Counting my blessings

Day 19: Oceano to Refugio State Beach, 73 miles

I leave the campground, after packing a wet tent. Sun is peeking through the clouds! I got up before dawn, eager to get the long ride underway. I’m stopped in my tracks by a stunning sunrise over the mesa near Arroyo Grande.

Just a mile later, trouble. Not visible at first, but the past days rain has left a mud slick on the side of Highway 1 by the farm fields growing collards and lettuce. No problem, I think, riding over it. Then I notice my wheels are getting coated, and suddenly I’m going slower, slower. As if the brakes are on. The mud has created a thick clog between fender and tire, and is all over my breaks. I curse, then stop and attempt to scrape it off with a stick. I stop at a gas station atop the mesa and use the water hose to try and rinse.

I’m getting coffee inside, grumbling to myself.

“What are you doing up now? Shouldn’t you be in bed?” the man next to me asks. He’s middle aged, rugged features, leather jacket.

“That’s what I’m asking myself.” I reply.

“I’m just jealous,” he surprises me. “See, I’ve got a prosthetic leg”

I ask him if he could ride a bike with hand cranks. He explains a 2000 pound piece of equipment was dropped on him. Too many broken joints to do anything. Lucky to be alive.

I wish him good morning, he tells me to be safe. I’m off. Still slow going, mud clogs dragging on my wheels. I lose over two hours in time and frustration. But I remember my friend from the gas station. Counting my blessings. Lucky to be alive. Fifty miles to go. I decide to ditch the Lompoc climb, turning at Orcutt to catch the 101.

Fifty miles of freeway. Can be stressful, so I put on the earbuds and spin to the Music of Osho. Indian world beat. Chanting monks, drum beats, drones, melodious voice. Miles fly under my wheels. Freeway cycling is fast, as grades are slow and interruptions minimal. I’m in Buellton before I know it. A stop at Andersen’s Pea Soup, a family tradition. Then over the last hills and down to the Santa Barbara Coast.

A thrilling descent through a rocky mountainous pass drops me onto the Historic Camino Real, complete with mission bells. And a great tailwind, blowing me over the Refugio Beach. This campground has the most amazing Hiker/Biker site, lined with palm trees and directly on the beach. The final reward of the long day’s ride is a stunning sunset. I linger, taking a dozen pictures.

Counting my blessings. To be here, at this time, experiencing this beauty. To be free, to ride, to explore. To meet new friends, connect with the history of place and community. To lay down to sleep, weary from a long journey. To breathe, to rest, to live.

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