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.
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.
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.