A plethora of pelicans

Day 13: Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, 51 miles

I start my day with a cup of coffee, brewed with a tea ball. A simple solution to brewing coffee on the road. Not too gritty, simple to clean up. I check in with Torry, who slept in a hammock with raccoons visiting him from the branches above. He’s headed to Chiapas, tells me of many international cyclists he’s met on the road from Seattle.

I roll off into another foggy morning, not quite as chilly as yesterday. But my mind is grumbling nonetheless. Spoiled brat I am being, I know, given the fabulous weather I’ve had thus far. A foul mood takes root, I begin to obsess about the finances of the restaurant, my lonely state, the general hopeless outlook of the future of the planet. You know, the usual stuff. Then the fog starts to lift, right around Pescadora. It’s almost as if the Pigeon Point light house is holding back the clouds.

I cycle onward, over bluffs as the Cabrillo Highway tilts southeast. Tailwinds pick up and push me along, my speed nearing 20mph. Then as I crest a particular hill I see them: Brown Pelicans, soaring with the wind. There, just past the cliff edge, dozens of pelicans fly back and forth. In groups of two, five, even in a classic v-formation. I stop and rush to the cliff edge, camera tracking their flight. I can’t believe what I am seeing. I’m above many of the massive birds, flying below just over the surf. Wing spans up to 6 feet, almost prehistoric in appearance.

We almost lost the pelicans to DDT, until it was banned in 1972. Since then the population has recovered. My heart is filled with the joy of seeing these soaring creatures. Back and forth they fly, looking at once elegant and clumsy. I stay on the cliff edge for a long while, then continue on. At Big Basin I find is a flock on the beach, in the waves. Hundreds of pelicans, gathered as I’ve only seen seagulls before.

A few years ago I was parked at the overlook south of Heceta Head, when suddenly a group of pelicans flew up past the cliff directly in front of my van. I gasped, seeing their full wing span just feet way. I’m not certain why, but tears came to my eyes.


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