Stranger in a strange land

Day 31: Dana Point to San Elijo State Beach

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Sitting shiva with a dead battery. Three dead batteries, actually – phone, backup battery, laptop. Sitting by the bathroom, batteries plugged into an extension cord which is running 15 feet into the disabled bathroom, usually the only place power is found in the California State Parks. To charge wheelchairs, no doubt. I am forced to charge my stuff here because I stopped wanting to sit for hours in cafes and coffee shops, certainly not bars. Got on a clean streak again – no coffee, no alcohol.

And recently, not wanting to eat restaurant food. Really sick of it. Dinner at sunset: cucumber, avocado, tomato wraps with tamari. Dessert is medjool dates. Leaf lettuce, carrot, more tomato, more cukes. Salad on the run.

Except not running, not anymore. I’ve finally stopped, landed, for a day anyway. Got into camp at noon today, time enough to sun awhile on the beach, visit some over priced shops in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, wander aimlessly by bike, looking for something besides a power outlet, something I couldn’t quite put a name to…

This morning I rode hard, pumping up hills, even faster on the descents and the straight stretches, down El Camino Real then PCH. Strange landscape, miles of desert hills, gorges dropping to the sea. Then suddenly coming upon a perverse nuke plant: yes, tell me what those containment buildings look like? Grotesque metaphoric breasts to symbolize a power source that rapes Mother Earth. Note the siren in the foreground, the way I know this is a nuke instead of coal or gas fired plant – that, and no telltale phallic smokestack.

Then miles through Camp Pendleton, passing a checkpoint to enter. The Pacific Coast bike route passes through this major Marine base, seeing thousands of cyclists a year. I thought of what it would be like to be enlisted into the Few, the Proud. Semper Fi. The first ones in and the last ones out. I’ve past imagined what a military life would be, envious of the discipline which I lack of so much, but horrified to have my life in the hands of a questionable government, forced to kill or be killed for mostly dubious if not outrightly corrupt reasons – securing strategic political positions, plundering natural resources, lining the coffers of military contractors. Don’t get me started.

Then I was through it and dropping down into Oceanside. Cycling palm lined streets, dazzled by white stuccoed buildings cast against brilliant blue ocean with scores of surfers riding the waves. The desert seemed suddenly distant, in this manmade oasis of homes and businesses, of people and purposes – to work, to play, to live. Yet, this life is inextricably linked to what our nation, as reflected in our government and our military, does in the world, and on our own land. For a moment I let my political ranting go, stopped complaining and got blissed out cycling South Pacific Street:

Then on to the campground at San Elijo State Beach. Checked in, lay on the beach, cruised the town, landing in Seaside Market right at the dinner rush – packed with hungry people. Hoards of people. But no one talking to anyone. Not like the co-op at home. Lost in this crowd, I found the true meaning of loneliness. Here I am. No one knows me. Seems like no one knows anyone here.

On the road since Malibu, I’ve been passed by hundreds of cyclists, mostly riding in tight formations. None of them talking to each other, nor to me as they passed. So different from up north, where everyone says hi, or “how far you riding?” and usually some words of encouragement. What is it about Southern California? Is it that there are 22 million people crowded up along this coastline, backed up against a dry, barren desert. So many people, yet not talking. Not connecting. Is it fear? Or too much sun?

The sunset tonight is fabulous, again. But I still feel lost, without bearing. The tour, drawing to its end, has given me a single focus – to ride, to get to the next destination. And to experience fully each day’s ride, every mile, every climb, every descent, aching legs, sore back, blissful cruising, sweat and hunger and breath. Now that I am close to my arrival, what will come next? Who am I now? Who will I become?

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