I had staked out a little patch of sand behind a sign that said “No Camping.” I was waiting for the sun to go down and for the last ranger patrol to do his walk-through before stretching out my tarp, dragging my bike into the bushes, and curling up in my sleeping bag.
As I sat there a surfer walked by. “Where you headed?”
“Mexico,” I said. “Or back to the Sierras.”
“That’s cool! I walked from here to San Francisco once. It is so awesome to be outdoors.”
We chatted. His name was Tyson, and when he heard of my camping plan, he said, “You’ll probably be okay. But the solid bet is to pedal a bit more to Solana Beach, past the Cardiff Kook, and then scoot off onto the nature trail that follows the lagoon. You can set up a proper camp there, you’ll be the only person, and no one will hassle you. That’s what I’d do.”
In addition to being a local and having the cred of wildcamping all the way to San Francisco, I was feeling nervous about my current choice. So I thanked him heartily and moved on.
The path had a lot of houses on it, but they thinned out after crossing the railroad tracks, which had a giant “SUICIDE HOTLINE” sign right where you would step in front of the train if you were so inclined. I supposed from the placement that many had been.
The other side of the tracks had a couple of very auspicious spots but I continued on until there were no buildings, nothing. “Sweet,” I hummed to myself.
Around the bend, though, it got salty. There was a giant warehouse converted into a brewery, with an open wall facing the lagoon and shoulder-to-shoulder patrons so close to the path I could have touched them as I slowly pedaled by. North County being North County, where everyone either has or is married to someone who has a $15k bike, many eyes followed my beard, my raggedy locks, and my rig. I was glad to be past.
A couple hundred yards away I found a perfect spot tucked up against some marsh reeds. There was a flat patch of sand, well, not flat, but not steep, either. I laid down my pack and got ready to wait the last fifteen or twenty minutes until sunset when I could lay things out. I looked out at the lagoon in the setting sun.
“Hey, Seth!” a voice called.
I turned, startled. It had sounded like he said, “Seth.” A guy was approaching. Then he said it again. “Seth!”
I didn’t recognize him. “Yes?”
“Dave. You don’t know me but I read your blog. I saw you ride by the brewery. Where are you staying?”
I pointed to the patch of sand. “You’re welcome to stay with me,” he said. “I have a patio if you prefer being outside.”
The serendipity washed over us both. He is from Ohio and has only been in SoCal for a few months. He’d been sitting with his wife and a friend when I rode by. “I know that guy!” he’d shouted, to everyone’s amazement, before dashing out the door. I don’t think it’s common in this area for residents to go dashing away after bicyclists who look like they are either recently paroled or evading the law.
Dave, Molly, and Allison were all on bikes and lived a mile or so away in Del Mar, atop one very hard climb followed by an even harder one. The whole way we marveled and laughed at the chance encounter, until I reflected on the wisdom of Bryan Kevan, my touring Buddha, who had said: “These serendipitous moments of chance encounter aren’t chance at all. They are what happen when you walk out the door and being touring.”
Dave and Molly fixed me a spectacular meal, far beyond the patio upgrade that I’d been expecting, and before that, Dave asked me to do something that only one person, my dad, has ever requested: A Chaucer recitation.
Flattered and elated, I delivered the first minute or so of the General Prologue, “Whan that Aprille …” Since we’re right around the corner from April, what could have been more apt?
I got up the next morning refreshed, made coffee and oatmeal, packed my bike, and got ready to roll out. As part of my Dirt Path to Del Mar Patio upgrade, Dave sent me off with a cup of gourmet pourover coffee, and Molly made the most delicious bowl of fruit and yogurt. Winston, one of their two pugs, kept me company as I ate and pondered the day’s route.
Not sure where I’m headed next. Mexico? Back to the Sierras? Either way, I’m pretty sure that Ms. Serendipity will be just around the bend.
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