Los Angeles to LAX: The last day on the bikes

David: And so we started our final day on the bikes. We got up and were taken by Pam to a lovely place for breakfast. We chatted about her time in the navy and were taken aback by the conditions in which she he was forced to live (or maybe exist is a better word). It was a pleasure and a privilege to get to know her, just as we had got to know Matt the previous evening.

The sun shone, we packed up and we got on our bikes. The first 10 miles or so were through the streetso of the “Valley”, which means the San Fernando Valley. It is the industrial heartland of LA, serving the areas which were concerned with other pursuits like making films.

The roads were busy, urban and with cars and trucks but there were mostly bike lanes and where not drivers were surprisingly considerate to a couple of slow English bikers. We had a number of jobs to do on the way, first of which was to purchase a second holdall for the stuff. Job done at Big 5 Sporting Goods store. Then we needed bubblewrap to protect the bikes and so stopped at Staples. Just like Kidderminster really but with the sun shining.

Then, as we left the car park, a minor disaster struck. I cycled too close to a kerb, the trailer wheel caught the kerb and I fell over. Problem was that, in doing so, I dislocated my thumb. It was a bit painful – well more than a bit – and needed to be undislocted quite quickly.

2 things happened in quick succession which showed both sides of America. First, a passerby (lovely bloke in his late 60s or 70s) stopped and offered to take me to the hospital. The kindness of the US cicizens knows no bounds. Then we tried to get Staples to let us store their bikes in the storeroom whilst we went to hospital but they refused – could not accept the liability issues. Pam had said that they “sue everyone for anything” in California and this was the result. So we locked our bikes outside the store (luckily the entrance was at the back) and left our panniers and stuff unattended whilst I was taken to hospital.

Our guardian angel was called “Bud Wiser” (I kid not) and patiently drove us around until we found a hospital with an ER room. Bernie shared the back of the car with his large dog and I watched as LA moved in gentle circles as my brain coped with the pain.

Eventually we got to an ER, said goodbye to the wonderful Bud and I got treatment. There are several things to say about the treatment. First, plus, plus marks to Dr Brian Ostick who pulled the thumb back into place whilst doing little more than shaking my hand. One quick movement and “ping”, it was back in place. Boy was I impressed! No fractures and just the dislocation and a bit of bruising.

Secondly, he got a mixture of excited and worried about my heart. I have always had a relatively low heart rate (good genes so thanks parents) but the combination of the underlying low rate, the exercise we had done and the shock at the pain meant that it was beating at 35 beats a minute. He was slightly concerned about this, and in particular the almost absence of a P wave. For the non-medically qualified I should explain that this indicated that my heart was beating at about half the rate of the lower end a “normal” heart. This is very “interesting” Dr Brian and Bernie agreed, whilst doing an ECG and talking about various options. Sorry to dissent but none of the options sounded remotely “interesting” to me. Worrying, frightening and life limiting were the thoughts that came to my mind, but not interesting.

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I then was required to run up and down on the spot to try to get my heart rate up and persuade the “P wave”, which at that stage was so relaxed it was acting like a man on a Jamaican beach, to give the doctors a hint that it was still in the game. It obliged and Dr B went off to discuss my heart rate with his cardiologist colleague – suggesting that if there was anything wrong it might just have caused a few problems on the 2300 miles we had just cycled!

The cardiologist was reported to be far more relaxed and just said that it was probably a super healthy heart! So the outcome was that my heart will be good for another 50 years at least.

Thirdly, Brian wanted to talk about cycling, the NHS, Obamacare and particularly about cycling. He looked up this blog whilst I was having the tests done and said he would discuss doing the route with his wife, who was a family doctor. Two small daughters may be a slight impediment but nothing is too much of a problem!

We got a taxi back to Staples and luckily no one had interfered with the bikes in the meantime. I had a splint on my right hand, and could just about cycle, but effectively could only use one hand to brake. Luckily this was my right hand and hence the front brake!

We ambled on towards Coldwater Canyon and climbed to 1250 feet. This is where the Hollywood lifestyle starts, with houses costing millions of dollars. The road snaked up the hillsides and the houses were magnificant on both sides, but also slightly unreal. The descent was a bit of a challenge with one brake but we were soon on Santa Monica Boulevard, heading towards the ocean.

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We had to stop at the Westway shopping centre to get my iPad sorted out (it stopped working during an update). That took ages and so we didn’t start the last 8 miles to the beach until about 5pm. The road had a bike lane most of the way and we made good progress going slightly downhill.

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Getting to the ocean was a great feeling. We had made it, back to the ocean bike path all the way from Vancouver! However the sun was low and we still had quite a few miles to get to the airport. The bike path went along the beach, winding its way through Venice Beach and all the wackos who make a living selling things or offering services on the beach. The gentle and sickly whiff of weed pervaded the atmosphere. Medical maruajana is legal in California and we had been assured that it if we inquired it would be straightforward to find a medical justification for a prescription for us. However we were English and restrained from making inquiries.

Leaving the bikepath to go around Marina del Ray we found ourselves on Highway 1, which was busy but had a bike lane for some of its way. The light was failing now and we were heading towards the airport. As the road got busier we did the last few miles on the pavement (or should I say sidewalk) which was fine until Bernie collided with a fire hydrant, knocking out the attachment on her pannier. But what the heck – a bungee cord was fine to get it fixed.

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We got to the airport hotel by about 7pm, in the pitch dark but relieved that we had made it all the way to the airport on our bikes. That is probably not too important to anyone else but it had a symbolic importance to us.
Reaching the hotel meant that the cycling was completely finished. We packed up the bikes and all our stuff and reflected on our last few weeks. The first part was 670 miles and the second part was about 1600 miles, a total of about 2270 miles. Lots of that time was spend cycling uphill in that almost hypnotic state we reach on big climbs. We have seen stunning scenery, met fantastic people and made friends that we hope will stick with us for life.
And now it is back to family and friends – all of whom we have missed more than we can say. Back to work when both of us feel ready to resume our professional responsibilities and back to normal life. We will wake up in beds rather than in a sleeping bag, have tea when we need it and have to learn not to eat every 2 hours.
I suppose the real question is “where next”. The simple answer is “nowhere”, but the last 3 months has taught us that we still love travelling and that travelling by bike is the besy way to see a country from the bottom up. Maybe we will seek out a slightly “older” culture next, with more art, architecture and history to see. There is an energy, openness and vitality about the States that we have loved and it has some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world. But having done the toughest trail the Amercian Adventure Cycling Association has on its books, the next challenge will probably be somewhere completely different. But before then there are lots of other challenges we need to meet at home, family and children who have needs we have to meet and just a few bills that need paying before we can think of doing this again. We may also just want to do something a bit more normal before attempting the extraordinary again.
Thanks for reading this blog. I hope it has amused and entertained you. Signing off now.
Bernie and David

8 thoughts on “Los Angeles to LAX: The last day on the bikes

  1. What an incredible adventure and you two are truly unbelievable. We so enjoyed meeting you and following you on your blog. Wayne and Doris

  2. Congratulations both on completing -and enjoying – the challenge, despite occasional injuries (I’m wincing at the thumb dislocation). Safe journey home. See you soon. Malcolm

  3. Do you have a script writer ?
    Reading this is like the last episode in series 3 of a hit tv drama!
    My heart was in my mouth when you fell off the bike : deja vu all over again.
    Dislocated thumbs, an ‘interesting’ heart that would be more at home in an elephant, Bernie getting in on the drama by crashing ‘keystone-cop’ style, and a final dash through the dark busy highway to LAX – airport to Hollywood stars!
    Really sounds like you could do with a rest for a few days, but for all of us commuter-followers it’s the end of an exciting summer of adventure.
    Congratulations to you both on your huge endeavour !
    See you soon
    Pete

  4. Been a privilege to read this and I am continually struck by t he tenacity of you both to keep going. Perhaps I should say its a privilege to count you as friends Welcome home.

  5. A bit sad reading the end of this unbelievable adventure, knowing there would be no more to read….for a time anyway!! But also very excited for you both in that you accomplished such a fantastic 3 month cycling adventure, and that now you are able to return home & be around the family you have missed so very much!! Thank you for taking us all on this trip with you through this site and through our overnight visit with you both!! We will never, ever forget you two & hope our connections (via Internet) with you will be lasting!! Congrats to you guys & many happy & joyous days ahead for you! Wayne & Cheryl

  6. We have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and following along on your incredible adventure. Congratulations on finishing the route and thanks for the inspiration!
    Gary and Becky Heigel (Wayne and Doris’s son and daughter-in-law) in southern Oregon.

    1. Gary and Becky,

      Thanks for your kind comments. Wayne and Doris were fantastically kind to us and we are forever in their debt. I am glad you enjoyed the blog. We enjoyed writing it because it gave us a chance to capture aspects of the trip which we would have forgotten without it. We are back in England now, with the days drawing in and the cold, damp weather upon us. Sunny California seems a very long way away! Do let us know if you are ever coming to England. Best wishes, David

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