South to the Sundog

Day 14, Van Damme to Kirk’s place, 45 miles

I wake in the morning from a startling dream. The story of the dream involves characters across my life, interacting in ways not possible. I’m confused, yet it all seems real. Laurie Anderson is performing, her first works of O Superman and From the Air. I’m descending huge stone steps, scooting down each one on by butt, like a chile wood. I get the sudden thought that this is my life, flashing before my eyes. Am I dying? I wake with tears, not knowing why. I lay there awhile, trying to get my bearings. Gradually the real world takes hold again, I’m in my tent, here at Van Damme. I hear Alice rustling about, packing up. I remember the owls calling in the night, a loud exchange directly above my tent.

The epic dream parallels the context of my adventures, here on bicycle, and back home working to set my affairs in order. I’m feeling a freedom as I travel, still cognizant to the struggling little restaurant, the mortgage, and the larger question of what I will set about to do as a career, in relationship, at this place in my life. Heady issues, which recently have been in the background. Traveling with Alice has been a delight, having a companion to share the cycling with, exploring new vistas and small towns. I’m facing a decision soon: to ride inland with Alice at the Russian River, or to continue south to San Francisco. She will spend a few days exploring Sonoma and Napa. I’ve got my writing retreat at Esalen in Big Sur the following weekend. But for today, we ride again.

Alice and I leave the camp and head straight up a steep hill, stopping at Little River for coffee and pastry. The clerk tells us to go to Queenies in Elk, and I remember eating there with Tim, Lawrence and Stephen this spring. It’s a great little cafe, just 12 miles south. We ride, eager for a proper breakfast, and Alice enjoying another reference to Her Majesty. Route 1 follows its serpentine path over headlands, into pocket coves, along grassy pasturelands, under tall eucalyptus and cypress. The sky is again overcast, I’m hoping this will break midday. The riding is easy, spirits are high. Then in Elk, we find Queenies is closed. In the Elk Store I mention we wanted to eat at Queenies, but it is close. The clerk teases me and asks if I want a hug, then tries to sell us some breakfast burritos. We are tempted, but opt to ride on the Point Arena and the Coop there. The last power bar is now in my belly, and I push on.

The road climbs one of the steepest switchbacks on Route 1, and I’m pleased I can power up it. Not on a big ring, as Tim joked about last time, but also not stopping and walking. Alice is ahead, stopping for photos of sea stacks and vistas, and I’m able to catch up. We ride through Manchester then on to Point Arena. Coffee and sandwiches, and internet and charging. Maybe next trip I’ll bring that solar panel, and free myself of the constant need for AC outlets. Eventually we buy some food and wine to share with Kirk and set off for the final approach.

I’ve decided to climb the ridge out of Point Arena on Riverside Drive, as steep long grade. Somehow I think this will be less of a climb than Iverson Road. Turns out I’m wrong about that. This last 12 miles is rigorous beyond any of the previous rides. Riverside climbs, then joins Ten Mile Cutoff Roadmore which descends and climbs, descends and climbs. I’m holding strong, only walking a very short bit, encouraged by Alice saying “well done” whenever I catch up to her at the top of a hill. At last, the turnoff to Iverson, then Old Stage Coach, then down the steep dirt road to Kirk’s.

We follow the signs reading “cob” to find the newly named Sundog School of Natural Building. Kirk gives up a tour of the many new buildings, as well as a nice outdoor shower and composting leu. Alice and I push out bikes back up to a meadow and set up out tents, then walk down the hill again to make dinner in the outdoor kitchen. I start the onions and tomatoes simmering and Alice heads off to the shower. I’m enjoying catching up with Kirk, who I haven’t seen for two years. So many exciting changes. Our friendship began at our first cob workshop, back in 2000. Seems like yesterday.

Alice returns and we cook up the rigatoni. The sauce reduces and we add sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms. Fresh chopped basil, grated cheese, olive oil. Kirk opens the wine and we share the Old Vine Zin for a Mendocino winery. Far below the sun is setting over a foggy ocean, just visible through the trees. Kirk retires, Alice and I enjoy one of the best meals of the trip. We look ahead at tomorrow, and I tell her I’ve decided to ride on to San Francisco. But perhaps we’ll meet up later, after my workshop. I would so enjoy that. We’ve been good traveling partners. I joke about the “cultural exchange”, that she is basically trying to give culture to this ‘Merican.

I wash up the dishes, and we head back up the steep hill to our tents. Crickets are softly singing. In the distance I hear roaring surf and sea lions barking. Here at Kirk’s, on the southern edge of Mendocino County, I have found another place that feels as home as anywhere else.

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