Monday, February 13, 2012

A Bicycle Ride: 4

Coastal farmland. I love it. It’s something I’ve never seen before. Rolling hills, combed neatly with endless rows of things that grow, but at the beach. That was probably the single most favorite part of my little ride: the Pacific. It was always there, just over my right shoulder. Sometimes I’d follow the road’s course a few miles inland and forget about the ocean until it would cut through what I thought were clouds and prove to have been there all along, blue and gray and continuous, the sky intemperate but the ocean calm, pacifico. Glorious.

I ate an orange that day. An electric orange that tingled my thirsty mouth and inspired praise for Mama Earth. I thought of the little seed that had been patted into the ground to produce the complex system known as Citrus sinensis, or an orange tree, so that this little round fruit could bud from its branches and accompany me through clouds for a while. I enjoyed it until it was gone, every wedge of perfectly unbelievable chemistry held to a sun that prismed through mist and fog, and then I enjoyed it even further as a celebrated memory while I pedaled away from the discarded rind. Here’s a nugget of advice if you’re ever riding your bicycle along the Highway 1: stop at the fruit stands. Holy shit, you won’t regret it. If you’re riding a long distance at all, take fruit. They’ve never made more sense to me than in my time of outstanding humanity, where thirst and hunger and fatigue return our minds to the corporeal, to a kingdom of animals, separate from the idleness of feather pillows and streaming videos and complicit misinformation. It made me feel I was a part of a system again and not in contrary to one. I liked that.

Monterey. Suddenly, I was there, rolling along a scenic bike route with scores of families pointing at sea lions that draped over boulders poking out of the turquoise bay. Stilted buildings extended colorfully into the ocean, their well-manicured rustication a picturesque backdrop against a curling fog and filtered rays of sunlight. I weaved through high-pantsed elderly who held their arms outstretched as though doing so could keep their bustling surroundings in place until they could gather their bearings; pimply teenagers awkwardly following their vacationing parents like conflicted ducklings; breaths of French and German and high-hatted English, exhaled from bodies not yet fattened by the adulterated food and drink of the New World. Blues and blondes and greens and sandy browns. Whiteness, pinked by a holiday sun. I torpedoed through their ranks, my foam bedroll brushing past bent elbows that kept expensive cameras aloft, making no apologies, slowing when left with no other option. It was, after all, a bike lane. A clean bike lane, wide and free of debris. All I had seen of Monterey, in fact, was a far cry from the realities of a dense population such as San Francisco, where even in areas of kept wives whose job it was to remain firm and beautiful and to spend money, trash still fluttered in the street and the black-toothed smiles of the forgotten were ubiquitous even if overlooked. It bothered me. This beautiful place, gilded to cover things that could never be kept from my eyes again, existed. It was a Disneyland of barkers and colored balloons, and its deception was upsetting.

I squeezed the levers on my handlebars and lowered my feet to the ground as my bicycle stopped. A brief consultation with the magic of Google Maps made my spirit sag with profundity as I realized I had been enchanted for miles off track. You’d be surprised how easily and how often I did that. There’s a lot to look at, other than the road.

The rest of the day was spent pushing my bike up hill, drenched from fog and sweat. When I finally stopped, the day old pizza I had been feeding on from my dank backpack was ejected from my stomach with a forceful hurl; the happy smiles of the Monterey Peninsula’s immaculate tourism beaded its poison out with my cold sweat and swirled with bile and undigested slices of mushrooms in a toilet that I held onto with white knuckles. But I felt much better and fell asleep remembering oranges.

The day found solutions for my battered gluteus maximus. Just in time, too, as I was having trouble sitting.

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