Friendship and loneliness on the Cabrillo coast

Cabrillo Highway, Half Boon Bay to Monterey

At last I set out again on my bicycle, fully loaded with camping gear, clothing and now food from the Berkeley Bowl. I tell my sons a bittersweet farewell, though I’m planning to return to spend Thanksgiving with them after I finish my tour.

Finish? Where and when? I’ve left the end of this trip open, for the first time, as I’ve completed many things back home that might determine an early return. Rather than excitement, this has left me feeling aimless, and more than a bit anxious. But I then practice my best cure for anxiety, pedal on!

I catch the BART under the bay and then up to Daly City, where I ride up over the hills and down into Pacifica. A stop at the Chit Chat for coffee and a bagel, and to muster courage for the climb up the Route 1 hairpin curves to the Devils Slide.

This climb is the most dangerous mile along the entire coast, heavy traffic, blind curves and zero shoulder. Doesn’t help the what little space there is on the side of the road is filled with tree debris, sand and rocks from the recent storm. I grit my teeth, bear down, and muscle up the hill. At last the road opens near the top, and I head over the Devils Slide Trail.

What a relief to crest and descend what was the old highway, now a 30 foot wide pedestrian and bicycle trail. Stunning vistas of the ocean, the quiet of the waves below, ah what if more of the Pacific Coast highway was set aside like this for non-motorized traffic? One can wish.

Too soon, I rejoin the cars, trucks and RVs on the highway. The rest of the ride is an easy descent down to Half Moon Bay. I circle the bay and then arrive at the campground. I’m the only one there at first, setting up my tent under the low cypress. The surf pounds agains the dunes just a hundred yards away. A hot show, simple meal, then I’m in my tent, sleeping with the lull of the waves so near.

The next morning is clear, a long ride to Santa Cruz ahead. The Cabrillo Highway rolls over crests and into hollows, winding along the rugged coast. My mind wanders over past tours, worries about home, looking forward to seeing friends again. I’m beginning to feel homesick, which is a blessing and a curse on a long trip. Again, the medicine of the ride is my only recourse.

And seeing Naomi and Fergusson up on Happy Vally Drive above Santa Cruz! I talk with my old friend and her new husband, meeting up with Johnny as well who’s caring for the alpacas, goats, chickens, quite a menagerie. Dinner is gnocchi with mushroom wine sauce. I set up my tent in the front yard, sleeping well under the oak tree as crickets serenade.

The next morning I’m off to the campground at New Brighton Beach, and for coffee and camaraderie with Steve at the Ugly Mug. I’ve known him now for all 11 years of touring. We sit and chat, and share more than one hug. He also gives me a cute Polaroid-like print of a selfie he shot. And the best coffee on the California Coast! I buy some grind for the trip ahead.

The camp at New Brighton has several cyclists. I’m in late and leaving early, not connecting much with any of them. My road weariness also seems to have an antisocial bent to it. I sometimes withdraw into a shell, holding my own space tightly. This exacerbates my loneliness, yet somehow I prefer this.

Much to think about the next day, as I’m riding around Monterey Bay towards Moss Landing. The sky is foggy and temperatures chilly, all day. A gray ride, winds at my back give me a chill I can’t shake. At least it isn’t raining! In Monterey, I stop at Trader Joes before climbing the hill to Veterans Memorial Campground.

The hot shower is bliss, so is my warm sleeping bag as I snuggle in and think of the ride ahead over Big Sur, one of my favorite places on the coast. In the middle of the night, I look out of my tent and notice the moon is out, clear skies and stars. I’m above the fog now, taking in a mystical view.

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