Ok, ok! I know I should be posting on my own sub-topic, but I got a nice email from Dave, and I asked if I could post it, and he told me to go on ahead. So here's his latest update. He's been too busy to check in on the forum, as you'll read for yourselves...
Happy New Year everyone! I hope the holidays were as kind to you as they were to me.
Before finishing up my Bay Area experience, I was able to share my travel stories with an 'eco-village' community in Oakland and group of 8th grade students also in Oakland. I had a great time hanging with the kids. They were very interested in my travels and had lots of great questions. That experience made me start thinking seriously about having an organized way to share my stories and pictures with people along the way, especially youths. I also was able to connect with a couple of cyclists, Kent and Anne, who had offered much needed info on my trip in its embryonic stage. They had cycled from Alaska to Argentina on a tandem bicycle about 5 years ago and it was nice to be able to chat with them about the places we'd seen by bike. We also cooked up an great Thai meal.
Cycling out of the city of San Francisco was pretty hectic. There were some tough inclines and no shoulder space on the busy roads. But once I escaped the madness, I was greeted by more amazing coastline. I rode into Santa Cruz and stayed a couple nights with a Servas host during some dismal weather. I wasn't able to explore the city as much as I would have liked but I picked up a great book called "Miles From Nowhere" by a woman who cycled around the world with her husband in the late 70's.
I continued the journey to Monterey where I stayed with another host family. I was lucky enough to catch Monterey's great weekly crafts and produce market. I spent good time with my hosts cooking and chatting about current events. They treated me to a visit at the Monterey Aquarium which was absolutely mind blowing. I definitely underestimated the amount of time it would take to explore what I could only describe as the best aquarium I've ever been to. They had an amazing jellyfish exhibit and also presented many local and deep sea species in a great way.
I was able to clean up my bike and lighten up my load a bit for the trip out of Monterey and into the Big Sur area. I passed a sign that had one of those squiggly arrows and "Next 74 miles" printed underneath. Oh boy, I thought. I am in for some tough riding! After passing the expensive homes of Carmel, I met another cyclist named Matt on his way to Los Angeles from San Francisco. We cycled through the windy ups and downs of the Big Sur area. Now I understood what everyone was talking about when they told me about this scenic area. Few people lived out here relative to other areas of the central coast of California. The roads were narrow and the inclines were killer at times, but for the most part, the beauty made up for any of those inconveniences. Unfortunately, most of the way through Big Sur, we encountered very wet weather. A road cyclist had warned us the previous day about a coming storm. We hoped we could out cycle it, but the rain and wind eventually got us. One consolation was a fat breakfast hookup we got at this way expensive diner/motel at a little town called Lucia at the top of one of the big climbs. We were able to dry off a little and scarfed down the most delicious order of biscuits and gravy I've ever tasted. Despite the rain, Matt and I kept our spirits high and made it through Big Sur with Big Smiles. To cap it all off, we spotted some big elephant seals chilling on the beaches getting ready for the upcoming mating season. Huge males threw back their heads and gave out deep croaking noises to claim 'King of the Beach'. Some males even met up to pound chests while the females and young stayed higher up on the beach to avoid being crushed by these heavy beasts competing for mating rights.
I split with Matt at Morro Bay. He was in a hurry to L.A. and I had a friend and a place to stay in the area. I met up with Jen, an acquaintance from observing in Alaska who now works on the boats out of Morro Bay. Her housemate, Mike, also does the same job. Jen is a great cook and makes her own beer, so I was quite happy to spend a few days with her and Mike while another storm passed through. I was able to get my bike fixed up in San Luis Obispo during this time and also check out the cool town of Morro Bay. Mike and I did a little kayaking and were able to get a close up look at some California Sea lions in the San Luis Bay.
After an expensive overhaul of some of the important parts of my steed, I cycled out of Morro Bay on Butta. I enjoyed the nice mountain scenery as I pedaled into San Luis Obispo and stopped in for a visit at the B.O.B. trailer warehouse to let the guys know how my equipment was riding. I started passing through lots of agricultural area. Fields of brussel sprouts, artichokes, and strawberries surrounded me. Around this time, I had started on a steady diet of great Mexican food. My go-to quick and cheap meal was a carnitas burrito. I finally completed my last big incline on my way into Lompoc on the evening of a nice big full moon and the next day I arrived in beautiful Santa Barbara.
Another storm had followed me into Santa Barbara but luckily I had a Servas host to stay with in town. I had a great time hanging out with Silver and getting to check out Santa Barbara on the beautiful sunny days that followed the rain. I met up with a couple other Servas hosts to round out the experience before leaving for Los Angeles.
I had no idea there were islands off the coast of California. Well, I knew about Coronado Island outside of San Diego. The Channel Islands can be seen from North of Santa Barbara to L.A. Most of them are protected sanctuaries, but I guess there is one that has a decent sized town closer to L.A. Anyway, I spent a night with a Servas host in Oxnard, an older woman named Ruth, before riding into Los Angeles. From here on out, the cities became much larger and the streets more congested. Malibu was unlike any other place I'd cycled through. The houses were so extravagant, perched up on steep hills or along the beach. I stared in awe as the next house seemed to outdo the last. I rode along a nice beach path that extended from Santa Monica into Venice. I cut inland and cycled for what seemed like forever towards downtown L.A. to meet my Servas host. It was Christmas eve and I made it into L.A., unscathed!
Angie and I went on a nice hike up into the Hollywood Hills that overlooked the huge Los Angeles area of about 15 million people. Hard to imagine! The following day, I met up with Brad, a guy in his late 50's who is about to retire and start cycling around the world. He showed me more of the area and its beautiful coastline that I would have missed by bike.
Getting out of Los Angeles was another long grueling adventure of cycling through many different neighborhoods, but I managed without much difficulty. I continued along the coast passing through upscale cities like Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. I missed my buddy Ian by one day in Encinitas. On day three out of L.A., I had arrived San Diego. Aw Yea!
I met a nice older fellow named Harry who escorted me in through the busy city streets of San Diego and right to the doorstep of the house of my friend Andy. Andy is a buddy from college who agreed to store my stuff for me while I take a hiatus from cycling to make some more money. After only one night in San Diego, I was off on a red eye flight to Miami to visit the family, just in time for New Years. Goodbye fish tacos, hello black beans and rice.
I've been in Miami about a week now, unwinding from my days on the road, hanging with my family and friends, building a new iguana cage at the place I am about to help my mom move to, and preparing to leave for another 3 months of work in less than a week. So, its been quite the change of pace, to say the least. But I am glad to have the chance to visit with the people I care about most before entering an even greater extreme called the Bering Sea.
Strangely, I already feel so detached from the life of cycling I just spent over 6 months living. Believe it or not, I feel like I'll be able to actually relax when I get to Alaska and start to reflect on my experiences of the past 6 months. I'm still far from finished with this trip, but I feel like I've accomplished a lot and making it to San Diego was a bit of a milestone in the trip.
There have been so many people who have contributed to the trip and made my experiences that much more special. Big thanks to all the Servas hosts, you've represented a wonderful organization very well and exceeded my expectations. I can't wait for more Servas visits down the road. Thanks to my friends who have set me up with a roof over my head along the way, I hope to repay the favor soon. Thanks to the strangers who became friends. And thanks to my friends and family who have been so supportive and encouraging over the past 6 months. It has meant a great deal to me.
Ok, as if this email wasn't long enough, enjoy the couple of photos I've attached. I'll be working on updating my website in the next couple of weeks so you can check out updates and photos and video clips, so stay tuned.
Approximately: +6 grand in mileage, -6 grand in the bank...time to go to work!