San Francisco to Costonoa KOA: 55 miles

First day of the new chapter in this adventure.  Toren and I met Sarah and Dustin at the Daly City Bart Station.  I wanted to get an early start to prove that I could be an early riser, but I read that bicycles weren’t allowed on the trains before 9am.  Then, we hopped on a train headed in the wrong direction!  We when we finally arrived at Daly, it made me really happy to see Sarah and Dustin.  Having a rest day from each other had been great for the morale.  They had spent their entire day eating burritos and watching the nature channel on television.  Awesome.   
Typical of the bay, the marine layer had settled in and it was an overcast day.  We got a little turned around but made our way back to the ocean.  Getting back to the ocean, even after being away from it for just a day or two, was always really rewarding.  Riding up to the hush of it, the cool of it, the bigness of it… it grounds me.
On our way out of San Francisco, we rode through a road called the Devil’s Slide.  Eek.  So many of these awful roads are called Devil’s this or Devil’s that.  It had almost no shoulder, and since we had left late, it was a high-traffic time of day.  Once we started on one of the inclines, I told everybody to go ahead and ride ahead of me.  It was a very nerve-wrecking ride with tight curves, and lots of cars and trucks passing us.  There was some construction, which also always makes me nervous.  We passed, Sean, our friend from Bodega who was cycling with his surfboard when we got to the top of the hill. 
It’s that moment at the top of the hill where my nerves really get me.  I drink some water, and shove some food in my mouth and get flashes of riding down some of those first twisted and winding roads in Oregon, when I  had been the most scared and had my panic attacks.  Toren told me to go first, and he would follow behind me, even though I told him I would probably stop if I got too scared.  We took it slow.  The ocean was cold and reflecting the grey in the sky.  The road was full of pot holes.  I stayed as far to the right as I could, and around one turn, I rode around pothole next to the railing, only to ride into a crack that I hadn’t seen.  The groove was deep enough, that I couldn’t ride out of it, and the weight of my bike threw me off balance.  I veered into the road, and nearly fell.  I was lucky, and the car behind me slowed and didn’t hit me.  It happened fast, and I was back on the side of the road, rolling down the hill in seconds.  It was a good save, but after a few minutes, unease grew within me.  My breath lost it’s rhythm and the muscles in my stomach tightened. So, I stopped when there was a safe spot.  Toren stopped and waited with me while I cried.  I hadn’t had anyone with me when I started to have a panic attack yet, and it was weird for me.  Having him there made me want to get it over with and get moving.  He told me it was a great save, and that I reacted quick, and that it probably felt like I was further into the lane than I really was.  That made me feel a better, but later on, he told me that it had actually been really gnarly and kind of scary.  A little further, Sarah and Dustin waited for us, and Sarah had had the same experience I did.  We were both pretty thankful to be alive. 
We had lunch in Half-Moon Bay.  The clouds burned off, and it was another beautiful day.  Everyone felt pretty good, so we decided to push ourselves a little further to a KOA by Pescadero.  We passed Pescardero, and there was no KOA.  There was an error in the listing and it was actually much further.  We passed a hostel in a lighthouse.  It was $20 a night, and had a hot tub that was outside on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  Sarah and I were tempted and totally into it, but boys vetoed it and wanted to head a little further to the KOA, which would be a little cheaper, we were guessing about $50 for a site.    
We rode through lovely seaside farms, and about 10 miles later, arrived at the Costonoa KOA.  KOA’s are the McDonald’s of the camping industry.  They’re well-manicured, and cater more to families doing RV camping.  This one had a lodge and a restaurant and saunas, as well.  We rode up to the information kiosk, and the Host greeted us and offered to give us a ride around the property on his golf cart.  Primitive Sites, which were just a patch of grass, were listed as about $30, and a regular site with a parking space, picnic table and electrical hook up was a little over $50.  We were fine with the primitive, but the host wanted to charge us per couple, which would have been about $60!  Might as well have stayed at the hostel… $50 was less than $60, so we went ahead and got the regular site.  Then, the host proceeded to casually mention that there was a restaurant that we could eat at about 10 times.
Once we set up camp, we walked down to the general store, which had closed an hour early, so we couldn’t do any grocery shopping, which was a big let down.  
At least they had a sauna.  
We all changed and went into the sauna by our site and it was broken.  We tried a second and a third sauna, which were also broken.  Of course. 
They had a little trail that led out to the ocean, so I decided to take a little walk.  The sun was just about to set.  I crossed PCH, and there was a sign at the trailhead that you couldn’t gather any artifacts, because they were excavating the site.  That was exciting for me.  I pictured myself as an old native american woman, as I walked the trail through the mustard flowers and yellow lupine.  The grass was very tall and dry and the smell was soothing.  I climbed over a sand dune and was face to face with the great ocean.  The marine layer had moved in again, so the sunset was more of a little glow along the horizon, which silhouetted the lighthouse in the distance.  There were dark jagged rocks that the water crashed into.  I sat and listened to the ocean and thought about the day, the journey, the fear, and my friends.  This crashing ocean is so big, so old and so constant.  Who am I and what am I trying to do?  When I started getting ideas for this adventure, I wanted a story to tell.  I wanted a challenge, and a music-tour-by-bicycle sounded like a fun, quirky challenge.  It made sense.  Now, staring out at this cold sunset, I felt very small.  Facing so many fears day after day had stripped me of the punchline.  The music part of the adventure, had ended up as more of a bit of cheese at the end of the maze.  It was comforting to be able to play my guitar at night, but each day was a new challenge.  But there was so much more to learn and take home, this way.  It got a little darker and a little colder, and I became overwhelmed with love and pride for myself and my friends and what we had overcome and accomplished.  We were over two thirds of the way home, all by the power of our own legs and hearts of gold.  
I walked back up the trail, which was longer than I had remembered it being when I walked in, and stopped at the stables (yes, the KOA had stables).  In the evening light, the dirt looked grey, and so did the trees, and the horses.  They had two layers of fences, to keep people from approaching or feeding them.  They looked stagnant and pretty miserable.  I watched them try to interact with each other, each one trying to maintain it’s own space, and walking away from the others as they were approached.  I hope I never end up like that. 
When I got back to the campsite, Dustin had started a fire, and was using a stick to made a tuna melt.  Toren and I made some mashed potatoes.  We all sat around the fire and began asking questions, like “What’s your favorite movie” and “What would you do if you had a whole year with no obligations, and money was no object?” and “What’s your favorite memory with your mother?” 
Costonoa KOA to Marina: 65 miles
I learned a little something from Toren and Sarah.  That night, and the night before, he filled up everybody’s water bottles ahead of time, and he also put the tent bag inside the tent.  Little things that would be time-savers add up.  Prepping stuff ahead of time!  What a concept!  I remembered that in the weeks before, Sarah had kind of prepped stuff beforehand, too.  I organized my panniers as much as I could the night before, and got my riding clothes ready, and put my mat bag and my sleeping bag-bag in the tent, too (usually I’d leave those out near my bike or on the table).  So, from then on, in the mornings, I could just get dressed, and roll up my bag and mat in the tent.  Major time savers!  We were actually up and ready before Dustin and Sarah.  It’s silly to be proud of, but I felt really great, since I had been lagging so much the whole trip. 
Since we left early, we got to Santa Cruz early.  I had made another mistake in the itinerary, only this time it was in our favor.  I had accidentally added about 50 miles between San Francisco and Marina, so we gained a whole day!  Instead of camping again, we would be at my aunt’s house that evening.  
When we got to Santa Cruz, we stopped at a bike shop to put air in our tires.  We were a little confused about directions, and this guy in a red jacket and pink bandana rolls up to the shop and asks if we need any help.  He introduced himself as Nick and offered to guide us through the city and get us where we needed to go.  It was a huge help!  I gave him a cd. 
Shortly after we left Nick, we were going down a small hill, and heard a huge pop!  I looked back, and it was Toren’s tire.  He had not only gotten a flat, but the tube had blown out, and popped the tire right off the rim! We set the bike on the side, and Dustin got out his tools.  As soon as we got the tire off, the other tube popped and blew the tire off the the rim, too!  Eek.  We all worked together to get the tires changed by the side of the road- and then I looked back, and saw a cyclist come over the hill in a bright orange construction vest… It was Chad!  
What are the chances?  He had left ahead of us and stayed with a friend in Half-moon bay and then in Santa Cruz and gotten a late start.  He help us out, and we rode together to the next bike shop.  We suspected that Toren may have over-inflated his tires.  So he got some new tubes, and under inflated them a little just to be sure.  We stopped for lunch afterwards, and Chad rode ahead, we’d meet up with him at Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur in a few days. 
We rode onward, south of Santa Cruz and about 10 miles in, we heard another loud pop!  Toren’s tire had blown out again.  This was a little concerning, not knowing what was causing it.  We had checked the tires for any thorns or rocks, we had under inflated the new tubes, but only by a little.  We thought Marina was about 25 miles further, and didn’t know how safe it would be to keep riding the bike, or how much we wanted to invest in new tubes, if we didn’t know what was causing the blow-outs, so I gave my aunt a call and she was happy to come pick Toren up.  I didn’t know if her car had enough space for more than one bike, so we had to leave Toren to wait for her, and ride the next few miles without him.  
The next section of road turned from the ocean into farmland, and we rode through miles and miles of strawberry fields and produce stands.  Almost immediately, Sarah had brake issues.  We changed her pads and as we got back on the road, the ride ended up being 10 miles further than we thought with a strong headwind.  Sarah got really tired, and suspected her brake pad of rubbing again, and had a really hard time.  She was really just pretty tired.  
When we arrived at my aunt’s house, Toren was right outside waiting for us.  He was happy to see us but seemed a little unsure of things after going to the bike shop.  While he had been waiting for my aunt, he had what she would call a Zen Moment. 
He had been sitting at the bus stop and was festering in his own frustration.  Recognizing his impending negativity, he started to take some deep breaths and tried to calm down.  He noticed a cat traipsing along a wall across the street.  His perception of the day changed as he relayed that this was the moment he was placed in.  There was no greater place to be then in that present moment.  All his needs were met, the sun was shining, birds were chirping and his problems were trivial in regard to the magnitude of a personal existence balanced with the natural world that surrounds us at all time.  He fell into a peaceful meditation and time quickly passed.  The change in attitude had turned the whole situation around, and made for a wonderful experience meeting my Aunt Gloria.
I began to wish I had had some sort of moment like that of my own in the earlier weeks of the tour.  Even though it was tough, I feel like most of my struggles were my own mind-games, and I think I could have done much better if I had only had a better attitude or perspective. 
Toren took his bike to the shop, and they pretty much didn’t have very much advice to give except that his rims had tiny holes in them and weren’t meant for a tire pressure above 80, and the gator skin tires he had put on them were meant for a tire pressure of 105, so the extra pressure was pushing the tube through the tiny holes, and pinching them, resulting in the blowouts.  He told Toren to fix the problem by putting electrical tape over the holes.  Such a do-it-yourself solution was definitely affordable, but not very comforting. 
After such a crazy day, we had a simple dinner, watched a movie called “Grizzly” ate some M&M cookies and went to bed, thankful to have a rest day the next day to ease our legs and fix Toren’s bike. 
The next day, Toren spent the first part of the day taping up his rim, and he and Dustin rode around the hills and bike trails and put stress on the bike to test it out.  Sarah and I went to the grocery store and picked up all kinds of fruits, nuts, vegetables and a canary melon to make a really nice and fresh lunch.  After eating oatmeal and canned camping food and peanut butter sandwiches and focusing so much on carb intake for so long, we were both craving something really fresh!  I just wanted to eat a bunch of green stuff.  Sarah even made a home-made dressing out of honey and yogurt.  Pretty amazing stuff.  
Toren’s bike passed all the tests, and I played a show that night in Santa Cruz.  Gloria let us borrow her car, so we could get there early for soundcheck.  It was interesting driving over the roads we had just ridden over, and doing it so much faster.  Being in a car after you’ve been riding so long, it makes you think of all of the roads differently, especially the hills. 
I played my show at a venue called the Backstage Lounge.  It’s a small swanky venue attached to the Rio theater.  I opened for Del Rey, an amazing woman who totally rips at her steel resonator guitar and ukulele.  She plays in the old time- Mississippi John Hurt style, which is very close to my heart and makes me super happy.

The show felt great.  It was one of my best performances the whole tour! 

Here’s a video of one of my songs (on the thumbnail it looks sideways, but once you play it, it will be right side up)
And here’s a video of Del Rey. 
Marina to Pfeiffer State Park: 42 miles
After Marina, we were headed into Big Sur.  Gloria got up early and made us all fresh scones for breakfast, and I chopped up the rest of the canary melon.  I ate too much and ended up with a very upset stomach as soon as I got on my bike.  The gas sitting in my stomach was painful, but I felt if I could just burp a little, it would subside.  It was a pretty miserable way to start the day.  We road through the bike path in Fort Ord, an abandoned military fort that  had been given to the state full of sand dunes and trails.  I fell behind Sarah and Dustin.  Toren stayed with me and was really encouraging and upbeat.  “Why don’t you just throw up?  Get those acids out of your system.”  It was a little embarrassing, but I stopped and did and felt so much better.  He joked and said that I had “mama birded by the side of the road”.  Gross but totally hilarious.  
When we caught up to the other two, I still didn’t feel like myself and we stopped for coffee.  Then, I started my period.  Of course.  Right before we go through Big Sur, the area everybody at home had been warning me that most about, that I’d been psyching myself out about and I’d be bleeding through the whole thing.  
Once we got riding after the break, I started feeling a little better.  Sometimes, I guess you just need to keep pushing yourself through it.  Keep going, and you’ll get there.  We rode through Carmel-By-The-Sea, where trees have the right of way and Doris Day holds afternoon tea for dogs.  We rode through Monterey and I thought of John Steinbeck and how different it must have been back then.  
We got over a big hill, stopped at Point Lobos for lunch and a walk and got into the really gorgeous seaside landscape south of Monterey.  I got a second wind and started getting in a good rhythm, and passed up the others.  The hills weren’t too big, and I finally had a grasp on switching gears, and using the momentum going down one hill, to take you up into the next.  
Toren was riding with Sarah, watching me ride ahead and said, “I wish I just got MY period!”  Sarah laughed so hard, she almost fell off her bike. 
We entered the more mountainous side of Big Sur, and there was a layer of fog when we got to the first bridge.  It was big and old and beautiful.  I thought of the moment in Kerouac’s Big Sur, when he crosses a bridge by the darkness of night, only to realize by the light of the next morning how high and treacherous the road really was.  The water was deep turquoise with dangerous waves.  We all felt really good. 
We got to Andrew Molera State Park, and the clouds had burnt off and it was a beautiful day.  We had a tailwind and decided to go further to Pfeiffer State Park, which wasn’t very much further.  The next section of riding was a breeze, and we quickly arrived at the general store in the city of Big Sur.  
Sarah and Dustin rode into the parking lot.  I looked back, but Toren wasn’t behind me.  I stood on the side of the road and looked and waited to see him in his bright yellow jacket coming around the corner and he didn’t come.  Five minutes passed, then ten.  I started to worry, and Dustin rode back to look for him.  Sarah and I waited by our bikes and hoped for the best, saying things like “He probably got a flat tire, or jumped a chain, or needed to shed a layer.”  
An ambulance wailed down the road.  
I checked my cell phone and Toren had sent me a message that said “On my way.”  My whole body relaxed a few minutes later when he and Dustin rode into the parking lot to meet us.  Toren had jumped a chain, and it had gotten stuck, but he fixed it right before Dustin had arrived.  It was a proud moment, because he had needed Dustin’s help for all the other stuff that had gone wrong with his bike.  
We shopped for the stuff for hobo stew and got to Pfeiffer early enough to take a nice walk.  Back in the redwoods with a forest floor full of clover.  
That night I started feeling uneasy about the next part of the ride.  We sat around the campfire and Sarah talked about her own fears.  “I’ve never had any interest whatsoever in this next segment of the ride.  I’ve looked at cyclists as I’ve driven through and thought they were CRAZY.”  My fear grew, but had to try to let it subside.  Tomorrow is tomorrow, today is today.  When we went to bed, there was a loud group of cyclists talking around a campfire next to my tent.  They were telling horror stories of the road.  Trucks, wind, motorcycles, blowouts, everything.  I almost got out of my tent to tell them they were going to give me nightmares, but asked Toren to play some music off of his iPhone, instead.  
Pfeiffer State Park to Kirk Creek State Park: 35 miles
Tomorrow came, and my fear hadn’t subsided.  We got up early and packed up quick, ready to get it over with.  We had one of the biggest climbs in Big Sur right away.  The morning light was glorious, highlighting the hills and trees.  The climb wasn’t so bad.  Since it was early, there wasn’t very much traffic on the road.  I noticed someone had taken a marker and written “You’re it.” on a sign for us to see.  The road twisted around the mountain like a ribbon, but the shoulder was wider than I had expected.  The inclines and descents weren’t as steep as I had feared.  There was a little fog in some patches and it felt like riding on clouds.  I began to take some of the turns with more confidence.  At one point, when I stopped to catch my breath, Toren stopped behind me, and said, “I just got front row seat to watch you bomb that hill and let the momentum carry you up the next side.  You’re doing great!” 
The four of us stopped at a great view to take some pictures.  Then I realized, I was actually having a ton of fun.  We hadn’t needed to separate and use separate maps and meet up at the campground.  I was getting stronger, and Sarah was relaxing and we were all having a really nice ride together.  We were laughing and joking.  We’d fall into pairs for a little while, but we’d always catch back up and ride together again.  
The section of Big Sur that I had been the most terrified of ended up being one of the most enjoyable rides of the whole journey.  I would do it again.  
I also recently found out that they had been doing a lot of construction in Big Sur and widening the shoulder to make it safer for travelers of all sorts.  It certainly paid off, because I felt totally safe the entire time.  
Toren was very encouraging, but he started becoming more quiet on the rides.  I would ask him how he was, and he would only respond, “I’m well.”  It was kind of concerning, but I assumed he was just in his own flow of thoughts and not feeling very talkative.  
We arrived at the Kirk Creek Campground at noon.  Dustin and Toren rode around the campground, but didn’t see Chad or his bike anywhere.  The campground was full.  We went to the hiker biker section, and met a group of young doctors who had just graduated med school at UC Davis and were doing a ride together down the coast before they each started their residencies.  They had met Chad at the campground in Monterey.  Dan, one of the doctors said, “He left us a note in our raccoon box!  He’s camping two miles back up at Limekiln!”
We all sunbathed for a while and laughed at each other’s tan lines, and then Toren and I took a short hike down to the beach.  The whole trail was grown over with all kinds of plants.  I can’t tell the difference between blackberries and poison oak, so pretty much tip-toed my way through everything.  When we got down to the beach, it was very rocky, cold, and too dangerous to swim in, but it was beautiful.   
We almost didn’t know what to do with so much free time.  We had never gotten to a campsite so early.  It was so nice to have so much downtime just to sit and stare at the ocean.  We decided to hop back on our bikes and ride back to find Chad at Limekiln.  
It’s stupid how light and easy our bikes felt without all the weight of our gear.  We flew all the way there.  Limekiln is a pretty small campground, so finding their site was easy.  We recognized Chad’s bike and hammock, but no one was there.  We left a note and decided to hike to Limekiln Falls.  
The trees at limekiln were recovering from a fire that had done some damage a few years ago.  Redwoods are so resilient.  It was a lovely walk, but we missed the waterfall and ended up at the lime kilns instead, which were huge and interesting to look at.  By the time we returned to the campsite, Chad and his friends were back.  It was a great reunion, Chad and his friends had tons of food to share.  Our friend Colin, was camping with them too, and had brought his bike and gotten gear to do the rest of the ride with Chad.  He’s a bigger guy, with some backpacking experience but not as much cycling experience aside from riding around at home.  He was a little nervous but excited for the challenge.  We all had tons of advice for him.  
We didn’t stay for dinner, because Dustin had a friend, Bradley, who had driven from Paso Robles to meet us at Kirk Creek and camp.  Since the campground was full, he parked the car down the road and walked his stuff to the hiker biker area.  Bradley and his girlfriend were super nice and brought tons of food to share and stuff for s’more’s.   Bradley and Dustin hadn’t seen each other for years, so it was exciting to see the two reunite and catch up.  Bradley brought his mandolin, so we combined firewood with the UC Davis kids and all hung out together and made some music.  Dan, from UC Davis, had also brought a hammock, and set it up on the cliff overlooking the ocean.  
It was such an unexpectedly wonderful campsite.  I had really enjoyed camping in the redwoods, but camping in the grass on cliffs overlooking the ocean, was like sitting front row for the greatest movie ever… nature.  It was a full moon that night, and as the fire died down, the moonlight washed over everything, with a sparkle here and there from someone walking with a headlamp or a flashlight.  Stunning. 
We went to bed, and I had the hardest time ever falling asleep.   At first, it was really nice, the sounds of the ocean filled the soundscape as I curled up in my sleeping bag.  Then, Sarah started snoring in the tent next to us.  When, I got used to her rhythm, Dustin and Bradley walked back to the campsite after finishing off a bottle of wine on a moonlit walk to the ocean, and were boisterous and chatting up a storm.  It was loving and all in good spirits, but goodness it was loud.  I asked them to talk a little quieter, and soon they went to bed.  I started to rest again, and then Bradley tried to convince his girlfriend that they were going to pack up and drive to a cabin in the middle of the night.  He was drunk and stubborn, but she calmed him down.  I finally started to drift to sleep, and I heard the rustling of plastic outside.  I hoped Bradley wasn’t packing up in his condition, and realized it was raccoons!  Toren chased them off, but soon they came back.  They got into Sarah and Dustin’s panniers, but Toren chased them off again and secured everyone’s belongings and put the food into the raccoon box.  Another Raccoon War!  This time, I think we won.
Kirk Creek State Mark to San Simeon State Park: 40 miles
Toren and I woke up early again the next morning.  “Should we let them sleep in a little, since they had so much to drink?” I said.  He replied, “No way!  We don’t want to be riding late on the roads when they’re busy!”  He got out his iPhone, turned up the volume and played a funk version of Also Sprach Zarathustra, (that song in 2001: a Space Oddesey), by Deodato.  It was a pretty perfect way to start the day.  
Everyone said their goodbyes, and we made plans to meet up with the UC Davis crew at the next campground, San Simeon.  It was a very foggy morning, and we had a few good climbs ahead of us.  With the fog, it seemed like some of the climbs could just go on forever.  As we rode, we sang and started rewriting “My Favorite Things” to pertain to our trip.  Dustin’s got a hidden talent and a knack for lyrics. 
Fixing flat tires with duct tape and money, 
Eating goo packets and drinking raw honey, 
wondering if Glen will come down to Long Beach, 
These are a few of my favorite things!
Putting Chamois Butter onto our butt holes, 
retelling the same lame joke that’s one month old, 
inventing foods like hobo raman stew, 
These are some things touring cyclists do! 
When the chain jumps, when the tire blows, missing Tyler and Chad, 
I just simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!
Sleeping two hours fighting off the raccoons, 
getting free henna, pretending they’re tattoos, 
riding through forest, mountains and dunes, 
These are some things touring cyclists do! 
Eating cliff bars on the side of the highway, 
Having to buy bandaids at the next Rite Aid, 
Cleaning in rivers and peeing on trees, 
These are a few of my favorite things! 
When we got to the top, Toren had broken six spokes on his bike.  The reason he had been so quiet the day before was that he felt his bike getting more rickety underneath him as he rode.  We stopped and tried to work together to fix it, but we only had four replacement spokes.  His bike also had a metal piece we couldn’t figure out how to remove.  We weren’t even all the way through Big Sur, and the next bike shop was another 40 or 50 miles away in Morro Bay.  Dustin tinkered with it for a while and gave up.  We didn’t have any cell phone reception to look up any videos or references or make any phone calls, and it was a Sunday so many places would probably be closed.  We took all the weight off of his bike and redistributed it.  Then, we debated over whether he should walk the bike two miles downhill to the next town, or risk riding it.  He chose to ride it, and Dustin confirmed that it would probably hold up.  It all made me super nervous.  There still wasn’t very much traffic on the road, but I pictured the worst.  
We started riding, it was still pretty overcast, and before we got very far, two of Chad’s friends who had been camping with him, pulled over because they had gotten a little carsick.  Sarah and Dustin had already caught them, and told them our situation.  Since they were already riding South, they offered to take Toren and his bike to the nearest bike shop.  
It was hard to separate again.  What would happen?  Would they be able to fix his bike?  Would it be expensive?  Would he get frustrated?  Would he stay in Morro Bay or would we ride farther to meet him or would he find a way to meet back up with us in San Simeon?  So many worries, but I was so thankful that he would at least be safe.  We had had so many close calls earlier in the trip, and pushed some of our bikes (ahem… tin can!) farther than they should have gone.  It was comforting to know that he would at least get one step closer to a solution without putting himself in unnecessary danger.  
The next section of the ride was bittersweet.  We got into Gorda and stopped for lunch.  I got yelled at by a store-owner for charging my phone outside next to his soda machine.  He accused me of unplugging his machine, which I hadn’t, and made me cry.  Sarah hid a flower under one of my bungees. 
We left the last twisty turn of Big Sur, and into the rolling dry hills of San Simeon.  A whole new kind of beautiful, and I pictured Toren seeing it through a car window, and wished that he was there with us.  
We arrived at the Elephant Seal Viewing Area above San Simeon, and I had cell phone reception again, and called Toren at the bike shop.  He was pretty short in his conversation.  He found a bike shop that was open, and the owner was pretty eccentric.  He planned on getting the spokes replaced and then riding back to meet us in San Simeon.  The whole 25 miles.  
We arrived at San Simeon and it was a dry, empty campground.  There  was a huge wall of plants by our site that could have been either blackberries or poison oak.  
Isn’t that always it?  What’s in front of me? Blackberries or Poison Oak?  Is this situation good or bad?  Will it get under my skin or give me sustenance?  I get so scared of new situations, I just want to walk away without finding out what’s really there. 
I couldn’t stop worrying, and just started finding stuff to keep myself busy.  I paid the ranger for our hiker biker sites.  I rode into Cambria with Dan and Rebecca to get groceries.  I got tofu to go with dinner, and hummus and pita bread to snack on, since I knew Toren would like it.  Toren texted me that he was on his way, and then about half an hour later, I got a missed call from him.  I called him back but he didn’t answer, and I started to worry more. 
On the ride back to camp, I got to know Dan and Rebecca, who had done volunteer work in third world countries and were coming to terms with their dreams and ambitions as doctors, and trying to find a way to be a positive influence in the world.  This made my worries feel pretty insignificant.  We were on a bike tour that would be over in a week, and had accomplished a whole hell of a lot.  No matter what happened with Toren and his bike, everything would be okay.  
Toren got to the campground about an hour later.  I came back from taking a shower and he was there.  Something was up.  “The bad news is that my dad is going to pick me up.  The good news is that the ranger is going to come down and give you your five bucks back.”  That was it.  He wasn’t even going to camp with us another night.  He gave up.  My eyes started to water and we took a walk.  
The bike mechanic had taken a closer look at the bike and found so many things wrong with it, and told him that he had no business taking it through Big Sur and was pretty much lucky to be alive.  He had talked to his dad in Marina, when he had started having problems, and his dad had told him that he could come to the rescue, but only until Sunday, when he would have to return to work.  It was Sunday, his bike was in terrible condition, and he had to make that quick decision.  The afternoon was lending itself to evening, so his dad was already on the way.  
I couldn’t stop crying.  I would have pitched in for a whole new wheel.  My dad or one of our friends would have come to the rescue later in the week.  We could have met him in Morro Bay and waited a day to get a second opinion from another mechanic.  So many could haves, but it was already done.  
He had had a terrible time riding back, knowing the news he was bringing with him.  He broke a spoke five miles in, which is when he had called me.  He told me he had felt his bike deteriorating the whole ride through Big Sur, but didn’t want to bother anyone or hold anyone back, and had decided to try to push through it.  
I wasn’t mad, I was just sad, and felt helpless. I wanted to fix things, but there wasn’t anything I could do.  I wished that I had waited with him in Marina for my Aunt, or been able to communicate with him better while he was in Morro Bay instead of letting my fear and worry freeze me up like a deer.  He worried that it would upset me so much after he left that I would lose my new-found confidence.  I worried that he would go home and feel bad or like a failure for having to leave early.  
When the tears were cried and the hugs were hugged and the words were said, we all ate dinner together.  Chad and Colin had caught up with us, and Colin was having a hard time.  He was having a lot of the same problems that I had had when I started, and I tried to tell him how I had felt, and how I had gotten over it and come to terms with myself as a rider, and how it was okay to take breaks and ride at your own pace.  The sun set and we lit a fire, and kept checking our phones for the time.  
The moon was a little less than full now, and Toren and I walked his bike up the hill to the ranger kiosk, where his dad would meet us.  He had brought a book of Allen Ginsberg poems, so we took turns reading to each other until his dad arrived. 
That’s my predicament, folks. 
Mike was warm and loving.  Earlier when we had been riding, I had asked Toren what his favorite memory with his dad was.  One of them was driving home from Mt. Whitney in the middle of the night, to avoid staying at a hotel.  Toren had fallen asleep and when he woke up, his dad was driving fast, with all the windows down, and the music cranked up, drumming on the steering wheel and singing at the top of his lungs.  “That’s it.  That’s my dad.”  He had thought to himself, and was really proud.  His dad looked over at him, and knew exactly what he was thinking and smiled.  
Now about to do another midnight journey together, his dad still knew.  He gave me a big hug and I told him he was amazing and thanked him for driving all this way to pick up his son.  He looked at me tenderly and told me he was really proud of me.  I could have cried again.
I got back to the campsite and everyone was still around the fire.  “How did it go?”  “It went.  It’s done.”  I quietly watched the embers glow as one by one everyone went to bed.  I walked to the bathroom and noticed that the moonlight was washing over the whole campground in the most beautiful way.  A chorus of frogs sang, and I went to bed with my head downhill and didn’t bother to turn myself around. 
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About the Author

Alyssandra Nighswonger

Alyssandra is known by her community and everyone she comes in contact with as inspirational, a dream-pusher, limitless. She has the divine craftyness to make anything she imagines a reality. This is expressed through all of her art forms; singing and songwriting, poetry, painting and performance. A local legend in Long Beach, she is a hub in her community, constantly realizing new ideas and events to gather and bond her fellow citizens.

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