Several months ago, sitting in a bar watching the rain pour down the windows while my beer slowly (quickly) got lower and lower in my glass, I found the notion of a spring time trip to Southern California slowly take hold in my brain. A quick text out to some select friends was met almost immediate excitement and the plan was formed.
Now, if we were mature and responsible adults we would have based our trip time around weather patterns, average temperatures, night time lows, desert highs and trail conditions. Instead though we picked January because: 1. It was sooner then February and we really wanted to get out of Olympia, and 2. Probably no rattle snakes.
Despite our best efforts and the fact that we still maintain that our trip planning meetings were a success (mostly because we always wound up bowling, biking and having that extra pint that we probably shouldn’t have instead of discussing the trip) we wound up in the RV after work, wholly over-packed, with a lot of stoke and very little idea of what we were getting ourselves into.
It was the start to a great week.
Safe to say, our moods into the trip probably wouldn't have been so great if we had spend the 20+ hour drive in a compact car vs the luxury of the coachman.
With the near record breaking rain that had been pummeling the area for the several days prior, the sand was running tacky and slick. Hard pack would turn in to friction less mud faster then you could say "Spring time SoCal Vacation!" and if you weren’t on guard it was easy to let your bike get away from you (Sean found that one out quick on day one.
That said. I have no regrets on my choice of 2.8s. They carried speed just fine on the pavement, and once I figured out tire pressure (Dropping from 35psi to 18psi) the ride quality was unbeatable. The large foot print tires not only provided more effortless traction, but also helped alleviate much of the body soreness that comes with 10-12 hours days in the saddle.
There is no complaining here. Waking up to camp stove hash browns is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me on bike tour. I’m counting on him bringing an oven next time, bed time cookies would be pretty neat.
On our second day we were intending to get most of the way to San Diego ideally setting us up for a casual ride into the city the next day, some forecasted sun, and some earned big city beers. We were optimistic and energy levels were high... What could go wrong?
Early into our ride the clouds made their move and soon we were riding in a pretty gorgeous fogscape. We’ve got the green and grey up here, and they’ve got the gold and grey down there. Gotta say, both are pretty cool. Soon though the fog turned into mist, then into drizzle and before we knew it we were slogging in the rain through increasingly thicker mud. Our aspirations of an eighty mile day quickly faded as the terrain grew slower and slower, the sand transformed into a gummy frame coating mud, and motivation to press on decayed with each drop in the temperature.
At a certain point we made the decision that setting up camp in the diminishing light was better than the dark and we started to look for cover, which came in the form of a single tree in a cattle pasture, surround by rocks and piles of well camouflaged bovine shit.
We tucked our bivies as close as we could to the base of the tree, in the hopes that the low hanging branches would diffuse the rain, and ideally keep the errant cattle away from stepping on us should we be wrong and the pasture wasn’t in fact deserted.
That was it. For the next thirteen hours we lay in our bivies while we got pummeled by rain, counting down the hours until sunrise. I really can’t describe how rough a night it was. By the time sunrise came we had standing water in our bivy sacks. Our sleeping bags were soaked through, every article of clothing we owned was soaked. And yet somehow we weren’t demoralized, we had just spent over half a day freezing, soaking, unmoving in our tiny single person sacks, not getting more then an hour or two of sleep broken up over dozens of “naps” and yet the jokes still flowed as we crawled back into the fresh air and day light. It’s nice when you pick the right group of people for a trip.
We dried out gear off and made the call just to book it to San Diego via the pavement. It was a welcome break.
If you find yourself in the city on bike tour and have some time to kill go find yourself to this bar called Cherry Bomb and order a Budweiser and Whiskey. Not a Bud Heavy and whiskey (They don't like that), just a Budweiser and Whiskey. Once you have your beer and glass of whiskey (Yes I said glass) just try to stay standing while you take it all in. It's a riot.
That said, this was the only picture of single track I took. Not for any real reason, I was just having too much fun partying down the trail to want to stop and take my camera out. Not EVERYTHING has to go on Instagram (Most stuff does though, lets get real here.)
I'll be putting up a full gear break down next week. Stay tuned to see what bags we used, why we used them, and what we put inside of them!
No one died. We're all still friends, and over beers last night it was pretty clear that we all wish we had just kept pedaling and not come back. That might be the hardest part about bike packing: having to stop.
In a couple months I will be tackling the Cross Washington. If anyone is interested in the route and joining on I strongly recommend that you come in chat. We're hoping to roll out with a strong Olympia showing!
Otherwise stay tuned for a few more over the next couple weeks detailing gear and food choices.
Till next time