It was supposed to be the storm of the century when we set off on our bike trip down the California coast. New Years Day, 2016.
Me, Katrina, and Jansyn.
I met Katrina back in college when we worked together for the UCSB recycling program, riding bikes around campus, collecting cans, and redeeming them for cash at the local recycling center along with all the other humble community can-collectors and even the occasional hobo. This was our crew.
Katrina and I stayed in touch after college. I always liked her adventurous spirit. One time I visited her in Brooklyn and she fell asleep before I got to her apartment, so I spent several hours at the corner 7-11 store, talking to the flirtatious cashier I was not interested in and observing the colorful characters filtering in and out throughout the night.
In the early morning, as I waited outside Katrina’s apartment, I learned she lived next door to a methadone clinic, which helped make sense of some of the personalities I had observed throughout the night, like that crazy lady with the walker that came in yelling and left with a cup of noodles. In the end, Katrina woke up around daybreak and let me in. No harm no foul. It had made for an interesting experience, just like the one I’m about to recount to you: the FIDLAR bike trip.
Katrina started encouraging me to join in on this adventure a few months before we left on New Years Day 2016. I was hesitant because I had never gone on a long bike trip before and was concerned about chafing. Yes, chafing. Its what happens to people on long bike rides and also can happen to the male nipple after wearing the wrong shirt on a long run, which I learned in high school from Mack Reland (name changed to protect real-life characters’ identity), but that is a different story.
Besides chafing, I was a little concernd about gear. I had limited bike and camping accessories and was riding an old bike, a red Cannondale touring road bike from the 80s that I had appropriated from my Grandma and which the bike shop told me was ready to be retired. No way. I loved that bike and to me it rode well, so I decided to see if it could make the 400 mile journey, my valiant steed.
We would be leaving during a forecasted El Niño event, which another concern. Knowing weather reports usually over exaggerate, I still received a lot of concern from friends and family when I told them about the intended trip. Nevertheless, by early December I decided I would come along, at least as far as Monterey, about 30 miles away, our first day’s journey. If I didn’t want to continue, I could easily turn back from there.
As it turns out, I went the whole way. Jansyn too. Another girl Katie also joined us for a few days, but respectably bowed out when the storm hit, and Katrina….well, Katrina made it as far as she could before her bike tragically vanished on our last night before the home stretch, 80 miles from our final destination, Los Angeles.
December 31, 2017
Jansyn and Katrina arrive in Santa Cruz. I pick them up downtown and bring them with their bikes up to Fern Flat, my mom’s hippie compound in the woods. We eat dinner, a thai coconut soup my mom had made, complete with red pepper corns that left our mouths a little numb when we unwittingly bit into them. It was delicious nonetheless, thanks Momma. The girls slept in my mom’s cabin, and I slept in Lance, my soon-to-be moldy cab-over camper.
Me n’ Lance, day one. Aptos, California // Photo cred: Shannon Cecil, Seafoam Films
We went to bed before the clock struck 12. The girls exhausted from a long day of biking, all of us knowing the long road ahead.
The trip started a few days before for Jansyn and Katrina, who flew in from New York with their bikes and rode down the coast from San Francisco, staying in Pidgeon Point the night before at a hostel with a very annoying family as neighbors, according to Jansyn.
The day begins bright and early. Its cold out but not raining as we head down Trout Gulch road towards town. It was all downhill, which was a breeze, but the sun hadn’t risen enough to shine down on us, so it was cold. Our hands were aching by the time we reached the bottom, 5 miles below. I was nervous about the trip, mostly about being uncomfortable, but after warming up a bit in a patch of sun, we continued on our way along the frontage road towards Watsonville.
We biked about 40 miles that day, passing a stretch of road with a view of the ocean on one side, and a sea of plastic on the other, agricultural land covered to suppress weeds and pests I later learned. I sang silly tunes and listened to music to entertain myself and gradually we all warmed up and de-layered as the day unfolded, stopping in Moss Landing for lunch.
We biked on Highway 1 for a stretch, which was intimidating because of all the fast cars, but interesting since I’d driven that route by car many times before and so appreciated the new perspective. Biking slowly past the wetlands and dunes, the giant smokestacks, taking in the sights and smells, feeling the cool ocean air, it was beautiful.
Eventually we arrived in Monterey, where we would camp for the night at Veterans Memorial Park Campground. There we made friends with another group of bikers from Santa Cruz who were heading to Big Sur. The group was led by a guy who worked at a bike shop and had a bunch of fancy gear including a high tech trailer to hold gear and food, and the tinyest camp stove I’ve ever seen. He was accompanied by a young UCSC student with gorgeous long hair and a hippie looking Cabrillo student named Armand. He may have been riding barefoot and when I first saw him he was doing yoga. Like I said: hippie.
That night we had an alarming exchange with a very drunk girl who was fighting with her boyfriend in the car. They were making such a fus, car alarm going off a few times, the two of them yelling, both of them crying at different points of the night. They were sleeping in the next tent over, that’s how I knew about the crying. They really caused quite a scene at the campground and I was surprised security didn’t come to kick them out. Anyway, it also made for an interesting story, so I have no complaints.
Monterey to Pfeiffer, Big Sur.
The ride started off excruciatingly uphill. We rode up and over Skyline Drive, a mountain highway where Katrina and I spotted a hobo with a busted face while passing over a bridge. I was so shocked by the sight all I could do was say “hello” as I pedaled by.
Eventually we emerged from the mountains and coasted down into beautiful Carmel-By-The-Sea, but we didn’t see the sea from there because we were in the valley.
It started raining at some point but we didn’t let that stop us. I think this was the first day I wore bags over my socks in my shoes to keep the rain out. It worked surprisingly well. In retrospect I would have selected a different shoe for this trip. The canvas Converse high tops were hell on my toes in the mornings when the air was cold.
Eventually we made it to Pfeiffer and were joined by Katrina’s friend Katie and her entourage, girlfriend Sarah, a bike mechanic, and eccentric friend Emilia who sang us a song about sharing food while we ate our fondue dinner. As the night continued we drank bourbon by the fire until one by one we all went to sleep.
There was an interesting woman at our campsite that night and the next morning. It was a hike-bike campsite like in Monterey, so we had company. This woman was strange, but of course I talked to her. I don’t know about any of the other girls did. But I think so. We were also joined by the trio from the night before. Luckily there were no drunken couples to be found at this site. Too remote.
The next day we spent the day in Pfeiffer, went on a hike and enjoyed a day of rest. Katie spotted a deer foot dangling from a fence and was terrorized by a strange homeless man who was pretending to lather up and wash himself over his clothes while peering through the visitor center window. I had seen this man earlier that day seated with his bundle of possessions, looking out from a sunny perch over the big sur coastline. I thought to myself that he was really livin’ the life.
Katie’s girlfriend had a car so we all went out to lunch, meeting up with Emilia’s friend who had a disgruntled cat in a box.
We returned to the site and hunkered down in our tents as the storm rolled in.
Pfeiffer to Limekiln, not our intended spot but a smart stop since the storm was really rolling in by then. The day started off dumping and we all got ready near the covered bathroom area like good little hobos.
We stopped for lunch and were advised by the waitress to stop short of our goal and hunker down at the nearest campsite. It was about 4pm and with the storm coming and it getting dark, we had to listen. We spent about an hour trying to hitchhike. Katrina started doing the stand up worm to draw attention, but it was to no avail. Its tough trying to hitchhike with 4 people and 4 bikes. Somehow or other we made it to the next campsite and were able to eat and enjoy a quick fire before hunkering down in our tents while the storm rolled in.
That night Katie started to complain of an upset stomach. It was the beginning of the end for her and this trip.
Limekiln to San Simeon
Woke up and promptly got on the road, only to be rained out rather quickly, about 10 miles down the road. My plastic bag booties were filled with water and the rain was coming down so hard it hurt my face and hands. As soon as we could, we pulled over. Turned out we were able to find refuge at a cute little convenience store and bar stop in Gorda, about 20 miles from the next town where we figured we could get a hotel room.
It took some finegaling and courage, but we ended up finding two cars to give us a ride to San Simeon. Jansyn and Katie befriended a couple brothers in a Subaru, and me and Katrina, we got a ride from a wild haired, wide eyed, surfer looking guy with a pick up truck. And of course that was a story in itself. I will tell you a little.
I forget his name, but he was a Big Sur native. A writer, painfully in love with a woman who double crossed him, or left him, or something. He’d never been published, but had folders of his writings scattered throughout the car. I was sitting in the back seat and could hardly hear anything of the conversation that was going on in the front, where Katrina was sitting. He had the defroster on high the whole time and frequently had to use a sock to wipe off the inside of the windsheild to clear a view. Mind you, we were driving the Big Sur coast on Highway 1, which is a rather windy road. I got pretty nervous a couple times because the windsheild got so foggy and the road was so curvy, but the craziness that was coming out of his mouth was interesting and hilarious enough to keep my mind occupied.
In the end, he dropped us off at a hotel parking lot and gave all us girls a souvenier, a piece of jade he had collected at the beach. He showed us how you shine it, with nose oil. Yummy.
San Simeon to San Louis Obispo
Slightly rejuvinated from a night spent indoors and our things a bit dryer, we made our way by shuttle bus to San Louis Obispo. We had pussed out at this point, it was raining anyway. We made it to San Louis Obispo and stayed the night with a Couchsurfing host, a tech guy who also did product photography in his garage as a side gig. He had a gathering at his house the night we stayed over, cant remember what it was celebrating, and we had a chance to meet his friends. The one that stood out was a lady that worked as a vet tech.
San Luis to Santa Barbara
We took the train! Katie took the train back North.
Santa Barbara to Ventura
We biked and camped. I got 3 flat tires and biked through the taco bell drive through. Katrina’s bike got stolen.
Ventura to Los Angeles
Katrina took the bus. Jansyn and I biked. It was beautiful. We saw a car wreck. I listened to Nate Denver. Made it 80 miles to Katrina’s friends house. Got picked up by Peter and of course the adventure continued. Ending in a very cheap rental car drive home, alone.
After this trip, the Fern Flat days continued, leading up to the Lesbian Cat Fight and my last cruise.