Route: Follow the “Bicycle Route – Pacific Coast” Signs
Weather: Mid-to-High 20s, Mostly Sunny, Moderate Crosswinds and Tailwinds
Total Climbing: ~950m/3115ft
Breakfast: Granola & Banana
Lunch: Enchiladas with Rice & Beans at El Pueblo Restaurant in Santa Maria [Recommended!]
Dinner: Enchiladas with Rice & Beans at Taco Roco In Buellton [Also Recommended!]
Snacks: Nada Beverages: Water, Sprite
Previous Night’s Sleep: 10:30pm to 7:00am [8.5 hours]
Live in the Open, and the World Will Open, Too
From the outset, I viewed today’s ride as my longest of the trip. Several reasons inspired this mindset. One: Options for camping in this area are limited, encouraging the pursuit of more miles to reach the coastal state parks of Gaviota or El Capitan. Two: Tailwinds remained prominent for another day, offering an appreciated aid in the right direction. Three: I’d mentally committed to two purchased meals in a single day, a first on the trip and an incentive to pedal further. Four: I sought to focus on the physical grind for a change, and I felt all right. With this all in mind, I rode.
Aside from two extended breaks for two delicious, enchiladas-centred meals in Santa Maria and Buellton, I remained a fixture along the side of the road. Few non-food memories accumulated during the day’s ride. Around six in the evening and about ten miles prior to reaching El Capitan State Beach, I reunited with a fellow touring cyclist from Belgium at the top of the final climb of the day. We agreed to both camp at El Capitan for the night.
Typically, at campgrounds, I’ve connected only with other cyclists and hikers. This result occurs due to a combination of camping proximity and mutual curiosity, along with that key ingredient of common-ness that attracts people to each other in any place; we’re often more likely to connect ourselves to those with whom we share commonalities – appearance, language, and so on – than those we don’t.
This is why I love the experiences of travelling long-distances on a bicycle. In every moment, I am open to the world. Even when I feel mentally, emotionally, and spiritually closed off from my surroundings, as I did during today’s ride, I remain physically exposed to the elements of every scene. No windows, doors, walls, or locks. At most, a closed tent. And, even then, anyone nearby can hear a rustling sleeping bag or faint sneeze. I’m exposed and vulnerable. Open.
But, if you live in the open, the world will open, too.
As my Belgian riding companion and I pitched our tents and prepared our cooking stoves for a modest dinner in the fading light, we were visited by four strangers from a neighboring campsite. Angels, really.
They accompanied their friendly hellos with two overloaded to-go boxes of food. Chicken, rice, beans, salad, and tortillas. Simply because they had leftovers and figured we might appreciate the food. [We did!]. They asked some questions about our travels, including which luxuries we missed the most. Almost simultaneously, we both replied: cold drinks and ice cubes. Our angels laughed, wishing us well as they wandered back to their site, we assumed, for the night.
Five minutes later, though, they surprised us another gift: two gigantic, ice-cold bottles of Gatorade. My Belgian buddy joked that the only thing that could make our night any better was s’mores. Sure enough, after another five minutes or so, they reappeared a third time, with a plate full of s’mores. We were floored, thanking them repeatedly and profusely.
After finishing our heavenly meals, we ventured over to their site to thank them once more. We stayed for an hour, standing and chatting with an awesome group of strangers. I floated into a sound sleep, feeling the evening’s memory immediately root strong and true.
Live in the open, and the world will open, too. Could be a bike trip down the Pacific coast. Could be a weekend camping trip. Could be anything, really. All that’s essential is to simply feel or be open. Sure, we may become more exposed to all of this world’s fear-inducing flaws. But, we also become more connected to all of this world’s love and beauty. I’d like to keep taking that risk.