Monday, January 23, 2017

Day 70 - 12/1/16 - Pacific Beach, San Diego to Chula Vista, CA

It’s nice to take it slow in the morning, to get out of bed and do things on your own terms.  Chula Vista is only 25 miles from Stephanie’s place, a little more than a 2 hour ride.  I didn’t leave until 1:00ish when Steph had to go to work, and even then I didn’t rush to Rafaela’s place.  I guess it’s her family’s place since she lives in Vermont now.  I’ve never met her in person, we’ve just talked over the phone and via text, a good friend of a good friend, that pretty much means we’re good friends already.  Someone that offers up her family’s house as a place to stay for the weekend is a very good friend, I’m very grateful and very excited to give her a hug when I see her in tomorrow night, she’s flying back for her mom’s surprise birthday party that she already knows about.  

It’s funny to think I’ve met Rafaela’s whole family before meeting her in person.  They’re good people, I can tell where she gets it from.  Luis, her step dad let me in and gave me water and talked to me until David got home, Rafa’s younger brother.  We talked about my trip, what he’s studying in school and life in general.  He’s studying kinesiology, that might not be right but, he studies the way the body works and what a person needs to do to take care of themselves.  He wants to help people be happy in their skin through diet and exercise, something I believe in as well.  Nearly all personal problems, self esteem and self image issues can be alleviated through a little physical activity and eating some good food.  A donut here and there can’t hurt either.  When Connie, Rafa and David’s mother came home, the four of us went out for dinner, Mexican food.  I had a burrito for lunch but, I could eat a burrito every meal of the day and not complain.  Rafa and David have a younger sister but, she worked late and got home after I had already gone to sleep.  

Getting absorbed into someone else’s family is a beautiful thing.  Sharing what you have with someone who has nothing is a very human thing.  I never thought I’d be so dependent on the company of others, the warm feeling of being in the bosom of a family even when it’s not yours.  It’s truly the family that makes the holidays the holidays even if you have to borrow someone else’s.  I’d like to think my presence has a positive effect on the family, makes the weekend a bit more distinct than others knowing they’re doing something very kind for me.  Maybe years down the road the Rodriguez’s will remember having a smell biker for some added company around Connie’s birthday just a few weeks before Christmas.

Day 69 - 11/30/16 - Oceanside to Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA

Despite the cozy motel room a block from the beach, sleep did not find me easily.  Train tracks run perpendicular to the street the Beachwood Motel sits on, busy train tracks, in fact, maybe every 20 minutes.  I find it comforting, and also kind of funny, how close the Amtrak route has been to my bike route over the last couple of weeks.  

I think when I finally board the train to go home I’ll find myself backtracking quite a bit, seeing all I’ve seen from a train window, back through Oceanside and over the bridge at Gaviota State Beach, being one with the noise that as disturbed or prevented sleep while making my way down So. Cal.  I left the motel early, before 9:00am so I could see Stephanie before she went to work.  I did not make it, I was on pace but, I blame my Canadian friends, Brandon, Brendan and Kane.  

I met them at the end of October, rode with them almost all the way to San Fran.  Then another month went by, hundred of miles down the road and we stopped to smoke a joint just like old times.  We caught up briefly but, once on the road we split up fairly quickly without a proper goodbye.  It’s very possible I’ll see them again.  I’ve known Stephanie since 6th grade.  Her last name is Brown, mine is Brenton.  Folks that are close to you in the alphabet usually stay close throughout school.  Since I missed her before she left for work, I didn’t see her til after 10:00.  

I did what I usually do, eat food then smoke down by the pier and watch the sunset.  It’s fun seeing people from home in places you’d never expect.  Part of the fun of traveling is seeing all new people but, it’s also kind of special when you encounter someone from home out on the road, even if you’re not the tightest of friends, having a shared background is a unique way to relate.  We talked a little about home, mostly getting away from it, it makes you appreciate it more once you actually go back from an extended stay elsewhere.  

I don’t know from personal experience but, I already feel a longing to see familiar streets and people and places, to know where I’m going, to be able to look at something and know how it’s changed.

Day 68 - 11/29/16 - Newport Beach to Oceanside, CA

It was a real light breakfast today, coffee and seawater.  I usually like a little more sustenance but, Quintin was driving the ship and he likes an early start.  I guess I’m lucky I got coffee.  The ride to the beach wasn’t more than 10 minutes.  The sun was shining and the wind was blowing in a way that made Quintin incredibly excited.  “When the wind is blowing out to sea the waves maintain a nicer form before they break.”  I’m learning.  He gave me all sorts of other advice for I failed to remember in the hour or so of me getting my ass kicked while Quintin did what all surfers do and made it look easy.  A couple times I stood up but, certainly didn’t get very far.  I still had fun.  

On the way back, Quintin told me more about his European bike tour back in the 90’s, about the South Africans that taught him how to beat the visa system and find work to stay as long as possible under the radar.  The way he spoke about his life on the road, I could feel the sincere jealousy and happiness he had for me and my open-ended trip.  Though he’d rather be less tied down, he’s genuinely happy he made the choice to play first and work later.  As a person that is playing now with no real regard for the future, I like this way of living too.  Leaving Quintin’s on my bike, I could feel the hour of surfing on my arms and stomach.  

My arms aren’t used to doing much these days, certainly not paddling.  And my stomach just took some hard smacks from the waves against the board.  It sure was a beautiful day though.  I didn’t have a place in mind to stay so I made it easy on myself and got a motel in Oceanside, my first motel going down the Pacific Coast, not too bad for nearly 70 days on the road.  I felt like treating myself.  Just a block from the beach I made my way down to the pier to watch the sunset after I checked in around 4:00pm.  

There’s something about dusk and dawn, those transitional points between day and night, night and day.  It’s important to be present, it’s easy to get distracted and come back to the moment and to wonder where the day went, how did night fall so fast?

Day 67 - 11/28/16 - Long Beach to Newport Beach, CA

I had to go to the post office before leaving Long Beach, I’ve been meaning to shed some weight.  I sent the last two rocks home to Ava, Oregon and California, as well as my Holey Toledough T-shirt.  I also sent home my hammock and big, heavy U-lock, probably 5 pounds of combined weight off my bike.  But, I also had to send home the print Catherine gave me.  A while ago she did a painting of a banana penetrating a glazed donut, two very important things in my life just getting it on.  

She made an edition of prints of the sexy food scene and she was kind enough to give me one.  If I could’ve framed and displayed it on my bike I would’ve but, I’ll see it again when I get home, I’m sure my family will get a kick out of it.  The post office was quite busy, this is a busy time of year for them, the holidays.  I like that though, I like seeing the post office utilized, I like seeing people send Christmas cheer.  This post office was a bit odd, the tellers were behind an inch of glass, bullet proof, I assume.  It kind of took away from the experience of interaction, I don’t know.  Oh well.  

Outside, a homeless woman pushing a cart asked about my bike, asked if I had a pump.  I did, she had a flat tire.  I pumped it back up for her, the air stayed and her day got a little better.  She muttered something about not having eaten in a couple days so I gave her an orange and a bag of crackers and some granola bars and she was off.  I was happy to do it.  I didn’t need all that food anyway, I have places to stay for the next few days or so.  

I left the city by late morning, rode on the paved path right along the beach, the somewhat standard scenario for everyday now.  I’ve seen quite a few piers by this point but, I was still excited to see Huntington Beach Pier in person.  I’ve seen so many photos of that place from Ed and Deanna Templeton.  I wish I could’ve stumbled upon them there but, they were in Japan.  

The pier was a lot quieter than I’d ever seen it in Ed’s photos but, it was a cold, gray, windy day in November.  I watched the sun set and admired the residual glow like an ember in the lower half of the sky before I continued the rest of the way to Quintin’s house, another dood I met through Warm Showers.  I had dinner with him and his two boys, Caden and Chase, 14 and 11 I believe.  A fire crackled in the fireplace.  

The four of us, plus Moby, the dog and Cat, the cat watched Superman after dinner.  I almost fell asleep on the couch, I took the opportunity to go to bed when the kids did. 

Day 66 11/27/16 - Day Off - Long Beach, CA

Despite waking up indoors without a plan to ride anywhere new today, I still woke up with the sun around 6:00am.  I moved around a bit on the air mattress but it didn’t take long for me to jump right into my usual routine: oats, coffee, and stretching.  It’s honestly the best way to wake up.  Catherine woke up after 8:00 like a normal person and didn’t linger long before heading to her studio in LA.  I had my own agenda: Donuts.  The rain from yesterday disappeared last night but came back this morning, sometimes barely misting and others, a steady stream.  

I watched this all through the window of the top floor apartment, wasting time until noon when it stopped for good, and then I left.  I took Clementine with me to the train about a mile away and rode the rails to the other end, nearly 25 miles, another major detour for the sake of donuts but, what else do I have to do?  I’m just a slug in a garden, any one plant would suit me well for quite a while but, might as well venture out and see what other stuff tastes like.  So I got a pizza while I was in Echo Park as well.  I got back on the train after dark after many failed attempts at asking strangers for bud.  

I didn’t take the train all 25 miles back to Catherine’s; I got off somewhere 10 miles or so from her apartment.  The LA river bike path was a straight shot South to the beach which is why I decided to make the ride on the pitch black path.  The recent rain filled the usually dry riverbed so the lights from cars and buildings twinkled and swayed in the water.  There was no need to rush back, it was still early despite being dark.  I eventually made it back, walked Clementine through the courtyard, the sound of the fountain gently trickling amidst the calm potted palms and cacti, the little oasis where a stone statue of Buddha sits, meditating.  

Catherine and I had a nice, relaxing night, her friend Kayla came by to cut her hair; she modeled for one of Catherine’s paintings where Kayla and another girl are doing their make up in the mirror while a turntable is spinning a David Bowie record.  It’s a gorgeous piece, so many oranges and yellows, it has a warm glow like a fond memory seen clearly with closed eyes.  I like nights like this, blurry and dimly lit in my mind.  We ended up in Kayla’s backyard when we dropped her off; she smoked a cigarette and I smoked a bowl of the weed she was able to find me.  Her landlord has dozens or maybe a hundred potted succulents in the small yard, red and white Christmas lights hang around the space and the muffled sound of the TV puffed out of the cracked window like an audible smoke while we talked low, not wanting to disturb her landlord.  

Leftover donuts await us tomorrow, then I’ll ride off to the next stop.  I’m running out of road in California and I don’t plan on crossing into Mexico til January.  The month of December, I’ll be in Mexico Limbo, killing more time, putting more days in the books with blurry edges, oddly lit.

Day 65 - 11/26/16 Leo Carillo SP to Long Beach, CA

I’d never met Catherine before.  I didn’t even know what she looked like, I had only ever seen her paintings through the screen of my phone.  On my way to her place I wondered how I even started following her on Instagram.  The morning at Leo Carillo State Park was just beautiful.  The Hiker.Biker campsite was tucked in a grove under massive, thick, meandering branches reaching in all directions, partly bleached by the sun, or maybe that’s the way they are.  

I knew rain was in the forecast, sometime in the early afternoon, so I was up with the sun.  I ate my oats and drank my coffee quickly in the cold and was on the road by 8:00.  Getting out of the grove and into the sun was thrilling, I was motivated to beat the rain but, I couldn’t escape it.  The first half of the ride was sunny and dry as I rolled over the seaside hills through Malibu and into Santa Monica.  The bike path winds you through the hot, tan sands, past the lifeguard huts in their soft sea foam shades of blue and all the vacant volley ball nets, at is Fall after all.  

I had to stop at REI in Santa Monica but it was nice to stop and see the pier and some of the trippy sidewalks with curved bricks that wiggled in your eyes as you roll over them.  But just outside of Santa Monica is where the rain found me.  Right on the beach.  I don’t know if anyone believed the forecast or paid attention to it because all the other cyclists and beachgoers seemed rather surprised by the sudden shower.  

The next 30 miles were a wet blur, a mad dash to get to Catherine’s in Long Beach.  It’s not so fun to stop riding in the rain when you’re already soaked through, I get real cold real quick.  It’s best to keep moving, and so I did.  As it sometimes happens, the sun came out from behind the veil of clouds just as I got to Catherine’s, what else can you do but laugh?  

Her apartment was set up like any good artist’s living arrangement: lots of art on the walls, lots of art on the floor leaning against the walls, paintings I had only seen from my phone screen, massive in person, and lots of art supplies shoved in corners that would be something at some point.  I went and showered and she went to work making a vegetable stew.  We shot the shit for a long time with some Christmas music in the background.  

It was nice to hear someone talk about art and making art.  That’s her full-time gig and it makes sense because she’s so damn talented.  There’s a box of Dunkin Donuts on her table.  I laughed when I saw them but, she assured me they’re just her models.  She knows what a good donut should taste like.

Day 62-64 11/23/16-11/25/16 Gaviota to Carpinteria to Leo Carillo State Park, CA

Gaviota State Beach faces South, nothing obstructs the view to the East or the West so it is possible to see the sun set in the evening and then wake up to catch the sunrise –that’s what I did before I packed up in the wind and blew down 101 like a leaf in the breeze.  The road never veered too far from the ocean until I rode into Santa Barbara.  I needed groceries and some other things; I expected a shit show at Trader Joes but it was actually a piece of cake to get in and get out.  

I cruised down State Street all the way to the pier, the focal point of any cozy spot on the beach amongst the palms.  I saw a massive pine tree on the wharf, not yet decorated but, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for it to be dressed from trunk to tip in lights and ornaments.  I carried on from there in the late afternoon, now facing a headwind for the last 10 miles, no problem.  I stopped for a real meal, a burrito and a beer to fill in for any home-cooked meal I’d miss the next night.  Carpinteria State Beach has a campground right across from the parking lot.  

I paid for 2 nights and so did Montana and Coleen, the young couple touring on their fat tire bikes in preparation for a trip to New Zealand in December.  The campground was packed, full of families in their campers, fulfilling their usual Thanksgiving tradition or doing something completely different.  I’ve never thought of spending Thanksgiving on a beach in California but, it was certainly a good way to spend the day, even if I spent it alone.  I had a nice breakfast with Montana and Coleen.  Not long after the sun began to warm the Earth, Blue came riding in!  

The old-timer we all met at Burlington Campground in Avenue of the Giants.  I was so excited I gave him a hug and he gave me some bud that we smoked shortly after we got caught up.  But, Blue is like the wind: one minute he’s there, the next, well... So I took my bike out for a ride, cruised the empty streets and down the crowded walking trails full of folks trying to justify stuffing their faces later.  I did my best to be by myself, I wasn’t interested in any bullshit smalltalk with random strangers.  

I’m thankful I don’t need the company of others to feel happy, sometimes it’s good to get away and be quiet, everyone should give it a try sometime.  I was excited to get on the road again today, too many days off aint my style and I had just taken a day in Big Sur.  The riding was phenomenal, mostly bike paths wedged between the ocean and the PCH.  I was extra grateful for this road today, there were dozens of RVs and campers next to the ocean and the ocean was filled with surfers.  

I felt like I avoided the miserable hustle and bustle of the highway and rode along the road of good times and good vibes, like this is where you go, where you ride when you prefer life on the edge, on the fringe.  The highway is where you go when you want to get it over with, when your eyes are on the destination, not the journey.  I don’t ever want to want to be there.

Day 61 - 11/22/16 Oceano, CA to Gaviota, SP

I remember it wasn’t until Ohio that I stayed at a campground where there were actually other people there.  That was a nice change of pace, nice to have people to talk to and hang out with (that’s also the first time I ran into raccoon issues).  Here at Gaviota State Park, the campground is actually closed, only open to cyclists.  The sites are scattered about the parking lot and past everything is the beach, framed by a tall railroad bridge that spans the length of the 2 cliffs that bookend the little slice of sand.  

And it’s just me here to enjoy it.  There were a few folks poking around to watch the sun set but, now it is dark, windy but, also very peaceful.  I met a girl the other day at San Simeon but have not seen her since.  The campground situation in Oceano last night was a bit screwy and I thought I ended up at a different campground than her, maybe I did.  But I expected to see her here today but, that’s not the case.  She was good company, for sure.  A Wyoming native –I told her all the ridiculous shit that happened to me there and she just laughed.  It was a peaceful ride through lots of farmland today, warm and sunny.  Whenever the road veers inland into farm territory I’m always excited when it brings me back to the coast.  It looks like that’s where I’ll be for the next couple of days.  

I still don’t know what I’m doing for Thanksgiving, if I’ll ride or if I’ll sit still, if anyone will be where I am or what I’ll eat –probably some vegetarian chili.  I wish I could’ve gone out on the pier here to watch the sunset but, it’s closed for construction and I was also too hungry to sit and wait for the sun to go down.  I did take a little stroll on the beach but, I feel compelled to get everything set up so I can crawl in my tent right away when it starts to get cold.  As I was finishing washing my dishes, I walked out of the bathroom to the sight and sound of an Amtrak train riding across the sky; most of the windows were lit up enough to see people inside, some walking around, opening this and that, others sitting by the window in their own little space watching the world whip on by or maybe lost in a good book.  

I’m planning on taking the Amtrak back to Boston once the time comes to head home.  I might’ve taken this site as a sign to head home if that train had been heading North but, sure enough it was barreling down the tracks, Southbound to cacti, more palm trees and more adventures in unknown places.  

Day 60 - 11/21/16 San Simeon SP to Oceano, CA

It was a late start today.  Everything went as planned but, I had just planned on doing a lot.  The sun rose up past the tops of the trees close to 8:00am, it felt like someone just turned the heat on full blast.  I enjoyed removing gloves and hat and eating my oatmeal in the warmth of the morning.  Happy to see the sun, I dried out everything that was wet: tent, sleeping pad, bags, shoes... I kept all my soaking clothes in a bag to take to the laundromat in Cambria.

I didn’t leave the campsite til 10:30 and I didn’t leave Cambria til 1:00.  I knew the very end of my ride would happen after sunset but, I wasn’t worried.  Sometimes it’s nice to still be riding, watching the sun paint the sky pink and blue over the ocean, past the palms... It does get cold though.  Luckily, this campground has showers, it was my first time in a week.  The hot water did me right, I stood in there for a solid half hour, soaking it all in.  It’s so easy to forget how nice a warm home is.

Day 59 - 11/20/16 - Kirk Creek SP to San Simeon SP, CA

I haven’t had any cell service to check the weather since Monterey but, at that point, it showed rain for Sunday.  Sometimes, forecasts will do a 180 but, this time it was correct.  It started raining last night in Kirk Creek, my tent was less than 100 feet from the Pacific.  I’ve had some leakage issues in the near past but, last night showed me my tent is on its last legs.  Water came in from the 2 corners that my head sits between.  A lot of the sealer around the seams is starting to peel off.  Underneath my sleeping pad, where all the past holes have been patched up, water somehow snuck in and soaked the underside.  

I’m not totally sure what I’ll do yet, the next week is projected to be sunny but, weather can always surprise you.  Despite waking up in the rain and thinking for a second I might not ride today, I sucked it up and started pedaling and actually had a groovy day.  Not far into the ride I stumbled on the small town of Gorda; one of those towns where the store, the restaurant, the post office, and town hall are all on the same patch of asphalt.  But, what a beautiful oasis Gorda is, looking out onto the ocean through a gap in the trees.  It’s always a good idea to stop for a cup of coffee to warm up when it’s raining out, always.  Inside the restaurant someone has put on some soft jazz, exactly what I would put on on such a gray day.  

I sat alone and had a couple cups with a piece of mango raspberry cheesecake; I’ve never heard of such a thing.  It was the perfect snack to help me up over the hill that leads you away from Gorda.  I’m guessing I cycled uphill for about 5 miles then rode down for about 2, then back up for another couple.  The rain and clouds and mist prevented me from seeing out into the open sea but, the elements made for an interesting ride, like thin what curtains were closing behind me, hiding the landscape, simultaneously opening up before me, showing the saturated colors on the hills close by and the muted tones of blue water below.  The endless hills seem to be behind me; the road leveled out as I got closer to San Simeon.  I passed beaches covered by the massive bodies of Elephant seals.  

Some lay sleeping while others wrestled and some even danced face to face in a mating ritual.  But I sped on by, cold and wet, thinking about food and the prospect of a warm shower at the campground –no such luck.  I haven’t showered in a week but, getting completely soaked today made me feel a little cleaner, I guess.  It’s too early to sleep, too early for dinner, too wet outside and here in my tent aint much better.  I’m trying to stay on the dry part of my sleeping pad, dampness is all over the walls and I’m surrounded by dripping panniers and a bag full of wet clothes.  It’s all part of the fun.  What a blessing it is to truly appreciate dry clothes and shelter.

Day 58 - 11/19/16 - Andrew Molera State SP to Kirk Creek SP, CA

I forgot how much I enjoy my alone time in the morning and in the evening.  I’ve been in my tent for the last couple hours even though it’s only 6:00pm.  It’s been drizzling on and off since the early afternoon so I actually made an early dinner right in here.  The idea off writing more consistently brightens me up; the activity has become my rock, my way of staying grounded.  Even though I can’t post everything I write everyday for folks to check in on me, I still feel like I’m talking to everyone when my pen hits the page.  

With less than a week til Thanksgiving, thoughts of family and friends are at the forefront of my mind.  I’ve never been away from home so long, almost 6 months, and I’ve never spent the holiday season away from home.  It will be good for me, changing things up is good for everyone, that’s how we learn things about ourselves.  What do I now know about myself that I did not know before?  I guess that I can survive without a shower for a couple weeks.  I’m strong, physically and mentally, I’ll take a small town or a city any day and a secluded campground over a small town.

I can control my life by the way I look at it.  I’m full of love for all things in the universe.  I think I’ll really see some personal growth once I go back home, a changed person in a familiar situation.  Big Sur has a presence like some sort of sleeping giant laying across 70 miles of sea, cars and bikes riding up and down its spiny back, another place in nature people go to feel small, to connect with something so powerful...I had a headache this morning, the worst one I’ve had in a while.  I woke up with it around 1:00am, I thought maybe the mushrooms dehydrated me so I slugged some water but, the damn pain was with me all day, I almost didn’t want to ride for fear I wouldn’t enjoy the scenery.  

But I made it the 35 miles, head pounding most of the day, and it did not interfere once.  I had to tell myself to get over it, to remind myself how many people on Earth are in worse pain than me.  And probably none of those people are here in one of the most beautiful stretches of road here on Earth.  Everything is perfect, me by myself, the rain, Beethoven playing softly from the speaker next to my knee, my luxury-coffin-sized tent, the waves less than 100 feet away.  I may feel lonely at times but, none of us are ever by ourselves.

Day 57 - 11/18/16 - Day Off at Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur, CA

Laying on a picnic table under the starriest night I’ve laid eyes on in Big Sur after what feels like the best day I could’ve asked for – I’ve seen 9 shooting stars with my back on the Earth and my eyes in the sky.  But how many days are in the vault labeled something like, “Best day I could’ve asked for”?  

These special days are filled with beautiful moments, scenery, hills, laughter, eating...and this trip is full of so many days like this and it’s all going by in my mind like one of these shooting stars in the sky.  Some day, I’ll be 50 years old and I’ll have twice as many “Best Days” in my memory, piled up and disorganized like random clutter in a junk drawer.

I’ll say things like, “10 years ago –or maybe 15” before I start to tell a story.  Maybe one day I’ll tell the story of when I ate some shrooms at Big Sur and walked to the beach and became a bump on a log, a blade of grass, and a shrub on the side of a cliff and sea hawks hovered and flew over me, their wings sharp like blades.  The waves crashed and made intricate curved patterns like veins or smoke; out in the distance the water looked like 3D shapes all floating and bumping, catching the glare from the sun.  

The delicate flowers were black against the sky and their ends broke off and became pelicans swooping into the blue.  Becoming human again and coming off the cliffs I backtracked down the trail, the mountains in the distance caught the last bit of sunlight and glowed a bright pink that darkened to red and then purple, like a bruise, until the sun dipped and it all went gray.  

I lay on the ground and watched it all.  One of the mountains looked like a sad, tired face and I felt like it was mother nature and she was telling me, “it’s okay” and I felt loved.  By the time I got back to my tent the stars were already coming out.  I got in my sleeping bag but, hung my head outside my tent to stare up at the starriest night I’ve laid eyes on.  

Or maybe I’ll have an even better story to tell of an even better day and my night in Big Sur will just go by the wayside, into the junk drawer of my mind, just like a shooting star blazing across the blackness, and those keeping count don’t remember a difference between the fifth and the ninth shooting star, they’ve all been bright and beautiful.