Along the precipice

Day 49, Plaskett Creek to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 34 miles

I’m up before dawn, seems to be the norm for me at this point in the tour. Nearing the end. I’m riding long days, and wary of the daylight running out, having to cycle in the dark, set up camp in the dark.

That’s not the case today though, just a short hop over to Pfeiffer Big Sur again. Should be a simple, easy ride. My legs are disagreeing. They feel sluggish, tired, can’t move too fast. Perhaps the marathon yesterday has taken a toll? So I favor them, riding slowly, plodding along almost. Taking lots of stops, for pictures and to rest. Rest. Something I need when I’m pushing myself too hard.

Today the views are as amazing as they get. First break in Lucia, breakfast sitting on the deck looking south at the rising sun, glistening on the vast deep blue ocean. Warmth against the black tights I’m wearing, morning temps are in the low 40s again. On a chilly ride this this, hills are a blessing and a curse. More heat generated while climbing, but then more chilling on the descent. I put my coat on too, a wind break that helps as I descend out of Lucia.

A few more miles, Esalen below. I wish I could take a personal retreat, but they are booked. I ride on, descending past Julia Pfeiffer Burns. Stop, look down at the turquoise waters breaking on the small beach, waterfall flowing directly on the surf. Next time I’ll hike down the trail. Next time. Already planning for my return. This is good.

The climb out of Julia Pfeiffer is long, and I stop along the stone railing. Sit there awhile, soaking in the sun and the view. Watch breakers hundreds of feet below, another impossible beach. Ride a bit further, climbing climbing. Along the highway, the road cuts through veins of rock, green quarts, then a ruddy red. I reach a viewpoint, then another. Stop by the huge boulders put there to keep cars from driving over the edge. Cars are occasional, but I’m staying longer. I find a path down under the concrete shoring of the highway, even has a ledge that acts as a perfect bench. I stop and sit.

I’m in awe of the massive stone face, the cliff ahead, highway a thin ribbon, etched into the stone. Cars creep along this line, like ants at this distance. I’ll be riding there soon. I’m grateful for the engineers who have built this masterpiece. I look to the bottom of the cliff, surf breaking, white cranes are perched on the brown kelp beds. Seem to be walking on water, these brilliant birds. Sea lions bark. And there, condors are soaring, so far below. I wish Alice were here with her binoculars, to see the condors! I’m lingering longer, want this moment to last.

I eventually give in to the inevitable, I must ride to the next camp. This moment must end. As must the next. Climbing again, up over the cliff, around the bend. There, another cyclist, Phil. from Vancouver. Sitting on the stone railing, caught by the splendor and awe. We talk awhile, he’s planning to ride to Chile, his first bicycle tour! I tell him about my crossing the border, how it’s not as scary as people make it out to be. He notes that the people who tell him not to go the Tijuana have never been there. He’s apprehensive, but excited too. My tour will change so much when I cross the border, he says. You will change, I tell him. We exchange contacts, maybe I’ll find him on Warm Showers, and if he gets his blog going.

I ride the few remaining miles with ease. My legs are back, the remaining hills are a breeze. Another stop at the Henry Miller Library, buy a book by the man himself this time. Then the climb through Big Sur proper, descent to the Bakery, an overpriced but delicious sandwich. And at last the long descent to camp. I roll into the empty site, and feel an overpowering loneliness. Where are the dozens of cyclists, who I want to share stories with. Just me, for now. And the quiet of the river, and the wind in the trees.

A couple cyclists roll in, Alexis and Dawen, also from Vancouver. They are bubbling with enthusiasm, come over to talk. Then Peter, who rode from New York across the northern tier, almost to the end of his tour. Maybe I’ll ride across the country next year. Haven’t done that yet. Peter tells me the winds were in the wrong direction, the way he traveled. Good to note.

Getting dark. I find the laundry and the end of this long park, using the dryer for the clothes I have washed by hand. I make my way back to camp and to the warmth of my sleeping bag. Days are getting colder, nights even colder. This trip through Big Sur is preparing me for Oregon in more ways than one.

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