Having successfully ridden our bikes to Santa Cruz on Saturday, on Sunday we were meeting up with Sue and Erik. Cortney and I staggered out of bed a little later than planned and had more trouble than you would think two well-educated adults would have in finding our inn’s breakfast room. Anyway, we settled down to the typical fare inns and motels offer, and though we thought we were quick with our coffee and hard boiled eggs, we promptly made ourselves late for our planned meet-up time with Sue and Erik.
I spent about a year living in Santa Cruz when I was getting my masters in education, so I vaguely knew how to get to Harbor Cafe. But I didn’t remember the roads well enough to recall the train tracks that go by the Boardwalk. As I tried to read the multitude of signs that wanted to tell me where bikes are and aren’t allowed, I locked my tires right into those tracks and went tumbling. Before I knew what happened, I was picking myself up off the ground and listening to a bystander’s comment, “It’s all part of the experience.” Indeed.
Well, nothing was broken (except a little skin and a bit of my ego), so we continued on our way and found Sue and Erik happily seated at a table getting ready for breakfast. Cortney and I aren’t above an occasional second breakfast, so we chattered away about our previous day’s fun while indulging on food that we convinced ourselves the upcoming fifty miles of cycling deserved.
After our much more satisfying second breakfast, we felt ready to get going on this coastal trip! A coastal trip has to have some coast, right? So far Cortney and I had mostly seen mountains, so we thanked Erik once again as we unloaded our previous day’s baggage off our bikes and into the car, trusted that he would find us at some point on the road to Seaside, then sped off for Steamers Lane.
We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day to ride along the coast. We enjoyed the spray of the ocean while watching the surfers and pelicans. And got into some deep conversations, such as what photo you would like to be used at your funeral. Cortney was kind enough to prepare this one for me:
If I die while riding my bike, I promise that my last thought won’t be, “I wish I never started riding my bike.” It might be something like, “I wish that car didn’t hit me,” it might even be, “I wish I didn’t ride my bike tonight,” but it won’t be a wish to continue living a life without any cycling in it.
Anyway, back to the trip. Our route took us inland a bit, and we got to see lots of farmland! I always enjoy seeing farmland. It’s fascinating to me to be able to see where our food comes from. It reminds me of our connection to the earth, but also how much we’ve sculpted the land to have it suit our purposes. This fascination with agriculture and the environment was what motivated me to join the Peace Corps in agroforestry. All three of us enjoyed seeing the artichoke plants, but Sue and I are in agreement that lettuce is about the most useless crop ever.
Now, I don’t say that as an agriculture expert; in fact, in my bit of research, I’ve learned that lettuce is an extremely important crop for California. We export the stuff all over the place! Well, I should hope it’s doing something good, because it certainly takes up a lot of our land. But c’mon, it’s lettuce. It’s 95% water. It just seems to me that we’re going through a lot of effort to move water around. And what do we use it for? It’s just filler. It makes the bed for everything else and most people just pick it out or only eat the good stuff sitting on top of it. As my nephew Thomas says, “No salad!” and he quickly hurls any lettuce found in his food right out. I say that there is very little lettuce can do that a cucumber cannot. Cucumber-based salads are far more satisfying than lettuce-based salads. And lettuce is so fragile! Why bother with lettuce when you could have spinach or celery or asparagus? Why do people like their vegetables tasting like nothing and having the texture of tissue paper?
Okay, my rant against lettuce is done. I will end on a positive note: I do like Caesar salads.
We then moved away from the farmland and started approaching the ocean again. That meant we got to see some sloughs, which aren’t that eye-catching at first glance, but upon closer look you see just how much life is supported there.
During my kayaking and outdoor education days, I spent a lot of time in different sloughs, so I could go on forever about the mixing of fresh water and salt water and the productivity of these wetlands, but I won’t go into lecture mode just now. Instead, I’ll just point out that we enjoyed quite a bit of time looking at all the different birds feasting on the bounty of the slough. We saw terns, egrets, herons, sandpipers, plovers… I couldn’t possibly identify them all. Our favorites are the ones that have to scamper along the waterline, looking like they’re torn between wanting to eat something just in the shallow water and wanting to keep their feet dry.
When we started to close in on Seaside on Highway 1, I was thrilled to be enjoying this gorgeous ride on a bicycle. I’ve often driven this route and have always wanted more time to soak in the view of the sand dunes with peeks of the ocean on the other side. Sadly, in a car, that just isn’t possible. On a bike, though, if you want to go three miles an hour, you get to go three miles an hour! If you want to park your bike and take a picture of it, you get to park your bike and take a picture of it! The ice plant, though it makes me crabby since it’s an invasive species, is quite pretty. I used to spend a lot of time with middle school students doing community service by removing it. On this day, though, I simply took pictures of it.
And so we closed in on Seaside and found Erik waiting for us at the Sand Castle Inn. He had truly embraced the role of support car driver. All our bags were waiting for us in the room and snacks abounded. We headed out for Mexican food and Erik did not complain one bit when we all crawled into bed at 8pm.
TL;DR version – we cycled from Santa Cruz to Seaside!