On the way to Mexico: Cycling southern California

ChaosOn the way to Mexico: Cycling southern California

Country: USA and Mexico
From Avila Beach to Tijuana
Lesson learned: The world is small
Laughed about: A day in a party bus
Most wonderful miracle: The reception team in Tijuana
Greatest challenge: City traffic
Days on the bike: 7
Kilometers cycled: 575
Average kilometers per day: 82.14
Total kilometers cycled till Tijuana: 25,890

Cycling Southern California. Missed the last entry? Here it comes: Where the vultures are circling: Cycling Central California
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Our muscles were all sour from the short but fast hike in the mountains, when we hugged Susan goodbye next morning. Today we biked a bit further inland.

Just before sunset in Santa Barbara

Just before sunset in Santa Barbara

The sea had been right next to us for such a long time now, that it took us a moment to get used to the dry fields and pastures. We biked through small towns and villages, up and down the hills und enjoyed the hot and dry wind. The impact of this dry winter was visible all the way to Lompoc.

wave from top

Where are all the surfers? Clearly I don’t know anything about surfing.

In town it was clear to see what we had already noticed between the fields: California was in drought. Several restaurants offered their food on paper plates with plastic cutlery in order to save on water for dishes. Most state owned campgrounds locked their flush toilets and put up portable toilets, some had even locked the showers.

"Gorda" is spanish for chubby female

“Gorda” is spanish for chubby female

The only green grass we saw was on the golf courses (seems to be a priority). I still hope that it was very realistic artificial grass. There was a law for how and when people were allowed to wash their cars and water their plants. People were waiting for El Niño to come and bring some rain.

Roberto in my bike mirror

Perfect view in front me and ever better behind me!

The ride to Santa Barbara was mostly an easy one. Once we had crossed the big hill, we found ourselves back by the coast and were rewarded with an afternoon of quite strong tailwinds. Sun set earlier with every single day, so we were forced to speed up even more. Santa Barbara seemed a very beautiful place, but the traffic lights and trucks slowed our record speed down to average city speed.

elephant seals on the Pacific Coast Bike Route (BCBR)

A few days earlier we had spotted elephant seals on the Pacific Coast Bike Route (BCBR)

Sun had already set when we biked along Santa Barbara’s beach promenade. There were palm trees, waves and the sandy beach, but all we saw was the watch and the bike computer. Another 15 kilometers would bring us to the next campground and if we hurried we would make it just after nightfall.

Palm trees in Santa Barbara

Palm trees in Santa Barbara

Somewhere in front of us there was a man waving at us to slow down. His name was Doug and he wanted to invite us to stay at his place. So this is the point where most of our friends and family members would say “What? You didn’t do that, did you? Or did you?!” If there’s one thing we have learned, it is to trust in our instincts. Doug seemed very nice and trustworthy and we happily followed him.

Marian, Annika, Doug and Cat

Marian, Annika, Doug and Cat

Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves inside his kitchen. Doug said “Make yourselves comfortable, enjoy the hot tub if you want, my wife will be home in ten minutes and I’ll just get some food”, and walked out the door. And there we were, two dusty foreigners inside a stranger’s beautiful house in a nice part of Santa Barbara. It never ceases to impress me how people trust us with all their belongings and their home.

Great and fun business: A partybus!

Great and fun business: A partybus!

So tonight we dined with Doug, his wife Marian and their housemate Cat. We ate burgers and drank German and Mexican beer. Before we got into our tent, Doug and Marian offered us to spend a second night at theirs. It was going to be their friends’ wedding and business anniversary and as their business was renting party buses, of course their celebration was a party bus wine tour through the wine fields surrounding Santa Barbara. And somehow we were invited too.

Henna Tattoo on the arm

One of the guests had brought a Henna Tattoo kit and pained this work of art onto my arm! Unfortunately due to the daily sweat-suncream-dust-wind cocktail it didn’t last very long.

We had a great time. We had some beers in the bus, listened to classic Rock songs that the host couple Darin and Sierra had picked and after less than half an hour, the dance pole was in use. It was late afternoon when we returned, slightly tipsy and super tired but with big smiles in our faces. What a day!

Fluffy grass, a hot shower and absolutely lovely company!

Fluffy grass, a hot shower and absolutely lovely company!

Wine Tasting near Los Olivos

Wine Tasting near Los Olivos

The following day was a refreshing mix of city traffic and scenic bike paths right by the sea. Most of the time we had a tailwind and we really enjoyed our slow day, bought some grapefruit, avocado and strawberries (after cycling past all those farms you do get a bit of a craving for fresh fruit and veges) and had a good ride on nice and flat roads.

Biking south of Santa Barbara

Next morning’s ride

Camping at Sycamore near Malibu

Camping at Sycamore near Malibu

In the afternoon we reached the Sycamore campground and decided to stay even though it was nearly another hour till sunset. Down here in Southern California most Hiker Biker Campgrounds cost $10 instead of the usual 5-6 but still it was by far the cheapest option.



Skipper from the Patagonia Headquarters

Marian used to work for Patagonia and organised us a visit to the headquarters in Ventura. This is Chipper, who received us and even treated us for a delicious lunch!

We pitched the tent and walked to the beach where we finally had the time to watch the sun set in the sea. Tonight’s dinner was the MRE that firefighter Murdock had given us.

Romantic Sunset at the beach

Sunset at the beach

MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)

4000 calories in a few plastic bags = MRE (Meal Ready to Eat). Thanks Murdock!

After some more kilometers of dry hills and blue sea, we reached the fancy beach villas of Malibu. The traffic got worse and worse and eventually we made it into Los Angeles. They say that there’s about 4 Million people living in town and 17.8 Millions in the metropolitan area.

Between Malibu and Santa Monica

Between Malibu and Santa Monica

"Happy Day"

“Happy Day”

There were a lot of people who wanted to be different to everyone else, hence the amount of crazy outfits and hairstyles was huge. We headed right onto the beach bike path and stayed there for a good while. All the way through Santa Monica and Venice Beach we biked on a great paved motor-free path with sand to the left and to the right.

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard

William is bicycle taxi driver

William at work

In Venice beach we met William, whose ride through Mexico we had followed online about a year ago. William was back now and made a living as bicycle chauffeur on LA’s beaches. He enjoys his job, but we’re sure once he has saved enough to start on another trip, he will grab his travel bike and get started again.

Cycling through LA

We got very nice company there for a couple of kilometers

City of LA. Made in Mexico.

City of LA. Made in Mexico.

We kept on going and about half an hour later heard somebody yelling “Roberto!” and believe it or not, it was an acquaintance we had met back in Christchurch, New Zealand, who had now moved back to LA. And we had met him just like that somewhere in the streets of the metropolis.

Big Mama huge Pizza slice

This is a seriously big Pizza (spoiler alert: that’s what I thought before we ordered Pizza in Tijuana)

Muscle Beach, Santa Monica.

Little stop at Muscle Beach, Santa Monica. Decided not even to try and show off.

In the afternoon we arrived at Mark’s place. We had met him back in Canada on the Icefields Parkway. Mark welcomed us with Bavarian sausage, sweet mustard and Polish and German beer. We chatted until late and it felt like we had been friends for years.

Entering Los Angeles by bike

Entering Los Angeles

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Mark showed us around and we spent quite a while with beer, football and beach bars. Neither Roberto nor I felt like sightseeing. We had both been to LA before and we really didn’t want to get too deep into city traffic.

Cycling LA

Riding right through the beach

Simpsons painting in the Fox Studios, Los Angeles

This is where the Simpsons are made!

Instead we bought an overpriced day-pass for the bus (and later found out that it was only valid on some bus lines) and visited Roberto’s friend Carlos, who worked at the Fox Studios. It took us all day and we didn’t even cross a quarter of the city.

Homer Simpson statue

Roberto, his new buddy Homer, and Annika

Moe Szyslak runs the cafeteria

Moe Szyslak runs the cafeteria

We spent the last night in LA further South with warmshowerers Ken and Kenney. Ken and his friend Leanna were warmshowers board members and it was very interesting for us to talk to them and get a behind-the-scenes impression of our favorite hospitality website.

Mark showed us around a lot of places, including a German village with German beer ...

Mark showed us around a lot of places, including a German village with German beer …

... and chocolates ...

… and chocolates …

... and even most of my favorites!

… and even most of my favorites!

First thing Ken wanted to know from us was all details on our meeting with the warmshowers legend Akbar from Marand, Iran. He had picked us up on the road back in 2012 and showed us a small photo album with pictures of all touring cyclists he had met the same way.

Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles

A few years ago he officially joined warmshowers and has now hosted over 700 people, that’s pretty much everyone who came through Marand on a bike. Ken and Akbar have made friends online, but they have never met in person.

Ken and Kenny at theirs in Long Beach

Ken and Kenny at theirs in Long Beach

Alvin is a dog!

Alvin is a dog! Photo by Ken

Tonight we weren’t the only guests. Mark (who is an active couchsurfer and probably soon a warmshowerer too) stayed with us for dinner and Til and Jan from Germany also spent the night.

Ken, Leanna, Til, Jan, Kenny, Josh, Annika, Roberto and Mark

Ken, Leanna, Til, Jan, Kenny, Josh, Annika, Roberto and Mark. Picture by Ken

Chaos. Photo by Ken

Chaos. Photo by Ken

Biker gang with no motor? Cycling through Los Angeles

Biker gang with no motor? Cycling through Los Angeles. Photo by Ken

And when we were about to have dinner, there was a big surprise: Cheese-grater-Josh! We had a delicious dinner and great talks. It’s funny how we bike travelers often have so many opinions and interests in common.

Sight seeing in the Fox Studios

Sight seeing in the Fox Studios

Roberto and Carlos

Roberto and Carlos

Oh by the way, next day Jan and Til went for a ride through town and ran into Mark, who then picked them up and took them out for drinks. This huge city seems smaller and smaller every day.

Cycling LA

Cycling LA

We started the day together with Josh. Roberto has driven the freeway from Tijuana to Los Angeles (airport, Disneyland, relatives) probably a hundred times. He knew every exit and every gas station. But he didn’t ever get to see the coast, the small towns, the breweries, the cafés, the bike path along the coast, the surf spots, the art, the viewpoints and the beach boardwalks. The bicycle gives you a whole new impression to places, cultures and people.

At Lisa's and Neal's

At Lisa’s and Neal’s

Josh spent the night in Dana Point and we continued to San Clemente. While we were walking the bikes through town figuring out where to stay, two women talked to us. They asked where we were from, where we were headed, where we were going to spend the night and how we liked their town. After a little chat, one of the women spontaneously invited us over to spend the night at hers.

Beaches and cities

Beaches and cities

Lisa and her husband Neal lived in a beautiful house in a very friendly neighborhood. Some neighbors and friends came over, we all ate Chinese food and showed some pictures and videos of the travel. It was a wonderful evening and in their guest room we slept like babies.

Shooting game

So in a brewery-pizza place they have a shooting game where you try to shoot the male deer and avoid shooting the female. And towards the end, when a bear attacks, you shoot it too. Josh, who used to live in Canada, has gotten quite good with this game.

This little girl did quite a good job too!

This little girl did quite a good job too!

To be truly honest with you I must say that I had my preconceptions prior to entering the “Lower 48”. I was prepared for discussions with people who were afraid of the unknown, of strangers from foreign lands just like us. And I was quite scared by the thought, that every single person here could own a gun and shoot you. Sure, they would get in trouble if they shot for no reason, but nevertheless, if they had a gun, they had the power to shoot you dead.

Craft beer and Pizza in Carlsbad

Craft beer and pizza in Carlsbad. Sometimes I’m quite happy that we don’t even know the basics about nutrition. Guiltfree Pizza tastes better.

But then we got to meet inspirational, hospitable, generous and absolutely lovely people like Lisa, Neal, Ken, Kenny, Mark, Marian, Doug, Susan, Jeff, Jesse, Murdock, Amy, Steve, Susan, Wendy, Michael, Stuart, Sue, Ben, Tara, Eda, Sam and so many more and I must say they turned the image I had of the “lower 48” states completely around. We were treated like new friends and I really grew fond of the people here very quickly.

Josh and Roberto on the way down the coast

Josh and Roberto on the way down the coast

We met Josh again in the morning and continued together. A bit further south we had two options. Cycling right through Camp Pendleton or on the busy freeway. In order to get through the camp, all we needed were passports and helmets. Check. Decision made (edit: I have heard that a few months later they began to ask for a permit, so if you’re planning on going through the camp, maybe just do a good research).

We got company for the following day!

We got company for the following day!

Josh took a couple of really cool selfies, but we weren’t sure if it was a good idea for us foreigners to take pictures inside an army camp. For Josh’s defense, I didn’t read anywhere that pictures were forbidden.

We reached Oceanside and the traffic got worse and worse. I don’t know what I would have done without my mirror I between the parked cars and those drivers that were all in a hurry. At last we reached San Diego. What an exhausting ride!

Héctor on a bike

So proud to have Héctor, Roberto’s dad and most frequent comment writer, in the team!

We took a wrong turn somewhere and rolled down a long hill to La Jolla. Google Maps sent us through the most confusing little streets, but eventually we reached a pretty little bike path. The sun set just when we reached the beach boardwalk.

Confusing google maps bike path in San Diego

If we follow google maps, the bike path leads right up here

Nature in San Diego

Once we managed to push our bikes up that first steep part, it was actually a nice bit of land up there

It was nice to see and well, now that the sun was gone anyways, we decided to let go of the hurry and just take our time. Josh left for a hostel and we biked on in leisure mode. It was a nice ride alongside the beach and the river up to Roberto’s uncle’s and aunt’s house. What an emotional reunion! Roberto’s uncle took us all out for dinner, where we also met Roberto’s parents and sister.

And than we saw the actual bike path, that must have had a hidden entry somewhere. So we rolled it all back down again.

And than we saw the actual bike path, that must have had a hidden entry somewhere. So we rolled it all back down again.

The last day on the bike was just great. Roberto’s father joined us all the way on a too small mountain bike and with a helmet that slowly crumbled down his forehead. But he stuck to it anyways and biked the entire way. We rolled into the old town, where we were greeted by more cyclists from Tijuana and the closer we got to the border, the more people joined us. We couldn’t believe this amazing support.

Bike Route to Tijuana

Tijuana here we come!

We crossed the border. It had been 4 years and 9 months since Roberto had last set foot in his wonderful hometown. More cyclists greeted us on the Mexican side of the border and continued their way with us. It was another two kilometers to the Cultural Center, the end point of our route into Tijuana.

Mexico Only! No USA Return!

Heading straight for Roberto’s Patria!

We heard our friends before we even saw them. Their cheers nearly brought tears to my eyes. And there they were: family, friends, fans, acquaintances and cyclists, many of them in Tasting Travels T-Shirts. We spent more than 20 minutes hugging and kissing everyone, before we were able to even thank people for their great reception.

Cycling into Mexico via San Ysidro

Some of us in the border. It was an amazing ride. Thanks so much Sandra for the photo!

Tijuana would be our winter break home. This was where we would give presentations in universities, schools, cafés and cultural centers. This was where we were going to look for business partners for the free presentations and the brand new eBook (more about this will follow soon) and this was where we would spend Christmas and New Years with our families. And this was the city for another big event, but more about that next time…

Cycling CECUT

And here we are! Photo from “Buenas Noticias BC”

Tasting Travels arrival Tijuana at the CECUT Annika and Roberto

At the CECUT Tijuana after some 20 minutes of hugs and kisses. We were so very happy.

Huge Mexican Pizza

Remember what I said earlier about Mexican Pizza sizes? And to answer the question you probably had in mind: yes of course we also ate Tacos!

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  1. Pingback: Ab nach Mexiko: Mit dem Rad durch Kalifornien Teil 3 - Tasting Travels

  2. Awesome trip! Are you guys in Mexico yet? What route are you planning on taking through Mexico? We’re hoping to cross into Mexico at the end of the year, but we plan to cross at Laredo. Look forward to seeing your next post 🙂

  3. Pingback: Tijuana, our home for a while - Tasting Travels

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