The weather was awesome today.
We said our good-byes to Mary Lou and left 'the Toaster' just after lunch.
The wind was strong but it was mostly a cross or tail wind, and sometimes we'd go round a bend in the road and suddenly it would feel like we were flying.
Aside from a couple of problems with my rear derailleur, that I think now I have finally fixed, the ride from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz went like a dream. The road followed the beautiful coastline all the way down, and with a large shoulder there was plenty of room to ride on the road.
It only took us about three hours of riding, and in the afternoon we rolled into Santa Cruz, a really cool looking beach town.
During the early hours of the morning the storm finally broke, and when we emerged from 'The Toaster' we found blue skies and a chilly wind that was slowly being warmed by the suns morning rays.
We were both cheery and in high spirits, laughing and joking about everything, it was as though with the breaking of the storm we had felt a huge relief. Somehow I just knew that today was going to be a good day.
But before we could go out exploring (in the car that Mary Lou, our amazing host had lent us), we had to try and resolve our current money problems. Despite it being almost brand new, our credit/debit card had recently given up the ghost on us, so we'd been left unable to withdraw money (it still works if you enter the numbers manually- we've tried every imaginable trick, even those not from the book!). So we headed off towards San Francisco after Shanna had spent about an hour on the phone with Mastercard International.
On the way there we decided to make a detour and see what Mavericks was doing. If you haven't heard of Mavericks before then, well lets just say that you should have heard of this place. There are only two premier big wave spots in the world, and this is one of them. Not only that, but Mavericks is the only place in the world where waves, rideable waves over 100 foot in height have been seen, making it the most likely place that the 100 feet barrier will finally be broken, and the $500,000 Billabong sponsored award claimed.
Anyway, waves don't normally break very big, or at all, there this time of year, so I had no expectations when I climbed the cliff and the barbed wire fence at the top, disappearing from Shanna's view before scaling the ridge through the scrub for a few hundred meters just to catch a glimpse of the spot.
On my way down there, just before I was about to stand in the mother of all prickly bushes and bust open my toe, I looked up to see a giant wave screaming across the coast and, to my amazement I could just make out a tiny figure flying across it.
Even though I wasn't even paddling into the water myself my heart started beating a lot faster, and when I saw another huge wave come roaring through the lineup, boards flying through the air and tiny ant men desperately scratching at the water, I couldn't believe my luck!
Still can't actually.
More than an hour later I pulled myself back from the spectacular show and began walking back along the cliffs. I scrambled and slid back down the steep escarpment, much to the amusement (cheers and laughter) of a small crowd that had gathered down below (and the dismay of Shanna).
'Where on earth have you been Samuel! I thought you'd fallen off the cliff!'
Keep in mind when you check out the photos that all of the surfers are paddling into the waves (they're not using jet-skis!). Also, the photos themselves were all taken from the top of a 150 foot cliff, so the perspective when you are level with the waves (or in the water) is completely different, or in other words, it's a hell of a lot bigger than it looks.
Our ATM card still wouldn't work, the Bank of America wouldn't give me cash over the counter, and GE Money in Australia hung up on me five times... I don't care if it's 2am in Melbourne, I want to speak to someone!
I was in a foul mood.
I had enjoyed the comforts of the motel and didn't want to leave. We were close to San Francisco international airport... maybe we could just ride there?
We had to use our NAB credit card to withdraw some money, which we hate doing because it costs us a fortune in fees. But at least we could buy some lunch.
The friendly man running the motel told us the scattered showers would clear by midday. We didn't worry about checking the forecast ourselves. If we had, we probably would have stayed put!
It was uphill to get out of Daly City... Despite following all the clearly marked 'Bike Route' signs we had cars yelling at us to get off the road. The headwind gradually built up and I thought I felt some drops of rain.
But back on the coast we couldn't help smiling to each other as we watched groups of surfers, walkers and cyclists enjoying the beautiful coastline. We lingered perhaps a little too long, because as we left the town of Pacifica and climbed a steep, narrow hill, the rain felt a bit heavier.
We'd ridden steep, narrow sections of highway 1 before, but this time the shoulder was virtually non-existent, and there were LOTS more cars. And the cars didn't like us slowing them even for a few seconds.
We've never been beeped and yelled at so many times. And we hadn't felt so much at risk since the roads of Indonesia.
Through all this, the rain fell harder.
At the top of the hill we debated turning around and finding the first train/bus/plane out of this place. But, being tough, (or trying to be!) we kept going.
We turned a bend and started down the mountain - down the side along the water. Gusts of wind immediately hit us and we struggled to keep on road. The barrier protecting us from the cliffs was low, and the gale felt awfully close to carrying us over the edge. Plus the pouring rain felt like small daggers, slicing our faces, and the grit flying off our tyres was blinding.
We stopped every time there was space to do so. We leant our bikes against the low barriers and huddled between them, trying to protect ourselves from the rain.
It was hard to get going again in the wind. We've ridden in the wind innumerable times, but this time it was impossible. We were stuck on a narrow road shoulder on one of the steepest, busiest roads we've ridden.
The wind dropped for a few moments and we were off again. Being blinded by the grit and rain and troubled by the cars flying past, just inches away. Were they allowing room for our bags?
We took a break behind a truck that had pulled over. The guy offered to take us down in the back but it was full of dirt... not a good option for wet bikes and cyclists...
He told us the name of this mountain road was Devil's Slide...
'Last year the wind was so strong a 65 year old woman was blown across to the other side of the road'
Me: 'That must have left her shaken!'
His matter-of-fact response: 'She died in the head on collision'.
Soon after he left we pulled over under some trees. We must have sat there for hours. Soaking wet. Waiting. Hoping the wind and rain would die down enough for us to get to the next town.
We had all our rain gear on, but we were soaked through by now. After huddling under the trees for a couple of hours we succumbed to the shivering and decided to get out of there, even though the sky hadn't cleared. At least the wind had relaxed enough to let us out.
It had been one of our worst riding experiences. Neither of us would voice it, but we were both thinking of going home. If one of us had dared to suggest it, I'm not sure if the other would have had the strength to say no...
Just as the road flattened at the bottom a lady in a van motioned for us to pull over.
'Got somewhere to stay tonight?'
'Yes you do'.
And with that both our bikes, all our dripping bags and two soggy cyclists were somehow crammed into the van.
She was on her way to San Francisco to take her disabled son to a rodeo show, but they detoured back home (about 20 mins each way) to settle us in. She even arranged for her tennant on the property to bring us some food since she was going out.
Now, we've showered, put on dry clothes, eaten a delicious meal, and Sam has fallen asleep in the bed while reading. Simple things we never expected earlier today, when we thought we'd have to camp on Devil's Slide, because we couldn't get out.
And it's thanks to the kindness of a woman who pulled over in a storm, even though she was taking her son on a special outing.
Maybe we'll keep heading south afterall...
We didn't get far from San Francisco before some problems with Sam's gears (he couldn't use half of them!) and a desire not to ride in the rain on Sam's birthday led us into Daly City.
We got a great deal from the terrific hosts of El Camino Inn and enjoyed cheap meals up the road at Wendys.
It was far from a glamorous celebration but, for us, it was heaven (even if Sam did spend half the time fixing his bike and then our ATM card stopped working so we couldn't buy donuts...)
San Fran is nothing new to most people, but when I cycled into the city for my first ever visit I was blown away. The fog rolling in over the Golden Gate bridge and then billowing over the high city hills above the water beneath was bordering on majestic.
The sheer number of homeless people in this city is startling, and Brooke told us the fascinating and bizarre story of why there are so many of them here.
We spent a few days staying with Brooke and Dave while we explored the city, bought a new camera (an amazing Sony Nex5, review will come shortly), picked up Shanna's new wheelset, cassette and chain, and a front wheel for my bike, and then we spent a day servicing our bikes. That night we went to the movies with our new friends and saw 'The Social Network.'
The morning we left Brooke and Dave's I walked down to Golden Gate Park and found some homeless people who I gave Shanna's 'ex' wheelset to. I wrote down for them the details (Spinergy Xyclone Race and Deore XT cassette so that if they didn't want to recycle them they could sell them on ebay or something- they still work great so I hope they can get some use from them.
Thanks again guys, most of what we were able to do over the last couple of days was only possible because of you!
The smudge of light I could make out was welcome - I'd survived the night.
We set off early. It was warmer than it had been for days but an eery mist lingered over the water of Point Reyes National Park.
It was like riding through a dream. The road was fairly flat, the tiny towns empty (though their welcome signs indicated populations of 30-50 people) and the air was still. We were the only ones around to enjoy this peaceful scene.
When we stopped for a mid-morning snack, we didn't have far to go to San Francisco, maybe 60km. We calculated we'd be there at lunch time.
But we underestimated the mountains we had yet to cross.
After Stinson Beach the road wound up a series of coastal cliffs. It must be one of the most amazing roads in the world, with scenic views of beaches, rocks and waves below.
There were some steep sections that required my concentration to keep the bike from grinding to a halt, but we made it to the top and enjoyed a thrilling ride down the other side. There were few barriers and the winding road was narrow... it was the most dangerous road we'd ridden in America.
As we coasted around a headland an amazing panorama opened up - we could see the road curling down around the mountains and then back up again... It took some of the enjoyment away to know I had to climb back up again.
After the second set of mountains we hoped that was it, no more climbing. But we were headed inland to join highway 101 and the road went up again. It was a difficult few hours of riding and our legs were tired.
After our third hair-raising downhill spiral we were relieved to find a 7-eleven. It was the first chain of its kind for days and we knew we were close to the city. We'd made it! Only about an hour of riding to go.
Highway 1 joined the 101 and led to the Golden Gate bridge. But without any warning we were suddenly on a busy freeway, climbing mountains again! We tried to go as fast as we could in the narrow shoulder but exhausted legs and nerves made it difficult.
We had to get off this road.
A highway patrol officer tried to get us to use a gravel mountain bike path through a huge national park, but we opted to keep going to the next exit and ride through Sausalito.
After brief stop at a laundromat to wash our putrid clothes, we were back on our way to the Golden Gate bridge. We found it fairly easily, followed some bike signs and just like that we were riding over one of the world's greatest bridges (safely in the dedicated bike lane).
The fog, sunlight, city and beaches made for a magical view as we rode through the wind. The whole day had been worth it.
A brief stop at a sports store we passed (and my stinky shirt was replaced) and we headed to Brooke and Dave's place - more terrific friends of Mari and Jenny.
We had to go up Divisadero St to get to their place - one of the longest, steepest hills I've ever seen! Somehow Sam rode up the whole thing. At one point he felt like gravity was going to pull him backwards off the bike, and he was close to vomiting more than once, but he rode it. With all the bags. Me, I rode partway then walked. And boy was it hard!
Brooke and Dave are super cool and took us to a great Mexican place around the corner for dinner. It was good to be back in civilisation!
Extra info: If you want to know more about the cycling specs of this route this site has info and charts.
It was another cold, misty morning on the Californian coast.
And the hills continued to take us up over small coves, around inlets and back down to the shore.
It was one of our cheapest eating days for a while, because the towns were so small there was nowhere to really eat. All we could do was stop at the small markets and buy some fruit, milk, eggs and the camping staple- a can of chilli and beans...
We didn't make it far past the town of Tomales. Our legs were still tired and the day had somehow run away from us.
Just outside the town we rode over a large bridge spanning a gently flowing river; we looked up and dark rain clouds were threatening, so we decided to check it out. This section of highway 1 was so quiet, and the few cars that passed over weren't very loud, so we decided to make camp.
While preparing food I noticed a car up on the hills, and a person seemed to be looking down, watching us. Did they have binoculars? I looked up at them for a while... and eventually they moved on.
Then I spotted them further around on another ridge, looking in our direction again... Now I was starting to freak myself out. I saw them a third time, almost out of site... the car paused, then drove away.
We've camped in many places like this around the world but this incident in such a remote part of America made me uneasy.
I was only able to fall asleep that night because Sam was still up reading. But when I awoke in the night I was sure I heard splashing in the river and movement in the bushes.
Six hours sleep would have been a dream!
Instead, it was less than four.
Last night it was a mission just eating our food, the raccoons were out and they were baying for blood! Either that or just our meagre rations!
At about 5am the crazy lady and her German friend started yelling at each other again... the German man was out and about, shuffling around in the bags, yelling at racoons... he was dressed and ready to ride, but the crazy lady was still in her tent.
After an hour of listening to them we decided we might as well get going.
Tired and cold, we decided to avoid these camping sites in the future. We think we'll return to wild (free) camping for a few days...
We rode up the hill to get out of the campground just as the sun was rising. It was actually quite nice to watch the world grow light, and the roads were so quiet... we could almost appreciate the early start.
But we were so tired and our legs hadn't recovered.
The day is all a bit of a blur - ride to small town, eat a little food, ride to small town... Oh - all of it up and down mountains of course.
We passed some spectacular scenery... but we were so exhausted.
About 2pm we stopped in Jenner and ate some food... after an hour of sitting there we decided to buy some supplies and then just find somewhere to camp. The thought of riding another 10 miles over the hills to the next town was too much.
Just outside of town we found some overhanging trees on state park land, that weren't actually part of the touristy state park site. Perfect. We collapsed and struggled to stay awake (slept on a tarp) for the few hours until it was dark, and we could safely set up the tent....
The morning saw us following a dirt path through some scrub, trying to find the path to Fort Bragg as directed by the park ranger... We finally found the right path (not in the bushes) and enjoyed a scenic ride to town.
In Fort Bragg we said bye to Ned and Charlotte - our paths were taking us in different directions and we weren't sure if we'd run into each other again.
It was a tough day on the bike; the rolling mountains seemed never-ending and the towns were small and far between. I'd been dreaming of a milkshake (more like icrecream put through a blender here in America) for days but these towns couldn't help me out.
Despite the tough hills and a late start to the day we still made it to our planned desitation - the regional park outside of Gualala. The shower here was minimum $1.50 for 5 minutes... and the hiker/biker area was tiny. We longed for the parks of Oregon.
We chatted to the hiker who was already in camp, and as we ate our dinner of canned chilli and beans and Ben and Jerry's iceream a pair of cyclists we like to call 'the crazy lady and her German friend' turned up. It was well and truly dark and we were getting ready for an early night after two long, tough days, but they spoke so loud they were almost yelling... but they are quite old so maybe they have hearing problems.
Just as we were settling a group turned up in a van - here to celebrate a birthday all weekend. And they were camping near us. There must have been a dozen of them in three or four different car loads... carrying all their things past us to their camp site. I politely explained to them at 8.30 about our trip and how we were getting ready for bed. They gave me a few 'Right ons' and said they'd be quiet...
With his earplugs installed, Sam fell asleep... but I lay in the tent seething as I listened to them get louder and louder. The guitar came out. In a particularly bad rendition of 'Oh-bla-de oh-bla-da' Sam was woken, despite the earplugs. It was 11.30. I strolled over and politely, but firmly, requested they be quiet.
An hour later Sam gave them a not so polite, and much firmer, demand to stop their noise. It was 1am, and we were hoping we still might get six or seven hours sleep...
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia