San Diego is the end point for most cyclist who travel down the West Coast, usually starting in Vancouver. Just 40km North of Mexico, it has the luxury and practical advantages of the USA while combined with the weather and relaxedness of the Mexicans.
Our friend Romke (from The Netherlands) had already told us that he loved it there and that he would love to move there and had sent us some addresses of friends he had met there.
We were planning to let our bodies and mind rest for a while here.
After staying with Daniel, we headed over to the nice Balboa Park for a relaxed day in the park, enjoying the sun. We stayed a few nights with Ryan & Meredith from the WarmShowers list. It is always nice to see how other cyclists share whatever they have with others.
After moving to nearby Kathryn and J’s place we started with the long job of updating our blogs and editing the many images we had taken the past months.
In theory it is easy to update the blogs in the evening after a day of cycling but in practice we were almost every night with friendly people, enjoying their company until bedtime. Of all the wonderful things we have seen in the US, the people top it all.
Rich or poor, young or old, everybody opened up there homes for us and treated us like kings. In my ‘1000 Americans Category’ I have placed a few dozen portraits of some of them, but it can do no justice to the way they have taken care of us during our trips down the Pacific Coast.
St Patrick’s Day 2009
Close to Ryan’s and Kathryn’s homes was the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, supposedly one of the largest one-day event. It was not so crowded, we could easily enjoy the long stream of Old-timers (both cars as well as people).
When the ‘Irishman of the year’ passed, many people around us started speculating what it took to get that title, but all agreed that it likely had to do something with loads of Guinness.. Note the sensible people below that advised everybody to ‘ride a bike’!
Out to the Ocean: Ocean Beach
We had agreed with one more WarmShowers host to stay with him. What we did not know at the time was that Saul would leave the next morning for his work in Seattle, leaving the place to us for more than a week. We did manage to get some fish tacos on the pier with him and his cycling friend, after another restaurant had refused us for not having an ID (Ivana is 33 and I am 38…).
It was great to have a home, where we could feel ourselves again, relax and do more work. Ocean Beach is the Western part of San Diego, and so far has resisted the push of the strip malls, McDonald’s and other negative American icons.
Instead, they have the best farmer’s market we had seen in all of the USA, a local co-op with organic food, local small shops, surfers on the beach and generally a very relaxed atmosphere.
Over to Point Loma
Saul’s mom surprised us as she was supposed to arrive later. She insisted we’d stay with her, but as Romke’s friend Martin had returned from his vacation, we moved to his place instead. It was only a few km away and though not next to the Ocean, Point Loma is a similar relaxed neighbourhood.
My knee was still the same and after more research, I realized that maybe my position on the bike could have caused the stress on my knee and decided to buy some new pedals and sandals with click-in SPD cleats to go with it.
This would force my legs to be straight, while also allowing for ‘pulling’ my legs up instead of just pushing them down.
Romke had introduced me to Chuck and as he lived close to the REI store where I found the sandals I wanted I visited him. It was nice to connect with Chuck and as he was also curious to meet Ivana, he picked us up the next day for a Japanese dinner near his house.
It was inspiring to see somebody who is older than Ivana and me together being so active and addicted to cycling, very inspirational and motivating.
Leaving the USA
We really enjoyed visiting the US, meeting the great people and seeing some of the best nature in the world.
We had witnessed with our own eyes how the election of Barack Obama had revived a national pride that had been covered in shame the past 8 years. Even though the global economic crisis was easily seen in the many friends we met that had lost their job, people had hope again.
We saw many initiatives to switch back from the global strip mall, war & TV culture to a more simple and peaceful, meaningful life with respect for each other and nature. We saw the possibilities that the US can offer her varied mix of citizens and felt privileged to meet all those kind hearts that make our trip so special.
As April came, we were getting restless. We had stretched our visas and hospitality of our guests as far as it could before breaking 😉 It was time to move on.
Strange enough many US citizens we had met had never been to Mexico, even though it is so close, you get there by just taking a wrong turn on the highway…
Since the media started reporting on the drug wars tourism was down and Tijuana and other border towns were avoided. Stubborn as I am, I would like to see the situation with my own eyes, before making a judgement.
Next report should be coming from Mexico!
Martin does environmental research for construction projects. Like many San Diegans, he tries to live ecologically and healthy, cycling where possible, recycling where possible and eating vegan.
Sometimes we thing we know a lot about cycling and travelling and then we are humbled to meet somebody like Chuck.
He has cycled all over, has a nice collection of bikes, some decades old. He is more active than most people half his age.
He is 73
Kathryn is the daughter of Bill Korn and grew up in Santa Maria. Now, living in San Diego, she works as a fitness instructor for the in-house fitness centre of the Nokia employees.
The dog (‘Ceasar’) was a guest like us
Ryan & Merridith are a young couple from San Diego. They eat mostly vegetarian and live car-free, biking everywhere, while finishing up their studies. Math-major Ryan has cycled through Europe and the US.
I could not choose between portraits and as the above technically is a self-portrait, I included one more below