Beginning at the end

Day 52, Half Moon Bay to Hostelling International Fisherman’s Wharf, 37 miles

Last ride today. I don’t want my tour to end. And I can’t wait to get home. I wonder how it will be to see my friends and family, who I left behind way back in September. So many hundreds of miles ago. How will things have changed? Or stayed the same? Who will I meet, again, when I return? Who have I become?

I take longer to rise this morning. Sun is on my tent, though I know this won’t help much with the chill. It’s been cold ever since I began riding north from San Luis Obispo. When was that? Just this Tuesday? Crazy marathon ride across Big Sur, and yesterday up the Cabrillo Highway. Glad to be on the home stretch today.

I’m packing up and a fellow camper comes over, Larry. He’s been hiking the coast, down from Astoria. We talk awhile, I share the hiker biker camps along Big Sur, and where to get water and food. He will take a bus to Monterey, but won’t hitch a ride. I tell him the trick I heard about on the bicycle touring group, if you are out of water stand by the road holding up your empty bottle. People will stop. I never thought of that, he says. I also suggest he get the Adventure Cycling map, because it shows all the hiker biker camping, and terrain.

Turns out Larry is from Corvallis! Grew up there, graduated from Corvallis High. Small small world this is. I tell him about the restaurant, to come over for pizza next time he’s through. I wish I could hang out longer, but I have a schedule today, I want to get on the road, get up over the hills. Larry is going sit out the rain at Half Moon Bay, then continue on south. Farewell, and off I ride. A stop at Peet’s Coffee in town, then along the Cabrillo Highway I pedal. Easy going, past a field of endless brussels sprouts. Up the hill, climbing towards the tunnels.

Will I ride the Devil’s Slide again? Or just blast through the tunnels. More hills the other way, and another mile or so. But as Alice says, what are hills? What are miles? To the left I turn, and again ride over the Devil’s Slide Path. The bypass is quiet, just a few walkers, a couple families with kids and bikes. Only the light winds and the sound of heavy surf below. An elder stops and tells me where to look for orca, whales, dolphins. He says they see hundreds every year. He’s a local from Pacifica, walks here often. I’m glad I took the bypass, the time to enjoy another stunning view, to listen to the waves pounding against stone cliffs hundreds of feet down.

A little more climbing, a couple hundred feet, then a rapid descent all the way to Pacifica. I stop at a hardware store for a wrench to loosen my pedals tomorrow, to get my bike into the Amtrak box. Another brief hill, then down to the Pacifica pier. I haven’t ridden this little street before. Waves are splashing over the seawall today, a precursor to the storm arriving later tonight. A sign warns of this, so I go to check, get a picture to see how close the waves get. Splash, right in my face! I laugh, tasting salt water as I ride down to the Chit Chat Cafe for lunch. Bagel and lox, coffee.

More time to write, reflect. Rest. I am tired from this tour, legs ready for a break. I think my mind and soul need a break too. Alone for so long, stretching my limits, weary from the quest. I imagine being home, sleeping for days. But one more climb, a big one. Up over the hill at Daly City, so fun to descend, but very slow climb. Someone yells at me from a SUV, teen girl I think, work harder, work harder! Oh yeah, I am. More than you are, in your car. Rare this kind of harassment. Ridiculous too.

Ah, the crest with the water tank, then descending to Skyline Drive, and US Bicycle Route 95. All the way into San Francisco. I decide to swing by the Golden Gate before reaching the hostel. Just a couple miles further. What are miles? A couple more hills. What are hills? I’m riding now on Saturday afternoon, with dozens of San Franciscans, many draw to watch the heavy surf, crashing past the sand on the long beach. A German cyclist pulls up beside me, talks about tours he’s done, how he plans to ride the Pacific Coast next year. It’s the best ride, I tell him.

The bronze piers of the Golden Gate appear, then before I know it, I’m standing at the south viewpoint, with a crowd of tourists. I push through to find a good view, then take another picture of my self with the beautiful span in the background. I have arrived, end of my tour. Satisfaction, emotion threatening to overwhelm. But still another mile or two to the hostel at Fisherman’s Wharf. The staff is friendly, I’m glad to grab a hot hot shower, eat a simple meal at the cafe. I sit by the fireplace in the hostel to write.

I’m heading home tomorrow, on the Amtrak. Starting another chapter of my life, post tour. An end that becomes a beginning. Writing my story, even as it unfolds. I’m excited to meet the new characters, friends, family, community. Returning home with a new perspective. Every day, a new opportunity.

One thought on “Beginning at the end

  1. Hey there!
    Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your blog! 🙂
    I’d love to talk to you about sharing your blog entries on our CycleMap Blog ( Could you please get in touch with me via please? I’d love to talk to you about this in more detail!
    Thanks! Have a great day! 🙂 Samantha

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