Southern California, September 2017

When Colin and I arrived back from the Boise to Banff trip, I had one week left in the US. Time for a bit more adventure.

We had been off the bikes for four days since Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, and also inhaled a lot of smoke, so it was time to blow it out of the lungs.

Colin had a route panned, which would be a nice way of easing in to riding again. Saturday morning we set off on their great cycle network around Irvine, which was really well thought out, with great views, as you meander along the “Mountains to Sea Trail” at the side of the San Diego Creek. The route continues on through Back Bay and on to Newport Beach.

We then picked up PCH1 and start to head South to Laguna Beach, a lovely undulating roll along the coast with spectacular views. As we hit Laguna Beach, about 45Km in to the ride, we take a left up Park Avenue, then a sneaky left on to Skyline Drive. I understand there is a great view from the top, but what a journey to the top. Its only 3Km and is within a housing complex, but it averages 8% with ramps up to 17%, taking you up 240m. In the heat, 30 degrees, and with a 17% section, my legs went wobbly, I really did not expect that, but Colin was right, the view was amazing.

We rolled back down the main road from the “summit”, back on to PCH1 and southbound, through South Laguna and on to Three Arch Bay. It’s at this point we swing back inland and up another climb similar to Skyline drive, but my legs feel better about this one, now they have woken up again.

The return journey is certainly more lumpy than the outbound, but it takes in some great views as we head back in taking in the Orange County Great Park.

socal17 day 1

On the Saturday night Julie has arranged for us to attend a “Bat Watch” down in Limestone Canyon. The rangers hold evenings where you can get close to nature and find out more about the wildlife, tonight, bats.

We walked out from the car park to a road bridge, which was known to have a number of species of bat roosting underneath it. These were discovered several years ago, when they came to dismantle this “temporary” bridge and found that there were some protected species roosting there, so the bridge was left.

On the way to the bridge we had our first encounter with the local wildlife, as well as warnings about what else is out there, mountain lions!

The really cool thing was the use of technology. They provided a few iPads, connected to special microphones, which would pick up the sonar signal from the bats. Each of the species has its own signal, the iPad would be able to tell us which where out there.

It’s Sunday morning and Julie joins us for a nice roll to the coast for coffee and Coco Locos. The first 16Km are steady rolling roads, until we reach Vista Ridge Road, which takes us up to Signal Peak, offering great views.

We drop down Newport Coast Road and on to PCH1, now heading North. When we get to Corona Del Mar, we stop for a coffee and cake, to soak up the sun, and watch SoCal Sunday life pass by. There is a constant stream of exotic supercars drifting past in such numbers that no one even looks.

P1030606After the break, we take a right at Newport Beach, in to Back Bay and we retrace the steps we took to get here yesterday. We ride along the edge of the creek on the purpose built cycle paths. Being Sunday we had to keep our eyes open for runners, as the route is busy. This was only a short ride, because we had plans for this afternoon.

socal17 day 2.jpg

I am a bit of a car fan and had always wanted to go to the Petersen Museum in LA. I knew Colin had been there several times before, but they kindly offered to take me up there this afternoon. A truly amazing experience, and luckily I got chance to be there when they had their display of Bugatti cars and memorabilia.

To top off and already amazing experience, we went down in to The Vaults, where there are items that are not on public display, some belonging to famous people, some key vehicles in automotive history, but sadly “No photography allowed”. A fantastic treat and great thanks.

With a day off on Monday, we had chance to get some jobs done and rested for an early start, straight from the house on Tuesday. Colin’s plan was to get a big ride in today and head up to Long Beach, just short of LA, but to put a Southern loop in to make it a 160Km plus.

We headed out down Santiago Canyon, under the bridge where we saw the bats on Saturday, and on past the turn for Silverado. The first 30Km are almost all up hill, climbing 400m in total. Once we crest we start our descent through Portola Hills, Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo and down to Dana Point, where we take a spin along the harbour.

With 70Km under our belt we now pick up PCH1 and start our way North. Between Dana Point and Newport Beach the Pacific Coast Highway rolls up and down, but as it starts to level off and head towards Huntington Beach we pick up a strong headwind.

We take it in turns to try and keep the pace high as we head in to the wind. We pass a couple of cyclists just North of Huntington Beach who tag on the back, and we get a train going. They turn off at Seal Beach and we head through to Long Beach on the hunt for food. We pick up a snack and head to the pier and sit in the sun, soaking it all up.

After lunch we head back on to PCH1 and start to cruise South, retracing our steps back to Laguna Beach, about 50Km, most of which is a side/tail wind, ….pay back.

P1030724We make a quick stop at Surf Henge, near Huntindon Beach for a photo and then hit the road again.

When we hit Laguna Beach we turn left and up Laguna Canyon Road, which is a steady climb of 100m over the 10Km, until it crests and drops back down, then becomes the Freeway. We have to jump off at this point, on to smaller roads back home.

This was a great day out, just short of 200Km, and a good opportunity to test the legs after the long trip to Canada. I survived and felt better for it.

This was the last day on my bike, so I packed it up ready for flying home on Saturday.

day 3It may have been the a last day on my bike, but we had a couple of interesting days ahead.

We woke early on Wednesday, and Julie kindly lent me her cyclo-cross bike, so that we could have a day off-road in Blackstar Canyon. We loaded up the van and got to the canyon in time to start at 08:30. The skies looked grey right now, but if they clear it will get hot on the hills.

The trail starts at 250m elevation and starts to climb immediately, and as we get higher we seem to be heading in to the low cloud. By the 13Km point we have reached a junction in the road, and have popped out of the clouds in to clear sky. To the left is a very loose trail, which terminates up at the telecoms station, overlooking the valley at just under 1000m elevation.

We take a breather among the antennae, then drop back to the junction, left again and take a fast zig-zag descent of 400m over 4.5Km. At the bottom we have a quick snack and it’s back up to the junction.

By now I am seeing a temperature of 39 degrees on the Garmin, and this 10% off-road climb is tough. I stop several times to take on water, and it takes 52 minutes to climb back to the highest point and it’s only 7Km.


Now for the fun bit, 13Km of loose, twisty descent. The Focus cross bike handles beautifully, with little dabs of the brakes to pull it in line. Just one thing I need to remember, the brakes are the wrong way round, front/left, not front/right.

P1030741The Strava segment for the Blackstar descent is 11.4Km and my average was 25kph. Colin throws in another climb and I wait for him on the zig-zag section.

That was a great ride and so nice to get off-road, but one thing we needed to be conscious of on this trail is mountain lions, which makes a change from sheep and cows I normally see.

socal day 4

For my final day in California, we had a great trip planned. We booked the ferry from Long Beach to the island of Catalina, and while there had arranged to hire two electric bikes while.

By the time we got to the island and found the hire shop it was 12:30 and we had an hours rental. These bikes were such a laugh, with about 200 watts on tap.

We left the centre of Avalon and rode around the harbour, then took a right turn and up an 8% climb without breaking a sweat.

In total we did 19Km and the battery gauge didn’t drop of the full mark. It was a really good way to see the area around Avalon, but I think hiking boots and a couple of days would really let you see what it’s made of.

The week was great fun and a great way to round of this North American adventure, and many thanks to Colin and Julie for their hospitality.


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