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.
(also almond milk)
(and sugar cubes)
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).
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.