32.0 mi / 10.8 mph / 1073 ft. climbing
Home: Lucky D’s Hostel
Mixed it up this morning with a video chat with my Dad (and Mom) from the Airstream’s back yard. It’s his birthday, so it was good to “see” him to wish him a happy 75, and trade jealousies over his Mom-made chocolate cake, and our non-snow-covered ground. And also good to speak to them and let them know we’ll be crossing an international border soon. It’s nice that they seem to trust that we know what the hell we’re doing, even if we aren’t quite sure ourselves.
We rolled down the hill from our Airstream back to the coast road, and just as we were about to reach the bottom, I said “shit! My handlebar bag!” Even though it sits right in front of my eyes, I somehow didn’t notice that I’d forgotten to put it on the bike before we left. It normally holds most of my important stuff, so leaving it out of my sight is extremely stupid. But luckily in this case I knew it was secure, and in fact within seconds of me noticing, Rett got a text from our AirBNB host who had found it. So I had to climb back up the hill (while Rett headed on to a recommended pastry shop) to collect it, trying to drive into my head to not be so careless with our stuff.
The pastry shop was packed with Saturday-morning cyclists. We packed the load of calories Rett picked up for us and headed on our way. That didn’t mean we left the cyclists behind though. We saw literally hundreds of them passing by in the morning, making it feel like we in the middle of a genuine bike race. As usual, most of them, from a different cycling culture, treated us as invisible (and vice-versa), but we had a few groups who made us feel like part of the community. And simply being part of such a flotilla makes us feel like cars are the second-class-citizens in this area, which is nice.
We were hoping to meet up with our friend Scott today, and, given that we first met him at De Garde Brewing in Tillamook, Oregon, he was smart enough to know to tell us that we’d be passing by Pizza Port in Solana Beach, which is pouring the rare release of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger. We figured we’d be past it by the time it opened at 11am, but given my forgetfulness, and our pastry stop, the delays gave it plenty of time to open. It turns out that people fly across the country for this beer, while we had just lucked into learning by word-of-mouth that we’d be rolling right past a place that had it. So of course we had to stop, right? (thus adding more delay, but hey, we’re calling this a real vacation day!)
The beer was great, but even better was the camaraderie surrounding it. We got word-of-mouthed to its existence by a friend randomly met riding bicycles in a wet Oregon September’s-end, and as we stood packing up to leave, I overheard another trio of PtE-drinkers talking about exactly that word-of-mouth element that brought us all to it. So that then led to a nice conversation that even led to some new ideas for Rett’s back, since one of the PtE-drinkers was a physical therapist! Ah, beer and bicycles, how you bring us all together!
We continued on along through the cute coastal towns that extend nearly unbroken up from San Diego, passing many super-busy beaches on the hot February weekend. Then it was time to climb up to Torrey Pines, another place whose name I associate only with a golf course that Jim Nantz would be attempting to twist into poetry, but it of course turns out that the golf course is named after the area which is named after actual trees, the critically-endangered Torrey pine that grows natively only in this small area.
The difficulty of the hill-climb was eased not only by bits of unexpected shade (presumably some of it from those Torrey pines), but by the most-incredible bike infrastructure I’ve seen on a hill-climb. The divided highway here had two traffic lanes in each direction, then a giant buffer, and then, on the uphill side, a bike lane with a passing lane just for bikes! We’ve been on many mountain roads where the cars get a passing lane to move ahead of slow-moving trucks and RVs grinding their way up, but it was amazing to see someone thought of designing the roadway to work the same for bicycles! Given that we usually have to climb such hills with very little shoulder at all and traffic whipping around up, this was an unbelievable luxury. The only improvement would have been a cable to pull us to the top.
Think your vote doesn’t matter? Or that the little guy can’t get anything done in the face of big government? This infrastructure, along with smooth-paved empty mountain roads we saw in the Bay Area, prove that if a constituency is large enough, loud enough, and perhaps, rich enough, they can shape the community around them in ways that more fatalistic areas would deem impossible. So don’t give up! It’s possible to make stuff better!
We were then onto another nice bike trail (of course), where we had a good chat with Kenton (@kentonhoppas) out for a casual ride in the other direction. It’s funny, we told a whole lot of people today that we’re heading into Mexico, and not a single one expressed any terror or concern for our safety. Many (most?) in this area live so close to the border that their actual experience tells them that crossing it isn’t entering into a black-hole of drug-lords and shoot-outs that many who live further north imagine it to be.
Rolling into downtown San Diego (a “city” with high-rises that all seem so new that it reminded us of suburban Bellevue, WA), we arrived at Lucky D’s, our first stay ever at a hostel for either of us. Everything else seemed so expensive, and the hostel seemed our speed. Private room for us, but shared bathroom/shower kitchen. Definitely a cool, funky, communal, international vibe all around (easing us into our new phase as international travelers), that we didn’t really dive into, partly because no one seemed to be taking any COVID precautions at all. We could have kept our bikes stored in the first-floor entryway, but given their irreplaceability, chose to unload them and carry everything up two flights of stairs to our room. Not ideal, but doable.
Then it was time to meet Scott! We only hung out a small amount of time when our paths overlapped as we all cycled south through Oregon, but when we got forever separated by his forced-departure from the road-life when he shockingly got hit by a damnable driver, separating dramatically like that somehow seemed to bond us even more. Rett now has a beloved shirt (Ridge Merino Sun Hoodie) and exercise ball that she learned about from him, and our friends and family remain concerned about his well-being after simply reading about him on this blog. We knew he’d had a real rough go of it early on in his recovery, so just the fact that he was able to come meet us was exciting news, but were very curious how things had been going for him.
So it was great to see him walk up normally to the Knotty Barrel where we had some dinner and drinks, and for the second night in a row we were up past our bedtime having a great time socializing with friends. After being essentially immobilized for some time, he said it was work in the swimming pool that got him on the road to moving again. The uninsured driver has left him with medical debt, and he’s still not yet been on a bicycle again, but he’s physically recovered enough to at least be contemplating joining a wild through-hike. But for someone accustomed to moving forward in a line to a distant destination, it seems that getting his path exploded by that driver has understandably made it tough to find a way onto the next line going forward. For Scott’s sake, we wish that, in a different reality, he would have just ridden on past our planned meetup at that Lincoln City campground without incident and on to the next stop, and thus live in our memory only as “that cool through-hiker-turned-bike-tourer guy we ran into for a few days back in October”. But back in this more-shitty reality, we’re so glad that we were able to at least get together and further build the weird bond that now exists between us.