I rarely sleep late. My body seems to wake up a little earlier each year, but this morning I wake up late. The thing that pulls me out of my deep sleep is the sound of the neighbor’s damn dog — barking AGAIN!!!
My eyes flutter open to the color of bright orange. I lay there for a few confused seconds before realizing I’m in the tent. The barking that woke me up continues, but it’s no dog. It’s the sound of seals out in Morro Bay.
I drag myself out of the sleeping bag, pull my cowboy boots on, and start the short hike down to the beach. It’s foggy. I can’t see where the sky ends and the water begins.
I get to the water, and the first thing I see are pelicans. They circle about 100 ft. up. I can see them scanning the water, looking for something. Occasionally one of them tucks its wings back and dives straight down at the ocean. They look like delicate paper airplanes in suicidal plunges.
The bird hits the water at a 90 degree angle and disappears under the waves. The violent impact sounds like a wet shotgun blast. Seconds later the pelican reappears, and it’s gulping down a fish.
Seals playfully splash and bark in the surf near where the pelicans are diving. I assume they are feeding on the same school of fish.
The ocean odor permeates the damp air. It smells like life and death at the same time. Flies are digging into what looks like a pile of seaweed near where I’m standing, and out in the gray a fog horn echoes across the bay.
An hour later I’m packing Connie’s luggage. I’m planning to go north, up Calif. Hway-1. I have the undefined goal of getting to San Francisco this evening.
I’m headed north, passing or rolling through one small coastal town after another. A small group of Harley riders pulls out ahead of me at the very last town before we enter the 90-mile stretch that is commonly known as Big Sur. I take up position at the back of the group, and I’m following the rules of group riding. It feels good to be part of something again.
I ride in formation for about 20 minutes, but they are traveling faster than I want and their bikes are incredibly loud. I can’t stand being on the receiving end of their tailpipe cacophony, so I let up and slow down. The Harley riders disappear into the mist. Ten minutes later I pass them at a scenic pullout. Connie’s stealthy purr doesn’t garner their attention as I ride by.
I’m rolling through thick fog. It’s coming up off the water and climbing the cliffs. The fog obscures the view, but riding through the damp grayness is peaceful and a little magical.
Hway-1 twists and turns like a gigantic black snake along the coast. One minute I’m climbing and the next I’m descending. I’m leaning with Connie as we glide around one curve and then another. It feels never-ending, and I love every second. I say into the echo chamber of my helmet that sometimes life is so sweet, and I continue rolling north.
I’m passing another scenic pullout about thirty minutes later, when two 20-something guys climb out of a small convertible as I approach. They are perfect visions of young masculine beauty. Thick hair, high cheek bones and strong jutting chins are the order if the day with these two. I’m thinking they might be male models when the tall one grabs the other’s hand. They look at each other and embrace. They are kissing as I ride by. I smile and wish them well as they continue with their embrace in the foggy vision of my left rear-view mirror.
I think our society is reaching a turning point with gay and lesbian folks. What right do straight people have to deny love, marriage and family-life to people who love each other and are in a committed relationship?
I’m rolling and rolling through the fog. I’m the only north-bound traveler on this road, and that’s fine by me.
Further up the road a hopped-up convertible Mustang is idling at the side of the road as as I approach. The driver is a middle-age man, and he has a beautiful, young California blonde in the passenger seat. I pull over to let them pass because the last thing I need is an overly aggressive man with something to prove to his trophy wife at my six.
I follow the mustang through the mist. He is a good driver, and he isn’t aggressive. I feel bad for prejudging him. Eventually they pull over at a scenic pullout, and I roll by.
The fog finally lifts about 20 minutes later. The view of the ocean is breathtaking, but I can’t look for long because the road continues to twist, climb, dive and turn. I’m tired when I suddenly see a roadside business and pull over. It’s an art gallery and a cafe. After parking Connie, I’m a little delirious as I enter the cafe and approach the manager.
“Where are we?” I ask.
The man smiles. He reminds me of Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams” when he extends his hand for a double-pump handshake and says, “You’re in Big Sur.”
I’m hungry so I order a turkey sandwich and coffee. I go out on the porch while waiting for my food. It turns out to be the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in days.
I’m sitting there resting and soaking up the sun when two young Italian couples sit down next to me. I can’t understand a word they are saying, but the rhythm and cadence of their speech is just too romantic to not eavesdrop. The younger of the two women shimmies out of her black sweater and drapes it over the arm of her chair. She leans into her lover and gives him a kiss that only an Italian woman in the springtime of her life can give. That kiss makes me remember past kisses with former girlfriends, but mostly it gets me thinking about my wife, the kisses we’ve shared, and the kisses I hope we’ll share in the future.
I’m rolling again 15 minutes later. Santa Cruz’s rush hour traffic is ahead of me. I somehow get through unscathed and continue rolling north on Hway-1.
The wind picks up north of Santa Cruz. It pushes me and Connie all over our north-bound lane. I tuck down tight behind Connie’s windscreen. We’re as aerodynamically efficient as we can get, and we run for miles into a cold, violent headwind.
I just can’t fight the wind anymore by the time I reach Half Moon Bay, Calif. So, I locate a saloon to re-hydrate. A few minutes into drinking water and whiskey I discover the saloon runs a hotel on the second floor. So, that’s where I’ve dropped anchor for the night. San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge are just 20 miles up the road.