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Published: April 28th 2016
I messaged a warmshowers host the next day named Judy whom Matt recommended, she responded quickly and said I could come past that night but that her place had a huge hill. She wasn't kidding it was very steep and the temperature was low, by the time I got there I was pretty tired, right on around dinner it had been a 50 mile day that day, the first in almost a month. I was invited into the farmhouse and there were three other people inside, two English cyclists guesting there as well named Kate and Carol and Judy's father who must have been pretty old as Judy was no spring chicken. We ate well and drank beer and then had to listen to Judy's father go on about this story or that from world war 2 and the history of the area, the way he explained it was extremely dull and almost an assault on good sense. We literally had to listen to his rambling if we wanted to be guests, was almost how I interpreted it. I couldn't make sense of half of what he was even talking about, Kate was very polite and did a great job of
pretending to be interested though. After this we were shown to our accommodations in a trailer outside and we all just hung out and stared at the stars. It was as clear as night skies get, thousands of them could be seen from our clear vantage point and after some failed attempts at capturing the beauty on our cameras we crashed. The next morning Judy told us how she works at the post office 20 miles down the road and could transport all of our panniers for us so we could pick them up from there after riding unloaded the whole way. It was fantastic being able to ride my bike with no weight, however my bearings in the front wheel started seizing up half way there. I got the bike as far as a small town with a cafe and a mechanic and let the girls get in front of me, they didn't expect to see me for a while or even again. It looked like a serious problem, I pulled my front wheel apart and took out the bearings, cleaned them and then got some grease from the mechanic which fixed the wheel. I was pretty proud of
myself for being able to sort out this problem with limited knowledge. It took me about half an hour, so I decided I wanted to surprise my two new friends by catching up to them before they reached the post office. I blitzed it along the highway and they only got to the post office 5 minutes before me, they were shocked to see me.
We hung out at the post office with Judy and we all took turns riding her tricycle up and down a long backstreet, I couldn't believe how hard it was on the legs for an unloaded, two person vehicle it was a huge workout just to keep pedaling along the fairly flat road. I knew it made her happy for us to ride this with her and it was the least I could do after her generosity. It was a very sunny day, one of the first in a while and being in that place so far from home with complete strangers sharing such a happy moment felt right.
I rode with Kate and Carol all the way to Gualala, they both weren't messing around when it came to
speed and going up hills. I really had to push myself to keep pace with them, I would find out down the track both their bikes together probably weighed about as much as mine, and they were both involved in the cycling industry back home so they were already pretty fit. I was glad to be pushed a little. We found out the forecast was for heavy rain that night, we all went thirds in a pretty nice hotel room, cooked up some soup and just chilled out and chatted. They were both surprisingly close to my age, I thought they were mid 20's possibly, I told them this and I think I became a little bit more popular. Traveling in this way, on the road so much and being disconnected from regular reality your mind can wander sometimes. I thought hmmm hotel + two girls + me = maybe I'll get lucky. Not the case unfortunately, the chemistry just wasn't there. It turns out the rainstorm wasn't even that bad so I could have camped but the hotel for me was more about having some female company around.
They had a plan to catch up with
a sister of a relative who had died just north of San Francisco. They had never met this lady but they would be staying there for a few days and they said I might be able to come, we would find out once we got to Bodega Bay 50 miles south. That day of cycling had all these tight roads with a ton of cars zooming past us, Carol had this funny habit of always cycling about a meter from the edge of the road which made cars have to slow right down before passing her, it created chaos on the road. I had the perspective that it was not my road, it was really for cars and for me to be able to cycle on it legally was a privilege so I was always as close as physically possible to the edge, always. As we got closer to our destination there was all these huge downhills that you had to immediately make up for after coming up the other side of the mountain, it was pretty exhausting but again I didn't want to fall behind so I kept up pace. In fact about ten miles before we got there
I started listening to some motivational tunes on my Ipod that gave me a huge energy boost. Tracks like Eminem's Phenomenal pushed me about half a mile in front and the dormant fitness that had been building up in my body was unleashed on the remaining hills. When we pulled into the town they made a phone call and told me that their host was half an hours drive and only had two bike racks on her car, no space for me. I bought some sugary snacks from a cafe and rode back north two miles to the state campground that had two other cyclists staying in the hiker/biker section. One of them a guy around my age with the same model of bike was headed north, crazy considering the weather then. The other cyclist we had passed on the road the day before, she introduced herself as Melissa and was very slightly framed in her mid 20's or so. She told me that some other campers in the site were doing a BBQ and we could go there for dinner, I decided to go and check it out. Melissa had obviously used drugs heavily in her life at some
point, I've seen enough of this to know the signs as her mind seemed very distant and she didn't want to talk about her personal life too much. She told me that she had introduced herself to the hosts as Elizabeth so to not call her Melissa, I asked her why and she just shrugged and said she liked the name.
We wandered over to the hosts camp where they had a small size trailer set up with a canopy and were preparing burritos. Paul and Nancy were in their 50's and were pretty friendly, I tested to see if they were cool with me being there as they had only invited Melissa, or Elizabeth, or whatever her name really was. They told me that they had worked in the prison industry for around 30 years. Paul as a guard and Nancy behind a desk, I could see how tough Nancy was as a person but she must have taken Pity on Melissa which is probably why she invited her. I could see why Melissa invited me over, if it wasn't for me being there the conversation would have died before it started. Melissa had a total
lack of self esteem and it just felt so awkward every time she talked about her life, like watching someone about to throw a ball with their opposite arm you could see that the ball was not really going anywhere yet you had to try and catch it to keep the conversation flowing. I thought back to all the times in my life that I would have come across exactly the same as this, through all the years of feeling inadequate. I still do this sometimes, but it was so difficult to watch part of myself reflected in this way. Nancy was as tough as nails but was very understanding, she showed nothing but loving kindness to Melissa and no matter how much she fumbled the ball Nancy always caught it. I remember wishing that I could be this way with others, with myself. The BBQ and company was great and I was very appreciative for the generosity of these strangers. I went back and camped only just being able to stay warm even in my goose down sleeping bag, that night was close to freezing.
Melissa had what she said was her last cigarette that morning
and gave me her rolling papers, I still had some tobacco left from what Matt had given me so I accepted. I didn't know how genuine her commitment was to quitting nicotine for good, it seemed like she may have made this decision before. I wished her luck and my other campmate headed north, I had a campground just north of San Francisco penned for that day. I left and went down what I thought was a continuous highway headed south, I must of at some point missed an important turnoff. I was so used to just following a highway that I just coasted until I realized I was fifteen miles inland. After some frustrating consulting with my phone I eventually decided the best way would be to just continue to head south east and make for a state campground simply called 'China campground' or something like that. I didn't know anything about it and it was way out east, plus being the day before thanksgiving I knew it could be either closed or full. Still when I went there I paid the host $5 and stayed in my tiny isolated spot that grew very cold come sundown. It was
another lonely night of camping but this was worse as there was nobody in the grounds hardly at all and I had to crawl into my tent by 6 as it was too cold. In the morning my hands went numb trying to pack up my camp and make breakfast, I couldn't wait to leave this place and I never meant to even go there. I followed the long road back out into the populated areas and came began approaching the Golden Gate bridge from the east. I couldn't believe how confusing it was to get there according to my GPS, I met two cyclists a father and son who were headed in that direction. I was another lucky stroke, I followed these guys down about ten turns that even my GPS wouldn't have known with all the construction going on and we eventually found that the usual route was flooded out, a common occurrence in this area. Basically when the tide is high it's not unusual for the streets to be under a foot of water where cars, pedestrians and cyclists have no choice but to go through or find some way around. They took a detour and began
heading down this pathway that we discovered one kilometer in was flooded out as well, they didn't want to get themselves and their bikes wet, I just pushed through as I was sick of waiting, I cycled for about a kilometer through about a foot of salt water that was kind of enjoyable. When I reached the road leading to the bridge it was too deep for me to pedal through without risk of falling in. Some helpful advice from a passer by got me onto the freeway (illegal for cyclists) and finally out of the flooded zone. I don't think there was any other way.
Finally I was almost there, I cycled up a pretty steep hill and finally got to see the bridge up close after making the turnoff, it was kind of...more of a copper color. It was amazing to be able to finally cycle across it though, it was the first real landmark on the west coast of the states and way of truly measuring how far I had come on my Fuji. The cool thing was that it was thanksgiving and I had seen how much traffic was pouring out of San Francisco in the days before, heading away for vacation. So when I finally made my way across through all the tourists I saw that the whole city seemed quite empty. Hardly any traffic and many stores closed, thanksgiving in the states is up there with Christmas apparently. The city itself wasn't like anything I had seen in my life, the architecture, the huge sometimes steep hills, the wide streets and open feel made it look unique and very classy. I made my way to a supermarket, re-stocked and then over to a hostel that I had to climb two big flights of stairs to get up to. The room I was staying in had a Kiwi girl with the same Kathmandu brand padlock as the one I was using on the footlocker next to mine, she was in her early 20's and I just immediately felt comfortable around her. There is something to be said about connecting easily with people from your part of the world sometimes. I can't remember her name but she looked like an early version of who she would eventually become, like she had so much more growing to do. She had already traveled through Nepal and India and was off to a good start in her travel career. I had the place booked just until the next day as I really didn't know how long I would be staying in San Fran. It was overwhelming to be in a place of so much possibility after being in small town after small town for over a month, likes I was missing out on so much not just being out and exploring. This feeling made me want to stay and leave at the same time.
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