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Highway One Diaries: Big Sur, Big Cities

Meteorology was left out of our academic preparations for Bound South, perhaps to our detriment.  Riding our bicycle every day, the weather tends to dictate more about our experience than I care to admit.  It is hard not to smile when the sun is shining and the wind is at your back all day (which we truly experienced for the first time in southern California).  I hate to admit it, but a strong wind and a cold rain can incite frustration, tire the legs, and quickly diminish the dream that underpins every day of Bound South.  It also doesn’t help when you’ve been softened by good fortune and good weather.  I’d like to think that we wake up every day reveling in the landscape outside of our tent’s vestibules, the beautiful roads and people that we experience, and the anticipation of what comes next.  For maybe the first time in the trip, forty miles south of the gilded estates of Pebble Beach, I felt a bit tired and insignificant.

The only significant November storm to hit California swept up north of Santa Cruz and whacked us in Big Sur on the California coast.  If you’ve never seen this part of Highway One, it is spectacular.  Spectacular, with a capital S.  The features that make Highway One so famous in the minds of drivers across the United States – the tight curves of a narrow road, the ribbon of pavement sewn to the seaside cliffs and Pacific inlets – made for an unforgettable ride.

Arriving, wet and cold, outside the too-expensive River Inn Cafe, in Big Sur.

Big Sur gave us a perfect lesson that day.  Torrential rains and 30+ mph headwinds hit us along the outer edges of the cliffs of Highway One.  It’d dispiriting to be cold, wet, and unable to roll downhill without serious effort because of the wind.  At the first sight of human civilization after 40k, we ditched into the warm lobby of a restaurant that was far too expensive for us and begged to sit by the fireplace and dry out.  We had been on a high after seeing family in San Francisco, but now in the empty coastline of California we were cold and insignificant in the face of all that was before us.  We had thousands of miles, seven months, dangerous border crossings, mountains, rivers, and seas separating us from the end and our ride home to North Dakota.  We lack running water, multiple items of clothing, the comforts of constant technology and contact, beds, incomes, and a million other contrivances of the modern world.  I thought about what it would be like to leave all of the danger and the uncertainty behind, go work on an oil rig in western North Dakota, pay off my student loans and try to find some more conventional route through the New Year.

Reverent cemetery passing on Veteran's Day near Solvang.

It would be a lie of sorts not to disclose this.  We aren’t stoic or superhuman; every day is a conscious decision to press on.  The road behind us is a sunk cost.  There is of course the pressure of our natural resolve against failure.  Yet daily we pack up our bags and ride into the sun or the storm, every day another affirmation that the road ahead is worth what we’re leaving behind.  That was true in Big Sur that day, it is true here in Mexico, and every day in between.

We flew through the farm fields full of migrant laborers and big cities of southern California.  Haste and a disdain for the stresses of adverse urban miles gave us plenty of motivation.  Beyond, the vast world south of the US-Mexico border called to us.  Rested in San Diego, we packed our bikes like we always did and decided that a carreterra named Uno was worth what we were leaving behind.

Lunchtime with Lee Saville of 350South. He joined us for southern California. We miss his fellowship.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Becca #

    I’m so glad you guys included a post like this. When you’re feeling down, just remember what an inspiration you are to all of us back home. We’re keeping you in your thoughts and prayers and have faith you can achieve your goals.


    December 6, 2011
  2. Jim and Elizabeth Berg #

    So good to hear from you again. Could you let us know if you had any trouble crossing the border into Mexico?? Did you have to show your vaccination records??

    You have told us about the flat tires…only two so far. How about stomach illness or sore throats?? How are you guys holding up??

    Enjoy this time and enjoy the people that cross your paths on this journey! Keep writing and pedaling!


    December 6, 2011
  3. krista #

    Posts like these only increase my admiration of your journey.

    I have been hearing a lot of talk of the oil opportunities. Being out there would be another sort of journey away from those you know, and another sort of lesson in hard living, so I hear.

    December 7, 2011
  4. Treasure Omdahl #

    Hola! We’re thinking of you on the Baja and wondering how you plan to get to the mainland without getting wet, but our map shows there’s a couple of ferries, one going to Matzatlan that we didn’t know about. We knew you would have a plan but we couldn’t figure out what it was until now. Our prayers and good wishes are with you young men! Hugs from a Minnesota Grandma –

    December 7, 2011
  5. Cliff #

    I think I know you guys… Oh so long ago I used to live in North Dakota, the next farm north of the Andersons farm. I would love to get in touch sometime… Clifford Morgan

    December 9, 2011
  6. Suzie ! #

    Mi tres sabaneros de las bicicletas:

    Since meeting you gentlemen a few moons and many miles of stories back in Canada, I have been thorougly enjoying keeping up with your adventures and learning what ideas and inspirations you have found in all the various situations that you have rolled into.
    I found this post about Big Sur particularly interesting.
    It was back in June when I made my own way down Highway One, and found myself, by chance, in Big Sur, which is – despite the situations that occurred there – still my favourite part of this journey.
    After making some new friends and having some good times, we decided that it would be fun to sleep in one of the many driftwood huts found build along that amazing coastline, so that we could have the sounds of the sea become weaved into our dreams.
    That night, we got whacked with a downpour of a storm.
    Unable to hike out of there in the dark, we just lay in the rain, in our soggy sleeping bags, waiting for daylight.
    When the sun rised in our current corner of the world, we hauled our selves – now pounds heavier with sandy, soaked everything – up the trail.
    There were still waves crashing out of the sky.
    I felt like Forrest Gump in Vietnam.
    We plodded up to the nearest place to dry out – the Big River Inn.
    It was too expensive.
    Leaving puddles with our luggage at the door, we gathered around the fireplace, with nothing dry to wear, and drank coffees. (I fogot my wet book upon that hearth, was it still there?)
    The owner said that we couldn’t stay any longer, because we were upsetting the image of his upkeep.
    I felt sad for his lack of compassion and humanity.
    But we got right back on that road, and continued heading South.
    We put out our thumbs and continued on our journeys.
    Unexpected van-stays rolled us into San Diego, where some new friendship was uncovered and many thoughts were shared.
    I especially enjoyed this story because it draws some very bold parallels between our very different illustrations.
    Because – with you by spoke and myself by thumb – we are making a difference wherever we go.
    Because we are all adventurers and change makers.
    Because we all rely so much on kindness in strangers and trust in everything, and try endlessly to repay that in whichever way we can.
    I am living in Costa Rica now, helping out an organization dedicated to rehabilitating wildlife and saving the rainforest, and I am sure that all of us here would be more than happy to host you and hear stories during the Costa Rican chapter of your odyssey, if you are interested.

    Best wishes, may your roads be paved.

    January 5, 2012

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