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…
lizbutts, the cycling bum