Monday, October 18, 2010

Final Lap! Newport Beach, Encinitas, San Diego, and Tecate

::Touting my own literary prowess::
The long-awaited, much-discussed pinnacle of writing set to signify the climax of the Border2Border event is upon us! Feast upon my following piece de resistance!

Okay, that may have been a bit excessive, but I'm in the zone. Something about biking a few thousand miles through 3 countries caters well to some enthusiasm. I'm going to try and focus here for a minute, though, and recount the last few days events in unabashed detail. Put your seatbelt on.

Picking up where we left off - we rolled out of Santa Monica with sightseeing in LA on our mind, and headed straight for the Sunset Strip and the famous Hollywood Sign. Sunset Strip was exciting to see - we rode right past the Whiskey A Go Go and the Viper Room (as rock and roll as it gets). We cruised along Hollywood Blvd. and saw a lot of the famous "stars" in the pavement, which was cool. Eric may or may not have posed for a picture with Chuck Norris' star. At the end of our ride down Hollywood, we were able to see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hills. Pretty quintessential LA sightseeing.

We headed south out of LA around the Peninsula, following Highway 1 past Venice Beach and through Palos Verdes. Venice is truly the ghetto-by-the-sea, complete with a prison-style beachfront showcased a rusted skeleton of the famous "Muscle Beach" and luxurious cast-iron public restrooms. Pleasant. The attitude gradually shifts from that to euphoric as you get into Palos Verdes. Pretty high end living around those parts, and it contributed to an enjoyable riding day. We hammered along 1 all the way through Long Beach and Huntington Beach, breathing in coastline riding for one of the last times this trip.

We made great time on the day (even with the sightseeing), and made it all the way to Newport Beach before the sun started flirting with the horizon. If you've never been to Newport Beach, it's fancy. There's a Bentley dealership across the street from the Porsche dealership. It's like that. Fortunately, the town isn't without its down-to-earth people. While refueling at a local supermarket we met a lovely local girl named Lindsey, who is a bit of a traveler herself. She's lived in Europe and Egypt - two places I personally have on my list as well. It was very cool to talk travel with her, and she seemed pretty excited about the whole TakeYourBike project. I think she empathized with our plight as homeless travelers, as she offered us a place to stay for the night. She and her roommates were very gracious hosts, and we ended up leaving Newport Beach the next morning with a very positive impression of the place.

With only 63 miles between us and our destination the following day in Encinitas, we took it easy and enjoyed the beachfront ride all day. We leisurely stopped in Oceanside and Carlsbad, and arrived in Encinitas just before sundown. We spent a few hours touring the town and enjoyed a coffee at a local shop; I'd venture to say that the town won us over even before we met our hostesses. Kelsey, Jerah, and Karene are some of the nicest and most life-loving girls we've met on this tour yet. Meeting them is another positive credit to Couchsurfing, a great non-profit organization that we've worked with on this trip. We spent our evening there skating around the neighborhood with Kelsey, and enjoying a bottle of wine and some pleasant conversation.

Rising in the morning, we realized that we only had 20 miles to ride to our San Diego destination, and decided to spend much of the day in Encinitas. We had a leisurely breakfast, skating some more, played beach volleyball (Chelsea and I won, and are retiring undefeated), and had an unbelievable lunch thanks to Kelsey's cooking skills. We left Encinitas reluctantly around 3 PM, but we still had an adventure to complete. Heading south to San Diego....

We arrived in San Diego after dark due to Eric and I's inability to ride in a straight line, and were greeted by our friends Jeanne and Kevin, who agreed to host us for the night. Kevin had to work, so we only had his company for a bit, but we enjoyed going out for a drink with both he and Jeanne. The bar of choice had a rooftop seating area, and you could see the waves crashing on the beach from our table. Pretty cool.

Rising the next morning, we woke with only one thing on our mind - Mexico! (note: we were so focused on our finish line, we forgot to wash our dishes from dinner the night before... sorry Jeanne and Kevin - we'll make it up to you!). We started riding in overcast weather, and it progressively worsened throughout the day, unfortunately. We started the ride in Canada in the rain, and it seemed fated to end in Mexico in the rain. We recommitted ourselves and pressed on - only 50 miles separated us from sweet victory! We rode through the eastern county in the rain all day, up and down, up and down. Our cyclometers told us that we were getting closer..... as we hit about 10 miles to go, a peculiar thing happened. I'm not sure what the technical term is, but I started to become overly anxious that we were so close. Thoughts of "What am I supposed to do now?" and "What if we can't cross the border?" and "What's next? Do I want to finish this?" started to enter my head. I've heard of a similar condition whereby marathoners suffer from depression and lackluster energy levels after completing their goal - after all, after you've accomplished what you set out to do, what's next? Where's the challenge? It was a very interesting ordeal to experience. I wrestled with the situation for what seemed to be an eternity, then: there it was. "Welcome to Tecate". I almost fell off my bike. Eric and I stopped for a victorious photo opportunity (above), and couldn't stop laughing. Something about finishing was absolutely hilarious. We had made it, but there was still one more box to check.

We rode down the hill into the town of Tecate to meet with Amy and Dyland and victoriously cross the border. Suspense was high, and we were all pretty interested to see what the hype was all about crossing into Mexico. After all, pretty much everyone we've met on this tour has cautioned us that it was pretty dangerous right now. We'd been unswayed by any of this the whole trip - plenty of things in the world are dangerous, and many of them are worth the risk. Moreover, we weren't going deep into Mexico - our destination was just over the border. How bad could it be?

Mom, you've got two options here:
a.) read all about the lovely sights Mexico has to offer here.
b.) don't read anything at all, and just pretend that Mexico is lovely, and that we had a great time there.

But, since you're going to keep reading anyway, just remember that we're all okay, and everything is alright.

Guess what? Mexico IS really as sketchy as everyone has told us. In California, they even sell Mexico insurance at the convenience store at the border. I'm just going out on a limb here, but usually insurance is for when you put yourself in a dangerous situation. As in "car insurance" for when you drive a vehicle that kills millions upon millions every year. As in "health insurance" for when you do stupid things like actionsports and jump off of cliffs for fun. As in "Mexico insurance", for when you (for some stupid reason) have to go into Mexico. Intense. But let's get to the story, shall we? First off, you can actually walk into the country. There's an undeniable feeling of lawlessness when you can casually stroll across a border with no one saying anything to you at all. Compared to the background check and 20 questions routine coming into the States, it was a little unnerving. We couldn't stop laughing about how easy it was to walk into Mexico. Absolutely ridiculous. Our laughter stopped, however, when a few local flew past us on the street riding fourwheelers. Weird enough on its own (the whole fourwheeler in traffic thing), we were put to even more unrest by the fact that they were wearing Kevlar bulletproof vests. That's the sort of thing that you don't really see that often. After they rode past, the whole situation didn't feel right. It became incredibly apparent that we weren't somewhere that we were supposed to be, and that the "rules" that applied just a few feet north of us had exactly zero bearing where we stood then. We decided as a group that walking the Tecate Brewery (just a few blocks away) was probably not the best idea, and settled on picking up our victory beers at a local corner store. Walking in, we felt a bit better (they had more Tecate than any store I've ever been in in my life - see above), but a general feeling of hostility was pervasive. We took the time to salute our trip with a cold Tecate in Tecate, but that was about it. After nearly catching the attention of local police (who, by all accounts, don't really adhere to much of the law), we decided that a mainline back stateside was in order. We met some fellow Americans who were headed back as well, and we all made our way to the border en masse. Getting back into the States was easy (in comparison to crossing back in from Canada), and we were glad to close the Mexican chapter of our story.

We all loaded up into the truck (yes, all four of us - Eric and I are allowed to ride in a vehicle now!) and headed back north to Encinitas. Our ride back was fairly non-conversant; I was trying my hardest to process what we had accomplished in the last few weeks. If and when I do sort all of that out, I'll let you know. It's pretty weighty stuff.

Our hostesses in Encinitas offered their home to us for the next few days, and we're recharging our batteries. A lot of tea, relaxing, and recovery is in order.

I'm pretty proud to have accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and I can't wait for the next big adventure. Does wintering in Tahoe count? We'll see....

I'm off to the Bay area for a few days to tie up a few things and secure our home for the winter, then it's off to Tahoe City to start work. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to that. That, and snowboarding. Every day. Fall, snow, fall.

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