Lost in the Fog
New Plymouth man Vince Moores recently returned home to New Plymouth after cycling down the Pacific Coast Highway from north of Vancouver to the Mexican border, 3420km on push bike. He detailed his journey in five emails, this being the fifth and final.
The epicurean delights and gastronomic excesses continued over the next two weeks of Kathy's stay as we indulged in all the delights of the Napa Valley region
For the "Foodies" amongst you check out these restaurants on Google they were real highlights:
"Bottega", "Bouchon", "Redd", "Lucy's" and "Bouchon Bakery" in Yountville
In St Helena, amazing bread from "Model Bakery" "Tra Vigna" and the stylish new bistro "French Blue" for dinner and brunch
Olive Oil / Wine Tasting / Tapas at "Round Pond"
Iron Chef "Morimoto's" new riverside restaurant and sushi bar on the river in the town of Napa. "Auberge du Soleil" near Calistoga, "Solbar" at Calistoga Resort
"The Farm" at Carneros Resort
To counter our gastronomic indulgences Kathy had booked us into "Solage Calistoga" for 4 nights which included a selection of daily fitness sessions, tramping, a range of yoga classes, Pilates, Spin Cycling and a stunning 50 meter heated outdoor pool together with a full spa, steam rooms, saunas, mineral pools, massage etc
Working out on the Pilates reformer apparatus was like being immersed in the Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada would certainly have been impressed with the racks and other instruments of torture and the ensuing pain that was inflicted
We also visited a number of impressive galleries, saw the Hess Collection and met a number of inspirational bronze sculptors and artists
Finally we returned back to San Francisco for a couple of days before Kathy returned home to NZ
Unfortunately an old neck /shoulder injury flared up which hurt like hell as
I continued my journey south negotiating my way out of San Fran through thick fog to Pescadero Beach and lots of other small beach towns along the coast
The topography then changed to a bleak and featureless coast with no services for over 60km, the only highlight being a sign to "Bonny Doon"
I tried hard to visualize "The Serenity" took a picture and put it straight into the Pool Room...
In all it was a grueling 130km ride to eventually make it to Santa Cruz in pain, tired, cold and hungry
The following day in a small town I managed to find a chiropractor who did some tweaking and "Adjusted" my neck, sending my legs flailing into the air with such a loud crack, I thought my head had come off into his hands, however the temporary relief only lasted about an hour before I was once again in agony with shooting pain coursing down from my right shoulder into my triceps and right forearm
However, with nowhere to stop I kept going through endless fields of vegetables being worked by hordes of Mexican laborers
Vegetables then changed to acre upon acre of plump ripe strawberries which saw me harvesting a sumptuous afternoon tea whilst listening to the Beatles on my Ipod: "Strawberry fields forever"
On through Castroville - "Artichoke Capital of the world" (10 for a $1) however all I was eating was dust with the wind blowing a thick carpet of topsoil across the open landscape
At the end of the day my spirits lifted as the sun came out and I managed to hook into
the bike path system of Monterey that took me around the bay and right into Cannery Row where sardine factories once flourished, immortalized by author John Steinbeck. Lots of points of interest, boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions, an impressive aquarium and a great promenade cycle / walkway
I indulged in a motel room and immersed myself in a soothing hot bath followed by a dinner of baked sea bass with crab topping , garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and ratatouille and a couple of glasses of Carmel chardonnay and a fist full of pain killers to end another grueling and painful day on the road
Thick fog once again greeted me as I started my day cycling around the peninsular of "17 mile drive" and the famous Pebble Beach Golf course, then up over a big climb into Carmel where I warmed up with a coffee and pastry before cycling through town, and onto the daunting hills of Big Sur, crossing some epic bridges and rugged coastline
Towards the end of the day the contour then eased into rolling farm land with blue sky on the mountain tops and the sun straining to fight its way through the fog along the coast out at sea.
A real highlight was watching Californian Condors with their amazing 2 ½ meter wingspans soaring into the sky around Big Sur and settling into the tops of the giant Redwoods. These impressive birds were once nearly extinct but are now thriving in the region feeding off carrion along the coastline
Once again I was in agony throughout the day with my pinched nerve and booked into a motel for a hot bath and a meal before collapsing into bed at 9.00pm physically and mentally exhausted
Thick fog once again shrouded the region as I began the day with a 4km climb out of Big Sur followed by a series of impressive climbs up and down the coast to Lucia, a one store town where I had a fish burger for lunch and was graced by the sun which finally showed it face for the first time in days
The route continued on to Ragged Point and then flattened off for the last 20 km to San Simeon with a tailwind and the sun shining, just awesome !
Past Piedras Blancas Lighthouse there was an Elephant Seal Colony with hundreds of huge seals sun bathing on the beach and fighting for space, reminded me of a summer in Blackpool...
The next morning I back tracked 6km up to San Simeon to take a tour of the impressive Hearts Castle built by media mogul and multi-millionaire William Hearst
The tour took us in coaches up from the ever present early morning fog of the coast into the hills of his 250,000 acres ranch that was bathed in sun revealing the mansion which he built over a 28 year period with no expense spared bringing a whole new meaning to the term OTT
Back on the road through to the quaint town of Cambria for coffee and pastry where I managed to get another treatment by the chiropractor du jour but sadly once again only temporary relief
As I moved inland the sun came out, my shirt came off and I had a great ride with a tail wind through to Cayucos, Morro Bay and onto San Louis Obispo where I was hosted by a wonderfully hospitable couple Mike & Phyllis, that I met on the road, who live on a stunning 40 acre property on the outskirts of town with stunning views over the vineyards down to the coast
Phyllis sources artifacts from remote tribes in Papua (the Indonesian side of PNG) for museums and collectors and has an amazing gallery of shields, drums, idols and art works.
Check out her site: www.asmatindonesiatravel.com
She also runs specialized tourist trips to this region and is quite the explorer !
Husband Mike has a number of surf, skate, ski retail shops and is also well traveled, once even surfing off Stent Road in Taranaki. A very enjoyable and stimulating stay and another unexpected highlight !
The route to Santa Barbara went via Guadalupe, another large growing region bristling with thousands of Mexican laborers toiling in the fields
The area started to take on a real Hispanic flavor as I headed further south past the Vandenberg Air Force Base, staying the night in Lompoc, a seedy town where speaking English is a bit of a novelty and the food is so highly spiced the restaurants keep the loo rolls in the freezer !
Finally at the end of the next day I reached the chic and trendy town of Santa Barbara after a hot, tiring ride via Gaviota & Goleta and spent a couple of nights with friends for a welcomed rest before continuing on down the coast to Malibu
Another long 140km day saw me getting into Malibu at 6.30pm with the sun setting on the impressive beach and hillside homes
I had arranged to meet up in town with a Kiwi fishing buddy "Accurate" who was in LA for a conference, however neither of us realized that the town of Malibu, with a population13,000 sprawled out over 45km of coastline !
However when we eventually did meet up we had a great meal out and put the world to right over a couple of bottles of Californian Pinots
The route then skirted the suburbs of LA, the iconic Venice Beach , along Santa Monica boulevard and past the throngs of tourists, skateboarders, skaters, surfies and beautiful people...
The route became increasingly more congested through Marina Del Ray, Manhattan Beach through to Torrence where I got lost through a detour and ended up on the freeway, a stupid mistake and a terrifying experience that saw me cycling alongside 6 lanes of traffic with trucks and cars hurtling past, just inches from my elbow as I frantically sprinted to the nearest exit turnoff and then proceeded to get lost down by mayhem that is the port of LA. Heavy vehicle container traffic, incredibly noisy, thick with exhaust fumes and smog, dirty, broken glass & rubbish everywhere on the shoulder, I felt isolated, exposed and completely lost, incredibly stressful and not much fun !
Finally after 2 hours I found my way back onto Pacific Cost highway and continued through the built up regions of Long Beach, Huntington Newport and finally into Laguna Beach at 7.00pm with lights on negotiating Friday night downtown traffic, not an experience I want to repeat....
Finally I found my friends place at the crest of a massive hill that took me another 30 minutes to climb which ended the longest and most stressfully challenging day of my trip, soaked in sweat, in agony with my pinched nerve and a physical and emotional wreck....
However, friends Bill & Keiko were just wonderful and after a hot shower settled me in on the sofa with a cold beer, pain killers, a cold compress for my shoulder and then followed with a fantastic meal of grilled steak and a stunning bottle of Penfolds Shiraz
Looking out from their amazing home across the lights of Laguna Beach below was a special moment reflecting back on the day that I had just endured and just the most wonderful feeling to be immersed in such creature comforts and luxury!
Serendipitously Keiko was suffering from exactly the same injury as me so was most sympathetic and managed to get me into her chiropractor, treatment specialists and acupuncturist over the next 3 days for an extensive series of treatments - hydro therapy, manipulation, ultrasound, electronic impulser, laser, manipulation, neck traction, an MRI scan and X-Rays, which showed that my spine was badly out of alignment and that I had a herniated disk C6 /7 which is pinching the nerve, hence the intense ongoing referral pain that I have been experiencing
The ensuing account for $1200 was equally as painful, the USA is not a good place to become unwell.....
I stayed in Laguna Beach for another 3 nights with good friends Matthew & Lizanne in their incredible cliff top home with steps down onto the beach, cooking nice meals and enjoying some time out of the saddle before continuing on down to La Jolla outside San Diego
The route continued through old established coastal towns with strong surfing connections, San Clemente, Oceanside, Leucadia and San Elijo with an interesting 20km detours midway through the day taking an alternate route through Camp Pendalton military base to get off the busy main roads
A 2km steep climb through Torrey Pines State Reserve led onto the outskirts of the up market town of La Jolla where I stayed with friends from South Africa who I had not seen for over 34 years, having lost contact when I hastily had to leave the country to avoid being conscripted into the army to serve on the Angolan Border
It was quite an emotional reunion and over the following 4 days we talked non stop !
The final day of my ride was a hot and challenging day that saw me negotiating the sprawl of San Diego City, the airport, downtown and the harbour / industrial area of National City with intensely congested roads
Tourists jaywalking along the waterfront were a real hazard and trying to find obscure bike paths, cycling through military installations, detours and a maze of confusing and misleading signage was a real mission which saw me getting lost on several occasions
Eventually I found my way into the border city of Chula Vista and finally down San Ysidro Boulevard to the Mexican Border
Although I had only cycled 40 miles it had taken me over 5 hours fighting my way through all the traffic lights, detours, stops and constantly getting lost
Actually being at the border surrounded by thousands of people was a surreal experience and an amazing high with the realization that I had endured the incredibly painful last 900 km down from San Francisco and had finally achieved my goal of cycling the Pacific Coast Highway - 3420 km from Quadra Island in Canada over an amazing 10 week period.
Certainly the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my lifetime overcoming my pinched nerve injury but overall the journey was one of adventure, incredible scenery, interesting and generous people and memories that will live with me forever
Hasta La Vista Baby
For more photos, further information and other travel journals Vince can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taranaki Daily News