A pounding on the PCH

Day 37, Leo Carrillo to Santa Monica Hostelling International, 28 miles

Actually, sand blasting is more accurate. My ride in is one of the hardest of this trip, and in fact, of my cycling “career”. It starts with headwinds at the get go. Up the first hill, overlooking the churning surf, 30mph winds from the northeast. I’m riding east, for anyone unfamiliar with the Malibu Coastline.

I’ve ridden headwinds before. It’s the crosswind gusts that make this ride so adventurous, buffeting me to the left and right, equally threatening to send me into traffic or off the cliff. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit too dramatic on that. I’m basically crawling forwards, up hills very slowly, pedaling down them.

Now let’s add the sand, grit, debris all being blown into my face. I have to ride with my eyes in a squint, not just from the morning glare (remember I’m riding east) but also to keep the sand and grit from getting in my eyes.

Slow going, methodical pedaling. A bit of a break comes at Malibu Road, down off the highlands, a nestled side street with beachside houses. I get to the town of Malibu, my first coffee break, and cross the busy PCH. Then I look up and see a wall of grey brown, an opaque cloud of sand whipped up and heading towards me. I stop my bike, tuck my head, and let the sand blow against my helmet, exposed arms and legs. It only lasts a few seconds. I con’t imagine desert travel, where such a sand storm might go on and on.

I turn to the coffee shop in the quaint and overpriced Malibu Country mall. Power is out! At least they have coffee, already brewed. No time to linger here, I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and getting this ride over and done with. And I know it will lighten up as I get closer to Santa Monica.

Indeed, the winds are gone as I arrive to the flats, descending to the long beach bike path that leads up the famed Santa Monica pier. Countless beach volleyball nets, empty. Blue skies, I can enjoy at last. I climb the ramps to the pier, then the bridge over the PCH, up to Santa Monica Boulevard, and over the hostel, just 2 blocks away. Home for this road worn traveler. I check in early, get a shower and a nap. Exhausted from such a short ride.

Night is falling, early now. Daylight savings comes this Sunday. I wander the neighborhood around the hostel, upscale overpriced, filled with hipsters and tourists. Many already dressed for Halloween, an excellent and creepy Pee Wee allows a gratuitous picture. I listen to a local cover band hammer out favorites from the 70s.

I’m tired, head on home to the hostel. The dorm room is stuffy, filled at capacity with eight men. Maybe I’ll spring for the smaller dorm next time. But for now I’m glad for the bed and the shower and the company of other travels.

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