Monday, July 16, 2012

Back in the saddle at last

So, it's been a while. We've been a bit quiet since PBP as we've been:
  moving continent.
We are now settled in Sunnyvale, California.
We heard a week or two ago that our friends Peli and Woolly ( would be almost passing by our door, so we hatched a mad plan to spend a few days cycling with them. Initially it looked as though we would need to hire bikes as our shipment from the UK would not arrive in time. At the last minute, and with a little plan change by Peli and Woolly, we were able to cycle with them with our own bikes to Monterey.
So on last Saturday morning, and with some trepidation, we set off. We had thought that we would set off early to try and get most of the big climb of the day over before it got too hot, but there was no chance of us leaving while the Tour de France stage was still in progress. Seeing Chris Froome win was definitely worth it! While the first couple of miles are flat, when cycling west from our house, it doesn't take too long before you hit the Santa Cruz mountains. As the ACA pacific coast route runs to the west of the mountains, we needed to cross them. Somehow in the route planning process we had decided to not only cross at one of the highest points, but also take the steepest route to get there! Note: when climbing mountains (even mini ones), sometimes taking the 'short cut' isn't the best plan. As we planned on getting the bus back from Monterey, we couldn't take Dobbin but had to ride solos. I don't have a proper touring bike so was riding my light tourer (Nemo - the Thorn Brevet). As we only had one spare rack with us, we fitted that to Denise (Joth's bike, a Thorn Raven Sport), and I let him carry the 4 panniers. I only had a saddlebag, and so to balance the load up I also hitched up and pulled Woolly's extra wheel trailer for the trip. We've been thinking about buying a trailer for a while (ever since our trip in South America), and this one has been on the short list. Getting to try it out for real, albeit on a solo instead of a tandem, was a great plan.
Whilst climbing, it soon became clear that while I had the lightest load, I also had the highest granny gear. This did result in me walking for a bit :-( There is always one good bit about climbing though, and that's the descent. While descending is fun, I must admit that I'm not very good at it, so adding a trailer into the mix was going to be exciting. The extra wheel is great though, really, really great. I'd forgot I was towing it half the time. Joth rode behind me, and was impressed with the way it tracked the rear wheel. I think there'll be a trailer addition to the stable before too long!

The rest of the day was mostly downhill, and after an icecream and a shopping trip we made it to our campsite for the night, the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Which was full. Fortunately, we knew this was one of the state park campsites which have a hiker/biker area, and they will always find a spot for those people arriving under their own steam.
Day two was planned to be a short day, and so an early start was not called for. After a short decent into Santa Cruz, we inspected the pier and the board walk and ate the largest ("Texas") doughnuts we'd ever seen. Pootling along a little further bought us to that days supermarket, where we noticed that Woolly had broken another spoke or two. As they were both non-drive side they were replaced in short order by his well practiced hand, and we were on our way again. It was clear that we had hit the agricultural part of California, as we cycled through hundreds of acres of strawberry fields. I don't really like strawberries, but the strong sweet smell of them was really enticing. They definitely seemed to flourish in the climate here. The Sunset Beach campsite was also full, but had a great hiker/biker area next to a huge field of strawberries. Some members of the party needed to apply considerable will power not to go and raid it!

Day three started with an adventure. Both Joth and Woolly had found evidence that there was a trail down by the beach which enabled us to get back to the main road without back tracking. Unfortunately, while it looked like there used to be a way through, we weren't going to heave fully loaded touring bikes over a gate and along a very overgrown trail to find out! It was time to climb the hill back to the campsite, before climbing to get to the main road. There's nothing like a bit of an adventure to start the day, which is why we all like cycle touring! As we were heading straight for the bus in Monterey we had already transferred the trailer back to Woolly, so the poor chap had to pull all of his six panniers back up to the road, while all I had was a saddlebag. The rest of the journey was smooth going, and included some lovely quiet trails. We were definitively in farm land, as we passed many more strawberry, artichoke, salad and cabbage fields. There must of been other crops around, as the roads were full of billboards for farm shops offering things like 7 avocados for a dollar, or 7 heads of corns for a dollar. Yum! We still haven't worked out why we didn't stop to buy avocados. Joth and I have been known to eat avocado at all three meals in a day, especially when touring. So goodness knows why we didn't buy any! Monterey arrived in time for us to enjoy a late lunch before boarding our bus. We were boarding at it's departure point, and we thought the bus had space for three bikes, so initially we weren't too concerned that there was another touring cyclist waiting for the bus. As it turned out, there was only two bike spaces. As the bus was fairly quiet, the driver allowed me to take Nemo on board however. Phew! A successful end to a highly enjoyable trip. 

Thanks to Peli & Woolly for a wonderful trip!