After a long time planning and preparing it was finally time for me to take a direct flight from Paris to Los Angeles with my bicycle packed in a cardboard box. I was lucky to be staying there at Warmshowers hosts, Owen and Rachel, who helped me a lot in knowing where to go to tie up some loose ends before getting on the road to San Diego.
I had to put back my bicycle together before heading out, as well as getting some supplies.
Taking out the metro to go to downtown LA (cities are really spread out here which meant the bike shop where I had to pick up some stuff was quite a way) I was surprised to be able to take my bicycle on it very easily. The metro never got super busy while I was there though.
California was a (nice) shock in terms of temperature. Leaving Paris area it was starting to be quite chilly, especially during the night when there could be frost at this time of the year. Here, in the middle/end of November it was 25 degrees C during the day and not below 12 at night. Like summer for us Europeans! Approaching the Mexican border I got a 30C day and 33C the following day ! On a downhill along the route to Tecate I actually felt like I was flying through an hairdryer as the air was so hot and dry.
Cycling from LA to San Diego I was not super lucky in terms of camping/wildcamp options. This area of the coast is very dense and I passed through residential neighbourhoods mainly. I just didn’t feel confident enough to pick up any wildcamp spot and so was hoping to rely mainly on hike and bike campgrounds, which are cheaper than regular campgrounds here.
I had planned to reach Crystal Cove campground by the end of my first day out of LA ( I took the train to Del Amo in the suburb to avoid the traffic and due to a late start too). First I cycled along a part of the bicycle river path to Long Beach, where by chance I met another cyclist and we talked about touring while cycling together for about half an hour. Mike is 68 and doing frequent bike rides around LA where he lives, but has also toured in Asia so it was nice hearing about his experiences too. We cycled at around the same pace without difficulty which so far had not happened much to me when I cycle with other people while on a loaded bike ! It was nice to have a relaxing ride and a chat.
After a lunch stop in Long Beach in a nice vegan café I kept going on the road along the coast which was fairly busy, but I generally had a good shoulder to myself. Sometimes after heading out of Long Beach I reached a coastal bicycle path which was a nice change. I was lucky to see a pelican, some butterflies and squirrels along my way too. For the first time in my life I saw a squirrel climb a palm tree but unfortunately too fast for me to have the time to pull out my camera !
After the sunset I cycled about one hour and a half in the dark before reaching the campground, including some time on a busy highway where I had to turn around. Arrived there, I was quite unimpressed to have to fork out 50 dollars for a camping pitch ! Yiikes ! Hike and bike pitches were booked out and so 50 dollars was the regular price…
The following day, trying not to replicate the same scenario I’m heading to San Onofre campground which has a hike a bike section and aim to get there around 2pm so hopefully I’ll have a better luck…
To get to San Onofre I cycle along the old 101 highway at some point.
Arrived at the campground, no luck though ! I’m told by rangers that it is closed for the winter. I’m told as well that this is a military base so no camping allowed at all… not risking a wildcamp then though along the way there are definitely nice spots…
After getting out of the base I expect to be able to camp along a road I’ve seen earlier on googlemaps… I am aware Camp Pendleton, which is another base, is near and I am not allowed there as a foreigner but assume the road is not part of it. As I get out after the barrier pictured above I end up on a parking where I start talking with a mountain biker, Rich.
He explains to me that the road I was planning to take actually go inside the base. I don’t have much options left expect following the busy freeway to get to a campsite in Carlsbad with one hour of daylight left…Besides it being a Saturday it’s Thanksgiving holidays here and I’m afraid places will run out as well. Rich going in Carlsbad direction gracefully offers me a lift there which I accept ! After loading up my bicycle in the bed of his pick-up trailer we have a good talk before arriving in Carlsbad… where a pitch is 35 dollars a night. The ranger there tell us that San Elijo is a few miles ahead and has a hike and bike section… I’m ready to jump out of the trailer and cycle there but Rich decides to drive me there ! I am really grateful for American hospitality.
The following morning I am trying to make a plan as I had initially expected to take 4 days to arrive in San Diego and had contacted a Warmshowers host for the day after this one, but after yesterday’s lift I am quite ahead of my schedule. I decide to go to a cafe in Encinitas to charge up my phone and contact Stephen (my San Diego WS host). After about an hour spent there, plugged in and checking mails and so on I leave and check my battery pack- which has not charged up a notch ! I am a bit in trouble since my bicycle dynamo has not functionned properly the past few days and I need battery to at least navigate !
From there I cycle to a McDonalds in North San Diego which should have Wifi and plugs I reckon… Several hours of fairly smooth riding later, apart from a random steep dirt path I have to push the bike up, I arrive… and realize there are no plugs ! At least I can tap Wifi and decide at this point to use the remainder of my phone battery to navigate to a nearby part of the coast below La Jolla in San Diego where there seem to be cheap hostels- hopefully I’ll find one with a secure place for my bicycle.
Once there a lovely bicycle path follows the peninsula all the way and the views are great. However I have to hurry up before dark. While looking for an hostel I came accross a fellow French and his young daughter scooting along on the bicycle path. While we chat she asks: “T’as pas pris la voiture, pour les vacances?”
A bit later I end up finding my way to a hostel directly opposite the sea on the bicycle path.
Once there, I plug in for good and use Wifi and contact Steven who has tried to reach me earlier too.
The following morning I meet Victoria, a German road cyclist who has been cycling from San Francisco to San Diego & heading to Hawai. We exchange some good stories, not before she has asked me : “Are you Anna ?” and tell me a WS host was looking for a loaded tourer along the coast yesterday. I don’t make the link though as I believe there are quite a few people cycling along the coast at this time…
From the coast, I ride one hour into San Diego where I’m meant to meet Stephen. After a few kms on busy roads/highways it’s nice to be on a marked cycle path again…
After spending some time filling my belly and strolling in San Diego it was time to meet my host in a coffeeshop. While talking with him he tells me we are waiting for another cyclist he’s hosting tonight…called Victoria !!! In the end it was really Stephen looking for me yesterday… He was driving someone to Encinitas area when he spotted Victoria on her bike going in the direction of the same hostel I was staying in at the time -and asked her if she was Anne- they started talking and he agreed to put her up the following night. So here we all are !
After a day’s rest, some bike supplies collection again, and some good times with Steven and other travellers in San Diego it’s time to push on to Tecate…
I meet Ian shortly after leaving San Diego and we head up to Mexico on the road (I’m still fully loaded at this stage) to do the Baja Divide together…Some tough uphill is to be expected before getting there still…
Leaving California behind, I am remembering some of the strange things I´ve seen there:
- These bikes.
- House numbers going up to 5 figures, plus halves.
- Liquids are sold by the gallon (1.75L).
- In LA and around SD area there were lots of homeless people living around the cycleways, in tents or in sleeping bags. Almost all of them had cubic carts where they stuffed all their belongings. In the industrial area of downtown LA cycling from the metro station to the bike shop some of these carts where actually on the road and I had to avoid them on my bike ! Strange and sad too, though we certainly have a lot of homeless people in the EU as well.