It was one of those moments. One of those doh moments. One of those times when you smack yourself upside the head and say, “I can’t believe I did that.” But that comes later in this story…
The year was 2006. We had cycled two months before I got word that my mother was unwell and I had to go back to Boise. John and the boys continued along the Pacific coast without me on their bicycle built for three.
A month later, Mom was stabilized and I made plans to rejoin my boys. It would be a long couple of days, but with luck, I would soon be with my family in Big Sur on the California coast.
This story begins on a Friday morning when I rented a car, threw my bike in it, kissed Mom goodbye and headed south to find adventure. Fast forward 17 hours and I arrived into Monterey and knocked on a friend-of-a-friend’s door. He willing (begrudgingly?) opened his door to a weary traveler and I collapsed onto his couch.
Eight o’clock rolled around all too soon and I dragged my lazy bones off the couch, returned the rental car and hopped into the friend-of-a-friend’s car to drive the thirty miles down to Big Sur.
It was wonderful to pop my head into the tent and I shed a few tears amidst all the hugs and kisses. (This is where you are supposed to say, “Ahh… ain’t that sweet!!”) Our joyful reunion was all too short as I still had much to do and many miles to go before the sun set.
After leaving my panniers with the boys and grabbing their dirty clothes in exchange, I returned to Monterey, returned the car, jumped on my trusty steed, and headed to the laundromat. Somewhere along the way I managed to get a flat tire, so I headed down (and I do mean down) to a bike store, then climbed all the way back up.
It wasn’t long before I was cycling the beautiful California coast. Turquoise waters… stunning cliffs… and a strong tailwind. What more could I ask for? I didn’t take any breaks at all because a) I was giddy with excitement about getting back to my boys and b) I needed to make sure I was at the campground by dark.
Now one would think I would have learned a thing or two from all my travels. Like not to claim victory until victory is won… or not to count my chickens before they hatch. I obviously hadn’t learned that lesson yet.
I pulled into the town of Big Sur about an hour before dark and patted myself on my back in congratulations. I smugly called Mom and announced that I had done it! I had pulled it off! Yes! (Insert image of me pumping my fist in victory at this point…) I had driven from Boise to Monterey, then cycled to where my boys were – almost.
I figured I only had three miles left (John later told me I only had 1.5 miles left), and I still had an hour or so of daylight. Yes, I had made it! I had pulled it off!
I climbed back on my bike and started pedaling through the forest toward the campground. I kept pedaling and pedaling and I was sure that the campground was just around the next corner… maybe the next…
And then suddenly I broke out of the valley and saw a lake on my left. A big lake. And I thought, “Hmmm… I don’t remember a lake there…”
And then I noticed that the sun was setting over that lake.
And then it dawned on me that there was no lake over on my left. That was a pond. THE pond. The Pacific pond.
Now I had learned a thing or two in my 46 years on this planet and one of them was that if you are pedaling south along the California coast, the ocean will be on right. But this ocean was very definitely on my left.
As I saw it, there were only two possible explanations. Either
I had been magically transported to the east coast of the USA and this ocean was not the Pacific at all, but the Atlantic or
I was headed north.
That’s when my hand came up and smacked myself upside the head and I realized that I had done something really stupid. Yep – that moment when I got turned around at the store was most definitely one of those moments of absolute, complete, total, unutterable dumbness.
I turned around and pedaled for all I was worth back toward the valley and the forest. At that point I did not have only three miles to go and an hour of daylight. Now I had 5 1/2 miles to go, and the sun was setting over the ocean.
I pedaled as hard as I could along the twisty, winding road through the forest and I realized that I had absolutely no lights on my bike whatsoever. No way to alert oncoming drivers that I was there. Those visions of a grand reunion that I had been having all day turned into something not quite so grand… Something involving images of my beloved kids scraping my guts off the highway.
I am happy to report that I arrived to the campground without incident. John had dinner cooked and ready to serve. And we all lived happily ever after.
This story and more are told in my book, Twenty Miles per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures. Pick up your copy today!