Day 72: I am home again

I was woken up at 6 by Christina as she was heading to work super early. She bid us farewell and let us sleep in and leave when we were ready. I kind of rolled out at 7 and decided to get b’fast again at a cafe. Cities are spoiling my budget.

But then again, when I can get a large portion of potatoes, eggs, fruits and a big hit of French toast with raisins, I can’t really complain. I couldn’t eat it all and packed a bit for lunch. The route out of Lompoc was supposed to climb. It did, but at a extremely gentle slope of 2-3%. I just put on a low gear and made my way up gently. The day seemed like it was going to warm up considerably and I had to hydrate often.

We got to the 1000 ft summit after 25 km (duh) and then the route descended quickly to the ocean. We hit 101 again. 101 is like this relative that one does not like to meet, but you occasionally bump into at family gatherings. You tolerate them, but get the hell away from them as quickly as you can. This time 101 was to stay for a while, but luckily it was well behaved with really wide shoulders and not too much traffic. Though there were a couple of asses along the way.

We wanted to stop for lunch at one of the state parks, but the park warden was a bit snooty and after asking a few times, gave us a 15 minute pass to enter the park to fill water. We decided to sit outside the park and eat instead. I also finished the oranges I had picked up from Christina’s tree. We are in orange season now and I have been spotting ripe ones pretty much everywhere. Nice.

The day had been extremely hot and combined with the dry spell, it was hard work on the saddle. I spotted a few dead birds on the road and a few of the monarch butterflies succumbed to the heat too. The route however was rolling gently and we made it to a starbucks in the outskirts of SB. After a good rest, we headed towards the UC Campus which was pretty neat and had some lovely bike lanes and rode along the bike path for most of the way into town. A couple of loops later we ended up along a nice route to Chris’s home.

Oh, yes, Chris. The one I rode with for many months in SE Asia. His folks live in Santa Barbara and his mum, Maureen, had invited me to come over and stay.

We reached the place and after a short while Maureen was home and she had bought tons of food and veggies for us. I was delighted to meet her, like I was with meeting Andres’s mum. It’s like I am going from one home to another. Maureen was utterly sweet and she made sure we had everything we needed (more than what we really need) and made some dinner for us. We chatted a while and Marty and Maggie came in later.

It was lovely meeting the family that I have heard much about from Chris and it was also funny when every one went, ‘Oh, That Raj’! He hee.. Its like I am meeting old friends after a long time. We seem to know a bit of what’s happening in the other’s lives, but we would be very interested in picking out details and finding out more.

I guess the next few days are going to be a lot of rest, relaxation and tons of fun for sure. Don’t expect me to be writing!

Route: Lompoc to Santa Barbara
Distance: 101 Km
Ascent: 2700 ft
Descent: 2400 ft
Expenses: $21.38
Comment: A severely hot day, but lovely to be home.

Day 71: Powered by tailwind

30 kmph tailwinds, I didn’t even feel like I was riding :-)

We started today at 8 and we bid farewell to our lovely hosts. Jerald joined us to the b’fast place around the corner and today was when they had 2 for 1 burritos! Kevin joined us on his way to work and he brought with him some early Christmas presents! A pair of socks was a good addition to my wardrobe and it would go a long way too!

The fellers had to get going to work and we finished the burrito and started on the road too. The day was windy and that too in the right direction! Hasn’t happened too often and a welcome sight every time it shows. The start was pretty flat and we hit the road at speed. As we were getting out of town another kiwi tourer caught up with is and chatted a bit before we parted ways.

The route went thro some sweeping farmlands and it was pretty sight, though there were few trees in sight… We had a plan B which was to stop at Guadalupe, about 50 km in. But we hit the town before noon and it was easy to decide to carry on.

With all the strawberry farms, it was going to be a matter of time before we spotted a farm stand. And, when we found one, we ended up eating half a kilo of strawberries each heh.

The road wound inland a bit and that’s when we felt the strength of the winds. Pretty glad we aren’t heading north in these conditions. The only bit of work was a small hill before reaching Lompoc. The descent was really sweet and I was pushed into the roads a few times by the side winds. Got my bike under control and we found a bike path taking us into town.

We have a Warmshowers host tonight and since we were meeting her much later, we spent the time hanging out at a Starbucks and relaxing the legs, heh. Can’t believe I am 90 km in and feeling ready to ride on :-)

We met our host, Christina, doing yoga in the park and we headed home at 7 pm. It was a really spacious place and we had a nice little cabin to sleep in. Christina has been thinking of travelling and I suppose talking to us probably made her resolve stronger now. Heh.

Route: San Luis Obispo to Lompoc
Distance: 97 Km
Ascent: 2600 ft
Descent: 2600 ft
Expenses: $26.25
Comment: Tailwinds are a cyclist’s best friend!

Day 70: An unplanned rest day

As if I plan all the other rest stops, heh.

The gist of the story is that we came up to Jerald’s home and were shown a nice cozy corner to sleep in and we, the Cooking – Dish washing duo, decided to make a dinner. During dinner, Tom offered to show us some Mountain Biking routes, Krissi the exponent decided to ride them, and I in my infinite wisdom, chose to stay in and rest, heh. So a rest day it is.

Lets rewind a bit. We are in a super sports household. Everyone in here, is an absolute athlete and pretty much each of them is a bike nut too. As we talk, I hear fleeting comments like, Dillon does triathlons and is trying to do an ironman. Or, Kevin rode the London-Edinburgh-London Rando event in 106 hrs. Or, Christiana rode up meet us mid way yesterday to keep us company. Or, Jess just came back from working in the San Fran Half Marathon! The list just goes on. And Jerald and Tom are avid Mountain bikers apart from giving touring a go once in a while.

The best part was that in spite of being such avid endurance athletes, they looked at me and Krissi and were genuinely interested in what we do (we do a gently ride of 50 miles in a day and finish up at 2-3 pm and stuff ourselves with food, heh). I suppose its the mutual appreciation of the outdoors that bonds people like us.

It was a fun evening and I spent the day roaming around town, getting food and looking for spare batteries for my GPS. There is a cute little downtown with some really old buildings and interesting shops nestled within tons of cafes and food outlets. It was fun and nice to take a day off, as usual.

This evening the crew gathered again and we ordered pizza’s and hung out more. What was amazing was that even after the initial enquiry of where are you headed, where you started from, etc., the conversations kept flowing. I guess we just made fast friends out here!

Route: San Luis Obispo
Distance: 0 Km (yay)
Ascent: 0 ft
Descent: 0 ft
Expenses: $ 129.38 (don’t ask)
Comment: The company was absolutely awesome.

Day 69: Riding with Friendly Neighbors

I was up really early, may be 5 am or so and forced myself to stay in the warm sleeping bag. It has been getting dark and chilly early these days and I end up crawling into the sleeping bag after it gets dark at 7 pm. I read a bit, but 12 hrs is a really long time to stay in bed I think.

Anyway, we had an earlyish start from the campsite and our first order of business was to find wifi. We found it soon enough in the next town and I got a cup of coffee and emailed Jerald (he was cool and offered to host us for the night in San Luis Obispo). I updated by blog and set out on the road again.

I scouted 4 cyclists up ahead and tried to use them as a target and put my head and rode hard. The route was flat and fun to stretch the legs a bit. I caught up with them and was chatting with the lady who was bringing up the rear with a pretty long flag. I thought that was a good idea on the bike. As we chatted about my travels and things I was doing at work, she mentioned the guy up front might be interested in my work as he was from Cloudera (which is a consulting group for implementation of cloud services with hadoop etc…).

The group was riding slow and I went up to the head and caught up. Turns out the guy was the founder of Hadoop. Say What! He was Doug Cutting and is a pretty prominent feller in the open source software movement too. Dang! We rode together for a bit and we spoke of a variety of things. It was fun to talk tech after a while.

At the next town we parted ways and I rode up to catch up to krissi. She had met a local cyclist Ian who was a nice chap and offered to show us some of the quieter routes ahead. He took us thro some pretty neighbourhoods and some nice bike paths which avoided the highway for pretty much all of the way. We stopped at a really nice cafe for another dose of coffee and we headed towards the last stretch of the road.

We parted ways with Ian and met another group of cyclists who were on warmshowers and were willing to host us for the night! We had to politely tell them no, because we had an appointment to meet up with Jerald in the evening.

We got into town pretty soon (Flats + Tail wind = I am superman) and we hung out at the Starbucks till 6 PM so that we could get to Jerald’s place before 7 pm.

San Luis Obispo is a nice university town and has a good vibe to it.

Route: San Simeon State Park to San Luis Obispo
Distance: 69 (+5) Km
Ascent: 1750 ft
Descent: 1150 ft
Expenses: $ 22.50
Comment: Meeting Doug Cutting on the road was a pleasant surprise.

Day 68: Riding thro the American Dream

I should say the day was more interesting than the title suggests, but let me get to the dream bit first. I learnt yesterday that the hoard of mustangs on the road are rental vehicles and nearly all of them driven by European tourists. Funny that everyone wants to uphold their cultural superiority when at the end of the day, they are all sold to commercialisation and the marketing hype. Let me explain again.

America’s was occupied by people who left Europe and they seem to always feel nostalgic about the ‘romance’ of Europe and everywhere I turn, I can see bits of continental influence here. Most prominent are things you notice in tourist spots, ski towns try to look like it was part of the Swiss Alps, for instance. But the 20th Century America has mostly steered clear of this and has created an American ideal that is a variety of things, but mostly sold thro strong branding and marketing and advertising helped with the popularity of the movies and TV. I guess most people who have had a whiff of money wants to live the lifestyle that’s advertised. I guess the richer tourists from Europe probably also bought into this and are blazing on the Highway 1 in their mustangs living it for a wee bit before they get back to their regular lives where such over consumption is probably shunned upon. I guess I may not be making sense, but that’s the extent of creative writing I can muster in me I reckon.

Anyway, back to scheduled post.

We had a big campground yesterday and though we didn’t have showers, the campsite was lively with the two guys from San Luis Obispo (Jerald and Tom) and the trio of elderly cyclists from San Diego. We managed to stay up till 8 pm though it got pretty dark at 6:30. We started the day with 2 nice hills and I was feeling good after being on a dose of Panadol for the night. I guess a couple more days and I’d be fighting fit again.

I rode pretty well and as I got to the descent there was a coffee shop where I got a drink and waited up for the others. Jerald was nice and invited us to stay at his place in San Luis Obispo! Awesome. I guess we could get a good shower after the few simple wash up days in these state parks.

The rest of the day was sowed down due to the stop overs at the elephant seal colonies. As it turned out, we were riding thro some of the beached where the elephant seals decided to make their home and the female’s were basking in the beach and the juvenile makes were practicing their mating ritual in the waters. Sounds like humans to me. We stopped a few times, and enjoyed their little quirks, grunts and the general cuteness of these beasts.

By the time we got past them, we were on the falt’ish valley and not very far to go to the next campsite. We planned to take a short day given that I was nursing this wee bit of flu and krissi was having issues with her knee too. I guess we are ready for a rest day already heh.

I stopped to get a quick snack at a touristy joint next to a super kitschy place called the Hearst Castle (Hearst, I reckon was the character imitated by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane). Hearst, by all accounts was a crazy guy (say what you may, but if you brought a polar bear to the Californian Desert, you are crazy… I recall Singapore brought 2 polar bears, heh). He just had too much money and in his hubris wanted to do too many things. Along the way we even saw a bunch of Zebras roaming near the road side. Hearst brought them to his ranch. duh.

Anyway, we got to the campsite pretty early and found a decent spot to hangout for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, we might have a roof and a shower too!

Route: Plaskett Creek Campground to San Simeon State Park
Distance: 58 Km
Ascent: 2200 ft
Descent: 2350 ft
Expenses: $ 31.88
Comment: Nice bright day with Elephant seal sightings!