Riding California, Border-to-Border:  Part 3 of 3

John Pilkington’s 1,250-mile border-to-border ride of California wraps up when he finishes the California Coast Classic (CCC) Bicycle Tour and makes his way to Mexico.

Read the third and final part of John’s journey. If you missed John’s previous blogs, you can read Part 1 and Part 2

Day 14:  To Ventura

On Friday, September 15th, the California Highway Patrol gave us CCC riders one full lane for several miles as we approached Santa Barbara, and we felt special. We were headed to Ventura our last night on the tour and I was feeling a bit sad today. I rode by UCSB and remembered when we dropped Caitlyn off at college, an emotional experience at the time, and I was fully reminded of those feelings as I passed by on this day. Further down, we passed the town of Carpenteria where my family and my sister’s family occasionally camped. My mom and dad showed up the year my dad turned 62 and dad showed our girls how good he was at body surfing. Three days later, dad had a major heart attack that required five bypasses. Only 62 years old. Glad I am only 61. Good news was, he survived another 20 plus years.

Ventura was the perfect place to stay at the Marriott. It was nice to have a real shower and not have to pitch a tent.

Days 15-18:  The Finale

On Saturday, we finished the California Coast Classic ride in Santa Monica (aka Los Angeles).  My wife Nita was there to meet me, as was my good friend Jacqueline Hansen. It got complicated trying to avoid the Malibu Tri, but it all worked out, and there was Anita at the finish of Part 2 of my journey. One more tearfest was OK with me. Nita, Jacki and I had dinner. Nita sent me to bed early and saw me off early Sunday morning to Laguna Beach. She drove a bag south to my Laguna hotel, where it awaited me when I pulled in later that day. Laguna Beach was where I got SCUBA certified so many years ago and the memories were there as I passed all those dive spots from way back when.

And so began my final three days to the Mexican border.

I got to sleep in my own bed tonight. In the morning, I headed south with Stu and Doug, who were completing their Canada to Mexico tour, and for a short piece Bill Pinnell joined us. I led the group to San Diego, where we met up with Jorge. Jorge took over as tour guide and proceeded to hammer it to Mexico. I held his wheel until about one mile to go when I felt my rear wheel start to get soft. I had a slow leak. It slowed me enough that I could no longer see the group. I stopped and filled the tire with CO2 in the hope that it would make it to the border, and luckily the guys noticed they had dropped me and turned around before I missed the next turn. The plan was we would cross the border, have a toast and then ride back to San Diego. Now I was contemplating having to fix a rear flat. And then I see this angel, I mean Nita…there she stood next to Jorge’s GO so unexpectedly. I felt terrible as I hugged her; I was so happy to see her but was really happy that I could deal with the flat tomorrow since I now had a ride home.  So I put another canister of CO2 in the tire and the four of us crossed the border.

Luckily I smuggled a half pint of tequila in my bike bag because we could not find a spot where we could sit and have a margarita to toast our successful ride and also keep our eyes on our respective rides. So a block from the border, we shared the half pint and hoped not to end our tour in a Mexican Jail! Thanks Jorge and Bill and congrats Stu and Doug! It was a fantastic trip!

My tour was the trip of a lifetime. I am proud that some say my ride was “epic,” but for me it was simply great. We all have our challenges and goals for which we plan, train and perform. I can’t call this tour epic; I still search for that epic adventure. But until I find it, I will continue to do things that people may envy…and if they call it epic, I will smile.

Thank you everyone for your support, donations, thoughts and prayers!

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