A little piece of beach paradise – just watch out for great white sharks

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The generosity of Americans to a pair of rather smelly and dirty English bicycle tourists never ceases to amaze us and once again we have benefitted from the kindness of local people.

We arrived at Refugio Beach State Beach campground after a 75 mile ride from Pismo Beach. We had planned to stay in Pismo for a day and explore nearby Santa Barbara, but the hiker/biker areas of the state campgrounds have been closed because of problems with homeless people.

We managed to camp cheaply at an RV park but with a pitch between a rail road and highway, we decided to move on to Refugio Beach. After a few days of cycling between 30 and 40 miles it was great to tackle a decent distance once again.

It was also the last day we would be climbing any big hills on this journey because south of Refugio Beach is mostly flat to the border with Mexico. The day divided into two parts. The first took us along endless miles of flat farmland and through the town of Guadalupe which felt more like Mexico than the USA with its Spanish signs and Mexican vibe.

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The second half of the day took us up two climbs with elevations of just under 1,000ft. The first up Harris Grade Road was a testing twisting climb with epic views of Lompoc and the surrounding countryside from the top. The second and final large climb of our journey was a gradual 13.5 mile ascent which dragged on but was pretty easy.

And then a few miles down the road we arrived at the best hiker/biker camp of our journey where we would meet some incredibly nice people.

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We couldn’t believe it when we were allowed to pitch our tent in a prime location just a few feet from Refugio Beach. We immediately decided to take a day off here and despite a recent Great White Shark sighting in the area, we were keen to go for a swim.

It was on the first evening that Jim and Caroline Halbeisen and their family, who were camping in an RV close by, invited us to dinner. We quickly cast our dry noodles aside and took them up on their kind offer. After 75 miles of cycling we wolfed down the delicious spinach Cabrini pasta dish and sausages and enjoyed talking about life in California and England.

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Talking to Jim was an inspiration. He had lost parts of his legs, arms and hands battling a disease in which survival was a triumph in itself. Adapting to life after such a fight must have been tougher than we can imagine, but his positive attitude and the support of a wonderful family means he is again pursuing his love of mountain biking and he is thinking about riding the Pacific Coast Highway.

We spent a second night being fed by this generous family and we enjoyed chatting about life over a campfire. It was the perfect end to our favourite campground so far. Next stop, Malibu!

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