Have you ever passed by a place and told yourself that you’re going to stop and check it out one of these days? Then you end up passing this same place over and over and over and over again? That place for me has been Leo Carrillo State Park. The first time I passed it over was when I was training for my inaugural sprint triathlon relay race back in 2008. We rode the course of the triathlon beginning at Zuma Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. The turnaround point was in Leo Carrillo State Park, where we rode through the day-use area of the park and under the highway to emerge on the other side for another 9 miles back. I would eventually ride through the park on various training sessions in 2008, as well as in 2009. I’ve also passed Leo Carrillo on several bike tours coming down the coast, including 2 times from San Francisco in 2010 and 2011. I would say I’ve probably rolled by or through the park over a dozen times and always wondered how camping would be like there, especially after reading a past post where Orange and Purple listed it as one of their favorite destinations to bike camp.
So for my October MeetUp bike tour, I decided that there’s no time like the present to make this happen…on Halloween. I would rather be outside instead of putting on a costume or handing out candy to kids that day. The only other person who was willing to join me was my brother-in-law, Sang Hyun, who you’ve met when we both rode from Vancouver to San Francisco last summer.
We convened at my house and made our way to Culver City Metro station by combination of riding our bikes and taking the Metro. The weather was perfect as the sun was out to keep things warm. The start time was at noon on Halloween, but we arrived in Culver City at 10:30. We waited for about 45 minutes before I made the executive decision to start our bike tour.
Our route included some very familiar roads that I’ve ridden when I used to work in Culver City. We strolled through quiet neighborhoods whose streets were lined with gentle speed humps while we made our way into the Ballona Bike Path entrance near Duquesne Ave. We enjoyed the quiet, but busy bike way to Marina Del Rey. From there, we headed north, staying on the bike path until it terminated on Washington Blvd where we connected to the bike path towards the beach. The beach was bustling with beach-goers on foot, bikes, skateboards, and other modes of leisure transportation. We strolled through world-famous Venice before stopping at the Santa Monica pier for a water break. We continued on our journey north as the beach bike path swept us around the volleyball courts and half-naked athletes enjoying a day of intense beach volleyball. We found ourselves running out of bike paths and were forced to get on the dreaded Pacific Coast Highway where some areas required you to scan behind several times before passing in 60 mph traffic. We were on high alert as we do our minor part to represent bicycle travel on our public streets.
At about 2 PM, we found a little hole in the wall place for lunch called Country Kitchen where we ordered some tasty sandwiches to help fuel our journey. After lunch, we were ready to start a series of climbing and descents for the day. First it was a hill up to Pepperdine University. We took a break on the well-manicured lawn for a few minutes before continuing to climb through the hills in Malibu and Zuma. At Zuma, I reminisced about my triathlon days and self-reflected on where I am now versus where I was 6-7 years ago. Time sure flies when you’re having fun! We took another break at the Starbucks right before the first climb out of Zuma Beach. We arrived at our destination close to 4:30 and quickly paid for the hiker biker sites and set up camp before heading to the beach to catch the sunset.
The sunset was spectacular! We walked back to camp in the dark and saw that many people had set out jack-o-lanterns and decorated their campsites with Halloween paraphernalia. Sang and I went to the camp general store in hopes to find a savory dinner to eat, but was disappointed to see that they had closed the store early just because it was Halloween. First time I’ve seen a store close early because of Halloween. We walked back to our campsite and was surprised to see the amount of people camping with kids.
Luckily, I had brought a few packs of oatmeal for breakfast, so we had that for dinner instead. Sang shared his fig bars, and we were quite satisfied with our make-shift meal for the night. Kids were out with their parents trick-or-treating through the campgrounds. Some folks were riding their decorative neon lit bikes around as well. Nobody showed up to our site as the hiker biker area is tucked away from the main drag around the regular campsites. As the night came, the cold settled in. The both of us stayed up until 9:30 to maximize our sleep time before retreating into our warm sleeping bags. The night was an uncomfortable one as my sleeping pad deflated to the ground and miscellaneous noise was heard throughout the night which woke us up on multiple occasions. As with all overnight trips, the curse and the blessing was that it was just an overnight trip so the discomfort and enjoyment was only temporary.
Turning it Around
The next morning, we left camp around 8AM fueled by instant 3-in-1 Vietnamese coffee packs. The ride back was rather uneventful as we methodically made our way back home. We stopped at a local Subway outside of Zuma for breakfast and water. We continued back through Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice on the same route that we came on. I had suggested to Sang that we should grab lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Culver City, Rutt’s Cafe. Rutt’s is a fantastic place to enjoy comfort Hawaiian food, but there are incredibly long lines on the weekends as other folks have the same idea as we did. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to worry about parking.
After lunch, we rode up to the Culver City Metro train station only to be told that the trains are not running between Culver City and the La Brea station. We were offered free shuttle rides via a Metro bus to La Brea to catch the train there. We waited for a bus with open bike racks in the front before we enjoyed the transit trip back home. This concluded a long overdue trip to Leo Carrillo. Now I can say I’ve been there, instead of just passing through.
Here is a short video of our trip!
Do you have a place you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t? What’s taking you so long to do it? Let me know in the comments of the places that’ve been eluding you.