Big Sur, the remedy

Day 29: San Simeon to Big Sur, 69 miles

Today I’m off kilter. Waking with doubt and dreading the long ride ahead. Headwinds, hills, why am I doing this? Loneliness is eating at me too, that elusive send of solitude as hazy as foggy skies.

By rote, I break camp. Suddenly a radiant sunrise breaks through over the silent campground, then vanishes. I mount the bike, pedal up the highway. Up. Heading north. One stroke, then another, then another. Ugh, wind already.

I stop and walk out over a dune, watch the elephant seals below, basking, a giant slumber party. Young bulls battle a mock fight. I haven’t seen the seals this close since I visited Doug in Santa Cruz, so many years ago. Took a cool video:

Back on the bike, into the winds. Grumbling to myself. Then around the bend, the long first hills of Big Sur appear. I gasp at their immensity, long stretches of rock and sage, reaching into the sea. I see my route, a ribbon of highway etched into cliff face. A steep grade, but I am emboldened, spirits restored. Ready for the challenge.

Gear down, climb. Climb. Winding around bend after bend, vistas wider and deeper each bluff overcome. Then a summit, and a long exhilarating descent. I whoop in victory, getting warmer, getting closer. To why I’m here. Again. The big hills seem to block most of the headwinds too, something I’ve noticed over the years of riding the Oregon Coast between Yachats and Heceta Head. I do the round trip there, into the wind halfway, every time.

Then it dawns on me. The coast ride, from North to South, is… Cheating. Wind at our backs, most the whole way, we are getting a push. Us adventurous cyclists, getting in invisible hand on our backs. Like riding downhill for 2000 miles. Sheepishly, my grumbling mind becomes quiet about the headwind I’m facing today. An adventure, riding into the wind.

Miles go quickly, but my energy wanes as I climb hill after hill. Then sun breaks through the high fog. Warms my face, my back. I pass Esalen, then Julia Pfeiffer, then a few more bends the Henry Miller Library. I stop again, beginning to connect more with the literary history of Big Sur.

Big Sur is more than an epic place. After spending a long stretch in the sprawling concrete and drought mentality of Southern California, Big Sur feels like the remedy. To the urban madness, the disconnect between human and nature. I understand Miller’s inspiration, and that of the many artists and writers drawn here.

I stop at the Big Sur Bakery, too soon for wood fired pizza! My timing is always off here. I don’t want to wait another hour. And looking at their menu, don’t feel like dropping $20 on a pie which I know won’t measure up to our own back home. After a mediocre sandwich at the nearby deli, I’m down the hill to the camp. Long descent, it the dark. Spooky, hair raising, chilly. The state park is in a hollow, along the Big Sur River, always colder. A dozen more cyclists in the camp, add to the twenty I passed on the road heading south. Amazing for November.

I quickly set up and collapse into my bed. Long day, many hills, many moods overcome. Big Sur, the remedy.

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