Around the world by bike
(2 292km - 63days)
5 February - Nogales – Green Valley - 75km
We crossed the border into the USA, which was just like any other border crossing, slow and drawn out, maybe even more so. We needed a permit and had to join the short queue. Although there were about 10 booths, only two were manned and it was 12h30 before we finally got on the road.
We did not even encounter a sign saying “Welcome to the USA”, but we were at least welcomed by the familiar golden arches of McDonalds!!
It turned out to be an interesting day on the road as we cycled past Tubac - an old village and Spanish fort, now more of an artist community than a fort. Later we arrived at Green Valley, a small village close to the copper mine. We stocked up with food from the local supermarket and set off into the desert to camp. The campsite was a bit of a disaster as it was so covered in thorns that we could hardly find a place to pitch the tents.
6-7 February - Green Valley – Tucson
We left Green Valley rather late in the day as Ernest still had to fix our punctured tubes, and he is already so slow in the mornings. LOL - even the local sheriff came to check us out and asked what we were doing. He was quite friendly though and wished us well on our journey. At last we were on the road and cycled the short distance to Tucson. We had our first run-in with the police as they stopped us and kicked us off the high-way. In fact, it was not like other places where they just tell you to get off but we were given a written warning!!!
Once in the city we found a RV park amongst the many trailer parks, (yes, people do live in trailer parks) to pitch our tents. The following day we set off to look for a bike shop and some tire liners (to prevent further punctures). Tucson is a nice city and also very cycle-friendly with cycle lanes. We zooted around town, looking for what we needed; always a good way to see a city. Tucson has a modern University campus and has a nice young vibe with many bars, cafes and interesting shops in the downtown area.
8 February - Tucson – Picacho Peak SP - 70km
We cycled along with a nice tailwind until suddenly the wind changed and started gusting and swung completely around. We were told that a storm is coming so we picked up some food and pulled into the small, but pretty, Picacho Peak SP. I quickly pitched my tent and cycled to the viewpoint to see the sun set over the desert. It became bitterly cold and it rained during the night.
9 February - Picacho Peak NP – Coolidge via Florence - 88km
Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we woke and although still windy and bitterly cold, the sun came out for us to pack up. We had a pleasant day on the road and soon arrived in Coolidge; it was still early and we decided to carry onto Florence. Florence turned out to be a quaint and historic village straight out of a Wild West movie. After looking around we decided to head out on the road again. Cycling along we heard a cell phone ringing and found one lying in the road. We picked it up, and it was the owner looking for his phone. We gave him directions and he soon arrived to collect the phone. The owner was rather pleased to retrieve his phone as he slipped me a $20 bill. We headed straight back to Coolidge and used the money towards a cheap roadside motel.
10-13 February - Coolidge – Phoenix - 97km
It was quite a bit further than expected to reach the city centre. We soon enough reached the outskirts but it was easily another 50km into town. Fortunately it was Sunday, and we had an easy ride into the city centre via cycle friendly cycle paths. We located Phoenix hostel without a problem and it turned out to be a very nice place. It is a rather small hostel but they had an old trailer at the back which we could rent for $25 a night (considered a bargain). The trailer was rather nice, although small, and we had a radio and heater making it rather cosy. The next day we went in search of an outdoor store and bike shop. We found both but did not buy anything at the bike shop. At the outdoor store Ernest found a sleeping mat and I finally bought a pair of shoes to keep my feet warm.
It was such a nice place that we stayed one more day, did the laundry, and waterproofed the tents. I took a walk around town and was intrigued that no one walks in Phoenix!! It was midday on a Wednesday and there was not a soul around…… only the odd person pushing his trolley and talking to himself. People who drive past shoot you looks that clearly say: "You poor fool, don't you know no one walks here?" The whole place looks like a big, deserted movie set….very strange. The only other person I met on my walkabout was a sad looking teenager, trying to buy a joint off me!!!
Phoenix does, however, have the most amazing murals. Just a short walk around Roosevelt Row, the heart of the Downtown Arts District, showed that there is a very interesting side to Phoenix. I found the Phoenix library an interesting building with its mix of steel, aluminium, concrete and glass - it’s an impressive building. The interior is no less impressive with plenty of light and glass elevators; it is known as the Crystal Canyon.
14 February - Phoenix –Wickenburg - 103km
It was a beautiful, sunny day as we left Phoenix via the Arizona Canal cycle way; what a nice and relaxing way to leave the busy city (we heard that a body was found in the canal shortly afterwards. Gosh, good thing I did not see that). Once the cycle path came to an end we met a really nice cyclist who offered to show us an easy way to the highway. He cycled with us all the way to the highway, something which took him way out of his way. What a nice guy!
After the gradual false uphill slog we reached Wickenburg town fairly late. We found an RV campsite before the sun disappeared, as it gets rather cold after sunset. True to the small towns of this area, Wickenburg looks a bit like an old wild South-Western town with a historic centre. Old-fashioned-looking shops and inns line the streets and there are even some lifelike displays, making Wickenburg look like a movie set. The locals are rather friendly and the campsite owner was no exception - we had a long chat and then he offered us beer and the use of the electrical plug in his office.
15 February - Wickenburg – Peeples Valley - 50km
It was bitterly cold in the night and we took forever to pack up and get back on the road. It was a steady climb all day and therefore rather slow going. It is a rather vast and desolate area, dotted with small and interesting villages with equally interesting people. At the tiny settlement of Congress we chatted to one of the old-timers, Dave, who gave us some of the history and told us about the many Snowbirds still prospecting for gold in the valley. What an interesting area…..people still prospecting for gold!!!
Americans seems genuinely interested in what we are doing and will often just come up and talk to us. Most are amazed at where we come from and how long we have been on the road. We continued up the hill past the quaint village of Yarnell and on to Peeples Valley. We pitched our tents behind a closed bar and settled in for the night. And what a cold night it was.
16 February - Peeples Valley – Prescott - 67km
We awoke to find our tents covered in ice……. brrrrr. We slowly warmed up in the morning sun before setting off up the mountain. Soon after leaving Peeples Valley we turned off onto a back road past more “movie set” villages, like Kirkland and Skull Valley. Kirkland is no more than a historic inn/bar/store. Skull Valley was no bigger but at least there was petrol and a shop. Arizona is a rugged state with desert-like spaces and rough mountains. We continued uphill, and although it was sunny, there was still plenty of snow on the Southern slopes and shady sides of the road. It was slow going as we climbed and climbed up to Prescott.
17- 21 February - Prescott
Ernest came down with a cold and I wanted to look around this interesting looking village so we decided to stay another day. We found a room in the “6 Motel”, a place with fantastic showers and clean rooms!!
We had a drink at the Palace Saloon - a famous bar on Whiskey Row. The story goes something like this: “On July 14, 1900, a fire raged through Whiskey Row. Quick thinking locals managed to save the 24ft Brunswick Bar. After lugging the solid oak bar across the street, these resourceful citizens then continued the party. The Palace Saloon was rebuilt in 1901 and still houses the famous bar.”
Winter-storm Q moved in and we decided to bunker down and wait the storm out. There is not much to do but visit the local museums in weather like this. During one night it started snowing, and in the morning the town was covered in white…….my word, this is absolute madness!!! I need to get out of here in a hurry!!! It is incredibly cold and I now seriously wonder how to move on from here.
22 February - Prescott – Ash Fork - 85km
We awoke to blue skies, so we quickly packed the bikes and set off. It was still bitterly cold but it was a beautiful ride past granite boulders and beautiful lakes. It was not exactly easy riding as it felt like we were going uphill into an icy cold wind. By the time we arrived in Ash Fork, I weakened and we took a motel room on the historic Route 66. This tiny village has all the paraphernalia, such as vintage cars, old style neon-ad signs, and labelled gimmicks, such as cigarette lighters and so forth. How cool it this?
23- 24 February - Ash Fork – Seligman - 44km
We headed west on Route 66. Built in 1926, the historic Route 66 stretches from Los Angeles to Chicago across 8 states. Now nicknamed “The Mother Road”, it is fun, kitschy, retro - call it whatever you like, I love it!! In the icy breeze we didn’t go very far today, and as soon as we reached the small town of Seligman I knew I was not going any further! Give me a retro motel, a restaurant called the “Road Kill Café”, a bar playing music from the sixties, and I´m staying put!!
The next morning we woke to a bitterly cold wind blowing at 47km per hour and gusting to about 56 km per hour…….. WOW!! It was an easy choice to stay in our warm and cosy room.
25 February - Seligman – Truxton BLM - 84km
The sun came out, the wind dropped, and we were on our way. We followed Route 66 West, past the interesting settlement of Grand Canyon Caverns (where one can see real cowboys, hats, boots, guns and all!) to Truxton. The road ran through the Hualapai Indian Reservation and past the tribal capital of Peach Springs. At around midday the wind picked up again and we battled into an icy breeze.
The good thing about this part of the world is that there is a thing like BLM-land, where one can camp for free. We found the gate, which the owner of the store in Truxton told us about, and turned in. All one needs to do is fill in the register and take a permit. On leaving, you make sure to take your rubbish with you and that the gate is closed. How cool is that?! Soon after sunset it once again became bitterly cold and we quickly made a fire to keep ourselves warm. I felt like an old time cowboy sitting by the fire, eating tinned beans and corned hash-beef with tortilla chips.
As soon as the fire died I dived into my tent. It was a bitterly cold night, I wore nearly everything I owned and still felt cold. I woke in the morning and found my water bottle (which was in the tent, next to me) frozen stone hard!!
26 February - Truxton – Kingman - 63km
We waited for the sun to defrost us, had some coffee, and followed the road past vast plains of nothing but tumble weed. We stopped at Hackberry with its rather interesting general store! (The owner told Ernest to move his bike, as it may fall over and onto his $150 000 antique Corvette, and he did not feel like shooting anyone that day!!) We picked up a bit of a tailwind and rolled into Kingman in good time. It was time to say good-bye to Route 66 and head north in the direction of Las Vegas, which I believed to be much warmer.
27 February - Kingman – Chloride - 38km
The road out of Kingman leads over the Coyote Pass. Once over the pass we were straight into a freezing cold wind again. After grinding into the gusting breeze for some time, we turned off into the hills to inspect the old mining town of Chloride. Chloride turned out to be a fascinating town, where once there were more than 70 mines producing silver, lead, zinc, turquoise and gold. Today Chloride is a bit of a ghost town, with eccentric locals and a few old buildings, including the old jail and Arizona’s oldest continuously operating post office. We found ourselves a room at the Sheps Miners Inn (an old adobe-style miners living quarters) and set off by foot to explore the village further.
28 February Chloride – Lake Mead - 103km
It was another rather windy day and we battled along, past the small settlement of Rosie´s Den and burger joints where one can order a burger and get to shoot a machine gun while waiting!!. Once over the Householders Pass, we descended down to the Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead Recreation Area; a vast area with stunning scenery. The weather was much warmer along the lake, the sun came out and for the first time in a long while we could go sleeveless. We settled for camping at Boulder Beach, a basic campsite on the lake. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the campsite was full. While cycling around to see if there was a spot somewhere, Tom, a fellow camper from Alaska, was kind enough to offer to share his spot with us.
It was a lovely campsite and although no showers, it had beautiful views. The following day we cycled along the Old Railway Trail to the Hoover Dam. The dam, built in the 1930s, is a true masterpiece and I´m sure the largest dam in the world.
1-4 March - Lake Mead – Las Vegas - 51km
The weather was beautiful as we followed the River Mountains Loop Trail out of the area and headed in the direction of Las Vegas. Although Nevada is the most arid state in the USA, the scenery is stunning and the colours amazing. Even from quite far away one could see Vegas, with its tightly packed high rise “Strip”; a shimmering mirage in the distance.
It was an easy cycle into the city, and what a spectacle it was. A fantasyland of Egyptian Pyramids, the Paris Eiffel Tower and even the Venetian canals and New York skyline!! Casino after casino, hotel after hotel, amazing shows, dancing water fountains, neon lights, slot machines, limousines, Ferraris, and sleazy looking side roads, with drunks and people down on their luck………a crazy place where your fortune is decided by the roll of the dice. Our needs were, however, slightly different and we found a motel room on the strip where we could take the necessary shower.
I was impressed with all the outrageous architecture - from The Flamingo (the oldest hotel on the strip) to the MGM, the largest hotel in the world. I wandered around, stunned by the opulence and decadence, staring in amazement at the amount of money being spent in the casinos and enjoying the free shows.
Of course I had to take a pic of Las Vegas' most famous (and most photographed) landmark, the welcome sign. The “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign has been the city’s most famous landmark since it was built back in 1959.
Another picture I had to take was of the bronze sculpture in front of the Rivera Casino. The performers of Crazy Girls, (including deceased transgender showgirl, Jahna Steele), are now immortalized in a bronze sculpture out front (the thong-clad buttocks have been worn to a shine by patrons’ hands, apparently for good luck in the casino!).
5-6 March - Las Vegas – Primm - 70km
After two full days I was ‘Vegased-out’ and it was good to be on the move again. Instead of heading north we headed west (in the direction of San Francisco), trying to stay in the warmer part of the USA. Despite the weather forecast of high winds it was a nice sunny day with hardly any wind, or at least until midday. The wind suddenly picked up and by the time we reached Primm (and I noticed the steep climb ahead) we called it a day. The little settlement of Primm came as a surprise as it consisted of nothing but 3 casinos and 2 petrol stations. A bigger surprise was that the rooms were rather cheap and for $35 we got a huge room with 2 double beds and an equally large bathroom. They obviously count on you spending hard earned dollars in their casino! We took full advantage of all this luxury and even had a long and luxurious bath!
We seemed to have run into another winter storm and woke to a howling wind, so we decided to stay. There wasn’t much to do as we didn’t gamble, although the room was nice.
7-8 March - Primm – Baker - 80km
Although the weather forecast was less than perfect we cycled off in the direction of Baker. The road runs through the Mojave Desert, the lowest and hottest place in North America. After we’d climbed the big hill over the pass, it did get a bit cold but luckily no rain or snow. We ended down at the town of Baker, which is the entrance to the well-known Death Valley Reserve. Baker is a rather small village with a population of approximately 750. The town's most prominent feature is a 41m thermometer, known as the "world's tallest thermometer”, visible for miles (but unfortunately not operational). It commemorates the hottest temperature ever recorded in the United States, 134 °F (56.7 °C), measured in nearby Death Valley in 1913. Today it is nowhere close to that, and snow is forecast for tonight. Baker is also known for some strange UFO sightings, so it is no wonder that there are alien displays around town.
During the night it started raining and it drizzled on and off all through the morning, needless to say we stayed put.
9 March - Baker – Yermo - 95km
We left the tiny town of Baker behind and continued on our way towards the coast. The scenery was rather bleak and I can truly say that there was nothing happening along the road!! Desert scenery prevailed; only a few sand dunes and some Joshua trees kept us company as we went. Fortunately there was no headwind as I cannot even begin to imagine doing this stretch of road into a headwind.
As there was not much else to look at, I once again noticed the truly bizarre discarded items along the highway! Besides the normal empty beer cans, one can see shoes, clothing including underwear, household items like brooms, towels and even a pillow!!! How the heck did that land up next to the freeway??? However, today along the highway, I even saw a dildo!!! Say no more!
At Yermo we found a formal campsite and called it a day. After sunset it became bitterly cold so I zipped up my tent and had an early night.
10 March - Yermo – Boron - 75km
After a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee we were on the road again, and as the previous day there was not much to look at. The road just went on and on, mile after mile of nothing but low shrubs and Joshua trees!! Even small settlements indicated on the map turned out to be nothing more than a few abandoned buildings. Believe it or not, but it was actually a good day on the road. It was nice and warm with very little wind and I cannot ask for more. We pulled into the campsite at Boron village, which was so cheap that it was better than camping wild. Down the road was a well-stocked supermarket, and Ernest went the whole hog and made hamburgers (with an accompanying salad and all).
11 March - Boron – Mojave - 55km
These little towns can come up with some real treasures. We spent the morning at two local museums. Boron is known for the nearby Borax mine, and “The 20-Mule Team Museum” covered the history of the mine, including the mules that had to transport the rocks over the mountains to Bakersfield.
Just as interesting was the aerospace museum next door, with items and pictures related to the nearby Edwards Air Force Base. Also on display is the old computer used in the early development of the space shuttle. These IBM computers originally had about 35 kilobytes of magnetic core memory each. They had no hard disk drive, and loaded software from magnetic tape cartridges.
It was after midday when we finally got back on the road and cycled past the famous Edwards AFB. There was truly nothing along the way but desert and access to a few military bases.
We arrived in the sad town of Mojave where equally sad looking people wander the streets talking to themselves. Mojave is a typical crossroads town and had a few motels, liquor stores, and very little of anything else. In keeping with the mood of the place, there is also a large airplane graveyard next to the town.
12 - 14 March - Mojave – Bakersfield - 93km
We cycled a couple of thousand feet up through the Tehachapi Mountains, passing hundreds of wind turbines along the way. The small town of Tehachapi came as a pleasant surprise. Tehachapi is a historical village (established in 1860) and is said to be the oldest settlement in the Tehachapi Valley. We were very impressed with the Apple Shed & Fudge Factory - perhaps the best fudge in the world!!
The hills around Tehachapi are also one of California's largest wind resource areas, hence all the turbines. Soon we started heading down the pass, past the famous Tehachapi Railway Loop. One of the engineering feats of its day, the Loop was built by Southern Pacific Railroad beginning in 1874. The first train to use it reached Los Angeles in 1876. On the loop the track passes over itself, gaining 23m in elevation as the track climbs at a steady 2% grade. A train more than 1,200m long thus passes over itself in the loop.
We sped down the pass with a good tailwind into the San Joaquin Valley and into its famous Tule fog. In the process we had left the desert behind, and there were now green meadows, farmlands, and vineyards along the road. In Bakersfield we found a good campsite with some real friendly people.
Ernest needed to go to the bike shop so we stayed another day. We also met some real nice guys doing demolition work in the area (they are all from other parts of the country, but live here in their caravans during the week). They even invited us for supper and we sat around chatting…a real pleasant evening. We retreated to our tents with 2 brand new California Wrecking caps!!
It was a beautiful, sunny day as we crossed California’s Central Valley. We were very much in the heart of the agricultural area as we cycled past large fruit plantations, all in full bloom. Spring is definitely in the air and it was a pleasant cycle along Route 58 and then north along Route 33. Once on Route 33 the fruit plantations disappeared altogether and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of the oil exploration area where thousands of oil derricks pumped away silently.
By the time we reached Blackwells Corner it was already dark, so we pitched our tents at the gas station.
16 March - Blackwells Corner – Paso Robles - 95km
We were up rather early as we did not want the owner of the gas station to get there and find us still snoozing. We waited for the little shop to open, had some coffee and a muffin, and set off over the hills. Again it was a beautiful day as we cycled past more fruit plantations, this time they were not in bloom.
Along the way we passed the junction where James Dean had his fatal car accident, at the tender age of 24. We continued until we reached the pretty town of Paso Robles. With its abundance of wineries, production of olive oil, and almond orchards, it reminded me of Stellenbosch.
17 - 20 March -Paso Robles – San Luis Obispo - 55km
Ernest´s front rim broke and we knew we were not going far that day. Fortunately it was not far to San Luis Obispo where we could find a bike shop. It was an interesting ride past typical small American villages like Templeton, Atascadero and Santa Margarita to historic San Luis Obispo. We found a well-stocked bike shop right in the main road and Ernest spent the rest of the evening spoking his new rim.
Seeing that we found a reasonably priced room we also decided to organise our new bank cards. Making an international phone call seems to be easiest with a phone card and far cheaper than phoning any other way. I also took the opportunity to hand my camera in for cleaning. I found the most wonderful camera shop, The Photo Shop, where they quickly cleaned my camera and what a difference it made!
21 - 22 March - SLO – Morro Bay - 35km
We packed up at leisure and cycled the short distance to the coast. We finally arrived at the Californian Coast at Morro Bay - a beautiful spot where we camped at the Morro Bay State Park and had our first “hike & bike” experience. If hiking or traveling by bike one can camp in these parks for $5 per person.
Seeing that we asked the bank to send the bank cards to The Motel 6 in San Simeon, we now have plenty of time to kill as San Simeon is just up the road. The card is said to take 7 working days, but as Easter Weekend is in a few days’ time, I think it could take longer than that.
We stayed in Morro Bay an extra day, just killing time before moving on. The Bay’s most prominent landmark is Morro Rock. The spectacular rock at the entrance to Morro Bay is a 23 million year-old volcanic plug. I found it interesting that Morro Rock is part of what is known as The Nine Sisters. The Nine Sisters are extinct volcano peaks which run in an approximately straight line for twelve miles, stretching from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo.
23 March - Morro Bay - Montana de Oro State Park - 25km
We cycled the short but hilly distance to Montana de Oro State Park. It seems like the Californian Coast is going to take us a long time to cycle as there are so many fantastic parks. Montana de Oro State Park is rugged, beautiful and remote. The camping was rustic without electricity and showers, but it had water and toilets. Nature is the draw card here. One can hike or bike the parks’ many trails. It is such a pleasure to be off the bike and to walk along these fantastic trails. There was also no shortage of birdlife in the area.
24 - 25 March - Montana de Oro State Park – Morro Bay - 25km
We met another cyclist in the park and chatted for a long time before packing up and cycling back to Morro Bay. I was in desperate need of a shower and we decided to book into the Motel 6, have a shower and do some internet and laundry. In fact, we were so comfortable that we stayed another day. I wanted to have a haircut but all the salons were closed on a Monday so nothing came of that.
26 March - 2 April - Morro Bay – San Simeon State Park - 35km
It was time to move on and find another state park. We cycled past Nit Wit Ridge in Cambria. Nit Wit Ridge is a house built entirely of found objects. It was built over the course of fifty years. The builder was the eccentric Cambria garbage collector and junk hauler, Arthur Harold Beal.
It seems that it never really gets very hot along this stretch of the coast. Although the days are sunny, fog moves in from the ocean, making the evenings rather nippy.
We camped at the San Simeon State Park for 2 nights before moving to the Motel 6 in San Simeon. We wanted to be at the hotel just in case our bankcards were delivered, but after staying at the hotel for 2 nights and still nothing arrived, we moved back to the campsite.
Again we camped at the park for 2 nights and on the Monday we moved back to the Motel 6. We waited in great anticipation but nothing arrived…… let’s hope the cards will arrive soon!!!
3 - 4 April - San Simeon
After days and days of waiting for the bank cards to arrive I was getting rather bored. There was not much to do in San Simeon except for cycling into Cambria town to the supermarket. By this time we had enough of the TV and the luxury of a room, so we phoned the bank again, only to find out that the cards were never sent!!!! We’ve now arranged for them to send the cards to Fort Bragg, further up the coast, but I have my doubts whether that will happen.
5 April - San Simeon – Plaskett Creek - 56km
It was good to be back on the road, albeit minus a bank card. It was a particularly stunning stretch of coast - the road runs next to the ocean, climbing high up against the side of the cliffs and then back down to the beach. The wind picked up and came gusting around the corners, making it rather difficult to keep the bike in a straight line on this narrow road.
Along the way we watched elephant seals basking in the sun - they were rather unperturbed by all the tourists staring at them. Up and down the hills we went, past lighthouses and fields of Californian poppies.
We reached Plaskett Creek, a beautiful forest campsite with a bike and hike section, and called it a day. We also found Marlene in the campsite, whom we met in San Simeon Park. What an extra-ordinary, independent lady. She travels around on her bike and prefers the forest areas to get away from people. She has trouble with her legs and therefore walks with the aid of two sticks, but she seems fine on the bike. In fact, I don’t think she has a home, this is her life!! She is terribly shy but seemed pleased to see us again.
6 April - Plaskett Creek – Big Sur - 55km
Again it was after 11h00 before we finally left the campsite and cycled along the famous Big Sur coastline. The scenery was stunning, but again there were big hills and the going was slow. We stopped many times along the way, admiring the view, with the result that it was already 17h00 by the time we reached Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
The park is quite magnificent and the campsite situated amongst huge redwood trees. These trees can grow up to 350 feet high and it is reported that some are between a 1000 and 2000 years old!!
7 - 8 April - Big Sur State Park – Monterey - 68km
We were slow to get going and sat chatting to other cycling campers, with the result it was close to 12h00 before we finally got underway. With the Big Sur behind us I expected the road to flatten out a bit, but that was not the case, and again there were plenty of good climbs along the way. The scenery was no less spectacular than the last few days. Again the road climbed high up against the side of the mountains, with wonderful views of the ocean and bays below. We crossed some spectacular high-arch bridges before finally reaching Carmel (home of the renowned Pebble Beach golf course).
We lent our ears out to locals and took the scenic route, getting lost in the misty forest hills, and eventually accidentally ended up in Monterey in the gathering dusk. We found one of the less expensive overpriced motels, did some shopping at Trader Joe’s down the road, and put our feet up in front of the TV. It was Ernest’s birthday so we stayed in the room for another day and he treated himself to 4 x 1.2 liters of beer!!!
9 April - Monterey – New Brighton State Beach - 88km
We packed up slowly and cycled past Aptos to Soquel. Past strawberry fields and fields of artichoke we went. I never knew just how artichoke grew or that it had so many uses. Bicycles are not allowed on the highway so we turned off onto a smaller road though farmlands where fresh fruit and vegetables were being sold at low, low prices. We could not resist and loaded the bikes even more with loads of fruit and veggies. Soon we reached the beautifully located New Brighton Beach, situated on top of the cliffs high above the beach. It was a great spot.
10 April - New Brighton Beach State Beach – Rossi RD - 59km
Again it was after 11h00 before we finally left our campsite and set off on a cold and windy day, past Santa Cruz and Davenport. My word, can this wind blow!! I nearly got blown off my bike before we turned off the coastal road and followed a small road behind the hills. What a spectacularly beautiful road it was. The road ran past farms and up a steep hill, through dense forest and huge redwood trees, until we finally met up with the coastal road again. We battled into the wind and finally pulled into Rossi RD and set up camp for the night. The wind continued to blow throughout the night.
11 April - Rossi RD – Half Moon Bay - 44km
We made an effort to get on the road earlier in order to escape the wind, but it was all to no avail! The wind blew us all over the road, but we hung in and cycled the short distance to Half Moon Bay. In a storm-strength wind we tried to hide behind a tree and pitch our tents. There was not much to do but hide in our tents.
12 - 19 April - Half Moon Bay – San Francisco - 55km
Miraculously the wind dropped during the night and we woke to a beautiful morning. It was a beautiful and interesting ride into San Francisco. We were fortunate to find a cycle path which ran through the Golden Gate Park with beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the city and Alcatraz Island. It was a stunning, fog-free day.
There is more to San Francisco than meets the eye. The more I wondered around the more I discovered. I ate steamed buns in Chinatown, drank coffee in Little Italy and shopped for a bracelet at the hippy district of The Haight, with its very sixties vibe. Fortunately, I was on foot when I ascended Russian Hill and descended down the other side via the switchbacks, eight sharp bends on a forty degree slope. Although most of the city was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire there are still some stunning examples of Victorian architecture, including the famous “painted ladies” - a row of Victorian houses with the San Francisco skyline in the background.
Despite the fog rolling in I wondered around the waterfront with its perfect view of the infamous Alcatraz Prison. From the mid-1930’s until the mid-1960's, Alcatraz was America's premier, maximum-security prison. I find it interesting that Native Americans kept well away from the island, calling it "Evil Island" and believing it to be cursed. I'm sure that many inmates would agree.
Back in my room I had the shock of my life as I looked at my passport and discovered that, when entering the country, the border control staff only gave me a three month pass instead of the six months they gave Ernest. My head was spinning and besides going back to South America for a while (which was a real option) there was not a lot of places to escape to. I quickly checked the Canadian Visa situation online and it appeared that the only place one can apply is in Seattle (waiting time thirty days). Not much to do but quickly pack my stuff and retreat to my country of origin.
In no time at all I bought a ticket back to South Africa, discarded most of my stuff, and only kept the really necessary items. I boarded the plane on the 20th and only arrived in South Africa on the 22nd, after a very long and boring flight.
Now it is time to take stock and decide what to do next – so many options and places to go! First I´ll catch up with all the gossip, have a braai or two, and enjoy the South African wines.