Day 16

DAY 16

September 18, 2013, Wednesday

Veteran’s Memorial State Park to Big Sur State Park, California

34 miles (running total = 766 miles)

I am the first cyclist to begin the morning routine. First, the air quietly leaves my ThermRest NeoAir Fast ‘n Light mattress. This insures that I will be motivated to get up shortly thereafter. By Day 16, I am a well tuned trike gypsy, knowing precisely what to do, what order to do it in, how long it will take, and what to do next. I move with great speed, in large part because I am so excited to pedal my trike the next 34 miles to one of my favorite places on the California Coast: Big Sur, the final redwood stronghold on my journey.

Up like a bunny, having broken camp, I roll the trike temporarily down to the table so I don’t have to carry my supplies. The table is very damp from last night, so I want to only set my bowl on the table, keeping the rest of the stuff on my seat. The sun is now breaking through the trees, and it feels pleasant upon my face. Alan tells me that leaving this park, even though it is situated atop this mountain, requires even more steep uphills exiting via Skyline Drive and 17 Mile Drive.

Sure enough, he is right again, and we begin another test of elevational endurance, which tests not only me, but also once again that chain that so unceremoniously exploded yesterday morning. When we get to the Skyline Drive intersection, the traffic is extremely heavy as the 9-5 crowd is hurriedly rushing down the hill from their expensive homes to the city below, so they can pay their inflated mortgages and maintain their self-induced need to exceed the neighbors’ net worth. I have never seen so many Mercedes, BMWs, Ferraris, and other high-end cars so packed together in one place before! This is the wealthy realm of the mountain up here, and by the time 17 Mile Drive gets us down, we coast into Carmel, which is likewise loaded with even more fancy cars, suited men and women behind the wheels, impatiently waiting in the horrible gridlock this Carmel hill always sees Monday Through Friday at this time.

On our bike and trike, Alan and I sail past even the most impatient driver as they are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, and making no progress at all. We coast quickly on this steep downhill to the head of the line at the signal, and then fly on through to reach Safeway just before we leave town and head up into the cliff region again along the bluffs, where only animals and trees call home. As a trike gypsy, I have learned that you take Safeway when you can, no matter the time of day. Today, this is the only one we shall be passing, so we stop early to stock up on what we need. I get a couple of … you guessed it … Odwalla super protein drinks to fuel the lean greene riding maching the next 30 some miles to Big Sur. I also get some more Safeway trail mix (costs a fortune, but it’s cheaper than motels), and a couple of bananas. Alan gets his stuff, and then takes a few minutes to smoke a cig. This is one of the best looking and unique Safeway stores I have ever seen, but considering the financial level of the average resident in Carmel, California, it’s no surprise the company didn’t spare the horses on this one.

Alan is busy doing something with his panniers, so I take off first, as he is often faster than me overall, and I figure he will catch up sooner or later. But, as I pull out, I jokingly say to him: “See you at Big Sur.” and then I’m off. I expect to see him in my mirror before long though.

Back on Highway 1 once again, finally departing the megalopolises for good, I take a photo of the first sign that indicates Big Sur. Another quickly follows. I am giddy with delight as I am so close to this special place again, which also means the journey is progressing quite well at this point, despite the broken chain and two short mileage days. Now the work begins in earnest, with steep cliffside hills and some high winds. The day is totally sunny, and the ocean views are spectacular, more so the farther south we go.

Hearst Castle is now only 90 miles distant, and beyond that lies San Simeon State Park, which will find me a camper there in the not to distant future. A road warning sign shows tight and curvy roadway for the next 74 miles, as it continues fairly far south of Big Sur. I love these ocean views, and so do all the motorists touring today, as they are all pulling out every chance they get to take some awesome photographs of the rugged coastline. The road is tight, and motorists are usually sightseeing, so everyone is going pretty slow, and cars have no issues with me. Alan pulls into view finally at a turnout, but stops for a smoke, so I pedal on, putting some serious distance between us due to my excitement at reaching the Big Sur.

After a while, I see a gigantic hill in the distance, one of those river inlets I have described, only on a very large scale this time. As I look across the churning water of a bay area, I see the road disappear inland, only to reemerge at a horrendous upward angle to a point on the side of the cliff. If this is not enough, there is a construction job going on, so the highway is clogged, and controlled by a traffic light. There is a little button for cyclists to push to let them through, since the sensor does not detect us apparently, so I push it. The signal turns green after some cars go by the other direction, but unlike the often flat or downhill constructions I’ve passed so far in these 700+ miles, this one is all up hill, and a very steep hill it is. This means that a tricyclist will have one heck of a time getting through before the next wave of oncoming traffic surges from the northbound lane. Well, anyway, I make it through, and continue my ascent of this long uphill. Fortunately, the views are so spectacular, and the wind so cooling and pushing from behind, I don’t even mind this hill today.

At the top at long last, I photograph the ICE trike with a breathtaking view of cliffs and Pacific ocean behind it. The yellow smiley flag is whipping so hard that I am wondering if it will just rip off the pole. It has become rather ragged since 2009, when I first started using it as my main visibility strategy, and this trip will be its last, for I doubt it can withstand another. I will retire it, and hang it proudly upon the wall somewhere at home. To me, this flag holds so many memories!

I look back down the hill, attempting to steady myself in the wind, and realize what a climb it was! Then, my peripheral vision picks up movement of the trike, and I discover that the wind is actually pushing it onward, right towards the cliff – good thing there are some big boulders placed here to keep motorists from accidentally surging forward to their demise. Look at the photograph with the bridge in it from above to get an idea of how long and steep this hill is.

As I approach Andrew Molera State Park, the road flattens out, having come down off the cliffs for a while. Andrew Molera is not far north of Big Sur – I am almost home free for today. The air has become quite warm now, and shade feels good once again. One minute a trike gypsy seeks the sun, and the next, he scrambles for the shade. Thermal regulation is always a big issue on overland trike treks.

Not far past Andrew Molera, I enter redwoods once again, my silent pals on much of this grand journey. The hot sun is cooled by the colossal trees. I stop in a little store just prior to the campground, and get more Odwalla protein drinks – this might be a record for one day, especially considering that it is a short day of only 34 miles. Then, after a relaxing sit on their wooden bench to drink my drinks, back in the cockpit I go, and off I pedal. Alan has not yet caught up.

At Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, I stop at the park’s general store to get a neck lanyard that says I survived Highway 1, which I’ll wear in November for the 3 days of the Recumbent Cycle Convention at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, California to display my presenters tag for Trike Asylum. I knew they carried these cool neckstraps here, and was lucky because this is the last one they have in stock for this season. Whew, that was close! You can see this lanyard in one of the pictures for this day.

I pay my $5 entry fee for the hiker/biker camp (one of the nicest and most serene anywhere), and ride on into the magnificent redwood grove where this park is situated. There is a long pedestrian and cyclist bridge that crosses the Big Sur river, and it goes right into the hiker/biker camp area. To my surprise, Alan is already here, having ridden in while I was in the general store getting my lanyard. He was not too far behind me. When I told him jokingly this morning at Safeway that I’d see him at Big Sur, I sure didn’t think I would be right. Cool! Maybe trikes aren’t that slow after all if the driver is motived sufficiently.

I pitch my tent, enjoying the cool afforded by the big trees. It’s hot today for this place. Alan is complaining about a lot of little tiny flies that are bugging the daylights out of him. They just hatched about a week ago. Normally in the summer, there are no issues with little annoying flies. Today, they are indeed everywhere, and the only relief is if you walk around and do something. If I sit a while, they find my face, my eyes, my ears, and my nose. Well, at least I am bringing happiness to others, even if they are another bioform slightly different than myself.

Alan and I are talking at my picnic table. I ask if he wishes to spend a free day here tomorrow, which is what I am currently considering. What better place to hang out? He says he wants to get on down the road, and will leave first thing at daybreak tomorrow. I thank him for guiding me through Santa Cruz and Monterey, and tell him I’d like to treat him to dinner tonight at the fancy Big Sur lodge restaurant at the park’s entrance. He is appreciative, but kind of a loner, and says he doesn’t want to eat at the fancy place – too uptown for his tastes, he says. Okay, so I’ll again have packaged rice and salmon tonight for dinner. I’m used to that by now.

Today is Wednesday, and despite the chain incident and that setback in progress, I am still on track to make David Massey’s necessary arrival date in Morro Bay on September 20, Friday. If I went on with David tomorrow morning, we would arrive at San Simeon on Thursday after a long day’s ride, and then would roll into Morro Bay Friday morning before lunch. Yes, David, we would have indeed made it in time to get you back to your high school and students! Wow, we did it, except that David is no longer with me anymore. I wanted to get him a lanyard too, but there was only one left, and unfortunately, he did not make it this far. I surely wish he were here with me right now! I think he would have loved this journey to the very end. My best wishes go out to David this afternoon as I contemplate what should have been if our plan had worked. At least we got the timeline dead-on for arriving at Morro Bay!

Well, but David is not here, so realizing that the schedule is no longer in effect, I do decide to spend a free day here to enjoy the place I love. I will call tomorrow Big Sur Appreciation Day, and soak it all up as Alan and the other cyclists battle the big hills, especially the Ragged Point challenge just down the road a long ways.

As Alan and I are sitting talking at the picnic table, a Vietnamese woman named Lien Ton-nu walks up and queries me about my recumbent trike. She is 33 years old and lives down towards San Diego. The conversation develops, and actually starts becoming quite deep philosophically, so Alan eventually walks back over to his tent, perhaps figuring the gal is interested in me and me in her. Who knows. All I know is that he disappears at some point and neither Lien nor I really notice his absence. Sorry buddy!

Her name is pronounced “Lynn” and her level of intelligence and ideological principals is really quite impressive. We seem to be kindred spirits in so many aspects of life, and our conversation is so enjoyable that it seems to carry on for such a long time. I ask her if my talking is keeping her from anything, and she tells me that she is driving up to Monterey and Carmel this afternoon to stay with some friends, so she has plenty of time. But Lien also tells me she want to stop and see Cannery Row and some other places, and it seems to me that there are not enough hours left today to do it all, so I suggest that she should not wait too much longer. Yet, apparently she is enjoying our verbal engagement as much as I am, and she keeps offering up more fascinating stories and ideas. The time does arrive however when even she realizes it’s getting late for her intended itinerary, so she bids a nice farewell and vanishes into the trees. Usually, when I meet special people, I take their photograph, but our talk was so intriguing that I forgot this time. Oh well, maybe she’ll read this someday and email a picture to post with this story and other photographs.

Later, one of those tandem bicycles enters our camp, where the front person sits in a recumbent chair, and the back person sits on a typically uncomfortable bicycle seat. The rear person pedals and steers, and the front person may pedal if they want to, but because the front crank freewheels, they don’t have to. This female/male couple tell us they switch off positions. The other bikers and I wonder what happens if the front person sees an obstacle that the back person cannot yet see. They say you get used to it. Other bikers roll in, so there end up being 7 of us total by nightfall.

I take one final photograph of Alan in his tent through the mesh because he does not have the fly on the tent, reading a book, before I hit the sack myself. I realize I will probably never see him again, so I sincerely thank him for all his assistance these last few days. He says it’s no big deal, and he was happy to help. I bid him a final adieu, and that’s that, as they say. My morning will not begin at first light tomorrow, or even sunup. I’m sleeping in for the first time on this entire journey, and I suspect that by the time I arise in the morning, everyone here will be long gone, out on the road of adventure once again. That’s how life on a trike and bike is. You make friends, and never see them again. We live in a temporal world anyway, so even these short friendships with folks like Alan and Lien are precious.