The Diary of a Pacific Coast Bike Ride

In late September Steven Janak, one of our members and our videographer, made a bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. His intent was to gain experience for his planned AutismOne promotional West coast to East coast ride next year.  This is a wonderfully descriptive diary of his ride. Read and enjoy. When finished you can click the video link at the end of this article to view part of his adventure. 

Day 1: Sept 22nd
Being from Los Angeles, I flew to San Francisco checking my bike as luggage. Upon arrived in San Francisco I uncrated my bike right in luggage area of the airport. Pulling it out of the shipping box, packing foam whirled around the airport floor. A group of Indian travelers was very interested in my journey. I don't think they understood how I could be doing something like this just for fun.  I did not plan or map any part of the trip out in advance so it took me the better part of 2 hours to actually ride into The City from the airport. Note: Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area affectionately know San Francisco as "The City."
The majority of the day I experienced The City down by Fishermen's Wharf. From the Wharf you can see the famous Golden Gate Bridge and buy the best clam chowder around. Also notable was the City Lights bookstore started by famous beat poet Lawrence Ferlingetti. As I said, no part of this journey was planned out, evening began to arrive.
On quite a narrow budget, I had previously thought about sleeping in parks and on beaches. With a city as dense as San Francisco, I quickly realized this would not be a prudent idea. A friend recommended I stay at a local hotel. I ended up staying at the Green Tortoise Hostel which you might find interesting if you ever want to go on a little guided adventure. It was a great cultural fusion, if you have ever stayed at one, you meet people from all around the world.
Day 2: September 23rd
I started my way out of San Francisco. This was probably the most difficult part of the journey. Getting outside of any city is confusing. There are numerous short, sharp turns that have to be taken. In San Francisco (as I found out a couple of days later) riding and starting and stopping is very, very wearing on your knees and the surrounding muscles, having to stop, turn tackle another hill, come upon a red light, start up again. 
For exiting a major city, a biker should leave half a day to find your bearings and get out. Going south I rode through San Jose into the little town of Morgan Hill. After San Jose, it was just fields and farmland. I imagine the inland trek from San Francisco to Morgan Hill to be much of what is like to cross most of the US. Much of it was dry and brown. This night I slept in a field much as I imagined my whole trip to be. 
BIKER TIP: For getting out of a city, plan a short day. You will feel it in the next 2-3 days.
Day 3: September 24th: An Early Day
I started out to reconnect with the coast. I did a climb up a mountain for 6 miles, coming down 4 miles incredibly fast. The views started to become breathtaking! The road was a canopy of trees with a rays of sunshine filtering through.
By the time I had reached the coast, the morning mist had begun to burn off. For the better part of the day, I traveled along the cost hoping to make it to the foot of Big Sur, a coastal mountain range that extends for some 20 some miles down the coast. Instead, I found the city of Monterey where I  stopped for a couple of hours to enjoy the colorful warms and the tourist atmosphere.  
About 10 miles outside of Monterey, I had picked up the company of a fellow cycler resident of the area. This became the first time I was to consider why I ride. My short lived companion road fast and the flats and curves and coasted down the hills. Passing other riders he would greet out-of-towners along the way.
Day 4: September 25th: Big Sur and the 2 year trek.
I started off early about 3 miles before Big Sur. The air was brilliant. I could feel a giddy buzz the clean oxygen provided my lungs. Regardless, this was the first morning that I woke up with a burning soreness in my legs that did not go away from a night of good sleep. This would remain with me for pretty much the rest of the journey. 
Getting through Big Sur is like a roller coaster. I thought of it a bit like an application for next summer's trip.
The range is a testament to how weather can change; quickly. Before I started the climb, visibility was good, even in the crisp morning. After about 6 or 7 miles of up, a good chill set in. Mist and jets of fog shot up from the steep drop off to the ocean. The ocean was hundreds of feet below and I could only hear it every so slightly crashing against the rocks. 
If you click here you will find a short video for this day's sentiments pertaining to the constant climbs and drops. Since a new window is opened for the video, you can close it when the video finishes and resume reading this diary.
Up until this point, this trip has been pretty much a race for me. How long will it take for me to get to Point B from Point A? Going downhill out of the range, I peddled furiously past a man loaded down with saddle bags.
Stopping at a cafe looking out over the cloudy abyss, the man pulled up minutes later besides me to refill his water bottles
BIKER RULE: Whenever you can, stop and refill your water bottle.
I learned that he had been traveling for 2 years: Across the UK, across
Asia, around Australia, and now across the US. This man just did not
want the road to end! This brief encounter helped me set the pace for the rest of my journey. I have enjoyed to flavor of the road. 
That night, I found myself in San Simeon, home of the famous Hearst Castle which is open to the public. I slept on the beach while the thick fog crept in. The castle sits 5 miles up the hillside like a floating palace, its lights were a pin prick in the dense night. 
Day 5: September 26th
My legs have been getting more and more sore as days wore on. It’s not really any major muscle like I expected but rather the small muscles on either side of my knees. Unfortunately, there was no shower in the campground below Big Sur. Really looking forward to a night with a hot shower, I decided to continue on to Pismo Beach, camp and build a warm fire.
Upon arriving, I found the air dense and foggy. I was dirty soggy, and cold. The campgrounds were full. The little tourist town looked like it would not take kindly to a “Bum on the Beach.” The whole trip so far, I prided myself in the fact that I did not have to do any significant backtracking. However, after not having a shower and a bed since my first night in San Francisco, I thought I would make the trek 12 mile inland to stay in San Luis Obispo, a town nestled in the dry hills.
This night I stayed in another hostel. I was so grateful for the hot shower. The road grime melted off of me. It’s incredible how ragged and uncivilized you can start looking after only a couple of days outside. Knowing now that most hostels have kitchens, I made a huge dinner and slept soundly through the night.
Day 6: September 27th San Luis Obispo to a Place I don't remember
I did a good 70 to 80 miles on this day out of San Luis Obispo to a small campground off of the Highway 101. The campground, unlike ever other place I stopped, was not surrounded by any town or city. It was miles between it and the next town. This was the first time I encountered a "Hike and Bike" campground. With the state of the economy, the rates for all campgrounds are increasing drastically; except the hike and bike sites. These sites get you a small, dusty patch of grass for $10 a night. By now, I have become so used to sleeping on the ground. Now tent. Now unpacking.
Day 7: September 28th Somewhere to Ventura. 
This morning's trek to Santa Barbara was nothing spectacular. However, I have been riding right along the 101 for about the past 30 or 40 miles. This is a bit unnerving with cars whizzing past me. I am finally getting into familiar territory. Ventura is where I have lived and went to school for about 4 years. Now I am back, staying with some friends up by my old school.
Day 8: September 28th
For the first time in days, I woke up and my legs have not been in as much pain. I thinking my body is finally getting used to the daily mileage. Maybe my body is just going to stop complaining because it thinks it’s to no avail anyway.
Although today is somewhat familiar, I have always wanted to take the trek through Malibu on my bike. Back on the Highway 1, the road goes right by the coast. The homes are phenomenal showings of California Hollywood wealth. It is strange being in the home stretch. And even stranger coming home. I now feel like I am returning not to my home but to simply the place I am staying. I feel like I am not finished traveling. There are so many twists, turns, roads, dead ends and new begins in life. They beg to be explored if not but to yield new exciting possibilities. 
                                                                  Click here to view Steven's video of selcted portions of his trip.


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Thanks for the virtual trip

It was so nice your trips, thank you for the insignts of your trip, I feel like I travelled with you.

That's really nice post, I am

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oh to be young and adventurous

Steve - looks like it was a great trip. I was once upon a time young and adventurous - I lived in Russia for a year.

This is a wonderful

This is a wonderful adventure. Seeing how, with 2 boys on the spectrum, I must now live parts of my life vicariously short, sweet adventures stories are right up my alley. This one hit the spot.

One of my lifelong unfilfilled dreams was to return to the wild. Live off the land. Take a couple of great books, plenty of writing materials and get back to nature.

Forage, hunt, fish, plant, scavenge for food. Build a cabin. Leave civilization behind.

Now, if I can only convince Steve.