Hauling over the Humboldt hills

Day 18, Burlington Campground to Standish-Hickey Recreation Area, 45 miles

I wake to the roaring sound of a cook stove. My new companions are making breakfast. I rouse myself, begin packing up. Today’s ride doesn’t inspire as much as others, many freeway miles ahead, lots of climbing. But I’m feeling strong and ready to take it on.

I’m relaxing a bit talking with my new friends. They have established a repartee, and I’m finding myself quiet, reserved almost. I guess shy would best describe me.  A shift from previous meetings on this trip. I feel myself withdrawing, wanting to reflect, to write, to have less chat or conversation than this group is having. There will be time to think on the road, riding alone.

I pack up my gear and push off, wishing everyone a safe ride. We’re all headed the same place, in fact, coffee at the Daily Grind in Myers Flat. Legendary for its great roast and curmudgeonly owner, and collection of sarcastic signage. Today does’t disappoint, though the owner is absent. His employee is quite personable, talking with Richie and me about cycling, the weed industry, all the “trimmigrants” who are in town for the harvest. Very good espresso.

I set out down the Avenue of the Giants, a few more shaded miles among the ancient trees. Quiet, away from the traffic of the 101, easy rolling. Then I turn on to the freeway, beginning the first climb of the day. Much warmer on the open road, and a strong tailwind, miles disappear. I stop in Garberville for lunch. Here the town is literally overrun with young people seeking work in the harvest. I’m sure to lock my bike well, considering rumors of theft from the more desperate among these transient workers. I’m told there’s not much work actually for those who haven’t arranged gigs in advance. So a lot of people hanging out, wandering the streets with backpacks, sleeping bags and pillows. A fare amount of bongo playing too.

Lunch time drags, so I head back onto the 101. More hills, then the tight curves of the Richardson Grove. A few more miles of climbing to the camp. I’m looking forward to arriving before dark this time. Ah, the Confusion Hill. Squidding wants a picture here. Then the highway rounds the spot where a huge slide covered to road last winter. So much roadwork this year, clearing, rebuilding, many traffic lights and one lane spots. At last, the campground. I roll in, shower, set up my camp, then head over to Peg House for the Bigfoot burger. So good.

I’m back at camp, where my companions have all arrived, set up their tents, cooking dinner. Conversations carry into the night, as lights come out. And the beer, tobacco, weed. I don’t partake, and find it surprising somewhat that with the exertions of today and anticipated tomorrow, such choices are make by touring cyclists. Ah, youth, energy to burn. Not yet aware that health and time are limited. Is that the beginning of middle age consciousness? I think about how hard won my lessons have been, how I’ve learned I need to be very careful about how I spend my energy. How I want to spend my time exploring my thoughts and feelings, building my strength, clearing my body and mind.

I find myself stepping back, even as my companions ask my questions: are you married? do you have kids? what do you do? and the inevitable, how did you choose the name Ocean? To this, I take a breath, begin to explain the long story, of the pro-feminist men’s retreat in upstate New York, sponsored by the Ithaca Men’s Network, the spiritual affinity group lead by 7song, who asked us to choose a “spirit name” for the weekend. It’s dark, but I’m sure if I could see my new friend’s eyes, they’d be wide, or rolling back into his head. No matter, I soldier on in my telling of the story of the origin of the name Ocean.

“I’ve always loved the ocean. So it seemed like a natural choice for a name. Later, when we were approaching Y2K, we both decided to change our names,” I finished. That’s about it. The conversation wanders among the travelers, I’m feeling my exhaustion. I retire to bed, writing in my journal some. First entry in a new book. Feels good to connect with myself, with my words, with my writing practice. I have so much more I need to write. I will write, so much more.

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