The turning

Day 35, Santa Monica to Los Angeles Union Station, 19 miles

The texts come in at 6am. Medical crisis back home. I ponder my decision, ride on to Mexico? Or turn, back home. I feel the call to return, ini a flash change my plans. I look us train schedules, I’ll take the Amtrak to SLO, ride back over Big Sur and then into San Francisco, where I’ll get the Coast Starlight from Oakland back to Oregon.

I’m relieved a bit, conflicted too. At the end of a tour I’ve often felt this, wanting to return, yet compelled to keep riding. That what I am returning to will pale by comparison to this adventure. That the stresses of my Oregon life will engulf me once again. I resolve to make my reentry different this year. To embrace my emotions, my commitments, as well as retain my need for adventure and discipline.

Discipline. Discipline is remembering what you want. I recall Alison Luterman repeating this quote at one of the Sun Esalen retreats. How quickly in my normal life do I tend to forget, to disappear into my stresses. Which I’ve brought with me along on this tour. A struggle it’s been, many of the days, many of the rides. And now, nearing the end, I wonder at how I might have done it differently.

No matter, I’ll accept my place now. Resignation, acceptance, time to turn. Time to head home. I load my bike, ride out from the hostel onto the Santa Monica streets, turn down to the waterfront avenue. Ocean Avenue. Nice name. I follow the route south, through Venice, follow Venice Boulevard all the way into downtown Los Angeles, some 15 miles. Boring riding, so my ear buds are playing David Whyte poetry. This time his writings on death, the long disappearance we all must come to terms with. Appropriate.

I reach the core downtown, notice all the new constructions. Condos going up, new blacktop, bike lanes, iPhone ads everywhere. No homeless in sight here in this chic glitzy “new LA”. I stop in the central market, look down at my panniers and notice my tent poles missing. Somewhere along the bumpy stretch of Venice Boulevard. What now, how will I camp for the next several nights?

Quick check, change plans again. I board the train at Union Station, now planning to get off at Santa Barbara, buy a new tent at REI, then get grab the next train back to camp the night at Carpinteria. Just an hour between these stops, but the REI is just a two blocks from the station. It works, new tent, I’m back on the Amtrak for 15 minutes, then off and over to the state park in Carpinteria.

There as I roll into the darkened camp, I hear a voice, Is that Ocean? It’s Natalie, who I camped with once before at Gualala Point way up at the edge of Mendocino County. She’s been following the Mission Trail, visiting all the Spanish missions. We chat about the road, I meet three other cyclists. Even in such a brief meeting, I feel the community and connection that touring cyclists share.

I’m off to sleep, will catch the Amtrak tomorrow to SLO. The surf lulls as it breaks, endlessly on the beach.


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