Sea Monster in Santa Barbara

The fact that we spent a Friday night in the dugouts near the school meant that we had no rush getting up early.  Only 2 days and 60 miles from Santa Barbara, our easy pace meant we could spend more time writing and getting sidetracked.  We awoke to light rain and after reloading our bikes (no tent to put away-thanks dugouts!) we headed to a bakery in town.

The bakery was an interesting place.  The coffee was fine and we sat for a while, catching up on journalling (I at least; Lizzy says she stopped on day 8…) and writing post cards.  The owner gave Lizzy and I looks that said, “I am a grumpy man that is overly concerned about the presentation of my food and I’m not going to treat my customers equally.”  I won’t spend much time on him but the take home message is DON’T EVER GO TO BOB’S WELL BREAD BAKERY in Los Alamos, California.  Lizzy and I were bummed about our negative experience as we wrote- but a nice waiter asked us if we wanted coffee refills and that helped heal our spirits.

We left, took some dumpster bread, and headed a couple blocks to the post office.  After dropping our outgoing mail, we walked inside to see the long row of P.O. Boxes with alphabetical combination locks.  We were alone, or so we thought…  “OoooOoooOoooooo…” we heard in a ghost-like tone (or something like this).  Lizzy and I got real spooked and heard some rattling in the PO boxes.  Before we were able to speed out of there the woman loading the PO boxes informed us that the post office wasn’t haunted but that she was just doing her job.  She was another friendly Los Alamonian, and even ran outside to collect our “late” mail.  Maybe there’s just one bad egg in Los Alamos (Bob).

 

Lizzy and I biked a short while to Buellton, where we planned to make a library pitstop and grab some groceries for our final stretch before Santa Barbara. In town, while looking for the library, we stopped at the visitor center where Lizzy and I found books for the train and chatted with an incredibly helpful woman running the center. Not only did she give us very easy to understand library directions, but she made sure that we left with a very helpful Santa Barbara County bicycling map. The map was soon marked with points of interest in Santa Barbara like our host’s house, grocery stores, the library, and the train station.

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The library won the very special award of world’s slowest computer (and blocked the blogging site after 25 minutes or so…) We went to Albertson’s where we loaded up on snacks and where we received a very nice phone call from our friend Kyle (RIP Kyle). UPDATE: Kyle is NOT DEAD, and is really enjoying his farming internship, and totally went over his handlebars when he was riding one-handed in Berkley and hit a pot hole.

We left town after applying a shiny sheen of shea butter sunscreen. The signage along the highway reminded us of how close to our destination we were getting… After a final climb we made a memorable descent from around 1200 feet to sea level. Cruising through mountains and over rivers we reached our saltwater comfort that we’d been with for so much of the tour.

We’d been away from the ocean for a while and we all reunited at the bottom of this hill. It was nice to be back. To no one’s surprise we also encountered 15-25 mph winds. Luckily they were from the the north/west, which meant we had tail/cross winds. It was a pleasant reward from the cyclescoot lords…

Lizzy and I biked about 20 miles more to our campground, with 3-4 oil rigs on the right and hills owned by wildflowers on the left. Lizzy stopped at one point and pointed to something on the road. I thought, “what cool garbage did you find Liz?” I inspected as I approached Lizzy and SNAKE! BIG SCARY SNAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SHOULDER.

The wind continued late into the evening- This provided much entertainment and even though it was very windy, the sun and warm Southern California air made for lovely conditions.

Lizzy and I collected firewood and cooked the celebratory veggie dogs we’d bought earlier. We used a perfect rack we found at the beach to cook our dogs on; FLAWLESS. The breeze through our open tent on our last night of camping kept us cool and was a nice treat.

The next morning we had a symbolic 17 miles to our host’s in Santa Barbara. The day of riding would be short but we had a “busy” day of “things to do” ahead of us.

We rolled into town- We had made it the 1000+ miles to Santa Barbara. We felt good for this accomplishment; but honestly we never doubted we’d make it, and we didn’t achieve any amazing feats (although getting around that landslide on Highway 1 and all the sneaky camping we did will be included in some of the greatest heists of the century…)

We were both happy to arrive without the use of buses or cars (except for the 50 miles during the high wind advisory). We dropped some gear at our host’s and we headed to the library.

Lizzy and I had made very specific plans to swim in a very specific body of water once we arrived in Santa Barbara. Once the library closed we were off; determinedly we waded in to the Pacific. Slowly. Brr. My numb fingers and toes made the water a little more bearable as the minutes passed. Lizzy and I dunked our head and then swam for 10 minutes or so before Lizzy let out a high-pitched yelp (but nothing compared to the high pitched yelp we’ll be leaving for Bob’s rude bakery). “Something got me! Something got me!” Lizzy exclaimed through giggles and quick breath. Lizzy and I headed to shore and Lizzy showed me exactly what the sea monster that nipped her foot felt like.

We dried off and got dressed, then began looking for a place to eat out. We rode all around Santa Barbara and searched for so long that we had to stop at Trader Joe’s to get a pre-dinner, hanger quenching snack. Eventually we became desperate enough that we opened yelp. We called our potential Mexican restaurant and asked a very important question: “Do you serve complimentary chips and salsa as an appetizer?” This was all Lizzy- actually her only requirement… We got to Los Agaves and ordered and were very pleased; we were able to talk them into making us 2 vegan chimichangas, and our server gave us free gauc- really great guac! The salsa bar was rather impressive, and the house-made chips were great, not to mention our main dishes. We definitely saved the best for last here. Lizzy and I left with full stomachs and a 25 minute bike ride in the dark. A little potato-belly throwback perhaps.

We made it back to our host’s without vomiting and hobbled on in. Our host Michael was a true character and entertained us while we made dinner for our evening on the train the next day. The sweet man told us about some longer rides he’d done, including the AIDs ride when he was 69 years old (which included some 100+ days). He entertained us while we prepped for our 27-hour train ride and Lizzy and I didn’t climb into couch until late. We’d made it to Santa Barbara and we were ready to ride it all backwards the next day.

The journey had been (and was) great. I think all of Team Dynamix would agree that the tough weather in Oregon was just a good spicy challenge for the trip. I especially appreciated the range of experiences and challenges; I’m guiding kids on overnight cycling tours through the San Juan islands this summer, and I definitely feel better prepared than before the trip.

Lizzy and Kyle and I would also agree that ANYONE CAN TOUR; you just pedal your bike, then keep pedaling your bike. You might sleep, then do some more pedaling and then you get to go to grocery outlet.

Lizzy will be publishing our next post soon so stay tuned! I hope this post finds you all enjoying early spring weather.

S.T.


“Low-Budget”

So we woke up underneath a rather large “13” gang tag and were thankful that during the night before the helicopters flying around overhead searching for the murderers-on-the-run didn’t see us and think we were the outlaws. Did that get mentioned? Darlene had told us that there had been like three gang related murders in King City, the very night after we had just been loitering at the library and admiring what a nice lil town it was… The same night that we were sleeping out behind that church just 20 miles from the scene, and helicopters had been scouting around, shining their huge searchlights down on the streets around us. Uh. But anyways, they (the cops nor the murderers) didn’t come after us in our sneaky spot in Paso Robles either.

ANYWAYS, so we woke, and packed up, ready to head over to the highly acclaimed Margie’s Diner, where we knew there wasn’t much hope for vege foods (Margie’s is not a Denny’s, but remarkably similar). Timmy and I locked up our bikes and headed inside. The friendly waitress told us to take our choice of seating. Hum. A booth (supreme comfort), a table (plenty of leg room), or make a special request for a seat with a nearby outlet for dead phone charging? The latter was preformed and staff were very helpful, giving us the one table with a hidden outlet. Five stars for great service, already.

We ordered coffees and (feigning that we had already eaten a large breakfast) ordered just one plate of the only vege thing on the menu, hashbrowns. Vegans only ever eat hashbrowns or french fries at diners, it’s a fact. We had to pace ourselves with our small plates so that we could sit and loiter and drink coffee for the maximum time deemed decent (generally when your plate is empty, a check is brought, and pure guilt makes you leave).

As we sat and wrote and took very tiny sad little baby bites of hashbrowns, I looked up and whose face do mine eyes see? It’s Darlene! At least, I’m like 97% sure. I excitedly asked Timmy for verification, but he couldn’t be sure (I was mostly the one chatting with Darlene the day before while Timmy tried to quickly whip out a few more paragraphs for the blog) (Blogging is hardddddd) (I’m whiny) (I actually totally like writing for you people, yes, you) (*winks into the camera*).

But, yeah, it was totally Darlene. The man coming up behind her must be her husband, Evan, that we’d heard so much about. Sure enough, they came inside and were immediately and familiarly greeted by EVERYONE who worked at Margie’s. Hugs were shared and someone apologized that their regular table was taken. We panic for a moment, wondering if we have been the table stealing offenders! We just wanted the outlet!

Once the crowd had cleared away, we walked over and greeted the two ourselves. We let her know we’d met her ‘kids’ over at the fire department, and had heard she was the unofficial mayor of the town. She brushed it off with a shrug, and wondered how we were finding the Margie’s dining experience. “We eat here because they get you in and out, real fast,” she praised of their speedy service, and we quietly laughed to ourselves about how were were really trying to prolong the whole experience.

We left them to their meal and went back to our own table (where astonishingly, someone had already eaten my half of the hashbrowns!) (hint: it was me) (I was sad). If possible, I think the wait staff were even nicer to us after having shown that we were friends of the exalted Darlene and Evan. We got more refills of coffee and after awhile, noticed Darlene leaving through the window. We gave big grins and waves, and I regretted not running out to snap a picture before they left.

Moments after they left the parking lot, I also realized I should have given them a Watsi gift card, for all their kindness. I pulled one out and started writing a note, and when the waitress came by again, I asked if it would be possible to give our note to Darlene when she came back in. I got an, “of course!” and also, a too sweet surprise, Darlene and Evan had picked up our tab for us. AAWWEWEEE, THEY WERE SO NICE!! also, WHY DID WE NOT ORDER MORE HASHBROWNS?? (sort of kidding about that last one)

For real though, I think we have a new pair of adopted grandparents (Juanita and Donny, if you’re reading this, you two are still the OG AG (original adopted grandparents). We finished blubbering on about how sweet Darlene and Evan were while finishing up our last cups of coffee (four cups for me). The waitress even asked if we wanted any to go (!) but shrewdly we declined (sometimes we learn lessons about coffee abuse) (they don’t always stick).

Anyways, we got back on the road (with a few pitstops to try and find post cards and sunscreen that didn’t make us want to die) (sorry Lindsay, the cream you lent me makes me SAD) (Apparently the new shea butter sunscreen we got has nano particles, but WE LOVE IT).

Okay, so we got sunscreen and slathered it on and rolled out of town and through the next few little old west touristy type little blips on the map. We stopped at one rather large antiques mall to find postcards but there was nothing under two bucks and we gave up hope. I did meet two REALLY happy lil poodle dogs though, so I was satisfied.

After more pitstops to do things like purchase and eat a bunch of jojos (down here they call them mojos?), we actually hit the road. We knew we had one monster climb left before we would finish our short day and end up in San Luis Obispo (SLO for the locals, and aptly describes our pace for the day, what with stopping every half hour). So we slathered on more sunscreen and began the ascent.

And I cried.

The entire way up.

No, not because I’m a baby or that I find mountains impossibly hard to climb, rather, the fresh sunscreen mixed with the sweat from the effort of propelling myself and my nearly hundred pound bicycle up a never ending hill was a bad combo. The sweat trickled down and burned the entire time, tears shedding out of my squinty red eyes.

It really wasn’t that bad though. We reached the top and I wiped the tears and excess screen/sweat and we prepared for what would be a would be a very gratifying seven miles of rather steep descent. Timmy reengaged his front brake (as I incredulously wondered why it hadn’t been engaged in the first place) and we flew down the hill, hitting a max speed of 36 mph (as recorded by one of the blinky speedometer sign).

We coasted the entire rest of the way into San Luis, and rolled directly to the library where we loitered for the next bazillion hours, attempting to catch up on the blug. (hint: it’s not caught up).

We hogged computers right up to the last second before closing time then ran off to try to hit a grocery store before getting to our host’s house, on the southern end of town. (Now that’s planning right, boys and girls). After plenty of fresh veggies were bought, we pedaled on. We rolled further into suburbia, and at one point, reached the end of a street, noticing that we must have missed our last turn. Some folks were walking a very tiny dog (named Princess..) and we asked them if they knew where Manzanita street was, knowing it had to be right in the vicinity. Despite living right there in the same neighborhood, the had to resort to a smart phone to tell us where the street lay. We could have just as easily peeked at our phones, but once you’ve asked someone for directions, you must be fully prepared to listen to the entire extent of their directional knowledge. Be ready to nod your head in a knowing way and say yes, yes, if they ask you if you’ve remembered the three minutes worth of, “take a left at the first stoplight after Arby’s and when you see the cemetery, take a right. If you see the Albertsons you’ve gone too far, but …” and so on.

Anyways, they did let us know where to go, so for that we were thankful, and rolled exactly two blocks before hitting our desired road. Our host, John, was standing outside, unloading his car when we rolled up, and we were instantly recognizable as two cyclists in need of a warm shower (sunscreen is sticky and very much attracts the dirt and grit tossed up by cars on the road). Right away he welcomed us in and made us comfortable, offering us a bathroom, bedroom, and use of his kitchen.

We chatted a bit in the garage, and somehow in conversation it came up that he had once hosted some “low-budget” bike tourists from New Jersey. As he said this, I knew we had as yet escaped his notice as low-budgeters ourselves, despite the dirty rat clinging to the frame of my bike (which he did immediately point out and think was a bit queer). Anyways, as he told us of the boys who didn’t even camp in campgrounds (gasp!) and had junk strewn all about their bikes, we made sure to zip our mouths as to not reveal any of our own sneaky camping or dumpster diving tendencies.

I’m not sure if he clued in as the night when on, but it didn’t really matter anyways. We were respectful and clean (after we showered) (well, mostly clean), and he was good company, telling stories of being chased by bears in the wilderness and such.

In the morning, John was heading out for a week or so, and told us to take our time heading out (which we certainly did). Timmy took off his front wheel and did some deep cleaning of his break pads while I laxed about, writing, and organizing my bike (I don’t do much maintenance, unfortunately. I had already deemed my brakes “good enough” after our run in with the mud).

It wasn’t till one o’clock or so that we actually left his house, biking through some more beautiful rolling green hills. As we got into Nipomo, about 25 miles later, we started chatting with a cyclist who cruised up behind up. PJ had toured down from Eugene, Oregon the year before, and it was nice to talk tour and ride on smooth bike paths. He showed us to the library in the next town and there we parted ways.

Once again we loitered and wrote and routed and planned till the library computers kicked us off, and we figured we ought to get going ourselves, given that late one o’clock start we had. We continued out of town on the main road that seemed to drag on for hours, with strip mall after strip mall, and at least three different people waving signs dressed as various mascots to entice us to their stores.

There were twenty miles to go, to reach the town of Los Alamos that we planned to stop at this night. Timmy had scoped it out on google maps satellite mode, and found some potentially sweet baseball dugouts to camp in, if only we could reach them before night settled in too much (This is why you ought to leave town before noon if you’re still planning to loiter AND do fifty five miles).

The sun started setting as we still had ten miles to go, but our Safety Turtle donned his fluorescent orange vest, and we put the pedal to the medal. Or… like. put the pedal in a quick circular motion.

We reached the small town as night fell and rolled through the dark streets till we found the overgrown baseball field that would soon be our home. We tried to not raise any attention as we prepared to sneaky camp (What would our host have thought of us if only he could see us now??) by brushing aside the thick layers of broken glass and homemade plastic water bottle bongs.

Timmy checked the wind direction and we bunkered down in the dugout that would offer us the most protection if it rained much. I asked him if he thought I should worry about rain splashing inside, but was assured the wind should definitely blow any rain right over us. Definitely.

This was not necessarily true, as, in the wee hours of the morning, the rain took matters into it’s own hands and began spattering in on me, unfortunately lying closest to the fence. But it should be said, we cyclists are nothing if not prepared (and stubborn when we don’t want to put up a tent). I climbed out of bed and tied up the tent’s small footprint to the chain-link fence that enclosed the snug little dugout. We stayed dry and out of sight for the remainder of the night, and slept well for a couple of raggedy looking “low-budget” tourists…

<3
lizbutts, the cycling bum


Mr. Motivator

There’s nothing quite like being so close to the rain while being so well sheltered.  Lizzy and I were able to get good quality rest during our night at the school, despite that fact that we snoozed a few hours less than normal.  I woke up around 5:45 and in my sleeping bag looked at our route for the day.  We planned to leave the school especially early as to not upset any employee-folk.  You just can’t rely on people believing you when you say “I’m not a weirdo.”  Some surprise flood lights came on before I could wake Lizzy, that told us the lights were on a very odd timer or someone was at the school.  We packed up rather quickly and rolled our mobile homes toward the road.  No one was around yet so we sat in front of the school for a while- mostly waiting for the morning light to increase our visibility a little.

Once we got rolling the rain and wind didn’t bother us all too much- it meant we didn’t need to put on sunscreen, and that the snails were out!  We rode by a man riding his ATV along the border of a field in security-man style, but we got a very friendly wave from him.  Lizzy and I spent a while looking for a left turn, and once we finally found it we coasted down to a Shell station near the 101 and the town of Greenville.

Greenville provided us with a nice thrift store where Lizzy picked up Mr. Motivator for free! She offered ten cents but then the woman running the store just told her to take it.  Mr. Motivator now sits on the edge of Lizzy’s metal basket; zip-tied for safety.  He’s a sleeper-inner but once 10 AM comes around he gets loud and proud- helping Lizzy to climb hills on her bike and not quit the tour all together.  Everyday I’m increasingly grateful for Mr. Motivator.

We rolled along mixture of side roads and the 101 battling all-to-familiar headwinds.  Good thing we had Mr. Motivator.  By the time we were in King City, about 25 miles into our day, the skies had cleared and we were even beginning to dry out.  A trip to the grocery store there and 5 hours at the library later, we were ready to hit the road to finish our day off.  I almost forgot to mention our trip into a little Mexican Grocery Store!  It’s been pretty neat to travel through in towns where more than half of the advertisements and signage are in Spanish.

The next twenty miles were full of rolling hills and cattle- and a passenger train!  Upon online inspection, Lizzy and I now realize that, since we couldn’t take HWY 1 south of Santa Cruz, we often cross the train tracks we’ll be taking north from Santa Barbara on March 27th.  The train sped by, exciting the cattle, as we waved at the passengers.

In San Ardo, a small town of around 400, we scoped spots to to camp and headed to the town market.  The man at the market was interested in our tour and very friendly.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell how genuine people are when they work for an organization trying to sell you stuff- but we knew he was a keeper when he gave us our candy FOR FREE!  He also told us that cyclists often camp at the church in town- which is where we ended up after mozying around town for a short while.  Lizzy and I made friends with some local kids when I returned their basketball.  The town was friendly, and these kids didn’t even call me a faggot like the punks in Fort Bragg, whose basketball I also returned.

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We pitched our tent because rain was forecasted for the morning. After a dinner of you know what, we called it a night.  It’d been a long day.

The next morning we played the game where you hear rain on the tent and wait in 30 minute intervals to see if it will stop.  We won and got ready for our day.

After filling our waters and using a very special porta-potty Lizzy and I tried to leave town via a dirt “road” adjacent to a field.  The rain overnight had soggied it all up and before 200 feet of riding, so much mud had caked between my front wheel and fender near my brakes that it stopped my progress all together… I whined to Lizzy, whose bike was fairing a little better and carried my bike back onto the main road we’d left; even trying to push my bike through the field the front wheel wouldn’t turn but slid…  This made me especially whiny because I built my front wheel just this January and the pebbly mud that covered the rims and brake pads would surely scratch and form some divots on the rim surfaces.  WHINE WHINE WHINE. Anyway I washed some of the caked mud out of the space between my rim/fender/brakes to the point that it was rideable (yes, Lizzy told me afterward… drought country).  I disengaged my front brake cable (very bad Safety Turtle) so I wouldn’t accidentally use the front brake, at least until I could clean it all up a little more.  Lizzy found a new route and we headed South out of San Ardo.

I should note, if Lizzy had told the above tale, it may have only filled two lines- so I apologize for my ranting nature.   It was actually a good experience though; reminds me that regardless of how nice and new something is, even if it’s a very special item-show and tell material- it’s gonna get used and maybe a little scratched up, and THAT’S OKAY!

We took Sargents Road through some familiar agriculture and were a little surprised when we entered an expansive oil field…  The mechanical bodies looked sturdy and were oddly mesmerizing.  I think their strong appearance made them eerily fit into the beautiful landscape beyond.

We rode deeper into the oils fields and saw a row of signs that we weren’t sure were for the road or the property adjacent to it. “You’re in hard hat country,” one sign read. Climbing into the foothills and leaving the most dense area of rigs, we also passed a sign that warned “not a through road.”  These signs are hard to read on bicycles because they always lead us to the question of: Well to what extent is it not a through road???

We continued on; Lizzy was confident that we wouldn’t have to turn back but I had a similar feeling as when we hoped to bypass the closed section of HWY 1 South of the Avenue of the Giants.  Hopefully we wouldn’t climb the 1200 feet we saw on our directions to then be forced to turn around.  Moving on, the hills welcomed us!  Unfrequented by cars, the bumpy and narrow road winded through small valleys with homes of the past, mature oak trees, and grazing cows.

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Our much anticipated climb began and it was steep!  As the elevation increased the quality of the road decreased until it’d clearly been long taken over by the flora of the area.  After a steep turn we came to a gate across the road. END.  Getting our bikes over this was a little challenging, and I almost broke my leg slipping into the cattle grate as I ran to get into a picture that my camera would take on a timer.

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Past the gate the road became very sandy and was more like an old river bed than a road.  Don’t get me wrong; riding downhill a path best suited for a mountain bike on a loaded touring bike was exhilarating.  Lizzy and I had a hard time not being overly distracted by the scenery, trying to simultaneously dodge nasty cow pies and quickly slow for small streams that’s dug inches into the road.  Having the road to ourselves was a real privilege.

We maneuvered over another gate and continued downhill into the very small town of Bradley, where we stopped at the library just a minute after the sky started pouring rain; which was one minute after I said, “It’s amazing how we haven’t been rained on once today.”  The single room Bradley library was ran by our new friend Darlene!  She told us about the town, what she and her husband have been up to, and pointed us to the computer we could use to work on the blog.  We shared stories and she mentioned that the men at the firehouse a block away were “her sons.”  Lizzy and I got the feeling that she was like a mother to most in this town, and left her with a WATSI card.  She gave us extensive advice on directions and told us about the diner Margie’s, in Paso Robles, our destination for the evening.  “They have good coffee,” she promised.  Lizzy and I scooted to the firehouse to fill our water bottles; because we look like hoodlums and were probably acting too goofy, three firemen of the town came to us and made friendly conversation.  They told us that Darlene was basically the mayor of the town, to which Lizzy exclaimed, “Wow we had an hour with the Mayor?!?!?!”

The rest of our ride that day can be described by smooth roads, a few small towns, and some interesting murals.  Our route was now on that of the annual AIDS ride, which goes from SF to LA.  I’m not sure what time of year it is but the roads are nice- wide shoulders on 101 and smooth country roads as well.

We also had our first tailwind…  On day 21 of 25.

Once we reached Paso Robles, the size of our own hometown, we spent several hours at the library and then rolled to grocery outlet.  Luckily, despite a couple heavy bouts of rain this day, we’d just about avoided it all (in our tent and Libraries).  Lizzy scoped Google Maps for camping and lead us to a few options.  The school stadium was very well gated but the church parking lot (long, well-lit, and fenced) displayed some perfectly placed shipping containers.  We had dinner, talked to loved ones, and set up the tent between a fence and one of the shipping containers, directly below a hecka sweet gang tag.  Perched above a storage facility, and adjacent to a well lit parking lot, I felt relatively safe.  The night was full of interesting noises (i.e. garbage trucks, and folks taking out their recycling bins in the wee hours), but it turned out to be a pretty good spot.

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Next morning’s photo shoot

Our day of riding to Paso Robles was a true pleasure- Lizzy and Kyle and I have been very lucky to have such nice stretches of roads to ourselves.

Like Lizzy has mentioned… We write to you from the future.  We’re now using a very special shea butter sunscreen.  We love it.  and it smells GREAT.  but perhaps we don’t;  You can’t just cover stink up.

All the best from the future,

Safety Turtle+Hi Horse

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California Coffee Kicks

Day 18: Wherein we almost bike nowhere and consume entirely Way Too Much Caffeine.

We woke to the sounds and smells of Ericka cooking breakfast and getting ready to head out to help set up the habitat restoration event happening later that day. We were planning on dropping in after our town chores were done (a lil laundry, a lil grocery shopping, you know, the usual), which could potentially perfectly coincide with the free lunch beginning… Who knows?

Ericka suggested we make pancakes for breakfast, and we hopped on that train real fast. She left and we took over the tiny kitchen, whipping up some of the best god damn pancakes I have ever set my mouth upon. Seriously, ten times dope. I think this is the recipe we used, substituting flax meal for the egg and soy for the milk. Also added some muesli mix plus pumpkin seeds from Winco (in McMinnville! I carried it a long way!) and some raisins.

After consuming pancakes perfected, we packed up, rolled out and hit the SeaBright laundromat. Dirty clothes got thrown into the wash and we ran off to be efficient little bees by hitting the grocery store while the suds did their work. Hum, but now that I think about it, I don’t think we added any soap….

Anyways, Groc Out features once again in our story, as the bargain market of our dreams. We hit the snacks section real hard and came out loaded with gold. Timmy got the real taste of California (“Cali” as the locals call it) when an elderly man politely said, “Excuse me, bro,” in the casual air of speech found in the area.

From there, we raced back to the laundromat to give our now soggy but still sudless clothes a good drying (no, we were not worried that anyone would steal our items. they naaasty). There were tables to sit and write at, and outlets to charge our sleepy phones, so we were happy campers. The walls also offered all sorts of new and novel inspirational quote posters, urging us to follow our dreams! take the path less traveled! I am feeling very inspired just thinking about them.

After the clothes tumbled dry, they were stashed back into stinky bags and we headed out to Natural Bridges State Park (a couple miles backwards on our route!!!! this is special). We got there precisely forty-five minutes before LONCHE (!) would be called and it would be weed-pullin’ quittin’ time. Better late than never/It’s the thought that counts/Early bird gets the worm/. Apparently late birds get worms too.

But we did get to strap on double layers of gloves and get to work for a bit. We were pulling two invasive species out of the watershed habitat; thistle and hemlock. Thistle is real pokey lil’ bugger, but was relatively easy to pluck from the moist soil. As for hemlock, well, I didn’t see any so I guess everyone else was already on top of that…

After a good deal of pulling, we look up and notice everyone in our area was gone, just as an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator walks down the path and asks if we knew that it was eating time. Hum. I just have to wonder if they all silently ditched us for showing up late… We grabbed our bags of invasive scum and trekked back to the buffet that had blossomed out underneath the canopies while we were away. There were vege sando making supplies including chips (cheeeeeps) and hummus.

There was also five gallons of coffee.

five.

gallons.

(also almond milk)

(and sugar cubes)

Tyler,

We feasted (and drank) while hanging out with Ericka, Rebecca (great job organizing the event! 10/10 would volunteer again), and their pal, Tyler. After the event ended, there was plenty of clean up to do, and plenty of extra food needing a home, and… and lots of coffee. What a waste it would be to get poured out…

We stuck around folding up tables and packing up canopies to be carted to cars (maybe sheepishly trying to make up for being those people), all the while, consuming more coffee than one ought to on a sunny afternoon. When all was said and done, we were loaded up with fruit, and the remaining contents of the day’s coffee carafes. ***I HAD AN ENTIRE GALLON OF COFFEE MIXED UP IN A ALMOND MILK JUG***

We said bye as our pals left, then walked over to the beach to check out those natural bridges everyone had been raving about…

We laxed about (well, as much as one can lax about under the influence of so much caffeine) and called our respective special lady friends. Before we knew it, nearly two hours flew by, and it was four o’clock. If we were going to get anywhere before dark we’d better leave then, so we did. Winding our way back through Santa Cruz, I dropped my phone in the street exactly twice (I was still chatting away with a special sumbuddy), we hit exactly one dumpster and chowed some half-eaten old cookie, and met exactly one beautiful dog during a restroom break on our way out of town.

His name is Toby and he’s quite old and his human said he had quite long legs for a basset (I couldn’t tell) and I’m sure he is the perfect match for this dog that I know of in my neighborhood back home (okay, I’m kind of obsessed with her. Her name is Shirl and she’s eleven years young. Here is her instagram account. Here is a picture from a photoshoot that I may have conned Shirl into doing. And here is the best video you will ever see on the internet. I think one day Toby & Shirl might meet/fall in puppy luv/get doggy married).

Moving along…

We got out of suburbia and once again were rolling through agricultural lands when it started approaching sunset. (so what if we only did 20 miles that day?? WE HELPED THE ENVIRONMENT. …also I met Shirl’s life-partner). We saw a sign announcing Sunset State Beach, and figured to head there for sneaky camping or not. We arrived in a small parking lot with a view of the ocean and as the beauty assailed Timmy’s eyes, my eyes were assailed by a run-over, grundgey looking golden box laying feet away. I scooted over there and picked it up, hoping for, like, a sweet dress shirt or something, but, delight upon delight, it was chock-full of chocolates, and that was the precise moment when we knew that we were in the right place and the right time for a night of camping.

We aimed our wheels up the steep hill towards the campground, but stopped short of even hitting the entrance, as we saw a path leading into the bushes off to the side of the road. We hit the trail and looked for a a nice place to sneaky camp, eventually finding a spot camouflaged by the tree draping over it, and found that it was a proven site, coming complete with an old milk crate for a chair. Home, sweet. We hid our bikes and set up camp. Timmy cooked up a fine dinner of triple beans with humus and vege cream cheese and we feasted in our cozy shelter with sounds of owls hoo-hooing overhead. (yes, that is the technical term).

In the morning we were startled awake by the sound of an ATV rumbling by just feet from our chosen campsite. The night before there had been many instances of people walking by, sometimes shining their flashlights directly on our tent (most likely alerted by the remarkably reflective gear  our Safety Turtle had chosen to employ for cautious touring.). No one had bothered us then, but no we figured we ought not to push our luck, and quickly set to tearing down camp and stowing away our sleeping bags. Once a tent is no longer present and sleeping effects stashed, why, then no one would have any reason to suspect that the night was spent there… (or so we tell ourselves).

We sat on our milk crate couch and munched some breakfast before heading back down the hill to clean dinnerware and use the bathroom at the day use area. As we readied up, a whistling backpacker strode past us and down the road. Once we got on our wheels we quickly caught up to him and asked him what he was up to.  We got the full spiel (he talked a mile a minute) (not sure how fast he walked in a minute though…), this man had been around by foot for hundreds of miles.  He was first motivated to go on long treks by his own personal demon, fibromyalgia. This year he was heading from San Diego to Seattle, just in time for Hempfest (weed is his only medication) (maybe also wine) (definitely wine). He told some stories about encountering angels every day, including but not limited to the Weed Angel and the Beer Angel (who come down just in time for St. Patrick’s Day this year). I could definitely relate, having encountered many Snack Angels and Dollar Bill Angels while on the road myself.

But for real, people are good. Most folks will warn you to be safe, watch out for the folks in the next town, and wonder how you could manage to travel at the mercy of all the psycho murderer type people out there, but really you just normally find yourself in the safe treatment of grandmas and grandpas and people just trying to lend a hand.

Anyways, we wished the fella well, and continued on our slow, but not that slow, journey of our own. We reached the town of Moss Landing after a few brisk morning miles, and pulled off to the side of the first bridge to check out what our pal Ericka had reported as the best most consistent otter viewing spot this side of the Mississippi.

She wasn’t wrong, within seconds we could see the critters popping up out of the water of the bay, float on their backs and snack on whatever delicacies they had procured from the seafloor below. (It also kinda looked like they were just laying there ticking themselves so we entertained ourselves for a good while by miming their voices and high pitched laughs) (Tour makes you crazy) (Sometimes you already are crazy though)

Eventually we had to tear ourselves away from the cuteness, and get back to riding. After another mile or more through increasingly strong headwinds, we saw a big farm stand materialize ahead, luring me in with large signage proclaiming 5 avocados could be had for the price of $1. While said avocados were hard and unappetizing, we did pick up a few kiwi and a grapefruit for a song. (Not the Langlois song) (That’s priceless)

We met a couple outside who were heading home to Portland after a California vacay, no doubt they’d be there in seconds flat with their newfangled auto-mobile cruising machine. Ah well, maybe I’ll see them around sometime once I get home.

Once again we had to get back on the bikes and face the headwinds, now with grey clouds looming threateningly overhead. We battled along, hoping to reach the next town before something awful happened. In Marina, we stopped again, for bathrooms and the prospect of charging up phones, and while Jack in the Box was helpful for the first, the outdoors outlet seemed to have been deactivated and was a flop. We rolled on a block or more two and off to our left spotted another Grocery Outlet! Unanticipated but highly appreciated, we quickly got into the turning lane and headed straight for our favorite snack center. We loaded up on bargain goodies (such as jalapeno multi-grain bars and Big Foot Candies, which are actually just foot shaped Swedish Fish), and then had to loiter around outside for a bit, testing out our new treats and making room for them in our bulging saddlebags.

After that lil session, we hopped back on and went scarcely a block further (sometimes you just don’t make much headway  when you give in to every whim on the road) and stopped at a small cafe to sit and charge and write and drink even more coffee (we were still nursing our jugs of leftover coffee from the event, but a fresh hot cup couldn’t hurt). Maybe thirty minutes in to our chill sesh, a fellow pulls up on a bike and parks in front of the cafe windows. He came in and helped out a bit in the shop, then meandered over and started talking with us. He had all sorts of interesting things to say, like this idea he has for a 9-volt battery powered hydration system for your bike that is also gravity fed. Also he noted that my bicycle license plate expired in 1953… my Nebraska license plate. But anyways, he was a sweety, and also offered us free refills if we wanted, which we actually did decline, having consumed an inadvisable amount of caffeine.

We eventually pulled out of our pit-stop mindframe and got on the road for real, and basically did the next 35 miles without stopping. It rained during this stretch and we got soaked, but the weather wasn’t so cold, and rain gear would have been more unpleasant than helpful. After a bit the rains stopped and the wind from riding dried our clothes out, a true chrustmus miracle. Towards the evening, we hit a fork in the road, with Google asking us to take a right for “Foothill Road” and our guts saying to take the equidistant “Fort Romie Road”. It was about this time that the sun was deciding to set, and the rain was spittling about, thinking of returning for another pouring.

We debated stopping there at a ‘Satisfactory’ rated sneaky camp,  which was a rocky spot under a large oak tree just off the road, through some tall pokey weeds and up and down some steep ditch embankments. The other options included heading down Fort Romie, which seemed to be more agricultural fields, which offer little in the ways of sneaky camping, or to do the unthinkable, actually voluntarily choose to take a route down a road with the word “hill” in the name, which seemed to offer more trees and spots that could be camp worthy.

Timmy was decisive and voted for Foothill Road, and I was just tired and wanted to go to bed and hopefully not get rained upon again, so I acquiesced. As we pedaled up and down the foothills, I tried not to begrudge Timmy for his horrible stupid decision and why couldn’t we just stay back there at that dumb oak tree and be in bed already…. but as it got darker and we saw nothing that would be equivalent to or better than the oak spot, I had to eat my words as I saw the painted words “School Zone Ahead” splayed out on the road in front of us.

A school! Home sweet. Schools can be wonderful sneaky camp spots, as long as you remember a few rules such as, don’t be seen, get out early, and take advantage of covered areas.

We did the trifecta, and did it in style. When we pulled up there was one car in the lot and lights were on, so we tucked our bikes away and sat along the side of the school, being very quiet. We thoughtfully moved the bikes over to our side after a few minutes, quite thankfully, because not long after, we heard voices and people opening the classroom doors on either side of the building (like many sunny California schools, the classrooms have outdoor ‘hallways’). We were then very extra quiet and made not a peep or rustle.

Only once we heard the car drive away did we break out the self-congratulatory (and very very loud) Jalapeno Kettle Chips that we had scored at Groc Out earlier that day. We moved our little party to the covered porch/outdoor hallway thing on the back side of the school and made ourselves at home.

We cooked dinner and got cozy, no need for a tent tonight. Tim laid out on the concrete and I took one of the benches and fell asleep, quite pleased with ourselves (aside from the fact that we had to set a 5:45 alarm for the next morning to be packed up before any faculty might show up to do some early lesson planning).

THE END FOR NOW.

luv luv,

LIZZY