Port Hueneme to Torrance, CA

Today was the farthest we’ll go in a day this tour. It was pretty flat, but 70 miles is still a lot of ground to cover. At least we got to see the most important landmark on the west coast.

We deviated from the Adventure Cycling route to use a street with a marked bike lane. Our efforts were stymied by garbage day. The bins forced us into the lane. Can’t win ’em all.

In Oxnard, we were passed by a convoy of Range Rovers and Maseratis, many completely covered in a white semi-transparent smock. They all turned in at a corner with a “Pacific Vehicle Processors” sign, which apparently is part of the importing process.

Leading Oxnard behind, we rode through more fields. Strawberries, sod, and an assortment of vegetables were in various stages of growth. Then, past NAS Point Mugu, which now appears to serve as an Air Force Reserve base. We stopped at Missile Park, where various missiles and a few planes are on display.

It was not too hot, but really humid. Enough that my gloves got soaked, and my handlebars were wet to the touch.

Then it was time for the PCH portion of the day, making nearly half of the miles. At first, it was a now pretty standard road for us. Ocean on the right, hills and mountains on the left. Sometimes, interesting cuts through the mountains. We saw a number of different rock types, although I don’t know enough geology to be useful. There was one bit where sand was blown high up the side, and people were climbing it. We ate lunch at the picnic tables at a state beach parking lot.

As we got into Malibu, traffic picked up, the area became developed, and the shoulders were packed with parked cars. For much of it, there was a bike lane that was just wide enough to stay out of the door zone, but we had to stay on our toes. There were a few hills to make things interesting.

Then we came to what is probably the most hazardous stretch of road so far on this tour. And I say that having dealt with narrow winding roads with thousand foot drops, no guardrail, and a crosswind. Our beloved Highway 1 became a monster.

Two lanes of heavy, fast, consistent traffic in each direction. A parking lane/shoulder of varying width. We’d try to go in the shoulder. Even when there weren’t particular obstructions, it really wasn’t wide enough. We’d be stuck in the door zone, with too-close traffic on the left. If we tried to nudge out of door, traffic would just get closer, trying to squeeze past without changing lanes.

And there were plenty of obstructions completely blocking the shoulder. People double parked, trying to park, waiting for a space so they could park. Garbage cans, construction cones, and debris of all descriptions. Tow trucks, dump trucks, and my favorite, a tow truck carrying a dump truck.

The solution, of course, is to take the lane. Ride straight in the middle, to force anyone else to change lanes to pass (which they would need to do to pass safely anyways, so you’re just forcing them to do the right thing). Any bike safety course would say so, and the law supports it. So we did, and everyone seemed able to get through, and still have brief gaps. But they weren’t happy. Especially when there were stretches where the shoulder looked clear. We’d be tempted, but then within a half mile, we’d get squeezed or obstructed and need to find a way back into the lane.

So we kept the lane for most of 15 miles. It’s the only safe option. But it isn’t much fun.

Finally, it was time to turn off for the various beach bike paths. But it just traded off the hazards. Even with clearly marked bike/pedestrian areas, people were everywhere. And the path was wavy enough to be hard to see far enough ahead to safely pass. It was quite interesting to be on a path cut right in the middle of the sandy beach, though.

We rode through the Santa Monica Beach and Pier, then Venice Beach. There were a ton of playgrounds (mostly marked as private members only), which the kids wistfully called out for. Then we cut in to go around a marina, which was blissfully light on pedestrians and beach cruisers.
We returned to beach paths, though much less busy. Probably the wastewater processing and power plants just inland turned some people off. We were near LAX, and could watch (and listen to) big jets taking off towards the ocean. A gentleman from Torrance rode with us for a while, chatted, and gave commentary on the sights, before moving on.

We came off the beach, and onto a bike boulevard. It was quite a nice change. We passed through Redondo Beach, where Anne and I stayed on our only other time in LA, a pre-Ruth last hurrah. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a bike boulevard then. It switched back to bike/ped path for the Redondo Beach Pier, so it got hairy again.

It was time to cut inland towards the hotel in Torrance. The road had a highly intermittent bike lane. I don’t mind riding without a marked lane, using the shoulder or taking the lane when needed. But it’s not helpful to mark a bike lane for half of each block. The worst offender was an intersection approach with a really nicely painted bike lane, complete with the dotted area where it crosses over the right hand turn, putting you in the right place. But then, surprise! There’s nothing on the other side. It’s narrow enough you need to merge in and take the lane while in the intersection, or get stuck out there. Torrance, I appreciate that you’re trying, but sometimes it’s better to do nothing.

We deviated again from the Adventure Cycling route. For some reason, they neglected to include a ride-by of the most important site on the coast. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s house. Fortunately, Anne recognized this oversight during planning, when there was still time to correct it. We subtly took some pictures, so not to annoy the natives. We could then go to our hotel in peace.
Despite all my complaining, it was still a good day. We finished a little ahead of schedule in good spirits. We were all tired, but at least we kept it together on the ride. Dinner and bedtime was another story. Max stayed playful, but Ruth had a couple meltdowns on the way to bed (my quesadilla has zero cheese, this pillow is too smooshy, this blanket is too slippery). Us parents were more quiet about it, but it’s possible we weren’t as patient as possible. We worked it out, and now everyone is asleep. Except for me.

I should fix that. Tomorrow is another long distance day.