Day 19, Standish-Hickey campground to MacKerricher Beach State Park, 42 miles
A chilly morning, I rise and greet my companions in the camp. I head out before them, for coffee next door at the Peg House, and to get a leap onto the big climb. I start up Leggett Hill, gear down, pedal. I notice I’m not feeling intimidated by this ascent. I’ve done it so many times now, and it really isn’t any steeper than the rest of the thousand miles before, or thousand miles to come. Just one pedal stroke at a time. Climbing, climbing, climbing. Shed a layer of clothing, breathe deeply, steadily, upwards, onwards.
No log trucks, being Sunday. Yet the log trucks have proven the most courteous of drivers, especially the one who followed me in lowest gear last year as I rounded a tight curve with no shoulder to pull out on. A few cars, motorcycles, trucks. But mostly quiet, cool forest. Then the crest, begin the descent. Rapid, hairpin turns, a joy to careen down this mountain highway, light traffic. The road levels out at Rockport, then climbs another hill. Across a creek, then around the headland to the first wide views of the Mendocino Coastline.
Clear skies, turquoise waters, and a strong northerly wind. It’s going to be a wonderful flight on in to Fort Bragg. I’m joined by Richie, Joe and Jenn. Pictures of course! As they stop and talk with a motorist, I walk back a ways and read the graffiti on the guardrail. I didn’t see the poem from last year, the one that touched me deeply, so I add my own.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver
I record myself reciting the poem a few times, until I’m satisfied. Then I ride on, over crest and into coves, flying on the straightaways. I head out first, then the others pass me, then I pass them. Cycling leap frog along the coast. I roll into Westport Landing, stop at the deli for a sandwich. Josh and Jenn ride on, but I linger a long while having lunch with Richie. The wind has grown stronger, whipping up the dust. We head out together, to cover the last miles to Fort Bragg.
Around a cover, Joe and Jenn pull back on the highway, having visited a protected beach. Winds at my back, ride is so fast, at times I grip the handlebars tightly to avoid being blown off course, or blown over. This is a thrilling ride. I recall the many times I’ve ridden the Shoreline Highway, in wind and fog and rain. Always different, though heading the same way. I’m the same, constantly growing, evolving, yet still heading forward, onward.
I ride through Inglenook, past the old cemetery, again I utter, “Not today!” Still among the living. The survivors. Thriving in this life. A beautiful life. Another day in paradise. On to Cleone, then the turn off to MacKerricher State Park. This was the last beach I visited, as an infant, before my family moved across the country from my birthplace of Fort Bragg to New Hampshire, near my mother’s hometown. I check in, the cycle to the Hiker/Biker site. Camp set, shower done, I ride the haul road into Fort Bragg.
A few hours at the Medocino Cookie Company, closed, so I just use their power outlets, charge my phone, finish my blog. Then I join the others at Piaci’s for pizza and stories. They have been enjoying beer at North Coast Brewery. I’m satisfied with my iced tea. We order pizzas, thin crust, perfectly cooked. This is pizza! They have another round of beers, and conversation turns political. Joe says “I don’t agree with Open Borders”. Richie tries to explain how the Netherlands have incorporated Syrian refugees. Joe questions whether they are really Syrian. Ah, it makes sense now. He said earlier he likes Trump’s policies. Despite Richie’s best attempts, Joe keeps repeating “Open Borders”. He says Europe is in a mess because of them. Even though the European sitting next to him tells him otherwise. “We are taking in only 200,000 refugees per year.” Richie says.
I stay quiet. This conversation has its place. And isn’t really going anywhere. Joe’s been reading the wrong blogs. Too much time with “alternative facts” and one can’t receive actually facts or information. Empathy is lost for the refugees of wars, mainly caused by corporate plunder and imperial wars. By the US. I bid them farewell, ride back to my camp. I’m thinking about all of this, how to reach across such a gap of belief, emotion, politics. How to I communicate without judgement, practice nonviolence, in my own beliefs, with my own emotions. Much to ponder.