I was very honoured to be accepted onto Team Full Cycle for the trip down from L.A. to San Diego, even if that acceptance came in the form of a “WELCOME DINGLEBERRY” sign, held aloft in the LAX Arrivals Hall. You can say this about Jess and Nick – they never miss an opportunity to have a laugh. Their ability to crack a joke, even after a long day’s cycle, or when we have to clamber over multiple metal fences with our bikes and paneers (“I thought this was a cycling holiday, not a climbing expedition”), or when Jess has accidentally thrown the map in the campfire, seems to me to be one of the key ingredients for a successful tour (more important, apparently, than a map, since we still made it to San Diego okay).
Travelling teaches you new things, like the fact that in America you aren’t allowed to call Almond Milk “milk” because it hasn’t come from an animal (instead, you can buy cartons of Almond Beverage). Did you know that PED XING is not a Chinese highway (in America?!) but actually short for “pedestrian crossing”? And that when you order a milkshake at Ruby’s Shake Shack you’re in for a treat (and a cupful of ice-cream).
More importantly, being on the road allows you to go back to basics, something we too rarely do when we’re working full-time in busy office jobs. Cruising down the coast with the wind on your back (or, if it’s a headwind, in your face). Watching a sunset on the beach. Sitting round a campfire, talking for hours. Even being straight-jacketed in sleeping bags (I jest; I actually quite like camping). It all reminds you of what life is about.
It is therefore a difficult question to answer when people ask me what the highlight of my trip was, since the whole week was wonderful, first and foremost because I spent it with two of the best people in the world. However, here are three moments that stood out:
The moment I thought I was going to die (this one’s for our parents)
This actually wasn’t during the cycling, but when we’d got to San Diego and hired some surfboards. While trying to catch a wave, I spotted a black fin in the water. “Shark!” I shouted, as I tried to recall whether the West Coast was known for its Great Whites. I panicked – my surfing skills are shaky at best and more so under this sort of pressure – but luckily at that moment the rest of the creature arced out of the water: “Dolphin!” Needless to say, Jess stayed as cool as a cucumber throughout.
The moment we made it to the top of the “Last Big Hill”
About ten miles from San Diego, we came to the last big hill. We had been warned about it by one of the lycra-clad golden oldies we came across on the road, and the knowledge that it was flat or downhill from there was a huge help mentally as we hauled our way to the top. Lungs burning, sweating profusely, we grinned at each other in the knowledge that we had conquered all the ups. Except that we hadn’t. Okay, the subsequent uphill stretches weren’t as long, but they were still enough of a gradient for our thighs to hate us.
You know I said Jess and Nick never miss an opportunity to have fun? Well, this game is awesome, especially if you’re a little competitive, as I am. When you spot a cyclist up ahead, one of you announces “Hammer Time”, and you “hammer out” some more speed to catch the cyclist up, overtaking them in “steam train” (drafting) formation and choo-chooing off into the distance.
I’ve made a little video of our America adventures. A cunning way of shirking my tent-making and other duties, hopefully this will give you an idea of quite how awesome Jess and Nick are, and why you should donate lots of money to their great charitable causes:
Thanks Em – stop it now, you’re making us blush. See in Ireland/Wales for the final bit