Now that we’re on the road, I don’t want to just talk about the good stuff. After all, the best travel stories are tales of misadventure and discomfort. I can draw a dozen arrows of pain from my memory quiver that still stick in my mind: 14 hours into a packed night train ride in China, Chelsea and I get puked on by a cute little Chinese girl; feverishly ill in a hostel in Burma with MalariaTyphoidDeathFever, which I then give to my friend Eric, who shivers so badly on the plane ride out that he puts a plastic bag on his head to try to stay warm; getting frisked by overzealous Russian policeman knowing that my visa invitation is not legit, and that I’m couchsurfing illegally. You know what I’m talking about. Lost passports, unraveling plans, adversity. The “good” stuff!
All that said: Just so that my mom and dad don’t think traveling is all about suffering, let’s talk about today. It has not been one of those days where we wake up with a Chinese kid’s vomit in our ramen. Today is the wow-how-am-I-so-lucky day.
We woke up to a knock on the van door. Jamie and Evan, our amazing Santa Cruzian™ friends, had a breakfast spread of granola and fruit, buttery English muffins and hot cider ready to munch on looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Yes please, I will have some cinnamon roll too. Then Chelsea and Jamie head out to kayak, and I launch out the door on my mountain bike ride to explore Nisene Marks State Park, right at the bottom of their driveway.
Chelsea is aware that I’m typically an hour to three hours late returning from mountain biking. I’m a punctual guy, yet there is something about biking in the woods that extends timelines and washes away caring about time. Not this time, dang it. I give her a timeline – back at 12:30 – and head out. First phase is a solid eight miles uphill through gorgeous redwoods, and then a quick food break. While I’m there, I chat with three local guys out for a jaunt. “Hey, want us to show you around?” they ask. Yes please.
People who know me (hopefully) consider me a pretty fit guy. Does. Not. Matter. Turns out that Austin, Jeremy and Pete have bikes with rocket boosters on them. Or ate Velociraptor for breakfast and are ready to tear some legs off. We do a climb Jamie said would take me 40 minutes, but in 20. (Wait, I thought this was a good day?) I cease talking about five minutes into the climb and try to keep my tongue out of my spokes and my lungs from pushing my eyes out of my head. Repeat, about a dozen times in the next three hours. Biking is fun.
However! In between the hamstring-shredding uphills, which I secretly enjoy anyway, we snake through redwood groves on twisty single track that splits my face with a gigantic grin again and again. They tour me through hidden trails cut in way back in the forest where Ewoks chatter from the trees and deer scatter up narrow ravines. It is sunny and 65 and I haven’t a care in the world other than not losing my guides and spending two weeks lost in the wild.
Cut past the end of the ride. Late getting home yet again, only by two hours (sigh). I’m draining four glasses of a tasty berry smoothie while sitting in the warm sun with my shirt off watching birds hop around the yard. Our friend’s dog Cooper repeatedly brings me a ball, which I chuck over and over (who is the trained one here anyway?). I lie down on my back and close my eyes, soaking in the rays on my tired body. This moment right here is why we are on this trip. I know there will be periods of logistical headaches and unforeseen complications that stress us out. Yet as the red glow of a sunset darkens the sky as I write this, I know these snippets of awesome are the reason we are out here.
Now please excuse me while I go stretch my aching hamstrings.