Sunday, December 26, 2004

Sunday 26th December, Pine Valley, CA

52 miles, at least 4000 ft of climb!

I’m having a great time! Christmas was amazing, but I’ll write about that later. Woke up at 6.30 this morning and put everything together and had a bowl of Lucky Charms, then Jimmy drove me to Ocean Beach. I got pretty nervous! V. sad to say goodbye to Jimmy – him and his family have been so so kind. But I think he’ll come to Scotland.

Set off through early morning San Diego. It wasn’t too bad – big roads and freeway entrances – but it was early so traffic was light, and the map gave me a good route. But it was pretty dull – just going through ugly built up areas for hours. Was one nice section through a park on a pedestrianised path. But it was a really tough day and I didn’t enjoy it much – really tough climb from sea level to 4000+ feet over 50 miles. And it was the first time in four and a half years I’d cycled with full panniers, and the only other time recently I’ve done that distance was a few weeks ago with Lyndsay on the flat.

The route got out into the countryside eventually, but it was mostly following (and at one point on) Highway 8, which was busy and noisy. The other hassle is that I forgot to buy gas in San Diego, and I can’t find the right can anywhere. But the bonus of that is that I got to go into lots of random stores, and saw a guy with the most amazing facial hair in the world – including a big white tuft down his neck.

Saw loads of road cyclists about all day, and towards the end of the day one caught up with me so we chatted. I mentioned I was looking for somewhere to camp, and a few minutes later she came back to me at the store I’d stopped at and said I could camp with her group of 50 cyclists at a school in the village! It’s really cool – they are a really friendly interesting mix of people from all over the USA, and they’re giving me supper and breakfast and let me use the shower! So sociable and fun – just what I needed after a really tough day.

Spent the evening chatting to lots of nice interesting people. Loads of v. superfit people – loads have done marathons and ‘ultramarathons’ – 100 miles in 24 hours. There’s a nice Wall Street Banker for Goldman Sachs who’s an iron man person. Nice girl from Phoenix who offered to let me do my washing at hers when I got there. Had a huge and tasty meal – salad, spaghetti and veggie sauce. Lots of nice hot ‘cider’ (non-alcoholic), good cookies too. The only problem now is that everyone has to take turns to talk about themselves and it’s taking ages and getting a bit dull and I’m tired and would rather visit the pub across the road.

Christmas was amazing! We drove over to Jimmy’s parents at 8.45 – it was a great morning. Had a delicious breakfast of French Toast roasted with egg (nice), also scrambled egg, donut things. Then all opened presents. Jim & Connie gave me some American sweets and a really nice T shirt – surfing T shirt for local beach near the spiritual retreat Jimi Hendrix used to use.

I gave his gran and parents two sets of mum’s Burns postcards – they really liked them. Also gave them some chocolates. Gave Jimmy a CD with a mix of British recent band MP3s.

Me, Jimmy and his dad Jim drove to the beach to look at the surf. When we got back we bumped into Josh and went back to the beach with him and Nathan. Had a coffee and paddled and walked a mile or so along beach. Loads of people surfing. Beautiful hot sunny day. Bizarre.

Went back for huge Christmas meal. I bought a MacSween’s veggie haggis, which everyone liked, also had great stuffing, peas, fresh home-made rolls, and two types of this weird Jello stuff that Americans are into [I discovered later on my journey that it’s actually a Californian thing]. It’s jelly as a savoury. One was green with fake whipped cream stuff. The other one was made by their guest and was red and really tart and weird.

I helped Joy and Jessica wash up, while Jimmy played guitar and his dad played banjo. They did the duelling banjos, which I really like. Then we had pudding – my first ever pumpkin pie! Tasty, surprisingly light and subtle. It’s got a pastry crust and a very fluffy sweet pumpkin filling. I had it with a glass of what they call cider – non alcoholic hot spicey apple drink. Lovely. I was so full!

I sadly said my goodbyes to the family. I’m so glad I’ve been able to see them again. And they’ve been so kind! Me and Jimmy went back to his to feed the dogs and I unpacked my bike. It had been a bit battered on it’s journey – had to fix brakes. Nothing too serious thankfully. Nathan came over and we went to cinema to see Life Aquatic – pretty funny and well made film about a guy going to discover the shark that killed his friend, and making a documentary of it. I even managed to stay awake!

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