Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Bike Tour

Day 26 – 9/22, 6:30pm, San Simeon State Park CA

The magical rides tend to happen in the early morning. I left the campground at 6:30am, and had several hours almost to myself on the road through Big Sur’s southern coast. Tendrils of light from the rising sun making streaks through the light fog, cliffs dropping into the ocean, hard climbs on the yo-yoing road made worth it by the beauty at each turn. You can see most of this by car, but you don’t get the full sensory immersion: the smell of the salt water tinged with shrub and tree, the sounds of waves crashing, seals barking, and innumerable bird songs – staccato attacks and trills, jagged bursts and melodic shapes. A good good morning.

Much later in the day, after the road mercifully flattened out (you gotta laugh when a sign warns “Hilly and windy road, next 63 miles!”), I passed a beach alcove chock full of elephant seals. Amazing sight, watching them laze on the beach or spar in the shallows, calling to each other through their funny flattened faces, sounding like a choir of contrabassoons.

I ended the day by jumping into the Pacific Ocean, for the first time since my bloody baptism on day one. It is amazing how the body heals itself, rough scabs forming as the flesh knits back together beneath. Now that those scabs have finally fallen away, it felt good to test my newly mended skin in the water. Some pelicans gliding north in front of the setting sun, other seabirds breaking the surface of the water with their wings, like a skipping rock moving in reverse, till they take flight.

9/23, 5:30am. I’ll be getting an earlier start than expected, woken up by some audaciously thieving raccoons. Rookie camping mistake; since I’m not in bear country anymore I wasn’t as careful stowing my food, and the critters not only lifted my bike pannier from right next to my sleeping head, they dragged it twenty feet away, worked the zipper and decimated my small food stash. Crazy. Besides the raccoon infestation, not the best-maintained campground I’ve stayed at, but made up for by the company of fellow travelers well met: a family from Germany, a couple from New Zealand, and in either a surprising or totally expected coincidence, a recent graduate from Wesleyan making her way down the coast. A nice time chatting and playing by the fire. Now fully awake, I’ll watch the stars till dawn starts to break, then hit the road.

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