Learning to relax along the way

Big Sur, Carmel to Morro Bay

The pinnacle of my prior tours has always been Big Sur. In particular, a writers retreat at Esalen sponsored by the Sun Magazine. Now the third year since this retreat has been held, I’m finding my purpose for riding here to be unclear. I’d thought of attending a different Esalen retreat, but changed my mind.

Fact is I’m missing the magic of the Sun gatherings: a hundred seeking souls sharing the love of words and stories, revealing their inner feelings and struggles, creating an intense, if temporary community. I’m really missing this.I’m thinking about this absence of the anticipation of Esalen as I ride the breathtaking highway again.

The first day I crest the Monterey Peninsula and then descend into Carmel. The ride today is partly cloudy, with good tailwinds carrying me over Hurricane Point and into the Big Sur valley. I set up camp in Pfifer Big Sur campground, where I meet Bill, a cyclist from Colorado. He rode down, over Nacimiento Road and back again, due the the rock slide that had closed the highway near Ragged Point. He’s a seasoned touring cyclist, with many tales of the road. It’s nice to chat with him, under the tall redwoods of this beautiful park.I

I opt to stay another night, as rain descends into the valley the next day. I ride up the hill to the Post Office in the morning, posting a special box for Jennifer’s birthday. The rain picks up as I head back down to camp. I try to dry off in the breezeway at the campground store. There a car traveler asks me the dozen questions the curious always ask, especially: why do I take the risk, riding on the highway. My answer, as usual: I don’t really think about it. Though this tour, I have noticed more the close cars, the harassing trucks. And my general weariness of the traffic.

But nothing compares to the views from the cliffs of Big Sur, from a bicycle vantage. The next day is cloudy, foggy, with breaks into blue. At times slow going with little visibility, and graciously light traffic. I pass Esalen, wistfully thinking of the hot baths, sulphur wafting and mingling with brine, waves crashing below. Maybe I will return for another retreat, just to experience this magic again.

I ride on to Plaskett Creek, where I meet Flaviu again. A touring cyclist from Ohio and Romania, he’s on his first bicycle adventure, riding a vintage steel Panasonic he’d bought just for the trip. I was at the camp the night before, and we chatted briefly. Now we are following the same route, the traveling gypsies, forming friendship along the road.

The next day is a delight, riding over Salmon Creek hills and then descending to Ragged Point. Onward to the long plains toward San Simeon, 20 mph tailwinds carrying me so fast I don’t even stop to see the elephant seals. I stop for food at a convenience store, then continue on to the campground at San Simeon beach.

The next day’s ride is also a delight, strong tailwinds blow me through Cambria, on to Cayucos and Morro Bay. I stop at the Sunshine health food store, a crowded market of natural foods the way all the old Co-ops used to be. Then set up camp under the eucalyptus. Flaviu and I share a fire, blazing brilliance from the long strips of eucalyptus bark we burn.

Flaviu heads on the next morning, as I opt to stay another night and catch up on my internet work at the library. He’s heading to see the Danish village at Solvang, but we’ll meet up again in Carpinteria in a couple days. I’m noticing a new feeling after staying two nights here and there along this tour: relaxation, deep relaxation.

So many of my prior tours have been marked by an almost frenetic pace, long marathon rides, never staying more than a night at any place. I think I rather like this way of travel. I mean, what’s the hurry?

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