Big Cities, Strawberry fields and broken spokes

Posted by on Nov 15 2006 | 02 USA 2006, English

Getting leg lazy while waiting
For the time we stayed in Mill Valley and waited for that special piece to fit the trailer to Flo’s bike, Becky had lent us her car. This made it a lot easier for us to get arround. Public transportation in Marin County is very time consuming, thus not very efficient.

Peggy had invited us to come up to their farm in Middletown for te weekend. So we drove up through the Californian vine country: Blue skies over hilly vineyards lined with light scattered forests, tree leaves changing to red and yellow colours and over it all the heavy sweet smell of ripe grapes.

Chan loved the farm as soon as we got there. He immediatly found Theo’s old tractor and Sam brought the Brio tracks out. He could get close to horses and sheep for the first time and there was even a huge pig. We would have stayed for a few days, but unfortunately I got asthma due to my animal allergies.

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Back in Mill Valley Tyler and Theo bought Pumpkins to carve for Halloween and showed Chan how it was done. The two boys were like brothers to Chan. He took them by the hand and they happily played with him with cars, trains, balls and a frisbee.

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A couple more times we went down town San Francisco as tourists and met up with Becky for lunch or dinner. 2 1/2 weeks had passed too quickly and we had to say good bye to a family who had welcomed us so warmly and unconditionally.

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Out of shape so quickly?
We wanted an early start to have plenty of time to ride fully packed through San Francisco, but it was noon when we finally hugged Peggy and Sam good bye (Michael and the boys were gone for the weekend). We had changed the bike seat to Florian’s bike where Chan was sitting now. I pulled the trailer for the first time. Was it the weight of the trailer or could I have gotten out of shape so quickly? My bike seemed so heavy, hard to push foreward. In Sausalito Florian took the trailer back. My bike still wasn’t rolling lightly and up at the Golden Gate Bridge I had to catch my breath. Florian didn’t seem to mind the climb. Neverthless, the feeling to be finally riding over the bridge was triumphant!

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We couldn’t just rush throught the city. We took the beach path with great views into the bay and had lunch at Fishermen’s Wharf. Then we rode a carfully planned route, to avoid the steepest hills, to the top of Russian Hill and the crookedest street. Florian again didn’t mind the climbs but I needed an ice cream half way up and so did Chan.

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We got some funny looks, when we whizzed down curve after curve. Chan loved it! Through North Beach we made our way to Becky’s work place just in time for her to get off work and hang out for a bit in a park before we headed to the close Hostel. And finally, after all that riding I found out why my bike was so heavy and I so tired: The whole day I had the rear brake rubbing against the rim!

Beaches, sweet smells and a wobbly wheel
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Riding out of the Bay area wasn’t as pleasant as riding in, but the shoulders were mostly good and the scenery beatiful. Just before turing for the State Park in Half Moon Bay a car stopped at the side of the road and Brenna invited us to camp in her back yard!

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While the coast highway had been mostly lined with pumpkin fileds so far there were more and more vegetable fields now. The air was humid but warm during the day, the nights were getting a bit cool. We were now riding towards Santa Cruz. On one of the short down hills the trailer behind Flo’s bike seemed to wobble quite a bit. I told Flo so and he thought it would be a good idea to check his back wheel, since it felt so soft and wobbely that day. So we stopped in Davenport about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. When all luggage was off the bike we could see two broken spokes and all the rest of the spokes were extremely loose! This back wheel we had put on Flo’s bike in southern Oregon and now it was broken already? Flo tightened the remaining spokes, our emergency spokes didn’t fit his new wheel! So I took as much weight as I could on my bike and the trailer and off we went to a bike shop in Santa Cruz. The two broken spokes were replaced and the wheel got centred again. By now it was pretty late and still some distance to the next campground. We also weren’t quite sure how to avoid the interstate to get out of Santa Cruz and asked a bicyclist. Ana invited us to stay with her and Allen for the night and they even had a playmate for Chan visiting!

Throughout the next day the air was filled with a pleasant sweet smell. We were riding past strawberryfield after strawberryfield intermittent by artichoke or brussel sprouts fields.

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In Monterrey we took a day off to explore the town a bit. Once the bikes were unloaded we found yet another broken spoke on Flo’s back wheel and decided that it was better to get a new wheel. My back wheel had to be replaced as well due to some cracks in the rim. The mechanic was a member of the Aquarium and gave us free entrance to it, while he was working on our bikes. Chan had a blast touching sea cucumbers and see stars, watching see otters from very close as well as sharks, other humongous fish and jelly fish.

At the hiker biker site in Monterrey Memorial Park Chan found some new friends again. The first night he went for walks with Canadian bikers on their way to San Diego and the next two nights he made friends with Andrea and Joerg from Germany. The two are on a journey from Alaska to Argentina and over the next two weeks we were camping at the same campgrounds.

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Many people had warned us about riding through Big Sur. They said there were no shoulders on a windy narrow highway and no protection from the steep cliffs. The ride was beautiful. There might not have been very good shoulders, but traffic was slow and little. There were some steep climbs but the view over this amazing landscape rewarded fully for them. The weather was as good as it could be, though a bit too hot for Chan. We still had to fit the sun deck to the new trailer, so that he had some shade. We passed some movie sets, but didn’t see any stars, just people waiting and set lunch tables.

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Playmates for Chan on a Big Sur Campground, and an urgent potty stop. Lazy sealions by San Simeon and a bautiful scenery north of San Luis Obisbo.

Then we left the “wild” coast behind us. Our route was now pretty flat so that I again took the trailer. In Morro Bay we took another day off to finally make the sundeck for the trailer work check e-mail and get our laundry done. That evening Florian came back from the library with a sad message from my father: My grandfather had had an accident and needed surgery. It wasn’t sure if he would live through the night. We would get the message a week later, that he had passed away. During this week I called home often, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what to do either. I felt an urge to go home and be with my family, I felt lonely. But at the same time Florian and I chose this journey to be our life. This is where we are now and even if we are not physically with our family we are there with our hearts. So I stayed, thinking of my grandfather often. Last time I had seen him he was holding 10 month old Chan on his lap with a happy smile on his face.

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View from the climb before Santa Barbara

For the next few days we were glad to have directions from the book: “Cycling the Pacific Coast”. Highways got bigger and busier and it was good to find our way on back roads through endless fields of greens and cauliflower. It was harvest time. Big traktors with wagons were on the fields, mexican workers arround them harvesting and packaging the vegetables their hands working in an amazing pace to rhythmic latin music.

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Santa Barbara and a bike lane on the interstate! The bike lane is actually the third lane from the right!

We left the coast for a few days and came over a 650m high pass back to the Pacific into Santa Barbara. And as promised by various travel guides, temperatures were much nicer from now on. We didn’t need fleece jackets in the evenings anymore. November felt like early September, but neverthless the days for us ended with the sunset and by 7 o’clock we were closing the tent zippers behind us, ready for sweet dreams.

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RV’s camping right next to the road paying as much as in a State Park. Maybe for a good surf?

Now we didn’t leave the white beaches and palm trees anymore. There was no beach without surfers. Our riding days were now short. We were waiting for some mail sent to warm shower hosts in Los Angeles and didn’t want to arrive there too early. So we could spend a lot of time at the beach playing and jumping the waves. The only problem was, that we weren’t supposed to arrive at the hiker and biker campsite before 4pm and we were only allowed to stay one night. We didn’t care too much and arrived at the sites between 10am and 4pm and were only once asked to please follow the rules next time.

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Another big city
From a nice State Park at the beach we climbed a small hill and passed the roadsign: Malibu. From then houses lined the highway. Big houses, huge houses; somethimes wall on wall, sometimes surrounded with quite the property. How many people live in such a house, we asked ourselves.

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The highway had good shoulders most of the way and riding was astoundingly pleasant. There was only a short stretch with no shoulder and lots of traffic riding through the center of Malibu for a few miles and then a bike path strated right on the beach which brought us to Santa Monica. There at a beach coffee shop a lady wanted us to make a life tv show out of our journey. Well, so far we haven’t met the right camera man yet.

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Beach by Venice and farmer’s market in Hollywood

Santa Monica was pretty snoby, rich and a bit boring down on the beach. Venice seemed to live much more with a diversity of people using the beach. Shops played music and cafe’s seemed homey. We stayed on the bike path all the way to Hermosa Beach with only one interruption and arrived at our host’s house shortly before it got dark.

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The last of the US

For the first time on our journey we had a guide and most of our luggage travelled the 99.5km out of Los Angeles by car. While steve drove the car, Linda showed us a way out of the many cities which make up L.A., that was easy to ride and we just made it to the campground at dusk. Some shorter days brought us into San Diego where we stayed again for about a week with warm shower hosts, waiting for chain rings to arrive at a bike shop and my credit card. The bike parts finally arrived and we were ready to head into a new country, but the credit card didn´t. It will have to be shipped to a consulate in Mexico…

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The last night in San Diego we spent with Andrea and Joerg, the german couple who, after two weeks car touring the South West had already caught up to us again. In the morning we all left for the same campground near the mexican border by Tecate. This last ride in the US was quite strenuous. The road of which we were warned so many times wasn´s too bad. But then we started to climb the hills into a strong head wind. This was slowing us down very much and tiring us out. A border patrol had stopped Andrea and Joerg in front of us and when we got to the site tried to make us turn arround too, warning us about a stretch to come predicting that we would get hit by a truck. When he couldn´t give us any alternative than a route leading to an interstate in a huge detour, Flo and I headed on. we still had to cover quite some distance and it started to get late. Finally Andrea and Joerg came too after some hesitating. It was true, that stretch was pretty bad with traffic, but we didn´t get hit. But beause of the delay we had to ride a short strecht in the dark. That day we had climbed a total of 1700 meters. We spent the night 700m above sea level where it was freezing cold.

The US has been very good to us. Thank you to all the generous people who helped us out, when we needed it!

4 comments for now

4 Responses to “Big Cities, Strawberry fields and broken spokes”

  1. chris

    thanks for the update! especially all the photos, it really helps us experience your journey from a far. what is with the beach full of dead fish? do you know anything about it?
    big hugs,
    chris xo

    16 Nov 2006 at 5:23 pm

  2. chris

    now that you’ve clarified with the sea lion comment, i sound a bit silly, don’t i?
    chris xo

    17 Nov 2006 at 9:17 pm

  3. Joel

    Dear family,
    that boat you all slept aboard in Richardson Bay of Sausalito was my very first sail! That’s right I learned to sail aboard that boat one year at Sausalito! The Xora always was a fine vessel glad you experienced the peacefulness of the anchorage as have I and many others. Thanks!


    21 Nov 2006 at 4:10 pm

  4. Hallo Rebekka,

    alles Gute zum Geburtstag. Leider konnten wir gestern nicht an der grossen Feier teilnehmen, da wir noch immer in Los Angeles sind. Ab morgen satteln wir aber auch wieder unsere Raeder, so dass wir uns vielleicht schon bald wieder auf der Baja sehen koennen.

    Alles Gute und viele Gruesse an Chan und Florian

    Andrea und Joerg

    26 Nov 2006 at 6:15 pm

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