So the husband did a bike tour a few years ago. I posted it on my old blog, but I wanted to share it with you here because he is an AMAZING writer. In college, he met a fellow biker/poet/beer drinker/brewer/all-around-amazing-red-head named Esteban. After we all graduated college, they both wanted to go on a bike trip down Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco. Their original plan was go to from San Fran to San Diego in a week. However… Shit happens.
We dropped them off in San Francisco on June 23rd 2013. And here’s his story.
The Wall: or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the tour.
By James Maya
–Sunday, June 23rd, 2013. This is a day that I can define on who I was as a person and my exact outlook on life. I knew anything was possible, since, hey, I had just graduated with some of my best friends from college, had quit my job in which I was thoroughly dissatisfied with, and had the craziest and best friend a guy can ask for. Two at that, my fiancée, Laurette and Esteban. Esteban, who is just as crazy as I am, because he agreed to come along on this crazy adventure.
Every day after that day, I was a completely different person.
Back to Sunday. Sunday was a fun drive going up Interstate 5 and going into San Francisco. It was sunny in Southern California, but we quickly discovered that it was not as sunny in San Francisco. We had met up with a friend who lived in Berkeley, California and just graduated from University of California, Berkeley. Browly is his name, and he told Esteban and I we were crazy. “We know we are.” “No, you’re CRAZY. This is the only time of the year that it gets like this and will be like this for the next couple of days.” The forecast was rainy. And wet. Great. Too late now to turn back. We had everything packed and ready to go for the next day. So that was that, we enjoyed a nice dinner with an old friend and went back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.
-We woke on Monday, June 24th, 2013. I felt like a child on Christmas morning. I knew that big things were coming, but nothing could have anticipated me for what was about to come. We got off to a late start. We ate a good breakfast at IHOP, had our morning coffee, and said our good-byes to my fiancée and her mother. Cindy came along because the fiancée doesn’t like long car rides home alone from dropping me off and she assures her that I am not going to get hit by a car. But I digress.
We left from the Golden Gate Bridge at around 1 o’clock. And we never looked back.
We got off to our tour to a good start. I think it was good because we were so excited. The hills didn’t bug us too bad in San Francisco, but good weather is something that was to be desired. The weather was against us. Instead of the usual wind hitting our backs, a storm blew in and was blowing toward the North. That is difficult when you are being completely self-supported and carrying everything with you on your bike. We stopped right before Daly City and met this man who was from Montreal touring the West Coast for the first time. He said, “It’s my first time here, and all I get is terrible weather and hear construction 24/7.” Poor chap. I hope the rest of his tour went better than ours.
Daly City was very hilly. And by very hilly, it had one giant hill that we had to get past. That down hill was an absolute blast. I adopted a saying on this tour. “Every uphill has an equal and greater downhill.” I love saying that, and that helped me quite a few times in the saddle. We rode on a bit more, but the weather was getting worse by the hour and we didn’t make much progress on our first day. There was a place that got to us, and we later learned the name of it; Devil’s Slide. And this was true. It was a nightmare to get up with no bike lane going up and trucks screaming past us. Although, they had just opened up a tunnel that cut that pass in half, so I was grateful for that. We stopped for a photo op, and again, Esteban had to clean out his cleats. He decided to tour with cleats whereas I just opted for some old raggedy slip-ons.
Here is where I believe our entire tour was worth it. So pay close attention.
On the downhill from Devil’s Slide, we were stopped by this kind lady. She drove a light green Prius and was around the age of 50. Her name is Mary and she hails from Riverside, what a coincidence! She asked us if we wanted to stay the night at her place. Esteban looked at me, and being as wet, cold, and as tired as I was, I didn’t feel like riding 10 more miles to camp in the cold and rain. I also thought, if she wanted our kidneys, I think we could take her. She gave us directions to her house and it was a quick 20 minute ride there. Her husband wasn’t home yet, but she told him she invited two young cyclists back to the house. It was quite funny and he was okay with this. Turns out he rides quite frequently too. Sometimes it is good to know some cyclists are looking out in the world.
We unpack some things, make some phone calls, etc. I decide it would be nice to take a shower and so I do so. The husband, Ed, comes home and Esteban gets to go on a tour of the house.
Let me stop here and explain the type of person Esteban is. Esteban is a proud man of 27 years of age. His family comes from Chile, and he is very upfront about his heritage and very proud about where he, and his family, comes from. Back to the story. He also likes food and beer.
So while Esteban is on a tour of the house, he stumbles across this flag. Now it can either be the Texas flag (oh no) or the Chilean flag (oh boy). He pulls it out to get a better look at it and sure enough, it is the Chilean flag.
This makes Esteban giddy.
He asks, “Why do you have a Chilean flag?”
“I’m Chilean,” says Ed.
How many times do you run into someone from your home country? I don’t think Esteban gets this opportunity quite often.
“Maybe you know some of my family. My dad, Nino, is from Chile and opened up a jewelry shop in West Covina when he came over here.”
“That sounds familiar, but I don’t think I knew a Nino. I knew a Tito or something like that who opened up a jewelry shop. Let me call my mom.”
Now Ed is his late 50’s early 60’s, so his mother was nearing ninety years old. He called her and she didn’t remember a Nino who owned a jewelry shop, but…
“She said that she knew a Nino who used to sing Opera.”
“My dad, Nino, used to sing Opera! Let me call my dad really quick…”
So he dialed up his dad. He asks his dad if he ever knew an Edmundo…
“Larenas!” his dad yells.
Yup. We knew these people. These people were family. When Esteban’s dad came to this country, he knew an Edmundo Larenas. They were very close friends for a long time until they moved up North to the Santa Cruz area. The Edmundo who we ran into was his son.
If there was any purpose to this tour it was for that first day, where we strangely and unexpectedly re-connected two families back together again.
Ed and his wife Mary took us out for dinner and beers and Nino and Ed got off the phone. They were absolutely great hosts and he told us that he called his sister and mom again and that we had a place to stay in Santa Cruz when we got there. The Larenas family became our host family and if I could thank them a million times, I would do it a million times more.
-Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
We woke up at around seven o’clock in the morning. I felt nice and rested a little sore, but that goes without saying when you’ve been in the saddle for 4+ hours. We had a great Chilean breakfast and some great coffee and Ed was gracious enough to put on his Jersey and Chammy and ride out with us for about an hour or so.
We left at about 10:30 a.m. The weather was still terrible, but not as bad as the day before. We actually had quite a relaxing ride for the first hour or so. It was funny, Esteban was shooting some video on his phone, wasn’t paying attention and flipped his trailer.
And then it stopped becoming funny.
Shortly after Ed had left us, the weather worsened and I feel like it dominated us. The wind was a new beast we were not expecting at all. Downhills no longer fun. We had to pedal hard downhill and harder uphill. I hit my wall that day. I was absolutely defeated on Tuesday, June 25th, 2013. You never know where your physical and mental wall is until you do something everyone says is impossible. I believe that. Everyone told me that I was crazy. And they were absolutely right. If I did this tour by myself, I would have given up very quickly. But Esteban kept me going for about 45 miles, which took us nearly 8 hours to accomplish. We took a stop in Davenport around 7:30 p.m. And got going again. We had to get to Santa Cruz where we had warm food and a bed waiting for us. And I knew that would do wonders for our bravado.
Then Esteban hit his wall and we had a strange awareness of how two roles were now reversed. I had to do everything to push him just another 12 miles to Santa Cruz. He stopped and walked up almost all the hills we had left for that day, and I walked right next to him on every hill. We have this strange bond now, knowing that if one of us is wanting to give up, the other will push them and keep on trucking, and that is what we did that day.
We made it to Santa Cruz at 9:31 p.m., after nearly eleven and a half hours of riding.
We stayed with Viola (the mother), and Monica (the sister) of Ed.
-Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
It’s strange how the days are becoming blurred at this point in the tour. When I am reflecting back on them, they are hard to pin point what happened on what days, where was the toughest hills that we had faced, where was I when I was mentally the most vulnerable.
Wednesday, we decided to have a rest day in Santa Cruz.
It was one of the most beautiful days in recent memory.
I know that the previous days forced me to slow down from my faster paced style of life. We were able to sleep in and take a rest from the saddle. Did we do that? Nope. Too addicted to the bike to not just stay in one place. We decided to take our fishing gear that we brought along and fish on the pier. We did that for a couple of hours and then headed back to the house. We walked down to the local microbrew and drank quite a few beers. And ate a lot. We took a quick stroll to the beach and then headed back home where we quickly jumped back onto our bikes and went to the pier again to fish. It was awesome.
But we were not making the time that we had originally anticipated. We thought we would be closer to Monterey and Big Sur by now, and we had a deadline to make it to San Diego. This was a bad idea. To go on a tour that takes patience and make a deadline for it. But looking back, I knew why I did such a thing. I did it to make my fiancée feel better about being away from me. She was worried sick that I would get hit by someone or something would go terribly wrong. And I understand her anxieties, and I know she’s working on them.
So we made a tough decision. We made the decision to stop in Monterey and re-think everything about touring. Touring is something that cannot be prepared for mentally or physically. The only way to learn about touring is to tour on your bicycle. We learned that we took too much stuff and allowed so little time to get back to reality.
-Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Now this was a day that made me wish we kept on touring, but alas, we didn’t. Everything about this day was perfect. We left at a great time, we had great weather, and I think our bodies had finally acclimated to the idea of touring for days at a time. I was also mentally more stable. And I think I can say the same for Esteban too. We did a very small ride to Moss Landing and camped there for the night. We obviously talked about what we were going to do different on our next tour. Yes, there will be a next tour to much much much protest of my Fiancée. If you didn’t know by now, she really hates adventure. More specifically, my adventures that I go out on.
We had a hell of a relaxing day at Sunset State Beach, flew a kite, had an amazing dinner etc. Everything that made me love touring. We went to bed around 10 p.m that night.
-Friday, June 28th, 2013
I felt a little sad this day. I knew that our adventure was coming quickly to an end, and I didn’t want it to stop, but looking back on it, I feel like I made the right decision to stop it. We had another relaxing day, and stopped at a place called “ The Haute Tamale” for breakfast. The food was okay, but probably because I burned my tongue the day before on Espresso. I don’t want to talk about it, but an Espresso maker is one of the many unnecessary things that Esteban brought. That is not to say I didn’t bring things that were unnecessary, because I did. That is one of those things that you just learn out on a tour, and nothing can prepare you for.
The ride started off well, although we started to run into fog just as we were rolling into Monterey. Fuck, I hate terrible weather now. I feel like this tour imparted some cynicism into my outlook on life. But once we hit Monterey, it was smooth sailing. And that was that.
But before I finish let me back track just a bit and talk about the last few days of touring. They were really, really amazing. We had amazing rides through fields of strawberries where the scent just fills your nose. We went through forests and the scent and beauty of it was absolutely stellar. My legs didn’t hurt at all. I could keep on cranking. My lungs didn’t hurt at all. Every breath I took was better than the last. My ass hurt a little bit, but it wasn’t enough to make me quit. But if you didn’t want to quit, why did you James? Why did you give up on something you have been dreaming about for two years?
Short answer: I didn’t give up. I was able to ride nearly 150 miles with one of my best friends and experienced something very little of the population ever gets to experience. It wasn’t the length that I wanted to do, but still damned impressive.
Longer (shorter) answer: I gave up because I wasn’t ready.
Nothing you will ever do, or ever will do, will be able to just dive right into something that is so intense that it nearly breaks down your walls. Actually, I want to say that this tour did tear down my walls, but the great thing about walls is that they can be rebuilt. And the last week and a half since we have come back from our tour, I have been rebuilding my walls.
So that’s his story. He plans on doing more trips, but I told him he definitely needs to train more first. Did I also tell you I was scared to DEATH prior/up to/during his bike trip? Yeah, I really cried when we dropped him off. But he had the time of his life, and that’s what matters.