November 3, 2006
There’s a light rain as I ride out of Point Arena. It’s late in the morning, and I’m only 130 miles north of San Francisco. This is getting exciting. I rode 130 miles in a single day once. Maybe it was 120. I don’t remember. Gotta check on that.
Route One hugs the coast all day long, and I begin along some scattered residential homes. I ride right through Anchor Bay, a small nothing-place, and stop for a break in Gualala. There I get a soda and candy bar, and enjoy it outside on the cold sidewalk.
It’s a moment where I contemplate how I won’t be living this lifestyle much longer… not much longer at all. It’s a beautifully routine stop, drowned with peace. A fine mist settles on the gray, active world of people filling up their gas tanks and hustling to their destinations.
Imagine you get up in the morning for work. Maybe Good Morning America, Regis, or Sportscenter plays in the background while you dress. You get in your car on a rainy morning, and shuffle through talk radio chatter, marching through dreary, half-asleep traffic. You stop for gas.
Stepping outside to pump, everything is suddenly silent in the fresh, open air, save for passing engines, car doors, and the like. You gaze at your breath in the air, and watch the rolling numbers. You nonchalantly glance as folks walk briskly between doors – bearing coffee, newspapers, and cigarettes. The moment has a unique, tranquil quiet to it – before you re-enter the chatter in your car – and start the day at work.
That’s how my first break today goes, and the feeling carries on throughout the afternoon. I ride through a tiny community named Sea Ranch, for good reason… all the landscape surrounding Route One consists of ranches. I’d mistake this for Wyoming or Montana, if it weren’t for the vast Pacific Ocean to my right. There’s sheep, cattle, and wide open fields… to the immediate left, mountains. In places, the road has grates that cows can’t manage to negotiate. I don’t remember the last place I’d seen those.
Miles go by through this terrain, and all my meandering daydreams have a new sense of closure to them. I’m working out in my mind on what day I’ll fly out of San Francisco. Today is Friday. I sent an email home (Since I don’t have phone reception along the surprisingly unpopulated California coast), and announced I’d be home next week.
Next week. After nearly six months away from home, notably without a deadline, or set end-date, the imminent reality of finally going home sinks in. Especially with the way I fashioned this trip, creating the conditions for what could have easily extended into a never-ending tour of sorts – going home has been a distant future to me all along. It’s like when you’re ten years old, and your parents say “Brush your teeth! When you’re 50 years old and don’t have any teeth left, you’ll be sorry!” You think, “Right. When I’m fifty. I’m ten. I haven’t even kissed a girl yet.”
That’s how you have to fool yourself into this sort of thing. I wasn’t climbing hills in Virginia, thinking, “If this is so hard now, I’ll never make it all the way to Calfornia!” It’s just too far away. You can demoralize yourself awfully quick like that. I thought, “Hey, I can get to Damascus. That’s 100 miles from here. I’ll be there in two days or so. I love that town.”
Then from Damascus, “Okay, I can make it to Kentucky,” and so on. There’s all kinds of fun psychology. Like on a short steep hill, I’ll bow my head, stare at the five feet of road in front of me, and convince myself that the hill is twice as high as it really is. Then I’m pleasantly surprised when I reach the top so soon.
On the really long climbs, I’ll sometimes stand out of the saddle, look around, turn the pedals at an easy rate, and tell myself, “Alright, imagine you’re walking. See? Just like walking. You can walk all day, right?”
It’s really not that hard. You just ride a bike. It’s easier than, say, working at a McDonalds. There, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing – and deal with stupid impatient people. I don’t concentrate on much anything. At least on purpose. And the people I “deal with” out here, they’re all mostly great to me. It’s definitely easier than time spent at work, no matter where that happens to be.
And now here I am, all melodramatic about being away from home for five months – all along having candy bars, pancakes, hot dogs, coffee, soda, microbrews… tell me, how long is a typical “tour” in Iraq? When my mom would worry so much about me that it would get on my nerves, I’d just say, “If you don’t knock it off, I’ll sign up for Iraq when I get home!” Heh.
I take a break for a hot dog and soda in mid-afternoon, and continue south of Fort Ross into what’s one of the most beautiful and dramatic sections of the whole trip – high mountains that drop straight down to the sea below. There’s a road all along the sloping mountainside, often with no guardrail.
It’s one of those places where it looks as though man has no business building a road here, at least for practical purposes. Small construction zones mark where landslides have obliterated the way. The dull sky gradually brightens, and the sun sinks, casting a glowing, golden light on all the land. It’s incredible. I wish I’d taken more photos through here.
Moonrise. It’s nearly full.
I ride on, and the stars begin to show. It’s a bright night. I pass through Jenner, an upscale community with essentially nothing but two fine dining / fine lodging establishments, and a gas station. I hit up the gas station for a snack that’s to be my dinner, and continue.
Now it’s complete night, and signs of fog slowly begin to accumulate. Didn’t we settle this whole no-more-night-riding-in-the-fog thing last night? I get one of my crazy ideas, and fancy that I could ride all through the night for San Francisco. Go out with a bang. It would be such a beautiful moonlit ride. I could do it.
About half an hour later, I sensibly halt at a campground along the Sonora Coast Beaches. It’s Friday night. Weekend campers merrily surround campfires that line the ocean. I circle and drift by them on the camp loop, unnoticed outside their fiery glows. Likely my final night on tour. I think maybe I’ll cowboy camp on the beach, in the open air. Haven’t done that yet. Getting all my stuff sandy won’t be a problem.
A damp, soaking fog drifts in. After only a few moments, I feel the moisture on my jeans. So much for that idea. I sit at a picnic table with snacks for my dinner, and then crawl into my tent… just like any other night. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.
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