Day 29, Veterans Memorial Park to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 32 miles
I’m up before daybreak. Couldn’t sleep much. So excited, heading into Big Sur tomorrow. Currently, my favorite place in the world. The culmination of this year’s work and dreams and pain, riding into an ecstatic landscape, delving deeper into my thoughts and feelings, wondering what new treasures of the universe lay in wait for me to discover. Big Sur, a mystical place, a rigorous experience, seen from the seat of my bicycle, from the core of my being.
I pack my tent quietly, most others are sleeping. Until I hear a voice, a hoarse whisper, “Ocean?” It’s Josh, who I left last in Fort Bragg. He saw Squiddies eyes in my headlamp glow. We hug, he says Chaz and he are going to ride the detour around 101 because of the slide. I tell him my investigation has reached the conclusion that passage is indeed impossible. Mud Creek is just on slide. Route 1 is closed for over five miles past that, and people found within the closure are fined $5,000. Too much for me!
Another hug, then I finish packing and head up the hill, further climbing the Monterey Peninsula. At the crest, a brief descent, then a turn up a very steep street. I’m struggling. I’ve made it up steeper hills, what’s wrong. Then I look up, see a coyote loping across the street. “Get off and walk, silly man” he seems to say. So I do. No pride lost. Maybe the lack of sleep affects my strength? The hill is short, then I remount and turn onto Highway 68, descending towards Carmel. Through the intersection with Route 1 and 17 Mile Drive, now a very confusing traffic circle. I take the lane, the onramp to 1, then back on the shoulder.
I exit the busy highway, descend through the town of Carmel. I stop for breakfast, not much to write about, except my fatigue deepens despite the coffee. I think I need a nap! So I ride on down the hill, past the intersection with Carmel Valley Road, then along 1 to the Monestary Beach. It’s just warm enough to lie on the sand. Ah, I’ve need to do this more, but it’s been so cold on this trip. The sand is granular, looks like so many tiny agates and quartz pebbles. Waves are choppy, almost blocking the noisy traffic on the nearby highway. I was warned traffic might be heavier since Caltrans opened the new bridge at Pfeiffer Canyon. I’m unphased, having ridden Big Sur in early June a couple years back. Nothing worse than the Oregon Coast in July.
Enough rest, I’m refreshed as I remount and ride on. Through Carmel Highlands, and out, along the winding ascents, a serpentine road hugging the coastline. Ah, the first vistas of this beautiful place. The sky is clearing, blue now reflecting in the water below. The vastness of the ocean is breathtaking, so much water, farther than I can see, deeper than I can imagine. A metaphor for my psyche, my mind, my soul. I’m just beginning to understand that task at hand, to integrate, to recover all the cast off parts of my self. And to discover new characters, new passions, new challenges. To embrace it all, the new, the old, the exciting and the terrifying.
No fear today, plenty of nostalgia. I remember now the many times I’ve ridden these sacred hills. This treacherous highway. Dangled my legs over the cliff’s edge. Peered down, and out, and inward. Rejoiced with fellow cyclists, opened my heart to a new lover, as we rode last year. Bittersweet, these recollections. How much potential, passion, mystery. I didn’t know then the confusion and pain which was to follow, so soon, so deep.
I climb the bridge at Rocky Creek, stop and gawk. The waters are becoming turquoise again, the shallows so clear I can see kelp waving back and forth in the waves. Then I climb the viaduct, a beautiful curving bridge, round the next bend, stop and take in the views at Bixby Creek Bridge. The tan colored concrete, color must be from the tan sands used in making it. The ocean is becoming deeper blue. I ride on, crawling up Hurricane Point. I remember the last time I rode here, coming out of Big Sur during an “atmospheric river” in January. I walked my bicycle, gripping it so tightly as 50 MPH southerly winds threatened to blow it, and me right off the cliff. Aptly named, Hurricane Point.
Winds are calm today, and northerly. So I enjoy the boost on my descent, down the winding highway south, down and over the Little Sur river, then climb past the bluff and descent around Point Sur. Ice plants, a verdant canyon, and how is it possible, this ocean, a deeper blue than I ever seen. My heart is brimming with joy, a rush of emotion, laughter and tears erupting. This is the ecstasy I’ve been chasing, longing for, seeming to escape my grasp. Of course. I can’t grasp, or hold this. An emotion must be experience, at a peak like this, by letting it flow, flow, flow, through my heart, in and out of my breath, the tingling in my lungs and arms and legs, this ecstasy is but a moment. An as such, a bittersweet one. After joy, then the rest. The loss, the boredom, the sadness. And again, more happiness.
I’m rolling past Rancho Sur, winds carrying me up and into the Big Sur Valley. Soon I pass River House, and so quickly arrive at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I set up camp, enjoy a blasting hot shower, meet other cyclists. I head down to find a better cell signal for my session with Lara. I’m at Big Sur Lodge, have a much too expensive and too large burger, then settle in with my journal for a phone counseling session. I share my thoughts about the journey, and the questions, present throughout the tour: how to embrace this moment, to understand the pain of the last year, my caution about opening myself again, will intimacy always involve confusion and loss of self.
My counselor offers a reflection that takes me aback: I had created a dynamic that was so painful that I had to leave the relationship to return to myself. That I had left myself so entirely that my task was to return myself to myself. Myself to myself. I almost gasp at this statement. Feels so true. And opening to the deeper question: who am I, who will I become, as I return myself to myself. This journey, this bicycle tour, has been one of rediscovery, of myself, in the context of an epic ride, almost a month now, exploring these landscapes, musing and grieving and celebrating and wondering. I’m in wonder. The mystery is dark and beautiful, frightening and inviting. I’m ready to dive in deeper.
I return to camp, join the other cyclists at a fire. They are chatting, sharing wine and stories, all four from Canada. One seasoned cyclist, his friend, first tour, a younger couple taking a shuttle around the slide closure. I share a few tales of my tours, then retire to my bed. Much on my mind, in my heart. Sleep comes quickly, eager to rest and dream again. Tomorrow, on to Esalen!