Catharsis on the Cabrillo Coast

Day 20, Half Moon Bay to New Brighton Beach State Park, 58 miles

I wake in a foul mood. Today is the day I dread, that point in the tour when my euphoria breaks, when my sense of purpose becomes unhinged, when I just don’t want to ride, or stay put, or do anything. Ugh.

I’m dehydrated, head aching. Up too late last night, equilibrium off, buzzing still from the frenzy and chaos of two days in the crazed city. I pack up my beloved camp and do the only sensible thing: get Peet’s Coffee! Never supposed to ride backwards, says Roberta. Unless it’s for Peet’s. Only a mile backtracking. I’m glad I did.

Time to charge all the electronics, time to read in the paper how the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Contest was won by an Oregon farmer this year. And time for some great coffee! Ok, gotta get going. Much later than normal, almost 11am before I set out down the Cabrillo Coastline. The skies are sunny and clear, a warm wind at my back. Caffeinated courage.

I put some music playing on the new Bluetooth speaker I just picked up. Cloud Cult, my favorite orchestra rock band. Violin, cello, trombone and french horn, all in a rock band. Lots of guitar and bass of course, and the lyrics. Words, stories, challenges to live life, to feel everything. A song that Craig Minewa wrote in the year following the death of their infant son, That Man Jumped Out the Window. Always moves me. To feel the depth of grief, to be at the edge of giving up, then to come back in the window.

Catharsis. My eyes are now stinging with the salt of tears, along with the sweat dripping from my brow. Just at the time I pass San Gregorio Beach, and see the sad, sweet roadside memorial I’d discovered in May. I’m climbing and crying, pushing the pedals and wailing against the loss, the broken heart, the fear of not knowing what is coming next.

Cars mercifully pass with their windows shut, their music thumping, otherwise drivers might wonder at my display of raw emotion. Not something many are comfortable with, in a culture bent on repression, distraction, and the iconic stoic masculinity expected of a man of my stature. Or a man of any stature. We just aren’t supposed to feel this.

The music continues, my ride continues, I’m pushing harder, faster, over the hills, sailing along the Cabrillo Highway. I pass familiar beaches, Pescadero, Bean Hollow, and the Pidgeon Point light. Big Basin. Ano Nuevo Reserve, where I first saw elephant seals on my tour 20 years ago. 20 years. My life has moved along so fast. Yet it feels like yesterday, like I’m in a time warp.

At last the tower at Davenport appears, not a mile too soon. I’m out of water, hungry, ready for a break. My spirits are also ready for a break. Grief is subsiding, and I feel a calm setting in. The benefit of a good cry. Something has moved, I’m a little closer to my goal. To be more free, more alive, more me.

I stop at the Whale City Cafe, a favorite. This time a lunch of tostada salad and iced tea. I linger, drawing out the lunch break. Try to drink enough water. Then on down the last miles to Santa Cruz. Easy riding, rolling hills, passing fields of collards, with open sprinklers. In the drought. California is in a place of denial and wishful thinking, still.

I roll through Santa Cruz, along the boardwalk people are playing beach volleyball under towering palms trees. I follow the bike route along the edge of the water, not riding into downtown like I usually do. I want to stay close to the ocean. I skirt the Santa Cruz Harbor, following directions from a helpful woman cyclist, who moved here from the Netherlands 15 years ago. She tells me she and her husband just celebrated 15 years married.

We part ways and I head across to Capitola, just a few more miles. I stop for a stunning sunset, then ride a bit faster knowing darkness will be falling soon. But the Aloha Island Grill calls me to dinner. I swoop in, get ahi poke and a Kalua pig plate dinner. Now that’s good! The last mile in the dark, lights on. I arrive at New Brighton, set up camp, shower. Spend some time sitting at the picnic tables in the day use pavilion. Electricity to charge the phone, laptop, wireless speaker.

I’m on a bluff, high above a gentle surf. The lights of Capitola and Santa Cruz reflect off the water to the west, Moss Landing and Monterey to the east. The air is warm still from the day’s heat. My heart is full, ready to sleep and another day.

Kahlil Gibran writes that grief carves out a place in the heart, so it can feel more joy. That both sadness and happiness come from the selfsame well. I know this to be true. At many times in my life, when I choose to stop running, to open the well of grief, I do find catharsis, relief, healing. Like today. Like now. I’ve never felt more free, more alive, more me.

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