Well I must say I am stoked. Stoked to at last meet Kirk and Donna of www.kirkanddonna.com fame. I am staying with them here at their apartment in Redondo Beach until my flight to Shanghai leaves on the 13th.
Last night Kirk and I were trying to figure out how we first got acquainted. I did a little research, and found that he emailed me on the 4th of April 2006, telling me that my website was not working. From there, Kirk has given me great advice on traveling, drawing on his own experience while traveling around the world with his wife Donna.
Kirk gave me a ride into central Los Angeles this morning to the Chinese Consulate. Time to get a visa sorted out.
I was hoping to be able to apply for a 90 day tourist visa. No such luck. The Consualte’s policies changed on Wednesday last week. Foreign passport holders may only apply for a 30 day visa. Ouch. So I did that. Applied for the 30 day visa.
Afterwards however, I realised that this will not do the trick at all. I will definitely be in China for at least 90 days. I don’t want to chance having to leave the country because I can’t extend the visa enough to finish the trip across China by skateboard.
Therefore, the game plan is to visit the embassy on Monday again, with all my travel documents in order (itinerary, flight details etc) and see if they will allow an exception. Here’s hoping…
LA is a big city. Colossal. And here I was thinking Phoenix was big.
By the way, I am elated to say that I was reunited with my Canon G9 camera today. C.R.I.S. Camera, the legends, were super speedy and got the thing fixed and sent to Kirk and Donna’s place for me to pick up when I arrived yesterday. Fantastic. And even better, they didn’t charge me a thing. What would have been a US$260 repair, they supplied the repair as support for my journey and cause. Talk about awesome. Thank you to C.R.I.S. Camera. I have missed the flexibility of the G9.
I made my way back to Redondo Beach using the Metro and bus system. Their 1800-COMMUTE free-dial info service came in very handy.
Without it I would have been ruined.
So…I have about 10 days here in LA. I will be working on the Chinese Visa issue, and also, please look forward to the next Video Update! I have been taking lots of footage from the road since way back in Austin, Texas, and I am looking forward to getting it all together!
Today’s distance / ???????: 55 miles / 88.2km
Average speed / ????: 9.5mph / 15.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 44m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4139mi plus 280mi (?) / 6661km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 475m
Descent / ??: 475m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N33° 51′ 20.78″, W118° 22′ 47.42″
I got away from the Dana Point State Beach Campsite early. 6:30am I was on the road. Scooted down the beach a little to a public picnic area. Noticed on the way through that the campsite was US$25 a night. With all the noise of generators, surrounded by towering RVs, I felt it only fair that a lowly human-powered traveler such as myself should be exempt.
I spent a good chunk of the early morning dodging traffic on the rolling hills on the Pacific Coast Highway. In the Laguna Beach area, the highway becomes narrow. It was heart in the throat kind of skating. I came through that unscathed, and spent the rest of the morning enjoying ocean-side skating along the numerous paved boardwalks of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Sunset Beach, and Seal Beach.
After a lunch of cheese rolls, an avocado, a bottle of chocolate milk, and a banana, I pushed on through Los Angeles. Los Angeles itself began as a big dirty port. Long Beach Harbour. I continued along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), through the middle of oil refineries and shipping yards. Across some of the rail roads, I could have sworn I had seen some of the same train cars before in Texas…
I pushed on hard through some rougher neighbourhoods until I popped out onto the coast again at Redondo Beach. Stoked to be here! Staying with Kirk and Donna.
Today’s distance / ???????: 46 miles / 73.8km
Average speed / ????: 9.4mph / 15.2km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 53m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4084mi plus 280mi (?) / 6573km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N18.104.22.168, W22.214.171.124
Made it. Pacific Ocean. Big pond it is.
I got up early. I wanted to beat the morning rush on narrow and busy highway 76. Didn’t help getting up early. I had to walk frequent sections of the roadway due to the lack of shoulders and heavy car and truck traffic on the weaving slither of roadway. Eventually however I got to where highway 76 changes its name from Pala Rd to Mission Drive. Mission Drive had shoulders and it was all go.
I enjoyed the odd old section of road where there was no traffic.
I kept the pressure on, and thanks to some very nice cycle paths coming into Oceanside, I was at the water’s edge by 9:25am, the 2nd of April. 118 days (3 months 27 days) since I left Key West, Florida, on the 7th of December 2007.
I meandered along the beach front, enjoying the cool Pacific Coast breeze.
Houses were very “Californian”…
As stoked as I was to see the water, my day was well from over. From Oceanside, I still had (have) another 70 or so miles until I reach LA, where my flight to China leaves from. No rest for the wicked therefore. I made my way to the Camp Pendalton Marine Base.
The only way to get from Oceanside to the next town, San Clemente, is to pass through the Marine (army) base. If you’re in a car, this is easy. Take the I-5 freeway. If you’re on a bicycle, it is also easy. Go to the front gate, and they’ll take note of your ID, and let you through. If you’re on a skateboard, you may have more of a challenge.
Yesterday, I had called the front gate of the base in order to make sure that I would be able to travel through the base on my skateboard. During the phone call, the Military Police Officer I spoke to had to check with several people before he gave me the OK. “Is it just you? Or is it a group?” the officer asked.
“Just me,” I answered.
“OK, let me check.” A few minutes later, the officer returned to the phone. “So long as you are wearing a helmet, Sir, you may skate through the base following the bicycle route,” he said.
I thanked him, and carried on skating feeling confident that I would have no problems.
That was yesterday. Today:
Problem One: There was a different team of officers on the front gate.
Probelm Two: Communication between teams of officers is non-existent.
Problem Three: The main officer on the gate today was about 19 years old (no rank therefore no authority to think for himself) and made comments such as “I don’t understand why they even let bicycles through…”
I arrived at the gate, and went inside the booth. Officer Blythe, the main officer, was not sure whether I was allowed through the base on a skateboard. He did two rounds of phone calls to his superiors.
The bottom line after his phone calls? “I’m sorry Sir, but you are not allowed to skateboard through the base. You’ll have to go around the base, or take a cab.”
Not a good start to my impression of the US Army public relations bureau.
I reminded him that in order to ‘go around’ the base, one would need to take a 250 mile detour. I also reminded him that I had spoken to a front gate Officer yesterday on the phone, and had been given the OK. I told him that I was in the position to take an alternative route yesterday when I called, and had called to confirm whether I would be able to skate through the base, and being given the OK, I carried on towards the base rather than the alternative route.
“Is it illegal to skateboard on base?” I asked him.
“No Sir, it isn’t.” he replied.
“So…what is the problem?” I asked.
He wrote down a number and suggested that I call it. The Public Relations Office or something. I called it. A woman answered, and listened politely to my plight.
“Let me check and confirm this, Sir, and I will call back at the front gate,” she said once I had finished.
10 minutes later, the front gate phone rang. Officer Blythe picked up the phone. Smiled. Perhaps he was on my side after all.
“You have the OK to skate through, sir. You must be wearing elbow pads, knee pads, and a helmet though.”
“Yesterday I was told all I needed was a helmet. I’m impressed with how quickly your base updates their safety regulations.”
Officer Blythe called the PR woman back. After a short conversation, I was given the OK to skate through the base, sans knee and elbow pads. Long process which on a bicycle would have taken a few moments.
Anyway, it was interesting skating through the base. Intermittent rapid gunfire, amoured vehicles driving down the road, “TANK XING” road signs…
I got told off for taking photos, of course. “Signs and stuff are OK, Sir,” said the adolescent MP Officer, “but make sure you don’t take any photos of the facilities.”
Dunno whether the top photo there qualifies as a non-allowed shot, since it has some of the buildings in the background. Oh well. I’m leaving the country soon anyway.
Hit more beach once I had made the 25 mile trek through the army base unscathed. Very Californian beach vibes. Very Baywatch. Minus the beach babes however, since it was still a little chilly.
I was making fairly good time by the time I arrived at Dana Point. It was 4pm. Still plenty of time to keep moving. Then I chanced upon the Dana Point State Beach. There was a campground with coin-operated showers, and best of all, a few empty campsites. Since I arrived into the State Beach via a back entrance for cyclists/hikers/walkers, I had no idea what the idea was for campsite fees. I set my tent up anyway, amidst a sea of large RVs and campervans. When I went to bed, my ear plugs dulled the incessant hum from numerous generators feeding electricity to all the campers’ needs. So much for a quiet holiday away from the hubub and modern society’s trappings…
Today’s distance / ???????: 41.4 miles / 66.6km
Average speed / ????: 9.4mph / 15.2km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 23m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 4038mi plus 280mi (?) / 6499km plus 450km (?)
Ascent / ??: 180
Descent / ??: 580
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N126.96.36.199, W188.8.131.52
Well, what a pallava. It was going to be a straight forward skate to Oceanside today. But as I should have known, nothing is straight forward when traveling by skateboard.
I left Hemet around 8:30am, intending on taking highway 76 all the way down to Temecular and then continue on highway 76 to Oceanside. About an hour into the ride, it became apparent that this was not going to happen. Highway 76 is narrow, no shoulders, with heavy, high speed, irritated traffic. No place for a skateboard.
I stopped in at West Coast Turf to ask for directions. What legends those people are. The ladies in the office took me under their wing and let me use a computer in the office to Google an alternative route. In the end I came up with a great route that took me on numerous detours but kept me off the busy roads.
Went past a second hand bus dealership. Trippy.
Went through Old Town Temecular too. Nice spot, that. Got accosted by a group of people who were perhaps the most interested in my trip of anyone I’ve met along the way so far. Great fun.
The skate up Rainbow Canyon Road was the most challenging part of the day. A short sharp climb through the Temecular Golf Course.
After some more fairly serious ups and downs, I arrived back at the not-so-lovely highway 76 again. This time there were no alternatives. I had to walk some parts where the road was too narrow. Soooo many cars on this stretch of road. Not nice. I got sick of walking and eventually got off the road and set up camp next to a soft spot of sand on the river bed.
Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I have had my nose to the grind, pulling back-to-back 60 mile plus days trying to get to Hemet on time for the Lowe Syndrome Association fundraiser I spoke at on Saturday.
I am now about to leave Hemet after a wonderful weekend here with the Medellin Meester family, and am now bound for LA. A full update of the last couple of weeks of skating will follow once I get to LA. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and challenges, so stay tuned.