My journey down California State Route 1 from San Francisco to LA started with a stone faced cop telling me that I wasn’t allowed to cycle down the freeway. Not a great start, and it wouldn’t be the last time I’d have words with law enforcement before I reached the City of Angels, 400 miles to the south, along a road I’ll never forget. Route 1 is the reason that I wanted to start my US leg in San Francisco, well, that and the city itself. It’s famous with cyclists, motorcyclists and just about everyone who’s been there, for being stunningly beautiful, wonderfully varied, and abundant with wildlife.
This was also my first time cycling and camping in the US. I was thrilled to discover that along much of the route are National Forests, which are free and open for camping, provided you follow a few simple rules. There were also many State Parks, which offer campsites for bikers and hikers for $5, and which are even cheaper if you don’t mind arriving late and leaving early.
The first couple of days, South of San Francisco, were the least inspiring as the road was largely inland, passing through farmland, out of sight of the coast. But it wasn’t long before the road began to rise and fall, the farms gave way to forests, and the road noise was joined by the sound of waves, crashing against the cliffs far below.
Big Sur National Forest and its many redwoods rank as one of the most scenic places I’ve even been, and from the road I know I barely scratched the surface. The cycling was challenging as the road rose and fell by hundreds of feet along the coast, but it was great. My moral and general good feeling was further boosted by the many Californians, holidaymakers, and outdoorsmen (and women) that gave me food, drinks, donations and more than a few beers, to help me along my way.
I could have happily continued through the forests, but eventually the trees fell behind me and the road dropped to sea level. Birds of all shapes and sizes, many of them birds of prey, soared high above or skimmed the sea, the tips of their wings slicing the water’s surface. Along the beaches, elephant seals dominated the sands and surf, flicking sand over themselves lazily to provide protection from the Californian sun, or playing together in the shallow waters. State parks continued to to provide me with camping spots and where there was no park it was usually easy to find a secluded place to pitch my tent. It was at Morrow Bay State Park, near San Luis Obispo, that I first met a family I would stay with a week later and who have become the biggest state side fans of my adventure.
Route 1 passes through San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara and Malibu on its way to LA. It was in Santa Barbara that I encountered the police for the second time, and ended up the target of a manhunt around the city.
I had arrived in Santa Barbara and, as it was late, I though it best to continue south and find a place to camp. An hour later I was still whizzing past mansion after mansion with no sign of a suitable spot. Then it was dark and I was still cycling. Desperate, I set up my hammock in a small wooded space between the wall of one of the big houses and the road, hoping the few trees would be sufficient hide my presents. They weren’t.
The next morning, just as I was picking up my trash, I was approached by one of America’s Finest, complete with a shiny badge and a dull pistol. He asked if I had any weapons, I said no, choosing to class the fixed blade knife and multi-tool in my pack as tools, not weapons. He called in the details from my passport and made sure I wasn’t a fugitive from any city or state. I think my English accent, the large sign with my website address tied to my bike, and the fact that I was all dressed in Lycra, helped him believe that I’m not a crazy hobo. He returned my passport and told me to go, then he went into the house to tell the worried looking owners they weren’t in danger.
It was later that day that I got a message, through Instagram (@_JamesVsWorld_). It was from a friend of the woman who had called the cops on me that morning. The officer had given her my web address and she and her friend had used it to get the details of my SPOT GPS Tracking device. The two of them had been driving around the city looking for me. Having read about what I was doing, and accepting that I wasn’t a dangerous transient, she wanted to buy me dinner. Unfortunately, my tracker has been set with an hour delay, so I was always one step ahead of them as I explored Santa Barbara and then continued south.
Finally I reached Malibu and its 27 miles of luxury coastline. I stopped by Santa Monica Pier to reclaim some unwanted pizza from nearby rummage receptacle, then reached Venice Beach. I had arrived in LA and my trip down the famous Route 1 was over. Next I would be turning to the east, and making my way to Florida and the Atlantic Ocean, 3000 miles away. But first I had to find a place to sleep, and that wasn’t easy.
When I began my journey in America I was pretty much broke. I reached out to my friends and family and they have been amazing. With their help, the GoFundMe has raised over 300GBP, in addition to direct donations and hundreds of dollars given by over thirty individuals here in the USA. The GoFundMe (http://www.gofundme.com/nsuybo) will be ended soon and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me on this trip. You have helped make this adventure possible, and much, much more comfortable. Now I only go searching in bins for fun!