Port Hueneme to San Diego

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 –– Wednesday, Jan. 05, 2011
Wednesday evening––with yet another rain storm forecast for the overnight/early morning––stayed at the America's Best Value Inn in Port Hueneme (just south of Oxnard).

All along I had been expecting on this bike trip a fair amount of rain in the Pacific Northwest and even all of Northern California, but had hoped that by the time I got south of San Francisco the rainy weather would diminish and I would quickly get sunburned. Nope; Central and Southern California were experiencing one of their rainiest winters ever with terrible flooding and mudslides ravaging the region and, worse, causing touring cyclists from Seattle great distress and uncomfortableness.

By late morning the rain storm had passed, the sun reappeared, the pavement began drying and I set out for Malibu and the beginning of the massive Los Angeles megalopolis.

Coming from Seattle, with its difficult-to-forecast weather patterns, one thing that has amazed me is the accuracy of the weather forecasts in all the areas I've visited. One can look at the weather forecasts three, four, even five days in advance and make plans accordingly, knowing that probably 9 times (or more) out of 10 the prediction will be correct––often even down to the hour! In Seattle, thanks to the notorious Puget Sound convergence zone, three days in advance, the forecast is probably correct 2 times out of 10!

This shouldn't have been a surprise to me because as a tour guide in Seattle one thing I regularly come across is visitors saying, on a Tuesday, "The forecast for Seattle this coming weekend is for sunshine!" While I reply "Oh that's great!," I'm thinking to myself, "Well, there's always a possibility it'll be sunny."

Obviously, with so many people from so many different places putting such faith in the meteorologists' calculations, I should have inferred that the weather forecasts everywhere else are accurate.

With all the heavy rain this winter, one thing Southern California was having a problem with was mudslides, especially in areas where vegetation had been killed by wildfires. (How's that for an ol' one-two punch?)

Foolishly, I hadn't been actively checking for road closures along Hwy 1 (although I had been sort of watching the media outlets) even though I knew the highway department had been closing and reopening portions of Hwy 1 due to mud/landslides or threats thereof.

Just a few miles south of Port Hueneme, it bit me in the butt bike shorts; Hwy 1 was blocked at Point Mugu!

This map shows how far inland I had to go to detour around:

The map also indicates where this photo (#1) of a fruit stand was taken:
(I purchased a couple of pieces of fuel.)

And this photo (#2) of a memorial for a killed cyclist:

Once I was diverted at Point Mugu from my intended southward trajectory, the farm road I was on started bending to the left––not only northward, but also into the wind. Argh! Fortunately, since I'd no idea where I was going (the maps I had only showed the intended route), there was a guy walking along the road who just so happened to be a fellow cyclist (!) and was able to give me quite good directions.

After spending the whole day riding up and through Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills and with daylight quickly fading, I pulled into Malibu Creek State Park. Many of the California State Parks want exorbitant fees for camping (Some as much as $35!! Inexplicably, they don't differentiate between RV "campers" and hiker/biker campers.) and Malibu Creek was no exception, so I rode on a dirt road way back into the bowels of the park, hoping I would be hidden from any fee-extorting park rangers who might happen along. It worked. I found what turned out to be a near-perfect campsite, save for the eerie cackling sound some unidentified creature was making up on the hillside nearby.

Here's a photo of the site the next morning:

Escorted by expensive Porsches, Mercedes, Land Rovers, Bentleys and the like, I screamed down through Malibu Canyon, past Pepperdine University:

Back (finally!) on The King's Highway, in Malibu I couldn't believe how many houses (hundreds and hundreds) up on the hillsides looked like houses I'd seen in movies and TV shows (some of them I––and you––probably have seen on the screen); the kind of houses where, during their incessant parties, the likes of Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan and Robert Downey Jr. dutifully (bless their hearts) engage in behavior that supplies our celebrity-obsessed culture with the juice we need and crave.

Some of the houses were a bit more unique:

Passed a famous boulevard:

Rode along famous Venice Beach:

You can close the pop-up ad in the video by clicking the 'x' in the upper-right of the ad. (The ad is the result of having copyrighted music attached to the video.)

At around Redondo Beach, one has to cut inland through Torrance and some of the grittier neighborhoods of L.A. in order to skirt around the gigantic shipping port at Long Beach (largest, busiest port on the West Coast).

Took this photo of one of the archetypal L.A. streets:

Riding through the second-largest city in the U.S. and who do I see up ahead of me? My old pal Andrew! Amazing. And turns out we were both headed for Newport Beach that evening; Andrew to a warmshowers host, and I to Linda's––whom I'd met at the hostel in Santa Barbara. (See foreshadowing in previous blog post.)

So Andrew and I rode together over the Los Angeles river:

Seeing the snow-flecked Sierra Nevadas to the east:

Past the huge shipping port at Long Beach, near where the Queen Mary (now a hotel) is docked:
The dome barely visible behind the Queen is where Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose was housed until it was moved in 1993 to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinneville, OR. If you get a chance, and are at all interested in aviation, this museum is well worth a visit. The Spruce Goose alone is astounding.

Andrew and I arrived in Newport Beach well after dark (it was getting dark at about 5:30-ish) and parted ways to go to our respective hosts' homes, but we made plans to meet up again in the morning to continue our ride to San Diego.

Linda lived in a trailer in a decent little mobile home park. I was hoping she would offer me floor space in her tiny living room, but, alas, she did not so I set up my tent in the parking space next to her trailer. She suggested we go to a local Italian restaurant as she had a gift certificate which would cover us both. So we arrived at this very large, hip, insanely crowded, loud and dark restaurant to be told by the hostess that the wait would be an HOUR AND A HALF! On a Thursday night!? Although, it was the week between Xmas and New Years and this was the day before New Year's Eve. So we left to go find something else. We ended up at another Italian restaurant that was part of a huge outdoor shopping mall. Neither of these were my kind of place, but I just wanted to eat.

The whole evening was slightly bizarre. Linda was a very strange companion; her behavior (it seemed to me she had "dolled" herself up and the whole evening she almost seemed nervous) and a couple of comments (At one point she said something about "my husband..." then, "No, I'm kidding.") gave the distinct impression that she considered this a "date!?" Now I started becoming afraid she would invite me to sleep on the living room floor! Glad I was sleeping outside.

Back at her trailer, she wanted to show me a DVD that she thought was terrific. It was footage of California Coast scenery set to horrifically cheesy music and it went on and on and on and on. I think she thought I'd like it because I'd ridden down the coast. I didn't tell her I was totally sick of big waves crashing into big rocks but I did tell her I was tired (which wasn't a lie––I'd pedaled further this day than any so far: 86 miles) and needed to retire to my tent. Whew!

In the morning, after a miniscule breakfast (Although it was very nice of her.) and her giving me a care package (Some cookies, a couple of little seashells and a book that lists Bible verses addressing any given emotion or scenario...This was the icing on the cake that was my odd time with Linda.), I hastened off toward San Diego.

How did I end up with no photos of Linda or her trailer!?

This area south of L.A., like Malibu, is very swanky (This is where Oprah lives.) and after passing Ferrari and Aston Martin dealerships, I met back up with Andrew.

While I'm old enough to be Andrew's father (I'm 17 years his senior), we share a similar dry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and it was refreshing to be around someone I could laugh with. That, and we ride at the same pace. So off we rode toward San Diego.

It was Friday, New Year's Eve, and we didn't know where we would end up that evening. Turns out, after getting a late start and a lazy day of riding, we ended up in San Clemente where we decided to get a motel room. It was New Year's Eve after all!

Since I didn't get a photo of the front of the motel, here's a Google Maps Street View of it:
The hand of God points to our room.

Here's the view of the ocean (and the highway) from our balcony:

That evening, after a huge, very delicious meal at El Mariachi, a local Mexican restaurant, we walked down to the nearby grocery store. Neither of us are imbibers, so we decided we would party down by eating junk food; chips, root beer, candy, and ice cream cake! Well, actually it was just Andrew eating ice cream cake as I avoid dairy. Here's Andrew with his beloved ice cream cake:

And a close up:
Believe it or not, he ate the whole thing! He felt a bit ill the next morning.

I took a photo of our room the next morning:

After spending 20 minutes rousing Andrew from a sugar-induced coma, we set off for San Diego, 65 miles away.

South of San Clemente our route took us through Camp Pendleton. I tried to get a photo of the MP's at the security gate but they wouldn't allow it. Inside the base, I did get a picture of one of the tank-crossing signs:
Unfortunately, there were no tanks to be seen. No soldiers either, for that matter. We did see a number of the wood and rope structures that Marines train on. Camp Pendleton is huge and stretches quite a ways in from the coast. We were barely inside the western boundary.

Andrew took this shot of me in a tunnel:

In spite of having gotten a late start, by late afternoon and with about 20 miles to go, we decided we could make San Diego by dusk. Then Andrew got a flat. Here he is happily fixing it:

10 minutes later we were on the move again. By dusk we were passing the Scripps Research Institute buildings in the La Jolla neighborhood north of San Diego and then the UC San Diego campus. We'd made it! Although, we didn't have any idea where to go now that we were actually in San Diego.

Just then we came upon a riot of flashing red strobe lights...it was bicycles! Bicycles with panniers and trailers! Touring cyclists! There were only four of them but my first impression was of a crowd. We pulled up alongside them and made their acquaintance. They were three guys and a girl from Northern California and, like us, were arriving in San Diego with no idea where to go or where to spend the night. We pulled up at the entrance of a Von's grocery store and became a spectacle; six fully loaded touring bikes really draws a lot of attention. We were now a crowd.

They were Ace, from Humboldt State University, his sister Julie and their friend Davin, both from Tahoe, and Jordan, a cyclist from Portland who'd joined up with them in California. The four of them were headed down into Mexico, then on into Central and, possibly, South America.

Ace had majored in film at HSU and was, with the assistance of the other three, making a feature-length film documenting their adventure. They have a few edited teasers up here: http://revolutions-southward.com/

After about an hour at Von's, chatting, buying provisions, etc., our little miniature Critical Mass was on the move again, heading toward the Mission Bay section of San Diego.

After winding through a bunch of upscale neighborhoods and passing the nightclubs and bars alongside Mission Beach, we arrived in Mission Bay Park, not far from Sea World, where we located a spot we thought isolated enough that we wouldn't get hassled during the night. We slept under palm trees and stars.

At dawn I took this photo of our campsite:

Soon after sun-up we were packed and rolling again, this time into downtown San Diego. Here's a shot of the group:

San Diego has an even stronger maritime presence than Seattle and there are ships all around the harbor and along the downtown waterfront. Once downtown, we stopped to look at a couple of beautiful old tall ships:

Those of you from Seattle might remember a Russian sub that was docked at Pier 49 for a while? It's the same sub you see behind the ship in the above photo.

From the waterfront we set off in search of a Coffee Bean (Starbucks-like chain) as Ace had a gift certificate to use up before entering Mexico. Free coffee and pastries for all!

Here's a shot of us and the bikes at the downtown San Diego Coffee Bean:

While hanging out here, a local cyclist came by inquiring about our story. Turns out his name was Seamus (SHAY-muss) and he had a little bike shop nearby with an apartment in the back. He kindly offered the use of his bike shop and tools, his apartment, and the back patio area for camping. So, off we went to Seamus' place:
Seamus is the one in the front turning around.

Here's a video I shot of us going to Seamus' place in back of the bike shop:

This was the patio area where we were to camp that night...until it decided to rain. Fortunately, Seamus was leaving town for a few days and offered the floor space of his approximately 150 sq. ft. studio apartment, if we could all fit. The weather was abysmal that afternoon and evening (though you wouldn't have known it by the pics and video seen above), so after a bit of shifting stuff around we all crammed our ground pads and sleeping bags in and had a nice, dry evening.

Here's the (entire) apartment:

The next morning the group of four were to cross the border into Mexico and Andrew and I decided to go along and see them off. We took this shot before leaving Seamus' place:

After the border-crossers were "safely" in Mexico, Andrew took this shot of me at the paso de frontera (border crossing):

From San Ysidro (city where the border crossing is), we rode up through Coronado where we caught the ferry across the harbor back to downtown San Diego. The ferry goes past the USS Midway:

The previous day I had contacted a warmshowers host, Jason (and his partner Keith), and they invited Andrew and me over to stay at their house. Great guys, Jason and Keith; exceedingly accommodating and generous and great to talk to––Jason has done a lot of bike touring. Here they are (with Lilo):
Jason's on the left.

From San Diego, Andrew headed north to visit his folks in Seattle and I headed eastward. Leaving San Diego, I noticed a stadium a few blocks away. It was Petco Field where the Padres play:

I also passed a mural painted by Shepard Fairey:

And an appropriately-named mortuary:

That evening I stayed at a Motel 6 in El Cajon. I had made the great "left turn" and was heading east!

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