KR 2005 -- THE OLD MAN AND HIS BIKE
THE OLD MAN AND HIS BIKE
This is the journal of my trip from San Luis Obispo to Solana Beach
from May 11 through May 14. I wrote it because Persians have a saying:
"Talking about a pleasure gives you half as much enjoyment."
Many times I am sure that you woke up after a beautiful dream and
tried to go back to sleep and continue the same dream or go through
it over again. Surely, on many occasions after an exceptionally
pleasant event you have closed your eyes and tried to rewind the
time, reconstruct and enjoy it again. That is why after my recent
solo bike trip from San Luis Obispo, California to Solana Beach
California-close to where I live - in early May I am writing this
journal. At the same time the information in it, though brief, may
be helpful to another biker who wishes to take a similar trip.
The planning started couple months before the trip. I searched the
web for the best and safest route, talked to friends whom I considered
seasoned bikers, and collected information on Amtrak stations, Kinko's,
Bicycle shops, and hotels that would be on the route. After all
was said and done the critical help came from my friends, a great
route map from Adventure Cycling Association - www.adventurecycling.org
- and helpful men and women along the way. At first I was concerned
to do the trip solo. However, in San Onofre Park, on one of my solo
bike rides I met a Knickerbiker's friend with her husband and she
said: "Do it KR. It is so cool." That was all I needed
to go ahead.
Tuesday May 10th was another beautiful sunny day in Southern California.
I could have packed a lunch box and headed to the beaches and daydreamed
all day. But, I did the final check of my inventories, loaded everything
in the trunk of my old BMW, and headed toward the Solana Beach Amtrak
station. From San Diego there is only one direct train (number 775)
to San Luis Obispo which departs Solana Beach at 12:33 pm. and arrives
at 8:30 pm not including the delays. There are other multi trains
and train & bus combination which I did not care for.
I purchased a one way senior ticket for $29.75 and proceeded to
track number 2. The security guard informed me that the elevator
was out of order and I had to carry my 50 plus pound bike down the
long stairway. That I did. Before boarding the train I found the
prettiest woman and asked her to take my first picture with the
bike. I believe that you look better in a picture when it is taken
by a beautiful person. Look at my first picture if you don't believe
While on the train the magnificent coastline keeps you occupied
during the 8 hour ride. The coast becomes more stunning once you
arrive at Santa Barbara. The railroad bridge at Gaviota, the beach
at this park and even the giant offshore oil platforms in the channel
many miles away from the shoreline are breathtaking. Softly I told
myself, "You are a lucky person." The rest of the ride
is through an enormous stretch where the Santa Ynez Mountains meet
the ocean and through Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The train arrived 30 minutes late. It was dark and I had no night
bike ride capability. I picked Hostel Obispo online because it was
the closest to the Amtrak station. I walked my bike in the darkened
street for couple of hundred yards and there it was. The great Hostel
Obispo. That is when I noticed my mistake. Online all along I read
the word "hostel" as "hotel" and did not know
what I was getting into. I should have been warned at the time of
reservation when the manager asked me whether I would like a dorm
for $26 per bunk bed or a private room for $45. Well, I thought
I had a great bargain. A private room for $45 sounded great. The
building showed its age. A long time ago it must have been a gorgeous
love nest. The next morning the beautifully cared for outside garden
and the flowering trees confirmed my belief.
The notice on the entrance door said, "The door is locked after
10 pm. Use the combination." I was lucky that I had a few minutes
left. It is difficult to guide a heavy bike through two old wobbly
doors. Somehow, I managed and met the receptionist lady. She was
very nice. First she told me that there were no bunk beds available
and I had to take a private room. I had no choice. Where could I
find a place after 10 pm with a bike and in a city that I had never
been to before? So, I decided to live it up and take a private room.
Then, she said that only cash or travelers check are accepted. We
counted all my cash and it came to $45. She did not want to clear
me out and asked what I would do for food if she took all my cash.
I shook my head in agreement. I must have looked pathetic because
she made an exception and took my credit card. Next, in my utter
amazement she gave me a pillow cover and a cocoon. With a beautiful
smile which showed healthy white teeth she said to sleep in them
when I asked what they were. I guess most men find women with healthy
teeth very sexy. In awe and shock I followed her to my private room.
It was a 10 by 12 room with two bunk beds and a small desk. The
bathroom and the shower were across the narrow hallway which would
be shared by half of the guests and me.
ß(the rented green towel is next to the cocoon)
Not to spoil my great appetite I did not eat in the train. I looked
forward to a nice steak dinner in the cozy restaurant in Hotel (excuse
me Hostel) Obispo. I dared not to ask where their restaurant was.
In the huge kitchen and dinning room area a young man and a young
woman were chopping vegetables and slicing roots to prepare a double
dish of something unrecognizable to be baked in the oven. They could
not have been older than twenty. They were carefully collecting
all the refuse for the compost pile in the back of the building.
He was doing all the work and she was talking non stop. The hunger
pains were getting worse. Finally, I dared to ask where I could
get food. She said you have to walk about one half mile to a fast
food joint. Or she could see if she could find something for me.
With that she left me to go toward the kitchen. Heartened by that
bit of good news, I entered the bathroom to wash my hands before
dinner. There were no towels to dry my hands. I thought surely it
must have been an oversight and proceeded toward the desk. There
was a sign on the window which said towels could be rented for 50
Cents each. I dried my hands with toilet paper.
In the kitchen she showed me the common and the private section
of the refrigerator. The bread and vegetables for salad (all organic
of course) were common and free. She only could find a can of Sardines
for me that I had to pay for. Afterward, I was supposed to wash
and dry my dishes. I managed to make a salad from organic vegetables,
sardines in red sauce and ranch dressing. Don't ask me how it looked
or tasted. You will eat almost anything when you are hungry. Several
beer cans were the only drinkable stuff but they were private stock
and not for sale. So water was for me. I washed the dishes and my
fork and headed toward my private room. On the way to my room I
stopped at the desk and sheepishly asked her what was the difference
between a Hostel and a Room & Breakfast. With another big and
sexy smile she said "Isn't that obvious." I paid $3 for
the Sardines and a towel for a morning shower. A sexy smile of a
middle age woman is overpowering. I had to leave the front desk
It was easy to cover the pillow with the provided pillow case. Using
the cocoon was something else. It was a large linen sack with one
end open similar to a sleeping bag. Your body would not touch the
mattress, the blanket or the other part of the bed when you properly
tucked yourself in--a creative solution to preventing cross contamination
and cutting cost of laundry. To me it was a total body condom made
The next morning I got up early. I should say that I had a good
sleep with the body condom and all. It was easy to cocoon yourself
and enjoy a good sleep. The shower was great; plenty of pressure
and hot water. I used my rental towel. I decided against waiting
for the 8:00 am free pancakes and free coffee for breakfast. I put
my gear on and took the bike out of the building and started my
trip. It was a glorious cool early morning in San Luis Obispo. No
fog. The garbage trucks were making their rounds. The city was coming
to life. I had to go to Kinko's to read my e-mails and then I wanted
a cup of coffee in Starbuck. I biked to Kinko's first because I
knew where it was but had no idea on Starbucks. Reading my e-mails
first thing in the morning brings my soul and my body to life. My
cyberspace friends (some I have not met at all) are my soul's anchoring
tethers. I had a few nice notes from my Knickerbiker's friends and
many from others. Now, I felt connected to the outside world and
could start functioning so I decided to get coffee on my way.
Finding the bike lane along the Higuera Street was easy. But finding
a Starbucks turned out to be somewhat difficult particularly when
you are riding a bike in an unfamiliar neighborhood. The traffic
was sparse, the bike lane was clean, and I quickly reached the Southern
section of the city. The fog was just lifting from the beautiful
mountains. The bike lane continues along S. Higuera, then Ontario
and finally Shell Beach Rd. Later on, Shell Beach Road becomes Price
and then Dolliver.
The first part of Shell Beach gives you some of the prettiest scenery
I have ever seen. Take your time along the Shell Beach area. Enter
the side street and bike along the Ocean Blvd.
The Shell Beach shoreline has an out of this world north side which
is lush green. The beautiful green glistening in the morning sun
was studded with many gorgeous homes with dazzling color. Equally
beautiful is the south side, except a portion is covered with a
large sand dune. The low waves softly caressed the rocky shoreline
in between. The people are nice and proud of their place. However,
they quickly let you know that they are from Shell Beach and not
from Pismo Beach. Well I forgave that little snobbery.
In a shopping mall which was not fully open yet I saw a man with
a cup of coffee which was not a Starbuck's. I approached him and
said, "You have a great location but no Starbucks." His
manners exuded confidence and intellect. He warmly asked me "Do
you like a good brew." I said yes. He said "Bike exactly
one mile and you will find the Steamy Bean on your right. You won't
miss it because the whole neighborhood is there. Tell the receptionist
that Landen sent you and you want a Mexican Landen." There
it was true to his description in exactly one mile.
Steamy Bean is the watering hole for the hip people of Shell Beach.
Everything pointed to affluence without pretension. Sure all knew
Landen. Apparently he is a great painter and one of the local Icons.
The Mexican Landen was drinkable but a bit sweet for my taste. I
still prefer the good old Starbuck's coffee in its bold variety.
Because the spigot on my front inner tube was broken, I could not
add air to it. I had to change the tube and needed a bike shop with
a good pump to get 130 pounds of pressure.
In Steamy Bean, I asked two young men across my table for directions
to the closest bike shop. It seemed that they were waiting for an
excuse to talk to me. Both were seasoned bikers and knew all the
biking legends in the area. We quickly became good friends. Adam,
the older fellow, told me that he used to bike for a living but
now is doing only motor cycles. Adam, with the recommendations from
the younger man, suggested that I cancel my original route and at
Orcutt take a left on Clark Ave. and connect with Foxen Canyon.
Road. In this fashion I would be biking through lovely rolling hills
of vineyards and produce farms while I would be avoiding the congested
highways (1), (135) and (101) which have mediocre scenery. Next,
he said no need to go to a bike shop as he had an entire bike shop
in his garage and his house was two hundred yards from the Steamy
I followed him to his house which was located on the corner of Ocean
View and Montecito in the best part of Shell Beach. What a beautiful
view. His house was modest and his garage was a clean and tidy bike
shop. I took a picture. He quickly changed the inner tube and gave
me pointers how to do it correctly and avoid pinching the inner
tube. When it was over I didn't know what to do. I could not possibly
offer him a $10. He could buy and sell me several times over. So
I told him the two greatest words in English "Thank you."
Later I took his address and I am going to send him a thank you
card with his picture. Then, I got on my bike and headed toward
Grover Beach. Later on I read: "Often times bicycle riding
is about serendipity - remarkable, unexpected connections with people
or places that leave you feeling energized and even traveling in
a new direction." I am sure, however, that I was not the blind
camel of Three Princes of Serendip.
After Grover Beach and Oceano I turned inland. Hwy (1) South of
Arroyo Grande is called Cienaga. A mile after Pacific Union (Amtrak)
railway, the road sharply turns right at the juncture of Valley
Road. I had to climb a grade 7 before a plateau toward Cabrillo
Highway. There are major road constructions which should be over
soon. To avoid the grade, I could have turned right on Halcyon Road
before Valley Road, connected with
Highway 1, and avoided the hill. However, the hard work was rewarded
by a 270 degree magnificent view of farmland located on Arroyo Grande's
south-west. It was an incredible sight. There were square miles
of cauliflower, broccoli and other produce farms in different stages
of growth. Some were being harvested and others were just burgeoning.
I reached the top huffing and puffing but kept telling myself "O'
God this is beautiful. This is a great country and I am so glad
to be alive to experience all this natural opulence."
I could have sat there all day and enjoyed myself watching the
beauties surrounding me. But it was only the first day and noon
had not arrived yet. So I got back on the bike and headed south
toward Guadalupe. I crossed the Santa Maria River and along the
Cabrillo Highway headed toward Orcutt. Many times I wished someone
else was pedaling for me so I could take my eyes from the road and
watch the God's gift and man's great work around me. Soon I reached
Clark Street. It was around one o'clock and I was hungry.
There it was, a no name hamburger store on the south side of the
street. I knew the food must be good because the area's trade people
were either there for the lunch or were picking it up. I had a King
Burger with French Fries. They have QueenBurger if you cannot eat
a large lunch. However, I wish I had ordered a double KingBurger
which I am sure could fill Henry VIII. At the end of Clark I turned
left on Dominion, right on Orcutt-Gary, and finally turned right
on Foxen Canyon Road. Now, I was inland. This rolling road weaves
between Sollomon Hills to the West and the San Rafael Mountains
to the East. Sisquoc and many other creeks flow in the area and
finally empty in the junction of the Santa Maria and Cuyama rivers.
There are miles and miles of vineyards along the road. Byron Vineyard,
Foxen Vineyard, Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard and Zaca Messa Vineyard
are a few that I can remember. Yes, there is also the East Can Oil
Field. It is a quiet road with a few farming and light pickup trucks
here and there. They were very nice. They passed me as much to the
left as possible. I am sure they thought if this guy is crazy enough
to ride here we have to give him all the room we can. The area is
not immune from big city plights either. To my amazement in the
midst of all that natural beauty there was a forsaken junkyard.
And I really mean forsaken.
An old abandoned Packard automobile was outside. Is anyone old
enough to remember those beautiful cars? I guess when you get really
old you are discarded. I felt sad. However, I was old but not ready
to be forsaken. Halfway through the ride on Foxen Canyon. Road I
picked up a partially crushed rattle snake four feet long at least.
From then on I was very careful when walking in the bushes to get
a good picture.
It was beautiful and serene. My cell phone had no reception and
I was getting worried. I recalled a mountain lion attacking a biker
in recent past. It concerned me a bit. Then, I saw many grazing
cattle on the neighboring fields. Quickly I comforted myself that
the mountain lions surely would prefer those chops to an old geezer's
tough meat. To avoid getting lost I was told to follow the Foxen
Canyon Road to the tee and stay to the right which I did. The scenery
grew prettier as I moved south but the condition of the road was
not. Shortly after the Zaca Messa Winery and a steep 1.5 mile climb
I was so elated to see downhill road ahead of me that without knowing
it at the time I luckily turned into Zaca Station Road. I said luckily
because by then I had to worry more about getting lost in the place
than enjoying the God's beauty. It was great ride downhill. Soon
I entered Highway 101 toward Buellton which again was all downhill
with a tail wind. I easily was doing 22 to 24 miles and could hear
myself singing "Buellton here I come."
I exited Highway 101 at Avenue of the Flags and found a nice room
in the Quality Inn Buellton. I would not recommend this place only
because the noise from the freeway distracted my sleep at night.
With a hot tub bath followed by an all you can eat pea soup dinner
at PEA SOUP ANDERSEN'S BUELLTON I successfully completed my first
day. The record for the day was 78.8 miles in 6.25 hours giving
me a12.6 average. Not bad for an old man with a bike.
Thursday was a cool and foggy in Buellton. You hardly could see
across the street. I am an early riser. After a healthy continental
breakfast I biked south on Avenue of the Flags before entering Highway
101 at the Santa Rosa entrance ramp. This was Caltran's recommendation.
Highway 101 snakes through the Santa Ynez Mountains. The lush vegetation
and the trees all over the mountain were covered with a canopy of
fog which was too lazy to lift. The sun was warming my old joints
and I could feel the energy. I climbed a 2 mile stretch of grade
seven. On the top I received my reward. The warm and comforting
fingers of the morning sun rays were lovingly awakening the Santa
Ynez Mountain peaks and valleys just as a mother does it in the
morning to her sleeping child. This is a beautiful country I murmured
to myself, again, while I enjoyed the downhill ride to Gaviota Tunnel.
In most parts, the bike lane along this patch of 101 was nice and
adequate. However, bikers should be alert at all time because of
the heavy traffic and their high speed.
I was not finished enjoying the beautiful downhill ride when I
saw another heavenly sight in Gaviota State Park. Yes, you know
it. It is the train trestle that bridges Canada de la Gaviota. The
trestle connects two green hills. The ocean was violet blue in the
morning sun. Away from the trestle, an the old wooden fishing pier
defined the Western side. An Amtrak Surfliner was gently washing
the fog off the rails over the trestle. The giant offshore oil platforms
way out in the channel stroked my environmental consciousness a
bit, though quickly I
accepted the need for them, too. This is vintage Southern California.
I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was not dreaming.
When you bike along Highway 101 after Gaviota State Park you have
a hard time keeping your eyes on the road. Going toward Goleta,
on your left you have the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains which are
now greener than usual due to recent record rainfall. On your right
you have three south-facing beaches - Gaviota, Refugio and El Capitan.
There appears to be a permanent rainbow starting with violet blue
on the ocean side and finishing in gold on the mountain side.
You are instructed to leave Highway 101 at Hollister Ave. Climb
the exit ramp and feast your eyes with knock them all views of Sandpiper
Then follow Hollister to Santa Barbara for more beautiful scenery.
Here you have so many choices. You can spend the entire day exploring
this jewel of Southern California. Whatever route you take please
don't miss the State Street. Enter it from the North preferably
after Las Positas Road. It gets nicer as you get closer to the ocean.
I spent a couple hours there in midday.
Along the side of State Street the Jacaranda trees put on a breathtaking
floral display. I had lunch (all you can eat for $7.95 of course)
at Spice Avenue - an Indian restaurant. I sat on a chair facing
the opening of the store. The temperature was in the low seventies.
I feasted my taste buds on exotic Indian food, listened to exotic
Indian music, and cherished the jacaranda with their vivid lilac-blue
clusters of trumpet shaped blossoms next to other flowering trees
and proud palm trees while having an eye on beautiful homosapiens
of XX variety barely covering their heavenly sculptured body in
low cut jeans and skimpy tops. That was when I had to confess that
God was very nice to me.
With my pleasant experiences and full of confidence I biked toward
the ocean and turned left on the marked bike path. The sun was warm
and a thin haze was gently tapping her fingers over the low waves.
The breeze was mild and carried a mixer of pleasing scents. The
beach was crowded with men and women of all ages. You could hear
children's innocent cackles all around you. I was cruising through
Coast Route. I did not see any need for frequent road map checks
because I have biked the route twice before. The invincibility aura
vanished when I reached Romero Creek area. An inland detour with
grade 7 zapped the life out of my legs. For the first time by the
time I got back on Coast Route along Via Real I felt some doubt
about the whole affair. There are times that adversity and fear
make you stronger and give you a nudge forward. And that was one
of those times for me. A serendipity may be. Taking frequent rests
and drinking plenty of fluid were my basic rules during the bike
trip. So, I rested ten minutes, had more fluid, and pushed the pedals.
Before long, a road sign instructed me to enter Highway 101. Eureka,
it was downhill. I got my energy and confidence back and started
cruising again. I was enjoying the ride so much that I forgot to
exit the highway after two miles. Suddenly I found out that I was
on the shoulder of Highway 101. The beautiful and smooth bike path
was several hundred feet down on my right side. To leave the highway
and get to the bike path I had to climb down the several hundred
feet bushy steep grade, cross the rail road track and climb a high
fence. I decided against it and continued on the shoulder hoping
that the next exit was close. The exit was approximately in 12 miles.
It was a late afternoon and the traffic on Highway 101 was very
heavy. The huge trucks could barely avoid staying out of the highway
shoulders. Their weight, coupled with their high speed, shook the
ground as if it were an earthquake. Worse was the condition of the
highway shoulders. Without exaggeration there were wide and deep
ruts going from one side to the other with no particular pattern.
The edges were higher with vegetation grown in between. All in all,
the shoulders were a continuous corrugated surface which I had to
bike on for over 12 miles. My bike and my body got a royal beating.
Every part of my body and every part of the bike was continuously
bobbing even at very low speed. The sight of a lone biker bobbing
along the highway must have been amusing to the passing motorists.
Having no other option, I pressed on while admiring the nice bike
path which I should have taken to my right and the beautiful blue
The freeways signs are not particularly pleasing. We usually don't
even pay attention to them. But that day the highway sign with Front
Street exit on it was the most beautiful sight. I was high again.
My bike and my old frame held on and we managed to overcome whatever
Highway 101 had to throw at us. I knew Ventura from previous trips.
I quickly found the bike path along Harbor Boulevard and biked to
the end of the path. It was around six p.m. and after six and one
half hours being on the bike and traveling 77.5 grueling miles I
decided to find a hotel. On East Harbor Boulevard first I saw a
Motel 6 which looked like a county jail. I was not going to stay
there. The next one was a Marriot which I knew charged over $200
for a night. So I settled on Seaward Inn. It was a remodeled inn
with a large and comfortable bed. The room had a large bath tub
with many towels and plenty of hot water. The shower had great pressure.
After biking hard for a full day what I most cared for were the
bath and shower conditions. After a hot tub bath and massaging shower
I feasted on an oversized medium rare roast beef, baked potato with
sour cream mixed with fresh onion, Caesar salad with blue cheese
dressing and a bottle of expensive red wine. After all I deserved
it. It was one of those moments when I wished I were not alone and
could share all this with someone. More later on the wine.
Third day - Friday the thirteenth
I don't consider myself superstitious, but I have always minded
Friday the thirteenth. Throughout my life I have avoided making
major decisions and embarking on important missions on Friday the
thirteenth. It was too late to change my plans when I found out
that my trip's third day was a Friday on the thirteenth.
The third day of my trip was a partly sunny day in Ventura, California.
Before leaving the hotel and because it was Friday the thirteenth
I laid the rules for myself: to be extra careful, to rest often,
to change to lower gears soon, not to confront careless drivers,
and not to ogle at all. With that in mind I discarded all my notes
and maps and decided to follow only the routes recommended by Adventure
Cycling Association. I quickly biked through Harbor Drive, Channel
Boulevard, and Hueneme Road and headed toward the California Air
Force Reserve and the Pacific Missile Test Center before entering
The ride was easy and pleasant particularly early in the morning.
At the Air Force Reserve Center, the display of all the air force
equipment stopped me. I have always loved aviation. As a youngster
I wished to become a pilot. Even now I cannot resist looking up
when I hear the roar of a jet airplane. So I stopped and took several
pictures and for a few minutes considered going off my track and
touring Point Magu and the Pacific Missile Test Center. But, I decided
against it and biked on.
Highway 1 here goes through Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation
Area. The shoulder which is used as bike lane is narrow and uneven.
The bike lane does not improve even in the Malibu area. The scenery
and wealth of people living on the shoreline throughout are overwhelming.
The shoreline gets the warm southern sun with bigger surf. I had
a hard time to decide which part is prettier. However, I am now
so glad that we have super rich people. In Malibu if it were not
for the rich people building their glittering shoreline properties,
the developers surely would have ruined the beautiful shoreline.
Soon the Pepperdine University campus attracted my gaze in the late
morning sun. The beautifully sculptured buildings surrounded by
a magnificent landscape make you wish you were young and could join
the young students. The arrogant natural beauty of Point Dume State
Beach grabs you soon after the Pepperdine University site. It is
easy to enter the area. There is a nice bike path before the park.
However, you have to make a sharp left and climb Highway 1 if you
don't want to spend your entire day enjoying the beauty of the Point
Dume Park. Unfortunately the bike lane does not get any better as
you get closer to Santa Monica. Make sure that at Temescal Canyon
Road you turn right and enter the Santa Monica Bike path. This bike
path is the Northern part of a longer bike path which ends in Redondo
State Beach. "Bikes only" signs are painted on the surface
often. However, most people ignore the signs. Worse yet the non
-bikers consider you a nuisance. As one rider commented and I quote:
" Santa Monica path north and south of Pier Place needs more
signs that say, Bikes Only, and should be written in Spanish and
Farsi because Mexicans and Iranians like to stand in the middle
of path the most, without any clue that bikes are trying to get
by. It helps to have a horn on your bike for this stretch of the
Along this path go around Marina Del Ray and make sure that you
do not miss the Washington Boulevard., the Admiralty Way and Fiji
Way turns. In Marina Del Ray particularly on Fiji Way the scenery
is wonderful. In Fiji Way you can stop and count the jets taking
off from the LA International Airport. The giant planes take off
almost every minute.
The fun really begins when you finish the bike path and have to
go to Long Beach. Here you have several options. Regardless of your
choices you should finish at the junction of Anaheim Street and
Normandie Ave. Then continue on Anaheim Street and in Long Beach
make a right turn on Pine Ave. which takes you to Shoreline Drive
and the beautiful Long Beach bike path. First choice is to take
Harbor Dr. to Paseo De La Playa and Palos Verdes Dr. North. You
reach Anaheim where it meets Normandie. The next choice is to take
a left on either Pier Ave. or Ave.I toward Highway 1. Then in Long
Beach, after crossing Highway 710, turn right on Pine. Finally you
can make your own route to Anaheim Street. In any case you have
to bike through an area of LA where everything is "industrial"
particularly the drivers.
Around noon I reached the Santa Monica bike path. I decided to have
lunch. At the beginning of the path I saw a small snack bar with
one attendant. A bleached blond who was ahead of me ordered several
hot dogs and hamburgers and other food for her brood. I knew it
would take at least an hour before I could get my order. So quickly
I purchased a banana, a pack of chips and a bottle of water. I dumped
my tired body on a chair under an umbrella on the beach and proceeded
with my grand lunch.
You may recall my bottle of expensive red wine from the night before.
Well I could not or I decided not to finish it then. The bar tender
kindly wrapped the leftover wine bottle in a brown bag and told
me to drink it the next day. He said a jerk her and a jolt there
would not hurt a good wine. I decided to accept his offer and carried
the wine with me all the way from Ventura to Santa Monica without
complaining about the noise it was making hitting the handle bar
when I was biking on rough roads. So this great warrior and biking
phenomenon had lunch made of a half ripe banana, a handful of chips
and half bottle of leftover expensive red wine. It was a great way
to break the Friday the thirteenth spell.
As soon as I could feel the zing I got on the bike and pedaled my
way through the maze of people who probably were oblivious to their
beautiful surrounding. Los Angeles, like other major metropolitan
cities, is rather different from real America. Let me explain why.
No one makes eye contact with you. They stay a safe distance from
you and make sure that the distance stays safe at all time even
if you get closer. Most don't speak English or pretend not to understand
it. Many even don't know the name of the neighborhood they use for
their entertainment. A few outright gave me erroneous information
when they were asked for directions. Early on during my bike trip
in smaller communities I stopped and asked many people for directions
or to lead me to a good restaurant or to take my picture. All were
very pleasant and accommodating. Here in Los Angeles things were
different. The first few times when I got close to asking a question
the person moved away from me and ignored me. Others responded with
silly laughter in response to my inquiry to what was the name of
the beach I was riding along. Probably they could not understand
a word of what I was saying or they had no clue on the name. Another
person gave a name for a city several miles away for the location
he and I were standing on. I finally decided to give up on humanity
in Los Angeles. I have always said give me Shell Beach, Lompoc and
Buellton in California or Nome in Alaska or Grosse Ile in Michigan
or any other small town and I will give you New York, Washington,
Los Angeles, Chicago and all other major cities. I believe that
I would come ahead.
Not all was dull there. While biking fast in Manhattan Beach bike
path I saw a beautiful nude body on roller blades gently gliding
along the bike path in front of me. Everyone was watching in awe.
From afar I could not make out whether it was a woman or a man.
The closer I got the prettier the body appeared. I could see it
only from the back side and there was only one G- string separating
the buttocks. On closer inspection I noticed absolutely no hair
on the body except on the head. Strange, I thought. The mid-section
and the buttocks were well sculptured with a feminine pattern but
the body was a bit large for a woman. But if it was a man then where
was all the hair, I asked myself. A few yards closer I managed to
take a picture while riding the bike. The figure was doing a graceful
ballet dance on a roller blade. Gently the nude body was shifting
the weight from one leg to the other while pushing buttocks gracefully
to the opposite side. My amazement reached its peak when in passing
I noticed that it was a man indeed without a single hair on his
entire body or his face. In that beach he was more of a crowd stopper
than any nude woman.
In Long Beach I was really tired but very happy because I had made
it that far. So I decided to go for my first Century - one hundred
miles. I yelled aloud when I entered the Bolsa Chica Beach State
Park because my odometer read 100.85 mile. No one was around me
to see the numbers. No cheering crowd, no band, and no champagne.
I tried calling a few friends. No one answered. So I had a great
experience on Friday the thirteenth.
I guessed that my Hotel, Ramada Newport Beach/Costa Mesa was about
five or six miles away. According to an earlier plan I was supposed
to stay there the next day on Saturday the fourteenth. No harm done
I thought. They would gladly give me a room for tonight instead.
After all I was now a Century man. So I biked along the bike path
in Bolsa Chica Park. The bike path is very nice with great views
on your right side. After six miles I was still on the bike path
in Huntington Beach. The part of my body which meets the saddle
had been burning very bad most of the afternoon though I did not
notice it earlier because of Century excitement. The Century effect
gone, now it was unbearable. The odometer passed 110 and still no
sign of Superior Street where I had to turn left and go to the hotel.
Initially I thought to forget about the Hotel Ramada and check in
at one of the motels along the way and stay for the night. But I
decided against it and pressed on. At last, I saw the sign for Superior
Street when the odometer reaching 111. I was happy but panic stricken
when I looked at the street; happy that I was finally close and
panic stricken because the Superior Street was a grade 6 climb.
Too tired and having no night biking ability I decided to forget
the Hotel Ramada late on this evening and headed back toward Huntington
Beach to stay in one of the motels along Pacific Coast Highway.
After one half mile or so I saw two motels. However, they were more
of a Motel 6 type and again I decided to go back and to climb the
Superior Street and go to the Hotel Ramada which I was sure was
a good one. For 1.2 miles I braved the grade 6 of Superior St. and
reached the hotel. It was all I thought it would be. They had a
room but the price was $106 which was $22 more than they had quoted
me for Saturday night. That Friday the weather was great and everybody
was out for the weekend and the price shot up accordingly. I thought
how they dare charge a Century man an extra $22. So assured that
I could get a more reasonably priced room at one of those Motel
6 types refused to stay and bolted out. While backtracking again
toward Huntington Beach a couple points were alarming to me. First
those motels though Motel 6 types were in a high rent district and
close to the beach. Second, I was very tired and it was getting
The first motel looked too dumpy and I bypassed it. The next door
one was a Best Western concrete structure on the opposite side of
the beach and was my last choice. I walked in with all the aura
of a Century man and in answer to how can I help you "I said
I am a passing biker from San Luis Obispo to Solana Beach and needed
a room for the night." A faint smile on his face gave me some
assurance. "We have only two rooms left and the price is $280"
he said. My helmet fell off my hand with my Century attitude. "Is
it for one week or one night?" I asked. He smiled and said,
"It has been a great day and people are coming in droves and
we are raising our prices accordingly. We probably can sell the
rooms for $350 each by tonight." By then I was as soft as a
marshmallow and asked him for suggestions because as a frugal biker
I did not wish to pay that price. He said, "The next door motel
may have a room." I said, "That is a dump, but, please
check it for me." After a few words on the phone he said "If
you rush over they have only one room left for $180." I shook
my head and repeated "$180 for a room in a dumpy place."
"Yes we are along the beach. Inland Hotels may be cheaper."
He said. To me it was a given. I could have a much better hotel
room for less money in Hotel Ramada.
But I was very tired and it was really getting dark. The thought
of climbing Superior Street, again, was not very pleasant. But Century
men do what they must. I called the Hotel Ramada and humbly asked
for them to keep the room for me as I was going back. Tired to my
bones, with a burning seat, completely exhausted but proud of being
a Century man, I got on the bike and attacked the1.20 mile grade
six one more time. It did not take much after a hot tub bath and
a hearty meal that I started to dream about my Century Plus status.
You see I was not just a Century man. By that evening on Friday
the thirteenth I biked over 116.23 miles. So I should be a Century
The morning of May the fourteenth was beautiful. I was well rested
and full of confidence. It was the last day. I had already shaved
off one day from my original five day plan. I was familiar with
the remainder of the route because in the past I have biked through
that section several times. After a great continental breakfast
and taking many pictures of my bike's odometer showing 116.23 miles
I climbed my bike. I was on Pacific Highway soon after a nice downhill
on Superior Street.
It was early morning and traffic was light. The bike lane through
Pacific Highway from Newport Beach to Laguna is very good. Further,
in the Crystal Cove Park area you can bike along a beautiful bike
path which is now mostly used by the northbound bikers due to construction
along that stretch. The best part to see would be the harbor and
a ferry side trip to the peninsula. Biking conditions deteriorate
in Laguna Beach. There the bike lanes are very narrow or nonexistent.
The traffic even in the morning hours was heavy. The automobiles
entering the road on the right side were the biggest menaces. However,
the condition improves dramatically as you get closer to Dana Point.
Contrary to the last three days now I could see many bikers on the
road. I guess most bikers are weekend warriors.
In Dana Point most southbound bikers follow Pacific Highway to Dana
Point Harbor and enter Lantern Bay Park or the reverse for the northbound
bikers. However, I suggest a more scenic route - and more challenging
particularly for the northbound bikers. Southbound Pacific Coast
Highway makes a ninety degree left turn after Selva Road. At that
location turn right onto Green Lantern and explore the natural beauty
along Scenic Drive and Marguerita Ave. Then turn back to the intersection
of Scenic and Green Lantern and stop at the Chart House restaurant.
From there the view of the Dana Point Harbor is stunning. Then,
you can enjoy the thrill of a downhill ride on Cove Road which takes
you to Dana Point Harbor Drive and beyond. Better yet, after Chart
House you can first go back to Pacific Coast Highway turn right
and quickly turn right again into the Blue Lantern and stop at the
lookout at the end of the street. Next, from Blue Lantern bike into
Santa Clara Ave. Check out the southern section of all the Lanterns
until you get to Old Golden Lantern. Turn right and enjoy the beautiful
view and Heritage Park. If you dare to go against the ordinance
you can ride down on the path in the park. The view is worth all
the work. On northbound, at the end of Dana Point Harbor Dr., turn
right on Cove Road and enjoy the at least a grade eight climb to
the Chart House restaurant and Scenic Dr. You can connect to Pacific
highway after completing your sightseeing.
When I reached Dana Point it was late morning and the harbor was
trying to push the fog off. The heavy fog was resisting. Even the
warm sun rays could not completely remove the fog. In Dana Point
that day the fog stayed for most of the morning. From several hundred
feet high the beautiful blue water of the harbor was partially covered
by the fog. The magnificent boats moored along the shore were still,
the few small sail boats lazily negotiating the gentle waves and
the graceful movements of the rowers in several single sculls were
bold. At the look out from the engraving on a large stone I learned
the connection between Dana Point and Richard Henry Dana. I wished
that I had read the Two Years before the Mast by him. Then I met
a young to middle aged couple. The wife was a beautiful redhead
and the husband a handsome African -American. He used to bike. He
was waiting for his son to grow old enough so they could go on the
bike together. It was so easy to talk to people outside the big
cities. We quickly got to know much about each other. We had similar
views on the poor state of education and our young's lack of interest
in physical activities. Unfortunately, a phone call interrupted
our great chat. I saw them walking away holding hands lovingly.
In the Chart House they were getting ready for a morning wedding
ceremony. I met a Scottish bag piper in full and original regalia.
I asked to have a picture with him. I thought his regalia and my
bike outfit would make great contrast. He obliged. Later, he told
me about the origin of Marathon when he found out that I was from
Iran. He knew the history, at least from that era, quite well.
There are so many choices for lunch in Dana Point. However, Proud
Mary is the favorite for Knickerbiker's. So as I had plenty of time
I explored the area and headed to Proud Mary for a breakfast burrito
and iced tea. It was getting closer to the finish line. I could
hear myself humming "Solana Beach here I come." I quickly
passed through Park Lantern toward Beach Road, crossed the Amtrak
rails at Palisades, turned South on Pacific Coast Highway toward
San Clemente. As an interesting phenomenon we are not particularly
struck by the beauty of what we are familiar with. Since I have
been through the route from Dana Point to Solana beach many times
I took everything for granted and I was rather more interested in
getting to the finish line as soon as possible. However, the rolling,
weaving, and well marked route from San Clemente to San Onofre Park
and the Old Pacific Hwy and the quiet roads in Camp Pendleton offer
bikers one of the best bike paths anywhere. You have everything
that a biker could wish for. There you have the beautiful Southern
California shoreline, the great inland mountains, the safety of
a wide bike path with no automobiles in most parts and all the needed
amenities. The routing is well published on the Internet and I outline
them here briefly.
Biking in Camp Pendleton is a delight. On the other hand I never
had much fun going through Oceanside. To me it is a rough ride from
the moment that you get off Camp Pendleton to where you enter Carlsbad
area. You have to watch the incoming and outgoing Highway 5 traffic.
Then mind the SUVs and pickup trucks whose occupants are rushing
to get to the beach and relax! Worse is the ear piercing roars of
motorcycles everywhere. I don't know about you but I dislike their
noise. The ride in Carlsbad is always fun except you have to watch
for people who believe they own the entire bike lane. At La Costa
in South Carlsbad I entered Vulcan Ave. And at Chesterfield Dr.
I returned back onto Coast Highway. Soon I was in Solana Beach.
My dusty automobile in the Solana Beach Amtrak Parking lot was the
lone greeting party. The warm driver's seat never felt so good.
A 342.55 miles bike ride in 27.63 hours was over. All went well.
I did not have any mechanical problems, not even a flat. The old
man was lucky. Someone later asked me whether I would do it again.
Without hesitation I said, "You bet you."