Friday, April 18, 2014


Every so often, while riding, I'll come across a disheveled-looking, wild-haired, pungent-smelling, touring cyclist. They're obviously traveling; their bags are loaded but depending on where they are during their trip, their grins are beaming or they wear silent stares with maws agape and gasping. Earlier this week, for my first time, I was that scorched bike traveller with wild hair, looking like a bomb went off in my head but also grinning my ass off in the middle of a long and winding descent.

This is an account of my time riding my bike from San Luis Obispo to the San Fernando Valley. Although relatively short, this trip accounts for much of the diversity of terrain in Southern California and in turn reflects the difficulty in navigating through it all. From the temperate coast, the scorching desert, to the pine-thick forests; the terrain on this route is as diverse as it is physically daunting.

Day One - San Luis Obispo to Somewhere on HWY 166 (I slept in a ditch)
I've read that starting a bike trip with a huge hangover is great way to get the ball rolling. For this, I decided to drink a lot of cheap beer and whiskey with Lauren the night before and go to sleep quite late. I sweat beer through beautiful orchard views of Arroyo Grande and had the driest brain riding into Nipomo. I refueled by eating a comically large hamburger at Jocko's, bought water and a box of wine. I made it to Highway 166 which is basically a way to move big rigs and OHVs really fast east and westbound. Surprisingly, the rigs passed wide and families on their way to shred dunes were easy-going.
It turns out that the internet wasn't that good at getting me to the Miranda Pines campground and made me traverse what turned out to be private property. It all occurred to me when four dogs appeared from a hill and ran down to bark their asses off at me. Soon after, a white-bearded man named Mike offered me a cold soda and showed me just how far off I was from Miranda Pines. The original route had me going through miles of private land and it was better to backtrack down to the highway and eastbound towards New Cuyama. I made my way back down Pine Canyon Road to the highway in search of somewhere suitable to sleep. The place I ended up was probably around four to five miles from my detour. It was hidden from the highway and, as evidenced by bits of trash and empty 40oz bottles, was definitely used as a campsite. I laid down my tarp, cooked a batch of pepperoni ramen and drank most of my wine.


Day Two - Ditch to Rancho Nuevo Campground
According to my preliminary planning, the ride into New Cuyama was to be the longest and possibly most grueling day. At least 65 miles in full exposure of the sun with no places to refuel except for New Cuyama. What was even more daunting for me was the mind-numbing boredom. The early green curves and scenic exposed red rock of the highway faded into endless flat fields and pastures surrounded by Los Padres to the south and Carizo to the north. The only redeeming feature of this stretch was stopping to eat an orange in the shade of a stray almond tree, trying to ignore the looming pressure of having to release a huge BM before getting into town.
Even when rolling into New Cuyama there was little relief for the bike-weathered psyche. The scenery was much like Thermal, CA or Mecca; I passed familiar-looking fields and houses surrounded by junked cars and farm equipment. Knowing I couldn't stay long in order to beat the sun to Rancho Nuevo, I resupplied my water, ate a mediocre hashbrown breakfast and drank three cups of orange soda. I intended to send a postcard from town thinking it would be quirky and great to get a postcard from such a small-ass town, but with a population of around 1,000 there was no representational city postcard and I was forced to scratch something out on a notepad I had and I continued on.
The highway stretched on with more of the same dry fields with dust devils dancing around culverts and my metal slug of a bike. Finally I came to the southbound turn for Highway 33 and it was only then did I feel the true peacefulness of a country road that I was looking forward to. The contrast between the heavily and hurriedly-traveled 166 was striking once I arrived on the 33. On I went eventually passing county lines and into Los Padres National Forest. I remember the slight curve revealing the terrain ahead of me and having my stomach sink. It was to be the only way into Ojai and the view became even more daunting as I approached my campsite for the night.
The Rancho Nuevo site is listed as a "primitive" campsite and as I arrived it was a sharp realization. The end of the fire road gave way to a canyon where the campsite lay. It was a clearing, some rocks and a fire pit. Already I could hear the animals that were deeper into the canyon and let out a nervous laugh, knowing the night was going to be pretty goddamned spooky.
I didn't nearly have enough booze to sleep soundly and I woke frequently from the cold or an especially loud yelp of some sort of animal. The moon was so bright that I thought it was the dawn but I lay there in the dirt attempting to will myself unconscious.

Day Three - Rancho Nuevo to Santa Paula
I woke and started late due to my stop-start rhythm of sleeping, genuinely surprised that I was still alive. The canyon ahead of me blocked the incoming light and I remained chilled until I was packed and ready to face the pass into Ojai. Looking back it is clear to me that Wednesday had the best riding of the trip. Although packed with gear to the gills on an already boat anchor of a bike, the climb south through the forest was surprisingly enjoyable. The chilled wind passed through pines and through my bike making weird whistles and hums.
The pines eventually faded into an extraterrestrial valley, revealing boulders and creeks as I made the first descent into Rose Valley. What came next was the long, swooping descent into the Ojai Valley. I stopped at the Friend's Packing House just above Meiner's Oaks for a single orange and continued into town where @gothbrooks bought me a caucasoid shrimp burrito.
After a quick swim and a stroll through the Lesbian Witchcraft District we said our goodbyes and I made my way to Santa Paula where I drank two tallcans and ate an entire pizza.

Day Four - Santa Paula to the San Fernando Valley
Santa Paula is a quaint town established by past oil strikes and looking back I should have bought a cowboy hat. Instead I got on the road and ate a bunch of aspirin in order to numb my now swelling left ankle. Highway 126 into Filmore was to be my conveyance and was familiarly filled with high-speed big rigs and people traveling to Moorpark. I stopped in Filmore to eat hashbrowns and make my way down Highway 23.
The land between Filmore and Moorpark harvests rocks and sand as a business and I was followed through the pass by endless dump trucks and impatient commuters. Either way, I was to drop into Moorpark and eventually Simi Valley where I was to eat lunch Mitch Robb aka muscle_master aka coolbuffdude420 aka evil red mitch.
After eating way too many tacos I made my way east to leave Simi and made the softest effort climbing over Santa Susana into Chatsworth. By this time I knew I was home. I passed all the familiar landmarks of the ride back home as if I hadn't been gone for more than a weekday morning ride. There were no congratulatory crowds or fanfare, no elation or cathartic release. I let out a sigh of relief as I unpacked and hanged my bike, consoled by the fact that I wasn't going to touch it for the next week.