Trinidad to San Francisco

1 Jun

 

I’m on my final climb to Salt Point state park on May 18th I’m yelling involuntarily out of exhaustion and frustration. Because I’ve only driven the 101 and the 1, I never realized how many inclines and declines exist along the route because a little more pressure on the gas is all it took to reach that next crest from the trough. Now it’s an ache throughout my legs as I strain on the pedals nearing the end of the day, trees robbing my view of anything but this endless highway. The two words I hate the most on signs are “Curving” and “Narrow” and I’ve seen them both too often this last week of 80+ miles a day. For the last hour I’ve been waiting on my favorite words “Campground 1/4 mile.” The next day is my final 95 mile push to San Francisco but I can’t concieve of going an extra mile more at this point.

I turn in past the entry gate around 8pm. The sign says “Campground Full” but I ignore it, find a place beneath a tree to block some of the wind flowing across this cliff top and begin setting up camp. The site beside the picnic table where I lock my bike is empty, but there are trailers nearby. A late 20’s man with blond hair and a beard approaches. At this point if he tells me to move my plan is to continue setting up my tent and make it clear that I’m going unconscious now. If he wants to move my limp body or wait till morning for me to do it myself, that’s his choice. Instead, he introduces himself as Kyle and invites me to share in the fire with him, his family and friends. I rally my energy to say hello and am immediately offered a beer and a plate of freshly cooked chicken and pasta, then a place is made for me by the fire and the rest of the night is spent hanging out with this group from Sacramento. Kyle and his girlfriend Aubrey, Matty and his girlfriend Marta, the two moms Laurie and Lenee, and the father Dan who spent much of the time in the RV. They’re here to dive for Abalone for the second year in a row and everyone is kind, welcoming me into their group for the night to share in their food and their stories, and asking me to share mine. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most on this trip is that EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH. Unlike my trips to Europe or Asia, I CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING AND TALK TO THEM. This is such an exciting thing for me. When I sit down, I can thank the family for the beer and tell them how good the food is. I can tell them stories and jokes in return, make them laugh, give them something back for all they give me. We can trade Chuck Norris facts, shoot a beebee gun, talk jobs, careers, and comedy. When I was in Japan, I was helpless in the face of charity that people gave me. Here I can thank them, try to give them something back so I feel less guilty about how travelling light means carry little I can give to anyone else.

But as I left the next day, getting Matty’s email (Shout out to you, Matty. The good Chuck giveth and the good Chuck taketh away) and getting a picture with the family who’d given me my best night here yet, I began to think that maybe my guilt was misplaced. Audrey had asked surprised (when I refused the third granola bar she offered me to take on my trip after she’d already packed me up a lunch for the next day), if everyone I’d met hadn’t been this generous. The answer is no, most people aren’t this giving, but maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. You can’t always depend on the kindness of strangers, but you can depend on many strangers to be kind. Maybe these strangers aren’t looking for reciprocation, they’re not giving to you and waiting for a return. They’re giving because it’s their nature, that they’re just good people. And that’s something else I’ve been learning. Some people just give, with no expectations otherwise. Instead of feeling guilty for not being able to give back, I should appreciate that they exist at all and feel better about humanity. They’re making the world a better place at an instinctual level, and that’s as amazing a sight as any I’ve seen for a pessimist like me.

And that’s been the point of the training ride: To be a microchasm, a synechdoche where I could experience in 900 miles a taste of what quadruple that amount holds in store. To get used to recording my ramblings in a journal again. To re learn to appreciate the scenery: The waves roaring at they attack the rocks with their foaming blue jaws, the bleached white logs like bones the ocean forgot to bury, the flat pasturelands of monochrome cows, sheep, horses, and goats on clifftops that stretch deceptively to the horizon, where I know the earth suddenly drops sharply into the sea. Main streets built on steep hills where I bomb down at 30 mph, the wind yanking at my loose clothing and shoving my bike. And those moments where I’m climbing on the road and look across to a mountain across the valley, a mirror image with the same trees, the same grass, the same animals and I realize that I’m not just riding past scenery, I’m riding on top of it, a piece of this world.

I’ve begun to meet many riders. I spend a day meeting Galen the South African again, hearing a story where a Rhino charged his land rover, putting the horn through the engine block and lifting it off it’s wheels. I meet two brits and a guy from Montana travelling together, on break after graduating University before going back to do their version of teach for America. Along the route I meet many Canadians, some French people who’s bikes were stolen in SF and now ride “Sheety Ones” they bought.

On the day I leave the campsite I realize I have no water left and stop in at a ranch house. A black dog runs up barking and I stop the bike so as not to spook her. She sniffs at my leg, jumps back, then bites me. I yell and kick at her face as she growls then the owner yells “DAISY, GET IN YOUR CAGE!” and the dog runs of, whimpering. He looks at me, a white bandage below his mouth “What do you want?”

“Could I please fill my waterbottle?”

He directs me to the hose faucet and I fill the waterbottle. He takes a look at me and my bike

“You wearing sunblock?”

“Yes”

“Be sure you do. My lower lip’s rotted off from skin cancer”

I thank him for the water and leave, realizing I’d just met my first Stephen King Novel character.

About 90 miles later I arrive in SF and call my karate friends Mike and D to pick me up. I don’t have another 10 miles in me to cross the Golden gate bridge and ride to their house. As I cross the bridge in the car I don’t even miss it. The catharsis of crossing the bridge doesn’t match the catharsis of my legs finally at rest. The next day I walk in costume in the Bay to Breakers event with a friend from Spain I haven’t seen in 8 years, then hang with a comedy friend until dinner with my cousins I haven’t seen in 5 years, and top it off with drinks with my college friend. 3 more days in SF to spend with more friends, and congratulate my sister for passing the Bar Exam, and I’m home for the first of two weddings that will bookend my cross country trip.

The bike ride down to SF has been a success. I learned valuable lessons, saw amazing sights along the coast, met interesting people, and now have a chance to rest and recover in the company of friends and family. I don’t know what I’ll see crossing the country, how similar or different it will be to my coastal route, but I’ll keep you all updated.

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