Day 30, New Brighton Beach to Veterans Memorial Park, 45 miles
At last, a delicious night’s sleep, cuddled warm in my sleeping back, gentle surf lapping against the beach below the bluff that the camp is perched upon. I rise refreshed and pack up, ready for a new day. First stop, the Ugly Mug in Soquel. There the proprietor Steve greets me, as he always has, for this 10th year of my Fall touring of the Pacific Coast.
We talk shop, bicycles, politics, though not too much. I spend a long time there, hours, at last catching up on this blog, getting current to the ride of the day. Best coffee on the coast too. I’m not lying! It’s time to leave, to head south, and Steve takes me outside for our traditional selfie with the Mug sign. To my surprise he’s altered the chalkboard too. Steve says next year he’s going to join me and ride Big Sur. Yes, let’s ride!
My ride around Monterey Bay is easy, following a route well worn into my memory, along Highway 1, then turning onto Bonita Drive, then San Andreas. The Pacific Coast Bicycle Route rolls through the many fields of this lush agricultural region, past artichokes, brussel sprouts, lettuce, strawberries, so many strawberries. The air is filled with the fruit’s aroma, reminiscent of jam and shortcake and ice cream. I wave at the field workers, hoping the political climate can be restored to allow these migrants safe haven, gratitude even for the hard work of raising the food of a nation.
The route rejoins Highway 1 at a very busy stretch near Moss Landing. I stop for lunch at an overpriced Mexican restaurant, wishing there was a cheap taqueria here. The main fruit and vegetable stand is closed, with For Lease signs. Smaller stands are just down the road, but I ride past, onto Del Monte Road towards Marina and Monterey. I follow route, passing under the freeway and onto a bike path rolling through the dunes. The sun is setting with a waning crescent moon hanging in the purple sky, just a sliver now. Soon another new moon, another cycle.
I follow the bay into Monterey, stopping at the East Village Coffee Lounge. The place is loud, filled with costumed revelers. It’s Open Mic, of course, it’s Wednesday. But I don’t want to stay. I’m not in the mood for this assault on the ears tonight. I head out and begin the long steep climb to Veterans Memorial Park. I grab a shower just before they automatically shut off at 9pm. I meet Tanguy and we chat over some dinner, just as the Naval Academy plays Taps. We talk about the approach to Big Sur tomorrow.
I’m giddy and exhausted when I finally slip into my sleeping bag. I drift off to the sounds of sea lions barking far below. All is well.