Thursday, October 7, 2010

Catching Up From San Francisco ALL THE WAY to Morro Bay, CA

I know it's been 4 days since my last update, but that's what happens when you're biking through a state park - no internet connection means no blog. Fortunately, the ride through Big Sur was worth the delay (for us, at least).

The last few days have been wonderful - to attempt to catalogue every emotion with words isn't within my realm of ability as writer. However, I'm a bit of an overachiever, and I'll try.

All my life, I feel as though I've been very blessed. Blessed to have a full, loving family. Blessed to know great friends. Blessed to have met a great many inspirational people. I express this without religious overtone - merely a sentiment toward the positive experiences that are the cornerstones of my lust for life. In the last few weeks, I feel as though all of the things that make my life so fulfilling have been magnified tenfold. I am thrilled to know that my family is excelling in their lives, and enjoying the new experiences before them. I am comforted to be exploring a new part of the world (for me) with some of my dearest friends. And I have met so many inspirational people.

Life is a complicated thing, and meeting people who have found their place in it is inspiring to me. Great or small - all of these people have found their spot. They are comfortable with their role in their work, their community, and their family. They're comfortable with their income, with where they choose to live, and who they choose to live with. These comforts cannot be overstated; they cannot be bought. And those truisms are what make them great (and elusive). I am filled with an unabated resolve to seek out these comforts in my life, and to find my place.

We left San Francisco optimistic - we had spent time with our good friends in town, and escaped with little damage done. The roads we would take to the south would take us to new friends, new sights, and the latter half of our tour.

We rode through the south of San Francisco in the morning - city riding at it's finest. Our route spilled us out into the countryside (if one can call it that), and we followed scenic rolling highways all the way to Santa Cruz. There, we stayed with some friends that we made at the Hardly Strictly festival in San Francisco. Molly and the rest of the housemates are all UCSC Banana Slugs, which is awesome. It was one of my goals this trip to meet a real life Banana Slug, and I met several. To clarify: the school's mascot is actually a banana slug. Awesome.

We left Santa Cruz refreshed, and headed toward Carmel with a passion. We rode hard, had our efforts were rewarded with the best farmer's market I've ever seen. They had a RIDICULOUS assortment of fresh fruit, including fresh avocados for 7 for $1. 7 for $1. Seriously. And they were so ripe that you could cut them with a plastic spork (we did). We loaded up on avocados, grapes, bananas, mangos, raisins, and strawberries - enough to last us a whole 2 days. From there we rode happily to Carmel, with a brief stop in Monterey. We had a great time in Monterey, and saw a lot of encouraging, bike friendly roads. Additionally, the view of the sunset from Sunset Avenue in Monterey, CA was everything it was cracked up to be.

Our stay in Carmel was highlighted by a number of things, but the first was the company. We met up with my friend Charlie (who, funnily enough, I had never actually met), who introduced us to our host while we were in town, Peterson. Both showed us a great time while we were visiting, and Peterson hosted us in his gorgeous home. When I say gorgeous, I mean it. His taste for eclectic furnishings and access to some of the best in the world (he's an importer by profession) made the house a real one-of-a-kind experience. Much of it was modeled after a Buddhist monastery, complete with an outdoor flame-fueled sauna and bath, prayer wheels, and all sorts of fantastic original art. We enjoyed his company immensely, and I thank him very sincerely for his hospitality.

We left Carmel with full bellies (Peterson knows his was around a kitchen), calm minds, and rested legs, which was a good thing. Ahead lay Big Sur, one of the most challenging (albeit beautiful) sections of riding on our trip. We tackled the first 40 miles or so after a scenic tour around Monterey and Carmel, including all of 17 Mile Drive and the Pebble Beach complex. Seeing that place with my own eyes was a real treat - I hope to come back and play the course sooner than later. Halfway through our day, it was the general consensus that an espresso was in order, so we stopped at the River Inn, which was recommended by our friends in Carmel. There we sat and enjoyed our espresso with our feet submerged in the river - they put lawn chairs out in the 4 inch deep river, which was quite the experience. To say it was serene is an understatement.

We knocked out the next 30 miles of our day without much difficulty, although the rolling climbs definitely took their toll. We reached Lucia around 5, which left me enough time to test my legs with a local rider's challenge. AJ, one of our new friends from Carmel, suggested that I try this climb if I really liked hills (I do, weirdly enough). He said it was a real test, and I agree. Nacimiento-Ferguson Road rises 7.2 miles up from Highway 1 at fluctuating grades from 6 to 15 (!) with a total of over 2,900 feet of elevation gain. Relentless. He said a sub 50 minute time was his best, and I was determined to see what I could do. After 70 miles and a good 3,000 feet of climbing already under my legs on that day, though, I wasn't sure of what I had in me. Regardless, I had Eric smack me in the face, and I was off. I attacked that thing from the start, then reasserted myself about 5 miles in and challenged the summit with everything I had. 42:09. Viva la victory. That night we camped just off of that deliciously evil road, and enjoyed some of the best starwatching in the world. Big Sur is a truly special place.

We rose early to a gorgeous view of the Pacific, and assaulted the rest of Big Sur with little trouble. We even enjoyed some flat roads (our first in what seems like weeks) on our way into Morro Bay, and are now resting at our friend Ben's here in town. Ahead lies the push to Los Angeles, and what can unavoidably be described as the twilight of our trip. We plan on soaking it all up, and enjoying every second of it. As a barista at a seaside cafe pointed out today, "With an oceanfront view all day, how can you not?"

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