Day 31: Carpinteria State Beach to Leo Carrillo State Park - Four Legs on the Slow Road - CycleBlaze

September 26, 2014

Day 31: Carpinteria State Beach to Leo Carrillo State Park

I wake up exhausted. Despite everything that's gone well so far, one of the things that's most important to me on any kind of long journey has been all but missing: a day off. All else being equal, I would have taken three or four days completely off from riding by this point in our trip if I could. But in part because Kristen wants to spend as much time with her family in Los Angeles as possible, and in part because we haven't often stayed in places we'd want to spend a full day mucking around in, we've only taken one day off, back in Sisters, Oregon. That was twenty-three days ago. That's more than three straight weeks of riding over mountains and hills and along valleys and coastlines while carrying almost everything I still own. In the process I've fallen behind in writing and picture-taking and work. I can hardly find the time to keep the bike chains lubed, or shave, or cut my hair, or even shower. From the time I wake up until the moment my eyes close the days have filled themselves with figuring out where to go, where to eat, where to sleep, racing against daylight that fades hours before it seems like it should, and trying to describe all of it. Even though I love this adventure, and there's nowhere else I'd rather be, nor anything else I'd rather be doing, it's still exhausting.

Beyond Carpinteria we end up on a bike path no more than fifty feet from where the waves crash ashore into the sand and the rocks, where clumps of seaweed start to stink under the heavy glare of the sun, where we can feel the spray from the waves, where birds with long beaks uncover and then eat bugs buried deep within the sand, and where we hear the beautiful rushing sound generated by the tumble and churn of unsettled ocean water. It's a rare stretch where no train tracks or houses or state parks stand between us and the Pacific.

The highway screams like an angry child thirty feet off to the other side, but by now we're not surprised. Instead we save that sense of surprise and amazement for more unusual things, like the fact that rollerblading is still something that people around here do for exercise, without even the smallest hint of irony.

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Soon after we cross into Ventura County we see before us a long, curving, unbroken string of white. It isn't waves crashing along the bend of the coast or a series of feeding sea birds, but a fleet of RVs, motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth-wheels. When these huge things pass by us on the road — with half the tires either sneaking onto the shoulder or leaking over into the other lane and making the oncoming drivers' assholes clench tight with fear — a thought that sometimes enters my head in the moments after I think horrible things about both their driving and money management skills is that it's nevertheless impressive how self-contained they are, how they can travel all over America carrying everything they need with them, no matter how thin I think that definition of need might be.

But as we pass by the herd that rests next to us this morning I realize how inaccurate that is. None of them stand alone next to the shore. Instead they're flanked by an army of equipment, from satellite dishes and generators to motorcycles, dune buggies, chairs, tables, barbecues, awnings, traffic cones, tire chocks, air conditioning units, leveling jacks, pads to be used in conjunction with leveling jacks, tiki torches, garbage cans, coolers, precise rectangles of astroturf, cruiser bicycles, surfboards, and American flags, to give an incomplete list. It goes on like this, without a break, for more than a mile. It's so strange to me, this idea that a vacation or a full retirement could consist of traveling hundreds or thousands of miles from home, only to arrive at a destination, attempt to recreate the comforts of that home, and then sit around surrounded by that forest of accessories with the expressed goal of doing as little as possible.

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With great relief and series of offensive commentaries we lose the RVs and the highway and ride along the water most of the way to Ventura. We go past open stretches of beach and rock, watch the surface of the ocean glisten like ten-thousand diamonds, and at several points look out at no fewer than a hundred surfers, all in black wetsuits and bobbing and paddling and shredding on the breaks. All of it happens under the flawless Southern California sunshine, with the sweet breeze and the palm trees all around us, like a postcard come to life.

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We continue the pattern of marching through at least one major city every day by cranking across the collected mass of Ventura, Oxnard, and Port Hueneme. But because the bike lanes are wide and consistent, the tailwind is strong, and the pizza might be some of the best I've ever had, it's not quite the punch to the babymaker that we were afraid we might find.

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Among the bike lanes, boulevards, and barbed wire of Port Hueneme.
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Beyond the last barbed wire fences of the naval air base we cruise along Highway 1 with the Santa Monica Mountains dropping down almost straight from the sky to our left in shades of red and tan and green that look burnt by the setting sun. To our right it's the opaque cobalt blue of the Pacific Ocean. If you didn't know that Los Angeles was less than a day's ride away you'd lose your mind from shock when you get there. What we see out here — with the sand, the surf, the seagulls, and the sandpipers all within spitting distance and not obscured by mansions or grocery stores or thousands of weekend beach goers — is so far removed from the kind of density, awful air quality, and expensive but still tasteless fashion that lies in wait.

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Not half an hour later a motorcycle screams past us with the throttle wide open. It's followed moments later by another motorcycle, except this one has mounted to it an array of camera rigging that's so complex it kind of looks like scaffolding. The second motorcycle is itself followed by a Porsche SUV, with the sort of antennas on top that tell us the people inside are watching in real time what the second motorcycle is filming. The first homes of Malibu are just starting to appear in the distance and already we've been made extras in a movie.

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Around the bend we see the motorcycles and the chase vehicles and a few other cars stopped. The drivers and the crew mill about just off the edge of the shoulder with engines idling. A few of them look at me as I roll past. As I look back at them I see a face I recognize. It's an unshaven, trucker-hatted Keanu Reeves, explaning to the dozen or so people huddled around him how the last take was alright, but then rattling off a long list of things they need to do in order to make the shot better on the next take.

The Los Angeles cliches write themselves.

Keanu Reeves not pictured.
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So close.
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A few moments after the sun drops out of sight below the outline of the Channel Islands we roll into Leo Carrillo State Park and grab the last hiker-biker site. As we ride to the park's little store we enter a world of campfire and screaming children and the smell of barbecuing meat, all of which operate at peak capacity because it's Friday night and we're only thirty miles from L.A. We celebrate our last night of camping in America until March with cans of Fosters and Sapporo, because nothing commemorates a month-long bicycle ride and the promise of future international travel better than watered-down beer that's made in the United States but pretends to be a gift from abroad. Paired with a combination of Minute Rice, boxed Indian food, and string cheese that we prepare in darkness, it's a night of high luxury set to the sounds of crickets, still-screaming children, and of course the dull drone of cars that speed past on the highway, because it wouldn't be a bicycle trip in Southern California without it.

Today's ride: 53 miles (85 km)
Total: 1,417 miles (2,280 km)

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