Sunday, 1 November 2009

Day 51 – 47 miles

I woke from a terrible night's sleep. This was the noisiest campground I'd ever stayed at. I had been kept awake by kids playing drinking games until late. Then there were the sea-lions. It is my belief that sea-lions operate a shift system to ensure they maintain a constant irritating barking sound that can be heard from more than a mile away. Half the colony sleep whilst the other half honk incessantly. When the honkers grow tired they wake the sleepers and swap places. To make things worse a hobo had arrived late and set up his tent next to mine. He had a queen size air bed with a battery-powered pump. The pump made a noise like a tractor straining to pull a trailer up a steep hill. At around 5am he turned on the pump again, I guess to top up the mattress. What annoyed me more than the noise itself was the sonic reminder that this homeless guy was sleeping in greater comfort than me.

There were a number of shabby tents in the hiker/biker area belonging to homeless people. As I was packing my tent away I was surprised to see a man emerge from one of these tents dressed smartly for work. He headed into Monterey. Presumably this was his daily commute to the office.

I cycled back down the hill and through Monterey following a cycle path along the coast. I noticed an informative sign about Harbour Seals in the area. I noticed directly in front of the sign a Harbour Seal was sitting on a rock. I wondered for a moment if the Monterey Tourist Board had glued the poor seal to the rock.

The next section of the ride was on a private road called 17 Mile Drive. This road is so scenic its owners charge motorists $9 to drive its length. Luckily they let cyclists ride it for free. The road winds along the coast passing impressive rock formations and huge crashing waves. I saw plenty of cyclists along the route including the supported tandem tourers I spoke to a few days back and also Chris and Brooke.

The ride ended with the lead up to Big Sur. This beautiful area is where high coastal mountains meet miles of stunning coastline. It was a hot day, the first in quite some time. I was starting to feel the benefits of moving south. As I descended into the town of Big Sur I was passed by the team of tandem riders. One of them shouted, 'We're staying at the Big Sur Inn.', gesturing that I should join them. I'd already made plans to meet my new gang at Pfeffer State Park campground but I loved this kind of camaraderie so common between bikers out here.

I arrived at the campground. Dave, Chris, Brooke, Luke and Jenna had already setup camp. There was a shortage of picnic tables and Chris and Brooke generously offered to share theirs with me. As I set up my tent the others suggested we all take a swim in the river. It was a hot day but I suspected the water would be very cold so I wasn't too sure it sounded like a good idea. However, I had been carrying a pair of swimming shorts with me since Canada without ever using them. In this world where every gram of luggage has to be carefully accounted for I decided I should break out the shorts. I joined the others at the river. It was shallow, clear and fast flowing. Luke was first to take the plunge. I paddled in and before long my feet felt numb with the coldness. It felt to me like the river was fed by melt-water from a nearby glacier. Against my better judgement I plunged my entire body backwards into the water. The only way to deal with water this cold is to go for complete and immediate submersion. Every muscle in my body compelled me to jump back out of the water and scream like a girl. For about 2 seconds I imagine those watching mistook me for a tough guy. As I sprung from the water yelping the illusion was quickly shattered. I was wet now so figured I should get back into the water. I led back and let the water carry me downstream for a moment. It was invigorating and painful all at the same time.

Next to the river Luke pointed out some Poison Oak. I'd never seen this before. He explained that it's extremely dangerous and if touched can make the skin blister badly. I love discovering new dangerous things in the woods.

My new gang of bikers gathered to discuss where we should camp the next day. It seemed our best option was over 70 miles away. Big Sur is a very mountainous area so not only was I looking at a very long ride but it was also filled with challenging terrain. I wasn't sure I was up to the ride but was keen to stay with my new gang as we were having so much fun together already.

For dinner I joined Chris and Brooke at our picnic table. We'd all bought beer at the local shop which was a great treat at the end of the day. I really enjoyed getting to know Chris and Brooke better. They were both really generous and funny people.

As I returned from the bathroom just before going to bed a voice spoke to me from somewhere within the darkness of the forested campground. I said hello and then realised who it was. The annoying alcoholic from the camp site the previous night had managed to cycle here to Big Sur. He'd arrived several hours after dark and was drunk. He proudly showed me a pair of deer antlers. I asked where he'd found them. 'Roadkill!', he proclaimed proudly. I instinctively backed off a little. I was imagining this horrible drunk man on his hands and knees at the side of the road sawing off the antlers from a deer's corpse. He told me that he intended to attach them to the handlebars of his bike. I quickly made my escape and went to bed. I was glad we would be riding such a long way tomorrow. There was no way this guy would catch us 70 miles south.

I knew I had to get up early if I had a hope of completing the ride the next day so I set my alarm for 6.40am.

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