Day 8, Ventura to Santa Monica Pier. Don’t Stop Believing…

Before I recount my epic last day of what has truly been an amazing 8 days of my life I need to say a few thank you’s. Firstly my long suffering wife. The look she gave me when I suggested this adventure, on my own, was quite something. It definitely had a little hint of “WFT?”. Bearing in mind I’m currently under the care of two oncologists, a cardiac specialist and a nephrologist, she had something of a point. Not only did my parents provide me with a fantastic upbringing, which took me far too long to appreciate, but they also “agreed” to join me on this adventure as my support crew and they have been truly wonderful. I don’t know if I could have completed it without their help (had my wife even let me go). Lastly I want to thank all my friends and the random strangers who have “liked”, “laughed” or commented on my Facebook posts and provided some real encouragement on the days I really needed it. This was definitely a mind over matter adventure but it would not have been possible without all of the above providing a support system.

I left the hotel (the Marriott, don’t bother staying there, there’s a Quality Inn across the street and a Denny’s) and had about a 16 mile ride out past Ventura harbor and more farmland before joining highway 1. During this stretch I saw lots and lots of consecutive Pacific Coast Bicycle Trail signs, which was a first for my trip and a great first, because my backup navigation device was as dead as my legs and I was relying on these signs and my Garmin “navigation” device.

I hadn’t been out to Ventura Harbor since my last Channel Islands diving trip in October 1998. Three great days of diving, after which I got home and proposed. I still blame the nitrogen narcosis.

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After Ventura came Oxnard and then I was approaching the unpronounceable Port Hueneme, where the main crop appears to be golf courses. I had always wondered where they grew them and here the mystery was finally solved.

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A few more miles further on and there was a great display of fighters and missiles outside the Air Force base.

The route then joins highway 1 a few miles later and there’s not much of anything to see until you get to Point Mugu’s finest restrooms.

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From here you follow the Pacific for pretty much the rest of the day and the scenery is just incredible. I could bore you with photos of it, and I think I will.

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After about 2 hours of riding I was approximately half way at 37 miles and decided to pull over at this tiny outcrop to enjoy a Snickers bar for lunch. I am so glad that I did.

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Right in front of me was a whale just breaching the surface.

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Not the greatest picture as it was quite some way out but it repeated the maneuver a few times and I was in awe. It doesn’t matter how many times you see this, it’s always special. I then noticed another boat going slowly and noticed more activity on the water around them and realized that they were following a school of dolphin. You can just see one off to the left.

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I just sat back in the beautiful afternoon sun and really enjoyed the moment.

After that it was back to cranking and only 37ish miles to go. A few miles later I was greeted with one of the several climbs of the day and I realized that since Monday or Tuesday I have been standing up to go up hills. I used to hate this and never had the leg power but now I was enjoying it, as was my bum. A brief respite every now and then was a good thing.

I rode past the Malibu Beach RV resort where we’ve stayed a couple of times. Gene Simmons bus was there the last time we stayed but no Gene, unfortunately.

The road continues up a few more climbs, past the immaculate Pepperdine University and then the traffic starts to get worse as you go through Malibu. It gets a little tense here as there are many, many cars parked on the side of the road and you have to keep looking for any sign that one of them is going to pull out. Other than a few close calls with RVs being too close, the ride was pretty nice and some of the houses are truly stunning.

Eventually I got my first glimpse of Santa Monica and it started to dawn on me that I was nearing the end of my adventure.

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I started riding slower as I didn’t really want this to end. My legs and arse did, for sure, but mentally I wasn’t ready for it all to end just yet. I started thinking about a week ago, leaving the Golden Gate Bridge. The things I’d seen, done and thought about over the last 8 days. How I was going to think about things going forward.

I casually cycled along the designated trail alongside and then through the beaches and then stopped for one final photo before I completed my adventure. I met a nice Australian couple from Melbourne who had just cruised through the Panama Canal and they kindly took the photo for me.

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I could stall no more, it was time to end the epic adventure.

I slowly cycled the last 1/2 mile or so, parked the bike and had some other random stranger take my at the pier.

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It still hadn’t sunk in so I cycled under the pier and then it hit me.

I parked the bike, sat down and wept like a baby.

Just seven months ago my family and parents were feeding me through a tube and here I was having cycled 538.6 miles (many of them in the right direction), spent 43 hours, 15 minutes and 46 seconds cycling and climbed a total of 24,704ft. I have never felt as at peace with myself as I did sitting there staring at the iconic pier.

After a little time I persuaded my legs to lift me up and then cycled up the hill to the hotel. Yes, there was one more climb in me.

Key learnings:

  1. If you’re going to embark on a journey that’s five times longer than your longest ever ride, understand how long that actually is.
  2. If you’ve not trained enough for a long journey, try not to think about how far it is and just mentally chop it up in to small pieces.
  3. As much as I wouldn’t recommend yelling at strangers (I see this daily on BART, our local homeless system that can also get you to work), make an exception if you see a cyclist chugging up a very steep climb, roll your window down and shout something encouraging or beep your horn in a friendly manner (not too close to them though, it’s scary).
  4. Men, after 8 days of riding keep an eye on things down below to make sure that’s a skin tag and not a fourth testicle growing. I mean third testicle, third….
  5. Stop and enjoy moments along your journey. It was refreshing (and inconvenient) not to have my phone today but I actually spent time just enjoying the moment without the urge to check-in and Facebook about it. Ironic thing to write in a blog, I know, but enjoy the moment first and then record it.
  6. Don’t Stop Believing. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to do, somewhere you’ve always wanted to go then make a plan and go for it. Whatever it is you can do it with the right support. Don’t have the right support, find it, it’s out there.

Thanks for reading and all your support. I’ll leave you with this photo that I only got to see for the first time a couple of days ago and one of me reaching my birthday goal.

 

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9 thoughts on “Day 8, Ventura to Santa Monica Pier. Don’t Stop Believing…

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  1. Hi Simon…I have been so enjoying your posts and this last one was so moving and also made me chuckle. You have my respect for your determination and lack of map reading skills, yet still managing to get there! I fly out from New Zealand on the 17th to bike from Vancouver to LA. Reading your posts have been so confidence inspiring…. Thankyou 🙂

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  2. Congratulations on finishing as you had wanted! The pictures at the end really knocked your point out of the ball park! Excellent way to make a point! I enjoyed your journal entries! You really should plan to ride the rest of California and Oregon at the very least!

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  3. Congratulations Simon! I followed you on a daily basis and commend you on your choice to celebrate life.
    I hope this is the first of many such adventures. I wish I had the opportunity to meet you and shake your hand. However, our rides are out of synch. I’ll be starting in a week. Oh well.
    Congratulations on your achievement and wish you many more rides.
    Alan

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  4. Simon – what an amazing adventure! Thank you for sharing it with all of us, and for you wise words. Life is simply too short NOT to go for your dreams!!

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  5. What a story, and great story teller! Truly inspiring but not surprising given the man behind it. Nicely done Si on several different levels, can’t wait to see you guys and have a few cold ones. Love you man!

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