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As with my stop in Cincinnati, LA succeeded in stopping me for longer than I’d planned. The plan of arrive on Monday, meet Mike on Wednesday and ride out on Thursday had been scuppered by Mike’s issues with his water heater blowing up. David, my host had let me know I should feel free to stay as long as I wanted and that he’d be free to ride out together with me on the Sunday, and so 3 nights turned into 6.

Sunday morning rolled around and Mike, Carmen and I had breakfast. He’d invited some other friends a couple of days earlier, but they had all had plans. It highlighted a difference in the life of a regular American to mine. While I tend to have a vague idea of where I’m heading and when I might get there, it’s fluid, and it’s easy to see so many examples of that throughout the trip. From leaving the Grand Canyon a day earlier due to sub-zero temperatures, to staying in Cincinnati for a month, to the many times I’ve met someone during a day and the destination changes. The people who have hosted me, be it from Warmshowers, Couchsurfing, me being passed on or any other way, are another great example. My lack of certainty means I probably contact people on Warmshowers 3 or 4 days before I’m hoping to stay with them and of course no time when I knock on a complete stranger’s door and they invite me in for dinner and we stay up late talking. The freedom that the bicycle can give you is a wonderful thing and long may it continue.

After breakfast, I said my goodbyes to Carmen. It had been a lovely surprise to hang out with her and Monique, two of my friends from Korea, during my time in LA. After all the delays, it was finally time to head south on the road to Mexico. Having been living in the San Gabriel area for more than 30 years, Mike knew everything about both it and the best way to bike. I followed along behind as he spoke about the area, pointed out highlights as we weaved our way across to the San Gabriel river bike path.

On the San Gabriel, the lack of traffic and being able to ride side-by-side most of the way, meant that we could talk more. Even though I’d been in LA for 6 nights, David’s schedule meant that we hadn’t had as much time to talk as I’d liked. He’s full of stories from a life filled with travel, and the 30 miles from his house to the Pacific Ocean flew by. It was cloudy which meant that the path wasn’t as busy as I was expecting, but there were still a few people out on training rides, including a pair who after passing us made a snarky comment that they’d love to draft behind us, but only if we could keep up with their 18 mph. I’m a competitive person, but riding on a carbon road bike and telling someone on a touring bike that their 15 mph isn’t fast enough just struck me as ridiculous. Part of me was tempted to speed up and draft behind him, but I wasn’t in a rush anywhere and talking with David was more enjoyable than surprising him with my ability to actually keep up with him.

We made it to Seal Beach, and the closest thing we saw was a Navy base. Seals, as I was reminded later by Dennis, live in cold places like the arctic, and the things I would have seen are actually sea lions. It was then time to follow the coast, past countless people playing beach volleyball, along a bike path which mentioned a speed limit of 10 mph or 5 mph when there are people on foot, complete madness as it means you’d be overtaken by runners all the time.

A few miles short of Newport Beach, we stopped for lunch and a beer, one of my final in the US. The menu promised, and delivered on, huge portions and I was glad to nearly be done for the day. David and I parted ways after eating, but he’s interested in joining up at some time further down the road. Who knows when, where or for how long, but it’ll be fun to ride with him again.

30 minutes down the road and I was at my destination, Newport Beach, where I met my host Diane. I just had enough time to unload my bike and eat a cookie before I was back out on the road to spend a few hours exploring the area before being whisked off to a 3 hour folk dance class to end a long day.

Random encounter

Down a bike path

Riding along Back Bay with Diane

Back Bay

Balboa Island

Huntington Beach

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