Hello Sur

Day 31, Pfeiffer Big Sur to Plaskett Creek Campground, 34 miles

Morning climb, up the Big Sur hill, to the bakery. The bakery! Croissant calls me, climb climb climb. How many times now this hill, so familiar, another place I know to be home. Sun just beginning to rise over the ridge. Park my bicycle against the rail, line inside. Wait, no almond croissants! Oh well, chocolate banana nut bread will do, with a very good coffee. Alice rolls up to join me, just as I’ve plugged in all the electronics. She’s got just one pannier, a day bag, since she’ll be staying another night at the campground.

We linger at breakfast, wait staff comes in getting set up for their brunch. I ask to see the menu, but the chef hasn’t given it out yet. I will have to check out the wood fired pizza one of these trips through. I will be back, again and again. We ride over the ridge, descend to Nepenthe and the Henry Miller Library. Not open, so back up to Nepenthe, beautiful views from the deck, Big Sur prices. Not hungry we just nosy around the gift shop, then roll back down to visit Henry.

The library is quiet, mostly a gift shop filled with memorabilia, but also a hot spot for evening entertainment and causing ruckus with the neighbors. From the posters and picture books, major acts have played fund raisers, ranging from rock stars to Laurie Anderson to an Alan Ginsberg tribute. I pick up a copy of Big Sur by Kerouac. Time I read some of the beat generation that made my quest possible. I think I need to know more about Esalen, the early days, when Grof and Leary were delving into psychedelic realms. What did they learn? Where has it brought us?

Time to go. Alice gestures north, beckons me to join her on the loop, over Old Coast Road, to Bixby, then to explore Andrew Molera State Park. A hike or so? So tempting. And easy.

Baja Mexico is way past my comfort zone. And I don’t know how long I can afford to stay out on the road. When will the rains come, in force? A record Pacific hurricane just hit the Mexico mainland, winds over 200mph. When will the sales at the restaurant dip down, below the profit line? That thin line between making money and losing money. When will my soul grow weary of traveling the highways, lonely and forlorn? Ha, not any time soon! And I might want to travel north, back over Big Sur, before heading back to Oregon.

I tell her I’ve got to go. A brief and somewhat awkward hug with Alice, and then I’m off. Down California 1, south over now familiar crests and coves, headlands and bridges. I feel my loneliness return, almost immediately. Old friend, loneliness. We will spend a lot of time together. Another thousand miles at least.

I count the bridges, 1, 2, 3, then the Hot Springs Creek bridge. Esalen! And I find a clandestine camping spot, perfect for an eventual 1am soak on a pass through. At the next crest, I call to see if tonight is filled. Saturday, of course. So off, south past Lucia, then barreling down the highway full tilt over the bridge and through the 20 million dollar avalanche shed, and past it over the Lime Kiln Creek bridge. I’ve never taken that descent at speed, and I am exuberant. Hooting and hollering. People smiling as they walk to their cars parked along the highway near Lime Kiln. Must’ve heard me, this crazed cyclist. Oblivious to danger. Having the time of his life. Where are you now, loneliness? Banished by adventure.

A few more miles, I pass Kirk Creek. Hiker biker site is full, even though the campground has no water at all. I ride on, to Pacific Valley and Plaskett Creek. Just a few more miles. But I’m feeling it in my legs. Not used to pushing so hard. Just three days off the road, and I’ve grown soft already? Not good. I must keep going, push harder, get stronger. But not too hard. I gear down to climb. Crawl up the last hill. Cars line the road as I approach Plaskett. The camp is filled this weekend night. Hiker biker filled with car campers, all paying $25 a night. But I’m in for $5. Glad for water, even if now showers. Porti-sans rather than bathrooms. Water is short here too.

The host says the beach is not to miss, even though it’s 100 steps down. I count 99. A California beach nestled between two headlands, complete with volley ball net, bathers in the waves and many, many surfers. Some catching nice swells. Perhaps I’ll try surfing this trip? Mounds of kelp washed ashore. Sand graffiti offers inspiration, “you call me out upon the waters”. A gentle breeze offshore, sun setting behind fog. I’m glad to be here, glad to be riding this coastline, glad to be alive. I head back up the 99 steps, then up the dusty trail back into camp.

I set up the tent by a central picnic table, then move it as the group campers descend to cook dinner. I hear a tamale pie being shared and ask for some. Not humble, this weary rider. In bed before anyone else, on the sun’s time. Will the campers keep me up? It’s pretty mellow, this campground. I hear a guitar with a warbling voice singing off key. His friends applaud weakly. Trying not to encourage him. They fail, and he sings on, covers of Beatles, Van Morrison, the Doors. The 60s is alive, even if the rendition out of tune. Another table, the rattle of dice in a can, playing a quiet game. Surfers are mellow tonight.

I think back to Pebble Beach, to the “Keep Out” signs, the multimillion dollar megaliths, dedicated to exclusion and privilege. Here, in this campground, surrounded by families and couples, seniors and youth, I feel a belonging. My people, my tribe. I remember family vacations from my youth, how we all traveled together, seven of us in a tiny travel trailer. I remember my mother saying the trailer was freedom, security. That with it we could go anywhere, always be safe.

4am, a dream wakes. I’m at a memorial service, strange men around me. They are my brothers, though I don’t recognize any of them. We are trying to divvy up the bill with the funeral director, It isn’t working out, some aren’t paying enough. I guess I’m one of the stingy ones. So we all throw more money down. I am adding up the bills, to make sure there is enough, two hundred and such. I then notice my mother beside me.

I’m rearranging the trinkets and memorabilia on the table, around an odd little cake, red velvet, only frosted on the sides, a single layer. Only a tiny slice is missing. No one was hungry. I say, half to my mother, “Well, what’s done is done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ah, the words of the cynical preacher in Ecclesiastes. My words. I awake with tears. And say to my mother, half dreaming still, “And I want you to know, you took really good care of him. And of all of us. And raised us to become strong honorable men. And well will carry his legacy, and yours, into the world.”

The cynical preacher in Ecclesiastes, yet stating a truth from the Zen perspective. There is nothing new under the sun. And all is new, every day. Seasons come and seasons go. People are born, live and die. The best we can do, is to be strong and honorable. Thank you Mother. You have lived a good life. You deserve to rest in these golden years.

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