Magnificent Monterey Bay

Day 21, New Brighton Beach to Veterans Memorial Campground, 47 miles

A sunny morning, I’m packed and up, ready for the ride around Monterey Bay. Three weeks on the road. An accomplishment in itself. I begin the ride by heading back down the hill a couple miles to the Ugly Mug, a favorite coffee spot on Soquel. Turns out this is the best way to approach the campground from Soquel, note to self.

There’s a spring in my stride, I feel strong and confident. I change it up and order my usually quad espresso. Wifi is temperamental so I just spend the time charging batteries and chat with the owner. They’ve got bicycle supplies here too, spare tubes and such. A great croissant too.

I big the owner farewell and head south on Soquel, a hilly boulevard which spans Capitola, Soquel, Aptos. I pass Cabrillo College and think of the students and families of Rogue Community College, the shootings from last week. Shootings plural. Eleven killed. “Mass shooting” as a singular term doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense. Perhaps the laws will shift this time?

I leave Aptos and join San Andreas Boulevard, which winds south into the agricultural fields of the Monterey Bay. What were fields of flowers in May are now covered with shiny black plastic. Seems wise, a way to grow while preserving ground water. Endless fields of strawberry, collards, kale, artichokes. The scent of the ripe berries makes me think of jam on toast, for miles.

Then I see the clear plastic, covering entire acreages, taped together. Along with warning signs: Danger, fumigation. What toxic chemicals are at play here, to kill insects no doubt? What effects on farm workers, and us, the consumers? Chemo-agriculture, the hallmark of the Green Revolution. Few people think of what is in the food stream, in the air, in the waterways. Organic growing was done for decades, centuries before the chemical companies invented fertilizer and herbicide.

I’m back on busy Route 1 for a stretch, just before Moss Landing. I decide to take a detour, spend some time on the beach. Gotta even out this bicycle tan a bit! Careful not to burn, of course. An hour later, I’m back on the bike, feeling exhilarated. I take the next side roads, through more fields of brassicas, grateful for the quiet and lack of traffic.

Then I round a corner and come upon unexpected flowers, a whole bank roadbed seeded with a flowering succulent. So beautiful! I recross Route 1, then turn onto Del Monte Road for the long approach to Marina, passing rolling hills covered with ice plants. I veer off the bikeway to find an REI, exchanging my sleeping pad for the third time. Got to get this right. Good sleep is important! Strange to ride off a bikeway and into a mall, but REI feels like home. I want to stay longer, but need to get to camp.

Fog sets in while I’m in the store. Reminiscent of fall and winter in Oregon, which must be happening about now. Except here the fog is warm. So much like a blanket. I descend through Seaside, following Google’s directions to the East Village Coffeehouse in Monterey. A bite to eat and “electrolyte iced tea” before the last climb of the day. I linger, considering attending the open mic. Young people gather, with instruments and poetry, I’m nostalgic and also skeptical. I ran open mic for years, losing money on the endeavor even which the house was crowded. Especially when the house was crowded.

Night has fallen, so decide I’d better get on. I turn on the lights and head up Jefferson Street, a long climb to Veterans Memorial Campground. I gear down, smallest ring, and climb steadily in the dark. At last, the final haripin turns at the top, then camp. I set up in the dark, quick to get the tent up and shower. I’m tired, and satisfied from a great ride. I hear taps played at the military college down the hill. A fitting end for a beautiful day.

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