Usually I box my bicycle when I fly but I had it wrapped in heavy plastic, instead, when I flew out of Lisbon. Even though I was assured that it was safe, I held my breath as it came out of the chute at LAX. As it turned out, Blu was just fine and all the parts made the trans-Atlantic crossing.
I've disassembled and re-assembled Blu so many times that it's almost second nature and I had him up and running in less than half an hour. I'd left my panniers at the hostel so I was looking forward to a nice easy 13-mile jaunt on the bike trail back to Santa Monica. But it wasn't long before I ran into trouble.
As I rode west toward the ocean, the back tire went flat. I pulled over and discovered that the steel bead that runs around the edge of the tire had broken and poked a gaping gash in the tube. It was my own stupid fault; the tire I was running was a spare that I had been carrying all through Asia and Europe and had just installed in Lisbon a few days earlier. I had folded it and stashed it in my pannier, which had caused the bead to break and puncture the tube.
I made the repair, but within a few miles, it went flat again. Then, a few miles farther on, I had another flat. The bead was really making minced meat of my tube and I had to repair it several more times before I reached my hostel. Luckily, I had another spare and I replaced the defective tire that evening. I also adjusted my brakes, and gave Blu a good going-over. I didn't want any problems on my 1,600-mile ride up the coast.
The next morning dawned foggy and gray. I loaded up my bike, found a cash machine and got on the bike trail heading north. I'd had a conversation with a fellow biker at the hostel the evening before and he shook his head when I told him my plans. "Man, don't you know you can't ride north up the Pacific Coast Highway? Hell, those hills are tough enough; you're going to be battling the winds, too."
"Indeed," I replied, "I know all about the winds. Word is that they blow out of the north at gale force."
"Well," he said, "I don't know about 'gale force' but it's gonna be really tough. I doubt that you'll make it."
I had read all about the folly of trying to ride the Pacific Coast Highway from south to norht in the book, Bicycling the Pacific Coast, but I had made up my mind. What the hell, I thought, how bad can it be?