It was supposed to be a rest day. It was supposed to be flat, relaxing, enjoyable. We thought we had conquered the mountain, We thought we were so much further than we were. We were SO very very wrong. But what did we know? I’ll tell you what we knew when we woke up that fateful morning: we knew that cappuccinos were but 5 mere miles and 300 feet of climbing away. We knew that the day before we’d ridden further than we’d ever ridden in our lives and beat the stupid rangers at their own game. Clearly we had earned morning coffee. Elated and not a little impressed with ourselves, we rode to the next coffee shop and then sat for a couple of hours doing nothing. It was glorious. We thought the mountain was behind us and we could relax. If only one of us could actually read a map. Still glowing form post-caffination happiness we rode toward what promised to be a flat(ish) day.
Then a fucking mountain appeared. Most of my memory of the climb is focused on one part of the hill where I just stopped going forward. It’s a bizarre feeling when you’re putting every fiber of your being into motion to move one way and there simply isn’t enough energy left in your body to defeat the forces of Gravity and Friction. You slide backwards. Your knees buckle a little and then you’re standing over your now sideways bike which is on the ground and you know something happened but for the life of you it all makes NO SENSE. As I was contemplating how my bike decided to take a nap without telling me, I looked back and saw a small yellow and orange spec coming up the hill. The spec got bigger and bigger and started gaining some shape. It was Risa, spinning for all she was worth and (thankfully) still going forwards. Trying not to look as pathetic as I felt, I pulled my bike across the freeway to the wider shoulder, and sat down to join it in a nap.
My nap was short lived–Risa was climbing faster than I thought, and before I knew it, she was right in front of me. “I CAN’T STOP” she cried, choking back tears. “This is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done!” I caught her handlebars as she spilled off. I couldn’t argue with her. But I could make her eat food to stop her from crying. (This is my go-to tactic for handling emotions, you’d be surprised how hard it is to cry through a mouthful of ritz crackers.)
“Hey buddy, this isn’t the stupidest thing we’ve ever done!” I said handing her some grapes and crackers and sausage, “Remember that time we thought it would be super cool to become the President and Vice President of a Junior College Model UN Team? Or how about that time we thought we could buy a tent sight unseen cuz it was on sale? Or that one time we went river rafting with a bunch of drunk Spaniards? Or that one time we followed Amy on her date and wound up in the wrong part of Rome at 4am?”
“Yeah, we’re pretty stupid” Risa sniffled back.
“But we’re not as stupid as these two girls I know–they’re riding their bikes from San Francisco to San Diego. One of them even rode from Oregon to San Francisco already. Now them, THEY’RE they crazy ones…”
“How crazy are they?” Risa asked. And so we sat on the side of the mountain we simply couldn’t climb telling the story of these two stupid girls we knew who decided to do something awesome and failed. As we sat there stuffing our faces and laugh/crying another cyclist rode by.
“HEY!!! HEY! YOU CAN DO IT!!” We jumped up and waved and yelled and cheered as he rode by in Green and Yellow polka dots.
“You look too comfortable!” He yelled back. First cycling friend made! Fortified with food, friendship, and renewed frustrations, we clambered back on our bikes and made it to the top of the hill before I realized taht I knew where we were.
“In 2 miles there’s going to be a turn out for Nepenthe. They have Coffee and Pastries.”
“I want to go to there” Risa replied. Obviously we took another break. We’d clearly earned it.
An hour and a half and $20 worth of rich person coffee and pastries later, we were back on the road headed for Lucia. The map made it look like the road rolled and climbed a bit before finally dipping into a small town and depositing us safely at Kirk Creek Campground. 7 easy miles, nothing major, just a couple beautiful climbs and some minor whale watching as we relaxed our way to a campground with beach access and hot showers. It should have been bliss. Instead, it was an intense never-ending climb that sucked the life force from our bodies and left us lying on a bench outside the only store in Lucia.
“You wanna get some soup to go with the Gnocchi tonight? I bet we can get some pretty cheap” I said.
“Sure, so long as we don’t spend more than 5 bucks. That’s all the cash we have left for the day” said Risa.
“Roger that.” We leaned our bikes against the one building that served as both the over-priced hotel and the only restaurant in town and entered it’s third door to the gift shop/ grocery store. It took a bit of prodding around between tacky “Big Sur” spirit stones and homemade jewelry and assorted sweatshirts and wood carvings, but we found the soup aisle right by the $2 oreos and the $3 hard boiled eggs. Yes, I mean per piece. Soup was exactly $5 a can.
“You know what, I don’t think I really feel like Soup anymore…”
“Wanna get Chocolate milk?”
“Get out of my brain” We took our $4 worth of chocolate happiness out into the sunshine and collapsed back onto our bench, contemplating the next 2 miles to Kirk Creek.
“At least they have showers.” I chimed, trying to be helpful and optimistic.
“All I want is a hot shower” Risa whined wistfully. Powered by a shared dream of finally getting to shower and never again climbing a hill (until tomorrow), we soldiered on to Kirk Creek. The road seemed to stretch further and further the more we rode, but we made it. The nice polkadot guy we’d seen during our first break down was already there. We waved to him as we ditched our bikes, unfurled our sleeping pads, chugged the rest of our water, and took a well deserved nap. An hour or so later, we were rudely awakened by the camp host clearing her throat and asking us if we intended to pay for our site that night. Shocked into politeness, we said yes and coughed up whatever bills we could find crumpled in the bottom of our camping fund.
“Can you point us towards the spigot for water and the showers?” we asked.
“Oh girlies, there ain’t no water here” she said in that sad tone that implied pity, but came out more as derision “The well dried up last summer, forget showers, we don’t even have drinking water.”
“But the map said…I mean, what? So where can we get water?” We spluttered.
“The next site is just 10 miles up the road and it should have water” she explained “Or you can buy it form me for $5 a gallon”
“THAT’S MORE THAN GASOLINE” I started to say, but Risa Interrupted: “We’ll take one, thanks. Can we come pick it up in 10 minutes?”
“Sure girls. I’m just up the hill” she said as she waddled off to crush other camper’s dreams. As we watched her go, I grumbled about UN mandates, water being a human right, and other dark subjects. To shut me up, Risa said she would set up the tent if I went to fetch the water.
“Fine.” I slouched my way up the hill making sure to let everyone who saw me know just how displeased I was with the situation. As I approached the Camp Host trailer, I noticed a sign that said “Firewood: $8 a bundle, Honor System Deposit Box.” I got our water from the host and didn’t think twice as I grabbed a bundle and put an empty envelope into the box. I immediately felt better about buying the water and practically skipped down the hill to camp. When I got there, clutching my prize, Risa had struck up conversation with the the neighbors and started the Gnocchi with the last emergency water bottle.
“Here grumpy, eat this” she commanded. Who was I to say no? I reached for the gnocchi, and immediately spilled it on the ground. It was all too much. I started to cry. Luckily Risa had food on hand besides the Gnocchi, and forced me to eat through the blubbering as she prepared instant mashed potatoes and other camping delicacies. Having sufficiently recovered and deciding that we didn’t hate everything as much as we thought, we invited the neighbor boy over to share our stolen fire. We passed a wonderful evening with our new friend Brice talking about our lives back home, where we were traveling to, looking at the stars, and asking pivotal questions like “If you ask for a good guy discount and you get it, are still a good guy?” The fire burned down and we all turned in, if not happy to be there then at least happy to be together.