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July 7th, 2012 | California

Big Sur and San Francisco…

The ride back to Santa Barbara was uneventful, except for the part where I almost fell asleep on a long and boring section of the freeway…!!

I pulled into a service station to have a quick cup of black coffee, before riding on again… I clearly needed a lot more sleep and a little less wine tonight…!!

Traffic leading into Los Angeles was its usual hectic self, but by doing some lane-splitting, I managed to keep on the move while other vehicles around me had come to a standstill…

Before I left Santa Barbara, I went around to Raphael’s workshop, where we fitted two sets of saddles clamps to my top-box, into which I am able to insert two aluminum rods from which to fly my flags from… When I left home in 2012, I selected two flag bandanas from my collection, to take with me…

One of course was the South African flag, and after some deliberation, I chose the United States flag as my second choice…

I am not sure what the thinking behind this was at the time, but perhaps the gods that govern fate were already beginning to whisper in my ear…!! As things have turned out, South Africa and the U.S.A. will be the first and last countries on my world tour, and, I will be marrying a wonderful American woman in this, the country I will eventually ship the Big Fella home from…!!

With the brackets in place, but no idea how I was going to attach my flags to the poles, I said a quick farewell to Raphael, and then headed out onto highway 101 North… I followed the coastline for a while and then headed due north to Lompoc,  and after that, passed Vandenberg AirForce Base on my way to Arroyo Grande…

Low grey clouds obscured the mountains that rise up from the coast….

I wanted to ride the country roads and stay off the larger freeways, but found that many of the country roads were dual carriageways anyway…!! It is hard to keep to the speed limits here, and I had to keep a constant look out for those that would want to spoil my day with a speeding ticket…!!

After reaching Morro Bay on the Pacific coast, I finally got onto the type of road I had been hoping for… It jinked its way along the seashore, twisting and turning, dipping and climbing, as it followed this rugged section of coastline…

A brief stop at one of the many viewpoints along the Big Sur coastline….

Although I had started the ride in bright sunshine, by the time I reached the coast, heavy cloud had rolled in and the sea was just a flat grey, expanse of water, stretching out to the horizon…

In places where the wind blew strongly, the clouds had been blown apart to reveal the bright blue sky above, and here the light reflected off the waters and made for better photographic opportunities…

When the sun broke through, the blue sky was reflected off the waters of the Pacific…

The Big Sur coastline is one of the most famous rides in North America, and with good reason… It easily matches the Great Ocean Road in Australia for its breathtaking beauty… I stopped at a few of the many viewpoints to get a better look at the rocky beaches far below me…

There were people on the beach far below me when I took this photo… I wondered if they realised how steep a climb they would have to get back up to the road…!!

I stopped at a little place called Gorda to refuel and discovered that the service station office was closed and I would not be able to pay cash for the fuel… A guy filling up next to me saw the look of dismay on my face and came over to help… He paid for my fuel with his own credit card, and I paid him in cash…

At Santa Cruz, we left the coastal highway and headed inland towards San Ramon….

I had run on fumes to get to this spot, so without his help, I would have been in a bit of a bind…!!

Four hundred kilometres north of Santa Barbara, and after 250 km of great riding, I rode into Carmel by the Sea, home of the Pebble Beach Golf course where many US Opens have been held… I was tired after six hours of hard riding and decided not to stop and see the sights of this popular playground for the rich and famous…

I rode around the wide sweeping bay to Santa Cruz and then left the coast to make the final push to San Ramon, about 40 km south-east of San Francisco, and the home of my friend Craig Allan, whom I had last seen when we were 15 years old…!!

Craig had stumbled upon my website and been in contact with me over the course of the last few weeks…

I made a fast run up Highway 17, and arrived in San Ramon just after 6.00 pm… Craig, his wife Sandi, and their sons Nicholas and Joshua were there to meet me, and after the initial excitement of our reunion was over, we settled down to have a quiet beer and catch up on the last 34 years…!!

The Allan’s beautiful home in San Ramon… There are many African touches here that reminded me of home…

At some point I mentioned the flags that I had wanted to fly on the bike, and Sandi came up with the brilliant idea of sewing them back to back, so that I need fly only a single flag… She offered to unpack her sewing machine to get the job done, and minutes later presented me with the finished article…!!

I can now proudly fly both flags on the final leg of my journey…

Together with friends they had invited over to meet me, we pointed some meat at the fire and had a good old-fashioned braai…!! We discussed aspects of my rides through countries they wanted to know more about, and I enjoyed sharing the details of the people I had met and the places I had been to…

Craig later brought out some of our old school photos, and looking at the skinny kid in the line up of school prefects, I had to smile quietly to myself…

That skinny kid, like Craig, had not only made his bones in the business world, but was about to put the finishing touches to a very long and a very special journey, one in which he had experienced things that had brought about changes in him, that he never dreamed were possible…

Two flags in one, representing the union that I would soon be celebrating…

Craig and I chatted long into the night about the circumstances that had led him to settle in the US, and those that had set me on my current path…

It was close to midnight when I made my way to bed and blissful sleep… I lay awake for awhile, remembering the people and teachers who taught us all those years ago…

Early the following morning, while Craig prepared breakfast, I loaded the Big Fella in preparation for my ride to the Golden Gate Bridge, and from there, up the coast to Fort Bragg…

I am still amazed at how many people from my past I have either met during this trip, or heard from via email… They remind me that firm friendships never die… They might get a little dusty with age, but they are always there to be rekindled…

Many of the people we had gone to school with had settled in the US, and without exception had been hugely successful in their endeavors…

Later we stood in Craig’s driveway, saying our goodbyes under a bright blue sky, which bode well for my ride…

I wished him well in his future endeavors, and said I hoped it would not be another 30 odd years before we met again…

He in turn wished me good luck and Godspeed on my ride to Alaska, and the happy celebration of my marriage in a few months time… I knew that I had a friend I could count on in San Ramon…!!

Craig Allan and I acknowledge our heritage with the flag that now fles proudly from the Big Fella…

With a final wave, I rode away towards Bollinger Canyon, and the road that would take me to the Golden Gate Bridge…

©GBWT 2012

1 comment to Big Sur and San Francisco…

  • Mark Behr

    Good to see familiar faces – hey, we hae family in Vancouver who would love to host you. Let me know if you need a place to stay.

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