Life and death, on the Cabrillo Highway

Day 18: Half Moon Bay to New Brighton Beach, 61 miles

The spinning wheels, the spinning mind. So many thoughts and feelings cycle through, as I cycle. I’m descending a large hill, just south of Half Moon Bay, cross a bridge, and there it is: a beautiful memorial, to a young woman who I assume lost her life here on the Cabrillo Highway. I stop to pay homage, and notice on closer inspection that this shrine is cast in cement. Fresh cement. Just must have been made, this morning, before I reached it. Such a touching moment, seeing the love and sorrow of family and friends, for such a young life, cut short in what must have been a violent, tragic way.

I’m reminded of other deaths, of my friend Zach, who also died at 25, nearly three years ago, while I was on my “End of the World Tour”. We had joked about whether I would see him “on the other side” of my tour. I rode off from Newport, and he died on the beach a couple days later. Heart attack. At such a young age.

zach

Up the next hill, there are vans pulled over, music playing, crazy outfits. Team support, for an event. LifeCycle is today, the LA-SF AIDS ride! (www.aidslifecycle.org/) For the rest of the ride, all the way to Santa Cruz, I’m joined with 2,000 cyclists, in a sponsored fundraising ride to end AIDS. My thoughts turn to my friend Peter, who died in 1993 of AIDS. Peter and I were close, as close as a gay and straight man could be, working to organize, end violence, challenge sexism. Our own chapter of the “pro-feminist” men’s movement. I’d fallen away, feelings of confusion and betrayal, boundaries, and was estranged at the time of his death. But he died in the loving arms of friends and caregivers, in Hudson, New York.

(picture below, Peter and Ocean, circa 1991)

peterocean

The ride today passes fields, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Big Basin, cliffs and beaches, high fog finally burning off to reveal stunning blue skies. Cyclists race by me, twice my speed. I’m carrying full touring gear, which some note – “You sure are weighed down”. In prior years, I might have added, yes, and emotionally too. But not this tour. My spirits are high, even as I pedal on into the unknown. I’m here to ride, to discover, to make new connections, to find and refine my purpose. To make meaning for my life. This is not a burden, but a gift.

I stop in Davenport for lunch, at the Whale City Cafe. I’m sitting out in the brilliant sun, and two LifeCycle riders ask to join my table. I ask about the ride, which is raising $1.6 million (yes, MILLION) over the 7 days to LA. They ask about my tour, what it’s like to carry all that I need. We toast our coffees for a couple photo ops, then they are off, down the road to end AIDS.

I continue on to Santa Cruz, remembering all the different times I’ve visited. I ride past the surf museum, then down to the boardwalk, then on to Soquel Drive and the campground in Capitola. A soft surf is breaking below, turquoise waves reflect the blue sky. The sun is setting and a chill catches me. I crawl into my tent, zip up sleeping bag, trying to throw off the cold. But my heart is warm, remembering all that has come before this moment, looking towards what will come next.

I don’t know the date or time of my death. I used to obsess, in fear. Many are shocked at this crazy journey, to bicycle along the highway, sharing the tarmac (British term) with lorries and lunatics. Yet here, on the road I find inspiration, purpose, and deep satisfaction.

What more can a man ask for?

2 thoughts on “Life and death, on the Cabrillo Highway

  1. It’s been fun reading the series of posts from your ride down the coast — there is an obvious trend of increasing satisfaction and splendor with each day’s post! 🙂

    As for the question of death, I’ve told a handful of people that if I happen to die while riding my bicycle, I will have undoubtedly died a happy woman. 🙂

  2. Life is precious. Losing loved ones is a tragic heart break.
    Embracing sorrow, and feeling the rawness of grief, allows me to experience deeper joy.
    Cherish moments and people more.
    Beautiful skies…

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