Armando & Mariana live in a grand house near Manzanillo, Mexico. They had lived in the US for a long time before and was highly appreciated by his US boss, who wanted to keep him for the company by helping with the necessary papers. Just before his papers were ready, Armando had to return to Mexico to take care of his parents, so it took a while before he could come back to the States.
Now all is arranged and regularly they visit their friends and relatives in the US, but always return to their native grounds, Mexico, to enjoy their mango trees, the outside kitchen and the chilli pepper-eating parrot.
They will try to help out local communities where they can in an evangelistically way. Firm believers, they put their faith in their God to take them safe across the open seas, but they are practical enough to keep a close eye on the autopilot…
Their irregularly updated blog can be found here.
Off the grid
Roberta lives in a small community together with other US citizens as well as locals.
There is no power or fixed telephone, they are ‘off the grid’. Power is generated by solar panel (and generator if really needed, but usually that is off) and much communication is done through radios.
She is a gifted painter and has not only made beautiful portraits of the people and places around her, but also painted her own house, above.
Ed ‘Eduardo’ Lusk is married with a Mexican woman and they run the well-known Baja’s Best restaurant together.
San Diego is the end point for most cyclist who travel down the West Coast, usually starting in Vancouver. Just 40km North of Mexico, it has the luxury and practical advantages of the USA while combined with the weather and relaxedness of the Mexicans.
Our friend Romke (from The Netherlands) had already told us that he loved it there and that he would love to move there and had sent us some addresses of friends he had met there.
We were planning to let our bodies and mind rest for a while here.
After staying with Daniel, we headed over to the nice Balboa Park for a relaxed day in the park, enjoying the sun. We stayed a few nights with Ryan & Meredith from the WarmShowers list. It is always nice to see how other cyclists share whatever they have with others.
After moving to nearby Kathryn and J’s place we started with the long job of updating our blogs and editing the many images we had taken the past months.
In theory it is easy to update the blogs in the evening after a day of cycling but in practice we were almost every night with friendly people, enjoying their company until bedtime. Of all the wonderful things we have seen in the US, the people top it all.
Rich or poor, young or old, everybody opened up there homes for us and treated us like kings. In my ‘1000 Americans Category’ I have placed a few dozen portraits of some of them, but it can do no justice to the way they have taken care of us during our trips down the Pacific Coast.
St Patrick’s Day 2009
Close to Ryan’s and Kathryn’s homes was the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, supposedly one of the largest one-day event. It was not so crowded, we could easily enjoy the long stream of Old-timers (both cars as well as people).
When the ‘Irishman of the year’ passed, many people around us started speculating what it took to get that title, but all agreed that it likely had to do something with loads of Guinness.. Note the sensible people below that advised everybody to ‘ride a bike’!
Out to the Ocean: Ocean Beach
We had agreed with one more WarmShowers host to stay with him. What we did not know at the time was that Saul would leave the next morning for his work in Seattle, leaving the place to us for more than a week. We did manage to get some fish tacos on the pier with him and his cycling friend, after another restaurant had refused us for not having an ID (Ivana is 33 and I am 38…).
It was great to have a home, where we could feel ourselves again, relax and do more work. Ocean Beach is the Western part of San Diego, and so far has resisted the push of the strip malls, McDonald’s and other negative American icons.
Instead, they have the best farmer’s market we had seen in all of the USA, a local co-op with organic food, local small shops, surfers on the beach and generally a very relaxed atmosphere.
Over to Point Loma
Saul’s mom surprised us as she was supposed to arrive later. She insisted we’d stay with her, but as Romke’s friend Martin had returned from his vacation, we moved to his place instead. It was only a few km away and though not next to the Ocean, Point Loma is a similar relaxed neighbourhood.
My knee was still the same and after more research, I realized that maybe my position on the bike could have caused the stress on my knee and decided to buy some new pedals and sandals with click-in SPD cleats to go with it.
This would force my legs to be straight, while also allowing for ‘pulling’ my legs up instead of just pushing them down.
Romke had introduced me to Chuck and as he lived close to the REI store where I found the sandals I wanted I visited him. It was nice to connect with Chuck and as he was also curious to meet Ivana, he picked us up the next day for a Japanese dinner near his house.
It was inspiring to see somebody who is older than Ivana and me together being so active and addicted to cycling, very inspirational and motivating.
Leaving the USA
We really enjoyed visiting the US, meeting the great people and seeing some of the best nature in the world.
We had witnessed with our own eyes how the election of Barack Obama had revived a national pride that had been covered in shame the past 8 years. Even though the global economic crisis was easily seen in the many friends we met that had lost their job, people had hope again.
We saw many initiatives to switch back from the global strip mall, war & TV culture to a more simple and peaceful, meaningful life with respect for each other and nature. We saw the possibilities that the US can offer her varied mix of citizens and felt privileged to meet all those kind hearts that make our trip so special.
As April came, we were getting restless. We had stretched our visas and hospitality of our guests as far as it could before breaking It was time to move on.
Strange enough many US citizens we had met had never been to Mexico, even though it is so close, you get there by just taking a wrong turn on the highway…
Since the media started reporting on the drug wars tourism was down and Tijuana and other border towns were avoided. Stubborn as I am, I would like to see the situation with my own eyes, before making a judgement.
Next report should be coming from Mexico!
Martin does environmental research for construction projects. Like many San Diegans, he tries to live ecologically and healthy, cycling where possible, recycling where possible and eating vegan.
Sometimes we thing we know a lot about cycling and travelling and then we are humbled to meet somebody like Chuck.
He has cycled all over, has a nice collection of bikes, some decades old. He is more active than most people half his age.
He is 73
The dog (‘Ceasar’) was a guest like us
Ryan & Merridith are a young couple from San Diego. They eat mostly vegetarian and live car-free, biking everywhere, while finishing up their studies. Math-major Ryan has cycled through Europe and the US.
I could not choose between portraits and as the above technically is a self-portrait, I included one more below
2nd March 2009: LA – Lomita via Santa Monica, 50km
We spent one more day and night with Claudia and Diego, watched our new favourite movie, Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (Jai Ho! became our new motto ) and then we headed out again. We wanted to start again, where we had been picked up by Diego, so we actually first went North-west, back to Santa Monica.
It took us about 20km right through Los Angeles, which simply confirmed itself to be a rather ugly place.
Not that we ever felt any danger (besides from ridiculously oversized trucks and SUV’s of course), most of the people on the streets were very friendly. But the roads are a mess (especially for such a car-centred society), trees and parks missing, and houses and streets dirty.
It reminded us more of something we had seen in developing countries than one of the most important cities of the USA.
Only when approaching the coast, the houses got cleaner again and the areas greener. We enjoyed the Sushi buffet one more time and headed down the coastline.
The weather was great again and we walked down the Venice Beach boulevard, receiving some small gifts and encouragements from the street vendors, the homeless and the neo-hippies. The route stayed nice, following the nearly deserted beaches all the time.
5 March: Lomita – Newport Beach, 60km
We had stayed two nights in Lomita, with a special host. Nepalese-born Shamu is the father of Japhy (Jeff), who is also cycling down from the US to Argentina. Just this same week, he had stayed with Ivana’s father and with her mother, both living close to each other in the San Juan province of Argentina, on the other side of the planet.
So while Jeff’s father was taking care of us, Ivana’s family was taking care of his son even though none of us had ever met before. That is the great thing about the hospitality of the CouchSurfing and WarmShowers hosts. Shamu also introduced us to one of his friends, who not only took us for a nice walk on the Redondo beach, but also taught us a lot about hydro culture and natural foods. Oh, and we watched Slumdog Millionaire again
The section through Lomita and Long Beach was one of the most horrible so far, traffic wise, with no shoulders and thousands of trucks, but soon enough we were along the beach again, where the wind blew us swiftly past kite-surfers towards Newport Beach.
We ended up staying a few nights with ‘Captain Bueno’ (his LA radio alter ego from the 70’s) and his kids and enjoyed talking about politics, technology, travel and life in general, while catching up with work and blogs.
8th March, Newport Beach – Carlsbad, 80km
We kept cycling close to the beach on another hot winter day. Just before entering the Military Zone (where cyclist can pass through as long as they have ID and a helmet and arrive before about 1500 hrs), we passed a strange sight: dozens of drinking bottles and a bike frame and –jersey were hung on the side of the road, a tragic memorial to a killed cyclist.
(edit: Steve Stuart send me the following correction/addition: “To clarify – it was a memorial but the the cyclist was the owner of a bike shop in San Clemente just north of there. He wasn’t “killed” but had a heart attack and passed away when riding at that spot. Your description sounded like a car hit him and I thought this was a little less depressing. At least he passed doing what he loved.”)
A bit further down the road we met a German biketraveller. Kris had just gone up from South America.
He had his camera robbed in Colombia, when some girl pretended she was interested in him. It caused such an outrage and shame when the local TV and radio found out that he got donated a new camera and he got new lenses almost free as well…
Somehow we managed to miss the right entrance of the military zone and suddenly found ourselves on the broad shoulder of the busy Interstate 5. Cycling was actually allowed here as besides the army zone, there is no other road.
At least it got us into Oceanside quickly, where we found ourselves arriving in Redneck Heaven; what had happened to all the nice little beach towns? It was a mess on the street and every car seemed to have extra exhaust pipes for extra noise, oversized tires, loud paintings, darkened windows and even louder music. I wanted to ask the drivers if they were born stupid or raised that way, but probably none of them never even saw me (or anything else with those windows), so I had to let them off the hook.
Maybe it was just the influence of the military bases nearby, as fortunately the atmosphere improved considerably when approaching Carlsbad and that evening we found ourselves in a nice house behind a huge plate of delicious lasagne and salad, prepared by bike advocate Steve and his wife.
9 March 2009: Carlsbad – San Diego, 60km
My knee was doing the same as before: quite ok during cycling, but afterwards it was hard to walk and only ice and NSAIDS (anti inflammatories) relieved. Before reaching San Diego, we had a few hills to climb, but they did not pose too many problems. The many small towns on the way looked nice, we were really getting into the surf-and-relax area.
Our guidebook managed to show us the way through the busier suburbs like La Jolla. On one very busy uphill road, a car was parked on the bike lane, with the driver still sitting inside. I honked my horn several times, but he just waved in the direction of the busy road where cars were passing non-stop at 50miles per hour. As I was barely going 10% of that, overtaking would mean suicide…
So I had no choice but to climb up the sidewalk. Normally I let things like these go, but I felt angry and tapped his window, which he lowered after a while.
“Excuse me, but what part of ‘No Parking, Bike Lane’ you don’t understand?” I asked him, pointing at the signs.
“Eh, I, I am not from around here..” he stumbled, which made me angrier.
“So you also do not stop for STOP or other signs here?”. He did not know what to say and just looked straight ahead.
“I am sorry, I am not from around here…” is all that he could utter, at which point I thought it would be wiser for both of us to just go and continue the climb…
Finally, San Diego
We arrived from the North West, first alongside nice beaches of Mission Bay, then along a busy road and finally a long shared walking/biking path alongside Harbour Drive. SD is situated nicely along some pretty bays and peninsulas, the weird thing is that the airport is exactly in the middle of several popular (and populous) neighbourhoods and every 2-3 minutes a jet would fly over the hills of Balboa Park, drop down quickly and land between a few highways. An accident waiting to happen and definitely not good for anybody’s health.
We worked our way up the steep hills of Broadway until we found the house of Daniel Wolf. We only stayed with him for a night, but he was the first of a few interesting hosts that would help make San Diego feel like home, a last stop before heading into the great unknown called Mexico…