After a long night of listening for more raccoon attacks and discovering just how waterproof our tent wasn’t, we woke up slightly damp and ready to greet the day. I’m sure Risa’s blog (here’s the link:http://pushpackpedal.tumblr.com/) says we woke up “early.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling with Ms. Farrell, it’s that early is a very relative term. Risa’s “early” is my second breakfast. My “early” is her “Ima punch you in the face if you say ‘good morning sunshine’ one more time” o’clock. When you live in a 3ft by 6ft tent together, compromises must be made. I made peace in the form of oatmeal. In my humble experience, oatmeal solves most of life’s little problems. Throw in some nuts and fruit trail mix, some chia seeds, and freeze-dried raspberries and you can get away with murder. Which is essentially what I was accused of after waking Risa up at the ungodly hour of 6am.
Our bellies filled and our differences mostly resolved, we packed up camp for the first of many times and hit the road. There are no words to summarize what a perfect ride it is from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz. There are sloping hills and really tough climbs, fog and sunshine, ocean views and redwood hills, lots of fennel to chew on like road candy, harbor seals, toy airplanes, strawberry fields, and very few cars. It was one of those perfect days where the bike disappears and you’re just flying, even when you’re struggling up a hill. That being said, after some 55 odd miles of climbing and descending, we were tired. Happy tired, but tired none the less.
Unfortunately for us, our friend Andrew who graciously offered up his home, lives at the top of a giant mountain. We got the the bottom of his hill and stopped dead in our tracks. It went straight up. No curves, no flatish places. Just us and the mountain, with hot showers and ice cream on the other side. I was ready to camp in the street (it’s Santa Cruz so you can probably get away with it) when Risa did the practical but unthinkable thing: she got off her bike and began pushing it up the mountain. I was torn–rule #1 is that you don’t walk your bike. Besides which, touring bikes aren’t exactly feather weights–pushing 60 lbs of steel bike up a giant hill sounded almost as unappealing as riding up it. Pride won out and I slammed it into the granniest of gears (that’s a 28/34, for those of you who want to know) and started pedaling like a hamster in a wheel. I got all of 20 ft up the hill before my knees turned to jello and I hopped off and fell over. Risa, cool as a cucumber, strolled on by and said “I’m going to eat all your ice cream, cuz the early bird gets the worm.” Apparently all wasn’t quite forgiven from our “early” morning. “You can have your worm ice cream” I said, as I struggled away behind her. After what felt like a Sysophean journey, we reached Andrew’s house. “Well this can’t be right” we said. The house was simply too nice. There was no way the guy we knew would be living here. But first, a word on Mr. Andrew Hansen.
Andrew, Risa and I first met in Junior College, what feels like many years ago. At the time, Andrew was the President of Model United Nations and Risa and I were impressionable college freshmen who believed in things like “world peace.” Andrew quickly dispelled us of any such notions. Obviously we hero worshipped him and everything he did or said. When it came our turn to lead the American River College MUN team, we turned to him for guidance, and dubbed him our “Shadow Minister.” His one piece of advice was this: “Be cool. But be the Man. But be cool.” For years we assumed he had been stoned when he told us, and couldn’t possibly remember. But that silly little saying made an impression on us–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told it to my own siblings, younger co-workers, or friends. I know for a fact Risa has used it in many job-related situations as a method of establishing authority while still seeming friendly and cool. It’s become our catch phrase for life.
When we landed at Andrew’s house, he was still at work. Unsure that this was really his house, we knocked on the door. A smiling handsome bespectacled face appeared as it opened. “Hey, you must be Andrew’s friends! I’m Phil, come on in.”
So someone named Andrew lived there, but for all we knew, he could be a complete stranger.
“Let me help you with the bikes and bags” Phil said, opening the door wider. “I’ll show you to Andrew’s room and give you the tour.”
The tour consisted of one very spacious and well lit kitchen with the nicest stove I’ve ever seen, one living room den set up as a movie theatre with projectors, so TV screens wouldn’t interfere with socialization, a secret passage, a lovely garden, home brewing equipment, lots of bike parts, and a ferret sanctuary positioned underneath a glamorous family portrait of the house occupants wearing shirts and ties but no pants. We were definitely in the right house. As we wrapped up, Phil was too polite to tell us how bad we smelled, but handed us fresh towels and told us we could use any of the girlfriend shampoos in the shower that we needed.
Freshly showered and fairly certain we were in the right place, we headed back into Andrew’s room and (of course) started poking around. Most of the books were familiar and unsurprising, his banjo (which we had convinced him to take up years earlier) was sitting in the corner, previous Tour de France participants sneered down at us from a photograph of their wine and cheese break taken in 1912. On the center of the wall above his desk there was a worn and faded old certificate, printed on familiar looking paper.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked. “I can’t believe he kept it!”
“Me either,” said Risa “Though it’s not everyone who gets an Official Shadow Minister Appreciation Certificate. We worked hard on that thing!” In a fit of gratitude, our past selves had made Andrew a certificate of appreciation which we figured he had tossed years ago. Apparently he had kept it and put on his bulletin board front and center.
We were startled out of our contemplation by the sound of something splashing in the fish tank behind us. A sleek little tabby we had never seen before was trying desperately to kill the lone fish in the tank. I knock the cat off and put it outside only to come back and see it waltz out from under the bed, hop up on the tank, and resume it’s attack. “Where the hell did you come from?” we asked. The cat just looked at us like we were too stupid for words and stuck her paw back in the tank. As I was throwing her out the door, I looked down only to see what looked like the same cat I was holding wrapped around my ankles. I dropped cat #2 and watched as the two of them proceeded to ignore us and stalk the poor fish.
“I think that’s our cue to leave” said Risa, who is allergic to cats.
“Sounds good to me, lets go meet Andrew at work.” We herded the cats out one last time and headed out to The 515 where Andrew was beertending. Unfortunately, we made for very poor company. It was a struggle to stay awake even on the ride over, and after several hours, fantastic burgers, and even better beer, we fell asleep at the bar, too tired to move or even think about going back up the mountain in between the bar and the house. We woke with a start as someone sat down next to us in a train conductor’s uniform.
“Hey Andrew, I’ll have the usual” said the train man.
“Sounds great Trevor. How was work?”
“You know, not bad, no incidents today, though I almost hit another cyclist. He would have deserved it riding so close to the tracks.”
We were mildly interested, mildly perturbed, and very tired. “I’m sorry, I thought you just said that you run over bikes with a train” I said.
“Only when they’re on the tracks, mostly the riders bail off and I just crush the bikes. It’s great fun. I really love the sound of the crunch and watching them cry.”
I had no response. Risa had no response. We looked at each other and told Andrew that we were going to go buy ice cream for the house and would meet him at home. Loaded down with strawberry ice cream and craft brewing we pedaled our way back to the house, only to find that despite our hoping, the hill hadn’t moved away in our absence. If anything, it had gotten bigger. We paused to cry a little and then pushed our bikes all the way home. We stepped through the door to find 6 handsome strangers all staring at us.
“Hello” we said a little lamely.
“Hi” they responded “Who are you?”
“We’re Andrew’s friends, and we have ice cream, if you’d like some” we said.
“Make yourselves at home” they said, relieving us of our ice cream.
We changed into PJs and fell asleep to the sounds of someone playing classical guitar, the ferrets playing in their cage, and Andrew coming home and telling them all to keep it quiet, cuz we were sleeping. I looked at my notebook later and found this scrawled in the bottom corner of the page:
It’s like Snow White and the seven handsome college graduates. But instead of us cooking and cleaning and serving the patriarchy, we were given beer and ice cream and a place to sleep while being serenaded by classical guitar and playing with the worlds most friendly cats. Life is so good.
Many thanks to a true mensch and wonderful host!