Me and Matt O’Toole
Week-long trips on the bike are staggered across my summer months; meanwhile I’m itching for a simple getaway, a bike overnight.
But where in this megalopolis of Los Angeles/Orange County can I find a natural spot to pitch a tent for the night?
It turns out, not so far from home — about 4 miles from home. At first I’d ruled it out. How could I find that feeling of getting away while so close? But the alternatives were a little bleak. It’s much easier to find an RV campsite than a tent one, so when I found this spot, I made the reservation and vowed to make the most of it.
Which bike to take?
There wasn’t much of a question. My bike fleet includes 2 folding bikes, two hybrids and a new Rivendell Yves Gomez. This steel bike could pull a boat on a trailer; it’s stout with gears for any incline, so piling on the panniers, tent and sleeping bag would be no problem.
Finding someone to come along would turn out to be my challenge.
Many friends liked the idea, but as the date approached I started to think that the proximity to home and ‘real life’ reduced this outing’s appeal. To drive to Yosemite; that’s a commitment and you know you’re going to have a real break-from-reality experience. But being 20 minutes away from home, and just 5 minutes from the nearest Trader Joe’s — I understand; it’s harder to imagine the effort versus experience quotient wouldn’t be discounted. But Matt O’Toole was available, at least for the afternoon hours; he needed an excuse to vacate his apartment and a few hours on the coast sounded good to him.
We talked about stopping for lunch along the way, so we wouldn’t need to take as much food and the accompanying pots and pans. Matt suggested a sandwich in Crystal Cove’s Promenade, directly on our route. Good idea, but then we came upon Ruby’s Shake Shack; it’s right on the water and you can sit and eat with a million dollar view up the coast, all while keeping an eye on the bike parked right out front. Not that I couldn’t outrun anyone who might be inclined to hop on the bike with larcenous intent; this chariot was travelin’ heavy.
After lunch it was time for shopping. A few snack items were in order, not to mention a bottle of wine. Twist-off caps were what I thought we’d find, but Trader Joe’s had only a few and no cork screws. Leaving with a baguette, cheese and salami, we knew we’d be making friends in the campground; someone would have a cork screw.
And it didn’t take long before the cork screw found us. Campsite neighbor Jim came over pretty quickly; he was intrigued with the bikes. He had so many questions and blurted them out all at once — it took awhile for me to catch up. Yes, we rode here and yes, traffic isn’t so bad. The fact that we were camping almost in sight of my house didn’t take away from the wow-factor for Jim. He came back in 5 minutes with the cork screw.
All week we’d had cloudy skies; more than just a thick marine layer — we had a whole day and night of rain earlier in the week which is quite rare for Southern California. Of course I packed sunscreen anyway and I was glad I did because just as we depart the clouds blow away and we’ve got clear skies, mild temperatures and a light breeze — a gorgeous day for this bike overnight adventure.
The Moro Campground at Crystal Cove is only a couple of years old. The entire site is immaculate. The bathrooms have showers. Each site has a picnic table and it our case, it came with a 180 degree view of the coast.
Mesmerizing views — the kind that make me want to sit and vegetate.
The perfect overnight?
The ground was hard and it had been awhile since I’d been camping, so getting comfy took time. And then there was the car noise — this campground sits right above Pacific Coast Hwy, fortunately, the way the campsites are graded you can’t see the traffic, instead it’s all blue-water views and if you tune your ears a lot of the sounds will blend in to the crash of the ocean waves. The illusion works quite well.
I’ve tossed and turned much of the night. It’s peaceful and quiet enough, I just can’t find a groove in this sleeping bag pad to snooze for very long, so I’m up and brushing my teeth all before 6am. The marine layer is back, keeping things cool. The breeze blew all night and continues through my first cup of coffee.
If I were backpacking I’d be all packed up and ready to go, but it’s a Monday morning and I’ve cleared my calendar. Checkout isn’t until 1pm, so I linger. What’s the rush? I can see all the way to Catalina Island 20 miles off the coast. The campsite is quiet. The breeze blows the daisies that line my campsite. The effect is complete — it only took a 4-mile ride and a gorgeous site. That afternoon nap which I’m sure I’ll be taking will compensate for the tossing and turning. I’m relaxed and renewed. I’ve got to plan another bike overnight sometime soon.