A couple of visitors.

Well after our relaxation in the superb surroundings of Marianellas house in La Jolla it was time to pick up the pace. Steve’s son, Mike, and his girlfriend, Ewalina, arrived in Los Angeles and we had a whirlwind tour planned for them. Neither of them had been to California before, in fact it was Ewalinas first time in the State’s so we felt a bit of pressure to get it right. They were quite easy about where they went so we decided on a few days relaxing in the sun in Palm Springs, on to Vegas for a sensory overload, back to Los Angeles for a city visit and then end up on a Southern California beach. Throw in a surprise or two and we thought we had it covered nicely.

The whole thing went brilliantly and Mike and Ewalina (M & E from now on…. it’s taking me too long to keep typing it) had a fantastic time as well. Palm Springs is a laid back, easy going place in the desert, about three hours drive from the airport. We spent three days at a great little airbnb close to town. Outside living space, hot tub, pool, comfortable sunbeds and a fab barbecue all made for a relaxing time, to get over a bit of jet lag, the cold wet British weather and a few months of hard slog at work (them, not us). We walked around the weekly evening market, ate American breakfasts in town and M & E made the cable car ride to the top of Mount San Jacinto, 11,000 feet above the town, where they went walking and had their first experience of the effects of altitude.

The cable car to Mount Jacinto.

Steve also managed to fit in another race. The Palm Springs Tram Road Challenge, a 6km straight uphill race with an average gradient of 12%. After running a marathon the week before maybe he underestimated this one and with some serious jelly legs he finished in 12th place out of the 500 strong field. “That’s enough running for this year” was his post race comment! After a couple of evenings spent with Mike cooking some great ribs and immense steaks, plus topping up his annual rum intake, and it was time to head to “Vegas Baby”….. hopefully The Hangover Part 4 was not about to happen!!!

“Do you like your steak well done?”

On the way to Las Vegas we stopped off at Joshua Tree National Park, the inspiration behind the title of U2’s iconic album. M & E both do a bit of climbing and bouldering at a centre back in the UK so they were impressed with some of the formations in the park and, although not entirely dressed for the part, scrambled up a couple of the features. We also managed to squeeze in a short drive on the world famous Route 66 and obtain the obligatory photograph en-route.

Joshua tree National Park.
Sarah gets her kicks on Route 66.

We managed to find a studio apartment right on The Strip, close to some of the major hotels and M & E threw themselves into the Vegas experience including 4am finishing in the Casino and 1pm emerging from a sleep. We were in and out of the major hotels and taking stupid rides that hang you over the top of the Stratosphere at almost a thousand feet up. S & S managed to hang in for most of it but bailed on the 4 am finishes…….and the 1pm start!

Vegas Baby!!!

We did throw in a little surprise for M & E one day. We had hoped to make a trip out to the Grand Canyon with them. It is a sight that if anyone gets the chance should see it, but the time, logistics and distances just made it a bit of a problem so we treated them to a flight over the Canyon from Vegas. The flight also took in Lake Mead and The Hoover Dam. They had a brilliant time and Ewalina took loads of photos.

After Vegas we drove back to L.A. The drive took us very close to the huge wildfires which are currently destroying large parts of California, although M & E were oblivious to it all as the pillows came out and they slept most of the way!

What can we say??

The next stop was Hollywood, where M & E spent a couple of days being hectic at Universal Studios, getting soaked to the skin on some of the rides, seeing the film production sets and sampling some butter beer at Harry Potter World, while S & S sat by the pool at the hotel doing absolutely nothing at all and not feeling an ounce of guilt. We figure we have plenty of credits left after our 2000 mile cycle.

Our final stop for not only the visit of M & E but also for this trip as a whole was Huntington Beach. We stopped off here very briefly on our cycle route, it had a really great beach and a nice atmosphere so decided to return for a couple of days before the flight home. With our time split between lying on the beach watching the surfers, wandering around the town and eating on the pier it finished our trip off nicely. Our last meal was at “Hooters” this was at the request of Ewalina not Mike or Steve….honest.

Sunset on Huntington Beach.

So there ended another trip. Probably the most varied so far and it is probably the variety which we will remember most. From the thick pine forests of Washington, to the palm tree lined beaches of California. From the stunning coastal cycling of Oregon and Big Sur to the long straight lonley driving through the Nevada and Utah deserts. From the lush green views in Mammoth lakes and Yosemite to the stark, hot, rocky land of  Death Valley. We will also take away memories of how many fantastic people we met and who were so friendly and helpful along the way. But most of all we will take away a massive sense of achievement. WE CYCLED FROM CANADA TO MEXICO !!! …..

…….We are writing the last post for this trip sitting in a coffee shop back in the UK. It’s grey, raining and pretty waterlogged outside which, from what the people we have spoken to have said, seems to have been the theme here for the past few months. But we are feeling very lucky in how our first year has turned out. For several years we have planned and dreamed of how we wanted things to turn out and sitting here looking back over the last 12 months we feel things have turned out pretty well. Three months travelling around South America with a great bunch of people, three months cycling and camping in France and Italy and then cycling from Canada to Mexico which included the added bonus of a month visiting some amazing National Parks. Each of the trips has far exceeded our expectations.

So far this year we have been out of the UK for 242 days, we have slept in 109 different locations and we have spent 99 nights camping under canvas. (Arlene saved us from hitting the century)!

People ask us which have been the highlights of the year and although it is a bit of a cliché there really have been too many to list. There have been challenges, Canada to Mexico being the obvious one, but climbing the snow and ice covered volcano in Chile was a real achievement, especially for Sarah, and running to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back was a big day for Steve. There have been sights which have just taken our breath away. The views from 8000 feet across Yosemite valley, the Three Towers in Torres del Paine, Iquazu falls (Wow)!!, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters in Bonito and cycling through gorges and medieval villages in France. You know you have had a good year when the latest David Attenborough series is showcasing places you have been.

Another question we are asked is “Do you think you will keep going for the planned five years”? Our answer right now is simple “No……we will probably do more”!

But for the next few weeks we are looking forward to catching up with family and friends especially as it’s Christmas and New Year approaching. Then it is the start of an ambitious year, four continents, about 30 countries, a marathon and an Ironman triathlon. Let’s see how it goes

Oh to be back on the bus!!

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