On The Way To See The Infamous Elephant Seals

Looking up at the stars off the coast of the Pacific Ocean is an experience that should be enjoyed by all. Though one should remember to pack an extra jacket regardless of how tough and cold climatized they might think they are. I was fortunate to find a friend who loaned me a jacket for a short time. Michael was his name. I spent the evening of the 25th having a ‘Christmas party’ with Michael and Michael. For a short time there was a Liz too, but she vanished, off to her home. Liz was Michael’s mom. Michael, the-one-who-loaned-me-the-jacket Michael. For the sake of brevity (my latest favorite term) we will call Michael, the-one-who-loaned-me-the-jacket, Mikey V. and the other Michael will just remain Michael.

Anyway, not only did I get to check out the stars while barefoot and hypothermic in the surf, I also got to sit on the rocks off the Pacific the next morning and watch surfers cut, rip, and peel, up the waves. Right off the bluff, on the rocks where the tide lays its chilly head when it comes in at night. The salty water crashed and sprayed me and the two Mikes as they gave me Surf 101 lessons. Speaking the lingo, describing the surfers moves, it was damn special. When we said farewell the next morning it felt like I had known them forever, when In truth I had just introduced myself to Mikey V. the night before.

I spent Christmas night at Pismo Beach. I had made it a goal to get there by the end of December 25th and I did. I had been told a few weeks ago, by a gentleman I met in Bakersfield, CA, that it was a place for bikers, as well as a place to camp on the beach. Well, that sounded fairly interesting. I didn’t see much for bikers when I was there, but apparently there is a rally there in September. Even so, there were many places to camp that were just a stand of trees away from the beach,  it was lovely. The night before, Christmas Eve, had been a pricey night spent at Malibu Beach. Camping on the coast is quite pricey, but regardless, I’m enjoing it.

Camping near the beach means many pictures of sunsets and sunrises, brace yourselves.

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Christmas eve was lovely. I started reading Maya Angelou’s book Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas and had my first roasted artichoke and an oyster for dinner. The book was a gift from my friend in Oceanside and my sense of humor being what It is, I thought it was ironic and utterly perfect to start Christmas Eve. The ride had been a busy one being the day before Christmas and all, and I very much enjoyed relaxing after a long day of not going far. The next morning meant heading towards Pismo Beach. A windy coastal breeze challenged me and my tent to a duel. We fought bravely, took a few good blows where my tent became a makeshift parachute, but I forced it to tackle the wind. With the aid of heavy objects (helmet, shoes and Little Wing) I was able fo keep all the componets from flying long enough to wrestle it all into the tent sack and onto the back of Little Wing. A windy, chilly, start to a morning, but beautiful none the less.

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More pictures, muaha ha ha.

It was time to boogie. However we only boogied for about twenty minutes before I decided it was time for a hot tea. A stop at a coffee shop and a blog later, and off we were. Back into the slog of traffic, which was terrifically lighter than the day before. Apparently Christmas does that to the roads. I was paused at the grocery store where I picked up my 94 cent breakfast — a bannana and breakfast roll — by a man who noticed the Minnesota license plate. It was a glorious pause, filled with well wishes for the holiday and also for the lone woman who was traveling across the country by motorcycle. The type of pause that reminds one that strangers are kind. A pause that left me with a smile and a story for the gentleman. I have no clue why he invested some interest and time into speaking to me, but the story must have meant something to him. Another person who I probably won’t see again, but who shared a good interaction with me regardless.

Pismo Beach. The next destination. The ride there was gorgeous. Highway 1 was my route but it did a good job of switching between 1 and 101 without my help. The roads would mesh together allowing me to hit 70 mph in between the bouts of 55 that are typical of 1. The route was much less populated then the other parts of California I have been subject to. It was a great relief to get a second to breathe and think without stoplights and nonstop traffic passing me.

The part of California I was riding through was like the hilly Wyoming/Nebraska area I had rode through earlier this year, except more green. It was absolutly spectacular.

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By the time I arrived at Pismo Beach I wasn’t sure there was anything else I could see that would blow my mind. That thought always creeps in and is constantly discounted. The world is gorgeous all the way through, and California is no different. Pismo beach is a village compared to most places in the state. In fact many of the towns I had rode past Christmas day had been small. I rode past the village of Harmony which only had a population of eighteen people.

There are only eighteen people living in Harmony.

I had quite a chuckle at that one. I repeated that joke over and over, into my helmet, for at least half an hour.

Pismo Beach wasn’t quite as small as Harmony but it was small. The trek was very reminiscent of the midwest because of the population as well as the views. One look at the ocean though and those thoughts vanished. Pismo Beach is right on the Pacific, like I said, so it is super obvious that it’s a Cali town. I pulled into the campsite and met a man who had 650 BMW parked in his garage. He was an old traveler who had come from Fresno. His family had taken the RV down, but he knew all about traveling by motorcycle. Over his long life he had rode througn many countries on many motorcycles. His first bike trip was taken in 1958 on his 1958 Triumph, his first bike. Dave was his name, and invited me to join him and his family for a bit. I said thank you, but couldn’t bring myself to stay any longer than fifteen minutes with them. A beautiful family, Dave his wife, their two sons, and plethora of grand kids. I had left a beautiful family to find Christmas by myself so I bid them ado and wandered off to the beach.

In between the campsite and the beach was only 300 yards of eucalyptus trees.

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The beachside had sunset in full bloom. The sun was setting, taking a dip into the ocean. The beach was  practically empty, with only about thirty people and fifteen dogs. The birds, were ducking here and there, having their dinner by the setting sun. After the sun finished setting I was fully intending to walk to town and pick up my dinner (another 94 cent meal if I could find it. Camping was too pricey for anything other), but I happened upon other plans.

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On my way back to my campsite I passed  a lone dude with a red flannel and a dark beard. Those Midwest thoughts crept back into my brain. A transplant from Bemidji, MN? I mean he had the whole Paul Bunyan thing going on. I recalled that Northern California was home to logging, as well as Oregon and Washington. I continued back to my tent to layer up, and then found my way to the bathroom. In doing so I passed the lone flannel guy again. This time I noticed he was playing some old school Reggae. On the way out of the restroom I felt the urge to talk to this kindred spirit, reggae and flannel? Plus he had a campfire going and I was cold.

“Hey there. I like your music.”

“Well hey there, thanks!” He sounded suprised,  which was  understandable cause he had been turned towards the picnic table when I had spoke. When he was turned around, facing me, I held out my hand.

“Diamond.”

“Diamond? Michael.”

And that started the beginning of an evening of new friendship. It was different than any other invite I had for Christmas because I had intiated it, in a way. I mean Mikey V. offered me the grilled chicken burritos that we all enjoyed that evening, but I started the conversation that lead to it , and I didn’t leave. Mikey V. was originally from the coastal area, but had been living up in logging country in NorCal. The rainy season and presence of lumber jacks was the cause for the beard, and flannels were just something he liked. For me his look was something different. It was like talking to a bit of home. A 39 year old man that reminded of most of my buds back home. A reggae listening hirsuit who thought Christmas was best spent on the beach with chicken burritos and a motley crew of pals. His mom was from Switzerland and spoke with a French accent. She showed up with curried rice and chocolate bars, she was immediately my favorite.  The second Michael was an artist living out of his old Dodge van. The type of van that was so old it didn’t have to pass California smog inspections. The type of van that took five turnovers to start, and put Little Wing’s pipe to shame with it’s Harley like idle.

Actually, both Mikes were artists but Michael was a mural artist who worked out of the van, when he wasn’t painting houses for money. Mikey V. was an artist who worked, but also drummed. He was hoping to get back into playing music since he had a little bit of money saved up, but for the time being was just checking out the world on vacation. They were a  blast to chat with. And when Mikey V.’s mom, Liz, left we spent the evening chatting about art, life, and adventure. We built our fire up with Eucalyptus bark and dead fall which we took turns hunting out of the woods with my flashlights. We ended up moving my tent to their campsite and combining our funds to pay for the one spot. This brought me closer the fire, which was closer to the ocean. We went for an evening walk on the beack where they showed me what they knew. They are both California boys so they knew much more than I about the magical body of water. We found many broken sand dollars, and one perfect one, which I held onto. They showed me sand crabs, which bury themselves into the sand just a few inches. I had only seen dead ones before, but they dug up the live ones and showed me how they scuttled. They promised to show me the bluffs the next day, and there was talk of exploring the caves if the tide was low (it wasn’t).

Michael had to go to bed early because he worked in the morning but Mikey V. and I stayed up til Christmas was over and went to bed sometime after the final log broke into bits on the fire. Enlightening conversation is the exact thing I had been searching for on Christmas. Not that I wouldn’t have found it had I stayed with any of the other people who had invited me to hang around for Christmas, but it wouldn’t have happened in the same way. There is something about artists, barefoot walks at midnight, and campfires. It was so much like home, it was right.

The next morning I woke to Michael shouting at a seagull who had flown off with his lone avocado which had been left on the picnic table when we all hit the sack hours before. I rolled out of my tent, and warmed myself in the sun. When Mikey V. woke we left the camp as was and went to  coffee shop. I got some tea and we headed down to the bluff. We made our way down to the rocks below, and watched the surfers for an hour. The sun warmed my back as the salty spray got us from time to time  whenever a particularly large wave broke.

Michael went off to work after that and Mikey V. and I went back to the camp where I tore down my tent. I packed up Little Wing. After a sad farewll to a new a friend Little Wing and I took of towards the elephant seals and Big Sur.

I woke up this morning a few miles south of Big Sur, which is where I’m riding today. I saw the elephant seals doing their annual species continuation ritual on the shore of the Pacific Ocean yesterday. I will probably check them out again today on my way through. It is a neat thing to see a foriegn species doing their little thing in life. Doing exactly what we do, surviving, but in their own way.. something completely foriegn to us. I survive through enlightening conversation and travel. I survive by learning new things and having a interactions with humans that could have easily passed by.

Elephant seals survive by basking in the sun, and galumpfing along the beach, something they manage to do only once a year.

We all have our things.

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That dude front in center is a male making his way towards a female. It took him about fifteen minutes to get from the ocean to a female, who rejected him once he got there. Life is a marvelous mystery.

This morning a fellow camper from the campsite right outside of Cambria approached Little Wing. He checked out the license plate.  “Long way from home, huh?”

“Sure am,” I responded as I packed up my sleeping bag.

“I bet your loving it here.”

“Ha, you bet.” We conversed about his long adventure in 1985. A 15,000 mile trek from SoCal up through Canada and down to Florida. A long round trip that he took on a 650 BMW.

The people one meets.