There is much more that I can’t take the time to write now, especially about the people along the way:

·       The Mexican farmworker I met on the train, with a palsy that caused the fingers of one hand to curl, who gave me a $20 bill just because I chatted with him and helped him open his food packaging, then asked me to pay the twenty bucks forward.

·       The cyclist at Refugio with a story about lurking near the disastrous landslides blocking Highway 1 in Big Sur, then furtively walking his bike around them after the road workers went home at night.

·       The young FedEx driver in Del Mar who tried to explain “runner’s high” to me in terms I could grasp.

·       The woman in SLO who, after raising five children, realized that she didn’t know who she was anymore and had spent the last six years cycling and camping throughout the West.

·       The two Mexican families in the restaurant in Santa Maria who spoke fine Spanish to the waitress and a completely unintelligible, indigenous language to each other.

·       The gracious but concerned relative who offered me a big bag of money if I “didn’t take the damned trip in the first place.”

Did you notice how rarely I smiled in my selfies? That’s for two reasons: It was usually miserably hard work to ride all day, so smiling wasn’t top of mind for me. Similarly, thinking about the superhuman effort that goes into preventing gun violence doesn’t always leave me in a good mood.

But was it a good trip?

On a good trip, you meet a lot of new people who are different from you. You do cool things with them and get exposed to novel ideas. This ride wasn’t like that, but it was good in other ways.

While I was off the bike, I saw and reconnected with people from as far back as high school and college, all the way up to recent co-workers in technology. I enjoyed the warm hospitality of friends and relatives I hadn’t seen since the onset of the pandemic. We had some laughs and then, like Huck Finn getting back onto the river, I got back onto The Road.

While I was on the bike, it was mostly physical work: pedaling up endless grades, navigating uneven pavement, recovering from wrong turns, negotiating peace between seat and butt, and shifting gears – always, always, always shifting. Then there’s the mental work: having to stop and double-/triple-/quadruple-check the map, giving parked cars wide berth, keeping an eye out for public restrooms, telling myself I was in over my head, telling myself I wasn’t in over my head, watching for unexpected door openings, wondering about calorie-burn, and planning what to eat next and where to get it. Worst of all, do you like getting a lousy song stuck in your head? Imagine that on the forever-stretch of city road across Torrance, Carson and Long Beach.

Remember the one about the guy who keeps hitting himself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when he stops? A long ride is in that same category. The only thing that could be worse would be to stay home and not go at all.

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