Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two Brazilians, A Bunk-Bed, And An Octogenarian

I love just about everything about biking.  I love that I ride every day.  I love riding to work (when I'm not getting hassled by driveists, that is).  I love my long Saturday morning rides.  I love the social rides I do with friends around the bay and the island.  What I absolutely love the most, though, are my multi-day bike adventures.  I never feel more alive than when its me and my bike and hundreds of miles to traverse by ourselves in some place I've never biked before.  Just thinking about the sheer freedom and escape of it gives me an instant sense of giddiness.

Thus, I must have been the happiest man in San Diego two Sundays ago, as I got up early, hopped on my pre-loaded bike, and pedaled off to catch the bus right outside the base to take me over the Coronado Bay Bridge to begin my train trek north to knock out one of the last two segments I need to complete in order to have biked the entire California coast, north to south.  I hopped off the bus and retrieved my bike from the front rack at 12th and Imperial (where the atmosphere seems to take on more and more of a "Mad Max" feel daily), and headed straight for Santa Fe Station where my "smart" phone said I could catch a the Surfliner all the way to San Luis Obispo (SLO).  To my dismay, though, I learned that all tracks between San Diego and Oceanside were down for maintenance.  Some smart phone.

Not too big a problem, though.  For a mere extra $16, Amtrak let me take their bus shuttle from the station to Oceanside, with my bike stowed below.  Crisis averted.  I even had some time to kill before the train, giving me time to check out Bagby Beer Co., the super-cool new place started by the legendary Pizza Port brewer.  With large open-air windows, a courtyard, roof-top seating, awesome food and a tremendous beer selection, it did not disappoint.  Finally, a place to wait for the train in Oceanside where I don't feel like I'm about to get a cue-stick smashed over my head, stabbed, or eaten alive by a pit-bull (or all three).

After a quick lunch, it was a mere 9 hour ride from Oceanside to SLO.  Thank God the train had wi-fi and I had my Kindle!

Got to SLO a little after 8:30 and headed straight to the Hostel that was, conveniently, just a couple of blocks from the Amtrak station.  Great Hostel!  Housed in a beautiful old Victorian. it was clean, well-run, and, best of all, cheap!  Just $16 a bunk, but I paid a little more to have the privacy of my own (extremely small room).

As I was checking in, two young women from Brazil came in right after me.  They had taken the same train up with me (starting in LA where they had just landed that morning).  We all must have been starving, because a mere couple of minutes later, the three of us had stowed our stuff and were heading out the door to go find Higuera and its long stretch of eateries.  We walked together (I sensed that they found some comfort in walking along in a strange country with the only familiar face to them - besides the dude who had checked us in), chatting along the way.  Before we knew it, we had reached my desired destination -- the Firestone Grill, home of a famously succulent tri-tip sandwich.  My new Brazilian friends weren't enticed by the prospect of eating beef sandwiches in a student hang-out, so we bid each other adieu as I hungrily scurried into Firestone to devour one of the most delicious sandwiches I've ever had.  Yum!

After dinner, I walked around downtown a bit (to get out the kinks and kick-start digestion) and loved everything I saw.  I've been through SLO a few times now, and have loved my brief encounters each time.  Next time I MUST stay for a bit and really get to know it.  Then, it was straight to bed, so I could be ready for an early start Monday morning as I set out south to Santa Barbara.

I slept like a rock, rising an hour before sunrise to make sure I could get properly caffeinated before heading out.  So, it was back over to Higuera where I hit Black Horse Espresso and Bakery for a "Keith Richards" (large coffee with two shots of espresso) and a delicious sausage and cheese croissant.  Awesome start to the day.  Twilight was just starting to emerge on my walk back, triggering the wonderful adrenaline triggered butterflies I get at the start of any big ride.  So exciting!  Soon after I got back to my room, though, and as I began to secure my saddle-bag I heard a soft knock on my door.  I answered it immediately, finding one of the Brazilian women I had met the night before outside in her long night-gown.  She had a look of mild concern on her face and asked if I could come upstairs to help a lady who was "stuck."  When I asked what she meant she just waved to me to follow, which I did.  We climbed the stairs to the women's bunk-room where her friend was waiting by the door.  I followed them both into the room where there was a little old lady in the top of one of the bunks with her lower legs dangling over the metal railing designed to keep sleepers from falling out.  Unfortunately, in her case, it prevented her from exiting the bed at all under her own power.  She was smiling, and promptly reported that she was 82 and had no strength left in her legs after two knee replacements.  When I asked how she managed to get up into the top bunk, she said she had climbed the ladder slowly and just fallen into the bed.  I asked how her arms and arm sockets were and she said they were fine.  So, I talked her through the game-plan:  I would lift her (like a baby) by her arm-pits over the railing, and she would then lean forward, put her arms around my neck and let me slowly lower her to the floor.  I then got into place, counted to three and, flat-footed, easily lifted her (wow, was she light) over the railing after which she clutched me as I carefully lowered her while we were chest-to-chest.  Once she was safely, two-feet-on-the-ground, she looked up, smiled, and proclaimed "ooh, that was actually pretty nice!"  The two Brazilians thought that was quite funny, and I began to suspect that this might not have been the first time this little old lady had needed "rescuing" from a bunk-bed.  I then excused myself (after accepting the thanks of all concerned), headed back down stairs, grabbed my bike and headed out the door thrilled that I was starting my trip with such a tremendous surplus of good karma.  Apparently, it was only enough for one, glorious day, though, but more about that in Part II!

(End of Part I of SLO to Santa Barbara . . .)

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