Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bike Trip #11-California, Here I Come.

When last we left our 3 remaining travellers were pedalling westward after the Attack of the Idaho Spuds (confectionery, not tuberous version) and enjoyed the loveliness of The Garnish State (aka Oregon). At long last, on July 17, 1987 they entered California, The Golden State. I expected warm, sunny weather to greet me. It was, after all, July and this WAS California. I knew about the Beach Boys and how they sang about all the fun in the sun and the blonde surfer girls and driving around in convertibles. I was hopping with excitement at the chance to finally lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean. Such a naive and uniformed child was I. Imagine my shock when we crossed state lines with chattering teeth and bundled up in every layer of clothes we could find due to snow. Imagine my disappointment when I could barely find the ocean through the thick layer of fog. I'm freezing here! My shoes are soaked with slush! And where the heck is the water? What do you mean it is too cold to swim in?? This is a more southerly latitude than where I grew up visiting the Atlantic every summer! What is wrong with this place? You've got to be kidding me! No dear, we are not kidding you. These mountains are at a much higher altitude than those bumps on the east coast, hence the snow. The ocean currents in the Pacific are entirely different than the currents in the Atlantic, hence the cold water. The mountains are a coastal range, hence the fog. Sigh, ok....I have been educated. Well, it is very pretty and I am finally here. I can't believe I am finally here!




We chose to follow the Pacific Coast Highway to really enjoy the beauty of the scenery for the end of our trip. It allowed us a daily view of the ocean and the rugged mountains. We went through some beautiful places. As a person who had obtained her driver's license less than a year before embarking on this trip it also provided a rather fascinating opportunity to learn how to control one's panic response during tense driving conditions. Notice in the picture the way the road switches back and forth in tight hairpin turns as well as climbing and descending rapidly while hugging the curve of the mountains. Now realize there are no guardrails so if you leave the road you plummet off the cliffs to your death. Now add very impatient logging trucks closing in behind you as they attempt the maneuver I shall euphemize as 'the automotive colonoscopy.' It was such a relaxing, white-knuckled drive down the coast. I'm glad I took a picture or two during breaks so I could have a chance to recall the scenery since the main images seared into my mind involve truck grill filling my rear view mirror and Gus's grimaces of sheer terror.


We did encounter the massive bicycle eating trees known as Redwoods. That was fairly mindboggling and amazing to me. One night we camped along side of the road near Big Sur. By this time I had developed a really hideous cough which kept Mr. Lime and Gus awake at nights. The night at big Sur, with my sleeping bag on a cushy pile of pine needles, being lulled by the sounds of the ocean, I slept the most sound night of my life. The guys woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was having another coughing fit only to find a fox barking at my head. Apparently I had taken its spot or something. I never heard a thing though.




We continued down the coast and were beginning to run seriously low on funds. So low in fact, that we were not buying much food so we could gas up the car. The guys had pretty much already run out of all their money. I had money in my bank account at home but my cash was nearly gone. I had an ATM card but in those days machines compatible with many different cards were not common. We needed to get to San Francisco quickly to find a machine I could use. Along the way we found another church to sleep at. The deacon who gave us access owned a bakery in Gualala, CA. We did not say anything to him about our lack of funds but he was either very perceptive or just moved by kindness. We bought a small loaf of bread for dinner. He told us to stop by in the morning before we took off and so we could get some fresh goodies. Again, we bought just something small but he insisted upon giving up sweet rolls and three more loaves. That was all we ate that day, but I know the guys were especially thankful for the fuel for their tanks. Give us this day our daily bread, and He did.




We reached San Francisco and, after much searching, finally found a compatible ATM in Chinatown. We celebrated with a feast at a little restaurant there. We toured around the city a bit, seeing Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz from the shore. We were introduced to the concept of frozen yogurt at some trendy looking place there. (Yes, I have strong food memories from the last 2 days.) After experiencing the streetcars and the hills in San Francisco I just had to see Lombard Street too, which is billed as the crookedest street in the world. It has 8 cobblestone switchbacks in the span of a city block. The switchbacks were considered necessary to ease the incredibly steep descent and inadvertently created a tourist attraction. Bill Cosby says the flowers are there to decorate the graves of the people who died trying to navigate the road. He may have something there. Driving in SF is an adventure with all the hills, but I have to say it remains one of my favorite places I have ever visited. (I went back in 2000)




After San Francisco we continued south until we reached Cambria where we officially ended the bicycle pedalling part of our trip on July 22, 1987. We had covered roughly 4000 miles in 65 days and it was hard to believe we'd actually done it. We went to the beach and dipped his tires and all of our toes in the Pacific for our symbolic end. I marvelled over seeing the sun set into the ocean (east coast of the USA you see it rise over the ocean) and thought, 'This is indeed a golden state.'







Next week, the journey home, some odds and ends and tying up loose ends.

14 comments:

G-Man said...

Yes, it was Mark Twain who said...
"The coldest Winter I ever spent, was Summer in San Francisco"!
I still don't know how you remember so many vivid details of this trip...Mind like a steel trap you have..xoxoxox

Charles said...

Oh no, it can't be over that quickly. This has been an incredibly rich read. I've been enjoying it immensely, and really don't want it to end.

lecram said...

It is a golden... and rather wacky state. :)

MONA said...

wow! what a wonderful ride! cough is a terrible thing to have! Those redwoods are really car swallowing!

I am glad you could get something to eat, that part was almost poignant!

Fox at your head! I would have fainted right there!!

Crabby said...

"automotive colonoscopy" Ok. This will go down in history as classic Lime. LOL!

A fox was barking at your head and you didn't wake up? ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh ha ha ha ha! I'm thinking that ended up being one very frustrated fox.

You're travels are so much fun to read!

Hypersonic said...

Hey! Blogger ate my post!!!!!!!!

Queenie said...

Really enjoyed that, I'm there doing it all with you, well in my mind at least...

Pauline said...

Another great instalment and that last picture is beautiful!

S said...

Hurray hurray I love the California section of the trip.

I know all too well just what you mean about the oceans being too cold to swim in and the auto colonoscopy....

I have some very good friends in the town of Gualala!

California is much too weird for all of you, now go home. :P

SignGurl said...

I can only imagine how much this trip shaped who you are. Amazing!

The beauty of Michigan is that you can watch the sun rise over Lake Huron and drive over to Lake Michigan to watch it set in the same day. Pretty cool.

Jocelyn said...

The whole sense memory here is so great--I was hungry with you, glad for the bread and yogurt along with you.

No foxes must bark at my head, though.

Logophile said...

Foxes barking at you and you slept through it? Dang girl, that is impressive!
I can't believe the trip is mostly over!
And oooooh, you made me recall those old ATM days, dannng.
I can remember searching high and low for a compatible machine.

Top cat said...

what a terrific adventure and memories you have from this great experience.
tc

tsduff said...

Galen stole my line (nobody says it better than Mark Twain :D)

What a great trip. Loved your chronicles and yes, I consider it the Golden State... having been born in it I have a fondness for it.

Lombard Street is funny, but I like the Great Highway better as it is right on the beach.