155km of road taught valuable lessons today.
Describing this day as ‘tough’ is an understatement. Our trip started well. And then, at the 70km point, we decided to divert from the planned route. Within 1 hour of riding I was split from the RV and somewhat lost in Del Monte forest. Worrying about my phone battery, which was not in service, I cycled an hour and rode back and forth, up and down. I spent energy traveling without knowing Davids or my location. Aware that my legs were mildly sore I grew more frustration as the road split and I continually took incorrect turns that included a 200m incline. My pigeon beaconing was destroyed. The trees towered overhead, the road threw me left and right and I felt small and powerless. Miraculously, the mouth of the forest exit opened and, like a vomit, I was thrown out of that forest and in sight of our RV.
After my misadventure we rode / drove together for many kilometers. When I get emotional I quickly deplete my energy resources and while I can pedal all day, being in a state of panic is fatiguing. I’ve supported my husband & friends in ultramarathons before and seen the innards of people who, in the extreme case of physically demanding situations, hide nothing. Pain and fatigue are wicked drugs that turn a person inside out. The body becomes a mere transporter. Legs and arms move, lungs breath, heart pumps, eyes see and mouth consumes. They all combine to make you move, nothing more or less. It’s rarely the body that gives up. Emotion and mental weakness is the killer.
The ride this day hadn’t bought about such a physically exhaustive state. The emotional experience however had left me angry, upset and trying my best to explain to David that this can’t happen again. Though I wasn’t to know it would..
Once on track again, I set off a nice pace, carving my way through to the Big Sur. The traffic thinned, the view widened and the shoulders became a little precarious over those cliffs. But the road was so darn beautiful and I felt like I was flying. The worst road surfaces are inevitably on the edges. And thats where bike riders are often found, hugging and vulnerably invisible. I’m a big believer in non-defensive riding. If in doubt, ride in the center.
Having found some sweet spots on the Big Sur hills, my photos start to show a happier me, a smile splitting my cheeks like a watermelon.
The roads got curlier, the landscape became dramatic seascapes, the traffic lessened and I got faster. With no traffic lights I took on the road and got a feel for my bike. After about the 110km mark I convinced David to move on and return on his bike. He took a bit of convincing after our earlier mishap. About an hour away from my destination in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, David met me. I expected he needed a longer ride and, while I was fatigued from long hours in the saddle, he took my advice passed the keys and rode off.
I enjoy the solo aspect of riding. No distractions and no pressures. The pace is purely your own choosing, and the intensity of your relationship with the surrounding and the terrain emphatically expands. The wind in my ears howled, but not enough to hide the sounds of seals below the perilous cliffs. My legs were torn between wanting to push faster, and wanting to make these moments last. This constant dilemma was sweet, but I almost always chose the faster lane. A big part of this trip was enjoying the benefits of experience through a road bike. And this bike is too unbelievable not to push.
As the miles ticked by, the oceanscapes were replaced by massive trees and I was engulfed by shadows. I had entered Pfeiffer State Park and began looking for the RV Park. It didn’t take long for me to realise I couldn’t find that van, or even the rv park it was located. I began the tortuous process of riding between the many rv parks. The hills in between really did my head in. I love hills, but conscious of needing to conserve my legs, plus having no food or water, I was beginning to panic again. It is no lie that I actually looked at the sky squeezed my eyes shut and yelled out some terrible obscenities. Imagining myself cold and miserable, sleeping in a bush in the dark with my bike did not help. Where was David? I had the keys, so he was going to have to sleep in some bush too. I was miserable, upset, and felt completely on my own. No-one had wifi. I had lost service and my phone battery was all but dead. Speaking with the many people that couldn’t help me but who assured me I would be fine was fuel on my fear fire.
Night closed over as I pulled into one of the last remaining parks. I heard someone yelling at me. The van was 10 meters away while Dave was in someones truck with a small banded search party. I sank into the sofa and stared into the blank. I had done an extra 30 km including about 400m of extra elevation that day.
Id been on the saddle for about 9 hours and near 7 of those were moving. My bike is set beautifully, so thank god no pains from bad bike fit existed. But I was mentally done. The maps illustrate more than a route. They show my total confusion. I met a lot of people that afternoon who blessed me, fed me, phoned around parks for me, chatted and consoled me. Americans are amazing people who cut through misery with a glossy veneer. They say, ‘everything is going to be alright’. And surprisingly it was. With my van around me I was ok now.
Dave eventually arrived and was relieved to see me, and my bike, in one piece. We took ourselves out to spent big at a local restaurant on an awesome meal and celebrate a rather adventurous day. Tomorrow, we thought, would be another fresh day without diversions.