Broken spokes, back tracking & Santa Ana winds

By Emma

It was one of ‘those’ days.  The problem of course was that we didn’t realize it at the time. Because, it started out as a great day, as they usually do.

We had been camping south of Santa Barbara at Carpenteria State Beach, warding off the raccoons, and had decided to have an easy day riding 30km south to Mcgrath State Park. We often ‘plan’ these short days riding, but they hardly ever turn out to be short. I wonder if we’ll ever be able recognize the times when we try to fool ourselves?

We started off smiling & blissfully unaware of the day that lay ahead

We started off smiling & blissfully unaware of the day that lay ahead

In any case, we set off around 9am, saying our goodbyes to our cycling friends that we had shared a campsite with, and were rolling out the gate when the ranger comes running out of the registration center waving her arms at us. It is Liz. We met her and her hubby Ken in San Fran the day before they set off on their 8day tandem biking adventure. It’s great to see her again and we spend 20 minutes chatting about the journeys we have all been on since our last meeting. We tell her our onward plans and I think it was then that everything started to unravel. And we hadn’t even actually left the campsite yet. She tells us our next planned campsite is closed and that we will have to stay at a different state park. It’s even a bit closer! We thank her for this advice and hit the road with this new destination in mind.

Pacific Coast Hwy, busy and  hot

Pacific Coast Hwy, busy and hot

5km down the road I decide that the camera hanging around my neck is giving me grief and I want to find a better place to store it on the bike, so we pull over. Helmets off, we devise a clever new attachment, get back on the bike and start pedaling. We ride through some road works and a small section along Highway 1. The traffic is busy,  so we are heads down to get this highway section done, finding the turn off to the coast where we can enjoy the seaside view. We stop for a picture and that’s when Bren realizes, he isn’t wearing his helmet. Now I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is pretty easy to do. We suddenly realize that the sound of something being run over about 20km back  must have been his helmet falling off the bike and crashing onto the highway. That’s a long way to go back really. So chalk that one up as a loss and pedal forward!

The pic that made us realise the helmet was gone. Wallies!

The pic that made us realise the helmet was gone. Wallies!

15km later, we arrive at this proposed camp site. It’s a deserted wind-blown squirrel disco. Hmm. Not ideally the place that we want to spend our afternoon off. Team meeting. We decide that if we push on to the campsite we intended for tomorrow, then we can have the entire day off tomorrow. It turns our small 30km day into an 85km day, but hey, it still seems like a great plan. We’ve done bigger days than this, we remind ourselves, so lets roll!

We make some pretty great head-way down the road for about 20km with a nice tail wind. That is of course, until Goober starts to cause a ruckus. I should be better at checking his planned routes for us, it’s true. This is the last set of stores before we reach camp and now we have to do about 12km of backtracking to get supplies. Thanks Goober.

We turn off the highway to commence the back tracking and holy hell, the head wind blows straight into us like a wall of hate. We are assaulted by dust and sand, and struggle to cover any distance in decent time. It’s intense wind that we later find out is called the ‘Santa Ana’, or ‘Devil Winds’. We feel the hate for sure.

The wind is just starting and you can see the classic California palms starting to sway

The wind is just starting and you can see the classic California palms starting to sway

It takes nearly an hour to cover our 12km back track. It’s severely frustrating. But we make it to the shops and take respite in their fluorescent lighting, dusting off & sorting our meals for the next few days. We go over the plan for our onward journey to the campground, checking and double-checking Goober’s wicked ways. Shopping done, we get back on the road.

10km later. Crack. What was that? Tinkle tinkle tinkle

A spoke on the rear wheel just broke. Bugger. We have spares but no wrench to loosen the nut. Double bugger.

I start approaching strangers & enquire about random tools they may posses when a guy  directs us to a garage he knows down the road. When you break a spoke, you shouldn’t ride the bike as it puts more stress on the other spokes, increasing the likelihood of breaking more, which can then warp the wheel. I am learning much.

So we limp Falkor down the footpath to the garage and an excellent bloke there lends us the right wrench. Don’t call it a spanner, no one knows what that is.

Fixing the 1st broken spoke on the rear wheel. We have since broken 2 more on the rear, and 3 on the front.

Fixing the 1st broken spoke on the rear wheel. We have since broken 2 more on the rear, and 3 on the front.

An hour later, Bren has removed the wheel, taken off the tire & tube, replaced the spoke, and put it all back together again. He is very clever.

We load the bike again and make another break for the campsite. It’s about 4pm and we still have 40km to go. We may JUST make it before sunset.

To our delight, the wind is still gale force and shows no abating. It’s so hardcore and exhausting and I start to lose my mind and laugh maniacally at everything. It’s not helpful but it’s all I have. We can see the road up ahead that we want to turn onto, and we know once we get onto it that the winds will subside. But man, it took so long to get there, battling each turn of the pedals.

We finally turn off and enjoy a brief respite, passing the incredible sight of ’Missile Park’ with amazing missiles on display with names like ‘Harm’. Educational?

We push on along the side of the highway and eventually make it to the coast again. Welcome back head-winds, but we are on the home straight now, with only 16km to go. We’re gonna make it.

We are riding between the sea and this incredible canyon wall. The colours on the rock are mind-blowing, with the sun-set casting them ablaze. Turning the corner, a vista point opens up and we pull over to enjoy the last moments of the sunset. It’s completely beautiful. Did we have to endure the comedy of errors so that we could arrive at this exact time when everything seems suddenly perfect?

Incredible sunset.The best thing that happened all day.

Incredible sunset.The best thing that happened all day.

As we see the ‘1/2 mile to go’ sign for the campground, 2 cyclists roll up beside us. They are an Aussie couple that we have been hearing about since August, and they are heading to Brazil. We have been hoping and wishing we would have the chance to meet them. And now, here they are.

Utterly exhausted & quite exfoliated, we arrive at camp in the darkness. It was a very long day, spending 6 hours on the bike riding 85km with an average speed of 10kmph. We share a site with our new-found friends and they cook us dinner as we discuss the horrors of the Santa Ana winds and the treachery of this cycling day.

The 'other' Aussies - Joe & Brenna, famous on this stretch of road, for their home-made bucket panniers. We had been desperate to catch up with them and hope our paths cross again in South America.

The ‘other’ Aussies – Joe & Brenna, famous on this stretch of road, for their home-made bucket panniers. We had been desperate to catch up with them and hope our paths cross again in South America.

Being on an adventure isn’t always fun and it certainly isn’t always easy, but when did anyone say that the worthwhile stuff would always be straight forward? So whether your adventure is cycling, parenthood, a career or simply trying to stay afloat, it’s an adventure none the less right? We can’t compare anything that we do to anything anyone else does. For every darkness, there is always a silver lining and you always, always, always, have more to give than you think. And even on the bad days, adventures are really better shared, don’t you reckon?

Now compare these faces;

We started off smiling & blissfully unaware of the day that lay ahead

The start of the day…..

A little worse the wear at sunset, just 8km from our campsite.

The end of the day… A little worse the wear at sunset, just 8km from our campsite.

We rode from Carpenteria to Sycamore Canyon in Southern California on Oct 4th

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10 responses to “Broken spokes, back tracking & Santa Ana winds

  1. Em!! Love your writing prowess!!! Such a talent and gift to give such a picture through words. Love Brendy’s mechanical aptitude! Love that you have met up with another Aussie duo! Ha ha! Xxxxx love Buzzie xxxxx

  2. Hi Emma and Brendon

    Brendon used to teach me Pilates in Tokyo.
    I am loving following your journey – it sounds amazing. You are a great writer – I feel like I am on that dusty highway from the comfort of my bed in Tokyo! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your adventure and hopefully there will be a book to read at the end!

    Best of luck!
    Georgia

    • Hi Georgia, thanks for getting in touch. Glad You are enjoying the blog and riding vicariously with us! Taking lots of notes for the days with no wifi and for sure hoping to smash out a book at the end. Hope the pilates is still treating you well!

  3. I absolutely LOVE this post, Em, especially the ‘moral’ at the end! SO inspirational and SO Bremma! 🙂 Much love

    • Oh thank you so much honey. It means so much to know that You are reading and enjoying the blog. It’s a slog to get it written sometimes, but when we have wifi and it flows, well, it’s a good time. So glad you are enjoying it. Thanks for the words of encouragement xxx

  4. Brendon & Emma….I have read each and every post with enthusiasm. Of course them more hardships you have the more we enjoy the stories at this end. So not to wish hardship upon you, please keep the stories rolling! Andrew M

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