If the Plan’s Not Working

By Jane Mountain | December 19, 2012

In preparation for our big cycling trip next year, we decided we should get out on a few more-or-less fully loaded trips before we go. Our first trip was to be a gentle 3-day excursion:

Day 1: Poway to San Elijo State Beach (21 miles)
Day 2: San Elijo State Beach to Chula Vista (35.8 miles)
Day 3: Chula Vista to Poway (33.4 miles)

Turns out, gentle is not exactly the right word.

Day 1: Friday, December 14, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, read it first. We’ll wait for you.

When you’ve spent all day on a muddy bike trail and you finally get off said bike trail, it feels good. Damn good. For, like, a minute.

And then you remember four things:

  1. It’s Friday night rush hour.
  2. It’s pouring rain.
  3. You’re not even close to where you’re going.
  4. You don’t really know where you are.

Then you start feeling sorry for yourself. But you can’t really, because it’s your fault you’re out here. You could have just stayed home this weekend, snuggled up in front of the TV. But no… you had to go on an adventure.

The only thing you can do at a time like this is to shut up and keep pedalling.

Bicycling Directions Are in Beta

Unlike most cities, San Diego’s busy streets almost all come equipped with a painted bike lane at the edge of the street. It’s amazing how much less scary it is to ride on a road with this little bit of dedicated space.

Don’t get me wrong, many drivers don’t actually respect this space. Stephen, being in the lead, had a few run-ins which included honking, rude gestures, and one minor collision. Bike into car, not the other way around.

All-in-all though, it’s much better than having to ride down the middle of the right lane, like we do in LA.

These bike lanes also make a convenient place to stop every five minutes and check the map, to make sure we’d taken the correct street, in the correct direction, and that yes, that massive hill ahead is one we have to pedal up.

Riding through a city at night in the rain with no GPS, no handlebar-mounted map, and an intermittently working Google map is something I hope never to do again.

Despite the odds, we do a pretty good job of sticking to our route for a while. And then we come to a huge intersection where there shouldn’t be a huge intersection. We don’t recognize the name of any of the roads, including the one we’re on.

Stopping yet again, with six lanes of cars whizzing by, Stephen determines that we should turn left. He also determines we have 10 more miles to go. That might not sound like a lot, but when your total for the day was supposed to be 20 miles and your destination is a cold, soggy campground, 10 more miles might as well be the moon.

I think for a minute.

If we see a hotel, we should stop.

Stephen gives me a look that says “Really? Did you just say that, or am I having some sort of glorious dream?”

I assure him I am serious. If the plan’s not working, change the plan.

We make a sweeping left turn, garnering honks from a classy guy in a white Escalade. I restrain the impulse to reward him with an equally classy hand gesture.

We coast down a hill and around a bend.

And there, a quarter mile down the road, we see a bright red beacon of hope. It reads: Marriott.

Best Customer Service Evah!

Another little bend in the road reveals a Hampton Inn and a Doubletree. Doubletree is closest, so we decide to start there.

We pedal up to a spotless entry, with manicured flower beds and polished granite pavement. I lay my bike down in the entryway and march inside.

Doubletree by Hilton

In the lobby, every surface shines. Fancy business people knock back cocktails in the chichi hotel bar. I swear I catch my reflection in the marble floor. My water-logged shoes leave a trail as I cross the lobby.

I put on my best and brightest smile and mutter something about not wanting to camp and do they possibly have a room.

The desk clerks don’t sneer. Not a little. They smile and welcome me and assure me they have a room. They offer me a price so low I can hardly believe I’m still in California.

When I ask if they have a safe place we can store our bikes overnight, they are quick to suggest their colleague’s empty office. Or we’re welcome to take them up to our room if we like.

I explain to them about the mud.

One of the employees, Shaun, starts making calls and minutes later he has a solution.

We follow him around the back of the hotel, into the maintenance area that guests never see. The world’s biggest water heater awaits us. From somewhere Shaun has procured a bucket. He turns a gasket and sploosh, the steaming, lovely, clean water shoots into the bucket.

Stephen sloshes bucket after bucket of hot water over our tires, fenders, brakes, and gears while I hold the bikes and hope our panniers are truly waterproof. We know this amount of hot water is not good for our bikes, but we are beyond caring.

Steam billows off the concrete floor as rivulets of brown water race down the drain. My feet start to thaw in the gorgeous warm water and my pores get a cleansing you’d have to pay hundreds for at the hotel spa.

Much mud has gone, but our bikes are by no means clean. Even so, Shaun deems them fit to be rolled through the lobby. Who are we to argue?

And To All a Good Night

We unload our filthy panniers onto a luggage cart and wheel our bikes into the hotel’s back office. Then we are on our way upstairs to our toasty, dry hotel room.

We pile our panniers into the bathtub and rinse even more mud from them. When they’re clean enough to set out on the carpet, Stephen wipes up the mess we’ve made in the bathroom. We peel off our our soaked clothes, crank the heat, and climb under the covers.

Stephen in Hotel Bed

It is only six o’clock.

We do eventually rouse ourselves long enough to order dinner from a nearby Thai place. Shaun, who is also the shuttle driver, drives us there, waits for us to pay, and drives us back.

Feeling very civilized, we grab a couple of drinks from the bar and then head up to our room for a quick dinner and long sleep.

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