Monday, 2 November 2009

The Big Ride and the Fries Denied - Day 52 – 71 miles

My alarm woke me at 6.40am. It was still dark. I forced myself to get up. I knew I had to be on the road in good time if I was to make the big ride today. I managed to get on road just before 9am. It's difficult to make a quick getaway when you have to make breakfast, take down a tent and pack everything onto the bike. As I rode out of the campground I passed a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes. I wasn't really sure why he was there.

The ride began immediately with a big climb. I stopped half way and joined Dave for a coffee outside a store. It wasn't really the right thing to do given that I'd woken up especially early with the intention of getting a head start. I guess I was missing the second breakfasts I used to have with my previous gang.

I made it to the top of the hill and was rewarded with a great view of the miles of coastline further south. The ocean was completely blanketed in a beautiful white fog, lending the whole scene a sort of heavenly appearance.

The ride was incredibly inspiring. I always ride better when surrounded by interesting scenery. A boring ride leaves one to think purely about the mechanics of turning the pedals, distractions are essential to a good ride. I was riding really well, powering up the numerous hills like a machine.

Throughout the ride I regularly met up with Dave, Chris and Brooke. Stopping off for a a snack and a chat here and there. I rode with Dave for a bit and picked his brain a little more about what to expect in Mexico.

Later on Dave was a little ahead of me and I watched him pull off the road into a gravel lay-by. As I neared him I saw that he was taking a pee without even dismounting from his bike. Still in his saddle, turned a little to the right he was urinating freely without a care in the world. I'd never seen anything like this. Here was a man who had become very comfortable on his bike since starting out in Alaska all those months ago. I felt honoured to be witnessing such a scene. I was clearly watching a master of his craft at work.

Around lunchtime I passed a store, the only one in 40 miles. There were lots of bikers gathered outside, this place really had a monopoly on snacks and drinks. I stopped off to chat with Dave and was approached by another biker who asked me how I was doing. I didn't recognise him at first but then realised it was Matt, the biker with the skateboard who I'd shared a few beers with in an RV back in Washington. I didn't think I'd ever see him again so it was great to catch up. He'd been having a great time visiting all the skate-parks on the west coast. He said he almost didn't recognise me due to the length of my beard. I was quietly pleased to hear this.

The ride was hilly all day but the next section was exceptionally challenging. A set of 2 hills one after the other, both of nearly a thousand feet. As I neared the summit of the first I felt a little shaky so stopped for some food. It was well past lunch time, very hot and I hadn't had enough to eat. I rested for a bit and then tackled the second hill. It was even steeper than the first and I had to stand up and use my body weight to move the weighty bike to the top. The entire time I was fantasising about what food I would eat at the town I knew was waiting for me on the other side of the hill.

I descended into the town of Ragged Point. There was a fast food stand surrounded by a swarm of bikers and Harley Davidson riders. I was delighted to see a veggie burger on the menu. I ordered one and some large fries. Dave, Chris and Brooke arrived and joined me for some food. After a few minutes my burger arrived and the cook told me my fries would follow shortly. I wolfed down the burger and waited patiently for the fries. I noticed other people were receiving portions of fries so I went up to ask about the delay. The cook had disappeared, I managed to find the cashier and he found my fries. The cook had forgotten to give them to me. They were cold so he offered to get me some fresh ones. I returned to my seat and waited for another 10 minutes. The others suggested I should go up and check on them again as fries shouldn't take that long to cook. I spoke to the cashier again who after checking told me the cook had forgotten to make them. He shouted at the cook and gave me my money back, promising I'd still get my fries. Another 10 minutes passed. Everybody at my table thought the whole fiasco was hilarious. I was starving and starting to get a little frustrated by the level of incompetence demonstrated by the cook at this fast food stand. Egged on by my companions I got up to complain. The cook had once again gone AWOL so I spoke to the cashier. He quickly ran out the back and returned with my with my fries. They'd obviously forgotten about me again but at least I was now in possession of the long-awaited fries. A little later on the cashier came over to apologise and offered me a refill of my drink. I declined and he said I could 'hit him up' for a free drink later. I never did 'hit him up' but added this to my list of must-use American phrases.

A little annoyed about the delay caused by the whole fries debacle I hit the road again in a hurry. I still had another 20 miles to cover and time was running out before it would be dark. Luckily the last section of the ride was very flat and I was blessed with an incredible tailwind. At times I was cruising at up to 30 miles per hour on the flat. At this speed I would have stood a good chance of outrunning a bear. I couldn't resist stopping briefly to take a look at a beach littered with a colony of Elephant Seals. The males were fighting each other and gently growling. I much preferred their quiet battles to the incessant honking of the sea-lions.

I was the last of my group to arrive at Washburn Campground. As I entered I stopped to read a sign warning of the presence of Rattlesnakes. It's fun to have something else to worry about when camping. I split the cost of a campsite with Luke, Jenna, Chris, Brooke and Dave. Chris had broken a spoke on his back wheel. This was a reasonably serious problem that needed to be fixed without delay. I tried to help him remove the cassette from his back wheel using a special tool I bought for exactly this problem. Unfortunately it didn't work. Chris managed to bend a spare spoke of the wrong size and get his wheel into a rideable state. He would need to get the wheel fixed properly at a bike shop the next day.

We all ate dinner together and chatted until late. All the American's quizzed Dave and I about various differences between our cultures. They seemed puzzled by our use of both imperial and metric measurements amongst many other things.

I went to bed content having completed a very challenging ride without too much difficulty. I was even more pleased to have met up with another group of excellent people to ride and camp with on this second leg of the trip.

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