An ending and a beginning

And so the first phase of our trip ends and a new one begins. We leave North America and enter Central America. Time for a cultural change and better food (controversial comment, my American friends, let the debate begin!).

We spent a great few days in Long Beach LA with Marco, a fellow cyclist who we had met on the road in Oregon. When he offered us to stay with him over a month ago I’m sure he thought we’d never take him up on it. However, we did and he, and his family, were incredibly hospitable and super fun to hang out with. Not only did his family endure two grubby British cyclists randomly met at a campsite but two much grimier (of course) Canadian cyclists, Marco had also invited along his travels, arrived at the same time. The family were somewhat outnumbered by us hairy and dirty cyclists but rose to the challenge and I feel that we were suitably tamed by the ever vigilant Thing 1 and Thing 2.

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Big thanks to the Dos Santos family. A home away from home.

We had a stopover in San Diego to pick up some tyres we’d ordered and for Badge to have his back wheel re-laced. He’s had two spokes pop so it was time to get it looked at. We’ve had some great service from the bike shops we’ve been to in the past few weeks:

North American Rohloff specialists http://www.cyclemonkey.com in Albany

Excellent help with our Reecharge http://www.ternbicycles.com in LA

Tyres and wheel at Zumwalts http://www.zcbikes.com in San Diego

Tyre and general helpfulness at Pedal Pushing Bike Shop in San Diego

With bikes sorted and a great break in LA it was time to leave the States behind for new adventures. We had enjoyed our time in America and I finally felt we had got to grips with ordering doughnuts and not just going pot luck. We had learnt to say line and not queue, to talk about soccer not football, and to be very careful when picking a laffy taffy as you may be disappointed by a cinnamon one. Crikey, we were almost locals! I would like to say a special thank you to the Californian sunshine for my very special tan lines….

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As ever, on this trip, it was time to pedal on.

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We were nervous as we headed towards the border as we had heard several scary stories about Tijuana. As cyclists we were directed through the border crossing for the pedestrians. Much quicker than the car border, however, the turnstile proved a bit tricky. It was surprisingly lacking in any sort of stamping in or out. We did not even get our passports out of our bags. Before we knew it we were out the other side. To visit the northern part of Baja you do not need a tourist permit but if you are going further south you do. Also, we wanted evidence of entry into Mexico so we didn’t get put on a USA overstayers list. So then we searched for the immigration office. Naturally, it was 3pm on a Friday and it’s opening hours are 9am – 1pm Mon – Fri. Hmmmmmm. We did not want to stay in Tijuana so we decided to head on to Rosarito where we had read you could get a permit. Cycling through Tijuana was interesting and the highway even more so. Being watched by dogs in the back of pick up trucks has now been replaced by being watched by at least three people piled in there. Victoriously, with all limbs intact, we arrived in Rosarito and celebrated our braveness by sampling many of the delicious fish tacos that are a speciality here.

We decided to take a couple of days off to regroup and to read the English Spanish dictionary, before the immigration office opened on Monday. By the end of the weekend we were full of fish tacos and fluent…… in ordering them. We arrived at the office first thing on Monday morning to be met by a very officious immigration lady who barked at us in Spanish that we could not get our permit there. She only dealt with permits for residency – there are a lot of American online poker players who reside in Rosarito. So, we got a taxi to Tijuana airport and managed to get our paperwork sorted out there. Hurrah, we are now legally allowed to continue onwards. A small taste of border crossings to come…..

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California: Half Moon Bay to Los Angeles

Back on the bikes again, we were dropped at Half Moon Bay to continue our journey south along the Californian coast. It was good to be back in the saddle, with the smell of the ocean in our nostrils.

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The sea mist gradually eased the further south we went, allowing for some beautiful sunsets.

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The long sandy beaches with perfect waves and good breezes made perfect playgrounds for watersports. 

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Just inland from the beaches were fields of produce growing. A variety of broccoli, chillies and berries. Strawberry fields forever…

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And then we arrived at Big Sur. I could wax lyrical about the scenery but I’ll leave that to the photos.

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The Hynes even braved the Pacific Ocean. One of us risked a swim and one of us suffered a paddle. The water was a little chilly.

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Further sea life we saw were pods of humpback whales feeding. This proved to be quite a distraction as we saw no less than 7 pods throughout the day.

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It was perfect timing to see the elephant seals who had come in to the beach to find a girlfriend. They were battling it out to impress the girls.

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How could they resist?

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We have seen a lot of pelicans along the coast and have enjoyed watching them diving for food. They are a quirky looking bird but perfectly designed for the job.

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And then we were at Santa Barbera and the coastline changed completely. We were in Southern California now. From Santa Monica to Redondo beach we followed a bike route on the beach. It was fun for the people watching, especially at Muscle Beach. The following photos show this part of the journey and I have subtitled them ‘Two square pegs in round holes’….

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Break with Bear Valley chums

We took a week off the bikes to visit Bear Valley where we worked in a ski area 10 years ago. It was great to take some time out of the saddle and to catch up with friends. The scenery looked very different in the summertime.

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We were amazed to see how different the ski area looked without snow. The lower mountain was just rock.

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It may be different without snow but still very beautiful. A trip to the Sierras in the summertime for some hiking and biking is now on the long list of future holidays.

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We even managed to squeeze in some wake boarding. Not great for the cycling muscles when we returned to the bikes but a lot of fun.

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C&Bwakeboarding

 

It was a packed few days: waterpark hijinks; beer tasting and flip flop acquiring at Turtle Creek Brewery; river swimming; driving up Mt Reba; BBQ; bike servicing; lots of talking; a bit of drinking; discussing Sam’s ying yang theory; wake boarding; and front seat viewing of an armed manhunt in Castro Valley. Thank you everyone for your hospitality and giving us such a great time. We won’t leave it another 10 years before we return.

California: Giant Redwoods to the Golden Gate Bridge

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We crossed the border into California and soon found ourselves amongst the Giant Redwoods. They provided some welcome shade. They are just so very big and so very old. It was very calming and peaceful riding through and camping in the Redwood groves. It is difficult to explain their magnitude but I hope these photos may give you a sense of scale.

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The road south dipped in and out of Redwood forests, as well as, following the coast. The coastline was cooler with ocean winds and fog but only a few miles inland the fog disappeared and the temperatures increased. We would hug the shade whenever possible. We even met a policeman on a bike.

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We were invited to a community pizza party in Elk. We weren’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be a great afternoon meeting lovely people and eating excellent pizza. Thank you for your hospitality Elk. Not everyone would wish to invite two sweaty, smelly cyclists to their party.

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The northern Californian coastline is beautiful, however, we only saw bits at a time. Whatever the fog would allow.

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Luckily the fog lifted in the Bay and we had a great view of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.

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Riding over the Golden Gate Bridge was crazy, chaotic and amazing. Not much space for all the cyclists and pedestrians, especially as everyone wanted to stop and take photos. We managed to stay upright and not to knock anyone over.

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It has been 10 years since we were last in the Bay area. Some things are the same and some things are very different. We had hoped to ride across the Bay Bridge but it is only possible to cycle half way across…….. maybe it will be possible in another 10 years time. Audra found us and packed us and our bikes into her truck and took us out of the city. First time in a vehicle for a long time. Back to Bear Valley after 10 years of absence. Will it have changed?

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