Wed Sep 24 14:19:50 PDT 2003
Back in the Saddle Again -- Monterey, CA

I spent some time in Bakersfield on Wednesday the 17th trying to walk my bike to a shop three miles away to buy some equipment, but finally I realized it was silly when I could get there in minutes once my replacement tire arrived in the mail. I found a quiet spot by the side of the bike trail and camped for the night. The ants were swarming everywhere. I think they regarded me as a source of food, because wherever I moved, more ants would congregate. I was glad to get inside my tent after dinner.

Thursday the 18th I spent waiting around town for my package. I finished one book, and started and finished another. I bought a replacement from the town library's surplus sale. The evening of Thursday I decided to get a motel so I could clean up a little and watch a movie on HBO, but there was nothing on. I still watched TV for several hours though. It's incredibly hypnotic.

Friday the 19th my package finally arrived, containing a replacement seat cover in addition to a new tire. I needed to buy a new multi-tool before I could replace the seat cover, but I had everything I needed to install the new tire . . . except tire levers. I figured it was no big deal and improvised, using my pump as a makeshift tire lever. It worked, but I snapped off the handle in the process. Once I got the tire all fixed up I headed off to the bike shop, where my shopping list was growing quite long. It was quite a relief to get some of the crucial supplies I had been lacking recently. I spent some time doing various repairs and adjustments on my bike. I also met a fellow recumbent rider there, and we talked bikes for a while.

When I saw the bike shop was right next door to a Trader Joe's, I was in heaven. Trader Joe's not only has lots of great food, they often stock the instant black bean mix I like to use for dinners. As it turned out, they didn't have it, but the Albertson's next door did. Go figure. I stocked up on food and finally headed out, rather late in the day.

Friday evening I found a lovely little spot amongst some scrub by the side of the road. I spotted some coyote tracks in the dust, and sure enough I was awakened in the middle of the night by howling. I had intended when I left Bakersfieldto do some night biking to avoid the heat, so I packed up and started biking. But I was still far too tired and the road was too busy, so after half an hour I lay out my sleeping bag again and went back to sleep.

Saturday the 20th I set out for a solid day of biking across the Temblor Range. I had only 105 miles left until reaching the Pacific, and intended to do most of it that day. Much to my dismay, when I stopped in the early morning for a snack, I noticed that my new seat back was developing a tear. I had a sense of deja vu as I dug through my equipment for my dental floss and tooth threader. Unfortunately I had somehow lost the threader, so I had nothing to sew with. Luckily, as I was trying to improvise, a farmer pulled up in his truck to say hello and admire my bike. I asked if he had a needle and thread, and he turned right back around and went back to his house to get some. I was incredibly grateful. He also gave me some advice; I was planning to reach the coast by way of San Luis Obispo, but he gave me a shortcut that would put me ashore at Morro Bay. As I rode off an inkling of an idea started to rattle in my head that I might make it all the way to the coast in one day.

The Temblor Range was quite pretty, with much more rounded mountains than most I'd seen so far. Most of the land up there seemed to consist of active ranches, and I often saw cattle grazing on the slopes. It was still a difficult climb, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Saturday evening, as I started to come down out of the mountains and into Atascadero, the sun was starting to get low in the sky, but I determined that I would indeed try and reach Morro Bay before evening. I was making great progress downhill, and estimated I had a couple hours left.

When I got a flat tire on my rear wheel (the more difficult one to patch), I knew I might not make it before sundown, but by then I was already imagining myself at the Pacific that night and couldn't give it up. I kept riding at a furious pace, on through Atascadero as the sun set, then on up into the coastal hills. It started to get dark, but I knew I was within seventeen miles of the coast. Stopping was out of the question.

Finally I topped the hills and started to go down again. When I turned a corner and suddenly saw the Bay, a patch of darker purple against the sky, I gasped in spite of myself. Here, at last, was what I had been riding all summer for. I felt exhilarated and giddy and exhausted as I rounded another corner and the ocean moved out of sight.

Now, of course, stopping was out of the question, and I rode on as full dark set on and a heavy fog rolled in. I had all my lights on, but I stil felt nervous on the windy road. It seemed like hours later when I finally spotted the sign saying "Morro Bay" through the fog. Well, actually, the first sign I saw advertised "Captain Jack's Restaurant," but it was just as much of a beacon to me. I rolled through the small town and stopped at the very first beach access I found.

I had thought that nothing would be able to stop me from jumping in the ocean once I reached the Pacific, but I found myself quite thoroughly chilled from a long downhill ride, and facing no prospect of drying myself out, so I satisfied myself with running out to see the water and dipping my toes in. I felt a tremendous sense of ease as I stood there with the waves lapping over my feet. Whatever else might happen, I had accomplished a major part of my trip. Even in the worst case scenario, I could take the bus the rest of the way to San Francisco and still call my trip a success. Naturally, though, I relished the week of riding up U.S. 1 that awaited me.

I cooked a big dinner of beans and rice on the beach, making my best effort to avoid getting it sandy, and cowboy-camped on the sand. That turned out to be a mistake, because my sleeping bag became quite damp from the fog, but I was happy just to fall asleep listening to the ocean and thinking "I made it!"

From Morro Bay I set out North towards San Francisco on U.S. 1, a scenic highway paralleling the Pacific Coast. However, the rest of the story will have to wait, because I am out of time.