Day 36, Carpinteria to Leo Carrillo State Beach, 49 miles
After so many hills and climbs and descents and mountainous coastal terrain, today’s ride is mercifully, uninspiringly flat. Ok, maybe not uninspiring. For most of it is directly along the coastal waters, the crashing surf, the brilliant turquoise blue waves of my beloved Pacific.
First a coffee date with a new friend, before the ride. Connecting with a new soul, sharing stories and feelings and experiences. Ah, would be nice if I lived in Santa Barbara. I might want to get to know this woman a little better. Or a lot better. And then our time is up, she goes off to work, I set off to ride. Such it is, dating on the road.
I’m at my bike, getting ready to go. Then I meet a couple of older cyclists getting coffee. They ask if I’m headed south, and tell me they know a better way out of town. So I ride with them, along the bikeway and back roads, paralleling Route 1, avoiding the freeway. We descend an exciting narrow winding canyon, then suddenly join a brand new bike path. This is what the road crews were working on last time I was here, in 2013. A beautiful, protected bikeway directly above the surf along Route 1, past crashing waves, and Rancon Island, and on and on, until we pass into Ventura County.
Ah, what was that song? Ventura Highway in the summertime? Ventura Highway however is a busy, noisy freeway. What was it back in the 70s, when that song was lyrically composed? A romantic stretch of lonely beach highway, with convertibles and surfers and bikinis and hopes and dreams and romance? The song rings in my head. My wheels fly along the bikeway.
After Rancon Island, the bike path crosses under Route 1, then becomes an older, pocked side road, passing a long strip of RV camping. This is Ventura County, people parking their mobile homes, next to the barricades and crashing surf and Porti-Sans and seagulls and barbecues and cell phone chatting. I see men casting lines into the waves, wonder if they will catch anything, wonder if the ocean has life, down here, so close to the massive Southern California metropolis, waters warm and empty of oxygen, too warm for many species of fish and all the animals that thrive upon them.
I ride on, skirting the Cities of Ventura and Oxnard. The Pacific Bicycle Route rides around the Navy base at Oxnard, finally joining Route 1 again. Shortly afterwards, the Missile Park. Testament, honoring the troops and seamen and military contractors and engineers of nuclear destruction. Here, nuclear tipped cruise missiles. And the Polaris, key to the policy of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – that kept the USA and the USSR in an economic death spiral, producing tens of thousands of warheads and deployment technologies. MAD indeed.
A mother has brought her two sons to the park. They run around and under the missiles, oblivious to the meaning and gravity of the display. Probably a military wife, of a well-meaning seaman stationed at the base. I remember my friend in college, Karl, who was a ROTC engineering student. I remember harassing him, calling him a killer, blaming him for the entire defense industry. Now, so clear that we, all Americans, bear responsibility for the actions of our government and our military. One cannot be a pacifist and continue to participate in the economy. Oblivious.
Back on California Route 1, which is now called the PCH, Pacific Coast Highway. Climbing a bit, then around a series of bluffs and descents. A large gathering of vehicles, obviously a shoot, with police escort to control traffic until lit is over. I ask a crew member walking along the highway. “Toyota commercial.” Best cars, I tell him. He shrugs. Job to do. My friend Ray has invited me to help him with a wood fired dragon oven movie star pizza party on Sunday in Malibu. Last time I saw him, he told me he’d catered Robert Downey Jr’s baby son’s 1st year birthday. Toyota commercials, movie stars. Yep, I’m getting closer to Hollywood.
I’m getting tire from the ride, but it’s been a fast one, tailwinds all the way. One more turn, then the campground! I pay the hiker biker rate, head over to the site, tucked behind the septic waste disposal, as many are. An afterthought? A statement? A homeless couple is talking loudly behind the trees. They walk past, I greet them. They are headed to the beach. I wonder if they will be back later. Monarchs are fluttering in the flowering bushes, like flower pedals, alive and dancing in the breeze. I set up camp, shower, wash my clothes. Then I head down to the beach for a sunset picnic.
Under the highway, a stagnant creek from the canyon, beautiful murals painted on and under the passage. What project made this art possible? How many people see this, in the busy summer season? No one is here tonight, this late October Thursday, save a few dedicated surfers and beachcombers. The beach is devoid of sand, large rocks instead. I brought my dinner, corn tortillas, tomato, avocado, tuna. Beach tacos! Ah, wouldn’t it be nice to share this dinner with a friend? I eat in solitude as the sun sets magnificently over Leo Carrillo beach. A perfect end to a good ride.
It’s going to be dark soon, so I head back under the highway, back to my camp site, back to my tent, back to my bed. Tomorrow, Malibu, then Santa Monica, the edge of an overwhelming populace. I’m excited to meet new friends, connect with old, search for the soul in the city of angels, Los Angeles.