The gift of hospitality and the Santa Ana winds

Day 34, Santa Maria to Refugio State Beach, 54 miles

Stories, dinner, questions, hanging out, Googling videos, sleeping on a comfy couch, laundry, shower, fresh towel. Ah, the gift of hospitality. To feel a belonging, to be welcomed into a home, into a family. May I offer this gift to other travelers, as I did earlier this summer. Thank you Carmen. And if you are ever in Oregon…

Reluctantly I leave Santa Maria, both because the host was so gracious, but also because today is a freeway ride. Having hopped inland via Carmen’s Jeep, I’m not set to ride the 101, all the way to my destination. I could ride back to Route 1, but that would ad an hour to the already long day.

My solution for such a boring ride is delay. Shopping at “Save Rite” takes an hour of wandering around, looking for things, trying not to buy too much. Ha, sardines in those big cans we saw at the aquarium. No, not for this bicyclist. Then, more coffee.

Ok, back on the road. Music helps the tedium. A few miles out the odometer clicks past 19,000. I’m wondering how I’ll be able to ride the thousand of lonely desert of Baja. But I think I’ll figure that out. The grace today, traffic is light on the 101. A very ample shoulder, the slightest of grades, I climb two summits, then descent to Los Alamos first, then all the way to the Santa Barbara Coast.

Overcast on the ocean today. A good tailwind makes the last 10 miles go quickly. El Camino Real, the historic road. the “Royal Road” connecting all of California’s 21 missions. I recall a story on NPR’s Latino USA, the mixed feelings about the missions, to conquest. Connection to culture, yet also a history of oppression of the native peoples. As is the case across the US, in every locale.

I arrive just an hour before sunset at Refugio State Beach, one of my favorite camps on the tour. The palm trees, crashing surf, golden sands make the park seem as paradise. The hiker biker site is located directly on the beach, just across a narrow access road. However tonight this proves troublesome. Shortly after sunset, a wind begins to buffet my tent. I’m inside, now getting covered with a fine grit, the finest of sand. Covering everything. I try to use my bicycle to press the fly down, but the grit keeps getting in, as surely as the winds grow stronger.  The offshore oil derricks are lit up like perverse petroleum Christmas trees. Full moon tonight, is that why the surf is so high?

I check and find even more concern, a coastal flooding waring, especially just east of Point Conception. Where I’m camped. At sea level. I hear the surf louder and stronger. Wonder what flooding might mean. Should I move the tent? Not supposed to peak until the morning high tides. I sleep fitfully, waking at midnight with a mouth and nose full of the grit, surf louder than ever. I take my sleeping bag and pad, and for the second time set up to sleep on the picnic table.

Now it’s too hot. Literally, must be the famed “Santa Ana” winds, blowing over the mountains to the north. Hot winds. Crashing surf. At least I’m above grit level. I manage a few hours of sleep, after writing a past blog post. Adventures in camping, California coast!

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