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 and part 2.
Big Sur is synonymous with suffering.
Hills dominated a range of countless miles making our introduction in Monterrey look like a joke. Hills, we came to find, do not like you. They’re like bullies, constantly pushing and pressing and kicking. And once they’ve finally broken your spirit, they laugh and dunk your head in a bowl of piss. Then they ease up just enough to give you a false sense of security, just so that they can punish you all over again.
“Dan I’m gonna die here.” I meaked out, “I think my legs are falling off… can’t feel the left one.” We were seated on the side of the road trading guzzles of life liquid and cursing everything in sight. The trees, the deer carcass we’d passed earlier, the buzzards that had burst away on our arrival, the sticks, the rocks, and especially the hills. Everything was going to have its existence shattered, everything would die.
“No Bryan. Don’t listen to that. There’s a thousand muscled heroes inside each of our legs. And when we hop back on our trusty steeds they will go to work.” And we were off.
A bolt of lightning struck inside my right knee as I refused to quit cranking up that demon hill trying to conquer my spirit. I gritted my teeth and cursed its mother. I shifted my weight so that my left leg would take the brunt of the punishment. It did. The hill grew. I gave it the finger and pressed on. It grew still, until my left knee twinged like my right as if shrapnel was shredding at the tendons. I shifted my weight again. Dan’s face looked like a beet root cut in half, his eyes remaining focused on the white dividing line. And then he reminded us of the muscled heroes in our legs and the importance of determination and indifference to pain.
So we made up a song. Well, modified the lyrics to a James Brown song in order to fit our status, it went a little something like this:
I’m a pedaling man!
Dah dah dat, du dada da Dah!
I’m pedaling ma-an!
Beh-dunt, dun de dunt. HUH!
Got what I got! (Fill in horn section with full lungs)
The hard wayee
And I make it better
Each and every dayee!
I’m a pedalin ma-an!”
Beh-dunt dun de dunt. HUH!
And that really fueled our fire, boy! We flew up and over those hills with power, the kind of power that comes with rocket ship helmets and Cadilacsycles. But we didn’t have either of those. Just some hip thrust power gusto and the kind of broohaha fever like blasts from a sawed-off. Hell yes! And then we’d fly down ‘em, screaming and laughing and growing prematurely senile before hitting the flats.
The days went on; they became a sort of blur. At times we thought we were back in Big Sur, battling fictitious creatures and threatening lifeless objects. Our knees were close enough to being destroyed. We had to calm down, take more breaks: give in. We were weakening.
Then there were the likes of Dale Hicks and Ruth Woodrow, the blessed souls who picked us up after seeing us sobbing on the side of the highway, when we’d forfeited our honor and stuck out our thumbs to pass two climbs and give our battered knees a rest. Dale Hicks spoke the way you’d imagine a man named that would. “Name’s Dale Hicks,” he shot out his hand, “awful pleased to meet ya’.” He was the fifth driver in a series of massive white pick-up trucks.
“Dale Hicks, you are a king among men,” we replied with gratitude. And he was. He got us up and over a relatively small hill that our legs just couldn’t bear. He let us out for the descent.
And Ruth! Now she was a charm. An ancient, LSD-infested coke-head nearing her 150th Birthday, or so she looked, with all the dirt on the small town she drove us through. Her pickup whinnied spasms of convulsing chains and coughing lungs. She chain-smoked her way through tales of local corrupt judges, prison, dope, and the street kids she looked out for. In her beat-up early 90’s Dodge truck she towed our janky bicycles and our banged up knees past 13 miles of hills. Bless her. It was just enough of a rest that for the next two days we felt surprisingly good, our knees healed up enough to ignore the remaining twinges and catch up on the miles.
Sitting on that seat for so long carried with it other difficulties as well. It made certain things…well, difficult. I slumped into a chair after trying to use the bathroom, feeling dejected and depressed. “No luck,” I muttered.
My friend just sort of stared at me, for several moments without any expression, no pity, no feeling, nothing. Finally he spoke, “Well I’m going to go crap out my entire upper torso. I’ll be back after I’ve shattered some porcelain. Here,” he through a dollar on the table, “Drink another coffee.” And then he got up and left. We had been on the road for six days at this point, already two days late and getting close to finishing the whole thing. That morning we saddled our trusty steeds for the last time.
We pedaled our way through Malibu, its multi-million dollar homes and Cher’s Buddha statue overlooking the ocean. Through Venice, past rap artists, touting their discs alongside muscle men thrusting bench presses. We went through Long Beach with gangsters wielding pistols in their jackets and shattered bottles lashing at our tires. Finally we entered Seal Beach, and then Sunset Beach as it was marked by its giant wooden water tower. Our heads were down; we were sweating and panting when we finally reached the house. I slowed to a stop, struggled to raise my head, I couldn’t get my feet out of the pedal cages and fell onto the sidewalk. Dan still hadn’t looked up, his eyes were focused directly in front of his front wheel and continued on until I yelled at him to stop, that we’d made it. It was all over. We rode our bikes 420 miles with including backtracks and turn arounds, and it hadn’t killed us. We were Spartans of cycles, and we felt good. Dan hadn’t changed his shorts nor decided to wear underwear for an entire seven days. I could tell. We grabbed some beers and sat on a patio overlooking a canal and reflected on the journey, such a strange and beautiful thing it was.