Monday, 2 November 2009

Into Southern California - Day 53 – 55 miles

All 6 of us rolled out of the campground together and rode into the nearby town of Cambria. We found a bike shop for Chris' broken wheel but it was closed on Sundays. We would need to travel a further 40 miles to San Luis Obispo to find another bike shop. It's not pleasant having to take on a long ride with a wheel that could give way at any point.

I rode with Chris and Brooke, using my GPS to guide us to the bike shop. We all rode as fast as we could. The shop closed early on a Sunday so we had to get there as soon as possible to make sure the mechanic would have enough time to take care of the wheel. The scenery was fantastic: jagged, treeless mountains common to this part of California, scattered with the odd large rock formation. Vultures, eagles and Peregrine Falcons were as common a sight as pigeons back in London.

We made it to the bike shop 90 minutes before closing time. It was a massive shop and they set to work immediately on Chris' wheel. While the mechanic worked I took the opportunity to pick up a few spares in preparation for Mexico. To my surprise Luke and Jenna walked in and joined us. There were 3 bike shops in the town so it was lucky they managed to pick the right one. We spent an hour messing about in the bike shop, it was like a day out at Disneyland for us. The bike shop staff were really only familiar with cycle racing rather than touring so were curious and knew little of what's involved on a tour. One of the staff asked Brooke what we used for fuel on the road. After some confusion it became clear he was not talking about our camp stoves but the food that we eat. He thought we must have had bags full of power bars, electrolytic gels and protein drinks. We explained that we just eat food, albeit lots of it.

We rode in a gang to a camping shop and then onto an enormous supermarket. The aisles were so big that forklift trucks were driven down them, piling multipacks of food up to the high ceiling. I bought far too much stuff and could hardly fit it all on my bike. I returned to the group who were waiting with the bikes. A local cyclist had offered us a place to stay for the night which seemed very kind. Riding in a large group through a town was fun. The locals stared or waved as we passed. Jenna had a charming habit of saying hello to almost every person we passed. On the way to the campground we passed a man riding his bike in the opposite direction with a large blue parrot perched on his handlebars.

With Chris' wheel fixed we entered the beach town of Pismo which marked the start of Southern California. Upon entering Oceano Campground we looked for Dave but couldn't find him. The sun was nearly setting so we threw up the tents and bombed down to the beach on our naked bikes. As the sun ducked under the horizon, providing a most incredible sunset we all ran into the water. This was my first swim in the Pacific in nearly 2 months of cycling alongside it. Despite what everybody had told me about the currents flowing down from Alaska, it wasn't too cold. Having grown up swimming on English beaches I suspect I'm a little more used to cold water than the average Californian.

We all cooked feasts tonight. I made tortilla chilli wraps. Chris and Brook made kebabs on the open fire. Luke made a sort of desert bread on a stick called Bannock. The recipe had been taught to him by some Canadian girls he'd met further north. It tasted really good, a bit like blueberry muffin.

After dinner we discussed the end of our trips. The Mexican border was now only 6 days away at the rate we were travelling.

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