Meanwhile in Monterey

Day 30, Monterey Hostel International to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park via 17 mile Drive, 45 miles

Alice is riding ahead. We’re climbing California Route 1 again, south out of the Carmel Highlands. Ah, around the corner I stop, again,  for pictures. Pictures! This coast is so beautiful and remote, enthralling and lonely. I cannot get enough.

I’ve just spent three days in Monterey, at the Hostel International on Cannery Row, joining Alice in her “general snoop and nosy”. I’m thinking over highlights of our lovely time there:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium – filled with families trying to herd their children. A delight to see feeding time at the otters and deep sea tank and penguins. And mysterious beautiful jellies and squid and nautilus and shrimp and octopus. Views of the brilliant blue bay, gulls and pelicans soaring, waves splashing into the large tide pool. The Aquarium was built by David and Linda Packard, at the request of their daughters, 40 million invested as an endowment, a gift to future generation, with a research facility studying and raising awareness of the ocean’s health. (Otter feeding video below, enjoy!)

Walking along the bay path – up past the Coast Guard station and commercial wharf, to the touristy wharf filled with seafood restaurants and hawkers trying to get our business. Then we see two pelicans, right on the railing down near a fish cleaning station. We rush to get pictures, up closer to these huge birds than seems wise. The pelicans are in no hurry, regarding us strange tourists taking pictures, the yellow tinged bills tucked down against the chest, prehistoric looking eyes gazing at tourist, then fish scraps picked at by a gull. One flaps open its massive wings, falls backwards off the railing, swooping to glide along the water, just above the water, out between docked fishing boats. Alice is giggling to see these majestic birds up so closely.

Our bicycle ride on the second day – over the peninsula, around 17 mile drive, unhindered by panniers and weight and destination and agenda. Just cycling, for fun, for exploration, the joy it should be. Misty foggy skies, sun breaking through, multimillion dollar mansions tucked amongst stone and sand and pine forest. A new being build with stone, grinders whirring and the chink chink chink of masons hammer. Fitting stone into wall, adjusting, chipping, chink chink chink. Round the vast greens of Pebble Beach, watered amply to be so green, in this state of drought, state of California, state of denial. The wealthy risk investor in the coffeehouse telling me there is no water problem, that Gov Brown invented it for political gain, that since we can turn on the faucets and see water flowing this is the proof that there is no water problem. State of drought, state of California, state of denial.

Three days spent with Alice – morning coffee in the hostel, sharing dinner, walking around town, exploring a town I would have just blown through on my tour. I realized I’ll be heading out soon, to distant places, way past my comfort zone into Mexico. Wouldn’t it be nicer just to keep riding with her, stay in the safe confines of the known, getting to know a new friend better each day? One more ride together,  a short hop tomorrow. Then I will be riding on south.

Back to this moment, riding south to Big Sur. I catch up with her at the next rise, she’s waiting, eager to get to the camp before dark, so she rides off immediately. I pass her on a downhill, much faster than her in descent, fearless and falling like a rock. Thenj up and over Rocky Creek, and at the viaduct, I photograph her, taking the same picture as the bicycle touring group on Facebook. She speeds past, then descends right over Bixby, beginning the climb up Hurricane Ridge. I’m close behind, exuberant on this now favorite mile of California Route 1. Skip the selfies, I’m barreling down again in full descent, down down down, then up and over El Sur Ranch and the forbidden beaches below.

Camp in just a few miles. Tailwinds and gravity as our friends. Point Sur, then Andrew Molera, River Inn, Ripplewood, Fernwood, ah, Pfeiffer Big Sur. We set up in a new, temporary hiker biker site, not under the towering redwoods, instead right along the Big Sur River which sings happily all night. A good day, a nice shared dinner, and over walks Erica, who we met way back at Humbug Mountain. She’s already been to Yosemite, now heading to LA and possibly Baja. Again, the fellowship of bicycle touring amazes me, how we meet, pass each other, break away, reconvene. Perhaps an apt metaphor for the rest of life.

Sleep comes easy tonight. I’m glad to be back in my tent, back on the road. Ready for tomorrow.

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