San Francisco to Morrow Bay - 4900 miles


Our destination of Milpitas is at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. The map of the San Francisco Bay area showed it to be densely populated and full of freeways. It was suggested by a local that we would be better of getting a ferry to Oakland and cycling down the east side of the bay to Milpitas, instead of keeping to the west side of the bay. We decided to take his advice as the ferry was only about $8 and the boat trip across the bay should be an interesting trip.

The adverts for the ferry said that bikes were taken "at the captains discretion" and so David phoned the ferry service for further information. He got the usual pre-recorded rubbish with about 20 minutes of information and nothing about bikes and no way of asking.

We went to the terminal at Fishermans Wharf anyway. The ferry had just left and the next one was 2 hours later. On asking the way to the bridge we were told that cycles were not allowed over the bridge, but we could catch a train (which went to the other side) from Bart underground station. At the entrance to the station, all we could find was an up escalator or about 50 steps down, and so we struggled down the steps with our loaded bikes only to find that there was a lift after all. The fare to the other side was about $1, but better still, for $4 we could go all the way to Freemont, which is only 15 miles from Milpitas. We opted for the latter. It took only 50 minutes. The map showed a minor road avoiding the freeways, going all the way from Freemont to Milpitas, but after several dead-end roads we realised that it was not that easy.

One of the irritating quirks of the American road system is that dead-end roads are not sign-posted until you get to the end! We did 35 miles of cycling to cover about 15 miles.

Finally arrived at Sharon and Wayneís house. Sharon is the daughter of our previous neighbors Martin and Sue Rowell of Melbourn (Small village in the UK). She grew up with and went to the same school as our boys. She now has two children of her own - Evie, three and Thomas, 6 months. Wayne has a Caterham 7. (For those who donít know what this is - ask a car enthusiast.)

David spent the next day stripping and cleaning the transmission on the bikes. The chains were 2,500 miles old and he decided to leave them on for now, as they seemed in good condition. The parts that need replacing most often are the derailleur jockey wheels, especially the top one. We have found that the expensive sealed bearing type last no longer that the plain bush type. Joan did the laundry and gave everything the best wash itís had for ages. The tent was cleaned and dried thoroughly.

We all went out for an all-you-can-eat for $7 meal.

Evie refused to eat anything. We found out why the next day as she was sick all over the car seat on the way to playschool. Poor Evie. Spent the next day exploring Milpitas by bike.

As we had to wait for a parcel from England and to get new glasses for David, we decided to rent a car for a week and explore Yosemite National Park by car. David ordered new vari-focal glasses and vari-focal sunglasses, both with high refractive index lenses for less that the cost of his lenses alone in England.

An E-mail said that our parcel had only just been sent from England - no wonder it was not there waiting for us. Never mind, express delivery (Opps.. - Mark) should only take a few days and it would be there after our side trip. Researching the local car rentals showed that Dollar Cars was the best overall deal and a phone call confirmed that they had small cars for about $250 per week. A call to Rent-a-wreck resulted in even higher prices. When David arrived at Dollar rentals it was a different story than the phone. They only had large cars at $450 per week and with collision damage waiver worked out to more than $500. We had no choice and rented a Dodge people carrier. Both rear seats came out and gave room for both bikes inside.

On the way to Yosemite we passed miles of dry desert grasslands and hundreds of large wind generators along the hilltops. Camped in the car at a picnic site just outside Yosemite and tried the first of our "ten for a dollar" sweet corns. No wonder they were cheap - tough on the teeth. We dumped the rest.

As we had the car, we could now take advantage of the "two for the price of one" offers and actually keep a gallon can of fuel for our stove. Four cans of Murphy's went into the cooler, along with three bottles of wine.

The entrance fee to Yosemite was $20 and we decided to camp in Camp 4 which is where all the rock climbers and mountaineers camp. There are many sheer rock faces up to 5,000ft high around Yosemite and we saw many climbers ascending. We talked to a professional mountaineer who took parties up mountains and had climbed K2 in the Himalayas. Although Yosemite is a large and famous National Park, the facilities for camping were poor. It took us two days to find the showers, and any information signs led us nowhere.

There are wonderful views around the park. David ducked under a barrier and stood on top of a rock which jutted out over a 5000ft sheer drop.

The forecast was for snow and we headed off in a large circle towards San Francisco once again.

This time, though, it was by car and we had somewhere to stay. Neil and Sharon at Coalmount in Canada had contacted friends in San Francisco who offered us a place to stay. It was John and Alison Weiss who lived across the bay in Piedmount. They said their house was very difficult to find and we should phone them as we got near. It was a challenge. We found it eventually.

John and Alisons's home was in a lovely setting of trees and flowery shrubs. They made us very welcome and gave us an en-suite bedroom with adjustable airbed. John had an extremely comprehensive collection of cycling related books and is an avid collector. His collection numbers many thousands and they are all over the house. Every book we named - he had. David now has another challenge to find a cycling book that John hasn't got.

The next day was spent as tourists in San Francisco. This time walking up the many very steep roads and riding the cable car. The weather was wonderful. About 70 deg, and beautifully clear views in all directions. This was evidently rather rare for San Francisco which is usually misty. Another hospitable night at John and Alisons and we headed back to Milpitas to collect our parcel which should have arrived by now. It was nice to meet other serious cycle tourists. Alison sorted out several detailed maps of our route for us to take.

At Sharon and Waynes house, the parcel had still not arrived six days after posting and we could not wait around any longer. It had already costs us $600 waiting and we had to continue.

We loaded the bikes into the car and drove to the airport to deliver it back which was in the direction we had to go. The skies were grey and rain imminent as we headed out of town.

David's direction finding went all wrong as he had lost his compass in Yosemite and there was no sun for direction. Eventually we found our way south and had to skirt around Freeways on tracks. This left us short of time to reach our destination Capitola on the coast. Disaster. Suddenly we came across signs on the only road saying "Road Closed" There was a long queue of traffic for miles until we got to the cause.

An Electricity line was down and it would take another hour to remove - so we were told. It was getting dark. A friendly truck driver offered us a lift for the next 10 miles to the campsite which we arrived at just before dark. It rained all night.

The coast south from here was by far the best yet. Much better than the famed Oregon Coast. Pity about the rain that plagued us for the next couple of days. The coast reminded us of the Welsh Pembrokeshire coast, but instead of a path, there was a two-lane highway. Sea lions replace the Welsh seals.

After Big Sur, we camped by a rocky beach and met two German touring cyclists who started in Seattle. They were Peter and Daniella. The next couple of days were spent in their company. Peter was an ex professional racing cyclist who gave David some stiff competition up the hills.

A brand new Continental Town and Country tyre exploded after only 100 miles use! The next day another tyre split a sidewall and we were down to our only lightweight 1" section fold-up as spare.

The weather improved at Cambria. The sun shone strongly and we sailed along with a brisk back-wind. The tent still was soaked with condensation every morning even if it didn't rain.

At Morrow Bay we decided to catch up on all our housekeeping duties such as launderette for all our clothes, posting film etc., back to England and catching up on E-mail and internet.

The rest of the day will be spent lounging around on a sunny beach - we hope.