It was hard to leave Brian and Paula Gallagher this morning. I enjoyed their company and knowing more about what is going on in their lives of late. Paula asked if I was sad or excited about today and the ride’s end. I said, “yes”.
It was mostly a downhill ride back to the shore in Carlsbad, though I did have another climb before I was allowed to leave. Today’s route was relatively short and the ride summary is here. I had several turns down side streets until I was back to ocean views. As I passed by the beaches of Encinitas, there were surfers young and old working the waves.
After passing through Del Mar, I stopped at a light and a long downhill was ahead of me. I noticed that beyond the shoreline path, the road then turned inland and uphill. It looked like it went a long way. Prior to this point, my friend, Ron Schleif had sent me a text wishing me luck with the climb at Torrey Pines. I thought, “It can’t be any worse than what I’ve been through already.” I flew down the hill. It was then that I noticed a sign that read Torrey Pines State Beach. As the downhill ended and I bent inland, I realized what Ron had meant. The steepness was not outrageous, but the length nearly did me in. I was afraid I might need to use the Betty James method: “I never met a hill I couldn’t walk over.” When I got to the top, the GPS indicated a climb of 420 feet in 2 miles. Hidaldgo, loaded down, still carried me all the way. I cut inland, I passed by the Torrey Pines golf course, UC San Diego, and headed to the upscale town of La Jolla.
By this point I was almost halfway to the border. Ron said he would meet me around The halfway point with a beer. I stopped for a bio break, a milk to have with Paula’s cookies, and let Ron know where I was. Sure enough, around 30 miles in, a guy in a Honda SUV slows down next to me as I’m riding down the street. At first I thought he was going to harass me or even cut me off. It wasn’t until he spoke that I recognized my old friend. We headed to a nearby park. He had a cooler with 2 cold beers, smoked cheese, crackers, salsa and chips. We sat on a bench and watched a falcon hovering above us, looking to have his lunch.
It wasn’t much longer and I was riding though the edge of San Diego, with the beach near Belmont Park. Some bridges took me by Sea World, the airport, and Waterfront park. This harbor ride was relaxed, passing by boats, ships, shops and people. By the time I got to the Naval base, things looked more industrial and commercial.
I was on dedicated bike paths near the San Diego Wildlife Refuge and Chula Vista. I was now on the final miles going south, less than 8 miles from the border. When I reached the edge of the Tijuana river, the mountains that separated the two countries were right in front of me. The reality that I was almost done was hitting me. I checked the GPS and guessed that I had less than 4.5 miles to the end of my journey.
Ron was there to meet me before my final turn and then drove ahead of me before I reached the border. I passed by a big shopping center and stopped at a light where there were lots of people. There, to my right was the border crossing station for pedestrians. Hidalgo glided me around the space between the crowd. I dismounted and were done.
Standing next to the wall that said “To Mexico”, I had thought a lot about how the journey had started across the Canadian border. There, up north, they had set up a memorial with the words “May these gates never be closed”. There, I had sung the Canadian national anthem. I didn’t know the one for Mexico and didn’t have time to learn it. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, Peter, Paul, and Mary performed as part of the intro. The mental jukebox loaded me up and I finished this way.
So it ends. We can still hope and dream. Like the story of the kid who went along the beach throwing stranded sea stars back into the ocean to keep them alive. An old man saw what he was doing and told him, “there are so many stranded on the beach. What difference can you make?” The kid picks up yet another, tosses it back into the ocean and replied “Made a difference to that one!”
The Lone Rider