The Final Chapter of America
This is it. My last installment of riding my bike and the adventure I had through the United States of America before pushing further south.
I last left you in San Francisco. My friend Clare had come over from England to visit and now she has returned. I spent a few more days with my friend David and his wife Jen. Lots more catching up. New tyres for the bike which should possibly get me home now and a cheeky day down the shooting range with David and some of his friends. This was great fun. Being ex military, I like shooting guns for sport. It’s a lot of fun.
The plan after leaving them was to head out East back to Yosemite. There was an overland bikers event going on for a long weekend in a town called Mariposa just outside of the national park. These events are an international affair and attract lots of riders from all over. It’s run by an organization called Horizons Unlimited. It was really good for networking and for all bikers to get together and share stories of their travels. For me heading south through the Americas and speaking to people who have been there was invaluable. Throughout the days, presentations were put on and people could come and watch them and absorb the wealth of knowledge. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I hope in the future we will cross paths again out on the road.
The weather was really hot inland and I decided I wanted to make way back towards the coast. It was cooler and I really do enjoy following the coastline down. The only problem with this part of the country was that I was fast approaching the expensive parts of California. Towns like Malibu, Santa Monica and LA were coming up. The scenery was still amazing but for someone on a budget this was not a cool place to hang out. It was nearly impossible to find anywhere to wild camp and a basic campsite was coming in a round $45. One place wanted $90 just to put my tent up. Unbelievable. Considering my campsite in Yosemite was only $12.
I did get an invite from a guy called Brad to crash at his place for the night. We had a mutual friend called Sean that was trying to help me out behind the scenes and asked Brad if he could help me. Brad is a biker too and he was more than happy to put me up at his home in Santa Barbara. Sean was one of the guys that I met at the bike meet only two days before. This is a fine example of strangers are friendships waiting to happen. Brad and his wife MJ welcomed me in that day. They fed me, gave me beer and let me use their shower. Plus the bed I had was great. I’d spent quite a few days now in a tent so this was great to relax. I spent all night sharing stories with my two new friends. Was a really nice enjoyable evening. In the morning I was left with a goody bag of all the left over food from the BBQ. Fantastic. That was a couple of days of food which meant I didn’t have to stop in the expensive area. Thanks guys for your help.
LA was fast approaching and I wasn’t looking forward to it. I knew I didn’t want to stop there for the night but also knew it would take ages to get through. So I decided to stop before hand. I found a campsite in Malibu Canyon. Off the main road. After hearing my story and asking for a discount the guy on the gate let me stay there for half the price. He also informed me the area has some great hiking routes and apparently a set for the TV show M.A.S.H. was down one of these trails. I was camped up by 1500 which is real early but I didn’t care. Hiking pack on, bit of food and plenty of water and I disappeared into the mountains to explore.
This place was great. The mountains were beautiful and the trails were easily marked. I found the film set which was cool to see. But I also found some small lakes and lots of wildlife. At the end of this post there is a short video of my little hike. I was having a bit of a bad day on this day. I don’t know what caused it. Perhaps I was letting my anxiety get in the way and creating my own problems at the thought of LA coming up. But this was a perfect way to unwind and have a little me time. On my return to the tent I met another English guy who was out here living in LA. He was also camped up for the night on his own to get a little peace and relax for a bit. He had some great scotch and invited me over to his fire to share. The day just got even better and meant I didn’t eat dinner on my own.
LA!! What a nightmare getting through this place. I wanted to head to the Hollywood sign but after the bike started to overheat and almost burning the clutch out plus sweating ridiculous amounts and getting hit by a car, I decided to just get the hell out there. So glad once I was. Never again will I try and ride my bike through that city. I was heading out East to a place called the Saltan Sea. I didn’t know about this place until Brad mentioned it while I was staying with him. He said it was really cool and mentioned a few other sites in the area that I had to go and see. It was out in the desert so I knew it was going to be hot there but I figured I would be a couple of days perhaps then head back to the coast.
So the Saltan Sea is out in the desert. It’s the result of a river flooding a while back. It is however rather rapidly evaporating and it’s very evident. To be fair the whole area is in serious trouble with the drought. The ride out here was great. It was quiet and the views of the lake were cool. Definitely worth it if you’re in the area.
Next on the list was a place called Salvation Mountain. This place is very unusual but really cool to see. Just because it’s out in the desert. It was created by a guy that recently passed away. It’s like a huge homage to Jesus and Love. I do believe there’s a volunteer team that have taken over the project to keep the spirit going.
Just down the road was a place called Slab City that is actually marked up on google maps so it’s officially a real place. It is a community of people that have moved out to the desert to escape the real world. They work and live out here and survive somehow. It’s so hot and there’s no water so they must have to still get supplies from the real world. It was interesting riding around and seeing the people and how they’re living out here. Personally, I couldn’t do it. There isn’t enough out here to stimulate me. But if they’re happy then good on them. Still a cool place to see.
I decided I had enough and got back on the road. Heading round the rest of the lake and making my way west. I looked at the map and noticed San Diego wasn’t that far and I had a place to crash there. So I thought I would push on and try and make it before it got too dark. I try not to ride at night time. It’s good practice in a lot of the world but also, my stock headlight is real shit so it’s so much safer for me to not ride at night time.
The ride West was real nice. The road I took went through the desert where I saw lots of cool plants which I think may have been cactus. Not too sure. Then the road got real twisty as I went up into the mountains. The roads were quiet and they were so much fun.
Arriving in San Diego was fun. My host Carla was excited to see me. We have a mutual friend back in England and we have been chatting since February. She has been following my progress since I started and the plan was to always stop here while I get ready for heading into Mexico. I was planning on being here for a couple of days but as it stands it’s been about 10 days now. This is the beauty of the trip. I can stop somewhere for as long as I want. Carla has been a great host and her sofa is one of the most comfortable I have slept on. Plus, her dog Baxter is simply the best and we’ve now become great friends. Baxter for president!
During my stay here I have seen a lot of the area. The stunning beaches, cool places to eat, bicycle rides while the sunsets, war memorials and even drank wine in a $9 million house one night. It is crazy what can happen when you open yourself up to the world. But one of the biggest highlights was going to an American Rugby game. They call it football over here! Carla had a contact at the stadium and he managed to get me down to the field and see the action and home team up close. It was an incredible experience and the atmosphere was fantastic. Especially when I was a couple of meters from the line when they scored a touchdown. Amazing!
So the plan now is to leave in the next few days. I have used my time to service Penny. Shes had new brake pads, oil and filters, chain and sprockets. We are good to go. I have researched a lot on Mexico. I now have a rough route and an idea of what to expect. I am ready for this and I cant wait. Time to get back to foreign language and food. Bring on the next chapter.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Please come back and check in for future blogs. I will be compiling more blogs soon to share some useful knowledge that I have picked up. Again, thank you for all the positive comments you send me. I do try my best to reply to everyone but bare with me.
Aaron and Penny.
Originally published at www.aaronmitchell.net