Today is Tuesday, October 12, 2021. I’m taking a rest day at a swank hotel in El Paso, Texas and writing about Days 2 and 3, September 28 and 29.
I slept pretty well on Ryan’s couch except for a 3:35am dust-up between the next-door neighbor stage and her cat or dog. The houses in Laguna are really close together, so this woman’s stage whisper urging her pet to come inside was like basically standing at the head of the couch speaking in normal tones. Ryan graciously made a pot of coffee and I ate a Clif Bar to get something in my stomach to start Day 2’s ride, a lightish 48ish miles to Encinitas where I was going to spend the afternoon and evening with my great friend Kaibrina, her dad David, son Kahlil who’s in 8th grade, and their impossibly cute dog (though I don’t know this yet) Carrot.
Ron and Vic set off before me, and we say our goodbyes. They are riding to San Diego, further than me, to spend the night at Ron’s before their last day of their trip, riding to the border of Mexico. Ron has alerted me that cyclists can no longer flash their ID, or even passport, and ride through Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps base that’s about 22 miles south of Laguna. They changed the policy a few years ago; everyone needs to get a specific ID card that lasts for a year which would be fine for me except that the only place you can get it issued is at the south entrance. We are coming from the north. This means that I have to ride for several miles on I-5 instead of through the base. I know that I’ll be on interstates here and there (including I-8 in a couple days), and I can deal with it fine, but it isn’t preferable. It’s loud. I ask Ron if he’s absolutely sure of this. I think he senses my idea that I can just charm the people at the gate, or at least feign ignorance, and they’ll be like okayyyyy you seem cool but don’t write about this in your blog or I might get in trouble with my CO. (‘CO’? Is that correct?) Ron reaffirms no pass, no ride. Okay, so riding on I-5 is in my near future.
I spend a bit more time chatting with Ryan/Farmer Leo and Nathan before that moment of Well, here we go again…I do hope we stay in touch. I speed down the hill to Coast Highway and I’m off. I’m familiar with the route again today, having just ridden a through Laguna, Dana Point, Capistrano State Beach, San Clemente, and San Onofre State Beach a year ago during my brief COVID decampment to Laguna. It’s a 2-mile sometimes steep climb through San Clemente. Ugh. I probably should eat something more substantial so I stop at the Bagel Shack on the south end of town. I get ham, cheese and egg on a sesame bagel. Why ham instead of bacon? I dunno. More protein? Pig on a bagel seems odd but lox doesn’t mix with riding a bike for some unknown reason. Plus, lox on a bagel in a fancy OC beach town where no one is wearing a mask seems out of place. I don’t eat lox with bagels anyway, except at family events. Critical to note, I’ve been totally obsessing about my front panniers and I’m giving them a brave examination at the bagel place. They are both, the right-hand side in particular, coming apart where the bag is supposed to be riveted to the backing. I’d noticed it yesterday and have been keeping my eye on it, as the weight continues to worsen the problem. This setup is not going to last for 55 days or however long it’s going to be. I text with Kaibrina and she is going to pick up a couple of bungee cords as a last resort if glue doesn’t work, or if her handy-dandy engineer dad can’t fix it for me. Pray for me. If either pops off between now and getting it fixed, I don’t know what I’ll do. Flip out, for one thing.
Just as I’m riding onto the bike path at San Onofre (hello, San Diego County!) that runs between I-5 and the water, I spot Vic and Ron. How did I catch up to them? They’d stopped for a more leisurely breakfast and saw me pass by them earlier. Ron reinstructs me on where to get onto the 5 and I set off ahead of them. I think, wow I must be in amazing shape. They are carrying wayyy less gear than me and are behind me! I wave a final goodbye as I haul my load on my Day 2 legs, slowly. … Of course they pass me like two minutes later (they’d stopped to take some photos). We ride in tandem, more or less, for the next several miles and enter I-5 together. Obviously, they are being kind and making sure I’m oriented. I turn up the volume on my earbuds to drown out the freeway traffic hurtling by.
After about 8 miles (around mile 30 of the day), we exit the 5 and I follow the guys into Oceanside along Pacific Street, just above the beach. All the houses and apartment buildings are extremely neat and well-manicured. I guess a lot of military families keep this place ship-shape! In a mile or so, the google maps lady starts sending me on a dirt path that Whitey’s tires can’t handle. Shit. Ron and Vic are gone now but I speak to another couple of guys who saw us at the entrance to the 5 (they have passes for Camp Pendleton). Chuck and Neil point out the way I should be headed to get to Carlsbad and southern beach points beyond. They ask about my ride and seem interested in following the blog, so I hand them my HBC business cards. This is where Chuck makes his “Where do you gets off?” joke I mentioned in the previous post. Yeah yeah yeah heard it all before. I do appreciate them orienting me and I cross into Carlsbad, another sweet and well-heeled Cali beach town, and then out of the business and residential part along the peaceful state beach there. At the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine I make a hard left away from the ocean toward Encinitas. Because I’m leaving the water, it’s mostly uphill and I’m still orienting my legs to carrying this weight. My knees are aching a bit. And of course that leads to plenty of what if… thoughts. And more stress about the pannier situation which seems to be getting progressively worse, even if that’s only in my overactive brain.
I’m going to be earlier than expected so I stop at a strip mall and devour a poke bowl. The teenage boy who puts my salmon, rice, greens and other trappings together tells me about how he crashed his dad’s $5,000 road bike and has never ridden since. I shouldn’t be shocked at how often people blithesomely (should I go for a blithesomely every entry?) tell me about their worst experiences riding a bike, or those of people they know, or have heard of. Thanks, everyone.
Encinitas! Kaibrina! It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Kaibrina, aka Skybee (her middle name is Sky, and yes she is born of hippiedom; actually if memory serves me right, she was delivered on a picnic table and then immediately cleansed in the ocean [I may be misremembering about the picnic table, we shall see])—and I’m Spanny, short for Spaniel or Spanuelle. And it’s shocking to see Kahlil now man-sized at 13-going-on-14. Kai has moved back home to Encinitas after a living in the Bay Area for a long time, back into the house she spent her teenage years residing in. [Side note: someone I met this past week commented that one of the reasons he liked me was because I didn’t end sentences with prepositions. He is going to become very disillusioned with me once he reads my writing.] Her dad still lives there, and she’s come back to care for him and deal with the hoardiness that has overcome the house, something I understand well because Natalie and I went through this with Ma about 10 years ago. Kai and I have been friends for almost 30 years, meeting in January 1992 on the very first day of orientation for winter quarter transfer students at UC Santa Cruz and finding immediate refuge in each other living in a place where we knew pretty much no one. Santa Cruz was the first place I moved to as a totally out gay man and I was feeling confident and wholeand I created this independent major for myself that now might be called Queer Studies, but that didn’t really exist then. Kai and I took feminist theory together sitting tight together in awe during Wendy Brown’s lectures. We were both absolutely destitute at the time and during class break would split a potato and pea roti and an Odwalla strawberry lemonade watered down to make it last. Look at us now!
David, her dad, who I met for the first time during spring break that year, checks out my pannier situation and makes a brilliant suggestion to take it to a shoe repair place close by. He says the guy in there can fix anything. Kai and I pop over there and David’s right. The shoe repair guy re-rivets the loose bits and I’m good to go. (Still ok now, 13 days hence). He is an odd duck, this shoe repair guy, holding me hostage telling stories about his brother who’s a cyclist (who, per my comment above, broke down in the middle of Minnesota and had to wait a week for parts to fix his ailing bicycle and another time where he had to go pick up his brother cuz of such-and-such disaster, and another time when…). I’m backing out the door saying “Bye! Thanks again!” and he’s still on with “…and another crazy thing happened to my brother…” In the parking lot, Kai asks, “How did it go?” She decided to forego breathing in all the chemicals rampant in a shoe repair shop. “He fixed it!” I replied. “But he kinda cornered me. He was trippy.” Kaibrina’s perspective was one of empathy, to the effect of: “Well, he’s basically unintentionally huffing glue all day every day.”
Kaibrina is an amazing cook so I knew I’d be eating well. She made chicken and potato curry and rice and green mango salad all of which I wolfed down. Later on, after I successfully made my second Relive video and posted on insta, we watched a couple of episodes of the Netflix series, Love on the Spectrum. The show is funny and sweet, though somewhat infantilizing (the goofy music, the focus on the parents, asking if one establish couple had ‘consummated’ their relationship—umm two young adults living together romantically and sharing a bed very likely have sex and if they don’t it’s probably not cuz they are on the spectrum). I felt nervous laughing at first. I mean laughing at people with any sort of a “disability” is not really a common practice but I didn’t get the feeling that this show was exploitative in any way. What do I know? I enjoyed it for sure. Kai gives me her bed, graciously, and sleeps in with Kahlil. I am surrounded by her beautiful art (“her” = her own stuff, she makes a lot of cool shit) and, though comfortable in her multitude of multicultural printed textiles, I stress dream. What’s next?
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Day 3, that’s what! Despite fitful sleep, I am feeling good, physically, emotionally, the whole deal. I make some tea from one of the many, many choices in Kaibrina’s collection and concoct a mish-mosh of cold cereals, banana, peanut butter, and milk. “I really am looking forward to riding today,” I tell Kai when she arises. …though I’m a little nervous about the latter part of the day, because it’s the first real climbing of the ride and I’ll be leaving the comfort of the familiar parts of Southern California and I won’t be seeing anyone I know and love until Austin, Texas in like 3 weeks. Also, I don’t know where I’m going to end up. Going inland several miles to where my friends live has taken me off the typical Pacific coast bike route. Map #1 of the Southern Tier route, created and published by the Adventure Cycling Association, starts at the beach in San Diego and ends in Tempe, Arizona. The most direct crow-flying way to the route adds a few thousand feet hills, and I don’t feel ready for that. I compromise, using the Ride with GPS app to map myself to a point in the city of San Diego that intersects with the Southern Tier, a few miles from Ocean Beach where the route officially starts. My desire is to get to a town called Pine Valley. It’s 75 miles which isn’t lengthy, per se, even at this stage (I did 71 on Day1); it’s just that as soon as I hit San Diego, I’ll be making a hard left, east, up into the mountains. The upward slant will begin somewhere around 22 to 25 miles. Am I ready/able to climb about 50 miles on Day 3? Don’t wanna think about that now. I just have to get out there and see.
I’m off with a big hug from my gorgeous Kaibrina and a 13-going-on-14-year-old-type hug from Kahlil and lots of attention from Carrot whom I’ve given treats in order to get such a good pic of him. The first part of the day is pure joy. It’s cool out, not too sunny, not too windy, or hilly. I ride through some fancy San Diego County seaside townage such as Solana Beach. So fancy. If I had money, this is where I’d want to live. I want to be an old person run-walking along the Pacific. “Still got it!” Or pedaling on my bike and accosting cyclist caballeros with panniers where they’re headed and bend their ears back with my tales. I stop and get an espresso in Del Mar. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s there? A last hurrah before I’m drinking bad motel coffee or the little sheaths of camping stuff I bought at REI? Then the coastal marvel of Torrey Pines Natural Reserve!
I’m delirious! Singing. Giggling. Laughing at myself when I, on more than one occasion, wave back at someone who waves at me…when they aren’t. They are acknowledging someone else, someone they know. Because I’m so focused on Texas and what might befall me there, I’d been thinking in a yeehaw drawl already—but todaye, mayte, I cahn’t git the Aussie accint from my hid because of Love on the Spicktrum! I’m on bike paths or lanes for miles. In fact, most of HBC 21 has thus far been on bicycle-specific routes. A guy pedals up next to me, asks where I’m headed. Greg rode east to west (New Jersey to Seattle) with 3 friends about 10 years ago right after college graduation. He’s from Cedar Grove, NJ which is seriously two towns over from Wayne, where I grew up. We are both thrilled by this, me perhaps more because I am at the near start of a journey of a lifetime and Greg is on his way to work. And because I am in this giddy-ass mood. [Side note: you may remember from previous HBC entries that the Ride with GPS robot-lady doesn’t necessarily share the exact meanings of words which can sometimes lead me astray. Like her versions of ‘turn,’ ‘bear,’ and ‘sharp’ right are not the same as mine. And she tells me when I fuck up with a whomp-whomp-ding-dong sound effect. I can deal with her idiosyncrasies today, no problem!] I ride through (a? the?) UC San Diego campus. A student waves at me! …Oh, oops, she’s waving at her friend. Daniel, not everyone is aware that you are on a cross-country bike ride and is giving you the thumbs-up. It’s funny; there are some days when I don’t want anyone to even look at me or ask me anything but this morning I’m like, HI WORLD YES IT’S ME YES I’M DOING THIS AGAIN YES FLORIDA CUZ MY DAD MOVED THERE YES HAHA FLORIDA DOES SUCK HAHA! Get a hold of yourself, mate!
I stop to eat something from the cache on my rear rack in Mission Bay Park and snap pictures. As you can see (and maybe recall), I love taking photos of bridges and tunnels. (Yes, I know these are only tunnels, but there will be bridges, too.)
Maybe that’s cuz I’m a Jersey boy? Lots of people are out for their morning constitutionals. I’m on the San Diego River Bikeway for a few miles now, in mall-land. I was going south and now I’m headed east again starting the ascent. The sun is beating down on me and the concrete. It’s warming up as I take a break on a main thoroughfare. I switch off the Ride with GPS app and switch on the Adventure Cycling app. I’m on the Southern Tier officially. The route leaves anything beachy or green and I climb out of the city. One thing I’m certainly grateful for, however, is the ocean breeze blowing from the west and giving me a gentle push.
At mile 38, something unexpected and magical happens: there’s big park with a bike path! I don’t have a clue about Mission Trails Regional Park until I enter it. I’m experiencing non-coastal nature for the first time of the trip! Check! The terrain is rocky (not the path) and dry and deserty, a hint of what’s to come. The wind is still favorable. In my airpods Janelle Monae is singing My heart’s on fuego / go get me water. On a day like this it’s hard for me not to worry a bit about the inevitable comedown. That other shoe. The pendulum will swing the other way and the journey will get difficult. But I’m happy despite being aware of this fact. Hey, you have to be aware of your feelings of joy to acknowledge that they won’t last forever!
The park ends, sadly, and the incline increases through Santee and Lakeside. With the ‘left’ coast 40 miles away, I start to see evidence that my progressive bubble has been popped. There are Trump signs and ones urging Vote ‘Yes’ to recall the governor. I stop at a rundown strip mall with a c-store and a bar with a ‘cocktails and dancing’ sign. Based on the sign’s graphics, I’m pretty sure at least some of the dancing will occur on one’s lap. There’s a tweaker vibe to the setting but I’m hungry. I have a tuna sandwich from the place I bought the espresso earlier that’s heating up in my rear rack. I grab a Perrier and a bag of Doritos (Doritos! such a devil-may-care badass already!) to have with it and sit in the shade. A pickup with a FUCK BIDEN AND YOU IF YOU VOTED FOR HIM flag attached to the cab rolls by me. Wow. Still mad. I have to pee so I enter the bar. It’s a movie moment, one that has already repeated itself a few more times in the past few weeks. Cyclist Biden voter wearing tight-fitting gear and a mask and needing to piss out sparking water click-clacks on his tap-shoe sounding cleats pushes the squeaky door so hard it slams open. The bartender stops his advice-giving. Pool players halt mid-turn. Everyone’s gaze fixes toward the door… I blink away the darkness and the dust. It’s too early for day drinkers to pay any mind.
Bladder emptied (color of straw achieved, as per Coach Diego’s demands), I continue on, appreciative of the tailwind that’s still Team HBC. At some point, I realize that it’s time to initiate use of Da Brim Sporty. After a few tries, I think it’s pulled tight enough to my helmet that the wind won’t blow it off. I need some shade. We’ll see if this is all it’s cracked up to be. I do a brief modeling sesh of Da Brim under a bridge, troll that I am. See below.
At 60 miles, I arrive in Alpine (pop. 14,000). Seems like a nice town. I stop in a shopping center with a log cabin grocery store, a Chinese restaurant, realtors, and some other businesses. It’s another 16.2 miles to Pine Valley where I was hoping to end up. All steep climbing. It’s Day 3. Do I push myself? I’ve already climbed 3,700 or so feet. That’s a good amount. I ping back and forth. My ego is certainly involved. It’s only been a 60-mile day and I really need to average at least 75 if I’m going to keep within the time limit. I could do it, couldn’t I? …I have Vince on the brain. Go slow to go fast. Great coach that he is—just like Diego and Kristin and Jinx and anyone that has trained me or coached me or given me advice—A. he’d totally understand all the insane feelings I’m having. The desire to go on until I can’t go anymore. Feeling I should push harder. Caring deeply about data and large numbers that seem to spell achievement. Fears of cheating/being too easy on myself. But B. despite all that, he’d suggest I stop now for today, in no small part because I’ll have fresher legs to continue the climb in the morning, and this is the long haul. It’s Day 2. I should be focused on getting rest and fueling. I know it’s the right thing to do. There’s a casino in 4 miles, though! I can get 4 miles further! I call over there. No rooms. Fuck. I could camp…it’s another mile or so past that…nah. Not ready to unpack all that gear. I try a hotel in town figuring if there’s no rooms, then I’ll camp. They do have a room. And it’s literally 100 feet behind where I am currently standing. I guess I have my answer. Chinese food!