Big Sur reprise

Day 50, Pfeiffer Big Sur to New Brighton State Beach, 72 miles

How do I leave this land I’ve grown to love so much? I don’t want to go, don’t want this trip to end.

Cold, so cold this morning. Today will be a long ride, I force myself up. Pack up my gear. Alexis and Dawen come over for advice, should be ride to San Simeon? No water there? I suggest Plaskett Creek, then Morro Bay. That’s what we were thinking. It’s what I’d suggested last night, to which they responded they were going to ride to San Simeon anyway. I’m glad to give advice, enjoy being the seasoned traveler on this route. I think back to my first tours, the thrill of it, and the anxiety. How I looked to the seasoned travelers with awe and inspiration. Perhaps I can share some of that too.

Cold air nipping at my fingers and face, I ride out of the Big Sur valley, stop at the River Inn for coffee. A group of car travelers question me, a man with a you-are-so-crazy-but-tell-me-about-it look on his face. A dreadlocked local walks by and fist bumps me, wide grin on his face. He walks back a few minutes later, Johnny is his name. He tells me how he once met a girl on a bike tour, from Maine, how she became his girlfriend. He drops the story, walks into the market. I’m seeing my breath in the chill air, hoping it will warm up. I’m drinking my coffee still when Johnny walks out again. I want to know the rest of the story, I tell him.

Lilly left Maine, was riding with some guys down from Portland. Met Johnny, they went to Pfeiffer Beach, took acid, danced naked under the stars. He had a cabin, so naturally she stayed. A while. Lilly was a flirt, since there are 10-to-1 guys to girls in Big Sur. She got lots of beers bought for her. But Johnny was her man. Except eventually. She up and left. Back to Maine. I should have known, I mean, she just up and left her boyfriend in Maine to come out west. Big laughs as Johnny tells me this tale, his eyes dancing behind his thick framed glasses. Gorgeous dreads, mountain man beard. A quintessential modern Big Sur hippy. Happy to take a picture for the blog, hope to see him again. I think I will. And to meet more locals.

I climb out of the valley, descend through El Sur ranch, past Point Sur, around the curves leading to Hurricane Ridge. Ten degrees cooler just leaving the valley. Take off the tights and jacket, ready to climb the big hill. First, more pictures of this lovely place, crimson ice plants blanket the dunes, sky and sea reflected along the forbidden beach below barbed wire and No Trespassing signs. Gonna show these pictures to Matt Love when I get back to Oregon. He’ll appreciate them. No headwinds today! A windless day climbing the Hurricane. So different from the last trip over the ridge, to meet Alice in Monterey. Winds blowing me across the road. It’s colder now, so I don’t stop long and the viewpoint, jacket back on to descend. Down, flying along the highway, all the way across Bixby Bridge, climb over the crest, down past Rock Creek bridge.

I climb over the last few hills, pausing often to look back at the mountains I’m leaving. Such beauty. Sun reflecting across wide ocean, surf breaking on rocks. Hard to leave. But I’m eager to get home. And tired. Legs are returning, but I’m worried at the length of this ride, all the way to Santa Cruz. Capitola to be precise. I roll through Carmel Heights, then climb over the Monterey Peninsula, descend through town to East Village Coffee. Second coffee break, time to rest. I’ve thought of taking the bus from Monterey to Santa Cruz, 40 miles from here. It’s 130pm already, which means the last hour or so will be after sunset.

Bus? Or ride? I choose ride, because that’s why I’m here, on this tour. And a windless day heading north around Monterey Bay, a rare opportunity. So on I go, along the long bikeway, through dunes paralleling California 1. More ice plants, in bloom! So beautiful, and the brilliant blue bay to my left. Miles go by easily, I’m through Seaside, Marina, nearing Moss Point. Another break, resting, grabbing a sandwich, more water. Just 20 miles to go now. My route rejoins the crazy Route 1, so much traffic, nonstop. Feels like an assault. What motorists don’t know from inside their protected steel and glass bubbles, the noise and danger they are inflicting on the world. Several dead seabirds on a bridge crossing the estuary. Victims of vehicles. I feel more like a bug than ever.

Just a few miles later, I leave the highway, passing through the fields near Watsonville. Grateful to escape the traffic. A few bends, a dog chases me, but I’m on a short steep descent. Silly mutt can’t hope to keep up with me. Sun is sinking as I turn onto San Andreas, closer and closer to my destination. Lights on now, riding in the dark. I hear Route 1 again as I climb, then cross over to Soquel Drive. A few miles, stop at Safeway. Whoa. Warmth of the massive grocery store, overwhelm from the products, urges to buy things I don’t need. Grab some food, eat outside the doors. Wait, I needed soap? Aptos Natural Foods just a block away. I ride over, enter the small market. Now, feels like the co-op back home. Lavender Dr. Bronners in bulk! Small joys.

I ride the last two miles, excited to be so close to my home for the night. I stop at self registration, glad to pay $5 for the bicycle camp. I ride in, one other cyclist there, who I won’t meet this time. I set up my tent, sleeping bag, stash the food in the raccoon proof box. Then take the hottest shower of the trip. Best shower of my life! Back to my camp, to my bed, feeling the satisfaction and fatigue of a long ride.

A ride of paradise, a ride closer to home.

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