So here's a little summary of how we made it into Mexico. Alex and I flew back from Germany on the morning of June 1, over London and into Los Angeles. So far, so good. What was not so easy was the fact that I am officially without a visa, which can make it pretty tricky to get back into the country. Now we've heard horror stories (read: the internet) that people in my situation have been sent back home after being suspected of trying to sneak into the US. “Oh, you're traveling with your girlfriend, are you trying to marry into the US? Forget it, buddy, back to old Deutschland with you. I see you used to work here, are you trying to snatch a job away from a hardworking American? No chance, fancy pants!” That's why we decided that I would continue on to Tijuana by plane, and thereby prove that I am indeed not trying to sneak back into the US.
Fresh off the train from Santa Barbara, we arrived in Los Angeles and were picked up by our friend Katie. That is, Alex was picked up, I navigated both of our bikes through two miles of dense urban landscape to the nearest bike shop. In the meantime, Alex and Katie shoved all eleven of our bike bags into Katie’s car, and accomplished some sneaky maneuvering out back of the Amtrak station to acquire two cheap bike boxes. We rendezvoused at a bike shop downtown, dropped the bikes off for a tune-up and box-up for our impending trip, and crossed our fingers that nothing would go wrong. What trip, you ask? Well, sit tight and I might just tell you later on.
Bikeless (and seemingly weightless), we then arrived at Katie’s apartment, freshened up, and pretty much immediately started feasting and drinking. Hooray for good friends and alcohol! But seriously, a huge thank you to Katie for being a great hostess, able-bodied chauffeur, much needed wine provisioner, and in general helping us tie up a lot of loose ends.
(The past few weeks have been a little crazy, what with several flights, border crossings, weddings, and the like. We’re a bit behind on the blogging, but long stretches in the deserts of Baja will help us catch up. In the meantime, we want to give a shout out to a few friends who are embarking on adventures of their own: Annie and David, who are heading to Chile to teach English for a year, and Laura, who is enjoying a summer backpacking trip in Europe. Enjoy!)
Monterey was but a distant memory when we left town on the famous 17 Mile Drive, a beautiful patch of land right along the water on the peninsula. What makes that sweet ride somewhat bitter is the sight of hundreds of old white dudes in dumb baseball hats and even dumber khaki pants playing golf on what could be one of the prettiest places along the California coast. We’ll show you the pretty parts, without the golf carts:
Leaving Half Moon Bay was hard on Alex. Thanks to our new Polish friends, she had spotted another pod of whales in the morning – so she planted her little butt in the sand and sipped her coffee staring at the ocean. Having seen her first whales the night before, she still couldn’t get enough of these magnificent creatures. (Note from Alex: Conny, you can actually see a little bit of whale in these photos!)
We’ve officially been on the road for one month! The good news: we haven’t killed each other yet. And we still bathe relatively frequently. But we do have a couple of “lessons learned” that we thought we would share with our loyal readers. In typical Tom and Alex fashion, we agree in broad terms but still manage to hold onto some strongly divergent opinions. So, in the absence of anyone to interview us, we’re interviewing ourselves. Enjoy.
After several days of good riding conditions, our luck with the elements was about to turn. Riding out of Van Damme State Park, we could feel a cool breeze in our faces and see the clouds rolling in. Five miles into our fifty mile day, clouds turned to drizzle and drizzle turned into downpour. In turn, the road greeted us with abrupt climbs, hairpin turns, and a stiff wind right in our faces. The combination of wind and rain made for a pretty miserable ride, and we found ourselves pushing our bikes up hill after hill. About fifteen miles in, things got so bad that Alex muttered “I wish one of these truckers would just pull over and offer us a ride.”
Well, ask and you shall receive. Not ten minutes after she had said these words, and as we were pushing our bikes up yet another brutally steep hill with the rain driving into our faces, a truck pulled over and out jumped a middle aged guy with a handlebar mustache. “Do you guys need a lift up the hill?” he asked, with a hint of a smile. We didn’t hesitate for a second. Dripping wet and freezing cold, we could not believe our luck. He introduced himself as Charlie the lineman, helped us hoist our bikes onto the truck bed, and apologized that we’d have to sit with our bikes on the back. Not a problem for us, of course. We hopped on and up that hill we went. I mused whether we should ask him to take us further, and Alex immediately shot me down, saying we shouldn’t push our luck. Well, what do you know, at the top of the hill Charlie hopped out of the truck and asked how far he could take us. It turned out that he was headed through Gualala, where we planned to camp for the night – so we scored a ride THE WHOLE WAY. And saved ourselves about five hours of miserable, wet riding.
Our first full day in California started with what I have grown to love and Alex is starting to detest: coffee and oatmeal. (Alex’s sister Kat told us that we mention coffee and oatmeal in every post, so our devoted readers are probably sick of it too.) Then it was off on 101 South again. Unfortunately, we didn’t get more than 5 miles until we were presented with a problem: Alex had a flat again. This one was a bit tricky to fix, as we were on a very narrow shoulder on a busy highway. Luckily, applying the patch was pretty simple and fast. Soon enough, those worries were forgotten as we entered Avenue of the Giants, a 30-mile stretch of road through amazing redwood forest. Alex of course had us stop at every second tree stump to take pictures and, just as on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, I was glad she did.
Our last morning in Oregon started with a bummer – the first flat tire of the trip. Oh no! Alex’s rear tire got punctured by a staple last night (don’t ask me why there are staples lying around on the roads in Brookings) and we had to apply a quick fix. Within a couple minutes the tire was off, old tube out, new tube in, and we were good to go again. Five miles separated us from the state border, but that was no obstacle for us. Hello California!
We did it, we reached another first milestone, day ten is here. It might not have been a milestone in terms of borders or distances but I thought 10 days sounds like a nice round number. Anyways, I got up fairly early, let Alex sleep in again, and once she had finally arisen, coffee and good old oatmeal was already waiting for her. Then we went down to the beach of Cape Kiwanda, enjoying our coffee and enjoying the sun laughing in the sky. Cape Kiwanda was a beautiful sight that morning, waves were breaking, a light wind was going and some surfers were already out on the water. We climbed up the ridge and got an even more stunning view.