I was off to a decent start. I took full advantage of the continental breakfast. I had their oatmeal, coffee, and banana. I added it to a protein bar, milk, and sausage and egg burrito from a convenience store purchase the night before. With a fridge and microwave to cool and heat respectively, I was fueled up. It was going to be a long, 85 mile ride. In the end, I had no idea how long it was to become. You can see the final ride summary here.
Leaving Oxnard was cool and sunny along mostly deserted streets this Sunday morning. I was off to a fast pace, ready to merge onto Highway 1 at NAS Point Mugu. Soon afterwards, a couple of other cyclists joined me. We went at our own pace. It wasn’t too many miles when the road started hugging the coastline and I saw even more cyclists in both directions. It was difficult to not be distracted by the beauty of the water crashing against the rocks, leaving mist that glittered in the morning sunlight.
I was assisted by the wind and I couldn’t believe the pace I was able to maintain. Even the climbs didn’t seem as difficult. It was 15 miles of gorgeous coastline and mountains on the way to Malibu. Just when I thought I’d already seen the sights, a sign appeared near the Malibu city limits: “Welcome to Malibu-21 Miles of Beauty “. I stopped for a milk, had a banana, and breakfast bar, along with a nature break.
Probably because it was a Sunday, there seemed to be a lot of cars parked along the side of the road at any beach access points. The shoulder of the road was wide, but it made for some tighter moments near the parked cars. As I passed through Malibu (21 miles according to the sign), I saw lots of surfers. I think the mental jukebox went through the entire portfolio of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Mamas and the Papas, and some other California themed one hit wonders.
When I got to Santa Monica, I was able to ride on dedicated concrete paths that curved through the beach. There were people playing volleyball, rollerbladers, slow bikers, and pedestrians. It was crowded but manageable, until I got to the famous Santa Monica Pier. At the pier were all kinds of places to eat, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and all manner of amusements. I was craving ice cream, but I didn’t want to deal with the crowds.
Farther down the path, away from the biggest crowds, I was able to satisfy my ice cream craving. There was a young man selling sodas, water, and Gatorade from a cooler he set up in front of me, while I was eating my sundae. I asked if he did this every weekend. He said he did it everyday. We talked some more and I told him a little about my trip. He said he wanted to take a big trip like that. I told him he needed to do it without a car because you will see more things and meet more people without the metal casing in your way. Before I left him, I bought a water. I felt I had to live up to one of my rules of life: Never pass a kid’s lemonade stand without buying. (See the author Robert Fulghum). Now he was no kid, and this wasn’t lemonade, but the principle still applied.
I followed the paths down to more beaches – Ocean Park, Venice, Marina Del Rey. As I was gliding down the path, watching some sail boats I heard a strange, but familiar sound from Hidalgo’s rear wheel. When I stopped to inspect it, I found not one, but 2 broken spokes. After a few Google searches and 2 phone calls, I was able to find a place that could do the repair. Helen’s Cycles was 2.6 miles back from where I had come. I was less than 30 miles from the hotel and now my ride had increased by over 5 miles plus more than an hour in repair time. Upon the advice of the mechanic and some other past experience, I agreed that Hidalgo would need more than a couple of spokes. A new wheel was in order. While I waited, I called my brother, Mike and Becky to give them a heads up on the latest situation. I also had my first In and Out burger with a vanilla shake. The nice folks at Helen’s topped the air in Hidalgo’s tires and also my water bottles. Then I rode against the clock. I wanted to get to the hotel before it got dark.
The beach paths were still beautiful, but I had less patience for slow bikers and pedestrians. With each winding, scenic curve, I started to eye the straight streets not far away. I checked Google maps and decided to hop off the beach paths a little early to make up some time. Now I was on city streets. They were straight, flat, and heading east with the wind. I was moving almost as fast as some of the cars. If I could have caught the traffic lights better, I bet I could have saved another 10 minutes on those final 15 miles. It was at one of those lights, with less than 5 miles to go, when I stopped at a multilane street. There were 2 lanes going straight and a dedicated right turn lane. I was at the front, between the straight and right turn lanes, since I was going straight. A car in the right turn lane inched up closer. A man in his thirties looked me over and asked if I’d ridden far. I told him I was headed for the Mexican border. The next thing I know, he’s reaching around and he tries to hand me a miniature bottle of Jagermeister. I thanked him, but said I really didn’t need any. He was very insistent, so finally I gave in and put it in my vest pocket, since it was small. Then I told him I had started from the Canadian border. With that, he reached back again and tries to give a 24 oz. bottle of craft beer! Even though I am never one to turn down free beer, I really couldn’t take that one. I tried to tell him that it was too big and that I couldn’t carry it anywhere. By this time the light had changed, so I took off. As I pulled away, I thought I heard the sound of a bottle breaking. I didn’t look back, but I think he might have tried to toss it to me when I pulled away. If it did break, it was a tragedy on so many levels!
The final miles led me past a huge railroad terminal and refinery. Not all of southern California is beaches, surfing, and volleyball. Long Beach and Los Angeles are huge shipping ports. I was almost to the hotel, when my route took me past a marina. This is where the GPS often gets me lost because there are pedestrian paths adjacent to the bike paths. It’s easy to take the wrong one and I did. Eventually I got back onto a real street and made it into the hotel about 6:30 pm. By the time I got cleaned up and out to dinner it was already dark. So ended another day of adventure. If everything went according to plan, it wouldn’t be an adventure!
The Lone Rider