August 23, 2019
Sharon and Jeff were packed and leaving before I was this morning, which was somewhat unusual. The motivation? Breakfast at Maccer’s (McDonald’s). Jeff loves Maccer’s. I biked a different way down through Los Osos to meet up with Eric at a coffee shop. Two pastries later, I was cycling with Eric for what I thought was going to be thirty or so miles. He was just going to join me for the day. We stopped at a table with a beach view and I threw together a charcuterie board with sausage, crackers and fresh cheese. A bit more cycling, and we detoured at a coffee shop for more pastries. Probably fifteen miles after that, we stopped at a fruit stand. We were thirty miles in by this point and Eric hadn’t turned around yet, and I was enjoying the company. I offered to let him camp with me, and he was excited about the idea even though all he had was the clothes on his back. Neither of us had expected this to be more than a day ride together.
We rode through strawberry fields that made the air smell sweet. I was snacking all day, but I bonked ten miles before Lompoc. I hadn’t taken a rest day in a while. I pedaled uphill, fueled by sheer willpower, and we coasted into Lompoc. I shoved Thai noodles in my face and we rode to the grocery for a resupply. By ressuply, I mean a pint of ice cream (for me) and a half gallon of milk (for Eric). It took some asking around to find the campground at River Park, but we rolled in and spotted Jeff and Sharon. They were already set up and sharing a site with an older man named Fred. Fred offered Eric a flannel shirt and tried to feed us all sardines. He showed us his beer can coffee maker and interrupted me when I tried speaking. Fred was a weird dude. Fred, Sharon, Eric, and I all turned in somewhat early to get away from Fred talking at us (not with us).
August 24, 2019
First order of business today was getting espresso. We shook off Fred this morning and hit South Side Coffee. I walked in with my toiletries and felt self conscious about looking homeless. My hair was messy and the humidity on the coast made me smell considerably worse than I did in the mountains. We drank our coffee, and I couldn’t help but notice the small town closeness of Lompoc. People chatted in the streets, friends gave each other hugs, and strangers were keen to ask about my trip. I couldn’t help but smile at the fuzzy feeling that community gave me, even if it wasn’t mine.
Miles of false flats and rolling hills later, we arrived at Gaviota State Park and ran into Jeff and Sharon. I made up a charcuterie board with cheese, sausage, grapes, and crackers. Not too shabby for bike tour food! I was still tired, and took a nap under a shady tree. I woke up feeling a bit more energetic, but I could feel a tiredness in me that needed more than just a few hours of sleep. I pushed through it.
We rolled past Goleta and stopped for ice cream. A few miles later we stopped at a fruit stand for strawberries. A few miles after that we ran into Jeff and Sharon again. Every time I ran into them, I was totally delighted. A few miles after that, we grabbed dinner at a trendy Mexican joint and drank margaritas until close.
August 25, 2019
Eric and I rode through the empty streets of Santa Barbara this morning. Spanish architecture lined the clean streets and the lack of cars made riding feel carefree. We stopped at a bakery for tarts and croissants.
The croissants were somewhat disappointing and we made our way to another coffee shop in the artsy part of town. We took our coffee and walked around a community garden and admired the colorful murals in the area. A local artist let us poke around her studio.
We had a very late start after that, and I kept on getting flats. We stopped on the side of the road and plugged up my threadbare bike tire in three different spots. Hunger hit again and we stopped by a burrito joint for lunch. I was delighted at the infinite amount of food options available, biking through towns constantly. We conveniently stumbled upon a bike shop and I pumped my problematic back tire with a bottle of orange seal in an effort to prevent any more flats. More beach cycling, then a stop for soft serve ice cream. We weren’t clocking all that many miles today because we kept stopping for food, but we sure had a great time!
Before our last town for the day, we stopped by a store and Eric picked up a jacket and some pants to sleep in. He’d only had his cycling jersey and shorts up until now. I bonked hard and we turned into a campground right by the beach, up Sycamore Canyon.
August 26, 2019
I brushed my teeth this morning and admired the outdoor mirror that reflected the beach behind me. Eric and I drank our morning coffee and took off through a very scenic ride up to Malibu, where we stopped at a Starbucks for croissants and more croissants. We definitely looked a bit grimy and an old man with a permanent grimace kept looking at us and looking away when we met his staring. I gave him a wave and he pretended not to see me. The wealth around SoCal seems to breed entitlement and judgement.
My knees were very swollen and achy, but I hoped I could ride through it. I felt really really worn out. I took my hills at 4mph and needed to ride alone for a while and just put my head down to grind through. Eric waited for me ahead and would give me freshly picked flowers every now and then. We stopped for a snack on a bench with an ocean view and the food pulled me out of my suffering a bit.
Drivers were being completely impatient with our existence. We took the lane due to no shoulders, and an RV pulled up behind us (left lane completely clear), and layed the horn down on us. Eric and I turned around and blew kisses at the RV. It passed us and sped off. Several times, cars tried passing us in the lane we were riding and we stuck our arms straight out to signal them that we needed our space. It worked surprisingly well. We really had to assert our space confidently on this stretch.
Finally, we found a bike path on a beach. Tourists walked in large clumps, taking up the whole sidewalk very obliviously. Yelling “BIKE LEFT” did not seem to work, but we found that yelling “HERE, COCO! COCOOOOOOOO!”, seemed to get people to turn around and make room. Go figure.
We stopped at another coffee shop for croissants in Santa Monica. That was my third that day. We sat down and two scowling men immediately stood up and left, making a comment about our smell. Eric wanted to visit his grandpa’s old house, so we stopped by and the new owner kindly showed us around. This meant a lot to Eric, and I was happy to be there.
From there, we headed over to Eric’s aunt’s house, where we were spending the night. It was gorgeous! The Spanish style home was full of plants and had a couple of water fountains that made it feel like a Spanish home. I took a shower and conditioned my hair for the first time in weeks. It felt amazing brushing out the braid that was not too far from being one big dreadlock. Eric took me out to dinner and we scootered around town.
August 27, 2019
This morning, I made breakfast sandwiches for myself and Eric. We ate on the porch and the weather was perfect. Eric was taking off today- for real this time. We said goodbye to his family and started cycling. Lovely bike paths on the beach took us to Manhattan Beach, where we stopped for lunch. It was hard knowing I would have to say goodbye soon. Both of us wanted to delay that moment, so we bought a pint of ice cream and sat down in front of a gas station. We were trying to cover up the bittersweet feeling of separation with brownie chunk Ben & Jerry’s, but I was tearing up a little and it felt like there was a lump in my throat. We hugged goodbye and I left.
I had miles of amazing cycling on the beach paths, but my head was wrapped up in the fog of separation. I stopped at a cliff side overlook at Crystal Cove and listened to music that made me tear up. I sat with my feelings and appreciated them, because I was grateful that I had experienced time with someone so meaningful that it made me feel. Better to have felt loss and sadness than to have not felt anything at all.
I rode up to the campground and asked an elderly RV couple if I could camp with them. They told me stories about their families and fed me cookies.