Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Santa Monica + Camarillo

Our time in Morro Bay was very pleasant. Our host Ben and his (as he himself put it) "5 or 6 roommates" were all very nice people, and made us feel very welcome in their home. Ben is a fisherman, and even treated us to samples of his very own fresh-caught fish. A roof over our heads and showers rejuvenated the group, and we set out for the road once again feeling great.

Our destination was a stretch of coastline designated "Gaviota", which resides right where Highway 1 reacquaints itself with the Pacific. We rode through the day on some undulating California roads, and I will fondly remember the riding of this day as one of my favorite stretches of this tour. We arrived in "Gaviota" with about 30 minutes of sunlight to spare, and felt great. I use quotes to designate "Gaviota" because it would seem to me that it isn't really a town. Or a township. Or a neighborhood. There isn't even an exit off of the highway in the area, which (to me) would indicate an area not really worthy of being a named town on a map. Being a bit isolated with no real options for a place to stay the night, we got creative. We noticed a dirt feeder road that stretched away from the highway that appeared to be a sort of access road, and took our chances. With dwindling sunlight, what did we have to lose? Our longshot road snaked its way up the adjacent hillside to our salvation: a fire station. The firefighter community has been very hospitable to us, and we were quite relieved to find them here. They were as welcoming as we've grown accustomed to them being, and they offered us a place to camp for the night. They warned us, however, that we'd be competing with wind and rattlesnakes. We found a flat(ish) swath of land that was already home to a few short cacti (read:pillows), and set up our tent, all the while laughing about invading rattlesnakes' home territory. We arranged ourselves "comfortably" around the bulges in the floor of our homestead created by the resident cacti, and embraced the situation wholeheartedly. Then the wind picked up.... We all laid awake laughing hysterically as 20-30 mile per hour winds whipped at our tent and threatened to take our home to the sea for a few hours, then grew tired at about the same time as the wind. By 11 or so the winds had subsided, and we drifted off to sleep.

Fortunately for us, our home in "Gaviota" was south-facing, so we were treated to a magnificent sunrise over the mountains to the east. For almost our entire trip we've been witnessing magnificent sunsets but haven't been able to enjoy the sunrises due to the inherent directions of our travels. The singularity of our sunrise experience made this morning one to remember, and we got underway shortly thereafter.

Our destination for the day was Ventura, but we took some time to explore Santa Barbara, and I'm glad we did. We saw some great sights and met some great people. I couldn't take my eyes off of the mountains rising to the sky to the east, and my head was filled with thoughts of great training rides up the local hills. Eric would've killed me if I so much as suggested climbing any of them, so I'll have to go back to test my mettle another day. Two of the gentlemen we met in town were some fellow biketourers named Symon and Martyn from England. They're doing Vancouver to San Diego in an effort to raise money to aid the fight against Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. You can follow there journey here. We also stopped into Hazard's Cyclesport, a local bike shop of great reputation, and met Sergio, the man behind the legend. He's a very outgoing guy that lives his biking passion, and was a thrill to spend some time with. He even offered us some locally-made enchiladas. He and the rest of Hazard's has earned my business whenever I'm in Santa Barbara.

We rode the rest of the day on the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Ventura, and arrived with some time to tour the downtown area. Ventura is one of those "hush-hush" surfing towns in southern California, and the energy there is very positive. We got so caught up in it that we lost track of time, and before we knew it the sun was setting. That being the case, we were forced to get resourceful and find a place to camp for the night.

I pride myself on being creative and extroverted, and this was a perfect opportunity to put those character traits to the test. I did the only thing I could think of, and for humor's sake I think I'll narrate in third person:

Chris walks into local coffeehouse.
Chris approaches table of 3 girls sipping coffee and opens with the line, "Hi, I'm on a 3-country bike tour, and we've run out of sunlight for the day. That being the case, I'd like to find a place to camp nearby. Could you recommend your favorite place to camp with 12 feet of this coffeehouse?"
The girls seemed casually amused, but collectively could only recommend campgrounds some 1200 feet away. When Chris suggested that we prefer to avoid real "campgrounds" (and such a ridiculous distance), they recommended that he approach their friends that lived exactly 27 feet from the coffeehouse and ask about camping in their lawn.
Chris sauntered over to the "Chateaux" (the girls had a name for their friends' home), and walked up to the front door to find it ajar. Brazenly, Chris entered the "Chateaux" and introduced himself with the line, "Hi, I'm on a 3-country bike tour, and we've run out of sunlight for the day. That being the case, I asked a few random girls drinking coffee across the street if they could recommend a campground, and they pointed me to your lawn. I felt it might be prudent to introduce myself before casually pitching a tent in your lawn."
Our new friends (and guardians of the Chateaux) replied, "You've got some guts to go about casually asking strangers for a home. That's cool. We've even got a tree fort in our lawn you guys can use. I'll turn off the sprinklers. You want to watch the Monday night game with us?"

Welcome to the wonderful world of vagabonding.

Chris x2 and David (who actually had a Tecate cape! - perhaps I can get one when I bike to the Brewery from Canada next week) turned out to be great people, and we had a blast staying with them (and watching the Monday night game). The world is a great place if you put yourself in a position to enjoy it.

We rose with the sun in Ventura and set out for Santa Monica. Before arriving at our final destination for the day, however, a detour was necessary.

It's been a focal point of my trip since I started planning this adventure, and today was the day to return to place of my birth. Camarillo, CA was a place on my birth certificate and nothing more until this visit, but now I know what it's like there. Returning felt great, and I feel as though I've accomplished something. We rode through the town in perfect weather, and I felt a real kinship to the area. I was a bit disappointed to not see a "Birthplace of Chris Cloyd" sign underneath the "Welcome to Camarillo" sign, but I've already emailed the mayor in an effort to correct this. We pedaled our way all the way to Pleasant Valley Hospital, where I was born. I took a minute to stroll inside and see if the doctor who delivered me was still there, but unfortunately he retired some time ago. The kindhearted lady at the reception counter said I looked good, and that I should come back after another 25 years so they can rest assured that I'm still in good shape. It was a neat feeling in the hospital and thinking, "This is the first place I was. EVER." It was also the only hospital I've ever been in that didn't feel suffocating and sterile. They even had murals on the walls inside. That's the way it should be.

We rode from Camarillo to Santa Monica, and stopped in Malibu for a quick lunch. Not a bad day.

I am writing this post from the comforts of our host and hostesses' home here now. Linda and Jeremy have contributed more than they know to the positivity of our experience here, and we look forward to exploring the area today. On the list are stops at Venice Beach, the world-famous Hollywood sign, and the Santa Monica Pier. After we arrived last night, we all enjoyed dinner together, and the TYB crew explored the 3rd Street Promenade afterwards. I could do that again for one reason alone: the Bellagio Sipping Chocolate. I can't even begin to describe this drink, but you could come close by using the words "liquid chocolate utopian pinnacle of modern culinary prowess". If that doesn't cut it, you can read about it here.

I'm off to rest my legs and read a bit before exploring the town, then it's back to the bikes tomorrow. On to Huntington Beach!

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