Things we learned from this trip:
*** REAPPLY SUNSCREEN *** And/or buy lightweight armwarmers with high SPF and don't imagine it's better to have a sleeveless jersey. It's not worth the extra sun exposure. When the words "We should probably put on sunscreen," are uttered from your mouth, THEN DO IT!!! Talking about sun protection does not translate into applying sun protection. Bring a lightweight sun hat. With a wide brim for poolside recovery time. I took in more sun on Day 1 hanging out on the balcony. Could have been prevented.
The first 55 miles we went ~10 mph. The last 25 miles we went ~ 5 mph. We thought we might make it to Oceanside, but we decided to end the southward-bound leg at San Clemente. There were more hills through the last part of our ride and I had one moment of blinding pain in the legs up a hill. But more than our legs, my arms were absolutely sunburned and I would not have wanted to go further. I mean, someday I will want to go further, but just not on this trip. We waited a good 2.5 hours for our train, but I took a 25 minute nap in the shade while listening to the waves. Totally chill.
Resist the tempation to eat at McDonalds. It sounds like a good idea but it is not. We started from a McDonalds. I ate eggs with salt and pepper and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on Day 1. Beware of 7-11 Sugar-Free Slurpee. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sometime after the McDonalds and the Slurpee, I started to have GI distress on Day 1. Maybe it was too much heat and humidity. Maybe the electrolyte/water/carb balance wasn't right. We stopped at McDonalds on Day 2 also, in Dana Point. I felt my stomach/small intestine tie up into knots and had trouble breathing both days after eating at McDonalds. Just sayin'.
Booking your hotel at the last minute is either brilliant or really stupid. We had a sickening suite atop Hotel Irvine on the 14th (top) floor. The suite had 2 bigscreen TVs, 3 sliding glass doors, a dinnertable for 6 people, 2 balconies, 2 entrances... need I go on? We arrived just as all the fireworks displays were all around us. Amazing. Traveling with 3 adults made it hard to choose a hotel and we wanted one room with two beds. Seems like all the normal rooms were taken so we got a sweet suite for the price of a regular room. But we had to ride 8 miles away from our coast route to get to it. And 8 miles back to the coast in the morning.
Staying on the PCH is fine as long as you aren't in a hurry. Through Laguna and Dana Point there was hella traffic. This is why we got our orange safety flags. But still, we might have considered taking a parallel route. Stopping at all lights is a must but be prepared for how much this traffic and the hills will slow you down in terms of reaching a certain distance in a particular amount of time.
Consider buying a disposable camera. I didn't take nearly as many photos as I thought. Almost all of them are posted here. We saw so much gorgeousness but it's all in my head now. The camera I have is on its last leg. The battery compartment keeps popping open, causing me to have to reset the date and time before taking a picture. Not cool when you're wanting to snap a photo quickly.
Something happened when charging my Garmin overnight at the hotel so it didn't work in the morning. Of course, it's working fine now, but I felt naked without it on Day 2. I guess the message here is don't count on your technology and bring a backup camera (or a disposable one) and a backup watch. I would have been a bit more relaxed knowing what time it was at all points along the route on Day 2. And it didn't help that all of us kept asking "What time is it?" It just kept reminding me that my Garmin mysteriously would not turn on. And that bummed me out.
I LOVE my new cupholder. I hardly even used my regular water bottle. It was much easier not to have to lean down to grab and replace a traditional bicycle water bottle. Much easier to fill a to-go cup with ice and water and then drink it through a straw. I had some fizzy electrolyte tablets that I didn't want to put in a water bottle and the cupholder/disposable cup system was good for that. Although it tasted kind of yucky in warm water. The panniers worked out great, too. Made us look like more serious long-distance cyclists.