Wednesday, August 24, 2011

48 down and two to go ...

We were so close to the folks who'd had their boom box going until after 10 p.m. at Fernwood Resort that it was difficult to resist making a little extra noise when we crawled out of our tents at 6 a.m. Resist we did, however, and set out to find coffee and a bite to eat before getting back on Hwy. 1 south.

Big Sur is both remote and popular, which would mean $13 cheeseburgers for dinner and $11 omelets for breakfast unless we found alternatives. So, it was gas station coffee and big chocolate chip cookies for breakfast -- which came to just $6 a head.

After a few stops for photos and an expensive fuel fill-up in Cambria, we arrived shortly after noon on Monday, Aug. 15, in San Luis Obispo to stay with Ross and Linda, old friends of David's. Ross had been his boss and mentor when he worked as a civilian for the U.S. Navy before retiring in the 1990s. As we got out of our riding gear, Linda was shepherding her three-year-old grand daughter and 18-month-old grandson and Ross was out riding his streamlined, recumbent bicycle.

Ross is an inspiration. With the help of hip and knee replacements and a pacemaker, he maintains a level of fitness a man 40 years younger would envy and thinks nothing of 25-mile daily jaunts through the surrounding hills on his bike.

That evening, he and Linda took us to a favorite restaurant on the water in Morro Bay, about 15 miles away to enjoy calamari, crab cakes, shimp and fish and chips while the sun descended behind Morro Rock, which rises almost 600 feet above the ocean. After dinner, we drove out to the rock for a view of the harbor.

A stand-up paddler finishes a sundown outing on Morro Bay.

Linda and Ross treated us to dinner at Morro Bay and a good night's sleep in San Luis Obispo.

Tuesday morning, Linda suggested we take San Marcos Pass Road, Hwy. 154, rather than US 101 from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara -- a great suggestion, since there were plenty of commuters on 101 and the we had the pleasantly twisty road over the pass almost to ourselves. At Santa Barbara, we rejoined 101 to ride along the coast.

At a turn-out near Lake Cachuma on our way to Santa Barbara we found decades of initials carved into the soft sandstone boulders edging the parking lot.

The temperatures stayed pleasantly cool all the way from San Luis Obispo to Ventura, but then the thermometer climbed with the highway over the pass inland towards Thousand Oaks and the San Fernando Valley.

Just nine miles from our destination in Northridge, I pulled off the freeway into a parking lot to stretch, get out of the fleece I'd been wearing under my jacket to ward off the cold and unzip the vents in my riding suit. No sense arriving in L.A. half-baked.

By midday, we arrived at the home of Nick, a sailing friend of David's, who had offered to let us store the V-Stroms in his garage. Fleiksa, Nick's wife, and Cora, his daughter-in-law, greeted us and took us to lunch at a nearby Cuban restaurant. Nick, his son and grandson were all out of town.

At Nick's place in Northridge it was time to sort out what to stay on the bike and what to take home.

I had booked a flight home to Honolulu on Thursday afternoon, so I had two days to sort my gear into things to stay and things to go, change the engine oil and oil filter and get things buttoned up. David planned to take a ride to Ridgecrest, Calif., about 150 miles northeast, to visit some more old navy friends, before flying back to Honolulu in about a week.

Meanwhile, we were entertained by Ziggy, a pet turtle who was supposed to live in a net-festooned fish pond near the large swimming pool in the back yard.

Ziggy is a Red-Eared Slider, a very popular breed of pet turtle. According to Wikipedia, "Red-eared sliders get their name from the distinctive red patch of skin around their ears. The 'slider' part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly."

Before we met Ziggy, Cora said he'd gone missing for a few weeks. The pH balance of the water in the swimming pool had gone off and the water turned green. They called a pool man, who got the pool cleaned up and found Ziggy in the process -- in the big pool.

Cora put Ziggy back in the fish pond, which was ringed with overhanging stone pavers that should have kept a turtle from crawling out. Since the pavers had failed, she hung netting over the fish pond.

Cora told us about Ziggy, the turtle, who'd rather be here in the swimming pool than in his turtle pond.

With stone pavers topping and overlapping the sides of the turtle pond, it wasn't clear how Ziggy was able to escape ...

... but every time we fished him out, he'd be back in the pool within a few hours.

When we went to the backyard and looked in the swimming pool, there was Ziggy, happily diving to its eight-foot depths and popping up every minute or two for a breath. Problem is, the pool water is treated with chlorine -- not the healthiest environment for a red-eared slider -- there was no food in the pool and no way for Ziggy to climb out.

We found a leaf skimmer on a long pole, fished him out and put him back in his stone-rimmed prison. A few hours later, he was back in the pool. Since Cora and Fleiksa were both leaving town before our departures, David found some bricks and tried building a ramp so Ziggy could pull himself for a rest and a snack. As of when I left for home, taking the Flyaway bus from Van Nuys to Los Angeles International, the ramp was untested.

By Thursday morning, Aug. 18, the V-Strom was packed up and under a cover, with the battery disconnected and a dose of fuel stabilizer in the tank.

I was happy to be on the Flyaway bus to LAX rather than riding the 405 on the bike.

My dash to the finish line: Big Sur (A), San Luis Obispo (B), Northridge (C) and LAX (D).

The trip to the airport was uneventful and convenient. David borrowed Fleiksa's car and dropped me at the Van Nuys terminal, only a mile or two from Nick's Northridge place. I arrived at LAX by 1:30, comfortably early for my 4:30 p.m. flight to Honolulu. Little did I know the plane would be broken and I'd have to wait for a substitute to fly in from Maui. We eventually departed at 9:30 p.m. and arrived at 15 minutes after midnight -- four and a half hours late.

I began the trip having visited 40 states by motorcycle. Six weeks later, I had added eight states to the total: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. What's more, I'd gotten a start on Canadian provinces: Ontario and British Columbia. All that remain: Alaska and Florida.

My 2009 round trip from Maine to Louisiana explored Civil War battlefields, last year's coast-to-coast-and-back ride explored natural wonders -- caves, canyons and mountains. This trip began with canals -- both historic and modern -- and then followed Lewis and Clark to their Pacific destination before tracing the western shoreline from Victoria, B.C., to Los Angeles.

Along the way, we met friends, old and new. Thanks to all; we enjoyed the ride.

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