Its been a month and a half but I’m already only 2 days away from crossing over the Mexican border. It started off as wet as a British summer but the weather has only became sunnier and warmer the further south I’ve travelled.
America began where I left off in Canada; with strong winds and drenching rain. It’s safe to say cycling through constant monsoon like rain is as depressing as it sounds. I rolled into Seattle for a days rest as I’d been on the road for 12 days straight. Things didn’t start too smoothly. I lent up my bike in a car park only to find it on the floor and the back tyre as crooked as a question mark (to borrow Forest’s line). The car parked in front of it wasn’t there anymore, which hardly took much of an investigation to work out what happened. The (please insert appropriately horrific word here) who did it was nowhere to be seen and I was left with a bike which moved as unpoetically as me after a night on the ale. Fortunately, I was being looked after by the amazing Matt and Erin who took me to a shop, fed me till I could not move and sorted me out for an awesome days rest in the city.
The weather finally cleared up as I set my sights south again and to the laid back city of Portland. I had 2 days ride in between, stopping one night over looking Mount Saint Helen (the three mile climb at the end of the day was the only dampener). After gorging on marshmallow filled Voodoo Donuts in Portland, I set my sights west, reaching the coastal town of Lincoln to start the trail south along the Pacific Coast Highway. The first day of the trail couldn’t have been nicer, as I saw completely blue skies for the first time since Alaska. The suns out, guns out weather was short lived however, as the next three days saw the return of miserable rain and wind. The views though only continued to constantly impress, as I wound my way over the cliff hugging coast line and into Northern California (took a lot of effort to set off each morning in the pouring rain).
At the risk of bringing up trees again, the next few days were all about riding through the Valley of the Giants. Cycling and camping under these monsters was special and the weather even started to work in my favour. Each mile south and the sky became bluer and the sun hotter, so much so the singlet tan lines are now unashamedly burnt in. I camped out most of the way, however, in the small town of Reyes Point, I came across a lovely host in Jane, who worked at the local pub down the road. After chatting to her whilst trying to find a spot to camp, I was offered some floor space and a beer at the local (Prince Charles had even swilled a pint there before in the past). I ended up meeting a local journalist in the evening and even got a picture in the local paper.
After turning inland, I set a route through the hills and towards the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco was a lot easier to enjoy the first time I went when I wasn’t having to push myself up and over the steep hills. I made my way to a couchsurfing host down the coast where I was surprised to be spending the night aboard his yacht, falling asleep to the slightly irritating sound of yapping seals.
From here onwards I only had to camp out one night as I met up with friends and family of friends from my time in Korea. First was my rest day in Santa Cruz after 12 days on the road. The ride in saw me pick up 3 punctures on the same tyre on the same day. Only after the third one were my suspicions aroused enough to check the tyre, only to find a piece of glass tucked inside it going to work on my tubes (in hindsight probably shouldn’t have taken 3 punctures to work that one out). Malcolm ‘Brozilla’ Fliesler’s family were the first to take me in and it’s safe to say leaving after my rest day was a challenge. They couldn’t have been nicer, even taking me on a wine tasting tour during the day (hard attempting to look like a connoisseur whilst I was smashing down cheese by the block load). Big Sur followed the next day and it’s safe to say I’ve never ridden on a more stunning road in my life. The road carves it’s way up the sides of cliffs as it rolls constantly up and down for 88 miles of breath taking Californian coastline. I camped out a few miles in before smashing out most of the ride in a 114 mile ride to Aunty Jody and Uncle Tim’s house (wish these guys were related to me but they are another Korean legends family of the always entertaining Frankie Walsh). Next Malcolm’s family again looked after me, hooking me up with the incredible Uncle Tom and Aunt Deb at their beautiful home in Santa Barbarra. Our Korean celebrity friend, the ridiculously talented Sarah DeRemer, then contacted her Mum who had me over in Santa Monica, who took me out and spoilt me rotten. It’s been nice to enjoy some home comforts and meeting some unreal people, especially as life will start to get more remote and uncomfortable again as I cross over the border.
I decided to take a rest day only 6 days into this last stint as I had to replace parts on the bike before I got into Central America, where certain parts are harder to come by. A great excuse to catch up with a legend of a friend from my first year in Korea. Kyle had been such a nice guy, he’d even surprised me with tickets to Disneyland for the afternoon, but we were both a little too delicate from the night before to manage a conversation with Mickey Mouse. I’m now writing this from the home of a friend of Sarah’s, who has been yet another amazingly kind person to offer me a roof whilst on this journey. I’m 20 miles from the border with Mexico and I’m getting ready to make the next step on this cycle south.
I’m a little apprehensive about the dangers that lie south of the border, but also excited for the next step. I’ll leave this post with a story one cycle shop owner told me about his travels into Mexico. When he was 17 in the 70’s, he travelled down south with his friends on motorcycles to journey to the tip of Baja state. One day in, a police officer demanded a bribe and took almost all their money. A few miles down the road, a cartel asked for the same, only to be told the police already got there first. On hearing this news, the cartel leader was so ashamed a policeman would steal from a 17 year old, he invited the group back to his home where they fed them for a week and showed them around the area. They were also told to call their parents, not to demand a ransom, but to let them know they were safe. When they left to carry on further south, the leader gave them a note. Whatever he wrote on there it had the desired effect as anyone who pulled them over from there on, let them go straight away after reading the note. I just want to know what was written on the paper!
I’m increasing the miles each day and feeling stronger, especially with the warmer weather. All the lovely messages and efforts from back home and around the world are more than enough to keep the peddles turning. Over 600 pounds was risen yesterday, thanks to the amazing efforts of family and friends, particularly my sister-in-law Kim who organised the event. Thanks to that effort, the total has now gone past the halfway mark, with over 10,000 ($16,000) going towards a great cause. An incredible effort by so many people, everyone’s efforts have been an inspiration. I always believe in a glass half full so we are very much on the way to that 20,000 target. But there’s still a long way to go, so if you haven’t yet and you would like to contribute to a wonderful cause, please sponsor a mile today.