After just two days in Santa Cruz we were keen to stay longer but we also wanted to spend a final day cycling with our friend Jennifer who we’d been riding with for most of our journey.
She has under two weeks left to finish her bike ride at the Mexican border and return to real life in Seattle, whereas Pierre and I have three weeks until our British Airways flight home to London.
So the 50 mile ride to Veterans’ Memorial Park in Monterey would likely be our last day as a threesome. We’d shared an amazing adventure, laughed together, struggled together and become good friends amid a backdrop of jaw-dropping scenery, bone aching climbs and ferocious descents.
Jennifer is now part of our journey just as we are part of hers and we are going to miss her a lot. It would have been fitting if our final day together had been a fun ride down the sun drenched Californian coast but instead it turned out to be a tough day.
It began perfectly with a ride along the beaches of Santa Cruz before turning inland through endless miles of sweet smelling strawberry fields. We past hundreds of workers carrying out the backbreaking job of picking the ripe fruit.
This idealic ride soon came to an end as a heavy, cold mist enveloped us and a strong headwind blew up, doing its best push as backwards. Experiencing and embracing the weather is one of the joys of cycling but you have to be a petty hardcore rider to enjoy a headwind.
For the much of the day we battled it which made riding on the flat terrain feel like pedalling uphill, sapping our energy and limiting conversation so much that Pierre and I retreated into our iPods.
The superb cycle path which took us all the way into Monterey alongside the hectic freeway should have been a joy to ride, but the mist and headwind took most of the fun out of the occasion. A steep climb up to the campground at Veterans’ Memorial Park robbed us of the last of our energy.
The park’s hiker/biker area resembled a shanty town and it was obvious a group of people had been using it as a place to live for some time. We’d camped with homeless people and those who spend their life on the road before on this journey without any issues. They are often interesting characters attracted to the campgrounds because they are a cheap, safe place to stay with hot showers, which are the same reasons we stay at them.
This time however, the hiker/biker area seemed overrun and the resident community were loud, shouting, arguing and cackling late into the night before starting up again the next morning.
With this in mind and with the cold mist still hanging int air, we shelved our plans to spend a day exploring Monterey and left early the next morning for the 30 mile ride to Big Sur which was the best decision we could have made.
We were able to spend an extra day with Jennifer and share exploring this beautiful part of the USA.