hill climbs then we had thought possible. We finally rolled into the Motel where a room had been set up for us around 8pm. After a very filling diner, we retired to the spa where we let our aching muscles melt off of our bones.

What turned out to be our last day on the road, with the hilly section behind us, we pushed on to San Luis Obispo where there was an airport and where we could rent a car and drive back to safety in Burbank. The lightly rolling terrain following the coast was more of what I had suspected the whole trip would be like.

We tried calling ahead to reserve a rental car/pickup truck, but with out success, a big part of it due to all three of us being under 25 years of age (I nearly a month from that turning point!). One idea while cycling on the shoulder of what was a peaceful 2 lane country road, but is now a 4 lane divided highway where a rider truck passed “Wrong Way Waldo” (except she wasn’t “Waldo” yet) and she thought of renting a moving truck instead. Brilliant! We took the next off ramp and right there was a U-Haul station. Their smallest truck was advertised as $19.95 for the day! But as the inquiry was made, the total some how came out to be $119! After asking more folks at the gas station for a ride with no luck, Frankie “Wrong Way” turned to Walker and I and said “Find Me!” and rode back to Hwy 1. (more a freeway now) and started to book it for SLO. The thing was we thought we were in a bit of a time crunch to make it to the airport before the car rental agents closed, and Frankie had been our “speed in the lead” the whole day.

Walker and I were stunned by the aggressive and go-to attitude she had just acquired. After staring at each other for a moment, we decided it best that we press on as well and meet her at the airport, and “find her” as we were instructed to do. That’s when the name “Waldo” was added to her nickname.

Once we arrived, Budget was the only rental agency that would talk to us being under 25. While in line, the man before us had taken the last vehicle that they could allow to go south, and it was a pickup truck! I wasn’t there at the time, so I don’t know how they spun the question, but they asked the man, Mark, if he would mind taking on 3 cyclists with him for his trip to LAX and dropping us off in Burbank. “Sure.” He simply replied. And so it was. Wrong Way Waldo and I stuffed in the jump seats of the King Cab, Walker took the front, bikes in the bed, and we were sailing.

Mark was flying out to Florida to console a friend who has just lost his wife. It seams being a good Samaritan was just part of his lifestyle.

When we arrived at Wrong Way Waldo’s place in Burbank, we ordered pizza, flipped on British comedian Eddie Izzard, and let the stillness of lounging around consume our bodies, grateful for the adventure to be over.

Everett “Walker” Griffiths was picked up by his friend Megan Vanhorne and they continued on to Flagstaff, AZ. Frankie “Wrong Way Waldo” Jewett went to visit her sister who happened to be in town Sunday, then had to go back to work Monday as a Music Teacher at Berkeley Hall, a private elementary/middle school. I, Cameron “Peek-a-boo” Martindell shipped my bike up to Seattle in preparation to take it on my trip to Japan. My flight back to NYC was bumped back a day because it was over booked (earning me a First Class upgrade!). I am now getting my Japan working visa sorted out before I fly to Seattle to see my Mom for a week before jetting to the far east May 2nd.

Updates as we went:

Planes, Bikes and Trucks
LAX, San Diego, San Francisco
Wednesday 04 April 2001

It’s all underway! After a smooth flight and a little creative packing, we fit my bike box and luggage into Simon’s Nissan Maxima and drove to dinner near Frankie’s house. She had pulled up in her cab from Burbank Airport after spending a week in Oregon.

We made a quick (no more than 10 min) turnaround and drove off to San Diego. We crashed at my brothers place and really enjoyed the change of command ceremony of the submarine USS Salt Lake City.

Now we’re waking fresh from about 6 hours of sleep after driving up to San Francisco straight from San Diego. We rented a truck (Ford Ranger) to carry our bikes in from Budget. High marks for them.

We’re off to SF to visit Laurance Doyle and get a tour at SETI today!

Beyond Dead
San Simeon, California, Route 1
Friday 06 April 2001

When we estimated we could do 90 miles in a day, we were very silly. Our first day on the road we did 30 miles. Making it from Monterey to Big Sur. The scenery was amazing and all, but the vertical gain was well beyond what was expected. Of course this stems from a lack of research, but we’re all pretty easy going folk and are able to roll with the punches.

Tonight we’ve stopped in San Simeon, 3 miles short of the 90 mile mark we had set for ourselves for the first day. Wrong Way Jewett called it a day 30 miles in, and after about 3,000 vertical footage gain and lunch. A nice British actor, James, overheard our conversation at lunch regarding “Option B” for getting past the next hilly bit. Walker and I gave her our luggage to take along in the car. We then slogged, or slopped rather, considering the buckets of rain that came down upon us in the remaining 30 miles and an additional 10,000 ft. vertical gain (guess) to San Simeon where Wrong Way had acquired a motel room with a pool and spa. After arriving at 8pm, we skipped the pool and let our bodies melt into the hot froth of the hot tub.

Burbank, California
Sunday 08 April 2001
Trip meter: 238.03 km

Whew. A soft couch, warm pizza, and some Eddie Izzard are all the makings of home as we settle down and let our rubberized bodies recuperate from the exhaustive experience we all just went through.

When we finally made it to the San Luis Obispo airport, and were in line to get a rental truck to take us back to Burbank, the guy in front of us got the last vehicle, and it turned out to be a Ford Ranger like what got Frankie and I up to San Francisco and Monterey with. The perfect ride… for US! I don’t know how Frankie and Everett managed it, but the guy turned out to be very nice and accommodating and was willing to give us and our bikes a lift to Burbank while he continued on down to LAX for his flight to Florida. Thanks for the ride Mark!

Now, Sunday morning, we’re in the final makings of BBQ arrangements to get together with some of the LA crowd.

The Gathering!
Burbank, California
Monday 09 April 2001

So, the BBQ thing ended up working out and we managed to scrounge together a few folks to eat, drink and be merry!

After a successful BBQ lunch at Tylers place,we transited back to Burbank and put on a dinner for whomever could show up, and we ended up doing all kinds of silly poses for a photo op like the ones you see to the right.

Now, Everett “Walker” Griffiths and his ride, Megan Vanhorne are on the road heading for Flagstaff, Frankie “Wrong Way Waldo” is back teaching music today, and I, Cameron “Peeka-boo” Martindell, am going to be in LA for an extra day because my flight to JFK was over booked, so I volunteered to go a day later and they upgraded me to 1st Class… not to shab.

So now, it’s a matter of packing up the bike, shipping it up to Seattle so it’s ready for me to take to Japan when I go over there in May to teach English for three months.

About the author

Adventure Correspondent Cameron L. Martindell is a freelance adventure travel and expedition writer, photographer and filmmaker who founded in 2000. He has contributed to Elevation Outdoors Magazine, The Gear Junkie, National Geographic, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Outside, Backpacker, Wired, Australian Geographic, and others. He has been to all seven continents and lived on five of them, including a four-month stint at the South Pole. Cameron has more than 10 years of mountain search and rescue experience, is an Eagle Scout, has been an Australian bush firefighter, competes in sailing regattas, plans national and international youth programs, guides Oregon rafting trips and Australian bush backpacking trips.

Talk it up