Day 24: Doheny State Park to San Elijo State Park
Since we had to vacate the hiker/biker site at Doheny State Beach by 9:00 AM, we didn’t have time for our usual leisurely in-camp breakfast and coffee routine. A park staff person came by with her clipboard at 8:30 and made sure we were checking out. Seriously? You’re still checking up on us? Thankfully we were ready to go and cheerfully answered her questions before we pedaled out of the campground at 9:00 AM on the dot. Even though we grumbled about the forced exit, I guess we could consider the 9:00 AM deadline a silver lining, we were on the road early! We even had time for a leisurely diner breakfast in nearby San Clemente.
Over breakfast we talked about the end of our trip. Only two more days of riding before we reached San Diego! I guess we could have ridden the final 68.9 miles in one day if we wanted to hammer on the pedals all day. But even though the entire family was anxious to finish the trip, we decided to savor the last couple of days and break up the last 68 miles into two days.
After the unwelcome treatment at Doheny, I lobbied for a hotel stay in Encinitas where my brother-in-law had recommended a not too expensive motel close to the beach. I did my best to convince the family that a hotel was the way to go for our final night of the trip. I used my very best arguments, “Hotel employees are nice!”, “They welcome you and thank you for staying, even if you arrive on bikes!” Wouldn’t it be so much easier to stay in a hotel?
To my surprise, all of my arguments fell on deaf ears. I was outvoted. The rest of the family (even the 12-year-old!) wanted to camp. “It’s our last night of the trip, I want to camp!” “Henry and Danielle will be there, I want to see them again!” Who can argue with that? Maybe I’ve raised a couple of hearty bike tourists after-all? I guess mom just needs to suck it up and deal, so let’s get going. Instead of San Diego, we set our sights on San Elijo State Beach, which we estimated was 42 miles away. Henry and Danielle planned to camp there too, bonus that we’d have excellent company on our last night of camping. Hopefully they weren’t sick of us yet!
An Abandoned Highway
The ride from San Clemente to Encinitas was rather enjoyable: much of the route followed old Hwy 1, which ran parallel to I-5, and was open to bikes but closed to cars. Cool! An entire freeway to ourselves! The boy couldn’t get over his excitement about riding on a freeway with no cars. What a surreal experience to ride on an abandoned highway. It reminded me of a book the kids and I read a few years ago titled, Crunch, about a family that owns and runs a bike repair business, the story chronicles a series of crises the family faces during a severe gas shortage. Because there’s no fuel for miles around, and people can’t drive, the townspeople start using the freeway for bike and pedestrian transportation. And now we were riding on a freeway. Bizarre and cool. Our son couldn’t stop talking about all of the fun he was having riding on the best bike path ever! He made me weave all over the road so he could relish the experience.
Through a Military Base
The next section of the route crossed Camp Pendleton, an active Marine Corps base, that allows cyclists to pass through! You just have to show your i.d. at the gate and you can ride through at your leisure. At the check-in gate, we met a couple from San Diego who were out for a day ride. They asked where we were from and chatted us up about our trip. Since they were parents of teenage kids, they couldn’t get over our trip. They kept asking about the kids, how did you get the kids to go on the trip? We answered as we always do, we forced them, of course. They couldn’t wait to go home and tell their kids all about it. A family traveling on bikes is apparently a rare sight in these parts. We enjoyed the ride through Camp Pendleton, relatively traffic-free aside from the occasional Humvee packed with soldiers on training maneuvers. We kept seeing a helicopter tracking us in the distance, we figured it was our escort. The base allows cyclists to pass through but they definitely keep an eye on you. We were keenly aware that our presence was merely tolerated.
About half-way through Camp Pendleton, Tim noticed a loud clicking noise coming from his front wheel. Not wanting to pull over and alarm our Huey helicopter escort, we delayed stopping for as long as possible. But eventually, Tim’s worry took over and he insisted we stop and check out his bike. He determined his wheel was shot and he needed to rebuild the hub. We limped along to Oceanside, a few miles away, where Tim bought some bearings at a bike shop.
We scoured the area for a good spot to rebuild the wheel and settled on a wide sidewalk in Carlsbad outside a pizza place. The kids and I got pizza while Tim removed the wheel and rebuilt the hub.Other than a series of flats at the beginning of the trip, this was the first bike repair work Tim had tackled. And I suspect he secretly enjoyed it. A chance to use some of the tools he had hauled for 800+ miles, sweet.
The repair went quickly, even with multiple interruptions from curious passers-by. A guy rebuilding a hub on a sidewalk next to heavily loaded tandems is not something you see everyday in Carlsbad. People were curious. And many came by to ask what he was doing. Once Tim finished the hub repair, our stress melted away and our mood turned light and celebratory. We were so close to finishing our trip! Only 25 miles from San Diego! We’re gonna make it!
As Tim put away his tools and cleaned up, several more families trickled out of the pizza place and stopped to talk. After some negative encounters the past couple of days, we were delighted to talk to nice people who were excited and eager to hear about our trip. Positive reactions are sure refreshing. I might have teared up a few times as I recounted stories of our three-week journey. Again, everyone wanted to know about the kids. What did the kids think of the trip? Did they enjoy it? Sure, you see lots of bike tourists riding the Pacific Coast, but family bike tourists are still pretty rare. After all we’d been through, we enjoyed telling our story and relishing our accomplishment.
With the repair completed, the bikes back together, and bellies full of pizza, we were ready to tackle our final 10 miles of the day. We planned to camp in San Elijo, the last CA State Park with hiker/biker sites on the route. As we’ve noted before, cyclists are guaranteed a site in hiker/biker sites at CA State Parks, even on a busy Fourth of July weekend. Since San Elijo would be our final campsite of the tour, we made plans for a celebratory dinner. We checked our phones and found a Whole Foods a few miles from the campground. Let’s BBQ! How about a fiesta? Maybe some big fat steaks on the fire! And wine! Oh, let’s get a pie and some ice cream! We loaded up on gourmet food at Whole Foods and pedaled toward San Elijo.
To be continued!