Yeah, it’s been a long time. I’ve been busy. But today I’m going to catch up on sleep and do laundry, so maybe I can also include a little writing and reflection.
First of all, let’s flash back to when I got onto a train in New Orleans. The date on the ticket reminds me that it was November 11, 2015. My bicycle was stuffed into a bike box. I was happily congratulating myself on my excellent planning skills by not overbuying food the last time I restocked my panniers, so they were a little lighter and smaller than usual. That made it easier to stash them into the luggage racks! But after a few hours of sitting on the train, I started to feel a little hungry, and then realized that of course I would be sitting on this train for two days. With a dining car that charged $8 for a microwaved hot dog.
Oh well, that was okay. Being in the dining car gave me lots of opportunities to mingle with the other travelers! And I have to say, these weirdos choosing to travel across the country by train instead of by plane are definitely worth talking to. Their stories and reasons for traveling by train range from the inspirational to the downright bizarre and mildly horrifying. Yes, I acknowledge that they may be saying the same thing about me. One girl I met found me such an oddity that she pulled out a camera and videoed our conversation as she subjected me to a formal interview.
I knew that I made the right decision to not cycle home as we found ourselves staring out the window at this for hours and hours and hours:
Still, it was pretty challenging to make it through this grueling train ride. The seats look promising, but somehow are just impossible to get comfortable in. And it’s freezing cold at night. I dug out my sleeping bag, but I have no idea how other people who don’t happen to be carrying sleeping bags manage. When we stopped in Houston for about 40 minutes, I took the opportunity to sprint for a Japanese restaurant about a mile away and scoop up some hand rolls. So at least I didn’t have to eat microwaved hot dogs the whole way.
There is no denying, though, that compared to bicycle speed, I was back in the land of palm trees in no time! I put Lutz back together and found it more thrilling than I thought it would be to be back in California. What really clinched it was searching my phone for a cheap place to grab breakfast and immediately getting all sorts of multicultural options! I’d been in the south for so long, the amazing assortment of Thai, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Brazilian, and Hawaiian food couldn’t keep me from grinning. I went to a nearby Hawaiian place and loaded up on chicken katsu and musubi.
I noticed that I had made kind of a stupid mistake back in New Orleans. I knew that I wanted to end up in Long Beach, so the guy sold me a ticket to Long Beach. But why wait for 10 hours in LA for my connection to Long Beach, when I could just ride my bike? The ride to Long Beach was very pleasant, but the only place for camping that I could find in the area cost about the same as a Motel 6, so I took the room. Then I had to go to the local Sports Authority to pick up my race packet! The whole reason to be in Long Beach was to see Jared complete his cross country walk at a Be the Match 5k. It was an honor to be a part of his mission!
The next morning, we lucked out with the most beautiful day ever to have a 5k. I rode my bike over to the start line and started looking for a place to lock him up, and suddenly I heard someone yelling my name! Linda Alexander, manager of the northwest district of Be the Match, came running up! I had met up with her in Portland when I was still in the early stages of my bike ride, and it was so great to see her again after successfully making it back to California. Then there was the notable surge in excitement in the crowd as Jared made his appearance. He recognized me immediately (maybe Lutz at my side helped with that) and he presented me with his last Amarrowca baseball cap that he had saved just for me. Or so he said. I’m 99% sure he says that to everyone he gives a cap to.
I won’t speak too much about Jared’s journey, since it’s not my story to tell. Plus he recently put up a rant on Facebook about how no one ever gets the story right. Besides, he’s releasing a documentary soon, so we’ll all just wait patiently for that.
To answer the obvious question (Cousin John), no, no I will not be releasing a documentary. Or a book. That’s not my scene.
After the 5k I had zero plans. So I decided to keep riding. Remember that whole thing about going north along the California coast is the Wrong Way? Yeah, it still is. The next day I battled 40mph gusting winds for a few hours and started to despair about how I wasn’t getting anywhere, and then was suddenly zonked with the realization: WHO CARES?? I pulled out my phone, found a ramen restaurant everyone on Yelp was going crazy over, went there to find a two hour wait wrapped around the block, started to despair again until I realized, again: WHO CARES?? and patiently waited my turn. Then I slurped up delicious ramen and called it a day.
And so I maintained a relaxed sort of mindset and meandered my way up the coast. I stopped to enjoy the scenery a lot, and of course hiked in Goleta with Mr. Lion to visit the monarch butterflies. Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many monarchs as there used to be, so all the more reason to enjoy them when we have the chance.
Here’s a picture that I have to share with you:
Refugio Beach. Back during the trip to Santa Barbara with Cortney, Sue, and, of course, Erik, the magic sag wagon driver, I met a self-supported touring cyclist. I was in awe of him. At that time, I knew that I wanted to ride across the country self-supported, but I had never been in the presence of someone riding a fully loaded touring bike. The difference between me, the supported rider, and him, the self-supported rider, was striking. I was happily breezing my way down and obviously loving every unburdened moment. He was focused and clearly found my chipper chattering somewhat tiresome. I was freshly scrubbed from the shower I took the previous night in fairly new gear and I had a shiny bicycle. He looked pretty dusty and grimy and sunbaked, his t-shirt had a few holes in it, and his bike was scraped up with various parts duct-taped on. He oozed experience. The only word I really got out of him was when I asked where he was going to spend the night, and he said, “Refugio.” Refugio… that was so different from the answer that I had to that same question, which was “Motel 6.” Immediately I had an image of this magical Refugio place. It was a tucked away, secluded place, very primitive, extraordinarily beautiful and untouched, where he and a couple other friends in the know would gather together on the beach, sit around a campfire, and speak the few words that the wise find worth uttering. And someone would have a small drum, of course. Of course there would be a drum.
I was determined to spend a night at this Refugio place. Google Maps only reinforced the image I had of Refugio by refusing to tell me how to get there. It only directed me to El Capitan Beach, about four miles south of Refugio. I figured that if I could get to El Capitan, then I could figure out how to get to Refugio. Turns out that the bike path from El Capitan to Refugio was closed due to erosion, so that was why Google Maps insisted that I couldn’t go there. But the ranger at El Capitan told me that I could wiggle around the barrier and use the bike path anyway, just be careful and don’t tell anyone.
Anyway, I had to wiggle around the barrier and carefully maneuver around the parts of the bike path that had broken off and been swept into the ocean, so yes, Refugio was definitely making out to be this secluded, isolated, primitive place of my imagination. I emerged from my trek on the broken bike path, slightly scraped up from my detours around the missing parts into the weeds and thistles, and was greeted by a wall of RVs. The bike path to Refugio may have been closed, but not the ramp from Highway 1! RVs traveling on Highway 1 could get to Refugio just fine.
I don’t mean to make Refugio sound awful. It’s lovely. You should go. And if you’re a hiker or a biker, they let you stay in the hiker/biker campsite, which is the greatest hiker/biker site I’ve ever been to. And they have solar powered charging stations for hikers and bikers to charge up their cell phones. But I’m still on the quest for the secluded protected beach where the wise come together to quietly contemplate the secrets that can only be spoken through drums.
It being November, I expected to be one of very few cyclists on the road, but surprisingly there were throngs of cyclists everywhere. Every single one of them was going south, of course, and I received a lot of invitations to join them on their trips to Mexico. It was tempting, but honestly, I was ready to conclude my trip. After all, I had started this whole ordeal seven months prior.
Actually, I did have a destination in mind. When I was hanging out with Tom in New Orleans, he mentioned that I just might be traveling through Cayucos right when his friend there was hosting a gaming weekend. Yeah, that’s right, I’m a geek, board games for days! I was concerned that I would be intruding on his friends’ plans, but they welcomed me with open arms, and I had just the most amazing time. One of the things that you start to crave when you live out of cycling panniers for months and months (at least, according to me and my experience) is the ability to do detailed projects that require space and being stationary. Eg, a jigsaw puzzle. I never had such a strong desire to do a jigsaw puzzle as I did when moving from campground to campground every day. A weekend of board games scratched that itch very nicely. And with the Cayucos brown butter sugar cookies… Best Weekend Ever!
When I left Cayucos, I ran into this guy from Spain – I don’t remember his name, I always just think of him as Camino Panamericano – who started in Alaska and is making his way to Patagonia. I still keep an eye on his travels, he’s one of the cyclists who tried to encourage me to turn around and join him, and it’s fun to think that if I had, maybe I’d be with him right now somewhere around Cancun, which is the latest I know of his location.
But, I was ready to go home. At this point, my goal was to be home for Thanksgiving. And I was cutting it pretty close! I had to stay focused. I was now entering an extremely gorgeous section of coast line, the absolute highlight of my trip to Santa Barbara in 2014. Highway 1 from Cayucos to Monterey is completely stunning, but the riding is not easy, and being on the north-traveling side of the road was much different from being on the more spacious south-traveling side. I nearly died several times. I suddenly became one of those cyclists screaming at motorists. And it was cold, and it was rainy, and really, I was having a pretty tough time. The day I left Cayucos, I didn’t make it to the campsite that I wanted to get to, but I also had to get off the road since it was getting dark. Someone advised me that I could camp on a beach inside the low-hanging branches of an enormous tree, so I decided to go for that.
It was the best night of stealth camping ever! If only I had a quiet, contemplative friend and a drum, maybe I could have made my imagined version of Refugio a reality. It did wonders to soothe me in this quiet spot I had all to myself after all my harrowing experiences on the road.
Well, anyway, I had written about this section of the road before. It was amazingly beautiful again. Of course it was. But this time it wasn’t summer, it was cold and wet and I just wasn’t prepared for it – I had sent home all my winter clothes after I had gotten across the Rockies. All the overly happy cyclists going south kind of grated on my nerves. All of them wanted to stop and chat with me, but I kept my head down and thought about Thanksgiving dinner. At one point, I saw a cluster of ragamuffin south-bound cyclists looking way too happy as they were resting on the side of the road. “You’re going the wrong way!” one shouted to me. Hilarious. Like I hadn’t heard that one a thousand times. For some reason, instead of ignoring them, I was inspired to shout back to the guy that I was bowled over by his original wit. The girl in the group clasped her hands together and begged me to stop and say hi. Someone also said something about how they were making coffee.
So I stopped.
And I’m so glad I did! They were a great group. We shared all kinds of stories.
Turns out this crowd didn’t know each other beforehand – they had assembled by bumping into each other on the road, so they were pretty convinced that they could get me to join them, too. They were so excited for Thanksgiving the next day. They showed me the box of wine they had and were talking about how they were going to drink it while sitting in the nearby hot springs. I actually really did want to join them. I knew that if I wanted to be home for Thanksgiving, I would have to get picked up somewhere, most likely Monterey. So I was torn. Do I do what it takes to be home for Thanksgiving, or do I finish the ride? I really wanted to finish the ride. I wanted to get home under my own power. In which case, I should celebrate Thanksgiving with this extremely fun group, then head home. And here’s what happened: I looked south, back to where I had come from. It was raining to the south. I had just emerged from that rain, and I was cold and wet. I looked north. There was a little sun battling its way through the clouds to the north.
So I went north. Being cold and wet while making decisions will lead you toward the decision that increases your chances of being less wet and less cold.
Since I was committed now to being home for Thanksgiving, I made plans with Lori to meet up with her in Monterey. And it turns out that I could be useful, too, which always makes me happy. Troy had left his car in Santa Cruz for various reasons, so we went there to pick it up, and I was able to help out by driving a car home for them. We went to Lori’s house, there were people there, I hung out for a while, my mom insisted that I go back to my parents’ house for the night, and I got to get all dry and warm in multiple fuzzy robes and snuggle with my rats whom I’d left with my parents for seven months of babysitting.
That’s it. End of adventure. Back home with the parents. And this blog has now completed its purpose. What should I do with it now?