It was time to head home, only it wasn’t because it was still too early. Apparently the later it gets in the year, the later the sun rises.
By 7:15 it was dark but light enough to ride. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I still hadn’t recovered from the 140-mile ride even with a full day of doing nothing and eating spoiled hamburger meat. My underside still felt tender, and even though we were only planning on going 75 miles, the thought of straddling my bike for six or seven hours didn’t sound fun.
On the plus side, the backpack didn’t feel heavy at all. On the minus side, I was still tender down under, though nothing like on Wednesday.
We had a tailwind and except for a couple of rollers it was downhill all the way to Santa Barbara. The city’s main avenue, State Street, has been blocked off to car traffic due to the covids, but it looks kind of temporary, as if they’re waiting for the pandemic to go away so that they can let the cars back in.
Which totally sucks, because like Santa Monica, parts of Manhattan Beach, and the Redondo Riviera, blocking off the streets to cars and expanding street-front restaurants and cafes out into the streets has made these car-centric towns hospitable to humans and caused them to teem with human traffic.
State Street, too, is now thriving and humming with people rather than being another drab, dreary, too-narrow street lined with angry cagers hunting for non-existent parking spots. What city planner or denizen of Santa Barbara couldn’t see that blocking off a single street to cars has helped the town? Helped the businesses? Made the place fun to be?
We had a cup of coffee and continued on.
The plan was to camp one more night at Sycamore Canyon State Park, 75 miles south, rather than doing another herculean pedal all the way back to Los Angeles. We dawdled a bit, stopping for snacks between Ventura and Carpinteria, stopping for air at a bike shop in Ventura, and then grocery shopping in Oxnard, where we lunched on two pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
One thing about riding with a backpack: You can go long distances and you can go real fast, but after doing it, I wondered, “Why?”
The point behind touring, I had to remind myself, was to make good time, but more importantly to have a good time. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should.
At Sycamore Canyon State Park I happily announced to the attendant that we wanted a hiker-biker spot.
“Sorry, we had to close those.”
“Yeah. But they might have one five miles farther south, at Leo Carrillo State Beach.”
“Why are they closed?”
“We decided that bicycles weren’t contained vehicles and they posed a risk.”
At that precise moment a group of five people walked by, leaving their campsite for the beach. One of the guys was wearing a pink tutu. They were all drunk and hollering. “Those people don’t look like they’re in contained vehicles.”
“So why are you punishing cyclists? We’re the ones most vulnerable, not the dude in the pink tutu.”
The attendant shrugged. “Look, I know it’s not fair. But you can try down the road.”
“Why do they have hiker-biker spots there?”
“It’s LA County. This is Ventura.”
“And the covids are less active there for uncontained bikers?”
“I know it doesn’t make much sense.”
“Much? It doesn’t make any. Can’t we stay here? We’ve been riding since 7:15 this morning.”
“I’m sorry, but all of our car campsites are full. If I had any open, I’d give you one.”
“But then we’d be uncontained, wouldn’t we?”
“Yeah. It doesn’t make any sense.”
We non-sensed another five miles, thankfully with a tailwind, to Leo Carrillo. There was a line of twenty cars waiting to get in, so we stood and waited. It came our turn.
“There’s no fucking way they have any spots,” Kristie said. “They’re turning everyone away.”
“They’ll have a spot for us.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because the alternative is a fifty-mile ride home to Torrance. And my screaming cat prefers to be an optimist.” Our turn came. “Hiker-biker spot, please.”
“Sure,” the clerk said. He took our ten bucks and in we went.
I heard him say to the cagers behind us, “I’m sorry, sir we’re full. Yes, sir, because they are on bicycles.”
This of course is how life is supposed to be. People on bicycles are supposed to perch atop the human hierarchy, and people in cages are supposed to sit way beneath them, in long lines, fuming, over-paying, gaining girth, and finally getting turned away and having to sit in several more hours of traffic before paying $350 for a crappy hotel room with soggy sheets.
We set up camp and I made dinner. After the tainted meat debacle we had become semi-vegans, eating only veggies, eggs, and cheese. Baby Seal, who is a strict vegan on days of the week not ending in “day,” had sent us a recipe, which we followed scrupulously until it came to the eggs and cheese, which I dumped in.
As is usual for these things, the hiker-biker campsite was completely deserted and our tent was beneath a towering sycamore tree. There was a deep bed of leaves that softened the ground like a down bower. Far off at the other camp sites we could hear the alcoholers dimly playing bad music.
Crickets struck up a tune outside the tent. The moon shone down between the boughs. Mars shone brightly off to the left.
We were almost home. But then again, we weren’t.