Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Sightseeing in San Diego

December 5th, 2011

Actually I wasn’t. Sightseeing that is. Get to see quite enough from the handlebars. Time off the road a chance to catch up on domestics, writings and ramblings. And often a chance to chat with fellow travellers. Or at least observe. Endlessly fascinating.

A middle-aged chap whose efforts at flirtation with those less than half his age bordering on the contemptible. But never when his elderly mother, with whom he was travelling, was around. I think she knew.

An English woman. Londoner. Musician. Saxophone, mostly modern jazz. Drawn to hostels to escape the suffocating isolation of bland, lonely motel rooms. And a Swiss long-haul cyclist I rather liked. Chatted with her late into the night. Then the next morning. The reason I was late leaving San Diego. Enjoying her company.

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Reduced to pulp

December 5th, 2011

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The final push into San Diego, a few days off the road in a small hostel close to the coast, was, at best, turgid. Mostly steady, heavy rain. Icy cold, the only respite the odd hour when it eased back a little to drizzle. It felt warmer but probably wasn’t.

A generously sized cheese and bean burritto had raised spirits a little, bought from a small campground cafe. Even the odd sip of warm coffee did little to improve matters. It was fundamentally a terrible day.

The ride into San Diego should have been relatively short – perhaps forty miles at most. To a carefully chosen hostel, expectation it would be quiet, and conventionally located. And it was. Problem was the cycle route had endless twists and turns, necessitating frequent stops to check the navigation. Quickly reducing my guide book to pulp.

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Disappointing stop in San Luis Obispo

December 1st, 2011

I didn’t rate the hostel in San Luis Obispo. Filled out a Comment Card to this effect and dropped it in the mail. Often do this, usually in praise. But not this time. Restrictive Quiet Hours – until eight in the morning, the members kitchen closed until then. Seven I thought reasonable, the accepted norm. But not eight.

A small sign explained that the filter coffee machine could be turned on by earlier risers. But still contained the used grounds from the previous day. Another notice suggested a donation for the inclusive pancake and maple syrup breakfast. Three bucks. I’d be willing to consider covering costs, but not contributing to profit.

I’d risen just after five. Complete a few jobs whilst it was quiet. Eager then to leave and return to a final few days of camping before LA. Distinct feeling the hostel’s owner didn’t care much for the place. Neither did I.

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Hostel nights in San Luis Obispo

December 1st, 2011

Her hair was unkempt and she’d one leg. Amputated below the knee. Or so it appeared. Possible the lower limb was just strapped up. I couldn’t be sure. An old trick to illicit pity. The hostel was full, explained the manager. There was a motel nearby he suggested. Eighty bucks for a room. She muttered a little and then quietly left.

I’d reached San Luis Obispo late afternoon, the end of a relatively short day’s ride from Cambria. By the time I’d eventually found the hostel, satisfied I’d seen as much of the college town as I’d ever need to. Ostensibly a quiet suburban street, but around the corner there’d been three Police cruisers parked up. Domestic.

I’d started to see a few more drifters around. Getting closer to LA. The guidebook advising you should soon avoid camping in State Parks until the far side of the city. Real risk you might wake up with nothing. Assuming you wake up. I’d arranged to stay in hostels or be hosted by fellow cyclists.

Four bed dorm for the night. Initially a bit suspicious of one of my companions, striking up a conversation. Mostly out of genuine curiosity as to who he was. But, as I’d sometimes do at campgrounds, a chance to build rapport, to show I too am a person, not a mark. Gently weaving into the conversation a few subtle hints that I’m also not a soft touch for miscreants.

John arrived a little later. Executive chef setting up in town. Loud, personable Cuban New Yorker. We chatted about Castro’s enduring presence for a while before I retired to the common room to do some writing. Then a brief foray to the local supermarket. Pricey I thought. A few provisions for the days ahead.

It was dark by the time I’d returned to the hostel. Brief check of my trusty steed, secured as best I could to the bike rack outside. Inside, John was by now holding court at the long wooden communal table. Four wives. Left Cuba at three. I opted for the sofa, scribblings for the blog.

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Brandon at Bridge Street

November 30th, 2011

Introducing Brandon. Proprietor of the Bridge Street Inn hostel in Cambria, central California. An eclectic if somewhat zany clip, featuring cast iron cookware, sourdough bread, poetry reading and guitar playing. And Chinese panties. Brandon also does stand-up.

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Homely cosy in Cambria

November 30th, 2011

Ken stops for a couple of nights in a home hostel in Cambria, central California..

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Waffling on

November 28th, 2011

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I liked Monterey hostel. Even if it was in neighbouring Pacific Close. Which I also liked. And I particularly liked the arrangements for breakfast. Make your own waffles. Mine were an edible first attempt, the burnt bits hidden by an over flowingly generous coating of hazelnut spread.

Despite a late night, I’d risen early. They’d be ample time, I’d reasoned, to catch up on sleep once I reached my camp site that evening. Few jobs to do before I left, and a challenging sixty miles of coastal riding to be done before sunset. Up a little after six.

I’d have been tempted to spend a day in Monterey, but wanted to make more ground to the south whilst the good weather held. Finding myself increasingly tactical, exploiting situations to best effect. Laundry facilities, WiFi, weather, terrain.

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Lighthouse family

November 27th, 2011

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"I’m more of a landfill person" I explained. The woman had asked if the hostel, a delightful affair comprised of a series of cottages besides Pigeon Point lighthouse, did recycling. She seemed unimpressed with my teasing reply. It’s not that I’ve anything against dolphins of course, or that we shouldn’t do more to protect the environment for future generations.

But I do struggle to grasp why vendors frequently leave their organic vegetables caked in mud. And where I do have a problem is that whilst everyone is doing their little bit, laudable though that might be, there’s a danger that this engenders a false sense of progress and a failure to address the real problem. Industrial pollution.

Time, I thought to retire for the evening. Decent distance to ride the next day, close on eighty miles. In part because I’d chosen to stay at a second lighthouse hostel, a little on thirty miles from the previous one at Point Montara. Fantastic locations. Friendly staff. But at Pigeon Point things didn’t seemed to have quite gelled with my fellow hostellers in Dolphin cottage.

Rustling the map in the cosy common room had raised a few eyebrows. Silent tutting. I’d ignored this. Tapped a little harder on the computer. A late arrival had asked what one did for food – did you just help yourself? Someone politely pointed out you had to bring your own. People like that scare me. I’d found myself wondering if I was the only one not afflicted with OCD.

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Two go down to the lighthouse

November 27th, 2011

Ken, together with trusty steed Emma, spend the night at Pigeon Point lighthouse. Hoping for clear skies, for he’s spotted the fog horn..

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Lighthouse blues

November 27th, 2011

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Loeva and Flo – short for Florian – were surfers. And French. Her native accent not easily discernable, the result of studying in Bangor, North Wales, and work experience in Fort Worth, Texas. Curious combination I thought. How, I asked, did one fair surfing in Texas? Tropical storms she replied. We were sharing the same hostel.

My exit earlier in the day from San Francisco had been far less tedious than I’d expected. Straightforward navigation. Retracing my steps back to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then a decent street map to lead me south. Heading a little less than thirty miles or so to stop at Point Montara hostel. With a lighthouse. Very Enid Blyton.

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I’d relished the chance to return to stopping in smaller hostels and wasn’t disappointed. Friendly, convival atmosphere. Vicky at Reception had come for a year. About five years ago.

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