Pacific Coast Tour: Day 23
Day 23: Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, CA to Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA
Approximate daily mileage ~ 73 miles
Approximate total mileage ~ 1,857 miles
Approximate daily elevation gain ~ 1,900 feet
Approximate total elevation gain ~ 72,600 feet
The sunrise appeared, and it was time to start moving. There was no need for an alarm clock at this point. The large picnic table made for a great sleeping surface and the waves in the background were the best white noise. As I slowly gathered and packed my things, Caleb did the same with his. He too was planning on cycling south. He had friends he was meeting north of San Diego. We said our farewells and he was off. While I finished packing my things a man who was camping adjacent to us offered me coffee. We had crossed paths and said hello the previous night. He noticed I was sleeping on the picnic table and had a chuckle. He stated that he was deaf and could read lips quite well. He was a cyclist too so we talked mostly about biking. I sincerely appreciated the coffee as it was a luxury. One of many things this trip taught me was just how little is needed day to day, and small things like a cup of coffee from a new friend can have a tremendously positive impact.
Soon I was on the road south with sights set on reaching San Diego. I had only a granola bar for breakfast so after only about 7 miles I was craving more sustenance. About that time while cruising along El Camino Real a donut shop appeared. It was called Surfin' Donuts in the town of San Clemente. After eating 3 of their donuts I concluded they were completely delicious. With a stomach full of donuts and coffee I continued along El Camino Real then Old Pacific Highway which runs parallel to Interstate 5. This stretch passes by San Onofre State Beach and San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. Eventually, this led to an intersection with Las Pulgas Road. Turning right would lead to a stretch of cycling on Interstate 5/San Diego Freeway for a number of miles. Turning left would lead to the North gate of Camp Pendleton. I much preferred riding on the military base over the interstate. Fortunately, with some research the previous night I found that civilians are required to pre-register in order for a chance to access the base.
Approaching the Camp Pendleton I had no idea if they would allow me to ride through or not. The Marine on guard at the entrance asked for my ID, where I came from, and where I was going. So I told him. He paused, lowered his sunglasses looking at me over the top of the rims, then said, "You're f***ing crazy!". Then he scanned my ID, returned it, and let me pedal on by. This was the perfect way to avoid going on the interstate. It was quiet with well maintained roads. At least it was quiet until a convoy of combat vehicles approached traveling the opposite direction on the road. This was quite the change of scenery! Eventually, I exited the military base and again found myself along the beach in the town of Oceanside. The smooth riding continued through Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Del Mar. Then there was the largest climb of the day toward Torrey Pines and its famous golf course. All the climbing then gave way to a steep decent and after a few turns I found myself riding along La Jolla Shores Drive in the San Diego neighborhood, La Jolla. It was sometime between noon and 1 pm and I was already in San Diego!
By this time it was quite warm, and the hunger had set in again. In La Jolla there is a small and popular taco place aptly called, The Taco Stand. It was busy and for good reason. The fresh guacamole and burrito I had were some of the best I'd ever tasted. While I getting ready to leave some people were sitting outside eating. One of the people, Sean, had actually done RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) that year and had a great time. He was clearly excited hearing about my trip and was just the type of person who would likely do the same.
Since I was already in San Diego early in the afternoon and I hadn't planned to meet my friend who lives there until the evening I had the rest of the time to explore and enjoy. It was a pleasant change of pace to have so much free time without trying to pedal more and more miles to reach a further destination. So I took time to ride the bike path along the beach near Pacific Beach. I relaxed and aired out some clothes which had not dried in days. I saw some more areas including Mission Point Park with seals swimming, people floating in kayaks, and sailboats passing by. It was about this time that I realized it was the last day in August! It was shocking to think how quickly time had passed since starting out in Vancouver despite some of the extraordinarily long days. I sensed a small amount of contentment, although it was short lived. I still had not reached my goal of crossing the boarder into Mexico.
Before long, the sun was nearing the horizon. It was a clear day so I made to find a perfect location to see the sunset over the ocean. It turned out to be one of the most picturesque sunsets of the tour (along with one my last day in Oregon and one at Pigeon Point Lighthouse south of San Francisco). Then it was time to meet my friend, Alba, who was kind enough to let me crash on her couch for a couple nights. It was really a treat to see her and catch up while eating a delicious meal of fresh fish tacos and ceviche. Sleeping on a plush couch was also a treat after the last few nights on picnic tables. It was almost unbelievable to make it this far, and with just a little more good fortune I'd be completing the tour the next day.