On October 7th my sister asked me if I wanted to go on a bike trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her and my brother. For a couple of minutes I pondered the idea while a couple of things ran through my head:
- I’ve never ridden a road bike before, is two and a half months of training enough?
- I’m in full swing of dance rehearsals, will I even be able to train?
- I am not as in shape as I have been, is this something I can even do?
Despite all of the things telling me to say no, I said “absolutely!” Why would I hold myself back from an awesome opportunity? I had a feeling it was going to be difficult, but being able to embark on the trip of a lifetime with my siblings was going to be worth every ounce of difficulty.
The following Wednesday, October 11th, I went to All Pro Bicycles and purchased a Trek Domane AL 2 8-speed bike. If you are going to buy a bike anywhere I highly suggest going to see Gina and Maddie. It’s a family owned shop and they know their bikes. We have been purchasing our bikes from them for years and they are super great people who only have your best interest in mind. The next morning I took my bike out for its first ride and it was definitely something I was not used to. With the skinnier tires finding my balance was difficult. Another thing I knew I needed to practice was switching the gears. On a mountain bike your gears are on the top of the handlebars, so switching to gear shifters in the front of your handlebars was not easy for my small hands.
For the next two months my siblings, dad and I would take weekend bike trips around Simi Valley. We found this beautiful greenway that ran the whole length of the city and made our training safe instead of being on the road with the cars. The Friday after Thanksgiving we wanted to do a 60 mile ride from our house to Point Mugu and back. That morning we were all feeling great, the weather was perfect, and we set out ready to conquer our first 60 miler. We rode the greenway to Tierra Rejada and took that down to Moorpark road and then over to Santa Rosa. The ride to Point Mugu was smooth and we were making great timing. It took us 2 ½ hours to ride out there and then we turned around and headed to CSUCI for lunch. Before we set out to head back home my brother told us that we should be prepared for a little climb, needless to say it was not a little climb.
Turning left off of campus we headed East on Portrero road. The first hill we came upon was short, but steep and ended up being a category 3 climb. Once I got to the top of the hill I was winded, but continued on, thinking that was the “little climb” my brother mentioned. Looking ahead I saw a bit of a down hill and some flat road. As I headed down the hill something flew into my throat and I started coughing. I stopped my bike and tried to get the cough to stop, but my airway started to spasm and I began to have breathing issues. After I got my body to calm down I got back on my bike and I would bike a couple of feet before I would be stopped by another cough/breathing attack. At this point my brother and sister were far ahead of me and I had no cell phone reception, so I knew that I needed to keep going, but I was to the point where my body was no longer getting enough oxygen to create ATP. My muscles were done.
As I continued chugging along my sister had turned around and came looking for me. When she realized I couldn’t breathe she got off her bike and we walked a little ways to give my body some rest. As we were walking this car stopped and asked if we needed help, to which we responded that we were fine. He then asked if we had ever done this hill before and when we said no he said, “it’s brutal, then it gets more brutal, and then continues to get brutal.” Thanking him for stopping we continued walking until we found a safe pull out to stop. When we stopped my brother had turned around and came back to us. Knowing that I was done, but that we didn’t have cell service, we needed to get to the top of this road. My sister and brother took off on their bike and I walked up the hill until we were able to call my mom to come pick me up. That was the most brutal training day I had to date and it started to make me doubtful. Would I be able to do this trip?
Over the next 4 weeks I was only able to get two more training days in, maxing out at 47 miles in one day. My weeks were filled up with dance rehearsals and I wasn’t able to get any more time in on my bike. This was going to have to be enough. When December 26th came around my siblings and I woke up bright and early, put our bikes on the back of the car and headed out to Union Station. This was it, there was no turning back. We took the train from LA to Oakland and then biked the two miles from the train station to my friend Tanya’s apartment. Those short two miles brought on a quick realization for all of us, biking with our gear on the backs of our bikes was throwing off our balance. This was definitely going to add another challenge to our trip ahead. Getting to Tanya’s apartment we had a little scare because I opened the wrong apartment door, but once we were inside the right apartment we settled in and got a good night’s sleep before we started our bike trip.
On the morning of December 27th we headed to the bart station and took that into San Francisco. Once in San Francisco we had a few miles of biking up the city hills to get to Target for breakfast. By the time we got to Target and ate breakfast it was already 11:00 and so we decided not to head to Golden Gate park, but rather bike west to the ocean. When we got out of the city and came across the beautiful view of the ocean we had a moment of clarity. This is what we were here to do. Take in the beautiful views of the ocean while biking 450 miles to our home in Los Angeles. My goodness we were blessed!
Heading south along the PCH we were able to stay on a bike bath for a couple of miles, then we had to transition to the shoulder of the PCH. Hitting a couple of inclines we made it about 6 miles before we decided to break off into the neighborhood, opting for side street riding to stay off of the freeway. As we turned onto Skyline drive we were met with a category 4 climb, our first of 4 tough climbs on our trip. From the looks of the hill I knew that I did not want to waste my energy, so I chose to walk my bike up the hill. At the top of the hill I realized we were about to bike down a hill at the same incline, and I really do not like going down hills. White knuckling my breaks the whole way down we finally made it out of the neighborhood and continued on Oceana Boulevard until we found a nice place to stop and eat some lunch.
By the time we stopped for lunch it was close to 1:00 and we still had 40 miles to go for the day. Time was not in our favor and we were not looking forward to night biking, but at the pace we were going it more than likely would have to be done. I knew it was me that was holding us all back, the hills were getting to me and I was the slowest out of the 3 of us, but I wasn’t going to give up just yet. Heading back out onto the road we got back onto the freeway and biked a few more miles before we hit what is called the “Devil’s Slide.” Going into this section of the freeway you see a beautiful forest and a winding road that looks like a gradual climb. Don’t let it fool you, it is another category 4 climb that is about a mile long.
As we started the climb my sister went ahead and my brother stayed behind me. We were on a small shoulder with cars zooming by on our left and soft dirt on our right. Going off of the road either direction could turn out badly. About a quarter of the way up my body started to fatigue and it was no longer staying in a straight line. My entire body was shaking, causing my handle bars to drift out into traffic. Thankfully my brother stuck himself out into traffic to merge the cars over, allowing me room as I swerved left and right up this hill. With constant encouragement coming from him I only had to stop and take a break once. As we crested the hill we noticed a tunnel up ahead, which made all 3 of us extremely nervous. The shoulder we just biked on was scary enough, what would a tunnel bring? Thankfully as we were taking a break a man came off of a paved hiking trail and told us that it was the old road before they built the tunnel. We could bike that around the tunnel and find our way to the other side.
I slowly made my way along this paved trail, having to stop every 20 feet or so because my body was exhausted. Any type of incline, no matter how small, took all of my effort to bike up it. Knowing that we still had about 36+ miles until we got to our campground I began to worry. I wasn’t going to make it. We began looking at the maps and noticed that Half Moon Bay was a little over 10 miles away, so we decided to see how the next couple of miles went before we made any decisions. A couple of miles later we stopped at a gas station, bough two big bottles of Powerade, and booked a hotel in Half Moon Bay. Finishing our first day we biked by the Maverick’s surf point, went out for some Chinese food, and settled into our hotel to discuss our course of action for the rest of the trip.
Mentally I wanted to continue on with the trip, but physically I knew it was not something that would pan out with the limited time frame we were in. Yes, we did 2 out of the 4 hardest climbs on our first day, but my problem was getting my body to do 60-70 mile days. Knowing my limits I decided to call my parents and ask them to come pick me up. The plan was that my siblings and I would bike to the KOA in Pescadero, where we had planned to stay our first night, and my parents would pick me up there on Friday. Carissa and Chris would continue on to Monterey and we would pick them up there on Saturday and drive them around the mudslides in Big Sur.
Thursday morning, December 28th, we got on our bikes and headed out for our 27 mile day. With the shorter distance to travel we weren’t in as much of a hurry as we were the first day, which meant we could take our time and enjoy the gorgeous views biking along the ocean had to offer. My body was still tired from the day before, so I had to take the occasional break, but overall the day brought small rolling hills and amazing weather! Google maps wanted to take us off of the freeway and onto back roads, but we opted to stay on the PCH and we were extremely grateful for that decision.
Half way through our day we stopped at San Gregorio State Beach and we were treated to the most gorgeous lunch spot. Switching off between watching the bikes and hiking around the beach we took our sweet time taking in the breathtaking views and calming feeling the beach brought. As we headed back out onto the PCH our first climb was on a narrow bridge, which I opted to walk my bike. The way my body shook on the incline from the day before I did not want to be swerving out into the cars on this bridge. As the day continued on we came up to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We had originally looked into staying at the hostel they had on the property, but it was too expensive for our budgets. Since we were only 3 miles from our campground we stopped and toured the lighthouse. We saw the skull and ribs of a juvenile gray whale, and we learned that each lighthouse has a different timing between when their lights shine. As ships make their way up the coast they know where they are at based on the seconds that pass between each rotation of a lighthouse’s light. Pigeon point has a 10 second rotation, something I tested out later that evening as we were walking home from dinner.
Finishing up our last few miles we finally made it to the KOA in Pescadero. I highly recommend staying here if you are ever looking for a place to camp along the coast. Not only are the campsites beautiful, but the people are extremely nice. We had to change our reservation last minute the night before and I had to sit around waiting for my parents all day the next day. Even though I stayed 4 hours after check-out they accommodated me and allowed me to stay without any charge. After setting up camp we walked over to Highway 1 Brewing for dinner and then came back to our campsite and laughed the night away until bed time.
The next morning my siblings took off for their bike ride to Lover’s Point in Monterey and I hung around camp waiting for my parents to pick me up. I enjoyed the quiet of nature reading a book, walking around the campground, and spending some time watching deer walk through the fields. As sad as I was that my journey was coming to an end, I knew that it was necessary. A trip like this requires a longer time frame for 30 mile days, or it requires more training for 70 mile days. I will be back out to conquer this trip and knowing that my siblings are wanting to do it again so they can do the Big Sur section makes me super excited to have a future trip to take with them. I am beyond blessed to be able to go through life adventuring with these two. Not only do we push ourselves to do crazy adventures, but we have fun along the way.