This post is written by my brother, and is a hilarious story of his last-minute decision to ride his bike home from Santa Cruz to Orange County. Accompanied by his heterosexual life partner, the adventurers battle fatigue, hunger, the irritation that is inevitably caused by other bikers in spandex, and donuts. You can read part 1 HERE
The guidebook was buried deep inside the black satchel abyss of Dan’s disorderly panniers, probably next to the steamy sausage. And yes, we were lost again: Really lost. We’d passed our turn miles before and had to either retrace our pedals or hope for the best. I don’t even want to discuss the demon hell hill we faced. All full of jagged teeth and the type of steep that screams. Every time we thought we chopped off the beast’s head, it grew another, over and over until our pain and war fury were the only things that kept us from stopping. We finally learned to focus on that white-painted shoulder line instead of the winding distance, always up and above.
About halfway up some cyclists rode by. They had huge calves and slicked up cycles, those fancy helmets like rocket ships strapped to their heads and sugar fueled farts shoved up their asses which broke speed of sound barriers. One of ‘em was full of talk. Figures we were on a hill when they cruised by, getting us when we were down and out, covered in sweat, in the middle of battle.
“Hey guys! Where ya headed?” They approached with too many smiles and no hints of strain in their voice.
That’s what those Cadillac bikes will do for you.
“Sunset Beach, past L.A.” We said, between gasps of air and curses at their mothers, all full of pride.
“Oh wow! Where’d you start?” Who knows how that guy had so much chipper. I was sputtering and sucking air, my eyes wet with suffer, but finally I was able to meager it out, “Santa Cruz.”
“Cool! How long ya taking?” How many blasted questions was this guy going to ask? Couldn’t he see we were in the middle of tearing things apart, at war with the pavement? Made me want to jump off that bike and kick his neoprene shirt and padded shorts right off the highway and steal his rocket ship helmet. Those things are full of power. Maybe if I had a rocket ship on my noggin I’d have some power, and I could use some of that power to answer all of those questions and then kick some extra ass with his carbon fiber seat bolts and anodized spoke nipples.
Here’s some wisdom: Don’t pester a man at war.
My shoe was nearly out of its cage for a bike-by drop kick over the edge when Dan saved that man’s life. “About five days we think. Maybe six.”
“Oohhh…” he grinned with a sort of mocking chuckle, trading eyes with his buddy, “Really taking your time about things huh? Ha ha ha. Well, see ya later.” And they were gone. I counted the seconds to see how long it’d take them to get out of range of my grenade launcher and only got to three rocket ships. Ha Ha. Whatever. At least we still had our dark hearts and grit. After all, we were pedaling ourselves up those hills. Cadillac cycles are for the faint of heart. Single speed heaps of crap are for men.
A beautiful surprise came a few minutes after that talk. We’d been pushing our legs toward the pavement without ever touching it. Over and over again we shoved our feet toward the Earth and over and over again we were disappointed by how much distance we had gained. This was the process until finally Dan decided to ignore the horizon. He stared endlessly at the black because, boring as it may have been, it did not break his heart. Finally the crescendo of pain was reached. Dan's baritone voice echoed across the cliffs as he grunted and roared to push himself over the crest. That's when we would get a powerful case of the glories. Laid out before us, rather than the sight of sorrow, despair and endless incline, was a horizon, far reaching and exhilarating. We had conquered that candy ass hill. A couple of short, breathless laughs of triumph later we would be rolling over the edge and barreling down the backside, feasting on the fruits of our labor. As we hit speeds beyond measure (maybe 30mph) the wind would blast across us from Poseidon's lair and nearly knock us over. With cars zipping past us on our left and a ferocious sea on our right we ate up curves like they tasted good, leaning into it and hooting like a horny monkey with a mate nearby. Brakes are a joke and potholes add to the flavor, dangerous as they were, those steep declines kept us alive and moving. Man was never built to fly, but a tiny piece of steel between your legs and a couple of rusty wheels can make you feel like that's a lie.
For the hours of suffering to the top of that hill, we hit bottom within about three minutes and scooted into the white-sands town of Carmel. A big ole grocery store dominated our view, casting the next leg of our journey in the shadows as it spread itself abundantly in the distance; Big Sur.
“We oughta stock up here before we head into Big Sur don’t you think?” I suggested as we pulled into a strip mall chock full of grocery stores and restaurants.
“Let’s find a coffee shop,” said Dan. After restocking some supplies we cruised around until we found a fancy little café, with sparkling whites and too much make up. Musta’ been one of those wealthy towns. Disgustingly clean, waxed brows and face lifts, all frowning when we showed up with gladiator sweat and pride. Dan was wearing white too, but not their kind of white, his shorts were already brown from battle grime and soiled with sweat, he hated underpants and they could tell. The bottom of his shorts were soaked through and completely soiled from riding and sitting in the dirt.
“I’d like an Iced Mocha Frap please.”
There was my shirtless, long haired, loaded pants filth-friend ordering an Iced Mocha Frap, our presence offending the coffee patrons’ nostrils. He took a long drag of his armpit as sweat from his chest and back drizzled down to join the swamp in his pants. He exhaled contentedly, “Man, I don’t smell too bad!” He hollered, reaching me out in the outdoor seating area. The frowns outside frowned harder, the edges of women’s lips spilled over their own chins in disgust.
“Maybe we should get something a little healthier Dan. Like water.” I called to him from the patio. “We’ve been sweating our asses off. Don’t you think?”
“Here’s the thing,” he began, dominating the world’s conversations, “what’s important is that we’re getting enough calories. And we’re using so much energy and all, you know? We can eat whatever. And I want an Iced Mocha, a Frap, God dammit.” Little gasps muffled silence through Gucci sunglasses. And well: tough titty, really. I gave in to his blasted reason and thought of my favorite snack.
“How about a donut?”
“Yeah!” He replied, “Hey, you want your Iced Soy Chai Latte too?”
“You bet, get me a large one.” Who needs water, anyways? Not us. After all, here we were, 60 miles down the line and kicking, about to catch some café and then continue on our man-journey. You think the Spartans ever drank water, or rather, hydrated? Doubtful. If the long road south was an army of a million foes, then Dan and I were Sparta’s 300, full of muscle, full of madness. We’d done our preparations.
Just south of Carmel there’s a nice introduction to the damnation that is Big Sur. Dan’s gears chomped and slipped and crashed with every push forward on his pedals, up a hill that eventually held our beds for the night. A slanted nest of green grass lined with a Poison Oak force field protected us for the night. Not that we needed it. Aqua violets shimmered far down, where our mountain met the ocean below our tufts of grass and dirt beds. As we shimmied into our sleep sacs the sun threw fireworks into the sky before slipping under the ocean’s swells.
This trip, however incompetent our efforts may have been, was becoming beautiful. It was our freedom, we rode our bicycles where we liked, we slept where we wanted - for free - appreciating the midnight chills and the tiny fires bursting through the black night up above. The days slipped and fell into one another, each one consistent with galling challenges and every moment full of torment. One leg of the journey, however, was by far the toughest.