I didn't sleep all that well in Ocotillo. It was hot and I woke frequently. Maybe it had something to do with all the beer I drank, something I had not done on the whole trip. Usually all I ever wanted was one. But this night was special. It was the last night of the trip so I kept throwing them back and having a grand time.
I woke up with the sun at the usual time, around 5:30, feeling pretty tired. I laid there for another 45 minutes before I finally dragged myself off the couch and put my dirty bike clothes on for the last time. It took me less than 20 minutes to get everything ready. Ida was still pretty much packed up from the night before. I looked outside to check on the wind. In Koh Pah pass is known to have extremely high winds pretty much all the time. Great. It was howling pretty good already. But whatever, I can do this.
Anxious to get the 12 mile climb over with, I said bye to my new friend, Jimbo, and headed up the pass. Yep, it was windy. But it wasn't so bad once I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to leave the range of 3.8-4.2 mph for a while. The road wound up and around beautiful mountains which consisted of stacks of smoothly rounded boulders. I didn't take a picture lest I fall off my bike and I wasn't about to stop in the middle of a steep climb. I got to a little flat stretch though, and was able to snatch a photo of the valley I had left behind.
And the road ahead
After three hours of climbing, I reached the top of the first and longest climb. Relieved, I pulled off on the exit I was supposed to take and took a break. While I was sitting there, something happened to my head. I don't understand how or why, but I completely lost all motivation to continue on. The change was so sudden it almost scared me. I was ready be done. Right that second. Wow, what a great time for this to happen, I thought to myself. But I literally could not make myself go on. So I stuck out my thumb, hoping to catch a ride just over the next three climbs and then get dropped off on the other side. But no one would pick me up. I remembered Jimbo saying he was heading to San Diego today and a bell rang in my brain. I called him up, pitifully and with shame asking if he was busy, if he would come get me. He said he would, of course. So I cried a little and waited by the road, completely disappointed in myself for cheating on the very last day. Even now, looking back with a more level head, I know there is no way I would've been able to mentally go on. The pass must have taken all my mental strength. I may never know what really happened.
My rescuer pulled up about 20 minutes later and we loaded up Ida and jetset down the road. I was amazed by how quickly we covered ground. It had been a while since I had been in a car. He took me over the rest of the pass and to Alpine, about 35 miles from San Diego. Then he bought me a sandwich and juice and we ate lunch with his friend Bob in the sun to keep warm; the temperature had dropped and the cool ocean breeze was now licking at our skin.
It was finally time for me to go...again. So I said goodbye to Jimbo...again. Thanks for saving me. Getting back on the bike was hard, even though i knew it was pretty much all downhill from here.
The rest of the ride was beautiful. I thought it would flatten out pretty quickly but the mountains pretty much go right down to the ocean. Even though I was doing city riding for the majority of this last stretch it was actually pretty nice. I got to climb a little to make up for the small ones I had shamefully skipped. After a little while, it became apparent I would not have finished today had I not caught a ride. Maybe that's what happened up on the mountain. I did have my heart set on it.
I rode down through Lakeside and some other small suburbs of San Diego, where I had a pretty nice bike lane almost the whole way. I rode through Mission Gorge Park on a beautiful bike path.
Sometime after this I started to get antsy. Only 15 more miles! I ran into another cyclist who was out for a day ride and we rode together for a sec while he asked me questions. When I told him I had ridden from Florida he looked at my bike and said, "on THAT thing?" I said this is an awesome bike. And then a hill came and he coasted faster than I, so he said bye and went on. I was glad. I was done with him. How dare he insult Ida!
Those last miles seemed to drag on forever. I was in the real city now. My quaint city streets had turned into full-blown highways with exits and interchanges and a really crappy bike lane. I ran over a pot hole so big and with such speed I thought for sure I would get a flat. But Ida prevailed, as always.
Finally, I got to turn left off of the busy road and go through a place called Fashion Valley. Oh, goodie! I needed a new handbag. I scooted through there pretty fast and soon I was on the Ocean Beach bike path. These last few miles went by pretty quickly. Finally, completely burnt out and so so so so relieved to be at the western terminus of my adventure, my tires rolled into the sand. I had made it.
I pushed Ida down to the water and stood by her as the Pacific lapped at her wheels. Ida, we are done. 3,000 continuous trans-continental miles by bicycle: check. I had a nice woman take my picture to properly capture the moment. The sun was behind me so it's a little dark but so was this day.
I went and laid in the sand for two hours while i waited for Craig to come pick me up. Amazing. It was over. I couldn't really wrap my head around it at the time, and even now, the morning after, I am still having trouble grasping it. It just feels like another rest day. Except with one difference: I don't have to ride into the wind tomorrow!!!!!
Craig came and got me and, after we dropped off my stuff at his dad's house in Escondido, and I showered, we went and had tacos at Pacific Taco #1(there is no pacific taco #2 in case you were wondering) and then went to the Stone Brewery!!!! An amazing and fitting end to this grand adventure. I've done two bike tours now and on both of them I have ended up at stone brewery at some point. I had two strong and delicious beers and then we left with full bellies. Craig has school all day today ad lives with his mom and his dad is out of town so I have this ridiculously awesome house all to myself until we leave tomorrow. This was the view when I woke up this morning.
That is Lake Hodges this house looks down on. There is also an epic pool which I might have to check out, you know, to make sure it is working properly.
And that's that. Tomorrow we are heading north to Humboldt. I could almost cry at how happy that makes me.
It is amazing how something so foreign to anything you've ever done can become your entire reality so quickly. After the first couple of weeks, I settled into this way of life as if I had never done anything else. It became me and I became it. When I was asked what I do for a living, I could honestly say I ride my bike, all day, every day. Because if I didn't, I wasn't living. And I liked the thought of that. I got rambling in my blood. If I sat still for more than a day I got anxious. If I wasn't traveling I wasn't living.
Now that it is over, I am left with a great sense of accomplishment and a plethora of fantastic memories, from the beautiful smell of green fields of cilantro in the imperial valley to that very first moment I felt such immense happiness from riding my bike I could only smile and cry and briefly forget that words were something I knew while I simply existed in that joyous moment. Or one of the several times I sat down on the side of the road and cried in frustration. This trip had it all. The good, the bad, the drunk, and everything in between.
I could sit here and tally any number of things. Money spent, rest days, miles skipped, whole pizzas eaten in one sitting, cravings for ice cream, amount of Gatorade consumed, flat tires, tiny dog pursuers, etc. But the important things are the those I cannot tally, like the feeling of being the only person on the road as the sun rises over a golden desert, or the feeling of finally not being in Texas anymore, or what it's like to become a part of this road you are traveling, to let it seep into the core of your existence until you share the same purpose: to go. To be.
Friends, this is a great and terrible thing I have done. Because now I must have more and there is no telling what possession I will sell next to pay for it. My name is Jess and I am addicted to bike touring. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is to ignore the first step and keep doing it. And I will. I will.
Well, I reckon this here is my sign off. Thank you thank you thank you all for your wonderful support and encouragement. You are what kept me going on the days I wanted to throw my bike into a precipice. And a special thanks to all those who donated money or your home for a night. I appreciate it more than you know.
Until next time, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. Seriously, because headwinds suck.
Love, love, love,