A travel moment in San Jose


For the most part, it was the Pacific Coast sun which I relied upon to prize apart tired eyes. A chemical reaction followed, like a veteran warrior adorning his armor for battle - wrestle sleeping bag, scroll matt, pack panniers, collapse tent, load my trusty two-wheeler...exhale. However, the following evenings methodical half hour visits from the resident Raccoons and that 'one last' beer with Gordon the 67 year old, bearded Belorussian cyclist meant these drowsy Australian eyes were batten down for an extended hibernation. Until the Monterey Bay heat elevated my one-man abode to intolerable temperatures. Today I head inland to meet relatives in San Jose after 1,185 miles of cycling America's awe-inspiring West Coast (Vancouver - San Diego currently in Santa Cruz) a form of travel I once perceived daunting which i now believe to be accessible to most. No traces of Gordon, I'm sure we will run into each other down the road. Oatmeal and black coffee on the camp stove, as I concentrate on the final Chapter ofKerouac's 'Big Sur', all the while guarding my food like a greedy little 'Golume' in the case of surprise visit from last nights local wildlife. Load the bike and let the ocean breeze roll over my knuckles as i meander into downtown Santa Cruz."Well hey there, where you headin?" a deep voice to my left, my confused face down in the map. "Inland mate. San Jose" I reply over the crowed coffee shop street-front. "By the sound of you're accent, that aint home for you boy. I hope you got a good run up to pedal through that ocean from Australia", he laughs through his heavy salt and pepper mustache and we share a warm smile. "San Jose you say, well you want to head down the road, take a left up the old highway it's a slight incline until you reach 'Summit Rd'. Now at some point the may shoot you back onto 17' right at the end..." Now my number one rule of traveling is place trust in the generosity and kindness of those willing to offer it, however the number one rule of cycling is never take stock in directions from non-cyclists and as I looked down at his wiry legs crossed over one another I start to question if this man has ever ridden a bike. None the less he definitely came across as a local and i get a good vibe of him, and after that additional snoozing this morning i need to get some miles under my wheels.My muscles begin to loosen up as the scattered farm houses of the old highway float past. All my sense tingle as i smell, hear, see and feel all that Southern California offers up to me. The midday sunshine punctures holes in the canopy of the dense roadside forest, the road begins to steepen an i get out start to climb, and climb and climb...and climb. "A SLIGHT INCLINE!" I hear my legs screaming up at me, as the first bars of the 'Traveling Wilbury's - Handle with Care' can be heard from a courteous drivers slow passing car. After two hours of grueling climbing, I squint to hardly make out the upcoming street sign, in the hope its my turn off. when I hear a noisy pack of home bound kids no older than 10 jumping and cheering me on. Perhaps it was my deliriously tired state but I raised out of my saddle and attacked the road as if I was Lance on 'Le Tour'. One of the children began to keep pace with me, running as close as possible to his bike, "hold on he' sir" his tiny voice squeaked as he threw out his hand for me to grab. As i took hold, his back pack bounced all over and he increased his speed, pulling my tired body up the last 10 meters of the old highway until the road flattened out and 'Summit Rd' presented itself. A cheer roared from the new heros class mates, after several celebration high-fives with my 10 year old counterpart i took my turn off and thanked the man with the mustache and the wiry legs for he had indeed put me on the best path to San Jose.

M Hili

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