September 20, 2013, Friday
Big Sur State Park to San Simeon State Park, California
70 miles (running total = 836 miles)
I waste no time this morning. I am eager to start knocking off the miles, knowing the day will be a long one. While still pitch black outside, except for the bath facility lighting, it occurs to me that the cellular telephone I borrowed for this trip, to call in my location information, has a timepiece in its software. Having not worn a timepiece for a couple of decades at least, I rarely care about knowing the time, but now, I decide to activate the phone for a minute because I want to get a big jump on the day. Muffling the cute musical tone it plays upon activation, so as not to disturb nearby sleepers, I see the time is a couple of minutes after 5 AM. Perfect! I begin by deflating my air mattress, first slowly because it makes a loud hissing sound if I open the valve all at once, and that would definitely awaken other cyclists who, while wanting an early start, generally don’t get up this early. Like the trike phantom I am, my activities are so stealthy and practiced that there is practically no noise. This early, I have the time to take it slowly and make sure I remain silent in all I do.
I am still bundled up a bit in layered clothing this early. I eat my granola to headlamp light, being careful to keep it pointed down only at what I am doing. Most cyclists are like this, keeping their headlamps carefully focused on their stuff. A few, on rare occasion, do not think of this, and move around in a careless manner, their headlamp wildly shining into everyone’s tent close by, which wakes them up, of course. The metal spoon I have can clang on the cereal bowl, so I am careful not to allow it. Tim, the young fellow who clued me into the 70 mile distance to San Simeon, is up now also, and he has a red cover that pops down over his headlamp for times like these, dampening the light so it does not disturb anyone if it accidentally shines into their tents. We whisper a bit, and finally bid each other goodbye and good luck as I finally shove off at first light. This is the earliest departure I’ve had this entire trip.
I activate my flashing taillights as I pull out onto Highway 1 for some of the final miles of this magnificent journey. The light enclosure has ten flashing ultra bright LED lights, so it is quite visible from a long way off. It is still quite cool, and there is a fog bank rolling in from the ocean to my right, over the hill. I start up the long curvy tight hill immediately south of the park, with hardly any cars for a very long time. I have the highway to myself, and am experiencing it up close and personal from 7 inches off the ground, out in the elements, able to touch plants as I go by. Petroleum humans can never know this joy of being one with the wilds during travel along the coast. I may be slow, but that slowness translates into delectable experiences that can be had no other way.
The first road sign past the Big Sur village shows San Luis Obispo 105 miles distant, and the famous Hearst Castle only 60 miles away now. I break out to the first grand overlook of the Pacific Ocean south of the little town to see a common sight in mornings here: a thick dense fog blankets the sea, making it invisible to roadway travelers. Only by hiking down to the beach can one actually see the water this early in the morning. It is like being in an airplane, where the sun is shining, and you look down on clouds, knowing the people underneath them see only an overcast day with no sun.
As the road begins its typical up and down roller coaster ride, I enter areas of dense fog on the trike. I love the magical ambiance the fog brings to my senses. Portions of the road near sea level are flat for a ways, so I pick up speed and move along rapidly. This coastline is spectacular, so I’ll simply let the photographs speak for themselves now.
I arrive at San Simeon State Park around 5 PM, having ridden a little over 10 hours. There is only one other cyclist here. The farther south a cyclist rides into California, the fewer cyclists are found on the coast highway. From 17 up at Standish-Hickey State Park to only 2 here, the difference is striking, but it occurs slowly over the days, fewer and fewer the farther south. San Francisco is a popular destination point for many, doing just the northern coasts. South of Morro Bay, things start getting more and more congested, and by the time the coast highway gets down into the Los Angeles region, it is a whole different world. Passing through the San Pedro coastal area, for example, with it countless and unsightly mega petroleum plants, stacks, and ports of commerce for international ships, the ambiance of the northern coast is totally gone. Hundreds of thousands of humans are swarming all around in every direction. Run-down parts of towns are glaringly obvious, and the citizenry of many areas are of dubious nature, not conducive to trust or serenity as the wide open spaces of the northern areas are.
The hiker/biker area at San Simeon State Park is literally only a few feet off Highway 1, so tire whine from automobiles is nearly as loud as while riding on the trike. A very heavy fog is quickly rolling in as soon as I arrive, so I make haste in setting up my tent, eating, and preparing for the night. Even before I get to bed, the fly and my pannier rain covers are becoming noticeably damp. I am sure the morning will require me to use my little chamois before packing things away.
Unknown to me, there is a raccoon den right along the highway, only a few yards from my tent. I discover this about two minutes after I get into my sleeping bag for the night. I hear my bags being rustled, along with the distinctive tinkling of my small yellow bear bell atop my flag pole antenna. Up like lightning, I snatch my headlamp and exit the tent. The masked marauder is already gone, but the three Clif Bars I had already prepared for tomorrow’s midday snack, which were sealed in a normal Ziplock baggie, have been stolen. This raccoon did not harm my Radical Design side seat pod, but rather lifted the little rain flap, unzipped it about 7 inches, and neatly extracted the small bag with the three bars inside. These creatures are amazingly dexterous, as skilled as any human. I search the bushes for his location and my bars. I can hear him unwrapping my bars, but cannot see him back in the dense bush covering that protects his den. Enjoy the 210 calories per bar my friend – you will be taking in 630 calories total, along with 30 grams of protein – that should tide you over until morning!
The stealthy dark gray and black animal did not detect the food I have in my left rear Arkel pannier, as it is sealed in special military grade bags that fully stop any odor whatsoever. Animals simply cannot detect food in these bags. I was skeptical at first when I saw the product at REI, but after this trip, and two raccoon incursions, I am convinced of their value, and will be acquiring more for my next trip! The reason the three Clif Bars were in the side seat pod is because I have been making a habit of preparing for the next day ahead of time, only this time, on my last night’s camp, my procedure is clearly shown to be faulty. My luck has run out. Next trip, I will prepare the day’s snacks the morning of departure so this will never occur again.
Back into the tent I go, hopeful that this will be the end of the attempted thefts, but still thinking that of all nights, this last one is full of bugs. The fog is ultra heavy now, and everything is getting wet. Even standing out with my headlamp on, I can see the dense mist right before my face, and I can feel it on my skin. And now, the raccoon is about his or her mischievous ways, so can I get any rest? Tomorrow will be a short day, but after 70 miles today, I would sure like to sleep soundly, especially since it is the final night in my tent as a trike gypsy.
This campground is crowded and popular, and being Friday night, many regional folks have swarmed to this place for easy beach access a few yards away, and quick assess to the famous Hearst Castle tourist attraction up on the hill six miles north. I wonder if my raccoon friend will find the messy campers of pickup trucks and cars, teenagers and kids, food everywhere, to be more inviting than my neatly kept little tricycle camp. The answer comes, probably within the hour. Off goes my bell once more, but this time, having been alerted prior, my headlamp is ready and I am out like a flash. The LED lights on my forehead illuminate the quiet little miscreant, and his eyes glow orange when the beam hits them. He is running off again, towards the cars to my south. I check my bags. All is well. He has not taken anything else, probably because there is nothing else to smell, and the fact that I was so fast at shooing him away this time.
Standing here in the wet moving fog, like a vigilant knight guarding the castle, I wonder how I can put a stop to this activity that interrupts my much needed rest and sleep. My mind ponders the situation from all angles. Even though the food bag is right outside my tent door, if I’m totally zonked out, it takes a moment for me to respond to intrusion. Then an idea comes to my tired, but still functional brain! If these creatures have such a superior sense of smell, to be able to smell Clif Bars, which are wrapped in their own sealed wrapper, which are then sealed in an airtight Ziplock baggie, maybe I can use this smelling ability to my advantage!
I think like an animal. What do they do? They mark their territory. I am an animal just like they are. Since I am up anyway, might as well mark my trike camp territory, just like they do. So, in a slight arc, between the raccoon den and my panniers on the trike, and about six feet out from the trike, I offload what water I have at hand in an arcing shape on the grass. I am chuckling to myself, thinking about what I’m doing on my last night as a trike gypsy, resorting to basic animal behavior to solve an animal problem. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, the saying goes. I have done so, and back to bed I go. Despite my initial worry earlier that I’d get little sleep tonight after the first incident involving the Clif Bars, I go right to sleep, my fatigue finally overtaking me. I sleep soundly the rest of the night, with no further forays from the den of thieves who are experiencing the same weather I am, living on the same ground I am, and playing this same game with me tonight.