Day 5, Esalen to Monterey Hostel, 53 miles
Restless night. I’m up at 3am, messaging my love. Then off to the baths. Hot soaks, cold plunges, such elation I feel. And yet, I’m restless. The weather, I must decide what to do next. “Atmospheric river conditions”. A lot of rain. Prediction is 15 inches in Big Sur. Yes, 15 inches, over the weekend.
Caltrans says the road is washed out at Lucia. What should I do? I sit in a meditation for the last session of the retreat, then I’m getting up, just moments before the bell. The teacher bows, wishes me well on my journey. I pay the bike, push it up the steep driveway. At the highway I opt to head south. Maybe I can make it to the Warm Showers host near Plaskett. Three miles into the 50 MPH winds and I’m turning around.
OK, back north. How far? A hotel in Big Sur, or all the way to Monterey, back to the hostel? As soon as I turn, the winds are now at my back, as is the rain. Faster pace. But still nearly 50 miles to go. That is a long ride to be starting at noon.
Nevertheless, onward I pedal. I’m soaked already. And feeling a chill. My boy scout survival training kicks in. What do I need? Wool hat on my head, a fleece pullover in addition to the vest. OK, now my head is warm, my trunk, and my toes, in their wool socks. My fingers ok too, with the shell covering my gloves. I’m warm. I can ride the whole way, as long as I’m warm.
Miles pass as I rewind Wednesday’s ride. Julia Pfeiffer park, the climbs, then what’s that? Flashing car blinkers? Another slide? No. a rock. A very big rock. Looks like we all lucked out. That rock would have crushed any car. Certainly this cyclist. As fate would have it, I live to tell the tale.
I look up the hill, wonder if another boulder is teetering, ready to plummet down and crush me. I quickly push my bike past the boulder, the stop for the picture. Yes, take a picture of this massive rock, tempt fate a little longer. For the sake of the blog. For the shock value of sharing the picture.
Then ride, ride, ride. So many miles. So much climbing. I’m buffeted by huge winds at the headlands, and yes, 50 MPH gusts will push a fully loaded touring bicycle and rider uphill, without pedaling. Crazy.
Then, Big Sur. No stop at Henry Miller today. Nor the Bakery. River House, for coffee and a Big Sur bar and chatting with the tourists from Texas. They offer a ride, but no room for the bike. I ride out past Rancho del Sur, and Point Sur then begin the ascent up Hurricane Point. Amazing how the winds at my back make the climb so easy. Until the top, where I’m grasping, dismounting the bike, winds so strong i fear they will blow me right over the precipice.
Then the long descent, no fun, because I’m braking the whole of it, worried the cross gusts will toss me off the bike. Carmel Highlands, Carmel, then th along climb up Monterey Peninsula on Highway 1. At last, the final descent, the long bike way to the hostel. I elated to arrive, until the awful sound of brakes, and a thud.
A pickup has hit a pedestrian, who is crying now. It starts to pull away, I yell at the driver, while running to the victim, dialing 911. Don’t think to get the license, until I look up and watch the pickup pulling away, driving down the street in the dark. Hit and run. Sickening. I stay on the line until the ambulance arrives. I check into the hostel, stunned at this awful event. As if the ride wasn’t crazy enough.
Somehow, a calm descends upon me. Was it the meditation retreat, or the NVC training, or the long crazy ride? I’m feeling the cycling high, endorphins and exhaustion, and the awareness, that yes, I just rode 50 miles in the worst weather possible, dodged being crushed by a boulder or a pickup, and now I’ve got a warm bed in the hostel and a shower hotter than the pools at Esalen. All that’s needed is a burger and a pint, something the Bulldog Pub serves up in style.
What a day. As fate would have it, I live to tell the tale.