When I woke up, my legs were in full revolt.

“What did we tell you about riding more than 40 miles a day with all that weight?” they bawled. “We’re taking today off.”

“Now, now. You’ve pumped between here and San Diego plenty of times,” I told them. “This shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Yeah,” they answered, “but not after eleven days of riding. Besides, the streets we’ll ride near San Diego Harbor suck, and you’ve never ridden from the Bayshore Bikeway to San Ysidro and the border. And, you’ll ride more than 50 miles today. Don’t expect a cake walk.”

“All right. But I haven’t had to get off and push the bike yet, and I don’t feel like starting today.”

Still, they clamored for less weight and more breaks. The first demand was easy to satisfy: I removed the tent and sleeping bag from the bike and left them in Oceanside. Maybe then I wouldn’t need to concede on the second demand.

But I did need to.

Obliged by my aching body to sit down in a park only four miles into the ride, I realized that there was no shame in stopping more frequently – much more frequently – than usual. In fact, it would be the only way I could finish the ride without my legs and seat going on strike. That meant taking breaks at Carlsbad, Encinitas and Del Mar.

The Del Mar break was important because I needed to stoke the boiler for the ride up Torrey Pines Hill, a 1.5-mile climb from zero to 400 feet above sea level. I managed the hill without needing to stop; that must have been the result of either good preparation or my legs demanding to just get things over with.

From Torrey Pines, the map – oh, to hell with the map – showed me a coastline route around La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, then through Point Loma, past the airport, onto the Coronado Ferry, to the Silver Strand and Border Field State Park. Yes, it would have reduced the time I spent on busy streets, but at the cost of continually consulting the map and racking up miles needlessly.

Instead, I took the most welcome bike route in the world that day: a long downhill through UCSD, Gilman Drive and the Rose Canyon Bikeway onto Mission Bay Drive, where I took a ten-minute nap on a picnic bench. Then, I dived into the urban jungle of Pacific Highway past Old Town, Midway District and Middletown, where there’s no shoulder, the road surface hasn’t been improved since Junípero Serra left and the motorists love it that way.

At the Embarcadero I stopped for lunch. A mid-afternoon sun had come out, and the young couple next to me bought hulking tubs of chocolate soft-serve for their kids and themselves. Each of them spent the next half-hour in a losing battle against the elements, with ice cream covering their faces, hands and clothes. The wind mocked the handfuls of flimsy paper napkins they tried to use, blowing them anywhere it pleased and frustrating the parents’ attempts to bring order to snacktime. The mother snarled and the father chuckled. It struck me as very different from the way I was traveling.

More road-surface abuse awaited me south of Downtown, where generations of heavy trucks have battered the streets near the waterfront. I bumped along Harbor Drive, finally arriving at the turn for the Bayshore Bikeway through National City and Chula Vista. I wasn’t paying much attention to my legs or seat anymore as I pedaled across Nestor and San Ysidro, looping past the Las Americas Outlets and finally arriving – almost anticlimactically – at the western pedestrian passage at 5:45 p.m. I couldn’t see a Mexican flag anywhere, but I could see the Friendship Arch over Avenida Revolución on the other side of the border.

Riding over a bridge, I saw the border approach for cars, crowding up with Friday rush-hour traffic.

Serendipitously, my son texted me just then. “I have the truck. Where are you? Do you need me to pick you up somewhere?” That sounded like a splendid idea, far better than riding another 20-odd miles back into town to my house. I rode over to the trolley stop – footsteps from the McDonalds where a gunman killed 21 people in 1984 – and caught a train for downtown San Diego. Young families in Padres jerseys thronged in the car on the way to a baseball game.

As I struggled to keep my bike under control and out of people’s way, it occurred to me to check my odometer.

“Not bad – 440 miles,” I thought. “If I can do that, I can do anything.”

Maybe even prevent gun violence in America.

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